and his friends explores the rest of the building. It has three stories; the
first floor is a bakery shop, the second floor is a workshop of some sort, and
the third floor is a clothing shop. Hector and his friends gather on the first
floor to meet Nani, waiting with sweet bread and water bottles set for five
individuals. The students smile in relief, and sit down on the floor in front
of their respective serving.
“Thank you Nani.” Paige praises softly.
“You’re welcome,” Nani says, “I have to keep my group well fed!”
“Hey Nani, where did you find the water bottles?” Hector asks.
“I found them in the backroom. Actually that backroom is a kitchen I think. Anyway, these water bottles were stuffed inside a refrigerator.”
“Ah…” Hector ponders over the answer while he grasps the top of his fully packed rucksack.
Nani notices the clenching on his pack. “Hey Hector, you’ve gotten pretty lucky with your haul.”
Hector’s cheeks redden and he turns away. “Yea I guess,” He answers dismissively.
Nani tilts her head and eyebrows furrow in confusion, “Okay…” she says in a questioning manner. “Anyway, we should have enough sweet bread to last us until the end of the Survival Camp. I’ve arranged our portions evenly on each shelf,” she says, pointing at one of the aisles between the shelves of sweet bread. The rest of the shelves in the room are now completely empty save for the five individual shelves Nani organized.
“How about water?” Wei asks.
“There are still a bunch of water bottles in the backroom, but the faucet in the kitchen is working properly, so we have a fresh supply of water.” Nani answers.
“Fresh?” Lennon asks. “I thought this place was supposed to be built in ancient times? How could this water be any fresh?”
She pauses for a moment to clear her thoughts. “I guess if the people living here were using the water coming from the tap in the back, then I’m assuming it’s fresh enough to use and drink. I mean what kind of city could run without a fresh supply of water going to its people? Especially a city of this size. Besides it does look that the people were living her not too long ago. That explosion must have scared them off. One way or another, it seems like there must have been people using and drinking this water. This sweet bread is probably made with it too.”
“I think her theory is accurate.” Paige speaks with her familiar soft voice.
“Hey Paige! You’re backing her up?” Lennon asks in amazement.
“I support the logical truth using the data I have available to make my decisions. And so I can subscribe to Nani’s theory on the grounds of her deductions of the situation.”
Lennon’s jaw drops and his eyes widen. But he quickly composes himself and manages a sly grin. “I guess there is much I have yet to know about you Paige.”
Paige stares at him blankly when Wei shouts, “Enough about the water. That’s great that we can rely on the tap water. We really won’t need the other bottles of water then…” Wei glances at Hector in the corner of his eye without tilting his head toward the other boy.
Hector squints his eyes and the edge of his mouth curls into slight frown.
Wei smirks and says, “So what do you all want to do while we’re here? Now that we have our food, water and shelter secured, we essentially have ample amounts of free time to do what we want. If we were still in that forest, I’m sure we would be furiously gathering wood for fire, foraging for food, and looking for water supplies—all tedious and time consuming tasks. I think I’m going to mess around on the second or third floor.”
Lennon takes a bite of his sweet bread and swallows it before he says, “I’m going to the rooftop. I like the fresh air, and view of our home from here.”
“I’m going to join Lennon. I don’t normally have the opportunity to look at our home from this point of view. I’m going to enjoy the scene.” Paige says similarly.
Lennon’s heart skips a beat and he beams, while having micro day dreams about his upcoming time with Paige on the rooftop.
“I’m going to try and find some books around here. Maybe I can gather some information about this city. Who knows Hector, I might find out where all the people have gone to.” Nani says while glancing at Hector’s ruck sack.
“Hey Nani, stop looking at my sack,” Hector says while grinning mischievously, “your nose might start bleeding.”
Wei and Nani shake their head. “Really Hector? You are so lame.” Wei says while he palms his eyes.
Hector sticks out a tongue playfully.
Hector waits until his four friends have emptied out of the first floor to take the opportunity to retrieve another rucksack, and stuff it full of water bottles from the backroom and his share of the sweet bread. He approaches the front door when he hears footsteps enter the room from the staircase.
“I knew you were going to leave again. Promise me you’ll meet back up here, or at the Academy if things get hectic.”
Hector turns to see Nani arms stretched downward, while holding her two hands together.
“I will Nani. But… You... You’re not mad?”
“I don’t care if you have to go…” Nani starts.
“I mean… I know you have to go. That suit. You want to know what it is, don’t you?” Nani asks.
Hector looks to the ground and his cheeks flare a bright red. “Yeah.” He says hesitantly.
“No matter what I said before, I think coming here was actually a good idea.”
Hector looks up beaming. “Right?”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself. I still think we might get blown up at any time! But I guess that’s better than getting ripped to shreds slowly by a gulo. Having your flesh slowly peeled away, little by little as the gulo ingests your flesh for sustenance. The gulo after all is a wild animal, and doesn’t know how to mercifully hunt game. The gulo…”
Hector winces once more. “—Nani. You are so creepy when you start getting descriptive with biology. You are such a nerd when it comes to that stuff.”
Nani blushes. “Whatever. It’s not like I’m trying to be creepy.”
“No one ever tries to be creepy! Just look at Lennon…” Hector looks into her eyes and they both start laughing together.
“Well… be safe alright?” Nani says.
“I will.” Hector replies.
And with that. Hector leaves the room closing the door behind him. With a beaming expression, he runs toward the blast site of the explosion that almost killed Angelus the day before.
“Hey Nani, where’s Hector?” Wei asks, while he approaches from the staircase.”
“He… He left.”
“Wait, Wei! What do you mean already? You knew he was going to leave!?”
Wei desperately looks around the room. “Uhm, no?” He says awkwardly.
"You boys are always hiding things from me!"
"Sorry... mom." Wei says sardonically.
"Hmph. Whatever. I just saw him off."
"He told me on the roof that he was going to leave at dawn..."
"Maybe he was going to spend the time looking for water and then leave. Oh well, doesn't really concern us, does it?"
"Wait, why were we split up into groups of five for the Survival Camp if we can just freely do what we want?"
"To teach us teamwork?"
"Hmm. You would think it would be required for us to stay together."
"Wei, think about it. They send us out here knowing we can die..." Nani grimaces as the last words come out of her mouth. An image of Wei's late younger brother enters her mind. His small face that looks like a younger version of Wei. His similarly small stature. The signature smile that shows just enough of his teeth, that you can see he is missing several. The dimples formed from his signature smile. Tears start to form in Nani's eye.
"It's okay Nani. Don't cry. We come out here knowing we can die. The Academy doesn't send us out here without guardian approval and our consent. We both know this. You know this. So please don't cry."
"But... Wei... You're br-brother."
"I already told you didn't I? He knew the risk of participating in Survival Camp. We can change the subject now. I'm the one that last a brother, not you Nani. So don't cry."
"Alright. If you insist." Nani wipes the tears in her eyes.
"That's better," Wei says with a warm smile. "Do you want to go up to the roof and see if we can spot that blockhead?"
Nani grins, "I suppose."
Wei nods slightly as he takes her hand, and they go up the staircase to the roof together.
Hector finds himself creeping by the blast radius that almost killed Angelus when he feels he's being watched. He turns around in the direction of his group's base for the Survival Camp. He sees four small figures waving their little arms and he smiles. "What a bunch of blackheads those guys are," he mutters. He waves back for only a slight moment until he turns around to start walking onward into the heart of the city.
He passes the blast site when he realizes he's now entering unexplored territory as far as he is concerned. It doesn't take him long until he's crouching to stay low to the ground, he's peeking around corners, and he's trying to stay as quiet as possible.
It's dark when he finds himself looking for any unlocked buildings he can stay the night at. Fate brings him to one of the skyscrapers of Pater's skyline. He approaches the towering building's cylindrical doors and he considers them before he pushes on one of the three large glass doors. The other two glass doors are attached to the door he pushes and so they move counter clockwise along the inside of the cylinder. He quickly steps out into the building's atrium to avoid being squeezed between the cylinder's wall and the large glass doors inside the cylinder that is still moving with the excess inertial energy.
"Hey! Stop right there! Move an inch and you get a bullet in between your eyes!"
Hector immediately freezes, his very breath is the only thing he hears in the moment. Adrenaline starts pumping through his overworking heart. His pulse starts to become louder with every breath until it even overpowers the sound of his breath.
"Hey boy!" A familiar voice shouts from above.
The atrium features an open design that opens up to four of the building's thirty-something levels.
"Why are you here?" The male voice echoes in the atrium making it impossible to tell where exactly the voice is coming from.
Meanwhile, Hector eyes the man holding a rifle pointed in his direction. The man is aiming down sights, his breathing steady and his arms still. He is wearing a crew neck sweater and black cargo pants.
"Hey boss!" the rifleman calls out but maintains his steady arm and breathing, still ready to shoot at a moment's notice. "You know this runt?"
"I do," the boss calls out from somewhere above.
"Is he a friendly?"
The rifleman relaxes and rests the rifle on one shoulder. He starts walking down the stairs in front of him. The end of the staircase leads to a couple of feet in front of Hector. Hector in turn relaxes and sighs in relief.
“So is that how you greet all your guests? By the way why in the world would you keep these doors open if you were hostile to whoever walks in? Are you the only one guarding this entrance? What if a bunch of people rushed the place? Even with this weird cylindrical door, after the first few people got shot, the others would surely make it in…” Hector asks a series of questions while he massages his temple and combs his long hair backward, out of his face.
“Hey kid, you talk too much. Besides, I normally have a team of about five others, but since the boss came back, I only need him and myself to defend this entrance.” The rifleman tells Hector.
In an instant and without a sound, a man appears before Hector, as if he materialized out of thin air. Hector falls back and lands on his bottom with his knees bent and his two straightened arms extending backwards to support his weight. He has a shocked facial expression and the man smirks after he observes Hector.
“Hey boy, your eyes couldn’t process my landing, could it?” the phantom man asks.
Hector shakes his head and blinks a few times before he gets to his feet. He looks the phantom over, and the man’s identity dawns on Hector. “Angelus! Wow. How did you do that? It was the suit right?”
Angelus smirks once more, “Yup. Pretty neat isn’t it?”
“Neat? It’s so cool~” Hector shouts in excitement.
The black suit covers Angelus’ entire body from his neck downward. Hector can almost see speckles shimmering in the light, but the speckles shift around the surface of Angelus’ body, despite Angelus keeping still.
“It’s amorphous isn’t it?” Hector asks.
“Big word for a blockhead, eh Damius?” Angelus looks to his side where the rifleman is now standing.
“You got that right, boss. And he talks too much, eh boss?” the Damius asks.
“You’re right,” Angelus chuckles, “this kid talks as much as that damn boss of mine.”
Captain? Hmm…” Damius tilts his head as he ponders over Angelus’ statement. “You
know what, you’re right. But don’t tell the Captain that.” Damius blushes.
“So long as you don’t talk bad about me behind my back. Hahaha.” Angelus laughs aloud, but immediately glares at Damius, “I’m serious.” Angelus says grimly.
Damius and Hector shudder at Angelus’ words.
Hector, why are you here? I thought you had some sort of Camp to complete?”
Angelus turns his attention toward Hector.
“I do… But…”
“But you want to see the suit once more, am I right?” Angelus cuts him off.
Hector blushes, “Yeah.”