A fallen tree lay across our path, only yards ahead. On a better surface I wouldn't have hit it. Honestly. I managed to turn, but we slid broadside onto it. The resounding crash was more for effect than anything else, we splintered a few branches and dented a little more bodywork.
"Nature let that one fall months ago, just because she knew we were coming," I quipped. As I restarted the engine. Look, it stalled because of the impact. I could hear the high pitched whine of jet engines.
"What now?"
Hell, that was about it.
I saw it in the mirror first, the delicate pattern enveloping timber, igniting it effortlessly as though it were mere tinder.
"Oh shit!"
Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue.
I can sing a rainbow,
see a rainbow,
running through the forest to ...
It was a bit like film of an avalanche, a billowing mass travelling at speed, only it wasn't what you'd would call cold death.
I believe it's called Napalm.
Two aircraft, each dropped a load and to paraphrase; Napalm to the left of them, Napalm to the right of them, roared and thundered. Yea, stormed at with shot and shell, while all the world wondered.
Whether it blistered the paint was rather immaterial, it was clearly close enough for us to feel the heat. Maybe you know the feeling when the barbeque doesn't want to light, so after struggling for ten minutes you throw a beaker of petrol on.
Between the two strips of scorched forest was six to eight feet of timber just beginning to burn. Oh, and us.
"I usually appreciate pine smoke, but I don't think I like the smell of Napalm in the evening."
"You know where we would be if we hadn't hit this tree?" questioned Serge.
"I've a pretty good idea. But just now I'm more worried about burning tyres and the petrol tank exploding."
"We go now?" asked Natasha.
"We go now."
Thankfully the tyres didn't catch alight, the accelerant ceased to burn in minutes, the intense heat had created a charcoal carpet and put a little more light on the forest floor. If we had been somewhere drier there would no doubt have been a major forest fire, but that would be nit picking. It was move before they sent in a helicopter, or the troops caught up. As it was they no longer needed the Kola Bears, we were, for the sake of a better pun, trail blazing. Punching out a clear pattern in the smouldering under-storey. They went that-a-way.
"I wonder if there is a God?" muttered Serge.
"Why, do you think that he assisted with the Napalm sandwich?"
"We could so easily have been in the middle of that."
"It's just as well we were."
"You know what I mean."
"Yes." I knew exactly what he meant but though humbled I hadn't time to develop any faith.

Briefly we were masked by the canopy, though the scent of pine wasn't strong enough to mask the lingering after burn. Then once more there was daylight ahead.
"It can't be the border yet, no river."
"Probably a fire break," decided Serge with humour in his tone.
"I can't hear the jets."
I risked making headway at the expense of visibility and tore along the wide pathway. The terrain wasn't smooth enough to get a decent wiggle on, sorry turn of speed, and there were a few tree stumps around. Hopefully it would reduce the likelihood of being heard, for a little while at least.
"The Migs may have run out of munitions. No doubt they will swiftly be replaced so we can't stay in the open much longer," said Serge softly.
"This will do anyway."
I headed west again and through the regular rows made good time. There was only a light under storey, immature trees that had long died.
More matchwood. An acceptable loss through natural decay?
"How far do you reckon now?" I asked cautiously. Things were running just a little too smoothly.
"At the end of the firebreak I saw water, quite a narrow stretch. Looking at the map I'd guess two, maybe four minutes."
It was three and once again the canopy was letting through more light.
I slowed, two rows in from the grassy fringe there was a green diamond nailed to a tree. I stopped, dead.
"What's the matter?"
"Intuition." Yes, maybe, that and an underlying gut feeling that chilled me to the core. Perhaps physical space was drawing together two flimsy membranes. After all, this was just the type of forest where I needed to part company with our destiny. If I could see the wood for the trees.
Turning to the left we moved parallel to the ribbon of water. Within half a mile we found what passed for a gorge. A fifty foot deep ditch, maybe thirty feet wide, a sharp drop off on one side, more sloping across on the other.
"I take it we are going to try and jump that?"
"What do you mean. Try."
"And the mines?"
"I'm coming to those."
Carefully I lined the car up with the centre of the feeble chasm. Then I stepped carefully from the car cradling the Kaliashnikov.
"You realise you might quite easily miss one," called Serge.
"Don't put doubt in my mind."
But his thoughts were along a slightly different track. I used the automatic to cut down a sapling, well a twenty five foot pine.
A Mig screamed past us, following the border clearing, barely above the trees.
"I need a hand, Serge," I called, ignoring the distraction.
Together we struggled, but eventually stood the heavy tree upright on the edge of the second row. Then let it drop. We repeated the trick several times. The ground was clear to the grass at least. The third time we dropped it on the grass, we lost the top five feet.
"That will bring the termites out of the woodwork."
"Then we had better hurry," I said, starting to roll the trunk across a wide enough strip to drive down. Nothing else went Boom! We dragged the trunk back and laid it on the very edge of the drop, as we walked away, for good measure I turned and sprayed a whole magazine into the ground ahead, that's what Serge thought I was going to do anyway.
The crashing of shells from the forest ceased and relocated on the border stream, maybe only three hundred yards to our left, moving closer.
A lot of even more tightly crossed fingers were gripping firmly onto the seats as I reversed for the run up. I didn't back up as far as I really wanted either. There was this little problem of gunfire. That was why they had stopped bombarding the area behind us, if they lined up a tank this time we would be in real trouble.
"Now or never," I muttered as I leadfooted the throttle.
I didn't bother to look at the speedometer, there wouldn't be a second chance. A rather too accurate burst of fire took out the windscreen just as we became airborne. There was no drift into the sky. We hit the log and the bonnet lifted, then the car fell like a lead balloon. When we landed we lost our momentum, the rear wheels began to spin hopelessly on the grass. At least we were across the river. I could almost feel the soldiers getting closer, the bullets were still cutting into the grass above us.
I had no choice.
As another Kola Bear roared overhead I slipped into reverse, flicked the front down as we turned and sped off along the grass. Moving, but right out in the open.
"Pray," I said as figures emerged from the trees and bullets cut into the bodywork.
Then there were a series of explosions. For a moment the firing stopped. As Serge looked back I tried for the trees, we had just enough speed to get us through the boundary to safety.
"They stepped on some of their own mines," sighed Serge.
The artillery fired once more, but yet again seconds had saved us, trees protected us and we were where no soldiers could safely follow.

Natasha started to cry.
"Darling," she wept, "we no longer are in Russia."