Environmental factors

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environmental factors
scientific term
any factor, whether abiotic or biotic, that influences living organisms

Given how my life had got twisted in a million weird directions, there was something oddly reassuring about the constancy of the desert planet. Same dust, same heat, same everything. It was a dead place, as far as we could see.

"This valley directly corresponds with where Perlyn is situated," Cal said. He observed where the Perlyn river would have flowed, and where the Aviary stood tall back on Locque. "Assuming this is an alternate version of Locque, I can't imagine what happened to turn it into a dust bowl."

"Me neither," I said. "I also don't give a crap. The next time I leave here I'm not intending on coming back."

We'd reappeared out in the open, the enormous sun immediately beginning to dry fry our skin. It was a palpable sensation, one of evaporating moisture and UV rays blasting into your body. To stay out of cover would be to die a nasty, crispy death. It was a good job skin cancer wasn't a thing any more.

Back in the shade of our rocky outcrop we took a breath and cooled off. The temperature difference between shadow and sun was unlike anything I'd ever experienced.

"You think there was ever life here?" Cal asked, standing on the edge of cover and looking out over the plain, shielding his eyes with his hand.

Ignoring him, I pulled the new medical gear out and started working on Marv, cleaning the wound, redressing it, applying some of the more capable lotions. I took some of the painkillers and washed them down his throat with a glug of water. Easier said than done when somebody's unconscious. His body convulsed and tried to retch, then swallowed and he was still.

"Here's the plan," I said. "We take him back to Weird Locque. Whatever you want to call it. The one where my dad's still alive. He's not known, or hunted there. As long as we don't run into his family, or himself, we can just take him to a hospital to get sorted out. We can drop him off outside or something."

"What about us?" Cal seemed genuinely interested in my opinion, which was new.

"There's no point staying there. We could do it, and it'd probably feel OK some of the time, but we'd just be hiding. Forever."

"Going back home isn't going to be easy," he said. "They'll pick us up immediately."

I nodded. "That's why we're not going home. We're going to that other place. The place with the made-up version of the Aviary. I don't have any idea what's happening any more, but what I saw at the Aviary seemed pretty clear that the wings back home aren't really running the show. If we're looking for answers, fake-Aviary-place is where we need to go."

"We don't know what we'll find there," Cal said. "Locque is at least a known risk."

"You've pushed us this whole time to join you on this stupid crusade," I snapped, "don't start changing your mind now."

There was a movement from where Marv lay. His remaining arm jerked suddenly, then his back arched, slowly, and he let out a long, deep moan. His eyes roved beneath his eyelids, which suddenly opened. He was under a tarpaulin, which saved him from gazing immediately into the bleach-out sky.

"Marv?" I said, quietly, placing a hand gently on his chest.

He tried to speak, only to find his throat hoarse. I passed him water and he drank it gratefully. "Kay," he managed, "what the hell?" Then he went to sit up, and tried to push with both arms. He fell back and rolled onto his side. "Oh fuck," he said, "missing arm!"

I had to abruptly stifle a laugh.

"Seriously, Kay," he said, "where did you leave my arm? Did you beat that guy to death with it?"

That was when I realised he did actually remember. "You actually remember?"

"It's seared into my brain, girlfriend." He pushed himself up with his remaining hand. "He's still here," he said, seeing Cal for the first time. Squinting against the glare, he took in his surroundings. "And here is?"

Cal took a few steps closer, remaining silhouetted against the bright sands. "I appear to have gained a dimension jumping ability from the device in the hidden Aviary chamber," he said.

"Oh, right then," Marv said. "That would have been my first guess." He winced and touched the damaged shoulder. "Totally gone, then?"

"Yeah," I said.

"You should have brought it with you," he said, "it could have been re-attached, or something."

"Lots of doctors out here."

"Or something."

"It was only the forearm and hand, really," I said. "The upper arm got vaporised. It'd look totally weird re-attached. You'd have a short flappy arm."

"I'm not convinced this conversation is appropriate," Marv said.

Cal knelt down next to him and held Marv's wrist, checking his pulse. "How do you feel? Good to travel?"

"Feel like I've got the worst hangover," he said. "But that means I'm not dead, so I'm doing OK."

We filled him in on everything that had happened and the plan, such as it were. He wasn't happy. Gritting his teeth, he leaned against the rock and pushed himself to his feet, finding his balance as he did so after lying down for a few weeks.

He held up a finger and kept it aloft.

I glanced over at Cal, who looked back at me and shrugged.

Marv stood there, finger pointed, signalling us to wait. He took a step away from the wall and stood unsupported. I started to say something but he swung his arm around so that the finger was pressed up against my lips.

The hot wind blew and I shielded my eyes against the dust. Another thirty seconds passed, then Marv let his arm drop to his side.

"Ta-da," he said. "Didn't fall over, bitches. This plan of yours. Sounds terrible. I'm coming with you."

"That's not a good idea," Cal said.

"I'm not going to some zombie planet where there's another version of me walking around," Marv said, raising his voice. "End of discussion. Take me back home, take me with you, or leave me here to die. Those are your options."

"Two of those aren't really options," I pointed out.

"Well done, detective Kay," he said. "In that case, let's go poke around in their world and see what we can break."

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