Chapter 30 As they ventured upward, they found the offices in a mess, littered with plastic and the occasional wooden desk – though these were simply sawdust and glue, certainly not fireproof and smelling of toxic fumes. The other office building was the same, yielding only forgotten fast food, a few cases of bottled water, and a minor amount of timber. They returned to the building housing Cody’s company. It was also ransacked, but the damage was less severe, likely because intruders had discovered the place had been picked over and made a hasty retreat to the other two buildings. Stella’s hunch was right. As they climbed higher, evidence of intrusion became less frequent. She suggested a staggered search pattern, as each person might’ve noticed something different, perhaps overlooked areas. Stella set about searching the area Lukas had combed through the day before, while Cody swapped places with Jasper. Her motives had shifted. Yesterday, they sought medication and food. Today, with an additional 150 cubic feet in Arcadia, the overly cautious Stella wanted to fill it to the brim. Books to enrich their minds, ornate vases from the boss‘ office, wooden desks, wardrobes, jewel ornaments, and mop handles from the janitor’s closet. Men seemed to lack the knack for scavenging. Stella, however, managed to find many overlooked snacks and suitable clothing and shoes after a thorough search. She stumbled upon a jewel company. The counter was empty and showed no signs of vandalism. After a quick tour, she discovered the manager’s office was locked tight. After a struggle with the sturdy door, she found four safes inside. They likely contained jewels, so Stella stowed all of it in Arcadia. She also found some tea, cigarettes, and alcohol, and used a samurai sword to dismantle the office furniture. She also raided a sportswear company’s local office, taking only sizes suitable for their group, while the rest were swept into Arcadia. One company appeared to be planning a team–building event, leaving several large boxes of barbecue charcoal and camping equipment behind in their administrative department. After going through four floors, Stella returned to the clothing company’s live streaming office and gathered another batch of clothing, including women’s underwear and bras that the men were too embarrassed to take. also revisited the home appliance company from the night before and quietly ted a batch of appliances that might’ve proved useful later, Including a high–end chair worth several thousands of do dollars She stealthily sneaked into the places the others had scoured at different times, taking anything useful. She continued until the extra 150 cubic feet of Arcadia was filled. To facilitate transportation, they dismantled all the wooden furniture and chopped it into similar lengths. It had fit neatly into two inflatable boats and three rubber boats. They returned home early, finishing the sorting and moving just after nine. After today’s events, the residents of the 18th floor had gained a notorious reputation. The other tenants viewed them with a sense of horror. They didn’t try to hide it, hauling their timber upstairs. Once Stella closed the door, she immediately entered Arcadia. The safes were safely tucked away in a corner, but the living room, balcony, and toilet remained the same size. Could it be that the jewel company was selling fakes? Unwilling to accept this, she opened the door to the master bedroom. A bathroom had appeared, about 10 square metres. The safes couldn’t be opened, but there must have been a lot of jewels. Disappointed to see only a 10 square metre increase, she realized that the upgrade conditions were quite strict. Well, she would have to keep looking then. In this post–apocalyptic world, gold, silver, and/ jewels were worthless. She was awakened in the middle of the night by a loud noise and a horrifying scream from downstairs. This was nothing unusual in the post–apocalyptic world, so Stella turned over and went back to sleep. She woke up naturally and ate two bagels and a donut for breakfast. She washed it down with a bottle of milk. The weather was terrible, and the green vegetables she had planted were turning yellow. Stella diluted some nutrient solution and poured it over them, hoping for the best. She checked Arcadia, but the timer had only increased by two hours. It was moving at a snail’s pace. She planned to continue planting greens in the new 10 square feet of black soil. She wanted to stock up enough to last two or three years before planting anything else. Of course, she could plant some fruit seedlings first. The mature trees would surely bear fruit by next year. Her physical fitness had improved significantly over this period, and she managed to save 15 minutes while tilling and sowing she was about to leave Arcadia, Lukas knocked on the door She opened the door As with a bruised face. Stelia was s rtled Who did this? Lukas seemed a bit embarrassed. “Well, you know Cody and I aren’t as fit as the others? Angela has been training us since last night.” Before, Angela wouldn’t lay a finger on Lukas. Now, she was training him to the point of exhaustion. Lukas knew the world had changed. He couldn’t always rely on Angela and Stella to protect him. From now on, he decided to man up and protect his woman. “Right, you guys really need the training.” Stella suddenly remembered something. She went back into the room and took out a black bag. “I found these in the office building I thought you and Angela could use them, so I kept them.” Seeing the contents of the bag, Lukas looked embarrassed, then laughed. “Thanks, I was looking for these.” […]
18 Floors Above the Apocalypse
Chapter 29 It wasn’t until Stella started loading the cases of bourbon that she realized that the antiques and the antique rack she’d collected the night before were nowhere to be found. She searched high and low, but they were definitely gone. The bourbon, diving gear, watches, and safes were all accounted for, only the antique paintings and the rack were missing. Could it be that these ancient artifacts possessed some sort of spiritual quality that triggered the expansion of Arcadia? It was plausible, considering the amulet she wore was of the finest quality. But the antique rack was not of this nature, so why did they disappear too? As Stella pondered over the secret to Arcadia’s expansion, Cody knocked on the door. Perhaps the hunger he’d experienced during the hurricane had left a lasting imprint on him, as he now seemed to have a heightened sense of urgency about their food supplies. Their rations were quickly depleting with three people to feed. Waking up to find the water level had risen again, he was more convinced than ever that the end of the world was upon them. “Yesterday we only searched my office building. There are two more nearby. Why don’t we get to them before anyone else does?” Cody proposed. At first, Stella planned to fill up the apartment and Arcadia and then lay low. But with an extra 150 cubic feet of space, she was suddenly interested again. They had enough food, but surviving the apocalypse required more than just sustenance. Being wealthy could be a curse. Perhaps having plenty of food could make them a bigger target. Items like the samurai sword and golf clubs they’d found yesterday could’ve been invaluable in defending themselves against dangerous intruders. If they ever ended up in the water, diving equipment could potentially save their lives. Moreover, if they could find more spiritually charged items, perhaps Arcadia could expand even further? With these thoughts in mind, Stella enthusiastically agreed. So, Cody went to knock on the door of apartment 1801. Jasper had no objections, and everyone quickly packed up their belongings and set off. Despite their discretion, they still attracted attention. The looks from others were meaningful. It seemed like despite their precautions, they had been discovered the night before. But what did it matter? They had earned their supplies with their own efforts. The city’s water flow was stable, and to remain inconspicuous and seas chose to row away rather than start the motor However, they were still being watched. As they were leaving their apartment complex, a thick rope suddenly emerged from the murky floodwater. Jasper reacted quickly, using his oar to block the rope, saving them from being tripped up. If they had started the motor, they would have been flipped over into the water with the boat. In the brief moment of confusion, several men emerged from the buildings, each armed and quickly swimming towards the raft. It was clear the people were up to no good. Stella stood up, and her face looked stern as she drew her samurai sword, slashing at the approaching men. “Ahh!!!” Accompanied by a shrill scream, a man’s arm was cut off, and his blood was staining the floodwater. Killing just one wouldn’t be enough to deter the others. Without hesitation, Stella aimed for his head. If it weren’t for today’s events, she wouldn’t have realized how many people had their eyes on them. The alliance between the other apartment buildings was just the tip of the iceberg; who knew how many others were lurking in the shadows? The people of the 18th floor were seen as a fat lamb, ready for the slaughter. If they showed weakness or cowardice, they would be swarmed, their supplies would get stolen, and even Angela and Rosie could lose their lives. So, there was no room for retreat. Any sign of softness would be their downfall. Although Lukas and Cody were physically weaker, they quickly accepted the reality. The world had changed. It was no longer a world of law and order, but one of survival of the fittest. Those sharp weapons could kill, and they couldn’t just sit and wait to die. The two of them lifted their oars, ready to fight back against those who threatened their lives. Stella continued to swing her sword. The water around the raft turned red. The injured men screamed and thrashed in the water before being swept away by the flood. After injuring five or six men, the remaining few turned tail and fled. Remembering her tragic past, Stella’s eyes turned bloodshot as she coldly ordered, “Chase them. They couldn’t let them go! Cody and Lukas rowed as fast as they could, while Jasper took out his nail gun. His aim was precise, and no matter how much the men thrashed in the water, he shot them down one by one. angihilation! Lukas and Cody, panting heavily, asked, “Should we go back now?” “We can’t,” Stella said, cleaning her samurai sword. “If we go back now, it will be seen as a sign of weakness, telling them that Angela was not up for the challenge. The next time we go out, they will swarm the 18th floor.” Lukas was extremely nervous. He knew Angela could fight, but how many could she take on unarmed? “Stella is right. We need to get there and back as quickly as possible.” With a heavy heart, Lukas gritted his teeth and continued to row. Once they left the city, they started the motor on the raft, roaring towards the outskirts. Halfway there, they noticed another raft approaching from the front. Stella used her binoculars and was surprised to find Hector standing at the bow of the other raft. Sadie was there too, along with the boys who had been trapped on the 8th floor. Their raft was towing a rubber boat filled with supplies. They all wore smug smiles on their faces. As the two boats passed each other, Hector gave Stella a mocking smile. Stella was indifferent. The apocalypse would teach him a lesson. However, she had a bad feeling. Their trip was likely to be in vain. Soon enough, her prediction came true. In less than a day, the remaining two office buildings had been completely ransacked Broken glass and overturned office desks were everywhere, chaotic footprints all around. It seemed that more than one group had come to scavenge. Cody was frustrated. “We’re a step too late. There’s nothing left.” Stella remained calm. “That might not necessarily be the case. It depends on what you’re looking for.” Their supplies, if rationed, would last them half a year. By then, the flood would have receded, and they would be entering the freezing apocalypse.
Chapter 28 Everyone was feasting on high–calorie instant food, casually discussing the loot they had managed to gather. Besides the assortment of junk food and drinks, Stella had gathered the most grains, while Cody had swept through a local farm supply store, bringing back hundreds of pounds of beef jerky, ginseng, saffron, truffles, and cheese. Lukas found several bags of high–quality rice, while Jasper found a liquor store and brought back dozens of boxes of wine. All in all, the most abundant item was bottled water. This was a necessity that couldn’t be discarded. After all, you couldn’t always rely on drinking rainwater. After some discussion, they decided to first bring back the medicines, meat, wine, and grains, then the non–perishable foods like instant noodles and bread, leaving the bottled water and drinks for last. Moreover, everyone took some things they needed. The powerboat was Stella’s, along with a samurai sword, a golf club, and some skincare products. Lukas grabbed some clothes and shoes. Cody, on the other hand, took electronic products, game consoles, watches, and the like. Jasper carried dolls, children’s books, and pens and paper, obviously for Rosie. Everyone was careful not to bring too much personal items as the space on the boat was limited. While loading the rubber boat, Lukas casually mentioned, “I found a seed store, but unfortunately, the seeds are not edible because they’ve been sprayed with pesticides. Otherwise, we could have brought them back just in case.” As soon as he finished speaking, three pairs of eyes were staring at him. “What…what’s wrong?” Cody was at a loss for words. “The whole world is flooded. If we’re really in an apocalypse, seeds will be more valuable than medicine.“” Only then did Lukas realize his foolish mistake. “Should we take them back?” That was a no–brainer. Lukas and Jasper continued to load, while Stella and Cody ran upstairs to fetch the seeds. It was quite a surprise to find out that it was a branch of a renowned agricultural company, whose founder was a great scientist who had ensured food security for the people. The branch wasn’t large. Most of the seeds were of new types of hybrid rice, there were several varieties adding up to about five or six hundred pounds and there *** types of hybrid vegetables, as well as hydroponic technology and nutrient solution. It was too precious. Stella didn’t even let go of the documents, and they had to make several trips to get everything. On the last trip, she deliberately slowed down a few steps and took the computer in the lab into her Arcadia, which was full of precious literature and data. It could be of great. help in restoring civilization in the future. By the time they were done, it was already past nine o’clock in the evening. With two rubber boats tied to Jasper’s and Stella’s powerboats, they estimated the power and load and sailed into the night towards Sunrise Sanctuary. Stella was driving the powerboat, with Lukas sitting next to her holding a pair of night vision binoculars to keep watch. The binoculars had night vision function, which enabled them to observe and avoid obstacles in time, and to guard against sudden robbers. They were loaded with supplies; they had to drive slowly. When they arrived at Sunrise Sanctuary, the two of them switched off the engine without a word, dimmed the lantern to the lowest level, and rowed back to the apartment building with the help of others. At this point, almost everyone was asleep, but they still had to be careful. There were too many supplies that could attract envy, so they had to walk barefoot to avoid making noise. Angela came down to help, and it took them almost an hour to finish moving everything. Jasper was afraid that Angela couldn’t protect their loot alone, and asked Stella to stay with her, while the three of them went back to the office building to move the rest of the supplies overnight. The supplies were piled up in the living room of 1803, making it messy but satisfying. Without taking a break, they grabbed stools and started sorting out the supplies, dividing. what they could into four parts, and putting what they couldn’t aside. They didn’t finish loading everything on the second trip and left quite a few drinks and bottled water. Later on, Jasper and Cody had to make one more trip. By the time all the supplies were carried up to the 18th floor, it was already one o’clock in the morning. Everyone split up the supplies overnight, Stella took a lot of medicines, grains, beef, wine, en pounds of premium rice, dozens of boxes of bottled water, seven or eight boxes of two large sacks of snacks and fast food as well as many miscellaneous items. hort, they didn’t have to worry about supplies for half a year. The only trouble now was had brought back Chapter 28 Everyone knew the value of seeds, but apart from Stella, no one else knew how to handle them. Moreover, the heavy rain made everything too damp, and the seeds would spoil quickly if not stored properly. Stella thought for a moment. “Why don’t I keep them? I’ll see if I can grow hydroponic vegetables, and then I’ll teach you.” It was not that she was greedy, but when faced with frequent natural disasters in the apocalypse and unsuitable temperatures for plant growth, there was simply no opportunity to plant the seeds, and the seeds would spoil if kept for too long. Arcadia had the ability to preserve freshness, she really wanted to preserve these precious items. If scientists developed suitable places for planting in the future, she could donate them anonymously. After all, Arcadia only had ten square feet of black soil, the seeds she had prepared herself would not be used up even if she died. The others had no objections, and even helped move the stuff into her house. “Stella, whether we can have vegetables depends on you.” “I can only try. I can’t guarantee success.” They were too tired and fell asleep as soon as they washed up. Staying up late was bad for the body; as they woke up at
Chapter 27 Stella was a virgin, but she knew that this commodity was scarce and expensive in the post–apocalyptic world, making it a hot ticket item for bartering. Preventing new life, and cherishing women. Without hesitation, she threw the condoms into Arcadia, but then thought of something and grabbed a few more, stuffing them into the black plastic bag. She didn’t bother to count, but there were likely dozens: After sweeping the 15th floor, she moved onto the 14th. The enormous building housed only one tech company. Hundreds of desks stretched as far as the eye could see. The boss must’ve been raking in the profits, as the employees‘ benefits were generous. The break room was stocked with expensive snacks and instant food for late night work sessions. The fridge was piled high with steaks and lamb chops, but it nearly made Stella retch from the smell. After clearing out the break room, she made her way to the boss‘ office. The boss seemed to be a character; his office alone was a few hundred square feet, including a reception room, rest room, and a personal… collection room. Were all the bosses this capricious these days? They collected antiques in their office! The fortified collection room piqued Stella’s interest. She used all her strength to pry the door open and was immediately taken aback by the sight. Straight ahead was an antique rack, and in the center hung a samurai sword with an antique patterned sheath that was luxuriously silver–plated. Stella picked up the samurai sword and unsheathed it, the blade glinted coldly. It felt weighty in her hand but not heavy, and it was clear that this was a superior weapon, far more manageable than a butcher knife. She swung it towards a wooden box, and it sliced through like water. “This is beyond a mere knife; it’s practically a divine weapon.” The antique rack held many antiques. Stella wasn’t familiar with these items, but if they were collected by this man and placed alongside the samurai sword, they couldn’t possibly be cheap. Judging from the traces on these items, they had eroded due to the long years they had been kept. In times of chaos, gold was valuable, but in times of peace, antiques were also valuable. Now, these valuable cultural relics were worth less than a piece of bread in the post–apocalyptic world. However, they were quite pleasing to the eye. She could take them back as decorations; they wouldn’t take up much space. On the left side of the antique rack hung several paintings, all from famous ancient artists. A single piece could fetch a seven to eight–figure sum. However, Stella noticed a pile of expensive liquor in the corner. Stella thanked the boss and swept everything into Arcadia. The capricious boss had a wide range of interests, and his collection was eclectic. In addition to the diamond–encrusted Patek Philippe mechanical watch, there was even professional high–end diving gear. It was the brand, MTUE, and the most expensive limited edition model. When Stella bought the diving mask, she had searched for it, and this set was worth 980,000. The flood would last for several months, and she didn’t know if the natural disasters would repeat themselves, so she took it without hesitation. In the transparent glass cabinet, there was a five–star golf club. Stella had worked at a golf course during the summer and knew that this club was worth 180,000 dollars. She emptied the collection room, not even sparing the antique rack, which could be used for firewood in the extreme cold. In addition, there was a safe in the corner. A safe that could be placed in the collection room, the contents in it were definitely not simple. The restroom had a kitchen, a large refrigerator, foie gras, Wagyu beef, caviar, black truffles, golden abalone, Iberian ham, 1982 Lafite, steak, salmon, and more. The fridge. was not only full but also had its own battery, so all the ingredients were fresh. Besides thanking the boss, Stella didn’t want to say anything else, she stuffed the fridge and all its contents into Arcadia. The samurai sword and golf club were the best weapons for the post–apocalyptic world, and Stella didn’t want to hide them, so she put them in a bag and slung them over her shoulder. The 14th and 15th floors had a lot of supplies, and she was particularly meticulous in her collection, turning over every box and drawer, not a single package could escape her grasp. The 13th floor was a high–tech incubation base with all sorts of start–ups. These companies were poor, so poor that even after turning the place upside down she couldn’t find much supplies. Stella was panting from exhaustion, so she ate a few energy bars and continued to pry the doors open One company specialized in nanofabric, the storefront didn’t look big, and displayed fabrics In the sample room; a typical Iver–grey autumn coat hung in a glass display case priced at 198,000. Robbery didn’t come this easily. Were the consumers so easy to fool? Driven by curiosity, Stella approached for a closer look. The nano–thermal coat could maintain a constant temperature of 25 degrees. After reading this statement, Stella broke the glass with a hammer and took the coat in her hand. Bullshit constant temperature, there was no change when it was attached to her arm. However, it felt extraordinarily soft and silky against her skin… as if it weren’t there at all, like real silk fabric. After rubbing and sniffing it, Stella found it quite breathable. Stella took it. After all, if it wasn’t for the end of the world, she wouldn’t have had the chance to wear something so expensive. She took all the fabrics and found 10 rolls of thermal fabric in the sample warehouse, which would be good for making underwear. She had only searched half of the 13th floor when Cody finished his work and came over to help. Seeing the samurai sword and golf club on her back, his eyes nearly popped out of his sockets. After a moment, he gave her a thumbs up. “You’re amazing!” “Just luck. I stumbled on to them.” It was getting dark, so she needed to speed up. Stella sent Cody to move the supplies downstairs and load the raft. Cody was dog–tired, but he obediently did as he was told. It was not easy to collect things in darkness. Stella was so tired she could barely stand upright, but for a better future in the post–apocalyptic world, she gritted her teeth and persevered. Before long, Lukas also came to help. They all had a good harvest. After asking around, it seemed that the boat couldn’t fit all three of them, and the supplies were so heavy, the boat probably couldn’t pull them. She sent
Chapter 26 Without further ado, Lukas knocked on the door of their friendly neighbors in this post–apocalyptic world. Upon hearing their need for medicine, Jasper agreed after some consideration. As usual, Angela stayed behind with the kid to guard their base. Even though Cody proposed the idea of the world’s end, Angela still had her concerns. She wasn’t ready to believe it fully, and after some hesitation, she said, “On this trip, focus on finding survival supplies and medicine. Anything else…you can decide whether you need it or not.” She didn’t spell it out, but those who understood, got it. Stella quickly caught on. “If we find medicine and survival supplies, we will split it evenly. Any personal needs aren’t included, but let’s not use too much of the group’s resources.” Everyone agreed; it was better to be clear from the start. With one speedboat and three rubber boats, they could bring back lots of supplies. Their only worry was that someone else might get to them first. There were 20 kilometers to Cody’s company, and the four of them braved the rain on their speedboat. As they had guessed, the water flow became more complex the further they got from the city, and the wind started to blow. Even the best sailor would struggle to navigate through such conditions. Jasper, however, was skilled enough to traverse the complex waterways. In the gloomy weather, they spotted a few skyscrapers standing above the water. Cody pointed out the direction, and they moved towards the skyscrapers. Through the glass on the fifth floor, they could see an office submerged in the flood. The office looks pretty tidy; it probably hasn’t been looted yet.” They took a hammer and smashed the glass, letting the floodwater rush in. Once the water level stabilized, they entered the skyscraper and secured their speedboat. They were lucky, the large skyscraper hadn’t been looted yet. With a clear goal, they headed straight to the 12th floor, where Cody’s pharmaceutical company was located. Using bolt cutters, they broke the lock and Cody was the first one to reach his desk. Upon seeing several large boxes piled up behind it, he sighed in relief. “I was supposed to deliver hese to the pharmacy that day. But then the storm came, and they delayed the delivery Vorought the goods back to the company? riety of things, Including otice Theumatism medication, cold The pharmaceutical company wasn’t big, with only about a dozen people in the sales department. The exhibition room had all sorts of medicines. Although the volume wasn’t much, there were many different types, and they managed to fill several large boxes. Stella suggested, “We have limited space, so let’s remove the outer packaging and just take the medicine. That should save us about three–quarters of the space.” “Sure, I know what each medicine is for anyway. I can sort them out when we get back.” While they were removing the packaging, Stella searched the workstations. She found coffee, biscuits, various snacks, tea for the men, herbal tea for the women, and some instant noodle. The quantity wasn’t much, but they didn’t leave anything behind. The pantry had more stuff, all the drinks, tea, and bottled water were taken. Stella even took the packages left at the reception desk; as long as they were useful, they would take it. Whatever they didn’t need, she secretly stuffed into Arcadia. The medicines filled up two large backpacks, making it a fruitful trip. After hiding the other supplies, they moved to the 15th floor with the medicine. There were three pharmaceutical companies in the building, and they prioritized collecting from all of them. The second one also had a lot of medicine. Cody looked at the large fridge in the exhibition room with regret. “This company mainly deals with vaccines. These are all valuable, but we can’t take them.” Through the glass, Stella saw several types of vaccines for smallpox, tetanus, rabies, meningitis, HPV, influenza, and more. The fridge was designed to keep running for a month after a power outage, but once taken out, the vaccines wouldn’t be able to be preserved at room temperature. Stella glanced at them without saying anything and continued to gather supplies. They stuffed a rubber boat after going through the three pharmaceutical companies. Around one o’clock in the afternoon, they sat down for a meal, feeling hungry. They had coffee, tea, and various popular snacks they had found. Listening to the rain outside and eating snacks, it felt like one of the best moments in their life have enough medicine now, but not much food. There are a few internet infuencer eaming companies in this building. Let’s try our luck. said man done, they continued to ply Unfortunately, the first one was a makeup and skincare company. Cody and Lukas weren’t Interested, but Stella’s eyes lit up. High–end skincare products, makeup, lipstick, face masks, and luxury creams, were piled everywhere. Stella didn’t hold back and picked the most expensive ones to put in her bag. Lukas thought of bringing something back for Angela, so he picked a few items too. The men weren’t interested. They were only looking for survival supplies, so they moved on to the second company. “Stella, hurry up, we’ll wait for you upstairs.” Once they left, Stella cleared everything and put them into Arcadia. Their luck didn’t improve, the second company was a women’s clothing company, with all sorts of clothes, dresses, shoes, bags, and more. Lukas picked a few items for Angela, and Stella also chose several pieces. Finally, the third company was a food company, but it was all snacks – beef jerky, lamb jerky, nuts, various types of bread and pastries, popular drinks, and even ice–cream, but it had all melted in the freezer. These items took up a lot of space, so they filled several large black plastic bags. Even the garbage bags from the cleaning room weren’t spared, as they could come in handy. Time passed quickly, and they realized that their approach wasn’t efficient enough. Stella suggested that they split up to cover different floors, which would save time and increase efficiency. There were a total of 15 floors above the water surface. Stella was responsible for three floors, and the three men each took four floors. Stella was assigned the 12th to 15th floors, and she decided to start from the 15th floor and work her way down. Once she reached the 15th floor, she went back to the pharmaceutical company and took all the vaccines from the fridge. Arcadia could keep them fresh, no matter how long they were stored.
Chapter 25 Men’s emotional expressions are quite different from women’s. Instead of Stella or accompanying him, it was Lukas who went in to chat. Angela They didn’t get into specifics; they just mentioned that they had spotted him at the Griffith Hotel when they reached the neighborhood. The conditions at the shelter were terrible, so Lukas invited him to the Sunrise Sanctuary, “We’re staying next door to Stella’s place, It’s a three–bedroom apartment, and you can move in with us. We’ll figure out the rest later.” Stella called Angela to a window at the end of the hallway. “What’s your plan?” Angela didn’t really want any outsiders disrupting their lives, but these were exceptional times, and friends needed to help each other. Without Stella, she and Lukas would have had no other option but to stay at the shelter. “Lukas is actually quite sentimental,” Angela said. “He only has you and Cody as friends. Besides, who doesn’t have difficult times? The flood will eventually recede. Let’s let him stay with us.” Their food supplies would last two or three months. If they ran out, they’d find a way. Angela was a straightforward person who didn’t overthink things. Plus, she firmly believed that the world would returned to normal. As the two women chatted by the window, Lukas and Cody emerged from the room. Cody approached the two women with a forced smile, “Angela, I’m sorry for the inconvenience.” Angela slapped his shoulder. “We’re friends. After the flood recedes, just treat us to a good meal.” As they left in an inflatable boat, Stella handed Cody a package of cookies. Cody thanked her, tore open the package, and wolfed them down. The corners of his eyes were teary. Lukas also offered the last of his crackers. “I’m… I’m so sorry.” Cody said. “It’s nothing.” Stella said. “We’ve all had our low moments in these end times. There’s no such thing as easy.” Upon their return to the Sunrise Sanctuary, everyone was utterly exhausted. Stella took. out two pounds of rice she had bought from the supermarket and other items. “Cody, don’t say I’m taking advantage of you. Once the flood recedes, you owe me a hundredfold I’ll have a 1% cut on all deals” Despite her mercenary words, her tone was teasing and familiar. She was the same Stella, showing no disdain for him. Cody let out a small sigh of relief. “I’ll give you a 2% cut.” “What about me?” Lukas asked indignantly. “You’re covering mine and Angela’s brunch for a year.” “Deal,” Cody agreed. Upon returning home, they changed into sleepwear and fell onto their beds. Stella stared at the ceiling, lost in thought. Unlike Lukas and Angela, Cody, who was used to dealing with business, was far more insightful. Stella had to protect Arcadia’s secret and couldn’t give anything away. For the next two days, none of them left the house. Stella, when not reading or training, spent her time in the house organizing their supplies. Exhausted to the point of breaking her back, she finally managed to sort out all the goods they had looted from the supermarket. The supplies piled up to the ceiling. She locked the large room and hid the key in Arcadia. During this period, Angela came over once. While they were chatting, Stella asked about Cody, “How’s he doing?” “He hardly speaks. He just sleeps all day,” Angela said with a sense of foreboding. That woman really hurt him. And life is so hard right now. Do you think he’ll ever recover?” “He’s been like this every time he’s broken up with someone. He’ll be fine in a couple of days,” Stella said, rummaging through a cabinet. She pulled out a bottle of whiskey. “This is a gift from his company to their clients. He gave me one. Let him drink it and he’ll be fine.” Men always needed to vent. Despite being an orphan, Cody had come from a tough background and was stronger than most. Thinking about it, Angela agreed. “The storm has been over for a few days now. Why won’t the rain stop?” Not only did it not stop, but the water levels were rising, making them feel suffocated and anxious. “Who knows,” Stella said, “Maybe one day it will reach the 18th floor.” Angela was scared. That was a terrifying thought! The next day. Angela knocked on Stella’s door “Cody drank an entire bottle of whiskey last night. He was out cold all night, but he’s better now. He wants to talk to us about something.” After changing clothes and shaving, Cody looked a lot cleaner. He looked at everyone seriously. “I think the apocalypse is here.” Stella’s heart jumped at his words. “Don’t you think it’s unnatural?” Cody asked, sitting upright. “An unprecedented storm, rain Pouring like there’s a hole in the sky heard a lot of news at the shelter. The government is working round the clock to salvage food from the wholesale market. Our bread and crackers are made from that food “Our country has enough stockpiled food to last two years without farming. So why are they giving us half rotten food salvaged from foodwaters? And why are they only giving un enough to barely fill our stomachs while the rest is dried and stored? Lukas looked surprised “It’s been raining non stop. They cant transport food.” No don’t underestimate the power of the state Cody said confidently. “If it was just the coastal areas affected, relief would have arrived by now Unless This was a national disaster perhaps even a global disaster Before the internet went down, Cody had followed the news and browsed forum posts. Many other areas were also affected Simultaneous disasters were happening everywhere Wasn’t this the apocalypse?
Chapter 24 Hearing about Cody’s predicament, Angela was fuming. “Give him a beating and get him out of there!” Sure, Cody had made a mistake, but he’d stockpiled all of Stella’s needed medicine – not only was it all there, but he’d saved her both money and hassle. As a friend, Stella couldn’t just stand
Chapter 23 That was true, after yesterday’s turmoil, the military department promptly adjusted their strategy and decided to deploy the troops to maintain stability. Unlike the police, the military wouldn’t hesitate to fire their guns. Their mission was to safeguard the nation’s stability Stella recalled that in her past life, the military had also been
Chapter 22 Jasper now had a nail gun in his hand, and not just any kind, it was a modified one The raft started deflating at an alarming speed. The burly men aboard were scared out of their wits, and several of them lost their balance and fell into the water. The current swift, and two of them were swept away in a blink. Others were swimming towards Stella and her group. Stella picked up a baseball bat and swung it at their heads “Ah, you crazy woman! You want to die?” “Help! I can’t swim…” Jasper was not only shooting at the raft but also at the burly men, causing a scene of chaos and misery. The raft deflated and sunk, throwing everyone into the floodwaters Stella was relentless and broke their heads as if she were playing a game of Whac–a–Mole. Thugs like these were rampant. They were burning, killing, and looting everywhere, obliterating their humanity. Killing them now would provide a chance for many others to survive. In the midst of the chaos, her bat was grabbed. A bald, sinister man swam towards her, intending to tear her apart. Stella forcefully pulled him closer, and without hesitation, she swung her sharp knife. With a scream, blood spurted out. The man was in intense pain and let go. He was instantly swept away by the flood. Lukas was completely shocked and turned as stiff as a statue. He knew Stella was tough, both he and Cody couldn’t beat her together, but he never imagined she would be so ruthless, chopping off heads as if they were watermelons. The burly men disappeared into the flood, and the world was washed clean by the rain. After a short rest, Jasper dove back into the water. One person carried, and two people lifted, working together in torrential rain and flood. Fortunately, they found 12 propane tanks, which would last them a long time if split equally. To their delight, they found three double–burner gas stoves at the propane station. They didn’t know if they would work after being submerged for so long, but they decided to take them anyway. The propane tanks were bulky, and the raft could barely carry them. The tanks rolled easily and would fall into the water at the slightest vibration. Stella took out an inflatable boat from her backpack, inflated it, and tied it securely to the raft. She moved half of the propane tanks onto the boat and used ropes to secure them. Exhausted, she took out six chocolate bars and shared them with the others to replenish their energy. They set off back home after recuperating. Chapter 22 Jasper and Lukas led the way, while Stella sat on the inflatable boat. They were carrying so many propane tanks that it was bound to attract attention. Sure enough, on their way back, they ran into others searching for supplies. Seeing their haul of propane tanks, their eyes gleamed with greed. Unfortunately for them, they only had kayaks and couldn’t catch They almost collided with a big boat filled with twenty men when they reached the city. Fortunately, Stella was vigilant and used a telescope to observe their surroundings, allowing them to avoid them in time. Once they reached Sunrise Sanctuary, they didn’t slow down. They swiftly unloaded the propane tanks into the building. A few people peeked out of their doors at the commotion, but no one dared to mess with the formidable residents of the 18th floor. On their way–upstairs, they ran into an elderly lady. “Where did you get all these propane tanks?” she asked. “We found them underwater,” Stella replied, not hiding anything. “If you have the means, you can try it too.” She hoped that more people would go out and find their own supplies, instead of always eyeing the limited resources of the 18th floor. After four trips, they finally moved all the propane tanks. Angela pulled Stella aside. “Lukas told me that Jasper found all of these and even provided the boat and fuel. How should we split these?” Stella thought for a moment. “I suggest we split them equally.” “But wouldn’t that be unfair to him?” “He did provide the boat and fuel, but without Lukas and me, he wouldn’t have been able to retrieve the tanks. And don’t forget to include yourself. Without you watching over his sister and the house, his home would’ve been raided the moment he left.” Angela nodded in agreement. “You’re right. But will he agree to this?” “We’ll ask him. If he thinks he should get more, we can negotiate.” Stella wasn’t trying to be greedy. She didn’t need the propane tanks for Arcadia, but team collaborations couldn’t always be perfectly fair If Jasper asked for two or three more tanks, it would be acceptable since he did contribute more. But what if he demanded seven or eight? If they didn’t give in, he would be unhappy. If they did, they would be the ones feeling uncomfortable. What if next time, she and Lukas contributed more? How would they split the loot, then? Everyone had different standards, and it was impossible to satisfy everyone. Sooner or later, there would be conflicts. It was better to set the rules from the beginning. Stella had a point, and Angela agreed. “If his demands are reasonable, we’ll continue to ollaborate: If he asks for too much, we’ll just find our own supplies and remain cordial Chapter 22 After their discussion, they went out to the hallway. Stella turned to Jasper. “How should we split these?” “Let’s split them equally among the three of us. What do you think?” Angela and Lukas had no objections, so each family ended up with four propane tanks, enough to last a year if used sparingly.
Chapter 21 Stella peered at the floating object, drawing closer, not realizing it was a corpse, until she poked it with her car Initially, the sight was shocking and stomach churning, but after seeing a few more, she grew accustomed to it. Floating bodies had been a common sight in her neighborhood. ever since she had set out With her eyes on the clock, she noted that a minute had passed since she had released. the rope into the water, and there was still no movement. Two minutes. Three minutes Four minutes. Anxiety began to gnaw at her. Stella yanked the rope twice, but there was still no response. Even the most skilled swimmers could only last a minute or so underwater. Even though Jasper was known for his diving prowess, four minutes seemed overly long. She had a bad feeling about this. Just as she was about to pull on the rope again, the water surface broke with a loud splash. Jasper emerged. “I checked several stores. All their doors have been pried open, and they’ve been cleaned out.” Cleaned out? Who could have done such a thing? Lukas looked disappointed. “We can’t find gas. Even if we had food, we wouldn’t be able to cook it.” They had been quick, but not quick enough. They had been beaten to the punch. Stella glanced at Jasper. These fast–food joints had been flooded the day after the hurricane. Even if some of the owners had tried to salvage their stocks, it was unlikely that they would have been able to pry open all the stores. The floodwaters were too murky and fast–flowing for anyone without a diving mask and strong swimming skills to succeed. Unless these stores had been looted as soon as the disaster struck. She had a hunch. “We need to try our luck at the propane station. Hopefully, they haven’t cleared everything out They had come out here, after all. There was no way they were going back empty–handed. They’d have to try their luck at the propane station. Stella pulled out her waterproof bag and took out her phone. She showed the offline map to the others “It’s around here. I think there’s a huge tree at the entrance.” The place was about four miles from Sunrise Sanctuary. It wasn’t too far, but it was in a rather remote area. Chapter 21 After figuring out the location, the trio set off in their inflatable boat towards the propane station. The suburbs were filled with bungalows, all of which were now submerged in water, making the area seem incredibly desolate. On the way, they encountered firefighters trying to rescue stranded individuals. Upon seeing their boat, the rescuers tried to commandeer it to help transport the stranded people. Jasper ignored them, and the trio continued to navigate through the flooded city. With the city transformed into a vast ocean, it was difficult to make out directions. Stella used her binoculars and said, “Go straight and turn right. There’s something green sticking out of the water. It should be the tree. They slowed down as they approached the tree, and just as Stella had predicted, it was indeed a giant tree. The once tall tree was now almost entirely submerged, with only its topmost leaves visible above the water. They tied their boat to the tree. Stella gave a general direction, and Jasper, with his diving. mask on, dived into the water. After about two minutes, Jasper resurfaced. “I found it, but the station has a roll–up door and a sliding metal gate. It won’t be easy to pry open. He signaled to Stella to bring him the crowbar from his bag. Lukas looked on in silence. Why was it that he was the only one without any professional gear? Stella had gear in Arcadia, but she couldn’t just fish it out in front of them. When she saw that Jasper had a simple diving mask, rope, and binding rope in his bag, she didn’t hesitate to put on the mask, tie the rope around herself, and said, “I’ll go down and help. Keep an eye on our surroundings. If anything happens, pull the rope immediately.” Lukas nodded. “Be careful.” The floodwaters were freezing. Stella dived in and swam towards the propane station, guided by the light from her waterproof flashlight. She also took out her steel pliers. From a distance, she saw a faint light and swam towards it. Jasper was standing in the water, trying to lift the roll–up door, but the water resistance made it incredibly difficult. Stella swam over to help him lift the door. Their eyes met, and they put their strength together to lift the door. Slowly, the roll–up door lifted, revealing the sliding metal gate behind it. Jasper took the steel pliers from Stella, cut the chain on the gate, and together, they pulled the gate open. The inside was dark. As they were about to swim in, a dark shadow darted towards Stella Jasper with his quick reflexes, pulled her away. The shadow grazed the top of her head, and she quickly swam up. Stella shone her flashlight towards it, and from the shape, It appeared to be a propane tank. And it wasn’t just one. Many propane tanks floated out from inside the station, all vying to reach the surface. Instinctively wanted to grab one but realized that these were probably Chapter 21 Filled tanks wouldn’t float that easily due to their density. She took out her high–beam waterproof flashlight from her pocket and scanned the dark surroundings. She could faintly see s several tanks in a corner. She swam over and tried to lift one, but it was too heavy. Jasper was stronger. He managed to lift a tank and swam out of the building. He then pulled the rope tied around him. Lukas grabbed the rope and pulled it. They quickly surfaced. Stella climbed onto the raft and helped lift the heavy tank. It was likely left behind because the owner didn’t have time to move it. “You guys stay up here and catch them. I’ll go down and bring the rest up.” Jasper took a breath and dived back into the water. The water pressure was intense, and holding her breath made Stella feel uncomfortable. She sat on the boat to catch her breath. Lukas was on guard, scanning their surroundings with his binoculars. Suddenly, he said anxiously, “Stella, someone’s coming.” Stella stood up, and sure enough, an inflatable boat was rapidly approaching in the rain. There were at least four or five men on it.