To read Part One: City on Fire, click here
Abby grabbed the handle above her window as Lance turned off the pavement at the first dirt road they came to.
“Shit,” he muttered as he hit the brakes. “Look.”
“I see it.” Her hopes fell at the sight of the heavy, locked metal gate blocking their way.
“Screw it, I’m going.” Lance backed up, floored the gas and rammed the gate, but it was stronger than it looked. He’d barely made a dent. “Get in back with the baby.”
Abby climbed over the seat and buckled herself in right next to the car seat. She kissed Eric’s forehead, then met Lance’s gaze in the rearview mirror. “Ready.”
This time he backed up all the way to the pavement. “Hold on!” He slammed it into gear and gunned it. When they hit the gate, it bounced off the grill guard and flew into the air, landing behind them.
Pockets of fire burned among the trees, slowing their detour. Thick, clogging smoke filled the air and the baby coughed.
“Down there.” Abby leaned forward and pointed out the front passenger window.
Lance jerked the wheel and drove them into the bottom of a dry gully. The air was clearer and the Hummer’s headlights illuminated the rocky terrain at crazy angles as they lurched along. “I think we can get past the fire this way.”
“How far is the bunker?” She tried to keep steady in her seat as they bounced over rocks and logs.
“Top of the mountain, past the water towers.”
Abby forced a smile at her son as he grabbed her hand and squealed at the bumpy ride. “What about the fire? Are we going to be safe if it reaches the bunker?”
Her husband nodded, the lines of his body, rigid. “It’s deep underground.”
After a couple of long, tense miles, the path veered away from the flames, and Lance drove the Hummer up the embankment.
Abby divided her attention between her son and the falling ash outside her window. Once Eric finally drifted off to sleep, she covered him with an old blanket from the emergency kit, then climbed back into the front seat.
“It feels like we’re the last people on the planet,” she said, squeezing her husband’s shoulder.
Lance gave a small smile. “We’re not, I promise.”
An hour later, they crested the mountaintop and he pulled the Hummer into the trees and cut the engine.
Abby looked around, but didn’t see anything except forest. “Where’s the bunker?”
“Up ahead. I’m going to go have a look, make sure we can get in.” He unbuckled his seatbelt and grabbed a pistol out of the glovebox. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
Lance leaned over and gave her a quick, but fierce kiss. “Lock the doors behind me and move into the driver’s seat. I’m leaving the keys, just in case.”
Her stomach twisted in a knot and she shivered. “In case of what?”
His hand cupped her cheek briefly. “In case you need to get out of here.”
She wanted to protest, but with their son in the backseat, all she could do was nod and watch as her husband left. Once she’d scooted over and locked the doors, she sat gripping the steering wheel as she squinted into the darkness. It felt like hours with nothing to do but wait and worry, yet every time she checked the time, only minutes had passed.
Her heart skipped a beat when a figure emerged from the shadows at last, and she reached for the ignition.
Lance…it was Lance…
But then he ran for the Hummer.
She unlocked the door and slid over. “What’s wrong?”
“The bunker’s compromised!” He turned the key and the motor roared to life. “Buckle up, we gotta go!”
Abby barely had time to fasten her seatbelt before Lance peeled out of the trees. “What the hell happened?”
“They’ve gone crazy in there, some kind of mind control thing by whoever is attacking us.” Lance slammed on the brakes when a man appeared in the beam of headlights.
“Oh, my God,” she breathed.
The man, dressed in National Guard fatigues, had blood dripping from a gash on the side of his head, soaking the whole right side of his camo jacket.
She glanced at her husband. “Should we help him?”
A movement outside caught her eye and she turned back in time to see the man lift a bloody fireman’s axe.
“Look out!” Abby screeched.
“Fucking hell,” Lance jerked the wheel as he floored the gas to try and go around. But when he passed, the man swung the axe at the driver side window, smashing the glass. Lance ducked, barely managing to avoid having his head split open.
“Obliteration!” The man screamed.
In the back seat, Eric’s high-pitched cries joined the racket.
“Obliteraaaaation!” The man’s repeated declaration faded as they sped past and left the bunker behind them.
“Jesus!” Lance’s heartfelt exclamation was drowned out as he ground the gear shifter.
Abby scrambled into the backseat and leaned over the car seat, trying to soothe the baby.
Eric’s chubby little hands wound themselves around her neck and wouldn’t let go.
“Shh, it’s all right, big guy, daddy’s okay.” She hummed softly and patted his head until he finally quieted. Her gaze went again to the rearview mirror and she locked eyes with her husband. “Was that—”
“Mind control.” He shook his head, his face pale, even in the darkness. “It had to be.”
“But why?” Abby blinked back tears as the enormity of what’d just happened hit her. “Why would anyone do that?”
“Not anyone.” His jaw twitched. “Anything.”
“Now what?” Fighting to keep her fear under control, Abby bit the inside of her lip. “What do we do?”
“I don’t know. I mean, it makes sense they’d disable the military first, but damn, that’d been going on for hours from the looks of things inside. That means, they attacked the bunker about the same time the meteors hit.” Lance stared at the road, his voice softening as he tried to make sense of what he’d seen. “How’d they even know where to find that place? They’ve got to be picking up military frequencies. Oh—oh no—”
“What?” Her gaze darted to the front windshield, but she didn’t see anything, or anyone, outside. “What’s wrong?”
“We need to ditch this thing.” At her blank look, he elaborated. “If they’re picking up military frequencies, they’ll be able to get a lock on the Hummer’s GPS. Especially now that we were seen back at the bunker.”
Beads of sweat sprang up on her forehead. The last thing she wanted was to be out in the open with the baby. “Can’t you disable the signal?”
“I doubt it, I don’t even know where it is. In fact, there’s probably more than one, for backup.” Lance slowed down and pulled into a dense grove of pine trees, then stopped. “Grab all of Eric’s stuff, the blanket, too. I’ll get the rest.”
Abby crammed her son’s things in the diaper bag, her heart pounding the whole time, worrying the man with the axe might catch up to them. Once she had everything, she got Eric out of the car seat and cradled him in her lap while Lance finished packing up.
“Ready?” He slammed the back of the Hummer shut and slung a duffel bag over one arm and semi-automatic rifle over the other.
She got out and slipped the diaper bag diagonally over her shoulder, then settled Eric on her hip. “Ready.”
Lance clicked on a small flashlight. “Let’s go.”