The travel storm dumped DG on her butt again, but she bounded up to count heads in the moonlight from two of the moons. She got everyone and their stuff here, so she enjoyed the thrill that went through her.
"Dad, look, two moons!" Jack bounced to his feet.
"I'll be," Frank Powell muttered.
"Actually we have three. The third one hasn't risen yet. And two suns," DG added.
Figures ran out of the trees, some on horses, all heading towards them in the clearing. Something wrong hit DG right before a bullet hit the dirt in front of her and Jeb shouted "Longcoats! Get down!"
Frank pushed Miles McCabe and Eva Rossi down while Connor flung himself over his son and Natalie Durant. Jeb took position over them, firing at the Longcoats. Defensive magic surged to DG's hands and she flung out a fireball that caught six of the approaching Longcoats.
"It's the Gale bitch!"
DG flung herself to the ground and raised a golden shield around herself, Miles, Eva, and Frank. She started to expand it to grab the Connors and Natalie, but had to shift her concentration to keeping out all the bullets pinging the golden glow. She felt the vibrations from the truck before it burst through the undergrowth, headlights dazzling, and causing the Longcoats to swarm over them as bullets from the Royal Army joined the fray.
The truck, one of the repurposed armored ones the Sorceress had built, pulled to a stop beside her shield. Glitch and Raw threw open the back doors. "DG, Jeb! Get in!" The truck blocked the bullets so DG dropped the shield and grabbed all the medical equipment bags not attached to people and floated them into the truck first. Miles hauled Eva off the ground and pushed her inside. DG took Raw's hand then turned to pull someone else in. Jeb and Frank had Connor between them, a bloody hole in his black T-shirt near the shoulder. Raw crouched over Connor as soon as they put him on the floor. Glitch grabbed the doors.
Eva picked herself off the luggage. "Natalie and Jack?"
Jeb shook his head. "Longcoats took them."
"We have to go after them!" Frank yelled above the rumble of the moving truck.
Glitch shook his head. "We have to get DG to safety first."
"We have to get them back," DG said. "She's a doctor and Jack's a child!"
Raw roared, putting all the attention on him. "Bullet must come out first!"
Miles dropped to Connor's side and tried to probe the wound. "We have to stop."
"Dad's driving?" Glitch answered Jeb's question with a nod. They both looked at DG as the only one who could reason with Wyatt Cain in full paranoid mode.
She huffed, sat on the floor, and put both hands on the floor of the truck. Her magic surged underneath, lifting the truck into the air. "Hurry!"
Miles jerked his bag off his back while Frank and Jeb held Connor down.
"Make her put us down NOW!" Cain roared from the cab.
"Can't, emergency surgery," Glitch shouted back.
No one couldn't make out what Cain grumbled, but the acceleration of the truck slacked off.
"No time for that." Raw pulled something from Miles' gloved hand. "DG drains out, truck falls down. Get bullet and clean wound."
"Without anesthesia!" Miles yelped.
"Think about all the times Connor yelled at you," Eva suggested.
"Still not right." But Miles grabbed a probe.
DG closed her eyes and concentrated on keeping the truck up and still. Sweat rolled down her temples. She blocked out Connor's sounds of pain that panged her heart. She had to keep the truck still.
"Got it! Eva, flush the wound."
"All the fibers out?" Jeb asked.
"Yeah, hey what are you doing!"
"Hang on tight," Jeb said. "This part always hurts."
Connor screamed as Raw's talents knit his muscles and skin back together.
Glitch grabbed her shoulder. "DG, put us down. Raw has him."
She eased the truck down to the ground. As soon as the tires made contact, Cain shifted the gears and started them moving. She opened her eyes and accepted a canteen from Glitch. "What the hell, Glitch? This is paranoid even for you guys."
Glitch looked at the floor. "We have to protect the Queen."
They didn't have time for this royal pomp and protocol. She took a deep breath so she wouldn't scream at one of her best friends. "That's half the reason we surrounded Neverdale with soldiers. Now we need to get there and help the hostages."
"Not until you're safe." DG felt her stomach drop away. Glitch's blood-shot eyes met hers. "I'm sorry, DG, but your mother—" His brown eyes welled up again. "You are the Queen of the Outer Zone now."
Connor stopped screaming and DG felt like starting. "Queen Galinda is dead?" Jeb demanded.
"Yes," Raw answered.
Glitch started babbling about her loss of magic or the annuals of imprisonment weakening her, but DG couldn't hear him past the roaring in her ears. She pushed away from them and conquered the swaying of the truck to climb into the cab.
Cain glanced at her as she dropped into the empty passenger seat. "It's safer in the back."
"Is it true?" She curled her arms around her knees.
"Yes." She watched his jaw spasm while he searched for what to say. "Your sister and father are still not sick."
"For now." She closed her eyes as a wave of failure crashed over her.
Jeb poked his head into the cab between the seats. "We can't go to Central City. The doctors have to go to the sick and we have to go after the Longcoats."
Cain's jaw hardened. "She is not hunting Longcoats."
"I'm not going to Central City!" DG yelled.
Eva Rossi stuck her head inside the cab next to Jeb. "We have two outbreaks?"
"Dad, Neverdale is closer. We can send troops after the Longcoats from there."
"To rescue Natalie and Jack?" Eva focused on DG, the one in a front seat she could see clearly.
"This isn't under discussion!" Cain growled.
"You're right because you are going to listen to your son, Wyatt Cain!" DG balled up her fists. "Take this truck to Neverdale or I'm dumping your ass out and taking it myself!"
The truck screeched to a halt so Wyatt Cain could turn his icy glare on her. Jeb ducked and Eva's eyes eclipsed her face before Jeb pulled her into the rear of the truck. DG felt her magic wrap around her like a warm blanket and knew she was glowing.
"Yes, your Majesty," he spat it out before working the gears and turned the truck around.
The words struck DG harder than a slap to the face. Her glow snuffed out and she curled up into a ball again. She didn't want the crown if it meant Cain was furious with her. She squeezed her legs tighter. There was no one else. The people would never accept Az, even if DG thought her traumatized sister could handle the stress of ruling. No, it was all up to DG, who attracted failure more than she did trouble. She squeezed her eyes shut to keep the threatening tears in. Shouldn't there be more fanfare when a coronet was traded for a crown?