Arai 01-02
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Arai : Spin off of the Eden series.

Chapter 01: The Plains

In the small town of Last Hope, Sheriff Jake was relaxing back in his chair chatting with Doc Wilson. He was admiring an old slightly faded text motivation poster on the wall.

It simply read: 'Integrity: Doing the right thing even if no one is watching. '

It was then that young Danny came charging through the front door calling for the Sheriff. Jake always had an open-door policy and soon the boy was at his office threshold.

Sheriff, We need you out by our place. There's smoke coming from over the hills beyond the shield wall. Daddy, thinks it coming from the highway. ” Danny said once he caught his breath.

Could be cannibals camping out and preparing for another pointless attack. Odd, since they don't care for daylight. ” Doc Wilson suggested as Jake pulled on his leather hat over his slightly tanned head.

Just might be. I will ride out and have a look. ” Jake replied back and wasn't surprised when Doc Wilson got up to join him.

The look his friend gave him plainly said I'm coming too just in case someone is hurt.

Riding horses took far less time then Danny's fastest day of running on his own two feet.

What Jake didn't expect was seeing Victor once known as the hero; Voltage. Now he was just called Victor Voltage if that had always been his name.

Just as they came into earshot. Victor turned around not looking surprised to see them.

Morning, Victor. ” Jake said seeing Victor was standing next to one of the many shield poles that kept the town and little farms safe from the outside world. The front panel was off and Victor appeared to be in the middle of recharging it.

Jake could hear the humming and knew sometimes the barrier crackled as an insect hit it. A person or animal couldn't touch it without getting a nasty shock and it repelled anything non-living.

Morning, Jake. Something odd is out there. I can feel it. ” Victor said and raised his palm toward the area where the smoke was drifting up from. Small electrical arcs leaped between his fingers.

Another raiding camp? ” Doc Wilson asked while looking at the high tech cattle fencing that now kept the entire town safe. Thinking back to the past. The town folks were lucky that the factory that made these poles wasn't far away.

I can sense a lot of metal like old semi-trucks. No one living and feels like something is generating power. I have recharged this section of the wall, but say the word and I will lower the shields for you to pass. ” Victor answered.

Go ahead. If we are not back in an hour. I'm counting on you to be the new sheriff. ” Jake said and watched as Victor turned toward the pole and using his body to block their view he typed in the code to lower the shield at this spot. Few knew the codes and Jake was one of them.

Hardly, if you don't come back. I'm walking straight through the shields and dragging you back. ” Victor said preferring his role as a Ranger. Which involved patrolling the fence line for trouble.

Good to know. ” Doc Wilson commented as they rode past him once this section of the shield wall was temporarily down.

It didn't take long for them to ride up to a good viewpoint where the smoke was trailing up from.

What they found was a confusing sight and a mystery.

There were a pair of what looked like a cross between an armored truck and a semi-truck. Who they belong too made Jake wonder. The bigger mystery was the hundreds of dead cannibals lying all around the vehicles. All of them dead from a fight.

Lord, oh mighty above. ” Doc Wilson said looking at the gray-colored bodies and wondering how so many could have been killed. Thinking on it no one mention gunshots and who had this much spare ammo to burn these days.

Let's ride down and have a look. ” Jake said drawing out his revolver. He would have preferred a pistol with extra mags, but his revolver proved to be the most reliable weapon over the years.

Doc Wilson checked to make sure his long rifle was in easy reach.

As they rode the mystery deepen as they got a closer look at the bodies. Cannibals were gray due to being transformed and from a distance could be mistaken for rocks out on the plains.

What confused Jake were the burn marks where he expected bullet holes to be.

Looks like the group that always camp outside our shield wall. I'm curious to know who the hell has working trucks anymore. Where the hell did they get the fuel and parts? ” Doc Wilson asked, but didn't expect any answers.

See the overlapping tracks. Whoever they were, I suspect they fled in a third truck. Looks like they set the first truck on fire to cover their retreat. ” Jake said working out what happen by looking over the carnage.

Through the smoldering wreckage, he saw a burnt body slump over the truck's steering wheel. Whoever the driver was had been killed while still driving. The first truck had gone off the road into the ditch. Joining the many rusted cars along the highway.

Second truck looks untouched. ” Doc Wilson said ignoring the battle scars, but looking at the side door that hung open.

Hello! I'm Sheriff Jake with old Doc Wilson. ” Jake called out just loud enough to be heard just in case someone was inside. Victor could be wrong about someone being alive.

Who you calling old?” Doc Wilson said his eyes focused on the open doorway when they heard something. Doc Wilson had just leveled his rifle when he chuckled to himself.

What came to the doorway was the last thing Jake would expect.

The dog looked to be a mixed breed and seem to study each man with a steady gaze.

Lucky boy. ” Doc Wilson said and whistled a little to coax the dog to him.

The dog stayed where she was just looking from them to a point toward the back of the truck.

She is guarding something or someone. ” Jake said noticing the dog's behavior and correcting his old friend on the dog's gender. With a slow movement, Jake dismounted from his horse and walked a little closer.

Easy, girl. We are here to help. ” Jake said in a calm smooth voice which worked most of the time with people.

A sense of relief washed over him as the dog wagged her tail and she turned away to walk out of sight.

You could always charm the ladies. ” Doc Wilson said with a small grin.

Stay here and keep an eye out for trouble. Cannibals are bound to return sometime later after they get tired of chasing whoever owned all this. ” Jake ordered and step inside having the impression he had been invited inside.

Stepping inside with his gun at the low ready he found a treasure trove of sorts.

Clearly, this was the food wagon of the convoy. Clear containers held dry food and there were even vegetable plants under working greenhouse lights all along one wall.

Toward the back of the truck, the dog was scratching at a close door which had to be some type of storage closet.

Appears to be a food wagon. They were growing fresh fruits and vegetables here. ” Jake called out knowing his friend would be eager to hear.

That will make the farmers happy once we divide it up. ” Doc Wilson called back his voice sounding slightly more distant. Jake had no doubt his friend was talking to him with his back to the truck.

Jake slowly walked to the closet with his gun at the ready and pulled the closet door open once the dog moved out of the way. His next surprise was the biggest shock of all.

At first glance, he thought it was a little girl. Her skin was so clear he could see right through it to the working parts. Jake stared at the machine girl trying his best to recall the name of what she was from a childhood memory.

Straight unnatural raven hair covered her head. The length going past her shoulders. She was dressed in child size work overalls much like a mechanic would have worn. There were various pockets along the sides. What touched Jake's heart the most was the damage to the side of her head. She looked no older then a ten-year-old girl judging from her face and body.

Her eyes blinked and she looked up at him.

Who...who are you? ” Jake found himself asking as he put away his gun.

I'm Evelyn, third-generation health companion android. You are Sheriff Jake? ” Evelyn answered and Jake knew she must have heard him earlier.

Where you from? ” Jake asked eager to know.

I'm sorry, my long term memory was damaged. We were traveling from the coast. My employers were looking for rare metals. Their names are also unavailable. ” Evelyn answered and Jake watched as she tilted her head slightly if trying to remember.

Anything else, you can recall? ” Jake asked figuring it couldn't hurt to ask.

Yes, an image of my previous employer. ” Evelyn said and Jake got another surprised when she lifted her hands up with the palms slightly apart.

A ghostly image of an old woman's face appearing from the neck up out of thin air. As Jake study the face. He noticed the android's palms had something like crystals imbedded into each hand. They were glowing like a flashlight.

She was nice and died some time ago. ” Evelyn said. The ghostly image vanished as Evelyn moved her hands down once more. Jake could swear she looked sad at this point. Maybe, she was made to mimic emotions, but that didn't feel right to him.

Well, you can stay with me. Come meet my friend. ” Jake said and looked at the dog seeing the dog's tag with the name of Roxy.

You too, Roxy. ” Jake said reaching out slowly and patted the dog. She wagged her tail some more clearly agreeing with him.

What is she? ” Doc Wilson asked the moment Evelyn came into view just behind Jake as he stepped down.

I'm Evelyn, third-generation health companion android. You are Doc Wilson. ” Evelyn answered for Jake as she looked up at the older man.

An android, like in those old movies and books? ” Doc Wilson asked looking at Jake with disbelief. Then, he noticed the damage to the side of Evelyn's head. His fingers twitched for his medical bag, but seconds later. He kept his hands holding the reins of his horse.

Either, she is something from the old world or someone recently built her. I'm inclined to think someone made her recently. ” Jake said thinking back to the world the way it was all those years ago.

We had robots back then, but nothing as advance as her. We even had crude versions of artificial intelligence too. ” Doc Wilson said recalling some chess program some big company once made.

Hey, Doc. Think you can drive that thing? ” Jake asked looking at the armored truck.

Boy, I was driving cars before you were out of diapers. ” Doc Wilson said dismounting and handing to the reins to Jake after he climbed onto his horse.

I lead and you drive slowly behind me. By now, the entire town must have known something is up. This old highway goes straight past the turnoff to our main gate. ” Jake said and watched as Doc Wilson walked toward the truck.

I will take the little lady with me. I got a few questions of my own. ” Doc Wilson said and Evelyn nodded. Jake had little doubt old Doc Wilson needed the android 's help to drive the truck.

Roxy the dog stayed with Jake as he led the horses away.

It wasn't long until a deep rumble started behind him and the horses shy away from a little from the noise then went back to walking normally.

Jake looked back once to see the armored truck drive over some dead bodies then onto the smooth ground once more. A nasty crunching sound sent a small shiver up Jake's back. He firmly kept his eyes forward until they were out of sight.

As they drew closer he spotted Victor up on the hill just past the shield wall. No doubt, he sensed them coming from hundreds of feet away. He waved and Jake did the same to let him know that everything was okay.

Soon after, they rode on and came to the main gate that was always manned. Today, it was Jessica's turn along with a few guys with long-range rifles. Jessica carried no firearms. Over her uniform, she wore a specially made vest with knives in full display in a vest's pockets.

Morning, Sheriff. Is that the Doc driving that thing and is that a little girl next to him?” Jessica asked looking from him then looking at Doc Wilson through the truck's glass front.

Yup, Convoy on the highway got hit by Cannibals. We think most of the previous owners got away. Maybe, they got ambush or they were unlucky enough to drive straight into the cannibal's camp. ” Jake explained and Jessica nodded. Jake was always impressed by the thoughtful young woman barely out of her teen years.

She was pretty in that natural way, but far too young for him to take a serious love interest in.

So, pretty lady. You gonna let us in or let us sit out here all day. Until we end up in the cooking pot? ” Doc Wilson called out from the truck's side. He figured out how to lower the truck's side window.

Who would eat an old bird like you? ” Jessica teased and motioned for someone to pull the lever that turned off the gate shield.

Jake rode on with Doc Wilson driving behind him. Town folk gawked in wondered at the working truck as Doc parked alongside the town jail.

Young Danny was waiting there and help tie up the reins to Doc's horse.

You run on home, Danny. Spread the word along the way that all farmers and greenhouse owners come to the town jail. We found some fruit and vegetable plants to be divided up. ” Jake ordered and watched as the boy ran off.

Deputy Bryan Brown came out from the front door noticing the armored truck and Jake.

Interesting morning, boss? ” Bryan asked and did a double-take at the sight of Evelyn. He ignored the dog that now sat next to Jake.

Doc Wilson was just stepping down from the driver's side of the truck.

Bryan, this is Evelyn. She is an android. A machine made to look like a person. ” Jake said in way of introducing her.

Hello Deputy Bryan. ” Evelyn said and gave him a smile.

Hey...there little lady. ” Bryan said fingering his deputy badge in a nervous way.

I'm going to ride out to my place with Evelyn here. You and Doc Wilson go through the armored truck. Make a list of the local farmers and figure out who gets what. Fruits to the greenhouse owners and vegetables to the farmers along with any seeds. Dry food goods to the orphanage for donation. Send word to Father Micheal. ” Jake said and watched as both men nodded.

Each of them understood the community divided up what was found outside their shield wall if left abandoned.

What about the truck itself? ” Bryan asked.

It stays here with us. Sheriff's property, until the real owners show up. Doc Wilson will be our driver in case of an extreme emergency. ” Jake answered.

We will set aside any odds and ends we find into the back room. ” Doc Wilson said and motioned for Bryan they should go to work.

With a helping hand from Jake, Evelyn climbed onto the back of the saddle. She was surprisingly lightweight and nimble for being a machine.

Jake kicked his legs lightly to get the horse moving.

Evelyn, What does a health companion do? ” Jake asked thinking maybe she worked as a sort of nurse.

I tend to the needs of the elderly who's health is declining or who may need my help until they were healed up. ” Evelyn answered.

Well, that's good to know. I got a daughter with a few missing limbs. She is getting a bit old for me to bathe and dress anymore. Bella, our neighbor looks after her when I'm working, but Bella has got her own chores. Ruth only needs a little help at times. ” Jake asked not sure he should trust Evelyn into his home, but something in his gut told him she was trustworthy.

My main function is to care and protect. Most of my memory files are gone, but I still have my basic medical knowledge on care giving. I would be happy to help. ” Evelyn answered and Jake understood most of what she said. Jake made a mental note to check out some computer books at the library the first chance he got.

The ground inclined upward as they rode on.

Jake talked about his place and what Evelyn could expect. As they rode into view Jake smiled at the sight of the two-story ranch house that had been in his family for generations. The first and second floor had a porch with railings that looked down at the town below.

The garage that once held his father's truck now only contained the truck's bed. It had been converted to be a horse-pulled wagon these days.

His farmhands known as Gardeners moved along the gardens tending to the various vegetables and even the flowers his murdered wife had planted.

The Gardeners were humanoid like creatures that look like walking plants rather then people. Before the fall of their world. The Gardeners had been created to serve as caretakers to all useful plants. They understood simple commands and seemed to take great joy in caring for plants. Cannibals learned fast not to attack one. Although gentle looking in appearance. A Gardner will defend itself if attacked.

For his daughter's sake, he kept the flowers around to help keep her spirits up.

Recalling, the old memory from years before when Ruth was truly his little girl. Jake could remember finding his wife butchered like an animal and his daughter screams as the pair of Cannibals took her right arm. He hadn't been there when her left leg was cut off.

She had passed out after they burned her limbs to stop the bleeding. Neither, cannibal heard Jake as he came out of the darkness his guns blazing away until both of his revolvers were empty.

Jake's expression changed as he look over to his family plot of graves just on the other side of the road. It was a grim reminder for the price his family had paid so far.

Bella and his daughter Ruth were there on the front porch. His daughter helping Bella with cutting potatoes. Even missing an arm she was skilled with a knife.

Within easy reach of Bella was a tactical shotgun she favored. Jake had to admit Bella was damn good with it the few times she had to use it. Jake suspected Bella lifted it from the military armory just outside the town's shield wall. Over a decade ago there were all kinds of weapons, gear, and needed things just lying around within an easy ride.

Hey, Baby Ruth!” Jake called out having a vague memory that there was a candy bar with the same name.

Bella didn't seem overly surprised to see Evelyn as they dismounted and came up the steps. It was hard to tell because half of Bella's face was covered by a black and silver mask.

Swirling silver Patterns on the mask distracted a person from seeing the burnt skin peaking around the edges of the mask.

Jake himself had gone into the burning house and pulled her out. Bella had been gripping that same shotgun.

This is Evelyn. She will be staying with us. She has already agreed to help out. ” Jake said giving Bella a look that said much more.

Pleasure to meet you, Evelyn. I'm Bella and this little darling is Ruth. ” Bella said and Ruth just waved as she looked at the child-size android. Between them, Jake guessed that Evelyn was the slightly taller one for now.

Ruth, can you show our guest up to the guest room? ” Bella asked and Ruth nodded then grabbed her forearm crutch from the wall.

Jake waited until the girls were out of earshot then spoke to Bella.

I take it you saw this in one of your dreams. ” Jake said only half asking.

I saw it, but I thought my power had gone a bit crazy. I dreamt of a little girl who was really a machine. She was sunbathing in the nude. ” Bella answered looking toward the front door where the girls had gone.

Well, I trust your wisdom in not telling anyone. ” Jake said leaning down to kiss her cheek not covered by the mask.

I find it best not to say anything unless something truly dangerous is coming. Besides, I only ever see bits and pieces of what might happen. So, tell me everything. ” Bella said to him. Bella then noticed the dog and called to Roxy by whistling.

The dog came up the steps wagging her tail and sat down next Bella looking happy to be petted.

Jake sat down where his daughter had been and refilled the cup she been using. Then Jake explained how he came to find Evelyn. They sat for a full minute in silence as Bella processed the entire story.

Whoever they were, I'm guessing they didn't know how close they were to our little town. ” Bella said after hearing Jake explain it.

Maybe, they were cut off and decided a retreat was far better. I have a feeling they will return one day. The only area, I can think of where they might have come from would be Coastal City. Which is odd considering no one lives out there. The exception being the Gardeners. ” Jake said sipping from the cup. He was thinking, maybe they sailed to Coastal city from another country when Bella spoke.

So, you got a few minutes before you have to run back to the office? ” Bella asked undoing the first few buttons of her dress's top then getting up and heading for the master bedroom on the first floor.

Jake smiled and followed her inside.

Chapter 02: Miracle

Evelyn was still processing her damage files in another attempt to regain her lost memory files. She went so far to confirm her damaged outer layer was being slowly repaired by feeling her hand along the side of her head.

Does it hurt? ” Ruth asked in a near whisper as they came to the top of the stairs.

I can sense the damage, but there is no discomfort. It's only that most of my memory was lost. Are you well? ” Evelyn asked.

I'm fine. ” Ruth said with a weak smile.

Evelyn knew there was something that could help Ruth, but those memory files were lost. Instead, she visually scanned the girl's forearm crutch. It was well made and old from what she could see.

Here you go. ” Ruth said as she hop forward to open the door.

Evelyn examined the room and filed the best location to sit or lay down where the sun would be.

Evelyn looked up to see the lights were off and it was Ruth who answered before she asked.

We only use lights at night or very briefly during the day. Daddy says that it is getting harder to find or make the right parts for the power plant. Are you hungry or thirsty? ” Ruth asked.

Thank you for asking. I have no need for food or drink. I will remove my outerwear and under direct sunlight to recharge. ” Evelyn answered.

Giggling from Ruth made Evelyn turn her attention to the girl.

You go naked? ” Ruth asked with a real smile.

Yes, I must expose as much of my skin to recharge. ” Evelyn answered seeing this was making Ruth happy.

Do you wish to see? ” Evelyn asked.

Yeah. ” Ruth asked looking back and hearing no one else upstairs.

Evelyn pulled down the zipper on the front part of her work overalls. From there she shrugged out of the top half then stepped out.

Ruth looked at her from her head down to her feet.

You look like a doll. ” Ruth said perhaps expecting more.

I was designed this way mostly to be waterproof. ” Evelyn answered and decided to step back into her clothes. Soon enough, Evelyn was fully dressed.

Hey, let me show you my room. ” Ruth said feeling more at ease with Evelyn now.

They spent a good thirty minutes. Ruth talking about all the books she had read and all the stuff she was learning.

Evelyn surprised Ruth by displaying a hologram image of a puppy after the girl asked about the little gems in her palms.

Ruth reached out to the image watching as her hand passed through the ghostly image of a puppy wagging his tail.

Whoa, Show me more. ” Ruth said then made other requests to see other things or animals and Evelyn showed her.

It was perhaps nearly an hour later when they first met. Bella was calling from the bottom of the stairs.

Ruth, You had enough time to show our guest around. Potatoes don't peel themselves.

Bring your friend. She can help. ” Bella yelled up and Ruth got up with a sigh. Ruth looked at Evelyn for a long few seconds.

We are friends now? ” Ruth asked.

Sure, Ruth. I'm here to help you and your family. ” Evelyn answered and watched as the girl beamed a smile at her.

As they moved down the stairs Evelyn positioned herself to catch the girl in case she missed a step. Together, they walked outside to find Bella sitting in her chair and humming happily.

Ruth hopped over and took her own seat then picked up the knife she was using before. It was tricky work, but Ruth had long practice with it.

Evelyn noted the extra knife and went to work as well. Part of her programming nearly stopped her from picking up the knife. Evelyn logically concluded there was no danger to the people around her. Peeling potatoes had a very low risk of harm to others. Even if one of them reached over toward Evelyn's hand had plenty of the time to lay the knife down.

It wasn't long until Ruth started talking about all the stuff Evelyn could show them with the gems in her hands.

Bella smiled and stayed silent a while before asking Evelyn many questions as they worked.

Riding back into town, Jake watched one of the farmers waved as he rode by. Roxy the dog was following behind his horse. The farmer in a converted wagon truck had a few new plants in the back. The farmer's horses pulling the converted wagon truck down the street.

Morning, Sheriff. ” Old Sam said as they passed.

As Jake got closer to the town jail. He saw a horse that he knew well and his expression went a bit grim. Raised voices could be heard coming from the opened doorway.

Jake dismounted and tied up his horse once he was out in front of the town jail.

This is an outrage. Why should Father Micheal be the only one to get all of the food? ” Preacher Christopher Brooks asked as Jake came through the open doorway.

Father Micheal has the orphans to feed. I know, he has only like a dozen kids, but times are tough, Christopher. ” Jake said as he came through the doorway to answer the man's question.

That's Preacher Brooks, Sheriff. ” Preacher Brooks said if correcting a student in a classroom.

Pardon, Preacher Brooks. ” Jake replied back with a touch of sarcasm in his voice. Jake could just picture the man standing on a wooden box making speeches on how everyone was a sinner on a street corner.

I just think it should have been up the town leaders to decide. ” Preacher Brooks said next waving his arms around to show he had the town's best interest at heart.

Most of us were around. Me, Doc Wilson, and Victor off the top of my head. I think Victor would agree with me. ” Jake said watching at the other man's face went slightly red with anger.

Well, it's no less what I expect from your kind. ” Preacher Brooks said next and stormed out of the room.

Jake waited and breathe calmly long after the man left.

You know if you snap the Preacher's neck one of these days. I'm sure, we can find a nice hole somewhere out of the way for him. ” Doc Wilson joked next into the silence that came.

They all knew the Preacher wasn't talking about race or skin color.

I dealt with pricks like him for years. I have thick skin more ways then one. ” Jake said with a grin.

Seems downright stupid to judge someone just because they can do something you can't. Like judging a person by their skin color or race. We have all kinds of different people here. Now, including walking and talking machine girl. ” Deputy Bryan said shaking his head slightly.

Get Evelyn settled in. ” Doc Wilson asked noticing Jake was in a better mood now. He had little doubt it was Bella's doing

Oh, yeah. I'm sure, Ruth showed off all the books she has read so far. ” Jake said and noticed his friends were watching him closely.

How is Miss Bella Foresight these days? It's been over a year since someone tried to burn her alive inside her own house. ” Deputy Bryan Brown asked with a grin.

Bella is a fine respectable lady. ” Jake said and watched as his buddies exchange a look.

I think, summer is the best time for weddings. ” Doc Wilson said next and gave Jake a look.

Then, Jake noticed a new metal case next to Doc's medical bag.

What you got there, doc?” Jake asked briefly pointing at the metal box on the floor.

Medical kit from the truck. We found it stored away under the driver's seat. Some basic stuff and a few extras. ” Doc Wilson said tapping his foot on the case with a little smile.

Another gift from the truck then. ” Jake said and watched as Doc Wilson got up picking up his bag then the metal case.

Now that you are here, Jake. I will leave you all to your duties. I want to check in on little Thomas. When Father Micheal came by picking up the food. He mentioned the boy was running a slight fever. Nothing serious, yet. I'm just going to drop in anyway. ” Doc Wilson said leaving them to going over the list of plants then supplies.

Jake spent the week making sure every farmer and greenhouse owner got their fair share. Jake took the time to remove the metal shelves for official use in the sheriff's office. Even the UV lights were stripped out for winter use by one lucky greenhouse owner.

Just when things were looking up for once. Jake got the bad news about little Thomas. His fever had gotten much worse and he had been confined to a bed away from the other children. Doc Wilson was doing his best, but the boy's coughing fits were getting worse. The little guy's health was on the decline.

Jake always hated burying a child. Jake made the decision to go over to Father Micheal's orphanage after work and talk about a good spot where the boy should be laid to rest.

So, how your new partner working out? ” Deputy Bryan asked looking amused at the sight of Roxy wearing an old K9 vest with the word Police in high visible letters.

Smartest dog, I ever have seen. She is pretty useful to have. ” Jake said looking at Roxy who was currently relaxing in the corner on her own doggy bed.

You heading over to Father Micheal's place after work? ” Deputy Bryan asked next his face taking on a sad expression.

Yeah, I found a toy tin badge in one of the desk drawers. I will give it to the little tike to raise his spirits up. ” Jake said fingering the toy badge guessing it came from a cereal box or something like that.

The front door opened then Jessica Indigo came inside. She was one of the few people Jake trusted to patrol the town streets or pull guard duty at the shield gate.

Pretty quiet, today. Which is strange considering the cannibals don't sneak about all day. ” Jessica said as she came into view in the doorway.

Hey, knock on wood. I was a rookie when the world went tits up as the saying goes. ” Deputy Bryan said and did knock a little on the wood side of the doorway.

Yeah, yeah. Government's super-soldier program went horribly wrong and a virus mutated into a superbug. The downside, we got billions of crazed cannibals. Plus side, some of us got superpowers. ” Jessica said raising her hand to create a small smoke cloud of blueish darkness only she could see through.

Jessica's knife skills were due to years of practice. Jake had never met a better knife fighter in his life.

Sometimes Jessica, I wish that I had a hundred of you. ” Jake said to Jessica thinking if he had an army of powered people they could wipe out the cannibals once and for all.

I know, boss. You heading out? ” Jessica asked knowing bad news spreads fast in a small town. She noticed the toy badge on his desk.

Yeah, Might as well go a little early. The digging may take longer then I expect. ” Jake said snatching up the toy badge as he got up. Roxy rose up and stretched then trotted beside him.

Poor little guy. ” Jessica wiping at her eye then putting on a brave face.

You know what to do if there is real trouble. The flare gun is still in the same place. ” Jake said passing by them then heading out to his waiting horse. As the evening went on he passed people walking, riding bicycles, and closing up shops to head home.

He waved and greeted them as he passed by. During the day most people could be found walking the streets. All too soon, he saw Father Micheal's place just outside of main part of the town. The woods separating the place from the main part of the town.

It had been a recreation center for after school kids once. Now it served as the town's only orphanage.

Father Micheal ran the place. But for the most part, it was the elderly women who volunteered their time who looked after the children.

Jake had some time before the sun would begin to set.

As he rode closer he saw Father Micheal standing outside. The man's face was wet with tears and Jake inwardly suspected the worse. Little Thomas must have taken a real turn for the worse to pass away so quickly.

It's a miracle, Jake. Some divine power has worked through Doc Wilson's hands. ” Father Micheal said and Jake realized then Father Micheal was crying with tears of joy.

Jake dismounted his horse and tied it next to Doc Wilson's stead.

Jake left Father Micheal to his outside celebration and found Doc Wilson tending to little Thomas who was sitting up in bed. The little boy looked pale still, but he was playing with a toy on his lap.

Breathe in and out. ” Doc Wilson said using his stethoscope to listen to the boy's chest.

Hey there, little man. ” Jake said and held up the toy badge he intended to be a death bed gift to ease the boy's passing.

Thomas smiled and reached out for it. Jake help him put it on by pinning it to the boy's PJs. The boy's breathing was so natural. Jake didn't hear any rasping sound.

You will be right as rain after a good night's sleep. ” Doc Wilson said packing up his medical stuff into his bag.

Jake followed him outside and together they passed Father Micheal who was going inside.

So Doc, what did you give the boy? Last time we talked, you said you had nothing left. ” Jake asked using his stern sheriff tone with his old friend.

Doc Wilson looked about for ease droppers then spoke.

It was something that I found in the medical box from the truck. ” Doc Wilson said and pulled out something like a dart.

Jake took the empty dart feeling the cold metal and saw the word Regen printed on the side and listened to his friend go on speaking.

There were about two dozen of those in a small metal cylinder container. ” Doc Wilson said sounding proud of himself.

This could have killed the boy instantly. What made you think this was safe to use? ” Sheriff Jake asked a bit shock his humble friend would take such a chance.

You see the word Regen on it. I think it means regeneration. Besides, I know its safe for people. I tested it on myself, first. Truly remarkable stuff. Look at my bare feet. ” Doc Wilson said bending down to undo the laces on his old leather work boots then peeling off his hand-knitted socks.

Jake looked down not seeing it at first then gasp with shock. Doc Wilson had all of his toes. Jake counted twice and came up with ten each time. Doc Wilson went so far to wiggle them.

Last year's winter had been bad and the old fool got himself frostbite while walking through the snow to help others. The end result was he lost his outer pinky toes on both feet.

Doc, I don't know what to say. ” Jake said wondering if Doc did was brave or dumbest thing a man could do.

Jake, don't you see. This could grow limbs back. ” Doc Wilson said as he pulled on his socks then his leather boots back on.

Jake was stunned for a few more seconds.

Regrowing a few toes is one thing, but an entire limb. Sounds like a fairy tale, doc. ” Jake said, but his voice was unsure.

Look, we can ask Evelyn. ” Doc Wilson said lacing up his shoes then standing back up.