On a Wing and a Prayer

A moonlit walk

The Captain led them East, towards the Chargras Canyon and the oasis at its mouth. From there they would turn North, leap frogging the dunes to the relatively safer higher ground on their march back to civilisation. They moved slowly but steadily, with the heavy water barrels regularly swapped between porters. Dirk kept a wary eye on Ms Etye, she was facing the ordeal with admirable stoicism, but he knew that her body, unused as it was to such prolonged exercise and hardship, would start to break down at some point. Every hour, the Captain would call a brief halt, allowing everyone to ease the load from their shoulders and adjust straps and boots if necessary. They carried on in this fashion for five hours.

The Captain then called a longer halt, and gave everyone the chance to eat some rations. Dirk watched as one of the crawler crew made a pile of the small, dry, dung pats he had collected during the march. With a little difficulty, he soon had a small fire burning fitfully and was brewing up some tea for everyone. Dirk made sure that Ms Etye had something to eat, even though she did not feel like eating, and that she had a hot, sweet, drink. She was bearing up well, considering, thought Dirk, but the signs of fatigue were obvious in the set of her shoulders and her disinterested stare.

All too soon, the Captain called on them to be on the move again, and they set off through the desert night. The pace became a bit slower and there were more stumbles and trips as everyone started to feel the effects of their exertions. On more than one occasion, Dirk had to provide a steadying hand to Ms Etye, and caught her from falling a few times. Some larger boulders were emerging from the gloom and the Captain had announced that they would have short halt when they reached them.

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