As they ascend on the platform, Furiosa feels the world start to wobble, and finds herself leaning on Capable and Toast. So many of the Wretched have clambered up with them, chanting her name, and she holds out her human hand to keep them away but one of the Wretched just ends up pressing his face into her palm, sobbing against cold, nerveless fingers.
War Pups swarm them at the top, a blur of white bodies and black eyes, bobbing like disembodied skulls and lifting her up on a cloud of pale chalk and brown dust. Their movement pushes her through the tunnels, the press of sand-rough hands reverent against her face and arms. Capable is strong at her side, her grip steady and gentle. Roaring water mingles with the triumph of the crowd and the sound of engines, hot and loud and insistent as the steady rush of borrowed blood.
She doesn’t realize she’s falling until she’s already halfway down, the dark of the tunnels slipping over her like a hood. The rock is unforgiving on bruised knees. “Easy, easy,” Capable is saying, but she’s so far away.
“Where is Max?” Cheedo frets. “He was just here-”
Who is Max? Furiosa wants to ask, but her mouth isn’t working. The sound of water presses hard in her ears.
“He had to go,” says the Dag.
“What if she needs more blood?”
“She can have some of mine, if it’s possible,” Toast declares.
None of it makes any sense. Her whole body aches, every breath a knife stabbing through her lungs. “Furiosa, I need you up,” Capable says gently. “It’s not much further, but you need to walk. I can’t carry you.”
She tries. Mothers, but she tries. She makes it three shaky steps before her legs stop responding, her nerves sputtering like an engine gone empty and sucking air. In her rig, she’d have switched to the auxiliary tank, pumped the clutch and downshifted. Instead, there’s nothing, no backup guzzoline to draw on, nothing to stop her fall, except powdery-white arms.
“We carry her,” one of the larger Pups murmurs. “We carry Imperator Furiosa.”
Other Pups chime in. “We will carry the Imperator Furiosa!”
“We carry her!”
“We will carry!”
The last thing she remembers is a swirl of white powder, luminous and dancing, as she slips into the dark.
He steals a motorcycle and supplies with every intention of never looking back. (That is, if he had conscious intentions; the urge to run is so deep, welling up from the furthest recesses of his lizard brain, that all he knows is that he has to leave, has to leave quickly and has to leave now.) The prospect of civilization - of being seen, of being known - feels like a noose around his throat, and his body aches to be thrown at the wide, shimmering horizon, as if drowning himself in the sun will burn away the last few weeks of captivity.
He’s not four hours to the east when the fatigue catches up with him, dropping like a hawk from above and laying him out flat. He manages to find a jagged outcropping of rock, and lurks in its shadow as the desert shimmers around him. He doesn’t sleep, not really. He’s on a hair-trigger for the slightest noise, the barest deviation in the whisper of wind over sand enough to jerk him awake. He’s battered and sore, bruised the length of his body from the round-trip in the War Rig, and the simple inaction of being hunched over his purloined motorcycle has made him painfully stiff. His jacket is still crusted with Furiosa’s blood - but he can’t think about that, can’t think about the Wives, can’t think about any of it, so he grabs a handful of sand and frantically scrubs at the leather until its surface curls up in shreds.
When the sun finally sets, the lizards emerge from their holes and he eats well, chasing the grit from his mouth with a few precious sips from his canteen. He can feel the fatigue heavy in his bones, feel the warmth from the sand radiating up into aching muscles, and he’s too tired to pay attention to the thoughts buzzing in his skull like flies. Lulled by a full belly, for few hours he knows perfect, unconscious rest.
When he’s able to move, he rides on, the wind stripping away the fatigue like it strips away the sour topsoil. There are a handful of vehicle corpses along the way, and he’s able to scavenge guzzoline and a few supplies. He feels lighter than he has in weeks, the roar of the bike hard in his ears and the sand kicking up in a golden rooster tail behind him. He is a shimmering blur on the horizon, an illusion that quickly fades from view.