"Rann!" I practically screamed. A few dozen feet behind him was the Futaba, hovering motionless a foot above the ground in spite of the gusts. Then I was in his arms, feeling the warmth of his body as he practically squeezed the life out of me. "Are you all right, Hal?" he asked softly.
"Oh, Rann, you're really here," I sniffled, not even looking up, just letting the waves of relief wash over me.
"I really am," he answered. Gently he disengaged me. "Looks like we'd better get moving, though. Hi, Jennifer," he called over my shoulder.
"Mom," I gasped. For a moment I'd almost forgotten her.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked her. "I don't think I need to ask Hal here," he added with a grin.
"More than anything," she answered. We wasted no time lugging our stuff from the trunk and the back seat into the Futaba's living quarters. By the time we finished the flashing lights were much closer, and the helicopter was back.
"Please wait with your hands on the vehicle," came an electronically boosted voice from above. "Police vehicles are on the way. Do not attempt to leave."
"Looks like we have about two minutes," Rann said calmly, ignoring them. I bid a quick but teary farewell to my car which had served me so well for the past year (all right, I'm sentimental about such things) and then we all raced up the ramp and began strapping ourselves in as Rann closed the portal. Just seconds later the police cars pulled up around us and several uniformed officers of the California Highway Patrol piled out and eyed us warily through the short-lived cloud of fresh dust. Then a familiar figure boiled out of one of the vehicles and begun arguing vociferously with one of the officers.
"It's Matt," my mother gasped. Rann touched one of the glowing patterns on his panel and suddenly we could hear their voices as clearly as if they were standing next to us, though periodically obliterated by a fresh roar of wind. My father was insisting that the officer do something, and the officer obligingly drew his handgun and pointed it at the sky.
"Please come out with your hands up," he said through a bullhorn held in his other hand, in that delightful combination of politeness and authority that the CHP does so well. Rann continued to power up the Futaba, and I suddenly realized we were gently rising. "Halt!" ordered the officer as my father unleashed a torrent of obscenities. "Halt or I'll shoot!" shouted the officer again, now leveling his weapon at the ship. My mother looked terrified, and I took her hand.
"It's okay, Mom," I said, somewhat more confidently than I felt. "We're safe now."
There was a loud explosion over the Futaba's invisible speakers and I saw something spatter a brilliant white against the hull as my mother involuntarily screamed. Moments later everyone outside was diving to the ground. Nice ricochet, I observed, as we continued to rise. There were several more shots, equally ineffective. Then I heard the helicopter's rhythmic beat become much louder and realized that we were now up alongside it. I saw someone inside pointing a video camera at us as the pilot shouted something into his microphone, although I couldn't hear him over the sound of the rotors.
"Rann, they're filming us!" I said in dismay. I didn't know just how many rules Rann could get away with breaking, but somehow I didn't think interplanetary notoriety would regarded as a plus. He stared at the camera, caught off guard. And then, apparently at an utter loss for what else to do, he pulled down an eyelid, crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue at them as the cameraman stared in utter disbelief and I dissolved into half-hysterical laughter. Then we were clear of the 'copter and he'd pointed the nose skyward as we shot upward at incredible speed, pressing us deep into the padded seats.
A few moments later we'd broken through into the brilliant sunshine, the clouds stretching in all directions below as far as we could see, and both my mother and I were laughing and crying at the same time as the planet dropped away below us until we were in space, and then everything got really bright for a few seconds and afterwards I could see the sun behind us rapidly shrinking as we broke every law of physics I'd ever learned and all of the universe's speed limits as well.
This page last updated 2/5/2010.|