The cloud of dust was visible from as far as twenty kilometers out. It rose out of the horizon, simmering in the desert haze. A little closer in, and one might be able to hear the rattling of the dust scooters’ old motors running, jerking, pumping against the strain of age, desperately struggling to prove its usefulness in a world that has forsaken it.
This rising cloud of dust, like poetry, meant different things to different people, depending on how they interpreted things. To some, it meant death. Painful and certain death, especially if the riders on the dust scooters came wrapped head to toe in long strips of bandages. To those whose eyes have glazed over and noses stuck from the dried blood from burst blood vessels, it meant salvation – whether in the form of merciful death or gracious rescue.
When there was no one to interpret these signs, the billowing cloud only meant a disturbance in the quietly boiling desert. Just two infinitesimally small riders making their way to where they needed to be, making hardly any difference in the vastness both in space and age of the desert.
The dust scooters zoomed along their path, ever pointed towards the west. One of the riders was ahead of the other, her slender form bent low against the shape of the scooter. The other rider trailed behind and off to the side, his longcoat billowing as the air rushed past it. His knuckles were white and sand-blasted as they held on tight to the handles, the accelerators cranked as far backwards as it would go.
The two sand terrain vehicles traveled along at a leisurely pace of a hundred and fifty kilometers per hour – ten times faster than evolution could have ever prepared mankind for; ten times slower than any self-respecting vehicle manufacturer would design their vehicles to go.
The engine on the second dust scooter spluttered – a loud, phlegmy cough – and then it stopped responding to the rider’s pulling on its accelerator. The rider at the front must have heard the dying cry of the vehicle behind her, because she then slowed down for the second dust scooter to catch up, and soon the two vehicles were stopped next to each other.
The Swordsman loosened the belt that held the dust scooter’s cargo, took one out of the remaining four steel containers, loosened the cap on both the container and the fuel tank on his dust scooter, and began to refuel. Beside him, Rayna began to do the same.
As their fuel tanks drank in the petrol oil greedily, Rayna looked out towards the direction in which they were heading. ‘Can you see it?’ she asked.
Now the Swordsman glanced up in the same direction. ‘No,’ he said simply.
‘Our last chance to get to that blip,’ Rayna said as the last of the petrol fuel emptied out into her scooter’s fuel tank. She shook it a little, salvaging the precious drops of combustible golden fluid, and only when she was convinced that the steel tank was as dry as it would ever be, she lifted it off the fuel tank and closed the stopper over it. ‘What do we do if we don’t get there on this tank?’ she asked.
‘We keep going,’ the Swordsman said, also closing the stopper over his fuel tank. ‘If we go back to the airship empty-handed, we only delay our demise.’
‘Poetic,’ Rayna nodded, climbing onto her scooter. ‘I hope you’re right about this, Stubs. I really hope so.’
‘As do I,’ he said; and with that, they started their ridiculously obsolete engines and sped off as well as they could into the blazing desert.