part IV

“Where the hell is this goddamn place?!” Roe growled, wiping the fine dust from the survey map, as Ari carefully sipped from her metal water bottle.

Roe stared ahead to the empty horizon, blocking the glaring sun above with her hand, and scoffed, “We should’ve been there by now.” She grumbled to herself and stuffed the map back into one of her bags.

“Well, I think we’re good on food until tomorrow,” Ari said, as she stared uneasily into her own. “But after that...”

“I know, alright,” Roe spat back in frustration, as she pulled her bags back onto her shoulders.

“No need to be rude about it,” Ari said under her breath.


“Nothing--let’s just--oh! Here comes W0RM,” she pointed past the glowering Roe to a darting glint in the sky above.

With a squawk, W0RM landed on Roe’s shoulder and flapped his wings.

“See anything up there?” Ari asked hesitantly.

The bird’s metal feathers rippled, while he chirped at Roe, and, after a moment, she nodded. “No city but he saw some structures a few miles north...”

So they set off without another word, Ari following a few paces behind as she had all morning, distancing herself from the temperamental Roe.

“I still don’t get why you people don’t have comms,” Roe grumbled after awhile, tinkering with her damaged multi-tool, as they walked in the dry breeze over the cracked sand and silt of the red desert floor.

“We don’t need them,” Ari replied, “What’d be the point?”

Roe rolled her eyes, “I don’t know, like, for times like these when you can’t magic your way out the desert?”

Ari groaned to herself, her patience wearing thin, but said nothing in return.

“Can you try it again?” Roe called back to her.

Ari scoffed, “I just tried an hour ago. I’m still too weak, okay? Just--”

“--Alright, alright,” Roe cut in, “I was just wondering. Calm down.”

Shaking her head at a loss, Ari couldn’t help herself, “Why--do you always do that?”


“Pick fights with everyone.”

“I don’t--”

“--On the train. With those guys who tried to kill you.

Roe stopped and turned around, “The guy was tailing us. What was I supposed to do?”

“Uh, maybe not fight him,” Ari shrugged, wide-eyed, “One second I’m telling you about my hand and getting upset and the next you’re in his face.”

“He was tailing us, which you didn’t believe, and he was one of you!” Roe roared, pushing her blowing hair out of her face.

“How was I supposed to know?”

“I don’t know, don’t you people have magic senses or tells or something?!”

“It doesn’t work that way--it’s comp--”

“Complicated--yeah--” Roe cut her off with a smarmy mock-smile, “I’m beginning to see that.” She turned back around and trudged forward.

“You’re--you’re--ugh!” Ari stomped after her in frustration, “Carter said you could be difficult, and I never--” But she immediately stopped, nearly running face first into Roe who had turned around once more.

“Don’t.” A calm fury simmered in Roe’s eyes, as she stared into Ari’s. The wind continued to whip around them, as they stood face to face. “You know nothing about me or my life, so walk your magic alien cult bullshit somewhere else for a while before I show you how little you--or him--know about me. Got it?”

But before Ari could even take a breath to reply, a loud screech sounded from above.

They looked up to find W0RM gliding down to them, struggling against the mounting winds, squawking in a panic.

“What is it?” Roe asked, but then they saw it behind them.

Shielding their eyes against the growing gusts, they stared into the monstrous wall of dust and dirt churning on the horizon headed straight for them.