by Kaye Jeffreys -
Reece scratched at the porous rock with his pick ax near the top of Red Rim. He took a deep breath through his gas mask then let the air weeze out through the valves. In the distance Black Rim smoked and rumbled sending vibrations through the entire mountain. Blue Rim spewed molten rock in a plume of red-orange toward the heavens. Reece chipped at the rim stone again. He hated sweating in the oppressive heat just to be skunked. The Lady in Red was being stingy with her jewels.
Brett had to be doing better. He always did better. Older brother, more experienced, more patient with the tedious work of seek and find. He had a way with the Lady. She saved her best diamonds for him.
Reece glanced over at his brother.
Brett knelt on one knee and grasping his mask.
"Brett?" Reece called through the comlink.
His brother didn't answer.
Beyond Brett, Dad stood up and surveyed the work area. Venting volcanic gases warped the view and caused static in the link. "All teams in." Stisttt, "We have a malfunction."
Reece attatched his pick to his belt and climb over the jagged rocks toward his brother. Dad came from the other direction.
Brett slumped as they approached. Dad and Reece hoisted his arms over their shoulders and carried Brett away from the rim. They crunched brittle rock and stirred ash as they selected stable footing away from the noxious gases.
"We have to get him off this mountain, fast," Dad said calmly to the entire team. And then, "Rose, you'll get to the multirider before the rest of us. Fire her up. We gotta get to First Aid," stistt, "maybe have to transport to Last Stop."
Reece adjusted his hold on Brett. "What about the offering?"
"We will bring it back later." Dad's breath labored through his mask.
"Should I break off and take it to them alone?"
"Absolutely not. Brett's health is number one priority. We will deal with the offering when we know he is safe."
Or dead, the thought popped into Reece's mind as the floor of his stomach dropped away. He pushed the thought away and continued distracting himself with, "Will the Nomads accept it later?"
"We will deal with that when the time comes. Keep focused on getting Brett to safety."