APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 7 July, 1999


Dangerous Waters

Buji Kern

"Greetings, and welcome to the 1934 Ashanti 200. I'm Daren Kent, and this is my co-host, Jerry Tomas. It is a beautiful day on the water today, and it's shaping up to be a great race."

"That's right Daren, this field is packed with talented drivers. Right now you can see several of them warming up their boats. That's Miller Kevin in the blue and orange boat right there. Miller has had one heck of a tough year, crashing twice and is currently struggling to stay one of the top five drivers on the circuit. And of course the Ashanti 200 is Miller's nemesis; he's never won it in his 12 cycles of racing.."

"We've got plenty to look forward here, so don't go away. And now a message from our sponsor, Cascade. Tally ho, Cascade!"

Miller Kevin gripped the steering wheel of his sleek boat as he gradually accelerated to 200 kilometers per hour. The boat skipped across the surface of the water, almost flying through the air.

Kevin threw the boat into a hard left turn. The craft slid through the turn and gracefully accelerated out of it. Another boat overtook him, its frothing wake spraying Kevin's craft with water. Suddenly, the turbine stuttered and stopped. The boat lost speed quickly and came to a dead stop.

He pounded the steering wheel, and tried to restart the engine. Nothing happened. He pressed the transmit button on his radio and called his pit crew.

"What the hell just happened?"

In the pits, Jay Graeme was monitoring the boats systems on a terminal. He answered Kevin's call.

"It looks like the turbine sucked some water in, Kevin. I'm not sure why, it should be sealed."

Kevin was frustrated. There had been problems with the boat all day, and the race was going to start soon.

"Well, stop staring at naked girls and tow me in. Then fix the damn thing."

A motorboat sped out and towed Miller and his boat back into the pit, which was actually a small dock on the shore of the lake. A mechanic, Denver Mase, was waiting for the boat. "Hi Kevin. I'm going to try to rework the cowling here, on the sides, so water can't get in... it's really a design flaw more than anything else."

"Well great," replied Kevin, "I'll complain to the manufacturer. Do you think they could get me a new boat in, oh, three hours?"

"I'll fix it, I'll fix it. Jeez." Mase started pulling tools out his kit.

"Oh, I sound like an ass, don't I. Sorry." Mase was already prying body panels off of the boat, so Kevin moved on. He found a seat in his pit HQ and grabbed a drink. Staring out the window, he noticed an intensely beautiful and entirely naked woman striding by, a cup of Cascade in one hand and a race program in the other. Someone in the room whistled, and Kevin looked over.

It was Don Moore, another member of the crew. Kevin hadn't noticed him before. "You never get tired of this city, do you Kevin?"

Kevin took a swig of his drink. "I don't get tired of the local mode of dress, so to speak. I do get tired of losing this race. It's like I'm jinxed, or something."

Don peeled his eyes off of another local. "Well, if it means anything to you, I think our chances are pretty good. I think Mase and the rest of the boys will get the boat running good. The winds aren't bad today and you've beaten all the good drivers that are in the race-"

"Except for Morton," Kevin interrupted.

"-Except for Morton, but you can beat him, too. Just focus. And besides..."

Don continued, but Kevin wasn't listening. He was already following his advice.

"And for those of you who are just tuning in for crowd shots of Ashantites, I regret to inform you that this broadcast has been censored for nudity to permit viewing in all locations."

"That's right Daren, and you can always catch some nudity on our sister channel, Channel 999, featuring Terra Nova's rising adult-film stars. Not available in the North. Okay Jerry, it looks like the race is about to start."

Kevin finished buckling his safety harness. The cockpit of the boat was so small, a member of the pit crew had to pass Kevin his steering wheel after he was inside the boat. Kevin attached the steering wheel.

The previous test run had been good, and it seemed that Mase finally had all the bugs out of the boat.

"Kevin, I just finished running diagnostic checks and everything is looking good. Go get 'em." Mase said, and Kevin replied with a thumbs-up. Then they closed the canopy.

The Ashanti 200 has a running start, so Kevin moved into his assigned position, number five, and followed the pace boat around the course with the other twelve boats. After one lap, the pace boat peeled off and on a signal, all the race boats accelerated. Huge sprays of white water washed over Kevin's boat as he fought for position. Expertly weaving through the pack, he powered out of the first turn in second place.

As he accelerated past 170 kilometers per hour, Kevin became aware of a stronger crosswind buffeting his boat. Reducing his speed slightly, he carefully countered the gusts. A strong enough wind catching an unprepared pilot can easily flip a boat, which at speeds close to 200 kilometers per hour is usually fatal.

As he flew down the straightaway he noticed a black and red boat moving up fast on his left. It was Tev Morton, and he was at full throttle, disregarding the erratic wind. Kevin let him pass and Morton quickly took first place.

"Well, with one lap down and 99 to go, it looks like Tev Morton in first place, Jasun Coby in second, and Miller Kevin in third. We've got lot of exciting racing left, don't go away."

"That's right Jerry, and I've noticed that the wind gusts on Lake Esperance have been fairly mild so far, and haven't really caused much difficulty for the pilots."

"Yeah, and Tev Morton's total lack of fear has allowed him to go all out at over 200 kilometers per hour, and assertively take the lead in this race."

Below the announcer's booth, on the lake, a sudden and violent gust of wind struck the pack of boats, sending one skittering off the course, and nearly causing two other boats to collide with each other.

"And that shows what I know, Jerry! That was a real near miss, and by the time Yoshimoto in the green boat got back on the course, the pack was long gone. He's going to be taking up the rear for the rest of this race, that's for sure."

Kevin breathed deeply and gripped the steering wheel tightly. He had just narrowly avoided an out of control boat, avoided losing control himself, and somehow remained in third. He briefly congratulated himself, and then he got back to business. The boat was running low on fuel, so he pulled in for a pit stop.

As he pulled the boat up to the dock, the crew swarmed around it, pumping it full of what was basically jet fuel, refilling the coolant and checking the hull for damage. After they finished, Mase gave Kevin the thumbs up and Kevin pulled away.

30 laps later he was still doing fine. He was currently occupying second place, and trying to keep a pace for a burst of speed at the finish. The wind still wasn't too bad, although two more boats had been blown off course and limped back to the dock with fractured hulls.

Suddenly a gale-force gust slammed into Kevin's boat. As it yawed to the left, he slammed the controls to the right and fought to avoid sliding across the lane and colliding with the third place boat. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a boat flip and land almost on top of him. He scraped by it and hurtled into a turn, slowing down to turn and fight the wind. Glancing in his rear-view mirror he spotted the crashing boat colliding with another craft, the whole twisted mess skipping across the water. A black flag icon blinked on his heads-up display, signaling a lap at slow speed while a crew rescued survivors and cleared the wreckage out of the track.

Kevin thanked Mamoud for his survival and contemplated what a brutal sport he participated in. No different than some Eastern bloodsport, he thought. Most of the people watching this today were hoping for a disaster like this. And they got what they wanted.

Mase's voice came over Kevin's radio.

"This is lap 90, man. Only 20 kilometers to go. You're in second, so all you need to do is pass Morton and hold the lead. You can do it."

"Okay, I'll make my move as soon as it looks good."

Kevin slid in directly behind Morton's boat, drafting in his wake. As they exited a turn, Morton stepped on the gas, pushing his boat faster and faster.

"Damn, Mase, there's no way I'm going to go that fast. Going 220 with gusts like this is suicide."

Almost as if on cue, wind whipped Kevin's boat. It slid out, but Kevin recovered only to see Morton spin 180 degrees, his boat's pointed bow aimed like a dagger at Kevin's boat. He twisted the controls away from Morton's boat, but couldn't avoid hitting it. Kevin's boat sliced off a hunk of Morton's left wing like a knife, severely damaging the bodywork of Kevin's craft. The boat reacted by immediately losing control, but Kevin barely managed to hang on. Damage warnings flashed on his display, and his power output dropped slightly. The radio antenna was destroyed, too, so he couldn't hear whatever helpful advice Mase was offering at the time.

Kevin slid through Turn Four and crossed the starting line for lap 91 in first place. Steering the craft with several important aerodynamic fins mangled and gone was barely possible, and Kevin struggled to keep it pointed in the right direction.

Nine laps later and he had hung on to first until the final lap. A coolant leak had sprung, and messages warned him that the very important liquid that kept his engine from melting was currently polluting Lake Esperance. He glanced at the rising engine temperature, and decided he could manage a last-lap burst of speed without burning out the turbine. It would probably need a total rebuild later, of course, but with a 100,000-dinar prize he could handle that.

Another boat was creeping up on the left as they approached Turn One. Kevin expertly picked out the best line, cutting off the would-be passer as he drifted through the turn.

He floored the accelerator in the straightaway, the engine briefly lagging and then responding with a burst of power. Kevin struggled to maintain control as the speedometer reached 190 kilometers per hour, but he hung on. Almost there, he thought to himself.

He continued to hold the lead through Turn Two, and was halfway to the finish line when another warning light flashed in the cockpit. It was the turbine-overheating signal, and the boat was going to automatically shut off the turbine in 10 seconds. Kevin reached down for the jury-rigged override switch that he had Mase install, and flipped it. The warning stopped beeping and Kevin continued to push the boat past its limits.

Again, he somehow held off the other racers and went through the final two turns without trouble. He could see the finish line and was already imagining what he would do with the money when he forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand. He didn't move the boat's steering, only slid the throttle as far forward as it would go and prayed that the turbine wouldn't melt before he finished.

Kevin thought he saw something in the water, but it was too late. A chunk of wreckage from a previous crash was floating in the water, and it Kevin's boat slammed into it at 200 kilometers per hour. It tore a gash down the entire side of the hull, and every possible warning light and message came on in the cockpit at once. Kevin tried to keep it under control but the steering linkage was destroyed, the wheel turning slackly in his hands but doing nothing. The only thing he could do was hold on.

The boat turned 90 degrees and started skipping across the water. Kevin watched as the boat that was following him closely hit the same object and flipped off of the course. The remaining boats diverged rapidly to avoid the object, as Kevin's boat found itself pointing the right way again and still going extremely fast. In fact, it was going extremely fast over the finish line, followed closely by the rest of the pack.

After Kevin realized he had won the race, he killed the engine and coasted to a stop. A small boat with Mase and some other members of the crew came out and found him sitting in the cockpit with the canopy open, still gripping the wheel tightly.

"Holy shit, Kevin, we won the race! That was unbelievable, are you okay? Kevin? Kevin?"

"Yeah, I'm okay."

"Kevin, I need to let go of the steering wheel so we can pull you out. Mamoud, what have you done to my boat..."

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 7 July, 1999