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Nesting Pyre

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He doesn’t know where he’s going beyond away. The tide of people will carry Max back out to the sea of the Wastes, and that’s all that matters. Probability or most likely luck. That’s why this unexpected layover succeeded with so few casualties. 

He knows better than to press the odds.

When he feels Furiosa’s gaze reaching out for him, he makes the mistake of looking back. It isn’t one he’ll repeat. The way it feels like she’s trying to clutch at him from afar is all in his head. Max is mental, not stupid.

Projection. An Old World concept of psychology that doesn’t belong in the present. It barely surfaces before he aggressively drowns it.

It doesn’t matter that he has no supplies or transportation whatsoever. Max’s legs work well enough and they’ll suffice until he can double back using another set of wheels to check the canyon wreckage. Salvage what he can of his hijacked Interceptor.

Max thinks he caught a glimpse of civilization on the way into this territory. At the time, he’d been jogging for over an hour after the war party that had captured him, but he doesn’t usually hallucinate entire structures.

A little over a day’s walk from the Citadel, he’s rewarded for his faith. The settlement is real-nestled snug across a narrow plateau overlooking the valley.  Max stays there only long enough to trade labor for necessities. A pair of half-life brothers infatuated with his resilience offer themselves up to help him reclaim and rebuild his precious vehicle. They beg him to stay and he leaves them a scattered offering of bullets in place of a verbal farewell. As soon as his ride is ready, he gasses it up and heads for the coast.

It’s there that he’d lost the last shreds of his sanity, and ironically, there is where he’ll find what remains of it. The time he spends in the dunes communing with the dead helps a little.

Now though, as his tires carry Max back down the Fury Road, it’s painfully obvious that his foolishness has only been lying in wait over the days and nights he’s spent reminding himself what the cost of attachment is.

“You’d better not be going back.”

He glances in the rear view mirror at Angharad in the back. Though he can’t see from this angle, Max knows that her belly’s a gaping crater that the babe is still linked to by his umbilical cord.

“Overfeeding him.” He growls, listening to the boy suckling.

Knows that its’ tiny stomach is distended with soured milk turned black with clotted ashes. He supposes there’s only so much nutrition a dead woman’s body can provide through a withered tube.

“Max, you can’t go back.” Ignoring him, she shifts her bloody son in her arms. “You can’t take their chance away like that.”

“ 'M not.” Sighing, he tears his eyes from his cargo and focuses on the road.

The boy drinks endlessly and Max can feel Angharad glaring at his back. “You’re a terrible liar.”

Opting for silence, he allows himself to be hypnotized by the endless sprawl of dirt. Eventually, they leave him be.

“ 'M not.” He repeats, not entirely sure which question he’s answering.  The road is long after all, and it leads to many destinations.

Currently, Max and his car are running on fumes. Either he’ll find a source or it will find him. Simple as that. He’s got enough bullets to trade in commerce or in combat. And sure enough, a blur in the distance eventually takes the shape of a caravan whose driver flags him down.

“Real fine day we’re ‘avin, eh?” A man not much older than himself soothes one of his bleating camels as Max cracks his door ajar.

He grunts noncommittally and nods towards the covered wagon. “Barter?”

“Got the highest quality goods you’ll find–“

“Juice? Food?” Max croaks. “Water?”

“Wouldn’t ‘ave much business without ‘em !” The man laughs, stroking his agitated camel’s neck.

Scanning the surrounding area for any hint of an ambush, Max finds none. Retrieving a small satchel from the glove compartment, he eases out of the cab while mentally noting that the handgun strapped to his ribs has the appropriate weight for a full clip.

He gets half-a-quart of guzzoline and a pouch of mixed nuts and seeds. The Geiger counter he’s picked up sings when he switches it on over the jugs of water.

“What’s a little fallout, then?” The merchant laughs again, patting his camel as it whines at the noise. “You know you need this stuff to live, right?”

Max lifts his head to see smoke rising quite a ways off and mentally shrugs as he nods at his purchases. “Mm. Good with these.”

>>> 

As he turns his back to her, she stomps on the thing in her gut that feels a whole lot like betrayal. He’s made his choice and she tells herself that it’s the best one for all of them.

“Where’s Max going?” Dag murmurs, her breath warming Furiosa’s shoulder.

She twists to catch the girl craning her neck, searching the crowd. And she doesn’t have to ask who ‘Max’ is. Who else could it be?

“The Road.” Furiosa replies, turning from it. From the teeming masses of cheering Wretched and from the nameless road warrior who suddenly does have a name.

Dag meets her eyes then, guilty revelation torrenting over her features like the aqua-cola gushing from the approaching cliffs. “He…” she bites her lip and is saved from delivering an explanation when Toast adds in

“He told you when it looked like you were getting ready to join his ghosts. Probably the only ones ‘sides us who know it.”

Furiosa appreciates the dismissive tone of her voice and huffs in agreement as the lift docks.

He’d probably had to be sure that in death, she’d know what to call him.

Masochistic son of a bitch, she thinks to herself as they take their first steps into the halls of the Citadel as genuine human beings. Even if none of the old guard recognize it yet.

Without Max's help, they’d be dead or worse but allowing appreciation to become sentiment is usually a dangerous mistake. She’ll never forget the man or what he’s done for them. But she won’t dwell on him either.

Nearly a hundred days have passed and Furiosa is not dwelling.

Ninety-one to be precise-and on this, she certainly doesn’t want to be. By this point in her life, she’s learned not to fling unwanted thoughts away; they only ricochet to leave you stunned on the floor inside your own head. So she nudges them aside like parting her way through the currents of people who call the Citadel home.

She’s also come to learn that what makes something a home is having the freedom to leave it. To step out into the Great Wide-get a little scuffed. And know you have somewhere to return to that’s not just a fortress, but a sanctuary.

So while it’s undeniably reckless to venture out unaccompanied on a decommissioned war bike, she never lets that stop her. Her construction demands swift freedom and she knows that to deny it will only obstruct her own efficiency in the long run. The Imperator harbors no illusions of immortality regarding it.

In addition to the two pipe bombs tucked into her tail bag, there's a pistol secured to the frame and another hidden on her person. Today, Furiosa travels light and far-her starving bike devouring the road as the sun speeds across the sky. Using up this much guzz is an indulgence, yet an affordable one.

Not long ago, the very idea would have made her cringe.

A smudge on the horizon lengthens gradually along with the shadows and her curiosity. It’s utter madness to investigate alone but she’s suspected for a while now that along with the infusion, she took more than just his blood into her veins. It’s an overpowering compulsion that drives her towards the smoking planted flag of some wasteland conqueror.

Similar to a time in another life when her mother and clan had watched with silent understanding as Furiosa had repeatedly attempted to caress the flames grilling their meal.

It’s near dusk when she’s greeted by the roar of engines and the smattering of celebratory gunfire. Furiosa scales the hill overlooking the smoldering ruins and quickly camouflages her ride with mesh before tucking it in-between the boulders. The cheering of the riders (three bikes, five astride) is cut off by the tempo of their artillery as they circle the wreckage of the encampment.

Shit. Feeding compulsions rarely leads to fortunate circumstances.

As the bikers reverse and vault up over the crumbling barriers, she distinctly hears a girl scream. Furiosa’s well hidden up here, but something inside her insists that staying put isn’t an option. A piercing cry of desperate rage followed by a returning barrage of bullets is the final push.

“Stupid.” She hisses, yanking the goggles from her head and ejecting the clip from the pistol on her bike. “Fuk-ushima kamakrazee.” Pocketing the clip and bombs, Furiosa reasons that it’s as good a day to die as any.

Sliding down the embankment, she rakes the last third of the grit with her metal arm to steady herself. Weaving in and out of disused trenches that line the valley, she reaches a burnt hole in the partition. Pulling the bandana back over her face, she punches away lose debris and crawls into the smoking pit.

Keeping low to the ground, Furiosa serpentines around the rubble and halts at a charred section of sheet metal. Peering round the thing, she sees a massive woman in partial body armor pinning down a teenage girl by the collarbone.

“–making it harder on yourself!” The raider yells over the blasts echoing from the other side of the camp. “Be a real shame to break some of those pretty little bones.”

The girl answers with that same berserk shriek and sinks her teeth into the woman’s exposed wrist. The raider grins savagely and punches the girl in the diaphragm.

Furiosa grabs a blackened stake of wood and launches at the distracted thug, burying the jagged edge into the gap between the metal pauldron and her neck.

Howling, she releases the girl and spins, snarling “YOU’LL BURN FOR THAT, BITCH!!!”

The smaller woman evades the raider’s first angry swing with ease, but her solidly built legs are free of armor–unhindered by its' weight. With surprising force, she kicks Furiosa in the stomach, sending her reeling back into the sheet metal. Slashing her palm open on it, the Imperator charges with an infuriated cry-smashing her metal fist into the woman’s nose. The thug bellows as it crunches; blood showering Furiosa’s grated knuckles. Grappling onto her glistening face, Furiosa twists the disoriented woman around and yanks back foolishly long hair to expose her throat before driving her into the jagged metal with a feral howl of triumph.

Arterial blood jets out as the woman slides down, separating from the slicing edge with panicked gurgling where she crumples; jerking violently as her first mouth gapes while her second paints the dust in crimson gouts.

Gasping, Furiosa rights herself and casts over to the trembling teenager staring at the scene with dark, glazed eyes. She can’t be older than seventeen. Underfed with mahogany skin and high cheekbones framed by a halo of black ringlets that catch what’s left of the distorted daylight from every angle.

“Hey,” Furiosa pants, raising her arms above her head. “It’s alright, I’m not gonna hurt you.”

The teen’s gaze darts from victor to victim as she rises shakily to her feet. “Why not?”

Huffing a smile, Furiosa wipes blood on her trousers. “Cuz I don’t want to.”

Narrowing her eyes in suspicion, the girl takes a halting step forward. For a moment, neither speaks. Then she kicks dirt over her fallen captor and spits.

“Don’t know what you’re planning,” she wipes her mouth on a ragged sleeve. “but there are more.”

“Raiders?” Furiosa kneels beside the corpse, tearing a strip from its’ markedly clean shirt and wrapping it snug around her gashed palm.

Slavers.” She spits again, joining Furiosa on the ground. “They’re cannibals.” Unbuckling the corpse’s holster, she frowns at the sheathed magnum. “I didn’t see her use it.”

Furiosa nods at the weapon. “Check.”

“I…” the girl’s frown deepens. “I can’t remember how.” She mutters.

Standing, Furiosa pulls the teenager to her feet and motions for the weapon. Reluctantly, she hands the gun over.

“Five in the clip.” Furiosa shows her. “One in the chamber.” As she returns it, more gunfire sounds off and the girl shudders visibly.

“What’s your name?”

“Rabbit.”

“Know how to shoot?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” She strides off, Rabbit hurrying in her wake. “There’s at least four more out there, so don’t hesitate to shoot but make damn well sure you don’t miss.”

Rabbit makes a noise of confirmation from behind her. “Might be other survivors too, but I doubt it.”

As the smoke intensifies further in, Furiosa unties her bandanna and hands it off. Rabbit gives her a stubborn look that she meets evenly and the girl rolls her eyes, reluctantly tying the cloth over her mouth.

Two nearby figures are launched in opposing directions by a small explosion that rocks the place. Through the smoke, it’s impossible to tell their affiliation. Retaliating fire goes off as the two females skirt the edges of the destruction. From around the corner, a shotgun blast answers as Furiosa grabs Rabbit and hauls her into the doorway of a partially collapsed hangar. Another blast from less than four yards away has Rabbit visibly grinding her jaw under the bandanna. The girl rips herself from Furiosa’s side; a raw scream pulled from her throat as she pelts past the hangar and levels the magnum.

Furiosa rushes after her-pistol at the ready-and when she locks eyes with the man Rabbit has in her sights, time grinds to a screeching halt.

Hands shaking so hard the gun rattles in her grip, the teenager squeezes the trigger as Furiosa barrels into her, diverting the trajectory of the bullet as they fall.

Rabbit yelps “You said not to hesitate!” as she squirms her way free. “Not to miss!!”

I know.” Furiosa groans, rolling onto her back to grin up at Max’s confounded, upside-down face.

“He a friend of your’s?”

Furiosa's grin becomes almost manic as Max blinks dazedly down at her. “Something like that.”