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The Great Automation Run | Chapter 16 and final results!


#262

The trouble of cross-referencing different lore of different brands on automation :smiley:


#263

And the problem of anachronic Automationverse… But, actually, many universes have anachronysms, like GTA SA, which is placed in 1992 has a 1997 JDM Accord and 2005 GT.


#264

Ah fuck, yeah, I did a pretty shit job of that because I was so busy cross referencing real life. It could do with some recalibration eventually.

Also totally still writing the last chapter before the race but now I have to cross referencing against all the other cars ROFL.


#265

Chapter 1: The start.

Málaga, 8th of October 1995. 5:10 AM, 5 minutes before the start of the race. 5600km to Athens.

A man, wearing a helmet arrived at the start. He was carrying a “Get ready!” sign, showing it to the different racers. As soon as he was noticed, the drivers started getting into their cars, igniting the engines; the straight piped engines screamed, and soon more than a person was taking a peek through their windows. The cars lined up, creating a grid.

However, the police had already been notified. As the cars lined up, a patrol car arrived, stopping at the opposite end of the grid; from it, an officer got out and walked towards the group.

“Hey! All of you, get out of your cars now!”. - Shouted the officer. The helmeted man noticed this; he would have to get out of there as soon as possible, so he just flipped the sign, which had “GO!” written on the other side, and started running away.

(Music suggestion by @thecarlover!)

All of the cars launched, squealing their tyres. The drivers banged through their gears, struggling to overtake each other in the narrow street, as they headed north, towards the A-45 motorway.

The police officer ran back to his patrol car, hurrying and grabbing the microfone.

-Central! This is an emergency, an illegal race just started! Over!.
-What is their trajectory?
-Northbound, I repeat, northbound! There are around 40 cars, maybe a few more.
-We’re dispatching an helicopter to inspect the race so we can notify the interceptors. Over.

The drivers turned to the right, avoiding the fences on the sides of the paved road. Some of the drivers chose to grip the corners, while others handbrake drifted the turns. The sound of the engines resonated, bouncing on the buildings placed at both sides of the roads. Due to the narrowness of the street, some of the cars, like the Dingo Z or the NRZ-986 scratched their paint against the fences on both sides of the road.

Unfortunately for George Robinson, he was pushed by the Tsukuba into a gutter, where he scratched one of his wheels, ripping it open and going flat. He had to stop as soon as it was possible for him to do so safely and change the ripped tyre. He got into his car as soon as it was possible for him to do so again and went on with his race, now knowing he had to make up for the lost time.

It didn’t take too long until the racers reached the Armiñan’s Bridge, with the drivers steering to their rights, facing north again. The road turned wider, and that allowed beasts like the F219 and the Chaucer to start overtaking and taking the lead. As the drivers finally entered a last stretch of city, the entrance to the A45 motorway was finally visible. All of the drivers floored it as they flew through the avenue, waking up more than several families.

The F219 was on the lead, with the Chaucer close in their mirrors. As they braked to get into the entrance of the A45, the Chaucer bumped the 219 on the back. This made the 219 lose control, not by spinning out fortunately, but they scrapped their front bumper against a fence, and making one of the front wheels get stuck on a gutter. Taking the car out took quite a few tries, and the front aero would have to be repaired later.

“Alright, first stop is this town called Casarabonela.” - Thought Ken Holt, as he drafted behind the Erin Scarlet. The pack of cars, with the differences in power becoming more notable, but not too much as the highway was relatively twisty, danced around the little traffic that was present that early in the morning.

The Visios XCT was keeping up, but it was suddenly bumped by the Chupacabra. The impact made the wing get loose, making the car become more unstable and forcing the driver to stop to bolt the wing on again.

The low banked corners of the highway were navigated by the pack, hugged by arid landscapes at both sides. The Dolphine tried to take the corners as fast as it could, with the Shromet interval drafting behind. The Catalan driver did his best, only to find himself being overtaken by the blue sports car.

The race would soon start being monitorized by a police helicopter, trying to identify the plates and the cars, giving descriptions of them to the interceptors.

-“Helicopter here. Looks like the cars are going towards Casabermeja.”
-“How many?”
-“Fourty five cars.”
-“We’ll be preparing a roadblock in Casabermeja. Get ready.”
-“Roger that.”

It would be a matter of minutes before the cars reached Casabermeja, as fast as they were going. As the racers approached the town, the mountains started forcing the motorway to become twistier. Some racers noticed that the chopper wasn’t following the race anymore.

The pack started slowing down, entering the town. As they entered the first street…they were surprised by a roadblock; in a matter of seconds, they would have to either crash into it or brake and be arrested; there was no apparent way to avoid it. Would this be the end of the race?

However…the Chaucer’s driver, leading the pack, noticed something just in time. He started heel toeing his way down to second gear, and handbrake drifted into a secondary, almost unnoticeable street.

To be continued.


Times spreadsheet:





#266

Not too bad on fuel. Nice. Also pretty ok on the highway section, also nice. Also Motley Crue, very nice. And writing of story. NICE.


#267

okay not that that’s sorted, time for the story :stuck_out_tongue:

Lenin: well that was an intense start.

Marx: indeed it was, almost feels lucky we only got away with a scratch.

Lenin: Yeah, and that cop at the start also gave us a scare, we cannot get arrested, imagine the interrogation they’ll give us.

Marx: yeah, we don’t belong in 1995 at all.

Lenin: well anyways, lets just stay focused on the race.

at that moment they near the town

Lenin: dammit, a roadblock.

Marx: hey they’re turning down that street points to a few cars a few seconds ahead of them Follow them.

Lenin: I shall.

Lenin turns the car hard down the street and accelerates down it, then arrives at the first stop

Lenin: well Karl, We’ve made it.

Marx: Indeed, we have. lets just enjoy this town while it lasts. Just be on the lookout for police.

Lenin: I shall.


#268

GAR Part 1

The Chevalier Interceptor Custom pulls up to a Spanish parking lot filled with cars and Johnny and Elliot step out


“Looks like you got us in the right place alright” Johnny says looking around.

“Of course I would, you doubt my skills?” replied Elliot

Looking around, they see everyone staring at them

“Why y’all on edge?” Yelled Johnny in a loud bellowing voice.

“Well it might have to do that we’ve got a big blue police car in an illegal race” states Elliot. “Who wants to see cops in an illegal race? Anyways I’ll be fillin’ her up with gas for the race, you go scout the competition.”

“Sure thing, be back before the race starts…”

While scouting the competition, Johnny spots a bright pink car and a lime green wagon. Lighting a cigarette Johnny walks up to them.

“Ha, y’all got a pansy car. Y’all better prepare to be left…”

Before he could finish his sentence the hoods of both cars open up for Johnny to find a 7.3L twin turbo V12 and an equally large 5.5L V8

“…Fuuck…ELLIOT!”

“What you want?” replied Elliot reclining on the front seat of the Chevalier

“Ya know how ya said there aint gonna be no big ass V12 and V8 turbos? Well guess what two of them got just that! Hows this piece of shit gonna beat that?”

“But I just modified it for this race. You dont like it?”

“No I dont like it”

Elliot opens the hood of the Chevalier

“Modified Cop motor, 440 Cubic inch plant, got new cop tyres, new cop suspension, new rally shocks and the cars been modified to run on 95 Octane and it aint got catalytic converters, all straight piped and Ill tell you know, this aint gonna be breaking down quickly…So whaddya say, if this pile of junk can outrun the Mafia, it wont have a problem beating anyone else.”


#269

When the cops showed up, Marcus crammed the XR-3 into first and dumped the clutch as soon as the sign was flipped to “go,” sending the car screaming toward the motorway. As he passed the cop, he yelled out of his open window, “Catch me if you can, fart-face!” Quickly winding the window back up, the back end stepped out, costing Mark a little bit of valuable time as he hurtled out of the parking lot.

The pressure of the race was on, but Marcus kept his cool, reaching over and grabbing third as he roared toward the bridge, the XR-3’s mighty 4.1 liter inline triple roaring like an old Harley, the straight pipe treating everyone to the lovely note of the eco-car-turned-race-rocket.

With the motorway entrance in sight, Marcus slowed to make the corner, watching to make sure he didn’t get hit or hit anyone else, not that he cared for clean racing, but because he knew most of these cars were made of metal, and his was fiberglass. However, once they were on the highway, he put the pedal to the firewall and sent the lime green beast hurtling down the road. He made a quick check to ensure his neon green lights were still on, as well as both the highbeams and the low-beams, intending on blinding anyone who dared pass him.

The tires howled around several of the corners, and Mark’s police scanner kept him informed of the upcoming situation.

“Fucking roadblock! Should’ve brought an SUV, I could drive straight through the bastards.” he cursed, though still took the time to flip the bird at another passing car. “Fuck you, too!” he yelled, though knew the other driver couldn’t hear him, as it was all part of his method behind the wheel, to keep his cool under pressure. It gave him the appearance of being a little unhinged and easy to set off, but also kept him calm where it mattered, and when it mattered.

As they hurtled into the town, Marcus saw the roadblock, but saw plenty of tire marks where his fellow competitors had squeezed down a side-street. Being this far back gave him a slight edge on knowing it was there, and as such, Mark set up his lazy drift early, flinging the XR-3 up the side-street with an echoing roar and squeal of tires.


#270

I approve, I approve AF :smile:


#271

Pre-race checks, Málaga, 4:30 AM

After some terrible sleep, the spanish coffee was fundamental to keep Arthur awake. Amidst the cool, misty air and the very dark night, his phone rang. As he pulled up his Motorola MicroTAC Elite, no less, out of the pocket, a familiar voice was on the other side. “Don’t fuck it up. If you bin it, you are paying the bills.” That reassuring message came from his boss’ boss, Bonham’s CEO. If that wasn’t enough to wake him up, the sound of the poorly insulated twin-turbo V8 inundating the cabin sure did. Good thing no one bothered to fit a radio, as it would’ve been pointless. Systems check and away they went.

24 km onto the race

“A roadblock, before our first stop? Fuck, where do I go now. Oh, there’s a small road just there.”

Evasive manouver ensues

“Holy fuck, this has turned sour earlier than expected. Good thing I have just about 200 km range, that should be plenty to get rid of these cops.” - That’s what he said out loud. Inside, Arthur was already preparing the excuses for his wife as to why the family holiday fund had been spent in new bumpers and fines.


#272

Race Start:

The Montauk takes position at the starting line when the sight of a lone police car brings everything to Hell. With the “GO” signal given all cars take off leaving the officer no choice but to call it in. The Montauk roars to life roasting the tires on takeoff costing precious seconds.

Blake: Whoo! That’s a hell of a way to start the morning!

Luigi: So much for a low profile.

Blake: Bah, there ain’t no chance in Hell they’ll pick us out in this crowd.

Luigi: You said it yourself, we’re in an American muscle car in Spain, that’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

Blake: Yes I did, but we ain’t the only one!

Luigi: We do appear to be among the slower cars in the group.

Blake: Let’s hope we get some straightaways to shore up that difference. Plus, these new TriForces are supposed to be bulletproof. That combined with our fuel mileage, we should be a good mix of speed and endurance.

Luigi: I hope so.

Blake: Shit, that looks like a roadblock!

Luigi: Take that road off the side!

Blake: Hang on!


#273

Cath and Julia’s Slightly Illegal Grand Tour of Europe

Think Edina and Patsy from Ab Fab, but with a few less cigarettes and lot more driving.

Original Post

“Yes darling, yes darling, everything’s fine. Look get back to sleep, you know how are when you mess up your pattern. Love you Marco. Bye”. Catherine put away her Nokia 2112. She caught the glance of Arthur, pulling up the aerial on his MicroTAC. She wasn’t fond of the look he gave her. “GSM” she mouthed, smugly, over to him. He returned a confused expression.

“I do like his hair” Julia said, assessing the bloke from the distance. “British?”
Cath slapped Julia’s arm. “We’re not here to flirt” she said, sternly. Julia thought otherwise. She went to open the boot.
“Right, just before we go, I’m gonna make sure we have all the booze you want, it’s as cheap as it gets here, I’m not missing a chance like this”
Cath was in the drivers seat, with the door open, reading the map. “Have we got the two bottles of prossecco?” she called out.
“Yes” replied Julia.
“The Rioja?”
“Yes”
“The Cava?”
“Yep”
“The Sherry?”
“Yep”
“The Hendricks?”
“Yep”
“The backup Tanqueray?”
“Yep”
“The vodka?”
“Of course”
“I think that’s us sorted then” said Cath. Julia got in the car, and they awaited the start of the race.

The Scarlet purred it’s way up the motorway. Julia had her eyes on the map. Cath’s eyes glanced between the road and her mirrors.
“The Spanish police are better than expected” she remarked.
“Well if their passport control was any indication” replied Julia.
“True.”

The Dolphine blasted past, it’s V8 roaring as it did. “Bastards” said Cath, dropping a gear just to make sure everyone knew about their 3.0l i6.
“Shit” Julia burst out all of a sudden. “Roadblock, look”.
“Oh bollocks” Cath said, clearly unimpressed. “Well, time to show some of these young guns that grandma over here can still kick it.” With a determined look, she grabbed the wheel and hit the brakes, aiming for the side road that the other cars were heading down.

To be continued…


#274

Still not the race yet

but unfortunately both of my next prologue chapters are long enough that I can’t post both in the same post. So I’ll just have to double post.


Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 3

A Family Affair

A 1978 Armada Talon driven in anger at midnight was a frightful thing. Between the banshee’s howl of the turbo, that mystical scroll, hissing and whining through the cabin, and the tortured squealing of the tyres, a bestial cacophony heralded the sleek coupe’s approach as Anna wrested it down the B1113, towards Norwich Road. The barest glimpse of The Worlds End blurred by in her headlights, a right and a left on the limit, then past the wall and zooming straight back out the village again. Anna’s jaw was set, her face a mask of concentration. Hard on the brakes, heel and toe, stab twice with the left and cycle down the gears and trail the brake for the tightening right, then suddenly hard a left and into Catsbridge lane. With shrubbery on both sides and barely room for one let alone two cars, still she didn’t lift, power surging through the wheels and lighting the rubber up. These were her streets and the Talon her steed, and at times like these, the night was her time.

On this occasion, however, she had business to attend to. And by business, that meant driving to the one place you could stay when you were flat broke and had just thrown yourself out of your own lodgings for the night. There it was; with a particularly vehement stab of the brakes, she almost locked up, then as she let go so did the rear end, pitching her violently into the drive of a quaintly modest estate, almost decapitating the petunias as she dumped the clutch and let the revs roar before the car squeaked to a standstill. Killing the engine, she sat in the moonlight, collecting her thoughts and her breath.

Well, here it was, her mother’s abode, nestled away in the middle of nowhere, yet but a stone’s throw away, just like her mother. She was the eye of the storm, a void especially since Anna had stormed out of the bucolic estate five years ago, with a thrusted jaw and the irrepressible notion that there was something she needed to do herself. Five years of awkward phone calls and guilt trips and counter-guilt trips and not many visits. Sitting in the drive, staring at the front door, Anna realised that she never really had a sense of her mother as a person, and it bothered her so. Calm down. Right now was not the time to think about her mother, after all, it was her mother’s house she was looking to stay at, which would certainly beat spending the night in the blasted car, and its complete lack of rear bench.

“Is that you, Anna?” The front door opened, and framed in the light of the doorway, stood Christine Herrington in her slightly frumpy, somewhat homely forty four years of motherly midnight glory. Anna was caught short, she hadn’t finished thinking of excuses to wheedle her way into the house, but she should have known better than to need one, because mothers. And also, how in blazes did her mum know it was her? Probably because mothers, too. “Come on in dear, I’ll get the kettle on.” As if nothing had happened, and all was back in its natural place.

Ten minutes, a cup of tea and several shortbread biscuits later, and the pair perched on couches in the living room, into the third minute of a heavy, awkward silence save for the ticking of the Grandfather clock in the hall. Anna, perched on one couch, cast furtive glances at her mother out of the corner of her eye. Christine, perched on the opposite couch, stared quizzically at her daughter.

“You know, you’re always welcome to move back in–”

Anna held up a hand. “I know, ma. I know. It’s just, there are some things that I have to do, and…” she trailed off.

“I thought as much, but it’s always worth asking I suppose.” Sighing, Christine stood, gathering the saucers and going to the sink. “At least do stay the night. I just changed the linen on all the beds, I still have some of your bedclothes and I can run a bath for you in the morning if you like.”

Anna chewed her lip for a moment, then realised the folly of contemplating her purpose when her purpose had already driven her there. “Actually ma, yes, that’d be nice.” Before she knew it, she was standing in the kitchen, washing the dishes alongside her mother.

“Oh bless my socks, living out actually taught you to do the chores!” Christine teased her daughter, but actually genuinely pleased inside. Anna rolled her eyes, but she still cracked a smile. “Consider it thanks for my barging in and drinking your tea.”

“Honestly,” Christine paused. “I’d be very happy if you did it more often. Even at midnight. Any time at all, really.” Another pause while she scrubbed an already clean saucer. “It is a bit lonesome by oneself in this house. What are you doing?”

Anna was in the process of removing another two cups and saucers from the cupboard. “Making us another cuppa.”

The second cup was barely any more effective at loosening Anna’s tongue. From the opposite couch, Christine watched her, lips the picture of British restraint with the barest hint of bemusement. She didn’t speak, but that in itself spoke volumes, for Anna’s mind was racing, painting the words writ all over her, interrogating her while already knowing the answer. Christine hesitated as she watched her daughter, torn between giving her a hug and giving her a little push. The ceasefire between them had chameleoned into a quotidian presence, and she was unsure of pushing past its borders. But it was clear Anna was having trouble.

“So this Edward hm?”

“Ma, it’s not even about Edward!” Anna snapped. “He’s a tool! I mean, I don’t even want to think about this world where all I have to choose from is differently dressed versions of Edward. Urgh, what is the point?..”

A silence hung awkwardly her sentences. Anna looked down at the space between them.

"Mum, why is it so hard being a woman?

“Well…” Christine stared into a distant past, before her shoulders sagged and she with them, back into the couch, before righting herself and her cuppa. “It’s not all bad, you know. We women do get on in our own way.”

“What I mean is, why didn’t you take over the company when Grandpa died?”

Christine laughed, a gasp of affected disbelief. “Ha! Me? Run the company? What makes you think I could have ever done that?”

“Well, after…” Anna looked down for a moment, then steeled herself. “After dad left, grandpa and grandma spent a lot of time around, so I guess, I thought it was something he was thinking about.”

A strategic sip of tea wasn’t enough to hide the change in Christine’s expression, and when the cup clinked on the saucer she winced inwardly at her visible, naked self. Another sip. “It wasn’t always like that.”

Anna stared at Christine, her mother, watching something she didn’t even realise existed, melt away before her eyes. “Your grandfather… pa, was a traditional man. Went to the wars. Came back, put it all behind him and got back to work, got married, had me. But it was a son who had to take over the company.”

“He didn’t!” Anna’s eyes widened.

“I told you Anna, he was a traditional man, and in 1955, motoring was a man’s business. But pa never got the chance to have a son.” She hesitated, then forged ahead. "Ma had… complications when having me, and she just couldn’t have any more kids after that.

“Pa was never… sure what to do. I was his one kid, but I was not his son. He wanted me to love motors too, but I was not his son. And because of me he couldn’t have a son, either. And there were the whispers, about the touched family and its only girl. He loved me in his own way, and I tried, but things were… not always easy. So I left when I was sixteen.” At this she smiled, wryly, “Must be a Herrington thing.”

Anna listened, mouth working silently as she processed the words in her mind. Every memory of her grandpa strained against the weight of these words, but the Christine in front of her was all there and all real.

“Things just moved very fast after that. One year, I was attending the National Women’s Liberation Conference… yes you may not believe it but I was there, the idea that we could stand on our two feet, do our own things, find our own love, those were new to a generation that came on the heels of your grandpa, new and exciting! So one year, I was there. The next year, I was doing all those things, and there was your dad. Oh, he was funny, charming, and a believer! We were going to do all kinds of things!” Christine stopped suddenly, returning her attention once more to Anna, whose brow was twitching in time with the ticking of her brain cogs.

“Ma… was I… an accident?”

“Oh Anna, Anna Anna. Of course not. We do not think of people as accidents.”

“Come on ma!” Anna’s hands were trembling, the teacup clinking and her now cold tea sloshing into the saucer. “It’s obvious. You ran away when you were sixteen, when you were seventeen, boom there I am, surprise baby with some guy you probably literally just met nine months earlier.”

“Anna-”

“Yeah I know, I wasn’t born in the sixties. Things were different back then and all that. But you look at me and tell me that you came fresh out of that Women’s conference and met this guy and the first thing you thought was oh gee, I definitely want to have his baby.”

“Anna!” Christine’s eyes flashed a kaleidoscope of indignation, rage, grief, worry and the vestiges of a deep wound. “It’s unfair to think that way. Unfair on me, and on you too. Sixteen year old me ran away from a father who didn’t know whether to love his own daughter and a mother who saw nothing in life but being a housewife. Everything I did then was for myself, and it was new and it was wonderful. And that especially means having you.”

“So then…” Anna blinked and her vision went blurry, warm wetness rolling down her cheeks. Time passed, whether it was seconds, minutes, or hours, it blurred into the swirling raging turmoil of in her gut. With all her willpower, she lifted her head and squinted at her mother. “What happened?”

A silence fell between the pair. Christine put her teacup down, fishing out a tissue from her ubiquitous pocket of plenty, and bending onto one knee, gently patted Anna’s tears away. “Passion alone,” she murmured, “Doesn’t guarantee a lasting relationship.”

Anna flinched. “You sound like Graham,” she spat.

“Graham or not, that’s the truth,” Christine said evenly. “Passion brought you into this world. But reality and grit is what runs our lives. I think in your heart of hearts you already worked that one out for yourself.”

Anna ground her teeth and clenched her fists. Several silences punctuated by the sound of breathing passed, swimming through the recollections of her childhood. Arguments with her mother followed by admonishments from her grandpa, striking out into the world full of promise and freedom, learning the practicalities of self-maintenance the hard way, getting her hands dirty.

“I’m proud of you, you know. Yes, the house is quiet and lonely without you, but you’ve become such a capable young lady.”

Anna felt her cheeks flush with an entirely new sensation, and she squirmed, trying to swat it away. “It still stinks though. Not matter how much we do it just ends up with men trying to tell us what we can and can’t do. That fusty suit is killing the spirit of the company. We should kick him out and save it.”

At this Christine chuckled. “Something’s definitely gotten in your bonnet for you to suddenly turn up and suggest a coup, and twice at that.”

Anna told her about what transpired in yesterday’s board meeting while she was getting her hands and coveralls dirty. “Ma, we have to do something about it before Armada ceases to be Armada.”

“Well, dear,” Christine nodded her head this way and that while pondering how to phrase it. “Pa had his reasons for hiring Graham, more than just being a man. He’s a good man, the right man for the job.”

“But how can we preserve-” Anna trailed off and sighed. After tonight’s conversation she wasn’t sure what to think anymore, after knowing what life before her was like, that her Grandpa, her own dear Grandpa was like a differently dressed Edward, only more manly and traditional and older. Or maybe it was the other way around. And whether after all that was it worth leaving it all to a guy with mothballs for testicles.

“Ma, Graham may be right for the company now, but I’ll be damned if I lie down and accept that what he’s doing to it should continue.”

And at this point she decided while she was on a roll she might as well go the whole way and tell her mum about her argument with Edward.

“Oh Edward,” Christine simpered. “He’s a good boy.”

“You say that a lot,” Anna groused. “And he’s not.”

“He is. But he’s also young. But more importantly what is this about you wanting to go racing.”

“Well ma, Graham’s clearly not about to do what’s needed, so I figure I’ll see to it myself.”

“But Anna, racing is actually dangerous. It’s not suitable.”

Anna placed her hands on her hips. “I thought you attended Women’s Freedom Conferences but here you’re talking like… like Edward in a dress.”

“It’s not about women!” Christine wrung her hands, clearly flustered. “It’s just, you’re my daughter, I’m your mother and I love you, so I’m always going to be concerned for your safety.”

“Ma, I’m twenty three years old. Now I know I’m not you, but you were sixteen when you left home and all that. Besides, you don’t think I’m a good enough driver?”

Christine studied her daughter, the bundle of freckles and the upturned nose that she’d raised by herself for a good dozen or so years and grown up with a bit of her grandfather, a bit of herself. Stubborn, independent, determined… driven. She would never be swayed by something so abstract to her as a motherly concern. She looked at the clock, ticking away, saw the hands pointing to well past one.

“It’s late dear, let’s go to bed for now, and talk about it in the morning.”

Anna studied her mother, the frumpy housekeeper who had remained an enigma beyond the standard ‘I am your mother and you should listen,’ but now in the dim light of the lamp, the shadows of her history from a time before Anna stretched across her face. Tonight, those wrinkles, unmasked by powders and foundation, were for the first time the mark of humanity. A heaviness crashed onto Anna’s shoulders, and she stumbled, somehow, into her mother’s arms, face buried in her bosom.

“Yes ma,” she mumbled through Christine’s blouse. “Goodnight.”


The morning sunrise filtered through the curtains, shedding its light upon a slumbering Anna’s face. It shifted, the scrunched up, then Anna’s eyes sprang open as she realised the bed did not feel like her own. She fumbled around the bed, the plush mattress, the freshly laundered sheets, and stared at the ceiling and walls, before realising this was her room. Her old room. Which meant-

Right on cue, there was a knock on the door, followed by it opening. “Rise and shine dear!” Her mother sang out. Anna rubbed her eyes, brain still processing the situation. The faint vestiges of something profound tugged at her memory, from behind the curtain of yesterday’s dreams. Was it really all a dream? She daren’t ask.

“-mornin’.” Five seconds later, she realised Christine was still standing in the doorway. “What’s going on?”

Christine motioned. “Come down to the garage. I have something to show you.”

Anna stumbled down the stairs, wondering what could be so urgent that she didn’t even get to pee and brush her teeth. While Christine fiddled with several keys and two padlocks, the penny finally dropped for Anna. “Is this the forbidden garage?”

“That it is,” Christine confirmed, twisting the key. The padlocks fell away, clanking on their chains. “You remember how Grandpa showed us the things he was working on. It’s why you drive a Talon, and why you love the Evo RC so much.” She twisted the doorknob, and the door creaked as it swung into the darkness. “This garage has the things he didn’t show you. And some of the things he bequeathed to me after he died.”

“Go on, show us already!” Anna was bouncing on her feet, itching to push her mother out of the way so she could flick the lights."

“Just remember, in here are some of the most closely guarded secrets in the history of Armada Motors.” With that, she switched the lights on, bathing the hidden garage in incandescent light.

It looked like a time capsule of a rundown garage that hadn’t been updated in twelve years. Bits and pieces, a workbench with papers and tools, several shelves and boxes, and of course, the sky blue 1984 Evo RC sitting bang in the middle of the floor. That sweet anachronism, with its square tail lights and boxy bodywork, and the giant rally wing and modified dual exhausts and ridiculous hood scoop and straked vents…

“Ma… is that…”

“Yes dear, that’s the Group B prototype.” Christine leaned against the doorway and watched as all of Anna’s Christmases arrived at once. With a squeal she pored all over the car, noticing how there was barely a speck of dust on the wheels and the paint was still shiny. Even the engine bay, with the modified turbo-injection system designed for the tipo 308, was spotless. “And you’ve been looking after it too!”

“I clean the place regularly and without fail!” Christine said with a hint of pride. “Your grandfather was… not the most organised person, so I also catalogued all his manuals. Here-” She went to a shelf over the desk and pulled out a folder. “These are the specifications for the prototype.”

Stunned, Anna took the folder, leafing through the sheets. Her Grandpa’s dreams in paper, and its realisation in the steel. “This is- wow. I-” She set the folder on the table and rubbed her forehead. “Why now Ma? And not before?”

“Your grandfather, in his will he left me very specific instructions. I was not to show you this garage until you were ready.”

“Ready!? What did he mean?”

“I wondered that too, for many years. But after yesterday, it all made sense. He didn’t mean only you, he also meant me. Both of us. And now I know why he wanted to keep this for you, too. In you not only do I see myself, but in you lives your Grandpa’s spirit. You are a true Herrington.”

“Oh Ma.” For the second time in as many days, Anna felt a welling within her breast, and her vision blurred with warm wetness that coursed down her cheeks. Undaunted, Christine continued.

“I am your mother, and I worry about my daughter. I don’t know what you plan on doing exactly, or how you’ll to go about it, but I know that you’ll do it your way no matter how strange or dangerous or difficult it is. So I thought it was only fitting that you should be properly equipped to carry out your mission.”

“Thank you,” Anna heard herself blubbing, over and over again, arms wrapped around her mother and her mother’s arms around her.

“One more thing… I’m not much of a wrencher, even if Arthur did try to teach me… a little late. So she’ll still need a lot of work.”

Wiping her face on Christine’s blouse, Anna lifted her head and glared at her mother. “Are you… trying to bribe me into moving back in?”

Christine feigned innocence. “Maybe?”

“Because it’s a darn good bribe. I’ll get my things.” Anna grinned. “Just think how amazing it would be with this thing restored, it’ll really knock the socks off some fans to see it driving around!”

Christine’s smile morphed into a scowl. “Young lady, this Evo will never be street legal let alone pass an MOT. If I ever see it driving on a public road I will ground you for life.”



#275
Chapter 4

The Beginnings of a Legend

The front door of the Wyndomham unit blew open, shattering the peace of Edward’s lazy afternoon. In strode Her Royal Highness Annabel Herrington, crushing the pieces to dust underfoot.

“Anna! Where have you been? I was, er-” Edward faltered as the awkwardness following his outburst caught up to him.

“I’m just here to pick up my stuff.” Anna said, breezing by and vanishing into her room.

“To what? You’re- no!” Edward sprang to his feet and dashed into Anna’s room, where she was already clearing out her wardrobe into a fresh garbage bag. It belatedly occurred to him that Anna owned three sets of coveralls and a tracksuit, and no dresses. “Was it about yesterday? I’m sorry! Please don’t go?”

Anna didn’t look up. “It’s not really about that.” This did nothing to dispel Edward’s sinking dread that yes, actually, it had everything to do with it and she was effectively divorcing him. Noticing Edward was still in her room, Anna turned to look him in the eye. “I just have something I need to do. That requires me to move out.”

There it was again, that faraway look, the aura of somebody who inhabited a different world. Edward knew that he was defeated by a far higher power, and so, shoulders slumping, he retired to the living room.

Four minutes later, Anna, carrying her life in two garbage bags, staggered past. She paused for a moment in front of Edward’s chair. Edward studiously looked away, but ended up watching as Anna wrote something down.

“Here. This is my new number,” she said, sliding the paper towards him. From rock bottom, Edward’s heart dared to soar again, and his gaze lifted.

“Call me if you get any good scoops, ok?” And with that, she was out the door and back on her mission with a roar and squealing tyres.


The days melded into weeks. Every living breathing spare moment was spent in that garage, absorbing the ideas and the knowledge. Anna’s mother would occasionally drift into the room, reminisce about the old times, inwardly beaming to see her prodigal daughter return, in a manner of of speaking.

The Evo RC Group B prototype was a marvel. The suspension was all independent, the chassis a monocoque steel but the panels an aluminium for lightness (besides, if they got banged up, they just needed to be banged back). The AWD system with the trick auto-locking differential would have made for some lairy driving characteristics, all actively encouraged by the super short throw gearbox that echoed every time she shifted the cogs, and the giant lever that was the handbrake that adorned the spartan, stripped interior. Definitely a rally car through and through. And one that should be announced to the world.

There was a new whiteboard in the garage, Anna’s own. On it, was her rudimentary but growing plan. At the bottom, was getting the car to a track day. Just up from that, she had drawn a bunch of stick figures: the fans. In the middle, she had the covers of Sport Compact Car and Turbo stuck to it. Above that, she wrote ??? and beyond that, in ironic fancy letters, PROFIT. She wasn’t sure what to do with the ??? yet, but that was for later. For now, after dozens of hours of many kinds of grease from elbow to engine, it was time to pour in the moonshine, flip some switches and hope it didn’t explode. Fire extinguisher, check. Garage door open (but the gate closed), check. Motor primed, oil pressure, check, fuel pressure, check. Clutch in, and with a deep breath, punch the ignition. The tipo 308 coughed over and over, then barked and buzzed to life, sputtering then roaring and whining as Anna prodded the throttle, before settling into a lopey idle that shook her in her seat. She prodded the throttle again, listening for any tell-tale tick tick tick. There was none.

“It’s working!” she yelled, “IT’S WORKING!”

The door opened and in burst her mother, hearing the straight piped, straight cut racket, staring in amazement that the car was actually in running condition, let alone her little girl had figured it out, then cupping her hands over her ears as Anna floored it, the engine hesitating while the turbos spooled, then with a whine it went ballistic, bouncing off the limiter with a VRAAAAAPSUTUTUTUTUTUTU, and then a PSSSSSSHT when she lifted the throttle. And then she was up and out and dancing and bouncing off the walls because hooray, all she needed to do now was change the tyres and chop the springs and replace the brakes and it was track day, which meant getting her mother to come with her to Snetterton, just a few miles distant, on a Sunday with the car on a trailer (at her mother’s behest) they’d sneakily borrowed from the factory.

A mild fourteen degrees with a light breeze and the usual swathes of grey clouds greeted the mother-daughter duo at the track. Even for ideal track weather, the venue wasn’t particularly crowded, which suited Anna just fine: the Talon may have been a tricky car but this was certified Group B levels of insane, with in excess of 600Nm from the moment the turbos spooled in a car that weighed the same, and this, in a car that would have been quite porky by Group B standards, to accommodate for its displacement. It went without saying that it was going to take some getting used to.

Rollcage inspected, helmet on, a word of encouragement (or really caution) from her mother, and the engine roared to life with raw, deafening intensity. In an instant all eyes were on the rally beast, brows raised, mouths agape, people not sure whether to believe what they saw, as the car lurched into gear and out of the pits. Anna felt a squirming knot in her guts, certainly not the breakfast bran. Was it her natural instinct of fearing the car? Or was it the audience, ready to disbelieve and judge? As much as she tried to ignore it, never more than now was Anna conscious of her chromosomes. First impressions would count for everything. Go time; she took a breath, adjusted her grip on the wheel, and floored it.

After a moment’s hesitation, the car slammed into action and shot off down the straight. Every part of Anna was simultaneously assaulted with sledgehammers, pounding her eardrums, crushing her into the seat, the pebbles striking the undertray rattling her brain. It wasn’t until the engine was bouncing off the limiter that she remembered how to breathe and change gears, and then back to being crushed. Within seconds the scenery was blurring by and she almost forgot the fast right hander was upon her, on shit. Hauling on the wheel and hanging on, and the front-heavy Evo turned into a rally missile, fighting horrendous understeer at a hundred miles an hour. Feathering the brakes, losing the line, cursing all the while, wobbling down the next straight until hard on the brakes again and Anna felt the car go a bit light in the rear and start to slide out just in time for the much tighter right. In the Talon that would have called for countersteer but Anna remembered the lessons from Grandpa’s notes: point the wheels in the right direction and keep it pinned. Her heart in her mouth and her mouth screaming silent prayers she did just that, and the Evo pulled through, front wheels pulling it straight on the exit to the other long straight.

This time Anna was ready for the crushing grip of acceleration, and kept her torso braced while her right foot never faltered. Banging through the gears was grimly satisfying, until suddenly the Evo was maxing out at one forty. Hard on the brakes and drifting left, feeling the back step out again, but it was the Esses, with the sharp right kink! Sawing the wheel right and lifting off the brakes, the Evo flicked into a four wheel skid, then on cue, hard on the throttle, kick the clutch and the tyres lit up and she was off again! Then on the series of fast right handers, this time feeling how the nose pitched in when she lifted off, blow-off valves whistling and anti-lag system backfiring with a spack-spack, then turbo spinning up again when she feathered the throttle. It was only when she realised she was starting to get a feel for the different dynamics that it occurred to Anna she could have tried not absolutely wringing the car to start. Actually, that was rubbish, go hard or don’t bother. So she sunk the boot in again.

It was Russell bend that did her in. After managing the understeer disguised as oversteer on the long right hander, she tried forcing the nose to the apex of the sharp left kink onto the pit straight, but the Evo suddenly found the limits of its weight transfer and snapped, pitching the arse end frontwards and Anna found herself hurtling down the straight backwards, in front of everybody hanging on the wall having a gawk. Figures. In a flush of anger and embarrassment, Anna jammed the brakes, then dumped the clutch at the limiter, sending the Evo into four wheel donuts, throwing up a smoke screen to cover her shame.

When the smoke cleared, the track marshall was seen to be attempting to fight his way through the growing throng swarming to inspect this loud, fast, mad, and definitely not-street-legal machine. No doubt the marshall was there to tell her off and kick her out, but that was quickly quashed by first the buzz from seeing the car, then second, the guffaws and whistling after realising a girl had been driving it at full chat, then third, the penny dropping that she was not just a girl, but from the Armada family and therefore the car was something special.

It didn’t take too long for the news to spread after that. Between popping the hood so everybody could pore over the heavy-duty turbo pipes, taking it for another spin and blowying past everybody else and their riced up Escorts and Hoondas on the track, whether it was on the straights or in the corners, explaining the history of Armada’s aborted Group B campaign, Anna started to recognise some of the faces turning up. Local journalist types, armed with proper cameras. Would she like the car featured in their periodical? Could she pose in the car? Did she have plans for it? Maybe do some rolling shots? Drifts? Burnouts? Christine resisted Anna’s attempts to cajole her into joining in the session: her hair wasn’t done, she didn’t have her make-up on. Anna dragged her in anyway: the power of two Armada family women was far more representative than her alone, and the Evo Group B was very much a family affair.

Bathed in sunlight, Christine and Anna shared a moment in the relative tranquility of the truck cabin as they towed the Evo back along the A11. Under the shaking hands and the ringing ears, and a body that felt like it had been thoroughly beaten, Anna felt a warm glow in the pit of her stomach. This was good. The legend was beginning. And she was sort-of able to handle the car. Emphasis on sort-of, really. There was a lot of work to do to be worthy of it.

The garage was evolving again, under Anna’s touch. The Evo Group B still held prime real estate, but curiously, in one corner, there was now a bench, a barbell and a stack of iron plates. The whiteboard was now divided into several sections, with the main plan having several items ticked off, but new items proliferating, including a parts plan and a fitness plan.

Christine stood in the doorway, her mouth crinkled into a permanently bemused smile as she watched Anna marching up and down the yard flipping a tyre end over end, sweat pouring down her brow and plastering her tracksuit to her frame. Between bringing Anna water and a towel and listening to Anna ruminate on how to tweak the suspension geometry to achieve a more stable turn-in, Christine realised more than ever that in Arthur’s instructions was a prediction for a transformation beyond her own imagination.

Meanwhile, Anna’s brow was the picture of concentration, half from the effort of clutching the dumbbells as she transformed her forearms into knotted steel ropes, but the other half from the conundrum of the Evo’s powerplant issue. Arthur’s notes clearly indicated that the engine was selected on the grounds of being available at the right displacement for the regulations. Which meant that it came carburetted, which then had to be completely changed in order to apply forced induction to B-rally spec. It was the same issue that faced the Talon: forced induction ruins carbs in short order, especially at boost pressures approaching 4 bar and power figures three times that of the Talon at that. It was, no doubt about it, an engine of compromises, and she felt it doubly keenly to see her suspicions confirmed, that for such a robust car, the weakest link was the borrowed engine. How unlike Armada.

The bigger problem still was durability. Rally cars were built to take a beating. But they also failed a lot, and Group B teams in particular had millions thrown at them so they could be rebuilt and had a line of special spares. Armada’s Group B project never took off, so what she had in that garage was everything she had-

“Anna?”

The sudden intrusion of a male voice in the hallowed garage almost shocked Anna out of her chair. She snapped her head up and saw Ed standing in the doorway, gazing bewildered in equal parts at her, and at the Group B Evo.

“What are you doing here Ed?” Anna barked, resisting the temptation to slam the door in his face. “I thought I said call, not stalk my mother’s house and turn up unannounced.”

Ed looked hurt. “I tried calling. Your mother picked up and said I should just come over because it’d be impossible to contact you otherwise.”

And just what did you concoct for her to tell you that– No, that would be typical Ma. Anna rolled her eyes. “Alright, fair. What did you come here for?”

Ed took that as invitation enough, and stepped into the garage, oogling the sky-blue Group B from every angle… then using his partially concealed vantage point to stare at Anna’s toned arms when he thought she wasn’t looking. “The rumour’s going around that you tracked the original Group B Prototype at Snetterton a couple of weeks ago. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is this car right here.”

“Yeah, and?” Anna went back to curling her wrists.

“You’re really serious about becoming a racer aren’t you.”

Anna stared at Ed for a long moment, noticing for the first time the curious bags under his eyes, his untidy boy stubble and general haggardness. “Yes. Yes I am.”

Ed sighed and dithered, before reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out an envelope, muttering something about half-regrets. "Well, first off I can tell you that the road to becoming a race driver the usual way involves license tests and joining up in clubs and driving cars with less pep than your Talon. And since Armada isn’t currently sponsoring anybody other than the BTCC team, you’ll have a long time of filling in odd jobs and driver deals and you probably wouldn’t even get a second look most of the time. For every reason it’s not you.

“But,” and at this, Ed opened the envelope and fanned out several sheets of paper and photos onto the desk. “If you’re interested in creating a legend around this car, then this may be more your speed.”

“Oh?” Now Ed had Anna’s undivided attention. “What’s this?”

“A Gumball Rally. High Stakes. Very secret, in an unofficial underground everybody knows about it but nobody will ever admit to it way. It’s codenamed the Grand Automation Rally. It spans across Europe, thirty five hundred miles. Probably mostly public roads.”

“I can’t legally drive the Group B on a public road.”

“In case you didn’t already notice, this race isn’t,” Ed fidgeted, “Exactly legal.”

Anna frowned, the gears in her head grinding away. Illegal in something like twelve countries. A chance to see what the Evo could really do. Probably very dangerous. The highest stakes, purest kind of racing. Not officially recognised. The stuff of legends.

“Why are you telling me about this?” Anna finally blurted.

“Because I l-” Ed coughed and tried again. “Because I know how much this means to you. I think this is madness. It wasn’t because you’re a girl… it’s because I was worried and I, uh, I care about you! But I’d be lying if I didn’t think there was something great about it and if there was somebody who could pull off something as insane as this around here it might be you. So… I respect that, so this is the least I can do to support it.”

While Anna gaped at him, Ed took a moment to recompose himself. “Anyway. Those are the dossiers of all the other drivers. Some of those people are really shifty so that’s why there’s not that much info in some of the briefs. Some of those machines have had some serious work done to them so you may want to have a look. The race starts in Malaga, in three weeks. You have only what you can take with you and the rest is what you can afford and can fix along the way. And…” Ed took another breath, “The prize is five million quid, but only for first, and only if you make it.”

Suddenly Anna was out of her chair and was crushing Ed with her arms. Stunned, it took Ed three seconds to realise Anna was hugging him, and he felt a flushing in his face, a flutter in his chest and a glowing in his loins.

“Thank you Ed, you’re a good friend.”

Friend. An icy lance shot through Ed’s heart. He had manned up all the way to this point, and standing at the threshold to Anna’s heart of hearts, he knew what he had to do.

“Anna, go out with me.”

Anna blinked. “What?”

Ed stuck his jaw out. “I- I want to take you to dinner. Somewhere nice.”

“Ed, Ed, Ed.” Anna rapidly released Ed and took a step back. “Look, I appreciate what you’ve done for me here. And you’re a, uh…” Anna had a brief horrifying flashback to her mother’s words, “A good guy. But I already told you, there are things I have to do, and it’s far bigger than just what’s happening now. I just can’t think about these things right now.”

Ed’s shoulders sagged, his punctured soul deflating with each word. Even after everything he had done, no girl as badass as Anna ever went out with a ‘good guy’. But he had come this far, and the yearning desperation that raged inside him demanded he not leave empty handed.

“Well, in that case, at least let me buy you coffee when you get back.”

Anna cocked her head, sizing up the young man before her. If she thought about him, strained all her senses, the turbulence of his inner torment was a tangible force… and one that seemed too complicated to navigate. Worse than being downright rude to Ed, let alone stringing him along for fear of rudeness, was plunging into the current of hormones and infatuations of which had suddenly thrust itself into her consciousness.

“Ok, sure. But tell you what, if I win that five million quid, I’ll buy you the coffee.”


The dossier made for some surreal reading. Anna couldn’t banish the suspicion that Ed had made up half the stories from an amalgamation of third rate bargain bin novels. Aside from a surprising number of fellow motoring figures and representatives (was that the Erin CEO’s wife!?), there were the less surprising over-moneyed playboys, the fellow aspiring racers, the former professional racers, the secret agents? And the really shady gangsters and career criminals? At least the aspiring film makers could help with promo material, if any of this was legitimate at all. But Ed wouldn’t lie, she told herself. Yes, he was, as her mother put it, young. But one of the reasons she thought of him as a friend was because he always had integrity in his work, even if it made him a bit of a pompous git in other places. Besides, five million quid, if that was really the prize on offer, that’d draw all kinds. Actually the more she thought about it, the more the dossiers made sense, and the scarier this was sounding.

Scarier still were the cars. Some of them were barely modified sportscars and tourers. Others were downright bonkers, maximum power, tuned to the absolute gills. She was seeing speculated outputs of close to a thousand horses on some of them. The writing was on the wall for the EVO: that tipo had to go.

But what could fit in its stead? She had three weeks to get it all up and running and then somehow secretly ship herself to Spain. There’d be all kinds of conditions to drive through. The engine had to be durable and be able to tolerate a more aggressive tune without ruining the fuel economy. Frequent fuel stops would not be compatible with dodging the law enforcement. But she still had to have enough power to match the big guns, but without ruining the balance of the car. Bigger displacement, and lower boost.

Out came the schematics again, papers spread all over the floor. Anna plumbed the depths of Arthur’s notes once more, noting the dimensions and layout of the bay, then digging through the archives of all the engine contracts that had fallen in a disorganised heap of legal proceedings and almost ruined the entire company. One series in particular caught her eye: the partnership with a still active supercar manufacturer by the name of Empyrean. Armada had lent their advanced valvetrain technologies to Empyrean, and in turn Empyrean had further developed variably timed and liftoff valves combined with turbo technology to produce high output V12s that had early spool. It was complicated stuff to work with, but being the stuff of supercars, it combined the best of as many worlds as possible. And, if the notes were still correct, their last contract would have produced a current model for their mid-size supercar, the Stretto. Which meant it was a matter of getting her hands on one. Which wouldn’t be possible in the timeframe she had if she had to order one from the other side of the channel. She’d have to search… closer to home.


Security was light at the Armada Factory. Anna knew well there were no guards and not much in the way of cameras. All that stood between her and a certain crate in the R&D archives was a keypad, and of course, it was still her dear Grandpa’s birthday. Which was why, in the dead of night, or two in the morning, she’d taken mother’s car and the trailer they’d “borrowed” from the factory, covered the plates, wrapped a scarf around her head and donned her puffy winter jacket, and snuck into the factory. After all, if she was going to embark on an illegal road race in an illegally modified car with four dozen other nutjobs, what harm was a little headstart?

Several minutes of cursing at the forklift later, Anna found the crate she was looking for, and loaded it onto the trailer. Before leaving, she took another look in the archives and realised that next to the engine was the fancy new six-speed gearbox with synchro and adjustable central diff. So she took that too. And a spare winch. And a new set of power tools. After all, she’d pay it all back with the five million quid like easy, right?

Christine, so recently basking in the renewed domestic comforts of her returned prodigal daughter, felt the stirrings of unease once more. Anna’s determination had taken on a frightening edge. She was constantly preoccupied, brooding, and back to being her aloof self. Plans to return to the track were rebuffed and postponed. The cups of tea returned to a state of awkward silence. Worse yet, whenever she entered the garage, Anna would jump with a hunted look on her face. She wouldn’t explain what the winch was for, though she knew full well that Christine knew the one application, so what exactly was it that she was concealing? Along with the hard muscular body Anna had mysteriously developed, Christine wondered whether Anna had been taking any drugs over and above the passion that had become obsession.

Come October, and Christine decided she’d had enough. Early one morning she marched back into the garage in which Anna was now permanently sequestered, only to find a big empty space where the Evo had sat. Which was to say, the car had gone, leaving a big fat stain of a former oil patch. And a note left in the middle of it. Hands shaking, Christine picked it up, and recognised Anna’s characteristic angular small caps writing.

DEAR MA,

SORRY I WAS SUCH A HORRIBLE DAUGHTER THESE LAST THREE WEEKS. THE TRUTH IS, OUR ORIGINAL PLAN TO CREATE A TRACK LEGEND OUT OF THE EVO NEVER CHANGED. BUT AN OPPORTUNITY CAME UP AND I SIMPLY HAD TO TAKE IT.

I’M TAKING THE EVO ON A TOUR ACROSS EUROPE. DON’T WORRY, I’LL BE CAREFUL AND I’LL TAKE GOOD CARE OF THE CAR. I ALREADY SWAPPED THE ENGINE AND TRANNY OUT AND I’LL TUNE IT PROPERLY SO IT WON’T EXPLODE AND STRAND ME IN SERBIA OR SOMETHING.

THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME AND PUTTING UP WITH MY CRAZY DESPITE EVERYTHING. ACTUALLY SORRY I WAS SUCH A HORRIBLE DAUGHTER THESE LAST FIVE YEARS. HELL, MY ENTIRE LIFE. ONLY NOW DO I REALISE HOW MUCH YOU’VE REALLY DONE FOR ME. I PROMISE I’LL DO BETTER WHEN I GET BACK.

LOVE,

ANNA

P.S. YES, I KNOW I’M GOING TO BE GROUNDED FOR LIFE. FINGERS CROSSED IT’LL BE WORTH IT HAHA

With Christine’s world crashing down around her, she did the only thing she could think to do.

She phoned Graham.


“What do you mean, the cameras can’t identify the thief?” Graham Streeton fumed at the technical staff, wiping his brow furiously with his handkerchief. “Whoever waltzed in and made a five finger discount store of our factory had access codes, it can’t be that hard!”

Inefficiency like this infuriated a numbers man like Graham. And when it had taken an inventory check to pick up the irregularity a good two weeks after the date the cameras picked up the mischievous bugger who had made off with some suspiciously specific hardware, and one week later they were still no closer to figuring it out, it made Graham twitch, and when he twitched, he started sweating, and it compelled him to use his ‘Anna wipe’ for a different occasion. He couldn’t help but think that perhaps this was beyond a coincidence.

“Mr Streeton,” there was a tap on his shoulder.

“Can’t you see this isn’t a good time?” Graham snapped, without turning.

“I’m sorry sir, it’s just, it’s Christine Herrington on the line. She says she knows what happened to your Stretto component prototypes.”

A lightning bolt shot through Graham’s spine. “DANG AND BLAST I KNEW IT!” he yelled, much to the shock of everybody present. “I’ll take that call,” he snarled through clenched teeth.


There was only one place that Annabel Herrington could be, if she wanted to take an all-wheel-drive jury-rigged Frankenmonster car on a jaunt around Europe and not have the engine lunch itself thirty miles in. It was the only one, because at the time, there was only one four wheel rolling road dyno that corner of England. And as far as that place went, it was also the only place equipped with the computers to reprogram the ECUs for such cars. And so it was that Graham found himself screaming down the highway in his Znopresk Zap! to catch an Anna.

The garage itself had all the usual suspects, the grey-market imports, piled up all over the lot. It was a hive of young hoons, the crowd that would make fun of his receding hair, the crowd Armada was supposed to be popular with. He grumbled to himself, straightened his glasses and squared his shoulders before swinging the door open and marching up the drive.

“ANNABEL!” he bellowed. The gaggle of youth clustered around, no doubt, the Group B Evo, all gawked at the suited middle-aged man, then guffawed. “Hey is that your old man?”

“Oh for crying out loud,” Anna muttered, still untangling lines and legacy port cables from the ECU board. “Sod off Graham, this is none of your business!”

Graham planted his feet in the middle of the drive, a tower of manly wrath. “It IS my business, when you steal company hardware and compromise the integrity of our intellectual property! You’re lucky I haven’t already called the police!”

“Go ahead then!” Anna taunted, throwing the cables out of the cabin and popping the panels back in place. “The bobbies can’t touch this, not with what I’m packing now!” She flipped several switches and punched the START button. With a cough and a bark the engine came to life… with the telltale sonorous thrum of a bi-turbo V12, much to the delight of the crowd, and the chagrin of Graham.

“I can’t believe you just went and modified our one-off prototype,” Graham frothed, going a hitherto undiscovered shade of red.

“This is what the Evo should have been all along,” Anna yelled over the straight-piped din. “Besides don’t you have a whole line of econoboxes to worry about? Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a race to get to.” She slipped some earmuffs over her head, then gunned the engine again.

“ANNABEL. DON’T YOU DARE!” Graham started marching up the driveway again, hand outstretched, as if that would make a difference. But Anna dumped the clutch amid much cheering and with a chirp, the wheels bit and the modified Group B Evo leapt out of the garage directly towards Graham. Before Graham could untangle his crossed knees, Anna flicked the wheel left and then right, yanking the handbrake, throwing the Evo into a four wheel donut with Graham at the center. As he cowered under the automotive assault, he couldn’t help but notice the further desecration of Armada history: in particular the bolt-on flared fenders and wheel arches. Aghast, he wordlessly mouthed at Anna, but she stared back at him, eyes locked on his even as she spun the wheels in a cloud of smoke, swivelling around him barely a foot away with one hand on the wheel and the other hand flaunting a V for Victory.

Except the hand was the other way around.

Then she was off! Flicking the wheel back, the Evo straightened up and shot out onto the road, rocketing off into the distance and leaving Graham in the scattering dust of his impotent rage.



#276

As Walter started the race he noticed that the local police were already aware of the race, and sped off towards Athens without hesitation. Immediately he felt the benefits of the modifications he had just made: that car he entered was more eager to turn, stop and get going. This was especially apparent on the twisty bits, where he indulged his sideways fantasies at the first opportunity.

By the time he came up to the first roadblock he had found out that it could be easily bypassed, and he did just that. After the first leg, he was in the middle of the pack, which was to be expected given the Guardsman’s relative lack of power. However, he knew that he could claw back some ground later on with better fuel economy than some of his rivals. Ultimately, the first leg went off without a hitch, but Walter knew that there was a very long way to go.


#277

The Lone Wolf: GAR Part 0 and 1

James Carhard, 26. Modified '68 AEA Barracuda GT

The day before the race, James was double-checking his car. The 2 spares were good, the extra bottles of oil, coolant, and windshield washer fluid were in the car, and the extra-extra oil was waiting in the shopping bag.

James chuckled, “This car hides a couple of surprises…” he said to himself as he checked the small, electric dump valves before filling the oil spill reservoirs. Then he heard a loud, roaring exotic engine. James poked around the side of the motel to catch a friggin pickup truck roaring by!

“Fucking Hell! That bastard’s loud! It’s gotta be making some serious power to push that brick wall around.”
James then double checked to make sure he had his tool set and his ‘other’ tools with him. This race would not be won with clean racing alone, so he decided to make the start a little interesting.

Part 1

James left the lot in the wee early hours of the morning because he wanted more for the start than a simple coup of joe (if he could find one), so he payed a visit to the little corner cop he had a run-in with earlier. The cop was not in the mood for a little chat.

5:01am
James re-appeared at the meeting lot.

5:10
A man walked to the front of the lot carrying a “Get Ready” sign. The corner cop showed up. The race was on!

James floored it, starting behind everyone just to watch the chaos unfold. A red hatch thing got a flat. James pulled ahead, passing a few. Adrenaline. He was slightly aggressive in some corners, but not a scratch yet. A police helicopter flew overhead, but later backed off. This was a sign, the police were getting smarter about trying to stop over 40 cars.

Cars ahead started rapidly screeching their tires… Roadblock! But someone up front was smart enough to find a gap. James slammed his brakes, threw his car off-balance to a wild drift into the alley the lime-green car first dashed into.


#278

Otis was relaxing on the hood leaning against the windshield when Jake started barking excitedly. Looks like its about to start, but as the engines start roaring to life a lone police car came up and ordered everyone out, the sign flipped to go… so out of the square it is. The traction control struggled but managed to keep the tires from spinning too badly. The trucks huge mass of 2.1 tons means it can’t accelerate as well as many of the much lighter cars, taking 5.0 seconds to 60 so Otis and Jake will have to pass many cars before things settle out. The narrow streets were tough to navigate the beast through, but eventually things widened out and he was able to start passing. The last two before the call for the roadblock came over the scanner were the Katana and the Chupacabra.

I apologize if my story here doesn’t match up, checked google maps and street view before writing.

We would be there in minutes, the terrain on both sides looked rough, too rough to make any decent time trying to dodge off of the road and take an alternate route. There was ony going to be about 30 seconds between me and the lead cars, if the first few cars didn’t find a gap things could get interesting real quick. In the response time they had they would only be able to muster a few cars, nothing really organized. Otis had the ticket… or at least a large massive truck more than capable of pushing the cars out of the way.


#279

Pasquale was wandering around the square, taking a drag from a cigarette as he spoke with a few of the competitors; some where chatty and friendly, while others just stared at him, their hostility palpable. A fan of anything mechanical, Pasquale was absolutely fascinated by the wide array of automobiles before him; some brand new, others as old, or even older, than the 330 Turismo that sped them across Europe the day before.

13 hours from Mirano to here…incredible! The old girl has the heart of a lion still! he thought to himself as he snuffed out his cigarette on the cobblestone beneath his loafer, glancing over at Christoforo, loading up a duffel bag of tools in the trunk of the gleaming, red convertible. He mused to himself that so many of the competitors mistook him for Christoforo when they spoke; Pasquale was dressed in a fine linen suit, and had the dashing good looks to fit the profile of a billionaire grandson of an automotive legend, where as Christoforo was tall and gangly, wearing glasses and a sweater more appropriate for a bank employee, rather than someone of his esteemed position.

Pasquale climbed into the 330, taking the first stint at the wheel. Christoforo only just belted in when Pasquale turned the key, bringing the sonorous Italian V12 to life. Still warm from the trip over from the hotel, Pasquale revved the engine a few times, then turned to Christoforo with a wry smile:

Christoforo grinned as the mirror departed the car, but his good feeling was short lived, as he spotted a local poliziotto striding angrily to the front of the line from behind; “Pasquale, we better get ready to go…I don’t like this one bit!” he said quietly as the officer strode past their car.

“One step ahead of you, Christopez!” Pasquale replied as he slotted the gear lever into the first gate. Up ahead, the helmeted man at the front of the grid argued with the policeman, suddenly flipping the sign from “10 MINUTES” to “GO!”

Andare avanti, Zocca! We’re gonna get rolled!” Christoforo shouted. Pasquale revved the V12 hard and dropped the clutch, spinning the wheels and sliding around the other competitors who were maybe a little too slow reacting to the premature signal, the road ahead a blur of exhaust and tire smoke as the field roared off ahead of them. The 330 played its part well, running strong and hard, V12 snarling loudly through its six carburetors, giving a few of the much newer cars in the field a real surprise with its speed and road holding ability. “We need to hit the highway, get some distance from here - take the bridge!” Pasquale flicked the car and buried the accelerator pedal, throwing the car sideways around the corner, the 330 making a lurid drift and ahead onto the wider main road leading out of town.

Looking ahead they saw a couple of the other competitors hit the barrier, leaving behind a trail of sparks and paint on the guardrail. For now, they were home free, but both teammates knew that this might only be the start of their trouble, as the flew up the on-ramp and onto the motorway, the old car accelerating up well past the speed of traffic, struggling to keep up with the fastest runners, but also critically, not being the slowest either…


#280

Team Angus - Arrival and Chapter One

Team Angus

Having arrived in Malaga, Spain, via tramp steamer, Ben and I were both excited to unload the Bushranger, get their gear loaded up and scope out the competition for the big race. Ben slipped into the drivers seat, while I rode shotgun, started up the Bushranger with a loud growl from the quad exhausts and then we spent the entire day before the race cruising the streets, getting a feel for the local police and testing the camera set-up to ensure it’d handle the upcoming shenanigans.

During the course of the day, Ben informed me of a painful realisation he’d come to; the streets here are small and blind! This would mean that, in order to corner swiftly, the handbrake would be the only way to corner this huge slab of Aussie iron with any speed… I’m not going to like that, one bit!

Meanwhile, as I’m an avid car spotter, I too came to a realisation; the Bushranger was out of it’s depth against the world class competition in the race. The Bushranger was fast, yeah, but only in a straight line and it’s bulk meant that fuel would be a major cost on this trip. Sighing inwardly, I chose to quietly accept that my chances of winning the five million dollars were looking grimmer by the hour.

After a comfortable sleep in a quiet B & B, Ben and I got up at 4AM, headed to the start line, parked up and waited for the race to start. At a bit past 5AM the race start guy finally arrived, with a prepare to race sign, and motioned to the drivers to get ready. Ben and I strapped ourselves in place, the five point harnesses helping still the sudden rush of adrenaline, when a police car arrived! What?!?! How did they find out???

The man with the sign, on seeing the cop, panicked and gave the go signal! Ben, having already started the Bushranger, slammed the transmission into first, dumped the clutch and roared off, leaving twin black lines and a cloud of tyre smoke in our wake. Ben missed the cop car by inches, focused only on jockeying for position in the tight streets and we raced door to door with our fellow racers, trying to gain a competitive advantage.

Every twist and turn was a nightmare, the Bushranger loomed like thunderclouds in the narrow streets and Ben was driving like a champion, nailing every turn with a dab of throttle and and little sprinkle of handbrake, kicking the Bushranger sideways just enough to enter the next street at the correct angle. We may not have any chance at winning but the footage we’re getting is golden!

As we cross a bridge, the road widens which allows the truly fast cars to power on ahead which, while demoralising to an extent, allows the big Bushranger room to breathe and we roar on towards Casabermeja. I then spot the helicopter, undoubtedly a police issue Aerospatiale AS350 Ecureuil, and my heart sank; the cops would be waiting for us with a roadblock! I let Ben know about the potential threat and he nods his assent as he prepares himself mentally for more action.

As expected, there was a police roadblock waiting for us in Casabermeja. The race leader in the Bonham noticed in time and ducked down a side street, with the rest of us in hot pursuit!

TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter 1 of the GAR


#281

Damn you! I was going to have Luigi do the exact same thing!