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About DarkOwl57

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  1. Finally got my writing computer! Expect some chapters for LATT soon!

  2. Now that's not something I've thought of... I'll toy around with it in my head for a bit and get back to ya
  3. Alright, it's time go rushrushrush. Computer goes up tomorrow and this final chapter of the school year goes up tonight! I promise, this summer, more than one chapter will be uploaded. Chapter 36: What’s Next? 9:30 am, 1 Week Later. OTech (Temporary) Headquarters. River City, Owlia. I was talking on my cellphone when Alexis walked into my temporary trailer home-like “Office.” I was pacing back and forth in front of a card table that was acting as my desk, while my laptop flashed screensaver pictures. I waved, before continuing. “Yeah, sorry, someone just came in. I can head down there next week if the team doesn’t have me doing any sim runs. How much can you put me in for?” I waited for a reply and nodded. “The more time, the better. Heck I’d love to do a full event or two, but I imagine-… Yeah I know, you’ve got professionals that do that stuff. Maybe I could do the first session and just be a backup from there on out?” There was a pause on the other end of the line as Alexis sat down in a lawn chair in the corner. “Awesome. Yeah, just hit me up if you need me to come over and do some more stuff for y’all. Alright? Thanks man; See you in a week!” I pressed the end call button and turned around- walking over to a massive wall calendar I had to the left of my “desk.” The calendar in question was literally bigger than my table, but only had 4 months in it. I paused for a little bit, and found the date I was looking for- next Tuesday, the 23rd. I scribbled down a note underneath the big bold number, and Alexis called from across the room. “Whatchya got there?” I kept writing as I put my phone in my pocket. “A calendar,” I answered, standing up and walking over to the table. “Well I can see that,” She replied, walking over to look. “A calendar for what?” I woke the laptop up and re-checked my emails. “My offseason.” Alexis’s eyes widened as she turned back to the calendar. She paused for a bit before speaking. “I can see one problem with this calendar right now,” She said, as if I was missing something glaringly obvious. “Yeah, and what’s that,” I asked back while I continued to sift through extra folders. “I’m noticing a distinctively low vacation-to-work time ratio. What the heck is all this?!” I stood up and walked over to the calendar- checking my work. “What are you talking about? I’m out of the country for a lot of what I’ve written up so far!” Alexis rolled her eyes as I looked over the four months before the start of the season at the KSC Grand Prix. I had so far managed to book races in Owlia, Aquaria, the Temple, and a ton of races at the KSC in just about every racing series on the planet. Except for Horses and Bikes; K1 champions aren’t really well-known in those parts. “Jeb, are you crazy?!” Alexis turned to me, stunned. “Maybe,” I muttered under my breath before she continued. “You’re going to be booked solid for four months! Do you know what the word Offseason means? It’s a season, where you’re off! I mean what the heck are you thinking?!” “I’ve got to get better,” I sighed dismissively, walking over to my chair and putting my feet up on the card table. “Better?! Better for what?!? You’re the youngest K1 champion in history!” “If I don’t keep it up, I’ll also be the youngest one-hit-wonder in K1 history.” “But this is crazy! This is borderline obsession- look at this.” She leaned in on the calendar- some week mid-December. “You’ve got some sports car race on Sunday at the KSC, a Sim run in Owlia on Monday, an endurance race Tuesday and Wednesday in Aquaria, a filming session on Thursday, and then the All-Star Race over the weekend! Jeb, you can’t do this!” I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “And why can’t I? I stood up. “What’s to say I’m not able to do this? It’s my life, my way of doing things.” “Jeb, that’s insane! You can’t do this, it’s suicide!” I shook my head and Alexis sighed. “Look. I want you to be successful, I do. It’s my job after all. But I’m not going to sit idly by and watch while you tear yourself to shreds.” She looked at me with tears in her eyes and shook her head. “I won’t.” She sniffed and walked out of the trailer as I just shook my head defiantly. I’ve got to do this, I thought to myself. …Right? 12:30 pm, One Week Later. OTech Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia Cameras flashed as I stepped out of my bright red car, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit anxious for the upcoming events. Apparently, the OTech Team HQ was getting a significant makeover that had been started in the summer. The old building would be the new home of OTech GP, while we got our very own brand-new building. And now, it was time to unveil the new building to the world. Lewis and Arcazon had already settled into their new offices, which is why Max and I had to work in some mobile-home trailers for the last couple of weeks. Now, however, it was time to see where I’d be living for at least two more years guaranteed. “Good morning, Jeb,” Matty said as I walked up to him. We shook hands and the cameras flashed some more, before Max pulled up as well. We both stood on either side of Matty, and waited. “Greetings,” Matty said into the microphone on the podium. “Welcome, everyone, to the new OTech Race Team headquarters. We’ve worked on this for quite some time, and now, it’s finally complete! As a showcase of the next generation of OTR, it’s time to show you the factory of the next generation!” He pressed a button and the tarps fell down off the building, and fluttered down to the ground. My mouth gaped open and I stared at the new factory. It was shorter than the old one, but glass surrounded the entire building. I could see inside the lobby, and a bright yellow 50 banner rested inside. The crowd gasped and clapped as the sun glinted off the windows. Matty, with a massive smile, turned back to the podium. “Inside this factory, we’ll make history- both on and off the track. This new factory, with its numerous innovative features, will continue to showcase and produce the most powerful, the most exceptional, and the best racing vehicles in K1.” He motioned for us to follow him. “Let’s check it out.” The building was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Max’s car was right in the middle of the lobby, with the yellow confetti still stuck to the body. Off to our left and our right were seating for the waiting area, with a semicircle desk in the middle. The “50” banner stood out in yellow text against the all-blue wall to our right, while the left held pictures of the cars- from 1988 to 2037. The massive room went up both floors, and I could see there was a balcony above the desk for the second floor. A massive staircase rested over to the left, and Matty led us up it- giving information to us as we walked. “This building was designed by the elite César Kerman, and we broke ground last Spring. The building was developed in entire secrecy, and I trust you’re pleased with the result.” We got up to the top of the staircase and started walking over to the balcony. “This second floor up here is where the drivers, engineers, and the like will work- their own private offices. However, it’s far from down this hall- and I think you’re going to like what we have in store.” My hand trailed over the stainless steel railing that was above the white frosted glass, and we walked down the hallway. “This building itself cost over $200,000,000 OSD, but the way these guys are stacking up the results, the prize money makes it pretty easy to fund.” There were some laughs from the reporters as we walked out into another massive room from the second level. We all emerged from the hallway and audible gasps sounded from the crowd- myself being one of them. The massive room went from floor to ceiling, with the balcony ringing the entire room. Our offices, which had fancy patterns made of frosted glass on the windows, were all around the walkway. However, the true shock factor was below. From our level, you looked down and could see a massive floor with individual spaces for what seemed to be… “K1 cars,” Matty said, finishing my thought. “This is where the team will work on tuning the cars- allowing the drivers and the upper staff to get a perfect look at the car they’ll be living with for the next 8-month season. The offices themselves, as you can see, are fairly roomy, but not extravagantly large like the previous spaces.” I knocked on the clear glass door of one of the offices as I passed, before running my hand over the railing. We walked around the garage space, and I noticed that the room wasn’t as… decorated as the lobby. “Of course, the building isn’t quite finished yet. We’re still waiting for the final paints to come in, as well as a couple of things back in the Engineering Wing.” At those words, Andy’s eyebrows raised up. We walked down the steps on the other side of the walkway, and through the garage space. Down below, we saw a massive garage door for the cars to roll out. “And, of course, what kind of team factory wouldn’t be complete without-“ Max and I both cut him off as the doors opened to the outside. “The test track,” We said in unison. We walked out and saw a beautiful circuit unfolding beneath us. It had a beautiful mix of curves, straights, and the technical turns, as well as something Max and I had been begging for since Day One. Alternate layouts. “Let’s head back inside, shall we?” Max and I groaned as we walked back indoors, and walked back out in the direction of the lobby. “We’re not going to show off our engineering wing for two reasons this afternoon- One, it’s authorized personnel only, and Two, it’s not quite finished yet.” I noticed a garage door out to the Engineering Wing next to the personnel door, so I imagined that’s where the prototype 2038 car lay. We walked down the hallway out to the Lobby, and stopped. “Up next is the Trophy Hall. Of course, our goal is to stock as many of these as we can, but I feel like even with our incredible drivers, that’ll be quite the challenge.” The long hallway had a massive glass case on both sides, and I gasped. Every single trophy had been moved in, and I could see every single trophy on both walls. From 1988 to just a couple weeks ago, the trophies rested inside the smooth glass. Finally, the trophies ended with plenty of room to spare, and it looked like at least 50 more years of trophies. I smiled a little bit as we walked down the hall to a splitter. Max’s number and my number was on both walls of the splitter- bright blue paint standing out against the white. And, of course, in the “Modern” font. We stepped out into the lobby and out the door, with the reporters muttered remarks amongst themselves. I smiled, and looked around at the lobby. I could easily get used to this place. 1:00 pm, One Week Later. New OTech Headquarters; River City, Owlia A phone rang in the distance as I typed out my schedule for the next week to send out to Andy. He, unlike Alexis, knew that he couldn’t change my view about doing the extra races, so instead he had decided to see when I would be available for sim and track testing. I’d been itching to get just one run on the new track, but Andy had strictly forbidden it for the time being. My helmet was hanging out on the bookcase to my left, and my 2035 K1 trophy sat right next to it. A flatscreen TV was on the right wall, and I could watch it from a small sofa seat across the room. The walls were almost entirely white, except for two patches that stood out. The first bit was my number- 13- on the right wall in bright blue. The second, less noticeable, patch was on the top of the walls near the ceiling, where pictures of my car throughout the years surrounded the top of the wall. As I was filling out my schedule after the All-Star Race (I couldn’t book anything before), I heard voices outside. They were muffled thanks to the soundproofing glass, but I could tell Matty was out there through the sound. I shook my head and continued typing- moving onto the World Endurance Racing Championship 6 Hours of the KSC. I stood up and moved a box across the room as noises from downstairs echoed up to my office. I had just put up a picture of Phil and I in uniform at a car launch when the two figures moved across the glass- their shadows standing out against the frost. Suddenly, there was a knock at my door, and I walked over- turning the new metal handle and swinging it open. Matty was standing there with a fancy suit on, and some lady I didn’t recognize was standing behind him. He was wearing an “Impress people” look, so I presumed I would unfortunately have to do the same. “Matty,” I said with a smile. “Pleasant surprise.” “How’s the unpacking going? I’m assuming that everything made it in okay?” I nodded in response as Matty looked in. “May we come in?” I opened the door up wide and both Matty and the new lady walked in- sitting down in the chairs in front of my desk. She was just a bit shorter than me, and had both a confident and easy-going look on her face. I sat down and moved some boxes away from the desk before turning to them. “Jeb,” Matty said, leaning back in his chair to get adjusted. “I’d like you to meet Landin. Landin Kerman.” I reached over the desk and gave her a handshake. “How do you do? Just call me Jeb- it’s a lot easier.” Landin nodded and smiled. “Will-do. I hear I’m going to be your engineer for the near future.” I leaned back and realized it was time to start my own form of a job interview. I’d had to give a couple of these in the past week- neither of which had quite panned out. “So, how long have you been working on cars like this?” She answered without missing a beat. “Well, I just graduated from the University of South Rivera with a PhD in Mathematics and Aerodynamic Physics, where I also did some part-time work in the Rivera Street Stock Invitational Series. Before that, I was in the K1 Young Designers program, which I got top-honors in. Prior to that, I did some karts and dirt bikes in small, local series, and before that, I was crawling on the ground in diapers watching K1 with my dad.” There was some silence, and I blinked. “That’s…” I couldn’t even think about what I was going to say next. Matty smiled a bit, and gave me some time. I finally came up with the next question. “What kind of experience do you have with the new K1 power-plant? The V4-E2?” “I think that it’s quite a fun challenge to try to work on. Not only will it be increasing the power, but it’ll also drive up the weight just a tad. This means that we- or, I guess, you- will have to manage the fuel a lot more carefully over the course of the race, despite the increase in fuel. As for experience, the closest I’ve gotten is… Well nothing. I expect Andy and Claire are going to have to help me a lot when it comes to that.” “And the new aero package?” “Definitely exciting. You’ll have to be at the top of your game to keep from having some issues. Of course, I’ll be able to do whatever setup work you’ll need.” “And the final question.” I leaned forward anxiously and folded my hands, looking tense and serious. “Stars or Patriots?” Landin rolled her eyes and smiled. “Stars all the way! Both OFL and NSA, of course.” I smiled, and got up- extending my hand. “Welcome to OTech.” 3:00 pm, three days later. OTech Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia “Andy, it’s no fair!” I couldn’t help but laugh beneath my breath as we walked down the hallway to the staircase. I swung my helmet with my arms by my side and we trotted down the steps. I saw two cars waiting on the jacks, and Max’s face broke out in a smile. “Y-“ He barely got the breath out before Andy pointed at him. “Not yet,” He said, and Max groaned. “But why?! It’s no fair that he gets first dibs out on the track and I just have to sit here and watch!” Andy sighed as I got strapped up into the 2037 KSC Mark One car. “Look, he needs to get used to having a new race engineer, same as we did when you joined the team with Claire. We’ll have Jeb get a couple runs in, and send you in there to see how she handles. Got it?” Max grumbled as I stepped up into the car and put the helmet on. The engine roared to life and I grinned beneath my helmet as the garage door rolled up and open. I shifted up into the first gear and started rolling out of the garage- the engine low and rumbling as I gently drove the car out. I rolled down the path to the garage door exit, and had to blink a couple of times before my eyes got used to the bright light. It was a perfect day- no clouds, almost no wind, and a beautiful temperature hovering in the lower 60’s. A perfect day to go out racing. The run to the track was a bit hilly, but I just rolled over the snaking esses at a low speed as I felt the excitement start to ratchet up. I took a long right-hander and came out to the track, and went straight-on into the pit lane. The pits looped around the massive final corner, which had some spectacular banking on the inside. I rolled around to the pit limiter line and hit the brakes- getting to the right speed before activating the limiter. Landin was waiting in one of the middle boxes, and I pulled into the space. I flicked the helmet up and she leaned in to be heard over the engine. “Okay, so for the first run, I want you to get a feel for the track. We’ll only be running the South Circuits today, so that’s the South Loop and the Speed Loop. I want you to get a couple laps on the South Loop first, just to get a good handle on the first half of the regular circuit as well as the final couple corners. I’ll be monitoring the data from the garage in here, but I’ll still have radio comms.” She pointed to a spot next to my left leg, and I noticed there was a sticker with the track map and all the different layouts. “Here’s your map. Each circuit is a different colored line, so that should keep you from getting confused. The black line is the main circuit. Grey is the High Speed Loop.” My mind instantly focused on the words “High Speed,” and I felt an insatiable urge to ignore every previous instruction and take lap after lap on the partially deformed oval-looking circuit. “Green’s your Outer Circuit, while Yellow is your Inner Circuit. Blue is the South loop- it’s mainly just the numbers that you have to worry about- and the Red is your North Loop. Again, just watch the numbers since some courses tend to run together. We got cones to mark off the other circuits so that you don’t get too confused on where to go, but it won’t hurt to make a couple checks of the map from time to time. Today we’re worried more about learning the course- not setting hot laps.” Yeah, that’s not gonna happen, I thought to myself. I was going to go all-out. Landin checked the car one last time before speaking into her radio. “Okay, so just a couple laps just to get a feel for the circuit and how the car reacts. We’ve got the stock car from the start of last season, so it might be a bit more difficult in the beginning trying to dial back in. Remember, work on being smooth first, and then you can focus on the speed after.” I nodded and lowered my visor as she waved me on, and I peeled out of the grid slot. The pit limiter held my car to what felt like impossibly low speeds, and I finally crossed the end line. I rocketed away and started blasting down the road before it quickly turned out to the left. I followed it, and (despite my urges) turned right to go out to the main track. There was a sharp hairpin-like corner at the end of the pit lane, and I pulled out of it before racing down the straight. The tarmac was perfectly smooth, and I could feel the car gripping down into it with the tires. I broke hard for Turn 3, which was a tight 90º left-hander followed by another tight left-handed corner in 4. There was a tiny straight down the run to Turn 5 before the hairpin, which resulted in another left-handed hairpin in Turn 6. There were cones on the outside of 6 that showed I could have gone straight-on, but I turned hard around the hairpin and drove out of the corner down to the straight. I glanced at the map and saw an exciting esses complex was coming up, and I got ready for the fun. Turn 7 was a fast right-hander, with a longer semicircle turn on the right side that was blocked off. Turn 8 was a slower left-hander as I started going up a hill, but Turn 9 was a tight right. The track had loads of grassy spaces off to the sides, but I didn’t dare dip the car off as I sped through an even slower left-right in 10 and 11. The car started going downhill before the track ahead was blocked off, and I quickly turned into the 12 hairpin. The hill got steeper downwards and I rejoined the “Main” circuit before a quick right-hander in Turn 13 that was similar to 7. The track leveled out and the pits opened up on the left, but I flew past them before the long Turn 14. The corner had what looked like a massive field of grass on the inside that separated the track from the pits, and I resisted the urge to touch the curbing. I swung up right next to the wall and saw some dust flying up into the air before I got down to the middle of the track- opening the DRS and speeding up even more. I was already in 8th gear before the start/finish line, but this was the KSC car. The KSC has absolutely no long straights, and so we had it set up for a high-drag, low-speed setup. I only managed to get up to around 180 before the engine red-lined, and I flew into Turn 1 with the engine screaming. The track started going uphill in Turn 1A, and I hit the brakes hard for Turn 2. The car went away from me just a bit but I held it together before rolling through the apex and powering out of it. I realized that the run to 3 was actually straight down-hill, which actually brought it level to the front-straight by the braking zone. Of course, the High Speed Loop that I was aching to get my car on was actually below me. I took the corners a bit more aggressively in the second lap- really testing the limits of the track and the car. I was finally called in after a couple of laps. I flew down into the pit access road, testing how fast I could take it. The turn tightened up a bit mid-corner, and I had to take it a lot slower than I had hoped. I pulled into the pit stall and opened up the visor again as Landin walked up. “Alright, so we’re going to give you a couple laps on the loop real quick- just to get you situated with that. It’s not too hard- 6 corners, 2 DRS zones, and not very much braking if any. After that, we’ll send Max out with you to get us both some practice on racing situations. Sound good?” I nodded and peeled out again- nervously bouncing in my seat as the car went down the straight. As I rolled down the pit lane, Max’s voice called out over the radio. “Hey, what’s the track like?” I crossed the line and coasted down the way to the pit exit corner- this time looping around in a left-hand turn to catch up to the track. “The South Loop is alright. The esses are a bit weird that first time you run them, and the chicane feels a little tight but it’s a fun challenge. It’s actually a lot of fun.” I joined the track and immediately felt a big drop as the car went down a couple of quick left-right corners in 2 and 3. “Whoah, watch out for 2 and 3 in the High Speed Loop, the car’s going to really drop out from under you there. I bet that at-speed the aero’s going to catch you but just stay careful when you’re taking it first time.” I rolled down the hill and felt the car speeding up, despite the fact I was literally coasting down the hill. The track finally leveled out and I gently pushed in the gas pedal- the engine rumbling as I went down the track. Suddenly, the track curved out to the right just a bit- a wide, sweeping turn that pointed me back to the main track. I rolled around the wide turn and went up the hill- just slowly investigating the loop for the first time. I avoided the pit lane entry and turned onto the Main Course, which then took me onto the final turn. I immediately jammed the gas and started speeding up- using the banking in Turn 6 to slingshot out of the turn and get going faster. I rocketed out of the corner and opened up the DRS- getting even faster. The engine screamed as I hit the limiter about halfway down the straight, and I sighed into the radio. “Could we maybe get a car that’s built more for these kind of straights? We’re going to kill the engine in this thing.” I didn’t get a reply and flew down into Turn 1. The aero shoved the car into the ground and I let off the gas before shifting down to fifth- rolling around Turn 1 and shooting out. The car got a bit loose over the quick left-right, but I kept it together before opening the DRS. The car got down the straight right on line, and I grinned before throwing it into the corner- DRS open. I barely got a single quiver of oversteer, and I could tell this one bit right here was meant to help test Kerenna at the Temple. The car stuck perfectly and I flew up the hill with the engine screaming. “This is awesome!” I couldn’t help but laugh as the DRS closed and I shot into Turn 5 with as much speed as I dared before flying down into Turn 6 off the throttle. I had just one thought as I came out of Turn 6 with the DRS open. Money well-spent. 4:00 pm, two days later. OTech Race Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia. I had just gotten out of a sim run for a 2038-spec car when I walked past Matty’s office. Backtrack a little bit. Andy was starting to make me really mad. Even though we’d been running sims for the 2038 car, he wouldn’t let me see anything about it. No concept drawings, no liveries, not even answering my questions on how it looked 1 to 10. Since the All-Star Race was only a week away, he was pushing us non-stop learning the layout. Anyways, back to Matty. I was walking past the fancy OTech logo etched out of the frosted glass windows when I heard some shouting from the other side. I stopped and paused for a second, trying to guess who was yelling. When I finally gave up, I decided to walk in. “Matty, I’m not asking you to give me a ride here! I just want you to remind Paddy and the team about my cont-“ I opened the door and the shouting cut off as both turned to me. Arcazon’s spiky black head turned around to me, and I smiled down at him. “Hey, kid; great race at the KSC. I-“ Matty cut me off with a sigh. “Is there something I can do for you, Jeb?” I looked to him and nodded. “Yeah, I’m just checking to see what the schedule’s looking like after the All-Star Race to see if it’s conflicting with anything that I’m doing later. I just booked a couple FBC races with Reliant, so I just need to get your approval on testing and all that fun stuff.” Matty gave a heavy sigh and shook his head, rubbing his temples before looking at me. “Why do you insist on killing yourself this offseason,” He asked me tiredly. “Why don’t you want to take a rest? I’m sure that there’s a wonderful beach off somewhere across the world that would interest you.” I shook my head with a smile. “I’ll rest when I’m dead. Now what about it, boss-man?” I could almost see Matty ask himself why he decided to hire me before he nodded. I grinned and looked at Arcazon. “So what did you do?” Before Matty could answer, Arcazon answered furiously. “Paddy’s relegating me back to OTech GP, even though I’m good enough to be moved up.” He turned to Matty. “Even though I won two races last season. Now I want to know why I’m not getting the K1 drive like I promised!” “Because you’re not ready,” Matty said sternly. “You’re only 17 and your driving style still needs to be refined. It’s not because you’re a bad driver, it’s because you’re just not mature enough to handle it yet.” He sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry. Maybe after a year or two in Form-“ “I don’t need a year in Formula! I’m ready now, can’t you see that?! Two wins this season alone, you can’t ignore that!” I could tell the argument was getting more and more desperate before Matty sighed. “Look, Arcazon. There’s nothing I can do. If I step in, Lewis or Saul are going to be in that chair to complain about how it’s unfair that they don’t get the seat next year. It’s either step down to Formula for 2038 or move up as a reserve driver without any drive time whatsoever. There’s no in-between.” Arcazon shook his head and I could see him clench his fists underneath his seat. “Fine,” He said, his voice full of spite. “I can see that I won’t be driving for OTech Engineering this season. But I will get a K1 drive, mark my words.” He stood up and turned around- his stern grimace clouding his face as he stomped past me. He shoulder-checked me as he walked out the door, but I stood my ground as he bumped into me. After the door rocked shut, Matty groaned again before looking at me. “Is there anything else you’d to stress me out with this afternoon?” I shook my head and he waved. “Just… don’t slam the door on your way out please? I’ve to enough headaches today as-is.” I nodded and softly closed the door before walking out- heading down to my office. I sat down in my office and sighed before opening my laptop. I immediately checked my email for any new news. The standard stuff- some tech updates from the factory, some requests for interview on the new rules package- before I saw something that caught my eye. “Thank you for considering.” I quickly opened up the email, and it turned out it was from the OTech Organization for the World Endurance Racing Championship. “Dear Jeb, “We’re sorry to hear about your decision to abort the 24h at the KSC this January. The team’s been working a lot preparing the car for the upcoming event, but of course we understand that your rest and relaxation for the K1 offseason must come first. We thank you for calling us so far ahead of schedule so that we can now fine another driver who has the incredible talents of yours. If you’re interested in participating in next year’s event, just let us know. Signed, May Kerman, OTech WERC Team Captain.” I thought for a moment. I never aborted the race… I quickly flicked through some more emails. The Sports Car race at the KSC; the Super Kart championship in Owlia; the BOWL race in River City; even the World Prototype Challenge at the Temple. All gone. I quickly stood up and raced out of my office, running across the hall to Alexis’s office. I stormed into the room as she was typing up what I assumed to be a response to a press request when she looked up. “Did you just kick me out of a crap-ton of races this off-season?” Alexis tilted her head, trying to act confused before I continued on. “I just got about 5 or 6 emails from team heads saying that I apparently just called them saying that I can’t race for them. Now would you care to explain?” Alexis stood up. “You need a vacation. You’re not a machine- you can’t do this forever. I did this to help you, and the faster you can see that the better.” I could feel my temper rising by the second. “But I need to race! If I don’t do this I’ll lose whatever edge I might have over Max! You don’t understand, I need these races!” Alexis looked at me pleadingly and I just shook my head. “How could you even do that? You went behind my back and betrayed me! When I signed that contract to make you my agent, I thought we wouldn’t try and sabotage each other!” Alexis tried to cut in but I forged on. “Honestly, I’m not sure if I even want to be in this situation anymore.” I stopped, and looked at her. “I’m not even sure if you still even love me anymore.” There was an awful silence, and I just looked at her. “You… you do still love me… Right?” “Jeb-“ I cut her off. “It’s a yes or no question,” I said simply. Tears started welling up in her eyes, and she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Jeb,” She cried. “But I can’t watch you do this to yourself.” She wiped at her eyes and quickly walked out of the door- ignoring me and slipping past through the doorway and out of sight. It was going to be the last time I would see her ever again.
  4. On Friday, I was planning on spending my free day off from school with a lot of busy things to do. In the morning, I would visit another local school to see if it was a good fit for me next year. After that, it would be a super-quick lunch before the greatest event of my high-school life short of Prom (which by the way went amazing): Avengers: Endgame. I was so pumped, ready to watch what everyone had been so interested in. I came home from school on Thursday ready for the next morning, when... Mom: "Yeah, I have this weird stomach bug... I don't think I can do anything tomorrow." She was in a really bad state from Thursday night all the way to around yesterday, but she's feeling better now. I feel a little selfish, being disappointed over a movie, but the feeling of immediate devastation was just crushing. Finals are Wednesday, and we get out early, so maybe I'll go then... Just have to hope no-one spoils it until then.
  5. Guys, my goal here is to not burn the place down XD
  6. Well I won't be doing it with my Operation Game at least lol
  7. UPDATE: So turns out I won't burn the school down after all. Dangit
  8. Me: "Hey, [teacher], what would happen if I put the aluminum on the back of the paper and put the electricity through it without any kind of insulation in between?" [T]: "I don't know, what would happen?" Okay, looks like I'm burning the school down
  9. So yeah, I messed up a bit when it comes to scheduling. Initially, I intended to have maybe at most a month in between 34 and 35. Of course, I messed up. I'll do my best to get at least one more chapter out by May 17 when we finish up school, so it's time for me to get on it. Chapter 35, everyone! Chapter 35: The Champion 9:00 am, The next day. OTech Race Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia A phone rang somewhere in the distance as I sat outside the office- my hands folded together as I sat in a small chair. I sighed and rechecked my phone as I looked to the door again, feeling a sense of dread. I shook my head and looked at the nameplate with angst. Matty Kerman OTech Race Team President I heard someone walking up behind me, and I turned to see Max strolling up to me with a t-shirt and blue jeans. He sat in the chair next to me, and I looked at him, confused. “What are you doing here,” I asked as someone walked past us. Max shrugged. “Good question,” He answered- opening the top of his soda. “Probably the same reason you are.” He pulled something out of his jacket and shook it in my direction. “And also to see if you’re still my friend…” I turned and saw he had another can of DietCola in his hand, and I smiled. It was the drink we had both enjoyed since we’d first started hanging out as kids, and I took it with a smirk. “The drink of champions,” I toasted, knocking the top of the bottle against Max’s. He nodded and took a sip, and I opened up the top of my own. I put it up to my mouth before muttering, “And Max,” before sipping the drink with a beaming grin. Max laughed through his glass and shook his head before hitting my arm lightly. I pushed him back gently before Claire and Andy walked past, holding small binders and going over notes. Claire looked up and smirked at us as they walked past. “You both look like two little boys who got called into the Dean’s office,” She chuckled before turning a corner with Andy. I shook my head just as the door opened behind me, and turned. I saw Matty was far from happy, and my stomach dropped through the floor. He stepped aside and motioned for us to come inside the office. I nodded, and we both walked in quieter than a funeral in a library. I looked around and saw that Matty had redecorated since the last time I was in there- when he had demoted me to Formula. Somehow, the atmosphere in the room felt even more anxious and tense. Matty closed the door behind him, and we both sat down in the chairs as Matty walked over to his desk. The walls now had pictures of the OTech cars on-track in a ring around the top of the walls that surrounded the room on three sides (The other being a window). I noticed a few pictures came from this year; Max and I going side-by-side in Solaria being one of them. I saw a couple of pictures of my car on the track, a few dashes of Max, and a lot of Phil. “So,” Matty said as he rolled his chair back and sat down. He looked to me and seemed to be wondering what to say next, before sighing. “Care to explain what happened yesterday?” I sighed, before shrugging. “Well, I woke up around 8:00, went downstairs to eat some breakfast-“ I was cut off by a loud snort from Max, who had bent over with his hand over his face- trying not to laugh. I smiled before getting serious. Before I could properly explain, however, Matty cut me off with a scowl. “I don’t find that very funny,” He said sternly, crossing his arms and frowning. I swallowed and continued. “Well, I went down into Turn 12 and locked up the brakes. Max passed me, and I lost the race. I was honestly just so mad with myself that I didn’t want to deal with anything. I just flat lost my temper. It’s my fault.” Matty nodded and turned to Max. “Anything to add?” He shook his head and grabbed his drink from under his chair before taking a sip. Matty sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Fine,” He sighed, putting his hands behind his head. “You know that we’ve got to do something…” He seemed to think for a moment, before shaking his head. “I’ll think of something. It won’t happen again, right?” I nodded. “I promise,” I replied. Matty nodded and leaned forward. “Now, I have something to tell you. Has Andy talked to you at all?” I shook my head, and both Max and I looked confused. “Well, I’ve decided to move Andy up to Chief of Vehicle design, effective at the start of the new season.” I nodded and felt happy for him. He’d been pretty much doing most of the design work on the new cars all year long- he honestly deserved it. “However, there’s some bad news to go along with that…” Of course. “Due to his commitments, Andy won’t be able to be your race engineer.” My heart dropped down through the basement. “But… Andy and I have been together since Day 1! You can’t-“ Matty stopped me and reached down into his cabinet, where he pulled up a fancy looking piece of paper. “Actually,” He said, scowling his finger down the paper before finding something. “We can. It’s for the benefit of the team.” He put the paper back in the cabinet and turned back to me. “We’ll be holding trials during the offseason. After that, you’ll spend a bit getting used to working with whoever the new engineer is. Your final race as a pair is going to be at the All-Star Race in Thomasville over the winter break. By then we’ll hopefully have a replacement signed and on standby to learn the ropes during that race.” My mouth was open in surprise, and I felt stunned. Andy and I had worked together since my very first rookie test. We’d been an unstoppable team. I just shook my head as Matty stood up. “I’m hoping that this is all going to work itself out in the future,” He said as we both stood. My mouth felt dry as Max and I both walked out of the office. The door quietly shut with a little click behind me, and I turned to Max. “Well then,” Max sighed, blowing a strand of hair out of his face. “Up for a bit of one-on-one in the gym later?” I shrugged and nodded as I walked back to my office. “I think I’ll hang out in my office for a little bit. Maybe grab something to eat before heading down. Did we have any workout or testing to do?” Max thought for a moment before shaking his head. “I don’t think so,” He replied as we got in the elevator. “Pretty sure that’s going to be later in the week- Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.” I nodded again and checked my phone as we went down. I still felt uneasy with the new change. But there was still a job at hand. I needed to win the championship. 5:00 pm, two weeks and five days later. Practice for Round 10 of 10: The KSC Grand Prix. The KSC. The engine rattled off the concrete walls of the tight KSC circuit as I blasted through Turn 1. The car’s suspension flexed through the long corner, and I fought the car through the entirety of the turn as I ran wide into the thin runoff for the re-profiled turn. The grass runoff had been changed around so that it now allowed for a wider track and more overtakes. The runoff road had also been re-done so that now any cars who went wide before the grass started could get a cleaner run and not bottle up the field as severely. The massive concrete wall that was there before was now gone- instead favoring large “Sausage Curbs” on the far edge of the grass area. Grass and dirt flew up into the air off the tires, and I struggled to keep the car going straight as the wheel twisted left and right over the bumps before I finally got the car back on the tarmac. I sighed and shifted the car down into Mode E, and the engine dialed down to almost nothing- relying instead on the electric motors in the vehicle to power along. “My bad,” I said as a light blue TT Motorsports car flew past on the inside. “Car’s understeering in the long turns- not sure how we could get that fixed.” There was some silence as Andy seemed to think. “I’ll see what we can do. Go ahead and bring it in, mate.” I shook my head and flicked up the visor while I turned into Turn 3. The small crowd whistled as I passed, and I gave them a short wave. There wasn’t much time to get everything ready for the race, and Max looked like he had the setup perfect for the race. We had to get everything set. Or else Max was going to win. 2:00 am, The next morning- the KSC. I flew out of Turn 21 with Max hot on my tail. The crowd roared, and I crossed the line with just one lap to go. I hit the entry curbing on point and dove down into the apex with all the speed I could- running over the rumble strip with a loud buzz that shook the car. I felt the car running wide, but I kept the gas- not wanting to give Max anything. I went as wide as I could and thought I was in the clear as the tires hit the outside rumble strip. I wasn’t. The right-side tires hit the grass and threw it up into the air. The rear wheels spun, and my eyes widened as the engine yelped before the car rotated. I tried to correct it, but the car went full-on sideways in a cloud of smoke across Max. He broke hard and avoided me as my car slid forward across the track and into the grass. The nose of the car pounded into a gap in the wall, and the car spun around. One, two, three times before slamming left-side first into the other wall with a loud crashing noise. … I woke up panting and sat bolt upright- my eyes wide. I felt burning hot and sighed before wiping some sweat off my forehead. I shook my head and laid back down on the pillow- turning it over to get the cold side again. It’s just a race; I told myself nervously as I closed my eyes again- only one race. 6:00 pm. Round 10 of 10: The KSC Finale. The KSC. “Since the beginning of time, competition has been evident in everything we do. Always striving to defeat the person next to us, always yearning to go higher. Faster. Harder. The instinct and battle of the mind, matter, and raw, untamed power. “Tonight, we’ll see everything. Two drivers- best friends since the start and rivals to the last- are going to fight their way on this tight, twisting circuit. Under the lights of the coastal course here at the KSC, the two OTech Teammates are ready to do battle. “With a season of twists and turns, the year has been defined by this epic duel. Intrigue, spice, excitement, drama. Who could tame the beast inside? And, now, here we are. “The 2037 KSC Finale.” … “Tonight, we will see a champion crowned. Two young guns- each shooting for the top spot in the final race of the season. But, today, as we prepare to lift the future, we must also remember the past. All up and down the grid, this race is an emotional reminder. Not just for what has been won, but also for what has been lost. “Exactly one year ago this evening, the sport of K1 lost a true legend in the form of OTech’s Phil Kerman. On Lap 31, Phil Kerman was killed. Tonight’s anniversary is remembered by all- the teams, the drivers, and especially the fans. Tonight, we’ll see who will manage to control not only the pressure of the moment but also the emotions of this undoubtedly powerful remembrance.” … I looked up at the flagpole and saw the banner whipping in the heavy wind as a formation flight blasted overhead with a dark blue trail of smoke coming out of each of the five fighters. I watched them disappear behind the massive rocket assembly building and put the OTech cap on my head. We walked back to the cars, and I didn’t pay any attention to the field of reporters on either side of me. Cameras flashed, reporters yelled, and phones filmed as I kept my sunglasses on- not looking at anyone as I took a sip from my water bottle. I got to the pole grid slot and saw Andy checking his laptop for what we both knew would be the final time. I wrapped him up in a hug and tried to be heard over the crowd and reporter frenzy. “Let’s get it done, brother,” I said in his ear before breaking away as Andy gave me a high five. He signaled to the crew to get ready, and I took off my gear before walking over to the car. I clicked the HANS device to the helmet and slid it all on at once. The chaotic jumble of noise suddenly ceased as I stepped up into the car. I slid down into my seat and felt my heart rate rising higher and higher before I flicked the visor down. I exhaled, and the sound of my voice echoed through the helmet. I reached up and flicked down a small port in the bottom part of the helmet that let in some air- even though the outside air wasn’t much cooler than the inside of my helmet. I pressed the radio button and heard the static come on before I spoke. “Andy, you got me?” I paused and took my finger off the radio, and heard the line go silent before the static returned. “Loud and clear, Jeb. Let’s get it done tonight.” The engine fired up, and I smiled beneath my tinted helmet as I felt the rumble of the car. I gave the crew a high-five, and the car lowered down- the suspension compressing just a bit as it settled down on the ground. I gave a quick thumbs-up and opened up the slot as the other teams scrambled off to either side of the track. The lights flashed with the twin-green lights, and I jumped out of the grid stall with a quick jitter of wheelspin before the car got traction. I went full-throttle and felt the rears spin- laying down a twin-trail of rubber before letting off. “Really hot night,” I commented as I went through Turn 1. “Humid, windy, and bright… When’s sunset?” I flew through the slight straight between 1 and two before Andy spoke again. “Sunset is going to be around 7:04 local time. The wind is blowing East at 25 mph, with a pretty muggy 79% humidity. Temperature is currently 82º, but the weather is expected to cool off around sunset. By the end of the race, we’re looking at a temp of around mid-50’s with the wind being mostly gone. Might get slightly cloudy during the race but no precipitation is expected until sometime about a day or two after we’re going to be returning home.” I smirked and coasted through Turns 7 and 8. Gosh, I’m going to miss that, I thought to myself as I pulled out of the hairpin turn. I looked at Max weaving behind me and closed the helmet slot a bit- my head feeling a bit chilled. “Thanks, Andy. Good luck to everyone down in the paddock. Make sure to stay safe, and stay calm. Be smooth, and I’ll handle the rest, okay?” I gunned the gas through Turn 9 and felt the car sway before I hit the brakes for Turn 10. As I rolled through the turn, I could almost feel the wind on the right side of the car blowing hard. I rotated through the corner and knew that the wind was going to play a big part as the rears got a tiny bit loose on exit. I rolled over the curbs in Turns 11 and 12 before shooting down the straight. The crowd whistled and cheered at us, but I stayed focused. I felt time start to slow down and saw the still dark black lines across the track. My eyes wandered and saw a newer, cleaner section of catch-fencing on the top of the wall. They looked right and viewed the final resting place of a familiar blue and white car- now a faint ghost of my imagination. I shook my head, and the ghost car disappeared. I flew into the first part of Velocidad and felt the car sway and push as the weight shifted. I ran up onto the curbing and saw a bright blue square on the wall of one of the buildings. My eyes traced it, and I saw a huge banner that waved a little in the wind. Turn 14 It was Phil’s number scheme, and I felt my heart catch before I turned in. I looked left, and the hangar door was filled by a supersized picture of Max and I standing with the K1 trophy in between us. Underneath the trophy, there were big golden words in bold. “TWO DRIVERS. ONE CHAMPION.” I shook my head and sighed. Focus. Focus. You’ve got this. “Everything’s looking good,” Andy said as I rolled through Turn 17. The fans were almost all blue, but I had to ignore them while I got myself ready. “Feels perfect,” I replied simply before braking for the wide Turn 18. I rolled over the curbing in Turns 19 and 20 before going through Turn 21- the final loop. I shifted down into neutral before moving the engine up into launch mode. I pulled into my grid slot and sighed as the rest of the grid filed in. I looked back in the mirror and saw Max’s car resting off on the left side of the grid, just behind me. The sky was still a fiery orange as some clouds crossed the sky almost lazily. Finally, the grid had pulled in. A flag waved in the back, and I lowered the visor shut. One light came on the pylon. I exhaled and felt my heart rate building. Two lights. I pushed the clutch in. Three. I pressed in the gas, and the revs started building. The engine rose in volume as… Four. The grid started growing until we were all just one roar. Five. My heart was racing as I stared into the five glowing red lights through the visor’s tinting. The grid was now a single yell as all the drivers looked to the lights to get the command. Finally, the lights went out on the pylon. I rocketed out of the slot, but Max got an amazing launch as well. We both raced down into Turn 1, and Max yielded- slotting behind me as we flew into the corner. I rolled over the curb, but there was a massive yell from the small crowd behind me- followed by the screeching of tires and the crashing of metal against metal. I spared a look back for a brief second and saw a bright yellow Phantom car flying over the top of a TT Motorsports car while a RedWing speared into the rear of the pure white car. My wheel lit up in yellow as the Phantom slammed into the barrier (still in the air) before flipping over halfway. I started coasting as the engine revved down with Max right behind me. “You’re kidding me,” I sighed before going down into Ultra-Lean mode. Andy himself sighed as we rolled through Turn 2, and I couldn’t help but shake my head. “Some crazy driver in the RedWing locked up into Turn 1 and sent the Phantom over. He’s just hanging there at the moment- I expect this one to be at least 4 or 5 laps if they don’t red-flag it.” I raised the visor through the tunnel and felt a splash of cold air on my face before I shut it down in Turn 5. The sun glowed over the tops of the roofs, and I could see the small rays shining overhead before I closed the tinting. “Got a kind of okay start. Max was excellent off the line though. Almost got me down into the corner.” I turned out of 6 and saw the sun glaring into my eyes before disappearing behind one of the numerous buildings in the KSC grounds. We rolled down into Turn 7 and 8- hitting the apex at the low speeds. I’m not going to bore you with all the technical stuff involving the four laps of Safety Car since it’s boring to live through and I’d imagine incredibly dull to read. The Safety Car finally pulled off the track on Lap 6, and I gunned the gas out of the final turn. Max didn’t anticipate the great launch I got and struggled to put the power down- losing ground to me as I flew down the short straight. I flew into Turn 1 and felt the car wash up a little bit, but kept my line with a masterful use of the brake and gas. The right sides just barely kissed the outside curbing, and I cut back down- getting a flawless run down into Turn 2. I blasted through the apex with as much speed as I could, but misjudged it a tiny bit, and the tire threw up a small amount of dirt and grass into the air. I shook the wheel trying to get the car back and managed to get the rears back together by the time I hit Turn 3. I shot over the apex curb and felt the rumble of tires over the strip before I shot back up over the exit curbing and back down the track to get in line for 4. Max was losing time to me, but I realized that I was way too aggressive on my car in just the sixth lap. I put the engine down to Standard and started going a little easier on the car as I whipped through Turn 4- riding up on the very limit of the track just an inch from the wall and leaning up against the raised curb. A little bit of dust flew up into the air and hit the roof of the tunnel before I came back down the track to get a run into Turn 5- clipping the apex on perfect point before the road widened out. “Very very good launch there, Jeb,” Andy encouraged as I weaved through Turn 5. “Let’s build a gap out if we can now. Long race to go here.” I kept working on extending the gap, but Max remained hot on my tail. I kept mistakes low, however, and maintained somewhat of a gap until Lap 14. Max was right on top of me as I flew down into Turn 9- barreling into the braking zone with as much speed as I could. I almost ran wide but just barely forced the car onto the apex as Max closed. I almost got hit from behind as I managed the wheelspin out of the corner. I had to saw at the wheel as we went down the short straight to Tempesta, and Max looked to the left. I had the inside for the first part of the tight chicane and got clear of Max before flying over the curbing in Turn 12. Max opened up the DRS and started gaining massively on me down the straight. I tried to defend left, but he swept around to the right- drawing alongside before the apex and blasting past on the inside of Velocidad. The dirty air washed over my wing, and I had to fight the car hard through Turn 14 and couldn’t manage to catch back up- losing ground down the straight. The crowd roared their approval, and I flew down the straight with rich revs helping me out. I flew through Turn 15, and I brushed the grass on corner exit- tossing some dirt up into the air and almost throwing me into a full spin. I weaved and twisted at the wheel to regain control and sawed at the wheel to hang on to the car. The crowd cheered and yelled as we passed them, and Max further extended his gap on me. I was struggling in the dirty air behind Max, and finally got called in on Lap 18. “Alright, box in now, Jeb. Box in this lap.” I flew through Turn 13 and felt the G-forces tugging at me as I forced the wheel to turn through the corner. I flew through Turn 14 and rolled as wide as I could before releasing off the corner. I blasted into Turn 18 and almost lost the car in the long sweeper before flying over the 19 and 20 curbing. I hit the mark perfectly and weaved around for the pit entry. We were in the first row of pits, but thankfully the IFR (the governing body of K1 and multiple other racing sports around the world) was going to make some modifications for next year’s pit lane. I stopped perfectly in the stall, and the team got the car lifted in unison. Four tires on, four tires off. Fuel in to top it off and then waiting for the 10-second timer to run itself down. During the stop, I noticed one of the crew leaning over the front wing, but I didn’t question it as I mentally counted down the seconds. The team dropped the car down, and I immediately gunned the gas- skidding over the slippery concrete before going. The rears released a tiny bit of smoke as I got going and I fish-tailed out of the stall before rolling down the pit lane. I flew out of the pit exit and took the long way around Turn 1- following the white line and going into the Formula K route before coming out on the inside of Turn 3. A bright white Vitesse car swept around the outside of me and I had to be impressed by the new team on the block. They’d only just joined K1 a couple of seasons ago, and they were a regular in the midfield. It was really good to see them climbing up the K1 ladder. I switched up into Rich and got alongside the white car before sweeping up the inside down into Turn 4. I rolled over the curbing and then drifted up the track, pulling off the same move on Jules that I did in the opening of the race. The left-side tires kissed the top of the curbing, and a small amount of dust shot up into the air before I went back down for Turn 5. The car was gripping perfectly on the brand-new tires, and I felt like I had an entirely new car. We were using the updated version of the KSC car from earlier in the season, and it felt exactly like it had earlier in the season. I whipped through the high-speed left-right-left of 5, 6, and seven before slamming the brakes for Turn 8. The only updates we’d made for this race was putting in an updated engine, as well as using the Basil front-wing connectors. I blasted out of the hairpin and flew into the canyon section. The engine’s scream echoed off the buildings, and I blew into Turn 9 at full speed. I hit the brakes perfectly and rotated through the Turn 10 hairpin. The car was practically on rails as I flew into the illuminated Turns 11 and 12. The sky was pitch-black with stars scattered throughout like sparkling diamonds on black fabric. I hit the DRS and felt the car start to speed up down the back straight. I started blasting down the straight, and I threw the car down into the kink and Turn 13 at max speed. The car shot over the rumble strips and I cut back down to fly into Turn 14- not even close to the edge of grip as I went up the track to hold the speed. I flew into Turn 15 and just barely kissed the apex curbing before coming up and nailing Turn 16 at perfect speed. The lights flashed across the sides of the car as I blazed past, and the engine rose with every upshift down the short straight. I shot into Turn 17 and felt the car flexing through the corner. I practically threw the car down into the multi-width Turn 18 and used the momentum to cut up through Turn 20. I ran up way wide out of Turn 21 and almost hit the wall on the outside before coming down- throwing up dust as I just missed the dirt. I used up every bit of EPB I could down the straight, and went down into Turn 1 with as much speed as I could- balancing the car on the edge of grip as Max came out from behind the wall just in front of me. I felt my heartbeat race up as I flew up to the exit curbing of the corner with the aero suction ripping grass up and tossing it into the air. I lost a tiny bit of grip down the straight but flew into Turn 2 with all the confidence in the world. I had to leave room up the inside in case Max exited, but I managed to have the gap and Max exited well behind me. A saw a couple of backmarker cars in front of me before they both dashed into Turn 4 and disappeared behind the wall. I went down into Standard revs to preserve fuel as Max had to twist his way around Turn 3- taking a long and tedious way around the tight, hairpin-like corner. I chucked the car down into Turn 4 and felt the tires working their magic through the tight turn. The car felt glued to the track as I whipped through Turn 5. The two cars were dueling hard in front of me, and I knew the results wouldn’t be pretty. They went side-by-side in Turn 6, and I immediately braced for impact as they flew into Turn 7. Sure enough, the Lion Racing car locked up on the inside of the F-Tech Race Team car- spearing into the left-rear. The F-Tech twisted sideways and flew off the racing line before impacting a tire bundle on the outside. The rear was ripped away, and the car started spinning violently back across the track. My eyes widened as I sawed the wheel right- losing the tail and throwing myself into the grass as the black F-Tech car pounded into the bright blue and white Lion. The car bumped and rustled over the grass as the wheel shook. My ears were assaulted by the rattling sound of the grass, and I felt the car jump up into the air before coming back down. I had to manhandle the wheel to keep from spinning out and ended up rejoining the track sideways out of the hairpin. I had to avoid lighting up the rears out of the corner as both of the cars continued their wreck, finally resting up against the inside retaining wall. Dirt and debris was strewn across the track as Max cautiously drove over the grass, almost following the same tire tracks I did as the smoke cleared. I shifted the engine down into Ultra-lean as the yellow lights came on the dash. “Jeb, do you have any damage?” I started weaving down the short straight between Turns 8 and 9, feeling the car around for any steering damage. I keyed the radio to respond, not feeling anything wrong with the car. “Yeah, Andy, feeling good for now. I don’t know how I didn’t wreck the car right there- I was so close to spinning in the grass.” I sighed and shook my head as I coasted down into Turn 10- weaving and burning off a small bit of speed into the corner. “I mean seriously; they’re almost a lap down, the final race of the season, near dead-last, and they’re fighting like the championship is on the line or something. I almost wiped out there trying to miss them. Just flat-out stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.” I rolled over the curb in Turns 11 and 12 before weaving down the back straight to clean the dirt off the tires and to feel around for any issues. “Just let me know if there are any issues with the car. From what the replays are showing you’re in the clear, but we’re looking over the telemetry right now.” I went into Turn 13 at about half speed, and the car felt fine- maybe just a little bit oversteer but I could blame that on dirty tires that were cooling down. I opened up the visor and felt the fresh coastal air blowing against my face as I rolled through Turn 14. We all finally caught up to the Safety Car just before Turn 6, and I started backing the pack up. I looked at the two stricken cars off to the side of the track and mentally started counting down. Ten to go, I whispered to myself as we coasted down into Turn 7 and the lights on the Safety Car went out on Lap 24. I started backing the pack up out of Turn 14 as the silver car started speeding away. I shook my head and started warming the tires up down the wide and short straight past the hangar. I felt the nerves beginning to rise, but I tried to push them down the best I could. I saw the field backing up behind me, and I started planning my move. I was going to go in Turn 17. The crowd whistled and cheered as we rolled past and I came up off the exit curbing of Turn 15. I went up into Rich revs to get the engine hot and ready to go, waiting for the yellow lights to switch to green. Finally, as I rolled down into the Turn 17 apex, they did. I immediately jammed on the gas, gaining the element of surprise on Max as I went. I got myself a fantastic launch and flew down into Turn 18- leaning hard on the tires to get that fraction of extra grip. I felt the car give way just a little bit but ignored it as I got out into Turn 19. I slammed over the curbing and got out into Turn 20- giving myself a wider run down into Turn 21. The car skittered over the exit curbing, and I felt the car teeter on the edge of a spin before I brought it back to me and flew on to start Lap 26. I threw the car down into Turn 1 and felt the front lose a little bit of grip before I got it back to me- the car biting back a little bit mid-corner before I came out of it. The car rotated great through Turn 2, and I spared a glance back to see Max trailing down in Turn 1 with Micheal hot on his tail. I blasted through Turn 3 and felt the car accelerate out of the turn- the tires gripping into the corner like glue. I raced down into Turn 4 slammed the brakes, and the car went perfectly with me into the turn. I felt like the car was able to stick into the ground, and I could confidently throw myself into the corners with ease. The crowd whistled and cheered as I passed them through Turn 6 before diving into Turn 7. I hit the brakes and the left-front locked up a bit before I managed to unlock it. I pointed the car down into Turn 8, and the car responded beautifully. I practically coasted through the tight hairpin’s apex and got out of the corner just as Max started his braking. I raced down into Turn 9 and clipped the curbing before hitting the brakes for Turn 10, the car rolling up to the very edge of the track near the wall. Dust came up off the wheels of the right side, and I felt the car gently slide before I got it back together. A small crowd whistled and cheered as I passed them out of 10, and I shot through into Turn 11. I raced over the curbing and threw the car over the bumps in Turn 12- barely lifting the wheels before the car fell back to the ground with a tiny amount of sparks. I raced down the straight and felt the car hunker down- slipping through the air and gaining speed. I got all the way up to 160 miles per hour before heading into 13, but something went wrong. Instead of staying glued to the ground, the car flew wide up the track- running both wheels off into the grass before I pulled it back together. Dust was thrown up into the air in a brown wall, and a trail of dirt settled on the outside of the corner where I rejoined. The car understeered again through Turn 14, and I just barely avoided missing the wall. I instantly keyed the radio on corner exit before braking for Turn 15. “Guys, something’s wrong with the car. Something’s wrong with the car; I can’t turn.” I fought the car through Turn 15 and just barely made 16. “Copy, we’ll look at it,” Andy responded frantically. “Please hurry.” I threw myself into Turn 17 and made the corner as Max started catching up. “Jeb, we have reason to believe you may have picked up some floor damage. Repeat; we may have damaged the floor.” I cursed below my breath as I wheeled into Turn 18 with Max just now going into 17. “Is it fixable? Can we maybe change something on the fly?” I flew over the curing in Turns 19 and 20 before running down into Turn 21. “We don’t think so, but we’ll keep looking.” I shook my head as we started Lap 27 and Nine to go. The car felt perfectly planted in Turn 1, and I was shocked before flying down into Turn 2. “Car feels good in 1… I don’t know; maybe it’s a high-speed issue?” Andy was on the radio less than a second later as I came out of Turn 3. “Jeb, we think that the issue is with a strut on the floor. It’s coming loose whenever you’re turning at high speed, but at low-speed, it’ll work. We’ll see if there’s something we can do from our end up here.” I raced through the tunnel and a crackling radio transmission before flying down into Turn 5. “Andy, repeat, I lost you in the tunnel.” I flew through Turn 5 and saw Max enter the tunnel about a second and a half back from me before Andy came back. “Jeb, stay off the curbing, repeat, stay off the curbs. If you go over the curbs, the vibrations might rattle the strut enough to come undone, and we’ll risk the floor coming undone entirely. Avoid the curbing as much as possible please.” “Okay, any way to make it through Velocidad, or am I sunk?” “We’re working on a fix, be advised.” I sighed and hit the brakes hard into Turn 7- feeling the car slow down incredibly fast. Looking back at the TV broadcasts later, I could see the brakes glowing bright red against the tires in the night. The spotlights flashed past as I blasted down the “Canyon Straight,” and I threw the car into Turn 9. “Jeb, we can’t figure out anything up here. Just take the corner easy- we’ll look at the cameras and tell you what we see.” I broke hard for Turn 10, and the car felt stuck to the ground- zooming along the tarmac without any real issue. I flew along the straight and groaned internally before braking hard for the normally-fast right-left of Tempesta. I had to go at practically snail’s pace around the curbing as Max closed up massively- cutting the gap from two seconds down to one and a half through just two corners. I tried my best to pull out of the corner with as much speed as I could, and used everything I had to get a good launch. EPB and Rich Revs were on maximum power as I stormed down the straight with Max trying to keep a tow on me. The crowd cheered as we passed, and I saw Micheal going up around the outside of Max down the straight. Good, I thought as I broke for Turn 13. Maybe they’ll slow each other up enough to give me a chance. I went a bit too slow through 13 and ended up having enough room to make 14 comfortably, and I cursed myself quietly. “100’s too slow to make 13. I’ll go for 115 or something next time.” Max and Micheal went side-by-side into Turn 13 and drew a massive roar from the crowd as they maintained that side-by-side action through 14. I pushed hard into 15 and barely made the apex for Turn 16- braking just a bit and just missing the curb on the outside of the corner. Micheal and Max went into Turn 15 and almost made contact as I tried to get out of the corner. I shot down into Turn 17 and felt the car understeer just a little bit before I got it under control. I shot the car down out of the corner and had to try and concentrate as the spotlights flashed past the- creating repeating shadows on the ground as I flew past. I understeered a tiny bit through Turn 18 but not too bad as I got over Turn 19 and 20. Max and Micheal made contact in the middle of 18 as the sidewalls of the tires slammed into one another. The crowd roared as the two flew past out of Turn 21, but I had already made a quick dash into the first corner. I chucked the car down into Turn 2, and the car gripped like a dream, making me grimace a bit. Max was on the outside and put two wheels off into the dirt- fishtailing down the short straight and giving up the position. Good, I thought anxiously as I roared into Turn 3- More time for me. With just seven laps to go, I could use every last bit of help I could get. I shot over the apex of Turn 4, avoiding the curb and diving down up the corner. I almost hit the rumble strip on corner exit before I quickly snapped the wheel back down to avoid- almost spinning out sideways down the straight. I threw the car down into Turn 5 and went as wide as possible up the corner to carry the speed, and slingshotted through 6 to get the run into the hairpin. As I rolled out of Turn 8, I saw Max locking up on the inside of Micheal- making a tiny bit of contact on the left side but not causing a spin. I did my best to shoot over the corner to get as much speed as possible, and dove into Turn 10 with as much speed as I dared. I flew up to the very edge of the track and watched the dust shoot up off the tires before I came back down the track. I snaked my way through Turns 11 and 12 as fast as I could, still trying to keep off the curbs while keeping the speed. “Andy, it’s just too slow through Tempesta,” I sighed as I punched it out of the straight. “We’ll see what we can do, but keep fighting. Eight to go here, about to be seven. Max and Micheal are fighting super hard, so it’ll be close here.” I hit the brakes for Velocidad and barely made the corner- just barely kissing the very edge of the outside curbing without hitting the rumble section at all. I fought the car all the way back up the track and managed to hang onto it through 14 as Max led past Micheal into 13. They’re catching up. I shook my head and dove into Turn 15 a couple of seconds later, holding as much speed as possible. The car turned in fine for Turn 16, and the rears chucked up dust that was left on the track from another car in front. Two little contrails rolled off the rear wing with a swirl look as I glanced back at Max and Micheal duking it out. Micheal had tried a look around the outside into 15 but couldn’t make it stick as Max held on tight. I threw the car into Turn 17 and felt the suspension flex against the car’s weight. I could almost feel the car dialing back into me, and I wondered if this was going to hold. Max and Micheal continued their duel, but the damage allowed them to start reeling me in slowly. With just two to go, they were right on top of me. I shot out of Turn 5 and sparks flew up off the diffuser as I hit a slight bump- sending me into a tiny fishtail before I recovered it. Micheal was hot on my tail, and I saw Max come out of the corner just as sideways as I was. I flew through Turn 6 and shot down to get a good run to Turn 7 and the hairpin, and Micheal stayed right in my tire tracks. “Jeb, you’ve got to make this car as wide as possible here, okay? Stay tough here.” I rolled out of Turn 8 and Micheal lost time as he ran up the track and allowed Max a hole up the inside. He didn’t try a move in the corner, but they both went slow as I tried to eke out a small gap to the two as I threw the car into Turn 9. We all went single-file through 9 and 10 as I maintained my gap- even extending it a bit through the hairpin turn. I went down the straight with as much speed as I could before pounding the brakes- following the tarmac as both of the other cars caught up massively. They had to wait for me since my car basically blocked the entire track, but I was horribly compromised for the straight. Both Micheal and Max had the momentum, but I cut them off in 12 before they could swing past. I swept up to the right in a half-attempt to block Micheal, who was gaining with DRS. I held the inside for Turn 13 and managed to hang onto the lead as Max followed me through- clearing Micheal easily down into Turn 14 as I cut back down. The two lost ground to me as they went side by side through the corner and I used the momentum to throw myself out down into Turn 15. I blasted the car over the apex as now Micheal got past Max again entering 16. If Micheal could stay ahead of Max, it didn’t matter if I lost the position and fell to third- I’d still win the title. I flew into Turn 17 and managed to just barely make the corner as the grass quickly came up on the right side. I swung back up the track, and the car flowed into Turn 18 smoothly- kissing the white inside paint line of the corner before flowing up into the chicane of Turns 19 and 20. I rolled through 21 with all the grip in the world and saw both drivers hovering back behind me. “Final lap, Jeb, this is it.” I bared my head down and dove into Turn 1 with as much speed as I could- practically flinging it into the apex before coming back up the track. I flew into Turn 2 and barely kissed the curbing on the inside- running up the track and feeling the car teeter on the absolute edge. I whipped through Turn 3 and barely ran up to the outer limit of the track with the crowd roaring. Max had gotten past Micheal in Turn 1, but I didn’t care. This race was mine to lose. I blasted through Turn 4 with as much speed as I could carry and threw dust up off the left sides before I weaved back for Turn 5. The car was in the zone through these middle-speed corners, and I felt like there wasn’t anything that the car couldn’t do. I kissed the corner apex and ran smoothly out of the corner as I avoided the bump that had caught me out earlier. With the fuel almost gone and the tires at just the right point, I was at my absolute best. Without the damage, I probably could have set a couple of fastest laps. Lights flashed past me as I zoomed through Turn 6 and broke hard for 7, with Max and Micheal about a second and a half back from me. I rolled through the hairpin and jammed the gas hard on corner exit, but the rears stayed glued to the ground as I powered out of the corner. I kept my wheel movements nice and tidy down the run to Turn 9 and hit the corner on point before slamming the brakes for Turn 10. The crowd whistled and cheered as I passed them, and I took Tempesta as hard as I could without hitting the inside curbs. Max and Micheal gained on me through the chicane but stayed a ways back in my slipstream down on the run to 13. I felt the car fighting against the laws of physics for every last fraction of grip, and just barely made it through the corner unscathed. I carried what little momentum I had left through 14 and came wide up the track right next to the wall before coming back down. I raced down the massively wide run to Turn 15 with Max hot on my heels, but he didn’t try a move before I turned into the corner. I ran right up to the very edge before 16 and cut back down with Max right behind. He faked a move inside, but it was too late as I swung down into the corner. A wave of relief washed over me as I turned out of 17, and started setting up a run for Turn 18. This is it. I came up the track almost in slow-motion, before turning into the corner. Right at that moment, something went wrong. As soon as I turned the wheel to point in for the apex, I heard a horribly loud mix between a CRACK, CRASH, and BOOM! noise from the front of the car. I lost what little aero grip was left from the trashed floor, and the car pointed straight on. I threw everything I had at turning the wheel, and suddenly I lost all rear-end control. The engine screamed with a fiery howl as the rears lost the grip, and I looped the car around in a cloud of smoke. The smoke quickly turned to dark brown dust as the car rolled off to the grass on the outside and I hit the brakes hard to keep from backing into the wall. Max coasted past me before accelerating out of Turn 18, and Micheal was on the gas as he passed. Bright hot tears stung at my eyes as I shifted down and drove out of the corner. The car sounded mournful at the low RPM, and fireworks started blasting up into the air as Max crossed the line. I went down through the corner at half speed, opening my visor and trying to figure out what went wrong. “I’m sorry, guys,” I muttered, trying to keep myself from crying too hard as I crossed the line. “That’s my fault. I’m so so sorry. You guys deserved so much better than that.” I coasted through Turn 1 and saw Max rolling out of 2- pumping his fist into the air. Fireworks boomed above us, and the crowd roared, but I just sighed and shook my head. “It’s alright, man,” Andy replied, trying to be heard over the crowd from the front straight. “Nothing you could have done there. Just remember, Mode 0 when you get back into the paddock.” I sighed and rumbled over the Turn 3 curbing, holding behind Max. He hit the brakes in Turn 4, and we went side-by-side in the Tunnel. He waved over to me and gave me a thumbs-up before I accelerated past him. I waved out to the crowd but kept my visor down as I coasted through the rest of the lap until Velocidad. I pulled off right out of Turn 14 while Max went left. The rest of the field followed him, but he stopped off to the side as they all passed. I stopped the car in the paddock but kept the helmet on as the crowd and the team filed in. With the engine off, I could hear the yelling of Max’s car from behind me as he did burnouts in front of the hangar. I sighed and started unbuckling the harness as the crowd cheered. Cameras flashed as I got up and gave Micheal a handshake before walking over to Andy on the barrier fence. I gave him a big hug and tried to make myself heard over the noise of the engines and the crowd. “I’m sure gonna miss you, bud,” I said into his ear as the burnout started slowing down. He clapped me on the back and replied, “I’m gonna miss you too, kiddo.” We broke apart, and I saw there were tears in his eyes as he held my shoulders. “Win another one for me, alright?” I smiled sadly and nodded before giving him one last hug. “Now get out there, before you make me cry in front of all these reporters.” I chuckled and turned around- walking out to the garage building where the cool-down room was on the KSC Crawler-way for the race. I stepped onto the scale, and an official measured my weight before I stepped off and started walking up to the lounge room. I set my helmet down on a table before grabbing some water. Micheal was right behind me, and I sat down on the couch dripping sweat as I put my head down in defeat. Michael sat down next to me and sighed. “I remember my very first season. 2028,” He said, putting his hand on my back. “I had a shot at the championship, and it was a make-or-break race. I still remember the temperature that day at the old Eradica track- 101º Track, 78º Ambient. I dominated that race from the start. Did everything I had to do; Make the right moves, passed the right people, but…” He sighed. “On Lap 18- just two laps to go- I lost the transmission. I tried to see if there was anything I could do, but I was down third, fourth, fifth, and sixth gear in a seven-gear car. But I fought like hell. I tried to stay ahead, but when you lose half of the gears in the car, you’re not going to have a good day.” I turned to face Micheal with tears on the corners of my eyes. “Did you at least make it?” His smile spread out a little bit in a reminiscent smile. He leaned back and looked up, remembering. “Shoot no. The engine blew up on the second-to-last lap, and that was, as they say, that for my championship. And I was devastated. I sat in my hotel room that night and just bawled my eyes out- I didn’t even speak to the team for another week. I felt like I had done something wrong when it wasn’t my fault at all.” He leaned forward. “See, that was my flaw. I thought that I could control everything. If something was wrong on that car, I felt like it was my job to fix it.” I sniffed and wiped at my eyes. “So what did you do?” He clapped his hand on my back, and looked me in the eyes. “I learned three lessons that race that I’ve used my entire career. Are you ready?” I nodded, and he sighed before replying with a soft but kind of stern tone. “First off, you can’t control everything. You’re only in control of what you say and what you do. Yeah, you turn the steering wheel and push the pedals and tell the car where to go, but you can’t control what happens. There’s no magic button that suddenly makes those 19 other cars and drivers listen to you instead of them. And you’ve got to be okay with that.” It made sense. I didn’t make those cars in front of me crash. I did what I could, and it ended up with damage- nothing I could have done. But I still knew that there was something deep-down that maybe I could have done. “Secondly,” He continued as if he was reading my mind. “You can’t change the past. Hindsight’s 20/20 and it’s okay to look back at your mistakes. But if you obsess over it, you’ll never get past Turn 3 on Lap 18 of the 2028 Eradican Grand Prix.” I sighed and looked at Micheal. “And the third lesson?” Micheal smiled softly and put his hand on my shoulder. “This is gonna shock you, but I’m going to let you in on an important secret. There’s a whole lot more to racing than just winning.” You could have pushed me over with a feather. “What?” I looked at him in surprise. “The whole point of rac-“ He cut me off. “Yeah, yeah, you race to win I know. But listen. You’re not going to win every single race. And sometimes, there are races you can’t win.” He chuckled. “As evidenced by this last season.” I smiled and laughed along. “But you have to accept that sometimes you’re going to lose. And not just to Max. There’s going to be a day where you’re knocked down, and it feels impossible to get back up. You’re going to lose, and you probably won’t be able to control it. But what you can control is how you handle it.” I tried to process this as Micheal stood up and got some water from the fridge. “So… What happened next? After Eradica I mean.” Micheal turned around and smiled- stopping mid-step. “Well, my teammate, Murray, won the title that season. And I congratulated him for it. And that next season, I went out and kicked his butt so bad Monster promoted me.” I laughed just as Max walked into the room- a beaming smile on his face. “Am I missing a party in here or something,” He said jokingly as he gave Micheal a handshake. “Man, great race- that was one heck of a fight. I thought you had me there for a couple of laps there near the end.” I stood up, and Max turned to me. I walked over, and he looked a bit nervous, but I kept walking. As I approached him, I braced myself and gave Max a massive bear-hug that almost knocked him over. I could tell he was stunned, and I honestly couldn’t blame him. I broke away, and shook his hand- albeit with a bit of pressure put into squeezing his hand. “Great race, bud,” I said, trying to keep the emotion from choking me out. “You… You earned it.” Max looked relieved and gave me an equal-strength bear-hug before replying. “Thank you,” He said, sounding like he was about to break up as well. He broke off and laughed a bit before wiping his eyes. “Can you believe it? I mean look where we are right now. We dreamt that we’d be K1 champions, and we’re already here!” I nodded and looked around the room. “Yeah,” I sighed. Then, my face broke into a devious smile, and I looked at Max. “Race you to two!” He laughed and gave me a high-five. “Oh, you’re on.” Micheal stepped up and put his hands on our shoulders, standing in between us with a huge smile as well. “Not if I have anything to say about it,” He replied with a chuckle, and we all three laughed. Yeah, I’d lost the championship, and yeah I was still disappointed in myself. But you know what? For the first time in my life, I felt okay with it.
  10. - Go to Google - Type in "Thanos" - Click the gauntlet button on the right above the Wikipedia box under the images (You'll see it) - Be amazed
  11. So today, we had music during morning workouts. Fun fact: When your coaches went to high school in the '90s, you find... some weird gems to try and do Squats to.
  12. I think that possibly they might have been scared about possibly collapsing what was left of the roof with the hoses, so they had to do it the old-fashioned way. Also, just saw some images and this is crazy stuff. All the windows look relatively intact, the gold cross is still 100% alright, and even the wax on the candles is unburnt.
  13. That's a fantastic start! Great way to set the opening tone of the story by introducing the characters (and their traits) without being direct, providing a setting (and a bit of lore as well), and of course throwing in some comedy in there as well! English teacher mode aside, I'm really looking forward to seeing what's next for the band of four (and whether or not Rayby is going to eat the dust). Oh, and thanks for the mention- I love helping people out.
  14. Nothing's expected to survive... Terrible to hear from Paris...
  15. Paris' famed Notre Dame cathedral has caught on fire earlier today, and Paris crews are trying to extinguish the blaze. So far, the fire has claimed the spire, and it's unknown if there are any injuries or what was lost so far. More to come as it happens.