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slow

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Clair studied the map open in her lenses. I studied it with her. There were no direct routes apart from the most obvious and therefore most dangerous ones. The open countryside was an inconvenient mess of reservoirs, irrigation trenches, abandoned railway lines and minor roads that never went in a straight line.

Meanwhile, the red dot representing "Dylan Linwood" was rapidly following them along Sierra Road out of Oakdale. Clair quickly mapped out a route that took them north-east along Route 108 to Jamestown, and from there north on Route 49 to Angels Camp. The Maury Rasmussen airfield was only ten klicks beyond that point. All up, they had around one hundred kilometres to cover.

"Get off the road," she told Jesse. "Go across the train track. Follow it until it crosses Sierra Road. If the way's clear, we'll keep following it on the other side."

"And then where?"

"Get me there and then I'll tell you."

He grunted. "Bet you're thinking this'd be easier with d-mat."

"The thought had crossed my mind."

The train track took them diagonally away from the road for half a kilometre before heading due east. From there they were back to cross-country.

"Too slow," Jesse grumbled, revving the bike out of another old drainage ditch and dodging a tight huddle of geriatric fruit trees. "Damn it, Clair. Where's the nearest road?"

"You want to chance it? You're risking my neck too, you know."

"How can I forget? I can hardly breathe with you strangling me."

Clair pointed at the remains of a track, and they left a cloud of dust behind them that in daylight would have been seen for miles.

Wamble Road was clear and straight, and Jesse didn't slow down when they hit Route 108. He roared across the intersection and kept going until they hit Orange Blossom, a minor old road they intended to follow for eight klicks. It was in passable condition. The only potential obstacle was a bridge they had to cross that might have fallen down. Fortunately, it was intact along one entire carriage and they barely had to slow.

As they were negotiating the bridge, Jesse glanced behind him. When they reached the far side, he pushed the bike to the limits of what the road would allow.

"Something you want to share?" Clair asked him as the grasping trees swept by.

"Could have been a bike behind us."

"Good guys or bad?"

"Tell me how to tell them apart, and then I'll tell you."

"So we just wait until they start firing?"

"Unless you want to stop and ask."

"Great," she said. "I'm the one sitting on the back . . . ."


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