Five episodes in! I hope you are all enjoying it. Remember if you have missed any episodes they are all right here. There is also a tab up above that takes you to them.
The wind shaped and reshaped the tall red dunes. The sand whipped against the walls of ancient cliffs a thousand feet high. The sun baked all of this in an unbelievable heat. A wind storm approached, blocking out the sun’s light but retaining its suffocating heat; creating an oven. The storm was so dense even the flash of light from a relay entrance could not be seen from more than fifty yards away. Avery hit the sand first and rolled to his feet. Julia followed quickly behind and began to vomit as soon as she hit the sand. She was thankful to be fully clothed. Byron, carrying Lilana, landed some feet back from them and screamed in pain; he forgot to drop the metal short sword. Avery quickly rushed through the sand storm and kicked the sword out of this hand. The sword ripped from Byron, the metal had fused to his flesh and resisted this separation from its host. Byron doubled over in pain. Avery dropped beside him and scooped up Lilana. He examined the gash in her neck. It was deep, but missed the carotid artery. He applied pressure and went over his options. Lilana tried to speak but just gurgled blood so she reached into her apron and produced a container with the healing salve inside. Avery decided they’d have to get out of the sand storm to use it, or risk horrible infection.
“We need to move!” Avery yelled to the others. Byron came to his knees, cradling his hand.
“Where? I can’t see anything!” The storm made it nearly impossible to see or hear.
“Over here!” They heard Julia’s cry but could not see her. “Over Here! There is a tall cliff face just up this dune!” She came into view. Avery stood, still holding Lilana’s neck and began to walk with her in his arms. Byron followed, nursing his hand. Julia went a head of them. As she approached the endlessly tall cliff wall, she noticed what seemed to be a cave opening. The sand dune leading to the cave was steep. Julia soon found herself on all fours moving towards the cave. With every movement she sunk into the sand. Avery worked even harder to carry Lilana up the dune and hold pressure on her neck. Byron staggered back and forth, falling several times as he attempted to keep his skinless hand out of the hot sand. Julia reached the cave entrance and turned to look for the others. Avery arrived soon after. He took Lilana into the cave and lay her on the floor. He instructed Julia to apply the salve and went back down the dune to help Byron. When they entered the cave, Julia had just finished putting the salve on Lilana. The blood stopped immediately and she passed out.
“Is she good?” Avery asked Julia.
“I think so.”
“Good.” Avery turned and grabbed Byron by the shirt, shoving him back against the cave wall. “What in the bloody hell was that? I didn’t realize we had a hero type in our midst!”
“You wanted me to leave her?” Byron shoved Avery back with his good hand. “You said yourself they don’t have any respect for their women. What would they have done to her knowing she helped us escape?”
“You sir have much to learn. First and foremost; the moment you start watching other people’s backs over your own, you’ll find a knife in it.” Avery sat by Lilana and stroked her hair.
“You didn’t want her to come in the first place.” Byron sat as well. “That was pretty obvious. You’d rather just let her live like a slave?”
“Byron, I didn’t want her to come because she’s pregnant.” Avery took the salve from Julia and threw it to Byron. He caught it with his good hand and remained quiet. “I have no idea what happens to a pregnant woman when they travel through the relays. Furthermore a pregnant tag-along will be nothing but trouble.” Avery put in a rub of snuff. “Now fix up your hand, I can’t have two cripples following me around.” Byron took a deep breath and began rubbing the salve all over his skinned hand. In a matter of minutes he passed out.
“Any idea where we are?” Julia broke the silence.
“No. I’m a little worried we may be on a refuge world.” He looked at Julia and anticipated her confusion. “Um… Refuges are worlds where the relays are hidden or very hard to get to. You end up with a huge population of people from everywhere stuck because they can’t get to the relay. This one would be particularly bad because it seems pretty inhospitable. Once this storm clears I’ll go out and scout the area.” Julia shook her head in understanding.
“I’m guessing you had something to do with us not arriving naked?” Julia pulled her legs up to her chest.
“Yes. The relays are a lot more organic than people think. You don’t learn to use them as much as feel them. It’s hard to understand really. If you think about keeping your clothes, you will.” Avery spat.
“So think about who you’re following and you will do so?”
“That’s the basic idea. It’s a little more difficult than that, but I could probably give you some tips.” Avery removed his tobacco and went for another. He opened the tobacco container and found it empty. “Damn.” He tossed it aside and brushed Lilana’s hair.
“How did you know she was pregnant?” Julia looked at Lilana. “Any idea how far along?”
“She told me before you two arrived. Can’t be more than a month or two.”
“You’re not the father are you?”
“Oh, no! Hell, no. I think it’s her employer, the doctor. I don’t speak her language well, but that’s the impression I got.” Avery leaned against a rock and shut his eyes. “We should rest while they recover.” Julia found some cooler sand to curl up in and shut her eyes. The relative silence of the cave gave her time to decompress from prior events. Despite her best efforts, she did eventually fall asleep. Outside the wind storm began to abate and a real silence fell over the cave. Julia woke some hours later to find both Avery and Byron gone. Lilana remained asleep beside her. Julia stood and walked to the cave’s entrance to look for them. Before she reached it she heard a noise coming from deeper inside the cave. She turned just in time to see Byron appear from the darkness.
“Where have you been?” Julia questioned as a parent would a child.
“I woke up and had to take a furious piss.” Byron worked the button fly of his pants shut. “But you’ll never guess what I found back there!” Before Byron continued, Avery came in from outside looking downtrodden.
“I hope everyone likes sand,” Avery sat by Lilana. “We could be here for a long time. There is nothing out there but sand dunes and cliffs.”
“I found something!” Byron said. “Back there in the cave. I was looking for a place to pee. There is a light about two hundred meters down to the corridor.” Avery gave Byron a strange look.
“I don’t know what a meter is, but I guess it’s worth a look.” Avery walked to the back of the cave with Byron. “Julie, do you think you could wake Lilana?” Then he and Byron disappeared into the darkness. Julia worked for the next few minutes to bring Lilana back to consciousness. She woke confused and scared. It didn’t help that Julia had no idea what she was saying, and could not answer her questions. Julia attempted to project a soothing mood to Lilana. She wrapped an arms around her and put a calming tone behind her meaningless words. A few awkward minutes later Byron emerged from the cave. Lilana quickly stood and ran to embrace him.
“She wasn’t that happy to see me.” Julia said as she stood and walked to Byron. Lilana continued to hug him.
“You didn’t get mom’s charms, sis.” Byron peeled Lilana off and implied she stand still. “So we found people living down there. A whole makeshift city. Avery is talking with them now. He wanted me to bring you two down.”
“Is this good news or bad, Byron?”
“Avery thinks it’s good.” They began to walk down the dark cave corridor. Soon it was completely black. They walked arms out stretched to keep contact with the walls. “He’s arranging a meeting with the leader to discuss finding the relay. He was speaking about three different languages at once, so forgive me if I’m as lost as you.”
In the distance a faint light appeared. They slowly made their way towards it. The air around them began to cool and turn musty. They rounded a corner and the source of the light came into view. A bulb hung from some wiring. The wire led further back into the cave. They followed until the cave opened up into a small cavern. Avery stood at the far side of the cavern with two other men. As they approached, Julia saw one of the men was not a man at all. The creature had the body of a man, but his skin was a deep scaled blue and his face looked like a catfish. She looked at the other man and stopped in her tracks.
“Sis what’s wrong?” Byron stopped. Avery and the men closed the gap.
“This blue fellow here is Quincy, or at least that’s as close as our language will get,” Avery began. “And this is…”
“Wesley?” Julia looked into his eyes.
“Yes, how did you know my name?” Wesley acted like he’d never seen Julia before.
“I saw you on Earth. In the relay room just before we left. They said you were the only agent to ever make it back.” Julia stepped closer. She searched his eyes, but he did not look at her the same way he did then. “You look younger now.”
“You saw me? On Earth! I made it back! Ha ha! I make it back!” Wesley went to Quincy and spoke a strange language. Quincy seemed to congratulate him.
“Hold on!” Byron stepped up. “This is all a bit much for me. How can you be here if you already made it back to Earth? We saw you there.”
“Byron,” Avery patted him on the back. “Time doesn’t really mean much out here.”