"Vash." A hand gripped his shoulder. "Vash!"
Vash groaned and tried to pull away. "Fi' more minutes," he mumbled, and tasted sand. Blearily, he opened one eye and saw a skewed horizon, so flat that for a moment he couldn't remember which half was supposed to be the ground and which the sky. Then he saw streaks of light burning through the inky black, and he remembered. He shot upright, nearly knocking his head against the head of the young woman bent over him.
"Vash, calm down!" she said, grabbing after him as he tried to scramble away. It wasn't until her grip closed down on his forearms that he realized he was screaming.
He took a deep shuddery breath. "Tesla," he said, his voice wavering. "Rem's gone, isn't she?"
Tesla shifted her hands to hold Vash's, and she pressed her forehead against them. "Yeah," she said softly. "She is."
Vash felt a deep void open up inside of him. "Knives…?" he croaked.
Tesla looked over her shoulder at the crashed shuttle behind her. "He won't come out," she replied. "I was hoping maybe you could help me."
Vash followed her gaze. "I… I don't think I can even stand," he said. Everything was spinning around him.
Tesla tightened her hold on him in alarm. "I checked your injuries, you-"
"No," Vash interrupted, bowing his head. "I just…"
Tesla realized how violently he was shaking. Tear tracks smeared the smoke and dust on his face, and a small trickle of blood oozed from a scratch on his cheek. She put one hand on the side of his face and gently tilted his head up to look at her. No matter how much she felt like crying right then, she needed to be strong for her little brothers. "It's going to be okay, Vash," she whispered. "We still have each other. It'll be hard, but we're gonna make it. You know why?"
Vash snuffled and wiped his sleeve across his face. "Why?"
Smiling through the hurt, she flicked his nose and said, "Because we're awesome."
Vash couldn't help giving a small smile in return.
She stood up and hauled Vash to his feet. "Now, are you going to help me talk some sense into your brother?"
Vash nodded and allowed her to lead him across the sand to the smoking escape pod. He peered in the open door, Tesla leaning above him. Knives was sitting at the control panel, head buried in his arms.
"Knives?" Vash asked cautiously. When he got no response, he stepped inside. The metal creaked ominously under his feet. It was a sturdy shuttle, but it had taken a serious beating. Staying in it much longer wouldn't be a good idea. He approached his brother and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "We should go," he said softly.
Knives whirled on him, slapping his hand away. Fury blazed in his eyes, and Vash had to take a step back under the weight of it. "No!" Knives snarled. "This is where Rem sent us! If we go anywhere, she won't be able to find us."
Tesla looked down. This was the same thing he'd said to her when she'd tried to get him to leave. She'd tried reasoning with him, but…
Vash felt his throat close up. "Knives, Rem is… is…" He swallowed. "You saw the ship break up."
"She could have gotten out!"
Anger suddenly welled up in Vash, mirroring his brother. "There was no time!" he screamed, clenching his fists. "She's dead, Knives! She isn't coming to find us! Sitting here in this piece of junk isn't going to change anything!"
"I don't care!" Knives screamed back, now standing nose-to-nose with Vash.
"Yeah?" Vash retorted, somehow getting even louder. "Well, I don't care that you don't care!" He knew even as the words fell out of his mouth that they didn't quite make sense.
Whatever Knives might have said next was cut off by a sudden huge boom that shook the ground and toppled the three of them over. The shuttle shifted in the sand and began to slide. Tesla, half in and half out of the pod, could see that it was headed down a slope towards a pit, and she instinctively knew that none of them should be inside when it reached the bottom. "Both of you, out, now!" she shouted, reaching inside. Vash grabbed her hand, hooking his other arm tightly through Knives' despite his twin's struggling. Tesla pulled them free, scrabbling at what little purchase the loose grit offered. The three of them collapsed on the rim of the pit, panting as they watched the shuttle slowly sink out of sight. Finally catching her breath, Tesla looked over in the direction the sound had come from, and her jaw dropped. "Vash, Knives," she said. "We need to get to that rock."
First the two looked at the formation she was pointing at, maybe half an ile away, then at what she was staring at.
A huge wall of dust was billowing towards them across the desert, getting closer by the second.
Tesla leapt to her feet, dragging her siblings with her, and broke into a sprint. The three of them raced for what little cover the outcropping would provide, and had barely made it before the sandstorm hit. They huddled together in the lee of the rock, clinging tightly to each other as wind and sand whipped past them. None of them were sure how long it was until the howling winds receded, but they stayed like that for some time after it passed, trying to find shelter from a storm only known to them.
After a while, the first sun began to rise, and Tesla stood up. She could see in the distance a dark pinprick that was bound to be the crashed ship that had kicked up the shockwave. Crouching back down, she put her hands on her brothers' heads. "Come on, guys," she said. "We have some walking to do."