“You’re slowing down too much, Tunnel! You have to keep up with the guide.”
Tunnel absently looked up from the bear that he had been intently looking at. “Huh?”
Lasko sighed. “Hurry up,” he repeated patiently.
Tunnel nodded blankly, and speeding up his pace a bit, trotted until he reached where Lasko and the robot were. Then his eyes slowly drew back to the bear, and his footsteps began to slow again.
“You know,” Lasko said carefully, “if you aren’t careful, that teddy bear will get worn out fast.”
Tunnel looked up again, blinking a few times while Lasko’s word’s registered. “Worn out?” the boy said, with a worried expression on his face.
“What I’m trying to say, is that you should store it away until we get someplace safe. You don’t want to fall and get it dirty, do you?”
Tunnel shook his head quickly.
“Then put it in the bag for now.” Lasko lowered the bag from his shoulder, opening it for Tunnel. The boy moving obediently but reluctantly, carefully placed the bear in the bag.
The two of them began moving again, following the floating light that moved down the winding passageway ahead of them.
As they moved silently, Lasko’s began to think about Tunnel’s quiet but affable personality.
From everything that he had seen of the small boy so far, Lasko could tell that Sharp typically made the decisions for both of the boys. Now that Sharp was incapacitated, Tunnel was somewhat lost, and didn’t know what to do.
It seemed that Lasko would call the shots for now.
After thinking about the decisions behind the events leading up to now, (namely the idea about the screw light DVG trick that Lasko had pulled, and the decision to run to Leonard’s), Lasko realized that after seeing Tunnel’s panicked state, he had unconsciously stepped up, making decisions for the two of them. The man who had only been awake for two days had temporarily taken Sharp’s place as the leader.
Which made sense to him, actually, since he was the only adult in the group, despite having no memories. Tunnel was just a kid, maybe not even out of grade school.
Come to think of it… it was happening subtly, but Lasko started to notice certain tendencies coming out of him. Like my avoidance of pain and cowardice towards dangerous people… my previous self’s personality, no doubt.
It was good to think that he retained at least some aspects of his previous life’s experiences. Otherwise I’d be nothing more than a child in a man’s body, he thought.
Suddenly the robot ahead of them stopped, and a red light appeared on top of it.
“Alert, lifeform detected.”
The robot spun its light down the tunnel, where it highlighted whatever had caught its attention.
A pair of red eyes glowed, and Lasko froze, peering carefully at the animal. Then a gasp of disbelief escaped his lips, and he instinctively leapt backward.
“What the heck is that!” he couldn’t help but exclaim.
It was a rat. Except that it was unlike any rat that Lasko knew of. At first Lasko had thought it was must have been a dog or a cat, but on closer inspection, the whiskers, long front incisors, a long hairless tail gave it away.
It was huge. The gigantic rodent rose up on his its hind legs, alerted by the approaching robot, sniffing the air. Standing up, Lasko estimated it to be about three feet tall.
Lasko was scared. Tunnel stepped forward, trying to get a better look, but Lasko grabbed him quickly, pulling him back. At the sudden movement, the rat was alarmed, and falling forward, the huge rodent began to hiss aggressively.
“Hostile movements detected.” The robot stated. “Beginning confrontation.”
A bang shot out, and the floating robot drifted backwards, the light shaking briefly. At almost the same time, the rat let out a loud squeal (with alarmingly bass undertones), and took off down the passageway. The beam of light followed the escaping rodent, until it vanished out of sight down a smaller connecting tunnel.
Lasko was still frozen, intensely relieved but still frightened. Just when he thought things were going to be ok, giant mutant rodents just had to pop up. How was he supposed to go to sleep, now that he knew that future rats could swallow your entire hand in one bite? Silently, Lasko berated himself for believing Leonard. Then a horrifying thought occurred to him. If rats were that size, how big were the larger animals that Leonard was talking about?
The red light switched off, and the hovering robot began to move once more, as if nothing had happened. With a renewed energy, Lasko and Tunnel quickly followed, sticking a lot closer to the guide than they had been previously. The hovercart floated silently behind them.
After hours and hours and following the robot down the confusing labyrinth of passageways, the guide suddenly stopped.
“Your destination is right ahead. Thank you for using Leonard’s Warehouse Guide Services. I have been instructed to return the borrowed hovercart, so please unload your baggage here.”
Giving the pack to Tunnel, who carried it carefully, Lasko gently lifted the still sleeping Sharp, and the two of them walked onward, leaving the guide behind.