Catching Up: Part Ten
They ran down the lawn: one, two, three, four, five Faeries in their school uniforms, purple and cream with one stripe of their element's color to show what sort of Faerie they were. No one was out in the halls just yet, and they had been able to run all the way from the infirmary. Class was still in session for all the other students, though it wouldn't be long before classes ended and they would be missed. Thinking of the probable reaction, Patricia winced. But there was nothing they could do, really. They couldn't leave Ms. Evea in trouble.
Therisa was almost in the lead, running step for step with Arielle. Patricia was just behind them, and Emm a few feet behind Patricia, as was Lianar: the Light Faerie had been in the lead at the beginning, but gotten winded quickly and dropped back. The grass of the lawn crumpled underneath their feet and then sprang up again as they ran on.
Arielle and Therisa slowed as they neared where the Racers were parked, and the others caught up. They stood for a moment looking out over the field: at the empty air, the clouds, the lone Racer hovering, forlorn, where it had been before.
"We should've gotten Clocia to let us take Lillian," Emm said, panting for breath. "She could've had Ms. Evea's racer."
Arielle nodded, climbing up into the nearest Racer. "What if someone flew back to the infirmary and got her out the window?" she asked, running her hands over the controls to familiarize herself. "It wouldn't take too long--just hover outside, you know--"
"Bring her back here," Therisa said, getting into the spirit of it, "and climb over to Ms. Evea's racer." The Fire Faerie grinned wickedly. "So who wants to volunteer?"
"Who's the best at flying," Emm corrected her sensibly. "Remember, even Ms. Evea crash-landed."
All of them glanced around at the others, and somehow they all ended up looking at Patricia. The Dark Faerie raised her eyebrows and sighed.
"She got hurt because of my flying," she reminded them. They looked back at her with equal mulishness.
"It was an accident," Therisa said. "It wasn't your fault. It wasn't hers either, or Ms. Evea's."
Patricia looked around at them and shook her head. "Well, all right. But you have to promise to all leave as soon as I'm gone. We'll come after you as soon as we can."
"We'll wait for ten minutes," Lianar said. "And then we'll leave." The Light Faerie raised her own eyebrows at Patricia, even though they were next to invisible against her pale skin. "All right? But be quick."
The Dark Faerie grinned and vaulted up into her Racer. "Yes, ma'am. I'll try."
Patricia remembered halfway across the school that she had promised Ms. Evea to not let anyone back in the Racers until she returned, and let her hands slack on the controls for a moment. The Racer dipped in the air, dangerously close to the roof, and the Dark Faerie grimaced and swooped up again.
Well, things had changed, she told herself. Ms. Evea couldn't have known that she'd be in trouble. And walking there would take most of the rest of the day. They had to do this. For Ms. Evea, and for them. If they didn't have a teacher, there was no way they would ever get to fly Racers again--or improve at all. Even after Faerie Academy hired another Faerie Cloud Racers teacher, they wouldn't know the groups at all, and it would take an age for them to gain her trust enough to even practice.
She saw the courtyard beneath her and circled down, slowly, checking her engine and then throttling it back so that it rumbled more quietly. Patricia glanced into each window as she passed it, circling downward, and found Lillian's room on the third pass.
The Dark Faerie put her Racer into a hover and rapped on the window pane with her knuckles. "Psst! Lillian!"
Inside the room, she could see the Water Faerie sit up in bed, abruptly, and look around the room before thinking of the window. Patricia grinned and waved to catch Lillian's attention.
"Patricia!" Lillian crossed the room and pushed the window open, narrowly missing Patricia's head. The Dark Faerie ducked to dodge it. "What's up?"
"Ms. Evea's in trouble," Patricia said, her smile fading. "We're going to go rescue her. Your Racer's done in, but we thought you could take Ms. Evea's. C'mon, hop in."
"I don't know--" The Water Faerie wavered, glancing back at the door. "They'll know I'm gone. That Water Faerie."
Patricia grinned again. "She's a friend. Don't worry." She moved over to make room and steadied the Racer with a hand against the wall of the building as Lillian opened the window as far as it would go and climbed out: one foot on the windowsill and one in the room, both on the windowsill, and then a stretch from the windowsill to the edge of the Racer.
There was a nasty moment then, when Lillian was neither on the windowsill or quite into the Racer, but Patricia kept the Racer steady. The Water Faerie slid in next to her, letting out her breath in a whoosh and shaking her head.
"Sorry for the lack of space," the Dark Faerie said over the engine noise. "Can you just shut that window again? And we'll be off." She revved the engine, but waited until Lillian had leaned over to close the window to move. They shifted forward, then backward, away from the wall. Patricia glanced both ways and accelerated, swooping them up into the sky. They left Lillian's infirmary room behind and below them as they soared over the roof tiles and back to where their friends waited.
Lianar was pacing again, down at the field: fifteen steps one way, and then fifteen steps back. At each turn, she glanced up at the roofs for any sign of Patricia's return.
"Has it been ten minutes yet?" she asked Emm after what seemed an eternity of pacing.
The Earth Faerie shook her head. "More like five. Maybe six."
Lianar sighed. "Well, let's get in the Racers, anyway, so we can be ready to go." The other Faeries nodded. There was no muddle of picking this time: they took the Racer nearest to them, whichever one that might be.
Racer doors slammed and engines started, but they all stayed on the ground. No one quite wanted to take off and leave Patricia and Lillian to follow, but neither did they want to wait for five more minutes.
"Look!" Arielle yelled, and pointed.
Over the roof came a dark blot that resolved itself into a Racer with two Faeries in it as it came closer. Patricia and Lillian were both grinning; Lillian was waving. The others waved back furiously and smiled.
Lianar took off, rising through the air to slip up next to the other Racer. "Good to see you back, Lill!" she shouted. "You too, Patricia."
Patricia gave a salute, but her attention was on the controls. The double-loaded Racer soared over the lawn and onto the field towards Ms. Evea's Racer. Patricia put it into a hover next to it and climbed over, letting Lillian slide over to take the controls of the other vehicle.
"You good?" the Dark Faerie shouted. Lillian didn't try to answer: she just nodded, putting her hands on the steering. Patricia grinned back and pulled Ms. Evea's Racer out of its hover, followed closely by Lillian.
As they passed the others, they rose into the air, too, thundering up into the sky. Lianar took the lead, skipping around the others: Patricia and Lillian followed, and then Arielle, Therisa, and Emm.
"Where's the Faerie Courthouse?" Lianar called back to them as they soared over the roofs. Patricia grinned.
"You don't even know where we're going? I thought you were supposed to be our wise leader," she shouted up to the Light Faerie.
"Oh, be quiet, and tell me where it is," Lianar yelled back, laughing. "Do you know?"
"Not the faintest!" Patricia shouted cheerfully, and half-turned to look back at the row of Racers behind her. "How about you? Faerie Courthouse?"
"I know," Arielle said. She slipped her Racer sideways out of her place and then soared up towards those in the front. Patricia decelerated as soon as she saw what the Air Faerie was doing, sliding back into place next to Therisa.
"Hello!" the Dark Faerie yelled. Therisa turned around and grinned at her.
"Hello to you too," she shouted back.
Up in front of them, Arielle was leaning forward in her Racer and yelling directions and landmarks over the wind and the noise of the Racers' engines.
"Got it," Lianar shouted at last. "Thanks, Arielle." She accelerated and swooped up as the last roofs of Faerie Academy fell away underneath them, and they followed.
Flying in a perfect spearpoint formation, they flew over the front gardens of Faerie Academy and out into Faerie City itself.
To be continued...