Team Year 9
The car had broken down again, and Jason was being entirely unhelpful. In fairness, he’d been more hunched over than normal from his shotgun position and had hardly spoken two words that weren’t grunts, which was a pretty reliable signal that he was having trouble stringing two non-gun-based thoughts together, but Tara wasn’t feeling inclined to fairness at that moment. As it was, the tone of Jade’s swearing had shifted to suggest that whatever the problem was, they couldn’t fix it with the car’s toolbox.
Tara pulled the sand out of a gust of wind as Jade stuck her head up. “So?”
“Transmission’s leaking,” Jade said, glaring at the car like it was a dog that had gotten into the trash. “Where’s the nearest gas station?”
Tara stuck her head into the car to look at Jason, who didn’t respond but did shift position in a way that meant he knew she was there. She waited, glaring at the back of his headrest, before he tossed the map over the back. “Can’t you tell where we are? Thought you could sense that sort of thing.”
Tara rolled her eyes, and jabbed her thumb behind. “Mountain that way. “ Jabbed forwards. “Mountain that way.” Pointed down. “Bedrock, aquifers, and caverns. When gas stations start counting as geological formations we’ll all be in trouble.”
“Shut it, it’s too hot for this,” Jade said without much heat. She glared at the map, smoothing it out on top of the car, and muttered. “We’re here, and the nearest gas station is -” Her finger stabbed the map. “Here. Ten miles walk on the side of the road.” Which barely counted as a road anyways, after enough asphalt had broken to make the whole thing look chewed-on.
“Not it,” said Jason unnecessarily.
Tara frowned. Actually, looking at the sunbleached lines, the road wasn’t actually a straight line, but meandered like a river path in flood territory. “It’s not ten miles like this,” she said thoughtfully, dragging her thumbnail from their position straight to the station.
“Walk over open desert! Great plan,” chirped Jason, who had to be feeling better if his sarcasm had returned.
“Not walking,” said Tara, stepping back and examining the chunk of asphalt the car was on.
Jade . “No, we’re not doing that.”
“And yet,” Tara said, reaching out with her stone sense to the asphalt under the car. Some loose sand, but enough of a base, hopefully...
“And yet you’d better have a third car you can pull out of somewhere if you toss this one into the rocks from a hundred feet up.”
“I know what I did wrong there. A car can’t adjust its balance the way a human can, so I just have to keep it level.” Which was harder than it sounded, considering her rocks naturally tilted to suit her balance, but Jade did not need her to say that. Before she could come up with any reasonable response to that, Tara reached down and pulled. With a low grinding sound, the rock under the car lifted up.
Tara lifted them up, higher and higher, until she was sure that any others who happened to be nearby wouldn’t quickly spot them, then aimed her shard of Arizona infrastructure west. On the other side of the car, Jason’s door popped open. With a frankly obnoxious ease, he stepped out onto the rock and balanced easily, then began to wobble back and forth just to be annoying. He might not’ve been on speaking terms with his brother, but that apparently didn’t mean he wouldn’t use what Nightwing taught him to be irritating to absolutely everyone. Jade, meanwhile, had hunkered down on her haunches with the air of someone who’d sniped people from less shaky roosts than a few floating tons of asphalt held together by dirt and hope.
She focused, then stretched out her mind. She’d never quite been able to describe it to anyone but Brion, but her mind sank and settled into the rock as she held it balanced. The direction and speed were easy enough to keep steady, once she stopped thinking of their ride as a slab of material in her hands and more as a part of herself. She’d learned, long ago, how to hold herself so steadily that she could walk the length of the castle with a cup of water on her head and not spill a drop; more recently, she’d learned how to balance on the thinnest of footholds. This was just more of the same, balancing the car and Jade and Jason on the rock-that-was-her. As easy as -
“Hey!” Tara startled as Jason brought his hands together a foot away from her head. For a horrible second she lost her grip, and loose stones around the edges and base slipped from her grasp. Tara dropped to her knees as the tires squealed at the sudden incline and dug her nails into the rock. With a grunt, she caught them and brought the chunk of asphalt level.
A very long moment passed. The loose rocks hit the dirt.
Jade knocked Jason lightly on the back of the head. “Good plan,” she said sweetly.
Jason probably rolled his eyes behind his shades. “Well, when we stopped overshooting the station and ran into a mountain, I’m sure you would’ve had an even better one.”
Tara got to her feet. “We overshot?”
“By a half mile. See?” Jason pointed down and back, where there was indeed a smudge of pavement by a pebble-sized probably-gas-station. Tara groaned in the face of Jason’s oozing helpfulness and began to swing them down in a mostly-smooth curve.