Terriana pursed her lips and helped the rope re-coil.
She pulled out her all-device. “Call the RocketTaxi company.” She said, holding the device between her cheek and her shoulder. She tied the rope to the branch she was standing on and checked her harness again.
The all-device beeped a few times, and then started to make the low, comforting humming noise it used to indicate that it was waiting for a call to go through.
Terriana checked the unknotting bug, moved the phone back to her hand, and then stepped off the branch. Her harness caught, the branch creaked. Terriana held the phone to her ear and tapped the catching clip into free-fall.
The world blurred around her, but below it stayed as clear as a window.
She hit the end of her rope.
“Hello, RocketTaxi! What are your travel needs today?”
“Hi!” Terriana gasped. The nearest branch was just a foot too far to her right. She grabbed the rope above her to give her a little more leverage and twisted her body in half to make herself swing. “Can you pick up my coordinates? I’m kinda out there, and I need to be at Batersbery High by ten o’clock.”
“Sure thing, miss, just a moment.”
Her all-device beeped, and the quiet buzz of office noise on the other side faded. The soft synthesized voice of her all-device said, “Someone wishes to know where you are.”
“Go ahead.” Terriana said.
The office noise faded in. She hit the high point of her swing, reached out with a foot for the branch, missed, and threw herself into the back swing.
“Well.” The man said, “I can get a cab out there in seven minutes, and it’s going to be about five minutes to your destination. That’ll get you there at about 9:57.”
“Perfect!” Terriana said, as she managed to get a leg around the branch. She looked down. “I’m about two hundred feet up. Is that going to be a problem?”
There was a pause, just a second too long. “Is the air space clear?”
“Sure is!” She was still above most of the canopy. No one would want to take an air-car into that mess.
“Perfect! Stay right where you are. A cab is on its way.”
“And can I have your card number please?”
“How much is the charge?”
“One hundred cred.”
Terriana bit her lip. Then she gave Ares’ number.
“Alright ma’am, thank you very much!”
Terriana ended the call and activated the unknotter. She sat on the branch, back to the trunk, and wound up the rope. Rope, gadgets, all-device were all tucked away into her bag where they belonged, with her school tablet, before the blurring air of the taxi exhaust was visible above the heat of the canopy.
Terriana stood up and waved.
The roar of the taxi grew louder.
Up above, the space-giraffe screamed.
The taxi was a deep oval with an open top. The driver was wearing goggles and thick leathers, and he was trailing heat. He pulled up, grinning–
Terriana was running along the branch. She lept off before he was finished slowing and landed in the back seat, shouting, “Gogo GO! Space-giraffe!” She rolled, and her back hit the cushioned metal side of the speeder.
The engine boomed as he turned, scorching the tree.
Over the engine they could hear the screech of the angry predator.
“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!” The driver screamed. The speeder sped up.
Terriana was flat against the wall of the speeder, pushed by the press of the wind and the heaviness of speed. She pulled open the chest below the seat and pulled out the regulation safety goggles and leather jacket.
The wind tore away the goggles. She pulled out the second pair, eyes squeezed shut. By feel, head as low as she could get it, she put on the goggles. The pressure around her eyes was immediately lessened.
Next the jacket. She could feel cuts already, a few lacerations caused by unexpected and flying debris. Leaves, perhaps.
She couldn’t smell anything. She couldn’t hear anything, not even the driver’s scream, over the all-enveloping whine of the engine.
The world blurred, mixing shadow and color.
The only sensation was uneven pressure and the strange and isolated textures on her fingertips. Soft and cool, but bumpy. That was probably faux leather. Terriana hunted around until she found a hem line and a sleeve. Then, holding tight, she dragged it on, fighting the wind.
Ahead, the forest was thinning. The cab driver slowed, since there were regulations about using nuclear engines within municipal areas. Terriana poked her head over the shoulder of the driver’s side.
The speedometer was hovering around one hundred and fifty.
She looked back, her hair immediately tearing out of its net of braids and lashing madly in her face. Terriana grinned, high with speed and the delight of safety goggles. Also: they’d lost the space-giraffe. It wasn’t even an angry speck in the distance.
The school was visible in front of them, a small red roofed building, empty of people.
Probably because everyone was inside.
Terriana looked at the time.
There was a sharp, high pitched wail.
Terriana’s heart stopped.
“Crap!” She heard the driver yell.
“Get me over the school!” Terriana shouted back. “I’ll jump, and you can have a hundred credit bonus, plus the cost of the ticket!”
The driver hit the gas. Terriana pulled herself up onto the rim of the speeder, bag clutched to her chest. The driver was dive bombing the ground. The red roof grew, got closer, and she could make out the leaves on the scattered trees, the bark, the numbers on the doors–
She jumped, aiming for grass. “Charge it to my card!”
The speeder pulled up, turbines squealing as the driver asked it to turn, rise and break all at once.
Terriana hit the turf rolling.
The world was spinning from speed and impact, but Terriana didn’t wait for it to settle. She used the momentum to roll to her feet and, almost falling over, ran headlong toward the stairs. She pulled her bag tight, fingers slipping in to check for the reassuring weight of her school tablet. For a moment she couldn’t find it, but then it was there, in her hand. Terriana took the stairs three at a time. She hardly touched the landing. Her footsteps echoed through the halls, bouncing off of stone and plastic.
Behind her, someone stuck their head out of a door and shouted something, but she couldn’t hear.
Room numbers flashed by: 503, 505, 507–
Terriana took a swerving turn, lost a shoe on the textured concrete, and bodily slammed into 511. Her hand was fumbling for the door panel before she’d recovered her sight. The door slid open and Terriana stumbled in to hear Mr Carlini’s low, sarcastic drawl.
“Well I suppose it’s time to start–“.
Terriana kept moving forward because it was a bit difficult to stop. Terriana pulled the tablet out of her bag and tapped it rapidly, begging it to wake up. Her fingers were quivering from adrenaline. Shaking knees, and momentum, took her full speed to Mr. Carlini’s desk.
“Well.” He said, drawing his drawl out even further. “Miss Selista. What a pleasant surprise.”
The tablet was connecting, connecting, starting to download–
The bell screamed.
It sounded so much like a space-giraffe that Terriana nearly dropped the tablet.
“Please have a seat.” Mr. Carlini said, with malice.
Terriana looked down. The download was completed.
She looked up and smiled. “Yes sir.” In the sugariest voice she had.
Terriana wobbled to her seat and realized that her mouth was filling with blood. The girl next to her looked a little pale. She pulled out a handkerchief and handed it over, gesturing to Terriana’s face.
Terriana took it. The pain started buzzing across her face.
She’d broken her nose hitting the door.
She didn’t even care.
Behind her, someone asked, “Dude, what happened?”
Terriana squeezed her nose together with the handkerchief, and said, voice muffled by blood and a grin the size of a space ship, “Monday.”