A Walk Along The Riverside
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It was a cool March evening as Alexei sat upon the bank of a river, staring into its depths. He reached in, scooping some of the murky liquid in his cupped hand. It still surprised him to see naturally flowing water that wasn't filled with fallout and didn't start eating away at his armor. The water cupped in his hand sat still and then flowed down his arm when he stretched his fingers. It was the little things like this that the Russian had enjoyed since he was let out into the world.

Sighing, Alexei laid back onto the ground and started up at the blue sky. Large, white, fluffy clouds floated lazily overhead. He closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of nature around him. In a tree to his left a bird sang its song, and another bird sang a reply. Somewhere behind him, a woodpecker pecked a tree. Hidden in the grass around him, crickets chirped a symphony. On the other side of the river, something rustled the underbrush.

Splash

Alexei was splashed with a large quantity of water. Quickly sitting up, he tried looking into the river. There was something large hiding in its depths, and he couldn't tell what it was. His armor marked it as a hazard. The Russian sprung to his feet as the thing started slowly rising towards the surface. He backed away from the water, and prepared to fight. If the thing in the river was really a hazard, he wanted to be ready. Alexei tensed as it breached the surface of the water…

And just sat there.

Alexei stood still as the strange brown fish sat with its head out of the water. It had a wide face and what looked like whiskers on the underside of its head. The fish didn't seem dangerous, so he relaxed a little. He watched as it started swimming down the river, before stopping and looking back. Almost like it wanted Alexei to follow him. Thinking about the possible outcomes of following a strange fish down a river, the Russian decided to follow it.

I'll follow you strange friend."Я пойду за тобой, странный друг."

The whiskered fish led him down the river for several minutes, looking behind itself to make sure the Russian was still following. Alexei didn't know where or why it was leading him, but he didn't care. It was great to have a goal again. Something to works towards. Something to fill him with purpose. Even if he didn't know what that something is.

He continued walking along the riverside, following the whiskered brown fish. After a few more minutes, Alexei saw something large and blue in the water ahead of him. It seemed like the strange fish was leading him towards it. As they got closer, the Russian was able to make out the shape of the large blue object. It was a ship.

Alexei stood on the shore opposite the ship, inspecting up and down it's length. It was an old fishing trawler, the blue paint on its hull faded and chipped. The top half was painted white and covered in patches of rust. Three letters were written on the side of the hull, a misspelling of the organization that had kept Alexei locked up for so long. The entire ship was leaning at a unusual angle, the most likely reason being the large rock lodged in its underside.

Splash

The strange brown fish splashed him with more water, before heading towards the ship. Not wanting to be left behind, the Russian walked into the water. Instead of swimming over to the wreck, he took a deep breath and walked along the bottom of the river. Holding his own against the fierce current, Alexei was at the rock supporting the ship within a minute. He got a good grip on the rock and launched himself upwards.

The Russian breached the surface like an orca, before landing roughly on the deck of the ship. The ship creaked and shifted, sending him sliding towards the edge. He was barely able to catch himself on the railing, and almost ripped it out of the deck. Alexei hung from the railing as the ship settled. Looking at the water below him, he saw the whiskered fish looking up at him. The railing groaned as he pulled himself back onto the deck. He carefully walked over to superstructure and opened a hatch.

The inside of the ship was presumably dark, though Alexei could see perfectly fine. He was in what looked like a small mess hall. He didn't know what the fish wanted him to do inside the ship, so he just started wandering. Wandering with purpose. Not finding anything interesting in the mess hall, the Russian opened door and found himself in a hallway. He decided to head left, towards starboard. The hallway turned to the right when it reached the side of the ship.

Alexei turned the corner. The hallway was well lit from the portholes along the left wall. Near the end of the corridor, a door hung open. He slowly creeped down the hallway towards the door. As he neared the door, he could hear the rythmic sound of water. Alexei peered inside the room. Along the walls were various kinds of machinery, the floor was covered in wires, and in the center of the room was a large glass tank, filled with murky water. He moved into the room, towards the tank. As he got near, his armor marked it as a hazard.

He knelt next to the tank and put his hand on the glass, trying to see what was inside. There was something moving. Then it was at the glass, inches from his face. He was face to face with a small brown fish. A baby. Then there were more, moving towards the glass. Babies. There was at least a dozen baby fish in the tank. Alexei counted them.

There were 14 strange little brown fish in an abandoned ship in the middle of a river in the middle of the wilderness. Then it dawned on Alexei.

These were the whiskered fish's babies.

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