This was created for the 200th week of Thunderdome; and it is a return to the original prompt that launched it all. A Man Agonizes over his Potatoes.
Heat rose up off of the torn up scabs of earth all the way across the horizon. Shimmering mirages pooled between scars of soil and stone like rays of the sun too tired to travel further, or lasers that chose not to kill anymore. The only moisture above ground for miles was condensation fogging the inside of Erebidae’s goggles. He flicked the torch on, and adjusted the jet. These rays were fresher; ready to do work.
The machine’s hide, designed to last a century against anything from falling debris, laserfire, and rust began to peel back nicely for the torch. His goggles darkened and he fell into a focused state. He’d planned each move out before daring to expend energy wastefully in this heat. The cockpit’s glass was torn away within a minute. Two latches cut through and it instantly changed from Erebidae’s window out into the battlefield to a window onto the scorched patch of dirt where he’d set it aside. The shoulder of the beast rippled under the torch, as the flame etched a line into it, revealing no muscles at all between the skin and its hydraulic bones. The smell of bubbling plastic signalled that Erebidae’s cut has reached the nerves of the thing, and he scrambled down its side.
His survival bag had already camouflaged itself with the burnt orange dust of its surroundings, and Erebidae considered that in time, he’d develop a tan himself. His hand reached into the bag and plucked out a femur-like wrench, brushing aside thin plastic packets and paper manuals. He turned and surveyed the work accomplished so far. His beast stood brightly at the bottom of a small cliff, its warpainted steel repelling the dust and maintaining its ferocious stripes. Its sensor pod had been burnt off by enemies in the sky. He could not speak to his family with the voice of his machine. This world was not a good one for people, but its soil was said to be rich. There was so much of it, even if his enemies found him before his family, they could not punish him for making use of some.
He climbed up the side of his machine and drove his wrench into the shoulder. Within minutes the thing’s arm fell to the ground with a noise that, on the field of battle, almost always implied the death of a beast. Erebidae glanced to the cockpit glass to ensure it had not cracked in sympathy. It was still whole.
The heel of the machine was thin and weak, and holes were torn into it easily. Wires were strung up to its bones, and the beast’s arm was lashed to its leg by a web of welded rods extricated from its ribs. It was a sorry creature now, broken and deranged. It had served him well and deserved far better than this. From the cockpit he peered, urging it to limp forward, its taxidermied arm grasping. He had it spread its fingers wide against the dirt. He had it make a fist. He had it claw into the dust. And he pushed the beast on, from his seat. It dragged its leg and its arm and its hand with its claw, and it tore into the earth. The monster drove forwards, and then turned, and then lurched back. This area Erebidae traced grew deep, and before dusk arrived he scented what no mirage on this world could duplicate: the nurturing scent of fresh, damp soil.
Erebidae slid down the spine of the machine and placed his gloved hand onto the flesh of the world. He thought better of this and tore the glove from his skin and dug his hand into the mud. This was rich soil, as his family had said. This would give life. This little gully he had created was as deep as he was tall, and he very cautiously slid his survival bag and his cockpit glass into it. Crouching in a slick of mud in the shadow of his sore and dying beast, he ripped a plastic packet of seeds open. Eyes focusing through his goggles, he placed them into the earth in the manner indicated by his survival pamphlet. As the sun set on his little encampment, he fixed the cockpit glass down over this little patch of seeds. It would keep moisture from burning away instantly when the sun came back. The beast had pumps and filters in its gut, and he would need them to pull water from the earth. Tomorrow’s work already greeted him.
Erebidae nestled onto the machine’s foot, where it had been jointed to its dead arm, smiling that he had spent an entire day performing work entirely forbidden to a warrior. He flicked his torch on for a moment to ignite the survival manual. It served a higher purpose as smoke rising into the heavens, as he had committed its words to memory. His goggles fogged as he shed a tear of joyful anticipation. It said that the potatoes would require ninety days to become edible. He had more than enough war rations to last until then, but he wanted nothing more than to eat a potato that he had grown from a world that had known nothing but death.
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