Chapter 25 (or, “A Bicycle Built For Two”)
“Do you have any clue where you’re going?” Sierra asked Henry as they made their way through the outside world, through the gate to the other side of Disasterville. There was a huge forest ahead of them, dense trees providing coverage throughout the eastern side of the city. It was a perfect place for them to make their getaway and find some Digital Merge cards.
Henry shook his head as the gates shut behind him. “The others have the map. We’re going to have to play it by ear.”
“Oh. I was hoping that there would have been more of a plan.” Sierra bit her lip. She didn’t like being lost, especially out in the woods.
“But we’ve got each other, don’t we? And I know about all of the cards. I’ve done some pretty extensive studying of each pack. Anything we run into, we’ll be prepared for. Even villain cards.” Henry gave Sierra a smile. “No frowny faces.”
Sierra nodded. “Okay. I trust you. So, where are we going to begin our search?”
“Right in these woods. The cards could be anywhere, so we need to be prepared for anything. Did you bring the supplies?”
Sierra paused. “...what supplies?”
“You know. Tents and stuff. Didn’t you get them from the supply room? I thought we were going to do that before we left.”
Sierra kept her mouth shut. She didn’t remember Henry saying anything about that before they left. “Um…”
“You didn’t?” Henry tried to keep optimistic, but it was hard to. Just who was this Sierra Kansulo girl anyway? How could anybody forget the basics? “Well, it’ll be okay. We’ll find some way to make do.”
Henry had expected Sierra to play dumb, to brush it off as if they really didn’t need things as trivial as tents or sleeping bags. He expected her to really be “that stupid.” He knew kids like that in his classes, girls who were obsessed with boys and makeup and focused on becoming the perfect, traditional wife. They were good at it, and there was nothing wrong with that, but that wasn’t Henry’s type of girl. He was starting to consider if he had picked the wrong member of the team to escape Disasterville with when he noticed the tear running down Sierra’s face.
“That’s okay. We didn’t need all of that stuff anyway.” She smiled. “Thank you for not yelling at me. Maybe we’ll go back later and get it.”
“You’re welcome.” Henry didn’t know how to properly respond after something like that. He bit his lip. “Let’s search all throughout these woods, then. If we don’t find anything by the time the sun sets, then we’ll decide what to do, if we want to go back to the town hall or not.”
“Rhiannon’s going to yell at us for being gone without someone else.” Sierra looked at her feet. “I’m really sorry I didn’t bring the supplies.”
“Remember what I said? No frowny faces. Let’s make the best of it. Stick together, and we’ll cover the entire forest together.” Henry took her hand. “We’ll search everywhere.”
And they did just that, searching high and low for any Digital Merge cards that might be around. Henry was surprised at Sierra’s tree climbing ability, which enabled them to look high in the sky for any cards that might be laying around. To even out the work, Henry checked every nook and cranny on the ground. He pretended that he was ten years old again, in the back woods of his town, searching for bugs. It would be summer, and shorts were comfy and easy to wear, and Henry would get into contests with all of his friends to see who could catch the coolest bug. He never won these contests, but he still felt himself brighten inside when he remembered those days now.
It was when he was looking on the ground that he realized there was something in his pocket. He pulled it out and was surprised to see a gift card there, a “bicycle built for two” as it said on the card. It was an extra vehicle card, able for use on the playing field. It could carry two heroes on its seats to go help with a problem at normal speed. They didn’t have any heroes...but could Henry use this card as a mode of transportation for him and Sierra? Where had he gotten it, anyway? Maybe he had gotten it after they had fought the Moles of Molten Lava, since you typically got gift cards after you solved problems or beat villains...but it had been Rhiannon who had beat the Moles, not Henry.
This didn’t make any sense, but it was still something. “Hey, Sierra?”
"Hmm?" Sierra turned her head from where she was sitting in the tree. "Did you say something?"
"I noticed this." Henry brandished the Bicycle Built for Two card. "I don't know where it came from, but it was suddenly there in my pocket. I think we got it from before. It's a gift card."
With no regard for safety, Sierra jumped down from the tree. It was a distance that would normally give some people nerves, but she managed to land safe and sound on her feet. "A what?"
"A gift card. I think I got it when Rhiannon beat the Moles of Molten Lava with Natasha, but I can't be one hundred percent sure." Henry showed her the image on the card. "Do you think we should use it?"
Sierra's face brightened up. "We can get a bicycle? That's awesome! We could cover even more ground that way. We'll find a card by tonight for sure!"
...come to think of it, Henry hadn't come to that conclusion yet. "You really think so?"
"Of course. We'll cover so much ground that way." Sierra tapped on the card, and before Henry could stop it, the gift card began to glow. It grew until it was, literally, a red colored two person bicycle. Sierra took the bike by the front handlebars. "I'm not the strongest pedaler, so how about you get in the back and I'll steer?"
"Sounds good," Henry said as he went to the back of the bike, then stopped. "Wait. We're in the middle of a forest. How are we supposed to pilot a bike in the middle of a forest?"
"Do the people who play your card game think of stuff like that when they're trying to fix a problem, or do they just say, 'Hey, Awesome Rocks, ride this bike through the forest even though there's no path and you don't have any hands or feet?"
She had a point again. "All right, fine." Henry got on the back of the bike. "We'll try your way, and when it doesn't work, we'll walk the bike out of the forest...wherever that is...and find a path."
But Henry found himself eating his own words. When Sierra got on the bike, the bike then seemed to levitate just slightly off the ground, making the terrain not an issue. They still had to steep out of the way of trees and huge rocks, but regular grass and dirt wasn't a problem. Sierra started to pedal, and Henry did as well, giving her the boost she needed to keep going.
They pedaled through the forest for a few minutes, passing countless trees. Henry wondered in his head if there was any end to this forest, or if it just went on like this forever. There weren't any breaks for clearings or rivers...just trees and grass and lots and lots of rocks. "Hey, Sierra?"
"Do you think we can stop for a bit? Everything's starting to blur together, and I want to make sure we can get back to Disasterville."
Sierra stopped pedaling the bike. "Where?" she asked, turning back to Henry.
"Disasterville. Where Rhiannon and the others are. You know...the place we escaped from."
There was a strange light in Sierra's eyes as she said, "We escaped from a place?" Then, something seemed to dawn on her. "Oh. That's right. We did. Whatever you say, Henry."
It didn't make sense. "Sierra?"
She got off the bike. "I shouldn't be out here."
He felt a pit growing in his stomach. "Why not?"
"Let me tell you something. Something that Liana told me that I was never supposed to tell anybody, because then they'll only see me as a burden." And Sierra began to talk about growing up a world away from Henry and China and Digital Merge, of Los Angeles and palm trees and busy streets and sunshine all year round. Liana and Sierra had been best friends for years, going to middle and high school together.
It had happened during a high school basketball game -- Sierra had been cheering for the sidelines when the ball had struck her upside the head. She had been rushed to the hospital and would be fine...most of the time. Sometimes, certain facts or figures slipped her mind, and her short term memory was a mess. It made dreams of college harder and getting a job a pain in the rear. Most days she stuck around Liana, who kept her injury a secret from all those around her.
"Getting around this world has been a mess," Sierra admitted, tears in her eyes. "I've stuck by Liana as long as I have, but even that's been hard. That's why I wanted to leave with you, Henry. I wanted to prove to her that I'm not a burden, but that's exactly what I am. Even to you."
Henry gave her a small smile. "Nobody is a burden unless they think they are," he said. "And you are most definitely not a burden."
"But I can't even remember where I was going on this bike --"
"Then I'll remember for the both of us." Henry put his arm around Sierra and, in a gesture that he hoped felt warm, pulled her in close for a hug. "We'll make it together, as long as we stick together."
"Well, isn't this sweet."
Both Henry and Sierra turned to see a huge, masked figure standing in their way, overshadowing the woods. Henry recognized the card as the Death Seeker villain card, one of the hardest villain cards to beat in Digital Merge.
"And my boss doesn't like sweet," the Death Seeker card growled.