BOOK 2 // SIX: Finders Keepers

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            "I don't understand how you know what you're looking for."

This was what I told Art as we ventured into the woodland, ducking under the wispy tendrils of overgrown plants and stepping over tree roots that stuck out from the ground. To me, it didn't look like we were going to find a lot here. Even fifty years ago, the place must've been a similar kind of wood, because it was impossible for so many trees to appear out of the blue. Left to nature's devices, the place had become wildly overgrown, and the canopy of trees above was so thick it blocked out every ray of sunshine.

If we did find anything, it likely wouldn't be useful. Countless bits and pieces were scattered among the greenery, but it all looked like litter to me, degraded by decades of exposure. Nevertheless, Art continued to stride ahead, eyes transfixed on the ground, like at any moment he might stumble upon a pot of gold.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"I thought you were looking for stuff that was part of the city," I said, narrowly avoiding a stumble as my ankle caught on a trailing plant. "Out here, it's just... wild. It doesn't look like anything was here, even years ago. Surely you'd have more luck combing through the old buildings back there?"

It seemed like a sensible enough suggestion, at least from my perspective, but Art continued walking. Noticing how far he'd strode ahead, I quickened my step.

"Back in the city is a dead end," he said matter-of-factly. "When we first got here, we spent the best part of three months combing through those places to see what we could find. Some of it was useful. The lab equipment from the university was well-protected, so Thomas managed to salvage that. But the rest... well, there are more offices than you can count, and all their electronic equipment's useless. Not only is it ridiculously dated, a lot of it's been ruined by fifty years of extreme weather."

"But there were more than offices," I pressed. "What about everything else?"

"What? Like food?" he asked, and I nodded. "Well, there were some people expecting an apocalypse who stockpiled tins, but we ran through that supply months ago. The reason most people died was starvation. Fifty years on, there's not a whole lot of food floating around."

He had a point. I'd never known what it was like to go hungry, so it was easy to detach myself from what people here must have experienced all those years ago. Genetic modification had saved many, as was drilled into our minds from a young age – but we hardly ever considered those it had been too late for.

"Oh." It was the only word I could find.

"There's more than you think out here," Art said. "Especially with all the crazy weather. All those floods over the years have spread things further than they should've."

I still didn't quite get it. "Like what, though?"

"Well..." He came to a halt, glancing around the immediate vicinity, looking for an example. All I could see was wet grass beneath our feet, the tangle of bushes complete with both flowers and thorns, and a huge spider web stretched between two branches. There was surely nothing here, and yet... "What about this?"

He bent over to pick something up, and my eyes were instantly drawn to what was in his hands. Tube-shaped and silver, it glinted in the stray beams of sunlight that managed to get through the trees, its exterior thoroughly scratched. It looked like...

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