Fybertech: The De Novo Project, Part 3
Thursday, January 26th, 2006
FyberOptic awoke, eyes confusedly dancing across the surroundings, trying to get his bearings. He attempted to sit up swiftly, only for pain in his chest to strike him back down again. He groaned a bit until it faded, a bit more awake now, and was able to better assess his situation.
He was in the bedroom of his lab, he surmised, based on the familiar metal wall and ceiling that surrounded him, refracting what small amount of light which spilled in through the open doorway.
Still somewhat confused, he tried to sit again, slower this time. The pain in his chest was more tolerable now, though his muscles were sore throughout his entire body, he found, as he managed to get upright. He hissed a bit through his teeth as his feet touched the icy floor, having forgotten about its metal surface in his dazed state, which was something he had planned to install heating underneath eventually, but hadn't gotten around to yet of course.
He stood, achingly, trying to straighten up. His neck was particularly sore, as felt his head. He reached up, noticing a bandage across part of his forehead, which stung from his touch. He slowly dragged his pajama-clad body towards the door, holding onto the door facing to make the turn, before heading down the corridor towards the main room.
The light there was nearly blinding to him, to which he raised a hand to guard his eyes while they adjusted. Upon looking around, everything seemed normal he thought, as faint beeps came at him from various directions as the computers went about their duties. But the confusion still fought with his mind as he tried to remember what had happened. How he get back here he wondered in particular.
He headed on around the room curiously, towards the exit corridor, when suddenly a figure with brown paper bags filling their arms rounded the same hallway. They were both taken aback at the sight of one another. Fyber stumbled backwards, almost tripping over a stool at the center table, while the other individual nearly dropped the bags, spilling a few items out of the top before getting them under control.
"What are you doing up??" admonished a guy's voice, just as a face peered out from between the two brown paper sacks.
Fyber suddenly sighed a bit with relief, recognizing the man. He was of average height, thin, short dark hair cut level across the front, with dark round-ish glasses. It was Boris, whom Fyber had known for a few years now. Boris was going to college back in the city not far from there, so they wasted weekends every so often poking around the local arcades and computer shops, like any self-respecting geeks would do.
After the initial shock and identification, Fyber focused back on what he had said. "Why not be up?" he responded, knowing it probably had to do with the aches throughout his body, but hoping Boris would fill in the blanks without having to ask.
"It's bad enough you won't go to the hospital," he started, carrying the bags on inside and resting them down on the center table, "but now you're up dancing around as if nothing happened." He started to unpack the bags, but paused, giving giving Fyber a once-over. "But you must be doing better." he added, in response to Fyber being able to walk around at all.
Fyber finally took notice of the sorts of things Boris had brought with him. "I've already got supplies." he commented, sitting down on the stool he had almost tripped over previously as he glanced over the goods on the table.
"You had supplies." Boris corrected, emptying the one bag before starting on the other. "Those got finished up yesterday."
Fyber sat and thought on this for a second, his clouded memory not wanting to cooperate. Sounds of breaking glass suddenly whisked through his mind, as he faintly recalled an accident. That seemed to be all he could retrieve at the moment, though. "How long ago.."
"Almost a week now." said Boris.
Fyber's eyes widened in disbelief. That would explain the supplies, he supposed, since he only had about a week's worth put away. Just enough for one person, at that. He didn't know, or couldn't remember, whether Boris had been staying there during the week. But then he looked down at what he was wearing, knowing he certainly wasn't wearing pajamas when he wrecked the truck, and if he had been, he'd have a lot more questions than he already did.
He looked up at Boris from his stool, pointing down at his outfit as he asked "You didn't.. I mean, you know."
Boris chortled. "Why hell no." he responded, emptying out the second bag almost entirely. "Jenny did that."
Fyber froze. "Jenny Colgan?!" he exclaimed, jumping up from the stool, which he regretted a moment later as he winced with pain. Boris stopped doing what he was doing, and now appeared to have regretted saying anything.
"You told her?" Fyber pressed on, clearly aggravated, as Boris stood a bit more uncomfortably.
"Well, it's your own fault." Boris accused, snatching the loaves of bread off the table roughly and took them over towards one of the walls, pushing a button on a panel, which promptly clicked open, revealing somewhat of a cupboard inside. "You go and wrap yourself around a tree, call me, but refuse to go get fixed up. No hospitals, no hospitals, you mumbled." He paused for a moment, going back to get more groceries to stuff in the opening in the wall. "Jenny said you probably have a concussion."
Fyber reached up again, feeling the bandage on his head. Jenny was studying to be a nurse at the college Boris went to, so she probably knew what she was talking about, he figured. Fyber had only met her a few times, though, and certainly didn't know her well enough to be inviting her over to any secret laboratories. But he was sure he probably had said "no hospitals" too, since he wasn't very fond of them in general, let alone trying to pay the bill for one. Fyber grunted, not sure what to say. "How'd she react?" he asked eventually, a bit more calmly now.
Boris less angrily continued to shove groceries and supplies into the cupboard, and chuckled a bit. "Don't worry, she just thinks you're nuts. The bomb shelter type. But she promised not to tell anybody as not to embarass you."
Fyber just smirked a bit, still displeased by it all, but more interested in other details. "So I called you?" he inquired.
Boris nodded. "I assume you made it back in here yourself, because you didn't make much sense when you called. I came by, saw the truck smashed, and you passed out in the floor here with a busted head." Boris finished putting away the last of the supplies, leaving a couple of deli sandwiches laying on the table, one of which he tossed in front of Fyber. "And I'm no doctor." he added.
Fyber nodded, lazily reaching out for the sandwich, noticing the brownish bread sliced diagonally across the center inside its clear plastic wrapper. He pulled it open, took a bite off the end, and suddenly realized how hungry he was. He bit off the other end as well.
"The next day," Boris started, pulling open his own sandwich, "I called Jenny about it. I didn't want to actually bring her, but you know her, bossy as all hell."
Fyber chuckled and nodded approvingly, having finished half the sandwich already.
"So I drove her down, and a few strange looks later, she had you bandaged up." Boris nodded with his eyes up to the patch across Fyber's forehead. "She said the rest of you is probably just gonna be sore for a while."
Fyber humphed. "Awesome." he said sarcastically.
"So.." Boris started, pulling the second half of his sandwich from the wrapper, "just what DID happen?"
Fyber pushed the last bit of his own sandwich into his mouth, rubbing his fingers together to free them of crumbs as he thought. His brain still seemed fuzzy. He focused harder, remembering.. the scrap yard? Right, he went to the scrap yard, for some reason. He remembered all the sounds that roared from its machinery. He remembered the old man, who had seemed distracted that day. He remembered a truck with a W printed on the side.
"The lights." he finally remembered, aloud. "I was making a trade for more lights, for the back." he added, nodding off towards the darker passage leading from the room. Fyber sighed, just then realizing that every one of them must be broken now from the crash. A moment later, he shrugged his shoulders and continued. "That's it, really. I remember coming straight back here, and - Oh, right!" he suddenly exclaimed, a bit more loudly than he had anticipated. "The brakes, they didn't work."
Boris shook his head and furled his brow a bit. "That piece of junk was a deathtrap anyway. It was only a matter of time."
"You're probly right." Fyber admitted, but reluctantly, his ego taking as much of a bruising as the rest of him at the thought that equipment in his care could result in such a disaster.
- - -
Boris had left not long after their conversation, having used his lunch break to drop off the supplies before getting back to school. He had also refused to take money for them, which Fyber selfishly admitted to himself was for the best considering his current finances.
This wasn't the first time Boris had come by the lab. It had been a couple of months since his last visit though, so he at least got to see many of the more recent additions. Proof of such was the yellow post-it note stuck crookedly to the table, with "Nice digs" scribbled across it, signed with an uppercase B.
Near that note, Fyber had found another, next to a bottle of aspirin, written more neatly in feminine handwriting. "Two every four hours, no more than eight a day." It was signed "Jenny", with a big loop in the J. Fyber had rolled his eyes to this one, considering those were the same instructions printed on practically every bottle of aspirin.
Having taken two of the pills, however, the pounding in Fyber's head had lessened. He stood in front of the mirror in his room, brushing aside his blond hair which was much overdue for a trim, and looked at the welt on his forehead after having peeled back the bandage. Fyber grimaced and carefully patched Jenny's handiwork back down, letting his hair fall back in his face, then somewhat painfully dressed himself. He started to fix a pot of coffee, but upon finding neither coffee nor his familiar stained mug, he decided on plain cold water instead. Not much one could do with a pot of hot water, after all.
Outside was the exact opposite of hot. A thin layer of snow blanketed the ground, with the afternoon sun sparkling brightly off of its undisturbed surface. Fyber stood at the outer edge of the cave entrance, admiring the winter landscape for a moment, before he turned to start back inside.
The empty spot where the truck always sat almost came as a surprise to him. At least until his brain, still a bit fuzzy, suddenly threw his earlier memories back at him again. He thought for a moment, and instead of heading back into the warm lab, he zipped his coat, turned up the collar, and headed out, down the rocky path of the knoll, which, for all intents and purposes, Fyber considered his driveway.
Ten difficult minutes later, after what seemed like an incredibly far walk compared to the normally short driving distance, Fyber had come to the edge of the woods, to the nearly hidden path that lead through the foliage back to the main road. He could see the mangled truck up ahead, leaving the memory of the windshield coming towards his face playing through his head.
Shrugging it off, he headed onwards through the snow-covered trees, until eventually meeting up again with the wreck. He frowned a bit at the sight of it. It was pretty messed up, from the missing windshield, to the smashed headlights, all the way to the tree implanted directly in the center of the radiator. He leaned down a bit, noticing that snow hadn't collected underneath the wreck, and could see a pale green pool of antifreeze just underneath the front end. He sighed, hoping that was just from the radiator, and not the engine block.
He tried to force the skewed hood up to check the damage, but his lack of strength at the moment proved unable to budge it. Obviously the body was damaged, but as long as the frame and engine were somewhat intact, which he couldn't determine at the moment, then he might be able to salvage it. He could just hear Boris now, telling him he's crazy to even consider trying to fix the thing, especially after what happened. Yet much like the generator he had traded a week prior, the truck held nostalgia for him. He was an admitted packrat, after all. But more than anything, he simply needed a truck.
Thoughts of the generator reminded him of the light fixtures he had traded it for, prompting him to walk around to the bed of the wreck to inspect them. The boxes sat slid up against the cab, one of them looking a bit bent up. Painfully stretching over the side, he slid them back towards the tailgate, and walked around back to drop it open, opening one of the soft dampened boxes apprehensively. As he slid the fixture outwards, his fears were proven true, as the sound of glass shards sliding down the inside of the cardboard box replaced the silence of the air.
"Maybe just the bulbs are broken." he said hopefully, pushing it back inside and sliding that box out of the way.
He went through the other five boxes, which to his surprise, three of which seemed to be okay. His mood brightened a bit at this one piece of good news, but he doubted he was in any shape to be carrying them right now. So he carefully slid the cargo back into the bed, slammed the tailgate shut again, and walked on around to the driver's side to look around some more.
The door was still open, so he headed there next, noticing glass and pine needles all over the worn leather seat. The seat itself seemed to be leaning a tad forwards too, apparently having come loose from the floor at impact. After a few final inspecting glances around the interior, he noticed the unbuckled seatbelt, tugging at it as he chuckled. "At least you worked." he praised.
Still convinced it could be salvaged, he knelt down carefully to try and look underneath. But despite his intention to look at the mechanical aspects, something else caught his eye: a faint glimmer in the dirt. He managed to get his achy body down low enough to reach underneath, running his bare fingers across its seemingly smooth surface, collecting what felt like thick grease on his fingertips. He pulled his arm back out and looked at the chilled gunk, taking a whiff of it as he attemped to determine what it was. It wasn't antifreeze: the color and smell were wrong.
It appeared to be congealed brake fluid, in such a state due to the weather, he assumed. While it didn't seem entirely strange, considering his brakes wouldn't work and all, it was the location of the puddle which prompted the odd feeling developing inside him.
Less than five minutes later, he had pulled the flashlight from the glove compartment, and had half his body underneath the wrecked truck, inspecting the brake lines. He laid there for a while trying to come up with reasonings in his head for the cleanly cut tube he held in his fingers. But considering there was simply nothing near the slash to have caused such a thing, he ran out of rational explanations. His formerly improved mood from the discovery of intact cargo faded into that of dismay, as his thoughts now focused less on how the line had been cut, but more towards who had cut it, and why.
He pondered this as he dragged himself back out from under the truck, all the way back to his warm den, and up until he had the phone cocked to the side of his head, waiting for the other side to pick up. When it did, he said rather plainly, "Boris, I think I've got a problem."