part II

“The desert, where do you think?” Roe said, dropping the tarp-tied staff onto the ground and wiping more red-stained sweat from her brow.

The lightest of purple was beginning to glow over the endless rocky horizon, while, with a great bit of effort, Ari pulled herself to her feet and assessed her makeshift gurney and the sagging sun in the sky, “How long have I been...”

Roe shrugged, “I don’t know. Five or six hours, I think.” She held up her arm to show Ari the busted multi-tool. “Landed on it after you teleported us.”

Ari shook her head after searching the surrounding nothingness, “Where are the train tracks?”

Roe motioned back behind them, “A ways back. Had to head in to avoid any patrols considering...”

“So we’re just wandering in the desert?!”

I,” Roe emphasized, “Have been pulling you through the desert. I saw a small town on your old map where we can call someone to come pick us up, okay?”

Ari stared at her, mouth agape, speechless.

“You're Miss ‘the fun of the journey is getting there’ or whatever, so if you have a better idea that won’t land us in some Federal prison, I’m all ears, alright? I mean, you teleported us off of the train, so let’s do it again. Just take us to the cave.”

Ari burst out laughing, almost mockingly, “Are you serious? I probably almost died doing that. Why do you think I was sleeping for six hours?”

“I don’t know, you just said it was ‘super advanced’ and then you did it so--doesn’t seem that impossible to me.”

“No--that was--different. When you’re under--pressure--it’s easier. Like instinctual. It's something the Salii teach us about it in our defense classes.”

“The Salii?”

“Never mind, it’s--I can’t do it again. To be honest, I’m surprised we all survived it anyway...”

Roe gave W0RM, who was perched on her shoulder, a worried look.

She continued, “Maybe I can contact someone before it gets too dark. Hold on.” Ari closed her eyes and took in a long breath, holding out her left hand. She muttered some words in a language Roe did not understand and, in an instant, a blue spark flashed above her palm. But Ari stumbled, falling to one knee, and the spark died. “I--I can’t--” she groaned, as Roe stepped in to help her sit back down.

“Look, you’re too weak. Just--here,” Roe rummaged through a bag, “You need to eat something,” and handed Ari one of Ilona’s dented bun boxes. “I saved you the last one.” Roe cleared her throat seeing the smirk on Ari's face, trying to downplay the kind gesture. “Let’s just camp here tonight, and we can start up again in the morning. Hopefully, we should be able to make it there by noon.”

Ari nodded, taking a big bite out of the fluffy bun, as Roe began to pull out Ari’s tent equipment.

“Have you used this thing?”

“Yeah, once on my way to your farm. It’ll be a bit cozy with two people--”

W0RM chirped, and he fluttered over to Ari’s lap.

“--Sorry, three people, but it’ll be fine.”

Roe simply nodded.

“Roe, umm... thank you--for pulling me and everything.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Roe brushed it off, silhouetted against the deepening violet of the sinking sun.