Team V6 Vandals
Pre-Race, Storm Automotive HQ, Chicago
The quiet rasp of the 3.9 liter V6 suddenly filled the garage as Cody arrived, with Jake in the front seat, looking excited. Seeing that Amy and Luke weren’t paying any attention to the new arrival, Cody put the clutch in, then banged on the rev-limiter, causing the twin-cam V6 to unleash a wild bellowed roar, followed by popping and clapping as Cody lifted his foot off of the gas pedal. The strategy worked, as Luke poked the camera-on-a-stick over his shoulder, while Amy turned and said, “Why don’tcha do a burnout in here next time? Car’s got a horn, use it.”
Luke disconnected the inspection camera harness, packed it into a box, and walked over to look at the new-used car they had for the Meatball Run.
“Well, it’s a Sinistra, so it can’t be that bad. V6, 3.9 liter. HPO… Sinistra’s mid-to-late 80’s High Power Output stamp. Means it’s making at least 200 horsepower. 5 speed stick, so one of us is going to have to be extra careful with this car. Got it in the Sweepback, too, so it’s one of the less-desirable models. Old Man Sinistra tried really hard to make the big-hatchback work, but had to accept that Americans just weren’t in the right mindset then for sporty, sleek cars. No turbos, but then again, they were unveiled on the 1990 Turbo Sunbolt anyway.” Luke said, looking over the car carefully. “All in all, not a bad example of the 1987 Sinistra Swift. Shame it’s not an '88, though. VVT really changed how she performed overall. Not much more power, but… Gas mileage was better.”
“So, you like it?” Cody asked.
“Would’ve liked a Turbo Sunbolt more, but we can work with it. Can’t turbo it up, though, sadly. Sinistra’s HPO tended to run rather high on the compression, high enough that turbocharging would need an engine rebuild.” Luke replied.
“Wait, we’re not giving it boost!?” Amy asked, seeming outright shocked. “Luke, need I remind you, we did a run with a naturally-aspirated Minerva Midnight, and we didn’t even finish!”
“You want to blow the engine up, and drain our wallets fixing and fueling the beast, be my guest, but I’m not running my pumps dry so you can eat.” Luke said. “If it were the '88 model, yeah, I’d say to go turbo, but it’s the '87.”
“The engine computer’s really weird, too.” Jake said, looking at Luke. “There’s an adapter in the glovebox, converts from this really funky Sinistra standard port to an OBD-II harness. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but… OBD-I wasn’t official until '91, right? And OBD-II wasn’t around until '94 in California, and '96 all over the US? Because this seems to indicate Sinistra was OBD-II compliant with an '87.”
“How’s it reading?” Luke asked.
“Like I’ve plugged it into an ‘04 Surge. Same ordering, same codes. It’s like he fuckin’ copied your mind before you were built, Luke. I know you were the one who did the coding for the Surge’s DynamIQ project, the fully-integrated-computer-system. This is exactly the same. I’d say there were differences, but… I just checked your Surge over, and I refreshed the data three times already, this isn’t an anomaly.” Jake said. “She’s OBD-II compliant, before OBD-I was even required. Loaded with sensors, too.”
“Any codes?” Amy asked, before sitting in the car.
“None. And no, it wasn’t recently cleared. There’s actually a counter of hours since the last reset.” Jake said.
“No shit? This thing’s futuristic, then.” Amy said, admiring the digital dashboard, the simplicity of the 80’s and early 90’s, hiding the true nature of the Swift behind a sea of dark gray plastic. “And it’s not hot-rodded, right? This is actually a Sinistra ECU you’re looking at?”
Jake turned the screen of the diagnostic unit to face his mother, scrolled down the list until they found a code labeled “Authenticity” and pointed to the output: “GOOD_SIN”
“If it’s hot-rodded, it’s with Sinistra parts. But I don’t think it’s hot-rodded. Cody picked it up for a steal, after all, and the owner was some old lady who bought it off the showroom floor when her Sinistra Senator’s V6 split apart. And she made headlines, because Old Man Sinistra paid for her new car, honoring his statement that if any of the early cast-iron V6’s failed at the weld-seam, well, he’d replace them out of his own pocket. She even had the bill of sale with Luke Sinistra’s signature on it.”
“Guess that settles it, then. It’s official Sinistra, to the core.” Amy replied. Jake nodded, then said, “I’d love to crack the ECU open, see what mess of mid-80’s tech is stuffed in there that so expertly talks to modern equipment. Seriously, a state-of-the-art engine computer, and he’s hooked it up to something that looks… Normal for the 80’s.”
In the parking area at Riksgränsen, Early Morning.
The Sinistra Swift was sitting there, loaded down with a few days of supplies and tools, a few spare parts that they could find, even including a modern Storm Automotive ECU after the discovery that it would fit and plug right in, and a second discovery that it also would run the car quite fine. This seemed to drive Jake to the brink of insanity, before Luke stated, “There must be a simple explanation for all of this. You’re overthinking it.”
“Well, unless you went back in time, Luke, and did all this, I can’t bloody explain it.” Jake said. “Seriously, who would have known those exact pin-outs, the right voltages, everything needed for your current-generation ECU to just plug right in and work?”
“Stop overthinking it.” Luke said, before getting out of the car. Which is when he noticed Team Hillbilly Rollers pointing and arguing about moonshine, androids, and hallucinations.
“Not a hallucination, guys. I’m as real as you are.” Luke said, as the rest of the V6 Vandals bailed out of the car. Luke opened the trunk and grabbed a sturdy cane, something he’d picked up doing because it reduced the fluid loss from his left leg hydraulic cylinder seals, even though using it gave him a bit of a limp.
Jake watched as Luke limped off to look at the competition, and in that instant realized Old Man Sinistra had the exact same limp. Sure, the old man never seemed in pain, it seemed more artificial for him than anything else, but he matched Luke almost exactly. He turned to Cody, then asked, “Could it be a habit?”
“What now?” Cody responded, looking at Jake as if they were on two completely different wavelengths.
“Luke Sinistra’s limp. It’s obvious nothing’s wrong with the old man, he’s as much as said so, but he walks with that limp and a cane.” Jake replied. “Could it just be a habit, something he’s done for so long that he no longer cares why he’s doing it?”
“Could be, but why fake a limp?” Cody asked.
“Call me crazy, but I think Luke Light and Luke Sinistra are the same. No, before you say I’m crazy, hear me out. Look, it’s obvious our Luke is falling apart. Let’s say in two more years, he calls in one of his favors, gets himself a new chassis. Except instead of just going back to running Storm Automotive, he finds a way to go back in time, looking like an old man.”
“You’re crazy, and there’s plot-holes the size of the sun in that, but I’ll listen.” Cody said, grinning.
“We know when Sinistra Motors was created, 1946, and they pumped out a rather advanced, for the time, inline-6 powered sedan. Single overhead cam, modest output, the Sinistra Swift. There were also rumors of aliens around then. Now, let’s say you wanted to go back in time, wanted to run a car company, and wanted to avoid the worst of the problems history has. When would you go back?” Jake said.
“Probably just before or just after the end of World War II. And I’d make sure I was old enough to avoid the Vietnam War Draft. Wait a minute… Luke Sinistra claimed to be 40 in 1946. Luke Light is 18 in 2018. If he goes back in 2020, that’s a 20 year discrepancy.”
“Yes, it is, but Luke knows age is everything, both visual and actual. A 40 year old man in 1946 wouldn’t be expected to have gone to war, after all. In 1986, he’s ‘80’ years old. Old, but he could claim plastic surgery for his good looks, and some form of a diet keeping him in excellent health. By 2006, he’s ‘100’, can still claim those two. So ‘Old Man’ Sinistra is 112, which is quite old but not quite unreasonable for someone in excellent health.” Jake said. He then caught Cody’s glance, turned, and saw Luke standing there.
“Enough gossip about Mister Sinistra. Seriously, listen to yourself, Jake. Time travel? A secret conspiracy from me to go back to 1946? Even if I wanted to, it’d take every favor I have to get a new chassis. And you’ve seen me in the Research and Development lab enough times to know I don’t have time to make a time machine.” Luke said. He knew it was false, plain as day, but he wasn’t going to let Jake spoil his plan two years early. He owed his future self that much.
“Seriously, let’s go look at the competition, Jake. There’s a couple Calibans, a TSR run by a couple of jokers, a '57 Wisconsin in beautiful condition, an AMCC Gauntlet that’s a year newer than our Swift, Mountain Pass brought a Bogliq Zealot to the party, and an '83 Ardent Chancellor. Plus a few others I haven’t seen yet.” Luke said, all-but-dragging Jake and Cody out of the back seat of the Swift.
“Seriously, you two, go meet some of the teams. And Jake, keep your conspiracy theories to yourself, okay? Talking about time travel makes you sound crazy.” Luke said.
(Sorry about the long post, but I felt it was a good opportunity to link Sinistra and Storm in story, as Jake Storm figures out Luke’s big secret over time.)