He wasn’t completely conscious. It took him a couple minutes to decide that fact. The world was shadowy and far away. His chest felt heavy as he struggled to breath. The faint light falling on him disappeared for a moment and he heard a voice swimming towards him out of the murk.
“It’s a man, and I’m pretty sure he’s still alive.”
The ground started shaking underneath him and falling off of him, but he couldn’t tell what happened next. The darkness swallowed him whole.
The next time his brain was his own again, Duran managed to force his eyes open. He was staring up at a crumbling ceiling. Red stone, obviously poor quality. Either mined from the planet or pressed and heated slabs of dust. No one built like that anymore, not if they had any other choice.
“You’re far out, son.”
Duran took another moment before he tried to move his head or talk. To his surprise, he didn’t have any particular trouble with either.
“How far?” His voice was a little hoarse.
“So far we don’t even have our own colonization sector. We’re a ways past 15-Lewisnclarke.”
Duran whistled, or tried to. It came out more like a wheeze. The city of Lewisnclarke was already way out there. One of the last bastions of civilization before the wastelands. The whole area was dotted with terraforming dead zones.
Now that he was more awake, a flash of panic ripped through his brain. He reached behind him and felt for his sword. There was nothing there. His sudden movements tugged at an IV line sticking out of one arm.
“Looking for that?”
Duran looked at the old man and then at where he was pointing. The old, weathered face was hidden by a bushy, white beard. The top of his head was completely bald, but everywhere else his hair was thick. His eyebrows looking like small, furry animals perched above his eyes.
The man was pointing at a pile on the floor next to one wall. Duran recognized his purple coat. It was balled up around what looked to be the rest of his effects. Sticking out from underneath, he could see the sword handle.
“No one touched it, did they?”
The old man looked at the pile and then back to Duran. He didn’t need an explanation of what ‘it’ Duran was talking about.
“No. When we brought you in here, you were conscious enough to mumble something about not touching it. You sounded pretty convincing.”
Duran settled back on the bed with a sigh. It creaked underneath him. It wasn’t in any better condition than the ceiling. His sword had defenses that made sure anyone trying to steal it wouldn’t get a second opportunity. He’d never found a way to turn them off.
“I’m guessing you did this,” Duran said, pointing at the IV. “You got a name? I’d like to know who to thank.”
“Blackstone, Doctor Blackstone Moss.”
“Oh, you’re the town doctor?”
“No, he died in a rock slide a few years back. I’m a geologist.”