Carpathia III: Episode 21 - The River

Unknown City

Adell and Artemis sat close together on the dusty ground near the cave entrance. Both agreed that it would not be a good idea to gather up the dried scrub around them to make a fire, for it could attract attention. To combat the cold, they huddled together for warmth while they waited for Phobos and Deimos to return. Amongst the many abilities they were programmed for, stealth was one of the ones Artemis prioritized as part of his aspiration to one day sell the technology to the military. That, plus their small size made them ideal to go out and scout the town, gather intelligence, and report back as to whether or not it was safe to proceed.

For Adell, each minute that passed while Phobos and Deimos were gone seemed to creak by interminably. Artemis was unconcerned, however, constantly reassuring him with confidence that both of them were just fine. As they waited, a warm wind descended upon them from the west thus making the air around them more comfortable again. Having become used to the extreme humidity around the rising falls, Adell was having trouble getting used to the dryness. Every breath he took made his nose and throat feel as though it was cracking a little more and dust from the dry, parched ground only worsened the feeling.

Phobos and Deimos finally returned, bringing with them a hope of good news.

Artemis: What did you find out?

Phobos: It appears the city is sleeping. There's very little activity of any kind.

Deimos: Up ahead is a river where you can refill your water. I analyzed a sample and it's reasonably fit for consumption.

Adell: And a quick wash too, I hope.

Artemis: A wash? Is that all you can think of?

Adell: Better not to go into the city looking and smelling like bums.

Artemis paused for a moment before looking down at himself and examining his clothing. He lifted one of his arms and sniffed a little. He recoiled immediately, repulsed by the smell.

Artemis: Okay, I see your point. Let's go to the river first then. We should do it while it's still dark.

Deimos: Not to worry, Master Artemis. Based on our observations, there is at least six hours of darkness remaining before sunrise.

Adell expected Artemis to follow up his last sentence with a request that Phobos and Deimos take them to the river, but instead, there was a sudden lull in the conversation. He thought, by now, that Artemis would be used to making requests of Phobos and Deimos nicely, but sometimes, the words still caught in his throat.

Adell: Could you show us to the river?

Deimos: Of course.

Phobos: It's this way.

Phobos and Deimos turned and headed towards the outer edge of the city with Adell and Artemis following them close behind.

Artemis: Have either of you seen anything like a hotel or lodge? A place to get food would be good too.

Deimos: Not yet. We are on the edge of a residential area, so most of what we've seen are houses.

Phobos: The few businesses we have seen are closed.

Adell: We don't even know if they use money here. Not that we have any. Possibly we can trade something.

To Artemis's discomfort, Adell glanced at his backpack.

Adell: What's the level of technology here?

Phobos: Difficult to say, but based on what we've seen so far...

Deimos: ...around early 20th century Earth technology. Some things are a little more advanced, some less, but right around that.

Adell stole another glance at Artemis's backpack.

Artemis: Don't even think about it.

Adell: Why not? We need something to trade and there has to be something useful in that backpack of yours.

Phobos: We're approaching the road now.

As they approached the road and houses, they could see the meticulously manicured lawns and the abruptness of their borders of the desert soil. There was a very clear line demarcating the green grass and the orange soil. The houses were all large and there appeared to be no activity in or around them. As they approached the road itself, they found it as smooth and black as fine lacquer. The sweet scent of flowers arose from the carefully manicured median in the center of the road bathed in the soft glow of the finely crafted wrought iron street lamps.

They could see no traffic or people anywhere on the street, so they crossed quickly and continued down the winding road to the river below. Artemis and Adell followed the little androids to a pair of bridges connecting a small island in the river to the banks on either side. The island appeared to be a park of some kind, meticulously tended and full of more sweet-smelling flowers. On the other side of the river, they turned down to the rocky shore.

Adell: This is as good a place as any. I don't think anyone can see us here.

Adell first dipped his hands into the water and rubbed the dirt off. It was surprisingly warm, almost like a heated swimming pool. He cupped his hands and lifted some water to his mouth and drank. Warm as the water was, it wasn't very refreshing, but it was still enough to quench his thirst. When he was finished, he reached down and started pulling his shirt off over his head. He tossed his shirt aside and then began to take off his shoes when he noticed that Artemis was simply standing where he was not doing anything.

Adell: Aren't you going to wash?

Adell continued pulling off his shoes and then moved on to his socks as he waited for Artemis to respond.

Artemis: I...

Adell finished pulling off his socks and started unbuckling his belt.

Adell: What?

He pulled his belt off as he waited for Artemis to finally tell him what he was thinking.

Artemis: I've... never been naked in front of another guy before.

Adell froze for in the middle of unzipping his jeans and started to giggle.

Adell: Hee hee hee hee hee. Never thought you'd be the shy type.

With the initial surprise worn off, Adell continued to unzip his jeans and started to shimmy out of them.

Artemis: It's not that! Well, it's kinda that... but... it's also...

Adell pulled off his last pant leg. All that was left was his underwear and it was then that Adell glanced down at Artemis's pants, noticing a distinct bulge. He looked up at Artemis again and realized he was doing his best not to look directly at him.

Adell: Artemis, you're not exactly straight, are you?

Artemis shot a glance over at Adell before he replied.

Artemis: Not really.

Adell: Bi?

Artemis glanced at Adell again.

Artemis: Yeah.

Adell: Well, why the big secret? This isn't Earth, you know.

Artemis: I know that. It's just...

Adell: Just what?

Artemis: I thought I could ignore that part of myself. But now... After so many months without even seeing a girl...

Adell grinned cheekily.

Adell: Yes?

Artemis: Okay, so even you're starting to look attractive. There, I said it. Happy?

Somewhat disappointed, Adell rolled his eyes.

Adell: Well, I'm not sure when you put it that way.

Adell thought for a moment, then, deciding that a different approach was necessary, he pulled down his boxers and jumped in the river.

Adell: Come on in! The water's perfect!

Adell splashed cheerfully in the water for a few moments before standing up and staring at Artemis devilishly. Artemis stared back at him for several moments before finally kneeling down to Phobos and Deimos.

Artemis: Could you two go and... um... keep a lookout and make sure nobody is coming for... about fifteen minutes?

Artemis looked back at Adell, still standing in the water with a big grin on his face.

Artemis: Make that thirty minutes.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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