They’d be trudging through the desert for weeks now, the sun hotter from one day to the next. Their canteens were almost empty and their food reserves low. Unless they found a way fast, they wouldn’t make it back. Selene turned when she heard the sound of someone landing heavily in the sand. Greon was sitting down, his head bowed.
“You can’t sit down now Greon” Selene said.
She signed to two men who moved to help him back up.
“I can’t Selene. I’ve got no strength left. This expedition is doomed. Might as well sit here and die.”
“I get it my friend. The heat is swallowing all my energy as well, but I’m not letting you die here. I know we’re almost there.”
He looked up, his eyes filled with doubt.
“You said that three days ago.”
“You’re just trying to get me farther.”
“I need your help, you know it. I won’t be able to set up the machine without you. And it will all have been in vain.”
He seized the two men’s hands and pulled himself up. Greon wasn’t a man for this expedition and yet he was the only one. She looked at the man, a genius, the only one who’d figured out a way out of the mess the world was in. But he belonged in a lab not in the middle of a desert. Except he was the only one who could work the mechanics of his invention. She was his guide. She was the only one who’d ever returned from the place the machine needed to be set up at. And they were close; except the changes in the revolution of their planet around the suns had impacted the way the directions.
They should have been there three days ago but she hadn’t accounted for the modification of the planet’s axis. That changed their goal by some kilometres, and one didn’t cross the desert at the same speed they did a city.
“You’re a stubborn woman Selene.”
“If my stubbornness keeps you going I’m fine with that.”
“Well definitely not my energy there.”
“Talking of energy. You should keep it. If I recalculated everything properly we have another 12 hours to walk.”
“You don’t intend for us to walk these without stopping.”
Of course she didn’t. They needed to rest; the animals needed the rest as well otherwise they too wouldn’t make it to their destination. She guided them onwards fighting the growing fatigue that spread through her entire body. She knew her stubbornness wasn’t only keeping Greon and the caravan going. It was keeping her going. She was beyond exhausted. But the longest they took to reach the base, the harder it would be to get back.
Fortunately they were in a part of the desert that was devoid of any human activity. There were no oasis or water streams in these parts; it made it all the more complex to survive. But at least they didn’t risk any attack on their group, which would have been a catastrophe.
The next evening, they arrived in a place where the dunes hid everything. That wasn’t what she expected. She didn’t remember dunes around the base. Yet, who knew? When the planet moved on its axis, the winds changed, the polarization of the world was modified. She ordered the camp settled there.
“So are we there yet boss?”
She smiled at Greon. She wasn’t all that certain but she wasn’t going to tell him that.
“Worry about your machine Doctor. I shall worry about our path to base.”
“Fine. Tomorrow should be it then?”
“It should be.”
She woke up before dawn and walked up the dune closest to their camp. As the sun rose she realized two things: they didn’t have much time, the burning star was getting closer to the planet and it was urgent they did something. And she’d found the place; the base was just behind the sandy hill. Halfway buried in the sand. She could only hope it wouldn’t cause problems for the scientist. She hurried back down and gave Greon the news.
“It won’t be a problem; the only thing we need is access to the dome. Is it broken?”
“Not that I could see.”
In short order the camp was broken and in a couple of more hours they’d reached the base. They found a side entrance that hadn’t been covered by the sandstorms. It was easy to find the dome as it was the only thing that was left completely untouched by sand. As Greon prepared the machine, Selena watched him anxiously.
“Are you sure it’s going to work?”
“Selene, as you worried about guiding me, let me worry about this.” He was nervous. He chuckled. “Honestly, harvesting the energy of a star isn’t something I’ve done often. So I don’t know.”
“What could happen?”
“Worst case scenario? The exchange of energy doesn’t work and instead of pushing us away from the star, we’ll be swallowed by it. Everyone dead in seconds. The good thing is that people won’t realize or suffer. Best odds, which I’m hoping for. The machine will put our planet back on its regular trajectory and on its axis. Although to be entirely honest I think the best we can hope for is to be back on our regular ellipse around our sun. The planet might not move back to its original axis.”
“Well it’s your magic now Doctor.”
“Energy is science Selene.”
Maybe, but right now it seemed that science needed a big help from the universe too. She stepped back.
“Oh and Selene. Even if it works, we might not make it out of here.”
She’d guessed; but the fact that he told her made her feel better about it.
“Thank you Doctor.”
In response to Deviant Art Flash Fiction Month July 10 prompt
Visual prompt: Endless Sands by Noah Bradley