The sand crunches beneath our feet and the air feels a bit like the blast furnaces they use to smelt the ore.
Wil breaks the silence between the two of us. "Do you mind tellin' me what you have in mind?" He looks down at the chronotile on his wrist and says, "My time slot for the race is in four hours. You've been tellin' me for days you have a plan."
I keep walking as I say, "Four hours, we got plenty of time. Anyways, we're nearly there."
Wil stops and looks me in eyes. "Nearly where? What in the hell is the plan?"
I take him by the shoulders and him point toward the lush terraformed landscape that lay ahead.
His eyes go wide. "Piper you have gone and lost your damn mind?"
I can't help but smile at his concerned look. "Can you just trust me?"
"I trust you more than anyone I know, but you're gonna get yourself killed. I know she's your momma, but truly Piper this is crazy." He turns away from Corliss' land and starts back the way we came. He throws up his hands. "Damn, you made me think I actually had a chance."
I grab his arm and he spins to face me. "Listen. I wouldn't take any unnecessary risks." He screws up his face and I continue ignoring him. "Today is elixir making day. Due to the volatility of the process she doesn't dare do it on her precious terraformed land. AND her security goons are all there with her so no one tries to steal it. She doesn't store anything of worth here which is why she mainly relies on her reputation to keep people away. Disarming all her security measures is a cinch," I say patting the bag I have hanging to my side. "Who do you think set it up for her?"
"Which is why she'll know exactly who took the air runner."
"She won't even know it's gone. They won't be back until tomorrow morning. It takes her all day and through the night to whip up a batch of elixir. Seriously, Wil, the longer we stand around here fighting about it, the less time we have to get to your test."
He sets his jaw and paces. The hot air whirls around us blasting sand in my face. I set the goggles on my head on my eyes in response. I silently hold up my hands in questioning. Wil sighs and grunts, "Fine, I trust you. I guess."
"That's the spirit!"
After a few more minutes of walking we're finally at the border of her property. There is a stark contrast between the red dust and rock on one side and the verdant rolling hills of Corliss' lawn on the other. A spherical metallic drone hovers silently. I hold my hand up for Wil to stop at the boundary, then I fumble around in my bag until my hand happens on a slender card. I wave it at the drone and it trills and beeps then turns green.
"Benefits of being kin. I can come in without the drone killin' me."
"What a loving mother you have. Now, she'll definitely know something's up."
"I'll just say I came to discuss some business with her and forgot what day it was. She'll be suspicious, to be sure, but if she can't find nothin' amiss then she won't do anything."
We continue our journey through Corliss' lawn. The constant sandblasting from the wind and dirt has been replaced by gentle tickles of grass at my leg. As I take in the rolling hills and beautiful house and barn, I think of how easily this could be mine. I could work for mamma and when she died this would all be mine. No one would blame me. Not like there are any other options for me. It may come to pass, but not without a fight.
Face to face with the red barn trimmed in white, I turn to the security panel and lift my goggles. I give it a scan with my enhanced eye and with it I can see the fingerprints left on the number panel. "Amateur hour," I say as I key in the code.
The panel beeps and clicks. Wil starts in and I hold up my hand then dig in my pack and produce a small black tablet that fits in the palm of my hand. I make a few swipes. "Okay, coast is clear now. I disabled her cameras in here."
Inside, the barn lights up as we enter. It's a large clean space that is neatly maintained. The air runners are right in front of us and we both rush to the beautiful pieces of machinery. Wil emits a low whistle as he circles the sleek red air runner. The curves of its body are almost wasp-like. A whole year of my earnings wouldn't come close to even touching the price of this.
"Let's see what you got," I say to Wil.
He jumps on the air runner with the biggest smile I've seen him don since I've ever known him. He cocks his head toward the back of the air runner and I eagerly get on and hold on to him tight.
"I may go down for stealin' this rig, but we're gonna have a hell of a lot of fun doin' it."
Without another word we're off.