Fiddlestix thinks it’s odd that all Varin wants her to do is deliver a simple message, but she’s not going to argue with the man and tell him how to spend his money. He’s got enough of it to do what he wants. Puzzled by the simplicity of the job, she can’t help being somewhat wary, even a bit paranoid.
They road to Varin’s estate on the outskirts of town, in paranoid silence. Blacksmith led Fiddlestix into a large garage where three tweaked Harleys waited in silent glory.
“These are the fastest bikes on the road,” Blacksmith said proudly.
“Sweet!” She walked over, touching them admiringly. “Ready?”
Blacksmith was already sitting on his bike, looking like a big kid. Buzzard sat on his, making it look like a child’s toy.
“I was born ready.” Fiddlestix chuckled, switching her goggles to night-sight.
The three of them took the remains of US-1, south through the devastation that had once been Daytona Beach, Florida. Tidal waves caused by volcanic action in the Atlantic, had torn the coast apart nearly 30 years ago.
In a way, she was looking forward to a visit with Karl Fumler IV. When her own parents died, Karl raised her like his own. His son, Karl V, was three years older than she. From the time she was ten, they doted on one another.
As teenagers, their interest changed, ending in disaster. Caught in a compromising position. She was given the chance to leave quietly and join the military, or live in disgrace. In comparison to being shunned, the Army hadn’t sounded too bad.
“Approaching the first Noir checkpoint,” Blacksmith told her on the headset inside the helmet. “We off road it for a few miles.”
“Won’t they catch us on their senors?”
He chuckled softly. “Really, chica, did you think Mr. Varin would send us in defenseless? Press that white button by the throttle.”
Fiddlestix saw an array of different colored buttons on her handlebars. She pressed the white one. A shimmering cloud enfolded her and the bike, undulating slightly in the wind of their passing. The two men also initiated their shields, grinning at her surprise.
“The boss knows how to spend his money,” Blacksmith added gleefully.
The bikes were almost noiseless, and their shields made them virtually undetectable on surveillance equipment. They were on side roads now, following them in short spurts. Occasionally, they would go off road to detour around the guard stations.
The line for Harlich territory was less than three miles away when Blacksmith slowed to a stop, cutting his engine. Getting off his bike, he handed them extra ammunition. He also gave them an orange sash.
“Don’t put that on until we hit Harlich territory. The configuration shows we are visitors, asking for safe passage. They’re supposed to honor it.”
“They will, as long as we don’t do anything stupid,” Fiddlestix assured him. “Karl insists upon treating everyone as a guest. But if we give him a reason, he’ll kill us himself without a qualm.”
“Nice fellow,” Blacksmith muttered.
“That nice fellow was like a father to me once,” was her terse rejoinder. She mounted her bike, kicked the starter and waited for them to do the same.
They turned east, skirting the shoreline. The night-sight helped a lot. With luck, they would make it to the Harlichs without Bobby knowing they were there.
Luck was not with them. A guard station caught them by surprise. They were not as startled as the guards were. The disorganized men were dispatched in short order. However, the noise alerted the other stations. The hunt was on and they were the quarry.
“Press the yellow button,” Blacksmith said.
Turbo kicked in, giving them a burst of power. Despite the boost, the guards were closing.
“Ride together and hit the orange button!” Buzzard cried.
A clicking whir and Fiddlestix saw something fly from the rear of her bike. Nothing happened until the first of their antagonists entered the zone, then all hell broke loose! A mixture of mini-bombs and shrapnel riddled the group.
They road at a furious pace, making their way through the woods on prayer and adrenaline. A few more miles flew past and the going got somewhat smoother.
“We’re in Harlich territory.” Blacksmith announced, slowing his bike. “Noir won’t follow us in here.”
“There should be a guard station about half a mile to the west,” Fiddlestix told them. “I think it would be better to announce ourselves formally, don’t you?”