Anaxis was the first to awake from the airship crash. He opened his eyes to see Xala’s long hair tussled and tossed over her head. The woman was folded over herself against the wall of the ship, which had holes in it from the drone blasts that let the moonlight in.
Anaxis sat up and turned. Mills was next to him on the other side, his face down. There was a soft rustling noise coming from somewhere outside the craft. Anaxis checked to make sure he wasn’t injured, then gave Mills a gentle shake.
“Hey!” he whispered. “Mills. Mills. Mills.”
Mills twitched and then started to groan.
“Mills,” said Anaxis, “Wake up.”
Mills groaned again. “I’m tired, though,” he said.
“Mills, there’s something outside.”
With another groan, Mills sat up. He smacked his lips and looked around the ship with a look of mild confusion.
“Anaxis?” he asked. “What are you doing here?”
“Don’t you remember?” Anaxis asked in response.
Mills stared at the floor for a moment, then his eyes went wide. He looked up at Anaxis with a mix of fear and amazement. “We’re alive!” He looked over at Xala. “Is she?”
“I don’t know, yet,” answered Anaxis.
“I’m alive, for better or worse,” Xala answered. “I haven’t felt this awful in years, though. I’m tied in a knot.”
The rustling noise outside the ship started to come closer.
“What’s that?” Mills asked.
“I don’t know,” Anaxis answered. “I only just woke up myself.”
Xala’s lower half slowly bended over her top, until she was stretched out on the floor of the airship. “Okay, that was all I’ve got. I won’t be able to move again for about a day or so,” she said.
“Really?” asked Mills.
“No, not really,” Xala answered.
“Oh, you’re joking,” said Mills.
A loud bang sounded through the busted cabin.
“What is that?” Anaxis asked Xala.
“Could be anything,” she answered.
A peering eye popped into one of the blast holes, eliciting a shriek from the three within.
The eye peered around the cabin, then disappeared. Seconds later, Orn opened the door off its broken hinges. “You’re awake,” he said.
“You’re alive,” said Mills.
“More or less,” said Orn. He put his hands on his hips and stared into the cabin.
“Is anyone else?” asked Xala.
“Cine is dead,” said Orn. “Laquin is missing.”
“How long has it been since we crashed?” asked Xala.
“It was only earlier today,” said Orn. “I woke up before sunset. I’ve salvaged what I can from the wreckage.”
“Where are we?” Xala asked.
“Somewhere in Far Country,” Orn answered. “I can’t be sure, the only location systems we had are damaged.”
“What are we going to do?” asked Mills.
“We’re going to have to find our way back,” Orn answered.
“Back to Talx?” asked Anaxis.
“Back to Haven,” Orn responded. “It will be no easy task.”
“How far are we?” asked Xala.
“Very far,” Orn answered. His head whipped around as if something had startled him immensely. He searched the moonlit desert for a short time, then turned back around.
“What was that?” Xala asked.
“Thought I heard a Yuta,” Orn answered.
“What’s a Yuta?” asked Mills.
“Horrible scavenger creature,” Orn answered. “Are you thirsty and hungry?”
“I am thirsty, yes,” said Anaxis.
“Well come on out here, I’ve got something to eat over in the salvage pile,” said Orn.
“But what about the Yuta?” Mills asked.
“You’re safer where you can run than sitting in here,” said Orn. “They’re monsters, but they’re slow.”
Mills turned to Anaxis for motivation.
“Alright, let’s go, Mills,” Anaxis said. “Can you get up, Xala?”
“I think so,” the instructor responded.
Orn stepped into the ship and offered his hand for Xala’s assistance.
“Thank you, Orn, was it?” she said as she stood.
“That’s right,” Orn answered.
“Do you remember our names?” Xala asked.
“Never knew them,” said Orn. “Come on.”
The three villagers from Talx stumbled out into the cold desert air. Pieces of the ship were scattered in a line to where the bulk of the craft was smashed into a rock fin. Cine’s mangled body could still be seen through the crumpled front end.
“Will the drones return in the daylight?” Xala asked as she followed after Orn.
“They’re always on patrol,” he answered. “But they don’t track life forms, only aircraft and ground vehicles.”
“So we’re safe from them,” said Xala.
“From the drones, yes,” Orn said. “But we’ve got Yuta, Haxarav, Tinra, desert heat, a dozen other things to worry about now.”
“What are we going to do?” Mills asked.
“Try not to die,” answered Orn. “Here’s what’s left of our food. Have a seat. I’ll heat the water.”
As stoic Orn got a meager meal together, the three villagers looked around at one another and their circumstance.
“Are we going to be okay, Xala?” asked Mills.
“We’re alive, which is a good start,” Xala answered.
“Alive for now,” said Orn. “Try not to talk. It attracts the monsters.”
The four ate their food silently as the moons passed overhead.