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Czajka peddled the rickshaw along the broken and partially overgrown roads. It was a good two hours from Comm Bloc 80120, also known as Strawberry Hill, to Windsong. Parker and Gail didn’t bother trying to engage their friend in conversation, instead they used the optional passenger pedals to assist. The best way to make certain Czajka was still their friend was to help with the work. Especially considering he was hauling not just them, but their Comm Bloc goods, as well.
“Sheesh,” Parker huffed, “how can you do this everyday, Czajka? I don’t think I could do one journey.” He wiped his right hand across his brow, flicking away sweat and curls, but continued to peddle.
Gail chuckled, rolling her eyes. “Oh you poor intellectual you. Forfend you do some actual physical work.” For all her humour, Gail wasn’t looking any better than Parker. Both were red in the face and sweating, constantly glancing to see if their destination was in sight.
Czajka kept his focus on the road ahead as he spoke over his shoulder to the couple. “I can do this every day because I’ve done this every day for a very long time. I like it. Especially on sunny days.” Gail and Parker could hear the smile in his voice.
They were passing off what was once the highway, cracked and potholed pavement only good on one lane now, but then one old fashioned lane held four or five bicycles, or at least two rickshaws. Trees had moved in from the sides, their leaves and branches shading the path and softening what little sound was made. Grass grew through the many cracks in the aged paving, but the one section, the only section that was used, was free of it. The bridge that had been necessary to pass over the highway collapsed in a quake, instead they veered left over a packed dirt path and onto another section of broken highway that rose up onto a street above.
“Nearly there,” Czajka said over his shoulder. “’Nother fifteen or so.”
Parker’s eyes widened as he took a deep breath. He stopped peddling and turned to take a large bottle of water from his pack. As he unscrewed the top Gail gestured towards herself. “Please.” Parker took a long drink, then handed it over to Gail, who managed to keep pedaling as she drank.
“Sheesh, woman, you’re putting me to shame,” Parker chuckled, taking back the bottle.
Gail shrugged, “Not that hard, really.” She smiled, meeting Parker’s momentarily wide eyes. He just chuckled, and returned the bottle to his pack before beginning to pedal again.
The buildings that rose up on either side of them were large and disused. Crumbling restaurants, shops, and grocery stores filled the periphery of the road. The most used, the old movie theatre, hadn’t been occupied since the winter market. Down, around a pointless bend, past an obsolete gas station, turn once more, and they entered the Windsong district – Comm Bloc 96205, officially.
Czajka shifted slightly, “You need to go the Song itself, or just here?”
“Windsong Center, please,” replied Parker. “Is it much farther?”
Czajka shook his dark hair. “No. It’s downhill, too,” he chuckled.
Gail and Parker sighed in relief, then chuckled at themselves. Gail stopped pedaling and folded up the passenger pedals. Seeing her do this, Parker looked relieved and folded up his own pedals. Leaning back, Gail turned to look at their baggage on the trunk of the rickshaw. Her head bobbed as she counted the bags, double checking that all were still present.
Windsong district was unlike most of the Comm Blocs, and not just because it had a name. Most Comm Blocs had large lots on two or more sides. Once these would have held cars, but now they were mainly used for the smaller markets, or gatherings that required paved surfaces for some reason. Many were even frozen over during the winter to make skating areas for their Comm Bloc. But Windsong did not have its main lot at the edge, but in the middle. This was because Windsong itself, the old community which had given the Comm Bloc its name, was in the middle. Or nearly so.
Czajka followed the old road along, then turned left into the lot and drove his rickshaw to the front door. Gail swung down out of the rickshaw and moved around the back to unload their goods. Parker moved to her side. “Just go find Jonah,” she said, lugging a bag off the rickshaw into a pile. Parker eyed her suspiciously until she shooed him away with one hand while pulling bags with the other. “I can manage, you know.”
Bowing quickly in Gail’s direction, Parker ducked around the rickshaw and ran the common house bell at Windsong’s front door.
“Hello?” came the voice over the intercom.
“Umm, hi,” said Parker, “I’m Parker George from Strawberry Hill. I’m here to see Jonah Kin?” Gail chuckled in the background. Parker’s usual self-assurance seemed to have deserted him.
“One moment,” the voice replied. While Parker waited for the voice all he could hear was the thump of Gail and Czajka unloading the bags. “All right, he’s coming out now.”
Parker settled himself and took a step back from the door. Jonah Kin was a name known to all the GURD Comm Blocs. He’d helped get everything started back when the end began. The man opened the door was tall, pale, with smiling blue eyes, and grey dreadlocks and beard. His sandals and loose sweater completed the look that clashed with Parker’s notion of authority.
“You must be Parker,” Jonah smiled. “Why don’t we gather your goods and come on in?”