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Adrift

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When she was still young, before they stole her from the Green Place, she had a dog named Dog. They all had dogs, and they were all Dog, every last one, these big shaggy creatures who stunk and had big jaws perfect for biting and tearing. Dog loved to wander and he loved to dig, so he’d often disappear for most of the day, only to turn up late in the evening with some new thing he’d found and decided was worth bringing home.

Max reminds her much of Dog. He disappears for more than a day or two, the weeks and months stretching long out here. And when he reappears, it’s always with some discovery. His are more useful than Dog’s ever were. Dog loved trash, but Max brings her and the Green treasure.

When he turns up this time, he’s in bad shape but his eyes burn with promise. “Come with me,” he says, and when she asks why, all he can do it smile and shrug a little, lacking the words he needs to explain what it is he’s found.

The Green doesn’t need her to stay. At first they needed her but over time, it’s changed. The Seven Sisters run it now and the freed wives and milking mothers of the Citadel keep a good council among themselves. There’s more than seven, but people like alliteration, and it lets the women rotate out. Furiosa’s been happy to see to other things. She has never been fully comfortable leading, and though she became quite good at handing out orders, she’s just as content to return to taking instructions from the Sisters.

She and Max head out west in a supercharged car, enough water and food in the backseat for two days. They don’t take the car he came in and she’s not sure why, but Max seems to believe this one won’t be coming back with them. What will they be coming back in then? An abandoned war rig? One of the heavy rollers with the straight-shots? Or something even bigger? Something like those wayloaders with the big tires and the squat square grill?

They drive in comfortable silence. Furiosa takes the time to sleep when she’s in the passenger seat, knowing Max will wake her if there’s trouble. She returns the favour and he sleeps like the dead, curled tight in his seat and not moving at all until he wakes up. His waking comes in violent starts and stops, Max jerking with a low animal sound and then going still, blinking softly as he takes in the world around him. She hopes she doesn’t wake like that, but she can’t be sure. Her own sleeping is never all that restful.

Five days out and he points to a distant shape. It’s so bright in the sun and she thinks of Joe then and his fascination with all things chrome and shiny. This may be the biggest, the chromiest, the shiniest of them all. It glitters and glistens and she feels her mind crowd with a multitude of questions, all that she knows Max won’t be able to answer.

It’s huge, and as they get close, she gets a flash of something, an impression that this thing is lying on the ground, like some impossibly huge giant that’s tripped and toppled. She’s right. It is a giant - one of the ancient warriors her mother and aunts would talk about sometimes when they talked about the days before the power went out and never came back on again. There were other threats in those days, monsters from beyond who came into the world to make it their own. But they had been repelled, turned away, and when they ceased coming through, all had celebrated.

And the world fell to its knees all the same, brought down by the same people who had fought hard to save it from others.

It takes most of the day just to reach the base of it. It looks like it must have been covered by the sands until recently. There was another of those vast superstorms that passed by the Green a few weeks ago, narrowly missing them. It had looked bad, but seeing the machine lying in the sands, she knows it must have been a world ender that passed them by. Max parks in the shadow of the beast and they get out, looking up at the machine.

Her voice creaks a little after days of saying nothing. “There’s enough metal on this to build a fortress. It’ll take time to take it apart and take it back.”

Max shakes his head and gives her a little smile. He knows something she doesn’t, and he motions for her to follow him over to it. There’s an access hole about ten feet up and they scramble up and into it. Max needs a little assistance with his leg, but they both get in it without too much struggling.

Everything’s shifted the wrong way around with the beast lying face first in the sands. They make their way through a surprisingly clean access port, and when they reach the inside of the head, they slide gently to the floor, standing on the screens the pilot must have looked out of. Above their heads, there’s a mess of wires and boots and such where people must put themselves. One body still hangs up there, mummified by the years. The other lies on the floor, jaw pulled taut by the withered skin.

Max finally speaks, his voice even shakier than hers. “We um. Walk it back. Needs two pilots.” And he makes a motion between her and him, touching his head and pointing to hers. “Connects the minds.”

She heard that as well once, from one of her aunts. They said the machines required two people or more to run them. Looks like these two tried to run away with it, before something went wrong. She crouches by the corpse on the floor, touching the clothes on the body. “This could kill us.”

He grunts an agreement. It could. Then again, if they take this back, the Green will have materials for a hundred years. Or… if it works, if it fights, then they won’t need to worry about any future Joes setting their eyes on the Green and trying to take it for their own. It could promise real safety to the Seven Sisters and all those who live there.

“Alright.” She agrees after a moment more of thinking and begins to undress the body. Furiosa helps Max bring the other down and they undress that one too. The clothes are big on her, but they fix Max fine, and then there comes the truly tricky part of helping one another up into the pilot chairs. Thankfully, the machine was meant to be clipped and snapped into, so once they’re in, there’s no fear that they’ll slip and fall.

The power’s slow to come online, but it comes all the same, screens flickering steadily. She isn’t sure what to expect exactly but Max is confident, unafraid and eager as he watches the lights come to life one by one. Furiosa can feel herself getting tense and she’s not scared but she’s wary all the same. The Green doesn’t need her to live, but she hates the thought of dying here and never seeing them again. They’re precious to her, all of them.

There’s a whining sound and Max makes a soft sound, and then Furiosa’s making a sound as well as she feels-

she’s sitting in her mother’s lap while they teach her the names of those who came before her, learning the lineage of those first mothers who packed all they owned and left the dying cities to go out into the green place to make a new home for his baby girl is so beautiful that it makes his eyes sting to look at her, she’s just like her mother but she’s got his eyes and his heart aches with happiness just to look at she’s hiding among the war boys hoping they don’t notice that she’s starting to look less like them with each passing day hoping that the white paint and chalk will save her and it’s been nearly one thousand days since they stole the water and the food and burned everything they burned everything and there’s nothing left but ashes but he can’t stop he has to grab what he can and run after Dog through the thick leaves and branches her feet slapping at the ground as she chases him down they ran her down they ran them both down he saw they go under the wheels but he lived and he shouldn’t have why wasn’t it him standing there on the platform looking out over the masses and she lifts her hands to him in a salute but her mind is filled with hate and bile and she wishes he would fall from the balcony go topping end over end until it hits the ground is hard packed but he can dig that up and they’ll have a good garden this year and he can see her smiling at him and he gives her a quick grin back to the stranger and she knows its dangerous but she has to trust him and that means she turns away and hopes this man won’t start the rig and desert her and the wives and run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run

Her body jerks as she breathes in and she’s- she’s in his mind. He’s in her mind. Her face is wet and she doesn’t need to look at Max to know that he’s weeping too. What a luxury it is to have the water to cry. What a privilege to feel another person in her mind and to trust him with everything she’s ever lived through, and to know with absolute certainty that he feels the same way.

The machine comes to life as they reach their arms forward and push, their bindings providing resistance to let them feel the ground beneath those metal hands. The jaeger is slow to move, joints slowly moving and scraping free the rust and dust and sand gathered there over many long years. They aren’t in a rush and they move as one being, hand carefully pushing their torso up onto their knees, and then getting one knee bent and positioned up. When they stand, the rush of it all echoes between them until she thinks she might be overwhelmed. But Max is there and he steadies her, his mind touching hers in all the right ways. His body’s quiet but his mind is so busy and chatty, sending moods and images and thoughts her way.

Furiosa reaches back out to him and it’s so strange to be so open and so comforted. No one’s made her feel like this since she was a child. Their thoughts radiate with warmth until they’re both ready and then they begin to move, taking one step and then another, getting used to the strange gait of the giant machine.

Ah, but before they go, she jogs Max’s mind. They stop and turn back, carefully bending over to pick up the car. It fits easily in the palms of their hands, so small compared to them. The Seven Sisters will certainly be impressed (and Toast will appreciate that they were smart enough not to leave this behind). It took days to drive here but with these vast steps, it should take no time at all.

Max wonders if they can run and she laughs aloud at the thought. Maybe, if they want to run. But when they’re together, there’s nothing they need to run from. There’s no one alive who can stand against them when they’re together.