Aric veered around a motor home. “At the exact same time.”
Gabriel cocked his head again. “She’s fired. Two. Picking up speed!”
Joules let loose another pair. Two more strikes. No combustion.
Aric said, “You are capable of this, Tower. I have seen you do it before.”
Joules gave a yell and hurled two more. I held my breath. Could already see the pair of missiles streaking toward us.
A web of lightning exploded into the sky. Sizzling electricity unlike anything I’d ever seen.
The missiles exploded in the electric net.
“Oi, now we are cookin’ with gas!”
“That chick’s got to be out of missiles,” Finn said. “I only saw four last time.”
Aric maneuvered around more wrecks. “She hasn’t fired bul—”
Bullets bit into the highway on both sides of us. “Get inside!” I cried.
Joules and Gabriel dropped down.
Aric swerved, narrowly missing a convertible with two Baggers still seat-belted in. Another spray of bullets sent pieces of that car at us, but he evaded the debris. With his cold focus, he threaded two big rigs, then dodged a locomotive that had fallen off an overhead rail bridge.
Heart racing, I said, “And to think I once wondered if you’d ever driven a car.”
“I can’t outrun those bullets much longer.”
More pitted the ground inches away. Ricocheting pavement busted my window. “Shit!” Wind rushed into the truck. My hair whipped, my eyes watering.
“Are you hurt, sievā?”
“No, I’m good.” A Bagman on the side of the road caught my attention. As if in slow motion, I watched it . . . wave at me. Not good. Going crazy.
We passed a second one. It placed a slimy hand on its chest, as if making a pledge.
Either I was going insane . . . or Sol was screwing with us. Another Bagman up ahead raised its arm, indicating to the right—where there was a turnoff onto a smaller road.
Or was Sol helping us?
The Evie of old would swear she and Sol had shared a moment, that some kind of bond had formed. The Evie of late would say, “Trust no one. Kill first; ask later.” As Gran had repeatedly said, Arcana were all treacherous and disloyal killers. Aric too had little trust in other players.
Which Evie would I choose to be?
Just as the line of bullets veered toward us, I said, “Aric, take the next right!” Damn it, I would create my own symbols. I would fill in my own new slate.
He wheeled a hard right, and we skidded onto the smaller road. “Are you familiar with this area?”
I didn’t answer. At the next junction, another Bagger pointed left. “Go left.”
We fishtailed left, the line of fire stitching the pavement where we’d just been. The road began to curve through canyons. Bullets struck the rock walls, instead of us; I just prayed they wouldn’t ricochet the wrong way.
“Much better terrain, sievā. Is the Fool speaking to you?”
Gabriel said, “Will the calls return?”
I shook my head. “Um, the Bagmen are directing us. I think Sol is using them to help us.”
Aric did a double take.
“Jaysus! The Empress has gone mental. As can happen when you’re diddlin’ Death.”
Gabriel laid a hand on my seat, his talons digging in to the leather. “If he is leading us anywhere, it will be into a trap—or off a cliff.”
“Why would he help his enemies?” Finn asked from the back.
Joules blustered: “Sol’s the one in the feckin’ helicopter shootin’ at us! He’s not goin’ to try to kill us and try to save us.”
Aric murmured to me, “I can’t disagree with their logic.”
“Sol has to make it look like he’s still allying with Zara.”
Joules turned to Aric. “You’re listenin’ to this?”
Finn added, “Eves, the Sun is not a good dude. He’s evil.”
Yes, at times. But I had been too. Now I was different. “He’s layered,” I said, using Sol’s word. “Up ahead, there’s another Bagman pointing left.”
Aric eyed me. “Are you sure? If you believe this is the right course, I will follow it.”
“I trust you with my life.”
I’d made so many mistakes, tragic ones, that I hardly trusted myself. Then I pictured Sol at the edge of the lava gravestone. He’d been conflicted. “I believe Sol is helping.”
Aric turned left at that Bagman.
Joules bit out another curse. “I understand she’s the only tart for you, but no piece is worth dyin’ over!”
Aric’s shoulders tensed. “And yet you keep risking Death because of the one you lost.”
Joules’s skin sparked anew, his hand dropping to his boot.
Did he have a knife stowed in there? “Don’t even think about hurting him, Joules! Or I’ll poison you where you sit.”
To our left was a tunnel. A Bagger pointed to our right. Aric went right.
“Look down there,” Gabriel said. “The canyon leads to a city, one with standing buildings.” That valley had mountain-to-mountain structures. Fires burned in places. Smoke billowed. Lots of things to confuse infrared vision.
Aric raised his brows at me. “Perhaps the Sun was aiding us. If we reach that city, we could lose Fortune.” He took my hand on the console.
Joules coughed. “Is that a wedding band I spy with me little eye? Already married, Empress? Jaysus, the Cajun’s just months cold in the grave. Actually, he never was cold, now, was he?”