DarkOwl57

Life At The Top (A KSP Racing Novel) (38. Back in Action)

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I love this! (thanks for incorporating a bit of my idea lol) Maybe Jeb needs a new mentor? 

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On 4/18/2018 at 3:33 PM, DarkOwl57 said:

My latest whopper chapter was 7,655 words. Pssh, lightweight. You wanna know why? Chapter 23/23.5: 10,888 words. Highlighting the thing lagged my computer. And, if @Just Jim was correct in an 8,600 chapter was the longest... I think we've got a new world record... I swear I'm not trying to do this :P

@DarkOwl_ But if you are going to try then youll need to step up your game as The Last Unicorn an average chapter length of 23,000 words.

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On 4/19/2018 at 4:37 PM, SiriusRocketry said:

I love this! (thanks for incorporating a bit of my idea lol) Maybe Jeb needs a new mentor? 

I've had some idea brewing... Maybe I'll include it ;)

On 4/19/2018 at 8:20 PM, SpaceN00b said:

@DarkOwl_ But if you are going to try then youll need to step up your game as The Last Unicorn an average chapter length of 23,000 words.

nopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenope

So here comes Chapter 24. I'm nearing the mark where I ended my first ever war story- The Great War, at 25 chapters. My how my writing has grown... Anyways, off Memory lane- it's time for the start of a season!

 

Chapter 24: 2037

5:45pm, 2 Weeks later. Round 1 of 10: The KSC.

 

“The KSC. Home to the sunrise of a season, as well as the sunset. The previous race here was an event of firsts… And lasts. The final race of 2036 was the last of a legend- Phil Kerman. However, this loss was not in vain. New safety innovations have been put into place, and that’s not all. Sweeping regulation changes have made these cars the fastest… Ever. Lower wings, lower cars, faster engines- all combining to produce the greatest race car in the history of the sport.

“2037 will also hope to answer the questions of the past. Following 5 years of OTech domination, the River City-based squad has brought on two young superstars ready to set the world of racing alight. Jebediah Kerman, after a massive crash last season, was questionable to race again. But after his recovery, the young champion has returned for his first race back. Also added onto the squad is Max Kerman, now in his sophomore season. The young driver is looking to add onto his 3-win season last year, and maybe contend for the championship. The circuits, cars, and drivers have gotten faster and safer. Now the only question is: Who will win it all? The 2037 KSC Opener is coming. And it begins now.”

 

   I put the brace on while suiting up as the crowd rumbled like an ocean far away. The team was working on messing with some suspension and brake settings as tires laid off to the side. The team had been working hard since Bradley, when we’d set the fastest times of the test. Day 2 had been messed up with rain, but at least we got some good running in with the wet tires.

   Max was proving to be (so far) a good teammate. He’d already found a house about 3 blocks away from mine and had learned his way around the city. In the team meetings, he did his best to stay quiet- except of course when I was in the room with him. Then, we worked together (inadvertently) to see how many headaches we could make in the hour-long meetings. So far, our record was at 3 while Andy and Claire discussed what they’d done to the car in between the tests and the race.

   Kim, on the other hand, had been insufferable. She could not stop talking about the game. I mean yeah, it was a good game, but her favorite thing to do was angle her ring so that it flashed into your eyes. It got so bad that I ended up getting my own ring (From the 2035 championship) and flashing light into her face.

   I strapped the helmet on before stepping into the seat. The team got everything plugged in and put everything together as they finished up the last-second corrections, and I could feel the adrenaline ramping up. As soon as I was all buckled in, I put my gloves on and took the wheel from a mechanic. I went to P-0 and watched as the team fired the engine- its roar filling the concrete garage. The team dropped the car down onto the ground and I drove out of the stall.

   Once out on the track, I flew around the first turn at max speed- feeling the outside wheels stand strong against the load. The car broke nicely for Turn 2, and I bounced over the high curbing. I ran all the way up to the exit curb before diving into Turn 3. “Car’s gripping beautifully,” I said into the radio before slamming the brakes into Turn 4. “Can’t tell if it’s the tires or what but it’s so dang fast.” The turn-in was sharp and precise- just like I remembered from Bradley. The car threw up sparks as I went through Turn 6- the left side losing a bit of grip but hanging on. Fans cheered and I dove into the braking zone of the tightening apex of Turns 7 and 8. The rears lost a bit of grip as they spun, but I kept it under control and blasted out of the corner hard and smooth. As I accelerated, I noticed that the shark fin was shaking in the turbulence. Andy had assured me this was all normal but it looked really weird.

   I went through Tempesta and felt the suspension handle the shifts perfectly. As I went down the straight, I noticed a spaghetti trail of black rubber lines along the face of the track where Phil had spun. Don’t get distracted, I told myself sternly as I blasted down the straight. You’ve got a job to do. Now do it. The car flew through Velocidad and I held it full-throttle, only losing about 5 miles an hour with the turn. This car truly defied physics with each turn. I was in the fastest section of the track now, and I could feel that the car was in its element. The engine was yelling and howling as I flew down past the hangar before turning into Turn 15. I went wide on the apex and felt the rears start to try to get away from me before I hit the curbing for Turn 16.

   “Go to the grid,” Andy told me as I went through 17. I obliged, and instead of hitting the pits in Turn 21, I kept on-track and drove to the pole spot. As I started getting unbuckled, Max pulled up in the second spot right behind me. I got out of the car and put my helmet in the seat and watched as the crew went to work- unscrewing wheel bolts, connecting wires to computers, and checking various sensors, dials, and settings to make sure everything was perfect. Max slid over to me and muttered, “I’ll give you 5 bucks if you tell me that setup you’re running,” Which made me laugh and put my hands up.

   “Ask Andy,” I said in reply, putting my hat on as the sun began to kiss the peaks of the mountains to the west. Max turned and looked Andy before turning to look at me. Me, Andy. Me, Andy. Finally, he cupped his hands around his mouth.

   “Oi, Andy!” He shouted, making Andy turn- a bit startled. “5 bucks if you tell me your setup!” Andy threw his hand forward in annoyance and turned back to the computer as data started flowing in. “Guess that’s a no,” Max sighed as he walked alongside me as I tried not to laugh. We had both stormed the field in qualifying- locking out the front row by about 2 seconds. I, however, had bolted away from the rest of the field and gotten a 1.79-second gap out to Max, and a stunning 20 seconds away from last place. I had really dialed the car in on the short, fast runs, especially on newer tires. The car was able to handle the longer runs just as well, and so far the year was looking like OTech would remain on top for the season. I watched as everyone else went to their grid slots and waited. With only about 5 minutes until the scheduled start of the race, we went to the flagpole for the anthem. I hummed along and clapped as it finished with a triumphant tone- putting my hat back on and walking back to the car.

   I gave Max a handshake along the way and went to the car- splitting the sea of reporters like a knife through butter (I’m so poetic today, aren’t I?). Flashes and shutter clicks followed me to the grid stall, where the crew was waiting for me. I grabbed my helmet and put it on- sealing out the noise. Alexis came up and gave me a big hug, and I had to tilt my head around awkwardly to not bonk her in the head with my helmet. I opened up my visor and heard a “Good luck” over the sound of the crowd before we separated a second later. Through the visor I could hear a flurry of reporters calling my name- which I ignored. Honestly, if I wanted to talk to you the race would never start, I thought a bit aggravated- standing up in the seat before plopping down. The team put the tires back on and started unplugging various tubes. The tire blankets were put over the rubber and I got myself buckled in as five lights came on above, signifying that we had only about 5 minutes until the formation lap would begin.

   The engine was humming quietly as I put the wheel onto the mount and watched as the computer system booted up. Quicker than I realized, the lights had gone down to only one. The team set me down onto the ground and I held the clutch in- building the revs as the light went out. The car launched out of the spot and I felt myself get flung back from the G’s. I stayed in line for the run down to Turn 1 (Pole gets outside for the first turn while second gets the inside). I turned down into the corner and saw Max’s blue and white nose catching up on me before dropping back mid-corner as I tested the gas.

   “Really good launch,” I reported as I went into Turn 2. “Rears have a ton of grip out of the apex.” I weaved around before going into Turn 3- gently brushing the exit curb as I got out. The bumps shook the cockpit for a second but I kept it under control as I pulled back down. The car flowed effortlessly over the curbing and apexes as I went through the lap- never losing traction through the lap. On the backstraight, I saw a bright blue #14 flag waving in the large stands next to the track. The fans were cheering as I passed, and as I looked back in my mirror I had a flashback to back in Owlia, 2035. I shook my head and hit the gas- shooting away down the straight. I blasted into Velocidad and felt the cars suspension bunch up underneath me as I took the corner flat-out. The track widened up on the exit of Turn 14 and I went as wide as I could- running up only a few inches from the wall as I held in the throttle. I went into Turn 15 and saw the sky beginning to glow with an orange tint as the sun had set behind the mountain peaks. Sparks flew up as the car bottomed out over the Turn 16 curbing and I blasted down the short straight before braking hard for 17. Fans cheered as I went past- the engine yelling over the chants and noise. I broke hard for Turn 18 and felt the front wheels teeter on the edge of grip before I turned in- brushing over the apex curbing softly and flying out.

   “Engine Mode 5. Good luck out there,” Andy said as I pulled up to the grid that was one of the tightest in K1. I watched as the rest of the grid form up behind me. The engine seemed to wait anxiously in the spot, and I felt my heartbeat speed up a bit as the last couple cars got into their spots. I did a final check on all the systems before seeing a green flag waved behind in the mirrors. This is it.

   One light came on the pylon and I went to the Launch mode. The engine started humming in a slightly higher tone and I felt the energy building up and down the grid.

   Two lights. I pushed the clutch in and watched everyone behind.

   Three. I pressed in on the gas and the engine started raising from a hum, to a rumble, to a yell. A roar. A scream.

   Four. The car shook as the engine revved up. The crowd was getting louder, but I could hardly hear it as the noise of 20 engines.

   Five. I exhaled and stared at the light as they stayed on- glowing bright as the sun painted the sky orange.

   The lights went out and I released the clutch- feeling the car shoot forwards as it was freed. I couldn’t feel a hint of wheelspin as the car got going, and I shifted up lightning fast as the engine hit the speed. I dove into Turn 1 and looked back as Max thought about a move before backing out. The move meant that he was quickly swarmed by third placed Micheal. Max kept the inside for the corner and defended nicely- just squeezing up to the outside and leaving Micheal no room to pass. Dirt flew up into the air as someone brushed the grass on the exit of the turn, but I had already turned into Turn 2.

   I blasted down the short straight as the car lurched over bumps before I broke for the corner. Max was right behind me and I saw sparks fly up behind him as the car hit a particularly nasty bump that caught out many drivers. The car understeered out of the apex and the left sides buzzed over curbing before I quickly cut down back onto the track. Max darted down to the inside but I swiped across as we all turned into the tunnel. The lights turned to faded darkness as we blasted under the concrete top- sound echoing off the walls. I held my line and flew out of Turn 5 with Max in hot pursuit. I saw the sky glowing brightly orange, as if it were on fire before the buildings flew across it. The car accelerated up as it screamed through Turn 6, and I felt G-forces tug me against my belts. A quick fact about the KSC; the track is flat- almost as flat as a pancake besides a couple bumps. This meant that cars relied on mechanical and aero grip instead of banking, dips, or rises.

   Max locked up into Turn 7 and almost hit me, but I had turned down and he held right around my outside as the brakes unlocked. I jammed down hard on the EPB button as I pulled out of the Turn 8 hairpin, just narrowly getting clear of Max as I pulled up across his nose on exit. We flew down the canyon straight as spotlights flew past and the engine noises came at us from all angles. I took Turn 9 flat-out with Max just behind me, and the small crowd atop the roofs cheered as we passed. I broke in for the Turn 10 hairpin and felt the car almost dip off-course before coming back to me on corner exit. Max was right behind me and tried to get every advantage possible, but I made the car as wide as possible down the straight until Tempesta. I took the curbing and flew out of the chicane. The car tilted as it went over the banked curbs- slamming me left and then right as the wheels caught air time before slamming back down. Max was right behind me as we blazed out of the corner, and he started gaining on me. The crowd yelled and roared as we passed them- our engines screaming above the noise as we pushed.

   Max hadn’t gotten up to me yet and I cut down into Velocidad. The car blasted over the Turn 13 curb and I almost lost it as the rears lifted up. I kept flat-out and felt the rears lose just a bit of traction before I turned back the other way for Turn 14. The body shifted its tilt as the cars inertia threw it to the outside. I kept turning the wheel in hard and Max was forced to stay behind as he fought a snap of oversteer on exit- almost hitting the wall with the right rear as dust flew up into the air. The small mistake allowed me to extend a slight gap. I used as much exit space as I possibly could and flew out of the turn before the grass attacked me on the outside. The car was in its element as it screamed through down the short straight in front of the hangar. The track widened up and I saw the red and black 2037 K1 banner out of the corner of my eye before it flashed out of view. Spotlights shined across my visor and sparks flew out of the rear as the car bottomed out. I hit the brakes for Turn 15 and the rears slipped as I flew over the curbing. I didn’t react and felt the car slip through the turn. I didn’t let the car get too out of control, though, and heard a crackle when the right-sides threw up brown dirt as I went just a bit past the Turn 16 curbing. Max had gotten in my dirty air and was forced to slow down heavily or else he’d miss the corner. Now, I didn’t have a threat before heading down the 17 Straight. There was a stand there that used to be home to all of Phil’s most loyal fans. As I went down the straight, multiple shades of blue and white blurred out of the corner of my eye. I slammed the brakes for Turn 17 and hit the curb hard- feeling the rears now hold all the grip I needed through the high-speed corner. I flew out of the corner and down into Turn 18- watching Max lock up behind me with a puff of white smoke as he turned into the wide entry a second after me. The car trailed along the curbing before evening out for a split-second.

   I went into the 19-20 chicane with a purpose and came out of it without even a hint of problems. I broke for Turn 21 and came out of the loop full-throttle. The car oversteered up to the deceptively close exit curb, but I pulled down and crossed the line to complete the first lap. The sound of engines echoed off the walls as the rest of the field came to end the lap, but I had already dived down into Turn 1 with as much speed as the car was going to give me. Max was right behind me and stayed right in my tracks- holding pace in the tight section that wasn’t known for its overtakes. Even under the tunnel, he held right in line- watching and waiting for a slip-up or a slight mistake that would let him past. In Turn 8, I locked up- throwing smoke into my visor but not giving room up the inside. The car understeered on the entry and I had to fight it all the way through the hairpin- just narrowly cutting Max off. On corner exit, Max got up to my inside and tried to hold it down the straight. He got next to me and with EPB we balanced out with his right-front just inches from my left-rear. The yell of engines echoed off the concrete buildings surrounding us, and as I dove into Turn 9 Max was forced to give way. Down into Turn 10, I had no threat from behind as Max had cut back into my line- racing right behind me as he broke just a bit earlier than me.

   I was about to get free but yet again Max started to close up- losing a bit of ground on the exit of Tempesta. The crowd roared as we passed and the engine yelled along with them as I shifted up through the gears. Max started dropping back and I blazed into Velocidad at full throttle- feeling the car bite through the collection of turns with ferocity. The car flew with the turns and the fronts kept the car on-line smoothy and fast as it flew over curbs. On Lap 5, I had made a good lead out to Max behind.

   “Car feels amazing,” I told Andy as I passed the pit wall at the end of the lap. “Everything’s right. Aero and mechanical are working perfectly.” The car flew through Turn 1 and I felt it just kiss the inside of the curbing before coming back down. The car was working perfectly- biting and screaming into corners and blasting down the straights. The new cars had done what they were promised- be faster and better than before. Our planned pit stop was on Lap 16, and by that point I had gotten an enormous 10-second lead out to Max. I crossed the line to start the lap and Andy called me in. The tires hadn’t gone off badly, but now the fuel was reaching a critical point- about one lap left by a quick mental calculation before the display twisted with the wheel. Max had pulled in that lap, and I drove as hard as I could in some attempt to get out a gap. The rears slid through Turn 14 and I had to saw at the wheel to regain control- feeling my heart rate shoot up faster than… Well there’s nothing fast enough to describe it to be honest. Let’s just say really want fast and go from there.

   I hit the pit limiter and the car slowed as I entered the pit lane. The tight road went to the left as I entered the area where all the pit stalls were. I went past the entrance to Lane 1 (The KSC was weird- you had two pit lanes right next to each other) and looked towards my stall where the crew were waiting. I mentally counted down as I turned in. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, brake. The wheels whined as they came to a halt and the team went to work. Tires came off lightning-fast and I waited as fuel was put in and the timer ticked down. Finally, the light turned green and I was dropped onto the ground- jamming the gas and peeling out of the pit stall with a scream from the tires and smoke from the rear. I went over the curbing in the pit turn (Still on the limiter might I add) and drove on until I hit the speed line. As soon as I crossed it, the limiter came off and I shifted up as the engine yelled with the building revs. I left the pit lane and turned through Turn 1 just as Max came up onto the front-stretch.

   “That stop was perfect,” I told Andy happily as the car got through Turn 2. “Tell the guys I’m buying dinner for them after the race.” Andy chuckled and agreed. I flew through the tunnel and felt the new tires working wonders- turning the car through corners without a hint of a slide. “My gosh, car’s on rails! Y’all set it up perfectly, I’m not going to lie.” The car flew over curbs and held the traction perfectly. By Lap 25, I had set qualifying lap times and gotten a 20-second lead.

   “Bring it home,” Andy instructed as I set another fastest lap. I tried to slow down, I swear. I wasn’t intending to set another fast lap. But as I crossed the line, I could hear Andy sigh. “I thought I said don’t push,” He said, a bit annoyed. I couldn’t help but laugh.

   “I can’t help it!” I protested, attempting not to laugh myself off the track with only 4 laps to go. “I swear I’m not trying to go faster.” I think I had a problem. See, I have really 2 speeds; All-out, and reverse. Oh well. I had gone max speed and thoroughly decimated the field. I came out of the final corner and I laughed as I stuck my first up in celebration.

   “HahahahaHA! YES GUYS!!!” 100 meters away from the line and I saw the team celebrating on the wall. 75 away and I started weaving- cutting left right up next to the wall. At 50, I came back across to the right as the tires threw up a haze from rubber marbles off the line. 25. The flag started waving and I grinned underneath my helmet. I crossed the line and fireworks flew up into the air- bathing everything in a yellow glow. “YES! YES YES YES!” With every word, I punched at the air. “WE DID IT!” The crowd was as loud as a jet, and I felt like crying as I turned into the corner.

   “God, you sound like you just won the whole championship,” Max chuckled over the radio as he went through Turn 17. He crossed the line to more fireworks and a roar from the crowd. “We need a Mercy Rule,” He sighed, making me laugh. I waited up for him on the Turn 3 exit and we drove along-side each other, waving to the crowd. I tore away through Turn 4 but waited up underneath the tunnel. Suddenly, I got an idea.

   “Hey, get back, I don’t want to hit you,” I warned, making Max drop right back. As soon as I got clear, I raised both hands up into the air. My left hand pointed up to the sky, and my right held up four fingers. 14. Phil’s number. I thought it was a fitting salute to the legend. The small assembled crowd applauded and whistled in acceptance. In my mirror, I saw Max was doing it too- two hands in the air, remembering Phil. I went through Tempesta and drove down the straight- still holding my hands up in the air. The crowd gave their approval, and I raised my visor up. Cold air hit my face and light assaulted my eyes, but I didn’t care. Finally, at the end of the straight (Where Phil’s car had stopped), I pulled off to get to the podium. The car whined to a halt as I pulled onto the spot, and I listened to the crackling wave of claps from the crew. Micheal had already gotten to the podium and was stepping out- giving high fives to his team. I got unbuckled and took the wheel off before lifting myself up out of the cockpit. As soon as I stood up, I got onto the nose of the car and got down on one knee- pointing up to the sky. When I looked up, a single bright star seemed to stand out on the field of thousands- glinting and shimmering as I watched it. I grinned and got up- leaping off the car and running over to the team.

   “Great job,” Andy beamed as we got a quick hug over the barrier. I nodded and was going to reply something, but realized that my helmet was still on and would really mess with speaking. Alexis made her way through the crowd and gave me a hug.

   “That was awesome!” She shouted to me, almost bouncing with excitement. I held on for a couple more seconds before breaking away. Max was listening to Claire and I went over to him- giving him a clap on the back and a handshake. We both went over to the lounge and I saw Micheal, drinking some water on the couch. I took my helmet off and put it on a small counter and grabbed my own water bottle.

   “Holy cow,” I sighed, flopping down on the couch. Max walked in- holding his helmet and setting it down next to mine. He combed his fingers through his hair and some sweat flew off his head. The air was humid like you wouldn’t believe, and I was amazed that I wasn’t sweating more.

   “How the heck are you so fast?” He sat down next to me and I shrugged, before pointing my hands at him and waving my fingers.

   “Maaaagic,” I said jokingly, making Micheal chuckle. We talked some more before it was time to go out to the podium. Micheal went out to cheers, and next was Max. He was met with slightly louder cheers and claps. Finally, I got out and was hit with a wave of noise. Cheers and shouts met me and I grinned as I stepped out onto the deck- jumping up into the air as I walked to the top step. I got up on the step and listened to the anthem playing- softly singing along before it ended with a triumphant lift. Next, the trophies were presented. I took the trophy and held it up above my head- getting a loud cheer from the assembled crowd. As the dignitaries and officials scattered, I grabbed the champagne bottle and started spraying the drink. I aimed some at Max (before getting a face-full as he sided his bottle at me) and drink sprayed over the podium. Micheal aimed his over the railing of the balcony area, and it scattered over the crew and cars. After about 30 seconds, the spray had turned to a tiny trickle of foam, and I set the bottle down as the interviewer came out.

   “Well, what a race!” A voice said, and I turned to see who it was. Walking out to us, a big smile on his face, was Sebastian Kerman himself. The first 4-time series champion, Seb had captivated the world by winning each on back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I couldn’t help but feel a bit awestruck to say the least. “How’s everybody doing?” There were cheers and whistles and he laughed. As soon as he reached me, I smiled.

   “Seb!” I exclaimed, feeling almost like a little kid again. “I can’t believe it, it’s really you!” Sebastian chuckled as we all sat down on the podium.

   “And I can’t believe it’s you,” He replied with a massive grin. “All this time, I’ve been waiting to talk with the driver who broke my record! How’re you feeling right now?” I was still beaming like a total moron, and tried my best to respond.

   “I feel.. Amazing. First race back from the injury, it just felt good to know that I can still do this. The car was perfect- Andy got that car set up amazingly, and it just felt like it was on rails.” Seb nodded, and I carried on. “This team, though.. They did it. Yeah, I drove the car, but without them I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere close to here. We had a guardian angel tonight, too. I hope that somewhere Phil was watching over us tonight, because there was just… something that worked.” I looked up and that same star was still shining, as if Phil was giving me a cosmical thumbs-up. I looked up at the sky and smiled, giving my own thumbs up and getting another cheer from the crowd.

   The interviews went on for a little while longer, and I looked over at Max. I had a feeling this season was going to be a good one.

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If Sebastian Kerman is anything like Vettel, I will bang my head hard against my desk.

Jokes aside, what is happening with Jeb and Alexis

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:) 

Just caught up after getting  a couple of chapters behind. Was good to lose myself in the story for an hour. The football made a nice change of pace too!

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23 hours ago, SiriusRocketry said:

Jokes aside, what is happening with Jeb and Alexis

 

Still there. Nothing significant going on, but soon I'll make something. Something big might I add ;)

10 hours ago, KSK said:

:) 

Just caught up after getting  a couple of chapters behind. Was good to lose myself in the story for an hour. The football made a nice change of pace too!

Thanks :) I really enjoyed writing it, and I'm glad to see you're enjoying. As for the soccer, I just decided to have a little fun. Not spoiling it too much, I plan to have Jeb play a game of real football (The American one) in the middle of a desert. 

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1 hour ago, DarkOwl57 said:

 I plan to have Jeb play a game of real football (The American one) 

There is only one football, funnily enough it's the one where you use your feet- not barge through people throwing the weird shaped ball to each other!

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Chapter 25 on the horizon! Ready? Set? Go

 

Chapter 25: Tekkia

5:00am, 4 Days later. Somewhere over the Sea of Kerbin.

 

   I was jolted out of my sleep with a shake. About three hours before, we had taken off from River City International, which was not fun. The Kafrica rounds were always dreadful, and we had three of them to start the season. As I woke up, I tried to figure out what had shaken me awake. Then, it happened again. Alexis mumbled something next to me and I raised the shutter to look out. The sound of the engine droned on as I peeked out the window. Raindrops streaked sideways across the plastic window, like the drops on the windows of a car on the highway. The wing was covered in a green flash of light for only a split second, and I saw buckets of rain falling down around the plane. Just as the light flashed off again, lightning illuminated everything in a bright white glow with a rumble. I shook my head and lowered the shade, leaning back in my chair. Another jolt of turbulence made the cabin rattle, and Alexis woke up with a yawn.

   “What?” She asked sleepily- blinking slowly a couple times as she sat up. “What time is it?” I checked my watch.

   “About five in the morning,” I replied, yawning myself and giving her a rub on the arm. “Just a thunderstorm, it’s okay.” Alexis nodded and laid her head on my left shoulder.

   “Mhmm, kay. G’night,” She mumbled before passing out. I smiled and rested my cheek on her hair, which smelled like flowers. “Goodnight,” I replied softly, closing my eyes as the plane got closer to the race.

 

1:00pm, 2 Days later. Qualifying for Round 2 of 10: Tekkia. Port Vargo, Tekkia

 

   Thunder rattled the garage as we looked out at the rain-soaked track. The skies were a dismal and gloomy shade of grey, and lightning flashed angrily in forks shooting down from the clouds. The rain kept falling in sheets like bullets, and the wind howled as it whipped through the city streets. We had been waiting for about an hour for qualifying to get started, but the rain was so fierce that the series had red-flagged the session; not wanting to risk a crash. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would have gone out there- even if the session was started in these conditions.

   “H-h-h-how is-s it s-s-s-so co-cold?” Alexis shivered through clenched teeth as she huddled up in a fashionable winter jacket. I shook my head and sat next to her- giving a hug to warm her up.

   “Better?” I asked after giving her arms a rub-down. She shook her head and picked her feet up into the chair- curling up into a ball for a bit extra warmth. I looked out at the track and saw the raindrops falling harder- splashing water drops into the air as they hit. The official rulebook said that if the session didn’t start within 70 minutes from the scheduled start, then qualifying would be decided by practice times. As soon as I poked my head out of the garage again, lightning flashed with a crashing, rolling boom. Something tells me this won’t go by practice, I thought to myself before retreating as a massive raindrop fell onto my hair and rolled down the back of my firesuit, making me bend my back in a fairly unnatural angle to get it off.

   Max, on the other side of the garage, was sipping out of a jet-black bottle with a very inconspicuous Monster Energy logo on the side. Even though he’d moved teams, Monster had (for some reason) kept sponsoring Max. Plus, as he said, “The thing looks so cool. Even if they hadn’t sponsored me, I’d still use it.” He looked at a screen with Claire right next to him- watching the screen intently. I walked over and saw that they were looking at a weather radar, which showed a seemingly unending sheet of yellow, with red blotches scattered in as if it was dealing with a nasty rash.

   “Not ending, huh?” I asked dejectedly as the rain fell down even harder outside. The storm cell was massive and slow-moving. It was the same cell that had woken me up on the flight over here, and it didn’t look to be letting up anytime soon. From what I’d heard, it started out as a sandstorm in the Kolus Desert- just to the west across a small strait from Port Vargo. Claire shook her head.

   “Maybe sometime tomorrow afternoon,” She replied unhappily, biting the bottom right corner of her lip. “But not now. It’ll be a miracle if we use dries in the race.” Just then, an announcement came over the intercom that the session was cancelled because of the weather. I clapped and stood up- rubbing my hands as Andy walked in.

   “Alright, let’s pack it up!” He shouted at the crew as they all got up. “Go ahead and stack up the tires over there. Make sure to cover the car, too. Alright? We’ll go at this again tomorrow.”

 

6:00pm, The next day. Round 2 of 10: Tekkia. Port Vargo, Tekkia

 

“Welcome, to Round 2 of this captivating 2037 World Championship! Tonight, 22 drivers are looking to take victory on this stunning city circuit. Consisting of 20 turns, this track is both fast and technical- making drivers rely on both their cars and their talent. Last week, 2035 champion Jebediah Kerman stormed to victory as he proved he was back on top. But now, as the field comes to Vargo, the drivers, teams, and fans have been thrown a massive curve.

With rain all throughout the weekend, the track is full of unknowns. How will the cars react to the track? What setup will work? With everything on the line, the spotlights have never shone brighter. The 2037 Tekkian Grand Prix is on now."

 

 

   I looked up at the sun and saw it starting to set upon the western coast. Off near the beach, white rolling waves washed up on the shores, and just beyond I could see the final retreating hints of the massive cell that was making news headlines around the world. According to the weather radars, the storm was steadily making its way southeast, towards the Kalbans. If the storm was what everyone predicted, it would end up scattering over the mountain ranges. Right now, the sky was turning orange and yellow, shifting from a sweet blue to a fire as small clouds hovered miles above. Cool coastal air whispered as it came through the city streets, and I felt a small bit of spray hit my face while I walked to the car. The weather was perfect for a race, and I knew it would be amazing.

   I was lined up on Pole position after a good practice run, with Max lined up right behind. The track had dried out nicely, and now only a couple patches of wetness were scattered around the track. Earlier, to Max’s amusement, marshals had gone out and dried the track off with an army of leaf-blowers, focusing mainly on the Turn 1 Tunnel. I stepped up to the car and waved to a couple reporters who were assembled around the car.

   As I put the helmet on, Alexis came up to my left. I stepped back out of the car and gave her a quick hug. “Knock ‘em dead,” She told me with a smirk, and I smiled.

   “Will do,” I replied as we separated. I sat into the car and got buckled in as the team started unplugging various wires and tubes. A large cooling duct was pulled out of the main radiator and I felt its cold wind wash over me for a brief second before the team set me down. The cars engine roared to life and I watched behind as a tiny puff of steam came out of the main duct. For this race the team had outfitted the car with a T-wing modification, which would provide a bit more downforce at a Straight-line speed cost. Of course, considering that the track didn’t have that many long straights, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

   The formation lap got underway and I practically leapt off of the grid slot. The car didn’t falter as the wheels gripped nicely into the tarmac- handling the smooth surface with ease. I went into Turn 1 and saw hundreds- if not thousands of fans in the sold-out stands. Despite the horrible weather all weekend, the fans had all come back tonight for the great show that was bound to come.

   “35 Laps,” Andy told me as I weaved into Turn 2. “Be smooth, be smart. You’ve got a short run into the first turn but don’t do anything stupid. Get a lead and hang onto it. Sounding good?” I went through Turn 3 and hit the radio.

   “Perfect. What’s the weather looking like?” The car seemed to float over the ground as I broke for Turn 4- trying to warm up the brakes and tires.

   “No chance of rain. Sunset’s going to be beautiful over the water. Clear skies through the sunset all night long. I think the Stella Compass will be out- I’ll make sure to take a picture for you. Apparently there’s supposed to be a full Mun that’ll be getting some incredible light, so if we have a power outage we’ll still be able to race likely. Temps at race start is at 72º, going to drop down to the mid-60’s by the end of the race. 40% humidity right now, which is looking to stay stable throughout the race. Wind coming out of the South at around 4 miles per hour, which will not change at all.” By the end of the report I had gone all the way into Turns 6 and 7, preparing to go into Hammerhead. “That enough info?” I chuckled as I turned into the double-apex.

   “Yeah, I think that’s good,” I replied entering Turn 10. “Plenty of info on hand here. Thanks.” I flew through the technical city complex and saw fans waving at us from the tops of the roofs. Some held flags, and I saw the red of Owlia, the blue of Tekkia, and of course the solid colors of race teams. I dove into the Turn 14-15 hairpin, and clipped the curbing. I jammed the throttle and felt the wheels skitter as I warmed them up. The sun was glowing over the tops of buildings, and out of Turn 18 I saw it in all its glory. Thankfully, I had a couple of tinted tear-offs on the visor that would help me to not get blinded. Still, it was beautiful.

   “God, that’s amazing,” Max sighed over my radio behind me. “I got you just perfect with the sun- I can see the rays going off your car.” As I went down the straight, I saw the waves cresting with a white foam as they washed up on the beach. I dove down into Turn 19 and felt the track tilt away before coming back to me. Then it was down the second-longest straight on the track. The crowd cheered as we passed, and I shifted down. The engine yelled, and I got an equal response from the fans.

   “Launch Mode 1, Engine to P-3. Rich revs.” I did what I was instructed to do and pulled down into the first grid slot as I came out of Turn 20. “Good luck, bud.” The car settled into the stall and I watched as the rest of the field filed into their spots. In my mirror, I saw the T-wing modification and its second layer. Just underneath it. The sunlight glinted off the ocean water behind me as well as off the cars themselves- being especially bright against the lighter cars. Finally, a green flag waved in the back.

   A single light came on above me and  Felt my heart rate speed up.

   Two lights. I revved up and the engine hummed as the tension built.

   Three. I pushed the clutch in and pushed down further. The revs were now free to go up as high as they wanted, and they rose from a hum to a scream.

   Four. The crowd roared and I saw the spotlights flicker on as the sky began to darken.

   Five. My middle finger rested on the clutch as my left thumb hovered over the bright green EPB button.

   The lights went out and I dumped the clutch out. The car leaped out of the starting spot and I waved the wheel as I fought a tiny amount of wheelspin. Max got a similar start but it was way better than the cars behind us, and we held our spots. The car yelled as it revved up through the gears, and with the power boost I managed to get out fast. The car got up about 50 meters per second before I went into the tunnel and blasted through Turn 1. The car slid a bit, but I kept the throttle in- hitting the curb and flying out of the corner. Max stayed in my line and I saw his car spark off the ground on the exit of the corner and threw yellow into the face of Louie- the replacement driver for Max at Monster. I broke hard and flew over the Turn 2 curbing. I heard a tiny buzz as I went over it at the high speeds, and the car stuck into the ground perfectly.

   Through Turn 3, the car seemed to float over the apex. I took the car wide up the track and got up about a couple feet from the wall before coming back down the track to get set up for Turn 4. Max came up and looked down my inside, which would turn into the outside for 4. I left him the room and he utilized the power boost to get right up next to me. We went side-by-side for the entry and I got past up the inside as Max backed off. We blasted down the straight and Max held right behind me- waiting for a mistake that I wasn’t planning to give. The city buildings blurred as they passed, and our engines echoed off the concrete and steel walls. As I broke into Turn 5, I looked back and saw Max hang right with me. We both clipped the curbing and I heard a deep rumble as I passed over. Behind both of us I heard a squeal as someone locked up, and I saw a white cloud of smoke fly up into the air as Max’s car covered whoever made the mistake.

   The buildings opened up to a wide area as the city skyscrapers were replaced with grandstands of fans. The track widened out and I went up to the outside to get a good line for Turn 6. Max held in the slipstream but didn’t make a lunge into the heavy braking zone. The left-sides went over the curbing for the chicane and I snapped back to the right. The tires just missed the curb and I went up the track on the exit as I tried my best to get back out of the corner. Max was trying to get an advantage, but he took the curb a bit too aggressively and fought a snap of oversteer on corner exit. I used this to my advantage and flew out of the corner with the help of a bit of power boost. I broke into Turn 8 and felt the car hold the grip as it went through the high-speed corner. Max was right behind me and I saw a camera crane raise up and follow the field as I went through Turn 9. The shots through there were always amazing, as the buildings created a kind of canyon where the cars seemed to pop out of nowhere and blast past. I kept off the tiny curb through 9 and flew out of the corner before letting off the gas for Turn 10 and 11. The car coasted through the high-speed double-apex, and I weaved in and out around the corners at full-speed. I hit the brakes for Turn 14 and the left-front spat a tiny whip of smoke into my face before releasing and turning in. I got insanely close to the inside barrier at Turn 15 and almost hit it, but I knew I had some room and kept turning in. The car rocketed out of the Turn 16 curve (It’s not really a turn, but more like a continuation of Turn 15) before I broke for Turn 17. I ran up to the exit curb, trying to make the car as wide as possible as I came down- dust shooting up as the aero literally sucked it up like the worlds fastest vacuum cleaner. The car got off the curb and I went down the track to enter Turn 18. I clipped the curb right on-target, and flew through the apex and down the straight. The car hit its max speeds down here, and I saw the speedometer top out at about 180 before I hit the brakes. Down the longest straight on the track, the sunset went into my face as it set across the water. The tint was doing its job well, but I still had to squint a bit to see down the track. Rays of light shined across the apex of Turn 19, and I found my braking mark and turned in.

   The car screamed as it flew through Turn 19, and I almost lost the car as the track dipped down away from me and the car got light. I held the throttle in and kept the speed as I flew out of the corner. I felt the tires connect back into the track and heard a scratch as it bottomed out off a bump down the straight. I hit the brakes for Turn 20 and the car slowed down hard and fast, allowing me to shoot through the corner off the apex. After the corner, I crossed the start/finish line to start the second lap. In my mirror, Max was about a second or two back; just out of the effective DRS range that came on Lap 3.

   The gap slowly grew out each lap off of minuscule gains around the track. A smooth corner there, a fast entry here, a fast fun into Turn 19- small tenth or hundredth gains that all accumulating into a cool 7-second lead by the first pit stop on Lap 15.

   I crossed the line to start the lap and I heard Andy call me in. I didn’t respond and instead dove down into Turn 1 at max speed. I buzzed over the sweeping curb of the first turn and felt the car gently slide up the track; the cars way of quietly and passively warning me that I was teetering on the limit. The sun had gone down beyond the horizon, but you could still see the dim amber glow of sunlight against the inky sky. The spotlights shone bright on the track as I blasted around Turn 3 and the car just barely yelped on the rev limiter before I shifted up.

   The car was driving wonderfully in the corners, and I could feel that it was supreme over everyone else. The tires still had a lot of life left in them, but I knew there was still a lot more time to be found around the track. I blasted over curbs and temporarily leapt up into the air before sitting down on the ground. This years cars were so much faster than prior. The engines made the cars a lot more powerful, and the aero allowed for insane levels of grip. OTech definitely had the upper hand over the course of the races, and I couldn’t help but feel like we’d sweep the championship this year. I saw the sunset’s final hurrah as I went down Christen Street- the massive straight between Turns 18 and 19. Before I went in, I tore off the tinted wrap- my vision now changing from smokey grey to a kind of yellow to help combat the spotlights of the night.

   Finally, I pulled into the pit lane- activating the limiter and listening to the engine change from a quiet hum to a loud buzz as the revs leveled out. I went around the pit boxes and pulled right into OTech’s- stopping right on the mark and watching the red light intently. The team got 4 tires off, and put 4 right back on seemingly a second later. I waited as the fuel went into the car, and finally the light went green as the car dropped. I hit the gas and the car blasted out of the pit stall- smoke trailing off of the wheels as they spun out of the box. I got out onto the “fast lane,” and finally got out onto the track. Max had already flown past, and I got back on track fast as I tried to regain the position lost. Micheal was closing, but I held the inside line through Turn 1 and kept ahead of him- though just barely. With fresher tires, a full tank of fuel, and a much faster car, I was gone by Turn 3. I couldn’t help but laugh as Micheal slowly shrunk away in the mirrors. The car flew through the tight corners, and I was finally able to punch it down the 18-19 straight. I utilized DRS down the straight and blasted into Turn 19.

   Now quick thing on DRS. The rules are that you can use DRS when you’re behind someone. It doesn’t matter if you’re half a second behind or half a minute. However, the best time to use DRS is when you’re less than a second behind. That way, you get both slipstream and DRS to make the car incredibly slippery through the air. However, if you were in first place, you couldn’t use DRS, which is why I both loved and hated being in the lead.

   The left side skid plate sparked as the suspension swayed and making the edge scrape the ground with a tiny spark. The car floated up to the outside and I carried the speed onto the exit curbing. I heard a loud rumble as the entire left side of the car shook on the bumpy strip. I came back down and looked at the steering wheel, which was showing I was going at about 170. I flew into Turn 20 and slammed over the curbing- launching the right-sides up briefly before they came back down. The tires gripped into the track and even though it was made of smooth concrete, they bit into the surface.

   I blasted past the pit exit and saw Max pulling out towards the track well behind me. As I blazed through Turn 1, the car felt perfect. Just enough oversteer to make the corner fun but enough understeer to make the car feel settled. Above, the sky was a dark inky black with stars scattered around and sparkling like diamonds. I downshifted into Turn 2 and felt the turbo give a tiny pop before I accelerated out of the corner. I stretched out a lead to Max- setting fastest laps as I blazed around the track. The wider cars had proved to be a great change for the season, and I’d never felt as much grip. However, with all this speed, I was pushing the engine really hard. On Lap 26 of 30, Andy came over the radio to give me the warning.

   “Jeb, the factory’s warning us that you might be pushing too hard. The engine hasn’t been tested this hard yet, and we can’t afford a retirement. Turn down to Lean, please.” I tried to protest, but it was no use and I complied. “Max is 20 seconds back. No pressure.” I still pushed hard down the straights and ended up running a bit wider than usual out of Turn 19 with just two laps to go. “Jeb,” Andy said in a warning tone.

   “I know, I know,” I replied as I collected the slide from going over the curb. “No more going crazy.” On the final Lap, Max had closed in to 18 seconds, but it was pointless. I pulled out of the Turn 15 hairpin and the crowd was roaring. I flew into 19 and slid the car through the apex- laying down four faintly black lines on the tarmac. Halfway down the straight, I let off the gas and coasted into the corner. I hit the curb and came up the track before going back down.

   100 meters. The team was waving and cheering. I started weaving up and down the track.

   75. I stuck my hand up into the air and felt the wind grab at it.

   50. The cars engine whined as it revved down and lost speed from the weaving.

   25. The checkered flag started waving above, and I could see its waving black and white surrounded by a blinding white-light as it crossed over a spotlight.

   0. Blue and white fireworks blasted up into the air and yellow flares shot up as I passed them. The crowd roared louder than I’d ever heard them; their yells mixing with the booming thunder of fireworks.

   “WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO!!! YES! AHH YES GUYS! THANK YOU!” I finally stopped weaving before Turn 1 (No use wrecking the car after all), and waved to the fans. “Amazing car, you guys. Awesome race.” I slowed down and held my hands up to make the number 14 again. This time, along with cheers and applause, the fans returned the salute.

   “Great job, Jeb. Superb drive, perfect run. You had us all going there on that last corner- I’m pretty sure Matty had a heart attack back in Owlia.” I chuckled and was about to reply when a loud victorious scream came over the radio- cutting me off and deafening me at the same time.

   “YEEEEEEHHAW!!! YES GUYS! What a fight. I swear, Micheal looked like he was going to pass me there out of the corner, but I somehow held on. Woo boy!” I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit and turned in for 2.

   “Guys, that was an amazing race there. I want to think that somewhere, Phil was smiling down on us.” The fans returned the salute as I went through Turn 3, and Andy came over the radio.

   “I agree, buddy,” He replied warmly. “Phil would have been proud.” The crowd at the Sand Straight was the loudest and most encouraging, and I saw almost everyone holding up their hands. Max got up behind me and started the salute, where he stayed up behind the whole cool-down lap. At the end of the lap, I pulled down into the podium and stopped right on the P1 mark. I shut off the engine and started getting out as Max and Micheal pulled in. The team was cheering and yelling as I stepped out of the cockpit, and I went over to give some high-fives.

   “You killed us,” Max sighed as he got up behind me. I laughed and turned- giving him a handshake and hug. We walked inside the lounge and I saw a painted mural on the wall. Blue and white paint was still drying, but I chuckled as I saw my face, triumphant as I lifted up the trophy. I couldn’t help but laugh and look near the bottom- where Max and Micheal were looking at each other with their fists raised.

   “I was going to get you, too,” Micheal muttered as he too looked at the mural. While the two told me the story about their fight in the lounge, I sat down and got a drink. When it was finally done, I learned that Micheal had actually gotten past for a brief moment before Max got through with just a couple laps to go.

   “The car’s so grippy,” I told Max after he was finished. “Turn 19 is so fast, it’s almost unreal. Did you have any oversteer problems with the worn tires?” Max shook his head. “It really did love new tires, though. It just felt so connected.”

   “Oh yeah, it was amazing,” Max agreed. “The car really doesn’t like being behind other cars, though. Those first couple laps, the understeer was awful. I really had to work to keep it on the track.” We talked for a few more moments before it was time to head out onto the podium. I could hear the booming voice through the walls as we waited in line.

   “In third place, MonsterGP’s Micheal Kerman!” There were cheers and Micheal walked out of the door and onto the podium. “In second place, OTech Race Team’s Max Kerman!” Louder cheers met us as Max walked out, waving to the crowd as a bright light created a cool silhouette. Now, I got ready. “And, in first place, for OTech Race Team, Jebediah Kerman!” I ran out and jumped into the air as confetti blasted up into the air. As I went to the top step, I waved and got a loud roar from the crowd. I got my trophy (As did Max and Micheal) and listened as the anthem played over the speakers. Finally, it was time to spray the champagne.

   I was overjoyed. I’d taken the first 2 races of the season, and Max was a cool 14 points back from me. I felt on top of the world. The team smiled up at me and I held the trophy up above my head in celebration. Fireworks blasted overhead, casting flashing shadows on the ground as they blew up in ginormous balls of light. I looked up at the sky and saw the same star gleaming high above us. Phil approved.

 

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Alright, so the school year's ending, and I need to get the chapters out fast. Ready? Steady? Go.

Oh, forgot. My inspiration for this was basically a mix of the Hurrican Havey/Irma and throw some Katrina and other wild weather. Yes, I know a Cat 5 storm with Cat 3 size is impossible, but it's KSP. Anything can happen ;)

Oh, another thing! Y'all were wondering where Val is. Well look no further my friends. I drew some inspiration from @CatastrophicFailure's Kraken series's and made Val a Soviet. Okay, that's all. I think. If not then I'll just add it down below. 

 

Chapter 26: The Storm

1:00am, The next morning. Somewhere over the Sea of Kerbin.

 

   I could hear Alexis snoozing away next to me as I checked my phone on the plane ride back. The trophy sat in my bag, and I was still feeling the elation of the victory. Max was sitting a couple rows up from us, while Claire and Andy were going over notes on the race- interrupted only occasionally by deep yawns. The loud cry of the planes engines drowned out almost everything, but I kept scrolling through my social feed. Picture upon picture showed various moments from the race, and I “liked” all the ones that had me in them.

   Suddenly, I felt the plane tilt to the left drastically, as well as the familiar pushing on my back as the plane tilted up. Everyone’s head shot up immediately (Except Alexis, who was still out like a light and snoring softly). Max pulled his head out of his phone and looked back at me, like “What’s going on?” I shrugged and unbuckled. I got up out of the seat and carefully got past Alexis, almost tripping and flopping into the aisle. After I got out, I stumbled my way to the cockpit (As the plane was still tilted) I looked out the left windows and saw black ocean with white crests rolling across the surface about 3 miles below. The clear sky was illuminated by a bright Mun, which slowly rolled out of the window frames as the plane turned away. I finally got to the cockpit and took in the scene. The entire cabin was dark, except for a couple dials and switches that were illuminated. “Hey, what’s going on?” I asked over the engine noise. The copilot was at first a bit startled, but pointed out the windshield.

   “That’s what’s going on.” I looked forward and saw a massive rolling storm cloud at least 5, maybe 6 miles high. Lightning flashed through the cloud, which was rotating ominously. I gulped and rubbed my eyes to make sure that it was real. It was.

   “Holy crap,” I muttered.

   “Meet Superstorm Harey. Same storm we flew through on the way here- gained a ton of power over the sea and is currently breaking through the Kalban Mountains. It’s… Well, there’s no easy way to describe it. Basically, from what we’re seeing right now, it’s got the size of a Category 3 hurricane, but the strength of well over a 5. And… It’s broken into 2 storms. Hurricane Harey is the main storm that’s going along Greater Baskay. Hurricane Ira on the other hand, is heading up North, but a lot slower. What that is over there is the parts of the storm that didn’t make it through the mountain range.” What.

   “You’re serious?” I asked incredulously. The copilot rolled his eyes and didn’t respond, but I got a distinct, “Does it look like I’m kidding,” vibe. “So where are we going?” The navigator looked at me. “We don’t know. Currently, the best choice is Arcadia. If we go up somewhere north like Stihlgrad and refuel, we can wait until Harey passes Owlia and then slip between past Ira.” I nodded, and stepped back out after saying thanks. I stepped over Alexis’s legs and sat back down just as she woke up.

   “What’s up?” She asked as she blew a stray hair out of her face. I gave her a hug and sighed.

   “I really don’t know,” I replied nervously. For the first time in a long time, I had no idea what to do.

4:00am. Stihlgrad National Airport. Stihlgrad, Arcadian Union

 

   Rain pattered onto the roof and wings as we landed on the wet runway. Thunder flashed ominously and crashed through the clouds with a loud rumbling that I could hear over the jets. We came to a skidding halt and pulled down into the airport gate. I got up and unbuckled as everyone else did the same. I had to nudge Alexis awake, which turned out to be an almost fatal move as she almost punched me. When she’d realized I wasn’t some crazed serial killer, she asked, “Home already?” I shook my head and helped her up.

   “Had to make a slight detour by the looks of it,” I said, looking out the window. A tiny building about the size of an elementary school waited us as we got out of the plane and onto the bridge/tunnel thing that was between the door of the plane and the actual building. As soon as the doors opened, we were met with loud cheers and the blinding light of what seemed like thousands of cameras on flash. I quickly stepped back and shielded my eyes before they adjusted. The assembled crowd was going crazy- cheering and taking photos of Max and I as we came up to them.

   “Hello Arcadia!” I shouted, drawing a collective cheer from everyone. We started going down the line of fans- shaking hands with everyone and taking some pictures. As I started walking away to the next group of fans, I heard a loud and defiant, “ҤЭҰ!” I stopped and turned, looking for who shouted. A tiny girl- maybe 4 or 5- wiggled her way to the front of the crowd- pulling what appeared to be her mom behind her. “VДLЄЙГЇИД! SLФЩ DФШЍ!” The girl stopped right in front of me behind the small rope divider- beaming up at me.

   “I can’t believe it…” She whispered through a heavy accent. “It really you…” I kneeled down and smiled. “JЭБԐDЇДҢ ҚЄЯԠДЙ…” She looked amazed. “Hey,” I said, trying not to laugh. I’d never seen someone so stunned to see me in my entire life. “H-.. Hi mister Jebediah. You.. You’re the best driver in the world.” I couldn’t help but smile. I sat down on the floor, and the girl sat down next to me. “Call me Jeb,” I told the beaming child. “What’s your name?”

   “My name is VДLЭЙҐЇЍД ԞԐЯԠДЍФV,” she replied a bit nervously. “Hhmm, that’s a bit long and hard to pronounce,” I said with a fake tone of confusion. “How’s Val?” Valentina nodded, smiling. Just then, her mother snapped, “ШӉФ'S ҐҤЇS?” With a frown on her face.

   “JԐЬԐDЇДЊ ԞЄЯԠДЙ, ԠДԠД,” Val replied, looking up at her. “ҐӉЄ GЯЄДҐЄSҐ DЯЇVԐЯ ЇЍ ГҤЭ ЩФЯLD.” The mother shook her head. “ҰФЏ ҜЙФШ ӉФШ Ї ӺԐԐL ДБФЏҬ-“ She started, but Val looked up with little puppy dog eyes and caved. I just sat idly by, not knowing what they were saying. Val turned back to me and sighed.

   “Sorry about her,” She said. “My mama… She doesn’t like racing. Think is too dangerous.” I nodded.

   “She’s right, you know,” I said. “Racing is a really dangerous sport- especially K1. You saw the Temple race last year?” Val nodded. “Then you know how dangerous it can be. But it is incredibly fun. There’s nothing like getting out there, strapping on that helmet and just… going. You feel so free when you’re at the wheel of a car, going through Kerrena, or Lowe. Down through the KSC, the hill of Owlia, the speed of Halco… It’s.. It’s so amazing.” Val was staring up at me in awe. “Getting to drive in the greatest cars on the greatest tracks in the world; That’s what makes K1 worth it. Not the money, not the fame, not the fancy lifestyle. Just the ability to get out there on that track and do what you’ve been doing since you were a little kid. There’s… There’s no real way to describe it.” Val looked at me like I was some kind of super hero. I felt a tiny bit of pride as I looked back on all my moments of racing.

   “Some day, I’m going to be K1 driver, just like you,” Val said with a smile. “That would be fun,” I replied. “Maybe we’ll get to race against each other.” Val’s face lit up in a massive smile. “Would be fun,” she replied just as Alexis walked over. “Hi,” Val said, waving. Alexis smiled and waved back, before turning to me.

   “Hey, we’ve got to go. Ira’s getting here quicker than we thought, so we’re getting the heck out of here. Harey swept through the South and everyone’s panicking. Come on.” I got up and checked my phone. Sure enough, Ira was sweeping up past the Hook Islands and battering the North Coast of Basil. I quickly kneeled down to Val.

   “Hey, tell your mom to take y’all some place safe. There’s a really big storm coming up. Okay?” Val nodded and I stood up. “Good. Keep safe, and I can’t wait to race you.” I started jogging to the plane bridge went into the plane as the fans began to go back to their homes.

   Back in the plane, the rain had gotten heavier, and I could hear it pounding against the roof and windows. The engines volume rose up louder and louder as the throttle rose higher and higher. The lights started flashing and the plane pulled away from the gate as lightning forked through the sky with a rumble. I caught one last glimpse of the airport terminal with the last loyal fans looking out the window before I felt my head get knocked back. The plane launched forward with a yell and I watched the lights go past faster and faster- turning into a blur. The plane lifted up and off into the air with water trailing off the wings as it accelerated. I looked down on the small collection of buildings and sighed. I hope everyone'll be okay.

 

7:00am. River City, Owlia

 

   I felt the plane start to slow down and immediately sat up. I was still exhausted, but the anxiety of not knowing what would be left made it difficult to sleep. Max was nervously tapping his foot as he balanced his phone in his hands. I had tried to get through to Mom, but the call wouldn’t connect. I couldn’t get Dad either, but Kim assured me he was fine from the side of the pool at a Fegeland resort.

   “Are we home?” Alexis asked, waking up. One thing about Alexis; it’s 9+ hours of sleep or what I’ve affectionately dubbed as “Sloth Mode-“ really slow and groggy. I opened up the shade and gasped. The typical Owlian landscape looked like a post-apocalyptic hellscape. We were flying over Green Bay on the approach for River City International, but the peaceful coastal town was… gone. In its place, destroyed roads snaked between indistinguishable piles of timber and concrete. Farther south, the water levels had risen drastically, and entire towns were underwater. Eastwater- one of my favorite places to hang out when I wasn’t racing- was half-drowned. I could see small boats carving their way through the water and leaving a wake in their path. “Well?” She asked as the plane turned for what I assumed to be the runway approach.

   “I… I don’t know,” I replied, letting Alexis look out the window. I heard a quick gasp before the covered her mouth in shock. Her eyes grew to the size of plates, and I could see them dart around trying to see of this were all actually true. She sat back into her seat, still stunned and scared. We came down onto the runway and wheeled to the gate over damp tarmac. As soon as the plane pulled to a stop, I stood up and grabbed my bag from the overhead bin and started going to the front of the plane.

   We all quickly got down through the tunnel and out into the terminal, where there were numerous fans and reporters waiting. Cameras flashes clicked and rustled as we walked back to the baggage claim. We quickly got our bags and all of us (Even Alexis, who was in heels) ran to the parking garage. Despite the destruction we’d seen from above, the airport appeared to be relatively undamaged. I found my car and let out a tiny sigh of relief as I got in it. The engine fired up with a yowl that echoed throughout the garage, and Alexis covered her ears as she opened up her car. We all pulled out and got onto the road to leave, bracing for the worst.

   Only a mile in, we hit it. River City is split up into two parts- River City East and River City West. River City East was mainly industrial, with major apartment districts mixed in. This was also where the airport was located, but only because the terrain of the West was too hilly for an airport. The East is significantly lower in elevation than the West, which makes it significantly easier to flood or get damaged from flooding. We saw that right away.

   The roads were damaged with numerous pot holes, bumps, and total losses of roads all together. Debris crunched under our wheels, and more than once I had to rely on a push from Max to keep from getting stuck on a bump. Finally, we were forced to stop as we saw the closed road ahead. As we got out of the cars, water splashed up into the air with each step.

   “Yeah, I’m good,” Alexis called, looking out her window. I went up to the barrier and looked at the flooded road and the bridge to River City West. Behind us, Stars Stadium stood strong and resilient on the horizon. The road ahead was flooded at least 5, maybe 10 feet down. Less than 50 feet away, the River City Bridge rose out of the water and reached up to the other side. I walked back through the water to the rest of the line, where everyone was waiting.

   “Road’s useless,” I said, looking at the map. “If we go north up near Riverdale, there might be an open bridge somewhere. What do y’all think?” After consulting everyone, we decided to go around to another bridge. I got in my car and started driving. As we went through the destruction, I couldn’t help but look at the destruction. Everything was gone…

 

2 Days Later…

 

“East River City is in a state of disrepair as thousands are left homeless by flooding and damage. Rescue efforts are still on-going at this time, with the Army and National Guard working with thousands more volunteers. Across the city, Stars Stadium- the stadium used by the River City Stars football and women's soccer teams- has opened its doors as a shelter. Across the river, the RiverBowl international competition has been halted temporarily as the Owlian National Team joins in relief efforts.”

 

   I clicked off the TV and walked out of the Stars dressing room through crushing silence. It had been just 2 days since the storm hit, and now Harey was going east at a stunning rate- nearing closer and closer to Erusea, Delras, and Alecton. Just last night, the storm had pummeled Aquaria, and the images were devastating. To the north, Ira had crushed the Southern cities of Arcadia and the northern cities of Basil, KSKM, and portions of Eradica. Port Gorodsky had been practically wiped out, but the dry terrain had made the storm stall out before doing too much damage to cities like Arcovy or Stihlgrad.

   I walked out of the tunnel and sucked in a breath of warm, stale air. The arena with room for at least 100,000 was dead-silent. There were a few whispers from somewhere, but besides that, the air was dead still. A baby’s cry echoed through the stadium as its wail bounced off the huge walls. Someone coughed quietly, and that too echoed. I looked up and saw the stadium with its blue and white walls ringing the ginormous interior. Names of famous players stood proud and bold on the banners, and flags rustled quietly as they blew in a faint wind. I’ve never felt so… small. I started walking out and heard a small gasp behind me. I turned and saw a lady about Alexis’s age staring at me in shock- her eyes huge.

   “That’s Jebediah Kerman,” She whispered to her family. “Jebediah Kerman?” Someone else asked. I walked onto the empty field and heard as my name kept getting whispered louder and louder- spreading through the crowd like a wild fire. Soon, the once silent crowd was an ocean of noises- 102,000 voices roaring and rumbling together. I stepped onto the blue and silver Stars logo and the crowd started to hush. I noticed there was a hole in the roof and sunlight shined down on a spot just to my left. I looked around and saw that the rest of the team had come out- holding everything from food to water to blankets. I grinned and turned back to the crowd.

   “Come on!” I shouted loudly, my voice echoing. “We’ve got food!”

 

 

   “Thank you,” An elderly lady said to me as I gave her one of the 6-packs of water. To my right, who I assumed to be her husband was struggling to pick up an 8-pack. I went over and helped him out- lifting it up for him.

   “Got it?” I asked as he took the pack and buckled a bit under the weight before adjusting his balance. He nodded and I saw tears in his eyes.

   “Thank you,” he sighed, looking up at me. “It’s good to know that young people like you are still willing to step up and take charge. I remember my time back in Granderia in 1964. I had just gotten out of school to fight in the war and I was assigned to-“ His wife patted his arm and sighed, “Let’s go,” where they went to Max handing out blankets. As the vet continued his story, Max shot me a bewildered look that practically screamed, “Why’d you send him to me?!” I chuckled, shook my head, and turned to the next storm victim in line.

   “Hi there,” I said as the next walked up. It was the same lady who had first noticed me. She looked about my or Alexis’s age, and I had a lingering suspicion I’d seen her somewhere. (Why yes, you have seen her! It was 10 minutes ago when you were walking out of the tunnel! Shut up.) She had sharp blue eyes that seemed to pierce me, and sweeping blonde hair. I noticed a couple scrapes on her arm- likely from the storm. “You’re the first one to recognize me today,” I said as I checked the water levels.

   “Really? Everyone in the Brook District knows who you are.” She twisted a couple strands of hair around through her fingers. “Ah, Brook! I had a friend who lived there. What street?” She smiled. “43rd and 92nd- right across from Czarinsky’s Deli.”

   “No kidding! My friend lived on 42nd!” As soon as I said that, I remembered the fact that the two streets weren’t only on the other sides of the district, but mortal enemies of the other. Her eyes darkened, and I coughed, “Oh, water. Right.” I grabbed the pack and my arm muscle chose to bulge up then- making her eyes pop out to about the size of a dinner plate.

   “Helloohmygodmarryme,” she muttered as I put the pack on the table. I sighed and brushed my hands on my shirt.

   “Need anything else?” I asked with a smile. She opened her mouth and was just about to reply, but was interrupted as Alexis swooped in seemingly out of nowhere.

   “Hey there,” Alexis said as she gave me a hug. “Need any help?” I swear I saw the strangers lip pout as I replied, “All good here.” Alexis smiled and went down the line. I looked and Max was half-rolling on the ground, silently laughing at me. I stuck my hand under the table where no-one else could see and flashed a finger up- making him let out a loud, “HA” noise. Unfortunately, this happened the very second Alexis passed.

   “What?” She asked, whirling at Max angrily. “uh.. Uhm.. Nothing!” Max answered, trying to smile innocently. “Sorry, Major,” the vet said, saluting. Max and Alexis both turned to look at him, and I swear I saw his cheeks go red. “Just a thought,” He mumbled as he went off to the next station. Alexis shook her head and walked away. Max and I looked at each other and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing- falling on the table and knocking my shoulder in the process. It felt good to get a laugh out like that. It felt really darn good.

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So everyone, I have some bad news. This is the final chapter

 

 

Of me using the MacBook. Yes, unfortunately, this is technically school property, and with the end of the year coming on Friday, we've got to turn these things in for the summer :(. However, don't be crying yet. We still have my other computer, the home laptop. Uploads will likely be slower and a bit more clumsily written, but at least they'll be there. Also, I've uploaded the LATT official document to a Google Drive, so I'll be able to add back onto that via download. Or I make a Google Doc... hhhmmm...

Well for now, enjoy Chapter 26- the final chapter of Appley speldor. (Wait are those even words? Yeah? Sweet.)

 

Chapter 27: The Solarian Grand Prix

1:00pm, 1 Week Later. Round 3 of 10: Solaria. Solarian GP Circuit

 

   Planes blasted overhead as the anthem ended with a lift. The shrieking engines shook everything and everyone as they flew past, and I couldn’t help but flinch as they flew over way lower than any other flight team I’d seen before. My feet wiggled on the brand-new tarmac, and looked back at the car, which was in P2. I would have taken pole, but a slight wiggle in Turn 8 sent me up the track on my hot lap- losing me about 3 tenths of a second and the lead. Yet again, Monster locked out the second row, with Max on Pole in front of me.

   Above us, grey and gold smoke dissipated into the clear sky as the last remnants of the pre-race air show lingered. A couple of puffy white clouds lazily trailed overhead, and the sun shined down on the circuit. The new circuit was beautiful and fast- a perfect combination. The latest news on the week was that Grestin would likely not be coming back onto the calendar for at least another 5 years- maybe never again. On one hand I was happy. The circuit never seemed to work well with my driving style and even though I’d won there in Formula, the track just never suited me. I was happy to be in Solaria- at least for the time being. Yes, the Kafrica rounds were horrible on the sleep patterns, but I was happy to be driving at a fun track.

   The team was making a couple last-minute changes and checks on the car, and as I stepped up, the team began unplugging the various wires and tubes that would check various things. “All good,” Andy waved from the massive toolbox that his laptop was resting on. I got my helmet strapped on and sat down into the tub-like shape of the cockpit. After I got my gloves pulled on tight, I grabbed my steering wheel from the top of the nose. The car was set down and the engine roared to life.

   “Comm check,” Andy said into my radio as the light went out for the start of the Formation Lap. I leapt away from the mark and the car responded perfectly- biting into the brand-new tarmac and getting away fast. I waited a few seconds before responding as I weaved across the racetrack to get some heat in the tires.

   “Loud and clear, Andy,” I responded, looking back in the mirror at the Shark Fin.

   I’ve learned that this is a fairly recurring theme of reviewing the tech changes we’d made for the race weekend, so I’m proud to introduce a new segment; Tech Updates! This week we’d gone for the regular T-wing instead of the wing we used in Tekkia- now opting for a faster, more streamlined setup. And that’s all for Tech Updates. Tune in next race where we’ll be heading to Owlia. Anyways, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

   I went into the Turn 1 hairpin and watched as Max reveled in the clear air. That one stupid slip, I thought angrily as I went up the small hill to Turn 2. I tried to clear my mind of the mistake, but it was extremely difficult. As a race driver, you’ve got to keep from rehashing the past mistakes. I got up into Turn 2 and went up the hill to Turn 3- a long uphill loop with some nice banking. The new course was absolutely stunning, and as I passed the Solari Stadium, fans cheered and waved flags at us. No Solarian driver had won a K1 grand prix, but the fans didn’t seem to care. They were still passionate, supportive, and loud. I went into the fast downhill Turn 4 and let off the throttle through the extreme downhill Turns 5 and 6 as the Stadium tapered off. Max hit the throttle down the wide 6-7 Straight, and I weaved around to get heat. I let off the throttle for Turn 7 and then sped up- feeling the left-side tires reaching the edge of the grip limit before the corner straightened out for Turn 8. Turn 7 was a fast, long, sweeping right-hander that tested aero grip and stability, while 8 was the opposite. Straight out of 7, you’ve got to hit the brakes for the tightening left loop, which has a little runoff but not much. It was down a small straight before we went into the 9-10-11 right-left-right hairpin complex that tested the brakes and reaction times. I came out of the corner and blasted down a straight that we’d be able to use DRS on. The straight went uphill and I remembered Turn 12 was a blind braking zone up until about 300 meters away. Sure enough, the track leveled out and I hit the brakes for the right-handed hairpin before turning into another hairpin; the left Turn 13. I pulled out of the corner and powered out- blasting full-throttle over curbing through the 14-15 left-right chicane. Then it was on to what the drivers all called “Bradley Loop.” 16 and 17 were flat-out corners that mimicked the 10-11-12 section of Bradley, just going the other way. The car flew through the apexes of the flat-out turns, and even through the slight downhill Turn 17, it never lost balance. I went over the exit rumble strip in Turn 17 and got up to max speed at the end of the straight. The speeds top 200 down into the Turn 18 braking zone, and then it’s a double apex back onto another straight that runs parallel to the main. A good exit of Turn 19 is critical in order to get a good run down the 19-20 straight, and then it’s onto the dreaded Turn 20 hairpin. The hairpin is wickedly tight- like Owlia’s Turn 14- and is off-camber, meaning the inside of the track tilts up to force you wide. You have to brake really hard for that turn and then fly out onto the main straight. I went up to launch mode and pulled to a stop in the second position- right on the inside of Max for Turn 1. The rest of the field filed into line and I could see Max look in his mirrors for a final check before the lights came on.

   One light came on above us and I pushed in the clutch. The field behind us looked hungry and anxious, and I could tell that everyone on the pit wall was feeling the same way. This was a whole new track, whole new race, and whole new strategy. This would be a race of unknowns for sure.

   Two lights. I felt my heart rate start to pick up as I pushed down on the gas quickly.

   Three. I pushed the pedal down all the way and heard the engine starting its yell.

   Four. The grid was filled with roaring and screaming engines all growing in tune with each other.

   Five. I watched the lights carefully as we waited.

   Suddenly, the lights went out and I released the clutch quickly. The car bit into the track as the revs dropped and the rear tires caught traction. My car got an incredible launch and I got by Max, who had gotten a poor start compared to me. I quickly shifted up through the gears and pulled away down the long straight to Turn 1. Max tried a look on my outside but I came up the track to end an attacking threat before the braking zone. Everyone behind us was close entering Turn 1, and I saw a lockup on the inside of a 3-wide move in my mirror. Max and I turned down just before a car ran up and off the nose of Micheal and jumped into the air with only 3 wheels. Smoke covered the racing line as the car (A 77International) spun around across backwards and Micheal came through the smoke without a front wing. We couldn't focus on the spin, however, as Max had gotten along-side me in Turn 2. I tried to hold it around the inside but Max had gotten a good Turn 1 exit and held alongside me. We were side-by-side in Turn 3 and the Stadium crowd roared as we passed them- our engines yelling off the stands. Max got past down Turn 4 but I wasn’t going to let him get away that easily. I dove down into Turn 5 but locked up, sending up a trail of smoke as I ran up the track. Max was forced to take evasive action and ran wide- cutting Turn 6 and hopping over the curb with me. The rest of the field was a bit farther back, and I managed to get alongside down the straight. Max got away and I caught into his slipstream in a vain and desperate attempt to go past. Max sliced down through Turn 7- cutting me off and gaining a bit through the flat-out turn. I flew out of the exit of 7 and flew up the inside in the Turn 8 loop. I got past and held up the racing line that quickly turned into the outside for Turn 9. I turned down but Max lunged up my inside and I had to give him the line. Fortunately, I had the inside for Turn 10 and got clear off the apex. We both came out of Turn 11 with almost nothing separating us, and I flew down to the inside to defend down the long straight. We went up the hill and Max got his wing just on my left rear corner to keep me from coming up as the shark fin shook in the air. The straight leveled out and we put on one last burst of speed before the braking zone- the engine yelping before I broke into the turn. Max was right on top of me before I went into the corner- going over the rumble strip curb and getting clear through the hairpin. I came right back across over the Turn 13 curb and came out of the corner with the yelling of the engine as I shifted up through the gears. I blasted through the 14-15 chicane before going onto Bradley- still going up the gears.

   4th, Left-right, hit the curb on the apex of the chicane. 5th, light up the Turn 16 curb, full-throttle. 6th, 7th, over the curbing for 17 down the hill. I came out of the corner still full-throttle- collecting a small slide on the exit before dropping down the hill. The car felt perfect through the tight corners of the middle sector, and now it was the mostly flat-out final sector left in the lap. Max had lost a little bit of ground in the loop, and I now had a clear run down into the double-apex of 18 and 19 as the track leveled out. I flew over the curbs and heard the loud buzz as the tires ran on top of the strip at high speed. I got out of Turn 19 and got right up on the exit curb- carrying as much speed as I could through the exit. I blasted down the straight and Max tucked into my slipstream- gaining on me as we blasted down the .75 kilometer-long straight. He got up on me and I darted left to defend my line into Turn 20- not wanting to give him anything. Max got alongside me but as we broke for Turn 20 he fell back. I ran wide as the track tilted away from me- throwing the car up the track. I did my best to carry the speed, but Max performed a textbook switchback move on me and was now up my inside down the even longer front-straight. I didn’t have very much speed, and we were side-by-side down the straight. Max got right up next to me on my left and I cursed myself as Max got past in the Turn 1 apex- easily flying past on the inside of the hairpin. I went back down and got on the inside for Turn 2, but he again got past in Turn 3- holding the inside with a roar from the Stadium crowd.

   I tucked in behind Max and attempted a lunge into Turn 4- bouncing over the curbing as Max slammed the door shut. This one small error allowed Max to leap forward, and I had to wait to get back up on him. In Turn 7, I gained a tun as he ran a tad wide- opening the door and allowing me to stick my nose in the small gap. The turbulent air made Max oversteer just a bit and forced him to make a fast correction- allowing me to get right up on the inside. As we straightened out, Max was throwing his right hand up in the air at me before grabbing the steering wheel to get into 8 on my inside. He got past me but couldn’t get clear as we broke for Turn 9. I flew over the hairpin apex and fought up the inside to prevent an overtake around the outside. Now Max had the inside for Turn 10 and he got a nose past me before we went right for Turn 11. Still side-by-side, we blasted down the straight- neither one of us wanting to give up an inch for the other. We battled right next to each other with about 2 inches of space between us. We went down the straight and I watched as my speedometer topped 190 before I slammed on the brakes on the inside.

   Max overshot his marker trying to get around me, but instead he flew up around the outside- allowing me to get past up the inside and clear a line through Turn 13. Behind both of us, Louie had fallen back about 3 seconds- still suffering behind our cars that were frankly very overpowered. We flew through the chicane and I felt the car briefly bottom out before going through Turn 16. Max was preparing a move similar to what he’d done last lap, and down the hill I could feel him closing. On the next lap, DRS would be able to activate and I’d be a sitting duck.

   I went defensive into Turn 18 and Max got up on my outside briefly before falling back- the defending work doing its job. I came out of Turn 19 and Max was trying a look around my outside that would quickly turn to the inside for the hairpin. I held my line and jammed EPB, but the boost wasn’t helping as Max too deployed the electrical advantage. He was right up along-side but I braked early in an attempt to recreate the move Max had made on me last lap. True to historical events, Max locked up the left-front and went straight on, allowing me to slip up the inside and power past. The engine yelled at me as I went up through the gears and pulled away from Max. We passed the start/finish line and I saw Max stay in whatever slipstream was left to gain. I flew up to 201 before slamming the brakes into Turn 1 without any pressure at all from Max behind.

   I flowed through the corners and felt the car doing its magic- twisting and turning with each curve and dip in the track. The car felt really dialed in, but despite how perfect I drove, Max was still there. He didn’t lose any ground over the course of the laps, but he didn’t gain any either- setting about the same times as me. On Lap 16, the tires were starting to fall off just a bit but to my surprise, Andy asked me to stay out another lap after I radioed in the status. And, to my frustration, Max went straight-on into the pit lane on Lap 17- the optimal pit window.

   “Are you kidding me?!” I exclaimed as I went down the long front-straight. “I said I was having tire trouble and you let him pit first? I’m leading, don’t I get the strategy calls?!” I broke into Turn 1 and got over the curbing on the apex before Andy responded.

   “Nothing we can do about it now. Bare down and stay focused. You’re boxing this lap.” I went through the lap as hard as I could and at the end of the back straight I pulled off the corner and down to the Pit Lane. I tapped the pit limiter and the engine started humming in monotone as the revs evened out. I went down the lane and pulled into the pit stall- stopping right on the mark as the team got everything changed. 4 tires on, 4 off, fuel added. I waited the 10 seconds and peeled out of the pit stall with the scream of tires and a cloud of smoke. I got back out onto the pit lane and went down- kicking myself forward to try to get that extra tenth. Come on… Come on!!

   I got out of the pit lane and released the limiter- flying out of the lane and bringing the speed up. Max was right behind me and was gaining impossibly fast, and he blasted by on the inside before the braking zone. I tried to hold it around the outside but the cold tires still had to get up to temperature, and I lost the spot as I fought a 4-wheel skid.

   “DAMNIT,” I shouted in frustration as Max got by. I got up to him but I couldn’t get by- forced behind in the Stadium. I went around the long, sweeping corner and felt the car trying to understeer in the wake of Max. I tried to get up to him through the flat-out chicane and closed in a little bit down the straight. I hovered in the slipstream of Max and abruptly cut out down to the inside. I was right alongside and Max started coming down- squeezing me to give me the bad line into 7. We almost collided and a tiny puff of smoke came out of the left front- signifying that we had indeed hit. Max flew off to the left and I ricocheted right before coming back up the racetrack to line up for Turn 7.

   “Tell Max, that was way too close! He almost knocked me out!” I blasted into Turn 7 with Max on my outside- holding the position with the speed he’d maintained.

   “Copy,” Andy simply replied as I went through Turn 8- now on the outside. I went up the inside of the hairpin and got past smoothly- cutting back down into Turn 10 as I got clear. Out of Turn 11, Max got right behind me and activated DRS as we went up the hill. I cut to the inside just as Max got a peek- making him brake and close the DRS as he tried a switchback move to my outside.

   “Jeb, both of you are driving dangerously. Keep it clean.” The warning made me furious but I couldn’t respond yet as I broke for Turn 12. Max couldn’t hold around the outside and I got past and performed the same move of cutting back across the apex. As soon as I got out of Turn 17, I keyed the mic.

   “Andy, Max squeezed me down! How could I avoid that, it’s either let him hit me or go down into the grass!” I broke for 18 and 19 before Andy responded.

   “That move on the straight there was a little risky. Just play it safe- we don’t want retirements here. You’re 20 seconds clear of third; don’t do anything stupid.” Max held in my slipstream and went down to the inside entering the Turn 20 hairpin. I went well wide and watched as the camber threw him back up the track, allowing me to come right back. We crossed the line to start Lap 20 and Max was coming back with the help of the DRS. I could feel the pressure as I went down the straight to the roaring of fans. At least we were providing a good show. I held in front of Max for the majority of the lap- defending feints and getting the good launches out of corners that I desperately needed. Max held behind me for the next ten or so laps, and with only 3 to go he made his move.

   Max got an incredible launch out of the Turn 13 hairpin and got up my inside in Turn 14, giving me a bad run for 15. He mounted the chicane curbs and bounced into the air- leaving the ground entirely before coming back down in a bright cloud of sparks. He somehow held it around the outside of my car in Turn 16 but I got clear in 17- just barely passing him as we got onto the fastest straight on the track. Max got into my slipstream and used the DRS to blaze past- clearing me halfway down the straight and coming back up the track to cut me off. I tried a lunge into the braking zone but he anticipated it perfectly and came across- hitting the apex perfectly and flying out of Turn 19. I kept in his line and didn’t attempt a move in Turn 20, knowing it would mess up my run down the straight. Instead, I waited patiently (and painfully) through the hairpin and used a good run off the camber to fly out on exit. I used EPB and closed on Max as I opened DRS. I practically floated as the car got up to speed and blasted around Max- leaving him in the dust down the longest straight on the track. Max was too far behind for a Turn 1 lunge, and with two laps left I could feel that victory was in my grasp. The car felt perfect around the Stadium corners, and I could take so much speed through the loops it was unbelievable.

   Max had started to reel me in little by little around the track but I told myself to stay focused as I crossed the line to start the final lap. Using the DRS, Max was right on top of me entering Turn 1- almost running into my rear wing as he locked up a little bit. I pulled away out of the corner but Max’s lunge had actually helped him a little bit- allowing him to catch up. He was practically on top of me in the long, looping Turn 3 as the stands came to life- 50,000 fans in this one section alone cheering us on in the thrilling fight for the lead. I pulled the car through Turn 4 but on the exit I ran a touch wide- losing a bit of control and giving Max an edge. He tried an outside look through Turn 5 but couldn’t make it work, electing to fall into line for 6. I got out of the corner and Max was right on me for the straight- trying to get a run. He looked inside and I went down, forcing him up the track and giving him the poor line in Turn 7. He got alongside but fell back as we went into 7. I tried to hold the speed but ended up going wide- opening a massive chasm on the inside that Max took with pleasure.

   I was up the inside for 8 but Max squeezed me down the track- slowing both of us down as we went through the loop. I was right on top of him in Turn 9- forcing him far down the track and giving him a poor exit that I attempted to utilize in Turn 10. However, Max was still alongside me, and he forced me down as well in the hairpin- slowing both of us down even more. He got up my inside in Turn 11 and I let him past as I elected to use DRS instead of fight too hard. I opened up DRS and got on his right side before the braking zone. I hit the brakes but locked up- running wide and giving Max the perfect chance up the inside as I went off in a huge cloud of white smoke. I collected myself just in time but the right front had a horrible flat-spot, vibrating terribly as I tried to take it around.

   “Crap, tires are done,” I radioed in as I tried to chase Max down through the Bradley Loop. The car understeered horribly but I gained a little bit- using DRS to get right next to Max down the backstraight. I was running out of time but got around before the corner. I flew through the corner but Max got an even better run on me- flying around my outside even without DRS down the straight. We were right next to each other in the hairpin and Max broke early as I fought my way down. The car ran wide despite me turning the wheel as hard as I could, and Max got up my inside and got clear.

   Max stuck his fist into the air as he crossed the line with myself close behind- shaking my head as I flew past the finish line. “Good fight,” I said to Max as I got alongside him for the cool down lap.

   “Ah, thanks bud,” Max said, sounding breathless and excited. “That was one heck of a race! I thought you had me down that straight, but great job.” I waved to the fans and opened up the visor- feeling the cool air hit my face as I went down the track. I kept on going over the one stupid lockup in my head- ruing the mistake as if it had killed my grandma.

   About 5 minutes and one cool down lap later, Max, Micheal and I were in the lounge.

   “Wow,” Micheal muttered as he looked at the timing. “Close fight, huh?” I nodded and took a sip of water as Max grinned.

   “Oh yeah,” Max said, standing up in preparation to recount the adventures of the Solarian GP. “There was that wreck at the start, and then we started pulling away, little by little. Well, Jeb got past despite my masterclass defending-“ Micheal rolled his eyes, but Max carried on. “And then came the pitstops. I got in first with Jeb coming in the next lap. I ended up getting past on the Turn 7 straight but then he just got past. I managed to get down under Jeb in 11 and in 12 he locked up big-time. And that’s pretty much it.” Micheal looked at me for conformation and I just shrugged in a, “Yeah, I guess,” manner.

   “You know, everyone says that I only make one or two mistakes per season,” I sighed, remembering the lockup. “Maybe that was the one.”

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Hey everyone, great news!

So I have decided, that for no reason whatsoever, I'm going to make a LATT discord channel! You can post critiques of the chapters, get up-to-date news on the future of the story, and, best of all, see what the heck I'm talking about as I upload pictures! You'll also be able to see what's going on with the discussion process in real time, and, of course, learn more about LATT than ever before possible. Now why am I doing this? Well, because I've 1) got nothing better to do, and 2) I just decided that it could be a cool idea. LATT Part 1 is going to be going on until 2019- that's a fact (There's no way I'm blasting 30 years in 6 months). And that's not all! Part 2 (The air racing part that everyone was looking forward to I think) is going to be just as long! Prepare for the million-word novel here ladies and lads.

 

The Discord invite ===> https://discord.gg/DDPekA2 <=== This thing

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I am not sure if I will check it out on Discord, but kudos for creativity... :)

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Chapter 28 is up- and only 2 days later than previously intended! Enjoy ;)
 

Chapter 28: Coming Home

 

1:00pm, 1 Week and 6 days later. Owlia Grand National Raceway, Owlia.  Formula K Round 4 of 10: Owlia

 

            As the small but loyal crowd filtered into the ginormous grandstands, I sat back in the garage. I typically dont watch the Formula races, but I had decided to show up to Owlia. It was the three-year anniversary of my first ever win with a Spec car. As I sat down in a chair near the back of the garage, I heard some whispers. The pit crew was taking nervous glances at me and muttering amongst themselves, and I could hear some of the chatter.

            Thats Jebediah Kerman.
            Whats he doing here?

            Is this really true?

            I thought he was shorter.

            A real K1 driver!

            I put my shades on and leaned back in the seat as a familiar figure entered the garage. He was wearing a slightly green tie underneath a very official looking suit that he had worn when we said our goodbyes. As soon as Paddy walked past, I coughed loudly, trying not to smile. Paddy jumped- a bit startled- and turned to me. I could tell he was about to ask who I was, but then his eyes brightened.

            Jeb! Paddy exclaimed, extending his arms out. What brings you to our humble neck o the woods? I smiled and stood up, giving him a handshake and pulling him in for a hug.

            Just decided to come by and see how the times have changed since I left, I replied, sitting back down with Paddy getting down next to me. Been a while. How have you been? Paddy sighed and chuckled. I noticed that his hair had a few extra grey spots in them, but I didnt point it out.

            Busy, Paddy replied. Quite busy. Lewis has been a stellar driver these past couple of years, and it was great to see him go to K1. However, the real star has been Arcazon. You should see him- hes quite possibly one of the best drivers to grace OTech GP. Present company included. I nodded and looked at the walls. Lewiss portrait stood with a slight frown as he crossed his arms with helmet in hand. On the other wall, there was a new driver Id never seen before. He looked to be really young- maybe 16 by my count. He had a big, almost goofy smile that reminded me a lot of Max and I when we first joined Formula. But, thats not all, Paddy said with a big grin.

            Next year, were opening up a new branch of OTech- in K1! Matty and I have talked about this for ages and we decided that in 2038, OTech Engineering will open up as a junior team. Itll give us a chance to get our driver training program further up, and also hopefully bring in some star talent. He smiled. Ive been selected to be the manager of the team! Im going to carry over the entire staff from OTechGP and bring them to K1. What do you think?

            Whatll happen to OTech GP? I asked. This place was my first home, and even though I hadnt been here in years, I still didnt want to see it shutter up for good.

            Dont worry, team members will be either hired or moved up from other series- we wouldnt dare close down the GP team. I breathed a sigh of relief and leaned back in my chair.

            Whew, I said, chuckling. Had me going for a minute. Just then, I heard what sounded like a lot of revs rising and then dropping to the floor at once before growing in volume again. I watched on the TV screen as the cars started the formation lap, and I had to take a second look. Whoa, I whispered, leaning towards the screen. Are those the cars?

            The new Formula K cars looked beautiful. The single wing was still in place (In K1, there are 2 layers of front wings), but looked a lot more basic than before. The tires were a lot wider as well, and the entire front looked more open and airy than in years past. As soon as the cars turned into the corner though, I saw the real big changes. The rear end had been changed completely, and was open. Instead of a large shark fin, the rear was flat. Also, the Air Inlet had been moved down slightly, making the cars even more slippery in a straight line. The rear wing had been almost 100% changed- now just a simple but stylish little wing plate instead of a massive cluster of various downforce-generating bits and pieces. I also noticed a different engine sound- deeper and more throaty than in the past.

            Yeah, Paddy smiled, looking out at the beautiful cars driving around on the formation lap. The 2037 changeup was a big one. The cars have a lot less aero grip, and the tires have been made just a little bit slicker to make it a driver’s car. I smiled. Back when I was driving, the Formula cars seemed so connected to the track- not that different from the K1 cars. It felt good to know that now we were getting cars that tested ability.

            The cars all lined up on the grid for the formation lap and I looked at the line of cars. Its kind of weird from this view, I thought, looking at the screen above us. A single light turned on above on the pylon and the engines started getting louder. Two lights, and I could feel the tension ramping up. Three. Four. Five.

            The lights went out and the cars all launched away off the line- dropping revs and gaining speed as they got off the line. Good start from the OTech driver of Lewis Kerman, getting up to the top spot! Lewis swept around the inside of two other cars and I swear I almost saw a wave from him as he blasted by- practically devouring the competition. The cars got up to speed before braking hard for Turn 1, and as the camera panned to track the whole field, I saw a cloud of white smoke. Behind, a car had locked up and went straight into the rear of what looked to be the other OTech car- Arcazon. The blue and white car flew into the air and spun around once in a cloud of smoke as the car behind collected another car- losing the left front tire in the process. Debris and smoke covered the track as the team groaned and yelled in frustration.

            And thats Arcazon around! Multiple cars involved and were under a Safety Car here on Lap 1.

            Damnit! Got a puncture, coming to you guys. The team scurried around as a silver car drove past with a throaty rumble- yellow lights flashing before passing the entrance of the garage. The team was already outside and revving up the wheel-guns, prepared for the stop. As the cars came past, I looked up at the screen and saw Arcazon limping around the track with a rear puncture. Paddy looked out at the box and seemed to be watching closely.

            The car pulled into the box perfectly and was lifted up on the jack. Wheel guns screamed as the tires came off, and the team went to work checking the damage. Apparently there wasnt too much damage as the team put hard tires on and dropped the car. Arcazon blasted out of the pit box and the team all got up from their half-kneeling position, rolling the used tires back to the rack.

            As the race got underway, I watched as Arcazon got off to a lightning restart, flying past a car as he crossed the line. Not bad, I thought to myself as Arcazon went past another car before the braking zone. Not bad at all... Lewis stretched out a gap ahead and Arcazon continued slicing up through the field. He was cutting all around- left, right, around the outside, down the inside- blasting past the opposition like they were hardly there.

            Hes good, I muttered to Paddy as we watched him go onto Lap 13 of 18. After coming back from dead last, he was all the way up to fourth- fighting for the podium with just 5 laps to go. However, it wasnt looking like he would get there by the end of the race as there was a 15 second gap. However, that lap, the driver ahead- Louis (Not Lewis)- came into the pit lane. He went onto the Soft tires and peeled out- getting passed by Arcazon.

            Looks like thisll be a massive fight at the end of this- Arcazon on the older hard tires, but Louis on the newer softs but well back! Whatll happen here with just 3 laps to go?  I watched as the cars got closer and closer on the screen, and on the final lap, Louis passed. The crew groaned and I put my hands on my head. I noticed cameras pointed at me but I didnt focus on them as Arcazon fought for his third place.

            Arcazon pushed into Turn 4 but couldnt get up the inside of Louis as he was cut off. Arcazon put his hand up in the air in frustration and went blasting through Turns 5 and 6 down and back up the hill. Come on kid... The two blasted over the double-apex in Turns 7 and 8 and Arcazon got right up alongside off the corner exit. They stayed together down the 11-12 straight and I sucked in a breath.

            Theyre going to go side-by-side into Turn 12!  The camera changed to the view of the inside of Turn 12 and watched as Arcazon went around the outside- squeezing Louis down the track. however, there was a snap of oversteer and he had to correct- flying up the track and almost spinning out. There was a loud yell as Arcazons car started sliding up the track close to the wall, but somehow, miraculously, he corrected it. However, Louis had now flown past with a massive momentum advantage. Arcazon got a stellar run down into Turn 13 and got right back up to him, though, and now there was just one turn left.

            One corner left, this is it! Arcazon coming up, gaining on Louis! This is for the third place fight here! All or nothing into Turn 14!  I heard a crackle over the radio as Arcazon came out of the corner.

            Gonna send it, I heard calmly before the radio cut out. Paddy smiled, and I saw him mouth, Do it. Arcazon held in the slipstream down the straight- holding right behind him and gaining. However, at the Braking zone, he broke incredibly early. Louis on the other hand locked up the rears and looped the car way outside of the Turn 14 hairpin- spinning in a cloud of smoke and a scream from the engine. Arcazon passed on the inside and the team leapt up out of their chairs in joy and excitement- yelling and screaming as they watched the feed.

            Yes! Paddy yelled as he watched the feed, pumping his fist when Arcazon crossed the line.

            And an unbelievable finish here at the very end, Louis Kerman spinning at the end of the race off of a costly mistake. Amazing finish! I nodded. This kid has some skills.

 

10:00am, The next day. Round 4 of 10: The Owlian Grand Prix. Owlian Grand National Raceway, Owlia.

 

            I sat down onto a small but very sturdy looking deck chair and adjusted the microphone tucked onto my T-shirt. The sun had just come up a couple hours earlier, and the sky still had tiny tinges of yellow on the horizon if you squinted just right. Across the small table from me, Josh Kerman sat down wearing a nice suit and a smile.

            Good to see you, Jeb, Josh said, extending his hand out for a shake. I leaned out and extended my own arm to return the handshake.

            Pleasure to be out here, I replied, smiling back.

            Ill just start this off with the obvious question on everyones mind- how does it feel to be back home in Owlia? I looked out at the empty track as a few fans made their way either through the infield or around the track- touring it before we went out there for the race.

            It feels amazing, just being home and at a track that we all know really well.

            Youve had a lot of history at this track; does that make it any more special to you?

            Oh yeah, by far. This track was where I got my first win in Formula, my first win in K1- its really a special track for myself and the team, just being here. Its really an emotional race for us every year, with the pressure from not only the team but the fans themselves. Theyre some of the most loyal in the world, and we just feel kind of obligated to get the win for them.

            How important is this race for the teams and yourself?

            Well, first off, its the first Baskay race of the season. Most of the teams are based in the Baskay region, so its really kind of a marker for Where are we compared to everyone else? This year is really important for Owlian teams though, after Hurricane Harey hit last month. For us, its almost like a way to come back sort of. But in any other year, its our first race in Baskay, and really the first home race of the season. Its... Really special to say the least.

            With Max getting the victory in Solaria, do you think that this season will be another dogfight between you and him?

            Im thinking itll be a close season, but obviously Im hoping to clinch the championship early. This races looking to be fun though, thats for sure.

            Finally, whats your favorite corner on the track? I thought for a couple moments.

            I really dont know to be honest. There are so many good corners that could take that prize. 1 and 2 have a wonderful braking zone that can cause problems but be so rewarding at the same time, as weve seen last year. 5 and 6 have those elevation changes that are so fun to drive and, I hope, fun to watch. Turn 12 is that long, sweeping bank that is just so dang fun- going flat out down on the different lines with the banking. Then of course 13, with that really tight and technical hairpin. Theres just so many good corners to choose from, I cant really find a way to take one over the other. Everything about this course is just amazing- the turns, the straights, the fans. Its the best track on the calendar, hands down.

            Thanks for your time, Jeb. We shook hands as we stood up, and I smiled.

            No problem. Glad to have the time to sit down. The camera cut out and I almost sighed in relief. Gosh, I like these things, I said as I took the mic off. But its so dang stressful! Josh chuckled and took the mic.

            Good luck in the race. Before I could reply, however, he rushed off- likely to conduct some other pre-race interview.

            Thanks, I muttered to myself as I walked out and down to the grid. Just might need it.

 

12:00pm

 

            7 jets screamed through the sky with a cloud of smoke trailing them. I could hear the crackling of the engines in the air as the planes departed- shooting up into the sky with a cheer from the crowd. I clapped and put my hat on as I walked back to the car. To celebrate the nearing 50th anniversary of OTech Race Team, wed gotten a new number livery added onto the car. The numbers were sharp, sleek, and, if I do say so myself, really cool-looking. I got up to Pole Position, and got into the car- strapping on my helmet. The crowd noise muffled as the helmet seemed to hug my head- fitting perfectly as I stood up into the seat. Before I sat down, I turned to the fans and gave them a quick salute- drawing loud cheers, whistles, and yells.

            Tech Updates: This week, wed gone for a whole new look aero-wise. The T-wing was now 100% gone, and the Shark fin was barren (Besides our numbers). The V-Wing (The small wing that was at the base of the T-wing) was slightly larger though in an attempt to regain the downforce lost by the T-Wing. On our nose, wed added a small sticker that read Owlia Strong in bold white lettering. As Ive already mentioned, the numbers had gotten a redo, as well as the paintjob. The wing surfaces had been turned pure white, while the rest of the car was a sleek and dark blue. Overall: New paint scheme, new number, new look. Oh, and we lowered the Rear Wing slightly to help out some aero.

            Feeling good? Andy asked me through my visor as I sat down. I nodded and sighed into the silent radio. The team rushed around, getting my stuff ready as I got myself ready mentally. Andy handed me the steering wheel and I put it onto the mount. I keyed the radio and static filled the com before cutting out as I spoke.

            Alls good in here, I said to Andy as he lowered the mic down on his headset.

            Good. Now remember, 28 lap race. Make sure to keep yourself out of any Turn 1 incidents, be calm, and be smooth. We know weve got one of the faster cars this weekend, so try to keep out of trouble, build a gap, and well go from there. Boxing on Lap 14, per usual. I nodded and the engine fired up right on cue, making me chuckle a little bit.

            Weather? The sky was picture perfect above us with clear skies as far as I could see.

            No chance of rain. 80 degrees right now, expected to stay relatively the same. Winds out of the South at around 5 knots. Looking like a perfect day to go racing. The team set me down and I got out of the grid slot to begin the formation lap.

            You said it, brother, I replied as we got out to start the warm-up. The car bit out of the spot and accelerated quickly as I laid down the gas. As I weaved down the run to Turn 1, the tires bit into the smooth tarmac that had been so kind to us in the past. I could feel the car working perfectly just in the first little dart down the track. I jammed the throttle and the car leaped forward with a yell.

            I went into Turn 1 and rode the curb all the way around the turn and felt the car rumbling over the strip. The car held on the curb perfectly and I flew out with a jam from the gas pedal. I came out and went back to the left over the Turn 2 curb. The corner was a downhill slope and I felt the fronts lose a bit of grip as I dropped down.

            Car feels good, I said to Andy as I rolled through the apex. I held on the gas and started speeding away from Max, who hit the gas and started trying to chase me down through the long, sweeping Turn 3. As I warmed up the tires down the 3-4 straight, I watched Max weave behind me in almost perfect motion. At each grandstand, I could see flags waving in the air as we passed. The formation lap was fairly uneventful- just warming up the tires to get myself prepared. As I went into the grid slot, I dialed up the engine and heard the tone shift up slightly as the mapping changed. The crowd was ready, and as I waited for the remaining cars to form up, I could almost feel the tension building.

            I saw a green flag wave in my mirror and looked ahead as heat waves shimmered off the tracks surface. A single red light came on above on the pylon and I exhaled.

            Two lights. I held the clutch in and pressed down a little bit on the gas pedal, making the engines tone grow in volume.

            Three. I opened the engine up fully- feeling the engine roar behind me.

            Four. My heart rate started racing- faster and faster as I watched the pylon through the tinted visor. Max was lined up in second to my inside and I knew he would try a move into Turn 1.

            All five lights glowed bright red and I watched intently as the grid was filled with the roaring of engines. Good start, good start, I told myself.

            The lights went out and I instantly released the clutch- getting the launch perfect without any wheelspin. The car leaped off the grid and started accelerating. I raced through the gears- 3rd, 4th, 5th. I saw Max in my mirror and sliced down to the inside line to defend the run into Turn 1, and he went around to the outside. Max got right up alongside me but couldnt make the move stick as I swept down the inside. Behind, the field was jostling for position and mixing around with each other. Max held right with me but couldnt get up the inside as I watched him almost hit the rear of my car before I sped out of the Turn 2 apex. The car felt on rails as I rolled out of the corner and jammed on the throttle, pulling away from Max. We raced through the long Turn 3 and I brushed the right side tires up against the curb before coming back up the track. The car was perfect on the surface of the track- gripping into the tarmac so smoothly as I turned out of the corner. The aero allowed me to seemingly slip through the air like a missile and I felt in control as I darted down the straight.

            Max tried a look up the inside into Turn 4 but I held my line and he thought better of it as I went over the curbing. As I raced through the dip of Turn 5, the car sparked and bottomed out before evening out. Maxs car flew up the hill with me and held right in my slipstream. I held on line and blasted over the 7-8 curbing at full speed and flying right up to the exit curb. The car flowed through the S perfectly and I blasted down the 11-12 straight as the speed started to climb. As soon as I broke 200 miles an hour, the car began to tilt through Turn 12. I went down about half a car width off the flat yellow line that told us where the banking ended. The engine yelled in 8th and max gear as the car sped up even more. 210. 215. 218. I slammed hard on the brakes and the car resisted with all its might as I slowed down for the Turn 13 hairpin. I turned in with all the strength I had in my arms and just clipped the curbing before pulling out of the apex and down the backstraight.

            WHEW! I breathed aloud without hitting my radio button. Yeah, lets never try that one again. Max lost a lot of time as he had broken earlier, and I now had a good gap back to him. Again, I started revving up through the gears. The car sounded almost happy to be going this fast, and I felt happy to oblige. Just maybe not going into Turn 13. I broke for Turn 14 and gently nudged over the inside curbing before flying out of the hairpin.

            Good first lap there! Keep pushing, Andy said as soon as I finished pulling out of the corner, making me jump.

            Andy, dont talk to me through the corners. I almost spun out there on the apex. I went down the straight to finish the lap, and looked back in the mirror. Max was almost a second back, maybe a second and a half. I kept lapping around the course- going full speed and pushing as hard as I could. The car felt on rails as I blasted over curbs, apexes, and exits. By Lap 14 (our pit window), Max was about 10 seconds back. The tires were really starting to feel the force of me abusing the life out of them, and I was tiptoeing around to not lose any grip.

            Coming to yall this lap, I told radioed in, braking for Turn 1. The car still felt good with the aero, but I could feel that it wasnt as strong as it was during the first part of the stint.

            Copy, Andy replied as a car passed him- the engine echoing through my helmet. I had to let off a little bit in Turn 7, but besides that the car felt okay to drive. Max was gaining, and I had a feeling he was pushing for his in lap next time around. I started braking for Turn 13 and the left front spat a tiny puff of smoke into my visor before unlocking. I went over the small curbing and pulled up out of the turn- carrying the momentum with a tiny impromptu drift of oversteer (100% intentional- not an accident at all). I broke for Turn 14 and went straight at the apex to enter the pit lane- heading up and gassing it as I went up the track.

            Youll be somewhere around P-4 or 5 when you emerge, Andy told me as I rolled down the pit lane with the limiter on. I went down and round the box- turning in perfectly and stopping on the mark. The team lifted up the car and I watched as they went to work. 4 tires on, 4 off. In the mirror, I saw the fuel going into the car. The light above me went yellow and I put my finger over the clutch as I waited for the 10-second window to end.

            Finally, the car was dropped and I peeled out of the pit stall with a squeal from the tires and a tiny trail of smoke. Finally, I got out of the pit lane and released the limiter- speeding up quickly. A bright yellow Firebird car blasted past in a blur, chased by a black Monster car. As they started braking, I made a look up the inside but held my spot as I broke for the corner. Both of the cars got really backed up in Turn 2, and I almost hit them. As we came out of the corner, I threw my hand up in frustration.

            These guys have to get out of the way, I said as I went up the inside of the Monster in Turn 3. Theyre ruining my race! I got into the tiny gap between the Monster car and the Firebird, catching the slipstream before darting to the inside mid-straight. God thats annoying. They have no chance of winning- they need to move out of the way before they cause a wreck. I got clear and steamed out of Turn 4- getting out of there as fast as I could.

            Good overtaking. Go for it. I shook my head and went out on a mission- attacking every corner like I was fighting for the win. In a way I was. I attacked the curbs as hard as I could- pushing flat-out into every single braking zone and full-throttle turns. I was now in third and used my DRS to fly down the 11-12 straight before flying through Turn 12. The engine screamed as it broke 210 mid-corner. Come on baby, little more here. I pushed and as the car evened out, I pushed harder than ever before. I broke 220 before slamming the brakes into Turn 13. As soon as I got out onto the straight, Andy radioed in the call.

            Max just entered the pits, come on! The engine started pushing at its maximum attack range- pushing the edge of its limits. I broke into Turn 14 and flew around the curbing, barely touching it as I seemed to float through the apex. I swear my foot never let off the gas pedal as soon as I stopped braking. The car sprinted out of the corner as it stretched out its legs- pushing as hard as possible. COME ON!! As I passed the start/finish line, I leaned down to reduce drag in an attempt to get some speed back up in the car. Max exited the pit lane just as I went by, and I knew he was going to be pushing like crazy.

            Max dove up the inside of me and I had to give him the room. He tried to hold the spot but I jammed the gas on exit- flying past him on the outside that quickly turned into the inside for Turn 2. There was a small bump from the rear as Max accidentally nudged my right rear with his left front. With the contact, he went up the track and I managed to gas it out of the corner to get away. That shouldnt have worked, I thought in awe. But it did.

            Max held in my slipstream as we raced through Turn 3- fighting with each other for the lead. He had newer tires but they were cold- this was my chance to get out to a lead before he started to try and reel me in. I dove into Turn 4 and the car went through the apex perfectly. In my mirror, Max slid a little bit and went wide- allowing me to get away.

            The laps kept ticking down and the gap grew higher and higher, just like in Tekkia. Tiny lockup here, slide there, bad exits- all accumulating in a healthy 5 second gap on the final lap. I came out of Turn 13 and looked in my mirrors at Max, who was just now coming down the straight. The crowd roared and I went down to Lean to conserve the engine. Max didnt try to fight for any last-minute heroics, and I looked out at the fans as I went down the backstraight about 20 miles an hour slower than usual. As I went through the stunning Turn 14, the crowd was roaring. The OTech Section. As I looked out at the crowd, I saw a #14 flag waving as the fans jumped up and waved- celebrating victory. I was 100 meters from the finish. 75. 50. The team started waving from the wall and celebrating- cheering and yelling as I got closer. 25. The flag started waving. 0. There was an explosion of noise as I crossed the painted line- thousands of fans roaring in unison.

            Yes! Yes Jeb! Amazing drive! Top class. I opened up the visor and let the air start cooling me down as I rubbed at my eyes. The crowd was roaring as Max crossed the line- well ahead of third place. I felt tears starting to sting my eyes and I wiped them away- trying to lean my head down to get at it. When I finally did, I keyed the radio button as the engine continued to rev down.

            Thanks Andy, that was one heck of a race. In some ways, I think that that one was for Phil. He deserved this. I raised my hands up in the air and the crowd started to hush down just a bit- returning the salute with me. This ones for you, buddy, I sighed, looking up at the sky through the visor. Then, I remembered something.

            See, holding your hands up in the air is dangerous. You could have to turn sharply and hit someone or something on track- no time to react. You could think you have the room but really not and throw yourself off-track. So, I reached down. Matty had gotten it for me before this race in the hopes that I wouldnt hold up my hands- risking a damaged car at the end of the race. I slowed down in Turn 1 way off to the outside and Max stopped behind me- our engines quietly humming. I rummaged through the cockpit and finally found it. A small flag with the number 14 on it- piercing blue with the white number emblazoned boldly on the front and back. I jammed the gas and the car leaped forward with a yelp before evening out the revs. The crowd cheered as the blue flag whipped in the wind behind me, and as I raised the flag up I saw the crowd all returning the salute. I noticed that third place (Louie) had formed up behind us, as had the rest of the grid. Together, the drivers had (I guess) decided to give Owlia a proper sendoff for Phil- all lining up to form an amazing group line of cars on the cooldown lap. That ones for you.

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Awesome work! I'm behind with Find the Gap now... No matter, I'll have to double my writing speed! Might give Owlia a miss for Chapter 2, you've covered it for me I reckon! :)

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Okay, I should probably explain. I haven't uploaded in a month for 2 reasons. And I'm sorry.

1) It's summer break- I've been slacking off, enjoying the break, etc.

2) I write the chapters on a computer that has all the fonts and stuff I need on it. However, that computer has been in maintenance for a while now, but I should be getting it back soon (TM)

I've got a ton of ideas formulating in my head, but I can't write them- which is SO frustrating y'all have no idea. If I can't get the computer back by the weekend, I'll just bite the bullet and type it up here on the forums. Expect an upload within the week.

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12 hours ago, DarkOwl57 said:

Okay, I should probably explain. I haven't uploaded in a month for 2 reasons. And I'm sorry.

1) It's summer break- I've been slacking off, enjoying the break, etc.

2) I write the chapters on a computer that has all the fonts and stuff I need on it. However, that computer has been in maintenance for a while now, but I should be getting it back soon (TM)

I've got a ton of ideas formulating in my head, but I can't write them- which is SO frustrating y'all have no idea. If I can't get the computer back by the weekend, I'll just bite the bullet and type it up here on the forums. Expect an upload within the week.

I have an idea! What about pen and paper?

Also what special fonts do you need? Would a basic txt file not work?

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16 hours ago, qzgy said:

I have an idea! What about pen and paper?

Also what special fonts do you need? Would a basic txt file not work?

It's more just setup. Those lines you see at the top, the various formatting- it's just all set up and ready for me right then and there. I'll see what I can do here on the forums

 

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So, guess who got back on the trail? I'm currently starting slow- only 4k compared to my typical 5 or 6. Don't worry though- 30 is already surpassed the 6k mark... And I haven't even started the race itself yet... Might have to split it in two- not sure yet. Anyways, enjoy this (belated) return of Life At The Top. (If anyone is still even paying attention to this thread)

 

Chapter 29: Summer

 

6:30pm, 2 Weeks later. Round 5 of 10; The Baskay Grand Prix. New Baskay City, NMC.

 

     The sun wasn’t quite setting yet, but it was getting close. Seagulls flew overhead as I walked through a sea of reporters- camera flashes turning sunset into day. Thank god for sunglasses. I waved to the cameras before stepping into the garage and greeting Andy.

     “Ready to go?” He asked over the loud noises of drilling and engine revving. I gave a thumbs up and set my stuff in a locker before zipping up the firesuit.

     “What’s the plan? Same one-stop we were thinking about before?” A car drove past and the engine made it so I couldn’t hear, but a quick nod confirmed the question. Across the garage, Max was talking with Claire about something- pointing at a screen and asking her something. I couldn’t tell what was being said- there wasn’t really any reason to worry. He’d smoked the competition (And me, I guess) in qualifying by about a second and dominating the session. It was kind of depressing if I’m telling the truth.

   “Ready to get out on the recon lap?” I nodded and walked over to the car- sitting down in the cockpit-like tub. As I got my gloves on, I saw a TV camera at the opening to the garage, and I waved with a smile before grabbing the helmet and putting it on. The team got the car set down and I pulled out into the pit lane. The engine was revving evenly, and I could feel the power behind me.

   Update on the state of K1, the technical regulations for 2038 were proposed, with the final regs being decided on prior to the Temple race. The rules were testing the idea of different shark fins, and now the rules were 100% open. Andy had been shut in his office for about 3 days after that announcement. Also, the cars would be a lot different in terms of weight. A new rules regulation that was really controversial was the prospect of no refueling in a race. This would save time on the pit stops, as well as make fuel saving even more crucial over the course of a race. Andy was shut in his office for about 3 more days after that announcement. On the tire compound front, K1 had struck down the idea… For now. It was still on the table for ’39, but many (including myself) think that they’ll bring it in for 2040 for the new decade. Another proposition that was proposed was a singular front wing for 2038- removing the double-decker design that we had now. The idea was Less Downforce + More Speed (From updated engines, tires, etc.) = Better Racing. So far it didn’t sound bad.

   For this week, we’d done a lot of updates for the tight turns of Baskay City. First off, the aerodynamics had gotten a substantial upgrade with numerous updates to the T-Wing and Shark Fin. We’d lightened the small bottom wing beneath the Shark Fin base, and we’d beefed up the T-Wing from the Tekkia package. Instead of one or two wings, we had three- giving us a ton more downforce than before. The rear wing got a working over as well- now it was a bit angled to provide both speed and grip. Underneath, the turbo had been reworked- lightening the load and improving response times. As I blasted through the turns, I could feel the improvements at work.

   “Car feels amazing. Y’all really hit it on the nose with the updates.” The car weaved through the corners with pinpoint accuracy (Helped by about 3 hours on the simulator last night), and I knew I could bring the fight to Max. Maybe.

   The lights went out for the formation lap and I got a great jump off my grid spot. I got up the inside of Max to kind of spook him, but backed off before entering Turn 1. “Great launch off the line. Tires have a ton of grip.” Even in the slightly dirty air of Max’s car, the wheels turned through the tight city streets with relative ease. Micheal was behind (Surprise, surprise), and it looked like we would perform another typical, “Drive away into the sunset“ type of race.

   Finally, we arrived at the starting grid, and I could feel the anticipation. This was the final race before the five week Summer Break, and a good finish here was crucial. The rest of the field got into position, and I waited anxiously. The black and green Monsters lined up in third and fourth, with (surprisingly) a Lakefront rounding up the Top 5 (again. I don’t know if they make their cars specifically for the NMC or what.). I waited for a few seconds, and saw a green flag in the background. Here we go.

   A single light came on- glowing red against the brilliant orange of the sunset. I forced out a breath- echoing in my helmet as my heart raced.

   The second light came on, and I pushed in the clutch.

   Three lights. I shifted the engine up into rich revs and started pushing in the gas pedal.

   Four. The engine started yelling along with the rest of the grid, and I focused on the lights with the focus of a hawk.

   Five. The engines were at their peak volume, and I could almost feel everyone waiting for the start.

   The lights went out and I released the clutch- flying out of the spot with a slight puff of smoke as the wheels spun for grip. I got a good start and put my nose up the inside of Max, but Max out broke me into Turn 1. I tried to get up the inside but he was past- already streaking off out of the corner as I put the power down on corner exit. The rest of the field trailed out of Turn 1 but I couldn’t look as I got right on the tail of Max. I was behind Max, and I could see every little detail of the blue and white car. We bounced over little bumps in the road and sparks flew out from under both Max’s and my car. I was so close that Max’s sparks just barely glinted off my nose but never really flew up into my face.

   We broke for Turn 3 and Max got a tiny gap out to me as I wrestled the front tires through the sweeping turn. The car blasted through Turn 4, and I shot over the curbs mere inches from the wall in an attempt to get back on Max. I spared a brief glance back, and saw everyone else weaving through the turn like a multicolored snake before diving into Turn 5. The track tightened up drastically, and I couldn’t get a look into the corner.

   After the impossibly tight hairpin and a turn underneath a bridge, we went into the Tunnel. Max and I flew through the tunnel as our cars echoed off the concrete walls. Just when we were about to top out, the braking zone for the Chicane came up. I had to fight to keep the car under control in the corner, but there was just enough grip to stay behind Max and hold the line. The car had plenty of acceleration available, and I flew up behind Max on the corner exit.

   We flew through the Swimming Pool Section and bounced over the curbing- flying over the bumps with such force that the wing started shaking as I landed. On the final two corners, Max lost a bit of grip- allowing me to get close behind him.

   I got onto the front straight and darted up the inside in an overtaking attempt, but Max closed the door on me before I got the chance to dive up the inside. As I turned into the corner I heard a loud shout from the crowd, followed by a squealing of tires and a loud crash when I exited the turn. I looked in my mirror and saw a Monster car flying into the air on top of the tire barrier. As the yellow flag came out, I hit the radio.

   “Holy cow!” I started slowing down as the red flag was put out, and shut down the engine to conserve. “That was a big crash. That didn’t look good at all. Is he okay?” I transitioned to the electric motors and heard the small electric whining as I went down the straight.

   “We don’t know. Red flag, they’re stopping you at the Start/Finish line.” When we got to the line, I got unbuckled as the team came over and went to work. I took off my helmet and set it down as everyone got to work. I saw a big screen on the straight, which was showing a replay of the crash. Louie, who had darted to the inside of a Regal, broke late entering Turn 1. The left-rear clipped the front of the Regal and the car leapt into the air sideways. The car tilted in a cloud of smoke before hitting the wall right-side first. Suddenly, the car violently crashed into the barrier- hitting with such a force that the car flipped up into the air before barrel-rolling over the wall onto the top of the barrier.

   “Ooh,” Max groaned, looking at the screen. “Ouch.” The screen changed and we saw the replay from the TV shot.

   “That’s gonna leave a mark,” I replied, nodding. As the replay ended, we saw Louie in the car- nodding his head with the safety crews. Behind us, Claire was looking smug as she scribbled down notes. I looked back and saw a distinctive (and damaged) SL/FR flap on the side of the car. I turned to Max.

   “How are you so quick?” I asked, making him chuckle. He looked at me and wiggled his fingers like a magician casting a spell.

   “Maaaaagic,” he joked. “Now, if you’ll stick around after the Red Flag, I’ll do another trick!” He walked over to his car. “I’m going to make this car disappear!” I laughed and shook my head, before feeling a growing sense of unease in the pit of my stomach. Why do I feel like he’s telling the truth…

 

9:15pm

 

   Max leapt into the pool with a massive grin- holding the trophy in an extended fist before disappearing into the water with a loud splash. After the green flag went out, Max fulfilled his end of the bargain- vanishing as the gap grew with every lap. I didn’t really want to talk about it.

   After the race, Louie had gone to the medical facility, where he was released with a sore neck. As Max came up for air, I cannonballed right next to him- throwing water up at the team who were standing around the edge. Max had the momentum entering the break, but I was still up by a race win. Our first race in Aquaria was going to be crazy.

 

7:45pm, 4 days later. Dolphins Stadium; Nomlas, Aquaria

 

   Pop music thudded in from hidden speakers laid high above the seats. Just for fun, Kim had invited us to the Week 3 game- Stars at Dolphins. The game was bound to be a blowout, despite the trade of the Stars Goalkeeper to the cross-town Royals. Kim had scored about 5 goals so far this season, including a dominant 3-goal performance against the Royals on opening day. Alexis and I walked down to the field, where Kim was warming up. She saw us, smiled, and came over to us as the team started ball drills.

   “I never thought you’d show up,” Kim chuckled, leaning up against the barrier.

   “You kidding? Gives me reason to watch my little sis kick some tail!” Kim laughed and shook her head.

   “It’s only Week 3!” She leaned in and whispered. “Plus, it’s the Dolphins. There’s a good chance I won’t be in for too long.” I smiled.

   “All the more reason! It’ll be a scoring expo.” Kim chuckled and started walking back to the team. “See you after!” She spun and waved before jumping along with the team. We walked back up to the box seats and got in our chairs just as the anthem finished. 5 jets screamed over the open roof of the stadium- flying over before disappearing behind the upper areas of the oval stadium.

   The game got underway a short time later, and the Stars looked to be on the attack. The first goal, which came in the 15th minute, was caused off a beautiful cross from Kim- straight to the feet of Tori who pounded the ball into the back of the net. The Stars were cheering as Tori slid onto the turf on her knees and extended her arms to the crowd.

   The game was fairly uneventful until about 10 minutes left until halftime. Kim got the ball and started cutting through the defense like they weren’t even there. Everyone stood up as Kim faced off against the goalkeeper one-on-one. Kim pulled her foot back and kicked the ball with tremendous force- slamming it into the back of the net straight past the goalkeeper.

   “Yes!” Kim ran to the edge of the field and yelled in celebration. With that score, Kim had broken the River City Stars record for most points scored by a single player by the fourth game of the season- breaking the old record with a week to spare. As the team gathered around Kim, I saw a number of camera flashes going off around the stadium before a large display showed the accomplishment.

   Finally, the halftime whistle blew and the teams all went off to the locker rooms as the crowd began to murmur. The 2-0 score had practically sealed the deal- an opinion cemented by the slouching, defeated body language of the Dolphin’s players who trudged to the locker room.

   The game got going again, and the Stars were right back on the attack. Kim started off a beautiful attack, and crossed it to the center. Amy, a midfielder, kicked the ball hard to the top-right corner, but was just a tad off as it harmlessly bounced off the post. She kicked the ground before running back- readying for defense.

   Before the Dolphins even got past the midfield line, Kim made a stunning dive to get the ball back- taking it away before getting it from a pass. She started running to the goal, but a defender- Number 10- dove for the ball. I stood up. It wasn’t a dive to challenge for the ball- it was of desperation, of frustration. The ball flew underneath the defenders arm, and, almost in slow-motion, Kim leapt up into the air.

   She tried to hurdle the defender, and it looked like it would work. However, at the very last second, Kim’s foot hit the defender’s shoulder. She was tossed forward in mid-air and without anything to stabilize her, Kim careened wildly out of control before slamming into the ground head-first. Grass flew up into the air as Kim rolled once on the ground before landing belly-up. The crowd gasped in shock as whistles started coming in and players converged on the scene. Kim was motionless as teammates and doctors came around in a circle around her. I saw a Stars player waving for a stretcher, and covered my mouth. “This is bad,” I muttered to myself nervously. The crowd was silent in shock as the Dolphins players also came out- trying to help however they could. I saw the coach stomping out onto the field- worry and fury painted on her face.

   “What the heck was that?!” The coach lit up at the defender holding her shoulder, and it was hard to turn my attention away. I couldn’t read the players lips, but I could tell the coach was one unhappy camper. “You weren’t thinking! Idiot!” The player tried to explain, but the coach was having none of it. “GET OUT!” She pointed to the bench in a throwing motion and the crowd cheered as the player walked back to the bench- something that surprised me.

   Suddenly, Kim’s eyes popped open. She looked around before grabbing her head as the stretcher came out. Kim was about to get up, but before she could, she grabbed her leg and collapsed to the ground again- holding her knee and rolling on the ground in obvious pain. As Kim was carried back to the bench on the stretcher, she waved to the crowd- drawing cheers and whistles. Everyone separated, and I stood up as the game got back underway.

   “I’m going down there,” I told Alexis, who nodded and joined me. We got down the steps and walked out to the bench where Kim was sitting on the grass- holding her knee to her chest as a team of doctors waited close by. I cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted, “When I said, ‘break a leg,’ I didn’t mean it literally.” Kim turned and smiled at me.

   “Should’ve clarified,” She joked back with a smirk. “I couldn’t tell. Maybe speak lou-“ She was cut off by a yell from the crowd, making all three of us turn. A Stars player was running past the sideline in a flash, and we watched as she went uncontested up the line before crossing it inside. The ball wobbled in the air as Ason dove for the ball- just missing it as the ball rolled out of bounds. Kim shouted, “Focus, guys!” The team reset for the restart. “One play at a time!” She gave a thumbs-up before turning back to us. Alexis raised an eyebrow.

   “Shouldn’t you be like… In a hospital?” Kim raised an eyebrow. “I mean you did kinda get knocked out. You… Didn’t look good.” She trailed off as a whistle restarted the game.

   “Knocked out? Nonono, I fell and tore a muscle- probably something like a hamstring or something. I’ll be back by the Conference Championship for sure- Divisional if I’m really lucky.” Alexis raised an eyebrow, and I sighed.

   “Kim, what do you remember?” I tried to channel my inner-team doctor- reliving my unhappy experiences of the first couple days after the Temple crash. And every ISCC crash. And- I’ve crashed a lot, okay? Kim focused.

   “Let’s see,” She said, trying to remember. “I kicked a goal… Halftime… Coming onto the field… And everything’s kinda fuzzy from there. Got one heck of a headache though- feel like I’ve been out for one too many.” She sighed. “Wait, what happened again?” Alexis and I looked at each other, and then back to Kim, who groaned. “Fiiine, I’ll go to a hospital, get checked out. Okay?” She accidentally jostled her knee and hissed. “Owowow. Ooh, that hurts.”

——

   Alexis and I followed Kim along with the team down into the locker room. “Hey, y’all don’t need me,” Kim joked as some teammates came over to wish her well. “I’ll be back before the playoffs- championships at the very worst. We’re taking the title this year; with or without me.” As we departed the locker room to get an ambulance, I heard something that stuck with me. To this day, I still don’t know who said it, but its chilling tone made me internally shiver.

   “We might have won the battle,” one player said quietly. “But we might just lose the war.”

 

8:00pm, 1 week later. Sparky’s Smokehouse; River City, Owlia

 

   “Take 2,” I sighed jokingly as we got our drinks. Alexis smirked at me and took her drink- a (thankfully) non-alcoholic one- and held it up for a toast.

   “To a winning Summer Break,” She said, smiling warmly.

   “And every year to come,” I replied, clinking the glasses together. The Carbonale was nice- maybe a little warm, but other than that okay. Contrary to the last time we tried going out at Sparky’s, Alexis and I had a nice private dining room that was quiet and hopefully away from possible embarrassment.

   “This is really nice,” Alexis sighed a moment later after we ordered our food.

   “The drink?” I must admit, it looked amazing- especially for a pink lemonade. Alexis shook her head.

   “This. The restaurant, the mood…” She hesitated. “The fact we’re even doing this right now.” I chuckled and shook my head. “I’m serious,” Alexis said in a matter-of-fact tone. “I made an idiot of myself right there, where everyone…” She groaned. “I knew you’d never want to even see me after that… But you did.” Alexis stared at me. “Why?” I thought for a moment before answering.

   “Because I love you,” I replied. Instantly, Alexis’s cheeks went bright pink. “And you’re my best friend. And my number one supporter. And everything in between. I know it sounds cheesy, but you’re probably the best thing that ever happened to me.” Alexis looked to be about to cry, and dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. I took a sip of my drink and continued. “And because if I didn’t, you’d have the power to royally screw up my career if you wanted to.” Alexis laughed and playfully hit my arm.

   “I’m pretty sure that’s illegal,” She said, smiling.

   “Never hurts to be cautious.” I couldn’t help but grin a little bit.

   “Thanks for tonight,” Alexis said as we walked up to the door. I shrugged.

   “It’s been a while since we did something like this,” I replied, walking up the steps. We finally got to the door and stopped. “So I’ll see you at work?” Alexis nodded.

   “I was thinking maybe a commercial deal over the break- I’ll be out checking the whole thing out tomorrow. Shoe commercial- nothing too hard.” I nodded. For whatever reason, my heart was going a thousand miles an hour. What the-

   I was cut off as Alexis leaned in. I could smell some kind of fruity scent- banana maybe? Mango? Oh my god, focus! She put her hands on my shoulders. No, definitely banana. She reached up, and I looked into her piercing blue eyes. Some perfume blew up at my face as we were separated by less than an inch. I leaned down, and we kissed. My heart was still racing (At this point it was at least 100, maybe 500 beats per minute), and by the time we separated, my arms and legs felt like jelly.

   “So…” Alexis whispered, sounding a little bit hoarse.

   “I’ll call you tomorrow,” I whispered back as my vocal chords also decided to go down in a flaming ball of mush.

   “Yeah…” Alexis nodded. “It’s kind of late, so I’m going to turn in. Goodnight.” She turned and went in. Just before the door closed, I whispered back, “Goodnight.”

On that ride home, I felt like I was on top of the world.

 

5:00pm, 2 weeks later. Stars Stadium, River City, Owlia

 

   Kim clicked into the box on her crutches- struggling a little bit with her massive cast that went up the entire length of her leg. “I’d just like to point out how much this sucks,” She muttered as she sat down to watch the game with us.

   “Oh you don’t have to tell me,” I replied with a sigh- watching the pregame. Alexis and I were right next to each other, with Max sitting over a ways. I noticed that she also had some kind of tape stuff on the back of her neck. “So what’s the doctor say?” Kim sighed.

   “Well, first, the knee’s a little bit worse than I thought. Multiple ligament tears and hyperextension.” I grimaced. “Then, apparently, I popped something in my neck that isn’t supposed to move, so I have to take that easy for a while. And I did have a concussion, but it’s okay now. Season-Ending unfortunately.” Kim sighed. “But Coach said she might get me an assistant coaching job. Basically, I hang out on the sidelines, offer help where needed, and don’t screw up too bad.” Max interrupted.

   “Quick question,” He asked, staring down at the field. “How many of them are available?” Kim rolled her eyes. “I’m doing an experiment you see.” I chuckled.

   “Pretty much all of them,” Kim smirked, stoking the fire. Then, she whispered in my ear, “I’ve already told them to avoid him- they’d just as soon punch his lights out than go out with him.” Max nodded.

   “Do you think maybe I could get down on the field?” Kim nodded.

   “If you can get through the 3 layers of security, sure, go for it.” I think Max only heard, “Go for it,” and smiled. Kim rolled her eyes. I can’t say I expected anything different. Ever since the 6th grade, Max was a ladies man. Always chasing the next girl. Typically chasing them away, but whatever. I leaned over to Max.

   “Quit drooling,” I joked in a very serious tone. Max wiped at his mouth, felt nothing, and waved me away with an angry look on his face, making me laugh. He shook his head and went back to looking at the field.

 

Spoiler

Just a quick personal note from me- I'm sorry for the writing style on this one. Mainly just trying to re-find my style and refine my rhythm for the time being. After a proofread of 30, it's looking a bit more promising but still a long way to go before we get back up to speed. Hope y'all don't notice it too bad, but always point out mistakes where I make them- it helps a ton. Thanks, guys!

 

 

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Oh, I forgot to say this at the start, but thank you to @MiffedStarfish. His KerbalPowers nation (Aquaria) is where this race is being hosted. I've taken a lot of help from him over the course of writing this, and it's (Hopefully) paid off. He's helped me out with the culture of Aquaria, the language- just helpimg me out and make sure I get everything just right. Thanks buddy.

Chapter 30: Aquaria

5:00pm, 1 Week later. Near Nomlas, Aquaria.

 

   The pristine Baskay waters shimmered beneath us as the sandy coastline blurred. The loud drone of the propellers drowned out pretty much everything, but because this was a shorter flight than normal, I didn’t mind too much. The plane was one of the older ones that served in an old war far beyond my time, but it had been refitted for short-distance transport. It could be used for longer ranges but was horribly uncomfortable, so we only used it for the trip to Aquaria and Basil respectively.

   I looked out the window and saw nothing but blue. Alexis was taking a power nap in the seat next to me, while Max was checking his phone. Andy and Claire discussed notes in hushed tones. I was really looking forward to the race. The track surface had just been finished a week ago, and according to some WEC drivers I talked to, the type of surface (A new, smoother asphalt seen at the Baikerbanur endurance race) was incredibly grippy. Andy had been super-secretive in his office for the last couple of weeks, which meant either something really good or really bad.

   This week, the Regulations got changed again for 2038, but not too massively. The diffusers were going to be a lot smaller but just as effective- reducing weight and drag but possibly aimed at minimizing air effects. Also, rear wings had been lowered for the cars, and less aerodynamic stability parts would be allowed than before- reducing the “Dirty Air” effect and hopefully allowing for closer racing. The cars were meant to be thinner in the side-pods, but lower to the ground. In the power-plant aspect, not much was different- 100 extra units of electricity would be granted for the cars to use for EPB (Electric Power Boost) or EED (Emergency Electric Drive). The cars were meant to be lighter, but again, nothing was finalized yet. On the schedule front, a couple changes were being made and finalized.

   First, two new Pre-Season Testing venues were on the calendar- A trip to a new KSC layout and to Dell, Delras on a brand-new circuit. Both were optional, so, of course, Andy and Claire were making us go. “Optional” my left toe. Also, a contract for the Basilian Grand Prix went down in flames, and the K1 World Championship was en route to the brand-new Feguesean Grand Prix. Max loved the circuit, and went into a day of mourning when he heard the news. Oh, and also on the schedule front, the commercial deal fell through. However, Alexis had gotten something better. Formula K was looking for a guest driver commentator for the KSC pre-season test, and Alexis had ended up getting me the deal. With the new regulations, the cars were going to be either incredibly exciting or horribly boring. Either-or. (The cars were  going to be a lot less stable though, so I’d imagine it was the former option instead of the latter.)

   I looked out the window at the beautiful ocean, and exhaled. I wonder how long this water has been here. Longer than anyone has- My internal, “State-of-the-universe” train of thought was cut off by a tiny glint of sunlight bounced into my eye. I turned to the odd shape and saw a small fighter jet (a fraction of the size of ours) trailing off the right wing. I could see through the clear canopy and looked at the pilot, whose head rested underneath a glowing yellow ball of the reflecting sun. The pilot was looking up at our plane and smiling- giving us a quick wave. As I waved back, the pilot grinned and did a quick roll before speeding up to get on our wingtip. As he spun over a second time, I caught a look at the fairly lethal-looking missiles located on the wings.

   “If you’ll look out your windows, you’ll see two members of the 88th Air Wing escorting our aircraft to Nomlas.” I noticed a lightning decal behind the canopy, as well as a cluster of tiny dots underneath the pilots name (which I couldn’t read). The pilot seemed to be having a lot of fun as he bobbed and weaved around the wingtip- performing tricks for us. I turned to the aisle and saw both Claire and Andy watching the plane on their side earnestly. Probably trying to take some designs. Max, on the other hand, was very intently staring out of his window. I was about to get up and walk over to him, but as soon as I unbuckled, the pilot came over the intercom.

   “All pilots, prepare for landing.” The engines made it so I couldn’t yell without looking like a doofus, and as we lurched down I realized that I’d probably get killed if I didn’t sit down. The landing was uneventful, and I watched as the blue water changed to white sand to brilliant green grass. The engines roared as the ground changed to grey tarmac, and we set down with a lurch before coming to a fast stop on the runway. Everyone was forced forward against the seatbelts, but we finally stopped. The small jets flew ahead of us before landing just in front- parachutes billowing in the wind as they came to a stop.

   “Welcome to Nomlas, Aquaria, home to Round 6 of the K1 World Championship, as well as the OFL and WSL team: The Nomlas Dolphins. Current air temperature is a cool 74º, with a sea breeze coming in out of the Southeast at 5 miles per hour. Local time is 5:15pm. We’ll be arriving at the gate shortly.” The electric motors of the wheels whined as we drove out to the gate area, and as we pulled to a stop, the other planes- AS-1 Vultures according to the internet- pulled up beside us.

   “I wonder why we got an escort,” I thought out loud as we got our bags from the compartment above us.

   “I heard that the GPS transponders were knocked out in the storm,” Andy replied with a grunt as he got his bag down. “They probably escorted us.” He pulled and knocked into me- forcing me forward.

   “Geez, what’s in there?” I asked with a laugh. “A bowling ball?” Andy didn’t answer and we walked to the front. Max was still looking out his window, but as soon as the door opened he was out like a bullet. I walked down the platform and followed Max, who was waiting behind the front landing gear as the left pilot got out.

   “Hola,” Max muttered as the pilot got out. As the pilot took off the helmet, long, sandy brown hair tumbled down to her shoulders. Max sucked in a breath as the pilot turned, revealing a face that looked like it had spent a long time on the many beaches of Aquaria. She bunched her hair up into a bun and Max’s mouth dropped open. She didn’t look much older than Max and I- maybe a year or two at most. Max inhaled, seemed to give himself a mental pep-talk, and began walking to the plane with a confident look on his face. I walked up to the front landing gear to watch.

   “Hi there,” Max said happily as the pilot stepped down off the ladder. The pilot jumped a little bit before whirling around- a surprised look on her face. Then, she seemed to relax.

   “Ah, hello,” She said with a thick accent, seeming to try and catch her breath.

   “I just wanted to thank you for guiding us in for the landing and making sure we were safe… I’m Max, by the way. Max Kerman.” He extended a hand and the pilot smiled before shaking back.

   “Maria Carmen de Rosa Kerman. And gracias.” Max blinked and seemed to do a double-take- stepping back about a half step before shaking his head.

   “That’s… One heck of a name,” He sighed, making Maria laugh. Max seemed to melt a little bit for a split-second, but Maria didn’t seem to notice. I guess that’s one of those things you pick up after 15 years with someone.

   “I suppose,” Maria replied as she brushed a loose strand of hair out of her face. I have to give it to him; Max was trying super hard. I saw his ears go bright red.

   “How long have you been a pilot?” At the word “pilot,” Max’s voice cracked- squeaking and making Maria sheepishly smile and making Max go a nice fire truck-red.

   “Three years,” Maria said. I leaned up on the gear and Alexis walked up behind me. She was about to ask something, but I shushed her with a grin on my face.

   “Here we see the wild Max engaging in a cautious and subtle courting ritual,” I whispered in an accent- imitating a nature documentary. “Typically this creature isn’t cautious in its actions, but this new species and the sudden change in habitat appears to have startled the once- care-free creature.” Alexis snickered and we turned back to the conversation.

   “It’s so much fun,” Maria sighed with a smile. “Looking down on the world from 5 kilometers up… You can’t see borders, or nations. You just see endless land. And when you fly through the clouds, it’s just pure, unending white. Like you’re the only one in the sky.” She trailed off before looking at Max. “So what is it you do?”

   “Well, I’m a K1 driver. We race on the fastest, most technical, incredible racetracks in the world- blasting around the track at amazing speeds. Our cars go through months- almost years of testing and designing before we all go out and compete just inches from one another. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.” It was Max’s turn to fade away with a thoughtful smile.

   “It sounds great,” Maria said, thinking. “I’ve never really been able to watch a race- being a pilot tends to get in the way of that. I’ve got a pass for this weekend though- I might be able to watch the race.” Max’s eyes lit up.

   “I’ve actually got an extra garage pass with no-one’s name to them… Would you like to join?” Maria looked surprised.

   “Oh no, I can’t, really. I just couldn’t take the pass from-“ Max cut her off.

   “Please? If you don’t take it, the passes are useless.” Maria raised an eyebrow, thinking.

   “I’m the first one you’ve asked, correct? I don’t want to be the person who gets invited just because no one else wanted it.” Max nodded, and I rolled my eyes. Max had tried to ask every single one of Kim’s teammates, as well as a few of their friends. He was shot down by every single one. Maria thought for a couple more moments before answering. “Okay,” She nodded with a smile. “When does the race start?” Max smiled and seemed to bob on his feet.

   “Awesome! Practice is tomorrow and the next day, with qualifying that afternoon. Then it’s on to the race at the end of the weekend. I promise, you’re going to love it.”

   “I cannot wait,” Maria said, smiling warmly before remembering the fighter jet behind her. “Do you want to maybe eat out somewhere? I know a terrific place around here.”

   “Really? I’d love that!” Max seemed to beam as he replied. Maria smiled again, and I thought about how that would kill my face muscles if I smiled for that long.

   “I’ll take this to the hangar and meet you out front.” Max looked worried.

   “What if we lose each other?” Maria got a marker out of her pocket and patted around for a piece of paper. She finally seemed to give up and just grabbed Max’s arm before scribbling something on his wrist- making Max blush a little bit.

   “My number,” Maria explained as she finished writing. “Call me if you can’t find me, okay?” Max nodded with a dopey-looking grin.

   “Okay,” He replied a bit late as Maria walked up the ladder to the cockpit. “I’ll see you!” Maria smiled and waved before the canopy closed. The engine gently rose in volume as the plane started departing back towards the hangar. Max started walking over, and Alexis and I struck up a quick, “Look natural” pose that had us leaning on the nose gear. As soon as Max saw my (admittedly failed) attempt to cover up a smile, he pointed menacingly at me with a scowl.

   “Shut it,” He growled, making me laugh and extend my hands out in protest.

   “What?!” I asked in a defensive tone- still trying (in vain) not to smile. “I didn’t say anything! I was just standing here. Last I checked, I have the right to stand wherever I please!” Max fumed as we walked to the baggage claim.

   “Yeah, well you were going to,” He said angrily as he grabbed his bag from the rack. This got the attention of Andy, who walked over.

   “When did Max get a new girlfriend?” Andy chuckled as Max whirled around.

   “She’s not my-“ He was cut off by the laughter of the team, which made him turn a shade of red that would have made a tomato jealous. “She’s not,” He said in disgust as he waved his hand- sitting in a chair.

   “Writing her number on your wrist, making you go beet-red at the very mention of her, and going out to dinner with her,” Alexis listed off with a smirk. “Face it- you like her.” Max sat in his seat with a sour mood before Maria walked out about about five minutes later. She was wearing a T-shirt with some kind of foreign writing on it (I didn’t understand it), with some jeans. Max gulped and stood up; looking like he was about to pass out.

   “Are you ready,” Max asked with what looked to be a very nervous smile. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Ever since we’d been old enough to know what dating was, Max had been on the lookout for every pretty girl within a one-mile radius. During the early years of high school, that range was extended to around 3- giving him the nickname “Radar” (for his ability to find anyone). But right now, instead of the confident, devil-may-care Max, a shy and timid Max was on display. What the heck?

   “Si,” Maria replied with an almost relieved smile. “I must admit, for a second I thought you would forget me.” Max looked surprised.

   “Why would I do that?” Maria shrugged, looking doubtful. She was about to answer, but saw Alexis and I.

   “Oh, hola! Are you Max’s friends?” Max turned, and, almost faking surprise, looked at us as Maria came over.

   “Hi there,” Alexis said, shaking Maria’s hand. “I’m Alexis.” Maria nodded and I stood up- giving my own handshake.

   “Jebediah Kerman; lead driver for OTech and Max’s… Teammate. Friends is kind of a loose term I’d guess.” Alexis playfully hit my shoulder, and I looked straight over Maria’s head and right at Max. “And the current points leader.” Maria tilted her head, confused.

   “So there are two drivers in a team?” We went to her bright-yellow car before I answered.

   “Yes, two drivers. And currently, I happen to be leading.” Right then, Max appeared to be overcome by a coughing fit, with the last cough sounding surprisingly like, “Solari!” I felt the need to retaliate.

   “Owlia,” I coughed back as the car started. Max fired back.

   “Baskay!

   “Tekkia!

   “Cheater!

   “Didn’t cheat,” I wheezed. “Same car.

   Maria was about to interject- likely to offer us a cough-drop- but Alexis cut her off with a shake of her head.

   “It’s okay,” She said with a sigh. “Just being stupid. Always trying to one-up each other.” Maria put the drop back in her bag before pulling away from the stoplight.

   “Do they do this often?” Maria raised an eyebrow from the drivers seat, which (for whatever reason) was on the right side of the car.

   “Only every other day or so,” Alexis half-joked. “I’ve learned it’s better to ignore them and let them tire each other out instead of get in the middle of it. They usually stop when someone notices, 45 minutes, 5 series, or the first-thrown small food.” She sighed and tapped my shoulder. “Hungry?” I looked at her, and thought for a moment.

   “Yeah, sure,” I replied as Max was bent over into an actual coughing fit- giving me a slight break from the historical assault and sounding like he was coughing up a hairball. Or a lung. Or a combination of the two. Max let out one final cough of, “Tekkia ’36,” which made me glare daggers at him.

   “So Maria,” Alexis said, trying to distract her from the inevitable bloody murder that was about to occur in the back seat of her stylish car. “I can’t help but notice that you speak really good Owlian.” Alexis sounded like she was stepping on hot coals, but Maria just nodded.

   “Si. My mother was actually Owlian, and I went to University of Owlia-Angel City for my abroad studies during University. I guess I picked up a little bit when I was there. I’ve also served a couple of weeks of deployment in Liberty- beautiful town. I guess it’s just been easy to pick up after so long.” Max seemed to recover but didn’t dare say anything after my Glare of Doom (™). We finally turned into the parking lot.

   “What’s this,” I asked as the car came to a stop and we all got out.

   “The best quesadillas in the country,” Maria responded. “And fajitas. Basically anything jalapeños. Trust me, you will love it.” We walked in and I was instantly attacked by noise the place was filled with dinner customers, and I could see at least 80 people in this one room. “Ah, I see a spot,” Maria said, leading us to a booth. A waitress came over and Maria started up a conversation. I tried to follow along, but I just couldn’t keep up with the rapid-fire language that was Aquarian. At one point, I heard, “Max and Jebediah Kerman,” and “OTech,” and the waitress looked at us. She then asked something, and Maria turned to us. “What would you like to drink?” Maria asked, relaying the information. We all asked for water, and Maria repeated the response back to the waitress who nodded, scribbled something down on a notepad, and walked off. Max was looking at the menu and considering what to eat- pointing at something and asking Maria what it was. Maria looked at the menu. Then at Max. And then back to the menu- almost like she was watching an invisible tennis match.

  “Really?” Maria asked, looking cautious. “It’s a bit hot- even for me…” Max shrugged.

   “I can handle it,” Max replied confidently. Maria smirked in a, “Just you wait,” look as Max continued. “I love spicy food- eat it all the time back home.” I sighed and began eyeing a tasty-looking taco. As the waitress came back, we all ordered. When Maria said Max’s order, the waitress looked at Max- an eyebrow raised. Then, she leaned down and muttered something to Maria. Maria just shook her head- a confused yet interested look on her face. As the waitress departed, I could see her shaking her head.

   “So, Maria,” I started after sipping my water. “What’s Aquaria like?”

   “Oh, it is just beautiful,” She answered with a smile. “In the summer, when the birds come in, the trees are just filled with colors. And the beaches- they are all just so… perfect. It’s just amazing to lay down on the sand for hours and hours and just listen to the waves. You almost lose yourself in the beauty of it all.” She sighed wistfully. “So what is Owlia like? I have heard the west is amazing.”

   “Well,” Alexis said, smirking. “In the summer, the weather’s hot but kind of tolerable. In the winter, it’s impossibly cold. We typically get 2 or 3 inches of snow thanks to the North Lake. But the city life is just amazing. There’s so much to do everywhere, and everyone is just so amazingly nice. You should visit some time.”

   “I hope I can,” Maria agreed, nodding. “Normally when I get a break I hang out on the beach or watch KClips at my apartment. I must admit, I am kind of what you call a ‘Couch Potato.’” Max looked surprised. Maria saw him and laughed. “Yes, yes, I know. I’m just a massive Renegades fan though. If I am not careful, I end up watching the show all the way until the next day.” She chuckled. “I know that it sounds silly, but my friends always joke that if being a fighter pilot does not work out, I could become a professional TV watcher.” We all laughed and Max smiled.

   “I love that show,” He exclaimed, smiling. “What season are you on?” Maria thought for a moment before answering.

   “Season… three, I think,” She replied. “Anna almos-“ She was cut off as Max covered his ears.

   “Spoilers,” He yelled, making Maria smile.

   “Okay,” She smirked. “No spoilers; just for you.” The waitress finally came with our food and Max cautiously uncovered his ears.

   “Oh, finally,” I said- preparing to bite into my taco. “This looks so good.” I was about to bite in, but Maria gave me a stern look that just oozed,”Try it.”

   “First,” She said, grabbing Max’s hand. “We should give a prayer.” I was a bit confused, but went along with it and held Alexis’s hand. The prayer was in Aquarian, so I couldn’t understand it very well, but I got the feeling that goodness was being thrown our way instead of bad vibes. It sounded pretty, though.

   I bit into my taco and (I’m not ashamed to admit) melted a little bit inside. Alexis was seeming to enjoy her fish, and Max… Max coughed and I looked up mid-bite to see that his face was bright red. Maria looked over and he nodded- giving a pained smile that reminded me of the time he accidentally swallowed a bee in the 6th grade.

   “Tastes good,” He choked. I tried not to chuckle as I kept eating. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Maria smirking as she bit into her food. When I looked up a couple minutes later, Max’s face was even redder, and I could see a couple of beads of sweat on his forehead as he sipped down some water. He took one more bite, but his mouth couldn’t take any more.

   “HOT!” Max’s eyes bugged out as he bent over and spat a pepper back onto his plate and grabbing his water glass. He started chugging it down- ice cubes and all. Maria couldn’t help but laugh and patted Max’s back as he panted for air. I slowly finished chewing, and, in a very calm voice, attempted to hide the fact I was rolling on the ground inside.

   “Feeling okay?” Max didn’t have the energy to answer as he picked the rest of the apparent death peppers out of his food. Maria gladly took them as she gave him a sad smile.

   “It is okay,” she said in a soft tone as Alexis looked like she was trying really hard not to laugh- grinning down at her food. “It is one of the hottest foods on the order. Max looked like he was blushing, but I couldn’t really tell any difference from his already red face. We kept on eating a little while longer, before we were all done. Maria took the check before I or Max could get a grab at it, and when I tried to get it back, she shook her head.

   “I insist,” She protested. “You all have been so kind to me, it is the least I can do.” I looked at Alexis for help, and she shrugged. I sighed and put my wallet back in my pocket.

   “Fine,” I sighed, before exclaiming, “Dibs on the tip!” Max threw his napkin on the table. “Come on! That wasn’t even fair!” Maria raised an eyebrow, and I explained.

   “It’s kind of an honor thing between drivers,” I said. “Whoever pays is typically the guy everyone likes the most or who is considered the ‘Good Guy’ in a team. Max and I always go at each other for it.” Maria nodded and put some bills in the folder.

   “Fine,” She smiled, before muttering, “Good luck figuring out the conversion anyways, in a hushed tone. My mind went into overdrive, and I took a quick peek at the check to figure out what the heck I was doing. Finally, after figuring out a number that worked, we all got up and I slipped some extra bills in the folder. “Gracias,” Maria waved to the hostess, who said something back as we stepped out. The sky was already dark, and cars honked on the streets as they drove past.

   “Well that was fun,” Alexis said as we went out to the curb. We got out to the curb and a valet went out to get Maria’s car. (What a funny word; Valet. Kind of just rolls off the tongue.)

   “Yeah,” I agreed, smiling. “We got to eat some new food, introduce ourselves to a new culture, and watch Max go up like a volcano.” Max fixed me an angry death glare. “Overall, pretty good day.” Maria smiled and held Max’s hand- making Alexis smile and Max blush. I raised an eyebrow with a smirk, but Max didn’t respond.

   “It is getting a little bit late,” Maria said as the car pulled up. “Would you mind joining me at my apartment, Max? Maybe we could catch up on Renegades.” Max looked to be incapable of speech as the car came to a stop in front of us- either still being affected by the jalapeños or by Maria’s question.

   “Uh…” Max’s mind seemed to go blank. He looked to me and Alexis. I just shrugged, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Alexis give an almost imperceptible nod. He turned to Maria and shifted on his feet as he stepped up to the curb. “Yeah, sure,” he replied, watching the street. Despite the coastal setting, the air was crisp and cool. Alexis gave an almost silent squeal- similar to the noise you hear whenever someone says, “You like someone,” in high school. Max turned back to us as if he hadn’t just asked us for our opinion five seconds ago. “Is that okay with y’all?” He somehow looked both apologetic and incredibly gloating at the same time- a special talent. “The bags should already be at the hotel. I’ll be back… Maybe.” I swear I saw him wink to me.

   “Yeah sure, go ahead,” I said, waving as Maria stepped into the drivers seat (On the right side of the car). “Just remember; Claire wants to hold the team meeting a little earlier- we’re all supposed to be at the trailer at nine tomorrow morning, just a couple hours before FP1.” I gave Max a low high-five and pulled him in close. “I swear if you’re not there, Claire’s going to kill you.” Max shoved me away with a chuckle, and I stepped back to the curb as a yellow cab pulled to a stop right behind. Maria waved before pulling out from the curb- Max in the passenger seat.

   “I hope he’ll be okay,” Alexis said in a cautious tone as we got into the cab. I handed the cab driver the address to the hotel and we pulled away from the restaurant. I shrugged and pulled out my phone- checking the results of the WSL Stars game (A disappointing 2-1 loss against the Arrows).

   “He’ll be fine,” I said. “He’s probably going to be there 5 minutes, do something stupid, get hit, and then take a taxi back to the hotel.” Alexis sighed and shrugged. “I’m calling it now; he’ll be back before midnight; one if he can’t find a taxi.”

 

——

 

   I was watching some TV- Renegades- and did my best to try to understand it.

   The year is 2055. The Eastern States of Owlia have broken away from the United Territories of Rivera- the last remnants of the old Owlian Union. Now, the fires of war have never been as fierce, as-

   “Okay, so hang on,” I said to myself- pausing the show and talking aloud. I considered for a moment, before resuming.

   -the forces square off toe-to-toe in the apocalyptic River City.

   River City: 2039. 16 Years earlier…

   “That sky is just gorgeous, isn’t it, Cal?”

   “Amazing…”

   [Loud droning]

   “What the..?”

   “I’m getting locked on! Evasive maneuvers!”

   “Watch out, he’s on your tail!”

   “Yeah, I see him… Trying to shake free.”

   “These are Angel City planes! We’re getting fired on by our own troops!”

   “I’m hit!”

   [Lead plane explodes]

   “Control, this is Gregory Kerman- We’ve been fired on by our own aircraft! I repeat, we’ve been-“

   [Secondary plane explodes]

   I paused it again and rubbed my eyes. This makes no sense, I thought to myself. I sat still for a few more moments, before sighing and hitting play. I kept watching before a knock at the door interrupted me. I paused the show and got up- rubbing my eyes and yawning. I looked out the little view hole and saw Alexis standing at the door, looking anxious. I sighed and opened the door.

   “It’s 2am,” I said, sounding about as tired as I felt.

   “Is he back yet?” Alexis looked about as tired as me.

   “It’s 2am,” I replied, leaning on the door frame and scratching at the back of my head.

   “Doesn’t change the question,” Alexis replied, crossing her arms and giving a half-angry, half-exhausted frown.

   “Doesn’t change my answer.” Alexis threw her hands up as we went into the room.

   “Well can’t you call him?” She sounded like a worried parent as I closed the door.

   “I already have!” I flopped onto the bed- bouncing once before settling back where I had been. “Five times!” Alexis sighed. “If he doesn’t want to pick up, I can’t do a thing about it!” She shook her head.

   “Well, it’s late. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?” Alexis gave me a quick kiss, before I hugged her back. She got up and went to the door- turning and waving. “Goodnight,” She said before the door clicked shut.

   “Night,” I responded quietly with a smile of my own before turning the TV off and shutting off the light.

 

9:00am, The next day. Practice for Round 6 of 10: Aquaria. Circuito internacional de Acuario.

 

   The next morning, Claire and Andy walked into the briefing room. Claire looked at the table and tilted her head in confusion- seeing only me at the table. The room itself was really nice- white interior, clean looks, glass table- it looked incredibly modern. Claire set her stuff down on a desk.

   “Where’s Max,” She asked- making me look up from my phone and shrug.

   “Probably out with Maria,” I replied in a disinterested tone before going back to my phone.

   “Who’s Maria?” Andy set his stuff down and sat next to me.

   “Max’s new girlfriend,” He responded- making Maria’s eyes bulge out a little bit and her nostrils flare out. I looked at him and shook my head.

   “I’d say more of a crush,” I replied- prepared to offer my argument before Claire slammed her spiral on the table with a loud and sharp crack. We both turned and Claire closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and exhale anxiously.

   “Damnit, Max,” she mumbled quietly before getting out her laptop and getting the track briefing set up. Just then, Max burst into the briefing room- practically flying into his chair and almost rolling across the room.

   “Hey guys,” Max exclaimed happily- beaming. “What’d I miss?” His hair was all… everywhere, and I saw what looked like a fain outline of something red on his cheek. Claire’s face was absolutely furious, but I swear I could see something different in her eyes. Almost like hurt.

   “About time,” Andy muttered with a smirk- looking at his watch as Claire started. The screen changed to a satellite view of the track- zooming in over the beach before showing the track itself. Stats flashed up on the screen, and I let myself be distracted for a moment as the track layout formed.

   Nomlas, Aquaria

   Turns: 25

   Length: 3.72km (2.31mi)

   DRS Zones: 2 (T14-17, T25-1)

   Laps: 19

   “This track is unlike anything that’s ever been made,” Claire said as the screen changed again. The track formed up, and zoomed in on the start line, which showed a simulation. The sim started going along the straight.

   “The front straight is the longest and widest on the entire track, so a good run out of the final corner is crucial. About a quarter of the way down the straight, the straight starts to turn away to the right. Over there bridge, there’s a tiny bump, but it won’t affect you too much.

   “Now, entering Turn 1 is a real struggle. On braking, the track slides downhill on you just a tad, and you’ve got to go downhill, brake, and turn at the same time. Into Turn 2, you’ve got the track leveling out on the hairpin apex- brake early as you go uphill a tiny bit and carry the momentum all the way up the corner. Then it’s hard downhill run- braking late for Turn 3.

   “There’s grass on the exit but despite how it looks you can take a lot more speed than you’d think. Then, into the underpass, the light can mess with your eyes a bit, but it ends fast. Going through 4, keep the throttle planted- flying up to brake for Turn 5. Don’t slow down too hard, but snap back and sacrifice the exit to get the chicane right. It’s almost a carbon-copy of the Temple- mount the curbs and fly through. Attack the curbing to get a good run down the straight into the Turn 9 hairpin. You can take Turns 10 and 11 flat-out… We think. The car’s going to get really light on the direction change, but don’t let the car get the best of you. Worst-case, you get a tank slapper and get onto the runoff. You go up a tiny hill, and the next turn is 12- a real pain. The corner is kind of like a hairpin, but it’s got a kink right after. Don’t take the curbing in 13 but you can take a little bit in 12.

   “Fly into 14 at max speed, and run over the curbing to get max speed. DRS right on exit as you start heading uphill just a little bit- really high speeds in 15 and 16. Huge hill in the middle of 16- the cars are going to bottom out, but not enough to do real damage to the floor. Brake hard for 17 to make 18 and 19. The car can definitely take on the curbing at low speeds, so get right on top of them in the technical section.

   “Tight apex at 22 before the downhill Turn 23 and 24. On 24’s exit, you get DRS again on the second-longest straight. Walls right next to the track, but it’s wide enough to not be a problem. Then over the bridge, you’ve got to be brave on the Turn 25 braking zone. Get on the curbing around the stands, and then don’t lose the traction.” The sim passed the start/finish line, and went dark. “Sound good?” We nodded and Claire unplugged her laptop- sitting down next to me, across from Max. Andy stood up to start talking about the car setup and the car design for the race.

   “This week, we experimented around with a more open setup in terms of aerodynamics. We’ve done away with the I-wing because, if you read the report like I told you to last week-“ He shot us an annoyed glare before continuing. “K1 decided it was too extreme and told us to get rid of it. So, of course, we did. You shouldn’t feel too much loss of downforce, but don’t be surprised if the car catches you out just a bit.” Claire looked like she was trying to focus, but couldn’t handle it.

   “Excuse me,” She whispered as she picked up her laptop and papers. She quickly wiped her eye before opening the sliding glass door- closing it with such a force that the fogged glass cracked with a loud slam. Max jumped up and looked around, startled.

   “Sorry, I tuned out,” He said- looking at the door with a red face. “What happened?” I rolled my eyes and Andy jogged out to check on Claire- carefully closing the door to not throw glass everywhere. Max sighed and closed his eyes- resting in the back of the chair. About five minutes later, Andy popped his head in.

   “Hey guys, Claire’s not feeling too good. Practice starts in a couple hours, so go ahead and get something to eat while we wait.” He grabbed the laptop and took it with him as he walked away. Max and I sat for a few moments before I got up with a sigh.

   “You were late,” I said as we walked out of the hauler. “What happened, overslept?” Max shrugged as we got down the steps to the paddock- going a little red around the cheeks. We got past the other teams haulers as other mechanics took the cars out of trailers and down to the garage (Ours was carried in by truck yesterday).

   “Okay,” He muttered with a shrug as he showed the guard his pass. I rolled my eyes, and we stepped out of the gate and into an infield parking lot.

   “Come on, just ‘okay?’” Max shook his head, trying not to laugh likely. “Give me a hint at least,” I said, smiling as Alexis walked over to us- a bag and cup of coffee in her hand.

   “Hey,” she smiled- giving me a hug. “Quick briefing, huh?” I nodded.

   “You could say that,” I replied- flashing a glance at Max. Alexis handed me the bag and cup.

   “Doughnuts and coffee,” she said as I opened the bag. “The breakfast of champions.” I smirked and took a sip of quite possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life. “So how was last night?” I almost choked on my coffee as Max rolled his eyes.

   “Well, we went to the apartment, watched some TV, and I fell asleep on the couch. That’s it.” His eyes gave it away.

   “Uh huh,” Alexis nodded with a smirk as she crossed her arms. “Suuuuuuure.

   “Really,” Max protested as a canary-yellow sports car pulled up into the lot. “I was only late because the alarm went off late. I planned to get here on-time, I promise.” Alexis smirked before grabbing his shirt and turning him- looking at a spot around his cheek and grinning. “Hey!” Max tried to wriggle his way out, but I looked. There was a faint red outline that looked suspiciously like lipstick. I chuckled and Max broke away- whirling around. I backed off and laughed while taking a defensive stance in case he threw punches. Just then, someone got up behind Max and covered his eyes.

   “Hola, Max,” Maria said with a smile as Max turned around and gave her a kiss.

   “Hey babe,” He smirked as they parted. “You were right, the taxi’s faster.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulder as we walked out to a grassy hill next to the track. Maria noticed us and smiled.

   “Hola, guys. How was the night?” I shrugged.

   “Tried to watch Renegades, but didn’t really get it. First episodes weren’t that good in my op-“ Max whirled as Maria glared at me. “What?!”

   “Don’t you dare insult the best show in the history of the universe,” Max said, sounding like I had just offended his mother.

   “How could you ever say such things,” Maria asked- a look of hatred and infuriation on her face. I shook my head and took another sip.

   “How was y’alls night,” Alexis asked in an innocent-enough tone. I almost spit out my coffee as Max turned red and Maria’s cheeks went pink. She’s got to stop doing that, I thought to myself- choking down the coffee.

   “Good,” Maria replied- trying to play it off. We all sat down on a park bench and I looked out at the track. The officials hadn’t allowed anything out on track yet- no recon vehicles, no safety crews- no-one could even walk on the track yet. It bugged me to no end. I walked up to the fence and sighed at the perfectly smooth surface. I felt Max walk up behind me.

   “It looks so perfect,” I whispered, staring at the Turn 10 and 11 section. “So grippy and smooth… I wish we could get some laps in- just get a feel for it, you know?” Max nodded and seemed to be studying the track for a moment or two.

   “How fast do you think we can go,” Max asked in an equally quiet whisper. “One-forty? Two-flat? I’d say under two-ten for sure.” I nodded.

   “Forty or fifty. All depends on that technical section, I’d say. Turn one’s going to be awful- downhill, off-camber…” We talked for a few more moments, and watched while planes and birds flew overhead. I felt a buzz in my pocket, and pulled out my phone to check the message. “Hey, Andy just texted- we’ve got to head to the garage and suit up.” Those two hours had gone by fast, and we rushed back to the garage. As Max and I slipped on the firesuit, Maria pulled up a chair in the garage. The garage was set up in a standard way, except for a large blue tarp covering where the cars would normally be. The garage was empty (Except for Maria and Alexis), and I got on my hands and knees to get a peek under the tarp to see my car.

   “Oooh gosh,” I sighed- getting up and putting the tarp back. “That’s quite possibly the best livery we’ve ever had,” I said- sitting at the telemetry desk. Max, with a raised eyebrow, went over to his car and tried to look under. However, just as he pulled up the sheet just a little bit, Claire burst in and shouted, “Hey!” Max turned.

   “What?!” He extended his hands out like he hadn’t done anything wrong- resting on his knees as Claire snapped the tarp back down into place.

   “Quit,” She snapped- throwing as much hatred as she could into the single word. Max looked like he was about to protest, but the death glare made him kind of shrink back. Max sighed and got up as Claire went over to her laptop.

   “Claire, I’m sorry for being late this morning,” he said, as Claire turned. “It was extremely rude, inconsiderate, and unprofessional. I apologize.” Claire looked surprised, and Max coughed a little bit before going on. “Also, I’m sorry if I hurt you in any way. It wasn’t my intention at all. I promise that from now, I’ll keep my personal life out of my driving.” He extended a hand. “Deal?”

   “Uh… sure,” she replied, shaking Max’s hand. “I apologize for storming out of the briefing. It was childish, stupid, and idiotic. I hope that this doesn’t affect our relationship.” She turned and saw Maria, before walking over. Max looked like he was bracing for an explosion as Claire went over. “Hi there,” she said as Maria stood up. “I’m Claire- Max’s engineer. You must be Maria, I’ve heard so much already.”

   “Ah, so you’re Claire! Max said you are the best engineer on the grid, yes?” Claire went a little red at the ears and smiled sheepishly.

   “Really?” Maria nodded, and I saw Claire puff her chest out a little with pride. “So are you planning to stay the whole weekend? It’s probably the best seat in the house if I’m honest with you.” Maria smiled and nodded.

   “I hope so,” She said- watching as the rest of the team started to file in. “Max promised that it would be a great race.” Andy came in and closed up the garage door- whistling sharply for attention.

   “Alright, listen up!” The call made everyone look up from their job. “Practice starts in 15 minutes, so let’s get set. Go ahead and uncover the cars and let’s get started.” The team got all set up around the car, and Max and I got in front of the cars. In unison, Andy and Claire pulled the dark blue tarp off the cars.

   I was stunned as I saw the beautiful livery for the first time in full. The cars body was a wonderful midnight blue, which glowed in the spotlights above us. On the shark fin, a pearly white paint gleamed- light reflecting off the bright, almost Crome finish. My number was the same midnight blue as the rest of the car, which stood out boldly and sharp against the fin.

   “It’s beautiful,” Max whispered as he rubbed his number 33 softly.

   “Spent a full week working on it,” Andy said, smiling admiringly at the cars. “We were thinking about a throwback livery, but with 500 coming up next season, we decided to leave it for Basil onward. You’ll take the classic from Basil through to next season to OTech’s 50th season in K1. I’m thinking maybe running the full classic in practice only, but that’s for Matty to decide.” Max turned, and Andy sighed- holding up a photo and handing it to Max. He looked for a few moments- in absolute awe at the picture in front of him.

   “Holy crud,” Max sighed, running his fingers over the paper. I went over to take my own look. The car was a light sky blue, with white accents that rendered it near-invisible on the white background. I noticed that the rear of the car and the front wing was marked out with scribbles and notes as Andy dealt with the rule change proposals. Near the edge of the shark fin (which was basically just a dashed line with various design proposals), there was a yellow number 50- with Golden SL/FR flaps on the barge-boards.

   “Not too shabby,” I said, nodding at the picture. I was about to ask what our design was going to be, but my watch went off. 5 minutes until practice. The team got the tires onto the car, and everything was set. “Well, that was fun and all,” I sighed. “But it’s go-time.” I put on the gloves and got up into the car- laying down in the cockpit and getting set up. “I’d really like to be the first one out,” I told Andy over the radio as the timer ticked down. “Just saying.” The doors opened up and I got set down while Andy waited out at the entrance to give me the go command.

   Finally, I got out, and went down the pit lane to the end of the line. The lights were pure red, and I stopped where I was- waiting for the timer to tick down. The engine hummed, and my radio crackled to life with a chuckle. “Look behind you,” Max laughed from behind me. I checked my mirror and couldn’t help but laugh as I saw the train of cars behind us. Everyone wanted to get out on the new track, as seen by all 20 cars out in the pit lane waiting for the session to start. I chuckled as the lights went green and I peeled out of the pit lane. This race was going to be a fun one.

Edited by DarkOwl57

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Yay! I’ve been waiting for this one, and it delivered! Sorry it took me so long to comment, I’m not so active on the forum so didn’t see this until I got the notification email from the ping. I really liked the new depth given to the characters, and the way you portrayed Aquaria, like the different driver seat, and the throwback to my ancient fighter. :D

The effort put into this story is incredible, and I hope it continues much longer!

Edited by MiffedStarfish

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1 hour ago, MiffedStarfish said:

Yay! I’ve been waiting for this one, and it delivered! Sorry it took me so long to comment, I’m not so active on the forum so didn’t see I got the notification email from the ping. I really liked the new depth given to the characters, and the way you portrayed Aquaria, like the different driver seat, and the throwback to my ancient fighter. :D

The effort put into this story is incredible, and I hope it continues much longer!

Thank you very much! I took a lot of inspiration from both your inputs as well as the history that I know for Aquaria. And I just HAD to add the AS-1 to the story- it's too cool to leave out.  Also, the current in-game year is 2037, which would be about the in-canon time that the fighters would be used (If Aquaria existed at that time, which it didn't because no-one existed). Long way of saying, "I just had to add it." I mean I've had like four months to write up this chapter- this was going to be amazing. 

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I'm sorry for the kind of slow-down in chapter releases as of late. I've just not had the free time I typically do, and it's reflecting in my release times a bit. I hope y'all are still into it though- I know I am. Here's Chapter 31- the actual race part of the Aquarian GP. Hope everyone enjoys!

 

Spoiler

Before we start (Or after we finish if you've already read), I'd just like to say thank you to @MiffedStarfish. Not only thank you for letting me use your incredible nation in my story, but also for helping me in my work. I can't tell you how many times I've asked Miffed questions about the little details that have helped make Aquaria that little bit extra special. I can't wait for the next 20+ seasons of racing here.

(Wait, I just committed myself to 20+ seasons... OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE)

 

 

Chapter 31: The Aquarian Grand Prix

 

12:30 pm, 3 days later. Round 6 of 10: Aquaria. Circuito internacional de Acuario; Nomlas, Aquaria.

 

“2037 has been a year of nothing but excitement, as we get set for the Aquarian Grand Prix. After victory in Baskay, Max Kerman and OTech are looking to start where they left off- on top. However, after a blistering qualifying lap yesterday, fellow OTech driver Jebediah is looking to end those chances. As the stars of K1- and the world- prepare for the start of this race, so do we. This incredible 3.7-kilometer circuit has seen the lap-times go from fast to even faster, and now it’s time for the start. So, as the teams get ready for the start, we ask you to sit back, relax, and enjoy! After a month of waiting, it’s time for the start of the Aquarian Grand Prix.

 

 

   I stepped onto the tarmac and put on my sunglasses in the bright sunlight. There was barely a cloud in the sky, and I looked around at the teams all getting set up with various reporters around the place. I walked to the car and talked with Andy for a few moments before the national anthem started playing. As it finished with a little bounce, fighter jets blasted overhead- shrieking through the sky with blue, yellow, and white smoke. The crowd roared with approval, and the cameras clicked and rustled as we got prepared for the start of the race. I could feel the anticipation in the air- everyone waiting to see the cars out on track again after the impossibly long summer break. Max and Claire were talking about something over in their second-place grid slot, and I walked up to Andy.

   “Anything I should know about,” I asked, sipping water. Andy removed his headphones and looked at the car briefly, making sure everything was okay.

   “Nothing really. One-stop, same as before… As usual, just get a good start and we’ll work from there.” I nodded, and smiled before stepping up to the sidepod and grabbing my helmet. Just before I put it on, I heard Alexis shout, “Good luck,” making me smile and wave back before stepping up into the car. The car was quiet as the team worked on last-minute checks- monitoring telemetry and tire pressures before I got buckled in. Finally, the engine roared to life- rumbling and yelping as I blipped on the gas pedal.

   “Everything’s good up in here,” I called out to Andy as the team lowered the car down to the ground- holding the blankets on the tires before I had to get out. Finally, we were released onto the formation lap, and I leaped out of my spot. The rears gripped into the track, and I got a perfect launch on the run down to Turn 1. The crowd roared as we drove past, and I tried to keep my focus. I weaved down the straight to get some heat up, and went up through the gears to save the engine wear.

   I went down to Turn 1 and darted to the inside- laying down a rubber stripe on the track right next to the grass. I opened up the visor just a bit and got hit by a wall of cold air. I started going through a mental pre-race warmup throughout the lap- waving my hands inside the cockpit and weaving around. After my warmup, the car dropped through 23 before leveling out in 24. I watched the track ahead of me and dove into the final turn at max speed- testing the limit of the tires. I went into Launch mode and waited in my grid spot. The rest of the field pulled in behind me. Finally, it was time to go.

   One. Breathe. You got this.

   Two. I pushed in the clutch- my heart racing.

   Three. The revs started to build- growing louder and louder as-…

   Four. Exhale. The car was yelling as the rev lights blinked on my wheel.

   Five.

   The lights went out, and I blasted out of the grid slot. There was a tiny puff of smoke as the wheels spun just a bit, but I kept the car under control as I got away fairly clean. Max was getting a good launch, and I cut down to cover the inside down into Turn 1. He tried to look around the outside, but slotted in before we started going through the fade. I went into Turn 1 at maximum speed, and felt the car bounce over the track before 2. I heard a shout from the crowd as we passed, but I ignored them- flying over the curb at Turn 2. The car felt light as I went over the crest, but stayed planted to the ground on corner exit and on the run down the hill. Max was right in line with me, and we both stayed right with each other through Turn 3.

   I flew into the tunnel and through Turn 4- wiggling the car a bit as the rear lost grip on the tarmac. The car gripped amazingly into Turn 5, and I went just a little wide over the white line before cutting down. We went through the chicane, and Max was still right on top of me down the straight to Turn 9. Max darted to the inside, and I dove down to block off the attack. He feinted left before going back to the right- getting up my inside. I squeezed him all the way down right next to the grass, and the crowd roared. I looked in my mirror and saw a Monster fast approaching on my outside, and I went up the track to give Max space as we broke for the hairpin. The Monster behind us tried to look up my inside, but was too far back as we pulled around the apex.

   Max was through up the inside, but I held behind him through the quick Turns 10 and 11. The tires were on the absolute limit of grip in the mid-corner, and we both seemed to scream through the turn. Max got a stellar run over the Turn 12 apex, which sent him flying away from me. I got up just a little bit out of Turn 14, and used the slipstream to get right up close to him. He went over the grass just a little bit in Turn 15, and I followed- spitting up a couple blades with a puff of dust. The cars bottomed out at the bottom of the hill, but I kept the car together as we crested over the top of the hill. The car got light before I hit the brakes- the tires regaining the grip as I slowed right behind Max. We got down to a near-crawl as we drove over the tight double-apexes of Turns 17 and 18. The crowd roared as we went through the stadium that surrounded us on both sides. The right rear slid over the Turn 21 hairpin’s curb, and I saw Max struggle to put down the power. I tried to catch up, but I had to spend the time re-connecting the car- leaving us about level where we were. We went down a small hill before braking again for Turn 22- a tight 90º right-hander. We flew down the Turn 23 hill and Max’s car sparked on the ground as we went down the straight. Micheal was still hovering at around a second back- looking anxious as we fought. I keyed the radio.

   “Just to let you know, Micheal’s getting a little close for comfort.” Max was a little slow to respond, and we pulled out of Turn 25 before I got a reply. The car yelled as I put the power down and came out of the apex.

   “Copy,” He replied as he started getting away from me a little bit down the straight. I held in the slipstream down the long straight- keeping within the little window and closing in. I darted to the inside of Max and he came down to block- making me go up the track to attempt a move around the outside. I got right next to him into Turn 1, and out broke him into 2. I swooped around the outside and ran clean over the curbing- keeping the car under control without a lockup. The crowd roared as we passed, but Micheal was still right in our mirrors. We blasted down the hill at maximum speed down into Turn 3- the car throwing sparks into the air as it bottomed out. Max looked up my inside, but I dove onto the curb. The car bounced a little bit as I sliced him off, and we flew out of the turn. We went under the tunnel and Micheal tried a run up the inside of Max- getting his nose in through Turn 4.

   Max gave space on the exit, but Micheal locked up into 5- running into the side of Max with a puff of smoke. A chunk of debris blasted up into the air with a spark as Micheal’s car hit the left-rear and Max flew wide with a hop, while the Monster spun off the track backward in a cloud of smoke. Max went way off track but just got back before the chicane. His line was heavily compromised entering the corner, and I took advantage. The left sidepod had a nasty mark on it, with a huge scrape along the back edge. The tire markings were faded on the left-rear, and the entire left-rear looked pretty scuffed up.

   “Max has some damage on the left-rear,” I said into the radio as I got onto the straight. “SL/FR flap might have some damage- something flew up when they hit. Just thought you’d like to know.” The radio was silent as I blasted down into Turn 9- turning into the apex just right. The car felt like it was on rails, and I could throw it into the corners like the car was glued to the ground. The rears stayed planted in Turns 10 and 11, despite me not slowing down. The tires were right in their sweet spot, and I could put all my confidence into the car.

   Max was still behind me, and wasn’t appearing to suffer from any kind of grip problems. In fact, he appeared to be going faster on the straights. I came out of Turn 17 and flew into the Stadium. The car flew over the curbing and Max was still with me- looming behind like a storm cloud. He was still behind down into Turn 25- looming, but not a threat… yet.

   “DRS active this lap,” Andy said as I flew past the start line. The speed climbed- 150. 160. 170. 180. 190. We flew into Turn 1 and flowed straight into 2- Max staying right behind me on exit. We stayed that way for the next 7 laps- Max right behind me until Lap 9, when I pulled in for my pit stop. I broke hard for the pit entry, and just managed to slow it down for the speed limiter. I drove past the rows of pit boxes, and went around the pit hairpin before heading to the OTech box. The team was perfectly on cue, and I was lifted up the millisecond I stopped. 4 tires on, 4 off- Fuel in. We waited for the 10-second timer to count down, and I blasted out of the stall in a trail of smoke. Louie blazed past on the track, and I got out of the pit lane- accelerating up to speed.

   “Great stop, guys,” I said before braking for Turn 1- getting behind the black Monster and applying the pressure into 2. The cold tires made me skitter a bit into the corner, but I was able to keep in through the apex and get right on top of the car- scooting past up the inside of Turn 3. I flew into every corner and braking zone- trying to make sure Max didn’t complete the over-cut to perfection. As I came through Turn 22, Max had just pulled into the pit lane and I pushed as hard as I could. The aero shoved the car down into the ground and I pushed like crazy- sparks flying off the rear in a beautiful trail. The car turned into the final corner with amazing ease while the crowd roared as I passed. Max had just gotten out of the pit lane, and I got right along-side him down the straight. As soon as the white line ended, Max started pushing me up the track- forcing me farther up the line as we neared Turn 1. I hit the brakes hard and switched over to the inside- sticking my nose in and forcing Max a little bit wide on the apex of the corner. I went for the gap and stormed up the inside into Turn 2- keeping ahead by a slim margin. I went down the hill to Turn 3, and Andy’s voice came over the radio.

   “Jeb, be careful,” He warned as I went over the apex. “We don’t want contact here- stay calm.” I almost went wide over the exit curbing and popped over the grass- sending a tiny puff of brown dust into the air as Max closed.

   “Don’t talk,” I said before heading under the bridges. “I almost wrecked in Turn 3 right there- no talking in the corners.” There was silence from the other end and I kept on-track through Turn 4 with Max hanging with me. He gained a ton through Turn 5, and I was put under a ton of pressure in the chicane. With the slipstream down the straight, Max gained a ton. I went up into Rich mixture to defend, but there was no chance as he closed. I darted inside to defend and he followed me down almost to the grass before I swept up to get a run into the corner. I thought he was going to follow me, but Max stayed right on the track’s border and shot up my inside. The outside car wavered with the intense braking and he flew up the track- almost hitting me as I avoided. I got back up the inside through 9, but he was along my left- the inside for Turn 10. I was grinning beneath my helmet as we dueled- Left and right practically glued together through the flat-out turns. Max got past in the tight Turn 12. I tried to catch up through the high-speed Turn 14 and down the back straight- DRS helping me get a run. I flew through 15 and 16 practically on the tail of Max as we blasted under the trees and past the fans with dirt getting thrown up from us being so close to the edge of the track.

   We went up the hill and I tried to get a hole into Turn 17, but the car felt too light and I didn’t want to risk a spin. Max and I drove over a couple skid marks from past incidents (Practice likely) and went through the tight turns of the Stadium Section. I was still on top of him throughout the collection of corners, and rumbled over the curbing out of Turn 21. I kept up the pressure through 22, and the cars sparked as we dropped on the ground out of 24. I opened up DRS and darted to the inside down the straight. The car flew past Max on the inside of the track, and I managed to get it slowed down in time for the apex of Turn 25.

   Max tried to cut back to the inside, but I was there on the apex- defending the line to perfection. He had DRS down the front-straight again, though, and I was helpless as he flew past around the outside down the hill to Turn 1. The crowd was loving the fight, and yelled as we passed. I slotted into line with Max through the double-apex, and we raced through the turn. I could feel the energy as the laps ticked down.

   I tried an attack throughout the lap- the chicane, the Stadium- everywhere. I put the pressure on Max into every braking zone and every apex on the track; trying to force a mistake. On Lap 15- 4 to go- we encountered traffic in the worst possible spot- the Stadium.

    “Lap cars ahead,” Andy called out to me in Turn 14 as I opened up DRS. The engine yelled as I gained the speed up the hill- sparking off the dip at over 160 miles per hour on the rubber tire tracks. I was about to cut to the inside, but saw a bright red car in the way. I had to dart back to behind Max before I hit, and we both drive around the outside in Turn 17 and 18.

   “That was close,” I said as we went through 20 and 21. “That hill’s just blind heading up; I almost ran right into the back of that car. Blue flags or something.” Max was stuck behind a LakeFront through the tight hairpins, and I managed to close in to right on his diffuser before the slow car moved out of the way. Max waved his arm out at the orange and white car- expressing his anger as we got past.

   This little slow-down allowed me to resume the attack on Max throughout the next couple of laps. I was able to put the pressure on Max throughout the laps, and with just 2 to go, I was right there. I got in the slipstream down into Turn 1, and tried to dart outside. Max saw the move just as I made it, and closed the door into the braking zone. I shook my head and bared down. The cars dropped down the hill before lifting up, and I could feel the forces on my body as we went up and down. Max got a little bit of wheelspin on the exit, and I was right on top of him down the straight. I almost hit the diffuser, but we avoided contact.

   I made a little hole up the inside into Turn 3, but Max didn’t leave enough room for me to get there. Instead, we both missed the apex and backed each other up before I faked a move right. Max took the bait and blocked, before I swung around to the left. Max wasn’t able to get there in time, and we went side-by-side through Turns 4 and 5. The crowd was loving it, and Max got by in Turn 6 at the chicane. I was still there in Turn 7, and we ended up about equal out of 8- going down the straight at max speed. Max had DRS but I had the better run out of the turn, and we were level down the entirety of the straight. I tried to get the braking down into Turn 9, but accidentally out-broke myself and ran a bit wide- allowing Max to get a window up the inside. I defended in Turn 10, but he swept up the inside through the high-speed Turn 11. I let him go and didn’t risk a crash into Turn 12, but I was right back on top of him down the backstraight- aided by DRS and slipstream.

   I cut inside but I did it too late as Max went into Turn 15 and 16, and I had to wait up the hill. We didn’t dare risk anything too crazy as we went into Turns 17 or 18, and the circuit was too tight for a move in 19, 20, or 21. The crowd roared as we passed by them, and I could feel the energy with each passing second. I darted inside down the run to Turn 22 and got by clean around the inside, but Max blasted past on the straight with the help of some DRS. I tried an attack into Turn 25 but locked up just a bit- keeping me behind before the apex. We crossed the finish line to start the final lap.

   “Andy, don’t talk,” I asked as politely as I could as we blazed down the straight. I had DRS and slipstream down the straight, and Max started chasing me up the track to the left. By the braking zone, we had apparently decided the racing line didn’t exist as we were practically on the grass. I slammed the brakes early, and Max flew past me on the inside with a massive lockup that obscured the racing line. The apex was covered in smoke, and I had to trust myself to turn in at the right moment. I flew through the massive cloud and ran over the curbing- whips of smoke trailing off the wings and wheels in a beautiful loop off the rear end of the car. I flew out of the corner and went into Turn 2- leaving Max high and dry on the outside into the tight hairpin-like corner. I simply held my line around the corner, and left Max to run himself wide on corner exit and into the runoff before turning back down behind me.

   Max fought hard behind me, but I made the rear as wide as possible through Turns 4 and 5- stopping any kind of attack in the sweeping corners. Max flew wide on the exit of 5 and used the momentum to get up my inside into 6. He locked up the right-front (again), and we both missed the apex. I turned in a little too early and we collided. A tiny puff of smoke popped up into the air as the tires hit and a bang shook the entire car. The Shark Fin shook from the contact and we both tried to get each other through 7- neither wanting to give in. The crowd roared while we passed them down the 8-9 straight while we dueled for the lead. Max had DRS but had a horrible run out of 8, and only just managed to keep the hole open for Turn 9. I swung around the outside of the corner and managed to get a wheel past before Turn 10, and swooped past Max in the high-speed turn. He tried to lunge up the inside through 11, but I was far enough ahead that the challenge wasn’t effective.

   I went into Turn 12 with Max right behind, and lost a little bit of time off of some nasty wheelspin off the curbing. Max caught up and I felt a bump from behind before the car lifted up a little bit. The engine yelped like a dog and I had to wheel the car around- managing the torque to keep it from spinning around. In my mirror, I saw Max’s nose had a little bit of damage on the frontal intake without any real damage to the front wing assembly.

   We went through Turn 14 and Max tried a move with DRS, but couldn’t manage a look into Turns 15, 16, or 17. My heart was racing as we flew into the Stadium for the final time. The crowd screamed and yelled while Max looked everywhere- going as far as diving up the inside of Turn 20. We made more contact and the car jumped up into the air with a loud smash. I looked and saw a piece of aerodynamic sidepod fall down to the ground, while Max had a nasty black scuff on his car and a chunk of bargeboard missing from the right front.

   “I think I have left-side damage,” I said as we flew down the hill out of Turn 24. “I think the SL Flap is gone, but I’m feeling okay at the moment.” Max was far behind but was hell-bent on making an overtake- flying through the slipstream. I darted inside and he cut right, trying to sweep around the outside. I held the defensive all the way through the hairpin turn, and Max was stuck behind me on exit. I sighed as he fell back.

   100 meters. Almost in slow-motion, the crowd began to rise and cheer loud enough that I could hear them through the helmet.

   75. The team got up on the wall and started pumping their fists in celebration.

   50. The checkered flag started waving as Max coasted to the line- not mounting a challenge.

   25. I started weaving in celebration- sticking my fist into the air and getting right next to the wall with the team.

   0. Fireworks blasted into the air and the crowd roared- becoming a sea of jumping fans. I pumped my fist a few times and flipped up the visor- letting the cool air hit my face.

   “WOOOOOOHOOO! YES, GUYS! Oooh gosh, that was one heck of a final lap. Amazing strategy all day long- thanks for the car y’all gave me this week.” Andy chuckled over the radio as loud claps sounded from behind him.

   “Great drive there, Jeb; stellar work. You kinda had us all going through that final lap. Next time let’s try to avoid the contact?” I couldn’t help but laugh while I waved to the fans.

   “I’ll see what I can do,” I chuckled. “That was one heck of a race.” The crowd was a sea of every color imaginable, and as we pulled into the Stadium for the Podium, I felt the energy just flowing off the stands. The rest of the cars drove around the track, but we pulled off into the massive runoff space and stopped. I got myself unbuckled and stood up to a roar from the crowd. I got up onto the nose and leaped off the front with another cheer- air horns joining in the mix as the crowd celebrated with me. Max got up and dropped off of his car before running at me. He practically body-slammed me and I started trying to get free before he broke off- laughing under the helmet.

   “What the heck, man,” He grinned as we walked to the cooldown room- waving to the crowd on our way. I laughed while we went up the steps to the room- Micheal following us up.

   “What’re you talking about,” I asked back. “You’re the one who hit me!” Max waved his hand and got a water bottle before sitting down on the couch.

   “I wouldn’t have hit you if you hadn’t gone so slow! You were blocking me like crazy the whole last lap!” We joked around for a little before Micheal walked in- a scowl on his face.

   “Damn,” He muttered before leaning up on a wall and getting his hat. “What was that all about?” Max looked up at him and shrugged.

   “Dunno,” he sighed before drinking some more water. “You tell me.”

   “I had the line and you just turned in on me like I wasn’t even there!” Micheal’s voice rose a little bit in either anger, annoyance, or a mix of both.

   “No no no, buddy, I gave you room! You went for the hole and ran right into the side of me! I don’t see why you’re mad at me for your mistake.” Max made a little recreation with his hands as he spoke- his left hand slamming the side of his right and throwing both up into the air.

   “My car’s not on rails, Max, you’ve got to give more room! If it didn’t happen on the apex, you would have squeezed me on corner exit and the same thing would have happened. I tried to avoid you but there’s only so much grip in the world.” I shook my head as the crowd outside cheered as loud as ever. Finally, it was time for the podium.

   Max and Micheal were still bickering as the announcer’s voice boomed over the speakers. “Hola a todos, ¡y bienvenidos al podio para el Gran Premio de Aquarian de 2037! Desde Monster Race Team y el tercer lugar en el podio, ¡bienvenido, Michael Kerman!” The crowd cheered as Micheal walked out. “En segundo lugar, para OTech Race Team, Max Kerman!” Max winked at me before jogging out to the podium to cheers and whistles from the crowd. “iY, con el primer lugar en el Gran Premio de Acuario de 2038, ¡Jebediah Kerman!” I jogged out to the podium and the crowd roared- the noise blasting through me as I bounced up onto the podium. I saw clouds of blue smoke as the fans waved ginormous flags- bearing everything from the Aquarian national flag to the OTech logo. The massive crowd hushed only for a second, when it was time for the national anthem. However, as soon as the anthem ended, they were cheering again as we sprayed the champagne.

   “Aquí para dar el podio a las entrevistas de hoy; ¡El ex piloto de K1 y 2 veces campeón del mundo Juan Kerman!” There was an even louder cheer as Juan walked up to us with a smile as the champagne spray finally eased up. He picked up a mic and turned to the crowd.

   “Hola, Aquaria! ¿Cómo están todos hoy?” The crowd cheered and whistled as Juan addressed them. “Qué carrera acabamos de ver, qué carrera. ¿Qué pensaron todos ustedes de eso?” Now, the crowd roared as the air horns came back out. After recovering from the massive amount of noise, he turned to me. “So, Jebediah, first off, amazing race! How do you feel capturing your fourth race win of the season?”

   “Well, it was really tough,” I replied truthfully. “Max put up one heck of a fight all race long, but I hope y’all enjoyed it as much as we did.” Juan turned to the crowd.

   “¿Disfrutaron del espectáculo?” The crowd roared, and I continued after a brief pause.

   “This track, it’s just so much fun to drive on. It really makes you work for every last second of time. Honestly, this was probably the most physical and tiring final lap I think I’ve ever had in my entire career.”

   “And what was your favorite part about the race here today?”

   “Definitely the fans,” I chuckled as the crowd cheered. “They’re just so passionate, loud, and loyal, I couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s just so cool to see this massive sea of color entering Turn 1 at 200 miles an hour.” I turned to the fans to deliver a little message to the fans. “Muchas gracias a todos los fans aquí hoy. Es genial tenerlos a todos aquí y hacer un espectáculo para todos ustedes. Tuvimos una carrera increíble todo el día, y me encanta cómo nos apoyas.” The crowd roared insanely loud this time, and I laughed. Before each race weekend, we’re given little pre-made messages like that one to say to the fans- this one was a little bit more challenging since it wasn’t Standard. I think I did pretty good though.

   “And what about your next race- the Temple?” I grinned.

   “I can’t wait.”

8:00 pm. Aeropuerto Internacional Nomlas, Aquaria.

 

   The terminal was filled with chatter as we walked down to our gate- a couple eager fans trailing Max and I as we went to maybe get an autograph or a photo. The occasional PSA message disrupted me from my music.

   “Por favor, avise a la seguridad de cualquier paquete desconocido o sospechoso. Gracias.

   “Es ilegal fumar dentro o alrededor de la terminal en cualquier momento.

   “Todas las mascotas deben ser reportadas a los oficiales de vuelo antes de la salida. Gracias por tu cooperación.

   I signed another autograph and looked for our gate- A10. I finally saw it and we sat down with about two or 3 minutes left before boarding. Honestly, I was surprised that we had gotten here on time. The metal trophies typically made transport a massive fit, but it was apparently okay this time.

   “I’m going to miss you,” Max muttered to Maria as I took a selfie with a fan.

   “We will be able to call each other,” Maria said back as the rest of the team got seated around us. “It is not that far of a distance- maybe we can visit.” Max nodded.

   “All OTech Race Team members, the flight deck is now open for boarding. Please make your way to the jet bridge.” As we stood up, the fans gathered on the sides of the path- snapping pictures and handing us notepads to sign before we left. Except for Max, who was still talking to Maria.

   “Max!” I turned as we entered. “Max, get over here!” He ignored me. I rolled my eyes and walked over to him. “Buddy, it’s time to go. Come on!” They kept on talking. Finally, I had enough and grabbed the back of his jacket and basically lifted him up out of the seat. “It’s been really nice to meet you,” I nodded to Maria as Max struggled.

   “Hey!” I ignored his protests and waved to Maria. As we walked down the bridge, I let him go- a crucial mistake. He bolted in the opposite direction, and he almost got away before my fingertips grasped at the back of his jacket- throwing me forward and almost knocking us both to the ground. Following the little incident, I had to lead Max down the bridge like a prisoner. Once we got inside the plane, I was finally able to let Max go.

   “Get your head in the game, man,” I muttered to him as we sat down. “If you don’t, I swear; it’ll cost both of us in the end.”

 

5:25 pm, 1 Week later. K1 Race Hub Studios; Bradley, Owlia.

 

   I sat in the studio- waiting for the show to get away from the commercial break. Max and I were both sitting at the chairs in the studio, waiting for the interviews to get back going. Finally, I heard the music kick back off.

   “And welcome back to K1 Race Hub- joining me here today are OTech drivers Jebediah Kerman and Max Kerman getting ready for the start of the Temple Grand Prix. Thank you both for being here today.” I nodded and Max smiled before the anchor continued on. “So our first question is for Jeb- Congratulations on the win in Aquaria by the way.

   “Thanks. Max really put up a fight there at the end, but we managed to hang on.”

   “So, Jeb, as we all know, this is going to be the first race at the Temple since 2036 in the race that almost cost you your life. What kind of emotions are going on right now heading into a race that’s not only important to the championship, but also your own mental state?”

   “Well first off,” I smirked as Max tried not to laugh. “Nothing’s wrong with my mental state. But I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous with the race. Kerenna is probably going to be a lot faster than it was last year, which is going to make it a lot more exciting- but also more dangerous if something goes wrong. I’ve got faith in my team, though, that an incident like last year won’t happen again. Honestly, it was just an accident. Plain and simple.” On the screen that showed the live feed, I saw my car from last year explode in a massive shower of carbon fiber before looping around and slamming into the wall with a cloud of dust. The camera shook from the force of the impact, and I swallowed a little bit. “We know a lot more about the car and the track this year over last, but it’s still going to fall down to simple practice. We’ve got to get confident in the car, get confident with the track, and just try to build it up all over again.”

   “And Max, what about you? Despite not really having much in the way of injuries from the accident last year, there’s still got to be a little bit of nerves floating around in there.”

   “I must admit, I am a little bit anxious. Even though I wasn’t the one directly involved in the wreck, I still was involved. It just kinda goes to show how fast this sport reaches out and grabs you.” I nodded. I thought back to the accident- watching the car spin around from the cockpit in my mind all over again, and I shuddered a little.

   “Jeb, you’ve got a 10 point gap with four races left in the season. Are you feeling any pressure from Max, or is it just smooth sailing?” I chuckled as Max rolled his eyes.

   “Honestly, I’m just taking it one race at a time. Focusing on the future just puts more stuff in my head and doesn’t leave room for my job. But if I had to choose one, I’d say that Max is definitely putting some pressure on me to perform.” Max smiled.

   “And do you think the race at the Temple is going to be close?” Max and I both responded at the same time, with “No,” before laughing. “Who do you think will win?” Max and I both raised our hands. At the exact same time.

Edited by DarkOwl57

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In my completely unbiased opinion, this was a great chapter. Thank you for bringing Aquaria to life! 

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