NOTE: This is derived from the "Swept Away" RP continuity which started in 2007 and has continued in various forms and spinoffs ever since, first on the old Hillbilly Hell forum and presently in Wingnut City. I'm sure it's not the first or only "Humans in the Carsverse" thing that ever came up, but boy, has it had staying power. By the in-RP timeline, the events of Planes 2 would be taking place perhaps 6 years after the humans' arrival.
Disclaimer: Don't own no canon characters. They belong to Disney. Weesa be makin' no money offa dis!
NOTE: Okay, might as well officially call this a crossover now, with all theChronicles of Amber elements in it.
First, Wally blew together a heaping mound of pine boughs and needles. The Orion-ghost then spread it out to about six feet across and several inches thick, and set Mii'Auww's unconscious form on it. They were well above Whitewall Falls now, where Wally was at his strongest. Nick, for his part, had driven the mare up a narrow, winding animal trail to the top, finally allowing her to pause for a drink in the upward section of the river. The walls of the gorge would contain the advancing blaze, but anything within would surely be ashes by the next morning. Too bad, he'd miss that quaint bridge, but priority went those things that were living. Blade was still on Nick's mind, but Maru would be going all-out, as usual, to pull life from the jaws of oblivion, and the helo-ghost had a charge of his own to return to. He rejoined Wally as tendrils of smoke began wafting in from the valley's interior. “How's our little girl?”
“She's not dead, obviously,” Wally shrugged, “Despite all her best efforts. Did she somehow absorb those suicidal tendencies from you?”
Nick swallowed what he thought would have been a brilliant comeback about Orions and their jaundiced worldviews. “At least Mii wasn't doing it for a stunt, not exactly following MY example, for which I'm glad.” He peered closely at Mii, watching her chest rise and fall. “She's breathing OK.”
“Good.” Wally grunted. “I wouldn't know what's good or not-so-good for a human. Could hardly hear her heartbeat.”
“Were you listening on her left side?” Nick looked up. “Her people are built a little different on the inside, compared to the other humans. The mountain folks have it on the left. The nomads almost all have right-side hearts. Her heart is in the “right” place. Get it?” He grinned tightly.
“Yeah, I've heard the expression.” Wally nodded curtly. “Their slang got around long before I got to see one for reals.” He stiffened, and hissed out a curse as smoke continued to drift in and thicken. “Slag. That fire's gonna be in the gorge real soon. Wouldn't wanna be anyone caught there when that happens.”
“Are we far enough away?”
“Should be. The wind and mist coming off the waterfall should keep any sparks from drifting above. But that's the worst I've ever seen it here.”
Nick looked up. The sun, though now shrouded in a blue-grey smoke haze, was almost touching the horizon. “Not a lot of time left for the firefighters. But Windlifter's in charge for now, and that'll be his call to make. I certainly don't envy him that decision.” He glanced down again, as Mii's lips moved. Was it a moan or was it a word? There it was again -- “Ahd'wa”.
Wally cocked his head, “What's she saying?”
Nick met Wally's gaze, solemnly. “That's how they say “Daddy”. She would've been maybe seven--eight when he died. In battle, so far as I know. I hope he got the chance to kill some demons before he went.”
The Orion-ghost took on a clouded expression as he studied the girl. She seemed to be coming back, by millimeters. How much of “herself” had she given? “Well, wherever he is, I hope he's proud of his little girl.”
Had Wally seen was going on downriver at that point, he would have been even less optimistic. The fire's march had advanced inexorably into Augerin Canyon, cutting off the road access back to the lodge. There were two there right now, the older RV couple who had departed from the lodge earlier in the afternoon, for the sake of reliving memories, before the fire became news to everyone else.
In recent years, Augerin Canyon and the Whitewall falls gorge had earned another reputation besides being a natural aerobatic obstacle course; thanks to the high canyon walls, it was also now “the place where cell service goes to die.” At any other time, this would be a low-level irritant to the smartphone generation, but little more. But to Winnie and Arvie, forced to return to the bridge outlook as the flames confronted them either way, the crossed-out bars on their pop-up phone screens were now as fearful as the flames that were now licking at the approaches to the bridge.
They started calling out, but over the roar of the inferno, who could hear?
Moonstone flung his head and snorted as he crow-hopped, increasingly nervous at the tinge of smoke in the air. Elena reined him in yet again as the Spirit-mother came up behind with her own stolid mount and a pack horse in tow. Above them, Shayla's engines were audible as the Harrier conducted a systematic search in the waning minutes of the evening golden hour. Elena had returned to base and then hellride-jumped herself, the shamaness and horses all to this point in the trail; it was possible as long as the others were in line-of-sight of the Amberite doing the transition. They'd had to go through one intermediate place to get back to this timeline, a shade where time flowed more quickly, and used that to make up the distance that had taken Mii'auww many days to cover. Shayla made rendezvous with them after they re-emerged. What she had to report was equal doses of good and bad.
“I've got a fix on her, finally,” the Harrier's voice crackled over the radio link, “But it's right in the area of the Piston Peak park and it looks like half the place is up in flames now.”
“We copy that.” Elena responded. She halted her mount and turned in the saddle, towards the old shamaness. “At least Shayla's found the life-trace, but whether or not we can still reach her is still an open question.”
“How much longer can Shayla fly?” the wizened lady peered upwards. “Is she not low on fuel now?”
“Getting there, I imagine.” Elena grimaced slightly, “But her magery stretched it a bit.” “Even with that, there's only so long she can loiter.”
the shamaness lifted her reins in her bony hand and clucked to her gelding. “How much further to the park?”
“Another five miles, as the crow flies.” Elena consulted her GPS receiver. It was a rather limited device in her opinion, but it beat having to fiddle with a bunch of maps in the saddle, though she had those too. “Twenty minutes, if we press the horses and your pack pony can keep up.”
“He can.” the old woman nodded. “I just hope we don't run into any fleeing tourists.”
“I'd worry more about fleeing animals.” Elena lifted the radio set again. “Shayla, is there a way clear for us to come in?”
“The off-road trail is still open,” the Harrier replied, “But watch out for deere. I saw about twenty of them heading out. The trace I've got seems to lead beyond the falls, if you see it on your map. I'm taking the long way around all that smoke, but my ETA to that area is maybe five minutes. Will get back to you. Over and out.”
Moonstone shied again as a pair of balsa thrushes zipped by his head; Elena reined him in. As they rode further in, their eyes began to smart and the horses grew skittish, and let out an occasional cough. That, however, didn't stop them from pressing steadily through.
Overhead, Shayla continued to search for a safe path for the riders. She had been up and down the trail since daybreak; fatigue was setting in, fuel was running low, and she would have to find someplace to land, but soon. A VTOL craft could land anywhere, but she had to be cautious not to worsen the situation on the ground with her own jetwash and any sparks her engine might produce. Fifteen minutes of surveying all approaches left only a circuitous route around the southeast corners of the park and then northward, to the falls. Everything else was getting swallowed up or crowded out by panicked evacuees, and the staff on the ground would be stretched to the breaking point keeping the crowd moving safely.
It was at 1500 AGL, travelling eastward, that Shayla felt the trace intensify, in strength and direction. It was about time; even through her visor the smoke was making her eyes smart, and her tanks were getting down to drops and fumes. She breathed in sharply as a hot thermal hit her and bouyed her high over the canyon, which now glowed like many pockets of Hell surrounding a river now choked with charred snags and ashes. The Harrier fought to regain control, then gritted her teeth again as the bridge came into view – and the two souls now huddled in the middle of it. Dammit... They would not be able to see her now, but Shayla still had a dilemma on her proverbial hands, even as her tanks were just about dry. Her decision was immediate.
Miles away, the tower at the fire base received a call.