When Maika awoke, she found herself lying on a bed beneath some thin sheets, damp but otherwise in a much better state than she had been before. She stared upwards at a ceiling of tightly interlocked wooden planks and bare light bulbs, which flickered every so often but otherwise filled the cabin with soft yellow light. The pattering of rain on the windows next to the bed where she lay drew her gaze away, and she watched as the ceaseless downpour continued on outside her shelter. She shifted her left arm experimentally, feeling the worn mattress beneath her, fingers brushing against the rough cloth. She ached, but movement was evidently still possible; she flexed her fingers before curling them back into a fist, and slowly, she rolled herself over onto her front.
She braced herself with both hands and pushed herself up, wincing slightly at the pain that tore up her back as her stiff muscles resisted as best they could, reluctant to help her move. She slid free from the sheets and swung her feet over the bed onto the floor, planting them firmly before tentatively attempting to rise, keeping a hand on the bed for stability; it was then that she finally noticed the cloaked figure watching impassively from the side, features still hidden by the same grey hood. She stopped moving, staring at the figure, carefully considering her options; the unknown person certainly wasn't giving away their intentions so she had to be careful. She could still feel a dull aching in her neck where the needle had plunged through her skin, it seemed to pulse with a dull fire and made it painful to keep still for long, but there was also the part where clearly, the figure had helped her into this bed once she'd been out. Just what exactly did the strange figure want?
"So you're finally awake." The hooded figure finally said, voice flat. Maika couldn't tell if they were male of female just from the voice.
Maika waited patiently, not saying anything back. This stranger who had knocked her out would have to do better than that before she got a word out of her.
"It was once considered rude not to respond when you were being spoken to, did you know that?" the figure said, stepping slowly forwards. Something glinted in its hand which slowly withdrew from the confines of the cloak, cold silvery metal of a shade foreign to Maika who had known only dull grey and the dust red of rust her entire life, some tool from the past now gone. "But more importantly I must ask you, how is it that you come upon this boat of mine that for half a decade has drifted on the frigid waters of Lake Arity?" the figure paced around the side of the bed, drifting back and forth, shapeless, "The rains made a flood, and my boat was set adrift but apart from that I know nothing of where I am, tell me girl, where am I?"
"Maika." Maika whispered.
"I know not of any place called Maika, present or past." The silver tool swung upwards and pointed at Maika's face. "You'd best clarify for me."
"My name," Maika said faintly, "The Kingdom, this place."
"Whose kingdom would that be exactly? I've seen no ruler of the hell this world has become."
"The rust, the rust beneath the water."
"Your manners of speech are somewhat strange, as thought you were not quite...taught, more that you use what is left. You are alone, so I would not presume to think that you were educated properly, a pity I suppose."
"You talk lots."
"I ask you questions because I want to know why you're on my boat. My drifting through here because of the flooding is one thing, but your dragging yourself onto this boat looking like a drowned rat is another entirely, how the hell did you get here?"
"Rain caused flooding, I had to leave my home." Maika said, the power of speech slowly returning to her as she had her first conversation in years.
"And your home somehow has access to this boat then. " the voice snorted, sounding unconvinced.
"Rats can swim." Maika said flatly.
"You telling me that you swam through that mess out there? You're a strong one."
"Swam, when I had to, floated where possible; drowned more than anything else."
"Well then you're one hell of a survivor, I wouldn't go out there if you paid me!" there was a laugh, and the figure pulled its hood down to reveal a young feminine face lightly concealed behind a frazzled layering of light brown hair. Soft green eyes peered out from behind the thin curtain of hair, filled with a rare sense of laughter and mirth that Maika had not seen in a long time and after a moment's further deliberation she decided that she could trust this person, whoever she was.
"Who are you?" she asked, her eyes not shifting from the other girl's gaze.
The other girl paused a moment and her eyes flickered towards the ceiling as though she were considering something, but after a couple of seconds she answered Maika,
"Shuri is my name Maika, and this boat you're on is my home of some four years now."
"You tranqed me." Said Maika, matter of factly.
"I had no idea who you were, it was a necessary precaution."
"Necessary by what standards?"
"In this day and age? Anybody and everybody's standards match those kinds of precautions."
"Everybody? So you're here with someone else then."
"What, were you only pretending to be inept with the English language or something?" Shuri said, raising an eyebrow at Maika's suddenly clearer speech.
"I did receive an education you know, I just haven't had much of a chance to use it these past few years, given all the shit this world's been through." Maika enunciated each word carefully, relishing the way which they rolled smoothly off of her tongue after years on end of surviving on her own; just being able to have a conversation was satisfying in its own right. She hadn't realized just how much she missed the company of another human being.
"Really, and just moments ago you were all quiet on me, not saying a word. You excited to see me or something?"
"No, it's just been awhile since I've had someone to talk to, that's all."
"I don't suppose you've been living with anyone else either then."
"No, it was just me. Always has been just me, there never really was anybody else."
"Not even before all this, before the Cataclysm and all the world went to shit?"
"Not then, but...the life I had then seems too long ago for me to remember now, one can hardly say that things haven't changed since then."
"But that does me that you had someone once, somebody else you could rely on."
Maika's eyes were hard, "Somebody yes, but someone I could rely on, no."
"I see." There was a look of sorrow in Shuri's eyes. "I'm sorry it's been that way for you."
"Don't be, I doubt you've had it any easier the way the world's been." Maika relented, allowing her momentary anger to fade.
Shuri responded with silence, giving Maika a moment to think. She studied the look of the other girl's face, the small rounded nose and thin slightly pursed lips, noting how the light filtered through the canopy of Shuri's brown hair casting her pale skin in a warm yellow glow that was comfortable to the eyes beneath the harsher white of the lightbulbs above. Like her, and justt about everyone she'd ever seen since the Cataclysm occurred, she was thin, and slender; physical fitness was very important nowadays, those unable to fend for themselves did not survive. Her clothes were alot better than what Maika had been wearing; they were actually more than one colour, unlike Maika's simple nightgown and plain jacket. She supposed that this boat here must have contained a stash of clothing both casual and functional; she envied that, for years she had worn nothing but the same two sets of clothing and her jacket, having more than a single set of spare clothes seemed to be a great luxery indeed, to Maika anyways.
"You must have some grat stuff on this boat, to have managed to stay here on your own for so long." Maika said at last, curious to learn a little more about her host's quarters.
"Don't be fooled by the appearance of luxury, this thing is falling apart just like the rest of this world." Shuri laughed, her voice a pleasant tinkling sound. "I've called this place home for many years now but not once have I bothered to maintain any of it's parts; I'm surprised it still floats without any leaks actually."
"Sure beats the place I called home; I was living in a hole that someone dug out ages ago under some old vehicle."
"Wow, I couldn't really imagine doing that," Shuri shuddered, "I always hated being underground, it always felt so suffocating to me."
Maika shrugged, "It was alright, sure beat staying out in the damp of the rain. It's gone now though, lost beneath the waves."
"How long did you stay there?"
"I'm not sure, years probably. For a time I wandered, following my father wherever he went; but he never was quite sane after what happened, though I only realized that after he had gone. He disappeared one day, leaving me behind to fend for myself, and though even before that he had been a poor guardian, it had still been better than nothing. I ran for what felt years, moving each day, spending each night in a different hole, pit, or ruin. But my little shelter beneath that military vehicle, it was like heaven when I found it. At last I had a place to stay, a place to call my own, permenantly."
"You just found it, and decided just like that?"
"It felt right, I don't know how else I can describe it. It was safe certainly, I mean it was hidden beneath a tank or something, it felt so secure. I guess it was just the safest spot I ever came across."
"It sounds like it would've been a decent place to stay compared to everything else outside. I guess you must miss it after staying there for so long."
Maika pursed her lips slightly, "I don't miss it so much as regret what I left behind there. I spent years stockpiling food and tools there, and I had to leave it all behind when it started to flood. Such a waste."
There was a thud as the boat banged against something large, causing both of them to stumble. Maika glanced cautiously outside but could see nothing but the endless rain spattering onto the windowpanes.
"Well, I suppose ditching all that stuff beats drowning eh?" Shuri laughed lightly, seemingly unphased by the impact.
"I guess, thought I find it hard to believe that after all these years of rain, it's suddenly pouring like this." Maika responded, gesturing outside towards the rain. "I wonder what the cause of all this could be?"
"Speculate all you want but I doubt we'll ever figure it out, not with the way the world is right now."
"Perhaps, but we'll go nowhere if we don't stop the rains."
"You say as though something caused it, as though we could somehow stop all of this."
"That's not what I meant."
"What then? It's the weather Maika, we can't change it."
Maika paced, unsure of what to do. "I don't know, but I don't want to feel so helpless trapped in here on this boat!"
"The rain will stop eventually, it has to. In the meantime you can stay here with me; hell you can stay here with me as long as you want, you look capable, I wouldn't mind having an extra set of hands and someone to talk to."
Maika nodded her head in the direction of the downpour outside, "Not like I've got much choice, any home I had before is gone now."
"Welcome aboard then, I hope you find the place to your liking." Shuri sat back down on the bed where Maika had lain, laying back and stretching out her arms. "You can take a look around the interior while we wait out the rain," she said, yawning.
"When I dragged myself onto this boat I had a pack with all my stuff, where did you put it?"
"Your bag and stuff? It should all be somewhere in the back room, go take a look."
Maika strode out of the small bedroom where she'd been, ducking through the low doorway into the next room, a combined kitchen and living room of sorts; the chamber had a low floor which sunk down into the hull and a couple of battered sofas surrounding a central table, which was fixed to the floor or wooden planks. On the far side of the room was a small sink basin and oven surface, flanked by two sets of drawers, and on one of these drawers sat Maika's belongings, unceremoniously stuffed into the opening apart from her spear which lay on the stovetop. A trickle of water dripped from her bag which was still soaked through and through from time beneath the downpour; she gingerly removed it from the shelf drenching her feet and took care to hold it away from her body, noting the puddle that was forming quickly beneath it.
She peered inside, grimacing at the pool of muddy water which still swirled through her bag; apparently Shuri hadn't bothered to even empty it of water. She sighed, and then upended it dumping out its contents into the sink. What remained of her belongings scattered into the sink with sickening splat. Her clothes and the sleeping bag were completely soaked, and the flashlight looked like it had seen better days. The ration packs on the other hand seemed to have fared better, they were still sealed so Maika assumed that they would still be good for eating.
She checked the flashlight, flicking it on and was happy to see the LED's inside light up despite the turmoil the tool had been through. Apparently the thing had watertight seals, closer inspection revealed rubber rings around the openings which must have kept water from entering inside. Claire smiled slightly; the newest items she'd aqquired from the crashsight had weathered through the damage just fine, but it was all of her old equipment that had suffered. Perhaps it was a sign that it was time to move on from the past. None the less, she carefully wrung out her soaked clothes before laying them out by the windows which looked out into the pounding rain; though they likely wouldn't be drying out anytime soon it was better than leaving them to slowly rot in the sink if she did nothing.
Maika sat herself down on one of the sofas, feeling herself sink into the soft material. Though it showed signs of wear, it was still soft and comfortable. She looked out into the rain, wondering when it would stop; it must have been raining non stop for almost three days now and the volume of the downpour showed no signs of lessening. When she strained her eyes to look past the torrential rainfall she could just barely make out the roiling surface of the water which seethed and boiled with pent up energy and motion. She could see nothing that poked above the surface anymore, the water must have been atleast six meters deep.
She felt a distinct feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach, in spite of what Shuri had said to try and reassure her before. She had never really felt like this before, but now she thought she knew what this was: despair. She didn't cry, nor did she scream or howl or make any noise at all; she jut kept on staring outside at the endless rain which seemed to have swallowed every aspect of her former life until the darkness of sleep claimed her.