By dawn the group had cleaned up camp and set back on the trail. Neon was in the lead, exposing his face to the scorching desert. K1 strode behind him, also baring his steel-plated face. In the middle scurried Brother Franz, scuttling along as his plastic sandals kicked up dust. Last was Charles, who walked patiently side by side with Sulfur. For many hours the group was once again silent. Occasionally they would stop to drink from large gourd-like canteens hidden in each of their robes, save for Charles, who no longer needed water, and K1, who never had.
It was past the middle of the day- time was not absolute in this place- that they saw the smokestacks. They easily overpowered anything on the otherwise flat horizon, billowing great thick clouds into the sky. Around these stacks were small clouds, scraping together water droplets like begars on a street corner. They formed a ring around the stacks, just above the pillars of smog. Ignoring these stacks, the band continued on. Sulfur slowed her pace to watch, until she came to a complete stop. Charles gently nudged her, as he gazed at the stacks.
The undead monk reached inside the neck of his robe, and pulled out his old monocle to see better. The monocle was of little help, cracked as it was, and smeared with grime from years of use. But even through all of this, Charles could still see the stacks, bunched together like a bundle of sticks.
He then felt a sharp rumble, the whole band did. Neon turned around, removing his dark shades to see clearly, what the others all saw. From the boxy shape of the stacks in the distance, a thick line suddenly jutted out from the side, then plunged into the ground. Another followed suit, and another, until the smokestacks rose, and the clouds with them, supported by eight thick steel legs. One of the legs, the first one, rose again from the ground, then moved forward, causing more vibrations in the brittle earth. One more lifted, rose, and fell like the other, and the smokestacks began to gain momentum. The stacks were moving, and they were headed towards them.
"Bugger." Charles removed his monocle and slid it back inside his robe. His head darted around, looking for a safe place to hide, in the empty desert. He loked frantically at K1, calm as ever. Despite the fact that he was standing completely still, the insides of robes were whirring and clicking excitedly, looking for something, anything they could use.
"There!" K1 cried out, grabbed Neon and began sprinting for a nearby boulder. Brother Franz hurried after them, not in the most ideal of physical fitness. Charles overtook him easily, even when weighed down by Sulfur on his shoulders. The group all made it to the boulder, and waited.
"Charles, what is that thing?" Neon whispered.
"It's a factory, boy." K1 answered, trying to scan the smokestacks. "A fairly old model, but it could still crush us into dust." Now that it was closer, Neon and Sulfur could begin to see the walking factory more clearly. They could see the smokestacks merely outlined the factory, which held no visible entrance. Within the factory was a maze of twisting pipes, levers, and mechanisms that hissed and twirled as it moved forward. Each leg was covered in dust, caked in mud, even scorched by burn marks from massive fires. This one must have come a long way to get where it was going. The question was where?
"Any sign of affiliation?" Charles whispered to K1. "No, not yet. Give me a minute..." K1 wirred and clciked for another minute. "Damn. It must be a new company. Bet you anything they took this factory from the scrap heap- explains the condition. Look, there's a logo up there, freshly painted." The whole group turned up as the factory drew closer. Spray painted on the front of the factory was a large cofee pot, closed in by a large green circle filled with stars. The paint was still wet, and Neon could see a small hatch the painter might have used.
One of the plates for the legs fell off, the wires beneath apparently too strained from use. The plate fell gently for its size, almost gracefully, and landed right next to the group with a large boom. The group was now caked in the dust the plate had thrown up, and bits of wire and cable still stuck to it. The plate was roughly the size of the boulder that it landed next to, and had covered a kneecap for one of the legs.
"Quiet." K1 ordered. The factory now hung over them, completely blotting out the sun. A leg swooped past the fallen plate, the force behind it nearly dragging Sulfur along with it. The group held their breath (Well, which members had breaths to hold) anxiously. Bits of dirt crumbled off the underside of the factory, and collided with the desert ground around it, the monks digging into their hoods to protect themeselves from the miniature storm. It was at that very moment that Sulfur decided to sneeze.
The factory halted.
The group, helpless and trapped, watched carefully.
One of the legs lifted up, then plummeted back down. It did this again twice, jerking its leg back up, and finally passing over the relieved travelers. The factory marched on, and the group was relaxed again.
"So it was just a technical error. Hm, figures." Charles stood up, brushing off his robes. "Well, we've still got a ways to go, before the tournament begins. Let's get a move on, yes?" He took Sulfur's hand, and the two began walking again, Sulfur wiping her sleeve gently. Neon and K1 took off, and lastly Brother Franz walked cautiously onward.