Day 1 Leg 1
Luke looked over to see Ram from Team Yokai approaching the car. He also heard the announcer call up Team Greasy Lightning, followed three minutes later by Team Arstotska.
“Sorry, but we’ve gotta run. We’re next! Maybe at the next checkpoint we can chat.” Luke called, firing up the V8 beast and sending it screaming across the parking lot.
Amy, Linda, and Scott looked confident going in as they lined up on the starting line, and the flag dropped.
Luke floored it in first again, hoping to make the most of the brutal power and keep their score low, close to that mystic zero. Linda shouted rally-style driving instructions to Luke over the rising racket inside the car, and Amy helped keep a close eye on the car’s many gauges. Scott took the opportunity to vomit over the side of the car on a particularly sharp corner, using inertia to keep it away from the car.
“Can you drive, you know, like a normal person on this shit, please?” Scott said. “I just threw up my quick snack, and you’re still throwing me around the back seat like a rag doll given to a puppy.”
“I would, except, there’s a bit of a problem.” Luke said.
“Meaning?” Amy asked, looking worried.
Luke stepped on the brakes, and the car hissed angrily as the brakes engaged, though their speed still kept constant.
“We’ve got no brakes!?” Linda yelled. “Oh, we’re so fuckin’ dead!”
“Relax, I’ve got it covered. We’re still in control.” Luke said, grabbing the column shifter to override the automatic. “We’ve got 662 cubic inches of goes-damn-fast under the hood. If we drop it down a gear or two, then starve it of fuel…”
“It’s 662 cubic inches of mechanical brake.” Amy finished. “Simple physics.”
Luke dropped it down into third, hearing the revs climb dangerously close to redline, though they started slowing down as the revs dropped, the car getting no additional fuel from the higher rate of rotation. As the engine slowed enough to be safe, Luke pulled it down into second, again bringing the big beast of an engine up to 4300 RPM, slowing enough to be safe.
“We’ll just leave her in second, she’ll be fine.” Luke said.
“Look out! Shitbox!” Scott yelled, as they swerved wildly around the little blue broken-down hatchback.
Luke fiddled with the controls on the dash, still wrenching the wheel around with his left hand. He turned the lights on, the air conditioning on, the heat on full blast, the blower fan on high, the radio on, playing Iron Maiden’s Aces High at full volume as they screamed down the hills.
“The hell are you doing, Luke?!” Linda yelled over the racket.
Amy and Scott answered about the same time.
“Increasing the electrical load, so the engine has to work harder.” from Scott and “Increasing the physical load on the engine so it has more friction to work against.” from Amy.
“I’m dragging the engine down with higher load, so we slow down faster.” Luke said.
They limped the Sinistra into the canyon, where Luke tried his best to make up time without exceeding the limited capability of the brakes. At the same time, they still had the lights on, the heater on, the air conditioning on, and the radio playing at full blast, so that when they had to slow down, Luke could lift off of the gas, step on the faded brakes, and at the same time, step on the emergency brake pedal.
They did make it to the end, however, and parked the car, knowing repairs would have to be done.
Day 1, Leg 2 Aftermath
Not long after they parked up, turned off all the noise from the radio, the various things Luke had turned on in a moment of hope and panic, and shut the engine down, the car was up on jack stands.
“Luke, you’ll have to do most of the work. Everything’s so hot that none of us can touch it.” Scott said.
“Not a problem. Get some food, some drink, maybe ask one of the other teams for some alcohol if your nerves are that far gone. I’ll do my best to prioritize the fixes for the car.” Luke said.
He worked quickly, removing the wheels and studying the brake rotors. “Warped, gacked, and trashed. Pads are shot, calipers might be okay, but I’ll have to bleed the brakes because I’m fairly sure our fluid was boiling at some point.” he said, more for his own notes than anything else. Luke pulled the caliper off, removed the dead brake pads, then dug through the trunk to find their brake spares.
“Enough to replace the rotors once, and this will put us down to 3 spare sets of pads. ‘Use the engine, not the brakes’, I think, is the lesson learned today.” Luke said, printing a label for the old brake rotor as he removed it.
“Caution: Hot. Warning: Do Not Use.”
It took him a while, but Luke did manage to repair and bleed the brakes. He checked the home-brew voltage regulator, replaced it with a fresh spare, and topped up all the fluids, being careful not to overlook anything.
He packed their supplies into the trunk, tossed the burned up rotors in the box labeled “Broken Shit” and then put the used brake pads in the garbage.
It was going to be a long two days. Luke looked at his team-mates sitting near the car, wondering why he’d chosen the old Sinistra Savage. It wasn’t like there weren’t other perfectly-good options on the market. But then again, he’d felt a connection to this car, like it was meant to be his.
Amy, Linda, and Scott sat near the car, having a couple of burgers while they waited for the next leg of the challenge. Scott had a bottle of beer he’d traded a spare burger for, seeming the most shaken of the four of them.
“I’ve never seen anyone so calm like that. We’ve lost the brakes, and he’s just sitting there like nothing’s wrong, it’s perfectly fine, everything’s under control.” Scott said.
“That’s Luke for ya. He’s built for combat, you know. Somewhere under that Twilight Blue paint and that Storm Automotive jacket, there’s a soldier, a warrior. Someone who keeps his cool when trouble starts. He knew what to do to save everyone.” Amy said.
“Yeah, but what if it didn’t work? What if dropping down a few gears wasn’t enough to slow the car down? We could’ve died.” Scott said.
“There’s a number of things I could have tried, should the brakes have failed completely and the car had become uncontrollable. I could have thrown the car in reverse, burned up the transmission to get the car slowed down enough for you three to make it to safety. I could have switched off the engine, turned the torque converter against the transmission as it’s now trying to spin an engine that refuses to move. I made sure not to burn up the emergency brake, because it could be the last brake we had in the event of trouble. However, we managed without needing to resort to these methods because the methods I chose worked.” Luke said, looking over the side of the car.
“See, he’s got backup plans for the backup plan. Relax, drink your beer, and just keep in mind that Luke’s got it under control.” Linda said. “Believe me, I was scared, too, but we couldn’t be in better hands right now.”