Allegro 23: A Mapped Route

Once society accepted that technology wasn't just a passing fad, a new war started as different guilds attempted to control the newborn industry.

Wrench and Blood

Compared to the wagon, Linsan was almost frightened by how fast Brook's vehicle moved at full speed. Between the large tires and the soft seats, it felt like they were floating more than riding. After days on the wagon and feeling every bump and rut, it was a godsend.

Slowly, she relaxed her grip on the handle. Her fingers ached from the effort as she peeled one finger off and then the others. She groaned and rubbed her palm with her fingers as she looked around.

Brook's gaze was fixed forward. She had one hand on the steering wheel and the other on a stick rising up from between the two seats. On each side of the stick were two buttons that she would occasionally push down as she rocked it back and forth.

Linsan had no clue what Brook was doing.

Ahead of them, she saw a village approaching. In her mind's eyes, she thought about Maril's directions. They had covered three hours of the wagon's travel in only a half hour.

Brook slowed slightly near the buildings but then passed through the town.

Linsan watched the buildings rush past. She spotted people outside, folks who may have seen the murderers passing by. However, Brook didn't seem to be inclined to stop. “Do you know where you're going?”

Someone swore at them and the sound rose and fell before fading.

Brook's grip tightened. “Stone Over Moon Waters,” she said in a strained tone. It was just on the edge of annoyance, anger, and obsession. “It's the closest place to sell that piece of crap violin of yours.”

Then she grew silent again.

Linsan sighed. She looked around the cabin. It was small but comfortable, the best that a rich person could afford in a vehicle. Or at least she assumed, she never even had a fraction of Brook's money. She was sure it was more comfortable than even her bedroom at home.

They left the village as quickly as they arrived.

Linsan squirmed. The silence and Brook's tension was grating on her nerves. “How did you find them?”

Brook's shoulder hunched for a moment. With a groan, she squeezed the steering wheel before she slowly slumped back. “They stole Daddy's 1842 Deanglen Black Thunder. There were only twenty of them made and none of them near home. Daddy….” Her voice cracked as her eyes shimmered. “Daddy always said that Deanglen was high when he made the car. It was always busting a joint and leaking something on the garage floor. It couldn't get more than a few hundred miles without something breaking off, so I drove around in circles until I found a garage that had serviced it.”

She let out a choked sob. She released the wheel to wipe her face, but stopped. She glanced toward Linsan and then pressed her hand firmly against her thigh.

Linsan stared in discomfort.

Brook picked up a cup from a hook near the dash and drank from it. When she finished, she put it back and returned her palm to the steering wheel. “So… Daddy thought this war between the Mechanics Guild, Artificer Academy, and the Pistons is horse shit, so he never registered any of our cars with the guilds. That means, the… the….” She caught herself. “They can only go to an unaffiliated shop because they don't have time to get it registered.”

“Is that why you skipped the village?”

Brook nodded. She glanced down and then back up to the road. Her hand patted the small table between the seats for a moment and then pulled out a map. It was drawn on heavy paper with hundreds of colored symbols everywhere.

Linsan took it and peered at it. She frowned as she stared at the unfamiliar shapes. She had tried to read a map a few times in her life but very little made sense to her. There was a line that ran from their home town of Penesol to New Brunil. Along the way, there were a dozen gear and wrench symbols of different colors; Brook had circled the black wrenches along the path.

Brook spoke after a few moments, “The next place is a town called Jamorel. They have a mechanic on the north side. I also sent a request for a room at one of the local inns through Daddy's network.”

She took a deep breath. When she spoke again, her voice was steadier. “I'll get you a room. No reason for you to sleep in the car when I have a bed.”

Linsan bristled. “I can pay my own way.” True, she had only done it once and she wasn't sure it would happen again. The casual way Brook mentioned it felt like Linsan had been clawed.

Brook gave her a hard look. She rolled her eyes before returning her attention to the road. “Don't worry, it won't be a fancy one.”

Linsan glared at her. “I can pay,” she muttered again.

Brook responded by accelerating her vehicle and pushing Linsan back into her seat. When Linsan looked over, she was had a condescending smirk.

With her mood quickly souring, Linsan turned away to look out the window. Maybe she should have stayed with Maril. At least, endless talks about the Divine Couple were better than being humiliated by… whatever Brook was to her.