I've been meaning to post this somewhere. I figure the trackmania forum is as good a place as any. Enjoy the ride.
The sun, just below the horizon, cast an orange glow over the east. Somewhere, an alarm clock registered 7:00, and switched itself on.
Jash woke. The blinds were pulled back, letting light into the room through the bay window. He splashed himself with cold water, and then stared into the mirror. A face with messy brown hair and brown eyes stared back. He was 18, and he was involved in the largest racing society in the world.
The car flashed its lights, orange filling the garage for two moments. The Islander was large and low to the ground, a wide spoiler hanging on to the back, the entire car painted blue with abstract arrows running down it's length. The door opened without any fuss, the car shifting its weight to hold Jash. The door shut with a soft clunk as the garage opened, the morning light revealing a scene of picturesque beauty. The grass shone a vivid green under the gaze of a cloudless sky. Jash lived atop one of the hills, and he could see the terrain slowly falling away in front of him, through occasional forests of pine trees, to the rocks that led to the beach. The water a brilliant blue, it seemed to stretch forever, but for the coast on the horizon. Jash turned his key and was rewarded as the car ticked over, the engine giving a light throb. He drove out to the road, the garage shutting behind him, and found no traffic. Turning onto the road, he pressed the pedal down. The tires spun in place as the back end waggled out as if held by some invisible force, before it let go and tore off down the road, quickly reaching 200 MPH. There were no speed limits in Arkan Island.
15 minutes later, Jash was beside a different garage. This one was a set of 30 hangars, arranged lengthways. Each hangar had doors on all sides, and the hangars were used by different teams; one hangar per team. Cars were everywhere, all Islanders with various amounts of modification.
As Jash drove along, he noticed the sign plates over each hangar. Pike, Jerome, Midway, Surecom – all different teams. Eventually he turned into one labelled Everey.
Although Jash’d driven in similar leagues before, this was Jash's first year in the TMUL League – the biggest – and he'd picked Everey Racing to drive with.
As Jash got out of the car, he couldn’t help but glance around at the space. Their hangar was set up with a centre aisle running lengthways, a pit stall and parking space on each side. The walls were dominated by huge garage doors, fully opened – Each opening had to be something like 12 feet high, and left only small corners of the garage to actually use as walls. Arranged in one corner was a bank of computers; In another corner was a sink and a bubbler. The remaining two were bare, apart from parts strewn around the place.
A person was hurrying toward him.
Jash leaned on the car as this person stopped in front of him. “I was worried you weren't going to come for a while there. I’m David.”
Jash laughed. “What, me?”
They both crossed over to the other side of the garage where the rest of Jash's team were. Two people were tending to another car in a very bad state. The black & white car had been in the middle of a banked turn and a tyre had burst, pulling it into a wall, where it had promptly flipped off of the course, sliding across the ground until it had hit a tree.
The technology involved in the cars was able to make sure nobody ever got hurt, but the cars still suffered damage. Lots of damage.
The mixture made the racing lots of fun to watch.
Someone was inspecting a large dent in the front grille, but stood up when Jash came near. Jash nodded at him, nervously eyeing the damage on the car.
“Hi. I’m Jash. I’m new here.”
“Hi. Nice to meet you. I’m Michael; welcome to the team.” He smiled.
Jash nodded. “Thank you. Is this your car?”
Michael nodded. “Yeah, I know. It’ll be fixed within the hour; take a look at what you’ll be in for.” He grinned. Jash whistled.
Michael had been in the racing a year longer than Jash, being 19. He was the better driver in the team.
David took Jash over to a desk, with a whiteboard. He held out his hand, and Jash shook it. “I’m your coach,” He announced. “Welcome to Everey Racing.” He smiled and pointed to the side, at an older man sitting in front of a row of monitors, smoking. “That’s Jome. He’s the team manager.”
Jome looked over and nodded in greeting.
David gestured up at the whiteboard. “Now, I assume your familiar with the system, but I’ll just run it by you in case the WCL have changed in recent years.”
“Right, now what happens is this. Every month a new track is constructed - I’ll show you it in a minute. The incomplete weeks of that month are given over to track-building, and we get two weeks in the month. Every Sunday through to Friday are up to the teams to fix up the cars, get some practice, make changes, whatever. On the two Saturdays, that’s Race Day.”
“On the Saturday, we have to be here as early as we can. From 5 o’clock in the morning is the time for Qualifying. You’ll have until 1 PM to squeeze the fastest lap time you can out of that course, and so get us a place on the grid. You see?”
“At 2 PM, the race will start. The number of laps to use is told to us at the beginning of the day. And that’s basically it.”
“Now, you’re in a spot of bother because today actually is race day,” David checked his watch. “And it’s half past seven, almost. You’ll have to get in quick if you want to make a place.”
Jash smiled. “No problem.”
David nodded. “Oh, good.” He smiled back. “Welcome, again. And sorry about the drill-sergeant rundown. I’m mostly a nice guy.”
Jash chuckled. “Can I take a run?”
David laughed. “Ready to go already, huh? Can't blame you.” He led Jash over to the wall, further along from Michael's islander. “This months track is here.” He pointed to a 3D model, made out of different pieces. The track started on a long straight, through a left chicane, then out over water, where the track rapidly banked to 45 and then 90 degrees, curling up in a right helix. It straightened out facing back the other way, and then became a small hill, with a ridiculously steep drop to ground level straight after; a jump. The track then put in a long straightaway, for the cars to land on, before disappearing into a tunnel underground. The tunnel quickly became a tube. A left corner, followed by three right ones and then an exit brought it back into the start straight.
Jash looked over it, grinning. “They’re even better than the WCL ones.”
David chuckled. “Hey, thanks for being as timely as you were. The last recruit didn’t come for two rounds and missed the start of the 2105 season.”
Jash smiled. “Thanks.” He got into his car and went.
Jome walked over to Michael, who had got hold of a jack and was underneath the car banging the panel back into place. The car had a wedge in the front grille, designed to create downforce, and the wedge needed to be perfectly symmetrical or the car would be pulled to one side. At the speeds these cars went, it was likely to hurl you into a wall.
Jome squatted down to look under the car. “What do you think?”
“About what?” Michael glanced at Jome, then returned to his work. “About Jash?”
Michael grinned. “Well, he looks like he knows what he’s doing. He was in the WCL. I think he’s good a good season in ‘im.”
Jash was pushed down into his seat as the car swung around a 90 banked corner. As it levelled out, the car was launched into the air by the straightening track. A couple of seconds in the air and the car landed again with a screech of tires. Jash adjusted his direction so as to avoid hitting the wall, and then floored the pedal. Ahead the track moved up in a hill, and then fell away, dropping 15 metres before it levelled out again. As he free-fell, the car began tilting to the right, resulting in a loud crack and a shower of sparks when the car hit the ground. It flattened out again, the left side landing with a solid wop causing Jash to lose some speed. As soon as he was flat again, he floored the pedal, moving down into the tube tunnel that would bring him back to the start.
The high-speed cam at the line clocked him at 26.268 seconds for the lap, and Jome, watching by the side of the road, got severely windblasted by the passing car. He grabbed hold of a nearby pole to stop himself. “****.” Glancing up at the massive signboards, he read out the times to himself. “23.504... 23.528... 23. 558.” The top five were separated by just over one second. Nearby, a maroon car with lighting painted on the wheel arches turned on to the track, suddenly speeding up as soon as it had room. Michael's islander followed a few seconds after. It was 8:00; the place was in full qualify mode.
Eventually, both the Everey cars returned to the garage. Michael's was dripping.
Jome glanced at it and sighed. “How did you do that one, mm?”
“Crashed on the 90.”
Jash had also managed to flatten his wheel arch, carving a deep groove in the tyre sidewall. He manoeuvred the car onto the platform, jacking it up and then unscrewed the wheel. It fell away, bouncing across the floor. Jash got to work with a hammer and a cast. David was nearby, facing the other way, looking at a computer screen. Little blobs were rushing around the screen eating each other, but the sound was lost in the general clangs and noise of the garage. Jash had a sneaking suspicion that David was supposed to be doing something.
“You told me that we got the lap amount at the start of the day. How many laps?”
“Just a minute.”
Jash put down the steel cast and inspected his work. Pleased, we went to bother David, looking over his shoulder. The little blobs where by now rather large blobs, and one of them got eaten. Jash guessed it was an important one, because the screen flashed the words GAME OVER before David switched to a list of figures.
“Ok... Uh, 10 laps, and 28 cars in it. There are 16 teams.”
“Microlin and Quatro have only one car each.”
Jash checked his watch. He had an hour. “You did qualify, didn’t you?” David continued.
Jash blinked. “Oh, yeah, earlier. ‘s the one thing I did do well today...” He stuck out his tongue.
“Well, I'm all set. I'll have lunch, and then off we go.”
An hour later saw the grid filled. Each car was placed in order of their fastest time for the day, or randomly if they hadn't raced before then. Jash ended up 17th out of 28 cars, and Michael had qualified further up the grid, in 5th.
Cameras and ONEHD news vans had begun to appear, and cameras were quickly out and ready. FIVE MINUTES read a board held up by a pit marshal.
Jash went to inspect the field, stopping by Michael’s car. “Hello.”
Michael blinked. “Oh hello.”
Jash pointed to a tiny cylinder just under the wing of the car. “What’s that?”
“One HD gave me a Lipstick Camera. Just a tiny camera.”
Jash nodded. “Neat.”
ONE MINUTE. Everyone got seated and ready.
A lone red light appeared at the far end of the light rack. It was joined by a second, and then a third. The whole rack held red for a second, and then it all turned to green.
Every car leaped forward with a roar. Inside the cab, Jash pushed the pedal down until sheet metal blocked its way; the car tilted to the side as it entered the bank, dropping slightly. He received a bump from the right, and had to brake to avoid a large grille that had suddenly appeared in front. This resulted in another shunt from behind, regaining the speed he had lost. Suddenly, the road straightened; Jash's car happened to be on the left side, and he was launched into the air a short way, landing with a thud. Behind him he heard two more thuds, and then the squeal of tyres and twisting metal. Heh, he thought. We're not even around the first corner and already there's been a crash.
Not that their was much room for thought. The initial crush from the start had thinned out by the time he began the second lap, and he was able to concentrate on driving. He’d lost sight of Michael.
Jash put on a burst of speed up the hill, coming level with a black car with a Keidran drawn on it. Jash noticed the letters Team M. He didn't get any further because at that instant the car dropped away, out of his field of view. Jash followed it, landing on the straight, but the car's flat landing caused it to jerk violently and turn off to the left. Jash repositioned his hands on the wheel and then spun it back the other way, but smashed into the side wall anyway, lifting up the right side a little and throwing up a shower of sparks across the road. The black car he'd managed to overtake during the jump passed him again, but Jash realigned the car and then pressed down the pedal, passing a couple of other cars and drawing level with it. His car suddenly dipped down as he entered the light of the tube. A left turn loomed ahead; Jash pulled the car to the right, travelling up the side of the tube. He was suddenly pushed down into his seat as the tube swung around, before swapping the car onto the other side and overtaking a red car lower down. The black car was still to his right and he risked a glance at it, making out Team Miles on the side. It pulled away to ground level and suddenly the tube ended, throwing Jash into the air. He landed on the right side of the car with a loud crash and a shower of sparks, before the left caught up and crashed down. The car jerked violently and slid to face the right, the tyres doing their job and throwing most of their speed into the wall on the right of the road. The front end crumpled, and the car slid to a stop.
Jash glanced behind him, reversing out to face the right way. He waited until a break in the traffic and then shot forward again, leading a trail of sparks for a few laps before the metal panel being abused was worn away. When the panel was gone the car began to perform better, and he was able to overtake a few cars, but it was too little, too late.
He finished in 20th.
David frowned when Jash returned to the garage. “Great work.”
Jash shrugged. “I know, I know. I do what I can. Besides, I was distracted.”
David sighed. “Look at the mess we'll have to fix!”
Jash sighed also and continued wheeling his car onto the jacks, before taking a seat on the ruined front end.
“The car startled me. I'd seen it before, in the WCL league.”
“You'll know who it is, then?”
David leaned against the wall. “Well?”
“Who's car is it?”
Jash glared at him. “It's written on the side, duh. It belongs to team Apex – particularly, Loki.”
David raised an eyebrow. “So who's Loki? D'you know him?”
“I know her,” Jash rolled his eyes. “We were on a team back then. We were good friends, but the team broke up and I hadn't spoken to her since.”
Jome, hiding at the computer, made a hmphing noise. Jash slid off the car bonnet, turning and surveying the damage.
“Bumper.” David slid one over.
“Hammer.” David slid one over.
“Jack.” Michael entered the garage, passing hard-at-work-Jash and moving onto the dyno on the other side of the room. He got out and crossed over to Jash’s car, looking over the damage. “You really wrote it off this time.” Jash sighed. “Get off ma’ back. It’s my first day.”
“That’s what they all say. Haven’t you had any practices?” Before they could enter a league, drivers were supposed to go to an empty block of asphalt and play around until they complete certain manoeuvres. “Besides, it isn’t you first day. You were in the intro-”
“Of course I’ve practiced. I was in intro league, remember?” Jash grabbed a wedge, placed it in the middle of the bonnet/bumper seam and smashed it with the hammer. The bumper fell onto the floor with a crash. Jash kicked it away. “I’m still learning the track.”
“Which took the other drivers a day.”
“Just shush.” Jash smirked, in spite of himself – he was out of excuses. Another bang on the wedge broke the seam for the bonnet. Jash slid out from under the car, stood up and pulled it off. It fell on the floor with a clang, leaving the engine and chassis exposed.
David sidled up. “Now look. You can’t race that.”
Jash agreed, it didn’t look to healthy.
The entire front section of the chassis had been smashed in, and the 1st and 2nd level dampers had been snapped. Worse, one of the two air pipes that fed the turbo had been squashed, while the other one had completely broken. No wonder he only came 22nd.
Looking further, he discovered that the front struts had also snapped, so the suspension was half-assed at best. He decided to test this theory by pushing the front of the car down. An alarming amount of hissing air greeted him from somewhere in the suspension beams.
“****.” He turned, discovering the Jome was also watching. Jash did his best to grin. “How much money do we have?” Every team got given a set amount for the league with which to fix their car.
“We have about 6000. It’s team fees - don’t waste too much or it comes from your pocket.”
Michael smirked at him. “Do you need to go shopping?”
“Thanks.” He started towards Michael’s car, but Michael passed him and quickly got in. “I’m driving.”
Jash rolled his eyes.
David shrugged, looking over at Jome as the car left. “Team admin?”
“You have an easy job. All you do is play with the computer all day.”
Jome grinned. “Eh. I do finances. And I organize where Jash’ll be going at the end of this season.”
David blinked. “Huh?”
“Well, you didn’t think it would just stop, right? We’re going to have to make enough money from winning this season so that we can afford to run in the next, over in Britain. They run in the countryside there.”
David nodded. Everyone who participated got some share of the prize money; 1st place was 50%, 2nd 25%, and so on. There was a lot of money being spread around; Of course, in 20th you weren’t going to get much of that.
Jome went over to the computer, loading up some pictures. “These are photos from the last Rally season. The cars are sharp ‘n quick, but so are the turns. And they slide a lot.”
“I see… I guess We’ll have to completely change our driving styles to match.”
Jome shrugged. “Shouldn’t be that difficult. But that’s what they all say.”
Jash sighed, digging through a pile of dampers. “So, pipes, springs, and all the rest. That’s it, eh?”
Michael grabbed everything, paid for it, and started loading it into the car. “Hey, make a note of the name of the shop.”
Jash blinked. “Sawyers. Why?”
“Make sure you buy your stuff here, okay? Well if it’s good enough. Because if you’re a promising driver and a good customer, you can get discounts. Not that you need any help with the customer bit…”
Jash folded his arms. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Michael grinned. “Just get in the car.”
“Look, I think I’ll see if I can fit a few track days in outside of the weekends. The new revamped Nurburgring raceway is usually open. I just need to catch a flight.”
“No, it’s closed, remember? Intro League took it over.”
“Victoria Park? You know, the newer circuit.”
Michael blinked. “That’s F3 racing. It is no where near even slightly big enough or long enough for a TMUL race. Ever wonder why our track is usually over water?”
Jash huffed. “Stop screwing with my ideas.”
Michael smirked a bit. “I’ll tell you something, on the really big ones you’ll be driving on platforms that are 50 metres on each edge. Those are so big, that they serve as the offices and living quarters for every single one of the race personnel. That includes you, me, team officials, drivers, starters, the entire administrator board, and so on.”
Michael stopped for a breath. “Next time you have the chance, take a look at those platforms. There are stairs and ladders everywhere.”
Jash just shrugged and stared out the window as Arkan Island’s trees sped backwards. He sighed. “Everyone? Where do they get the money?”
“Hell knows,” Michael shrugged, opening the glove box. “I read somewhere that the TMUL league is huge. Apparently they’re using government money. It comes mostly out of the entertainment sector, and o’course the cashflow from TRD and Toyota, but we do get a few thou trickling down from Defence spending.” Out of the glove box came a receipt.
“Defence? What, do they want to make another KITT or something? We passed Knight Rider years ago.”
Michael showed him the receipt. “You think yourself lucky we did. Your snapped dampers have cost us something around 1500 bucks. Do you realise the amount of technology keeping you from becoming a red blot on the glass?”
Jash blew at his fringe. “I know, I know. Just drive the car.”
Michael smirked. “So who is this Loki girl?”
Jash made a huffing sound. “Eh, she was a teammate during the World Circuit league. The one below this one.” He nodded. “Nice girl... that league ended in the middle of last year – not as big, you see – “
“I’ve driven in it.”
“Oh. Well, yeah, League finished, team broke up and everyone moved on, haven’t seen her since. I had no idea she was still driving.”
Michael nodded. “So what’re you gonna do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, aren’t you going to talk to her? She is still your friend, right? Hell, you might be able to get some tips off of her team, what with the relaxing in formula.” Michael grinned, thinking about it. “We’ll be going back to the grand days of 1985, 1978! I think those were the years. The formula wasn’t so strict, all the cars were different and it was as much about the team finding solutions as it was about the dri-”
Jash poked him. “Uh, your rambling again. Besides, what happened to Formula 1 anyway?”
Michael thought hard, trying to remember. “I think it happened sometime around 2051, 52. Lots of teams ran out of cash and pulled out, and the World Formula committees lost so much money that they had to sell the F1 sector to another company.”
“TRD and STI both bought shares in it, but STI went broke and TRD got the full thing.”
Jash blinked. “Oh, yeah. and TRD branched off from Toyota and made the World Race Series, right?”
“That’s right. The forerunner of the WCL you raced in.”
“What happened to the World Formula Committee?”
“I think they are still doing F3s in Australia somewhere. Prolly street circuits on the east coast – I did hear they got bought by the guys behind the V8 Supercar Championship – that’s still going strong. Some good, old school racing right there. I hear the most recent one at Homebush was pretty spectacular.
“I do know STI is sponsoring the intro league through car sales – without their help it wouldn’t be the clean system you have now.”
Jash nodded. “Heh, for once history isn’t boring.”
Michael grinned. “Anyway, Loki.”
Jash blinked. “..what?”
“That Loki girl?”
“...oh! Your history lesson distracted me. Yeah, I guess I’ll talk to her.”
Michael nodded, turning his car into the garages and stopping on his pit stall.
Jash glanced around. “Are we back already?”
David crossed over the workshop and carried the tools to Jash’s car, motioning to a small TV in the corner. “The annual World Race is on. Heading right through the Arkans. They’ll be here around midday tomorrow.” Jash went over.
The world race was an annual event, kind of like the Dakar Rally of years past, but without the traps. The drivers were to begin in France, end in France, and race around the globe, through particular waypoints that changed every year. This time round, one of the waypoints were the Arkan Island chains, picked because of the relatively small number of people living there.
Jash went over to watch, followed by Jome. “You know, I was one of the people who got to race that event when it opened. They still hadn’t perfected the amphibious-cars business.”
Jash sighed. “Not another history lesson, please.”
Jome chuckled. “I’m just saying it took a lot of lifejackets before Williams’ World Race division figured that one out. They took the WR constructors trophy right back from Arrows and have held it ever since.”
Jash nodded, heading over to the car and jacking it up. “Williams seem to have been around forever. Where did the come from?”
Jome snickered. “They have been around forever! Since the dawn of racing. Well, since the dawn of Formula 1, anyway.”
Jash turned around. “You mean something like 1970, 1965? That was a century ago! Well, longer.”
Jome chuckled again. “Just fix the car.”
Jash turned and started removing the broken gear; eventually he had quite a large pile of damaged parts next to him, and went to work installing replacement plates. He glanced up. “Where’s David?”
Jome shrugged, looking outside. The sun was very low. “Went home. Thinking of doing that myself. You’ll be alright on your own, right?”
Jash nodded. “I’ll be fine.”
Two hours or so later, both Jome and Michael had packed up and headed back to the hotel, leaving Jash to finish the car. Under the floodlights he closed the bonnet, pulled off the last vinyl and sat down on the front of the car. His car. He gave a grin – no other car had been completely his; even in earlier leagues the cars were owned by the team. Not this one – had cost a mint, too, but all the money earned by him. He sighed. “Best car I ever had, too.” He stuck out his tongue and turned to face it, frowning. “Sorry about the wreck earlier.” The car didn’t reply.
He rubbed at his forehead, grimacing. “Talking to cars, now. That certainly isn’t weird.”
“No, that’s perfectly normal.” It was a female voice.
Jash glanced up and turned around. Long hair, lean figure, a simple top and jeans that had been torn off and turned into shorts. Sunglasses.
Loki grinned. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Jash blinked. “Eh? Uh, yeah. You too. I didn’t know you still raced.”
She blew at her fringe. “What else would I do? ‘s only been my favourite sport since forever. You should know that.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I guess your right. But why are you hanging around so late?”
She grinned again. “Getting in some practice laps. Guess you’ve been in the garage so long you haven’t noticed. You need to go outside.” She chuckled. “Besides, it’s perfectly normal.”
Jash raised an eyebrow. “What is?”
“Talking to the car. After all, if it weren’t for it, you wouldn’t be here. You have a lot to thank it for.”
Jash blinked. “I ..guess?”
She giggled a bit at his confusion. “What’re you gonna call it?”
“Call it? You mean a name?”
Loki nodded. “That’s right.”
He looked the car over, examining it’s paint job. “I guess I could call it Arrows. Or Arrow, since Arrows are another team.”
She stuck out her tongue. “Boring. I don’t call mine Twokinds, now, do I?”
“Well I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen your car.”
She chuckled, sitting down on the side of the bonnet. “It’s called Paradise... long story. Anyway, yours needs a name first. Make it something inspired.”
Jash nodded, thinking hard. “... you know... I did have a really old book once, full of cars from the early 21st century. Come to think of it, do you know the names of those really old imported cars? It was something like Barda, or Manda. I think they went bust.”
Loki blinked. “Mazda?”
“Yeah! That was it. I think it was something like the 131, or the 232. Had a really nice name.”
“What, the Mazda Three?”
“No, before that. It was the 323. With the nice back end. Astina! That was it.”
Loki grinned a bit. “Astina? That the word you were searching for?”
Jash nodded. “Yeah, that’s right.” He smiled, tapping the car’s bonnet. “You’re Astina.”
Loki tapped him on the shoulder. “Is it a boy or a girl?”
Jash glanced around. “Geh?” She chuckled and poked out her tongue. “I’m just teasing. Anyway, unlike some people, I need to get up in the morning.” She turned, sliding off of the car and heading back the way she came, giving a one-handed wave. “See you around sometime.”
There was a door, tyres, smoke, an engine, and then silence. Jash watched the car – Paradise, he realised – leave, before yawning, taking out his keys and making his way home for the night.
It was around 7 o’clock when he turned into the garage the next morning. David was there to meet him, but Jash made sure to pass by Michael before the morning was through. “Do people always name their cars?”
Michael blinked and raised an eyebrow at Jash. “O’course they do. Why do you ask?”
Jash gave a sheepish grin. “No reason.” He took a better look at Michael’s car.
It was simple, black and white wide racing stripes, with the Everey Logos on each side. Across the roof, the white stripes split into a bunch of ribbons, curling down over the tail and around the splitters. “Nice.”
Michael grinned. “You like it? It’s called Cortina.”
Jash blinked. “Why?”
“No reason. Just a simple word.”
Jash chuckled. “Alright then.” He remembered from his books a thing called the Ford Cortina, 1976, but didn’t mention it.
David called out. “Jash! Come over here.”
He led Jash over to the computer screen and pointed to the times. “Look at this. You did 26.268 seconds around the track at your best.” He pointed to the list of positions. “Look here. If you can shave off just point two of a second, you’ll go up to 14th place. The field gets a bit tighter after that, but it’s a goal to aim for.”
Jash nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”
David smiled and gave a nod. “Cool. Thanks. And good job on the repairs, too. How long were you up?”
Jash grinned a bit sheepishly and scratched at the back of his head. “Eh. I think I turned in around 1:30 in the morning.”
David blinked. “You do know that you have all next week?”
“Well, I wanted to get an earlier start on the qualifying.”
David snickered. “Eh, doesn’t matter. You don’t need to work your guts out, you know. Just mentioning.”
“I understand. By the way, where’s Jome? I haven’t seen him.”
David bit at his lip, thinking. “Uh. I think he went to buy some new parts. I heard Sawyers finally got the new shipment of brakes and we want to get some while they’re still in stock.”
“The new set of Brembo Psions. Did you hear about them? They have a chip that can channel heat from the braking into the tyres to keep them to pressure. You can even change tyre pressure on the fly. Well, within reason. They do some other cool stuff, too.”
Jash nodded and gave a grin. “Sounds like fun. And I assume this is to do with the formula relaxing?”
David raised a brow. “Oh, you heard about that, did you? Yeah, we don’t have to keep the discs in the stock range anymore. We are pretty much free to use anything we get our hands on, but again, within reason.” He grinned. “It’ll be a fun season this year.”
“Speaking of which,” Jash pointed at the times. “I might just do something about this now.”
David gave a thumbs up. “Sounds good. You won’t get much traffic either, so use all the track.”
The door closed, the tyres spun, the car was gone.
Jash began the ascent for the hundredth time. The track had grown on him - he’d long ago beat 25 seconds and right now he was simply driving, trying to get faster and faster and nail that 24 second mark. The tracks in the league were all like that – it took absolute practice and perfection to get the fastest time, but it was never boring. It was bliss.
Down the huge drop. Into the tube. G-forces. Left, right, sunlight. Light racks blew past and it was off onto the next lap.
24 seconds – he was into tenth place.
Slowly, Jash became aware of a car that was following him. He glanced in the mirror; it was Cortina. Across the radio came Michael’s voice. Fancy a race?
Jash grinned. “Sounds good.” He shot forward and Michael accelerated to match.
Both cars shot out into the sunlight of the start straight, barely a few inches separating them. Through the chicane and then sideways, through the 90. Water on his right and a car on his left. Michael eased up alongside of him, and when they left the track both cars were equal. But it quickly became clear who was in front – as they flew, Michael began to lag behind. Jash grinned and braced himself as the car crashed to earth, pressing the pedal to the floor – but suddenly there was a car to his right, and Michael blew past, leaving Jash in his wake as the tunnel separated them. The radio sparked into life. Well? What happened? Jash growled a bit and raced on, determined to catch his teammate.
Jome was at the side of the road as both cars blew past. “This is going to end in one huge crash...” He murmured to himself, shaking his head.
Jash sighed. It was now his fifth attempt at the lap, but no matter what he did he couldn’t keep up with the other car. With a sigh, he pulled over at the lights and switched on the radio. “Ack! I surrender, stop stop stop.”
Cortina slid to a stop next to him and they both got out. Michael grinned. “I am the winner!”
Jash raised his arms. “How do you keep outrunning me? Do you have more power or something?”
Michael just grinned more, opening both of the cars’ hoods. The engines were identical. “It’s called the brake.”
Jash stared. “The brake?”
Jash looked incredulous.
“Look, I can see you don’t believe me. I guess you never had to use the brake in the WCL?”
Michael waved at him to be quiet. “Come here.” He pointed to the numerous, albeit empty, TV vans dotting the circuit. “What’re those?”
Jash blinked. “..vans? No, you want Cameras.”
Michael nodded. “You have camera footage of those laps. If you want to know, why don’t you check the video?” He grinned, seating himself and tearing off down the circuit.
Jash entered the garage. As he did so, Jome stood up and went over to the drivers side. Jash opened the window. “Yes?”
“Can you park it in the stall, please?”
Jash nodded and did so. As he got out of the car, Jome gestured to two sets of carbon-ceramic. Jash whistled. “Very nice.”
“If you want to use them, you’ll have to install them.”
Jash gave a nod. “Alright. I’ll get to work.” The car went up on the jacks. “Where is David?”
David walked into the garage. “I’m over here.”
Jash glanced up. “Oh, hi.”
“Been working on those times?”
Jash nodded, sliding under the car to remove the brake fluid. “I’ve been trying. Actually, can you check them for me?”
David went over to the monitors. “Hey, you’re up to tenth place. Nicely done.”
There was a thump. Jash slid out from under the car, rubbing his forehead. “Tenth?”
David nodded. “You went up ten places. Just make sure you keep practicing, okay? It’s Sunday, the very beginning, and as we move through the week the drivers will perfect their runs, too. If you don’t keep up this kind of driving you’ll have dropped back by Saturday.”
Jash nodded. “I’ll keep it in mind.” He turned towards the car, but stopped. “Oh, David?”
“Can you bring up the videos for today?”
David grinned. “Track footage already, huh? Okay, here you go.” Up on the monitors appeared a video player, and the feed from the static cameras around the place. “I’m going to go back to the hotel, alright? I’ve got nothing else to do today. I guess I’ll go find some lunch. Good luck with the brakes.”
Jash gave a thumbs-up from underneath the car. “Thanks.”
Jome switched on the radio and called Michael back, briefing him about the new brakes. Michael quickly set to work.
Jome shut down the monitors. “I’m going to retire for today, too. If you have any problems, just call.” He gave a nod and left.
Jash sighed. “Not many people, are there? The whole place is nearly empty.”
Michael’s voice was muffled from under the car. “Well, it is Sunday, you know. A lot of people are relaxing after yesterday. It’s hard work.”
Jash took a glance down the garage. There were only a few other people, and he could see right down to the end. As he watched, he began to notice something.
“Why are so many of the cars wrecked?”
Michael chuckled. “Do you remember the crash on the first lap? That turned into a pile-up that got the rest of the field involved.”
They worked in silence for awhile.
“So, did you ever talk to that girl?”
Jash thought for a while, working slowly. “Yeah, I did.”
Michael grinned. “Whoo. Get any car specs?”
“No, I forgot to ask.”
Michael shrugged. “Is she a looker?”
Jash blinked at him. “Eh?”
Michael gave another grin. “Forget it.”
Jash sighed, screwing the last nut into place. “Well, I’m finished.”
Michael gave a thumbs up from under the car. “Brake fluid. I said, ‘Well done’.”
Jash unjacked the car and parked it properly. “What’s the time?”
Michael checked his watch. “It’s 3:30. And I’m done.” He slid out from under the car. “I want to ask you a question,” He added, sitting up and heading to the sink in the corner. He started washing the brake fluid off of his shirt. “Why did you ask me if people name their cars?”
Jash shrugged. “Well. It’s just that she asked me what I called it, and I thought it was a bit weird. We didn’t do it in the WCL league.”
Michael blinked. “Really? It’s one of those traditional things. You know, how people used to name their swords in the 21st century?” He chuckled. “It isn’t weird here. What’s yours called, anyway?”
Jash shrugged. “It’s Astina.”
Michael thought. “Isn’t that the old Ford?”
Jash chuckled. “You mean the Falcon?”
Michael nodded. “Possibly. I didn’t know you were into history.”
“Whatever has cars in will do it for me.”
“Heh.” Michael sighed and opened the car door. “There’s nothing left for me to do.”
Jash waved. “See you.”
The car roared off. Jash glanced out of the garage door, at the pit lane and the track beyond, and suddenly realised the scale of the operation. It hit him like a brick.
The track was massive. “Whoa.”
He slowly wandered down to the beach. Not too far from him was one of the pylons that held up the huge 90-degree banked-turn. It must have been something like eight lanes wide. The pylon itself was easily four by four metres. He whistled.
He turned and glanced along the beach. There were a few hotels and cafes along it, but very few people – just small groups of holidaymakers. He started walking that way, watching the ocean. The sun was quite low by now, casting an orange glow over the water.
“Fantastic, isn’t it?” Loki had appeared beside him. He glanced around, surprised.
“I wish you wouldn’t keep sneaking up on me.”
She shrugged. “Meh. Still, good view, right?”
“Yeah.” He nodded.
“You know, due to where the islands are, we’ll get the best of summer and the best of winter throughout the year.” She grinned. “It’ll be fun watching people try to drive on ice. And the nights right now are never cold.”
“It isn’t even summer yet.”
She nodded. “That’s right. You have the best track days to come.”
He stood up, heading back towards the garage. “Pretty amazing, isn’t it?”
“The scale of things.” He gestured over at the huge pylons.
She tilted her head. “Well, it’s what the people want. Finally, money is going back into something we can enjoy.”
It was becoming quite dark by now, and hotel lights were switching on everywhere, giving the skyline a neon glow. Jash entered the garage and sat down on Astina’s hood to watch.
“So why are you out? It’s a Sunday.”
She shrugged, joining him on the car. “Eh, thought I’d get some time to do more work on the car, but there wasn’t anything to work with. So I guess I’ll hit the track.”
He blinked. “Can I come with you?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Sure. Why?”
“I have to work on my driving, so I can keep up with… speaking of which, I left a tape on at the garage. I completely forgot.”
“I want to have a look at my driving, an’ figure out while Michael is so much faster than me.”
She grinned, tilting her head. “You can do that on the track, you know.” She slid off the car’s hood and entered her own. A quick spin, some liquorish straps and she was away. Jash quickly took off in pursuit.
Headlights on, both cars flew out of the tube tunnel, with Loki easily ahead. No matter what he did, Jash simply couldn’t keep up with the other car. It was too fast. He sighed, pulling over and wiggling the steering wheel, frustrated. He poked at the car dash. “Why can’t you do that?”
The radio chirped into life. Yer car is only as skilled as the person driving it. Jash poked out his tongue. “Seriously, tell me.”
Loki giggled. You use the brake.
He dropped his forehead on the wheel. “That’s what Michael said!”
He was right.
“But that makes you go slower!”
There was a laugh. Exactly!
He tossed the radio on the floor, exasperated. Paradise quietly appeared next to him, and in response he slid Astina around to block the exit. “You aren’t going through until you tell me how you’re so fast.”
She grinned and tilted her head. “Is that a challenge?”
He grinned back, triumphantly. “I guess so.”
In response, she slammed the car into reverse, backing up into the tunnel. The tyres spun and Paradise shot forward, riding up the side of the tube. The car blew out of the tunnel sideways, barrel-rolling to land on the tracks small bit of infield next to the beach. A quick gearchange and she flew backwards again, using the track’s low wall as a ramp and shooting onto the other side. One J-turn later, she was in the garage. Jash stared. “You just- how did- what on- geh?”
She winked. “Don’t they teach you that stuff in WCL?” Before he could reply she was gone. “…”
Jash stared at the wheel for his own car. “Well, we’re just gonna have to get better.”
When Jash entered the garage the next morning, he left the car on the jacks and went for a walk before the actual work began.
It was a Monday. The garages were buzzing with activity, full of people.
He searched out the Apex team bay and had a look around, but couldn’t see Loki. He still wanted to know how she’d beat him so badly.
He blew at his fringe and returned to his own team.
Michael was under the car with all four wheels off. Jash bent down to have a look. “Why?”
Michael slid out from under the car. “The new brakes are taking a while to break in, so I’m seeing how I can up the power they have. I know it doesn’t matter to you since you don’t use the brakes, but that’s how it is.” He slid back under the car.
Jash blinked. “Michael…”
“Could you tell me how you get that boost on the landing ramp? Please don’t say ‘I use the brakes’.”
Michael grinned. “I use my head.”
Jash stopped mid-exasperated-sigh. “Wait, what?”
Michael stood up and took him over to the model of the track. He pointed to the large jump. “Look. It isn’t just flat drop, is it? It’s a ramp all the way down. Now, what you do, is land here.” He pointed to the flat straight. “And then all four of Astina’s wheels hit at the same time and you skip into the nearest wall.”
Jash nodded. “Well, you’ve got a point there.”
Michael pointed to the ramp. “I slow down just enough so I land here. That way, I can easily control the landing so I don’t lose speed. As a bonus, I have gravity pulling me down the ramp, so I can hit the straight with a much higher speed. I’m gaining speed, and you’re losing it.”
Jash bit his lip, looking thoughtful. “I guess. I’ll see what I can do about it.”
Michael smiled. “Good. Although, do get your timing right. If you cock it up you’ll be in last, no exceptions.”
Jash nodded. “Yeah, I know.” Michael gave a nod and returned to his car.
Over the next few days Jash practiced endlessly, trying to whittle his time down to that of Michael’s, without success. He did discover that if he released the throttle during landings he could easier control the car, and actually gained a bit of speed when he coupled that with landing on the ramp. But even with these things he couldn’t match Michael’s time. He got close; by Sunday, Michael was in fifth and he was in eighth.There will be more!
Critiques are welcomed; tell me what you think. And thank you for reading this far!
Edit: Your forum has destroyed any actual formatting. Radio broadcasts are supposed to be in italics but you'll figure it out.