part I

Mars. Lunae Planum Desert. 2188. 308.03.15.

“What do you think? Maybe another hour or two?”

W0RM chirped from his perch on Roe’s shoulder, as she wiped the sweat from her brow, looking to the hazily glowing sun hanging over the horizon through the thin clouds.

She pulled a silver bottle from her red-dusted bag resting on the ground and took a drink, “Yeah, we’ll see.”

And with that, she tossed the bottle back into the bag, tucking it beside the unconscious Ari wrapped in a blanket on an outstretched tarp spread over the rocky desert floor.

Roe pulled Ari’s staff up and over her head, the tarp tied to it on both ends, and braced it against her hands and chest and trudged forward once more into the red desert before them.

She figured it had been about six hours since their impromptu escape from the train, and, despite waiting around for one or two of those for Ari to wake up from her deep sleep or whatever it was, she decided they needed to move. The Fed on the train would’ve undoubtedly reported the incident as soon as they mysteriously disappeared, so she couldn’t rule out the possibility of search parties running along the lines. The last thing they needed was trouble with the Feds, despite Roe’s belief that the Adarai probably had spies in the government too. But, no, it wasn’t worth the risk. They needed to cut in a few miles and try to find their way from there.

She had tried splashing Ari’s face with water, clapping her hands, a little gentle cheek smacking, and even some of W0RM’s shrillest shrieks, but nothing would wake the sleeping sorcerer. Even after hours of being dragged across the desert floor mile after mile, she still hadn’t budged. But since she had no apparent injuries and was breathing calmly, Roe assumed she simply needed the rest after something as insane as teleportation. Though, how Ari had managed to pull it off after scoffing at how advanced the magic was earlier in the day was beyond her at the moment.

However, navigating a way forward with a busted multi-tool presented a unique challenge. While teleporting was probably the coolest thing she’d ever done, landing on her multi-tool while breaking the fall she hadn’t expected was not. But, after sending W0RM up to scout their immediate area, she found that Ari had thankfully planned ahead and somehow teleported their luggage out nearby as well. And, after a half hour of rummaging through their bags, Roe had a god- knows-how-old survey map of the planet and Ari’s camp tarp turned stretcher ready to roll. Or more specifically, drag.

So they set off due northwest toward an old frontier town marked as Gui on the map. Her best estimate was that it was probably around 30 miles ahead and would be their best bet in both avoiding arrest and potentially getting in contact with the Adarai to come and get them for god’s sake.

It was only as the sun began to set along with her energy levels, that Roe heard a groggy voice sound behind her.

“Wait, where the hell are we?”