Sorry, I’m running a bit behind. I’m going to start from:
Stroppy McHorseguy, lead design of Gryphon Gear, stepped outside his glass-partitioned office, joints cracking as he stretched his shoulders. The view may be good, but there was something about the open space of the balcony overlooking the rest of the R&D and prototype warehouse that restored in him that extra pep, that bit of inspiration that allowed him to nut out those really troublesome details. Like how to shape the headlights so that they conformed to ADR 46/00 but were still consistent with the design language of an apocalyptic hypercar, not to mention slotted in just so they didn’t interrupt the airflow thr- just thinking about it more was giving him a headache. Time to look at the bigger picture, and that meant hunching over the railing, arms folded, with a vacant stare plastered over his face.
Not five seconds later, a certain Kai Kristensen, senior (he would like to think sole) test driver and ace (and actually sole factory) race driver, slouched next to him. He was putting on such nonchalant airs that Strop was convinced that he was thinking about something very specific, but of course, when it came to very specific things that Kai felt strongly about, talking to him about it was about as easy as talking to a girl who was mad at you but required you to read their mind as to why otherwise it didn’t count, or so Strop imagined. Not that Strop actually did have this problem with his girlfriend, which, in this case, merely meant that he wasn’t Kai-trained. Or was he?
“'sup Crash.” Strop opened with something safe and casual.
“Mmmm.” This was about expected.
“Something on your mind?”
“Mmmm.” Kai’s bottom lip pouted out an extra few millimeters, the sure tell, but naturally, no more sounds were forthcoming. Time to start the song and dance.
“Wanna talk about it?”
“It’s fine.” On cue, the shoulders hunched a little more. But also on cue, there was a little crack in the corner of his mouth and a twinkle in the corner of his eye. Strop did his best to keep his head forward, which was quite easy, actually, because his eyes being set where they were, he could easily look in all directions wherever his head was pointed.
“No seriously, we’ve been over this before, it’s no good if you don’t talk about what’s on your mind.”
“Mmm, I’m fine.”
There was silence for precisely three seconds. Then ninja fast (or so Strop liked to think), he lunged for Kai, who yelped and pulled back, leaving his legs wide open. Two seconds later, Strop was dangling Kai by the ankles over the railing.
“Come on, spit it out son, or I’ll shake it outta you!”
“Okay okay!” Kai yelled, drawing the stares of the crew machining parts for the new crash mule. He held his hands up, palms open. "I’ll tell! But you better pull your pants up first, you’re flashing the entire floor.
Strop looked down. Indeed, as everybody could clearly appreciate, his pants had fallen down, which was impossible since his pants were definitely buttoned up, except for the fact that they weren’t. What. By reflex, he started to bend over to pick them up-
“WAIT WAIT WAIT pull me back up first you dickhead or you’ll kill our only driver!” Now quite flustered, Strop swore a blue streak as he hauled Kai over and dumped him unceremoniously on the metal grating of the balcony, hopping clumsily out of view while pulling his pants up. After taking three times as long as he normally would while trying to shut out the howls of laughter coming from the floor below, he finally straightened up and fixed Kai with a death stare, but Kai was too busy playing with his phone to notice. Wait, was that his phone, or his phone.
“Aaaaaaaand send!” Kai handed Strop’s phone back to him. Strop looked at the screen, to find that it had just finished sending his girlfriend, E, a photo of his tighty whities clad butt with his pants round his ankle.
“Noooooooooo!” Strop clumped forward, ready to exact painful retribution of Kai, but Kai jumped and scampered vertially up the water pipe until he was perched on the air duct a good ten feet above. Strop was quite sure he could do it too, only if he did, the whole thing would probably collapse and kill everybody. “Get back here you asshole!” he snapped, knowing full well that it was futile. Kai laughed at him.
“You know, I was gonna tell you anyway. Next time maybe you should just ask.”
“You want to WHAT?” Strop doubletaked halfway through a mouthful of salad, spraying bits of half chewed lettuce on the table and over Kai.
Kai was too excited to even pay attention to the lettuce now on his hoodie. “I want to buy Toothless back!”
“But… but why!?”
“Because!” Kai grinned. “He’s not done yet, he’s still got one more ride in him, and until then I don’t think he’s going to rest!”
“Let me get this right.” Strop finished chewing, swallowed, took a breath, then stared at Kai. “You want to buy Toothless back. Then take it for a road trip. From which Toothless will certainly not return. And we’ll be riding in it.”
Kai nodded so vigorously his head left an afterimage.
“I-” Strop then thought about his next words, which would have been: “I think this is a dumb idea and you’re nuts.” But they knew that already, and he was a bit wary of any further redundancies leaving gaps for Kai to play tricks on him. He figured maybe it’d be easier to skip all the preamble and just agree to go. “Ok seriously for the record this is a dumb idea and you’re nuts but it’s not like me not going is going to make it any better, besides, if you die, Hannah will kill the rest of us.”
“Yay!” Kai flailed and then offered his fist. “Fistbump.” Strop rolled his eyes and offered his own fist. “Now let’s go find Toothless! Didn’t we sell him to that vegan hippie guy?”
Kai’s memory was correct. More precisely, they had sold Toothless for the princely sum of 500 bucks to the vegan hippie guy who had just then returned from Nepal, where he had spent his semester break alpaca herding. Something about broadening one’s horizons through experiences. And Free Tibet. And so the next day, they found themselves sitting in a Lentil As Anything outlet, with Strop eyeing the lentil curry while they kept watch for a tall lanky Caucasian male with brown dreads and a Bob Marley beanie and Che Guevara T-shirt, which was to say, about 50% of the clientele. But that was precisely the kind of guy who wouldn’t care what the car was like if it ran, and it was cheap. Which was just as well, since Toothless had been riced beyond all recognition, and had been given the Kai-approved Hoon-Toon, which was precisely the reason that GG decided he needed to get rid of it and replace it with that lovely unicorn piece, the Cisalpina Scattante. Which was why Strop was a bit surprised that the guy was willing to sell the car back, when he got it for so cheap.
“Umm, hi, excuse me.” A tall lanky caucasian guy with dreads and a Bob Marley hat and Che Guevara T-shirt slid into the seat opposite Strop and Kai. “Strop and Kai? I’m Devin, you sold me the… car.”
“Namaste,” Strop smirked. “Are you actually interested in selling us the car back?”
“Well, actually, yes, yes I am.” Devin fidgeted, clearly uncomfortable. “Well, it’s not like I actually want to sell the car, I mean, it’s all I got now but…”
“Oh no, what happened to my baby?” Kai leaned over the table, almost mashing his face into Devin’s stubbly one. “Did you crash? Did the hose burst? Is there rust? CV joint? IS HE OK???” Strop had to pull him back into his seat. “Sorry, Devin. Go on.”
“No, no, the car runs… fine. I was actually going to keep it and restore it a bit and convert to biofuel and give it a fresh coat of paint.” Strop immediately clamped his hand on Kai’s mouth, muffling out his enraged would-be screams of DON’T YOU DARE. “But?”
“But, you know the whole Centrelink robodebt thing?”
“Oh yeah, that.” Only the latest, biggest debacle in the Government’s ongoing War Against Poor And Young People, where about fifty thousand people were falsely accused of ripping off taxpayers via an automated letter. Strop could see where this was going now.
“Yeah, when I got back from Nepal I got this letter saying I owed them like two grand and I was shitting myself man, they said they overpaid my Newstart and they wanted it back or they were gonna send people over man. I’m freaking out! I don’t have two grand! And so I tried calling them but of course they wouldn’t answer and like, I dunno what I’m gonna do, all my housemates got the same letter too, we’re so broke.” Devin clasped his hands together. “Sorry man, I know it’s not, like, your problem, but, that money would be a lifesaver right now.”
And so it was that Toothless once again changed hands for precisely the same sum, five hundred bucks. It wouldn’t have gone for a cent more, not with its resplendent hand-painted flame decals, lidded green tinted headlights (of questionable road legality), completely stupid splitter and massive touring car wing, and of course, those hideous neon pink aftermarket rims, which had nothing to do with the Toothless aesthetic, which, apparently, was kind of the point according to Kai.
“Ahhh, feel the powah!” Kai quipped ironically, as he wove his way through the streets of inner-city Melbourne. Literally wove, because apparently he wasn’t paying any attention to the road, traffic, or pedestrians, much to the horror of Strop.
“Kai, you’re on the wrong side of the road OH MY GOD NOW WE’RE MOUNTING THE KERB and oh Jesus fucking Christ you almost ran that hipster over was that intentional keep in mind the last guy who went off his nut and ran people over in the city got shot and that WAS ONLY FOUR MONTHS AGO hoooooly shit seriously fucking stop it.”
drawn both by my partner in crime, Cen, and myself
As luck would have it, they managed to get back to the garage with no further incident, no police actually spotted them, and hopefully, by the time anybody would think to submit dashcam footage to the cops, the car would be very far away. And possibly defunct. It was time for the trip of Toothless’ lifetime.
“Okay dear, I’ll be back in four days!” Strop kissed E as he walked out the door.
“Be safe and look after Kai!” E waved him off. “And love you.”
“Love you too!” Err, yes. Safe. Look after Kai. Strop checked his suitcase one more time, loaded with four days worth of clothes (just in case), including his thermal fleece (again just in case), his trusty First Aid kit, some belts and ties, an extra power supply for his phone and two USB cables, and a few packets of instant food. Should be enough, hopefully. ID and passport, check. Papers and permits, check. Now he could only hope Kai was suitably prepared (which he very much doubted, but one can dream). Now, strategically, he would call the Taxi and ride to Kai’s place, because there was no fucking way he was showing E the car they planned to do this trip in.
Stepping out of the taxi, Strop immediately saw some reason for optimism: Kai’s girlfriend (fiancée? since Kai had sort-of-joking-not-joking proposed when they got back together and they still weren’t sure), Bianca, was just getting out of Toothless. She must be between expeditions.
“Hey, Bianca, good to see you again!” Strop said, for once without any trace of sarcasm or irony whatsoever.
“And dat’s how we roll, BIATCH!” Bianca drawled, pointing finger guns at Strop, whose face promptly fell as he realised she had been infected by the Kai virus. “Eh, sorry, Strop.” She corrected, resuming her normal Brit lilt. “It’s the car. Every time I ride in it, I feel like a gangster, and not the good kind.”
“Hey!” Kai pouted.
“You know full well that the only reason I’m approving of this trip is because I know it’s going to be the last time I ever see this car!” Bianca glared daggers at Kai. Then once again her expressioned softened as she kissed Kai on the cheek. “Now you drive safe, okay?”
“I will!” Kai nodded, again, very vigorously.
“Pfft. Yeah, right,” Strop snorted, before immediately regretting it as Bianca turned the dagger stare onto him. “You better be right.”
With that, Kai lugged the toolkit into the car, followed by a duffel bag that no doubt Bianca had insisted he bring along. Systems check, fuel check, kick the tyres check. The internals were 250,000km old and ratty and god knows what the bolt-on turbo had done to it, but as far as they were concerned, it was in a condition to at least start. Where it went from there, well, that was for them to hang on and find out.
ok I’ll come back and do Day 0 tomorrow, plus rehash all the important particulars. Things will be much briefer from here!