Part 23

May. 11th, 2006 11:46 am
[identity profile] posting in [community profile] if_i_trace
Temperature Rising


On any given day, the wyverns could outrun and outlast anything on the road, from streetrods to turbo-charged cruisers. They ran on a modified soy-corn fuel that wasn't widely available but gave such impressive mileage that it didn't need to be. Keiran claimed one of them had made the trip cross-country on two tanks. Tamsin had always had his doubts, but given Calder's current condition, he wasn't going to get to test the claim.

It wasn't until the third time the lights flickered on the dash that he managed to actually catch the particular symbol that was lighting up. "Calder," he said sharply, "Pull over."

Normally, he'd just take the wheel again and ease the wyvern over, but he could tell from the tension in the steering that Calder was going to put up a fight. The stubborn creature was going to great lengths to try and keep him from noticing the rising temperature gauge. But now that his attention had been drawn to it, the cabin seemed warmer than it should have, too.

Predictably, Calder growled, the vibration sounding oddly in counterpoint to the steady thrum of his engine.

Sitting up straighter, Tamsin glanced at the roadsign. "At the reststop, then?"

The wyvern conceded, releasing control of the steering and pedals to Tamsin, who began changing lanes to catch the next exit. "I can't afford to have you melting down on me," he muttered, waiting for a break between slower vehicles. "If you overheat, I will leave you behind."

It would be wiser to do just that. The wyvern was a handicap at this point, and not as generic as your average silver-white car would be. Which made the public reststop a bad idea more than twice over, but there weren't many other options on the highway. And he needed to cover as much ground as quickly as possible, which ruled out the minor highways and sideroads. At least on a major route he could hitchhike if it came to that. Better than having to pound on some poor farmer's door in the middle of the night.

His WiFi Finder chirped as he pulled into the parking lot. Tamsin raised an eyebrow, turning his attention to the expanse of glass windows on the small café and gift shop set in the middle of the parking lot. Calder pulled around to the back lot, and tucked himself as much out of the way as he could, in the shade of an overhanging tree.

Leaving his laptop on the passenger's seat for the moment, Tamsin got out and opened Calder's hood. The waft of heat from the engine was enough to make him turn his face away for a moment while he fumbled for the stick and propped the hood up.

"Idiot," he muttered. "I should seriously just leave you here. I can't afford this."

Calder remained silent, save for the slight panting sound of air moving through the engine compartment. Keiran would never forgive him if he abandoned the wyvern, and he needed --

Giving his head a sharp shake, he moved around the front end to open the passenger's door and retrieve his laptop. Settling himself at the picnic table a few feet away beside Calder, he set the laptop on the table and drummed his fingers against the edge of the case consideringly.

He could check the police reports, APBs and alerts if he borrowed the WiFi connection. But hacking in took time, and if the connection wasn't strong or stable enough, he'd just be wasting his. Bad enough that he was stuck out here with an overheated car -- he wasn't going to risk being seen inside with a computer.

Too many assumptions and not enough evidence. He didn't know if the cops were looking for him, but the flash drive was damning enough by itself, and the kid could finger both him and Calder. If he waited to confirm his fears, it might be too late.

Getting abruptly to his feet, he scooped up the laptop and tossed it back on the front seat. Ignoring Calder's coo of curiosity, he moved to the trunk and retrieved the toolkit he kept there. Removing the grill wasn't the wisest idea, but he was fresh out of options for increasing airflow, short of stopping at another garage to purchase a radiator. Provided, of course, that the rad even came close to fitting and that Calder didn't reject it out of hand.

Ducking his head beneath the hood, Tamsin leaned in until he could see the grill bolts clearly.

"Everything all right there, son?"

Tamsin managed not to bang his head on the hood as he straightened up (damned if he'd be a cliché, too), but just barely. "Fine," he snapped, turning to glare at the elderly man who'd approached.

"Ah, well, it looked like you were havin' some troubles, so I wondered if I could lend a hand."

Reaching into the toolkit, Tamsin grabbed a ratchet and socket. How much worse could his luck get, he wondered. "No, everything's fine. Thanks anyway." The last was added grudgingly, and only because he didn't need to leave an anti-social trail behind for the cops to follow.

The old guy wasn't taking the hint, though. "Nice car you got there. Import, is it? Don't look familiar."

Brandishing the ratchet, Tamsin forced a smile. "Yeah. Import. Look, I'm in a bit of a hurry here, so if you don't mind...?"

That got him to back off, hands raised placatingly. "All right, all right. Young folks. Always in a hurry." He turned, ambling off slowly, still muttering about 'young'uns'."

Rolling his eyes skyward, Tamsin took a deep breath before setting to work on the bolts.


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