At long last, another chapter! Some of the events in this chapter were based on real-life events, so it's kind of cool to know that there are real-life heroes out there in the world. I don't know very much about boats and boat safety, so let me know if anything I wrote doesn't make sense. Also I wrote this kind of quickly, so let me know if you see typos and etc.
I hope you enjoy the story. I wasn't really sure I was going to continue it, since it doesn't seem like there's been a ton of interest, but I just hate the thought of abandoning a story. I'm going to try my best to get to the end, and hopefully some people enjoy it along the way. Thanks for the support! I really really appreciate every comment, it helps me stay motivated. :D
"Madam Mayo-... Zelda," a voice interrupted Zelda's blissful rest. She ignored it, of course. She was so tired, and and nothing less than a major natural disaster would move her.
"Zelda!" the voice said again, this time more insistent. That was Link's voice, right? Zelda shot up, the details of the city's current situation coming back to her all in a moment. She grimaced, realizing that is really was a major natural disaster forcing her awake.
"What time is it? Is the storm passed?" she asked, looking around her. She was sitting up in the bed in Link's guest room, presumably he'd moved her there after she'd fallen asleep. Link was standing in the doorway, heavy backpack slung over his shoulder. He was wearing tan trousers, tall rubber boots, and a bright green waterproof jacket, with his officers' badge pinned to the front.
"It's five in the morning. The worst of the storm is over, and it looks like it will be pretty hot today." He turned his head to look out the window into the dim morning light. "That's bad for people who don't have access to clean water. The flooding… it's pretty bad. We really need to get going."
Zelda let out a puff of breath and braced herself for what promised to be a long day. She rose creakily from the bed and headed towards the door, where Link held out her clothes for her. She grabbed them from him and frowned as she felt the weight of the still-damp cloth.
"It's still wet. Let's take it with us for now, and I can change later."
Link nodded, and turned to walk down the stairs, Zelda following quickly after. He stopped at the top of the stairs, though, and Zelda almost ran into him.
"The first floor is flooded," he said, and Zelda saw looking over his shoulder that it was true. The water rose to two feet above the bottom of the stairs, it's murky brown depths appearing decidedly foreboding. "We'll have to go out the window."
Zelda's eyes widened, and for the first time she realized just how bad the storm was. Link moved to his own room, prying at the stiff window, which had been painted shut, with a heave. Zelda just watched him, feeling somewhat numb. She felt glad Link was able to keep such a cool head.
Link managed to get the window opened, and he ducked his head through the pane and leapt into his boat, which was floating only a few feet below the windowsill. Zelda poked her head out the window, eyeing the bobbing boat with trepidation. It was a decently sized boat, about twenty feet long, flat with seats around the sides and a motor at the back. Link had somehow jumped onto it without losing his footing, and Zelda wanted to follow, she just couldn't get her shaky legs to obey her.
Link noticed Zelda's nervousness and pulled on the rope tying the boat to the house, dragging it closer to the windowsill. He reach up a hand to her, Steadying his foot on the side of the boat.
"Can you reach my hand? Do you think you can jump?"
Link's outstretched hand still looked a little far for comfort, but Zelda knew they didn't have time to deal with her hesitation right now. Besides, if she fell she'd just fall into the water. She could swim to the boat, and everything would be fine. That's what she told herself, at least, purposefully ignoring the fact that any number of sharp or otherwise dangerous things could be hidden beneath the surface of the water. She clutched her still-damp clothes to her chest with one arm, reaching the other hand out towards Link's, and jumped from the windowsill. Link's fingers closed around hers in a tight grip, and while Zelda's foot faltered a little at the edge of the boat, he was able to pull her safely in. She stumbled a little, falling into his chest. He held her tight until she got her footing, which was both annoying and comforting at the same time.
She found a seat, and finally took the time to survey Link's childhood neighborhood. The view was grim. Brown-grey water covered the entire neighborhood, reaching at least halfway up most houses' first floors. Now, the stately old homes in Link's neighborhood appeared more like squat sheds, the shorter houses' roofs barely clearing the floodwater. It was truly devastating. This was, of course, the lowest part of the city in terms of elevation. Zelda could only hope that the rest of Hyrule was in better shape.
Link fiddled with the motor for a while, eventually coaxing it to life. Zelda was rapidly going through her checklist of emergency procedures in her mind when he turned back to her.
"I know we really need to get to Hyrule High, but I'm pretty worried about some of my neighbors… Do you mind if we check on them first?"
Zelda had to admit, she honestly did feel a little resistance to the idea… She knew that human lives were most important, but she might be able to help more from their Emergency Headquarters than from here… Still, she decided she couldn't possibly abandon someone in their time of need.
"Of course. Let's just try and go as quickly as possible."
Link nodded solemnly, and they motored off towards a darkened one-story house further down the street.
The first thing Zelda noticed was the dog on the roof, followed shortly thereafter by a middle-aged woman and young boy. The mother, Zelda presumed, was holding a blanket over her son, trying to protect him from the hot sun. It really was turning out to be a blistering day.
"Uli!" Link yelled out, and, the woman looked up, hope lighting her eyes. "Uli, we can take you and Colin to Hyrule High. Do you want to go?"
Uli set her blanket down and stood up on the roof, waving her arms emphatically at Link and Zelda.
"Yes, of course! Anywhere dry is fine with me!"
Link pulled the boat up close to the house. He wanted to anchor it to something, but there wasn't really an appropriate post or buoy. He tried to keep the boat steady in the thankfully-calm water, and Zelda reached out towards the boy. Uli and the boy had scooted up towards the edge of their slanted roof, and Uli was preparing to hand him over to Zelda's waiting arms. The boat wobbled treacherously at the exchange, but Zelda managed to secure the boy and seat him safely inside. Then, it was Uli's turn. She took Zelda's outstretched hand, but Uli lost her footing on the awkward distance between the roof and the boat. Zelda tried to haul her into the boat, but Uli was too off-balance, and she fell directly into the murky water. Zelda held her breath for a long second, but Uli's head popped out of the floodwater moments later, gasping for air.
Link moved to the other side of the boat, instructing Colin to do the same to act as counterweights, and Uli was able to climb into the boat with Zelda's help. As soon as she made it into the boat, she collapsed against the deck, breathing hard. The dog, who had lept into the water after Uli, clambered into the boat after its master. Zelda reached for the life vests under the seats, and handed them to mother and son.
"Thank you so much," said Uli, as she helped Colin with his vest. "We've been out on the roof since before the storm ended. I wasn't sure how we were going to survive."
"No problem," said Link as he moved back to the motor. "I'm just glad you're OK. Do you know where Rusl is?"
"He's out of town for a couple of weeks, taking care of his mother," Uli said, letting out an ironic half sob, half laugh. "It just had to be this week."
Zelda moved to comfort the distressed woman, placing a soothing arm around her drenched shoulders.
"It's OK, you're both going to be OK. We're taking you to Hyrule High-that's where the City has set up emergency supplies, places to sleep, extra food, all that kind of stuff."
Uli turned her head towards Zelda, as if considering her for the first time. "Thank you so much. And you are…?"
"I am Zelda Harkinian," Zelda said, unsurprised that she was not recognized. Most people couldn't identify their local politicians on sight. "I'm the mayor."
"Oh," Uli said, eyes widening in recognition. "So… You and Link are just going around rescuing people?"
Link started the motor again and they headed down the street towards the main drag, which they would then take to the High School. Zelda grabbed Link's backpack, which he'd set down on the deck, hoping she'd find some kind of emergency blanket to help keep Uli warm. She figured she could be useful and chat at the same time.
"Not exactly… We're both part of the City's Emergency Preparedness plan, but we just happened to be in the neighborhood when the storm broke. I'm trying to get back to Hyrule High, and from there I will coordinate relief efforts. Link, I believe, has his own role to play."
Link nodded from his seat by the motor, and Uli accepted that as confirmation.
Colin, as Zelda learned the young boy's name was, remained quiet as they headed through the devastated neighborhood, and Zelda couldn't blame him. The area was almost unrecognizable, and Zelda tried to distract him from the occasional floating pet corpse or sunken car.
"What grade are you in?" she asked, voice kindly.
"Fifth," Colin said, eyes remaining fixed on yet another flooded building. He absentmindedly petted his dog, and Zelda figured at least the dog might provide some form of comfort for him.
"So close to Middle School!" said Zelda, desperately searching for some way to redirect his thoughts. It seemed as if the boy might be in shock. "Are you excited to start Middle School?"
Colin shook his head silently, then looked back at the row of sunken houses.
"I loved Middle School. Looking back, it was pretty awkward, but at the time it was such great fun! I took drama, even though I'm terrible at it, and I was even in the school play! Have you ever been in a school play?"
Colin never provided any more than monosyllabic answers, but Zelda found herself babbling on. She eventually wondered if her chatter was for his sake or hers, but Zelda couldn't help it. There they were, motoring through the absolute devastation of her city. She wanted to be doing something to help-needed to be doing something to help. And so Uli, Link, and Colin all remained relatively quiet, while Zelda talked.
Zelda felt a significant measure of relief when Proxim Bridge appeared in view several hours later. That meant they were over halfway to Hyrule High, and the water level had decreased significantly. The water in these neighborhoods only barely reached up to the first floor, and Zelda guessed that they'd need to get out of the boat and walk soon. But first, they need to cross the river.
Although the flood levels appeared to be decreasing, the buildings closer to the bridge were more flooded than their neighbors. The bridge passed over a branch of the Zora River that was normally quite small and narrow, but the river was now greatly swollen by the storm, and the bridge was completely flooded. The water was, thankfully, not moving too quickly, and Zelda guessed they would not have difficulty crossing the river. As they drew closer to the river, Zelda could make out a figure standing on the wall of the bridge, next to a partially submerged car, waving towards them frantically.
"Hey! Over there! Help!"
Zelda moved to the back of the boat, shaking Link's shoulder urgently.
"Link, there's a woman over there, by the car! Do you see her?"
"Yeah, I'm headed that way now."
Zelda went to the front of the boat, leaning forward so she could assess the situation as soon as possible. When they reached the car, the woman on the wall began gesticulating wildly towards the car, which had somehow ended up on the opposite side of the wall from the bridge, in the riverbed, and was rapidly disappearing underneath the water.
"My fiancee! He's stuck in the car! Please, please help us" she cried in desperation.
Link stood immediately, strippinng off his jacket.
"Zelda, take the tiller and hold it steady."
Link and Zelda swiftly traded places, Link moving to the front of the boat as Zelda moved back Link picked up a heavy oar as he went, and once the boat was close enough, he began bashing in the rear window of the car, the only window still visible above the water. After several good thumps, the window gave way, and without another word, Link slipped into the floodwater. He swam towards the car, maneuvering through the broken window and disappearing underneath the brown surface.
Zelda's heart stopped, and she felt certain it did not beat once the entire time Link was concealed beneath the water. For what felt like ages the water remained undisturbed, until finally Zelda caught sight of a single arm reaching out the window and grasping the side of the car. Link's head soon followed, and he pulled his body out the window, dragging an unconscious form after him. It was tricky, moving both himself and the woman's fiancee out of the small window, and Zelda winced as she saw skin drag across broken glass, but Link somehow managed it. The man's legs slipped free of the car, and the car finally surrendered to the depths completely, disappearing from view.
Link swam doggedly towards the boat, one arm stroking as the other hooked around the man's chest. Zelda maneuvered the boat as close to them as she dared, and Uli moved to the front of the boat to help them in. With a massive heave, Link somehow got the man far enough out of the water that Uli was able to latch on to him, and with sheer determination the diminutive woman awkwardly hauled the limp body into the boat. Link took a moment to tread water, catching his breath, then lifted himself into the boat as well.
As soon as they were both securely inside, Zelda abandoned her post at the motor and appeared at the man's side. He was lying flat on the deck, Uli and Link hovering uncertainly over him, and he was not breathing.
"Move aside, I can help," said Zelda with surety. In truth, she actually was quite confident, not because she had assessed the situation and judged herself well-prepared, but rather because the adrenaline pumping through her veins did not give her time for self-doubt.
She knelt next to the unbreathing man and checked for a pulse. She felt a weak beat under her fingers, but that would help him little if he did not start breathing again soon. Zelda tilted his head back to open his airway, and began pushing on his stomach. She pumped and pumped, then took a break to pinch his nose and breath into his mouth. She repeated the process two, maybe three times, until the man finally expelled water out in several gurgly coughs and started breathing. Zelda sat back in relief, and she heard the woman, still standing on the wall, let out a strangled sob. Link moved the boat closer to the wall, and helped the woman onboard. She immediately knelt next to her fiancee's side, stroking his hair and weeping.
"He's… he's going to be alright, right?" she said through her tears.
Zelda nodded. "I think so. But we need to get him to the High School. They have trained nurses there who can take better care of him than I can."
Link seemed to agree, because he'd already started up the motor and begun crossing the river.
"What's your name," Zelda said, hoping if she got the woman talking she might be able to calm her down.
"A-A-Anju. And this is Kafei," she said, looked down affectionately at the pale face now resting in her lap.
"Well," said Zelda, reaching for another set of life vests for the couple, "Kafei is going to be just fine. I'm so happy we arrived when we did."
"I… I am too. Thank you so much," Anju said, then she started to sob again. "I thought I'd lost him."
"But he's OK now, and we're all going to go to the High School. There will be nurses, and food, and a clean, dry place to sleep."
Uli let out a heavy sigh.
"That sounds like heaven."
The whole group fell silent, each of them looking forward to the relief Hyrule High promised. Zelda looked back at Link, and noticed for the first time the red seeping through his shirtsleeve on his left arm. She dug into his bag again, eventually locating some alcohol swabs and gauze.
"Link, you're bleeding."
Link looked down at his arm and noted the wound with surprise. Zelda moved to sit next to him, gauze and swabs in hand, but Link protested.
"I need to steer, we can take care of this after we get there."
"No way," insisted Zelda, prepared to be stubborn. "This water is filthy, it will get infected."
Link let out a huff, then obediently rolled up his sleeve, switching to grasp the tiller with his right hand. Sure enough, there was a long, messy gash on Link's upper arm, probably caused by the broken glass in the car window. Zelda wiped the wound thoroughly with several alcohol swabs, and Link winced slightly in response. Once she was satisfied the gash was clean, She tied the gauze around his arm, pulling it a little tighter than she knew would be comfortable.
"Thanks," he said, briefly taking his eyes from the path ahead of them to look onto her eyes with gratitude.
"You're welcome," Zelda said. After all he'd done today, she felt that he was the one truly deserving of thanks. Now didn't feel like the right time to express those thanks, however. Somehow she didn't want to say it with all of these people around.
"How close are we, do you think? What will we do once we can't take the boat any more?" she said instead.
I think we'll be able to leave the boat pretty soon. I'll have to tie it to a telephone pole. Thankfully, we're already within walking distance of the High School. We'll probably have to leave some people behind with Kafei, then send a car back for him. He's not well enough to be moved."
Zelda nodded in agreement, then leaned back against the side of the boat, releasing a heavy sigh.
"This is only the beginning, you know," she said, voice small.
"Yeah. I know," Link said grimly.
In about a half hour, they reached Regencia Park and the water was no longer deep enough to use the boat. Link carried Kafei to a park bench as the rest of their band trudged through the water, which still reached up to their knees. Zelda talked with Anju, Uli, and Colin, deciding who would stay with Kafei while the others walked to the High School, while Link went back to the boat and tied it to a phone pole with a heavy chain. By the time he made it back to the bench, Zelda had decided to stay with Anju and Kafei while Link, Colin, and Uli made for the school. Truth be told, Zelda felt a measure of nervousness staying behind in the flooded park without Link, but she didn't feel right leaving the distressed couple by themselves.
"I'll send a squad car or ambulance back as soon as I get there," Link said, sensing her discomfort. "I'm pretty sure you'll get prioritized, seeing as you're the mayor and all," he said with a smile. Zelda forced back an answering grin.
"One of the perks of the job, I guess."
Link let out a short laugh, probably more to acknowledge her attempt at levity than out of genuine emotion, but Zelda appreciated it. He clapped her on the shoulder reassuringly.
"I'll be back soon, I promise."
Zelda looked around them briefly, and saw that the others were out of earshot.
"Thank you, Link." Zelda looked down for a moment, fiddling with her hands. "You were really amazing today, you helped so many people."
Zelda looked back up, and Link looked bashful, unsure of how to respond to the compliment.
"Well, I couldn't have done it without you…" he said, cheeks reddening.
Zelda laughed a little at his awkward modesty, then she took a step back.
"You guys should get going. The sooner you get there, the better."
Link nodded his head, and he, Uli and Colin were soon wading away through the water, towards warmth and safety. Zelda turned back to the park bench where Kafei lay, his fiancee sitting next to him, not daring to take her eyes off of him. Zelda understood her nervousness-Link had left a few First Aid supplies with Zelda, but if Kafei's condition worsened, Zelda honestly didn't know what she could do for him. Exhausted both emotionally and physically, Zelda found another bench not far from the couple (they were taking up the whole bench they were on), and sat down, letting her mind shut down. There was nothing she could do until the car arrived, so she gave herself this time to not think of anything. She knew despite her discomfort, this would likely be one of her rare moments of rest in the coming days.