‘Well? What’s up with the thing?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know?!’ Rayna threw her hands up. ‘What do you mean, you don’t know? You’ve been staring at the thing for like, an hour now!’
The Swordsman thrust the flight manual over to Rayna. ‘It is not written in a language that I am familiar with,’ he said. ‘If you think that you can fix our airship any faster, you should do it.’
‘Damn right I will,’ she said, snatching the manual from him. The perspiration had begun to form over her brow, now that the air conditioning was out. Her stray orange hair was tied up in a messy bun at the back of her head.
‘Let’s see now,’ she muttered, flipping through the pages of the manual. ‘What to do when your airship decides to throw a tantrum and not fly? Who writes this stuff, anyway? I can’t believe no one’s invented a search function for these things yet.’
The morning sun was rising quickly over the desert, and the cold of the night was rapidly fading away. It was just starting to get warm, but in a few hours – or even minutes – it would become uncomfortably hot; and if they do not figure out the airship soon, it might as well be an oven in the desert heat.
‘Geez,’ Rayna said, scratching at her neck where the bandages ended, revealing her pale pink skin, ‘How on earth does anyone read this thing? Come on, Stubs.’
With that, she tossed the manual aside and began poring over the console laid out before them. The Swordsman looked at the discarded manual, and then back at her.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked.
‘Improvising,’ she said. ‘Help me out here – I’m sure we can figure something to get this baby up and flying again.’
‘The instruction manual was there to help us figure it out,’ he said, gesturing towards the publication. ‘Why would you trouble us by refusing the solution that someone has already found?’
‘Because it’s taking too damn long,’ she said. ‘It’s not as though you were making any progress with the manufacturer’s opinion yourself.’
The Swordsman frowned at this. ‘So what is the problem with this ship?’
‘What? Beats me,’ she said nonchalantly. ‘That’s what I’m trying to work out.’
‘Surely, you cannot expect to find a solution when you do not even understand the problem, in the first place!’ the Swordsman snapped. ‘You would try and hit the buttons as you have earlier – completely at random – and pray that a miracle would help us get into the air?’
‘Pretty much, yeah.’
‘A fool’s chance,’ he shook his head. ‘A fool’s hope.’
‘Hey, old man,’ she glared at him. ‘Either help me out here, or at least do me the courtesy of keeping quiet while I solve our problem, okay?’
The Swordsman threw his hands up, resigned, and then sat back into his seat with his arms folded. Rayna continued working away at the myriad of switches, dials, and buttons laid out before her, muttering things to herself as she did. With every switch turned and every button pressed that ended in nothing, their patience grew thinner and thinner. Like a slow fuse burning, one might say. Being the one at the center of the frustration, Rayna was the first between them to give in to it.
‘God dammit!’ she cursed, slamming her fists against the console. ‘Why wouldn’t you work?!’
The Swordsman glanced up at her lazily. ‘Perhaps you should ask the manufacturer’s opinion,’ he said, casting a glance at the manual that still laid on the floor. ‘I imagine that he might have a good idea on why this airship is not working.’
Rayna gave him a chilly stare. ‘I will stab you,’ she said. ‘Do not test me.’
‘I think I will,’ he said, meeting her stare. Before he could say anything else, she already had a finger raised, pointed directly at his face.
“Hey, mister!’ she said sharply, ‘If you don’t realize it, we’re stuck in the middle of the desert in the world’s biggest tin foil! Unless you want us to start cooking in here, I suggest you cut the witty comebacks, and start helping me in my quest of stopping this ship from turning into the world’s biggest tin foil. Do that for me, will ya?’
‘Read the instruction manual!’ the Swordsman’s voice rose. ‘Why is that so difficult for you? Why do you feel the need to figure this out when the creator of this airship has already written it down?’
‘YOU can read the damn manual just fine, so why didn’t you, huh?’ Rayna began to shout. ‘You’re just sitting there, smirking and judging me while I’m getting some actual work done here. Real great, mister. Real helpful, o wise one.’
‘I do not understand the language of the instruction manual!’
‘Yeah? You seemed to understand it just fine when you were staring at it for over an hour!’
‘If it vexes you so, I am sorry I even attempted to do so! I was simply just – what did you call it? Ah, yes – getting some actual work done here.’
Rayna raised a clenched fist, her blood boiling. ‘Listen here, you old geezer,’ she said slowly, ‘I don’t care if you can slice me up into forty neat pieces with that shiny sword of yours; but I’m pretty damn sure that I can break your pretty face in a few places before you even pull your weapon out.’
‘Do not challenge me, young lady,’ the Swordsman said, intense.
She loosened her fist, dropped it to clutch onto the Swordsman’s shift tightly; and with surprising strength, she pulled him up, so that his face stopped just before it met hers.
‘I think I will,’ she hissed.
With that, she shoved him away roughly with the same hand, dropping him into his seat. She turned, at first as though she was going to pick up the discarded manual – but then she slammed an angry fist onto the console.
All around them, the airship jerked to life.
‘Wha–?’ she looked up, surprised – and then a blaring, beeping sound came ringing in the pilot’s cockpit. The screen above the console showed the terrain around them, and over the map there flashed a message in red:
FUEL CRITICALLY LOW
The Swordsman looked up at Rayna, and she turned to look at him.
‘So that’s what’s wrong with it.’