Allegro 30: Rough Driving

When it became obvious that machines of war were the future, very few expected the Glasscoaster to be one of the first vehicles purposed for battle. Agile and resilient and cheap to build, it would become the new calvary in the coming age.

— Gustail Makim-Koril, Weapons of War

Early the next morning, Linsan and Brook were back in the Glasscoaster and driving along the rutted trail between Fanasis Village and Little Rock. She decided the villagers calling it a road was being generous, the path ahead of her looked more like a game trail that happened to have two ruts instead of one. It also disappear more than once and they had to stop and search through the tall grasses for it to resume.

Brook’s dress was, according to her, the most functional one she possessed. The yellow-green fabric had less ruffles than her other dresses, only a few pleats along the right side. The ruffles were a richer green and looked almost the same color as her boots. Her finger-less gloves were lemon-colored silk.

Linsan shook her head and looked away to hide her smile. Brook’s idea of functional was still more appropriate for the stage. A Kormar stage at that since the colors were closely related instead of Gepaul’s fondness for triads and jarring tones.

“I’m glad my sister insisted on getting the Glasscoaster.”

The buggy lurched in the opposite side. Linsan braced her knee against the center console. One of the covered mugs tilted dangerously close to her knee. Brook alternated holding the other one in place and grabbing the steering wheel. Her hand didn’t stop moving with the rough terrain.

“What?”

“When Daddy bought us all cars, she and I fought over this one.” She nodded down to the wheel. “I lost which is why I drove the Klaston-Garis.”

Her jaw tightened and she grabbed the wheel tightly.

Reflexively, Linsan slammed her feet against the floorboard and her arm against the door.

The vehicle lurched twice before launching itself into the air. It was only a few feet, but the sensation of floating in air was sickening right before they landed with a loud crunch. The buggy bounced twice and veered dangerously toward a muddy field.

Linsan whimpered.

“There’s going to be another.” Brook’s voice’s had the tense, controlled quality that Linsan only heard when she was driving. “You probably want to stay braced.”

Linsan tightened her muscles and gripped her violin tightly. The hard case dug into her breast and ribs but she couldn’t afford to lose it.

Know it was coming, the next lurch felt like only a small, violent bump.

Unwilling to relax her grip, Linsan blew the hair out of her face. “It is possible to drive slower, you know.”

Brook shrugged. The path widened and the ruts grew less pronounced. Under Brook’s driving, the car fishtailed for a second and then straightened. The engine roared to life and pressure drove Linsan back into her seat.

“Or go faster,” Linsan muttered.

“They killed my Daddy. I can’t let them get away.”

Linsan sighed. “Sorry, I’m just not as comfortable as you are inside in this thing. I feel like we’re going to jump off the road every curve. I’d rather be still walking when we catch the bastards.”

Brook snickered. “Don’t worry, I’ve gotten better at driving at these speeds.”

Linsan looked at Brook in shock. “Better?”

Bobbing her head, Brook looked at her sheepishly. “I borrowed the buggy a few times from my sister. She was pretty furious, but only after I flipped it the second time.”

Another whimper escaped Linsan’s throat. “Second?”

Brook grinned and nodded. “I was pissed. Daddy—brace!”

Her grip tightened on the wheel and she twisted hard.

Linsan obeyed, catching herself before she slid off the seat.

One of the tea mugs started to spill. Cringing, she smacked her hand over to top and the hot liquid splashed across her palm.

The buggy straightened and the engine’s roar lessened.

Brook sighed and shook her head. “Just a little too fast on that turn. Sorry about that.”

Linsan shook the hot tea from her hand. She wiped it on her trousers before resting it on the side of the seat in case she had to brace herself.

Brook suddenly smiled. “Cars are like music. You just have to know the beats and rhythm.”

“What beat?” Linsan cocked her ear but all she could hear was the roar of the engine and the patter of grasses striking the undercarriage. “It isn’t any song I know. Or instruments.”

“Oh, there are instruments: engine, gears, the wheels. If you drive fast enough, you have the smack of insects on the windshield. Even the road makes different sounds based on where you drive and how fast.” Brook’s voice grew quiet.

Linsan watched her as Brook’s eyes began to shimmer. Her companion’s eyes continually scanned the road ahead of her but, with every passing second, they grew more liquid.

A wave of guilt filled Linsan, she didn’t want to be privy to her friend’s inner thoughts. She started to turn away but then looked back. Brook needed comfort.

Linsan didn’t know how to give what Brook needed. Her family was close-knit but Brook’s was obviously more fractured. They may have lived in the same house, but it was clear that they were living separately.

Brook reached down for her tea.

Biting her lip and praying she wasn’t about to do something wrong, Linsan reached out and rested her hand on Brook’s hand.

Brook tensed.

“I’m sorry.”

When Brook looked over, there was a sad smile on her face and a tear running down her cheek. Underneath them, the car’s engine slowed down and grew quieter.

“We’ll get them, I promise.”

“And Palisis too.”

“Even if I never see that again, if we get the men who killed your daddy, then this will all be worth it.”

Brook sniffed and nodded. Her eyes flickered to the road.

Linsan pulled her hand back.

They drove in silence for a few minutes, with the rumble of the engine speeding up. With Brook’s words in her head, Linsan listened to the noises and started to hear a hint of the music that Brook mentioned.

They passed a mile marker.

“About two hours to Little Rock,” Brook said.

Two hours until they face the murderers.

Cover

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