“Get in the jeep!” Eve yells.
“The Jeep, Cyrus!” The Geek yells through my headphones. I hear a loud plodding not far behind me, just as the jeep roars to life. My flight instinct returns and I jump into the back seat as Eve drives away, kicking up gravel behind us.
The man in black yells something as he waves his fist angrily into the air. I can’t hear it. I don’t think I want to.
I climb into the passenger seat, struggling not to fall out of the vehicle as it plows over the rough terrain below.
“What–?” I stammer, not knowing how to put my question into words.
Eve stares at the road in silence.
“Don’t ignore me,” I yell. “Who was that? What in the world is going on here?”
“It was nothing.”
“That guy wasn’t just some random stranger trying to score a bounty. He knew you, he knew me. And how in the world did he know to find us here?”
“Yeah, about that…”
“He may, just possibly, have the ability to track my location.”
“It’s pretty standard for Runners who work for the rebellion. We’re given a sub-dermal tracker so we can be found, in case we’re captured by the SPs or something.”
“And he knows about it?”
“Yeah, well, we’re kind of old friends.”
“He sure didn’t seem very friendly to me.”
“I need more than that,” I yell, feeling my outrage steaming out my ears.
“Not now, okay?”
“No, it’s not okay. You keep telling me you don’t want to talk about crap and I keep saying okay, but that guy back there just chased me down with a carving knife and I think I have the right to know something as simple as his name.”
“Grant,” she answers stiffly.
“Grant, great,” I huff. “Now we’re getting somewhere. Now, why in the world is he trying to kill you?”
“Well,” she begins, “it’s complicated.”
“The Geek can explain all the hard parts to me,” I scowl.
“After Lyman was destroyed, there was a pretty big effort to try to restore it to its former glory. We thought if we put the time in and actually got it back up to a livable condition, it could be seen as a win for the rebellion, you know?”
“I’m not sure I do.”
“Lyman would have been this glimmering symbol that the government hadn’t beaten us down, even after dropping a nuke on us. It would have been a sign that we could actually win.”
“Okay,” I nudge. “So what does this have to do with the crazed maniac we just left stranded back there?”
“I’m getting to it,” she stalls. “You see, Lyman was destroyed over sixty years ago. Can you believe it, sixty years? And the rebellion spent most of that time doing its best to bring it back to life. But it’s been sixty years and nothing’s changed.”
“The effort involved in trying to keep Lyman alive was costly and time consuming and we were seeing no real change.”
“Yeah, you just said that. So, what, you decided to stop helping them?”
“I had nothing to do with the decision, I’m not important enough to be involved in those talks. But the problem is, for a number of years, I was one of the main Runners going in and out of Lyman. I was basically the face of the rebellion for those people. Suddenly, I’m not supposed to help them anymore and…” She stops herself midsentence.
“Hey!” I hear squeaking from my headphones. I pull them over my ears.
“Hey Geek, what’s up?”
“What are you two doing? Get out of the jeep!”
“Don’t worry about it, Geek,” Eve says shortly.
“Oh, of course,” he chides, “why should I worry about the fact that you’re currently driving across the country in a Jeep emblazoned with the name of a rebel city on the side.”
“I said don’t worry about it.”
“I have to side with The Geek on this one,” I add. “It’s one thing to get caught running, getting caught driving is another thing altogether.”
“We don’t have a choice,” Eve says angrily, her eyes flashing with rage and tears. “Grant’s been working with the SPs for years now. He’s the one of the only people left from Lyman and he’s been tracking me down ever since I stopped running out there. The bounty’s not the reason he’s here, he’s here for revenge. He’s here for me.”
“But he’s gone now, right?” I ask. “Shouldn’t we be safe?”
“He’s not gone, Cyrus. Like I said, he can track me anywhere. We need to cover as much distance as we can as fast as we can.”
“Crap,” The Geek adds softly. “What the heck have you gotten us into, Eve?”
“You don’t know what I’ve gone through, Geek!” she yells. “What I’ve had to suffer for the rebellion. The decisions I’ve had to make in order to survive. You don’t—“
“Eve, relax,” I say, putting my hand on her shoulder. She tenses at my touch before finally relaxing. “Okay, so we ride. Worst case scenario, the SPs catch us. That’s probably going to happen anyways. Best case scenario, we make up some time before we have to go back into hiding.”
“Or before you run out of gas,” The Geek adds. “Speaking of which…”
Eve checks the console. “Looks like a little over half a tank.”
“That’s good, right?” I cheer.
“Well, assuming it’s got a 20 gallon tank and gets an average of 20 miles a gallon, you could get 200 miles. But that’s really only possible on a flat smooth surface. Out on the terrain there, I’d say you’d be lucky to get 10 a gallon, which means I dunno, optimistically, you could get 100 miles.”
“Alright, so, being an optimist, we’d be able to shave a day off the trip, right?” I ask, feeling proud of my quick math.
“Sure,” The Geek says reluctantly.
“Actually,” Eve chimes in. Her voice sounds as though she has regained her cool. “Check under the back seat.”
I oblige and I find several containers of gasoline. “Looks like we’ve probably got another 5 gallons back here.”
“And, I’m doing a little bit of hunting online,” The Geek continues. “I’d guess what you’re driving is called a Willys Jeep. There’s not much that immediately comes up on it, but it looks like most were retrofitted with a reserve tank, giving you probably another 3 gallons in there.”
“So, that means we’ve got just under 20 gallons,” I say proudly. “That means we should be able to get at least 200 miles, right?”
“Geek?” Eve says before I can get a response.
“How far to the interstate?”
“I don’t know, about ten miles to the north of you. Why?”
“You said we could double our distance on the roads, right?”
“Eve,” I interject, but she cuts me off.
“Look, we need to get as much distance as we can, right? As far as we know, the SPs aren’t looking for me yet, unless Grant’s told them. Which means–”
“The SPs are still looking for me, Eve. There’s no way we would get past any checkpoint, not to mention how we don’t have clearance to be driving.”
“Well, actually. . .”
“What is it this time?” The Geek groans.
“I have clearance.”
“What?” I ask in surprise.
“I have clearance,” she repeats. “Remember, I’m over AoA. The job I got from the feds was as a transporter. The rebels actually helped out on that a bit. I may have to do a little fast talking if we get stopped at any checkpoints, but I’m a licensed driver.”
“Wow,” is all I can come up with.
“That still doesn’t change that Cyrus is with you,” The Geek reminds us.
“You two really would be lost without me, wouldn’t you?” Eve smiles. “We’ll take the gas cans out from under the back seat. If we see any checkpoints coming up, that’s where you hide. It’s not rocket science.”
“Not a bad idea,” The Geek approves.
I have to agree. “So, why haven’t we been doing this all along? I mean, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and trouble traveling on wheels.”
“Well, there are some issues. First, gas stations. There’s a lot of red tape involved in getting approved to refuel, as well as a lot of interactions with the SPs.”
“Okay, I get it,” I answer.
“The second issue is borders. The furthest we’ll be able to get in this thing before we have to ditch is Nebraska. We won’t have any problems with checkpoints in-state, but there’s no chance the folks at the border will let us through without checking every inch of this thing, especially not when the entire country is out looking for you.”
“Alright, well, that’s still something,” I respond. “How far do we have until we get to the border?”
“Just under 350 miles, if you stay on I-80,” The Geek offers helpfully.
“Okay, so, assuming we make it all the way to the border, how does that set us for time?”
“Well,” The Geek types away while speaking, “it’s not going to make up the difference by any means, but it should take an additional 4 days off your trip.”
“So, that’ll put us at, what, 27 days or so?”
“Yeah, almost exactly,” The Geek answers.
“It’s getting better all the time,” I grin.
“There’s still one problem we haven’t worked out yet,” Eve says solemnly.
“Only one?” I laugh.
“We’re gonna need sleep,” Eve continues. “We have more than five hours before we make it to the border. That’ll be great for getting us some time for rest. But that means you’ll have to do some driving, otherwise we’ll be sitting at the border waiting for me to catch some Zs.”
Although things have been going well with Eve lately, my mind immediately returns to how this would be a perfect opportunity to continue on without her. So, I offer the obvious excuse. “But, I don’t know how to drive.”
“Well, and I can’t drive, can I? I mean, what if we are stopped while I am in the driver’s seat. That wouldn’t really work out too well for your little plan, now would it?”
“Nice try, Cyrus,” Eve says, seeing right through me. “It’s already getting late, meaning most of the checkpoints will be closed down for the night. After hours, you can usually go up to a hundred miles before getting stopped. If you take the first shift, we should be fine. And if you do happen to see one, just wake me up and we’ll switch.”
“Okay, but that just leaves one small problem,” I say reluctantly.
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“I still don’t know how to drive.”
I’m not embarrassed by this. Ever since the government started taking control of everyone’s daily lives, they pretty much eradicated private transportation, meaning, almost nobody drives.
“Ah, come on, really? It’s easy. I mean, this one’s a stick shift, so it can be tough getting going, but, well, we don’t actually have to stop while we switch off. All you need to do is keep your foot on the gas and steer.”
“And which one’s the gas?” I ask. Eve laughs.
Go to Chapter Sixteen