Fluid 1

Kent had to stop before the dogs collapsed — dangerous as it was for him to do so; weighing it up against trying to cross the flats without a sled team though it seemed the best option. Traversing the salt flats where the lakes had once been was always difficult and required far more water than they could comfortably afford, but what was there to do? The Swamp Rats had been hitting them hard for the past two months and the supply lines were soon going to be irreparably damaged if they didn’t get help. They would have to pay whatever mercenaries they found in H2O too, but the costs would be far less than losing to their enemies.

He placed some meat in the processor and waited for it to extract the liquid he needed to keep the dogs alive. It was frustrating that they always had to balance one resource against the other but it was a way of life now. He looked up at the cloudless sky and for a moment was transported back to the Pre-Burn days. How people had once complained if the sky got grey and rain fell to spoil their day? Wouldn’t happen now.

No nuclear holocaust had delivered them into this place, just greed. Not that people were any less greedy nowadays — no one had learnt any lessons or had any great revelations: people rarely did. Anyway, the dogs had had their fill and seemed ready to go again. He couldn’t afford to waste time.

He replaced his goggles and got the dogs on the move again. This white expanse was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. He was old enough to remember snow, old enough to remember when salt had been considered benign. Didn’t do to daydream too much. Hard as it was to believe there were people who lived out here — survivalists who’d adapted to the arid conditions and lived off what scant resources their aging tech could provide them with. Survivalists who would cut your throat and plug you into the Drains they had and drink your body’s water content like vampires would.

Time stretched out before him like the geographic amnesia he had been pulled across and he prayed for it to go quickly. Liftpoint was further than he remembered. Could the theories about the expansion of the salt flats be correct? If it were it didn’t bode well for any of them. What use were desalination plants if there were no water content there at all?

The dogs were starting to whimper again but they would just have to carry on. If any of them fell they were going to be used to assuage the thirst of the others; he hated doing it but that was the way it was going to have to be. Thank god they had got out of the habit of naming animals — they were just resources now. If he had to kill something that he’d named he wouldn’t have been able to do it.

The sun was low in the sky and the shadows were lengthening. If anything were going to happen this is the hour where he would expect it. He reached down to his side and brought up his gun and began checking it to make sure that everything was in order.

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