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Jetamors ([personal profile] jetamors) wrote2010-11-08 11:17 pm
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Nanowrimo Day 8

Broke 15k! \o/ I kind of fell into a logic snarl with who owes money to who that I'll have to fix in editing. Basically at this point, Tatiana and Kid owe money to both the mechanics and the Bastard, uh, somehow. Maybe escrows are involved, I dunno.

Outside, the two managed to hail a mechanic and explain the problem, but she didn't give them an easy solution.

"I guess we could put them in by hand? A lot of system coordinates are hard to find, though. We can't take them from these ships; none of the others gave us access to their computers. I guess maybe we could order a set, but they would be a long time coming in, and--well, the cost would be pretty high."

"Thanks," Tatiana said, discouraged. "We'll take that into account."

"So what are we going to do?" Kid asked her as they walked uphill to the closest train station.

Tatiana grabbed her head in frustration. "Aargh, I don't know! I don't know anything about any of this! We'll figure it out after you win the Races, okay?"

Kid nodded. "Okay."

The next night, they went to the Bastard's mansion. It was mostly unchanged from before, though the gardens in the front courtyard were slightly different. As they walked up the pathway to the house, the sun shone behind them, though the gate. At twilight it was momentarily visible from behind the cloud cover, and in a location this high it wasn't blocked by other mountains. Tatiana and Kid both turned instinctively to watch it as it went down. There were seldom few opportunities on Garvey to observe the sun.

"You're late!" the Bastard said when they came inside. "They said you were at the gate ten minutes ago! Where were you?"

"Watching the sunset," Kid said carefully. The Bastard showed none of the usual signs of nervousness, but there was still some undefinable jumpiness in her demeanor.

"Look, you're still working for me. When I call you, you come, sunset or not!"

"Fine, fine," Tatiana said. "We're here now. What did you want to talk to us about?"

The Bastard, who had been pacing the room, stopped at that, and went to sit down behind her desk. "Yes, that. Well, you see, after your poor showing in the Preliminaries, I decided my betting money was best spent elsewhere. I really, really didn't expect you to get this far."

Tatiana could practically feel the blood draining from her face. "You didn't. You wouldn't."

"I'm afraid so," the Bastard said. She rested her arms on her desk and leaned forward. "I need you to throw this race."

"Who'd you put the money on? Lastname?"

"On Amethyst, actually," she said. "I knew there might be a problem when you won against her in the Thirty-Two, but she's managed to hang on all the way to the Final Race. And now, I need her to win."

Kid looked as if he had been struck. "Tina. How could you ask me to--"

"Look, I wouldn't ask for this if it wasn't important! I've got a lot of money riding on this, a lot. And a lot of people are watching me."

"Yeah? Well, that's not our problem! C'mon, Kid," Tatiana said, and turned toward the exit.

The Bastard let them get all the way to the door before she spoke. "Well, that's the thing. It is your problem."

Tatiana turned, against her better judgment. "What are you talking about? I've been making my own bets; once we get the prize money, we'll have enough to pay you back and pay off our ship."

"Are you forgetting something? I'm the one who sent you to those mechanics. We own them. If I tell them to keep the ship, then they'll keep it, no questions asked. If you cooperate with me, then you'll get it back right away. Sure, you'll have to run a few errands to make up the difference, but you'll be able to fly. And isn't that what you really want?"

Tatiana's fists clenched at her sides. She bowed her head, so no one else in the room could read her expression.

And then she looked up, glaring at the Bastard. "Fine, then. We'll do it your way."

"Tatiana," Kid murmured, shocked, but Tatiana was already heading out the door.

"Come on, Kid," she said impatiently.

And with a last look at the Bastard, who was smirking triumphantly, he followed.

"Hey, Tatiana," he whispered, as they threaded their way back through the mansion. "Do you really want me to--"

"Yeah," she said, sounding defeated. "It's the only thing we can do."

It was the last thing Kid expected to hear. In a distressed daze, he followed Tatiana out of the mansion and through the gate. It wasn't until they had almost reached her house that he was able to ask again.

"Is--is this really what we're going to do?"

Tatiana's eyes widened. "Come on, get inside. Yes, in my house!"

As soon as she'd shut the door behind him, she was talking. "Of course that's not what we're going to do! Look, I've been crunching the numbers all the way home. The first place plus rookie prize will pay for the ship. For the rest of the money we owe, maybe she's betting against us, but I'm betting for us! If we can pull this thing off, then yeah, we'll pay her back--with her own money that she lost! It's a perfect plan, right?"

"If I win."

"Look, if something else happens, then we're no worse off: the Bastard will think we meant to end up that way. But you're not going to lose. C'mon, who do you think you are?"

"Yeah," Kid said. "I guess you're right.

The day of the Final Race was a bright one, with the cloud cover thinner than usual. As promised, Tatiana had a seat in the Bastard's box: a great view, certainly, but also a muted threat. She made sure to act hopeless; there could be no sign ahead of time that this was what they were planning. The Bastard herself had regained her usual calm demeanor, and was gracious in victory.

"And heeere are your finalists!" the announcer shouted. "From the space station Little, Amethyst in the purple craft! From the planet McLeod, Firstname Lastname in the blue skiff! From our very own planet of Garvey, Christopher Jenkins in the orange skiff! And also from Garvey, Kidlat Malaqui in the yellow!"

The roar from the crowd might have been deafening. But in the cool, antiseptic atmosphere of the Bastard's box, there was not even a hint of vibration to suggest that a million people were right below them, enjoying the Final Race in person. The Bastard herself clapped genially; her security staff clapped as well, and stopped when she did. Tatiana suppressed a shudder.

"Here they are, at the starting mark! Five seconds! Four! Three! Two! One! Goooooooo!"

The racers shot across the line, and the Race began.

Kid was having a tough time. He had faced all of these competitors before; it meant that he knew how they raced, but they knew how he raced, too. He couldn't get away with his usual bag of tricks.

He spent the first lap concentrating on the track. This was the Final Race, and so of course its layout was the most difficult. Three tunnels, two canyons. At least four hairpin turns at a hundred and eighty degrees. There were two sections across water; one was fairly simple, but in the other, the racers had to loop far out across the water to go through a hoop, nearly half a mile out. Skiffs didn't have any sort of navigation system; an unwary racer could easily get lost, and even a very good racer might find it difficult to take the straightest path.

At the end of the first lap, Kid was in third place, with Chris ahead of him in second and Amethyst up in first. It wasn't a good position to be in.

The second lap went a little better. He took advantage of a tricky passageway he remembered to creep right up onto the tail of Chris, who panicked and nearly turned himself over trying to keep his position. That wobble was his failure; Kid was able to sail right past and into second place. As he went into the third lap, only Amethyst was ahead of him, and he was closing in on her fast.

Up in the box, the Bastard, who had been quite happy during the first lap, started to look perturbed during the second.

"Why is he passing Jenkins? He was just fine where he was!"

"Um, you didn't say what place you wanted us to end in," Tatiana said carefully. "We thought second place might be better. The earnings, and all."

"I suppose I'll allow it," the Bastard said. "But next time, I want you to ask me when you need clarification. There's nothing I hate more in my subordinates than initiation."

"We'll do better next time," Tatiana promised. She kept her face smooth and unruffled, but in her lap, her fists clenched.

Out on the racetrack, Kid was still right behind Amethyst, but not gaining. They were on the ocean section, where both craft were skimming close to the water until they reached the hoop to gain speed. After two laps, they both knew the most direct path; going off of it, or trying to ride higher, would only bleed speed and momentum. Kid kept his body steady, and waited for the opportune moment.

It wasn't that Amethyst made a mistake, exactly. She was a very good racer, who was having the race of her life up to that point, and she wasn't the sort who would screw it up. More than anything else, it was a matter of luck: a wave, slightly higher than the others, her upward motion to avoid it just a little too high.

Kid saw his chance, then. He moved ahead, lifting only as much as he needed to to clear the wave--he could feel it lap the very bottom of the skiff--and shot ahead, into the small space beneath Amethyst and above the water.

From there, there was nothing Amethyst could do. If she tried to go back down, she risked sinking her own craft in the ensuing struggle; if she stayed up, she couldn't maintain the same speed. From his position, he couldn't see her facial expression, but she was already drifting backward by the time she apparently made up her mind and dropped down right behind him.

Kid was in first, now; but the Race was not yet over. Amethyst stayed right on his tail, even as he soared up to go through the huge hoop. If he made even a single mistake, he knew it would be his last.