The road stretched out before them, cutting through a seemingly
endless progression of uninspiring dark lumps of scenery capped
by a marginally more inspiring moonlit sky.
The hapless RV clattered on, its battered body beset by creaks
and rattles that were threatening to drive its three harried
occupants to distraction. It had been over an hour since they
had stopped to drop off the body of their mysterious assailant.
Winterhawk sat back and ran his hand through his hair for at
least the twentieth time. His fatigue, which had formerly manifested
itself only in occasional bouts of sleepiness that were easily
remedied by hot coffee, lowered windows, and loud music, was
now beginning to insinuate itself into his bones. The RV's seat
was uncomfortable, and his eyes were tired of scanning the road
ahead for obstacles, threats, and the direction of the unending
white line. He had long since taken off his jacket and tie and
tossed them over the back of the seat, hoping that the cold air
would keep him awake. So far it was working, but he wasn't sure
how much longer that would be true.
Ocelot lounged in his shotgun seat, refusing to surrender to his
own sleepiness. Truth be told, he was keeping an eye on Winterhawk,
ready to leap over at superhuman speed and grab the steering wheel
should `Hawk drop off unexpectedly. He had almost suggested that
this might be a good time for a driving lesson, but then he
remembered their previous running battle. The mage might not be
skilled as a combat driver, but at least if they got into a scrape
like that again, he wouldn't have to waste valuable thought cycles
on remembering which pedal was the gas and which one was the brake.
This was also the reason why they had chosen, reluctantly, not to
rely on the autopilot. They hadn't even tested it yet to see if it
had been damaged by a stray bullet.
Hildebrandt remained in his spot on the bench seat, leaning on his
elbows and staring out into the night sky. If he had any thoughts
about the situation, he wasn't sharing them. During the hour or so
that they had been driving, he had counted twelve vehicles, most of
them heading in the opposite direction, all but two of them large
tractor-trailer rigs. This area was obviously not a favorite for the
late-night cruising crowd.
"We'll be needing to stop soon," Winterhawk said reluctantly.
"Gettin' too tired to drive?" Ocelot straightened in his seat,
stretching like a cat.
He nodded. "P'raps something to eat and the chance to walk around a
bit might take care of it," he said. "Unless you've got some pharmaceutical
stimulants you're not sharing."
"Sorry," Ocelot said. "Fresh out. Where the hell are we, anyway?"
Winterhawk consulted the nav computer's map as Hildebrandt leaned forward
to look. "Getting close to a junction with what looks to be not much of
"We haven't passed too many gas stations in awhile," Ocelot said. "Maybe
there's one there. With any luck, maybe there's even a restaurant or
"Anything's got to be an improvement over the ghastly stuff in the
refrigerator," Winterhawk said, resuming his driving with a bit of
Five minutes later, the lights of some sort of habitation became apparent
in the distance. "Must be something," Ocelot said. "Unless people around
here do their houses in yellow and red neon."
"P'raps the cows find it stimulating," Winterhawk said sourly.
"What if they're waiting for us there?" Hildebrandt spoke up.
Ocelot turned to stare at him, then blew a blast of air through clenched
teeth in a frustrated sigh. "Doc's got a point," he said to Winterhawk.
"This is the first real stopping point we've seen in miles. Might make
sense to think we'd stop."
Winterhawk nodded. "All right, then. Let's see if this autopilot works,
and I'll check it out. Don't really know what I'm looking for, though.
Keep your fingers crossed--"
He hit the autopilot button. The RV shuddered, then dropped into a slightly
slower but steady rhythm. Experimentally, the mage took his hands off the
steering wheel; the vehicle continued to track the road. "Doctor," he said,
standing, "Please take the wheel for a moment. Won't do to have me spaced
out if anything bothers us." He traded places with Hildebrandt, dropping
down on the bench seat.
In only a couple of minutes, he was back. "Nothing threatening," he said.
"There aren't many people there at this time of night, and certainly no
group like the ones who ambushed us. Still, though, best if we keep our
wits about us."
"I wish we had armor for the Doc here," Ocelot said, though he knew there
was nothing that could be done about it. Hildebrandt was true to his
metatype: tall, broad, and barrel-chested. There was no way he could
fit into even well-muscled Ocelot's longcoat, let alone slim Winterhawk's.
And even if he could wear one of their helmets, there weren't too many
things more conspicuous than an ork in a Hawaiian shirt walking into a
restaurant in a helmet at one in the morning. "Just keep your eyes open,"
he continued, "And let's try to make this fast."