I miss my car.
This might sound weird, given I live (mostly) in the 22nd century, at least for purposes of these books, but I really miss my car.
I can’t exactly say why I miss her; Adam keeps telling me, “SPOILERS!” and won’t let me actually give them out, but damn.
Anyways, now you get to learn, in this and the next few chapters, exactly why I loved that car and miss it, even to this day!
This book is available to BORROW on Kindle Unlimited (but only for a limited time!). You don’t want to borrow it? It’s 99 cents on Kindle, and if you’re looking at this before June 30 you can get it free on Smashwords. And finally this is available as an audiobook. To make ANY purchase click on an image and you’ll be brought to Amazon (unless you click the Smashwords button).
Chapter 23: Do You Have It in Orange?
The lights came up slowly.
‘Same sensors?’ asked Cass.
‘You got it. If they hadn’t registered me, they’d’ve snapped on and blinded whoever was stumbling around.’
‘So what’s the surprise – oh, my.’
‘Yeah. That sums it up. Isn’t she a beauty?’
Gleaming in the rising lights was a work of art. Low, sleek curves rose from the ground, hinting at greatness. They were approaching from the back and could see the long window sloping gently to the rear. Wide low-aspect tires dominated the corners.
‘What is that?’ breathed Cass.
Her pride obvious, Kendra said, ‘That is a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. That particular one is number eighteen in a total production run of thirty.’
‘She is,’ agreed Kendra. As the lights continued to rise, more details were revealed. The glossy sides were bright red, while the center of the body was a black so deep it felt to Cass that light simply fell into it.
‘She’s everything I thought I wanted – the best ever built. Unique. Extraordinary. The freedom I feel, driving her – oh, Cass, it’s like nothing else. She was my second love.’
‘Should I be jealous? Does she have a name, this other woman of yours?’
‘Not unless you’re jealous of yourself,’ confessed Kendra. ‘I call her Aiyana.’ She glanced away, briefly embarrassed, before turning again to look at Cass. ‘I’ve always loved you. And I had to keep you in my life, somehow, even when we were apart for all those years. When I found her, and had her brought back to her glory, it just seemed natural to name her after you.’ She looked back at Cass, eyes tearing. ‘It’s silly, I know. I can change her name if you want -’
‘Not a chance!’ said Cass fiercely. ‘Now, stop leaking tears. You know I can’t resist you when you do that.’ A quick hug and she released Kendra. ‘What next, O secret agent woman?’
Pulling herself together, Kendra said, ‘Well, now we get out of here.’ She stepped over to a wall rack, grabbed a keyring.
‘Keys? This needs keys? No electronic entry?’
‘Not personalized, like now, no. Without this transmitter, it won’t let you in, won’t let the car start, nothing.’
‘How old is she?’
‘She’s a century old this year.’
Cass whistled. ‘I hope I look this good at a century.’ She opened her door, climbed in, and sank into the richly padded seat. ‘Whoa.’
‘That sums her up. Ready?’
‘Good. You can’t be, anyway. Here we go.’ Kendra thumbed the car to life. A deep, throaty growling surrounded them. Brilliant headlights threw stark shadows against the rough brick walls of the tunnel. She put the car in gear and gently applied the gas, staying centered.
‘Shouldn’t there be railroad tracks?’
‘They were removed for the steel years ago. The ties were taken out, too.’ They had continued to accelerate over the gravel rail bed and were now approaching forty klicks per hour. The engine’s pitch had risen steadily, and now Kendra flicked her hand and tapped the gear shift. Instantly, the low growl resumed, without any slacking in speed.
‘What happens when we run out of tunnel?’
‘Why doesn’t that reassure me?’ moaned Cass, closing her eyes.
‘Don’t be such a worrywart. Just do me a favor?’
‘Hold on.’ And with a savage grin, she mashed her foot to the floor. The engine’s growl became a roar and the massive car leapt forward. The acceleration drove them back into their seats.
‘Holy crap!’ managed Cass, clutching the door handle. ‘Aren’t you going a little too fast?’ she asked, seeing the needle whip past a hundred KPH.
‘Nope. You ain’t seen anything yet!’ laughed Kendra, shifting again.
Ahead a vertical shaft of light appeared, swiftly expanding to reveal the outdoors. In seconds they shot through the gap into the sunlight pouring down behind them. They sped along the railbed for a kilometer, gradually turning north, before bursting through a line of trees onto a road.
‘Where are we?’ gasped Cass.
‘North Adams. Still in the People’s Republic. A few klicks, we’ll pick up Route Two and head west into the Empire. From there, we burn daylight until we reach Iron City. We‘ll stop there for the night before heading to New Orleans.’
‘Should we be going this fast?’ Trees and houses passed in a blur of browns, greens, and a few brighter colors.
‘Maybe not.’ Kendra let up on the accelerator. ‘She’s got some power, though. Just wait until we get on the open road.’
‘Do I want to know?’
‘Twelve hundred horsepower.’
‘It’s a gasoline engine, not an electric. The electric equivalent would be eight hundred and eighty kilowatts.’
‘Holy mother of -’
‘Top speed, back in the day, was officially four hundred thirty one KPH, though I’ve heard stories that it could crack four forty.’
‘I don’t believe it.’
They slewed around the corner, now heading west again. ‘No? We’ll see what you think. Later, though. You’re right; this isn’t the place to show off her legs.’
‘She’s a little flashy, isn’t she?’
‘She sure is!’ agreed Kendra. ‘Perfect car for today. We’ll hide in plain sight. Nobody’ll notice us; they’ll be too busy staring at her.’
Cass relaxed. ‘Where are we going, again?’
‘Pittsburgh. Just for the night.’
‘How romantic. A night in Pittsburgh.’ She sighed. ‘Well, since you’re driving – and you know you have to do the driving, right? I don’t know how to handle a beast like this! – I may as well get back to work digging for news.’
‘She’s not tough to handle. It’s just that she’s more powerful than she looks,’ said Kendra, glancing sideways at Cass, who grinned back. ‘I know I’m driving. She takes practice. I’ve got a few surprises for you, though. Open up the glove box.’
Cass did so. ‘Shiny! Don’t tell me this was part of the original equipment?’
‘No, that’s an extra I installed when I had her rebuilt.’ The glove box contained a complete, compact, powerful computer called the Roadrunner, with an expanding, flexible GlasSkin monitor and virtual optical pickup keyboard. ‘Top of the line. Responds to voice commands, if you want, or -’
Cass already had it fired up and was hard at it, fingers moving through the empty air. ‘Love these VOP devices,’ she said. ‘Just wish there were some tactile response.’
‘I guess you’re all set, then?’ laughed Kendra. ‘Let me know if you want to stop for anything.’
‘Lunch would be nice,’ murmured Cass, already getting lost in her task. ‘Getting out of this country would be nicer.’
‘Right. Exit the Republic, then lunch. Your wish is my command, O mistress mine!’