This time he took the right track, and found, as expected, another gate.
The faint hit of parallel wheel tracks led them down a gentle slope to a well worn . . . actual road. Not paved, but it looked like it had been graveled and graded, and seen a lot of use. Uphill to the right, downhill to the left. Dead ahead, no road, but a view over short pine trees to a large lake.
Kit turned downhill, facing a brilliant sunset. The sun was behind clouds but must have been nearly touching the horizon. We need a place to camp for the night!
Jane propped herself up a bit. "Why is the sky doing that? It's very pretty."
Everyone else looked forward and admired the colors.
"It's so big! Does it take a lot of electricity to make the sky change colors like that?"
Kit choked. "It, it . . . no, no electricity. This world is turning so that the sun is on the other side for awhile. When the light shines sideways through the atmosphere, especially if there are clouds, the colors get all yellow and orangy. Pretty soon the Sun will be below the horizon, and it will be dark for hours."
Uncertain nods. "So we can sleep?" Tansy asked.
"Well, yes that a good time to sleep. So I'm looking for a nice place to park the bus. We'll have dinner and sleep until morning."
It's going to get interesting, the first time it rains.
Four "teachers" for fifteen students, and I'm beginning to wonder if they know the Earth is a spheroid, let alone them understanding the hydrologic cycle.
He followed the road as it curved around and into the forest . . . and out to a meadow along the shore of the lake.
"Look at all that . . . that is water, isn't it?" Tansy stared.
"I've seen pictures of the ocean. I expected the waves to be bigger." Henry frowned.
"It's a lake, not the ocean. The ocean's even bigger." Kit glanced the other way and hit the brakes. "Uh . . . it looks like there are other people here."
The other people were looking them over, looking curious, but not alarmed.
Wagons and horses picketed in what would have been the shade, earlier in the day.
"Those are horses! I've seen those in movies!" Tansy gulped. "And the people are coming over . . . "
Kit eyed them. Women. A bunch of teenagers. Oh, there are three guys, but they look pretty young too.
He opened the door and climbed down. "Hi? Umm, we come in peace?"
"Oh dear. I do hope you're not some stuck up Earthers or Oners, with that big smelly thing." The woman in the lead was a ordinary looking, the sort you'd never look twice at, on the street.
Except staring at her, she was actually quite beautiful . . . she just shed attention.
Sort of like my "you don't see me" spell.
"Well, actually we're running away from Earth. Uh, do they come here very often, we can leave . . ."
Assuming I can get the others back on the bus. They all want to meet the new people, and I can hardly blame them.
"Mooom!" One of the teenagers dodged the first woman and grinned at them. "A few reporters come and fish sometimes, but right now they're glued to Disco, for fear of missing any news about finding the Whirlpool Worlds."
Wolfson? Oh. My. God! Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire!
"Uh, maybe we should just leave now . . . Do you know how to get really far away from both Earth and Disco? And One World. They're bad, too." Ooops! Maybe I ought to have asked where they were from . . .
The woman just shook her head. "It's going to dark in another hour. This is a safe place to camp, stay here, and in the morning," she pointed, "take the road along the lake. The third track that branches uphill will get you way away from the worlds that anybody explores."
Kit looked up at the darkening sky. No good options . . . "Thank You. I think we will camp here tonight."
He climbed back in the truck and drove around to the far side of the big campfire ring that was being filled with wood.
He looked at it thoughtfully, and climbed back into the bus to find a bag of potatoes.
The dark haired guy eyed it. "Potatoes? They'd be good roasted, once we have some coals."
"Ooo, yes." A young brown-haired girl perked up. "And do you have any flour? We were thinking about popping into Disco to buy some, instead of going all the way home. Want to trade? Oh! Hi, I'm Panther Macawdaut."
"Kit! How do you make it stay lighter so we can . . . do things?" Betty trotted up.
"Can't be done. And I'm not sure we packed a flashlight." Kit caught uncertain glances from the new people. "I'm Kit, this is Betty, and Susan who needs help getting out of the bus, on account of a broken rib and Jane behind her, who injured her leg."
The new guy jumped to help, calling over his shoulder, "Roll up more logs for seats, Guys. I'm Zodiac, those are Alin and Irwun, don't bother trying figure out which is which, they like to confuse people." He held out an elbow to Susan. "Grab and put as much weight on me as doesn't hurt. Man, I hate rib injuries. Have you seen a doctor?"
"Yes, this morning. He took the bullet out."
Kit refrained from slapping his forehead. And utterly naive about what not to say to strangers.
Panther grinned. "Oh! That kind of running away from Earth. You've come to the right place."