High Octane

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Chapter 1b- Race night

The last three beats before the drop. The announcer tapped his hands to those last three beats, before leaping into the air. As he landed, he slashed his hands backwards, and the cars roared past him- their engines echoing throughout the parking lot. It was neck and neck right off the bat. The announcer quickly got up and yelled wildly and incomprehensible. Yep, he’s definitely taken something.

“Coming up to the first drift now!“, he continued, as the mob of fans on the first floor watched in awe. Ronin came in on the inside. Pulling his handbrake, he took the first corner masterfully- tyres screaming like banshees and smoke billowing from the furious burning of rubber. Mrs Lollipop did the same, taking the outside. The two looked synchronized, as time appeared to slow down whilst they were sideways, screaming around the first corner. Pedals to the metal, wheel clutched tightly, and drivers absolutely focused on their brilliant technique.

“Looks like we’re in for a close one, folks! Let’s head on up to the next floor!“, the announcer continued- as the mob rushed towards the elevators, jeering and screaming. Hugo clutched Lillian’s cybernetic hand.

“C’mon! We’ll take the stairs, its quicker!“, he said, leading his girlfriend up the stairs in a frantic- yet excitable- rush. As they practically leapt up flights of stairs, Hugo asked a question.

“You likin’ it so far?“, he asked under deep breaths.

“Yeah! This is amazing!“, Lillian responded, equally out of breath- despite having cybernetic lungs. Oh, I probably shoulda mentioned that. Lillian’s a cyborg. Her brain’s human, and so’s her face, but everything else? Machinery. Don’t ask me how it works, it just... does.

As the crowd got up to the second floor, the racers were already rumbling down the second straight- engines screaming at full vigour and capacity. The music continued to blare loudly over the engines- but it was blocked out. Until it got turned up to 11. That DJ’s got some serious tunes.

“Comin’ up to the second corner now! This one’s sharp!“, the announcer warned. Ronin threw his Mazda sideways, tyres screeching once more, and smoke billowing among the crowd like a TC police tear gas attack. He took the corner perfectly. No fuckups. No mishaps. Just masterful drifting. As for Mrs Lollipop, she turned her car sideways a little too early. With the thundering sound of crunching metal, she slammed its back end into a sturdy pillar. The crowd cheered even louder at her misfortune. Ouch.

“OOOOHHH, WE’VE HAD A WIPE-OUT!“, the announcer shrieked at the top of his lungs- seemingly calling upon a second reserve of emergency fuel. “Oh shit, looks like she’s unconscious! Can we get a medic or somethin’?“. As for Ronin, his Mazda continued up the parking lot with blazing speed and power- his engine squealing like a piece of Mozart. Magnifique.

In a flash, a medic team rushed out and opened the door frantically, dragging the unconscious racer out of the vehicle. One checked for a pulse. Two others pulled the girl onto a stretcher. The other ordered the crowd to move and keep distance. I’ll tell ya, she survived, so don’t feel bad. This shit happens.

“Looks like we have a winner! Let’s hear it for RONIN!“. Half of the crowd was swept by an uproar of loud applause. Ronin just won them a pocket lined with cash. As for the other half, they weren’t so pleased- to say the least. Some were outraged. Some were furious. Others were simply too drunk or high to give a damn.

As for Lillian, she seemed shocked. Terrified, even. Hugo tried to comfort her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.

“Hey, look, this stuff happens. I’m sure she’s fine”, Hugo said reassuringly.

“Yeah, let’s hope so.“, Lillian responded, eyes simply deadlocked on the scene. In reality, she didn’t care too much about the crash. She had just come up with an idea, and man it’s devilish. Dangerous, even. Almost as if a lightbulb had gone off in her brain. As she headed downstairs with Hugo, she told him a blatant lie to begin the execution of her plan.

“I’m gonna go get drinks from the car”, she said. Hugo handed her the keys. She trusted her not to screw up his precious ride- a 2068 Nissan GTX, fitted with top-end parts and pumped up with expensive, efficient fuel- despite the fact Hugo was no longer a part of the Ghosty Boys. Lillian smiled, clutching the keys tightly. He’s gonna kill me for this, she thought.

As she approached a booth in the corner of the parking lot, a gaunt man behind the counter spoke up.

“What can I get for ’ya?”

“I’d like to sign up for a race.“, Lillian replied with a smile. The man behind the counter appeared to light up with excitement.

“Alrighty then! We can put you in against Viper for the next one, which starts in about...“, he paused, looking down at a watch, “30 minutes!“. Lillian had heard of Viper before. He was another unaffiliated street racer, but a reputable one, at that. Supposedly, he had been a fighter pilot a long time ago- hence his inhuman reaction times, and his tendency to strike very, very quickly, much like an actual viper. Lillian thought for a moment, tapping her fingers upon the counter.

“Sure! Let’s go for it!“, she eventually blurted out in anticipation.

“Alright, considering you’re a new racer, this one’s on the house! You got a ride?“. Lillian held up the keys for the man to observe.

“And what’s your racing name?“, the man asked. Lillian thought for a moment. A few stupid names came to mind. But one stuck out almost immediately.

“Wraith”, she replied calmly with a smile. The man continued typing away on a computer.

“Alright, you’re all set, Wraith! Go get your ride and wait in the pits. You’ll be directed, so don’t worry about getting lost!“, the man instructed with a nervous laugh. Lillian smiled as she walked downstairs to pick up her boyfriend’s car.

Stepping inside and turning the ignition, the car roared to life. Grumbling and rumbling with the whirr of a twin turbo in the background. The lights on the dashboard sprung to life.

Time to race.

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