It didn’t get too bad until the road dropped down to two lanes, and lots of people started running out of gas. Finally the guys got out of the car and walked forward, and started pushing cars onto the verge. Other men joined them, and when they got to the point that there wasn’t much traffic coming into town they started using that lane. Once they’d crested the first big ridge, Helly turned off the engine and coasted down the long descent into the river valley. She heard all the men passing back suggestions, and since they were still in stop and go traffic, almost everyone left their engines off for the long flat, winding stretch along the lake.
Very picturesque, across the lake a steep ridge, with rocky cliffs just above the water. The road crossed a bridge up ahead, and then turned back to snake up the ridge.
Helly turned the wheel over to one of the guys periodically, and did some pushing herself.
Push it three car lengths, take a break until the car ahead moved three car lengths . . . repeat, over and over. It was a very slow progression, but looking at that steep climb ahead . . . worth it.
A lot of cars passed them . . . more than one stopped part way up that steep climb.
And that’s not the last climb. There’s another hundred miles to the next town and all the resorts . . . of which there aren’t nearly enough for half the city.
Assuming the other half of the population went north to Fey.
The three youngsters—Wetzel, Hugo, and Regina—helped and the Gunter’s two little sisters—Rosemarie and Margarete—mostly stayed out of the way. Except for needing potty breaks and not liking the idea of going in the brush beside the road.
At eleven, she pulled over for a lunch break. Everyone flopped down gratefully and wolfed down food and drink.
And a lot of people figured that was far enough and started pulling over and stopping. Enough that she could start the engine and drive at a reasonable speed. By the time they got to the bridge the traffic was clearing . . . and they could hear helicopters.
Helly kept going. Yelled through the open window. “Try to spot the helicopters. Find out who they belong to.” The road curved to the left, back along the lake, climbing the next ridge gradually, as the slope was steep,. . .
“Rising Sun across the nose of the first one!” Armin called. “What are they doing up here?”
“The bridge.” Helly pulled over and stopped. Set the brake, and got out. “If they take out the bridge, no one can get out of the city this direction. And any Army Units up at the Training Ground can’t get down to fight them.”
She hopped into the back. “Move. I need to get . . .” She grabbed the top rifle case, opened it. Yes, I’ve used this one at the range. Now if I just had some idea what to shoot at! The pilot? Is that glass bullet proof? You think it would have to be . . .
She put the gun to her shoulder and started shooting. Lead the helicopter, it’s moving . . .
And spinning, loosing altitude . . . out of sight lower the steep.
A cheer from the guys. “You got his back rotor!”
Oh. Well. Whatever worked . . . “Where’s the other one?”
“It went low,” Olaf galloped across the road, “Ahh!” He threw himself back as the rotors rose into sight, then the chassis.
Helly was shooting, out of ammo. As the guns on either side of the copter cleared the bank, she threw out her left hand and slashed as hard as she could.
The helicopter dropped.
Some things whizzed over head, hit the hill behind her.
Crashing and explosions from below.
Olaf scramble over to look down. “It hit and rolled . . . And the first copter’s out in the water sinking . . .” he got up and walked back across. “Reg, hand me that magazine, right there.”
He took the rifle from her hand and switched magazines. Walked over the edge and fired three shots. Walked back. “There’s no one here but a bunch of helpless city people. We can’t take prisoners, and we can’t trust them to not kill anyone.”
Helly gulped. “Right. So . . . keep the gun and lets get going.”
The cars that had stopped behind them gave them plenty of room before they followed.
City folk. Except for us . . . well we’re city folk too, but we’re armed and Fynn’s Vater taught us how to shoot.
Fifty miles on, she crested a ridge to look down on a solid traffic jam all the way to the small town. She turned around to back track to a firebreak through the forest. Put the Beast into four wheel drive and turned up it. She stopped halfway up and backed between trees and out of sight.
“We’ll camp here for the night.”
The broadcast power died midmorning.
Lorenz cursed his unresponding legs and switched to trying to find news on Jana’s basic computer. Cursed the things he didn’t have, that would have looked bad if the house was searched.
It really doesn’t matter that I’m out of touch. I can’t do anything anyway, and Fynn isn’t nearly as well trained as he needs to be for this situation.
Not that he isn’t thinking and planning. And doing a damn good job on the house . . . although the fresh paint may be a bad idea. But he’s got all the basement windows and the rarely used door out to the stairs up to the driveway open to air out the fresh paint smell. And he’s staging things to move around the house if we need to look more unthreatening.
What could be less threatening than a crippled old Lord, his old wife, a cook with an infant, and a dull gardener?
But the Japanese have such a bad reputation for killing conquered populations . . . And Bad Tölz? Twenty cities to take and the whole world is theirs.
Tier Three Yokohama, out from Tier Two Edo, according to Helly.
It all depends on whether Yokohama has another Portal, or can get the two we damaged back in working order quickly. I’d love to think we managed to kill their Portalmakers, but I can’t depend on that.
Because if they’re grounded, Tier Two Edo may step in to take over. Or maybe they’ll be too busy scooping up Yokohama’s vassals before someone else finds them.
We might be able to count on two weeks before they can get resupplied, so we need to hit them hard, as quickly as possible.
And as for someone helping us? I can only hope that someone at the Portal facility was able to reach Bavaria and yell for help.
And I don’t know if we even have a key for Bavaria.
The house quivered and Lorenz counted the seconds until a rolling boom hit the house.