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Clair gave Jesse directions as she drove. Apart from that, they didn't talk. The tarmac was rough and increasingly hilly, and for long stretches eroded back to bare earth. They were right on the edge of Central Valley now. If they went much further east, they'd be in the Sierra Nevadas and the going would become really rough.

Clair: "Look for a bridge. There are two of them in a row. We're leaving the road after the second one."

Jesse: "Right."

(sound of screeching tires)

Jesse: "Ah. I guess we had to run out of luck eventually."

Clair: "Do you think we can make it across?"

Jesse: "On foot, for sure, but this thing will bog."

Clair: "Let's not stick around too long, then. If someone blew the bridge deliberately, this is exactly where they'd look for us."

They left the quadricycle sitting in the middle of the road and splashed across the creek. The other side was lightly wooded, and they continued under the cover of the trees.

Clair: "No, this way."

There were no roads or tracks now. They jogged across the countryside until they hit a ridge, and then they walked. From the top of the ridge they should have been able to see the airfield, but all ahead was dark to human eyes. All they could have made out was the long gray oblong of the landing strips and a clutch of old buildings.

If Clair remembered that the airship had camouflage, she didn't say anything about it.

They ran down the other side of the ridge and approached a steeper, stonier rise with more caution. When they surmounted the final slope, they jogged the last dozen metres to the landing strip. There were actually two strips, each slightly over a kilometre in length, connected by taxiing lanes, two in the middle and one at both ends. There was a string of buildings running parallel to the landing strip, little more than sheds. Most of them were abandoned and weather-worn. Two were intact. To the right of those were spaces that might have been for light planes or automobiles, or both. Parked haphazardly across those wide, empty spaces were four electrobikes.

From that vantage point Clair and Jesse saw what I already knew.

No WHOLE. No airship.

Jesse: "They left without us."

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