Dan put his hands on his hips and looked up at the canopy of pines over our heads. The thin trunks and branches let us see that the night was clear and filled with stars.
He said, “It’s tough to figure anything out with all these trees. I don’t suppose your flying is any better yet?”
I cringed, but I knew it was our only option. “Actually the flying isn’t all that bad as long as I go straight and don’t mind jetting at supersonic speeds. I land with no problem too – if you have no problems with crash landings.”
Bless his heart, he looked genuinely sympathetic. “My poor girl.”
I mentally urged my pride to take a vacation, with the promise dignity wouldn’t be far behind it. “I suppose I should try. No laughing when I take out a tree.”
Dan didn’t crack a smile. “Never.”
I squared my shoulders and set myself under the least amount of foliage in the area. I urged myself up and began to elevate.
As I’d told Dan, going straight is not that big a deal. I brushed up against the tips of a few limbs, but pretty much avoided smacking into anything. Within seconds I was up above the trees.
I kept climbing, wanting a good view of everything. Vampire vision is better than ghost vision. Plus certain things were lit up, making it easy to pick out landmarks. In the distance to the west of Highway 17, I saw the airfield. I decided certain lines of lights close to the dark ribbons of roads must be strip malls. Closer to my position, maybe seven miles away and more to the north, was the sprawl of the federal training academy. It had really grown over the years, making the facility about half the size of Fulton Falls.
Most of what lay beneath me was the swath of woods. A breeze through the pines whispered secrets that I couldn’t understand. About three miles away was one well-lit building that I couldn’t quite make out. And even closer, a tiny glimmer of light shone from deep in the trees.
I thought it would be worth my while to check out those two light sources, the smaller one first. Doing my best as usual to maintain a slow pace, I began to move towards the glimmer.
Before long I was zooming along and going faster all the time. I winced knowing how bad the eventual landing was going to be, but the tiny mote of light was getting bigger. Hopefully I wouldn’t flash by it so fast that I wouldn’t be able to pick out its source. I started trying to angle downward to pass as close to the tops of the pines as I was able.
I was almost directly over the light and not nearly as low as I wanted to be when I saw a flash of a different kind of light, sparking near the glimmer. I heard something whiz past my ear. Another flash. Another whiz came even closer. Then I heard the gunshots.
I had the thought that bullets travel faster than sound before it occurred to me that I was being shot at. In a panic, I abruptly reversed course.
I have to give myself credit. Even though I was somersaulting wildly, I still managed to steer myself back in the direction I’d come from. As the sky and ground changed sides over and over at dizzying speeds, I caught sight of the highway here and there. I aimed for it as best I could. Some small rational part of me was sure I was out of the range of the gun, so I concentrated on slowing myself down as much as possible. With every rotation of my body, the treetops moved closer and closer. And then I was in them.
I stopped trying to fly and let myself drop. My yelps rang through the woods as I bounced off branches. The trees and my bones cracked as we did damage to each other. Pain came steadily, infuriating me.
It seemed like an eternity before I hit solid ground. My legs had been spared damage, and I was on my feet, fanged and ready to drain the bastard who’d shot. I barely noticed my left arm was hanging at a weird angle, useless at my side.
Someone was going down.
No release date set.