Collection: Elysian//Age of Youtb
Chronicled By: Valhel
Preceeded by: Abandon Eden
Mercury watched a group of shadows creep over a distant dune. Lowering the spyglass he tensed his shoulders and took on a serious tone.
“There’s a pack of wild chalupas out there.”
Pandora growled as she pulled a heavy blanket over her head, “Chupacabra. If you’re going to be on watch try not to narrate.”
She pushed her back up against the side of the treader, shielding herself from the light of a full moon. It had been a long ride from the battle aboard the Hesperides, and Pandora was more than exhausted. Authority patrols swept over the dunes searching for the fleeing combatants forcing the pair to travel well out of their path home to avoid detection.
“How much further do you think we have to go?” said Mercury as he collapsed the spyglass into his hand.
Pandora willed her eyes shut, “A day or more, but the fuel will burn out before then. Hopefully Wrench is ok and then hopefully someone can get the ship out here to look for us.”
Mercury slumped down against the opposite side of the treader, “Well, if we die out here you might as well tell me what this whole secret plan is about.”
Pandora let out a long sigh, “It’s bounty hunters...”
“I knew it!” exclaimed Mercury.
“It’s not bounty hunters!’ Pandora rolled her eyes and leaned back up against the treader, ‘What did the professor have to say?”
Mercury searched the chaos of the day to piece together the nonsense he had heard earlier, “There’s a weapon being built by the Authority and some weird time travel tech to go along with it, he wants us to steal it or blow it up or something.”
“If there’s a time traveling weapon wouldn’t the Authority just jump back in time to speed up its development?”
Mercury became excited, “Yes! Actually, he mentioned that too, he doesn’t think the Authority will be successful because of sabotage.”
“You’ll believe anything.’ smiled Pandora, ‘That can’t be all he wanted.”
Mercury paused, “You’re right, he wants to build a time device of his own. He started to go on about something else too, something he believed was out there we needed.”
Pandora hung her head as a weight came over her, “Providence.”
“Yes! That’s what he said!” Mercury noticed the sullen note in Pandora’s voice, “You knew?”
Pandora fumbled with a half-truth, “Well, we did speak on the radio to set this all up before hand.”
“Right.” Mercury looked down to his feet as he tried to keep the sand from getting in his boots.
“Listen,’ sighed Mercury, ‘you don’t need to fill me in on everything, but, what you did back there, you’re incredible and I owe you.”
Momentary silence held Mercury’s breath as the two sat backs against the treader on a sea of white sand.
Pandora watched the shadows of the dunes shrink in the moonlight, “Do you believe that there’s something out there, shaping time and space into something meaningful?”
Mercury looked side to side, silently taken back by the question, “I guess I don’t really think about it that much.”
Mercury winced once he realized he had failed to keep the conversation alive and blurted out, “What, what do you think?”
“I was told a beautiful lie once.’ said Pandora in a half whisper, ‘An eternal love. Forgiveness and healing. Belonging.”
“Who told you that?”
Pandora glared over the wastes, “I thought they could be friends, but they weren’t as good at forgiveness as their God was supposed to be.”
“Sounds crazy.” shrugged Mercury, hoping that his was the appropriate response.
“That’s not even the half of it.’ mused Pandora, ‘Would’ve been nice though.”
“You can’t take those people seriously.” said Mercury.
“Am I supposed to take you seriously, then?” smiled Pandora.
“Hey!’ objected Merc, ‘I can be serious.”
“Whatever, you keep watching those wild chalupas. I’ve got to get some sleep!” said Pandora as she rolled back against the treader.
Mercury smiled, “Let me know if you need me to be serious again.”
The feint light of a dying lantern barely illuminated Desmond’s face as he shut the lid to a black chest in frustration.
“No correspondence again?” fluttered a soft voice from across the room.
“None.” he sighed.
Clandestine stepped into the light, “Do you think she would betray us again?”
Desmond folded into an armchair and used his umbrella to shove the chest away in disappointment, “Possible.”
“Probable?” pressed Clandestine.
“Probable.” nodded Desmond.
Clandestine stooped down to place the black box again on the center of the desk, “But unbelievable?”
“I had hoped that her need for self preservation and drive for vindication would be the push she needed.”
Clandestine looked through the various unanswered reports littering Desmond’s desk, “She has good reason to distrust us all.”
Desmond flipped the umbrella over his knees and began drumming his fingers across the frame, “And we her, but I gave her everything-”
“-everything except half the truth, and time to heal.” interceded Clandestine.
Desmond frowned, “We did not have time to give her, and those fools at Roanoke only made it worse.”
“They are all learning, being hunted down through time doesn’t exactly afford the luxury of libraries.”
Sudden dread came over Desmond’s face, “How certain are we that Pandora stole the last time jump apparatus?”
Clandestine began to follow Desmond’s train of thought, “It was the last. The Roanoke Resistance destroyed the others.”
“Where did she take it from?” started Desmond as he began to scratch ink across parchment.
“Their lab...’ fear overcame Clandestine with the same thought that had brought panic to Desmond, ‘She stole it from Mech’s lab...”
“If there was anyone loyal to Petra who could replicate the apparatus it would be him!’ Desmond flung the lid of the black chest open and stuffed a letter within, ‘She is being hunted.”
“The truth, Desmond.’ Clandestine’s calm voice abruptly pierced the panic, ‘That night, why did you only tell her half the truth?”
The question rang with conviction in his heart before Desmond carefully closed the chest.
“Because I think she is the truth.”
The next morning Pandora and Mercury decided to guide their treader toward elevated rock formations toward the West. They agreed that first, if they were to run out of fuel before reaching civilization that they’d rather run empty in the shade than on the open sands, and second, the landmark would provide an excellent look out point to watch for rescue. If and when help did pass by Pandora could attempt to signal their distress by setting the remaining fuel alight.
Across the dunes they fled, sand soaring in a sky high tail behind the rusted machine. While Pandora managed the driving Mercury kept an eye out. At one point he thought he saw another treader to the North, but he chalked it up to being hungry and tired, deciding not to risk pestering Pandora with his suspicion.
A little past midday and the pair had arrived at the stone spires. Archways and pinnacles formed of what looked like the fossilized spines of some ancient serpent that had been swept in from some mythical sea. There were no caves, but plenty of places to recline in the shade no matter the time of day, Pandora pulled the treader into one such spot to make camp. She and Mercury began making preparations for their retrieval .
After Mercury had siphoned the fuel from the treader Pandora pushed the bike downhill and hid the machine out of sight. Pandora then spread some of her gear out in one of the clefts facing the open desert.
“We’ll take shifts again.’ sighed Pandora as she turned to Merc, ‘Make sure not to lose of break my stuff.”
Mercury turned away from the dunes to examine just what exactly he needed to ensure he never touched, “No flare gun, I’m guessing?”
“No. Didn’t replace it. Now look, there’s my gun. Use that to try to signal last, we don’t need to scare off or shoot down any potential help. If you do see help use the spark from it to light the gauze that’s stuffed into the fuel can, and only, only, do that once the can is away from us! There’s a small lantern and this...”
Pandora hesitantly reaches into her jacket pocket and pulled out a shard of mirror.
“If all else fails, during the day, try to use this.”
Pandora set the broken bit of glass down reverently on a piece of unfolded canvas.
“Don’t girls normally carry those around but in a folding case or something?” puzzled Mercury.
Pandora glared and blinked, “Don’t break it. Bad luck.”
“Don’t touch. Got it.” smiled Mercury.
The stars slowly forced the sun out of the sky and the cool shade of the rocks became a bitter cold.
Pandora yawned, her eyes were heavy with sleep as she concluded her watch. Nothing had happened those second four hours of the night, not one single transport, not one traveler. Only the occasional insect called out from the shadows, nothing like the chorus of creeping things that could be heard lurking in the weirded woods of the past, Pandora thought to herself. She had passed the hours diligently watching the horizon, kicking her feet off the stone ledge to stay awake, but also minding her fears.
Time. Providence. Death. The soul. Like the host of those ancient trees Pandora’s mind buzzed with wings of weary thought.
Another day gone and still no answers, still only time, only souls, only providence. At last it was an hour into the next twenty-four and it was time to change watch. Pandora swung her feet back onto the rock and walking over to camp gave Mercury a gentle kick.
“You’re up!” she stretched.
Mercury rolled over, one eye too heavy to open, “Am I though?”
Pandora collapsed onto her bedroll, “Four hours, go...”
Mercury thought about rolling his way over to the ledge before growling about the cold and walking over. Then his gut growled and he regretted not stuffing bread rolls from the Hesperides into his pockets before jumping overboard.
“You wouldn’t happen to have any snacks, would you?” whispered Mercury. But Pandora decided to feign sleep rather than answer.
Mercury forced his eyes wide to survey the nothingness around him. Sand. Rocks. Stars. Soon his attention turned to better surroundings, memories of warm bonfires and song, food enough for him and his friends, and sharing the one possession he could afford to share, laughter.
An hour or so had crept by and Mercury was losing the battle to keep his eyes peeled. The cold night had numbed his face and he could swear he felt his bones slowly turn to ice. A droning hummed in his head as exhaustion began to claim him, but then the droning whirled around him, echoing off of the face of the stones. Mercury strained an eye open and spied a distant flood light on the horizon.
Ship! he thought.
“Pandora!” he wasn’t sure he even actually spoke, but Mercury scrambled for the fuel can and the blaster.
“Pandora, ship!” this time he knew he said something and as he reached for the canister and blaster he saw something in the reflection of Pandora’s looking glass, something looking right back at him.
To be continued. . .
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