Astrid raced out the door, around the pool, to the pool house. Opening up the door, she found the hoverbike right where Toby had parked it. She hopped into the seat and pressed the power button. The hoverdisks hummed to life, gently lifting her and the bike up about a foot in the air. Pushing her foot against the doorframe, she floated the bike out into the back yard. Then pressing the accelerator and pulling back on the controls, she shot up into the air.
The hoverbike flew faster and higher than it had with two riders. Astrid easily shot over the Maxxim home’s three stories and gable roof. Making three ever widening circles around her immediate neighborhood failed to give any indication where the kidnappers might have gone, so Astrid decided to check out the most obvious route out of town.
The interstate highway ran north from Maxxim City toward the major metropolitan areas of the southwest. Astrid zipped over the tops of the carefully cultivated trees that covered the entire town and then over the low brush, scrub, and cacti that covered the desert. In the dark night, with only a sliver of moon showing, the cars on the highway were the only light sources. The highway wasn’t busy. It usually wasn’t. And most of the cars on the road were heading south rather than north. There were however three large vehicles in the distance, possibly vans, driving so closely together that they looked like they formed a convoy.
Astrid checked the speedometer. She was flying through the chilly night air at almost 50 miles per hour, a speed which made her a little queasy just thinking about it. Still, the three vans, like all the other cars on the highway would leave her behind in no time. Then, as she was watching, the three vehicles shot down an exit ramp and turned onto one of the roads running perpendicular to the highway. Astrid steered the bike toward the road ahead of them, realizing that she could make up some ground by taking the proverbial crow’s route.
The wind in her face had forced her to squint as she traveled at the hoverbike’s maximum speed, but as she turned east it lessened considerably. She decided she must now have a tailwind. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her phone and hit the preset speed dial for Toby.
“Astrid?” he answered. “Where are you?”
“I’m just east of the highway. I think I’m heading for state route 11. I’m following three vans that just turned onto the road. It’s got to be them. I can’t figure out why anybody else would be heading this way. There’s nothing but cattle ranches and open land out here.”
“The police are here, Astrid. They…”
There was a pause and another voice came on the line.
“Astrid. This is Police Chief Gillespie. You don’t need to do this…”
“Ack!” shouted Astrid, as something smacked her right in the forehead. She lost the grip on both the phone and the hoverbike controls. The bike dropped down about ten feet, but the automatic gyros stabilized the vehicle. Her phone though went tumbling down into the darkness below.
Astrid felt her forehead, and then felt herself start to gag as she wiped it off with her hand. A large bug had splattered against her, leaving most of its remains on her face and hair.
“Oh my gosh,” she said. “This is disgusting. Boy, am I glad I didn’t turn on the headlight.”