Present Day

The Flame Truck’s engine petered out and the vehicle ground to a halt.

“Oh for the-” Slayn rested his head on the steering wheel and let his shoulders slump. The drive would have been a long shot under the best of circumstances, let alone with the vehicle in such poor condition, along with all that had happened.

“Not a problem,” he said mockingly and coughed as he jumped out, onto the hard ground, “I’ll have it right fixed, no worries at all,” he slammed the door shut, its hinges screeching pathetically.

“It’ll take more ‘n that to bring this thing down, will it?” he was getting angrier as he glanced back at the gaping, smoldering hole where the turret used to be.

“Get us as far as Devil’s Hook, will it?”

He took a few steps back and eyed the truck out of which various fluids were leaking, puddling up beneath and seeping outward over the sparse, sun-cooked vegetation.

Between the rusted shell, missing panels, and bullet holes, it was a wonder the whole thing still held together. Served as a statement to how well Union built their war engines, at least.

“If I could just kick the life into it…” he let out a sickly burst of coughing that doubled him over, almost bringing him to his knees “...and into me while I’m at it...” the puddle below mixed with fresh drops of blood as he took his mask off and spat.

With a groan, he straightened out, taking a deep breath… And instantly regretted it as another fit took hold of him. He started panting, clutching at the sand and trying to regain his composure.

A low, mechanical murmur carried over from the south and made him grit his teeth.

“And people ask me why I’m a godless heathen…” he spat again and pricked his ears up while gazing southward “How? How do they keep finding us?!” he snarled, then got up gingerly and headed over to the truck. A fleeting thought of taking a look at the engine took hold for a second but he realised he wouldn’t know what to look for anyway. He sighed and got back up in the cabin, turning the ignition to little effect.

“Could something possibly go my way this week for a change?!” the murmur was slowly turning into a constantly increasing roar.

“Well, you know what they say…” the ignition turned again and with a quick glance to the bundled up woman sleeping next to him, he started bashing every piece of the steering wheel, pedal, switch, or control panel within reach.

“...if at first you don’t succeed…” the cacophony of thuds, slaps, clangs, and coughs could’ve passed for an entire squad of Teslas engaged in dire combat.

“...hit it. Bloody. HARDER!”

The engine roared to life as Slayn’s cough subsided. Carefully, so as not to scare it, he put it into gear and slowly started off. He wiped his lower lip and put his mask back on, content in somehow managing to not wake his companion up.

“With that kind of input, it’s a wonder technology’s gotten this far…”