Although the air is hotter than blazes as we twist and turn through the canyon lands, I've never felt freer in my life. Wil maneuvers the air runner almost as if it's part of his body. He winds and swoops through the craggy hoodoos as deftly as the birds and bats that inhabit this wilderness. As we sway through the rocks it's easy to forget the reason we're doing this is for him to ultimately leave me. A pain stabs through my chest and the reality hits home. My best friend is going to leave me.
The air runner comes to an abrupt halt and lands in a shady spot between rock formations. Wil gets off the air runner and stares me in eyes. "I'm gonna not do it."
I take my goggles off and wipe my face. "What the hell? You were running as good as I've ever seen you."
"I know, but I'm not leaving ... you."
My heart rips and tears. I give him a playful shove and try my best to put a smile on. "You're gonna do great out there."
"Damn it, Piper. I love you. I..."
A familiar noise catches my attention. I turn away from him and focus in on the faint sound with my augmented ear. Oh. Crap.
"Wil, we have to go. Now!"
"Piper, I'm serious."
"I am too. Sounds like a few Barchetta class air runners heading this way. No one in this district could even afford to look at these much less buy one, except one person."
He narrows his eyes. "I don't hear a thing."
I tap my ear indicating the augmentation and his eyes get wide in acknowledgment. He hops on the air runner and I follow. The air runner hurls through the air. I'm usually one for thrilling rides, but this even pushes my limits.
"How far off are they?" Will asks.
I turn around. It doesn't take my augmented eye to see that our pursuers are closing the gap. "They're only a few hundred meters away."
"Hold on, darlin'."
I can hardly get my breath as Wil dips into a narrow canyon.
Intent on the maze in front of him he shouts, "This is one of my old training routes. I can out maneuver them in here."
The pursuers follow in the canyon. One of them bounces off the wall and plummets to the bottom, but there are still four more behind us. I swing to the front and grab Wil around the middle.
He yells, "I'm going to have to take it up a notch."
The canyon walls pass so quickly I can barely comprehend. Up ahead there is towering hoodoo, but Wil isn't slowing down.
"Uh, Wil, there's a big rock tower up there. Maybe you should slow it up a little?" He continues at the same rate without acknowledgment of what I said. "Wil? Buddy?"
The air escapes my lungs in a scream as we veer away from the rock structure with only centimeters to spare. Wil climbs out of the canyon as two of the air runners crash into the hoodoo and fall to the bottom.
Wil yells, "Hold on. This is gonna get real bumpy."
He dips back down into the canyon. Hot on our tail, one of the air runners gives us a bump. Wil holds the throttle down and nudges into the canyon wall loosening the earth. Rocks careen into the other drivers and they sink to the bottom. Before I can process what's happened to them, our air runner comes to an abrupt halt. My stomach sinks as we start our hasty descent to the canyon floor.
"Hold on, I think one of the rocks took out our motor. I'm going to try and glide down."
"What do you mean try?"
I'm answered with only silence as the canyon floor grows closer and closer. I squeeze my eyes shut and within seconds I'm greeted by jarring force to my body. I slowly open my eyes and see Corliss' thugs a few meters behind us under piles of rubble. In front of our air runner Wil is cursing and pacing.
"What the hell? I thought you said no one would be the wiser," He paces as grumbles, "So much for running my trial." He kicks the air runner and from the small storage compartment tumbles bags filled with rainbow colored crystals.
I kneel down and examine the bag with my spectroscope embedded in my eye. Air involuntarily leaves my lungs. "Oh. Crap. This is Spike."
Wil stops pacing. "Are you sayin' your momma is running illegal shit now too?"
"Wouldn't surprise me even a little."
"Great! Which means that even more of your momma's hired hands will be right behind these guys. Our air runner is busted, no way we can get outta here. We're screwed."
I kneel down to assess the damage. Not too serious really. Then I look down at my chronotile. "Here's the plan. I think I can make a go of our air runner with parts that I salvage from the goon squad's. If we're really lucky they may even have a weapon or two we can pilfer. If I start now we can just make it to your trial." He starts to interrupt but I hold up my hand in protest. "Listen, if we get to time trials the place will be crawling with agents. If someone tries to take us down, there will definitely be an intervention. We need to work quick before anyone realizes those jokers are missing."