Into the Amazon—Ulrika
Once onto the dock, we began to sprint down along the pathway to the first blockade that was stacked with rusting cars. This was the beginning of Countiel Boulevard. I looked behind me to see a number of people from the Maiden waving at us and shouting good luck as the bridge was retracted back on board.
We kept our eyes forward and walked down the cleared street which was bordered on the side ends with more abandoned cars as far as the next cleared street. We cleared and created a transit system with the downtown streets that connected to ideal locations that contained or potentially contained resources we could use at the Maiden. The blockades were set up for a reason, of course; it was to potentially keep the Rest out of the way. They were people who didn't quite make it after the Panic that occurred a year ago. That's when everything went to hell.
We paced ourselves as quietly as possible when rushing down Countiel.
"Should we head for the capital building?" Arron suggested.
I nodded, "Yeah. There might be some clues there."
"Hold up!" Koi quietly stopped everyone. I sneaked to his side to see what was up. Sure enough, there was. One of the Rest was leaning back and forth in place right in the middle of the street. It's skin was dark and decayed. It gurgled and growled at nothing and bent backwards in an un-rhythmic motion and its fingers were twisted in grotesque positions that made you cringe. Even I had to swallow my uneasiness down.
Koi held his pickaxe firmly, "I got this one." He ran up to it in a quick and timely manner and railed the tip of his weapon into the canal of its head, killing it with no effort. He took a deep breath as he tried pushing the body to the end of the wall. "Problem solved."
We continued our run towards the capital building that was nearly half a mile north of us. The path directed left onto Parliament Drive that intersected with Countiel. At this point, we started to pant from the long sprint.
I called it. "Let's stop and catch our breath for a minute."
We made a halt just under a street overpass to rest in its shade before moving on. I unclipped my water bottle that clung to my utility belt and helped myself to the Maiden's mountain spring water supply. I wondered about the possibility of more survivors that might be alone out here and looking for help. Mothers. Fathers. Siblings. Elders. Children. It always made my heart sink just thinking about it. I took a deep breath and clipped the bottle back onto my belt as I waited for the others to finish up. This life wasn't going to be worry-free anymore and that stresses me out the most.
Ami poked at my shoulder, "Hey."
"Eat this," she handed me what looked like a piece of scarlet candy wrapped in yellow.
I accepted the candy, looking at it, dumbfounded. "Um...?"
"It's a sedative lozenge. I noticed how uneasy you were and this will help clear your senses," she winked with a thumbs up, "while having that luscious fruity flavor."
"Eheh, thanks, Ami." I unraveled the tablet and popped it into my mouth. The sharp sensation of citrusy strawberry tingled my nerves as the flavor tickled my taste buds.
"And no," Ami continued, wavering a cardinal-tinted bar-like candy canister in front of her face, "you won't be getting any more from me unless it's an emergency. I need to stay stocked, you know."
"Okay okay," I snickered.
"I think it's about time we started moving again," Koi suggested.
I nodded and we continued our route to the capital building. I kept an eye on our map while recording which streets we were passing. "It should be a few more blocks before we reach it."
The sunlight soaked onto our skin like a mist, the temperature gradually rising by the hour. I occupied myself by savoring the lozenge in my mouth while wiping my barrel along the base of my dirndl.
"Yo, Uena," Ami instigated, "Are you into younger guys?"
I continued polishing my barrel, "That was random. Already thinking of me as some shota-lover?"
"Don't use foreign words on me. I'm being serious here. Haven't you noticed a certain someone always giving you the flushed-up face?"
Ami face-palmed herself, "Reece's only desires are for you to be his."
"He's just a kid, Ami," I folded my arms as I walked. "He doesn't know what he wants." I'm well aware of Reece's affectionate interests for me and, to be quite honest, I'm unsure whether or not to be flattered or dismayed to such truth. I've never really thought about any matters of romance since I've been so occupied keeping things under control at the Maiden. What I need to do, though, is make sure Reece doesn't do anything too rash.
"We're here," Arron interrupted.
We focused our attention to a 120-story skyscraper that was the capital building.
"Looks a lot bigger up close," Koi claimed.
"Alright," Ami stepped up, "move aside."
She walked in front of everyone and examined the front entrance to the building. With only bits of tall grass sprinkled all over the pavement, Ami inaudibly opened one of the large, severely-cracked glass doors and wedged a small block of carved wood under it to keep it wide open. This was one of her specialties—infiltration. She skims the area for any signs of struggle, occupation or hazards before giving the okay to explore and scavenge the place. It's not that hard to do, though. But everyone will exaggerate the position to be something only a professional can do. So only Ami will do it.
She waved at us, "All clear. Let's go up."