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An arid breeze stirred the smoke rippling from the crushed carcass of the car. It was doubtful before the wreck that the machine would have been thought of as “just a car.” Now, it was even less so. The splayed bodies of (aftermen) were scattered about. Some would even consider the arrangement artistic.     One such individual was cautiously approaching the grisly scene. Pale tan robes shrouded hir body from the sun which scorched everything under it. Zie was toting a tubular length of metal painted a drab darkish green. It had several protuberances which might have been intended to be grasped by hands with opposable thumbs while optical organs peered intently through apertures along its length. At one time it might have been used for some sort of task requiring a measure of care. By the posture of the robed person, the intent was clearly to use it for bludgeoning.     Perhaps it was blind luck. The mechanical creation which was formerly a car, had been operated close to it’s limit of fuel. Although there was considerable heat still, and smoke from melting plastics, the fuel tank had little remaining. A dribble of something suspiciously volatile, a wisp of vapor and naught else. The radiator was, however, hissing madly, spewing white steam which disapated quickly in the parched air.     The robed figure stopped by one of the bodies and nudged it with a dusty boot. It lay limp on the stained grit with some few scraps of cloth, the remains of clothing. The sinewy corpse lay near a small brown box.     Delivering a quick sharp blow to the head of the corpse with the makeshift club, the robed figure then paused. After several moments and seeming satisfied that the corpse was indeed a corpse zhe stooped and liberated the box from the sand.     It was smooth and warm to the touch. There were odd irregular lines running the length of each panel. What had at first seemed a uniform brown, now up close was many shades intricately woven together. Digging a nail into an edge of the polished brown box, some few, sharp, fibers peeled up. Wood was a rare luxury item. Shaking the box, it rattled. The clasp was a simple affair, a hook just needed to be rotated off a peg. The figure slipped the box unto a sling beneath the robes. It might be worth four or five times its weight in water.     The breeze shifted, wafting the acrid smoke into the nostrils of the only apparent living being. It smelled of plastic and rubber. Altogether unwholsome and the black vapor was a beacon for anyone else to come have a look.     Pulling the hood closer, zhe moved closer to the wreck. Step, stumble, glide, step, pause, glide. It was the gait of those used to the open sands far from shelter. Where eyeless things hunt without care of day or night.     At the back of the vehicle were several blue jugs about decaliter size. At one time jugs such as these, and larger, held fuels. The blue ones were water, but that was in the before times.     Hir eyes widened sharply. The box, the water jugs, this must have been a ransom payment or for protection or something. There was surely going to be watchers, followers or hunters after this! Zhe had to get gone!     Zhe snatched up a jug, it felt full, and much more would only slow hir down. Sloshing it experimentally it sounded like water, but without raising the cap and sampling it impossible to tell. Checking the breeze zhe rapidly moved away using the same glide, step, pause, stumble, step, step, gait. Choosing carefully the windward side of the ever moving sands in the hope the breeze would strengthen and move enough sand to cover the trail.


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