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The Great Automation Run | Chapter 16 and final results!


#512

Chapter 14: Outrun.


Outside Krakow, Poland, 02:59. 9th of October 1995. 1982km to Athens.
The google maps route can be seen here.

The racers started turning soutbound, in an attempt to avoid the police that was still following them. Their target: getting to Greece before the police could catch them.


(Musical suggestion by @Mikonp7!)

(Special rule: b routes. If the police focuses too much on one driver (doesn’t pass a drivability check) they will have to find a b route, losing some time in the process.)

The Bonham was too focused on avoiding the police to be able to try and close the stretch between it and the Evo. If that wasn’t enough, the roads were becoming twistier and twistier, with the driver having to not only keep their car under control but also their awareness of the police. This eventually overwhelmed the driver, and as soon as the group reached Gronków, the Bonham detoured through Lesnica. The green lime wagon managed to get rid of the police and rejoined the group after the border with Slovakia was crossed. The drivers of the Evo and the Bonham switched places, with the Bonham, however, only 5 seconds in front of the Evo, which wasn’t giving up yet.

With the police still following the group, they found why the roads were becoming twistier and twistier: they were going directly towards the Národný park montains. The group entered a mountain pass, where the Maesima overtook the Bohrs during one of the hairpins. There, the Guardsman also took advantage of the twisty environment to overtake the Visios and the Perenne as well.

The police units were starting to show uncapable of keeping up, some of them dropping out of the pursuit; not before forcing the Friala to detour, though, as they reached Brezno. The roads became less and less twisty gradually, allowing the 219+13 to stretch its legs and get behind the Fatalita, starting a exotic car duel. In the meantime, the Chevallier drafted behind the Barracuda, getting up to speed and overtaking it, but not before some paint sharing again. The racers smashed through the border with Hungary, the border officials informed too late that the racers were going southbound.

The racers avoided Budapest, from which more police cars joined the pursuit. The chaos was starting to break out between the different police cars, some of them crashing into each other. This allowed the racers to have some margin to breath, but the pursuit was far from over.

The Serbian border was the next to be crossed. The racers were still pursued by the police cars that still had some fuel range to keep up, while others were outran or started to run out of gas. Little cars were still in pursuit by the time the racers crossed the Danube. Those who had a police scanner picked this up:

Policeman: “We lost them. We’re retreating.”

Other policeman: “Last known direction?”

Policeman: “Southbound. Either towards Macedonia or Bulgaria.”

Other policeman: “We’ll inform the borders. This is getting outta hand.”

The racers chose to go through Bulgaria. Some more police cars rejoined the pursuit at the border, but they were unable to chase the racers. Only the Bushranger and the Barracuda were forced to change their route; the last stretch before Greece was mostly twisty, where the Dolphine managed to extend its advantage in front of the Fatalita and the 219.

The last few minutes of Bulgaria felt tense to all of the racers. They didn’t know what would wait for them at Greece, only that Athens was roughly 700km away at that point. Consumed by the fatigue, but kept aware by the threat of the police ambushing them, some of the drivers cracked an energy drink open, while others lit a cigarette up whenever they found a stretch safe enough to do so.

Then the Greek border became visible in the horizon.

To be continued.


Times spreadsheet:



#513

Team Angus - Chapter Fourteen

Team Bio
Team Angus - Chapter 13
GAR - Chapter 14

Poland proved to be a bust; too many cops and too much chaos. Upon reaching Krakow we turned south so we could try and lose the police in Hungary instead. Unfortunately all that was achieved was a smashed border post and two different flavours of police cars mixing together the same way Coke and Mentos mints do…

There was nothing for us to do but run for Hungary’s southern border, shared with Serbia, and hope that the police gave up the chase. They didn’t, of course, only stopping the chase when they ran out of fuel! Serbia was almost as bad for us, we were able to reach the border with Bulgaria unscathed, but a last minute road-block on the Serbian side of the border saw us having to take the long way via a ‘B’ road, losing us precious time.

As we approached the border to Greece, Ben and I shared a significant look; the end of the race was at hand. We needed that money and we needed it bad. What difficulties would Greece reveal and was there any hope of our team actually winning this thing, or would we be selling the Bushranger to be able to get home…

TO BE CONTINUED


#514

In Poland, the police presence was much heavier than it had been at any previous point in the race. But as Walter saw the mountains of the national park come into view, he saw an opportunity to evade the cops on the increasingly twisty roads. He did just that, and promptly overtook the Visios and Perenne in the process. However, the high-speed sections that followed exposed the Guardsman’s relative lack of straight-line pace, although it still held its own with ease. As Walter drove on through the night and across several borders, his adrenaline was pumping, partially negating the fatigue that had been bothering him lately.

By the time he got to Bulgaria, the situation was as tense as it had ever been. Walter decided to up the stakes by pushing harder through the night. The strategy paid dividends; he did not have to take a detour en route to the Greek border. Meanwhile, the racers ahead of him fought over the top placings as if there was no tomorrow.

The race had gone well for him so far. No, he hadn’t managed to work his way very far up the field, but given the presence of several highly tuned machines, the lack of progress was basically a given. Even so, anything could happen in the last few hundred miles, and to fail to finish now would be a huge disappointment. So Walter decided not to take too many unnecessary risks on the rest of the route, and concentrate on reaching the finish line.


#515

Jorma was awakened from his slumber when Teuvo shook him and yelled: “Jorma, I need you!” “Wha-? Is something wrong?” Jorma answered while still being half asleep. “I need you to spot traffic and cops, especially from our rear flanks! I need to concentrate on the road ahead!”

The men made an excellent team. While Jorma spotted the cars and read them like pace notes, Teuvo could concentrate fully on the driving. However, soon enough they felt a harsh bump from the rear which sent them into a spin. Teuvo was able to recover and keep driving straight but he noticed how the car was veering to the right and felt less powerful. “Goddamnit, someone shunted us! That bastard… Something broke, I can feel it. We need to stop.”

By the side of the road, Jorma immediately noticed what was wrong: their rear-right wheel was pointing to the left. Jorma quickly took the wheel off, saw bent suspension work and cursed heavily. “We need spares… We need to keep driving and hope to God that the next service station has the parts we need.”

Luckily, the next service station was close and happened to stock the parts that the men needed. Jorma was able to quickly change the bent parts to new ones while Teuvo filled up the car and bought some goods. “I got us some of these energy drinks. I hear they’re all the rage.”

The men were able to race through the rest of the stint without too many complications. Soon they realized that the race was starting to be at its last legs. “We’ll be crossing the border to Greece soon. Ahh, I’ve been waiting for this”, Teuvo told, seemingly relaxed. “The land of Socrates, Souvlaki, and Ouzo. Trust me, I’m not going to leave as soon as the race ends. I’m going to stay here for… Well, at least a month.” Jorma didn’t answer, as he was pondering what he would do. With silence inside the car, Teuvo pushed the gas pedal to the floor and the car rode into the sunrise.


#516

Otis was grinning ear to ear, Jake was barking hysterically as they finally passed the Thunderbolt gaining back a position they had swapped many times. Unfortunately the pass was short lived when one of the locals not seeing the rapidly approaching truck in the distance pulled out on to the road. Otis slammed on the brakes and tried to steer around the car but clipped it solidly enough to rip the front plastic of the other car completely off along with part of its grill. The car was knocked off the road and into a ditch where the driver and passengers cussed Otis in a language he didn’t understand, or hear for that matter. A short distance later Otis was forced to pull over to fix the front bumper, fender and flat tire. Not only did the Thunderbolt pass, but so did the Conquista.


#517

For Marcus, it was loosely restrained chaos as he floored the neon-green XR-3 down the highway, dodging traffic, cop cars, border patrol, and debris from the other cars. He held a cigarette in his left hand, also gripping the wheel with that hand as he ripped through the gears, the loud snarling engine propelling the lightweight little shit-nugget down the road.

As they burst through Bulgaria, Marcus hurled a bottle out of the window at a police car, then flicked his cigarette as well, setting the car on fire. “Stay off my ass.” he grumbled, roaring toward the Greek border in the fiberglass sedan.


#518

Being from a RHS drive country, this type of stuff always confuses me momentarily.


#519

Chapter 15: Land of philosophes.


Near the Greek border, Bulgaria, 9:44. 9th of October 1995. 618km to Athens.
The google maps route can be seen here.

The Bonham was getting ready to smash into the Greek border when the driver realized all of the lines through the border were full of cars. Having to brake, the lime green wagon stopped behind another car that was going through the inspection at the moment. As soon as the previous car left, one of the border agents stopped in front of the car while the other moved towards the driver side window, swiftly unsheathing their gun and pointing it at the driver. The border agent then gestured the driver to lower the window.

“Alright, you little shit…you guys have 15 minutes until we set the alarm off. You better drive quick. You know the drill, Athens.” - Said the border agent. The barrier was raised and the cars let through.


(Musical suggestion by @titleguy1!)

The cars floored it as soon as they exited the border, finally into the hilly landscapes of northern Greece. Inside the twisty but fast highways, the Evo was the first car to make a move and overtake the Bonhan after a long draft.

The quickest route would be through the coast. As they blitzed past the downhill towards Salonica, the Dolphine claimed its place back from the Blood Eagle yet again. Traffic was starting to fill the highways again, proving to be a challenge for the racers to avoid once again, combined with the fatigue most of them were feeling by now. As soon as the racers got past Salonica, the long straight allowed the Bushranger to overtake the Scarlet.

The temperature was rising as the racers drove next to the sea, allowing them to grip the road a little better. However, the tyres were more than broken in by this time, and worn as well. Some close calls took place, as the Redneck Express lost traction for a second before recovering control; not before allowing the Kiito to overtake them, though. The roads swiftly became wider, allowing the Friala to overtake the 333 GT3 by sheer brute force. The road was progressively getting twistier, but that situation wouldn’t last forever. However, the Scagliati took advantage of this stretch to overtake the XR-3.

The coast went by swiftly, and soon the racers found themselves next to Glifa. The Comet GT-R overtook the Conquista there, after a clever move. Soon, the Evo and the Bonham were fighting it out next to Anthili. The drivers of the Bushranger checked in their map. That was the last waypoint before Athens. They were now roughly…200 kilometres away from Athens.

To be continued…or perhaps finished? :smirk:


Times spreadsheet:



#520

so… the Evo and the Chaucer are separated by 3 seconds.

This will be :popcorn:


#521

Chapter 16: End of the road.


Outside Lamia, Greece, 12:08. 9th of October 1995. 200km to Athens.
The google maps route can be seen here.

All of the racers knew it. This would be the last stretch. The final sprint. Some of the racers’ minds were being consumed by the fatigue, but their will kept them going forwards to try and finish the race. After all, having done more than 5000 kilometres, 200 kilometres wouldn’t make too much of a difference.


(Musical suggestion by @dylansan!)

With the Evo still in fighting range, a battle broke out between the Gr. B monster and the lime green wagon. Both cars started swerving around traffic, avoiding trucks, cars and motorcycles alike, furiosly making their engines scream through the torture device the throttle pedal was. It wasn’t until they arrived at the bend away from the Kallidromo park that the worn tyres the Evo was sporting lost grip, forcing the car to slow down as it countersteerd and allowing the Bonham to take the lead once again, not wasting its opportunity. The Chupacabra was too far behind to be a threat, which served as a relief to the two racers now battling the first place out.

The highway was starting to lose its twistiness, allowing the cars to stretch their legs for the last time. Taking advantage of this, the Cannonero desperately tried to draft behind the Guivre, but failing to do so as its top speed was insufficient; the blue coupe kept outrunning the orange one despite its repeated attempts; however, as the highway became twistier again near Kamena, the Cannonero made a move, fooling the Guivre into thinking it was going to draft behind and overtaking it on the outside. The following few corners just confirmed this, giving the Cannonero some advantage over the Guivre. The same happened with the Dolphine and the Blood Eagle; the latter tried to overtake the former in the inside, but the traffic stopped it from completing the overtake as it had to slow down, letting the black coupé keep its place.

Not much happened until Proskinas, where the Interval, dummy overtaking the Kiito, took the inside and passed the blue sports car. The Kiito wasn’t taking that, however, and tried to fight back several times until Lake Illiki, where the cornering of the Interval and wider powerband paid off, extending the difference between the two cars.

Then the cars entered a long straight. There, the Tsukuba overtook the Conquista, which had previously taken the place the Comet had taken during the last stretch. There, the Scarlet overtook the Visios and the Chevallier, both vehicles trying to fight back during the overtake and sharing some paint in the process.

The racers went by Ekali, the outskirts of Athens finally visible. This was it. The race was about to end. The road was starting to get narrower. The last stretchs of the urban highway were full of events, with the Guardsman trying to fight in the last minute with the Barracuda. The racers exited the urban highway towards the city centre. As the Bonham and Evo took the detour towards the docks, two people with helmets raised papers which read “FINISH”. The racers went past them, stopping not far after.



(Musical suggestion by the host!)

The Bonham saw the Evo still chasing him. The streets were narrow, forcing both cars to swerve past traffic. People jumped aside in panic, and the few police cars present could barely follow the two racers. The Bonham gripped the turn towards the right, while the Evo Scandinavian flicked it, taking the inside of the turn and forcing the Bonham to hold back. The extremely narrow streets made the Bonham unable of overtaking, but it kept up with the brute force the engine was feeding the rear wheels.

The narrow straight abruptly ended as the two cars rejoined the main street, the Bonham glued to the Evo’s ass like the result of the race would save his life. The two cars swerved past the traffic jam, leaving a trail of chaos and noise behind them. The long street was dominated by the Evo, but the Bonham wasn’t giving up yet, keeping the pace up. Both drivers felt the fatigue and pressure on their shoulders, and knew only a couple of kilometres separated them from the finish line.

Both racers scrapped their paint as they rubbed against objects and other cars in their way to the docks through the industrial area, before the streets had the chance to open up again. The end of the industrial area was determined by the widening of the streets and sight of boats stationed at the docks.

Both drivers floored it. Their engines screamed, their tyres squealed, worn out. The effects of such an unforgiving race were clear on their cars.

The last straight was there. They could see another guy holding a portable blackboard with “FINISH” written on it with both hands. The two cars were side by side, head to head. The street was empty.

Both drivers banged through the gears, sweating like they never had before. As both cars redlined their last gear…the Bonham passed the Evo again, braking before for the last roundabout and arriving at the man the first one.


The same man that gave the start a day ago in Malaga was there, standing next to the Evo and the Bonham, which were now stationary at the final roundabout of the docks, their tyres worn out, their engines overheated, with the fans on their car struggling to cool them down. The man grabbed his Alcatel phone, dialing a number. Two tones were heard before the phone was picked up at the other side.

“Any news?” - Replied a deep, but quiet voice.

“Ye. Race is over, boss. Got the results for ya.” - Replied the man, with a wacky voice, high pitched but clearly a man’s.

“You go ahead and tell me.”

“This is the top ten:”

1st place - @Leonardo9613 (Congratulations for the first place! The lime green Bonham will be remembered as the winner of the GAR.)
2nd place - @strop (Congratulations for the 2nd place and constant pressure and rivalry with the Bonham! Has to be one of my favourite entries.)
3rd place - @Stryfe (The Chupacabra proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Congratulations on closing the podium!)
4th place - @stensen (An unexpectedly strong contender. Great job!)
5th place - @Rk38 (Consistent and fast, held its place for most of the race. Congratulations!)
6th place - @ramthecowy (With a proper eightilicious entry, Xavier and his Dolphine take the 6th place!)
7th place - @JohnWaldock (Took the risk, submitted a classic car, paid off! Welcome to the top 10!)
8th place - @Deponte (The fusion of a muscle car and a sports car. I believe. All I know, is that it made it to the top 10! Congratulations!)
9th place - @TheElt (Probably the craziest entry in this challenge, with over 1000hp. Congratulations!)
10th place - @Deskyx (The Fatalita closes the top 10)


Special thanks to all the people who put up with my lack of consistency in the upload of this challenge, but I’m glad we all got here finally. I hope you guys enjoyed this challenge as much as I did, even with its lows and highs, and some times, wacky stories. Special thanks to all of them who submitted a car and tried an approach at an extremely unforgiving race, spanning several countries and around 5600km. This challenge couldn’t have been possible without you :grin:

But you guys determine if the challenge is over or not. You can rp epilogues for you characters, flashbacks some time later, or any ideas you come up with. :wink:

And now, I’ll take a good break before my next challenge. As @squidhead and @EnryGT5 pointed out to me, being burnt out is definitely not a good idea. See you guys then!


#522

The penultimate leg was one of the most intense stages of the race, and by now Walter was resigned to the fact that he would never be able to win outright. On the other hand, he was impressed by the performance of his lightly tuned - and lightened - Guardsman, and the excitement and wonder that came from entering the Run far outweighed any amount of financial reward. But he was eager to salvage some pride, and floored it anyway as he entered the Greek freeways. Surprisingly, the Guardsman held its own on this fast, flowing section, and maintained its position with ease.

On the coastal roads southbound of Thessaloniki things were going well as usual, despite the dense traffic. Even after driving non-stop for the better part of a full day, Walter was determined not to let some of his rivals out of his sight, and kept up the pressure. While the high temperatures ensured that his Guardsman would grip the road better, it also accelerated tire wear, and so Walter had to call on every ounce of his skill to avoid a spinout or blowout. Fortunately, he stayed out of trouble, and continued to follow the pack south to Athens.

During the very last leg of the race Walter maintained his usual fast but steady pace. He was jockeying for position, with a Scarlet and Perenne lurking behind him. There was no way he could catch the Barracuda, though, but he could hold his head high as he entered Athens. Even though he had failed to beat the highly strung Goliaths with his lightly tuned David, he was proud of what he had done. After weaving through city traffic at breakneck speed, he finally crossed the finish line, 33rd out of 45 entrants, feeling elated and relieved at the same time.

Shortly afterwards, Walter received a phone call from his boss, Roger Hart.

“So, how was it?”

“Uneventful, except for a run-in with the mob somewhere in France, followed by an intense police chase on the Autobahn, but I came through those unscathed, as did the car. By the way, I didn’t enter this race to win - that acid green Bonham-Borch was just too fast for me, or anyone else for that matter - but to see if reducing weight made any difference to the Guardsman’s performance - and it did, ensuring that I beat a Scarlet and Perenne, of all things, to the finish line. Besides, the thrill that comes from an outlaw road race is more valuable to me than any financial incentive will ever be.”

“Great. By the way, I managed to covertly take a few pictures of your car while it was on the move. I have to say that our colleagues are impressed by your showing. As of now, WMD has officially decided to commence production of the Guardsman 3.0R, to your exact specifications, with a production total of 500 units annually. I’m sure that reward will be commensurate with your abilities. However, if you ever decide to do a cross-continent race like this again, keep this in mind: driving like Michael Schumacher or Damon Hill will only get you so far. You’ll need a much more powerful car to keep up with the leaders. That’s why I’m giving you a chance to drive just that - by promoting you to Chief Test Driver, effective immediately.”

“Sweet! Thanks for those action shots. I would have gone mostly unnoticed without you. Anyway, I have to head back home now, but what will you do with the car?”

“You can keep it for as long as you want. Anyway, thanks for the ride. Goodbye.”

Overjoyed at receiving a promotion from his employer, Walter walked away from his Guardsman as his fellow WMD employees loaded it onto a trailer to be shipped back to his home and smiled, knowing that, despite a lack of power, he had managed to finish the Great Run without any damage at all, and held his own against more potent machinery.


Congratulations to the top ten finishers, and many thanks to @Mr.Computah for hosting such an enthralling challenge!


#523

A suitable finish. Falling agonisingly short is only right for a rookie with a lot of spunk but less experience.

I’m told that everybody doesn’t have long until the cops close in. As soon as I figure out my timetable this week I’ll finish the story I started at the beginning of this all, because it’s going into official Armada lore.


#524

Cath and Julia’s Slightly Illegal Grand Tour of Europe - Part 7!

Two middle aged women, a boot full of booze and an Erin Scarlet!

Original Post - Previous Post


Julia and Cath arrived some time after the commotion of the finale. They’d passed a few cars on the run into Athens, but they’d long concluded that they werren’t going to win. Still, it hadn’t been all for nothing; Cath had got a whistle-stop tour of Europe coutesy of Julia’s excellent knowledge on the continent, and they were now in Greece with no need to leave for at least 2 days.

A weekend away from the husbands in the gentle autumn warmth of southern Greece? What could be better!

Cath cruised the Scarlet along the Pireas waterfront. “Shout if you see a cocktail bar” she noted to Julia. “Especially if the bar staff look handsome”.

“Here we are, on the right there” Julia said. Cath parked; Julia grabbed her Gucci sunglasses, while Cath rummaged around on the back seat to grab her beach shawl.

“Yes darling, we’re fine. We’ll be back soon. Love you. Bye.” - Cath pushed the aerial back down on her phone. “Marco’s fine, it’s raining back in Nottingham but he’s promised me he’s not staying in the office all weekend”.

“Nice” said Julia, soaking in the view across the marina. The a waiter came over, the same one that had been serving them all afternoon. Julia turned to him with a flirty smile; she’d already checked him out twice.

“What will the ladies have?” he asked, confidently.

Cath smirked. “Another Singapore Sling please, add it to the tab darling”.

“And I’ll have another Sangria please. Go heavy on the sliced orange” Julia requested, subtly pouting at the young man.

“Coming right up” he said, before walking off.

“Julia!” Catch exclaimed. “What about that Arthur fella in the Bonham?”

“I thought you said I couldn’t flirt with him” Julia retourted.

Cath chuckled. “Oh dear, you are funny one” she remarked. “He was definitely loving it”

“Oh the waiter? For sure. He looks local to me” Julia replied.

“Ask him when he brings the drinks” she said.
Julia put her sunglasses back down and put her feet up. It was a good end to a good drive.


Awesome work @Mr.Computah and well done for slogging through all those calculations, loved following the story. And big congrats to Leo’s Bonham and Strop’s Evo!


#525

The engine on the XR-3 roared along as Marcus flew through the finish line, though he didn’t stop driving like many of the others. He knew his only chance to avoid getting arrested would be to fight his way back through the field (thankfully he wasn’t a front-runner, or this would be far more difficult) and make a break for Russia.

The big triple made a spectacular show of fire as Marcus spun the car around and headed back through the group, driving the wrong way and into traffic, reducing the chance of a sustained chase through fear of injuring civilian traffic.


It would only be several years later that rumors of a bright green sedan with neon lighting would spread out from Moscow, and how it held the Russian police off for three days trying to catch it before a bystander, sick of the noise and police cars driving around, threw a trash can at the car and all-but-destroyed the fiberglass paneling. Those rumors insisted that the same man drove the steel unibody through the streets until he disappeared somewhere near China, the car found with a blown engine, but the man long gone.


And yet, Marcus made it back to the United States of America, once again without his street-racing car, but still alive. More importantly, he had a suitcase full of tapes to try to get his brother to drop the street racing act. Unfortunately, they got Cody deeper into the street racing scene, riding on his brother’s infamous chase through Russia to raise his own street cred. This continued for several years, up until Cody faced jail time if he went racing again. Marcus wouldn’t be seen for a long while, though he made an appearance for a clunker-race, where time, fate, and his temper caught up with him.

But that… That is a tale for another time.



Congratulations to the Top Ten, thank you to @Mr.Computah for hosting this awesome and wild race, and thank you to the Automation Community for making this so much fun to read!


#526

Team Angus - Chapter Fifteen, Sixteen and the Epilogue

Team Bio
Team Angus - Chapter 14
GAR - Chapter 15
GAR - Chapter 16

When we reached the border crossing to Greece we found ourselves being waved through by the border guards. Not willing to look a gift horse in the mouth we hightailed it past the barriers and into Greece proper. We followed the other racers in selecting the coastal highway and took advantage of the straights to make up for lost time dodging cop cars…

Traffic on the highway proved to be heavy but Ben kept up the pace, despite his fatigue and the worn state of our tyres. This meant that we were in for for a pleasant surprise… We’d caught up with the Erin Scarlet S!!!

B: “Well stone the crows! There’s that slippery l’il fish from up in the alps!”

V: “What is this thing you call a crow and why do you want to hurt it?”

A: “Crows are birds like a raven. But we don’t want to hurt them, stones or no stones”

V: “Then why mention them? Is this some sort of code?”

B: “Strewth! It means that I’m expressing surprise, OK!?!?”

V: Ooh, OK… Like, how do you say it? Holy shitsnacks?"

A: “Yeah, just like that. Ben! Overtake that car ASAP!!! Our honour is at stake!”

B: “Want me to challenge them to a winner-takes-all Touge?”

A: “Haha, very funny, just pass them will you!”

B: “Let’s see… I have a plan”

V: “Shoot them?”

A & B: “NOOO!!!”

A: “No shooting competitors! Ben, just get it done, please?”

B: “Already on it old bean, don’t fret!”

Ben waited for the right moment then drafted the Erin and pushed past at the next corner. As per their spectacular pass on us in Italy, we didn’t touch them at all, we just roared on by. We were now clear for our run into the final stage of this crazy mess of a race. There was now no way we’d win it but we were determined to at least reach the finish line…

V: “Map says we’re really close to the finish, only two hundred kilometres to go!”

B: “I can’t wait for this to be over! I’m looking forward to going for a swim when this is all over!”

A: “Me too… Clear Mediterranean waters, golden sands and something cold and refreshing to drink”

V: “I have business to attend to in Athens but I’ll definitely come along for the ride!”

A: “What about you Sooty?”

Sty: “Meow!”

All: “Hahahahahahahahaaaa…”

The final stretch was anticlimactic to say the least; all the action was taking place among the front-runners! By the time we arrived four hours had passed since the winners had been declared and there was no-one to see us pass the line except for a lone race “official” who marked our arrival time on his pad then told us to “sod off”…

We ended up 40th out of 45 entrants. Both the Chevallier (38th) and the Erin Scarlet (35th) ended up beating us. The Bushranger was too big, too heavy and most crucially, too slow. We got really good footage of shootouts but it wasn’t likely that it’d be useable for the movie I had planned.

After we’d moped about a bit (while Valerie spoke on a payphone to someone) I decided to get us somewhere to stay for the night, as well as to get our car off the street.

A: “OK team, let’s get ourselves a place to stay and get ourselves off the street before some cop spots us and we find ourselves spending a long, LONG time in a jail cell somewhere downtown”

V: “Don’t worry, I have just the place where we, and the car, can slip under the radar for a few days”

A: “OK, lead the way, you know what you’re doing”

V: “Also, give me those guns, you won’t need them and if we DO get arrested you don’t want to add firearm charges to the rap sheet”

B: “If you say so…”

We handed the Marakovs back to Valerie who returned them to her carry bag then Valerie kindly offered to drive so that Ben could have a rest. Ben moved into the back seat and I sat shotgun while Valerie proceeded to her hideout via the empty streets of Athens poorer areas. I must have dozed off because all of a sudden we stopped. We were in an alleyway behind a warehouse at the Athenian port!

A: “What’s going on?”

B: “Yeah, I wanted to go for a swim but at the docks? Ewww”

V: " We are waiting for my friends to arrive, then everything will be fine, juuust fine"

A: “Uhhh, Valerie, why is there a gun in your hand”

V: “Time to get out, both of you, now MOVE!!!”

We bundled out of the car and sat on some crates as directed by Valerie. A couple of minutes later a big, black BMMA Narwhal drove down the alley and disgorged four gangster looking dudes who then slowly approached Valerie and our Bushranger…

Gangster Lead: “So, do you have the footage?”

V: “Yep, it’s in the back seat of the car, take it and take the car too, this thing is all over the police radar at the moment”

GL: “What about the stiffs?”

V: “Nobodies. Give 'em their passports and let them hitch their way to their embassy. No-one’s gonna believe them anyway…”

GL: “Fine… Bobby, Marko, do as the lady says and get those two out of my sight!”

And that was the last I saw of either Valerie or our Bushranger. We managed to get a lift to the Australian Consulate and from there, once we were processed, we caught a ride home on a tramp freighter. Upon arriving home in Aus, Ben and I resolved that if there was another race, this time we’d take something with a turbo and a LOT more power!

Faced with a smaller budget than usual, Angry Angus: Irritation Road was re-jigged to be about an Aussie with anger issues who, while on location in Japan, has to race different members of the Yakusa in Touge events to win his freedom and that of his leading lady.

The film sold better than expected which meant that Sam got what he wanted, despite losing the race! Ben was paid more money for this film, mainly because he traded a salary for a larger slice of the proceeds, and was able to finally buy himself a house…

THE END!!!


#527

Chapter 15

Otis was pushing hard now, the race was nearly over. The windows were up the ac turned off the giant truck slid around every corner. Jake was no longer barking a the cars he was looking out the front window with his hackles up. He also knew the end of the race was near.

Otis pushed too hard, and took out a section of guard rail the damage to the left rear corner was extensive with the rear bumper jutting almost straight out and the side behind the tire smashed in. He kept going, at this point the truck would make it or it wouldn’t.

Chapter 16

Athens was in sight, in the far distance. Otis only had one fuel stop left to make. He pulls into the station with the tires squeeling leaving large black stripes snaking through the lot. As he fills the tank tufts of smoke come out of the wheel wells from the brakes and tires. The smell of hot brakes, burnign tires, antifreeze, oil and molten chocolate fills the air. Jake stays inside waiting for the tortuous pause to end, whining when ever any car goes by on the road.

The refuel ended Otis takes off leaving another pair of snakes out of the lot.

Athens is roaring past when otis sees the finish. He crosses the line a mere 2 hours and 30 minutes behind the lead, considering what he was driving he feels good its still an impressive finish.

Otis doesn’t stop, he heads straight for a dock, once there he drives straight into a waiting shipping container the side mirrors both get smashed in on entry. Jake and Otis climb out the back window and out of the container to find that due to the bent bumper the truck no longer fits. One of the dock workers brings over a gas powered cutting saw and removes the offending piece. The doors now closed the truck finds its way back to the States in a few days.

Otis, “Well Jake lets go and find out what position we are in shall we”

Dock worker, “If your headed into town your going to have to have your dog on a leash.” He then opens another container and a box inside and tosses Otis a brand new leash fresh from China.

Jake gives a low growl, he doesn’t ever like being on a leash.

Otis puts it on him anyways the lets the other end fall to the groud to be dragged behind Jake. They then head off to go hail a cab to take them to where they can find out how they did.


#528

Cindy flew past the finish line. Although dissapointed in her loss, she was proud of herself for finishing amidst the police chases and encounters with the mafia. Her acheivment gave her much greater confidence in her driving ability.

“Guess I just need to get back to Virginia and sell this thing before anyone realizes what happened here.” A few days later, she’s back in Arlington as though nothing happened. She manages to sell the Thunderbolt for close to what she paid for it, so money wouldn’t be a major issue.

Her life after the race is pretty normal aside from her getting more involved in motorsports than before, now making the time to make weekly appearances at local events. Not to mention finally opting to turbocharge her RX7. This race solidified Cindy’s obsession for all things speed. And next time, she plans on dominating.


#529

“We won”

That is what Arthur’s text to his boss and to the madman at Borch read. Simple and straight forward, for a good reason, typing on his old Motorola was a nightmare and he had bigger things to deal with. Like the arrival of the rozzers, for one.
He nodded to the Evo driver to thank her for the continent long race, that was decided in a matter of seconds.

The thousands of miles travelled really ended him, his back with severe pain after sitting on the bucket seat, his ears partially death and nearly bleeding from the engine racket. But he had won, and nothing could ever feel better than that.

The plucky lime green wagon with a rushed engine transplant and extremely stripped out interior made it and beat many other great cars on the process, that was a feat in itself.


Thanks to @Mr.Computah for undertaking this very challenging endeavour and also to @strop for the great battle.


#530

Twenty-two years later…

The Scgaliati Museum, Sunday Afternoon, just before close…

As was his usual habit, Christoforo Scagliati was in the company museum…it helped remind him of the legacy of his company…his father and grandfather, and his connection to them. He smiled quietly as he watched the last stragglers make their way past the assembled cars; young families, with their wide-eyed children in tow, husbands (or wives!) towing their disintrested significant others through, having made the pilgrimage to Mirano to worship at the altar of serenity and dominance. Seeing everyone - and everything - in the museum filled him with a sense of purpose…a sense of duty, to do the very best he could do for the company, now that he was poised to be named to the board of directors. But one car in particular, he always stops to pay homage to himself…the red, 1967 330 Turismo that carried him and Pasquale on their adventure across Europe.

Like every other time, Christoforo stopped to admire the car, all long and slender, absolutely pristine on its display, and yet, with a bit of a mournful look about it, as though the car somehow wanted to be back on the road, dodging the cops and the mafia in a white-knuckle charge across the continent. Lost in thought, Christoforo was gazing at the slightly imperfect front bodywork of the car, when he was interrupted;

“E-excuse me, Mister Scagliati?” A timid young voice asked from behind him.

Christoforo whirled around to see a young woman, a little shocked not only that someone else was with him, but also that they recognised who he was. “Yes?” he replied. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m sorry, is this a bad time?” The young woman asked. “My name is Jennifer, and I write for the New Yorker. I was wondering if you would be willing to answer some questions for me?”

“Umm, certainly…” Christoforo replied with a smile, “Being here in the museum, I’m assuming you’re doing a travel piece? I’d be happy to help you…”

“Actually…” Jennifer replied, in a bit of a conspiratorial tone, “I was wondering if you could answer some questions about the car…” she paused for a moment, “…about the race…”

Christoforo went wided-eyed for a moment, a little taken aback by the request. “Well, umm…” he took a deep breath and sighed, a little flustered, “I haven’t really spoken about that with anyone for the last twenty or so years…and with my new position in the company…”

“The new appointee for chairman of Scagliati, and a position on the CMW Group’s supervisory board…” Jennifer interjected.

“Yes, that…” Christoforo replied, “You can understand my apprehension discussing this in the media. I mean, it was an illegal race, after all…”

“I don’t have to quote you directly, if you want…I can keep you as an anonymous source!” Jennifer blurted out, sensing Christoforo’s evasiveness, and her own growing desperation, having been stymied at every step of the way and by nearly every competitor in the Great Automation Run. “Please, my bosses are going to have my hide if I don’t get anything after everything I’ve gone through so far…”

Christoforo furrowed his brow, then sighed. “Alright…meet me in the cafe, and I will answer your questions,” he replied, turning to walk away from Jennifer. “Tell the barista that I said you’re allowed to be there, I will be by in a few minutes…I need to go talk to someone.” With that, Jennifer wandered back through the museum to the trendy cafe, replete with elegant, modern furnishing and a sleek, modern design motif. She spoke quickly with the barista, then took a seat and placed her notebook and recorder on the table, looking around as she waited. After a few minutes, Christoforo returned with an older gentleman, in his mid-70s, but still fit and with a sparkle in his eye, who joined them at the table.

“Jennifer, I want you to meet Pasquale Zoccarato, my co-driver on the rally, and the current director of the Scagliati Museum.” Jennifer shook the older gentleman’s hand as his face lit up.

“Co-driver, Christopez?” Pasquale asked, with wry tone to his voice, “cazzate! HE was the co-driver!” Both men laughed and sat down, getting comfortable for what looked to be a lengthy interview.

“So, let’s get to business, shall we?” Jennifer asked, clicking on her recorder. “Let’s start with what happened in Milan…”


#531

Sorry to necro the thread. This is the only suitable place to post this. I’ve been chipping away at my own conclusion for personal reasons. I’ve now gotten up to the point where I can say the race is done. The aftermath back home, well. That’s a story for another day ha.


Switzerland

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Milan was a long way from Rome, but with the radio chatter more nervous than ever and the evening traffic thick and chaotic, the done thing was to blend in and keep a low profile. As low as the flambouyant bunch of overpowered race cars could make, anyway. With her guts mercifully evacuated, only to be replenished with a sense of gnawing urgency, Anna fretted behind the wheel. Her left foot was so numb from pumping the heavy clutch in the stop-start of the streets she wasn’t sure that it hadn’t simply merged entirely with the pedal and ceased to be organic. Chowing through another two cans of rations took the edge off the fatigue, but only barely.

As the last slivers of sun fled over the horizon, other concerns fought their way through the coming darkness. How many more countries were there? Seven? Eight? How many more borders? Having witnessed the scuffle at the Italian border it was clear that the shadowy organisers of this event had bought their way through several places but clearly that money had only found its way into certain pockets given the rest of Europe’s finest seemed hell bent on cutting them off. How much of it was planned, and how much of it was luck… Any of the cars between them could be undercover. Even that truck that seemed to have been following them for the last two hundred miles. Now would be the perfect time to- She tried not to imagine two dozen agents bursting out from the trailer’s canvas, guns jammed in their windows with no way to escape. Anna cursed as she found herself wishing suddenly that she’d had more insight into Ed’s tips before hurling herself headlong into some kind of trap.

The familiar mounting suspense reached fever pitch as she pulled up at the queue of the border checkpoint outside Como. In the darkness, the headlight glare was cut off only by the bulk of that looming semi-trailer. Shouldn’t it have gone to another lane? And why had everything stopped? Shadows danced at the feet of the officers, waving torches and walking up and down the rows of cars. Anna felt her heart sink: Surely the Swiss were too neutral to let a simple cannonball rally through.

Everybody jumped as the klaxons sounded. Undulating wails echoed off the hills, bombarding them in cacophony. The officers swarmed around, the shadows they cast fragmenting into a kaleidoscope. Squinting through the chaos, Anna barely heard the telltale roar punctuated with the spack-spack of backfire before she saw a familiar car squat and blast through the barrier, sending the gate flying. Gritting her teeth, she floored it and dumped the clutch, the Evo leaping forward in its wake. Dancing headlights flashed in her mirrors as the other racers followed suit, followed shortly by flashing police lights converging on them from all sides, complete with megaphones blaring at them in French and Italian.

As the fatigue piled up, doubt had crept in, and now it gripped Anna even as she pursued the unworldly green Bonham. Fifteen hours of non-stop white knuckle driving, several police forces and untold consequences with stakes rising every country they invaded, every road block they evaded. Yesterday, she was a law-abiding car manufacturing heiress and hands-on motoring enthusiast too young and impetuous to sit in full capacity on a board of executives. Today she and all the other nutjobs and career criminals on the roster were probably now terrorists for all that siren meant. All her fibers and nerves were screaming at her to, for the love of mercy, stop and give up this folly, even if it had gone beyond the point of no return, even while she wove between a never-ending stream of police cars and vans and kept the pedal to the metal.

A series of deafening cracks punched through the sirens and tyres and engine noise. Anna screamed as a window shattered and sparks flew, then the Evo bucked hard and spun right. By instinct, she pulled on the wheel, but there was no saving it, and the Evo spun backwards, blasting through a barrier and hurtling down a bushy bank before skidding to a stop on a back road and stalling.

Gasping, Anna kicked the Evo’s door open and tumbled out. The sirens raised in pitch and the lights grew brighter, so, panicking, she dove into a nearby bush, listening to her ragged breathing as the cars roared by amidst the sounds of battle. Then as fast as they had come, they were gone.

Leaping into action, Anna pried the boot open, pausing only to yank out the branch that had somehow lodged its way through the broken window. Empty cans, glass and junk fountained from the rear of the Evo as Anna furiously rummaged for her tyre jack, hauling out her last spare tyre. A chill passed through her as she noted the bullet holes in the rear bumper and the right quarter-panel, but her adrenaline was well up again, and she set to work, jacking the car and ripping the flat tyre off and slamming the spare on in a personal best. As for the window, she kicked out the rest of the shards stuck in the frame, broke out the ever-handy duct tape and stuck her spare jacket to the inside, then taped over the outside for good measure before bundling herself back into the driver’s seat.

Fuel pump, primed. Oil pressure, good. The car was more or less in one piece, and she was alive. There was no doubt anymore. She would fight to the bitter end, or die trying.


Greece

The sun rose at the tail end of a long stretch of darkness with only the road, the constant fear of police intervention, and a guardian angel in the form of the green Bonham wagon. At an entire day without stopping, much less sleeping, Anna had well crossed the threshold from reality to a dreamscape, and were it not for that beacon of neon nemesis she continuously traded places with throughout the night, like duelers in the fog, she would have been lost to the miasma of the darkness in the Slavic states.

But as the sun spread its rays and the skies lightened to a brilliant orange, the fire in her eyes renewed. Streaking through the last of Bulgaria, the Evo blowing yellowing leaves off the trees lining the highway, she passed several dilapidated convenience stores before realising she was about out of fuel. One furiously quick pitstop, an extra strong cup of coffee and a weird look from the store clerk later, she pulled into the border checkpoint right on the tail of the Bonham. By now she knew the drill: first gear engaged, one foot on the clutch and the other on the gas. She checked her mirrors. They were well clear of the next car, so it was just the two of them. Any sign of things going awry, and she would bust through.

Anna’s heart about leapt through her mouth when one of the border agents drew a gun on the Bonham. Her right foot tightened, but after a bit of chatter, the Bonham was waved through, as was she. The Bonham wasted no time, all four tyres squealing as it dropped about nine hundred horses onto the pavement and blasted away. Anna followed suit with her seven hundred, and it was on again!

Now mid-morning, the traffic was out in force. Even with the headstart on the law enforcement, the highways were littered with cars and trucks every which way. Anna’s eyes narrowed as she threaded the Evo through the gaps and outside the lanes, chasing down that Bonham. It was the dying momenets of eleventh hour, the minute hand ticking towards noon and even amidst the furious action and the coastal towns whisking by to their left and the sweat pouring down her brow, they were as two duelers staring each other down, waiting to see who blinked first.

One mistimed merge was all it took. A hapless lorry, not expecting the racers to barrel around a curve, moved towards an exit, cutting their route off. The Bonham, being ahead, ran out of space first, and had to brake hard. Anna went to brake, but had to lift off to jink to avoid slamming into the wagon, and the rear went light. Three thousand plus miles of crash course training kicked in, and she instinctively countersteered and hit the gas. The Evo skidded to the middle of the carriageway, scraping the guardrail before snapping back and for the first time in over two thousand miles, she knew she had hit the lead!

Resisting the temptation to fist pump, Anna took a deep breath before picking up the pace again. She probably bought herself three seconds with that. Three seconds, just over a hundred miles to go. It wasn’t over by a long shot.

Sure enough, the moment the traffic thinned on a long stretch between towns, the Bonham was all over her again. Preoccupied with defending, she didn’t see the sharper corner coming up. Cursing, she hit the brakes, veering wide and heading towards the barrier. In desperation she yanked the handbrake and tucked the nose in, the Evo sliding sideways with even less traction. Not one to admit defeat having come this far, Anna piled on the throttle and painstakingly, the Evo changed its trajectory, barely staying off the rail but leaving a giant gap which the Bonham dived into, before roaring away.

Anna cursed as she gave chase. Of all things to start failing now, the uneven wear between the tyres from having to change three of them at various earlier stages was starting to noticeably affect the handling, from the little shimmy the steering wheel kept jolting her aching hands with, to the way it refused to grip properly in the left handers. Come on she urged her faithful steed as she kept her eye on the tantalisingly close Bonham. Just a little longer.

The sign to ATHINA flashed overhead, and the traffic was noticeably thickening again. The highway cut straight to the heart of the metropolis, but the finish point was at the docks, the far end of the city. If the Evo couldn’t take the Bonham on the highway, it would be down to a battle of wits and luck on the narrow streets. It was just a matter of who flinched first, and with the cars now taking up all four lanes, forcing them to dive onto the off ramps and back on again, the time and space was running short.

The Bonham, being wider, felt the squeeze harder and dove right onto the next exit. In the corner of her eye, Anna saw it descend down the ramp out of sight. What its fortunes would be in the bowels of the labyrinth was a mystery, but out of sight, out of mind. Anna forged on, weaving through the traffic, watching her speedo dip from 120 to 100, to 80. Was this the right choice?

A wall of traffic answered Anna. No way through, she slammed her hands on the wheel in frustration. Just beyond was an exit, and she had to resist the temptation to ram a few cars to get to it. She inched painstakingly forward, feeling the seconds creep under her skin, until she was through and roaring off the highway onto the streets! In seconds, she was surrounded by a concrete jungle of apartment blocks in every single direction, three, four, five storeys high and cars parked and double parked all over the streets. Every intersection was a surprise shrouded in dappled morning sunlight, unwitting pedestrians and cars that scattered, then shook their fist and tooted and yelled incomprehensible curses in her wake. Which way was next? It was impossible to see where she was on the map anymore, and it was all she could do to guess where the sun was to keep her heading South East.

There was a flash of bright green on Anna’s right. Her heart flew into her mouth as she realised she had crossed paths with the Bonham once more, only, somehow, she was in front. She had the initiative and on these narrow streets the Bonham couldn’t overtake! Knowing that third place couldn’t be far behind, she pushed on, snaking the car through the streets until the buildings opened up and they spilled onto four lanes of traffic that swerved and screeched around their sudden exit. Glimpsing up to regain her bearings she saw, in the distance, on the hill to her right, the ancient beacon of modern civilisation, the Acropolis. At any other time she might have paused to give thought, but right now, it was merely her beacon of bearing and she had a Bonham hot on her arse, so it was pedal to the metal and blow straight through the red light. A T-junction now, with stopped cars blocking the way. Squeeze by on the left and flick right, tucking the nose around the stopped car and force the Bonham to go wide and rejoin the right side of the road, and she kept the lead. Just a dozen or more of these and the race would be hers. Just a dozen. Anna struggled to breathe– the pressure was crushing. The Evo, once so nimble, felt heavy and bogged. The tyres, especially the embattled left rear, were ragged shreads full of flat spots and the vibration was so fierce that Anna’s spine itched. The street opened up, the road to the docks lay ahead and the traffic thinned to the occasional truck. She put her foot down, and the tyres spun. She short-shifted, and barely stayed on the boost. Cursing, she stuck with the gear, but the moment the revs climbed the wheels started slipping again. With nowhere to hide, the Bonham drew level, and as the speedo climbed, the greater power proved overwhelming for the plucky Evo. With a nose ahead, the Bonham had first choice of the line into the last roundabout, a left turn. Anna contemplated accidentally-on-purpose outbraking herself and nudging the Bonham off line and probably into the kerb where it would crash spectacularly– no. To win and earn such a notoriety would never be a suitable legacy to leave the company. If there was any chance to win, it would have to be fair and square, and by a stroke of genius or luck. Two hundred meters, and the Bonham was a length ahead. Anna eyed the median strip. Perhaps if she jumped the strip she could try cutting the roundabout the wrong way, but one wrong move and her only reward would be death.

All bets were off when the semi entered the roundabout from the other side. The Bonham sliced across the Evo’s nose, clipping the median strip and skipping over the roundabout just narrowly brushing across the nose of the semi. Anna got a box seat view of the truck driver’s bulging eyes as he braked, too late to do anything except to block Anna’s shortcut. With no traction left, Anna could only brake hard and go the long, right way around. By the time she emerged from the roundabout, the Bonham was halfway up the street. There was no finish line, only the same man who announced the start of the race with a billboard. Anna already knew by the time he saw him that the Bonham had already finished. She had lost.

Escape

There was no podium, no trophy, no announcements. The mysterious man simply handed a slip of paper to the driver of the Bonham, and slipped back into the shadows of the docks, presumably, to await the other drivers. The driver of the Bonham had already started up and was turning around, pausing to nod to Anna, a tacit acknowledgement of the battle they had shared, and then he was gone.

Anna’s head was awash. Feeling her chest tightening, she fumbled with the door handle and tumbled out of the car, gasping for fresh air. Struggling into a seated position she leaned against the side of the Evo. Every emotion, all the fatigue, the near death moments, and most of all the vexation of overcoming such intense adversity and yet if only this and that bore down and crushed her. Somewhere inside, the pressure welled up, a dam burst and suddenly she was racked by big, gulping sobs and paroxysms that toppled her, curled up into a ball as the tears flooded onto the bitumen.

Hands grabbed Anna’s shoulders, hauling her upright. World a blur, Anna was too dazed to do anything but hang limply as a superhuman force lifted her to standing. She was vaguely aware of a voice barking at her, then a sudden sharp sting of a palm smartly striking her cheek.

“Annabel Herrington, you will pull yourself together this instant!” Blinking away the tears, Anna squinted. Swimming into focus was the stern, sweaty, ruddy, completely unexpected face of Christine Herrington, her mother.

“Ma!?” Anna croaked, belatedly hearing the distant sirens from all around. She shook her head, trying to get her bearings and dispel the hallucination of her mother slapping her across the face. Stern as ever, Christine’s face remained. Anna could only blurt, “What are you doing here?”

Christine looked ready to slap Anna again. “Well I never! My own daughter runs off to go gallivanting across Europe on a highly illegal road race and then has the gall to ask me what I’m ‘doing here’?” One blink later and Anna was crushed in the embrace of a mother who had feared her daughter alone and dead. Another blink, and the moment was past. “Get in the car, I’m driving.”

Numb, Anna felt herself complying and before she could process the last minute of her life Christine had squeezed her middle-aged body into the driver’s seat with a grunt and slammed the door shut. The sirens grew louder and more discordant as Christine squinted at the console’s dozen switches, muttering to herself. Anna finally had the presence of mind to remind her mother how to answer the car, but before even the first word left her mouth, Christine suddenly flicked the starting sequence in perfect order and the engine grumbled to life once more.

“Don’t you forget, I’m a true Herrington myself,” she quipped, preempting Anna’s next, unspoken question. Anna didn’t even have time to warn her about the rather unforgiving clutch travel before Christine stabbed the gas and dumped the clutch. The Evo gave a mighty lurch, the tyres a tortured squeal, and they were off again!

Now the sirens were all around, and the police cars screeching onto the road and swerving around them, trying to get into range to ram them off the road. Anna rapidly discovered that being a rally co-driver was not for frail constitutions. Between her mum jinking every which way, the mishmash of slamming the throttle and the brakes, and crunching the gears, it was a heave-inducing herky-jerky ride punctuated with ear-blasting Doppler attacks every time they dodged a cop.

“Where are we going ahhhhhhh–” Anna cried as Christine plunged the Evo down an alleyway and narrowly won a game of chicken with a cop. Behind them, the cop bounced over the pavement, caromed off the wall and slammed into a parked car with a metallic thud, blocking the road.

“Hush now,” Christine snapped, grunting as she hauled the wheel hard, jabbing the brake as she fought understeer and the car skidded back onto the main road. “I have an escape plan. You’ll see.”

Every jostle of the Evo’s cabin only rattled the multiplying questions in Anna’s head further. It was only when they careened off the highway towards the airport that Anna realised that the cacophony of the sirens had faded into the distance.

“The airport?” Anna scoffed. “How are we-” Christine cut her off.

“Just wait and you’ll see.” The closer they got, the squarer her jaw set and the flintier her gaze. As they passed the exit to the terminals, Anna’s skepticism mounted to the point she was all set to conclude that her mum’s grand escape plan was to ram through a gate, burst onto the runway and chase down a departing plane. Her hands gripped the seat, all ready to brace for impact as they raced towards a guarded gate. Suddenly, Christine slammed on the brakes and the Evo shrieked to a stop. To Anna’s surprise the guards didn’t pull them out of the car at gunpoint, but rather, rushed to open the gate, and hurried them through. While they raced past the hangars, Anna spent the next half a minute blinking in bewilderment, until Christine pulled off the runway and into one of the hangars, where a cargo plane, its propellers already spinning, loomed. Only when she climbed out of the car in a daze and a tall, dark man complete with pilot’s uniform and a dusting of graying hair and moustache emerged from the cargo hatch, did she understand the depth of her mother’s planning. But part of her still refused to believe.

“Christine, mi amour,” crooned the man cand– pilot, seamlessly bending forward and kissing Anna’s mother on the cheek while Anna looked on, dumbfounded. “It is good to see you haven’t abandoned globe trotting.”

“Charming as always, Maurizio,” Christine returned the gesture then held the pilot back at arm’s length. Gears ground in Anna’s brain as pieces of puzzle fell into place faster than she could fit them together. The man looked familiar. Too familiar, yet she had never heard him called by name. It was incongruous. It smacked of something she had spent half her life trying to forget.

“And my dear Annabelle! I would have never imagined meeting you like this.” Now with a sudden caution, almost bewilderment, he stooped at the knees and lowered himself to Anna’s height. “You really took after your mother.”

In just the last day, Anna had been buffeted by many emotions. Determination, desperation, terror, ecstasy, even grief. But the white hot sensation coursing through her all at once was something she had not felt in twelve years.

Rage.

With all the force she could muster, Anna slapped her father across the face. The resounding crack could be heard even above the noise of the propellers. While everybody stared in shock, Anna further set upon her father. “YOU BASTARD!” she shrieked. “I NEVER WANTED TO SEE YOU AGAIN!”

Two strong arms wrapped themselves around Anna and lifted her whole off the grand. She yelled and screamed and kicked but there is no force on Earth greater than a mother. “Annabelle! Enough!” She was smothered in the constricting embrace until she ran out of energy, sagging back to the floor, whimpering.

“Haha. Ow.” Slightly the worse for wear, Maurizio dabbed at his face with a handkerchief and straightened the lapels on his uniform. “I see she didn’t only inherit your looks, Christine.”

“Don’t you start that with me again,” Christine snapped. “You know full well that was both of us.”

“Maybe, maybe.” Maurizio sighed and ducked down to face Anna, who, still being immobilised by her mother, could only fix him with a baleful glare. “Annabelle, I can only imagine how you feel, but the truth is, it was your mother who sought me out for this favour. I could not refuse her, especially not after knowing she was asking for you. We must move soon, before the police get past the guards. Will you be coming?”

The absurdity of everything now, having driven hell for leather across Europe in an underground race and now sitting in a Greek hangar with a bespoke rally car with a supercar engine and probably about seven outstanding warrants for her arrest was just too much for Anna to think about any more. She just wanted to go home.


The final part will be posted, er, later. Probably more for my benefit than anybody else’s, but, once I finally get around to making the Armada company thread, it will be highly relevant!