Nightfall. The HMS Clarent zoomed over the surface of the desert, hardly a speck in its impossible largeness. Inside the pilot’s cockpit, the two unlikely companions talked.
Well, at least one of them was.
‘…weeks and months, traveling and stopping and traveling and stopping,’ Rayna related her tale to the Swordsman, ‘Looking for a ship that might not even exist.’
The Swordsman, with his arms folded across his chest and his head bowed, could only wonder if the girl will ever shut up.
‘And so that night, during the second watch,’ Rayna continued, ‘I snuck out. Crept up on Jack Draper and slugged him right over the head. Took pap’s dust scooter and pushed it for an hour before I could start it up without waking the whole camp. And then I was off – into the wide open desert!’
She leaned in for the next part of her story: ‘Which turned out to be a bad mistake, y’know. The desert was bigger than anything I’d ever imagined. Bigger than the Adelaide Wastelands, that’s for sure. Two sunrises later, I’ve seen nothing but sand and rocks – but mostly sand. I guess pap’s scooter must have flipped, or fell apart, or something; coz when I woke up, I was in a cage on this ship.’
She then sat back into her seat. ‘Which was when you came along only hours later,’ she said. ‘Which was a swell thing, I suppose.’
‘Hm,’ the Swordsman offered in acknowledgement.
‘And here we are,’ she nodded.
There was a relieving moment of silence; and when Rayna started up on another topic, the Swordsman visibly cringed in his seat.
‘So, Stubs…’ she said, looking at him. ‘Who’s Sarah?’
The Swordsman cast her a cold glare, saying nothing. Catching his gaze, Rayna reached over and gave him a little nudge.
‘C’mon, Stubs,’ she said, ‘You kept calling her name while you were dying of dehydration. You can tell me.’
He clenched his fists.
‘Sarah’s none of your business,’ he growled through gritted teeth. ‘Now leave me ALONE!’
She stared hard at him, taken aback. ‘Okay, okay, sorry,’ she mumbled, ‘Geez.’
Rayna looked out the cockpit and into the night sky that stretched on before them. ‘We’re almost there, anyway,’ she said. ‘In just a few minutes, you’ll be done and rid of me.’