Shit. I think Nagi was right.
We hit our first big batch of sand dunes today as we crossed out of the fertile lands of the Imperium and into the extreme west. Plant life is pretty much gone, save for some sparce, tough cacti, and the only animal herds we've seen of late consist of camels. We considered catching a few, but Nagi advised against it. Too much spitting, she says.
The Dauphine seemed fine on the sand for about ten minutes. The going was slower, I'll admit, but the ol' girl managed to climb over one massive hill of sand without trouble. Then it hit another... and another... and somewhere between the next two, it hit a rather large patch of soft sand.
"WHOA!" I flew back and out of my chair, landing on my ass as the Dauphine listed abruptly. The entire rear end of the thing tilted backward, flinging me against the wall of my cabin. Righting myself, I ran into Command -
- and found everyone else in roughly the same state. Plato was nearest to me, and I helped him clamber to his feet.
"Whoa. Hey, navigator." I clung to Plato's shoulders, watching as Daena cursed her stuck pedals at the far end of the Dauphine. "That seemed bad."
Plato nodded, looking away. He's incapable of looking me in the eye these days. Not that he was ever terribly good at eye contact, but he wasn't even this evasive after hijacking the Dauphine and plowing through the Imperium's borders. Is it my teeth?
Moving from station to station, I made my way to the meeting table. Libby was waiting for me with Traveller, the former giving instructions to the latter with little apparent success. Traveller waved happily to me as I grabbed the edge of the table, fighting the Dauphine's pronounced slant.
"Hey, Mr. Libby!" Traveller reached out a hand. "I'm Traveller. Call me Trav."
"I know who you are," I muttered, swatting his hand away. "The hell happened?"
"Well, this one time, I got a letter from this castle, see, and they said they needed - "
"He's talking to me, stupid," Libby hissed. "Go find Fynn and help him right the Dauphine. We need level ground. Lift, don't throw."
Traveller's eye went vacant for the briefest second, and I thought he was preparing to hit me again. Then he smiled and nodded. "Okie dokie. Can I have a kiss?"
A slap sent him on his way.
"That was rough," I commented, pulling myself up beside Libby.
"Tell me about it." She sighed. "He asks me at least once a day. Dumb bastard just doesn't get the word 'no'."
"I meant the accident." I cleared my throat. "Y'know, sinking?"
"Oh. Right." Libby's face reddened a little. "Right. Pretty shitty. Fynn 'n that idiot will get us dug out in no time, though, I'm sure."
We watched the day roll by for a few silent moments. Soon enough the Dauphine was, indeed, righted again - though it rose a little precipitously for a brief moment, throwing Libby and I across Command and into one of the windows. She squashed me flat against the window pane.
"O... ow..." I twitched a few times as Libby clambered to her feet.
"Sorry." She scowled and helped me up. "I'm gonna clobber that twit - "
"No, no, I'm okay." My head pounded, in truth, but I didn't want to worry Libby. She tends to freak out when I'm hurt. "Uh... y'know, I was talking to Nagi yesterday - "
A foul look. Libby doesn't like Nagi. (Does she like any of my female friends? Daena, maybe?)
" - and she pointed out that, well... maybe the Dauphine... shouldn't be making the last part of this trip."
Libby's eyes narrowed. "Say what?"
Rubbing my head, I explained. I told Libby every reason why the Dauphine couldn't make the journey: the heat, the sand, the lack of traction, the lack of water, the lack of support, the possibility of damage. I also added, after considering the matter, that if the Dauphine were to break down, we'd have to abandon it - and then we'd basically have to walk back to civilization once we were done in the desert. And then back to Pubton.
I swiftly came to regret the entire trip during that conversation. And it was a one-sided conversation, to boot, as Libby didn't say a damned thing. She maintained a carefully neutral facial expression the whole time, one that left me with a mild case of the jitters. Libby isn't one for neutrality. She chooses sides. She's kind of a douche like that.
Waiting for me to finish, Libby scratched her chin thoughtfully. Then, setting her hands on her hips, she said one thing: "We'll see." She walked off to see to repairs.
I think she's going to be stubborn. Call it a husband's gut instinct.
Dragomir the Wanderer