Carpathia III: Episode 140: Ruined City

Far South of Nekramentia

The way the group was following could hardly be described as a path, for there was none. The days went by navigating only by landmarks and with Keast flying ahead to survey the land in front of them. There was only barely enough to sustain them and each wondered at least once how Nita's grandmother managed to make it out this far. Replenishing supplies was more difficult than they thought, but Keast and Ryuu were up to the task, catching small animals and occasionally a large one for a meal, which Jaze and Ryuu were able to cook for all to eat.

There was little of the landscape of interest. Even the landmarks were few and far between, to the point where even a small hill was worth mentioning. Oases, while not plentiful, were at least in sufficient numbers for regular water bottle refills and having the water master Kaoru around helped ease the anxiety of finding water regularly.

Beyond basic needs, the only other issue was entertainment, as it was quite easy to get bored trudging across such a repetitive landscape. Sometimes Kaoru regretted bringing the book Tarja gave him along and thought he would be glad to be rid of the extra weight, but it at least proved to be a nice little time waster during the down times. Reuli felt the same about his guitar. However, even though it was electric, made a nice enough sound on its own for a little singing. Reuli also delighted in instructing Jaze on some of the songs that he knew, naturally avoiding the operatic styles that put everyone else into a trance, and sometimes they would sing together for everyone else.

Jaze: Like a warrior that fights
And wins the battle
I know the taste of victory
Though I went through some nights
Consumed by the shadows
And was crippled emotionally

Reuli: Somehow I made it through the heartace, yes I did
I escaped
I found my way out of the darkness, kept my faith
Kept my faith
When the river was deep

Jaze: I didn't falter

Reuli: And the mountain was high

Jaze: I still believed

Reuli: And the valley was low

Jaze: It didn't stop me, nooooooooooooo!

Reuli and Jaze: I knew you were waiting, knew you were waiting for me

As Jaze and Reuli continued to sing, Toma scooted closer to Jaze and wrapped his arms around Jaze's chest. Jaze turned and sang directly to Toma.

Jaze: With endless desire
I kept on searching
Sure in time our eyes would meet
And like the bridge is on fire
The hurt is over
One touch and you set me free

The song continued while Jaze and Toma cuddled in front of everyone. After that one was finished, Reuli and Jaze did a few more. It was enough, at least, to keep their spirits up for the next round of dreadful trudging through the desert.

After more days of walking, there was suddenly a change in conditions. The landscape transformed from the usual hard, scrubby desert to a more traditional sandy desert. Though softer, the sand tired the group even more because of the extra effort necessary to move against a surface that provided little resistance. Now, slips and falls started becoming commonplace. Sand blew all around them with each windy gust and the sky began to darken. Keast, doing most of the scouting ahead, assured everyone that they were still on the right track. When the group crested one particularly high ridge, they got confirmation of this right away.

Stretched out before them was a ruined city. Only the tall buildings showed above the sand, for each was buried at least four or five floors from the bottom. If anything, it was even more haunting in person than what Nita described and drew in her adventure log. Sand whipped through the canyons between buildings in waves as the dark clouds swirled overhead.

Kaoru: Is it safe to go through?

Phobos: Don't worry. We can scan for structural stability.

Deimos: If any of the structures are unsound, we'll let you know.

With that, the decision was made. They would go through, but it also seemed like it might be a good place for a rest as well, so long as they could find a safe place for shelter.

The group descended down the ridge and into the city. Slowly, they walked through, eyes turned upward at the buildings around them. No doors were visible from where they were. The sand, they thought, must have swallowed them up and now they were buried somewhere beneath the surface.

Artemis peered inside the broken window of one of the buildings and squinted in the dim light.

Artemis: Phobos, Deimos, how's this building? Is it safe?

There was a pause as Phobos and Demos both stopped and appeared to simply look at the building.

Phobos: The outside appears sound.

Deimos: We'll check the inside.

The androids trotted inside as the others approached Artemis.

Adell: Something interesting?

Artemis: Sort of. It looks like this one was a hotel or apartment. Might be a good place to rest for the night. Besides, I want to look inside and see what it's like.

Adell: I doubt that they'll have good room service, but shelter might be good anyway.

Suddenly, several lights flickered inside and several exploded in a shower of sparks seconds later. The others jumped back, wondering if the entire building was coming down.

Phobos: Sorry! Deimos hooked herself up to the power grid. You can come in now!

Hesitantly, Artemis stepped toward the window and peered inside. With several of the lights broken, it was still dim, but it was still much easier to see. Swinging his foot over the windowsill, Artemis stepped inside.

Artemis: Yeah, I think it's an apartment. That looks like a kitchen over there.

Slowly, the others followed, climbing into the window one by one.

Quilyon: Nobody wanders off alone! Make sure you are with someone at all times!

The others nodded in agreement as they started looking through the ruins of the apartment. Jaze pulled open a bureau drawer and found papers inside with writing that looked similar to what was on the door handle that Phobos and Deimos found. When he tried to pick one of the papers up, it immediately disintigrated into powder. Then, he suddenly remembered his camera. Taking it out of his pocket, he started taking pictures of everything he could see.

The others wandered around the different rooms of the apartment, looking around at the various artifacts. It was clear enough that the city was nekomi. Cat-like statues were a very common decoration. Frames hung on the wall and adorned flat surfaces, but most contained blank paper or were faded so badly that it was impossible to tell what the pictures were. Nevertheless, Jaze photographed them as well. In the kitchen, Jaze yanked several times what appeared to be the door of a refrigerator until the seal crackled like old glue coming apart and the door fell to the floor.

Inside, there was no hint of any food having been left behind but, for some reason, a two-foot, nekomi-shaped doll lay on its side on the top shelf. Why was it there, he wondered. Perhaps this wasn't a refrigerator after all, or some child, perhaps, thought this would be a safe place for it. Jaze took a picture of the doll and reached inside gingerly and poked it. The doll, unlike the papers, did not disintigrate, and he carefully picked it up and cradled it in his hands. It filled him with sadness, in spite of her merry, buoyant expression. The doll was female, with tiger-like markings, just like his father, and was dressed in a pretty, black dress, glasses, and a jaunty little hat with one ear poking out the side. In her hand, she clutched a book. It was in remarkably good condition. Somehow, her resting place left her perfectly preserved.

Jaze sniffled and rubbed his eyes, which caught the immediate attention of Toma.

Toma: Are you okay?

Jaze hastily rubbed his eyes again and struggled to speak, holding up the doll so that Toma could see.

Jaze: I'm fine. Look at this. It's like Mom and Dad all rolled into one.

It was moments like these that Toma showed the side of himself that Jaze liked best. Toma did not respond immediately and took his time studying the doll. Only after he had truly taken a faithful effort to understand what Jaze was saying and study the doll did he give his true feeling.

Toma: You're right. That's exactly what it is.

A shout broke Jaze from his little daydream.

Kaoru: Reuli, don't touch that!

The lights suddenly flickered and Jaze and Toma ran to the source of the shouting. Finding what appeared to be the open front door of the apartment, they ran through into a vast atrium. Right away, they could see that their apartment was at least six floors from the ground and continued upward for another thirty or so to the roof. Reuli stood sheepishly next to the doors of what was clearly an elevator. Above, they could clearly hear the groans of metal straining against itself.

Kaoru: Everyone, get back!

Kaoru grabbed Reuli and Wolfram, dragging them away from the elevator while Jaze and Toma scooted flat against the wall. Just then, they heard a sound like a cable snapping like a whip crack and the sound of metal grinding against metal. Like a bullet, the elevator shot past them with a shower of sparks in the shaft and landed with a colossal crash to the lobby below.

Reuli, shaking and teary-eyed, fidgeted nervously.

Reuli: I'm sorry.

Kaoru placed a comforting hand on Reuli's shoulder.

Kaoru: It's okay. Nobody's hurt. Just be careful what you touch, alright?

Very quickly, a new rule was put into effect, all exploring must be done with an adult included and in groups of no fewer than four. Carefully, the group continued to examine the ruins.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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