“You don’t have to hold on so tightly!” Antigua shouted back at Sweden,

He was hunched down behind her in Argentum’s saddle and was clinging on to her as if his life depended on it.

“How does he go so fast?” he asked breathlessly.

Sweden had ridden the fastest horses in his father’s mark and none of them came close to the pace that Argentum was setting. The ground sped below him in a rusty-brown blur and he found he was buffeted about by the wind if he didn’t stay hunched down behind Antigua.

“It’s a long, complicated story Sweden. Now is not the best time to get into it.”

Sweden’s eyes narrowed at her dismissive response. He was getting more than a little annoyed at the treatment this strange woman was inflicting upon him and he felt a powerful urge to re-assert his masculinity. He resolved to bide is time, there would be a reckoning. He would personally teach this woman the meaning of obedience and supplication. After all, she seemed so eager to expose herself to it, charging headlong into a culture she knew nothing of. She had instructed him to take her to his people to which he had hastily agreed, being in no position to argue what with the full weight of Argentum’s towering mass concentrated on his chest. He would take her to his fathers camp and at the first opportunity begin her subjugation. He could warm up on Norway and then unleash his pent-up frustrations on this interloper, have her begging and screaming for mercy. He smirked at the thought.

Antigua was well aware of the malicious intent percolating away behind her. The situation had been a little hairy back in the dome and she was still kicking herself for being so trusting and losing control. What had she been thinking, taking off her power armour and turning her back on him like that? Thankfully it had played out in her favour and she would not make the same mistake again. Now that she was safely ensconced in her armour there was literally nothing that Sweden could do to threaten her. She had explained this to him by casually demonstrating the strength it afforded her as she helped him up . She had lifted him up and held him over her head without appearing to make any effort. Sweden got the message.

She now had full spectrum visibility of his bio-metrics. The enviro suit he was wearing provided a broad swathe of data points that she could tap into and analyse from her HUD. Blood-pressure, body temperature, heart-rate, electrocardiogram and even high-resolution electroencephalography. She could practically read his mind. Every-time she asserted herself against him there was a sharp spike in his vitals indicating a strong, negative emotional response. He was obviously not used to being spoken to or treated this way. Misogyny was an alien concept to her so the possibility that her sex was the driving force behind his behaviour simply did not occur to her.

Argentum sped south across the sun bleached steppe, each massive stride taking them further from the searing heat of the Firewall. They covered the distance from the dome to the point where Antigua had first found Sweden’s brother in less than four hours.

No more than day and a half had passed since she had rescued Sweden from the jaws of the caver and yet the scene had changed completely. Very little remained of the carnage, save the odd assortment of bones and strips of raw hide scattered here and there. A couple of aged vultures squabbled over a bone and a few weasel like animals were still poking around but space was other wise unoccupied.

Antigua reigned Argentum in and turned in the saddle to face Sweden.

“Where to now?” she asked.

Sweden looked around, he recognised the spot. He took his bearings by keeping his back to the glow of the Firewall and pointed slightly west of due south. Antigua drove her heels into Argentum’s flank and the horse leapt forward galloping at full pace in the direction indicated. They had not traveled more than five hundred yards when Antigua pulled up sharply on the reigns, bringing them to an abrupt halt. She had noticed something odd about the tracks leading away from the area.

“It would appear that you and your brother weren’t the only ones interested in this spot.” She said.

“My brother?”

“Yes, he was very lucky I found him.”

Sweden could scarcely believe what he was hearing.

“You mean to tell me that he is still alive?” he exclaimed, practically shouting the question.

He had been convinced that his brother had met an untimely demise in the bowls of some ravenous scavenger.

“Well, to be honest I’m not sure about his current status.” she replied, “I did what I could to stabilise him and sent him through the Gateway. The medical facility on the other side has him. As far as I know he should be alive, assuming he survived the crossing.”