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Life At The Top (A KSP Racing Novel) (My Personal Comeback + 39. The Rookie)


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So......... You know how I said the last chapter was the longest? weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllll ........... Throw that in the garbage. Why? 2 Words. Chapter 15. This is a brute. A massive 9' 2" brute. 7,655 words. Seven-Thousand, Six-hundred and Fifty-five words. Thank goodness I like this job...

Oh well... Anyways, enjoy!!

 

Chapter 15: Winter

7:00pm, 2 Weeks later. K1 International Headquarters, Bradley, Owlia


    “Do I have to wear this?” I tugged at the collar as I got out of my car, and Alexis popped her head out of the passenger door as she got out with me. “Yes! You don’t want to look like some lazy bum, with a T-shirt going to the Awards Banquet!” I stared at her. “Bet,” I said, extending my hand. Alexis sighed and I could tell she was having one of those Pick your battles moments in her head, her eyes closed. “Just.. Don’t do anything stupid? Please?” We started walking to the main door, and I groaned. “Fine. But you owe me.” We were about to cross to the door, but a loud yowling screamed from our right. Quick as a flash, my arm shot out to keep Alexis from walking into the path of an OTech F30 Comet.
    “Sorry,” Phil waved as he got out, blushing a bit. “You okay?” Alexis nodded, trying to re-start her heart. I noticed there was a nasty purple bruise on Phil’s right hand. The three of us got going to the door, and just before we entered Alexis gasped. “Holy Cow, Phil! Your hand!” Phil quickly shoved his right hand into his pocket. “Wh-what? What hand? This one?” He extended his left arm to show us a clean left hand. Alexis put her hands on her hips in a no-nonsense way, which was kind of funny considering she was about 3 inches shorter than Phil.
    “Come on. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Show.” Phil looked at me like “What do I do?!” And I just shrugged. After a couple seconds, Phil sighed and pulled out his hand. The bruise was about the size of his entire hand, and it looked pretty ugly if I’m perfectly honest. It was the color of a ripe grape, and I tried to keep from turning green..er.
    “What happened?!” Alexis exclaimed, looking at it half-horrified. “It’s fine. I’ve always been a slow healer. Doesn’t even hurt!” Phil shoved the hand back into his pocket, looking peeved. “Now can we just go to the dinner?” Phil went in through the main door, and Alexis sighed; sounding like a mother. She was about to say something, but thought better of it and went in. Camera flashes bombarded us, and I put on my camera face- a large, beaming smile accompanied by a wave. My tux was eating at my neck as I walked down the carpeted aisle, and I grinned as I tried my best to look at the cameras.
    “Jeb!”
    “Jeb, look here!”
    “Got a minute, Jeb?”
    “Care for a interview, Jeb?” 
    I went over to the barrier and started chatting with the reporters. “How does it feel, being the youngest K1 champion in the history of the sport?” I smiled, and the camera flashes just intensified. “Well, it was pretty great if I’m perfectly honest,” I said, making a few reporters around me chuckle. “Naw, in all honesty, it was amazing. Team worked super hard all season to get me where I ended up, and in my eyes, they won the championship. All I did was drive the car.” I turned to look at the camera. “Matty, if you’re watching this, I am still the one driving the car.” I made a couple more reporters laugh.
    “What was it like, going out and racing against your hero out there on the track?” I looked at Phil, who was talking to another group of reporters; joking around and making them laugh. “It was amazing, you know? It was like……. Gosh I can’t even describe it! Dream come true comes to mind, but that’s just too cheesy, you know? I guess the easiest thing to say was that it’s pretty dang cool, to say the least.” There was another flurry of flashes, and Alexis tapped my shoulder. “Let’s go find a seat before everything gets taken,” She said in a whisper, somehow being heard over the clicking and the snapping of cameras everywhere.
    We both went into the massive banquet hall, and I sucked in a breath. There, on the stage, was my car. It still had confetti on it from the celebration. On the screen behind it, a large slideshow was projected of my season. The rain-soaked race in Tekkia, the burnouts in Owlia, the doughnuts at the KSC- it was all there. I sat down at a table near the front, and Phil joined Alexis and I a second later. There was a dull rumble of chatter, and from huge speakers hung up on the walls, music piped in. Laser lights spun and danced across the ceiling, looking like fireflies or stars above us. I heard the music die down, and up on stage, the head of K1 himself, Tom Kerman the Second tapped the microphone for attention. The chatter eventually died down, until it was dead quiet in the massive hall. When Tom was satisfied with the noise level, he smiled and clapped his hands together. In front of him was a large glass podium, which had a microphone onto the thing.
    “Well, well, well,” He started out, smiling. “Another season down in the record books. What a year indeed.” He took a mic off the podium, and started walking around. “Yes, what a year.” He looked up to the projected screen, where my face was shown, holding up the trophy. “A year of firsts,” The screen transitioned to David, waving goodbye to the fans at the KSC. “And a year of lasts.” I turned to look at David, who nodded sadly. “A year of new records,” The screen then showed me doing burnouts. “And a year of continuous victory.” I saw the team all smiling, in front of a sign that said “2035 CONSTRUCTORS CHAMPIONS” on the face. “What. A. Year.” There was silence. “Now, we witnessed a wonderful fight this year, between the two OTech teammates. And, who better to speak first, than the champion? Jebediah, would you like to come up here?” There were cheers as I went up to the stage, and I got up to the podium. The lights were almost blinding, but I just looked down at the crowd.
    “Well, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know I would be speaking here tonight.” There was scattered laughter, and I cleared my throat. “Well, first off, I’d like to say that it’s been one heck of a ride this last year. Heck, this time last year, I didn’t know what I’d be driving, if I got to at all. But here we all are… Uh, I’d like to thank a bunch of kerbals for the 2035 season, if I can. That’s okay, right?” I turned to Tom, and the crowd laughed. Tom smiled and nodded. “Whew, thanks.
    “First, I’d like to thank my mom. She’s been one heck of an inspiration to me these last couple years, and I can’t thank her enough. She’s put up with so much- my start in racing, driving me to and from the Academy, and, most importantly, washing all the champagne out of my clothes after we all got home last week.” There was laughter, and I couldn’t help but grin.
    “Then, there’s my Agent, Alexis. Alexis, could you please stand up?” She stood, waving to the crowd from our table. When the applause finally died down, I carried on. “She’s probably been the biggest help to my career, and no, I’m not saying that because you know the directions to the team HQ.” Laughter erupted, and I couldn’t help but enjoy myself.
    “Third but definitely not last, would be my Engineer, Andy, who unfortunately couldn’t be here tonight because his kid got the flu. Followed by Andy himself getting the flu. Andy’s been the guy who I’ve gone to for pretty much everything race related. He’s the best engineer I could ask for, and I salute not only his strength, but his commitment to the team.
    “Now, Fourth goes to someone who I know would kill me if he were here tonight, because he didn't stand up on the podium; Max Kerman. Me and him have been through so much together, and even though I got promoted before he did, I know next year’s going to be absolutely amazing, racing with him on track.
    “And now, the Fifth spot. Now my initial plan was to have this kerbal be I the spot of his number. But then I remembered that I don’t have 14 friends- let alone 14 kerbals that helped me get here. So, last, but definitely not least is one Phil Kerman. He was my mentor and role model all season long, and I’m not going to lie, I used some of his tricks against him at the final race. I remember, watching Phil up on the TV as a kid, winning his first race at Block Island. So now, because both this is a good time to hand off the mic and because I’ve run out of stuff to say, give it up for Phil!” There was thunderous applause, and Phil got up. I walked down off the stage and handed the mic over to Phil, who mouthed, “I hate you so much,” making me laugh. I sat back down at the table, and Phil got up onto the stage.
    “God, I hate speeches,” He sighed, making a couple members of the audience laugh. “So, 2035 is over.. What a year… Now, I know that apparently the precedent is that we talk about the kerbals who helped us get to where we are, but I’m going to go against that real quick.” Phil took the mic and sighed. I could just barely see some tears in his eyes from this distance, and I looked at Alexis, who shrugged.
    “I’ve been a part of K1 for near on 15 years. 2036 will mark good old 16. Holy cow, I’m getting old!” There was laughter, and I couldn’t help but smile. “What a career, huh? I remember back when I started out in K1… Remember those double wings?” Engineers grimaces and shook their heads. “Good gosh, those were ugly. You know, I've seen a lot. I’ve been through a lot. It’s been one heck of a career. And now, I guess, I’d like to thank everyone. The team, first off. Both William’s-Riley Race Team, for giving me a start. And of course OTech for giving me my drive. I could go on for the rest of time, but if I did it would go on for the next hour, which I don’t think anyone wants to deal with. So I’d just like to say…. Thanks. And I hope 2036 will be a better season.” Phil waved as he got off the stage, setting the mic down on the podium.
    I was called back up onto the stage for the awards celebration. “The first award of the night goes to the 2035 Rookie of the Year!” I looked around and laughed. I was the only rookie coming in this season. Without an official celebratory ceremony, I took the tiny plaque; cameras flashing. There were a lot of other awards passed around, and finally we came to the giving of the title trophy. “Your Two-Thousand Thirty Five K1 World Champion….. Jebediah Kerman!!!” The hall was filled with clapping, and I went up to the podium to get my official trophy. This one was heavier than the original, and I saw my name engraved at the bottom of the trophy. 
    Tears started rolling down my face as I smiled to the crowd, my tux still biting into my neck like an angry cobra. You did it, kid, a voice randomly said in my head. I’d been dreaming of this moment my entire life, and now, here I was in Bradley, Owlia, holding the K1 championship trophy. I did it. 

2:00pm, 1 Month, 2 Weeks later. OTech Race Team Headquarters, River City, Owlia

    Ah, Mondays. You’re tired, no-one likes it, you’re back at work for the first time after sleeping in for 2 days, and on top of all that, nature seems to hate your guts as if to say, “Hey, I know that it’s the worst day of the week, so have some of this!” Outside, some leftover Lake Effect was wreaking havoc on Lewis and Billy as they did their Pre-Season Team Evaluation tests. The wind was blowing like crazy, and if you looked closely, you could just see little tiny snow flurries blowing around in the bitter wind. Outside, the sky was a forlorn slate grey, which reflected the mood of pretty much everyone at the team. Ricky, Phil’s head engineer, had retired about 3 weeks earlier, and so that meant that Claire had been bumped up to fill the spot. Claire was happy as a clam about it, but Phil was…… let’s go with anxious, for lack of a better word. Meanwhile, in my world, life had been insane. Emphasis on the in because why not.
    I thought that winning the title would be easy on me. Win money, fame, fortune, blah blah blah. You wanna know what it really is? Winning the title is utter he- Jeb… What in the- It’s the publisher. Keep it PG? Or at least PG-13- God knows the critics want to tear into you. Fine. Winning the title is utter heck. Better? Good. Carry on. 
    Ugh, Publishers are so annoyi-
    I heard that.
    GO AWAY! THIS IS MY STORY AND I’LL DO WHAT I PLEASE. Will you excuse me a moment?
    …
    …
    …
    …
    *Various noises of scuffling*
    …
    …
    …
    …
    Alright, back. Anyways, winning the title isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean yeah, you’ve got that trophy in your cabinet, and yeah, you’ve got everyone fawning over you like you’re a wounded bunny rabbit. But the only problem? EVERYONE wants a piece of you. I had been on about 15 Owlian talk shows, and over 50 international shows- not just on TV- ooooohhhh no. Radios, magazines, public appearances, parades, and pretty much everything else in between. It was exhausting, emotionally draining, and overall just an absolute mess. (Also, sorry Kellen for not being too talkative on your show- I had flown for about 3 hours that day and the timezones are horrible.)
    So onto the story (Sorry for getting off-track).
    That one new years song played quietly over unseen speakers, and outside the wind was sharp and piercing. I checked the weather app on my laptop (A sleek KBook Air+) and saw that the temperature had leveled out at a sweltering 27º. Stupid Lake Effect.
    In my office, I was hanging out and relaxing, watching some videos on the laptop. On the main desktop, a live feed came in from Lewis’s car on the breezy track. Lewis caught a massive snap of oversteer, and then I heard a knock on my door. “Come in,” I said, turning the volume down on the feed. Alexis walked in, holding a phone in her hand. She was wearing a winter coat, and I could tell that she’d just gone to KerBucks due to the steaming cup of coffee in her other hand. Of course, even though it was like 30 degrees out there, she was wearing some fairly sensible yet stylish high heel boots. Overall she looked kind of warm, and also….. beautiful. “Hey there,” I waved. “Hiya,” She smiled, closing the door as best she could with her hands full. I stood up and helped her out, and she smiled. “Thanks.” I walked back over to the desk and Alexis followed me, sitting down in the chair in front of me.
    “So, what’s up?” Alexis sat the coffee down with a sigh, and shook her hair out from under a winter hat. It fell down like a river of chocolate (And that kids is called a simile), and I felt my heartbeat quicken. “So as you know, K1 is really big into showing support for the armed forces, whether they’re at home or abroad. And, just recently, the team decided that it would be great PR if you’d head out on a kind of tour of some of the Owlian military installations.” She handed me a map and I saw a couple dots on a world map.
    “With this preliminary schedule, you’ll be going on a 5-day tour. You’ll go to the OUVA first in New Owlia City, spend a few hours there, take some photos, blahblahblah. Then, you’ll be heading out to the West for the bulk of the trip.” She handed me a photo of a large camp. Sand surrounded the place, and everything looked kind of faded blue and sandy white- memories of times long ago.
    “It’ll be a trip out to the old FOB Delta. It’s currently being used by the OUAF in an attempt to bomb out some rebels to the West. We’ll spend about four days there, and the fifth day is going to be the plane ride back home.” She sighed and rested against the back of the chair. “What do you think?” Alexis’s electric blue eyes stared at me. Was it colder in here? It felt colder. She looked different… I mean she was one heck of an agent, and an even better friend. But there was something more there. About 30 seconds later, I realized I hadn’t said a word and Alexis was looking pretty confused.
    “Oh, sorry, kinda phased out. Yeah, I’m fine with the tour. Sounds fun!” I tried to smile as the words tripped off my tongue and fell on its face. “Great!” Alexis smiled and stood up. “I’ll call the travel team and get a schedule working.” She started walking to the door and I stood up. “Wait,” I called. She stopped and turned. “Yes?” She asked, cocking her head a bit in confusion. My heart raced and my legs felt about as strong as JellO and tissue paper. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, and my head felt light as a feather. In other words, I felt like I was about to pass out. Be confident, Phil’s voice whispered to me for no reason at all. Subconscious? Bit busy here. Maybe later if I can clear up some time before bed.
    “Well…. Uh… We’ve been working together for some time.. And.. I uh…. Think you’re incredibly attractive.” She smirked, and asked, “Oh?” making me blush just a bit. “Yes. And I was wondering… Would you.. Do you-… Would you like to go to dinner?” Alexis smiled as I mentally punched myself in the face for acting like such an idiot. “Are you asking me on a date?” She asked, leaning on her feet. “Uh.. yeah. Do you want to go out with me?” Alexis smirked and started walking up to me. “Jebediah Kerman,” She kept walking, before stopping about a foot away from me. “I would love to join you for dinner. How does 8 on.. Friday sound?” Breathlessly, I nodded; my mind blank. Basically, My brain: O. My brain after having any conversation with a girl for more than 1 minute without anyone else around: •. It’s sad.
    “See you then.” Alexis triumphantly smiled, and started walking out- those boots making a half-pretty, half-evil clip clip clip noise as she walked on the tile. As soon she turned the corner, I fell back into my chair; my heart pounding like a timpani drum. As soon as I exhaled, I heard a quiet, high-pitched squealing noise come from outside the door, before it was cut short by a highly professional sounding cough.
    “Morning Andy,” I heard Alexis whisper kind of hoarsely in a highly dignified tone, before the clip clop of heels slowly faded away down the hall. Andy popped his head in the doorway to the office- his face totally bewildered as he stared at me like, “What the heck was that about?” I lost it, chuckling even though the adrenaline was making me feel like I could run a mile. Andy was about to ask a question, but I shook my head and waved. He sighed, closed his eyes (I swear he was having one of those “Pick your battles,” moments in his head), and nodded. “Just remember, team meeting Saturday morning at 9 to discuss the coming season.” He walked out, and I kept chuckling.

8:00 pm, 4 Days later. 2002 Oak Drive, Mountain-view District, River City, Owlia. (About 10 minutes from Downtown River City)

    I pulled up to a stop at exactly eight o’clock on the dot. I turned the engine to Idle mode, and sighed. Here goes nothing. I was about to open the door, but the front door to the house opened up. “Holy mother…” Alexis was wearing a fiery red dress, with one of those slits in the legs to make walking easier. She had some red high heels to match, and there was a jet black purse slung over her shoulder for contrast I’d guess. Don’t ask me about fashion; I’ve got no clue. I got out of the car and opened up the passenger door for her, and Alexis smiled. “Thanks,” She said almost embarrassed. I think I saw a bit of a blush. Alexis put the purse at her feet and I closed the door, before running to the drivers side. I got in and slowly pulled out.
    I drove onto the highway and after about 15 minutes we were roaming through downtown looking for a place to eat. “Where do you want to go?” Alexis asked, looking at the numerous restaurants up and down the street as I drove. “Actually,” I smiled, pulling into a parking lot. “I know just the place.” I shut off the engine as I entered the parking lot for the illustrious Sparky’s Smokehouse®, and Alexis’s eyes seemed to light up. “You really planned this out,” She said, looking amazed. “It’s one of my favorite places to go,” I admitted, patting my stomach. “Probably where I gained all this.” Alexis laughed and shook her head. Her laugh sounded so… happy. Like a bird freed from its cage. (Who says pro athletes aren’t writers?)
    Alexis was about to open the door, but I shook my hand in a “Hang on” gesture. Then I pushed the tiny green button on the center console, and both of the doors swung up like the wings of a great bird of prey. Alexis looked awestruck as she got out, probably thinking, “I need one of these things.” I got out and walked up next to her. “Shall we?” I asked, extending my hand. She smiled and walked with me on the way into the building.

    “Jebediah, table for two?” I asked as we got inside. I had made reservations about 5 minutes after realizing that Alexis had said yes to going out with me. Nothing was going to ruin this. “Ah, yes. Right this way please!” A short kerbal escorted us to the table, which was pretty much right in the middle of the restaurant. We sat down and the hostess chirped, “Carl will be right to you,” before walking away to help the next customer. Alexis looked around the place; a smile practically glued to her face.
    “Good evening, my name’s Carl and I’ll be your waiter for the evening. Can I get you started with some refreshments?” Alexis looked at me, as if to say “Your call.” I cleared my throat and looked at the menu. Truth be told, I hadn’t been here in over a year and had no idea if- “Do you have anything that tastes kind of fruity?” Alexis asked, completely cutting off my train of thought. “Yes, that would be the cocktail,” Carl replied. “I’ll have some of that, then.” Carl scribbled down the order, and turned to me. “And you?” My mind chose that moment to blank out. “Uh.. Do you have any Carbonale? The champagne?” It was the “Official” champagne of K1, so I was pretty used to it by now. What with 15 podiums and all. And it’s low alcohol! Bonus! “Yes sir, we do,” Carl replied. “I’ll take that. Just a glass, not the bottle.” Carl nodded and walked back to the kitchen, getting the drinks.
    Now quick thing. You’re probably going to say “Oh, an 18-year-old drinking! How blasphemous!” Well, for one, the age limit in Owlia is 18. And two, Kerbin has 415 days in a year (I think). That means that technically an 18-year-old is the equivalent to a 20 year old by the Kayan Calendar (The one that has 365 days in the year). Okay? Good. Back to the story then.
    “So when are we leaving on the tour?” I asked Alexis as we waited. Alexis shook her head. “Let’s not talk about business. Right now, tonight, we’re here as friends; not coworkers.” I nodded in agreement. Seems reasonable enough to me. “You look good,” I said, trying to change the conversation off from business. “Did you do something to your hair?” Alexis scoffed and unconfidently looked down at her shoes. “You don’t mean that,” She muttered, still studying the apparently highly interesting floor. “No, I do! You’re beautiful; especially in this light.” Alexis let out a laugh. “So you only care about how I look?” Uh……… well crap.
    “No! Er… ye- N-…. You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Alexis looked up and beamed, confidence basically restored. “Undoubtedly,” She said as the drinks finally came. “Cocktail for you,” Carl said as he set Alexis’s drink on the table. “And Carbonale for you. Just call if you want any extra.” I nodded and took the glass. “Have you decided on a meal yet?” I looked at the menu. “Uh.. I’ll take the burger. No onions please.” I closed the menu and handed it to Carl. “And for you?” Alexis pointed at her menu. “Uh, the Shrimp. Does that have any seasoning?” Carl shook his head. We do our best to accommodate for any spice allergies people might have.” Alexis smiled. “I’ll have some of that.” Carl scribbled down some notes and walked off.
    “Ooh wow, this has a kick to it!” Alexis kind of recoiled a bit as she sipped her drink, but took another sip. “Tastes good!” She extended the glass to me. “Try some!” I shook my head. “I’m fine,” I replied. Alexis shrugged, and took another sip as if to say “Your loss.” I got the Carbonale and took a sip. A bit sweet, bubbly.. Good texture… Overall pretty nice. Miss the podium though.. I set the drink down and my eyes bugged out. Alexis had drained her glass completely, and was ordering another one.
    “You might want to slow down,” I cautioned. “It’s fine!” Alexis said, waving me off. About 15 minutes later, she’d ordered about 3 more, and internally I was cringing so hard, a single atom would have towered above me. “Have you ever wondered,” Alexis said, staring at her hand. “What’s the point of the pinky?” Oh for the love of kerm. “It’s so small and fragile! Like.. Why do we have them?!” Inside, I was hitting my head on the table, repeatedly. Of course I wouldn’t do that outside because an intoxicated lady talking about the usefulness of the pinky finger draws enough attention without the guy across from her banging his head on the table.
    “And the thumb! It’s so big and fat compared to the other fingers! Too clumsy to perform the simplest things!” I had resorted to banging my head on a frying pan, it’s hits making loud, a loud and clear BONG! BONG! every time it hit my face. Inside of course. Finally, the food arrived in the middle of Alexis’s rant about the pointer finger, and how rude and accusing it was. 
    Carl looked confused as Alexis asked what his stance was on the pointer’s accusing nature, and I mouthed, Sorry, to him as he gave us the food. “Can we take the plates? I think it would be best if we get her out of here before-“ I was interrupted by a shout. “HEY! YOU! YOU AT THE DOOR! WHAT’S YOUR STANCE ON THE POINTER FINGER?! HEY!” Carl nodded. “Probably for the best,” he replied. “Good. Might want to get out of here before she starts asking you about pinkies.” Carl wisely scampered off, and I stood up.
    “Are you ready to go?” I asked, turning Alexis’s attention from the terrified customers. “Huh? Oh, yeah, sure.” She stood up and swayed a bit. “Oof,” She muttered as she staggered toward me. “I feel… sick.” Oh for the love of all things holy and good in this world don’t throw up in view of pretty much everyone on the planet. We walked out (me half-carrying her) of the restaurant and on the way out, I tossed a one-hundred dollar bill at the confused hostess. Keep the change, I mouthed as we left.
    Finally, we got back to Alexis’s house. I opened up the door and Alexis followed me in, swaying and staggering like a penguin. Her face was looking decidedly green…. er, and she half-ran, half-crawled to the bathroom. About a second after the door closed, I heard some.. frankly horrible retching noise coming from the vague direction of the bathroom. After she was.. done, I called, “Feeling okay?” To which I was rewarded with a pitiful moaning noise. I sighed and got her up, and helped her to the couch.
    “Thanks,” Alexis muttered, looking and smelling a bit worse for wear. “Don’t mention it,” I said cheerfully, even though on the inside I was thinking No, seriously, mention this and we’re never speaking again. “You’re so nice.. And handsome..” Oh brother. “I love you, you know?” If there is a divine being in this universe, please GET ME OUT OF HERE! “You don’t mean that,” I muttered, a flood of red consuming my face. “No, I do! I love you!” Alexis extended her hands out wide as if she were pulling me in for a hug. “I love you this much!” She then giggled like a five-year-old at her own joke. She was silent for a few moments, and sighed. 
    “You know, most guys would just leave. Maybe leave a note if they remembered…” She sat down next to me, and I blushed. “Why would someone do that? Who would do that?” I asked, actually curious. “Josh.” She spat the name as if it was that of an evil super villain who had just punched her grandma. “He’s my ex. I thought he was… you know.. The One. He seemed nice, he was handsome.. A good house.. He had it all. But he was just like everyone else. He only wanted me for my stuff. My looks.” Alexis looked up at me with tears starting to well up in her eyes. “Jeb, what do you see in me?” I looked at her, and saw her staring up at me with big puppy dog eyes. Her face looked like a mess, makeup was running down her face, and her hair looked like a literal rats nest.
    “I see a kind, sweet, innocent young kerb who’s had some hard times in her life.” She started crying a bit, and I patted her back. “Oh, don’t cry,” I said, trying to comfort her. She rested her head on my shoulder and I lamely patted her shoulder, not really knowing the appropriate protocol for something like this. Was I really like this after Grestin? “It’s okay.. Forget Josh. He’s a selfish, cruel jerk. You deserve so much better than him, you know that?” I went into a 5-minute lecture about how Josh was an awful kerbal and how Alexis shouldn’t have had to deal with him. “You’re so- Alexis?” I realized that somewhere around the 3 minute mark, the crying had stopped.
    “Alexis?” A snore answered me, and I sighed. “Okay, so what am I going to do..” I ran over possibilities with myself out loud. I moved as slowly and carefully as I could, trying not to wake Alexis up too much. When I was finally clear, I got up off the couch and tried to pick her up. “OOHF!” She was about 50 pounds heavier than I thought she was, and before I had lifted her about a foot, I had to set her back down to keep from dropping Alexis on the floor. “So that’s one crossed out…” I sat there for a few minutes, just thinking. Then, I sighed, shook my head, and went to Alexis’s bedroom. I got a couple blankets out of a closet and went back into the room, where Alexis was quietly snoring. I lifted her head up onto a pillow, and decided to throw a blanket over her. I was about to write out a note, but Alexis’s words rang in my head. “Most guys would just leave. Maybe leave a note if they remembered…” I sighed, and got a stack of towels. I plopped down on the opposite couch, and curled up into a ball under a blanket. “Goodnight, Alexis.”

9:25 am, The next day. 2002, Oak Drive, River City, Owlia

    Outside, some birds twittered and chirped as they flew around- some of them just waking up and others already performing their daily rituals of eat, make pretty sounds, and be colorful. A bright, cloudless sky was highlighted by perfect weather. The woes of Monday had melted away, and now it was a beautiful day. Low 70’s and a 2 mile an hour wind that seemed to say, “Hey. I know life’s tough, but at least you’ve got a day like this!”
    Inside the house, there was a soft sizzling as I made some breakfast. I had woken up about 15 minutes earlier, and had enlisted Alexis’s various kitchen appliances to whip up mom’s famous homemade scrambled eggs. Of course, no breakfast is complete without toast, and the obligatory fruit juice. I was moving the eggs around to keep them nice and well-cooked when I heard a groan from the couch. Alexis slowly got up, holding her head. She slowly blinked, before I saw her eyes pop open. She looked around and saw me, making breakfast. Her mouth was in an O shape, and I saw her mouth What the fish? as she looked.
    “Did I…?” Alexis muttered, still trying to remember what happened. “I did!” She punched a pillow in rage and embarrassment. “DAM- ow…” She whimpered and clutched her head in pain as she laid back down on the couch. “Yeah, shouting is most likely a bad idea,” I said as I shut the stove off, breakfast finished. I shifted some eggs onto a plate and went over to Alexis, who was curled up into a ball. “Hope you like eggs,” I said, making her clap her hands over her ears. “Oh… sorry,” I replied. After a couple minutes, Alexis finally felt good enough to get into a half-sitting position.
    “What happened last night?” Alexis asked as she ate the eggs, before gritting her teeth at the sound of her own voice. She sounded raspy, like she’d just spent the past hour screaming or yelling. I got up and started walking to the fridge for some juice. “Well, first I picked you up,” I said as I grabbed the carton. “We went to the restaurant.” I poured some orange juice into the cup. “Where you proceeded to drink 5 cocktails.” Alexis cringed. “So I took you here, where you vomited for a few minutes.” I gave Alexis a glass and re-took my seat on the couch. “And then passed out here on the couch.” Alexis turned redder than a tomato and looked like she was about to cry out of shame. I decided to skip the part about her telling me she loved me, which would probably make her self-combust.
    Just then, my phone buzzed in my pocket. “Huh?” I muttered as I pulled it out of my pocket. It had Andy’s caller ID. “Hey Andy, what’s-“ I was interrupted by an angry shout. “WHERE IN THE BLUE HECK ARE YOU?!” Andy shouted at me. “YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE FOR A MEETING! REMEMBER?!” I tried to remember, and then I finally did. Saturday, 9:00. Crap.. “Yeah, on the way!” I ended the call and leaped up. “I’ve got to go,” I told Alexis breathlessly, before bolting out of the house. Alexis came up to the door, and I swear as I closed the car door, she whispered, “Bye,” before I peeled out of the driveway and blazed to the headquarters. Andy’s gonna kill me…


1:00 am, 2 days later. OTech Race Team Headquarters, River City, Owlia


    I sat at my desk, looking at the new 2036 rules. K1 had gone over a lot of changes, especially during the off-season. New regs were tightening up some long-standing rules, but others were being removed. My favorite one was the creation of a new dial on the wheel. This dial would be able to manually change some of the static (non-moving (i.e. non-DRS laps)) flaps on the rear of the car, allowing drivers to change their setups around on-track, whenever they wanted. Another new reg would be partial removal of driver-to-driver radios. Instead of being able to talk to whoever we wanted, now we could only talk to our teammates. Shame.. (Sad face, tears, boohoo, the end I guess) I set the new rules packet over (The rest involved car limitations and size rules- nothing to concern me) and I picked up the packet of what had changed with the OTech car for 2036. I flipped the page over, reviewing the test numbers of the latest car upgrades that had been discussed in the meeting I was 45 minutes late to. It wasn’t really anything too major- move the wing down, change some sizing on the wing plate, mess around with certain engine bits, etcetera etcetera, blah blah. While I was reading the info on the power boost from an upgraded turbo intake, a soft, almost apologetic knocking sound came from my door. “Come in,” I replied, keeping my eyes on the page. As I flipped to the page about the effectiveness of a new oil cooler (Fascinating developments, I know!) Alexis’s head slowly and carefully peeked around the door. 
    “Hi,” She whispered, making my head turn up. “Oh.. Hi,” I said, not really knowing how to talk to someone who you’ve heard profess that they love you without knowing it. “Are you feeling better?” I asked. Alexis nodded, and replied, “Better than I was, yes.” I set the paper down. “Well that’s good..” There was a moment or two of really awkward silence.
    “I really enjoyed the date,” Alexis bravely said after about a minute of us just staring at each other and nodding. “I’d really like it if we could do it again sometime..” I was surprised. “Really?” I asked. “Yeah! How does 7 this Saturday sound to you?” I nodded. “Cool! I’ll.. see you later, I guess.” She closed the door and I sighed. This whole dating thing is confusing!


9:00pm, 1 week later. River Stadium, River City, Owlia


    “Did you enjoy it?” I asked Alexis as we walked out of the ginormous stadium. “I mean it was fun and all,” Alexis replied, smiling at the main door’s security guard as we exited. “But I would have loved to see some more deep balls and definitely some one-handed grabs.” I laughed and held her shoulder as we went down the steps to the parking lot. We had just watched an amazing playoff game- River City Stars vs Angel City Bolts- for the OFL (Owlian Football League) conference championship. “You want some food?” I asked Alexis before stopping dead. I blinked twice. Three times. I shook my head and I squeezed my eyes so far shut it physically hurt my face. “No….. It’s not possible…
    I’d always assumed he was dead. At the very least, out of the country. I hadn’t seen him in a little over 11 years, but I recognized him from the second I saw him. He was about middle aged, with flecks of grey speckled on his hair. He still had those light blue- almost slate grey- eyes that I remembered so vividly. He’s got a tan, I noticed. He turned and saw me. His eyes popped open in surprise. I took Alexis’s hand and started walking so fast she almost tripped trying to keep up. “Whatever you do, don’t look up,” I warned with a mutter, trying to keep from being seen. “Jeb, what’re you doing?!” Alexis asked in alarm. “Keep walking..” The kerb started walking towards us. “Jeb?!” I started jogging.
    “JEB!” I stopped as the kerbal cut right in front of me. I sighed and turned to Alexis, who was breathing heavily and looking at me like I was half-insane. To be honest, I probably was. “Alexis,” I said, staring level with the kerb. “Meet Harold.” The kerbal smiled at Alexis, and I tried to keep from sneering. “My dad.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 15.5: Reunion

9:30pm. River Stadium, River City, Owlia

    “Food’s really good here,” Harold said as we went into the diner I had never noticed. It was one of those nostalgia diners- the kind with the old tiling, the jukebox in the corner crowing out tunes long-forgotten to all but the aged and wise. He was wearing a River City Stars jacket, and he was looking about the same as he had when…..- All those years ago. When Harold had ordered, he joined Alexis and me at the table. “So..” Harold said as he sat down, drumming his fingers on the tabletop. “So..” I replied, looking up at the ceiling. After a couple of tense moments, Alexis extended her hand.
    “Alexis Kerman,” She said with a smile. “I’m Jeb’s agent and…… uh.. Friend.” Harold smiled and shook Alexis’s hand. “Harold. You.. Already know who I am.” I gritted my teeth and tried to keep from running out of the diner at full tilt. “How have you been?” Harold asked me, and I tried to keep from rolling my eyes. I failed. “Like you care,” I muttered, making Alexis jab my ribs. “Jeb!” She said in a surprised tone, like a parent of a kid who just said no to an adult. “It’s fine,” Harold sighed. “I know it might be a bit weird to… see me again after-“ I interrupted him. “Six years, 4 months.” Harold closed his mouth and nodded, almost as if to say, “Sounds about right,” which made my blood boil.
    “What do you do for a living?” Alexis asked as I tried to keep from imploding. “I actually work for the Stars. I’m the Assistant Head Coach, and so I get to go to all the games. Pretty fun job.” Alexis nodded. “Sounds fun,” She said. “It is. Of course, I’ve been following Jebediah’s career for a long time now.” I looked at him. “Maybe you wouldn’t need to follow my career if you were actually there.” Harold shrunk a bit. There was a moment of tense silence, but as always Alexis came to the rescue.
    “So you’re his agent?” Harold asked Alexis. “Yes sir. Been with him since his first test in Bradley 3 years back.” Alexis smiled triumphantly. “You drove fantastic last season,” Harold said, making me give an annoyed laugh. “Oh really?” I asked, putting as much snark as I could into the question. “And how would you know that?” Harold seemed to shrink a bit more. “I’ve been watching.. Every race.” I rolled my eyes. “I care about your career-“ That’s. It.
    “NO! YOU DON’T! YOU DON’T CARE!” I stood up and the chair flew backwards, making a loud screeching noise as it slid across the tile. All 5 other diner patrons, as well as the waitress stared at us. “You don’t care.” I sighed. “You never cared.” I put my jacket on and started walking to the door. “I’m really sorry, I’ll talk to him,” Alexis hurriedly said, before running after me. I slammed the door open, making a loud CLANGALANGALANG as the bell got hit around. “JEB!” Alexis shouted at me as I walked to the car. It had gotten really chilly, and my breath made steamy white clouds as I stormed away from the stadium. “Jeb!” I didn’t stop until I got to the car. I slammed the door down, and Alexis got in, panting a bit.
    “What the heck’s wrong with you?!” Alexis shrieked at me, her face enraged. “You don’t just walk out on someone in the middle of-“ I punched the wheel in anger and Alexis backed up. “HE WALKED OUT ON ME! HE LEFT ME AND MOM, RIGHT WHEN I NEEDED HIM THE MOST.” I sighed and cooled down. “He didn’t even say goodbye to me. He went up, and just left mom and I. Without so much as a note.” I felt tears well up in my eyes. “Do you have any idea,” I started, my voice cracking. “Do you know how hard it is to not have a dad with you? Not during the most important years of your life?” I felt the tears rolling down my face and I wiped them away. “I was just fine with not knowing…. I was fine with just.. Thinking he was dead, or far enough away to where I’d never see him again.” Alexis came up to me to give me a hug. “I’m so sorry,” She said, trying to calm me down. “I’m sorry.”

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The bruise came out of nowhere. Or maybe I missed something.

Besides that, this chapter seemed to develop that whole relationship thing more. I'm still wondering what the age gap is cause, judging by the writing, there's maybe a 7 year age gap (assuming alexis is 25 or so)? Which is kinda large for an 18 year old? I don't know, just rambling.

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28 minutes ago, qzgy said:

The bruise came out of nowhere. Or maybe I missed something.

Besides that, this chapter seemed to develop that whole relationship thing more. I'm still wondering what the age gap is cause, judging by the writing, there's maybe a 7 year age gap (assuming alexis is 25 or so)? Which is kinda large for an 18 year old? I don't know, just rambling.

Actually, about the same age. Jeb is Alexis's first (and, unless I want to change some stuffs around) only client

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Okay, so to clarify some points here. I don't quite know about all the stuff I'm writing about. With some of these, I use personal experience the best I can to be relevant. I also tend to bring in current world stuff (politics, life, etc.) to either lighten or darken the mood (For example: I may have a superstorm come in soon). But for the last chapter, I really had no idea what I was talking about. I've never been drunk, never had a hangover, heck the last time I drank anything with alcohol in it was the time I accidentally mistook the wine at communion for water. I've tried to do my best to provide comedy, but I do apologize if I didn't quite bring a realism to the story. I hope to fix this for any coming chapters. Ciao!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Alright, so I haven't been on in a while, have I? My apologies. I'm not going to make any excuses here; I just flat out got busy. I've been focusing on my newest story as well as The Final Stand, and I just accidentally forgot. Well no more. Hope you enjoy Chapter 16!

 

Chapter 16: Season Two


5:00pm, 2 Months later. Round 1 of 10. The KSC Grand Prix. The KSC

“Welcome, everyone, to the first race of this 2036 K1 World Championship Season. The storylines have been filled with the introduction of the young Max Kerman coming in to replace the retired David Kerman, and the future rivalry between Max and Defending World Champion Jebediah Kerman. Also dominating the headlines is the topic of Jeb’s teammate, Phil Kerman. Phil, a four-time world champion, cracked open the history books as the youngest K1 champion ever, at the age of just 19, however, that record was broken last year by the young-gun Jebediah, who won the title in stunning fashion last season. Phil has countlessly said that he is up to the challenges, but with him reaching 39 this year, many wonder if this will be the final season for the long-time racer.
“Now, the questions for this season reach the first of 10 conclusions, and the fans are ready to see the start of 2036. Will Jebediah cement his legacy as a champion? Will Max bring glory to the MonsterGP team? Is the clock striking 12 on the career of Phil Kerman? And, who will take the title for 2036? Answers to these questions and 
many more are about to be answered. This is the KSC Grand Prix.”

——


    I swung my arms around as I prepared to get out onto the grid for the race start. Max was on Pole, Phil in second, and me in a lowly third. The team was ready for the new year, and I was as well. We had a better car, I knew more about what to do, and we were ready to claim our 6th Constructors Championship in a row. I felt the pre-race jitters big-time, and I realized that this would be my first full season in K1. I was jumping around, trying to warm up, which was really hard considering I was wearing a fireproof jumpsuit. Music came in through my headphones, and I could hear cheering through the walls as the fans got ready. As I listened to the chorus of the song, I heard a knocking at the door. “Come in,” I called out, and Alexis walked in. “Feeling confident?” She asked, sitting next to me. “Yeah,” I replied, rubbing my hands nervously. “Totally.” Alexis smiled and looked like she was trying really hard not to laugh.
    “I know you’re going to hate this-” Alexis started, which made me groan. “Whenever you say that, I get a really bad feeling.” She sighed. “I got tickets for Harold. He’s in the Prime Box.” I put my face in my hands. “You don’t have to see him,” Alexis said, trying to keep me from getting mad. “I just wanted you to know.” I nodded. “Thanks,” I said. Another knock came from the door, and Andy walked in. “Showtime, bud,” He said, and I got up.
    The crowd cheered for me as I got outside- hats and pieces of paper being held my way as fans wanted autographs. During the signings, one fan asked if I’d be going easy on Max since this was his first race. “Shoot no!” I laughed in reply, before moving on to the next hat in line. I gladly signed as many as I could, to the point where I could feel my hand aching when I got into the garage. Above, the sun was still up in the sky, but it was starting to get near the horizon. “Hey there, Jeb,” Phil waved to me from across the garage. I waved back and grabbed my helmet off the table. Then, I jumped back, a bit terrified. There just standing behind the table, looked to be a fan.
    “You’re Jebediah Kerman, right?” She asked. She looked to be a bit younger than me- 16, 17- and there was something familiar in her eyes. I felt like I should know her, but I couldn’t place where I should know them from. “Uh.. yeah?” I answered, slowly backing up. “How’d you get in here?” Just then, a security guard appeared out of nowhere. “Hey, how’d you get in here?” He asked. I resisted the urge to shout “I just said that” in reply, and watched as the fan was taken away. “That was weird,” I muttered before going over to the car. We’d shrunk the plate size just a bit, and the car looked a lot smoother. I got in and strapped up, going out on the recon laps. Showtime.

6:50pm


    A single plane flew overhead, but instead of a fighter jet, it was a massive propeller cargo plane- the AC-130 by the looks of it. Looking at it made me sad, because I wanted so, so badly to be on one of those things. I was supposed to be going to the desert this winter on the tour, but the base had to relocate after enemy shelling and the team had decided that me going over there was a no-no. “Maybe next year,” I muttered as the -130 flew overhead- its four engines drowning out all sounds. “Huh?” Alexis shouted, putting her ear right up on me to hear. I shook my head and clapped as the anthem finished. As I walked to the car, I felt someone tap my shoulder. “Good luck, bud,” Max said as he walked to his car. He looked so mature in his new uniform, and I couldn’t help but laugh. “What?” He asked.
    “Look at us! 7 years ago, we were wheeling go-karts around tracks with grass poking through the start line, and now here we are in the greatest motorsports series ever!” Max smiled. “How the times change,” He said. “One thing that’s not going to change, though, is that I’m going to kick your butt out on track!” I laughed. “Want to bet?” I asked, and Max waved me off. “See you on the track!”

———

    “Good launch- the rears have some great bite on traction. Wheel feels a bit stiff compared to yesterday but I think once the temps get up it’ll be looser. Overall the car’s feeling a perfect 10.” Simulations can’t prepare you for the real thing. Yes it bumps you around on curbs and yes it gives you a feel of the track layout. But there’s nothing that prepares you for the race. Nothing matches the feel of your wheels rumbling over tarmac- the sounds of the crowd. I weaved through the course and tested the brakes, trying to get everything warmed up for the launch.
    “The numbers are looking great- all nominal.” I went into Turn 3 and sped up down the straight between 3 and 4, and felt the jolt of the car bouncing over a bump in the track. “What’s the strategy going to be like?” I felt the car bite in perfectly for the corner, and heard the engine echo through the tunnel. “Pit on Lap 15. Maybe Lap 12 if the fuel’s bad, Lap 17 if we get an early safety car and conserve some fuel.” Seemed normal. In Turn 5, I saw the skid marks from last year’s finish, and there was a nice patch of rubber laid down during the Formula K race earlier in the day. A crowd of green, black, blue, and white had assembled in the entirety of the R&D Section, and all through there I heard chants and cheers for Max, Phil, and I. 
    “This is kind of intimidating,” I said with a nervous laugh. “What’s up?” Andy asked from back at the box. “For some reason I feel about 5 times more nervous now then I did last year.” I dove down into Turn 10 and popped out of the R&D section. “Just a random thought.” I went into Tempesta, and grinned as the car popped up over the curbing onto the longest straight on the track. “Good speed. Feel like I can really let it rip down here.” I hit the gas and felt the car yowl behind me, and a pop from the turbo as it kicked in- all of this happening within a tenth of a second. The car stormed forward and I could feel it laughing almost, as if to say “I could do so much more, puny mortal. Turn me loose and bathe in my pow-“ I hit the brakes hard to keep from ramming Phil, who was weaving to warm up the tires. “Mulch,” The engine sighed, and I gained like a maniac through Velocidad- a fast, technical Right-Left complex that is a test of car grip and guts. Then, it was onto the 14-15 straight, where I saw the words “K1 2036” in big bold letters on the hangar door.
    The crowd was roaring, and I could feel the adrenaline ramping up. “Car’s nice and grippy in the high-speed corners, but I’m noticing a lack of downforce. We could have probably waited until the Temple to shrink the rear wing size.” Can’t change the present, can ya? I went into 15 with as much conviction as I could, and smiled as I felt the rear give up just a little bit of grip. “Car feels faster, though.” Into 17 I started slowing the car down and getting ready for the start. “Engine mode 5, TC active. Good luck, mate.” I flipped the needed switches and sighed. 30 laps. I got this. 30… laps… The car set down in the grid spot and I could feel it hum with anticipation. Ahead, the crowd seemed to shimmy and shake like a multicolored wave as the fans got ready for the start. Behind, the green flag waved as the 20th car fell into line.
    On the pillar above me, a single red light came on, washing over me. I turned the engine up to Rich, and looked in my mirror to see one of the infamous “Silver Arrows” in P4 and Jackson in the Monster rounding out the top 5.
    Two lights. Clutch in.
    Three Lights now. I held the gas.
    Four. Showtime…
    Five. My heart beat so loud I could hear nothing but a loud BUMBUHBUMBUH as I waited.
    The lights went out right on time and I launched off of the grid at max speed, having gotten the perfect launch. Phil and Max had both gotten less than optimal starts, and I looked to get by them before the turn. Max’s car was throwing up whips of white tire smoke as the wheels spun, and Phil also looked to be dealing with wheelspin. I had managed to cut it off early, and I rocketed straight through the middle to claim P1. Before Max could dive up the inside, I sliced down into Turn 1 and clipped the apex neatly before we entered the tight section of Turns 2 and 3. In the corner, I could feel the mechanical grip dialing in, and Max held behind me. Through Turn 4 I flew over the curbs with as much speed as I could hold onto. The car went up onto two wheels for a brief second, but it slammed back down; the undercarriage sending up sparks into Max’s face as it bottommed out. The brief distraction made Max waver, and Phil caught right up onto the rear. Into 5, Max locked up the inside front, and I had to dive to the inside to keep from getting drilled. Phil took advantage and went straight up the inside. Under the bridge, it was OTech 1-2, MonsterGP 3. I could tell Max was annoyed with his mistake, but Phil didn’t seem to know. Max flew to the right-hand side into 7 and I braced for impact. Phil, not knowing Max was about to make the dive-bomb of the century, moved up to get a good run into Turn 8. From the front, I could just barely see Max’s eyes widen in shock, having the infamous "Oh shoot" moment of your first ever screw up. (For the record: Mine was in Grestin, Season 1, qualifying, when I binned the car in a wall.) Max shot to the inside at the last second, and dove into the corner like a mad-kerb. Somehow they both made it through unscathed, and I held onto the lead (Only just). Down the straight we remained civilized, and we all kept single-file down into Turn 10. Down into 11, Max made a move on Phil, taking the spot as they bounced over curbing for Turn 12.
    It was single-file down the straight, until Phil tried to overtake Max. He sliced to the right side, and Max couldn’t do anything as Phil blasted past. Phil continued his momentum and tried to go up the inside of me in 14. We held side-by-side, and the crowd roared as we drove past. Phil was just inches from my sidepod, and since we were going at over 100 miles per hour, a single wiggle of the wheel in the wrong direction would send us both spiraling out of control. Sparks flew off the bottom of the car as it scraped the ground- the small white dots of light flying up into the air. Phil was right up next to me through 15, but on exit he lost ground. We flew down the widest section of track, and down into Turn 16 I gapped Phil using EPB and a bit of the manual aero tweaking.
    I held the margin through 16, 17, and 18, with the three of us nose-to-tail. Out of the final corner, I keyed the radio and dialed the Static knob back to the default. “What’s the gap?” I asked Andy as we blasted past the start/finish line. “You’ve got about a second on Phil, who’s got half a second to Max. Then it’s about 2 seconds back to P4.” I nodded before diving down into Turn 1. The left-front seemed to skid just a bit, but before it could do too much I gently let off the brake. Everyone had said I was the master of control, and I could feel it as I drove the course. “Thanks. I’m going to release some pressure to the front brakes- feeling like a lockup’s coming on soon. How’s fuel?” I bounced over exit curbing into Turn 2, and on the apex I clipped the inside perfectly. “Looking good. Suggest you turn down to Mode 2 or even 1 if you’re feeling confident. Fuel could be a concern if you keep burning it like this.” I complied and turned down to Mode 2 as I went into Turn 3.
    “Turned it down. Strategy?” I bounced over the bumps down the straight, feeling the suspension leap up as sparks flew off the under-tray. “Stop on Lap 15, maybe 16 if the fuel holds. Also depends on who’s ahead at the pit stop.” I went down into Turn 4 again, and the car gripped perfect.
    On Lap 16, I got the call. I was halfway down the backstraight, holding onto the spot. Max had dropped back over the course of the race, so now it was just Phil and I duking it out for the lead. He was about half a second behind, but every time we went through Velocidad Phil lost speed- the aero wake obviously affecting him in some way. I slammed over the Turn 13 curbing, cutting off any attack from Phil before hitting the Turn 14 curbing; the car sending up another flurry of white-hot sparks as it hit the ground. Phil held back but I knew I couldn’t push too hard without risking the tires too much. Into 17, I felt the rears lose traction, and I had to chase the car up the track to keep from spinning back into Phil’s path. On exit I slammed into some grass with the right side wheels, but even though I lost traction through there I managed to hold onto it and throw dirt into Phil’s face in the process. Into 18 I broke hard and tight, putting myself right into the apex without hesitation. As I exited Turn 20, I turned the engine down and activated the Pit Limiter- the EDS (Electric Drive System) doing the work. I pulled in smoothly and the team went to work instantly. Four on, Four off. I waited until the fuel hose was pulled out, and as soon as the jack dropped I blazed out of the pit stall.
    Max went past, but it was a long way back to the next car, so I emerged P3. “Did we make any changes?” I asked as I rejoined. “Nothing major. Slight change on the bottom front wing from 25 to 30. Should help with speed in the Loops and Velocidad if you need it.” I bounced over the curbing of Turn 2, and the car flew up, almost spinning me around. “Holy cow, suspension’s wild.” I tried to keep it clean for the rest of the lap on the cold tires, and by the backstraight I was feeling the car dialed in. “Max is up by 15 seconds- easily going to get by on the stop.” I went through Velocidad and felt the car hold steady as I drove flat-out. 
    “I don’t care about Max,” I said before getting slammed against the right side of the cockpit into the second part of the complex. “Just tell me…” Huff. “Where Phil is.” Wheeling the car through the lap was exhausting, mainly due to me chucking the car into every single braking zone and corner with as much speed as I could. “Phil’s in Turn 18 now, about to pit. You might want to take it easy there.” I dove into Turn 15 and almost wrecked as I hopped over the Turn 16 curbing on exit- the rear snapping angrily as it hit. “I’m not going easy until Phil’s in my mirrors,” I said as I went hard into 17. I basically went through the 19-20 chicane, trying to straight-line it best I could by going over as much curb as I dared. Through 21, the final corner, I felt the front wing adjustment doing its job- gluing me to the tarmac as I turned. I saw a green light turn on in the OTech stall, but I had already blazed past, reclaiming the lead.
    “Good job, Jeb. Let’s try to clean out this victory, okay?” I went down from Rich Mix into Lean, conserving the engine. “Alright. Just update the gap to me every other lap, please.” The car flowed into and out of every corner, and it seemed to glide through the high-speed turns. “Gap back to Phil is 2 seconds. Repeat, 2 seconds. He’s gaining by about a quarter of a second per lap.” I mentally did the math while I went down the backstraight. “So he won’t catch me if we hold pace?” I figured he wouldn’t have the time to catch up- already it was Lap 21. “Correct, he will not catch you. Hold it out to the end, let’s do this.” I bared down and went into 13 and 14 again, this time the car scraping along the ground as I turned. Fast-forward a few laps, and I could see Phil in my mirrors.
    “Two laps left, mate, make it count right here. Go for the win.” Phil had closed up over the last couple of laps, but I continued to push on, not worrying about the cars in my mirrors. “How far back is Max?” I decided to get my mind off Phil and worry instead about Max. “He’s putting up one heck of a fight for P3- he’s holding onto it for now but Jackson’s right on him.” I nodded as I dove into Turn 15. “Thanks.” In through Turn 18, I felt the front left start to slide on braking, and I released just in time to keep from locking up and going into the grass. Then it was into the Right-Left chicane of 19 and 20, before the second part of the loop took me onto the Main Straight. “Final lap! Let’s go- 1 second gap. All or nothing right here!”
    Phil had closed up, but he was still out of effective DRS range, which was about 250 feet. I went into Turn 1 with as much speed as I could, the lightened car and tires staying glued to the surface of the track without a hitch. Through Two, I rumbled over the curbing as hard as I dared, but the car kept its temper and didn’t spear me off into a wall. The same thing went for Turn Three, and I took as much exit curbing as I dared. The car flew out of the corner like a winged mammal out of a really hot place, and I had to saw the wheel to keep from spinning out as it went. In Four I took it easy, which allowed Phil to catch up. The noises of our engines echoed through the tunnel, which I could hear even through the helmet. We both raced down into Turn Five, and as I broke into the corner Phil locked up. I dove down to the inside to keep him from hitting me, and somehow I avoided contact. Phil went out wide, missing the apex by a mile, while I had clipped it just perfectly. The crowd roared as the two teammates slid through the R&D section, but under the tunnel I had retaken my second-long lead. The rest of the lap, Phil couldn’t catch me, and I went into 21 for the last time.
    100 meters from the line. The crowd was roaring with cheers and applause at the race they’d just witnessed.
    50. I dove down to the inside of the track, my fist in the air in celebration. Phil was too far back to catch me.
    25. The team was cheering me on, pumping their fists as I went past.
    0. Fireworks went off with a massive explosion, bathing the circuit in yellow and white light. “WOOOOOOOOOOOO HHHOOOO!!!” I threw my hands up into the air, celebrating the win. “Awesome, awesome job mate. Absolute masterclass. Total dom-“ I interrupted Andy. “Yes! Yes! Too easy guys, too easy. Perfect car, amazing strategy.” Phil got up alongside me for the brake zone to Turn 1, and I waved. He was looking down at the floor of the car, and looked dejected. Cheers from the crowd signified that Max had crossed the line, and a booming of the finish line fireworks flashed light up into the air. As I went around the track, the fans cheered and chanted in celebration. I could see various national flags being waved in the grandstands, and I waved to them as I passed. OTech’s back.

———

    “Yes!” Max jumped up onto the third spot, his fists held up at the ink-black sky in triumph. He was grinning, and the Monster team was looking equally overjoyed. The anthem started playing, and I took off my hat. Thankfully OTech was Owlian-based, and so there was just one anthem played instead of two of the same. The anthem ended with its lift, and the team cheered with a loud roar. I was just about to pick up the trophy, but as soon as I bent down a jet of wetness hit the side of my face. Grinning, I picked up my own champagne bottle and aimed it at Max. Champagne spewed out of the opening, and as it hit my thumb it came out in a fine, soft mist. Then, seconds later, I was hit from behind by another spray of liquid, and I heard Phil laughing behind me. We decided to shoot at each other for a bit, before finally all the liquid had been emptied out of the bottles. From the ‘backstage’ of the podium, the podium interviewer came up, holding a microphone.
    “Hello!” I turned and saw Ariannah Kerman walking up to us, smiling as she came up. “How are y’all doing today?” The crowd cheered and whistled. “Pretty good,” I said. “My, that’s a big trophy,” She said, looking at the cup at my feet. “I actually think it’s smaller then last year.” I lifted the trophy up and it definitely felt lighter. Maybe it was the weights.
    We talked for a bit, and then she asked me one final question. “So, you’ve been looking forward to the season so far, and now it’s looking like you’ve been well-prepared. Do you think this season’s going to be close between you three?” I looked over at Max and Phil, who were waiting for their turn. I smiled. “Oh yeah,” I said. “This is going to be an amazing season.”

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So I'm going to go ahead and get y'all 17. Reason: I want to post 18. Hope y'all like it.

 

 

Chapter 17: What We’ve All Been Waiting For…

6:00pm, 1 Week Later. Round 2 of 10: Port Vargo. Port Vargo, Tekkia

    Two jets flew overhead, their engines shrieking and drowning out every bit of thought. Alexis tracked the jets as they flew overhead, before covering her ears to keep from going deaf. The crowd clapped and cheered as the planes departed, their engines thundering and crackling as they left the area. The sun had started to kiss the horizon, its orange glow washing over everything and turning the sky a fiery orange. The weather was perfect, with no chance of rain or stormy conditions that would interfere. “Great day for a race,” I said to Andy as we walked to the car. “Feeling good?” I nodded and bounced around as we walked. I had qualified in second place for this race, and I knew Max and Phil would cook up some kind of strategy to beat me. Max had scored a lucky pole position, and it was about a second back to Phil, who had really struggled for some weird reason. 
    “Car felt really good in practice. Strategy?” We got to the car and I put on the helmet. “Stop on Lap 18. Should have enough fuel, and I’m almost certain there’s going to be at least one safety car somewhere along the race. If we can get out front early, we should be able to control the race from there.” I nodded as I put the helmet on. Immediately, all sound just cut out, and I could feel the engine humming behind me. “Don’t go too hard into the hairpins. If you can, try to make the overtake well into the lap. I’d recommend overtaking zones being down the 18-19 straight, and maybe the first few corners if you can hold the grip.” I gave Andy the thumbs-up, signifying that I had gotten the radio message.
    “Good luck mate. We’ll see you for the stop.” The formation lights went out and we all set off on the warm-up lap. The car bit into the tarmac like an angry pit bull, and I rocketed off the line. This felt waaaaaaaay different from a Formula car. We went into the Turn 1 tunnel before the corner opened up for the sweeping curve. There were a lot more fans here than there were the last time I had raced here, and I felt a rush of pride when I remembered the race one year ago. Into Turn 2, the car flew over the rumble strips, and I could feel the power of the car as it went along.
    I went down into 3 and 4, which was the same as 1 and 2. Down the Sand Straight (5-6), there was a large grand-stand, with thousands of fans all waving and jumping and cheering away. We raced into the 6/7 Chicane, and I powered over the curbing as best I could, feeling the suspension snap up as it contacted. Down into the Roundabout Section (Turns 6, 7, 8, and 9), I saw the florescent lights begin to waver on, and I saw the sky slowly transitioning from day to dark. Finally, I reached the grid. It was up the small incline and onto the main straight, where I wasn’t scared of the massive wall taller than myself that bore many tire markings from drivers who had tested their luck and failed. Behind me, Phil weaved and snuck through the course, trying to warm his tires. I went into the grid slot, and turned the engine down to prevent an overheating issue or a fuel burning issue. I was starting on the inside of the track, which thankfully was the cleanest and would get the best launch, as well as being inside for Turn 1. The rest of the grid came in afterwards, flowing into their own spots. After I had waited, I saw a green flag wave in the backfield.
    One light came on above me. I dialed the engine up to Rich, and I heard a slight change in tone as the third cell activated.
    Two lights. I cycled the digital dash and saw all greens on everything, before cycling it back to the main dash.
    Three. The engine began to rise as I applied pressure on the gas. The car seemed to strain against the brakes, begging to be unleashed and begin.
    Four. My heart rate grew faster and faster, but I kept my eyes locked on the lights.
    Five. My thumb instinctively found the EPB button, and I pressed down on it slightly- enough to know where it was but not enough to activate it. There was a second of delay as I waited. The engine crescendoed to a monstrous peak, which I could hear screaming at me through the helmet. Finally the lights went out and I released the clutch. The car bolted out of the line immediately, and I was crushed against my seat for a moment as 3 G’s of force shoved the car forward. Max got a much better start than he did at the KSC, but it was still slower than mine. I got right up along-side him as we entered the Tunnel. Max broke early for the corner and I swooped past, claiming the lead. I clipped the Apex for the corner, and the car responded perfectly, allowing me to sling myself into the turn. The Top 5 flowed through the corner single-file, which I bet looked amazing from the TV shots. On the exit of the corner, the car bottomed out just a bit, sending up a handful of sparks with a quiet skittering as I ran over the pavement. I broke hard into Turn 2 only a second later. The car felt great, gripping into the track like it was on a rail- never wavering as it went along the course.
    Through 3, Max seemed to gain ground, and as I went through the corner he closed on me, putting me under some heavy pressure. I was an idiot and, sensing the pressure, accidentally locked up, sending me wide off the apex. Max slid up the inside, and Phil almost did before I slid back down and cut him off. “Damnit, my bad,” I said, mentally kicking myself. “That was stupid. I’ll try to get it back before the stop if I can.” It was a quick run into Turn 5, but I knew I couldn’t try a move unless Max screwed up big-time. Sure enough, Max nailed the apex perfect, cutting off any chance of an attack. Down the straight, I used the engine to get as much speed as I could, and I closed down on Max just a bit.
    I was about to dart to the outside, but then had to brake suddenly as I got to the braking boards to Turn 6. I slammed hard over the curbing, lifting the left side tires up into the air for a brief second before they slammed back down, jarring my teeth together as I hit with a shower of sparks. I kept off the curbing for Turn 7, but due to the Turn 6 issue I had lost time. Calm down. Don’t be stupid. We blazed into Turn 8 and 9, which (again) probably looked like the most amazing and majestic thing on the TV. I was closing on Max into the City Section, and through 10 the car slid right up to the rear of Max’s car smoothly, almost as if it was drawn in like a magnet. We went into the esses of the City Section nose-to-tail, and in 13 I dove up the inside. Max broke early, and I flew up the inside like I was fired out of a cannon. I stood on the brakes, and only just made the apex. Still, I went wide on exit, allowing Max to pop up the inside before it turned to the outside for 15-16. I bolted into Turn 17 and tried to hold full-throttle. The car teetered on the edge of grip for a split-second, but thankfully held. Max stayed right behind, waiting to find an opening. It was a long run down to Turn 18, and I darted to the inside to defend the inside for the turn. Max slotted in right behind me, but couldn’t do anything even with the help of slipstream. I clipped the curbing for Turn 18, and Max was right behind, getting a bit of oversteer as he went over. The car slingshotted out of the corner with ease, but on exit I had to saw at the wheel to fight an oversteer snap as the weight transferred from right to left. I didn’t lose any time from the snap, and actually gained time on Max, who had fishtailed all the way through the turn from his issue on the curbs.
    The lights cast repeating shadows over the car as I blazed down the longest straight on the course. The track bumped and bounced as it went down, sending up sparks with every bump. The speedometer climbed higher and higher as I went down the straight. 160.. 170… 175… I hit the brakes hard for the flowing Turn 19, and somehow the car held grip as the track dipped down mid-corner- the off-camber turn usually sending many drivers wide. Down the wide-open straight, Max couldn’t gain any ground. I held my position on the far outside of the turn to get a good entrance for the final “real” turn (Sorry Turns 21 and 22). I broke hard for Turn 20, but I did it a bit too early. Max dove up the inside with all the guts in the world, but mis-timed it. He flew past me in a white cloud of smoke from a lockup, momentarily blinding me and obscuring the course in a sea of fog. I burst through the cloud less than a second later, retaking the lead on the switch-back. Finally, I completed the lap, flying up the small lift and weaving through the final two turns. The order stood at Me, Max in second, and Phil in third. 34 to go..
    I repeated the first few turns, and Max struggled for grip, really fighting oversteer. I went into the Roundabout at max speed before the steering wheel lit up in yellow. “Safety Car” flashed across the screen, and I immediately went down to Engine Mode 0. “Who wrecked out?” I asked as I went into the City Section. “A few collided in 1. Looks like a LakeFront car got hit by a Legion, hit the other LakeFront car, and then took out the other Legion.” I sighed before braking for Turn 13. “Idiots. Anyone hurt?” I waited as Andy checked. “One driver’s got a limp but other than that, okay. Debris all over the track though, so be careful through there.” I went into the turn and Max caught right up behind me.
    We went into the next few corners nice and slow, sticking to the delta. On the front straight, I saw what Andy was talking about. There were chunks of metal all across the track, and I had to cut inside to avoid a fairly large chunk of Front Wing. Max didn’t notice and I watched as he ran over a piece of a bargeboard. 5 laps later, everything had been cleaned up and we were ready to go.
    16 engines roared off the buildings, echoing off the concrete and steel. I got a great jump off the corner, and pulled out an immediate lead. Phil had an equal start from third, and flew past Max before the line. He was about to overtake me, but I closed the door before diving down into the tunnel. Sparks flew off the car as I went into the corner, brakes glowing bright red as I tried to slow down. Phil got a huge jump mid-corner, and was about to go past on my outside. I braced for the overtake, but Phil started dropping back, fast. He collected a huge snap of oversteer, sliding up the track to get some kind of grip. Behind, everyone on the outside of the turn had the same issue, and I realized there must have been some oil or fluid left over from the wreck. Max attempted a move on Phil, but Phil had the inside for 2. Max dove hard into the turn, but it was no use as Phil secured the move on the inside of the track.
    Max finally completed the pass in 3, and then it was on for the top spot. We continued like this for 10 laps, Max unable to gain any ground on me- even with DRS and slipstream. Finally, it was pitstop time. I dove into the Pit Lane on Lap 18, and Max followed me in. Phil shot past on-track, going one extra lap. I hit the pit limiter button, and the car held right at 15 meters per second as I looped around the pit. We passed the stalls of teams waiting for their drivers, and finally, after turning around the corner, I found the OTech stall. I pulled in, stopped right on the mark, and waited. 4 tires came off, 4 came on. Fuel trickled down into the car, and finally stopped. I waited for the mandatory 10 second timer to be up, suspended half a foot in the air. 8… 9…. 10! The car dropped down with a thud and I jammed the gas. The electric engines whined as the wheels got grip, and the tires squealed out of the stall; smoke streaking off of the rear wheels. Max had to wait in his stall and I drove past. Seconds later, he pulled out of the spot- white smoke temporarily enveloping the rear wheels as they spun.
    I rejoined the track, getting up to speed to avoid getting hit in the rear by another car going max speed. Max followed suit, although he had lost a lot of time in the pits. I went into Turn 1, still accelerating in an attempt to speed up. The lights flashed over my visor, temporarily blocking out the image of Max in my rear-view mirror. The crowd cheered as we went past them, and I dove into Turn 2.
    Max kept right on me through the first sector of the track, and as we launched out of Turn 5, he made his move. I held my line down the straight, and the car bounced on the surface of the track. Max kept in my slipstream down the straight, using DRS. He caught up right to the rear of my car, and I could feel the rear wheels loosing a bit of grip as I went down the straight. When it seemed like Max was about to hit me, he swiped to the outside. He was right next to me into the braking zone, and I tried to hold my speed even under braking. I flew up the inside, and kept Max at bay for the turn, but only just. I slammed over the curbing, feeling the left sides pop into the air as they touched the Cable Curbs (Massive curbing about the size of the average arm- really dangerous to mount them too far). I straight-lined the chicane as well as I could, and Max had to slow down to keep from getting driven into a wall.
    “Nice move there, Jeb. Just try to keep him held back. You’re good on fuel to push on to the end now.” Max held behind me, only a few feet away through the entire City Section. In my mirrors, I saw pure, white-hot sparks flash up into the air behind Max as we raced through the circuit- the small twinkling lights shining bright in contrast to the cold, dark sky. The engines roar echoed off the numerous buildings as we raced, and I could feel the thundering deep in my ribs. Down the long Skyscraper Straight, the crowd waved at us from balconies and terraces, as well as the tiny stands erected at intersections. Out of the final corner I hit the gas as hard as I could- a small trail of rubber being laid down as the wheels spun, trying to get traction. The aero shoved the car down into the ground, allowing me to hold incredible amounts of grip through the mid-corner. I could see the rear end of Max’s car kick out a bit on the exit, and I gained time. I went into the final chicane (Which was really just a wiggle in the straight) and blasted past Phil, who was exiting the pit lane.
    “That’s P1. Take it home.” The car flowed into Turn 1 with a beautiful fluid motion, biting into the corner with both aggressiveness and finesse. “Car feels beautiful through the mid-corner. Especially the flowing turns. These new tires are amazing.” The brakes responded with a fierce bite, and I turned into the second corner right on the mark- the left side wheels rumbling over the curb with a loud buzz that shook the car. I turned out on exit, and the car seemed to fly out of the corner. Into three, I gained even more time as Phil and Max fought for P2. “Just pull out a gap here, do your best. We need 14 qualifying laps, here.” I turned the engine down to Standard Mix (to preserve fuel), and bared down.

——

    Lap 30 came quick. I had set fastest lap after fastest lap, but now, with only 5 laps to go, I was having to slow down because of fuel issues. “If you don’t go down to Lean now, you won’t finish. Fuel is critical.” I gritted my teeth and dialed the knob down- the engine dropping a bit in its pitch. “Come on, Andy, I’ve got to have something. Anything would help. Surely I’ve got something in the reserve.” I crossed the line to the cheering of almost a thousand fans. Four laps to go. “You don’t have anything in the reserve, that’s what I’m saying,” Andy said before being cut off when I went under the tunnel. “You have 4 and a quarter laps of fuel left. If we get a Safety Car, you’re going to have to stop.” 4 and a quarter… I can work with a quarter lap. Max was a couple seconds back, having gotten away from Phil.
    Through the third corner, the now worn tires held grip, and thanks to the light load, I took the corner almost flat-out. Max was still gaining, and I could see the number on his car in the mirror. Three Laps to go. “Max has closed now to a second and a half. 1.5 seconds is the gap.” I kept in Lean mode. “Fuel estimates?” I heard Andy mutter, “Huh?” before he answered, “3.3 Laps left in the tank.. Keep saving.” I flew through the Esses of Turns 1, 2, 3, and 4, the car sparking as it bottomed out. Through 5, the dashboard lit up in yellow, and I saw a small wisp of smoke ahead. I slowed down a bit, shooting past a LakeFront car. Thin, dark grey smoke hissed out of the engine compartment, standing out against the bright orange and white car. Thankfully, it allowed a brief reprieve from Max’s inevitable attack. I flew into the 6-7 chicane as hard and as fast as possible, allowing the car to stretch its legs just a bit in an attempt to get out a lead.
    With a lap to go, Max was right on top of me. “You’ve got 2 laps of fuel to use. Push!” I fired the engine up to Rich mode, and immediately the car seemed to lurch forward a bit as the third fuel cell activated, sending loads of power to the engine unit. I dove into the first corner, feeling the G’s pulling at me as I took the corner. Max held right in behind me, not giving me any quarter. I slammed into the second turn as hard as I could, and some sparks flew up into the air as the car flashed over the curbing. I couldn’t afford any mistakes, and now it was time for the best lap of my career.
    Into three, the crowd roared, and I saw Max looking to my outside. I held up the inside of the turn, and it was a game of chicken. Who’s going to brake first, who’s turning in last? I dove into the turn and Max followed half a second later, but I had already taken advantage- pulling out and getting clear. I used all the momentum I could out of the corner, and Max had to slot in behind me to keep from getting shoved into a wall. Max weaved left and right, trying to get anything he could into 4. I made the car as wide as kermanely possible, not allowing any attack into the turn. I went over the curbing hard, and the left sides popped up with a snap, almost getting up onto two wheels before I corrected with a tiny wiggle of the wheel.
    Down the somewhat long 4-5 straight, I held to the inside, staying as defensive as I could. Max wasn’t having any of it, and kept in behind me down the straight. Then, he sliced down, attempting to squeeze into the thin gap. I swerved up the track but Max hit the brake. I held my line but Max fell back, before slipping up into my draft. I cut down into the corner and practically leaned as I turned the wheel, trying to hold as much grip as I could. The suspension sagged on the left side as I took the corner almost flat-out, protesting against the load. Just when I thought the car would lose it all and spear off into a wall, I evened out the steering wheel. Dust flew off the front wheels as the car overshot the exit curbing, and as I drove mere inches from the wall, I saw my shadow being repeated over and over from the lights on the inside of the track.
    In my mirrors, I could see Max had down the exact same thing, but I saw the rear just step out- sending up a brief but violent flash of light from the left rear as the tire tapped the wall in a puff of smoke. He wiggled a bit but somehow kept from over-correcting into the barrier, and I pulled out a small (but significant) gap. I rumbled back over the curbing with a loud skittering and sparking, while I sawed at the wheel to keep from spinning out as the under tray scraped along the top of the curbs. I crossed the DRS line and activated it, shooting forward just a bit and accelerating faster. By the end of the straight, Max had caught back up to me, and I dove into Turn 6 as fast and as hard as possible. I slammed the apex, and sparks flashed up as the front wing and the under tray made contact. It was a fast, hard run down into the Roundabout Section, and down the straight the fans cheered us on.
    Max and I were nose-to-tail, and I watched as white and orange sparks blew up in a cloud behind Max, looking astounding as they glittered and shined. I went into Turn 10, before whipping into Turn 11 for the City Section entrance. There was a fast run before heading into Turn 12, and weaving through the section as full tilt. The car leaned and swayed through the fast changes, and as I blew under the bridge Max lost a lot of time from the dirty air. I went into the 13/14 double apex, orange-red light getting cast over the immediate area near my wheels as the brakes glowed a fiery tint. Max leaped up on me through the braking, and as I shot over the curbs I noticed he had gained a ton.
    I went as wide as possible into Turn 17, almost hitting the grass on the outside. Max followed suit, not wanting to dive up the inside and get sandwiched between a solid car and a far more solid concrete wall. The engine screamed on the exit, and I let off the gas to keep the wheels from spinning. Max managed to hold the grip nicely, and appeared on my right side a second later. I used everything I could- EPB and Rich Revs- and Max appeared to stall out. Side-by-side, Max and I went into Turn 18- the crowd roaring as we passed them.
    I hit the DRS button as soon as I hit the line, getting the jump on Max. Very cunningly, he slowed down just a little bit and let me clear him, before getting into my slipstream. I hunkered down and did my best to stop the attack, and it worked. I touched the brakes for Turn 19, shifting down once and then diving down into the corner. Max lost a lot of ground as the aero shoved him off-line, and I grinned. Down the straight, the gap shrunk drastically, and into the final corner, Max made a massive dive-bomb. I hit the brakes, and the car slowed down right on cue. Max passed and somehow, even though he was almost at the wall, he made the car stick. I pulled out of the turn and the engine drove the car forward with a dull howl that grew as it pushed the speed. I dove for the inside of the track, attempting to get past down the straight. It wasn’t enough, and I crossed the line just inches behind Max while explosions of blue and white fireworks threw light over everything as they blasted up into the air.
    “Aww you’re kidding me! Dangit. Good race, just couldn’t get it. Ugh! Andy, that was one heck of a strategy, bud. My fault there at the end.” Andy chuckled as I slowed down- Max coming up behind me as we entered the tunnel. “You did one heck of a job driving the car. Splendid job there, mate. Shame we couldn’t get it, but we’ll take them next time.” I waved at Max and pointed, as if to say, “Next time, you’re mine,” as we drove along. I could almost see him laughing and he gave me a thumbs-up. It was finally a battle.


9:30pm, 2 Weeks later. Round 3 of 10. Grestin. Juniper Space Port, Grestin (NGS)

    “YEEEEAAAAAAASSS!!!!!” Phil leaped off the podium in celebration, followed by a loud cheer from the fans. I clapped for Phil as I got my champagne bottle, celebrating with Phil. It was his first race win in a year, and I could tell he was enjoying the experience. I knew this was an even bigger moment for him, however, and it was an incredible moment for Max, Phil, and I. For the first time ever in K1 history, there was a 3-way tie for the lead of the championship. The championship was on, and now there was only one thing left to do. Win the title. Should be easy, right?

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Okay, so 18. Pretty important chapter, huh? Lots of plot, lots of big, important bits. But first, the race! Enjoy this wet and wild Owlian Grand Prix, and my rendition of Singapore, 2017. Just put onto Malaysia. And with KSP. It's not much like F1, is it? Anyways, enjoy this chapter.

 

Chapter 18: Chaos

12:30 pm, 2 weeks later. Round 4 of 10: Owlia. Owlia Grand National Raceway, New Owlia City

    Thunder rumbled from far-away, and rain slammed onto the roof of the garage. The sky, which rumbled and rolled in the sky, shone with a cruel and cold slate grey. I shivered in my jacket, a motion which was being repeated by practically everyone. The average temperature for the Owlian GP is practically tropical. High temps and incredibly high humidity at around 90º and 60-70% respectively. It was almost always one of the hottest races of the year. Now, it was quite the opposite. The temperature, according to my phone which I was balancing in my hand, was hovering in the mid-40’s.
    “Gosh I’m going to freeze to death soon,” Alexis said, bouncing on her toes to try to keep warm. I was about to hand her my jacket, but she shook her head. “It’s useless at this point; it’s gotten down in through everything.” I sighed and felt bad at the fact I was wearing thermal gear underneath an already highly effective firesuit. I went ahead and handed her the jacket anyways, and she thanked me through chattering teeth. “Hey, Jeb, you ready?” Andy asked as he poked his head in through the opening. “Yeah, one second,” I said, grabbing my gloves. “S-s-stay s-safe,” Alexis chattered, waving. I smiled and waved back, before facing the elements.
    Immediately, I regretted it. There was a chilling wind coming down from the north, and it managed to freeze every bone in my body. The car was already on the grid, a large portable stand covering it to keep the water off my seat. I went up to the front of the grid, and lined up for the national anthem. “Good lord almighty, it’s cold,” Phil muttered, rubbing his arms. “In all my years of racing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen weather like this,” Max agreed as he bounced around. “All two years?” A LakeFront driver joked, which was followed by scattered laughter from the other drivers. “Uh, how many wins have you had in the last few years?” Max retorted, which was met with even more laughter.
    The anthem started playing, and I waited it out. As the song ended, I heard the shrieking of jets, but I couldn’t see them due to the low clouds. “Gosh, this is going to be fun,” I told Max as we went to the cars. “Remember Tekkia last year?” Max asked with a smile. “Oh gosh, like it was yesterday,” I replied as we got to my car. “Good luck,” I waved as Max departed for his 3rd grid slot. It was my first pole of the season, and now I was more than ready to get going.
    “Ready?” Andy asked over the radio as I buckled in. The engine was roaring, and behind I saw heat waves and steam coming out the rear as it warmed up. I gave a thumbs-up, and the stand came away. Rain started pounding me hard, splattering over everything in a matter of seconds. Drops rolled down my visor as I sat, and I could hear it pattering on the car, sending up splashes as it hit. The steering wheel was getting affected as well, as I could see by the drops streaking down its face.
    The lights went out for the formation lap, and I jammed the gas. The full wet tires, with their massive treads, gently skidded on the tarmac, sending up a spray of water as they spun. Water droplets flew up into the air as the front wheels rolled forward, hitting my visor just a bit and sending up a misty spray. “The car’s feeling good. Some slipperiness on corner out, but it’s not terrible. First couple laps are going to be awful, that’s for sure.” I went down the straight at practically a snails pace, and sloshed through puddles wider than the track on the apex of the Turn 1 hairpin.
    “Yeah, don’t go crazy on the start- Run wide if you have to when there’s a wreck; someone’s going to be stupid and dive-bomb you.” I went into Turn 2 and almost spun out as the car hydroplaned over the small hill. I sawed the wheel and slammed the brakes, which got the car back under control. “Yeah, first lap’s going to be crazy.. Weather report?” I asked through the long Turn 3. “This rain’s probably going to be around for the first half. After that the reports are mixed at it’s either going to stop or get worse. We’ll be prepared for whatever, though.”
    I broke for Turn 4 and attempted to find my feet on the treacherous course. Fortunately, Four was right at the top of a hill. The run up to Four was an uphill section, and the run out of Four was downhill into 5. The apex was dry compared to the rest of the track, and out here there were almost no puddles. “It’s inters weather for Turn 4. Not sure about the rest of the track, though.” In Turn 5, the start of the S Section, there was a huge puddle that I splashed through. The car didn’t hydroplane any, but I could hear the water some flying off the tires with a loud sloshing. We ran back up the hill for Turn 6, and just like 4, it was pretty dry. I blazed into the double-apex of 7 and 8, and the curbing was slick. “Remind me to keep off the curbing,” I told Andy. 9, 10, and 11 were dryer, with little in the way of puddles. 12 was hard and fast, and I hit the gas. Water sprayed up in a heavy mist as the tires rolled over the ground, sending up a massive trail of water into the air in a “Rooster Tail” as the drivers called it. I dove into 13, and realized that this part of the track was relatively dry. Down the backstraight, the car seemed to grip okay as I weaved, but I wasn’t wanting to go too crazy and risk it too much.
    I drove up to the line and waited for the rest of the grid to fall into line. Rain fell down onto me with a vengeance, as if it hated everything I had done to displease it. To my left, rain-soaked fans huddled in the stands, still cheering despite the howling wind and freezing water. To the right, national flags whipped in the wind, extending almost straight out. Lights turned on around the track so we could see better. A green flag waved at the back, and I turned the engine to Rich revs. 
    A single light came on above me on the pylon, glowing brightly.
    Two lights came on, and I pushed the clutch in.
    Three lights on now. I pushed in the accelerator and the engine rose.
    Four lights glowed a bright amber. The sound of rain pounding on my helmet mixed in with my own heartbeat, which was ramping up faster and faster.
    Five lights. The engine rose to a scream, echoed by 19 other cars.
    The lights went out and I dumped the clutch. The car got going sluggishly, but gained grip quickly off the line. I shifted up quickly, trying to keep Phil behind me. I sliced to the inside, but Max appeared out of nowhere on the right, making it 3-wide down the straight. Water flew up into the air, creating a wash of mist that almost blinded me as it covered my visor. I hit the brakes early, but Max locked up. 
    He went straight-on into Turn 1, and right into the side of Phil, who was hit hard with the left-front tire of Max’s car. Debris flew into the air as Phil spun back to the inside, careening out of control in front of me. Water splashed up in a wave off the wheels of Phil’s car, and some kind of liquid leaked out of the side of the car, where there was a huge gash. I swept to the outside, and Phil spun down to the inside. I squeezed in between the right side of Max’s car and the rear of Phil’s, and just made it work. The car gripped through the corner and I managed to get past before my wheel turned yellow.
    “Safety Car. You have the lead; no overtaking. Good job getting through that.” I cycled down to Lean revs and cycled the radio. “You okay?” I asked. There was static, followed by the sound of engines going past. “Yeah, I’m good. Was that you?” I gave a sigh of relief. “It was Max. Dove up the inside and locked up. I almost hit you when you came back across.”
    “Max is a freaking moron,” Phil sighed. “Are you able to get going?” Phil waited a second and I could tell he was looking around. “Nope. Totaled the right-rear suspension, and something’s leaking out of the side. Did you get any damage?” I weaved around down the straight and the car felt normal. “Not really. I think Max has wing damage; maybe some tire damage as well.” We talked for a bit before the Safety Car picked us up on the front straight. “Yeah, they want me to head with the Marshals. Talk to you when I get on the box.” The radio clicked off and I switched back to Andy’s channel. “Did you say anything? I was busy talking to Phil.”
    “Nothing much. Just that the rain is already slowing up- should be completely gone in about 5 minutes by now. Do you have any damage?” I slowed down as we entered the braking zone for Turn 1, where I saw Phil waiting in the inside with Marshals in orange jackets standing next to him. “I just avoided it- no damage except for some major blood pressure issues.” Andy laughed and I saw Phil staring at a spot several feet behind me, looking furious. I came out of the corner and was about to dive down to Turn 2 when Phil walked onto the track, a couple feet off the outside grass. He stared at Max with as much fury as possible and held up a fist, followed by making a quite rude gesture involving the third finger from the left. I heard clapping from the crowd, and I couldn’t help but laugh myself. Later, Andy told me Claire was about to tell Phil to cool it, before she realized his radio wasn’t on.
    The rain was still slowing, but it wasn’t gone yet as I went through 3. “Safety Car needs to hurry up,” I said nervously as we drive along. “Tire temps are really going to take a hit if we don’t speed it up here.” I slowed up before jamming the gas, making everyone behind check up big time. “Jeb, just a warning, the stewards probably aren’t going to like that move,” Andy cautioned mid-apex of Turn 4. “Well I can’t really heat up the brakes and tires any other way! There’s so much water through here, I might as well be driving through a swamp!” I went into 5 and heard the car go over a massive puddle, sloshing water out from the wheels and increasing the spray before we went up the hill. The rain was still falling onto my visor, but at least I could see more clearly.
    On Lap 5, we were finally going. Max hadn’t pitted despite the damage to his car, and was right behind me as the Safety car pulled off. I jammed the gas out of the final hairpin, fishtailing a bit as the rears struggled for traction. I got away from Max on the exit and pulled out a gap. The rain had stopped now, but the clouds were still as grey as ever, demanding attention and keeping the rain from drying. Fog flew up into the air as I briefly surpassed 175 miles per hour, before I hit the brakes for the corner. The fronts had no grip at all, and I slid way wide of the apex. Max took the gap, and tried to move up my inside before he too ran wide. I cut back inside and passed him, but through 2 I was on the outside. We kept side-by-side in the hairpin, but he was no match as I held the inside of the long, sweeping Turn 3. Spray assaulted my visor as I passed, blinding me as water was thrown up into my face. I got past and the water cleared up, allowing me to see where I was going. I got on the inside of Turn 4, and finally Max was behind me.
    Through 5, I blasted through the puddle, throwing up water. I held the speed and (somehow) the grip through the turn. Up 6, the car got incredibly light, making me wiggle the wheel to hold speed. I went over the exit curbing and onto the runoff, holding throttle. Max did the exact same, and I had to cut back down before running into the grass. I dove down into 7 and 8 at almost full-throttle, lifting off slightly in the middle of the turn. I went into 9, 10, and 11 while water flew into the air. The speed climbed through 12, and Max slotted right into line behind me through the huge turn. This part of the track was incredibly dry, with almost no puddles. Diving into Turn 13, Max hit the brakes early. I clipped the apex perfect (As usual, of course), and accelerated out of the corner with a fury. 22 Laps to go…

———

    By Lap 12, the spray had gone down rapidly, and I decided to radio in. “Track is dry. I’m seeing a line forming, and the spray’s way down. Should we pit?” The radio changed and Andy’s voice got muffled by a car blazing past. “Affirmative; box now. We’re ready.” I dove into 4 and felt the full wet tires skitter over the dry ground. “Dry tires, dries. I think the tires are starting to blister.” Immediately I went off the racing line, sending up a weak spray. Through 5, there was still a puddle on the outside, but the line was almost bone-dry. Max was hanging behind me about 3 seconds back, and I saw his wing was still damaged.
    Through Turn 7 and 8, I went over the curbing and felt the wheels grab up every bit of water that was left, throwing up a tiny spit of water. I went far off-line, throwing up water into the air. Through the S, I held to the line and went in at full-throttle. In 12, the inside was a bit damp, which I used to cool off the right-sides. Into the hairpin, I kept onto the line and hit it perfectly. I saw the tires were really starting to take punishment, though, as blisters started appearing in the treads. I went into the pit lane and pulled in right onto the mark. The wet tires were pulled off in perfect synchronization, and I watched as fuel was put into the car. Finally, the jack dropped and I stormed out of the pit stall. Max was getting his car repaired in his stall, and I pulled out a lead.
    “Alright, kid, just hang on. You’ve got 15 laps to finish this thing out. You’ve got the speed, got the gap. I know you’ve got this thing.” I smiled as I left the pits, jamming on the gas. “Thanks, Phil. I’ll get this one for you, ok?” I heard a chuckle and Phil replied, “You do that.” I fired the engine up to Rich revs for the first time since the start of the race.

———

    “YES, GUYS! LET’S GO!!!” I weaved down the straight as the fans cheered, celebrating my second win on the season. Max stormed through to second about 5 seconds back off me, unable to get close to me after the stops. “Awesome, awesome job, Jeb! Great momentum heading into the Summer Break.” Andy congratulated me as I went on the cool down lap. “Yeah, nice job there, bud. Strong finish, and amazing job in the wets.” Phil, despite being crashed out on the first lap, didn’t sound too disappointed when congratulating me. “Thanks, Phil. Sorry about that first lap, but we’ll get ‘em in Baskay.” I raised my fist in celebration as I went through the first and second turns, making the crowd cheer. I knew Max was going to put up a massive fight in 4 weeks time.. But I was ready for it. 


9:00am, 3 Days later. OTech Race Team Headquarters, River City, Owlia


    I was checking over the race report when my door slowly opened. Alexis poked her head in, and when I looked up, I smiled. “Hey,” I said, before seeing Alexis’s scared face. “Are you okay?” I asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” Her face was pale as a sheet, and she looked like she was either terrified or about to cry. Or both.
    “Phil… He….” She sighed and shook her head. “There’s a press conference downstairs. Matty wants everyone down there, now.” She turned and started walking away, and I bolted up to get down to the press room. I came in just as the cameras turned on, and I stayed at the back. Phil walked in from the side, wearing a fancy-looking suit. He was looking down at the floor. When he sat down, I noticed his eyes looking a bit damp, like he was nearing tears himself. The chair creaked a bit, and Phil adjusted the microphone just right. “Thank you all for coming,” He started with a sigh. Camera shutters clicked and rustled as they picked up the perfect snapshots.
    “I have been a part of K1 for 16 years. I have worked at this team for all 16. I’ve been a proud and loyal OTech driver for my entire career, and I can’t thank Matty enough for giving me this opportunity. But.. The time has come for me. Today, I’m announcing my retirement from the sport of K1.” The crowd of reporters mumbled and the room became a dull rumble of whispered conversation. My mouth dropped open in shock.
    “I’ve been in this sport for a little less than half a lifetime, and I’ve loved every last second. OTech, you’ve been a wonderful team to me, and I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me and my life. I’m going to miss all of y’all. I’m going to miss the experiences I’ve had, and the experiences I’m going to have. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to end out this ride with. I’m going to miss my teammates especially.” Phil’s face crumpled a bit and he sniffed, dropping his head a bit. He took a few moments to collect himself, before continuing on. He wiped his eyes and charged on.
    “I just want to stay safe. I’m going to take this opportunity to rest, relax, and try to live the life I haven’t lived in a long, long time. Matty, thank you for all your confidence and support you’ve given me in my career. I’ll never forget it. Everyone, thank you for coming here today to listen to this.” There was a rush of reporters asking questions, but Phil put his hand up for silence. “No questions today,” He said, shaking his hand. Phil got up and wiped his eyes as he left the room.
    Phil was Superman to me.. Invincible, unstoppable, all-powerful. He was the best driver in K1. Legends like that don’t just up and leave! Superman can’t die… Can he?

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And I'm all caught up! Still thoroughly impressed by the racing and how you manage to keep it all fresh and gripping, when it could easily get really repetitive.

That first date though! The aftermath seemed about right to me (although Alexis has a stronger constitution than I do if she could face fruit juice first thing in the  morning. :wink:  ).I'm glad Jeb was such a gentlekerb too.

Thanks man - I needed to chill with a good book this evening and that did the job nicely.

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On 3/6/2018 at 2:04 PM, KSK said:

And I'm all caught up! Still thoroughly impressed by the racing and how you manage to keep it all fresh and gripping, when it could easily get really repetitive.

That first date though! The aftermath seemed about right to me (although Alexis has a stronger constitution than I do if she could face fruit juice first thing in the  morning. :wink:  ).I'm glad Jeb was such a gentlekerb too.

Thanks man - I needed to chill with a good book this evening and that did the job nicely.

Thanks! I don't really have much experience with most of this stuff, so I'm glad to know that it came out okay. I hope you enjoy the rest of the story :wink: 

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So I've got a big big problem. Before I left for Spring Break, I backed up Chapter 20 (or what I had worked on for Chapter 20) onto my email. Only problem? I forgot to upload Chapter 19 to the forums, or my email! Now this wouldn't be an issue; I would just get either The Final Stand, or upload Chapter I and 1 or Renegades (My newest story detailing a post-apocalyptic Owlia torn by Civil War, blah blah blah). Only problem: I FORGOT TO UPLOAD THAT TOO. RARGH!

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  • 2 weeks later...

So 19.. I can't believe it- I'm happy to announce that Life At The Top is now (technically) a novel! According to a post from @Just Jim in Emiko Station, 40,000 words is the novel summit... Hit that about 3 chapters ago :P I've (so far, about halfway through Chapter 20) written a whopping 61,853 words. And I'm not even close to being finished!

Anyways, enough about numbers and word count. Sorry if I've bored y'all- I tend to do that. For now, enjoy! It's going to be fun (I hope).

 

Chapter 19: Revelation and Revival

9:10am. OTech Race Team Headquarters, River City, Owlia

    I slammed the door shut and Phil turned quickly. He sighed and looked at me, and in his eyes I could tell he was saying “About time you got here.” I huffed as I got up to him, overcome with a huge fury that had replaced confusion and sadness. I stomped up to Phil, and stopped about a foot or two in front of him.
    “What was that?!” I demanded with a shout. “What, you’re deaf?” Phil asked with a sly smirk. “I retired. You know, when you don’t do something anymore.” This was a new side of Phil that I hadn’t seen before, and to be honest I was surprised. In all the time I’d known him, Phil never used sarcasm or sharp barbs in retaliation. Normally, he just rewired the situation into a good joke we’d end up laughing about a few days later.
    “You’re full of it. You’re the GOAT, and you want to-“ Phil held up a finger. “I’m livestock?” I rolled my eyes. “‘Greatest of All-Time.’ Anyways, you’re the best, and you want to quit right at the top of your game! You’ve got one heck of a chance to win the title, and now you want to throw away your shot at the record books.” Phil’s nostrils flared. “‘Record books?!’ Oh, I don’t have a spot there anymore!” He threw his hands up in anger. “I’m not doing it for the money anyways. I’m not doing it for the records. Not the fame, not the recognition, not the spotlight. Not the awards, not the celebrities, not the cameras. I was doing it for the fun.” He sighed and turned around, looking out the window. “And now that fun’s all gone..”
    “I need you, Phil!” I pleaded. “There’s still so much I have to learn, here. You’ve got to help me!” Phil scoffed. “Seem to be doing pretty good for yourself,” he said. I felt my ears redden a bit. “But I won’t be around forever,” Phil continued. “Not for long..” Now I was confused. “What-“ I asked, before Phil turned around. “Have you heard of TTD?” Phil asked seriously, his eyes still sad. “Of course,” I replied. 
    Every child, adult, and senior fears hearing those 3 letters. It’s a disease that kills from the inside out, killing off tissue as it goes along. Typically, it takes anywhere from one to 21 years for someone to die from it. The disease was genetic, and always fatal. There wasn’t a cure, but some medicines did make the symptoms better. Symptoms include small wounds that tend to stick around for longer periods, as well as a weakened immune system. My eyes bulged open as I remembered the awards ceremony.
    “No…” I muttered in shock. Phil sadly nodded. “Doctors said if I get out by this year, I might make it to 40. But that’s a big maybe.” He sat down at his desk and looked up at me. “Tell you what. You need help. I want something to do. So how about this: I become your mentor, and you don’t try to convince me to go back on my decision. Deal?” I cocked my head. “Mentor me how?” Phil seemed to think. “Have you ever seen that Karate movie? With the kid in it?”
    “Oh, the one where the kid moves to another country and gets beat-“ Phil looked confused. “What? I’m talking about the one where he moves to Angel City. Are you telling me they remade a classic like that?!” I nodded, and Phil sighed. “Alright, first we’re watching the original. Then we’ll get to work.” I nodded in agreement. “We’re really going to miss you,” I commented sadly. “I know,” Phil agreed sadly. “I’m going to miss this.”

1:30pm, 1 Week later. River Stadium, River City, Owlia


    “Pass the salt?” I asked Harold as I started on the fries. He passed me the shaker and I sprinkled some over the food. We’d been working on mending our.. Situation since we had last met, and this was our main place to go. “You did good last week,” Harold commented. I smiled inadvertently, enjoying the praise. “Some driving there at the start.” I nodded as I chowed down. “Uh.. I’ve.. got something to tell you..” Alarm bells started going off in my head but I kept on eating. He opened his mouth to start talking, but was interrupted by someone opening the door. She looked to be a bit younger than me, but I felt like I knew her. She had some rusty-brown hair, and I remembered where I had seen her before. She was the “fan” who had crashed the garage. “Uh oh, trouble,” I muttered, trying to shield my face. Harold looked up and I saw his eyes widen. He stood up as the stranger approached.
    “Kim??” He gasped. “What are you doing here?” Wait they know each other? The stranger- Kim- looked at me and smiled widely. “So you told him?” She asked happily. “Kim-“ Harold attempted. Kim soldiered on. “Apparently it was ‘Never the right time,’ and I’ve just been dying to meet you! When dad said you lived here, I knew-“ I cut her off and stood up quickly. “‘Dad?!’” I exclaimed. Dad seemed to shrink back. “You.. You didn’t tell him?” Kim asked, before muttering, “I can’t believe this,” under her breath.
    “Wait up a second, you’re telling me this is my sister?!” My eyes darted back and forth. “I was waiting! Until… I was waiting!” Dad stammered to attempt an explanation. “Is this some kind of joke?” Kim nodded. “I was just thinking the same thing,” She agreed before turning to Harold. “Are you serious, you haven’t told him?!” I put my hands up and shook my head. “I just can’t do this, not right now.. Baskay’s in a few weeks and I need to stay focused. I…” I sighed. “I’ll see you later.” I walked out of the door and the bell chimed almost happily as I left. Things just kept getting weirder and weirder.


6:45pm, 3 Weeks later. Round 5 of 10: New Baskay. New Baskay City, NMC

 

“Glamor, Glitz, and Glory! The New Baskay Grand Prix features all of this, and more on our return to this glorious street circuit. Celebrities, Superstars, and the Richest of the Rich all inhabit the city of Baskay.  Tight turns, short straights, and hard walls are highlighted by condos, yachts, parties, and the soft evening sky with the sunsets. But even as the Stars come out to play, the diamonds in the rough could throw up a surprise. 
“The recent years of Baskay have been highlighted by the successes of OTech. Phil Kerman was on course to take his fourth consecutive victory at this illustrious street circuit, before the young Jebediah Kerman came in to steal the show; en route to his first World Title.
“With news of the retirement of Phil Kerman, OTech knows they’ll need to fill in a seat for 2037. Phil, however, is looking for victory in his final drive at the circuit he’s taken a record-breaking 9 race wins at, and hopefully, a perfect start to the second half of his swan song season. Across the garage at OTech, Season 2 vet Jebediah Kerman is looking for his second consecutive victory after taking a rain-soaked victory at the circuit he calls home. At Monster, Max Kerman is looking to turn even more heads after his stellar start to his career after winning in Tekkia- against his best friend no less.
“Who will take the win here tonight under the spotlights of the world? Will it be the long-time favorite? The Reigning Champion? Or the Rookie? Answers to all these and more, now.
“Three drivers, One trophy. The 2036 Baskay Grand Prix is ready to begin.”


    The setting sun bathed the city in a stunning orange glow that made the hard and unforgiving walls look soft and kind. Probably why so many crashes happened on the first few laps. I took the short walk back to the second grid slot right behind Phil. The new car looked absolutely stunning, and I rubbed my hand over the new wings. The team had lowered it down to the absolute limit, and also widened it up a little tiny bit. The Plate (Our name for the plate on the rear fin) had also been shrunk a bit, but for this race the team had deployed it to massive levels on the setup. The car looked like it was made for greatness, and I couldn’t wait to get going.
    “Looking forward to this one?” Alexis asked as the sun started to set. A cool coastal breeze blew through the trees with a soft rustling as seagulls screeched overhead. “Feeling pretty good. Hopefully the break didn’t take too much out of me.” I put the helmet on and all sound briefly became a blur. It felt peaceful kind of. I opened up the visor to let some cool air in, and all the sound came back at me. Andy had walked up holding a clipboard and wearing his almost over-sized headphones.
    “How would you feel about trying a two-stop?” He asked, looking over the data. “Huh? I thought we were one-stopping at 20 or 22.” Two-stops were generally uncommon in K1, mainly due to the fact that the tires lasted so long. Fuel was the only real concern, but with proper saving techniques and a pit stop halfway through the race, it wouldn’t be difficult to make it to the end. “We would, but it all depends on the engine upgrade. We ran some tests but not enough to get accurate data on the fuel flow. Either you’ll make it to the end with a few laps to spare on the one-stop, or you’ll run out of fuel in the middle of the backstraight, lose the race, have no momentum and lose the championship.” Pretty optimistic outlooks there, Andy. Thanks. “Is it worth going through the pits for that second stop, though? We’d lose at least 20, maybe 30 seconds and probably get out of the top five.” We argued for a few moments but finally decided to play it by ear.
    I got into the car and buckled up. The engine hummed behind me like a beehive, and the plate loomed in my mirror. Finally, the lights went out, and I went away. “Not much wheelspin off the line. Pretty good grip on the traction.” I kept off the curbing through the first corner, slingshotting through the turn. I twisted the visor down to keep the sun out of my eyes, but despite the tinting I could still see the rays of light playing tricks on the hard plastic. Up the straight and into the canyon, the car bounced over tiny bumps. Tiny sparks flew off the under tray and diffuser of Phil’s car, and I could tell that my car was having an equal effect. “Be careful about that ridge at the top of the hill,” Phil’s voice warned me over the radio. “Thanks, buddy,” I said as we turned in. We got through Tilly Street fine (The tiny straight in between the canyon and the hairpin section), and I dove into a tight right-hander, and the short run to the Hairpin- Lowe. Then, we got under a tiny bridge on another tight right, a wider right, and into the tunnel. Throughout that lap, of course, I was giving updates on the car. Finally, it was time to get going.
    “Mode 4, please. All telemetry’s looking good. If that lap’s anything to go off, we’ll be running Option A.” I smiled under the helmet as I pulled the correct levers, twisted the dials, and pushed the buttons. Andy had finally come around to the idea of a one-stop. I pulled into my grid slot and waited. The engine sang in a droning tone behind me, and I watched the remaining cars slot in. Just like last year, a LakeFront had surprised us all, and despite terrible reliability and performance, had come into the Top 5 in qualifying. Micheal (The other Monster car) was slotted into Fourth, and after that I really didn’t care enough to look down the list. “Max is slower in the first sector, so use that,” Andy said as the rest of the grid came up. “Thanks,” I replied as the green flag waved in the back, signifying we were all good to go.
    One light came on above me, illuminating the track in a stern fire truck-red. I turned the engine up to Rich.
    Two lights on now. My finger came to a rest on the clutch button.
    Three. I revved up the engine, its tone being taken up by 19 other cars on the grid. The noise echoed off the walls of the city, and I felt the energy as we sat waiting.
    Four on. My heart was racing, and I could hear it beating like a timpani drum.
    Five. The lights hovered in the air and my vision turned to a small hole, focused on nothing but those lights.
    The lights went out and I released the clutch right on the mark. The rears grabbed traction with a squeal, slamming me back against the seat. I rocketed away, and Phil got a little bit of a late start (later than me at least). I tried a move up the inside of the tight straight, but Phil cut down as we got to Turn 1. I wiggled the wheel a bit as the rears lost their grip on the track, and I slid up the track in my attempt to not spin. Thankfully I didn’t hit the wall, but I had lost about half a second of time that I couldn’t afford. “Warn him, that was too close!” I told Andy as we went up the straight. Sparks flew off Phil’s car and hit the nose of mine, creating beautiful images as they hit and popped off. Into the canyon, Phil broke early and I had to slide up to keep from ramming him. We passed the Casino on the right and I attempted a move down Tilly. It was no good, and again Phil managed to get past. I gritted my teeth and went down to Standard, not wanting to get into too big of a fight. Phil, me, and Max went through the hairpin nose-to-tail, looking like a great snake. I looked for any kind of opening down the tunnel, but Phil wasn’t letting anything go. Even through the chicane, he got his line perfect and didn’t allow an attack. Still, I was getting close.
    At the start of the second lap, I was right on Phil’s tail yet again. I dove up his inside for Turn 1, and he had nothing as I blasted through. “Good move there,” Andy commented as I heard clapping behind him. “Extend a gap if you can.” I started to pull away little by little as Phil made small mistakes- a lockup there, wiggle there, understeer here- and by the quarter mark I was cleared by two seconds. “Fuel’s looking just fine; no need to stop here.” I checked the digital dash as I rocketed through the tunnel, and I saw I was a little over half a tank left. “Thanks. How’s the pace back to Max?” I dove into the chicane hard and fast, clipping what little inside curbing there was. “Max is two seconds back, Phil is one and a half. Keep on pushing, here.”
    On Lap 22, more than halfway into the race, disaster struck. I rolled through the hairpin at a mere 13 meters per second, and radioed in that it was time for the stop. “Affirmative. Crew is ready. Phil has already boxed, so we need this to be a quick in-lap.” I got into the tunnel and got up to Rich revs, wary of the fact I had about 7 units of fuel left, or a lap and a half. I blasted out of the tunnel. The sky was ink-black now, and the white lights were doing a great job at illuminating the track. Then, I did something truly stupid. I dove into the chicane, but a bit too early. I hit the curbing, but felt something yank at the rear, almost spinning me out. I jammed the gas on the apex to get back to the chicane, but I realized something was deathly wrong. As soon as I broke for the Swimming Pool chicane, the left rear exploded with a loud boom and a spray of rubber.
    “PUNCTURE! PUNCTURE ON THE LEFT REAR,” I shouted as I tried to gather up the car, which without a left rear was about as precise as an elephant on an ice rink. “Copy, copy. Don’t tear it up coming in. It’ll still be 4 and fuel.” I limped into the pit lane as the car made a pitiful THUMPTHUMP noise every time a strand of rubber contacted the ground. The team quickly got me up and put the new tires on, and I waited as the fuel got in. As soon as I was released, I noticed the yellow flag was out. “Damnit, I’m sorry guys. That was 100% on me there.” As I exited pit lane, Phil burst past- a blue and white blur in the corner of my eye. I punched the wheel in anger, and pulled up behind him as we followed the Safety Car. Max was still in third, but I had lost my 3-second lead.
    All through the Safety Car period, I was cursing and kicking myself for making that one stupid mistake. When the green flag finally waved, I pounced like a cougar. Phil had to cut to the inside to block off the run, but I swept around the outside with ease to reclaim the lead. Or so I thought. Into Turn 1, Phil made an incredible dive up the inside. I left him the space, and he stayed there the whole way through. On corner exit, I had to let off the gas to regain some traction on the dusty area next to the wall, and it was all Phil needed to take the lead. Max thought about a move around the outside, but I held the inside for Turn 3 and denied any opportunity to get through. On Lap 33, I was behind by only a couple seconds, still fighting. I activated DRS down the front straight, but couldn’t get any closer. On 36, I had only gotten up to a second and a half back. “Okay, Jeb, conserve the engine. Lean mix please. Just bring it home.”
    “Andy, I can catch him!” I protested as I tore into the first corner, almost hitting the wall in my attempt to find that extra tenth or two. The laps ticked down. 4. 3. 2. 1. I let off the throttle and coasted past the line as Phil weaved. Flares shot up into the air as Phil passed, and I shook my head in disgust and disappointment. “I’m sorry, guys,” I said, gritting my teeth. “I’m sorry.”

——

    The team all clapped for me as we entered the paddock, but I just kept my head down. “Hey, good race, Phil,” Max said as he got out of the car, giving Phil a handshake. “Thanks, kid. Same to you.” Max turned to me and smiled. “Good race, bud,” he said, extending his hand out to me. “Yeah, whatever,” I mumbled, shoving his hand away. Max shrugged and went to check the results TV, while I just sat on the couch, ruing that one stupid mistake. If only…
    I walked out to the podium, and listened as the anthems were played. I sat down on the steps and didn’t get up despite getting shot in the face with champagne. The podium interviewer came up to the stage and came around to me with a smile. “Jeb, great race out there today! You tried what you could, and almost took that victory; a strong result.” I adjusted my hat and went for the diplomatic route.
    “Yeah, we did what we could. Phil was just the faster driver this weekend, I’ve got to give it to him. I knew it was going to be a hard one to get past him, and Phil kept up the fight all race long. Just faster all weekend. I’d like to thank the fans for being out here tonight-“ I was cut off by a loud cheering from the gathered fans, and I smiled. “Yeah, just thanks to the fans. Now it’s on to Eradica where we’ll try to take back that points lead.” I waved and tapped my toes, waiting for the interviews to be over.

——————

    It was a quiet plane ride home. Everyone stayed well-away from me, and I kept re-watching that stupid move. 

“Jebediah, he’s got to make his stop- Oh, getting mighty close to that barrier there, can’t tell if he hit it. But he’s got to be pitting soon, don’t you- Oh my! Massive tire blowout on the Number 13 car- huge explosion! Now the question goes from when he’ll pit to will Phil be able to pass him?”

    I turned the phone off and threw it into my seat. There was no use reliving past mistakes. For now, it was on to Eradica.

 

4:15pm, 3 Weeks later. Round 6 of 10: Eradica. Eradica Grand Prix Circuit, Eradica

 

    “Hey, good race there, bud,” I congratulated after the race. This time, I didn’t make any mistakes. Phil and I had had a great fight, but Max had really stolen the show. Monster seemed to have a death grip on Eradica’s layout, because in quali both cars were almost two seconds faster than Phil and I. The only thing stopping Micheal from curb-stomping Phil and I to take a second place was an engine expiration about 3 laps from the end. Meanwhile, in the OTech garage, Phil had just beaten me to the line at the end. The podium was a lot happier and energetic this time around, and I could tell everyone was excited. With just four races remaining in the season, the top three in the championship were dead even. We all knew that anything could happen. The question, though, was what would?

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I can't tell a lie - this made me laugh. It didn't make up for Phil's news though. :( :

"The setting sun bathed the city in a stunning orange glow that made the hard and unforgiving walls look soft and kind. Probably why so many crashes happened on the first few laps."

Another great chapter. I do have one minor comment on readability if you want it, or to take it to private messages?

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Great chapter!  :D

6 hours ago, DarkOwl57 said:

According to a post from @Just Jim in Emiko Station, 40,000 words is the novel summit... Hit that about 3 chapters ago :P I've (so far, about halfway through Chapter 20) written a whopping 61,853 words. And I'm not even close to being finished!

This was according to one of the big sci-fi writing awards... I believe the Nebula Awards. That was the only real number I could find. According to their rules, a written piece has to be 40,000 words or longer to be considered a "novel", and anything below that is broken down into categories of Novella, Novelette, and Short Story. Of all the different places I searched, this was the only website I found that actually had a word-count to go by. I'm not sure how other publishers or whatever might judge what is and isn't novel... but until I find some other specific info I figure this is as good a source as any...

And you passed it a while ago.... congrats!!! :cool:

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2 hours ago, KSK said:

I can't tell a lie - this made me laugh. It didn't make up for Phil's news though. :( :

"The setting sun bathed the city in a stunning orange glow that made the hard and unforgiving walls look soft and kind. Probably why so many crashes happened on the first few laps."

Another great chapter. I do have one minor comment on readability if you want it, or to take it to private messages?

PM is fine- Thanks for the review though :)

1 hour ago, Just Jim said:

Great chapter!  :D

And you passed it a while ago.... congrats!!! :cool:

 

Thank you, and thank you! :D

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So I finished 20, and now it's time for an upload! Minor proofreading complete.. Editing finished.. Let's do this thing! (Oh boy formatting's going to be awful). Oh, quick thing: My Pages doc has hit 100 pages! 100. WHAT THE HECK?!

 

 

Chapter 20: Disaster


11:00am, 2 Weeks later. Round 7 of 10: The Temple. United International Raceway


“The Desert Temple. The oldest landmark Kerbin has ever discovered. It’s been the sight of majesty, suspicion and legends for thousands of years. But today, a new sight will be held.
“Following his win in New Baskay, Four-time champion Phil Kerman is looking to take the lead
of the championship. But before he claims that top step, he’ll have to get through a wall of youth. Jebediah Kerman has taken the world by storm, dominating his first season in K1, and continuing his winning history over to 2036. After winning the race here in 2035, can he come back and win it all again? The rivalry between best friends, though, can not be underestimated. Rookie Max Kerman has set off on a run of performance; winning in Tekkia and last race in Eradica. 
“The K1 circus comes to town today. Highlighted by long straights, fast turns, and sweltering heat, the United International Circuit is home to both heroics and heartbreak. Will the desert sun get to to the drivers? Or will the title competitors find a way to stay cool under pressure? Now it’s time to see; This is the Temple Grand Prix.”

    “Good gods above, it’s so hot!” Everywhere you looked, crew members, fans, and drivers were using various cooling and shading techniques to try to get too hot. The sun blazed down on the track with an almost impossible fury, and with hardly a cloud in the sky, this race looked to be a hot one. Alexis had one of those hand fans and was futilely trying to keep herself cool. Fortunately, an umbrella did the trick for me, keeping the sun from melting the firesuit clear off of me.
    We were walking up to the grid, and in the blazing heat I could see waves shimmering over the tarmac; especially down in the incredibly fast Kerenna Curve. The turn was always flat-out, and with DRS the corner was incredibly exciting to attempt. Of course, it was stupidly risky. Just like Turns 11 and 12, braking for Turn 1 was a gamble. You’re breaking over 200 miles per hour, the heat is messing with the brakes, and you have to have total confidence with your car and your abilities to make it work. The Temple was home to four of the five longest straights in K1; an absolute power track. The Turn 3-6 complex was also really reliant on aero grip. A long right hander followed by a quick, flat-out right-left-right meant the track was a true wild card.
    “So you feeling ready?” Andy asked, holding a spray bottle with a fan attached. “Feeling good. I think we’re going to do great- especially down the straights.” We finally arrived at the car, which looked like it was ready for the race. The shark fin looked lethal; sharp and sleek. Andy had been working constantly with the guys back at the factory, and it looked like the work was paying off. In Practice, the setup was on point, and it carried over to qualifying where Phil and I locked out the front row. “I’m going to assume a one-stop?” I asked as we got to the start/finish line for the anthems. “Probably. We’ll call you in whenever.” The anthem started playing over loudspeakers, and we listened. In celebration of the 50th year of K1, the race organizers had arranged for the Blue Aces-an elite group of pilots flying modified F/A-18’s to do the flyover. Their engines screamed as the 7 jets flew overhead and their noise echoed off the walls of the track, the grandstands, and everything in between.
    “Wooo!” Max shouted as the jets retreated. The grid clapped and I threw my hat back on, which gave me needed comfort. I walked back to the car, which had an umbrella over it. I was starting on pole, with Phil second and Max third. So far this season, we (Phil, Max and I) had swept the qualifying podium- a tradition I hoped to continue. “Stay safe,” Alexis smiled, giving me a hug before I got into the car. “Thanks,” I replied, strapping the helmet on. Immediately, I felt a lot cooler thanks to the extra ventilation built in. The engine fired up with a hearty roar, and I felt the power behind it. The team started pulling out various cooling tubes, including one at the top of the engine cover that spewed out white steam as it was released. As the steam fell over me, I felt a massive wave of cold wash on me. Inadvertently, I shivered, but quickly warmed up as the umbrella was pulled back. We got underway quickly, and I felt the fans energy and excitement as we raced for the title.
    Into the tight 1 and 2 chicane, I could feel the car gripping nicely with a mix of stellar mechanical grip and setup magic. “Alright, all telemetry’s about what we were expecting… Everything feeling good up there?” I jammed the throttle and the car leaped forward. “Pretty nice. My feet are getting a bit warm, though.” Through the S section, the front wheels bit into the tarmac, holding the grip and the speed as I went through the section of corners. The car twisted and turned through the circuit, ripping down the monstrous backstraight like it was a fighter jet. “Car feels great, guys,” I said as I went down into Turn 16- the second part of a double-apex right hander. “Remember, Mode 4, please. Launch engaged. Good luck, Jeb.” I twisted the engine mix dial, and rumbled over the curbing for the tight chicane of Turns 17, 18, and 19. I got onto the front-straight and slotted into my grid slot. My heart was pounding nervously. This would be only my second start at this track, but the first time here ended in victory. The rest of the grid filed in, and I opened up my visor to wipe sweat off my face. Air temps were hovering at a sweltering 94, but the temperature on the tarmac was at 132º. I hoped the pit guys used a fan in the garage.. Behind, the green flag waved- partially obscured by the heat waves floating up a few feet. 
    I saw one bright red light come on above me on the pylon. I activated Rich revs and pulled down my visor, cutting off the wave of dry heat.
    Two lights on. I pushed the clutch in, watching as the heat created a shimmering mirage down the widest straight in K1.
    Three. I pressed the gas, and the engine started revving up and becoming louder and louder by the second.
    Four lights. Launch Control engaged. I checked my mirror and saw Phil waiting behind me, and I saw the bright white circle of the sun reflecting on his tinted visor.
    Five lights. Here we go… My heart rate rose higher, and I watched the lights intently.
    The lights went out and I dumped the clutch off. The rear wheels spun just a bit, but grabbed the tarmac quickly, launching me forward. As soon as the wheels caught, I engaged EPB to get up to speed. Phil got a good launch off the mark and began closing in on me to the right. I quickly sliced down to cut him off, and he had to swing back to the outside in an overtaking attempt. We went through Kerrena Curve and Max had gotten up to the outside of Phil on the exit of the turn. Heading into the braking zone we went three-wide, and the crowd roared as we passed them. I broke hard for the tight turn that went just under 90º (It was like a hairpin; according to the map it was like a 75 or 80º angle), blasting over the curbing. Max locked up on the far outside and had to check up to make the corner, allowing Phil to slip past. Because I was on the inside of Phil, I managed to get past and have a clear drive into Turn 2 (Exactly the same as Turn 1 just turning left instead of right).
    In the short run to Turn 3, I pulled out a gap to Phil. I went through the wide corner, shifting down a couple gears mid-corner. I tapped the curbing on the apex and the car shook with a loud buzzing noise. I kept the momentum all the way through into 4 as I got tossed against my belts. I shifted down through 5 as the car attempted to understeer in the high speed left-hander. I went over the rumble strips on the apex, and flew up the track; right into the apex for Turn 6. Max was closing in on Phil behind, but was no match for us in the corners. I broke for 6 quickly, coasting through the turn. The crowd cheered as we passed, and I flew off the exit at max speed- shooting over the rumble strip and coming back down a second later. In the long run down to Turn 7, Max cut to the outside of Phil before coming back to the inside. Down the straight, Max got a clean run up the inside and got past before the braking zone. I cut down into the tight turn and tapped the apex curbing before flying up and out of the turn. Max got clear of Phil through the turn, and now I could tell he was setting his sights on me.
    Max closed on me just a bit out of Turn 8, and down the straight he started slipstreaming me. Into 9 I slammed on the brakes before turning down. I weaved right back to the inside, and turned in hard for Turn 10- a medium speed 180º corner that basically determined your speed for Forza International; the longest straight on the circuit. I rolled through the apex before jamming the gas. I flew out of the turn, trying to hold onto the rears on exit. Max lost some ground but caught into my slipstream down the straight. Unfortunately, DRS wasn’t available until the start of Lap 3, so I was forced to employ serpentine tactics to keep him behind. I cut down to the inside of the track but Max trailed along right with me. Sand and dust flew up into the air off my tires, streaming off the rear aero plates as it went through the gaps.
    I pushed in EPB and the car sped up a tad, but Max kept up the pace as the speed climbed. 180, 185… 195… 200… 205. Max cut to the outside, but couldn’t get past as we broke for Turns 11 and 12. I clipped the apex of 11 and slammed the brakes at an astounding 211 miles an hour, and the left front almost locked up. Max fell in behind me, and I cut into the hairpin. I went over the curbing and the suspension popped up before slamming back down. We repeated the daredevil act down the Runway Straight (Named because it used to be a runway back in the day). Max was slipstreaming me and I had to defend. The straight was a lot wider than Forza, and allowed me to cut left and right to stop the slipstream. Phil loomed in my mirror, and as soon as Max cut to the inside, Phil blasted past- engine screaming. He flew past Max and almost got past me before I broke for 13. Now I was in the middle of a 3-wide situation, and I could hear the popping of downshifts on both sides. 
    Due to our positioning (Phil ahead on the outside, me in the middle, and Max behind to the far inside), we remained 3-wide on corner exit. On my inside, Max fought oversteer and lost ground as he slid up the track. On exit, Phil went widened also tried to fight oversteer, allowing me to get past. For good measure, I went as wide as possible to cut Phil off, allowing me to keep the lead and stop an overtake.
    It was a short run up the 13-14 straight, and I bounded over the apex curbing. I almost got up onto two wheels but kept in the gas. In my mirrors, I saw Phil and Max squabbling over P2- Max holding up the inside while Phil lost traction at the rear and allowing Max past. Now it was back onto another long straight, where Max got past Phil on the exit. I got up to 193 miles an hour before hitting the brakes for Turn 15- the first part of a high speed double-apex curve. I went into the apex and just missed the curbing before turning into Turn 16. I held the speed on exit and managed to keep from running wide, allowing me to slingshot out of the turn. “Oh my gosh, that felt perfect,” I commented as I broke 175. Then I went into the most challenging collection of turns in K1. I broke hard into Turn 17- a tight right-handed kink. It was all the way down to 80 miles an hour, allowing me to get into a tight 90º left-hander. I went over the curbing, and went back to the left for Turn 19 entry. 19 was the exact same as 18, but a right-hander that led us onto the front straight. I bounced over the curb and rocketed out of the corner- gas pedal to the ground.
    “Yeah, I bet K1 Race Hub is going to have fun with those last couple corners. Max is about a second behind, with Phil right behind him. Keep digging.” Sparks flew off the car as I topped 205 down into Kerrena. The car responded under braking well, and on corner exit it didn’t lose any traction under power. “You guys really dialed the car in perfectly- Feels amazing.” Phil was fighting hard against Max still, and their squabbling just allowed me to gain more and more. Through 5, I could see Phil attempting a move around the outside that made the crowd cheer. Eventually though, Max slid around the outside of 6 to take the position for now.
    By Lap 9, the team was ready for me to come in. The Temple circuit is massive- almost 5 miles in length. We only had 17 laps in the race, and every one counted. “Box, box!” Andy commanded as I came out of Turn 16 at max speed. The dash was telling me I had only a couple more units of fuel remaining- it was a miracle I hadn’t run out. I broke through 17 and went straight-on in 18, right into the pit lane. I activated the Pit Limiter and the engine regulated itself out, allowing me to turn the necessary dials on the wheel. I pulled into the stall right on the mark and was instantly lifted up. Four tires on, four off. I watched as the fuel was put in, and waited until the green light came on. The engine hummed in wait, and finally the jack dropped. I peeled out of the stall in a haze of white tire smoke and a loud squealing as the tires spun. I got out into the lane and saw Max pulling into his stall about 15 seconds behind me. I emerged onto the track well in the lead, with no one out the front of my vision or behind in my mirrors. “Nice job, Jeb. Take it to the end now.”
    The next lap felt amazing on fresh tires and a full tank of gas. “Car feels amazing you guys. Really dialed it in here.” I took Turn 5 at full throttle, grinning as the tires gripped in. It was smooth sailing all the way through the lap, and as I went down the Forza straight and into Turn 11, I set a top speed record. “That’s 216 miles an hour down that straight there, Jeb. New K1 record!” I pulled out of Turn 12 with a grin and gunned the throttle again- flying down the Runway. I flew over the apex curbing of the 17-19 section, and got onto the main straight to begin Lap 11. 
    I opened up the DRS down the straight, and saw the speed climbing. 180. 190. 200. 210. I dove into Kerrena Curve and felt the rears lose grip. Remembering back to OTech’s Test Track, I straightened out the wheel. The car flew up to the runoff, and I pulled down to get back on-course before Turn 1. “Whoah, just had a huge oversteer through Kerrena. Almost lost it there.” I broke for Turn 1 and clipped the curbing before Andy responded.
    “Affirmative. Close DRS through the turn- we don’t want to risk crashing the car this late in the race. Repeat, close DRS in the turn.” I went into Turn 3 at max speed, flying through the turn. “Feeling good everywhere else. Probably took it too fast.” Through 4, 5, and 6 the car felt like it was on rails. “We’ll check the telemetry for now- Max is about 13 seconds behind you now so take it easy.” I ripped down the straight before braking for 7. The brakes held the traction perfectly and didn’t force a lockup- allowing me to get in and out of the apex with as much speed as I could take.
    The car was perfect for the next few corners, and near the end of the lap I stormed through 16 with as much confidence as possible. “Remember, brake for Kerrena, or don’t even use DRS. We don’t want to risk the car here.” In my mirror I saw the wing plate looking strong and powerful on the fin. “I know, don’t worry. Should be fine.” I went over the apex curbing for the chicane, and the sun momentarily glinted off my visor as the light cut past the peaks of the nearby mountains. I hit the DRS as soon as I crossed the line, and started speeding down the straight. My speed climbed higher and higher. I hit an astounding 207 miles per hour, before I tapped the brake pedal entering Kerrena. 
    As soon as I did, I heard a huge explosion at the rear of the car, followed by a loud scraping. In my mirrors I saw the rear wing was gone, and behind there was a shower of rubber, metal, and sparks. The rear kicked out to the left and I spun around, enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Squealing from the wheels assaulted my ears, followed by the scraping of the car going over the gravel trap. I felt the rear of the car lift up just a bit. The car did another rotation and I saw the dark tire barrier approaching at an impossible speed. Uh oh, I thought before my head was smashed sideways with an impossibly loud crashing noise as everything went black.

2 Days later…

    Beep… Beep… Sssssshhhhhh pop! Beep… Beep…
    Where am I?
    Beep… Beep… Sssshhh… Beep…
    Everything hurts.

    Everything was still black. I couldn’t see anything. My chest felt awful… I couldn’t feel my right leg. Far away, I could hear something that sounded like conversation. I couldn’t make out the words. I heard a drone, followed by, “Paging Doctor Robins. Doctor Robins to Room 312.” My eyes fluttered open, and I saw a blurry white wall in front of me.
    Beep.. Beep.. Beep. Beep.
    “He’s waking up, I think,” a deep voice said. It sounded muffled and far away. “Jeb? Can you hear me?” Beep. Beep. Beep. My eyes came open slowly, and eventually my vision cleared. I smiled as I saw Alexis, Andy, Phil, and Max all looking at me. Max was wearing his MonsterGP cap, and Phil's big rancher hat that stuck out. Alexis was looking stylish in a good dress, but a nervous look on her face. Andy looked worried and almost guilty- kind of like a kid who got caught eating out of the cookie jar. “How do you feel?” Alexis asked, putting her hand on mine. I felt something get pulled off from around my mouth, and a nice wave of cool air hit my face. It took a while for my mind to wake up, but I managed to mutter, “Feel like crap,” which made Max smirk.
    “What happened?” I asked softly. Andy sighed and rubbed his hands together before standing up out of his chair. “I thought something might go wrong after you went wide through Kerrena.. I should have seen it sooner. Into the turn, the entire wing structure collapsed. The massive onset of downforce shattered the brace, and the entire system was destroyed practically instantly. Then…” He sighed and seemed to study his shoes. “When you hit the barrier…-” Phil cut him off.
    “We thought you were dead,” He explained, looking nervous as well. “They stopped the race immediately. I could see the big screen, and… It didn’t look good. The entire right half of the car was just gone. When the helicopter landed on the track…” He sighed, looking nauseous. “We all knew it was bad. They called the race about 5 minutes later, after everyone realized how bad you were. Er… That, and also the fact you punched a hole in the wall.” My eyes widened despite my splitting headache. “I punched a hole in the wall?” I repeated in shock. I knew I had hit at high speed.. But going through 6 layers of tires, and a reinforced concrete wall? Jeez. “The data recorder put you at about 170 when you hit the wall, despite the gravel trap. You hit that sucker with about 45 G’s. No offense or anything, but you should have died right there on the spot.” Alexis nodded, looking scared before Phil soldiered on. “You’re incredibly lucky. If that happened when I started racing, you’d be in a body bag right now.” Max sighed.
    “That debris field was massive. When the wing blew up, it scattered stuff everywhere.” I looked at Max and saw he was wearing a cast on his left wrist. “When Phil and I went through there, I guess I clipped something. The car never turned.. I guess the tire barrier was just angry.” I smirked and looked out the window. A large river flowed past, and citizens walked past enjoying their lives. “Uh… Where are we?” I asked. “Mechani. This was the closest center equipped for the kind of… condition you were in,” Andy explained. Alexis handed me her phone, which showed a picture of my car going down the straight. Heat waves obscured part of the camera, making it wavy and blurry. I pressed on the image and it started playing.
    “Jebediah Kerman, radioing that he might be having issues with the DRS, we’ll see how he takes Kerrena after that huge off last lap.” The car got closer to the camera and I could hear the engine howling. “Into- OH MY GOD!” The rear wing exploded in a shower of metal- similar to shrapnel flying off a grenade. The car spun in a full 180, smoke flying off the rears with a squealing. The car turned to the right as it hit the gravel with a scraping swishcracklescrape noise and tan dust puffing up. The car was going incredibly fast, and about 5 seconds after the rear exploded, I saw my own visor for a brief second before getting enveloped in the tire barrier with a concussive BOOM, shaking the camera and throwing the barrier out into the gravel. The shot panned out to show my car now about 15 feet away from the barrier- stuck in the trap. “In all my 15 years of covering K1, I’ve never seen a crash like that,” the announcer breathed in shock. “Cross your fingers, folks,” he said before a cloud of dust obscured the shot. 
    Quickly, the camera whipped around to show a black and green car pound the wall hard- throwing debris up into the air and into the catch-fence. “And another one into the wall, it’s Max Kerman! The rookie from Monster competing for the win and the title- hard into the barrier. Red flag out immediately, and… My goodness. In all my years as a broadcaster, I’ve never seen a wreck like that one. Just.. Keep your fingers crossed everyone.” The video cut off and I handed the phone back to Alexis.
    “That’s.. awful,” I muttered in shock. Phil nodded. “When I saw Max go off, I thought something went down on the car. But then I saw you out there and…” He shook his head. “I felt like I was about to puke right there in the car.” Alexis sat down on my bed next to me. “I was watching the feed. I felt the crash before I saw it, even in the garage. I had to pinch myself, just thinking, ‘This isn’t real. This isn’t real.’ I’ve never been so scared in my life.” Just then, the door opened up and a doctor walked in. He looked to be about Phil’s age, and had a clipboard in hand.
    “Well, hello there,” He said, smirking. He waited for me to say something, but after about 10 seconds he gave up with a sigh. “You’re supposed to say, ‘Ah, General Kenobi.’” He shook his head sadly. “Kids these days,” Phil agreed. “No culture.” The doctor cracked a smile before looking down at me. “You know, I think you’re the luckiest kerb I’ve ever seen. If you’ve been going.. 1, maybe 2 meters per second faster, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t have made it.” I exhaled nervously. “How bad did I look when I came in?” I asked with a slight smile. “Pretty bad. You were in surgery for about 10 hours.” Good god! 10 hours?! “Don’t worry though, all your parts are in the correct places now.. I think,” The doctor joked, making me grin. “How do you feel?” I did a quick status check. “Pretty bad,” I replied. “Well son, I’d love to write, ‘Pretty bad’ on the report here, but my boss would kill me. Any specifics?” I chuckled a bit. “Can’t feel my leg, splitting headache, my arm itches, and it feels like someone parked a pickup truck on my chest. But other than that, I’m pretty good.” The doctor wrote down some notes on the clipboard.
    “So when can I get driving again?” I asked. Everyone’s face dropped like rocks. “Jeb, you sustained a 45 G crash,” Alexis whispered in surprise. “You could have died,” Andy continued with an equal amount of shock. “Fighter pilots don’t take that much G force anywhere,” Phil said in total awe. “It’s lucky you’re even awake- much less in one piece,” The doctor said firmly. Max just gave me a big, dopey grin. “There’s the Jeb I know,” He said with a laugh, extending his hand. I gave him a high-five and pain radiated up my entire right arm. “Ow, ow, ow,” I groaned, laying back down onto the bed. “Oh gosh that hurts.” I put myself back into the same spot I had been in, and looked at the doctor.
    “So how broken am I?” The doctor sighed and looked down at his notes. “Obvious concussion, broken right tibia, fractured ankle, fractured foot, broken rib, cracked rib, collapsed lung, broken thumb, and fractured wrist.” The doctor took a breath and looked at me. “Oh, so nothing too bad,” I joked. “I’m putting you at about 2, maybe 3 weeks before you can even get up. Timetable for a racing return…” I inhaled in anticipation. The season opener was about 6 months away now. Pre-Season Testing was 5.
    “7, 8 months minimum.” It felt like all the air in the room had been sucked out. 8 months?! “Hahaha, funny,” I chuckled, making my chest hurt like it was on fire. The doctor’s face didn’t change. “I’m serious. 8 months is going easy on you. Look, it’s a miracle that you’re even talking right now. By all means and precious evidence, you should have died right there in that turn. You’re not driving at all for at least 6 months- and don’t even mention going 200. With the proper rehab, we might get you back in the car by the third race. Maybe.” There was a beeping and the doctor looked at his phone. “I’ll check in with you guys in a few hours,” He said before leaving the room. It was silent as the grave, until Phil sighed. “Excuse me,” He said before getting up. As soon as the door closed, Alexis looked at me sternly.
    “There’s something you need to know,” She said softly. Max and Andy both looked at her like “What are you doing,” but Alexis waved them off. “Phil… Phil is quitting. He isn’t doing the last three races.” What? “Just before you woke up, Matty called and said it was okay. He said that… If it could happen to you, it could happen to him. He didn’t want to risk something worse. Lewis and Ryan are going to fill in for the rest of the season.” My mouth dropped open.
    “There’s no way Matty’s thinking about letting Lewis take next season,” I said in surprise. “He hasn’t hardly made it in ISCC- he wouldn’t have a snowballs chance in K1!” Max smiled and dropped his head, fumbling with something behind his back. “Yeah, uh… About that.” I looked at Max and saw him wearing a white and blue hat with the number 33 on the brim. “No way,” I muttered. “Yup. Confirmed just yesterday. After the season finale I head out to River City to move in!” I laughed and shook his hand. “Congrats, bud. You’re going to love it, I promise.” Just then, Phil walked in. “Could you guys give Phil and I a moment?” I asked. Alexis, Andy, and Max looked at each other, before they all went out. When the door closed, Phil sat down next to me. “So who told you?” He asked.
    “Not important,” I replied tensely. “Look, you can’t do this. Lewis might be good, but you can’t just throw him in the deep end and expect him to tread water by himself. He needs someone to guide him.” Phil rolled his eyes. “He’s got the team to help him out the-“ I cut him off. “No. No-one on the team knows what it’s like to drive that first race. The feeling of the tires on the track. When to turn in, when to hit the apex, when to brake. No-one can help Lewis or Ryan know when to steer out of a slide, and when to let it go. He’s a fish out of water and you know that.” Phil shook his head. “I can’t. There’s no way I could possibly do that- not now.”
    “Look, it’s only three races. Just finish out the season- that’s all I’m asking.” Phil seemed to weigh his options. “Please.” Phil thought for a few moments before sighing. “Fine. Three races, but that’s it. Okay?” I nodded. “Thanks. I promise, I’ll make it up to you.” Phil smiled. “I always wanted to get number five anyways,” He said confidently. I grinned. “And you will,” I assured, giving him a handshake. “I know it.”

————

    A few hours later, the sun had gone down outside. Inside, I was fiddling with the remote in some attempt to get a TV channel I wanted. Finally, I ended up on K1 Race Hub, which fortunately came on just as I switched to it.

“OTech Race Team still hasn’t given any official word on the status of their young star Jebediah Kerman, who is fighting for his life after suffering a massive crash a couple days ago at the Temple Raceway. On Lap 11 of the race, a rear wing failure sent Jebediah into the outside wall at over 170 miles an hour, resulting in an accident with forces climbing up over 45 G’s. Jebediah was airlifted to the Mechani Union, where he was listed as being in critical condition. MonsterGP rookie Max Kerman was also injured in the crash, and the team has said he will return to action by the Basilian Grand Prix.
“Now obviously this is a devastating crash and likely season-ending, but will Jebediah be cleared for racing before next season?”
“Well obviously we don’t know anything yet, but judging from the fact that he was unconscious when the crews arrived, this is definitely going to be a lengthy recovery for sure.”
“And just a terrible turn of events for OTech- Their veteran racer is retiring at the end of the season, a new driver coming in to replace him, and we don’t even know if the second car is going to be on-track at the KSC. This is a crash that’s really going to affect both the morale of the team, as well as Jeb. We know he’s resilient, we saw that in Formula two years ago when he came from behind to win the title. But how will he react hopping back into the car that almost killed him? Will he be strong enough to overcome the adversity and the questions? In my eyes, we’re going to see a totally new Jebediah Kerman next season. Now is that going to be a good thing? I don’t know. But we won’t be seeing the same Jebediah Kerman next year.”

————

    I clicked the TV off and chuckled softly to no-one. Oh yeah, I thought with a smirk. I’ll be ready.

Edited by DarkOwl57
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Well the chapter name didn't lie. 

*blinks*

Jeb, you lucky, lucky sonofagun. 

Spoiler

You just focus on walking again dammit, let alone driving! Unless kerbal physiology is significantly different to human, fractured ankles are bad news. 

 

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On 3/26/2018 at 4:01 PM, KSK said:

Well the chapter name didn't lie. 

*blinks*

Jeb, you lucky, lucky sonofagun

2

So I assume that I did a good job? :wink:

On 3/26/2018 at 4:01 PM, KSK said:

 

  Reveal hidden contents

You just focus on walking again dammit, let alone driving! Unless kerbal physiology is significantly different to human, fractured ankles are bad news. 

 

1

What can I say, he's motivated!

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So now we're nearing the end of the 2036 season! Of course, Jeb wouldn't be just sitting around all day just watching the race on TV, so I decided to give everyone a view from the other side of the pit wall. (Life At The Top: Now with new, never-before-seen content and directors cut! Buy yours for only $49.99*! *: Not including shipping/handling.) Chapter 21 everyone!

 

Chapter 21: Finishing Strong


2:00pm, 2 Weeks later. United International Raceway (The Temple)


    The helicopter landed in a cloud of dust, and gently set down. “Jeb..” Alexis sighed as I got out. “No, it’s fine,” I protested, getting onto my crutch and hobbling from the vehicle. “Just making a small detour.” There was a golf cart waiting for us- a small, white vehicle able to hold 5. Weirdly, Andy had left Mechani after only a couple days, saying he “Had some work to do.” I got a sneaking suspicion he was hiding something from me…
    The cart started with a whine, and I sat in the back with my crutch held neatly in the golf bag slot. The sun was still blazing down, and the heat was incredible. “Stop right here,” I told the driver as we got onto the front straight- right in Kerrena. The wheels whined to a halt and I got out. The crutch made a clicking noise overtime I put it down, and I started hobbling over to where the skid marks began. About 50 feet from the apex of the corner, I saw the ugly black spaghetti markings of tire skids spiraling across the track. I continued walking all the way out. Through the runoff, the marks seemed to fade just a bit, and then I hit the gravel. Out to the wall, I sucked in a breath. The barrier obviously hadn’t been worked on at all, and I trudged through gravel to see. The tire wall was out about 10, maybe 20 feet, and on its face I saw the wrapping was torn. At the wall, there was a huge hole large enough for someone to crawl through- the concrete practically disintegrated. I saw chunks of concrete and rebar poking out of the wall, and even the fencing had some damage. “It was massive,” Alexis sighed as she walked up.
    “Yeah,” I sighed in reply, looking to my right. Far off, I could see two long tire marks showing where Max had gone off- his brakes locked up as he went off. His section of the wall didn’t look too damaged at all- a quick patch job to the wrap should do the trick there. “I’m done,” I sighed, turning and clicking back to the cart. When we got back, I nodded to the driver. “Let’s get home,” I said with a nod. The cart launched away, and drove out to the Runway Straight, which we were actually using as a runway. Out on the tarmac, a small private jet was waiting for us- its engine whining in wait. “Oh boy,” I sighed as I got to the stairs. “Need some help?” Alexis materialized behind me and I smiled. Together, we stumbled up the stairs. Eventually (After much muttering under breaths and stepping on foots), we got up into the plane. I got myself situated in the seat and waited as the pilot performed the pre-flight checklist.
    We set off, and I sighed as I felt the lurch of flying away from the mark. I felt my back compress for a second as the plane lifted up, before everything leveled out. My arm had gotten to be in a livable condition, and I could feel my chest getting slightly better. My leg was still messed up though, which was a royal pain. I watched the desert track slowly fade away out the window, and watched as the mountains got smaller and smaller as we climbed. We finally got up to the cruising altitude, and instantly I got on my phone. I checked all my texts, checked my InstaSnap feed (“Hey guys, still alive. Drive for #2037 is on!”), and read up on some news. As I clicked on an article about the new 2037 car regulation proposals, Andy called.
    “Hello,” I said, covering my other ear to hear better. “Hey Jeb,” Andy started, sounding nervous. “I.. I have something to tell you.” I leaned back in the chair. “Yeah, sure. What’s up?” Andy sighed. “I’m so, so sorry. This whole thing was my fault. If I hadn’t told you to close DRS, this never would’ve happened. It’s my fault that you’re in the state you’re in, it’s all my fault! I’m so sor-“ Andy’s rant probably would have carried on for a day, but I cut him off. “Andy,” I tried to say, before he kept on saying sorry over and over. “Andy!” My shout got him to stop, and I sighed.
    “Geez, bud, just chill! I don’t blame you. Just an accident.” Andy was silent for a moment, before clearing his throat. “Oh,” He said. “Well, uh… We got the latest concept design for next years car. Simulations are going to start next week. The design isn’t final, but most of the proposed regulation changes are over safety and structural stuff- nothing that’ll change up the concept too much.” We talked for a little bit before my phone buzzed again. “Hey, someone’s calling. I’ll talk later, okay?” Andy agreed and I took the other call. “Hello?” I asked.
    “Hey, Jeb, it’s Markus Kerman here with K1 Race Hub- would you mind a quick interview?” I looked at Alexis and mouthed, “Interview,” which made her eyes roll. “Yeah, sure. I’m kind of traveling right now, but I’m good to talk.” I waited as the crew got everything set up. “Okay, so we’re good in 3… 2… 1… Welcome back everyone, I’m Markus Kerman here with OTech driver, Jebediah Kerman! Jeb, first off, thanks for being on the show.”
    “Well thanks for having me,” I replied, smiling despite the fact no-one could hear me. “So Jeb, first off, how’re you feeling?”
    “Pretty good right now. My leg’s still jacked up, but I’m still in one piece.” The team chuckled for a second and I continued. “Gotta thank the doctors back in Mechani though- without them I wouldn’t be here today.”
    “Definitely. You had us all going there for a day or two there after that wreck, but glad to see you’re alright. How was the race for you?” I rolled my eyes. “Besides the wreck,” I asked, and Markus laughed. “Yes, besides the wreck, how was the race?”
    “Well it was pretty good. That start was kind of wild, especially those first couple corners. I remember Phil and Max getting around my outside, and I knew I just had to get them into 1 or it was over. The car was incredibly good- especially in the corners. The car felt really dialed in on the straights; especially Forza and the Runway. We had some great speed in the later stages of the race- shame to have wrecked out there at the end. We had a great car, great chance to win and a failure just took us out.”
    “So it was an accidental failure?”
    “I don’t really see how that could have been operator error,” I protested.
    “Oh no, I’m not saying that. It’s just that some are saying that this might have been some kind of sabotage.” I chuckled.
    “You’ve been watching too many spy movies,” I joked. “Basically, we just had too much strain on the wings. Obviously there are still some inquiries going on, but from what we’ve seen so far it was a pure mechanical fault.”
    “Well that’s good,” A new voice said over the line. “Shannon Kerman here, and I’ve got to ask this: Will you be ready for the season-opener next year?” I sighed and looked at Alexis. I mouthed, “Season-opener next year- yes or no?” She just shrugged.
    “Likely. The rehab is obviously going to be tough, but this team of doctors are top of the line. Doctor Robins, the lead doctor during my surgery, said that the most likely time frame was going to be 7 to 8 months, but I’m going to push it towards 5 or 6. That way, we’ll have plenty of time for Pre-Season Testing, and of course the buildup to the first race or 2037.”
    “And if you can’t make it?”
    “Well obviously if I can’t then Lewis is going to stay in the car. From what I’ve seen he’s a stellar driver, and I wouldn’t be upset if he got a bit more experience in my place.”
    “Speaking of next year, what do you think about the recent announcement that Max Kerman, your long-time friend, is going to be moving to OTech at the end of the year?” Markus was back on now.
    “I’m a big fan of the move to be honest. Max is a great driver- he’s shown that all this season- and I can’t wait to wear the blue and white with him next season.”
    “Are we going to be seeing you in Halco next week?”
    “Oh, for sure. Halco has always been a fun place to visit- great citizens, wonderful culture, and the food isn’t half bad either. If I’m honest I might end up watching the race from a steakhouse.” I heard laughter on the other end and I smiled.
    “Ah, well thank you, Jeb, for being with us. Glad talking to you, and we all hope you get better soon.” I nodded, looking out the window as we flew over the coast. “Fun talking to you guys too. See you all in Halco!” I set the phone down and sighed. The coastline turned to water outside, and I saw the waves washing up against the sandy beaches. After two long weeks, I’m finally coming home.


9:00am, 1 Week later. Round 8 of 10: Halco GP (Qualifying). Halco Grand Prix Circuit, McKerley, Texas, Halco


    Phil’s car screamed down the front-straight at max speed, and I felt my hair get blown back as the wind caught up to his car. “Nice lap there- keep in the rhythm,” I said as Phil hit the brakes for the uphill Turn 1 hairpin. “Jeb! Could you come over here for a second?” I turned and Andy was motioning me over to the garage. I jogged over and saw Lewis sitting off to the side, nervously looking at the TV screen. “What’s up?” Immediately, Lewis turned and came over.
    “Could you give me some help?” Lewis asked with an accent similar to Claire’s. “Yeah, what’s up?” Lewis took me over to the back of the car. “I can’t control the rears in the high-speed corners,” He said helplessly. I nodded. He’d spun off 3 times in the esses, and twice in the long loops during Practice alone. “You’re just not catching the slide fast enough. Oversteer, for me at least, is needed. The more understeer you get, the worse you’re turning, correct?” Lewis nodded. “Good. Now the more oversteer you get, the more the rears want to rotate. What you’ve got to do is figure out when the rears are over-rotating. As soon as you feel like you can’t control it, you’ve got to straighten out the wheel just a bit. Go about half-way on the wheel. Let off the gas if you lose it too much, but whatever you do, don’t slam the brakes.” I realized I was doing a pretty crap job of explaining, so I just went over to the tablet to show him.
    “Look, see right there?” We watched one of his loop spins. “Never turned out of it. You’ve got to work with physics to stop from going around. As soon as you feel the rears starting to go past the limit, straighten out. That help any?” Lewis nodded and I saw the car was ready and waiting. “Now let’s see what you’ve got.” Lewis smiled as he put the helmet on, and I ran back to the pit box. Phil blasted by for another lap, and I checked the timing board.
    “Good job there, Phil, that's Provisional Pole at the moment.” I sat down in between Andy and Claire, who were both staring at the TV screens. I watched as Lewis went out to the first part of the Esses, and saw him wiggle the wheel as he fought a small bit of oversteer. Hang onto it now… Lewis kept it collected throughout the lap, but now it was on to the most dangerous part- the full lap. I watched him go up the hill for Turn 1, locking up just a bit before turning in. Phil appeared behind me, sipping out of his water bottle. “Come on, kid,” I heard him mutter under his breath. Lewis turned in for 2 at full-throttle, and blasted over the curbs in the esses. 3, 4, 5- full throttle. He went into the Turn 6 loop and I saw his time go green. He held it through the hairpin sections of 9, 10, and 11. I noticed a skitter of wheelspin off 11, but he got the grip and threw himself out of the corner and down the long straight. With the opening of DRS, Lewis hit 200 before the braking zone. As he pulled out of the tight left-hander of Turn 12, the second sector went purple. Claire bit her lower lip and Phil started tapping his foot nervously. Come on.. Get ‘em.
    Through another section of hairpins, Lewis negotiated apexes and exits masterfully. In through the loop, he kept his foot planted in the triple-apex, and flew off the final bit with as much speed as possible- almost flying into the runoff. He got it slowed down for Turn 20, and into 21 he clipped the apex just right, before flying off onto the front straight. I turned my head as he passed the finish line, and looked at the time. “What’d I get?” Lewis asked nervously as he slowed down- the session now over. “Excellent drive there, Lewis! That’s P5. Good finish there, mate.” Instantly, Andy had to take the headset off as Lewis yelled in celebration. After Lewis had thoroughly yelled himself out, I congratulated him.
    “Hey, great driving there. Excellent performance, bud. You’re going to have a great view heading into 1.” There was still a lot of work to do, but I knew that this was going to be a good race. I just couldn’t wait until I was back out there myself.

——————

    The engines hummed as they waited, and I watched on nervously as the last car filed into its place. “Good luck,” I said to Lewis and Phil before the lights came on. One lit up and I heard a faint rise in the engine’s tone. Two, and the revs started building. Three. The crowd cheered as they waited for the lights to go out. I waited as the fifth light illuminated, glowing bright red against the darkening sky. The lights went out and everyone went away. The engines dropped in tone as the wheels grabbed, but quickly grew. Lewis got off to a fantastic start, and dove into Turn 1 with the lead after going straight through the middle of the first and second row. Phil was hanging around Lewis’s outside, but in the hairpin it was no use. Into the esses, everyone held single-file. The cars snaked into the corners, and sparks flew up into the air as some bottomed out.
    Lewis raced into the first loop with Phil right behind. They had already pulled out a small gap to the rest of the pack, which was headed by a MonsterGP car. Down the first long straight, Phil held I the slipstream of Lewis but stayed behind- slowly getting closer. Into the braking zone, Phil lunged up the inside of the wide corner. Lewis panicked and swung up to the outside, giving Phil a wide-open entry, which he took and easily slipped past. Into 9, Lewis tried a similar lunge, but Phil slammed the door on him. “Gah, my fault,” Lewis apologized as he followed Phil into the fast Turn 10. Lewis dove into 11, but locked up- sending him flying past the inside of Phil. He didn’t waver, and just let Lewis go streaking past before turning into the hairpin.
    “Tell Lewis to calm down,” Phil cautioned over the radio as he blasted down the backstraight. I relayed the message, and watched on the screen as Lewis trailed down the straight- the setting sun in the background. Sparks flew off Lewis’s car as he went down the straight. Phil looked cool and calm as he drove- braking smoothly into 13. Lewis broke as second later- clipping the curbing in hot pursuit. “Lewis, don’t be crazy here. Be smooth and hit your marks- We’re racing for the Constructors here.” He went into the triple-apex of 18/19 while Andy, Claire, and I looked on nervously. Lewis was fighting hard, but didn’t take any risks as he followed Phil.
    Phil started pulling out a gap, which was highlighted by occasional mistakes by Lewis. A lockup here, wheelspin there. By the pitstops, Phil had gotten a 5-second lead. I watched as he pulled into the box, and he pulled out with a rush as the car dropped. Lewis stopped a lap later, and the stops were practically identical. “Bring it home,” Andy said to Lewis on Lap 30, just 3 laps from the finish. At this point, Phil had gotten out to a lead of 20 seconds. Phil came out of the final corner to the roaring of fans.
    “YES! LET’S GO BOYS!!!” Phil weaved down the straight and stuck his fist up as he crossed the line to fireworks. “Excellent job there, Phil,” Claire said in congratulations as he passed. The crew had run out to the barrier and was celebrating- sticking their fists out through the fence. Lewis came through in second place, weaving as well. “WOOOOOOHOOOOO!!!!!” He screamed as he passed, celebrating. “Awesome job there, Lewis,” Andy said as he started packing up his notes. “Thanks, Andy,” Lewis replied happily. “Could I speak to Jeb?” I picked the mic up. “Hey, great job there Lewis,” I said. “You had us all going there for that first lap. Thanks for not making the team sweat too much.” He laughed.
    “No problem. I know this isn’t the position you wanted to be in, but I hope I did you proud this race. Thanks for the help.” I nodded and watched as the rest of the field drove past the pit lane. “It’s fine. You did a great job, especially for your first race. Just be ready for next week though- Max is coming back and you’re going to have some competition for that win.” Just then, I heard a loud cheering from the stands and turned back to the track. A Monster car and a Crimson Bull were going side-by-side out of the corner in a fight for P6. The Monster car got the position off the line, but as soon as they crossed the line, there was contact.
    The Monster car jumped up with a puff of smoke before it fell back to the ground and spun down to the inside. It slammed into the wall hard, and spun around a couple times before stopping just in front of us. “Big wreck on the front straight- it won’t affect you on the way back.” I saw Andy’s eyes widen up, and he keyed both drivers mics.
    “Guys, congratulations to both you and the entire OTech team for becoming the only team to win 6 consecutive Constructors championships!!” There was clapping from the crew, and Phil chuckled, “‘Ey, that’s awesome!” Lewis just yelled some more.
    I grabbed my crutch and started heading to the podium. I just wish I was on it…

 

6:00pm, 2 Weeks later. Round 9 of 10: The Basilian Grand Prix. Basil International Raceway, Basil

 

   The sun started setting as the jets flew overhead, and I watched as they disappeared into the clouds in a trail of white smoke. I swiveled my head around and saw Max walking out to his car, followed by the rest of his crew. He was still wearing a brace, but despite that he had qualified on Pole. “Alright, just stay focused, don’t get caught up in Turn 1, and bring the car home. Sound good?” Lewis nodded as he strapped in. “Good. We need that chassis next season and if you break it, I won’t have a car for next year.” Lewis chuckled and put on the helmet. I stepped back and watched as the cars all set out on the formation lap. Basil was really a unique track. Lots of elevation changes, bumpy, rough, high tire wear, absolutely no grip, and incredibly old; a real drivers track. The organizers had been threatening to repave for years now, but they never did. The track surface was just too darn fun.
    I went over to the box and sat down right in between Claire and Andy. “Feeling good?” I asked them both. “Yeah,” Andy replied. “Pretty good,” Claire answered as the field went down the hill to Turn 2. “Everything’s good down here,” Phil radioed in as he went down the backstraight. “Good grip from the tires- Don’t know how long they’re going to last though,” Lewis said seconds later, diving into Turns 4 and 5. 
    “Affirm,” Andy said as he checked his notes. 
    “Pit window is going to be around 14 or 16. Halfway at the least.” I keyed the mic. “Make sure to be careful through 6. The rear can really snap out at you if you aren’t careful.”
    “Thanks,” Lewis acknowledged as he went down the straight. Phil took the corner almost flat-out, sparking a bit as he bottomed out. “Oof, that's a bump,” Lewis grunted as he went up the hill, sparking like Phil. “
    Yeah, that delivers quite a bite. Just go easy for the first couple laps.” The field snaked through the esses, and finally came onto the Front. “Okay, don’t out-brake yourself into 1, and stay cautious. Good luck out there.” Lewis got into the grid spot and I watched from the pit wall. A single red light came on, and the engines all hummed. The second light came on, glowing amber against the ground, and I heard the engines tone rise. Three lights now, and the engines started revving louder and louder. Four lights now, and the sound of the crowd echoed around the track. Five lights glowed bright red and defiant, waiting for the race start.
    The lights went out and the cars went away with squealing from the tires and a roar from the fans. I watched as the front runners went down into Turn 1, and then turned to see the rest of the field go down the hill. When the last car disappeared under the lip of the tarmac, I hobbled back to the pit box. On the live feed, I saw Lewis battling with Phil down the straight. Don’t do anything stupid, Lewis, I thought as I sat down. Lewis cut down to the inside but didn’t get to the side, allowing Phil to slip past without too much trouble. Out of Turn 5 (The second part of the 4-5 double-apex), Lewis went way wide which allowed a Monster car behind to get close. He came back down onto the racing line, which made the Monster car slide out to the left to give him room. Lewis dove down into Turn 6 and a shower of sparks flew out the rear as the car bottomed out. The Monster car- Micheal- came down at the same time, and I watched in alarm as a green wing plate flew up into the air. The camera changed and I saw Micheal’s right front wing was damaged on the under-wing.
    “Micheal just hit me!” Lewis exclaimed as he went into 7 under braking. Andy analyzed the screen and grabbed the mic.
    “We saw it. Do you feel anyth-“ He was cut off by a loud yell from Lewis. “Puncture! Puncture on the left rear. Damnit Micheal!” On the screen, Lewis had just gone into Turn 9 before a huge cloud of black debris exploded into the air, making the car fishtail wildly.
    “Copy, box box.” Immediately, the crew was getting ready- grabbing tires and running out to the pit box for the stop. Max blasted past with a scream, followed in hot pursuit by Phil. There was a long gap back, followed by a PhantomTech car and a RedWing Energy car. Lewis pulled in with the flat, and I watched as the team masterfully worked around the debris. Micheal drove past in the pits and pulled in, and I multitasked between watching Lewis’s stop and the Monster GP stop. Lewis got out of the stall as quick as he could, obviously mad. Micheal had to serve a time penalty, and stayed in the stall for a few seconds before returning with a new front wing and tires.
    After the stop, Lewis was on a mission. As soon as he got out of the pit lane, he blasted past a Cougar Racing car. He dove up the inside of a side-by-side battle, making it 3-wide into the double-apex. “Holy cow,” Claire muttered, leaning over to see the screen focusing on Lewis. I had never driven that wild… I hope.
    By the twelfth lap, Lewis had climbed to 10th. He was chasing down a LakeFront, which was quickly falling back into his clutches. “Should get him by the end of the straight,” I said to Andy, having to get right up next to him as Phil blasted past. I watched as Lewis closed in on the orange and white machine, anticipating the move. Lewis was about to cut to the inside, before the car was engulfed in a cloud of white. Acting on instinct, Lewis flew up to the outside- momentarily losing traction and slipping down the straight before getting away from the smoking engine failure.
    “That was close,” Lewis coughed a second later, slowing down as the Safety Car got called out. “Got oil all over my visor… Blech.” He tore off the plastic film and got a clear view of the track ahead.
    “Good job getting out of that,” I said as the Safety Car drove past in the pits. “You did perfect, even with the traction loss. Go ahead and shack the tires around real quick- cleans off the oil.” As I was giving Lewis some pointers, the field bunched up. As the pack came onto the front-straight, Claire called Phil into the pits. Andy did the exact same, and when they passed the pit lane entrance, the whole field came in- one after the other after the other.
    In our box, Phil pulled in right on the mark and got the tires changed fast. As soon as the time limit was up, he peeled out of the stall- right ahead of Max. Lewis dove in next- grabbing a water bottle as he was stopped. As soon as the jack dropped, he pulled out- tires smoking and screeching in a plume of smoke. Phil and Max raced down the pit exit, and came out behind the Safety Car. “Yes!” Claire muttered through gritted teeth- pumping her fist quickly before hitting the mic.
    “Awesome job there, Phil! Great stop.” Lewis emerged from the pits in P7- only gaining a couple spots as he pulled into the queue. Over the other end, Phil chuckled. I checked both the telemetry screens and saw that Phil’s brake temps were abnormally high. An eyebrow raised and I pointed it out to Claire. Without a word, she pursed her lips and nodded, keying the mic yet again.
    “Phil, Jeb just found an issue with the telemetry. Your left-front brake’s getting mighty hot- we’ll monitor it.” Immediately, she started talking to the factory back in Owlia, firing off numbers. “Hey, thanks, Jeb,” Phil commented as he went into 5.
    “No problem,” I replied with a smile. By now, the sun had gone all the way down and the sky was speckled with stars that sparkled like diamonds. I watched as the lights cast repeating shadows on the tracks surface, before Phil slowed the field. The Safety Car drove away down the track, and Phil kept slowing- almost halting the field as they went down the straight. Suddenly, Phil slammed the gas and rocketed away from Max. The starter waved a green flag as the cars passed. I watched as they all zoomed down the straight, seeing nothing but multi-colored blurs. Sparks flashed into the air as cars bottomed out down the straight, creating beautiful effects over the bumps. The final car passed with a yell, and suddenly it was silent besides for a few cheers. On the screen, I saw Lewis diving up the inside of a Redwing down the back- cutting down in a shower of sparks. As he got the pass done, I heard clapping from the garage.
    “Great pass there, Lewis. That’s P6. Push for a podium.” On Claire’s side of the box, Phil was valiantly defending against an attack from Max. Phil held up the inside of the long Turn 6, but Max was attacking around the outside. Phil squeezed him way out to the outside, but Max flew over the curb to the runoff, and dust flew up as he went wide. Max cut down back onto the track quickly, making Phil have to take avoiding action into the Turn 7 braking zone. Max swept around the outside that turned into the inside for 8, and took the lead mid-corner. On the other screen, Lewis was duking it out with Micheal for fifth. Claire keyed the radio.
    “Phil, don’t fight for it. We only need P10 here.” I looked at her in surprise, before remembering that he did indeed only have to score a point to win the title. In my distraction, Lewis had lost the battle for fifth, and was now fighting to hold his own position. I looked back to the garage and saw a familiar dark suit sitting behind the crew, watching the race from the TV screens. Matty caught my eye and waved, before turning back to the screen.
    Max extended his gap, and Lewis fell back farther and farther into no-kerbs land. By the end, Max had pulled out a gap of around five seconds, and Lewis had about 10 in either direction. Max came out of the final corner and stuck his fist up into the air as he crossed. Fireworks went off above us, illuminating the sky and ground with vibrant greens, yellows, and whites. The team had all come out to the wall to celebrate, and I had the honor of holding the pit board as Phil passed. P2. 2036 WORLD CHAMPION. Phil stuck both fists up into the air and made a giddy punching motion as he crossed the line to flares and a raucous cheer from the fans.
    “YES! YES!!! YEEEEEEESSSSSSAHAHA!!!!! OHMYGOD WE DID IT!!!” Claire looked on the verge of tears as she responded, “Congratulations, Phil. You are the Two-Thousand and Thirty-Six World Champion!!!” Phil had apparently yelled himself out, and for a second I heard nothing but the car revving down before he spoke again. “Claire, thank you so, so much for this season. Oh my gosh, this is the greatest moment of my life… Thank you guys so much for this car.” On the screen, I saw he was trailing down Turn 3 at about 30 miles an hour- waving to the fans and receiving congratulations from other drivers as they passed. Matty came up behind and asked to borrow Claire’s headset.
    “Phil, this is Matty. Congratulations to you on becoming a Five-Time World Champion! Thanks for your 16 years. It’s been one heck of a ride.” Phil sounded like he was crying a bit as he replied, “Thanks Matty. It’s been an incredible career. I couldn’t have wished for any other team to drive with for 16.” Then, he seemed to have an idea. “Can I do doughnuts?” Phil asked in an optimistic tone.
    “No,” Claire exclaimed just as I chimed, “Yes.” She shot me the evil eye and I shrugged my shoulders. “At least we’ve still got another engine,” she sighed as we watched Phil pull off to the side on the screen. He waited a few moments before jamming the gas- enveloped in a cloud of white smoke and a scream from the engine that I could hear from the wall. About 30 seconds later, he stopped and started driving again- still waving as he went. As he drove, he did something I’d never seen in the history of K1. While driving, he took off his helmet and drove- waving to the marshals and fans. “He’s going to get a reprimand for that,” Claire sighed, packing up the gear.
    Phil got onto the front straight, and stopped on the line. The team was all on the wall still, and we yelled as he did another burnout. Howling from the engine mixed in with the yelling from us and cheering from the fans. Smoke washed over us, we were enveloped in the rubbery fog. Finally, the engine cut out (Likely from a lack of fuel), and the howl of the engine was replaced by the roar of the crowd. We all got off over the wall and started celebrating with Phil, who had by now gotten out of his car and was flapping his arms up and down to the crowd. He celebrated with us for a few moments, before running over to the barrier to the fans. He ran all up the catch fence, giving everyone a high-five as they stuck their hands out. When he finally got up onto the podium, the interviewer asked, “You’re really liking this, aren’t ya?” Phil grinned and nodded, tears in his eyes.
    “I’m going to remember this day for the rest of my life, for sure,” He replied, before turning back to the crowd and launching into a speech.
    “Obrigado a todos os fãs hoje à noite. Vocês todos ficaram comigo por dezesseis anos e vocês me motivaram. Você me levou para suas casas e corações, e eu não posso te agradecer o suficiente. Você é o verdadeiro campeão aqui, não eu. Tem sido uma carreira incrível, e eu não poderia pedir mais nada. Obrigado a todos, do fundo do meu coração.” His message (Thanking the fans for motivating him in his career) was met with a loud cheer that made everyone cover their ears. Phil smiled and waved, before heading back inside. 2036 Champion, I thought as we walked back to the car to head to the airport. He deserves it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So Chapter 22... Gosh, it's been a wild ride these last couple chapters. And Y'all remember back a while ago when I said...

"I'm toying with........ something. Could go over good... Could make people want to kill me."?

Yeah... Don't do that. Please.

 

(Oh hey, the forums kept my formatting! Except tabbing... ugh)

 

 

Chapter 22: Saying Goodbye

2:00pm, 1 Week later. River City Memorial Hospital; River City, Owlia

 

  “Alright, let’s see how those nerves are. Just tell me when it begins to hurt, okay?” I nodded as I laid down on my back, extending my right leg out a bit towards the therapist. I was in the best recovery and rehab unit in the entire nation- River City Memorial. Right now, I was with Doctor Robonen in the lower body unit. My leg had been making some good progress, as well as my wrist and chest. I was still limited to the crutch (boo), but I had resumed most of my regular hand activities. The ribs still ached a bit, and my ankle was nowhere near ready to handle the stress of 200 miles an hour. But as the doctors said, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The doctor started poking up and down my leg, and inadvertently I let out a tiny groan as he went near the mid-point of the shin. The doc shook his head and I protested.

  “No, come on, again! I swear I’ve got it this time.” He sighed, but that same dang spot got me again. “Let’s see how that hand’s coming,” The doctor suggested, grabbing one of those things that you have to squeeze together. I pushed with all my might, and managed to get it to touch together. The only downside was that it hurt like someone was hammering nails into the bone. To my right, the door opened up and a familiar face walked in.

  “Kim?” I asked in surprise. Kim turned and waved. “Hi, Jeb.” I got up (With a bit of difficulty) and hobbled over. “What’re you doing here?” I asked as I got to her. I used the wall for some balance, and the doctors looked on nervously. “Ah, strained my hammy a couple days ago in the Dolphins game. Coach wanted me to come in and get checked out. Should be back in action in time for the playoff game next week though.” I did a double-take. If I was correct, the “Dolphins” she was referring to was the Nomlas Dolphins- a team in the Owlian Football League and Women's Soccer League.

  “You play?” I asked, stunned. “Yeah. River City Stars. Secondary Striker on the team in fact. Thankfully it wasn’t a tear, but Coach probably won’t play me in the Lions game.” She sighed and shrugged. “Oh well, though. Just goes with the territory I guess.” The doctor handed me a crutch, which I leaned on. “You never told me you were a pro,” I commented a couple seconds later, to which she responded, “Never gave me the chance,” in a fairly matter-of-fact tone. “My fault,” I apologized, blushing a bit. “I was just kind of…” Kim put a hand up. “I understand,” She said, smirking a bit. “Actually, I’ve got a few extra season passes with no-one to their name…” Kim seemed to get an idea. “How would you like to watch the playoffs?” My eyes lit up. “Really?”

  “It’s okay if you don’t. Box seats, perfect view of the stadium. Full buffet, beautiful insulation. Adjustable seating- the works. I’d be fine if you don’t want t-“ I cut her off. “Where do I sign?” I asked, making her laugh. I heard a cough from behind me and realized I still had to finish up therapy. “Get better soon,” I heard Kim say as I went back. “Same to you,” I called, waving as I went.

 

1:00pm, 2 Weeks later. Round 10 of 10: The KSC Finale. The KSC.

 

  “Hey, everyone down!” As soon as someone whispered the words, we all crouched down behind some cover. We were at Phil’s retirement party, which we were determined on making a surprise. I was hunched behind a stack of tires (Which was one heck of a job might I add, thanks to the crutch), while Alexis, Andy, Claire, Lewis, and Matty were all hiding behind Phil’s car. The team had taken up positions behind cabinets, pipes, and various equipment- with another 5 hiding behind Lewis’s car. The door opened up, and I heard Phil mutter, “What the heck,” before the lights came on and we all jumped up.

  “Surprise!!!” Phil briefly leapt back, before the garage door opened. Reporters and other drivers all filed into the garage to join in the party, and Phil laughed. I picked up the pit board, and showed him the message. 16 YEARS. 5 TITLES. 76 POLES. 83 WINS. 1 TEAM. THANK YOU PHIL! He took the board and I saw his eyes start to glint for a bit before he wiped at them. “Oh my gosh.. This is… I…” He turned to the group and gave Matty a hug. “Thank you so much, Matt.” Matty smiled and shook his head. “No,” He said, pulling away. “Thank you.”

  The party went on for a couple more hours, until a wild champagne cork flew out of the garage and socked a reporter in the face… On Live TV. After that, we decided that it would be best for the race ahead and the reputations of unnamed Channel 5 reporters that we head back to our garages and get ready for the race.

“So what are your plans after you retire?” I asked as the teams started to file out of the garage. “Oh… Spend some time on the coast. Maybe buy one of those tiny houses- I hear they’re all the rage nowadays. Maybe go on some reality TV shows. Settle down, raise a kid. I really don’t know if I’m perfectly honest.” Just then, Max came up, wearing a big goofy grin and holding a bag. Behind him stood a couple more drivers that I recognized. “Here you go,” Max said, looking like he was trying not to laugh. Phil cautiously took the bag and took out the paper. He pulled out an old-time wooden pipe, an equally old-looking hat, pink slippers, and a book titled, “Pensions and Retirement; Edition 2,” on the front. Phil took a quick angry stamp towards Max, who leapt back laughing- well out of reach. The second driver came up- Willy from LakeFront.

  “We’re gonna miss ya,” He said, giving Phil a quick high-five before handing him the bag. Willy was one of the experienced vets- Not young like me or Max but not retirement age either- kind of the middle. Phil pulled out a small box and laughed. “It’s a me!” He exclaimed, holding up a bobblehead Phil, pointing to the sky with an oversized grin. Kyle was up next, and also a member of Phil’s retirement group for 2036. “Class of ’36,” he joked, handing Phil a box. The box looked kind of heavy as Phil pulled out, but he grinned as he saw he front. “A waffle maker!” He exclaimed happily. “You know, in all my years, and all my numerous multi-million contracts, this was the one thing I needed in my home. Thanks, bud.” Kyle laughed as he saw Pensions and Retirement.

  “Hey, can I borrow that one?” He asked, trying to hold back the laughter. “Yeah, after I do a quick read through it’s all yours!” Phil replied, laughing and holding up the hat and pipe. “Max got me the slippers and everything.” Kyle kept laughing, and held up a cane. “At least you didn’t get one of these!” Phil and Willy both started bellowing out laughing and wheezing for air, trying to collect themselves. Kyle got down to his knees and shouted, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” Which made them laugh harder. About 5 or 10 minutes later, they finally collected themselves and gave one last hug. “Hey, see you after the race, okay?” Phil nodded and laughed. “I’ll make sure to give you the book, okay?” Kyle laughed and nodded, before heading out of the garage. The festivities were fun to be a part of… But for now, we had a championship to finish.

 

6:00pm. Round 10 of 10: The KSC Finale

 

“The saying goes, ‘When the sun goes down, the stars come out to play.’ Tonight, we’ll see the stars out in full force. But the end of this year will be hollow for so many fans, teams, and drivers as the sun sets on not just the season, but the career of a legend.

“The KSC circuit has been home to many things over the years. It’s seen happiness, such as Jebediah Kerman taking the 2035 season title last season. It’s seen heartbreak, with Phil Kerman’s crash last season. But tonight, it will see the end of an era. A 16-year career will come to a close at the end of the race, and his glorious career will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come. The season has been a wild one to be sure, but now we all turn our attention to the track.

“With the championships decided and nothing else to lose, the MonsterGP team will fight for every last inch they can, and hopefully come through for a victory. However, the duo of rookie and veteran will work together to try and get one last victory in for the team on the season and show their dominance.

“The fastest cars, drivers, and teams are going to take one last Hail Mary shot at victory this season. But who will it be? The 2036 KSC Finale starts now.”

 

 

  The anthem finished and jets flew overhead- screaming as they went. I watched as 10 jets- each one representing a race of the season- blasted towards the orange-tinged mountains to the west of the KSC. Phil watched on nervously and tapped his feet before getting ready. He was starting on Pole Position, with Lewis well down the order in 9th and Max in a low 6th. Reporters created a cloud around the car, but the team was doing a great job at forming a nice little bubble where we were able to get ready. Voices clamored for attention, cameras flashed, and a barrage of questions came from every angle as Phil got ready to go. Just before he got the helmet on, Phil went to the sidepod and patted his name one last time- “For good luck”- before getting in. “Comm check, Phil, can you hear me?” I moved the mic up to my mouth and tested the radio. “Loud and clear, bud. I’ll see if Lewis’s there yet,” Phil replied before the line clicked off. I went to Lewis’s channel and did the same, which was followed with another response.

  “Alright, listen closely,” I said to both drivers as the engines fired and everyone got on the formation lap. The cars drove past with a loud hum- one at a time. “Phil, it’s been one heck of a season. Thank you for 16 years of driving with the team, and good luck out there. Lewis, just drive like you know how. You can get up there and challenge, but don’t do anything stupid. Both of you got that?” Phil was the first to respond.

  “Geez, I’m supposed to give that talk!” I laughed as the last car passed and we all scurried back to the pit lane. “But yeah, I read ya. Let’s make it a good one.” Lewis agreed, and one lap later we were ready for the start. Phil on Pole, a Force Kindia in second, and Micheal in the Monster rounding out third. I watched on the wall as Phil drove into his grid spot, and waited for the rest of the grid.

  A single red light came on, glowing bright. I saw a beam shine off Phil’s visor, and felt my heartbeat pick up. The engines waited- one long drone mixing in with the sound of the cheering crowd.

  Two lights. The engines tone changed slightly- revving just a bit higher. I looked back and could just see Max and Lewis waiting behind.

  Three lights glowed above the grid, and the engines started rising. I waited nervously on the wall, turning back to the front.

  Four lights. Phil checked his mirrors one last time and I watched on, waiting.

  Five. The lights shone a piercing bright amber, washing over everything. The engines howled and screamed as they were held back.

  The lights went out and the cars flew off the grid- their scream dropped to a hum before getting back to speed. Phil got a great launch and rocketed out to the lead, as had Lewis, who blasted past 2 cars before the Turn 1 braking zone. A car at the front locked up and obscured the corners apex in a cloud of white smoke. Finally, the last car disappeared behind the wall and I went back to the pit box to watch the TV feed. Phil had jumped out to a slight lead, and was going into the fifth turn now. I could still hear the engines going past as I sat down and stared at the screen. Lewis had gotten a good start and was now fighting for sixth against Max. He dove up the inside entering Turn 4, and clipped the apex curb with a slight lockup before making the move work. “Something’s up with Max,” I told Andy out of the corner of my mouth. He nodded and watched Lewis’s feed carefully. I switched to the TV audio on my headphone controller and heard a transmission from the car behind Max. “Something’s coming out of Max’s car in front. Getting some kind of liquid on my visor here.” I turned back to the team channel and watched the feed. Liquid out the engine was never good, and especially not in the middle of the pack.

  “What happened to Max?” Lewis asked, almost surprised as he went into the Turn 8 hairpin. “Something’s up with his car- we believe it could be engine related. Don’t mind him though- run your own race.” Phil had just come out of the Turn 10 hairpin and was blasting down to Tempesta when the camera feed again changed to Max’s car. I quickly switched back to the TV audio and watched on as a puff of white-blue smoke came out of the rear. “Engine’s gone,” Andy muttered to himself as he leaned over to watch. Max didn’t seem to notice as he desperately fought to hold on to 7th place with a dive up the inside in the hairpin. Finally, on the backstraight, the engine blew in a spectacular cloud of smoke. Puff. Puff. Whoosh. Max pulled off as the other cars stormed past, and he was forced to crawl along until he got to a safe spot to pull off. Even then, the Safety Car was called out to clean up the mess. Max got out and kicked the left front in frustration at the retirement. Phil was already into Turn 17 when the engine blew, and I saw he wasn’t happy at all.

  “Come on!” He groaned angrily- punching the wheel. Lewis was equally upset- giving the same message with a few curses I’d never heard before sprinkled in. PR’s gonna have some fun with that one, I thought as the cars bunched up. The Safety Car collected the field in Turn 2, and I clicked back to the garage on my crutches. Alexis was busy checking her phone and after navigating through the crew, I sat down next to her. I saw she was watching the Stars VS Guiders playoff match that Kim was playing in.

 “She come in yet?” I asked as I turned my head to see the TV feed- showing the field snaking around the course behind the Safety Car.

  “Not yet,” Alexis sighed as she watched on. “I’ll let you know when though.”

  Two laps later, the race resumed as the Safety Car pulled off the track. Phil jumped out to about a seconds gap by the first corner, but Lewis was really struggling to gain positions. Phil looked to be on a mission as he relentlessly attacked the apex curbs, and I saw Claire biting her lip nervously as she watched. Lewis, on the other hand, was not having any luck- almost spinning out behind Micheal through Turn 3 as he ran over the exit curb. By Lap 10, Phil had taken a commanding 15-second lead over Kurt Kerman- a driver for FTech Racing. As Phil crossed the line to begin 11, though, Claire cocked her head in confusion before covering the mic and turning to Andy and I.

  “Phil was about a second and a half down on that lap,” She told us after double-checking the timing again. “I didn’t see any mistakes or anything on the feed… Phil didn’t radio anything in either.” Lewis came past the finish line in fourth- fighting with the Force Kindia that started in Second.

  Phil took his stop eight laps later, and it looked flawless. Smooth entry, smooth stop, 4 on, 4 off, fuel in, and away. He pulled out of the pit lane hard and fast before cutting back down to re-enter the track. When he crossed I was stunned to see that in those 8 laps, his 15-second lead had turned into 3.

  “Could something be wrong with the engine?” I asked Claire loudly as the field passed. She shook her head. “No chance!” She yelled back as a group drove by. “We’ve only done 30 laps on it during all the practice sessions!” I shook my head and shrugged as Claire checked temps. “Everything’s looking perfect,” She told me as she keyed Phil’s radio.

  “Phil, is something wrong with the car?” She asked calmly. There was a few seconds of silence before Phil replied with, “Everything’s fine.” Claire shook her head and didn’t answer. On Lap 20, Kurt swept around Phil’s outside in Turn 6. My fingers drummed on the desktop as I watched on. “How’s he so fast?” Phil asked in surprise as he dove into Turn 8- just missing out on a dive-bomb and letting Kurt extend a gap. “Just push,” Claire replied simply. The exact scene was replayed on Lap 27, with the Force Kindia and Lewis flying past in Velocidad. With only 5 laps to go, the race was practically decided.

  “Phil’s getting eaten alive out there,” I muttered to Claire, who nodded nervously. Her contract for 2037 hadn’t been officially signed yet, so this race could have been her last. She keyed the mic and watched helplessly as the fifth place car got closer down the front straight.

  “Four laps to go Phil. We need you to pick up the pace here.” I also keyed the mic.

  “Phil, talk to me. You’re 3-seconds down! Come on!” There was static before the muffled sound of the car’s engine came over my headphones.

  “I just don’t have it, Jeb,” Phil replied- sounding exhausted. “I.. I just can’t. I’m sorry.” I shook my head and watched the screen as Phil went through the R&D section- 6th place Jamie Kerman hot on his tail. Out of the Turn 10 hairpin, Jamie got right on Phil’s gearbox. I heard a loud rear from the crowd before there was silence. In that silence, I felt a loud concussive thud that shook my chest followed by a horrible ripping, tearing shatter that I could hear through my headphones.

  On screen I saw Phil lose control down the straight and pound the outside wall down the backstraight. He spun back across the track and into the path of Julian (A LakeFront car). Julian pounded the side of Phil- nowhere to go. Phil’s car lifted up as he spun sideways, and I sucked in a breath. Time seemed to slow as I watched Phil’s car fly up and almost flip before it hit the catch fence. The right front hit first and dug into the chainlink-wire mesh. Debris flew into the air and the car was obscured in a cloud of white smoke as it caught. The car started to spin around incredibly fast- almost like a helicopter blade- before it slammed to the ground in a shower of sparks. The car, still spinning without any wheels or suspension, slid into a concrete retainer wall- throwing up more sparks and crushing the left sidepod. Black smoke rolled out of the rear of the car as the medical car arrived- its white and red lights flashing. On-screen, I saw the race was red flagged instantly. Please, please let him be okay, I prayed, closing my eyes. Instantly, Claire was on the mic.

  “Are you okay?” The camera cut to the rear of Phil’s car- showing a tiny orange flame licking at the engine cover through the smoke. From that angle I could just see a tiny portion of his blue helmet resting up against the side of the cockpit.

  “Phil, come in.” There was static, and no reply. I saw Claire’s eyes tear up as she put the headset down and cried on the desk. I tried.

  “Phil.”

  <static>

  “Phil, are you there?”
  <static>

  “Come in, buddy.”

  <static>

  “Phil, talk to me.”

  The crews started getting to work on Phil’s car and on-screen the car was covered in white smoke as the fire crews started extinguishing. The TV feed switched to Replays, and I watched as Phil went nose-first into the fence. Wings and fencing shot into the sky and I watched helplessly as the car tumbled to the ground in slow-motion.

  “We don’t know,” Andy said, breaking the silence. I noticed that there was no sound besides for sirens and helicopter blades. “They’re calling the race. Pull in to the pits. Mode 0.” I turned and looked as the cars filed into the pit lane single file- their engines off and electric motors whining as they passed.

  “Attention,” The loudspeaker boomed overhead as the drivers got out of their cars. “The race has been declared final. By mandate of the K1 rulebook, the results will be counted at the end of Lap 30.” I looked up at the TV screen and watched as the K1 Head Steward- Charles Kerman- delivered a press conference. I unplugged the headphones and the voice came up as Lewis walked up- helmet in hand and a nervous expression painted on his face.

  “Good evening everyone,” Charles said as cameras flashed. “This isn’t an announcement that I’ve had to make in a long, long time. I haven’t had to do this since Paulen Kerman back in 2016, but…” He sighed sadly and looked to be on the verge of tears. “We’ve lost Phil Kerman.” There was stunned silence in the garage. “Tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with Phil’s family, and we mourn the loss of our friend. Good night.” The feed cut off and there was silence. Claire started sobbing and clung to Lewis to support, who was stunned. Max walked over, equally shocked, and dropped his helmet. Alexis walked over and almost tackled me in a hug- crying just as hard as Claire. The words repeated in my head, over and over again.

  We’ve lost Phil Kerman…

  Phil’s… gone.

  And it’s all my fault.

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So the new season is (now) upon us. Or... Coming to us. I don't know; I'm tired okay? I've planned for the K1 cars to get a massive shakeup for the 2037 season. Imagine the 2036 cars being the 2018 F1 cars. Now, use that imagination and make the 2017 car be 2037. (Yes, I liked 2017 better than the current 2018. #RIPSharkFin. Also, Halos won't exist in K1... Maybe. Don't test me though.) I'll upload pics here later; right now how the car looks is up in the air. Do y'all want the Shark Fin to be kind of like an upside-down triangle and with a "bite" out of the bottom (See: Haas/Williams/Mercedes (Just more exaggerated), 2017)? Or have it be one large continuous Shark Fin (See: Everyone else (most noticeably: Force India/Red Bull/McLaren), 2017)? Let me know; I'll include reference pics as soon as I can get Imgur up and going. (Note: I'm leaning towards the long continuous idea)

Edited by DarkOwl57
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40 minutes ago, SiriusRocketry said:

R.I.P Phil.

Also, can we get a mini-scene of Jeb arguing with stewards about Phil's crash? It'd be cool to get Jeb fighting for a Halo-like device that could've saved Phil's life, in his memory.

I was thinking about Jeb facing some kind of inquiry board regarding the crash, as well as maybe Phil's as well.

"To be honest, I htink it's just a freak accident. Phil wouldn't have wanted this. Protection? Yes. But this? No."

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I hate my life. Y'all know why? Okay, prepare for a rant.

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

 

Chapter 23: Recovery

 

11:00am, 2 Weeks later. OTech Race Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia

 

 

   The elevator opened with a quiet but clear ring as we got to the third floor. Alexis was with me, and I exhaled softly. My heart was racing as I clicked down the hallway, still on crutches against my will. Finally, I reached the end of the hallway and sighed. The door, though its name tag blank, was the entrance to the place I’d been dreading for the last two weeks. Carefully, I opened the door to Phil’s office and came in.

   It was almost exactly like the downstairs office, but obviously higher up. The whole place was empty- besides for a laptop that must have been left behind. I turned around and saw that there was a large banner above the door, reading “5-Time” in bold white letters. I shook my head and went over to the desk. Outside the massive window, I saw two cars lapping around the test track- Max and Lewis by the looks of it. I tapped the laptop’s trackpad once and the screen came to life. On the screen, a bright orange setting sun glowed above a wheat field. The desktop icons started popping to life, and one on the bottom bar started bouncing as it opened up. Finally, a large document came to life and my eyes jumped at the title: “A_Letter_To_Jeb.doc” Alexis came over and looked- seeming to be just as confused as I was. I started reading, despite deep Don’t invade a dead guys privacy message.

   Dear Jeb,

   I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you this live. I know that it’s been hard on you recently, what with you struggling with the injury. I hope you’ll stick with me here and not get to upset with my rambling.

   You’ve grown. I still remember that first day you were at the factory and spun my car into the grass in Turn 5. Took days to get the mud off the bargeboards. (Good gosh I sound like a parent, huh? Well just stick with me.) It’s been such a fun ride driving with you these last couple seasons. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’ve grown up. Yes, you’ve gotten older (gasp, shock, horror!) but you’ve grown up mentally as well. You’re more mature, less rash with your decisions. You’ve used your potential, but I know you’ve got more deep down in you.

  Now, I’ve got some advice for you: Don’t let the critics drag you down. You can’t let the crowd get to you. No matter what, you need to have the confidence to keep driving on. The negative reviews, the questions- tune them out. You’re going to have struggles in your career- maybe you’re already facing them with the injury. No matter what anyone says, don’t let them tell you that you can or can’t. You’re better than that. Use your head, and stay calm.

  I know you’ve got the potential to do great, great things. You’ve got the drive, the motivation, and the will to go out on that track and do whatever you want. From that moment I raced against you in Owlia last year, I knew there was something special. Now I’m not saying take it easy. You’re still going to have to work for everything you want. You need to earn those titles. No-one’s going to just walk up to you and hand you the trophy Round 1. You’re going to fight for every position, every inch, every second. With Max coming in, you’re going to be tested like never before. You’re going to be needing help that unfortunately I can’t give you. You’re going to fall, and scrape your knees along the way. Everyone’s going to have something that tries to knock them down. But you can get back up. You can fight through your problems, no matter how much it hurts. That’s what makes a champion.

  Your career is young, but I know you’re capable of great things. Your injury may be a setback, but you can’t let that determine your life. You’re going to do great things. You’re probably going to break a few more records, win a lot more races, and become a better driver than you ever thought. You’re going to be great. Never forget that.

-Phil

 

  “Wow…” I muttered to myself as I finished the letter. “He believes in me.” Alexis nodded and as I turned, I saw she was trying her best not to cry. I raised an eyebrow and she hit my shoulder- tears starting to leak out just a bit.

  “That was so emotional!” Alexis cried as her voice cracked. I shook my head and printed the doc. “I miss him,” I sighed as I took the letter. “Me too,” Alexis agreed as she dried her eyes. “We all do.”

 

3:00pm, 3 Days later. K1 World Championship Headquarters; Bradley, Owlia. Hearing Room #1.

 

 

  I shifted my tie around and Alexis nudged me as she shook her head. “You couldn’t have found a tighter collar if you tried,” I hissed quietly as I put my hands back on the table, drawing an evil glare.

  “Shush,” She replied with a whisper before the Governing Body of the sport walked in. We- Myself, Alexis, Andy, Matty, Claire, and Max- stood up to address the Council. Across the room, the five largest figures in K1 were sitting down in their chairs. On our far left was James Kerman- one of the first drivers in the sport. On the middle-left was Manuel Kerman- the current head of Driver Safety in K1. Sitting directly in the middle (and staring at us like a vulture waiting for his next meal) was Tom Kerman- the head of K1. To middle-right was Charlie Kerman- the Head Steward. Finally, to the far right, Stephen Kerman- the Head Designer for car regulations- was sitting down in his chair. I’d heard these Councils never went well for the defending side, which we happened to be. Tom adjusted his microphone and cleared his throat.

  “Good afternoon,” He said to us as we sat down. “As you may know, this Council has been called today to discuss the incident at the Kerbal Space Center three weeks ago regarding the crash and death of Phil Kerman. Following testimony from the defendants, our Council will deliberate over what we find. Depending on the results, numerous changes to the rules and regulations for the 2037 and or 2038 cars may be changed. Does everyone understand?” We all nodded, and Tom checked his notes. “Okay, so we’ll begin by testimony from Phil F. Kerman, Chief Engineer and designer for the 2036 car for OTech Race Team.” Phil cleared his throat and went up to the stand area, holding a sheet of notes.

  “Good afternoon. First off, I’d just say that the crash of Phil Kerman was avoidable. According to what we’ve found- and I'm sure you’ve found as well- a loss of control caused Phil to ricochet into the outside retaining wall, back into the path of oncoming traffic, and then up into the air following contact with another car. Speculation that mismanagement by OTech and its design process is 100% baseless and untrue. The crash of Phil Kerman was a tragic and unfortunate accident that was instead caused by poor luck and a lack of safety outlined in the rulebook.” There was silence in the room, which was briefly interrupted by Max’s coughing before Stephen spoke up. “Please explain further,” He said questioningly, leaning forward a bit. Phil nodded and went to a projector board, where he pulled up a replay of the crash.

  “Look right about here,” Phil said, pausing the video at the point where Phil’s car began lifting off the ground. “As we can see, the car’s right side began lifting up after contact. Now, if we go to our 3D graphic…” The screen changed to show a digital version of the car on the track. Blue lines showed air travel, and there was a second car behind the blue and white OTech car. The car hit the outside wall first and lost its left front, now out of control. The car spun back down across the track and got hit by the trailing car, where Phil stopped just a second later. The car had already lifted up a bit- likely from the force of impact- and the blue lines started going underneath the side of the car.

  “As you can see, the force of impact caused the car to lift up right here. This, coupled with the speed the cars were going at the time, caused the air to go underneath the car and generate lift. This is an effect similar to a blow-over that we saw in stock cars back before the invention of the roof flap.” The screen dimmed down and Phil returned to his spot. “As you can see, this accident wasn’t caused by any means in the OTech factory, but in a clear problem with the car regulations.” Stephen put on his glasses and peered at Phil.

   “And what do you propose?” He asked, rubbing his chin. Phil looked over to Claire, who stood up and went up to the projector.

   “Hello, Council. My name’s Claire Kerman and I’m-.. I was the engineer on Phil’s car at the time of the accident. I believe that I have an idea that might have changed the results of the accident.” The screen glowed and Claire went to the next portion of the little slideshow we’d prepared for this hearing. The new 2037 concept was on the screen, and it was put into the same scenario as the 2036. Phil hit the wall in exactly the same location, and the wheel came off. Claire paused it as soon as the trailing car hit, and zoomed in to a spot near the back of the sidepod, before making a large red circle around the tail end. I saw a small winglet there- angled downwards but still visible.

   “This is what I like to call the SL/FR Flap, short for Sidepod Lift or Flip Reduction. The flap, which can’t be altered by the teams, will be here- right where the sidepod ends on both sides. In normal conditions, the flap wouldn’t produce any lift, downforce, or drag- not affecting performance with the vehicle. However, in the event of a spin…” She let the graphic play out, which showed Phil spinning off to the side after contact instead of flipping out. “The car will remain planted to the ground and safe. Because the flap is slanted downwards, the air will push the car sown into the track and reduce the chance of a blow-over-like event happening in the future. I recommend that instead of using the DPR, or Halo, the SL/FR should be mandatory on all cars for the 2037 season, effective immediately.” I nodded in agreement and Phil smiled warmly, in a proud, happy sort of way. Stephen nodded and took his glasses off before Manuel put his microphone to his mouth.

   “How do you think that this… SL/FR would be any safer than the Halo?” He simply asked, rolling the “R” slightly. Claire again went to the board, where a separate scenario was playing out- this one with the Halo. The situation played out. Phil got hit and flew up into the air. Claire paused it right when Phil’s top hit the fence and zoomed in some more.

   “In an incident like this,” She explained, pointing to the fencing and Halo. “The fencing would have gone through the openings in the Halo and hit Phil either way- the exact same way it did play out. The Halo wouldn’t have protected Phil in a crash like this, and it probably wouldn’t have helped in the crash with Jebediah at the Temple. Also, there’s another more practical reason for not implementing the Halo for the 2037 season.” The screen changed and a spreadsheet came up.

   “The Halo, according to various test runs, costs around 15 to 20 thousand funds apiece. Not bad, right? Well, you’ve got to take into consideration other elements. Testing, Manufacturing, Development, Purchasing, Designing- all of them would take time that no-one has and money that the back marker teams certainly don’t have. Adding the Halo would create more problems than it solves, or theoretically could solve.” Claire sat back down at her seat and Tom dismissed Phil. Then, he checked his notes.

   “Next up, testimony from Jebediah Kerman, driver for OTech Race Team.” I stood up and Max mouthed Knock ‘em dead. I nodded, feeling a tiny bit nauseous, and went to the podium. I was about to speak, but as soon as I opened my mouth the mic popped off. I turned it back on a couple times and it finally worked. “Must be mad at me,” I chuckled with a grin that wasn’t returned by the stern faces at the front. If anything, the frowns seemed to get deeper. I cleared my throat and began my little soapbox rant.

   “I know what you might think. ‘This crash was caused by a team on top wanting that extra tenth,’ right? Well you’re wrong. I think that this terrible accident was just that; an accident. My crash at the Temple and Phil’s crash at the KSC are just products of wrong-place, wrong-time. The team had nothing to do with this. Now as to fix this, I don’t know. I know that the Halo might be the option you have all thought about for the last few months. But let me tell you, it won’t work. Coming from a driver, I know that this won’t work. There are too many variables. We don’t know hardly anything about the Halo at this moment. What it’ll protect against, what it’ll look like- we don’t even know if it works. It’s just not going to do the job we need it to do. The SL/FR wing is, to me, the safest bet. I’m not arguing that change isn’t needed- it is. But this? This isn’t the way we should go.” The Council looked stunned and I simply said, “Thank you,” before turning and sitting back at the table.

 

9:00pm, 2 Months later. AT&C Stadium (Stars Stadium); River City, Owlia

 

   Music boomed through oversized speakers as the halftime show was nearing its conclusion. We had arrived for the final half of a close National Conference Championship game. The score was at 2-2 and looked like the second half would be more of the same. Alexis, Max and I were all up in one of the VIP boxes, and from this vantage point you could view the entire field along with most of the stadium seating. The big screen showed cheerleaders performing some kind of dance that was attracting the attention of Max.

   “I wonder how I could get her number,” He muttered to himself quietly, making Alexis roll her eyes and forcing a scoff out of me. “Which one?” I asked, pretending to be interested. “The blonde one, second from the right,” Max replied, pointing to the screen. I looked and shook my head. “No chance. She’s way out of your league.” Max tried to protest, but I ignored him; instead offering Alexis some chips. Only a couple minutes later, the team came back onto the field- Kim leading them on to a loud cheer that rattled the windows. Across the field, the opposing team- the Angel City Bolts- came onto the field.

   Play resumed and the crowd roared as the game got back going. I watched as the Stars were cut off at every opportunity they got- never getting far beyond midfield before the Bolts retook possession. On Bolts player was wide-open and received a pass- kicking the ball right into the back of the net with the force of a cannon. “Dang it!” I groaned as we watched the replay. There was no chance for the keeper to get at it, and we all watched on helplessly as her fingers were just an inch too short. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar figure take off a neon yellow vest and bounce on the sideline.

   “Substitution for the Stars,” the PA system boomed in a deep voice as the crowd cheered. “Number 13: Kim Kerman.” I started clapping, and there was a loud mix of cheers and whistles from the crowd as she jogged onto the field. Kim jumped a couple times to warm her legs, and the game resumed. After only a couple minutes, I felt an attack building. A Bolts player had the ball and started running down the field before Kim came out of nowhere. She dropped to the ground and slid right underneath the opposing player in a shower of black turf. The ball was kicked out from underneath the player and flew off to the side. Kim got up quickly and sprinted to the ball, which was just past the midfield line. She ran out and started making an attack. The announcers on the TV were going crazy as the Stars began.

   “Axey on the move. Pass to Mullen, who moves up the field! Past one defender!” The crowd started cheering loudly and I stood up- anticipation building. Come on… Get ‘em. “Pass to Anny- To Kim!” Kim ran up with the ball at her feet- her hair flying back in the wind as she raced to the goal. Everyone in the box all sucked in a cumulative breath as Kim charged. “She’s going! Can the rookie do it?!” Kim spun around a defender and kept on going- unfazed. She was wide-open for the shot, and she took it. Almost in slow-motion, Kim’s leg wound back before flying forward to kick the ball. The ball flew off Kim’s foot and the Keeper dived for it in mid-air. The ball seemed to slowly turn in mid-air, and I watched as it just kissed the upper right corner before slamming into the net- well behind the keeper who slammed to the ground.

   The crowd roared in unison with a noise similar to that of a bomb going off inside the stadium. Across the field, the big screen flashed the words GOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLL in big, bold letters. “YES!” I yelled and pumped my fist in celebration as Kim ran out and slid, stomach-first- onto the turf. She popped up and screamed for joy before getting engulfed in a huddle of her teammates. The box was all cheering, and Kim looked up at the massive big screen with a grin on her face as she watched the replay.

   “Big brother Jebediah Kerman, celebrating that one,” The TV said as I watched my face light up on the big screen. Kim’s head whipped around to the box and I saw her wave despite the distance. I waved back, and sat down as the players all went back to their spots.

   The whistle blew yet again, and the game restarted. With only ten minutes left in the game, Kim made her move. She intercepted a pass and started moving downfield. The coach must have called some kind of play, because instantly she stopped dead and let the players go flying past her. Suddenly, she passed to a teammate who ran to the outside. Kim started lagging back- trotting along. Suddenly, Kim sprinted forward- blowing through defenders. The teammate kicked the ball across the field and Kim poured on the speed to catch it. Just when it looked like the ball would go flying past, she tried a last-second dive. The ball seemed to hover in the air for just a second before hitting Kim square on the top of the head. It flew off perfect and almost floated into the back of the net as Kim fell to the ground- slamming the turf and sliding forward.

   “Did that just happen?!” I exclaimed in shock as we all celebrated the amazing goal. Kim laid there for a moment, stunned, before leaping up and running to the crowd- high-fiving everyone on the front row. At the midfield line she did a back flip, still high on the goal. She just missed it- landing directly on her rear into a kind of sitting position. She laughed and brushed herself off, and I saw her talking to Ason- the teammate who delivered the cross- as they walked back to the midfield circle. Just before the game restarted, I thought I saw Kim wave just a little bit.

   Finally, the whistle blew as the game ended. The noise of the crowd almost shattered my eardrums through the glass and fireworks blasted up in the air outside in bright white and blue that crackled and boomed with a force that you could feel through your chest. Blue and white confetti fell from the ceiling and the team all ran out onto the field to celebrate. “That’s it! The Stars win! The Stars are going to the RiverBowl!” We all started celebrating and on the big screen I could see Kim jumping with her teammates. Suddenly, Kim looked up at the box we were at and gave me a thumbs-up. I smiled and gave her a double-thumbs up. Through the crowd noise, I could hear some kind of chant starting up. The crowd was chanting Kim’s name! She looked up at the crowd and separated from the teammate group before bowing politely and getting a massive cheer. She’d done it.

 

1:30pm, 1 Week Later. OTech Race Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia

 

   My heart felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest as Max drove into the pit lane- locking up just a bit as he perfected the tricky entry. Alexis was hovering over me nervously, trying to convince me to not get in the car. “I have to do this,” I said, hopefully sounding a whole lot braver than I felt. This was my first time in any race car since the accident, and I couldn’t help but feel slightly intimidated. This was the car that almost killed me only five months ago… Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. No, I told myself sternly. You can do this. You aren’t a coward.

   Max pulled into the garage just as I was putting on my “BioLeg”- an advanced leg brace that would (hopefully) keep my leg kind of stable. “How’s it feeling?” I asked as he got out of the car and set his helmet down on the table. “Car is stupid grippy,” Max replied with a grin as he combed his fingers through his hair. “Rear feels incredibly smooth, even though we lowered the splitter. Didn’t you get the official change sheet?" I nodded as I put the leg on.

   The new car was designed to the new rules for this year, which made the cars look sexy as all heck. The rear spoilers were a lot lower and wider compared to last year, which improved rear grip. The entire rear end of the car had gotten a rework, which now included a full shark fin. On the Shark Fin, we now had something called a T-wing- basically a small wing put onto the top of the Shark Fin that looked like a capital T when viewed from the rear. Also regarding aero, the Front Wing was altered to move the upper deck farther back (Now just 20 millimeters in front of the front wheels), as well as lowering the height of the Lower Deck (The part of the wing that is closest to the ground at any given moment).

   On the physical side of things, the ride height of cars had been raised from a minimum of 10mm up to 15. This was of course able to be regulated by teams (Via suspension setups, etc.), but pre-race the cars would be measured to make sure they were in compliance with the rule. Also new for 2037 was the addition of the CSDP, or Cockpit/Sidepod Driver Protection. The new method added basically a wall of foam meant to protect the drivers in the event of a side-on impact, like what I had at the Temple. The foam- similar to that in the SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) barrier- was meant to absorb the impact of a collision instead of rebound it back into either the barrier or the driver.

   Underneath the covers, the 2037 Engine was beefed up. The rev limiter had been raised from 11,000 RPM up to 13,000 RPM (More RPM = More noise). The Electric Generators had also been upgraded, which would produce more power when using EPB. The Power Distribution System (PDS) had undergone various improvements over the off-season, and with the first (and only) Pre-Season Test coming up in only a week, the team would was working in overdrive to get Max and I ready. The car looked stable from what Max had done, and I was ready to get going.

   Another change in 2037 was the introduction of a totally new rules package. Gone were the adjustable wings, which hadn’t seen much use by the drivers and wasn’t used for much more than creating a DRS down straights where it shouldn’t be used. The good news regarding DRS was that now during Practice and Qualifying we could use the system wherever we wanted. I anticipated a lot of spins and backup chassis’ going into service over the course of the weekend. Also with the new season, full driver-to-driver communications were now banned- instead opting for teammate-to-teammate. Why, I had no idea. Probably because some drivers (cough Max cough) had a habit of getting on other drivers radio and distracting them mid-race. Thanks a lot there, buddy. The most noticeable of these changes, however, was the possible introduction of a second compound of tire.

   Last year, we had the Dry tire and the Wet tire. The Dry tire was meant to have faster speeds in dry conditions as there weren’t any grooves. The Wet tire was full of grooves (Similar to a road car) and was perfect in rain but god-awful in the dry. Coming up next year (possibly), we would have two compounds of Dry tire: The Regular (The compound we were using), and the Soft (A tire that provides more grip at the cost of tire life). This was meant to increase overtaking, but we wouldn’t know until 2038 as the series still had to do various testing.

   With all the new car regulations, the season was looking to be one of the fastest yet, and I couldn’t wait to get going. The brace- which looked like those things you wear after tearing your ACL- squeaked as I walked to the car. Our car had (sadly) opted for the T-wing instead of the humongous wing plate that we had been using over the last two seasons. This would (maybe) give us some more straight-line speed but suffer cornering grip. However, Andy had worked around the rules to do something… interesting. Just where the Shark Fin met the main body of the car, Andy had added another wing. This wing would act in conjunction with the rear wing (Same settings, DRS- everything), and would hopefully provide that extra grip we’d lost in the rule change. Overall, the new cars were looking to be faster than they were last year with the new rules.

   2037 would also see the introduction of two new races. Juniper Space Port was off the calendar after a 3-year contract deal fell through, and it had been replaced by the Solarian Grand Prix- another Kafrica race. The Grestin circuit just didn’t feel right to me- with a really tight final 4 turns, it was almost impossible to get a good run down Kellen Boulevard- the second-longest straight on the track. The track’s high-speed turns like 9, 10, and 15 made the cars rely on aero stability, but long straights like Laythe Lane made top speed a priority. In other words, it was a right donkey. The circuit replacing Grestin- Solaria- looked to be a neat challenge.

   The circuit- based just off the southern tip of the country- had multiple wide, sweeping turns and long straights. The circuit looked to be fast and flowing, and the Stadium Section of Turns 12, 13, 14 and 15 would be exciting to drive through. The final corner, Turn 20, was a tighter hairpin than any I’d ever seen, except for maybe Baskay. The turn would be crucial for getting a good run down the main straight, which was the longest on the track.

   The second change for 2037 was the loss of the Eradican Grand Prix. The circuit, though home to lots of excitement and tense battles, wasn’t liked by very many on the grid. The circuit was tight and with nothing but grass or dirt runoff, it was highly unsafe for the speed that our cars would be taking. Also, the track wasn’t known for overtaking, which had seen an all-time low in the 2036 race with only 4 overtakes all race long. The tracks surface was also starting to deteriorate slightly as it felt the wear and tear of 11 years of racing without a repave.

   Its replacement came in the form of Aquaria. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been there that much. The country is mostly known for its lucrative fishing business’, which keeps the economy stable. The circuit was the first figure-8 track in K1 history, as the front-straight and mid-straight went above a short sprint between Turns 3 and 4. The track had an incredibly exciting Turn 1/2 complex, which practically threw the cars downhill at-speed through the braking zone. The track was looking to be an exhilarating experience, but my biggest worry was that overtaking would be scarce through the tight sections of a tight double-chicane and a challenging section that was tight and slow. The track looked interesting for sure, and I couldn’t wait to drive on both of the new circuits for the season. I realized I had zoned out a bit thinking about the new season and shook my head.

   “How’s the exit grip?” I put my suit on over the brace and sat in the car. “Rears have a lot of patience. They’ll hold if you don’t screw with them, but so far they’re a lot faster and grippier.” I nodded and put the helmet on as I sat down in the car. The new wheel looked stunning as I put it on, what with all the new buttons and dials that controlled the new car features. The engine roared to life and I grinned beneath my helmet.

   “Comm check,” Andy said into the radio. I took a moment to find out where the radio button was (Right where it had been last year) and replied, “Loud and clear,” before pulling out of the garage. The tires gripped into the tarmac smoothly and with a ferocity as they attacked the track. I got out of the pit lane in the middle of Turn 4, and held the throttle in through the massive Turn 5. The engine howled and hollered as I blasted off the banking on exit. I flew up close to the wall and pulled away slightly- still gaining speed. The car climbed higher and higher up as it went, and by the end of the straight I broke an astounding 206 miles an hour before slamming the brakes for Turn 6. I rumbled over the curbing as I hit the apex and shot into the second part of the chicane. Out of 7 I hit the gas and the car rocketed off the line. The suspension was stiff but stable as I went over the smooth apex of Turn 8, and I full-throttled the 9-12 section. 9 and 10 was a right-left section that highly resembled Owlia’s 10-11. Turns 11 and 12 were two left-handers that you could take full-throttle thanks to runoff in 12. The curbs were smooth as I went over them at speed, making a loud buzz as the tires bounced off the strip. I blasted down the straight and opened up DRS- feeling the car accelerate as the drag was taken off the car.

   “Holy cow this is fast!” I exclaimed as the speed topped 180 before I slammed on the brakes for Turn 13. Due to the inexperience, I accidentally locked up the rears and the car whipped around to the right. Instantly my heart started racing and I took my hands off the wheel- instincts and pure fear taking over. I heard the car skid over tarmac, briefly kiss some grass, and jump over a curb with a scrape before sliding to a stop just outside the apex of Turn 14. My heart was still beating a thousand miles per hour and I panted a bit as I raised the visor.

   “Jeb, you okay?” Andy asked nervously as I sat in the car. The engine hummed in anticipation but I felt like I was going to puke as the adrenaline made my limbs weak. I gasped for air and gulped- sounding and probably looking more like a goldfish than a professional racing driver. After about 30 seconds I got enough strength in my still shaking hands to press the radio button.

   “Y-yeah,” I stammered shakily as I shifted the car back down to first and drove away. “God that scared the crap out of me… So much.” I was still panting as I went around the double-apex of 15 and 16 that did a full 180. I tried to head down the short straight down to the Turn 17-18 complex, which was almost the exact same as 9 and 10. Into the Turn 19 hairpin, I locked up and rumbled over grass and dirt. “I killed the tires,” I told Andy as I went slow through the normally flat-out Turn 20. “Damnit.” I coasted through into the pit lane and had the tires changed before peeling out and back onto the track. I was nowhere near as fast as I was before, though, and on my third lap, Andy called me in.

   The engine whined to a halt as I got out of the car and I almost passed out as I stood up again. My legs were shaking like crazy and I practically collapsed onto the concrete. Reaching out, I grabbed a small bag and started retching- heaving up my lunch in the process. After I had emptied myself out fully, Alexis came over and rubbed my back soothingly a couple times. “Feeling better?” She asked nervously. Shakily, I nodded and tried to stand up. I tried to sit back in the car again. As soon as I put myself in, however, I felt shaky and nervous again. A horrible thought came into my mind… I can’t do it.

 

9:00am, 1 Week later. K1 Headquarters. K1 International, Bradley, Owlia. Pre-Season Test 1 of 1.

 

“After 3 months of waiting, the stars of K1 have returned. The Pre-Season is nearing its end, and after these two days of testing, the first race of the season will be only a month away. What will we see here today? Will OTech claim their record sixth constructors title? Will the dynamic duo of Jebediah Kerman and Max Kerman relight this season? All of these questions and more will be answered with the coming season, but today we’ll get our first hints. And now, almost on cue, the first engine has fired up underneath the Press Box. Let’s see who has it for the 2037 season ahead.”

 

   I watched as a TT Motorsports car drove past with a loud hum- it’s sky blue paint blurring together with the snow white. The sky, which in some parts of the track was obscured by trees, was picture-perfect with only a couple fluffy clouds floating off in the distance. Bradley, Owlia. The greatest vacation location in the nation, and maybe even the continent. Definitely in the Top 10 at least. I set my phone down on the table after texting Kim, who would be playing her game later that night. The plan was for me to do some testing here, fly down to River City tonight, and come back for Day 2. A pretty busy schedule to say the least.

   “You ready?” Andy asked from behind me as I suited up. I didn’t need the leg brace anymore but the doctors were insistent. I nodded before pulling the firesuit up over my shirt strapping everything up. There weren’t many (If any) fans in the stands, but I could feel a tension and almost some kind of a magic in the air as I went to the car. This was the same track where legends had been made. This was the site of the first ever K1 race- back when it was the Owlian Cup. I could almost hear the old cars rumbling down the brick front-straight at 100 miles per hour, accompanied by the roaring of fans and the screaming of engines. This was where Micheal Kerman, the great 7-time champion won his first title in his rookie season. Where Ayrton Kerman had speared off his teammate on the opening lap to take the title. Where- “Jeb!” Alexis’s shout snapped me back to reality and I jumped a bit. I really have to keep track of that.. “You ready?” She asked.

   “Yeah,” I replied, a bit embarrassed. She smiled and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. I returned the kiss before putting my head sock (Basically like an undershirt for your head) and helmet on. I stepped into the seat and slid in. The crew strapped me in and connected the wheel. The screen came to life and I put the gloves on as the engine fired to life. I tapped the gas and the engine yelped, making me grin. “Sounding good, guys,” I said happily as the tires came on. The crew finally set me down and I shifted up. I got a slow and safe getaway from the garage before pulling out into the pit lane. I came out onto the track in perfect sunshine and a wealth of speed. The car yelled as it went down the front straight, almost like it was happy to be free and awake after the long, cold winter. The car bumped loudly over a dip in the brick before I slammed the brakes for Turn 1, which was partially paved with tarmac on the inside of the corner.

   The left tires gently kissed the inside curbing before I fired off into Turn 2. The car bounced off the brick but I kept the wheel under control before braking for the Right-Left chicane. The outside tires skittered a bit as they slid over the slippery surface, but again I averted disaster. I kept the throttle planted for Turn 4 (A tricky right-handed kink with a wall close on both the inside and outside) before slamming hard for Turn 5, a hairpin. The right-front threw grass and dirt at my visor as the tires briefly visited the grass, but I wasn’t phased and just turned out at the apex. Despite how slow you exit Turn 5, the brakes get a good workout in Turn 6. The track, now 100% asphalt and smooth tarmac, was incredibly tight on corner entry- allowing nothing in the way of overtaking. I shot out of the corner and watched as the course widened up. Entering Turn 7, trees began to cast shadows over the track. I felt the coolness through my suit and blasted through the River S of 7, 8, and 9. Out of 9 I activated DRS and flew down the Lake Straight, otherwise known as Forest Run. Trees flew past as the car’s speed climbed higher and higher. 180. 190. 199. I hit the brakes just as the car broke 201. Turn 10 was a high-speed turn with wide runoff, so I slowed down to about 160 before the apex. The rears almost got away from me but I held in just as the track straightened out. I needed a bit more braking for 11, but floored it before hitting the Turn 12 apex curb. A flock of doves flew out over the lake and above the track as I flew past- likely a black blur from above (We were running the testing livery, which was all-black to protect our design elements). I flew down out of the Turn 12 kink and blasted down into the area known as “Old Station.” I slowed for the fairly rounded Turn 13, which started the Station section where much of the base car design was done. In the middle of Turn 14, the car scraped as it got onto the brick, making me fly up the track a bit in a shower of sparks. I went down the bumpy run before hitting Turns 15 and 16 on the edge of grip.

   Down the straight, the brick smoothened out and I was able to pour on the speed before braking for Turn 17- a challenging left-handed 90º turn in the Left-Right chicane of Traffico. Out of 18 and carrying speed, I blazed through the Turn 19 kink with purpose before braking hard for the Turn 20 hairpin. This started the 21-22 hairpin section of Poca Collina, which was a collection of two tight hairpins that were the slowest ever in K1. The car bumped over the curb in 21 but I misjudged the exit speed- almost hitting the outside wall. I broke for the much wider Turn 22 and carried the momentum out of the corner down the front-straight. I did lap after lap, stretching my legs out and getting a real feel for the car. Finally, Andy called me in on my 25th or 26th lap (I had lost count and a computer glitch on Lap 10 had wiped my lap-counter on the wheel). I dove into Turn 21 and pulled out of the corner at speed before braking hard for 22. Instead of turning left, however, I twisted right before shooting over a left-handed curb. The pit entry was tight and slow, with one last tight, 90º left turn right before the speed limiter line. The engine droned loudly as I went down the lane and finally wound down as I stopped in the pit stall. The crew pushed the car behind the wall and as soon as the tires came off I had already unbuckled and stood up. The garage got darker as the team pulled a barrier over the entrance to block out any teams getting a peek at our car. I jumped down and started taking off my helmet.

   “Good running there,” Andy said as he jogged over from the pit box. “We’ll look over the data, but so far everything’s looking tip-top. Max is out getting some good running in for now, so you can take a break while we set up the aero testing data. How’s the car feeling?” I set the helmet down and ran my fingers through my hair.

   “Car feels amazing, especially in the Heron Pond section. It feels really set up through the high-speed turns, but it’s so dang fast down the straights. Using the DRS it feels really connected, even down in the bumps. Overall the aero’s a lot grippier than last year. The engine’s working good too. A lot more acceleration over last year.” Andy nodded as if this all matched up to what he thought (Knowing him, it probably did), and patted me on the back.

   “It’ll take a while to get the gear set up, so just go ahead and take a break. Maybe get some lunch, I don’t know. I’ll call you when we’re done.” I nodded and shrugged out of my firesuit. I put my phone into some shorts (It was in the low 70’s), put a hat on (With a very inconspicuous OTech™ Race Team logo on the top), and put my sunglasses on the collar of a polo decked out with a variety of sponsors. I walked out the door to the garage and was instantly greeted by a press reporter waiting.

   “Jeb! Jeb a moment?” I turned and smiled, walking over. “Mandy Kerman, TRN, do you have a moment?” I took a sip from my water and nodded as some birds tweeted nearby in the forest. “Oh, thank you so much, this’ll only take a moment.” She checked her watch and turned to the camera. “Live in 5, 4, 3, 2… “Thank you Darrell. Here I am with OTech star Jebediah Kerman, who we didn’t think we’d see at the KSC, much less Pre-Season. Jeb, good to see you!” Her blonde hair whipped around as she turned to me.

   “Ah, it’s good to be here,” I replied as Alexis walked out of the garage. I waved and she started to come over- hovering about three feet away.

   “So first off, Jeb, what’s it been like; this emotional rollercoaster over the past half a year?” A car drove past and echoed off the walls and the surrounding trees.

   “It’s been… hectic, to say the least,” I replied, chuckling. “First there was the injury, and the rehab, which wasn’t easy at all.” I felt some tears well up a bit. “Then, we lost Phil at the end of last season, which was…” I sighed. “It was hard to say the least. But we’ve got a great car for this season and a wonderful team behind us. Max is-“ A car yelled past and cut me off, which got a laugh. “Max’s apparently having fun out there right now. But yeah, Max is an amazing teammate to have. He’s an awesome driver and we’re looking forward to the season.”

   “What do the new cars feeling like out there?” I felt the mic was just a bit close but I felt like it would be weird if I pushed it back.

   “Oh gosh, they’re incredible. The new engine regulations have allowed us to really push the speed even higher than last year, which is really fun. The aero changes are awesome as well. The cars have so much grip over last season, and it’s just amazing to take some of these corners flat-out, guns blazing. The cars feel like a big handful to drive in the low-speed corners, though, especially in the quick direction changes over bumps like the Old Circuit chicanes. The tires like to slide around over the surface of the track, but it’s still incredible fun to drive.”

   “Do you think that you’ll be able to take the championship this season?” I looked up at the trees and saw some sunlight filtering through. I smiled and nodded.

   “Definitely,” I said in reply, smirking just a bit. Mandy nodded and began the outro as I started walking away. Alexis jogged up next to me and started keeping pace.

   “The breakfast bar’s the other way,” She said, looking back. I noticed she had a coffee and doughnut bag in her hand as her heels clicked along the small paved pathway.

   “I know,” I said as we went through the pedestrian tunnel. “We’re doing a quick side-mission.”

 

   A rounded car went past the start line as someone in a pure white suit waved a checkered flag in black and white. “And that’s Juan Kerman, taking the victory in the first ever race in K1 history!” The voice sounded like it was coming over an old TV speaker and I heard the car rumble past. I watched the front straight carefully and saw the brick, standing still and holding in the history of the track.

   “Jordan Kerman, claiming the first career win for the rookie!” A newer car (But still black and white) flew past as the official stood out on the track- waving the flag as the car passed. “Jim Kerman wins!” A new car drove past- this one low to the ground and with wide wheels but no wings. We walked up to Turn 20, where a bright red and white car screamed past before slamming the wall. The background looked almost golden, as if through one of the early colored TV’s. “Micheal’s in the wall! Micheal Schumar is in the Turn 8 wall!” A pure white car drove past, yelling and howling as its low ride height and wings pushed it faster and faster. “Ayrton Kerman takes his record 100th Career win!” The colors changed to a slightly more modern shade as I walked down to the Old Station.

   “The Rookie, Phil Kerman, takes his first ever career win. An astounding victory here for the young rookie.” Phil raised his fist in celebration and helped for joy with his crew as the 2020 OTech car sat in front of them. I turned to Saint Kerman’s Bend where I saw myself and Max chasing each other around the track in the 2034 Base cars. I watched as we blasted down the track and out of sight through Turn 6. I heard the engines departing before I was returned to reality once more.

 

 

   “Jeb? You zoned out there for a moment.” Alexis was looking at me weirdly as I stared up at the old podium and the hairpin. “Yeah,” I replied, looking around and feeling the history. “Can’t you feel it?” Alexis looked at me like I was going crazy. “Feel what?” She asked.

   “The history. The emotion of this track. So many great things have happened here…” I spun around and looked at everything around. “We’re standing on a living monument.” I rubbed my hand on the back of an old wall that had long-since been covered by SAFER barriers, steel, and run-off. “If these bricks could talk…” I muttered to myself. “The stories they’d tell… 57 years… Oh what these bricks would say…” I stood up and looked at Alexis, who had a confused expression on her face before shrugging.

   “Must be a driver thing,” She sighed. Just then, Max passed by. I watched as he drove around the building and saw the rears slide a bit as he carried a bit of oversteer through the corner. Just before he finished the turn, he waved quickly before taking the wheel back and turning into the 15-16 chicane. I chuckled and turned around.

   “Let’s head back. I’m starving.”

 

 

Chapter 23.5: RiverBowl 2037

6:45pm. River Stadium. River City, Owlia (Kim)

 

   In the locker room, you could cut the tension with a knife. I felt the energy from everyone as we waited for the game to begin. Now, there was only about 15 minutes left until the kickoff of my first ever RiverBowl. The RiverBowl had been going on for almost 30 years now- the annual battle between the best of the Owlian Conference and the National Conference. Coach walked in behind Hope- our team captain.

   “Alright, listen up!” I popped my head up and looked at coach walking over to a whiteboard covered in circles and squiggles and erasing it all. Coach turned to face us. “I’m going to be honest,” She started. “This game isn’t going to be easy. The Robins have done their homework, and they’re going to be going for that first title. But we’ve been working all week. We’ve got the best strategy, the best plan, and the best players in the whole damn league. We’ve been training and putting in the hours we need to get this win tonight. But I’m going to need everything from you. You’re going to have to work, and fight for every inch you need. Now. I’ve got the starters sheet here.” Coach got a paper and stuck it to the whiteboard with a magnet. “Just because your’e not starting doesn’t mean a thing. And if you are starting…” I swear I saw coach’s eyes flash to me for a second. “I expect a solid start. Bring it in.” The team all came in for one last break before everyone dispersed. We had a game to win.

 

7:00pm (Jeb)

 

   I had just walked into the box as the national anthem finished playing. “Just in time,” Alexis sighed as we got seated. Dad was up behind us, but Mom had elected not to show up. Max, and Alexis were both with me, while Andy had to hang back in Bradley to review data. Alexis ordered some coffee and I shook my head. “What?” She asked, taking a sip. “It’s decaf!” Max let a quiet, “Hah,” which made Alexis whip her head around. “Problem?” Max put his hands up and shook his head. “Yeah, what I thought,” Alexis snapped, turning back to the field where the team was getting warmed up. The starters were shown on the big screen and I saw something stunning.

   “Look,” I told Alexis, pointing to the screen. Kim, now 30 feet tall, was looking out at the crowd from the various screens. The words next to her: “Kim Kerman, #13. Striker. Starter.” I turned back to Dad, who was smiling happily. I turned back where Kim was jumping up and down to get warmed up, and finally she went to midfield to kick off the game.

   The whistle blew and the game got underway with a loud cheer from the fans. The Stars started kicking the ball around, just trying to get some momentum going. The first quarter of the game was practically a stalemate- neither side giving or taking anything. Suddenly, there was a breakaway from the Stars forwards. I felt an attack mounting, and we all felt a tension in the building. “The Stars, breaking away! No defenders left- the Robins have lost it! It’s all up to the Keeper!” The crowds noise began rising like a wave- gaining with a loud rumbling as the three sprinted down the field. Kim sprinted down the field with the ball at her feet and ran straight to the goal. “Kim, running it up! The shot!” Kim’s leg cocked back and shot forward- sending the ball out to the upper-right corner like a cannonball. The Keeper dove for the ball and just brushed it with her glove. The ball flew off but slammed into the post and bounced into the goal with a roaring from the crowd.

   “Yes!” I shouted, pumping my fist as overly loud pop music played over the speakers. The team started running to Kim, but she put a hang out and said something to them. Instantly, the team all got in a group- some kneeling and some standing- and they all struck a pose. Kim turned around and acted like she had a phone in her hand- snapping a “picture” of the group. I believe it’s called a “selfie” nowadays.

   The group broke up and gave Kim some high-fives as the goalkeeper argued with an official. The defenders were all surrounding the ref, who had now gotten the assistant out. Suddenly, the Robins coach ran out onto the field and got in on the conversation- arguing and pointing at the net. Suddenly, she reached into her pocket and threw up a red flag- drawing a loud cheer from the crowd and an angry reaction from the Stars coach. “The Robins have challenged the decision of a goal. We will review the play.” There was murmuring from the fans and I looked up at Harold. “Can she do that?” I asked, drawing a grimace and a nod.

   Down on the field Kim was talking with the Keeper. I saw her mouth moving furiously as if arguing and as soon as the ball hit the post, I saw Kim’s mouth shout, “Look! That’s in!” The Keeper was pointing at the screen and shaking her head furiously in a protest. Finally, the official came out onto the field. Kim was pacing nervously at the edge of the penalty box, waiting for the call.

   “After review of the play,” The official said into the mic- his voice booming over the speakers. “The ruling on the field is confirmed. Goal, Stars.” There was a massive cheer from the fans as the screens changed from red to blue and white and showing the replay. Kim ran on the field- pointing to the Robins bench in celebration. The big screen showed slo-motion replays of the goal, and I watched as it just crossed the line.

   “That was close,” Alexis sighed, sitting back down as the game got back underway. I watched as the game entered yet another stalemate before the whistle blew for halftime. I watched as the team ran back to the locker room and the halftime show started up. “Ooh, Dance Crew! I didn’t know they were performing!” Music started coming in over the speakers and we watched the halftime show (Which in my opinion was kind of boring. Alexis seemed to enjoy it though). About 15 minutes, one supper, and Max’s horrendous dancing later, the game got restarted. The Robins got the ball first and attempted an attack that was stopped early. The midfielders passed it up the field up to the forwards, and I watched as- again- Kim got the ball. “I tell you what, Kim’s got something special. She’s really just incredible and has just blossomed at this club in her rookie season. And here she goes again! Kim heading up the middle- pass to Mullen. Mullen way out wide- possible crossing opportunity here.” We all stood as the crowd started cheering on an attack. The kick came up across the field and landed right at Kim’s feet. Kim raised her leg up and swung forward with a kick I could hear from the box. The ball shot past the Keeper, who couldn’t even dive in time- so stunned that she just stood still as the ball went past.

   The crowd roared loudly as the ball went in, with lights flashing and booming music coming from the speaker system. Kim- arms outstretched- ran down the field and stopped dead at the edge of the penalty box. She acted like she was reaching into her pocket and flung an imaginary flag up into the air- mimicking the Robins coach. As soon as she had gotten the message across, Kim started jumping along to the music and pumping her fist with the crowd. I saw the Stars coach shout something to Kim, which made her turn her head. I could have sworn the coach was smiling when she said, “Great job- never do that again.”

   “Way too cocky,” Harold muttered under his breath, shaking his head. I turned and he extended his hands out in some kind of appeal without saying anything. We all got back seated as everyone got back into position. The Robins were now down 2-0, and with 25 minutes left the game was getting closer and closer to Kim’s first title. This all changed with about 14 minutes left when the Robins slipped past the defenses and scored a goal- putting the game 2-1. Kim got the ball first and passed it around. I saw movement down on the bench and noticed that a sub was warming up. Kim appeared to notice too and started running down the field- spinning and slipping past defenders like they were standing still. She was wide-open for the goal and took it. Almost in slo-motion, I saw the ball fly away from Kim’s foot like a rocket- blurring as it went. The ball twisted in mid-air and I saw it curve out towards the left. The ball looked like it would go out, but suddenly it stopped- brushing into the left side of the net with a swish as the Keeper fell to the ground.

   Again, the crowd sounded like an explosion of noise- everyone all of a sudden screaming and yelling with a cheer. I leapt up and held my hands above my head- high-fiving everyone in celebration. Down on the field, Kim slid down onto her knees and laid down on the turf- putting her hands on her forehead as she rested. Images of the goal looped on the screens before a loud yell came from the crowd. I turned and saw a red-clothed figure sprinting to Kim- the Keeper.

   As soon as Kim stood up, the Keeper swung at her- narrowly missing as Kim ducked. The Keeper did, however, grab a bit of Kim’s hair which threw her forward onto the ground. “There’s a fight on the pitch! The Keeper for the Robins has charged Kim! Stars players storming the scene!” The Keeper had pulled Kim in but just before she got a punch in, a Stars defender charged in at full speed and hit the Keeper hard with a full body force- almost like a check in hockey. The Keeper flew away and other Robins players started fighting with all the other Stars players until an all-out brawl had ensued. I saw Kim was getting pulled back out of the fray by the Stars Keeper and a Forward. The refs were in the middle, trying to break up the fight. I noticed Kim was bleeding a bit from a cut on her forehead- some blood dripping down to her nose as she started going back to the bench. Finally, the fight had been broken up and rightful penalties given (Two penalties on the Robins and one on the Stars, as well as three ejections). The Stars took a 5-1 lead, and I watched as Kim went back to the bench- holding a washcloth to her forehead.

   As time expired and the final whistle blew, there was an explosion of noise. The crowd of 200,000 all seemed to make noise at once as various assortments of streamers and flags all flew out of seats at once. Blue and white confetti fell down from the ceiling and fireworks exploded above- illuminating the field with bright flashes. Stars players stormed out onto the field as music blasted over the speaker system. The players on-field had begun celebrating- jumping up and down and running around to their teammates. The big screen above the field flashed, “RIVER CITY STARS: WORLD CHAMPIONS” in massive bold letters as fireworks and confetti continued to go off. Kim, who was now being shown on the TV, was running around with her teammates- both celebrating and looking up at the confetti with a fairly goofy grin on her face.

   I watched as the trophy was being presented to the coach. She was just about to take it, but instead changed her mind and turned. The Team Captain- Karly- nodded and literally grabbed Kim by the back of the jersey and pulled her up to the podium. Kim, looking confused, glanced at the trophy. I saw her ask, “Me?!” The coach nodded, and, with a warm smile, sat back. Kim exhaled nervously and laid her hands at the base of the trophy before lifting it up- a triumphant grin on her face. Confetti cannons blasted decoration into the air with a loud thudding noise as Kim’s arms shook. Whether it was from the adrenaline or the weight of the trophy I had no clue. A reporter came up and started doing an interview, which I saw on the screens.

   “Kim, amazing job! You’re a RiverBowl champion! What’s it feel like?”

   “Ah, well first off, this was a team effort. But it feels amazing! We worked so hard, all season and off-season just trying to get our job done and get better and better for this season, and it really payed off.”

   “What was going through your head when you lifted up that trophy?” Kim laughed and shook her head.

   “Well, my first thought was, ‘Holy crap this thing’s heavier than it looks!’ I swear that thing’s at least 20, maybe 25 pounds heavier than I thought it was. But it was just amazing to hold up the Riveria Trophy. I’ve dreamed of this since I was a kid, and now here I am getting interviewed in River Stadium! It’s… It’s what I’ve asked for and so much more.”

   “What happened after that third goal?”

   “I’ve not really got a clue to be honest. From what I gathered, the Keeper just got really mad and tried to get at me. Actually did end up getting a lucky shot up near my hair but isn’t much more than a scrape.”

   “What’re your plans for the offseason?”

   “Well, probably hang out on the beach, get fat, drink about 5 times the healthy amount of fruit smoothies, and probably get into K1. Jeb’s season is starting in a couple weeks so I’ll definitely be watching the races. Maybe hang out at some theme parks, who knows.” Now Kim was a champion… I guess it runs in the family.

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