Chapter 39: Closeness
The drive from Fresno gave Deena time to think. Motorcycle travel, hanging on to him on the back of the Honda for hour after hour, was stressful. She couldn’t sleep, as she had on the way down in the Chevy. She missed its cushions and relative quiet.
They couldn’t even talk while traveling, other than a few yells from time to time.
By sunset, he was weaving too much on the road. She could tell he was too tired to go on.
“Ever ride a motorcycle before?” he yelled.
“First thing after we save the world! Gonna teach you how to drive!”
That would be nice. Mom would never teach me. It would be so strange to go back home. If I can keep the asteroid from hitting us.
The last thing they did, before leaving the computers in Fresno was to look up the LA Times on the web. They found the article.
“$2 Million in Gold Coins found in Collapsed Home”
Leo Drye and Jesse Thompson were listed as killed, along with three others. There were survivors too, but Luther didn’t recognize any of the names.
Maybe we are free of them. Luther told her she was probably safe, but he wasn’t willing to risk it for himself. As long as anyone could tell Angelo Benedict that Luke Haskell was still alive, he would need to keep running.
So, I can go home, but Luther can’t.
She tried to put that puzzle out of her mind. It made no difference what Las Vegas mobsters planned if they were all going to die in the asteroid strike. She just held on tighter as they rode north.
Driving into a lakeside campground, well after normal hours, Luther pulled up to the check-in station.
“I’ve been here before,” he said, keeping his voice low. There were other campers visible—trailers and tents, mostly.
He got off the cycle and filled out the registration slip, added some cash, and stuffed the envelope through a tight slit in a sturdy metal box.
“Paul and Jenny Anderson,” he whispered. “Too tired to think up new names.”
They quickly found a tent-only site that wasn’t occupied and began unpacking.
Luther was also too tired to set up the tarp.
Deena stretched out her sleeping bag next to his.
That’s interesting. His sleeping bag zipper is on the right, and mine is on the left. You could actually zip these two together to make one big sleeping bag.
She grinned. Mom would have a fit!
But tonight wasn’t the time to think about it. Besides, he was already snoring.
Don’t get any ideas, Jenny Anderson.
Still, after hours of having her arms around him, she felt lonely in her bag all by herself. She stared up at the stars above.
Is the asteroid up there? The answer came almost immediately. She twisted her head over to the side, but the horizon was blocked by trees.
“That’s okay,” she whispered, turning her head back to zenith. She wouldn’t be able to see it anyway.
Her eyes blurred. It was too much. She had to defeat an enemy she couldn’t see, using tools she didn’t understand, or else everyone she ever cared about would die.
And she had to do it alone.
She edged her bag a little closer to Luther’s, and tried to will herself to sleep.
Perhaps the nanobots were listening. She dozed off instantly.
He was trapped. His hands and feet were bound. The killers were coming! He struggled, and broke free!
Luther rolled half out of his sleeping bag. The cold air tickled his brain enough so he realized he was dreaming. I’m asleep. But his heart was racing. He flopped over, and bumped up against another sleeping bag. After several seconds, his sleepy brain put the pieces together. Deena.
Endorphins trickled into his brain. Dreams of riding mile after mile, with her holding him tightly. He did have a few ideas. Dream, or real life—he put his arm around her. She rolled onto her back. He could hear her breathe.
Deena felt a touch on her skin. She shifted. When she tried to move her arm, the bag hampered her. The feeling of being trapped mixed with the horror of her time, dead in the field, with insects crawling over her. She struggled awake, urgently pushing her way out of the bag. Her elbow caught Luther in the side, and through the covering, she hear his “Oof!”
She stood up, her heart beating rapidly and her breath puffing in the cool morning air. Her only urge was to get away.
She turned toward the bathrooms. She knew Luther was watching her.
At the sink, Deena splashed water on her face. Waking suddenly, with Luther’s arm around her had been startling. If she hadn’t imagined it, where his hand had rested, what he had been doing was...disturbing.
It was far too close to her own idle thoughts—ones she couldn’t afford right now. In the cheap metal campground mirror, her blush was still visible.
I can’t deal with this. The redwood grove was sending the nanobot signals so strongly that it was like the presence of another person, hovering over her shoulder.
No distractions. I have to get in there and get to work.
She walked out of the bathroom and saw Luther energetically stuffing the sleeping bags into their totes.
He’s mad at me. But it wasn’t my fault! I want to cuddle, but I can’t! Not now.
She walked over to join him.
“I’m sorry, Deena.”
She stopped him with a raised hand. “Not now. I can feel them. We need to go.”
His face was as stony as flint. “Right. Here. Secure these to the bike. I’ll be back in a minute.” And he stalked off to the bathrooms.