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Xenolith, Page 87

A. Sparrow


  The red car sat astride two stripes of bleached and flattened moss – the traces of a little-used cart path, encroached on both sides by shrubs and bracken. A perpendicular swath of freshly gouged earth and sheared willow wound past boulders to the car’s former position by the bog. Though unsuited for overland travel, Ara thought it might fare well on the flatter, sandier roads in the valley. Its fuel tank was almost full.

  The light flashing on the ridge firmed Ara’s resolve, though she was in no hurry to share or implement her plans. Canu knew she intended to continue fighting, but she had shared no specifics. Better to take it slow. Let them have some well-deserved rest.

  She felt confident they would help her when the time came, and not because of the cadre armband crumpled at the bottom of her satchel. They were like shipwreck survivors, and she was the only one among them who possessed a rudder.

  Canu dug through the contents of a compartment under a central armrest. He opened a can of hard candies shaped like berries, took one and passed it around. “Look, a map,” he said.

  “What good is that map here, you oaf?” said Vul.

  “It would have been nice to have in Ur, don’t you think?”

  He handed a first aid kit to Pari. She laughed and held up a tiny rectangular bandage barely wide enough to span a mosquito bite. “This is ridiculous,” she said. “Why bother covering with a wound so small?”

  Canu jabbed at the pedals with his feet. “How did you make this thing go?”

  “Most cars use a metal key,” said Ara. “But this one’s a little different. Step on that pedal on the left. That’s a brake.”

  Canu did so. His head snapped around in frustration. “It didn’t work.”

  “Of course not, I just told you, it’s a brake.” Ara peeked over his knee to ensure the emergency brake was engaged, and pressed a large, round button on the dashboard. “There.”

  The view screen flickered on. The vehicle vibrated. Canu grinned and leered back at Vul and Pari.

  Vul tried to escape through the locked door. “I’m not having him run this machine … with me in it.”

  “Me neither,” said Ara. She punched the button and the screen went dark. “Out of the seat, Canu. I’ll be doing the driving.”