Astrid moved carefully around the side of the building as she struggled to come up with a plan. She noted that there was a door near where she now stood and that it swung freely on its hinges, the lock long since gone. She reached the front corner of the building, and looked around at the three vans. None of the men seemed to have stayed out to watch them. They were probably all leaving by plane, and since they had no more need of the vans, they weren’t thinking about them.
Astrid thought that if she could only create a diversion, she might be able to enter through the door and lead Valerie to safety. She rounded the corner of the building and ran stealthily to the closest van. Ducking behind it, she thought about the possibilities. Having worked for years with internal combustion engines, Astrid knew that cars didn’t just explode like they seemed to on TV. But there was one easy source of ignition in any vehicle.
Astrid looked down at her sandaled feet. What a time to go without socks. Pulling her shirt up over her shoulders, Astrid unfastened her bra and took it off, and then pulled her shirt back down. She edged around the van and slowly opened the driver’s side door, reached down below the dashboard, and pulled the hood release. The thunk that the hood made as it popped up about two inches was horrifyingly loud to her, but she waited several seconds and no one from inside the building seemed to have heard it. Moving to the vehicle’s front, she lifted the hood and propped it open. She quickly located the windshield wiper fluid reservoir, and opening the lid, stuffed her bra into it so that it was completely soaked. She pulled the bra back out and tossed it over the two terminals of the car battery. It sparked. By the time Astrid turned to run, it was already smoking. As she rounded the corner of the building, the van’s engine compartment burst into flames. Engine parts popped and hissed as they were destroyed by the fire. She heard yelling from inside the building.
Reaching the door and carefully peering in the window, Astrid was almost bowled over by Valerie as she came running out.
“Astrid?” the robot girl cried.
“Shush,” Astrid ordered her. “Come on!”
Taking Valerie by the arm, Astrid ran straight into the darkness, rather than trying to get directly back to the hoverbike. She thought that if she could reach the desert, they could circle around to the spot where she had parked. They hadn’t gone more than twenty steps though when shouts of pursuit followed them. It had really been too much to expect, Astrid realized, to divert the attention of all those eyes for more than a few seconds. Behind the first large desert bush, she ducked down, pulling Valerie down beside her.
“I’m so glad to see you, Astrid,” said Valerie in a whisper. “Is Toby with you?”
“No. I was getting tired of him horning in on my rescues, so I made him stay home this time.”
“There are two of them coming this way,” hissed Valerie.
“I’ve seen this on a hundred TV shows,” said Astrid, as she picked up several small rocks. “It’s time to see if it really works.”
She threw the rocks as hard as she could into the desert. The sounds of the rocks crashing into the brush were followed by a squeal and even more rustling sounds. The two men ran off in that direction.
“You must have hit an animal,” said Valerie. “I wonder what it was.”
“Probably a rabbit or a fox,” replied Astrid. “I hope I didn’t hurt it. Come on.”
They ran through the darkness, dodging and sometimes tripping over rocks or brush until they reached the area where Astrid had set down, but she didn’t see the hoverbike.
“Is that your new invention?” asked Valerie.
“Right over here.” Valerie led the girl inventor right to where the hoverbike sat. “It looks pretty neat.”
“Of course,” said Astrid. “I forgot that you had night vision.”
“I do?” wondered Valerie.