Furiosa left Fool staring over the expanse of salt and returned to the watching Vuvalini.
She shook her head.
The three women nodded. The plan they were staking their hopes on was not for everyone. Nor was the future they envisaged.
The women rounded the War Rig to where the rest of the group huddled star-gazing above the Plains of Silence.
The Valkyrie spoke softly, "Share my swag."
It was the second time today that a tentative smile tugged on Furiosa’s lips at the remembrance of the rituals of her childhood that had been ripped away from her when she and her mother were stolen.
“We didn’t think you’d get along,” Keeper of the Seeds joked at the two children (one ashy brown and blue, the other brilliant black and green) filthy with billabong mud, but proud of the haul of yabbies they’d lured from their hiding places. (Furiosa and The Valkyrie had heard this story before, but didn’t mind the retelling.) “Holder of the Books said there was no way a Greek fury from the earth could be friends with a Norse spirit of the sky, but you two are thick as thieves.”
“Tell me again…” Valkyrie folded her legs (already rangy and nearly as long as Furiosa’s) underneath her as she sat. Everyone knew which story she meant.
“We heard you crying. I think the whole world could have heard you crying!” Keeper of the Seeds threw her hands wide. “It wasn’t hard to find you. And there you were, just an infant wrapped in white with your name inked across your swaddle.”
Furiosa finished dropping their catch in the cooking pot over the fire and joined her playmate.
“Hands of Healing unwrapped you to see if you were hurt. But you were just hungry. So hungry!”
Mary Jo Bassa joined the two children by the fire. “And then I told my Furiosa that she needed to be a big girl and share. I fed you, and you slept. Slept so long…we almost started to worry!”
Furiosa liked hearing the tale too. It made her feel proud and sure of being initiated. She had given up her mother’s breast for someone who needed it more than herself. It was in keeping with the spirit of The Vuvalini.
“Holder of the Books said she’d judged too soon.” Keeper of the Seeds continued. (Furiosa could just remember their clan’s wise woman who had been laid to rest nearly one thousand days earlier. A sapling now flourished over her grave.) “She said it was meant to be, Furiosa could chase the prey from the earth, and The Valkyrie could catch it and take it to the next life.”
“And here you are with dinner…just as predicted.” Jo Bassa laughed and ran a hand through her daughter’s hair and then The Valkyrie’s.
Later that night, after the fire was banked, Furiosa kissed her mother’s cheek and told her she would be sleeping beside her friend.
Valkyrie was the daughter of all the Many Mothers and was welcome to cuddle in anyone's bedroll. Furiosa usually slept next to her birth mother. But now they had reached an age of greater independence, and frequently chose to share a swag, watch the stars through the tree branches, and talk into the night.
Valkyrie led Furiosa a short distance from where the rest of the group were talking. She unfolded the heavy cloth that she usually propped on her rifle to form a humpy to keep the restless desert sand off her at night. But tonight was still and clear, so she laid it on the ground. Furiosa unfurled the blanket one of the older women had given her from her shoulders and added it to the one Valkyrie pulled from her saddlebag.
It was novel…to be away from the Citadel and not sleep in the cabin of the Rig. Still more so to not only take off her metal arm (it did its job, but the weight and the straps hurt and made her shoulder ache for relief each night) but to go so far as to undo the gaiters that kept out the sand, take off her boots, and unbuckle all the straps of the girdle around her waist.
Valkyrie was similarly shedding all the hard edges and leather of her clothing and was down to a shirt, soft with age, and hard-worn trousers before she reclined and made space for Furiosa to her right.
Furiosa’s movements were uncharacteristically awkward. One additional advantage of rising to Imperator was that it made her untouchable by the rough-and-tumble War Boys. Human contact hadn’t been welcome since she had been stolen. Tonight, even though she desired it, touching felt unfamiliar. She also felt sullied and broken next to Valkyrie who, while scarred and blasted by the desert, was still whole and beautiful -- just as she had been when they were children together.
This was Valkyrie though -- the one who recognised, vouched for her, and declared her name -- who now laid strong fingers on the stump where Furiosa’s forearm had once been and didn’t ask how it happened.
Furiosa turned and let Valkyrie touch their foreheads together once more.
“I counted for you too. For thousands of days…I was certain you would come back to us.”
Furiosa shut her eyes and pressed harder against her companion.
“It was only when the trees were dead and everything else green vanished that I stopped because there was nowhere for you to come home to.”
“We saw machines on the horizon on clear days. The riders didn’t chase them away because they didn’t come near The Green Place. But somehow they broke the earth… After they left, the ground shook every few days. The trees drew up poison in their roots. Our billabong died, nothing could live in it. The spring we drank from even started to burn with flames.”
Until this one, it had been more than seven thousand days since Furiosa had cried. Long ago (after the third day) there had been a time when she thought her tears would never stop.
The three days they spent in boots, on backs of trucks, slung over motorbikes, as they were traded for food, for water, for Guzzoline...frightened and exhausted her, but she and her mother were still together.
"Watch the sun Furiosa. See how we're moving west. Watch the sun so we can find our way home..."
Mary Jo Bassa taught her daughter to hold onto hope.
But when the War Boys brought them to The Citadel, Furiosa learned new lessons about terror and grief.
Along with the collected plunder from the latest raid, Furiosa and her mother awaited inspection by The Organic Mechanic. (An ageing man who was pushed out of the role by its current occupant, just as Furiosa would push aside others to rise to the rank of Imperator.)
Her mother was raised to her feet first.
"Whole, minor blemishes," commented the War Boy assisting.
The Organic Mechanic made an appraising noise.
"Too old for a wife?" War Boy asked.
"No, too much freedom. This one won't settle. She'll be disruptive." Organic threw a glance at Furiosa, still bound on the floor, as an object, not a person. "But proven. Brand her."
Her mother's scream filled Furiosa's ears and the smell of burnt flesh met her nose soon afterwards.
Organic looked around the cavern. "Who wants to get this cow in milk?"
Furiosa watched her mother carried aloft down a tunnel. She never saw her again. Not alive...
The crew continued to inspect their new possessions until it was Furiosa's turn to be scrutinised.
"Just a girl, too young," War Boy declared (he was still learning how to assess according to Organic's standards.) "Throw her down among The Wretched?"
The Organic Mechanic spread apart Furiosa's eyelids, forced open her mouth, pinched the flesh of her thighs. "But healthy! Not a Half Life." His hand between her shoulder blades shoved her forward at another lackey. "This one is for the pen. Mark and feed it."
The pain of the burn on her neck didn't even register at the time it was inflicted.
The days that followed were wet with tears. It was the first time Furiosa almost forgot to count.
Tonight though, she let her head rest against Valkyrie’s and cried for a second time in grief. The Vuvalini’s plan to cross the salt was too new to fill the void left by the hope that had once sustained her purpose. She cried for Valkyrie too, for having to witness the destruction of their home, one tree and blade of grass at a time.
The Valkyrie said nothing and let Furiosa quietly sob out the tears she needed to, one arm steady across her shoulder blades, and the other rubbing firmly against the bristle of Furiosa’s shorn hair and the scar where Immortan Joe’s men had marked her as property.
Finally Furiosa laid still and let the warmth of another human being comfort her. The blankets smelled of Valkyrie, of the desert, of open air. The opposite of the small room in The Citadel that was her privilege as Imperator. It was on one of the upper levels and therefore part of the Immortan's climate-controlled zone, but somehow the stench of smoke, Guzzoline, and the sick bodies of the Half Lives seemed to ooze from the rock itself.
For over a thousand days after that, Furiosa's straight-lined girlish body defined her status. It wasn't until she bled that she was moved to a new cavern within The Citadel.
The new place had not just water to grow healthy livestock, but enough to spare for washing. Soft white cloth was draped to cover her nakedness, and a thousand days' worth of tangles cut away until her newly-cropped hair could be combed, although it never again hung freely as it once did in The Green Place.
Along with her change in housing, Furiosa also saw the first woman she had seen since the last glimpse of her mother.
Miss Giddy was an occasional visitor to the room where heifers were separated into wives or cows. Furiosa did not know why, but the first time she saw her there was a flash of recognition. It puzzled her since she was certain she had never seen the woman with her tattoo-covered skin before in her life. The feeling was omnipresent whenever Miss Giddy came to teach the girls-become-women. The purpose being that if they became one of Immortan Joe's “treasures” they would be suitably educated to be companions and mothers to his male heirs.
Furiosa pleased Miss Giddy -- unlike any of her other cellmates, she could read. She knew something of the world before, possessed skills like sewing and weaving. The others had either been broken by their time in The Citadel, or lived their previous years in a state of desperation that had permitted no luxuries like knowledge.
In the months that followed, her body was forced by Immortan Joe to test whether she warranted being elevated to the status of wife. But each month she bled. It was the second time she almost forgot to count.
The morning Furiosa awoke realising that she was not sure if it had been one-thousand-three-hundred-and-eighty-one days or one-thousand-three-hundred-and-eighty-two days, she decided to change her future.
Her bleeding had ceased a few days earlier, so she knew what the next week would hold unless the warlord was absent from The Citadel on a raid or some other mission. The Imperator that came through the door and pulled her to her feet was evidence that Immortan was at home.
Furiosa was slack and compliant as she was marched, she had learned after a few struggles that she couldn't win fighting back and everything just hurt more. Her body told the Imperator that she was accepting even as her mind screamed the opposite.
His hand released her upper arm as he turned to slide the bolts that secured the room behind them.
She didn't know where she was running. The only places she knew were the tunnels between where she slept and where she was terrorised. She couldn't remember the way back to the outside. She just ran. She heard shouts, laughter, words like "You won't get away." But mostly she was aware of her heart pounding, her breath sharp in her throat and a wisp of memory intruding. Years ago she had spent all day running, climbing, digging. Years ago she would have been fast and agile. Now she was uncoordinated and weak. Her mother didn’t raise her to be weak.
The tunnels were becoming wider: alcoves with cars and War Boys pouring over them; clouds of smoke with a rain of sparks. Furiosa could see daylight ahead and kept running. Hoots of laughter mocking her flight.
She saw why when she reached the opening in the side of one of The Citadel’s mesas. Two gigantic cogwheels turned by the feet of men who looked even more desolate than the War Boys lowering a platform far below. There was no escape.
She could hear the boots of her pursuers kicking up the dirt of the floor. She briefly wondered how many people had chosen to jump rather than be caught.
“I told you it was pointless,” The Imperator slowed to a walk as he approached.
Furiosa took a step backward, closer to the gigantic wheel slowly rotating next to her.
The caution in his step told her that she was perceived as valuable. He didn’t want to be responsible for reporting that she had died on his watch.
It gave her an opportunity.
Furiosa thrust her left hand deep between the cogs and let the inevitable happen.
Furiosa was scarcely conscious from pain as she was dragged back to The Organic Mechanic -- but she didn’t cry.
The Imperator was raging, with an edge of fear about what consequences would fall on him. “Immortan won’t want her like this. They have to be perfect. How many years have we wasted feeding her? Toss her out and let her find out how good she had it.”
He stomped off. Organic examined the bleeding wound below her elbow. To Furiosa’s surprise he got out a knife along with a needle and thread. “Interesting choice.” He began to slice away bone fragments and torn pieces of her arm.
Furiosa yanked away from the fresh assault of pain.
She must have missed a signal from Organic, but two War Boys grabbed and restrained her, one holding her left arm out for him to continue working. Once he had clean edges to work with, he began to sew. “No one’s tried something like this before. You’re an original.”
Furiosa regarded him, silent and baleful.
The Organic Mechanic looked at his work. Apparently she was still considered worth something because he used a clean strip of cloth to wrap her stump in. “You could have kept that hand, you know. Another month’s bleeding and you would have been declared barren.”
Furiosa wasn’t sure whether to believe him.
“I suppose the plan would have been to toss you out then. But I think we’ll make you our very first War Girl.”
Furiosa finally opened her eyes. The light of the stars under the clear desert sky was enough to see Valkyrie’s face. “Maybe home isn’t only a place.”
She touched Valkyrie’s face, let her fingers sink into the thick black hair.
Valkyrie kissed her then, as fiercely as she did everything. Furiosa hesitated (feeling desire of her own was wholly new) but kissed her back.
She didn’t spend long amongst the War Pups. Furiosa was smart and she was no Half Life. She learned quickly and did her work better than puppies with both paws. She pushed back hard at the pack and began to gain status. At night she took the skills she learned from the days spent tinkering with engines and began her own project. Her first hand was crude, but it let her grip, and it allowed her to make a second better one.
The Organic Mechanic saw her one day and came over to her. Her yanked her metal claw off the engine block she had been told to remove and inspected it. “Show me what it can do.”
Furiosa demonstrated the vise grip she’d adapted so that she could hold objects of different sizes with her left arm while the right did the detailed work.
“Clever start, but I can do better than that.”
Furiosa was wary. She neither liked nor trusted Organic. But a better hand was…better, and the only way she would fight her way back to The Green Place was to be strong.
Valkyrie’s kisses gentled, became slower, moved from Furiosa’s lips to her grime-covered face, her jaw, and down her neck. Her hands were gentle too -- strokes along Furiosa’s spine moved to her waist and hips. The night stretched long before them, and Valkyrie didn’t hurry.
Furiosa returned the touches although without Valkyrie's confidence. Intimacy had been banished from her life since her capture. Touching someone and wanting to be touched in return hadn't even been a fantasy, let alone something she had experienced. To return home and be known for who she was by The Valkyrie had been a cherished wish. But to be held in her arms and feel not only the connection that had bonded them as children, but to have it burst into flower as an entirely new kind of love had never occurred to Furiosa as a possibility.
Valkyrie's kisses returned to Furiosa's lips before she paused and pulled back. “Where you’ve been…was there any pleasure in your life?”
Furiosa bit her lip shook her head.
She’d been too young when stolen to have been given the formal talk about becoming an adult and the combination of rights and responsibilities that came with it. She’d been old enough to understand two things though: that a Vuvalini’s body was her own to do what she wished with; and that some of her clanswomen shared more than warmth and friendship when they chose to sleep in the same bedroll.
The Valkyrie had grown to adulthood with her clan though and made the formal overtures. “Furiosa, I wish to share my body with yours. Do you want the same?”
“Yes. But I don’t know the rituals…”
“We can learn together.” Valkyrie’s eyes were confident. “Now we sit up.”
Furiosa did so.
Valkyrie placed a hand on each of Furiosa’s shoulders and then trailed them down her arms. The journey of her right ended on Furiosa’s stump and rested there, but the left took Furiosa’s right hand, pulled it towards her body and closed it over the hem of her shirt.
Furiosa understood: placing a potential lover’s hands on one’s clothing was the way to confirm what one desired. She tugged at the shirt and pulled upwards. Valkyrie nodded smiling, and raised her arms to assist Furiosa’s one-handed undressing of her. Next she fumbled at the clasp of Valkyrie’s trousers, she was adept at dealing with her own clothing without her prosthetic, but she felt embarrassingly clumsy removing someone else’s. But Valkyrie was helping her, shimmying out of everything until she was naked.
Furiosa mimicked her partner’s actions, first trailing her hand from Valkyrie’s left shoulder and placing a hand at her waist, then down the same to the other woman’s right. Valkyrie felt her way around the manner in which Furiosa wrapped herself and undid the strips of fabric, then pulled up the worn top underneath.
Valkyrie helped her out of her trousers, then whispered, “Come back under where it’s warm.”
The desert night was cold, but it wasn’t the only reason Furiosa trembled.
Furiosa was being tested -- small tasks that required thought, or persistence, or fearlessness. Different from the reckless sacrifice demanded of the War Boys, Furiosa was being tried for command. Was she reliable? Was she ruthless? Could she salvage a lost cause during a supply run?
She didn’t make friends amongst the shifting sands of The Citadel’s power structure -- it served her. No one suspected her of being part of any destabilising alliance or faction. She was good at vanishing and reappearing when needed. Equally she was good at punishing incompetence and rewarding initiative -- War Boys wanted to be on the same crew.
As her adult body grew, she styled herself to go unnoticed: she shaved her head, she wrapped her breasts in salvaged scraps of fabric.
When she was granted the right to customise her own steering wheel, she made as intricate a copy of Immortan Joe’s sigil as the wire she could scrounge and the hand Organic had fashioned would permit.
Her loyalty was never questioned.
The first War Bitch became an Imperator faster than anyone else ever had.
She protected her position as driver of the War Rig, she didn’t aspire to be one of the inner sanctum and stand at Immortan’s side. Supply runs kept her sharp, honed her skills, and built her knowledge of the surrounding territory and outlaws. All of it grew the inventory in her brain that she planned to use one day to escape.
She imagined it: rapid twists of the War Rig’s steering wheel to suddenly steer east. Returning from one run she was almost tempted. Buzzards had picked off all the outriders and cars, only The Ace and a few lancers on the War Rig remained to come with her whether they wanted to or not. But each compartment of the Rig was now filled with Guzzoline, while the Rig’s own fuel tank was depleted. And she had no strategy to get through the pass of the canyon, and none of the Aqua Cola from The Citadel they had set out with to sustain her through the weeks it would take to skirt the mountains.
She drove back like a good soldier.
Organic was triaging the injuries of the War Boys who had survived when Furiosa stepped down from the cabin.
“A little busy here!”
Furiosa looked over curiously. She hadn’t seen Miss Giddy in many thousands of days. Blackthumbs and Breeders weren't populations that crossed over.
“Well that’s what happens, isn’t it?”
“He wants something done about it, she’s his favourite.”
“Nothing to do,” Organic replied dismissively. “She’s got to ride it out.”
“He’ll be pleased to hear you sent me back with nothing.” Miss Giddy’s eyes blazed contemptuously.
Furiosa remembered something of that fire used to show in flashes back when she attended the schoolroom.
“The jar -- yellow powder. Ginger -- make it into a drink.”
“I’ll be sure to tell Joe how helpful you were.” Miss Giddy ended sarcastically.
Furiosa turned back to the Rig to collect her toolkit.
From the corner of her eye she saw the shrunken woman reaching for a high shelf. That was when she glimpsed it.
Her breath caught, her heart pounded furiously. She faked being absorbed by the Rig -- noticing someone else's business was not done at The Citadel. She glanced over again as Miss Giddy continued to rummage. She hadn't been mistaken, not only could she read The Valkyrie's name...she recognised the handwriting from a swaddle of white cloth seen long ago.
She shadowed the elderly woman at a discreet distance until the War Boys and their worshipped cars were behind them. Miss Giddy halted when she realised the Imperator was following her, spun around and glared at her silently.
Furiosa's tongue was thick in her mouth as she asked, "The names on the inside of your arm...who are they?"
Miss Giddy's eyes went wide. She bore down on Furiosa so aggressively that despite their difference in stature, the Imperator took a step back against the tunnel wall. "I don't know what you're talking about!"
"The Valkyrie -- I knew her." Furiosa was quiet but definite.
"How?" Miss Giddy hissed, "How do you know?"
Furiosa realised it was a tipping point -- that potentially both of them were about to put themselves in danger if they revealed anything further. Or, they would find they each held one crucial piece or a larger puzzle. She swallowed and checked the tunnel in both directions. Her voice was low. "She was a foundling. The clan I was stolen from took her in."
"She lives?" Miss Giddy's voice was exhilarated.
"Yes." Furiosa didn't know that of course, but she didn't know otherwise, and the thought of Valkyrie now grown up, free and loved in The Green Place, was one that had sustained her after the loss of her mother.
"Not now," Miss Giddy shifted the jar of powder to her other hand. "Later, we talk."
It was more than warmth for Furiosa, there was also softness, tenderness, and yielding flesh. Valkyrie kept caressing her as their mouths met again, now more open and hungry. Furiosa could feel how her breath began to race as Valkyrie descended beneath the blanket, lips now planting kisses at the top of her breasts, drawing it out until Furiosa gasped when a nipple was finally captured. Her hand was enmeshed in Valkyrie’s tangled hair, encouraging her to stay there.
When Valkyrie finally emerged from the beneath the blanket, her teeth caught the starlight as she smiled. “Rest back.”
Furiosa did so, the tension in her body unlike anything she’d felt before. Valkyrie gently hitched a leg over her hips and dragged her knee down until Furiosa’s legs parted to allow a thigh to press against the place where the sensations were growing ever more intense. Furiosa’s breaths were more like gasps now, even as she tried to stay quiet.
They kissed again as Furiosa wrapped what remained of her left arm around Valkyrie’s waist while her right hand again rested in her hair. She liked this, her body liked being under someone’s weight when it was of her own choosing.
Eventually Valkyrie shifted to the side and began to explore with her hand. Furiosa found herself blinking and looking at the stars. Valkyrie seemed to appreciate how overwhelming the experience was and let her look away, placing her forehead against Furiosa’s temple as her hand reached the hair between Furiosa’s legs. Her fingers were gentle as they began to slip between folds to moist heat. Furiosa allowed her thighs to part further. Fingers kept feeling their way, gentle over the point that was growing in sensitivity, down lower and then retreating again as they sensed how Furiosa’s body stiffened when they touched where she was torn.
“I have you, I promise.” Valkyrie whispered in Furiosa’s ear.
Her fingers returned to the top again and she began to stroke. Furiosa swallowed, suddenly aware of how dry her mouth was. She tried her hardest to give herself over to Valkyrie’s touches but was frustrated by the way each time the sensations built they fell away again.
Valkyrie kissed her temple. “It takes practice, but we’ll try to get there together.” She wet her fingers in her mouth and put them back between Furiosa’s legs.
Furiosa nodded, shut her eyes and turned her head to rest more against Valkyrie’s.
“No rush…no reason to hurry.” Valkyrie kept stroking.
Suddenly it was enough and just in the right place, and Furiosa felt the almost agonising pleasure of passing the point of no return as her hips bucked against Valkyrie’s fast-moving fingers.
Furiosa almost wanted to cry again as she gasped and swallowed afterwards. Valkyrie’s hand was on her face now, her lips pressed against her cheek murmuring praise. And then she just held onto her until the afterglow began to dissipate, and Furiosa turned to try her attempt at reciprocation.
There was finally a day when Immortan Joe was speeding across the desert in The Gigahorse and Furiosa was not on a supply run. Miss Giddy spun open the wheels that secured the vault and The Imperator caught her first glimpse of what her life was to be had her body not failed the warlord's intended purpose for her.
The dome, the pool, the piano, the pile of books, the seats before the blackboard...Immortan's collection of treasures completed by the five women who looked at her with expressions ranging from hope, to curiosity, to terror.
Angharad came forward first, bump just visible, "Miss Giddy says you come from somewhere else -- The Green Place, The Land of Many Mothers." Her hand covered her abdomen. "I don't want to produce another warlord. I want this baby born there."
She gave Furiosa pause, the woman was driven -- on a cause. She had obviously carried the others to a point where rebellion seemed possible. But she had the kind of reckless passion that could destroy the one real shot Furiosa had to escape and reclaim her life.
Capable stood just behind Angharad, clearly her second, her right-hand woman.
Toast was bitter with an edge of cynicism. Furiosa liked that -- she could work with someone who stopped to think.
The Dag hung back uncertain and almost other-worldly. Furiosa had no idea what to make of her.
Still further away, Cheedo clung to The Dag's hand, terror written all over her face.
Furiosa looked at Cheedo, uncertain whether to trust her, half convinced that given a chance she would spill any plan in a fit of nerves. The Imperator's intense gaze made the young girl still more frightened, she tried to pull The Dag back. "This is a bad idea..."
"No!" Angharad commanded. "We listen."
Furiosa kept looking at the quailing Cheedo, then over at Miss Giddy.
"He hasn't got at her yet," the old woman explained. At Furiosa's raised eyebrows she continued. "He waits now, a healthy son killed the girl who was carrying him and died inside her. So now he waits until they're grown. But he liked the look of her, so he picked her to be kept in the vault."
Furiosa swallowed the feeling of nausea in her throat, Immortan Joe hadn't waited to possess his property in her time.
"Tell us about The Green Place." Angharad stepped closer.
Furiosa could see the scars on her face -- desperate, conflicted, and clinging to a shred of someone else's hope.
"No," she turned to Miss Giddy. "First you tell me about the names on your arm."
Miss Giddy did, about the girls she had smuggled away -- unwanted daughters born to the vault, healthy babies brought in as plunder. How she had lied and claimed the infants had died whenever she could seize an opportunity to send one away for a chance at a different life.
"I named each one. I wrote their names here," she indicated the inside of her left arm, "Carry them next to my heart."
"How did you come by The Valkyrie?" Furiosa tried the unsettling idea in her head that her beloved playmate could be descended from Immortan Joe.
"No, you don't get to know that." Miss Giddy was adamant. "But I named her that. You saw her...that face...even as a baby."
Furiosa nodded. The Valkyrie's striking features had been marvelled at by The Many Mothers who had loved and nurtured the infant into a healthy young girl.
"I called her that, because one day I hoped those eyes would be the last thing on earth some of his War Boys saw. And they'd know they weren't going to Valhalla."
"The Green Place." Angharad insisted again.
Furiosa told them...about her clan, their life, the beauty of the trees, of brushing flowers against each other as Keeper of the Seeds taught them to because there were no more bees to turn flowers into fruit.
"Where is it?" Angharad's voice took on that desperate edge once more.
"No." Furiosa saw too many people with too many motives for her to reveal more information. "If we go, you'll have to trust me."
"Fine -- so we go. The next time you take the convoy to Gastown."
"No!" Furiosa's voice took on the tone that could bring unhinged War Boys to attention. "Time is needed. Plans need to be made." In truth she wasn't even sure if the reward of avenging herself like this on Immortan Joe was worth the risk of bringing so many others in on her plan.
"This baby will be here in five more moons." Angharad's hand still covered her belly. "That's your time."
Furiosa stepped back towards the vault door -- reckless, dangerous, too many variables -- so much to think about. She looked at The Wives one final time. Capable laid a soothing hand on her friend's shoulder as Angharad turned away. Toast kicked at the floor as hard as she dared in her bare feet. The Dag's ice blue eyes just looked at The Imperator. But Cheedo was the one who held Furiosa's gaze. She observed the young girl with her brown skin, dark hair and eyes, still innocent and terrified. She wondered if The Valkyrie had been born to someone just like her more than nine thousand days in the past.
As the door clanged shut, and the wheels securing it whirled -- Cheedo was the one that made Furiosa decide to bring them with her.
Valkyrie was straightforward, responsive to every touch, freely enjoying Furiosa's attentions without conflict. When Furiosa finally put her fingers lower, felt the wetness and watched the way Valkyrie arched into her touch she knew she’d never seen anything so beautiful.
The Wives were youthful, with soft skin and silken hair -- lovely and incongruous in how unsullied they were in the midst of The Wasteland. But the lines that time and the elements had carved beside Valkyrie’s eyes, the scar that slaked over one cheek, just made her more beautiful to Furiosa because they represented her freedom. No one had ever owned her, and it was her choice to give her body.
She kept her fingers moving through the slipperiness between Valkyrie’s thighs and marvelled at how in this world where every liquid (Aqua Cola, Mothers’ Milk, Guzzoline, blood) was valued, the proof of a woman’s pleasure was not counted as precious. She brought her fingers to her mouth, she liked it, she wanted to taste it again.
“Furiosa, Furiosa…” Valkyrie’s whispers repeated as her lover slid down her body and settled between her legs.
Furiosa put her mouth on Valkyrie then and tasted her properly. The lurch of hips beneath her encouraged her to continue. The sudden tremble in the thighs either side of her face, and Valkyrie's body arching off the sand before plunging repeatedly against her tongue came quicker than Furiosa would have believed possible.
"I'll fill the Rig." Furiosa took the hose from The Ace and clamped it on to the tanker.
"No need, Boss. War Boys can take care of that."
"From now on I want to check her. I didn't like how she handled last run."
The Ace stepped away deferentially. There was a reason Imperator Furiosa was the most successful driver at The Citadel -- her Rig, her way.
It was the first step to her plan: make it known that Imperator Furiosa now attended every detail of preparing the War Rig; that nothing happened without her permission; and that once she had declared the truck ready no one else should touch her.
After a few runs, no one seemed to remember it had ever been done differently. In fact, one night she had to discourage a whole litter of War Pups who had decided that her orders meant they needed to guard the Rig, one sitting sentry at either end of each axle. She herded them back to the stone steps near the altar of steering wheels, except for the one Pup who had fallen so soundly asleep against the Rig’s tyre she had to carry him back to his proper place herself.
The second step had to be left to chance, but finally it came when a trip out to The Bullet Farm coincided with a wary Rock Rider there to execute his own trade.
Ace swung down to the cab window after the lookout called the alert. "Turn around? Or take him out?"
"Leave him, if he just wants to do business -- let him."
The War Boys were tense, but gradually succumbed to the distractions of The Bullet Farmer's display of newly acquired weapons and stocks of ammunition.
Furiosa took her chance on the far side of the War Rig as the Rock Rider slung his leg over his bike, eager to be away from the convoy from The Citadel. She knew that Gastown didn't trade with them, that all their Guzzoline had to be scavenged from the wrecks of their victims. She made him an offer, when he insisted she double it she didn't refuse.
The drive back to The Citadel was without incident. Fortunate because Furiosa's mind was working overtime. She had set things in motion, now there was one last piece to implement.
"When's the next run to Gastown?"
"Five days probably." Ace looked over to Organic for confirmation.
"Good. The Rig needs work, something feels wrong inside her tanker, I want to check the compartments and baffles."
The two men shrugged. Better The Imperator who, even with her height, was far more slender from clambering inside the tanker's confined spaces than them.
Furiosa made a show of her slow, methodical inspection. It was so normal to see her immersed in the details of the Rig, Ace had almost forgotten she was still inside when she pushed her way out of the hatch of the frontmost compartment.
"A baffle has come away. It needs welding."
"I've got a couple of Blackthumbs that can start tonight Boss."
"No, leave it, I'll do it myself tomorrow." If someone did enter without her permission, there was now a broken baffle to see.
"Righto, Boss." Ace nodded. If Furiosa chose to keep her hand in by running her own repairs it only reinforced his respect for her compared to those who spent their time attempting to curry favour and influence with Immortan Joe. There was a reason the War Rig had never lost a shipment since Furiosa's command began.
The next day she set to work, first cutting away the baffles from the first compartment so that it could hold humans as well as crates of produce. Then the next several nights when the War Boys and Pups slept around their altar, she cut a trap door in the tanker, and a hatch into the cabin of the Rig. And she found one more opportunity to slip unnoticed into the vault with Miss Giddy to see The Wives with the now visibly-rounded Angharad more vehement than the last time she had been there three moons ago. Capable, Toast, and The Dag seemed equally resolute, even Cheedo seemed to have drawn some part of their courage inside herself.
The last pieces of the plan had to be left to chance. Furiosa didn't like that, but she didn't have a choice. They just had to assume that Joe would rise as usual in the morning and that Furiosa would have time to smuggle The Wives across The Citadel and hide them inside the tanker before she was observed. Then, that the sight of her filling the compartments with their payload for Gastown was so normal, no one would notice that she didn't put anything in the front section.
She didn't betray her nerves when she disconnected the last hose and slapped the side as a signal to Ace before heading for where the Rig's cab already awaited her descent on the vehicle hoist.
She looked across at the skull carved into the rock opposite as she was lowered. She assumed that she would either succeed or die in her attempt. It never occurred to her that she would see this place again.
The blankets were in disarray as Furiosa climbed back up and covered both of them again. For tonight the cold hostility of the desert didn't intrude upon the small pocket of warm skin on skin. Valkyrie placed her palm flat over Furiosa's heart and smiled as Furiosa interlaced their fingers.
The Valkyrie ran her other hand over the sharpness of Furiosa's cheekbone. "My first."
Furiosa caught the sob that was full of both joy and sorrow before it reached her throat. At least her friend had been spared the horror of her experiences. She traced the line where The Valkyrie's long, tangled hair met her face with gentle lips, "My only."
Ultimately her words turned out to be true, but it wasn't how Furiosa meant them that night beneath the stars.