After about half a hour, I could stand- a little. Enough to get off my belly. I stumbled a few times and fell, but I was up and moving. I clenched my ribs together using my left arm as a sling, and began to limp my way forward. The Nanos weren’t automatic. It would take time to fully heal, but I would make it.
An hour later I was mile away from Ground Zero. The giant radioactive mushroom hung in the air, still- like a statue. The blast at this range would have melted all of him but the core.
“Now what?” I had a bad feeling. The priest had known who I was. Or at least, who I had been. The mushroom was a beacon for every Marauder from here to Kalamazoo. I had to find Chirpy, and get out of the area, fast.
“Ok. Well, how am I supposed to do that?” I asked the wind. I pulled out my scanner. The implant-apperature, or App, buried in my cerebral cortex connected with Chirpy’s 10-808 sensor. If I got within 100 feet of Chirp’s core, I would know it through a slight whistling sound in the back of my temple.
I limped around the devastation for a while, each moment afraid a contingent of Marauder Vulture Hawks would descend from the sky. My fear was getting the better of me. Visions of torture and Iron Maidens danced in my head.
I felt a slight pull behind my left eye, a high-pitched ringing noise went off in my ear. I looked around. There was nothing here but broken terrain. Yet he must be around here somewhere otherwise I wouldn’t have that ringtone in my ears. I went to my ruck and pulled out an adjustable shovel. The compact unit was made of three separate links, when clipped together it formed a shovel about the size of my arm. I began to dig.
In what felt like three hours, I dug a hole about ten feet deep.
My arms bled from the broken glass, but underneath was regular mud and dirt. My only thought was to keep digging, ignore the pain and keep digging. I ranged out a bit, soon the hole was over fifteen feet deep and ten feet wide. But still nothing, no Chirpy.
I started to cry. The tears streamed down my face, then the gates flooded open and my emotions got the better of me. First my wife, then my kids, my species, my love and now Chirpy. No, I couldn’t lose him too.
He must be here, somewhere in the broken bones of this desecrated earth.
I kept digging. The more I dug, the more emotions came out. Frustration, anger. I had lost so much. I dug deeper. Then, unbelievably, my shovel hit something hard. I dug harder, abandoning the shovel and using my hands. After a minute or two I pulled it out. It was an embryonic cocoon- failsafe. I cracked the cocoon open with the handle of the shovel. It split in two. I pulled it out, a long black rectangular object, smooth like polished obsidian, smaller than a man’s fist. I had found him. Chirps core.