This is the sixth part in a serialized story. If you’ve missed any of the rest of it, you can find it here.
Avdonina started the car and jammed it into reverse, her foot all the way to the floor on the gas pedal. The car jumped backwards, even as an armed man reached for the door handle. “Stop! Stop! I’ll shoot!”
She grimaced. Shooting her would be the only thing that would stop her now. She waited for the sound of the shot, but none came.
The car crashed through the woods, lurching crazily and brushing against trees and hillocks like a crash car at a carnival. At last she reached the hard pavement and spun the car into a half-circle. Dropping the car into forward, she punched it, sending the tires into screeches of complaint.
Now, she shifted Quenden to the passengers seat as the car flew down the highway. Alternately, she glanced in the mirror for pursuit. There would be road-blocks ahead, keeping her from reaching the city, but she’d mapped a labyrinth through the countryside, hopping to bypass those and lose her followers at the same time.
Avdonina glanced at her dashboard clock. She’d lost a little time, but she could make it on time. Right now, Miggs would be on the way to their designated meeting place. She only hoped her assumed identity hadn’t been found out yet. It should hold up long enough for the ship to get into space. Then, it wouldn’t matter any more. They couldn’t send her home. She’d sold her own identity to a woman with no children. It would take the authorities time to figure out that the Quenden stolen from the compound was the Brenden who boarded the Palindrome with his mother, Darcienne Miggs.
Avdonina spun the car in a hard right onto her chosen side road, following it with another immediate right onto a tiny gravel road that cut through a copse of trees. It took her back the way she’d come, but that was her plan. In her mirror, she watched her pursuers manipulate the turn much slower than she had. She grinned and took another hard right.
Her car cut back across the paved road behind the last of the pursuing cars and into the trees on the other side. The road here was worse, jostling and bouncing through potholes and washboards.
The movement jerked Quenden into wakefulness. Panic puckered his face until he saw Avdonina. He dove across the seat, into her lap, knocking his head against the steering wheel. Immediate wails filled the cabin of the car.
Avdonina wrapped one arm around him, rubbing the spot of his head he’d hurt. “Shhhh. I’m here. Shhhh.” Her own tears blurred her vision and she shook her head. Not now. Far behind her, the pursuing cars entered her road. She was gaining ground.
She whipped the car to the right again and then a quick left and right, making her own parallel road on the bare rock top of a cliff. As she reached the trees again, she began to angle the car away from the original road. No dust raised behind her wheels because of the rock, and the trees here were thick, not allowing much visibility. She watched for the markers she’d left on the trees, always staying on the left of them.
She glanced at the clock again. Damn! She was losing time, instead of gaining. Miggs was probably waiting now, furious at her absence.
At least her ankle didn’t hurt anymore, the swelling holding her in her shoe like a cast.
Reaching a small paved crossroad, she whirled the car behind a huge rock overhang, pulling it neatly beside a small brown two-door automobile. Bundling Quenden out of the car, she glanced overhead. No choppers to be seen. That was one piece of good news.
Opening the trunk of the brown car, she pulled out a pair of men’s pants. Pulling off her torn ones, she stepped into the new ones. She pulled Quenden’s pajamas off and dropped his costume over his head, adjusting the full beard, hair and hat she’d sewn onto the hood of his shirt. Then she grabbed the gray wig and moustache for herself.
Quenden squealed and clapped his chubby hands at her change, unaware of his own.
“Boo!” She swung him into the air. Avdonina buried her face against his chest. She’d been so lost without him. Again, tears threatened and she blinked hard, swallowing at the lump in her throat.
Avdonina settled Quenden onto a box on the passenger’s side of the car. His head would be almost at the same height as hers, and the bib overalls on the costume covered the homemade safety harness nicely. Anyone searching would be looking for an adult and a child, not two old men. They probably wouldn’t even glance a second time at her car. People saw what they wanted to see.
She eased onto the road, again turning toward the main road. The riskiest part of her plan was next.
It took no time for her to reach the main road again. She turned back toward the compound, driving past it at old-man speed to a turn on her left. She’d circle back behind the compound and come into the city from the east. In the sky, choppers see-sawed back and forth, searching for her in the direction she’d originally gone.
Her dashboard clock showed that she was way behind. Miggs had to be on his way to the spaceport by now.
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If you don’t want to wait to read the whole story, it’s available in “Sunlit Night, Coffee and Sweet Dreams“.
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