The Upgrade: Human 2.0

In a not too distant future a war changed the Earth forever.
On this different Earth Neida lives in a small village with her brother, Deon. When the Crimson Death attacks their village, they are forced to escape to Village Xion since the disease only attacks the mutants - in other words, Deon. Follow Neida as she fights for her brother’s life, (along with fighting the urge to kill her brother for his stupidity).
Will she prevail, perhaps even find love in unexpected places, or will she fail and pay the ultimate price?

Winner of the NaNoWriMo competition Denmark

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3. Chapter I - The Crimson Death

 

     “Deon Nathaniel Sieks, could you just for once be still!” Neida scolds in a tight voice and glares at her brother.

    “I am still,” Deon hisses. “And you don’t have to use my full name all the time,” he rolls his eyes. “Can’t you just be like a normal person and use my first name?”

     “Perhaps if you would stop talking we could find more than just one animal to bargain for?” she replies and looks around. There is barely any cover for them.

     The forest, if you can call a few trees and bushes that are home to a few birds and animals who somehow adapt to the new earth. Without them there would be no trees besides the fake ones in the rich cities. The animals eat the fruits of the various kinds, and then they fly across the earth. As any other organism they have to relieve themselves and among the faeces, are the seeds. It's just the natural order of things.

     "I just think you are jealous, sis," Deon says with a smirk and nudges Neida.

     "And why would I be that?" she sighs.

     "Well, your mutant brother managed once again to hunt and kill the first animal. How does it feel not to be able to beat your big brother, when you are the one who has all the advantages?"

     "Who is to say that I didn't let you hunt and kill the first animal?"

     “Oh, yeah, of course,” he rolls his eyes. “Because you are always so generous. Thank you, my sweet and kind little sister,” he mocks.

      “Ugh, would you stop that?” she asks quietly, aware of their surroundings and the consequence of only having one animal to sell. One animal, especially at that size, will not bring enough money in for them to live for. “You’re acting like a little kid.”

     "Oh, I’m the kid? Remember who were born first Neida!" he raises his voice.

     “Will you please keep it down!” she hisses.

      "Come on then,” he ignores her comment. “Use the amazing skillset you were born with, show me how it really is you hunt in a world like this," he says and gestures the few trees and bushes.

     “Why? So I can humiliate you like I always do?”

     "You might have the updated genes, but do you have my devilishly handsome looks?” he changes the flow of the conversation, like he always does. “How can anyone say no to my beautiful, grey eyes and short, blond hair? I am quite a catch, if I say so myself," he says with a smile.

     "That only worked when you were a child,” she says in an accusing tone. “When we were out begging for scraps. Not a single person walked by you without giving you something."

     "I don’t think - what was her name,” he stops for a second to remember. “Ravel, minded."

     "Oh my God... Stop doing that! It doesn't count if you pay for it, you know!"

     "Now you’ve hurt my feeling sis. I never pay," he smirks and she sighs.

     "Could we just stop and focus on the matter at hand instead of your non-existent sex life?" she asks in a tired tone.

     “I do hav--”

     “Deon!”

     “Yeah, yeah… quiet now,” he says defeated and she sighs. Deon is three years her senior, but his mind and body are younger than hers. She is the updated human, her brother not so much. Deon is nineteen, she is sixteen. However the age is different now, at least if you want to compare it. If you are a human 2.0, then by the new laws you are legal at the age of seven - the same considered age as when mutants are legal at the age of eighteen. The human 2.0 are fully developed at the age of ten, but the mutants have to wait until they are twenty-one. Deon might be her older brother, but she was the adult - and in the eyes of the society, the oldest one.

     A slight rustling in the bushes a few meters away pulls Neida back to the present. A small animal walks out from under the bush. She glances over at her brother and sees him staring at the animal like a predator - a slight smile growing on his face when the animal does not spot them in their limited cover. Slowly, Deon makes his way to the animal. His eyes fix in on his prey. Then he stands at a deathly still as the animal turns its head towards him. His eyes do not leave the animal’s figure, and his breathing has ceased. The two stare at each other and Deon silently reaches for his throwing knife, lifts his arm up and bends it backwards. The animal drops dead. However it is not Deon's knife sticking out of the side. Deon grumbles and gets up.

     "Okay, come out! This was clearly OUR animal," he yells and tosses his arms out, his knife hanging loosely in his hand. "You come out here right now, or I'll hunt you down instead!"

     "Deon, relax. Take the animal and let's leave," Neida says as she tries to calm him down. She never really does like him when he becomes angry - really angry.

     “Don’t ‘Deon’ me, anyone with a brain could see that I was about to kill that animal!”

     "Perhaps, but I guess you were just, too, slow," a hidden voice says in satisfaction. Deon turns his head in the direction of the voice. "Easy there, if a look could kill I’d surely be dead," the voice says with a smile hidden in their voice. Seconds later, a figure emerges from behind a tree. Neida almost lets out a small laugh when she sees it is a woman. The woman has a big smile on her lips while her hands rest on her hips and the wind plays with her ravishing black hair.

     “You…” she hears Deon’s seething tone beside her. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” he asks in a low tone as the woman walks closer. She smiles wider.

     “Why, I’m out hunting, of course,” she mocks and walks over to the animal.  “Even an idiot would be able to see that,” she smirks at him over her shoulder, and then rips the knife free.

     “You bitch,” he clenches his fists. “It was my kill and you had no right to kill it!” Neida reaches out to calm him down, but he rips his shoulder out of her reach. She sighs behind him.

     “Your kill?” she chuckles in a mocking tone as she cleans the knife. “Well, I don’t see your name on this animal, or even the knife that pierced it.” She smirks. “So tell me again how this kill was yours?”

     “You fucking know what I meant!” he hisses and steps forwards. “I was about to kill that animal when you--”

     “When I killed it instead, therefore it is mine,” she interrupts him and stands up from the ground. “Of course, the law dictates that the one, who kills the animal, owns the animal. Is it not correct?” She smirks when he stays silent. “And should I remind you the consequences of stealing, hm?” She continues as he eyes the animal.

     “Taking what wasn’t yours to begin with is stealing!”

     “Tell that to someone who cares.” She rolls her eyes and grabs the dead animal. “Well, it was nice listening to your rant, but I really must be going now. You know how it is.”

      “You’re not going anywhere,” he says, as he stands up straight and starts to bend his arm back. Ready to throw a knife after her.

      “Deon!” Neida scolds and holds his throwing arm back. He stares at her, giving her the infamous glare, but Neida does not back down. He let out an irritated sound, but eventually relents the attack.

      “Deon, was it?” the woman asks as she stands before him. “Cute,” she says and looks at him, her eyes exploring every detail on Deon's face and body. “I definitely wouldn’t mind. Wouldn’t mind at all.” She brushes against his shoulder as she leaves them behind, not sparing Neida a look. Deon glares at the place the woman disappeared from.

      “Fucking bitch,” he mutters.

 

They walk back to village in silence. Only one animal hangs over Deon’s shoulder.

      “Deon, that single animal won’t be enough to provide for us for more but a couple of days, and the law clearly states that you are not supposed to hunt more than once every two weeks,” Neida says and looks over at her brother. However, Deon looks back at her with a big smile on his face. At least he is over the episode in the forest. She gives him a little slap on his arm. “It is not something you should smile about! Do you perhaps have a plan, since you have that shit-eating grin plastered all over your face?"

      “Perhaps I do,” he replies. “The Jeffersons have not had an animal for a long time. They will pay good for this and it will be enough for his whole family,” he says and a frown appears on Neida’s face.

      “They have had a hard time lately, do you really think it would be wise? What they pay us might be the last of their money.”

      “As long as we don’t go to bed hungry,” he declares.

      “You don’t mean that Deon,” she says, shock evident in her voice. He just smiles, then turns away from her and walk toward the Jeffersons. It does not take long before they have arrived at his house. Mr. Jefferson is standing outside with his back facing them.

      “Hey, Mr. Jefferson! Jack!” Deon calls to catch Jack Jefferson’s attention.

      Jack is married with two children, all of which are mutants. The youngest is three while the oldest is eleven, still helpless. At least Deon was ten when Mother died and not a screaming invalid. Father left when Mother got pregnant the second time. Mother used to say he was too ashamed, afraid to have another mutant child when both of them were human 2.0. She said he was a coward, and if he had any back bone he would have stayed. Somehow the Jeffersons are lucky, they stay together. Neida was seven when Mother died and even though Deon was ten, he was nowhere near ready to take care of himself. Neida herself was not ready to take care of a child, but she became ready fast. She was seven and legal. Deon was her responsibility, and you do not give up on family.

      “I don’t know Deon, your price seems quite high,” she hears Jack say in a polite tone when she reaches Deon’s side. Deon reaches out and lays a hand on Jack’s shoulder.

      “Jack, I know you and your family have not had the best meals lately,” he does his best to put on a sympathetic expression. “I don’t think you can afford not to,” Deon persuades and lifts his eyebrows to make his point.

      “I don’t know,” Jack says unsure, shifting a little uneasily.

      “Jack, buy the damn animal and give your family a nice good meal! They deserve it.”

      “Ah, what the hell?” he gives in. “You are right, Deon,” he sighs. “Let me just go in and get your money,” Jack says and walks back into his house. Neida looks at her brother who has a big smile on his face and the look of victory in his eyes.

      “Deon, do you really think that was the right thing to do?”

      “Shut up sis, now we have enough to buy ourselves food for a week. Maybe a week and a half,” he says through his smile.

      “I can’t believe you,” she says in disbelief.

      “You don’t think we deserve to live as well?” he accuses. “Perhaps you are weak, even if you’re upgraded, and perhaps you don’t know how to make the best of the situation. I certainly didn’t experience it when you had to take care of us - but I. Do. Know,” he argues. “I’m better than you at this and you know it. That’s why you’re reacting this way, isn’t it?”

      “Stop, Deon, that’s not--” but she does not get to finish before Jack interrupts them by returning.

      “Sorry about the wait,” he smiles tiredly. “Here’s the money.” Deon eagerly takes them and exchanges the animal.

      “Great. Enjoy your meal,” Deon says, and then continues on his way, leaving Jack behind. Neida hurriedly follows, her mind still at the ridiculous comment Deon made.

      “Seriously, that’s not the--”

      “Are you still on with that?” he asks. “God, you’re so childish. I thought we finished this discussion,” he says in a mocking tone, without even looking at her. She presses her lips tightly together and clenches her fists. When Deon is in that particular mood, there is nothing you can do or say without somehow losing the argument and appearing stupid. It has appeared more often lately and have only resulted in more arguments between them. More than what is normal between family. Frankly, it pisses her off, but there is not much she can do other than tiredly respond to his ridiculous comments. She decides to stay silent while they make their way to the market.

      Although, on their way to the market, Neida notices a strange feeling in the village. It is almost like something is about to happen, but she doesn’t know what exactly it is.

      She has always had feelings like this one. When something bad is about to happen, her instincts always flare like crazy. Like the day Mother died. Deon notices nothing. He only looks around, watching out for whatever interests him - which mostly are girls.

      “Deon, do you,” she begins, but she is interrupted by a scream a few feet in front of them. They barely spare a glance at each other, before they run over to the crowd that have already started gathering.

      “What’s going on…?” she hears a small child ask, as the mother quickly leads them away from the scene with a look of fear in her eyes.

      They push through the crowd and into the middle to see what is going on. Deon pushes several people away a bit harshly, while she gently pushes through them. Soon enough, they are in the middle and are able to see what is inside the circle.

      Neida’s blood runs cold as they are finally able to see. She puts a hand in front of her mouth, her eyes watering.

      They see a man holding a child in his arms.

      The child is unresponsive. Blood still runs fresh from every possible opening. Eyes, mouth, nose, ears. The blood runs down the skin and lands in a growing puddle on the ground beneath. Fearful whispers are heard in the crowd as the man loudly weeps and pulls the child closer.

     The Crimson Death has come to the village.

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