West of Paradise, Galatian
The ground underfoot crunches slightly and Gideon freezes. After trudging over soft earth and moss for so long the feeling of gravel felt almost foreign. Looking down, Gideon examines the ground. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary at first glance. He pushes aside a few layers of small plants and soil and soon finds a treasure trove of small stones. Dropping to his haunches, Gideon pokes around at the gravel and notes that it appears to have been concrete in some distant past.
“What is it?” Sylvia inquires from behind him. She and Meghan had allowed Gideon to take point. Gideon reasoned that this was because they didn’t trust his shooting just yet and they didn’t want him to hit them.
“Gravel,” Gideon answers simply as he digs a little deeper into the bed of pebbles.
“And?” Sylvia presses, her confusion very evident in her voice.
“It’s the first gravel we’ve found since we left Paradise,” Gideon answers, “It looks like it might be some rubble from the old town that was here.
“So what?” Meghan asks.
Standing from his small hole, Gideon sighs and examines his surroundings. There are several heaps that appear to be the remains of buildings all around him, but the forest had done a great job at concealing said evidences of society. The resiliency of the plant life and how it could retake land that had been swept away from so thoroughly was as thrilling as it was terrifying.
“Gideon?” Sylvia prompts.
Sighing once more, Gideon replies, “I don’t know… It just seemed weird is all. But I can confidently say that we’re in the old city now.”
“That’s a relief, I guess,” Meghan breathes.
Nodding, Gideon stands and begins moving ahead once again. He allows a moment of thought to pass before he agrees, “Yeah, it means our little excursion is finally about done.”
“Depending on what we find, at least,” Sylvia cuts in, “If we find something worthwhile, then I think it’s just beginning.”
“I thought we agreed that we’d check it out and then get right back to the others?” Gideon groans. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the idea of finding something interesting, he just hated the idea of doing all of this behind Maverick’s back. Exploring was one thing, disobeying direct orders by doing so was another entirely.
Gideon pauses once more as he realizes how strange his worries were. He was no soldier. He was never told of any actual chain of command when he was sent out.
And yet here he was.
“What is it?” Sylvia asks with a hint of worry in her tone.
“I don’t like this,” Gideon shrugs as he looks around once more. The trees that had taken hold atop of the ruined foundations of the smaller buildings in this town provide a nearly endless number of hiding places for threats. The trees’ roots that straddle the overgrown foundations with hundreds of tendrils have countless gaps in which Gideon feared smaller hybrids could be hiding. If the roots weren’t an issue, then the sheer volume of the trees were. Thanks to the many decades that had passed since the Inundation, the trees had been allowed to grow unchecked. Now the mature and maturing trees crowded every chunk of dirt that was deep enough to let them take root. Such a dense forest granted Gideon only about fifteen meters of visibility into the overgrown areas.
“We’ll be out of the trees soon enough,” Sylvia pledges, “All we have to do is find our building.”
Shaking his head, Gideon says, “I don’t like how we’re doing this behind Maverick’s back either. That’s what’s really bothering me.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sylvia chuckles as she pulls up beside Gideon, “He’s used to stuff like this from me. He might be in charge of our team, but he knows full well that he isn’t in charge of me.”
“Besides,” Meghan cuts in, “After Danni and Jason’s stunt, I doubt he’s too worried about our taking a little detour.”
“I’d be more worried about it if I were him,” Gideon frowns. Pursing his lips, he scans the trees even more intently, “I’d be more worried because Jason and the others were willing to shoot at us. They even shot Tyson. What’s stopping them from hunting us down if they’ve already crossed that line?”
Sylvia shudders and answers, “Nothing. Now let’s get to somewhere more defendable if you want to keep talking.”
“I don’t think I have much of a choice,” Gideon replies as he begins marching ahead once more.
A few minutes pass and the trees in front of Gideon suddenly thin out. Gideon pauses at the edge of the denser forest and he scans the thinner area before him. The trees here are much younger and the patch of smaller trees continues on in two directions. Gideon briefly rakes his brain for why this could be when he realizes that he is looking at an old road that seemed to be holding its own better than all the other roads.
“Would you look at that,” Sylvia sounds on Gideon’s left, “There’s our building at the end of the road.”
More is to come on the chapter, sit tight!