Mable is first a farmers settlement and that is where they spend the vast majority of their resources. In the bigger picture Mable is located almost exactly in the southern center of the desert between two other villages making it a natural stop for traders looking to restock. Some traders have managed to bring two or four wheeled vehicles back to life but the vast majority make use of gigantic land bound rodents called Belhops to ride on. They have a few advantages, one is they can easily traverse the fine powdery dunes between the hard packed trails and two they can sniff out water and food from great distances.
Jonah scratches the dense scruff of hair on either side of one belhops face, the large animal lurches forward and inhales the air around Jonah. “Yeah that’s a good boy.” Jonah smiles and the oversized Guinea Pig lets out a deep oscillating hum that carries across the village. Earlier in the day Tara the stable mistress went out to the fields to find some help with an influx of visitors and Jonah volunteered enjoying being around animals and they in kind enjoying his presence.
Tara pats one of the harnesses bearing a symbol showing a circle below two squares, speaking to Jonah “They are all from Ur looking for seeds and saplings to help rebuild their own farm stock, from the sounds of it they finally rid themselves of the demon.”
“The demon?” Jonah asks.
“Yes their well was polluted by some demon to become poison, made their skin crack like the darkstrain. Some woman from the Gate City banished it.” She explains.
“A woman? Do you think she was one of the sages?” he asks
“Probably.” Tara finishes brushing the accumulated sand out of the belhops fur and leads it to a nearby set of troughs filled with grasses and water. Jonah climbs up on a ladder to see over the crowd to a group of mitomi talking with the prime trader, sure enough they all look like they have crack like scars all over their skin. Sliding back down the ladder the belhops begin to make a soft groan and begin to act more cagey, large ears flopping up briefly then falling. Moments later a loud rumble is at the south gate that comes to an abrupt halt. Jonah peaks around the stables to the gateway, a darkstrain has arrived on a rebuilt motorcycle wearing a deep maroon cloak with some kind of large stick tied to his back.
The gate guards approach him demanding to know why he has come back. His voice is very different from any Jonah has heard before, deep and intimidating carrying an air of authority. “I am here only for fuel! I can pay a fair price in crystal psionite.” The guards look to each other then back to the darkstrain looming above them. One of the guards holds out an open hand “We will see what we can spare you.” The darkstrain places a small token the shimmers like opal in the guards hand. The guard looks over to Jonah “Boy! Come take this to Aariz, tell him a darkstrain needs fuel. Oh and put on some gloves!” Jonah leaps up putting on a pair of leather gloves running out to meet the three just outside the gate. The bike is loaded up with all sorts of random objects as well as a banner bearing the symbol of Gate City. The guard drops the surprisingly light token into Jonah’s hand and shoos him away before he could ask any questions. Jonah pushes his way through the crowd and finds the prime trader. Aariz takes the token and with another piece of psionite knaps a small fleck off the edge and picks it up with the bare tip of a finger.
“Stand back Jonah.” Aariz says concentrating hard on the tip of his finger then touching the ground. Radiating from the point of touch the ground illuminates and radiates heat as the sand congeals together and shrinks to a ball of pure heavy metal. Aariz looks satisfied and looks over to Jonah “Alright it’s real, take this barrel of rice oil over to him. Should be enough to take him five or six hundred miles.”
Jonah lifts up the barrel that’s roughly half his size saying with a grunt “I wonder why he doesn’t just use that to make his own.”
Aariz smiles “That’s the thing about Psionite, it can’t transmute living matter into other things and can’t create things made of living matter like this fuel. If that wasn’t the case little villages like our own would never see a soul. Now get going, i’m sure the guards aren’t happy about having to babysit a darkstrain for any amount of time.”
Jonah wastes no time running back to the south gate, the mood between the guards and the darkstrain still icy. On his arrival the darkstrain heaves the barrel into place then gazes up north as he speaks “You all should stay indoors tonight, might have some interesting weather.” One of the guards perks a brow and asks “How do you figure? The skies are clear.” The darkstrain hooks a leg over his bike and brings the scrapped together beast back to life with a low rumble.
As he takes off he shouts over the sound of the engine “I just have a sense for these things, good luck Mitomis.”
The guards shake their heads and head back to the gate one whispering out “Weirdo.” Jonah watches as the bike disappears into the wastes to the east.
Eta watches as a cloud of dust rolled in from the south, something has just left town in quite a hurry. With an aggressive sweep of a sickle another fistfull of rice comes up and she hears the foreman call out “Alright! We are about to break another dam, clear out for a half hour while the patty drains!” Eta grips the dull back of her sickle as she steps up and out of the drained patty. Her favorite place to rest in these brief intermissions are atop the cold slabs of chrome that stick out of the sand that never heat up no matter how long they sit in sunlight. Eta glances to the north to look at the ruins sticking up towering above the rest of the desert and wonders why they have not tried to salvage the place in all the time the settlement has been here. The ruins seem to have some kind of interior but from the stories the elders have told her no one has figured out how to get inside or bypass whatever material it is made of. The children have made up their own stories about what lies within, hidden treasures, a horde of evil androids, sand. “Probably sand.” she thinks to herself. Every so often when she finds her mind wandering she can see herself on the inside, writing she cannot understand on every wall and… something deep within, powerful and mysterious. These are not dreams of course, no one dreams like the humans did but its very much like that. Eta has become hesitant to talk about these visions over the sixteen years she has been alive, most of her friends just think she has a mild case of sunstroke and needs to get more shade but Jonah still believes her. At least he acts like he believes her.
The day came to a close and at the well Jonah, Eta and Davin meet and chat about all the goings on of the day and snack on some hearts of palm.
“Did that picture come out?” Asks Jonah.
“Yeah but you two were busy today, I will bring it to you two sometime tomorrow so you can see it in the daylight” Davin smiles “Maybe you two can actually look happy about the picture if we give it another try.”
Eta tilts her head “What are you talking about I am smiling right now.” she forces the expression.
“That’s not how that works Eta.” Davin sighs, he turns his head as a flash of light catches his attention.
Seconds later a low rumble as the dim deep blue sky turns black as clouds slowly come in from the north.
“Just like the darkstrain said… “ Jonah quietly says to himself.
Davin looks somewhat concerned “Hey you two should get going home and make sure everything is secured up there. I will meet you tomorrow assuming the weather permits it.”
Jonah and Eta nod back to their friend and scurry back to their guard tower dwelling, tightening the ropes and bolts holding it together and setting up a tarp to protect them from the elements. The winds pick up and sweeps through the village making all the sheet metal creak and towers sway slightly. The sun fully sets and the dark overtakes the village. Dim electric lamps pop up all around the village and at the gates.
Eta looks out to the north as the sky darkens and the storm picks up “Is it normal for these things to roll in from the north? All the storms I can think of come from the sea.” Jonah nods, “Well I guess you are right but it’s not impossible.” Jonah too looks to the north as lightning illuminates the ruins in the distance.