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Approximately 90 km southeast of Cairo, Egypt

Tuesday March 23, 2021 (11:36 AM local time)


The sun was approaching its zenith over the flat, rocky landscape of the Western Egyptian Desert. The mid-day sun had warmed the air until it was now in the low 90s.


Suddenly, the quite calm of the rocky desert was broken as a blue and white Mini Cooper sped across the terrain, kicking up a trail of dust and sand behind it as it went. The Danger International logo (consisting of a globe with the letters DI across it) was prominently displayed on the hood and doors of the Mini. Lulu Beaumont was seated in the passenger seat of the Mini, dressed in a blue and white jumpsuit with a DI logo on the upper left side. A matching helmet with built-in headset competed the redheaded teenager’s outfit as part of the Danger International rally team that had been organized by her friend Veronica, who was seated in the driver’s seat, similarly dressed.


A small IPad was in a holder affixed to the dashboard in front of Lulu, a satellite map with various GPS points up to track the Minis’ course as it began the first leg of the 2021 Dakar Rally. Lulu and Veronica had arrived in Cairo three days ago aboard a Danger International private jet, along with their friends Micah Roebuck, Davyd Palahniuk and Elizabeth Grey, to prepare for the start of the rally. Although there had been a lot of work that needed to be done, the group had managed to find time for a bit of sightseeing, in particular the Giza Necropolis with its massive pyramids, Great Sphinx and other ancient wonders.


"Everything is seems to be working perfectly so far Micah." Veronica said into her headset. "I am up to 192 kmph without any issue but will probably easy back a bit until the way stop."


Approximately 128 km to the southwest/south


Micah was riding in the Kamaz support truck that was similarly painted blue and white with the DI logo on its sides. Elizabeth was currently behind the wheel of the massive truck, with Davyd in the cab as well. The trio had set out about an hour ago along with other heavy trucks that made up the T3 and T4 class vehicles in the rally. In addition to running this first leg of the rally in for those vehicle classes, the support trucks left earlier in order to reach the midway mandatory stop point of the first leg before the rally cars to be set up for a pit stop. Normally this would include refueling of the vehicles, but in the case of the modified DI vehicles, it would involve Micah helping to swap out the power cells for freshly charged ones.


Elizabeth had gotten the truck up to a cruising speed of just under 80 mph and been holding steady at that speed as they crossed the mostly flat, rocky terrain. The desert around them was empty save for another support truck a few miles ahead of them, mainly visible by the dust trail left behind in its wake. The route had turned due south over half an hour ago, and the trio still had just under an hour until they reached the waypoint.

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Micah squinted behind his sunglasses as he scrolled through the stats on his laptop. The truck had one of those mounting arms that meant he wasn't constantly struggling to keep the laptop from falling to the floorboard. It let him concentrate on his part of the job.


"The telemetry I'm getting is in the green but it's edging slightly to the yellow. I'm going to have to recalibrate the system when you make the stop. I think the load-balancing's a bit off, and every time to push it up to over 180 kph and then drop back down, it takes it slightly more out of whack. We're at about 1.005% imbalance right now, so it's not a real issue. Yet. Try to avoid spiking your speed past 180 too often; either get up there and stay up there or don't go that fast. I'm working on updating the load-balancing algorithm now. Better news is that we're doing better than expected on battery degradation. We won't have to retire that set of cells for at least another couple of rounds of travel, and maybe not for the rest of the race.

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Davyd was very much a city boy.  He'd been born in Freedom, lived there his entire life.  His father never sped, and his mother never sped while he was in the car.  He'd had his driver's license for a little over a year, but had only ever driven in the city, and he'd never gone over the posted speed limit.  So riding at just under 80mph with Elizabeth was the fastest he'd ever gone.


We're okay we're okay we're doing fine we're supposed to be moving this fast this is normal this happens all the time my organs are not going to fly out of my body


He tried focusing on the GPS, gripping the sides with both hands and leaning in to let the screen fill as much of his field of vision as possible.  "Looks like we're about 60 miles from the next waypoint, we should be there in... oh," he swiveled his head slightly, caught a glimpse of the passing terrain, and quickly turned back to the monitor.  "Ab-bout... about 45 minutes.  Yeah, 45 minutes.  And Veronica and Lulu should be here in... let's see..."  He tore his grip and gaze from the GPS to look at the calculator function on his phone, "okay, they'll be here in about 90 minutes, so we'll have about 45 minutes to get set up.  That should be enough time, yeah?"

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"Relax, Davyd! Enjoy the ride!"


Elizabeth grinned at him from under a baseball cap (which she'd pulled from literal nowhere) and a pair of mirrored sunglasses that were probably real, in that she'd pulled them out of her bag and not the aether, and which were slightly too large for her face. This was probably a feature rather than a problem.


She'd been all smiles since they'd set out, cheerfully putting practice into practice by gunning it as fast as was safe - no faster, but very definitely no slower and she'd casually announced more than once that she was hoping they'd have a leg with fewer rocks so that she 'could really drop the pedal and see what her baby could do'. She'd wanted to drive the big truck since she'd first seen it, and it was all that she'd dreamed and more shy of some lesser cars to crush at the finish line.


"45 minutes should be just fine if everything's going as well as Micah says," she said, mercifully turning back to look at their path across the desert, gently weaving around an especially obstructive bit of rock. "It'll at least be enough to set up the power cell swap and some in-person checks. Speaking of, how're our speed demons doing? I'm not giving up my truck for anything, but your end of the race must be amazing."

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"Giiiirl, you said a mouthful!" 


Unlike her friend Davyd, Lulu had grown up around fast cars and irresponsible drivers. She'd learned how to steer and change gears on her daddy's lap, and NASCAR posters where frequently on the walls of the Beaumonts' crappy, flood-prone home. Though she was very capable of handling her navigator duties, she was definitely prone to fits of giggles as the speed or a particularly exciting hop forced the glee out of her body. In addition to her standard DI team gear, Lulu also wore oversized polarized sunglasses that obscured half her face.


The redhead cackled wildly as she quoted Fury Road.


"'Witness me! Witness me!'"

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Veronica Danger


Veronica smiled slightly at Lulu's enthusiasm as the pair's modified Mini speed across the desert terrain. There was not much so far that would cause the Mini to gain much air, but there were some occasional hops and an overall bumpy ride given their speed.


"So far so good Elizabeth." The teenage Danger replied over the headset. "Good to get a easy opening stage before things really start to get challenging."


Veronica then focused on Micha's comments about the readings he was getting from the Mini. It was not anything to cause significant concern, at least not yet. "Got it Micah, I will keep a steady speed. Keep an eye on things and we can decide what needs to be done at the stop. Would like to keep it as short as possible, but also do not want to take any unnecessary risks with the equipment, particularly this early on."

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  • 2 weeks later...



Liz focused in on keeping control over the large truck that had been put in her care while Davyd focused on guiding her along their path as closely as he could along the route to ensure there was no wasted time having to correct course. Micah was focused on two sets of data, that of the Mini containing Veronica and Lulu, and that of the truck itself.


For the most part, the performance data for the truck was all in the green, no real issues, but perhaps not quite as optimal as would be preferred. The data from the Mini was much more encouraging. Despite the initial imbalance, once Veronica had gotten the smaller car up above 180 kph, the vehicle's experimental high-performance electrical engine was handling the speed with ease, even when Veronica went even faster at certain points of time.


Although Davyd did a good job of keeping the truck on course, Liz found there were several points where it was getting a bit hard to control, and in the interest of safety she had to slow down below 80 mph. All said and done, when the group completed the first half of the stage, arriving at a collection of tents and vehicles out in the middle of the desert, their time for the leg was an hour and forty five minutes.


Arriving at the waypoint, Liz slowed down considerably as she was directed around the outer edge to the south to where the Danger International team's area was waiting for them. It primarily consisted of a large cleared space (as cleared as was possible in the terrain) that was large enough for the truck and the Mini with the others arrived, a banner with the DI logo and a few fold up tables that had been set up, including one with several water coolers on top with cups long side.


To either side of the space, other spaces for the other teams stretched out, some already occupied (some with just a truck, others with both the truck and car for the team), others were empty. Toward the middle were several tents and vehicles for the staff of the rally organizers and reporters, which was buzzing with activity. There were also several trailers with portable bathroom facilities scattered about.


To the right of the DI space was the empty space for the team of Czech automobile manufacture Škoda. To the left was Mitsubishi, the large service truck still parked there, although the crew members seemed to be busy packing up various equipment to set off on their second leg of the stage.


As Liz pulled into place, she could see several nearby people turn to look at the DI vehicle. Even with hundreds of participates in the rally, the appearance of the Danger International team had attracted some attention, not in small part resulting from the presence of a member of the Danger family on the team. It had also been rather clear during the last few days preparing for the race that among the top teams at the event, DI's entry of all electric vehicles into the competitive categories had generally been met with some amusement, if not outright disdain by a few.


Despite Liz having to slow down at a few points, they had still managed to arrive a few minutes before Davyd had initially estimated. But the GPS tracking on the Mini showed that Veronica and Lulu were well ahead of schedule at the moment as well. They were not likely to have the full 45 minutes to get ready for the Mini's arrival if it kept its current pace...

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"Alright, everybody out!" called Elizabeth as the truck rolled to a halt. She took just enough time to make sure the brakes were on and the engine off before flinging open her door and landing with...less grace than she'd have liked, one leg seizing up in protest of its long confinement. She made do, hopping on her remaining leg toward the side of the truck so that she could get the side panels opened.


She twisted her leg in a way that looked painful and felt great, locking the panels into their open position so the team could get at tools and parts. "We lost a little of our lead so let's make sure we're ready for our friends when they get here!"

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Micah all but leapt from the truck. He tucked the tablet he'd been tracking the truck and car systems on into a secure carry-case, and moved to the section of the support truck that housed the fresh-charged batteries. He hit a button on the screen next to the designated next set, checking the readouts. 


"Right, full charge confirmed on the next set, we're ready to plug them in as soon as they get here. Use this set here."


He thumped the batteries in front of him; they had several sets, though currently two were in the charging apparatus. They had 2 more stowed further in the support truck. Micah moved to the ladder on the side of the truck and climbed up to a small ledge at the front end of the trailer section, overhanging the cab. It was the only part of the roof not composed of solar panels. There, he plugged the tablet into a port he uncovered (had to keep the sand out) and started running diagnostics.


"I'm checking the truck's recharge rate and cell decay. Everything looks good right now, but I want to double-check it all."

Edited by KnightDisciple
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The Davyd Palahniuk that exited the cab was not the one who had been sitting next to Elizabeth.  He was a Davyd Palahniuk, certainly, but possibly one from another reality, who had devoted his life to working out and becoming the World's (or at least Ukraine's) Strongest Man.  A mountain of muscle, a beast of biceps, someone who could easily haul any equipment needed for the pit crew.


"Okay, Micah," he clapped his hands once, "what needs to be unloaded first?  Liz says we don't have as much time as I'd thought, so we gotta move quick, yeah?"


The others had seen this form before: he'd used it when they were first loading the truck, and when they'd checked in with the rally officials.  "I know we're not supposed to use our powers," he'd later told the team, "but I think this could slide by, especially if I keep my strength level within human range."

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  • 6 months later...

Veronica Danger


The three Claremont teens set right to work as soon as they were out of the Kamaz truck. Davyd and Liz began unloading the equipment Micha identified they would need for when Veronica and Lulu arrived in the Mini. Micah meanwhile began running his diagnostics on the batteries and other equipment and began setting up everything he would need.


There was so much to do that the next half hour flew by, but the teens had gotten everything ready and even been able to get some food that they could at least start eating before the others arrived. The last ten or so minutes waiting for the Mini was perhaps the most never wracking, as other cars slowly arrived and pulled over to their rally team spots. But after awhile, they noted that a group of photographers and cameramen had begun gathering as near to the DI pit as they could get, several positioning themselves along the approach from the course.


At least five more minutes seemed to crawl by before the trio caught sight of the familiar blue and white Mini Cooper came speeding into view. Slowing down slightly so as not to kick up too much dust, Veronica guided the vehicle over to the waiting Kamaz truck and her friends. There was something of a media frenzy as the photographers and cameramen all began taking pictures or recording the arrival.


As the Mini came to a halt, Lulu’s tablet indicated the pair’s time for this first leg had been just one hour and two minutes.


Veronica climbed out of the Mini Cooper, giving a small wave to the nearby media before focusing on her friends. "It ran smooth as could be Micah." The teenage Danger stated as she moved over to one of the tables filled with equipment. "The batteries still seems to have a lot of life left, but probably best to change them out just to be sure."

"The next leg is over similarly rocky terrain, not much sand, so probably should keep the tire pressure at what we set it at before."

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As soon a the Mini came to a stop, Lulu flung open the passenger door and made a beeline for the Porta-Potties. "'Scuse me, 'scuse me, scuse me!" After taking care of the pressing need, she soon reappeared, and sought out any new atmospheric data; she was worried about any possible wind issues that might make the journey more perilous. Once satisfied, she grabbed a bottled water and went to make herself useful with the maintenance crew.


"Hey y'all! How's everyone holdin' up?"

Edited by Heritage
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Elizabeth didn't know much about cars, but she knew staging - keep the props where they needed to be, keep the trap doors away from your feet until you needed to drop through them. She'd spent the wait helping get set up, making sure all the important equipment would be close at hand...including the batteries, which she immediately starting ferrying to hands qualified to install them. "We're doing well!" she chirped, adjusting her hat. "Y'know, mostly. I don't think Davyd likes my driving much, which is toooooo bad."


She flashed him a friendly but unsympathetic grin. "More rocky terrain sounds good to me; the handling on sand's going to be awful for all of us, probably you most of all unless we get stuck."

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While Davyd & Elizabeth had many differences, they did have one common bond: the stage.  While she was more often on it performing and he was more comfortable behind it assisting others, both knew the importance of setting the right environment.  And so as they worked to unload and set up for the next leg of the rally, they soon found themselves working with surprising ease and efficiency.  "Guess we just had to find the right thing to work on, yeah?"


Davyd actually found the most difficult part was in working with himself, within the "no powers" confines -- no superhuman strength, no stretching or adding of limbs, no shifting into a centaur form to provide more carrying space.  Just a standard humanoid form.  Once they were on the road again, though...


"Oh, I'm sure we'll adapt to any challenges," he responded with a grin.

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Micah took one last look at his tablet and nodded before tucking it in the pouch that hung at his side. He moved over to where the batteries were and worked to help Davyd with getting the fully-charged ones moved over and ready to swap.


"Yeah, best to be on the safe side, Veronica. Performance looks good for the terrain ahead but you'll probably use a bit more juice on uneven ground. Hopefully the seat cushions hold up. If you want, there's some extra-thick pads for your harnesses, too."


Because bouncing up into the 5-point harness would not be super-fun.

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Veronica Danger


With everything already in place before Veronica and Lulu had arrived, Micah was able to get straight to work on swapping out the Mini’s batteries and checking the vehicle over for any potential issues. After Veronica grabbed a quick bite to eat, the teenage Danger was helping Micah out on the Mini. "I think we will be okay for now, but will certainly want the extra padding once we get to the dunes tomorrow." Veronica replied with a small smile.


Once the change out was done and the other checks completed, Veronica and Lulu were back in the Mini and off again to start the second leg of the stage. In short order, the pair were speeding through rocky desert similar to what they crossed that morning. It was not long before they turned south/southwest and began to drop in elevation as they entered the Farafra depression. 


"Things are seeming slightly more sluggish." Veronica stated over the radio as the Mini speed through the desert heat. 


A little over half an hour after leaving the way stop, Veronica and Lulu entered into the  White Desert. Stunning white chalk rock formations were scattered about the landscape, making it appear almost otherworldly.




After Veronica and Lulu were off, the other three Claremont teens began loading everything back into the Kamaz truck to get back on the road themselves. Once everything was stored and secured, they were all back in their  places in the cab and Liz fired up the truck’s engine once more.

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As the Mini sped across the alien landscape, Lulu found herself contemplating the bizarre turns her life had taken since she left home. Exotic places here on Earth that she'd never known existed, travelling to space and meeting actual aliens? Who does that?


"Thank you for this," she said to Veronica out of the blue. "Thank you for lettin' us be part of this." She smiled as she turned back to her tablet.

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Elizabeth really wanted to hit the gas and peel out as quickly as the truck would go, but she probably wasn't allowed to and it seemed very disrespectful to drown the competition in a cloud of dust, so she only did it a little bit. A little bit of dirt. Not her fault, right?


They'd have to catch her to stop her, anyway, and she was pretty sure she hadn't actually gotten anybody, which meant she had a clean conscience and an ear-to-ear grin as she swung the truck around toward their destination and set as fast a pace as she thought she safely could. "I need to drive more big trucks," she said, still grinning. "I could keep all my magic stuff in a truck like this. How fast do they let you go on Freedom City streets? How fast can you safely go?"


She paused. "How fast can you not safely go?" she added, still grinning.

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"On the Expressway, it's 65 mph," Davyid replied, "though I think I read that there's been some talk of raiding it to 70."  Being better prepared for the ride ahead, Davyd didn't have quite as white-knuckle a grip on the GPS, or the safety handles.  But he was still holding on.  "In the city, though, I think it's 35.  25, in some places."


A smile began spreading across his face, as he remembered something his Uncle Sasha had mentioned a few times.  Wait - should I mention this?  It's illegal, yeah, but not much more dangerous than, like, NASCAR racing, yeah?


"Of course," he spoke a bit slower, enunciated a bit more clearly, "that's not taking into account the street races.  They're mostly a west coast thing, yeah, but Miami and Philly have been getting in on it, and you could probably find one in Freedom.  Not sure they'd let you drive a rig like this, but if going fast is what you're interested in..."


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"On the flip side, you're talking street racing in the same city as multiple masked vigilante types. Raven, Midnight, Foreshadow, all the Archer people. I'm pretty sure all of them have fancy high-speed vehicles."


Micah was smirking a bit as he said it, but that was probably when Davyid and Elizabeth might recall that Micah's late father had been law enforcement. So he was probably less inclined to casually talk about law-breaking.


"Not a lot of super types in Philly, and the ones in Miami are too busy. Freedom's got so many super-types they're crawling out our ears. But, hey. It's probably there. Just, you know, if you see a weird shiny black car or bike, it's probably not just another racer, yeah?"

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Veronica Danger (with Lulu)


Veronica gave a small glance toward Lulu and a smile at her friend's statement. "You are more than welcome. As I originally said months ago, what is the point of such an adventure if I cannot share it with some friends." The teenage Danger the focused back on the barren terrain ahead of them as the Mini continued speeding across the rough, rocky ground. Occasional bumps sent the small vehicle slightly airborne at times before bouncing back down and continuing through the white desert.


The next quarter an hour or so continued on much the same, with Veronica keeping the Mini on track as Lulu called out adjustments to their course to keep them on the most optimum path. Finally, about one hour and sixteen minutes after they had left the way stop, Veronica and Lulu arrived at the location of the first overnight stop of the rally. The white, chalk covered sands of the white desert had fallen away behind them and in a large, open flat were countless tents, campers and other such temporary structures stretching out in front of them.


Passing by the time marker that indicated the end of the first stage, Veronica was able to drop the Mini back down to a much slower, reasonable speed as she began to steer towards where the Danger International team would be staying the night. Looking about Lulu could see dozens of people moving through the various tents and campers, some gathered around rally cars there were in various states of disassembly as maintenance checks and repairs were being carried out.


Off to the west, the Lulu could see the beginning of a vast collection of sand dunes. "There it is, the Great Sand Sea." Veronica stated with a grin as she glanced over to the west a moment before focusing on slowly steering the Mini through the crowded area. Lulu knew from studying the course for the rally that they would be spending the next two days crossing nearly five hundred miles of the dune covered desert that covered much of western Egypt and parts of eastern Libya.


About an hour behind


Liz, Davyd and Micah were still barreling through the hot rocky terrain, having just reached the White Desert as they began the final stretch for this first day. Micah’s tablet alerted him that Veronica and Lulu had reached the overnight stop. The telemetry for the Mini was not quite as good as it had been for the first half of the stage, there appeared to have been some loss of overall power output, but it still seemed to be handling well.


Liz was still managing to keep the massive Kamaz support truck at just shy of 80 mph as she steered it clear of the massive white chalk outcropping that dotted the White Desert. Davyd was busy checking their course and keeping them on course.

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"Good Lord," Lulu said as she stared across the sea of sand, shaking her head in disbelief as she sipped from her water bottle. "The next two days are gonna be fun, fun, fun!" She took another sip of water, and the indicated the arrayed trailers and tents with her water bottle. "So where all are we sleepin'?"


As she waited for Veronica's response, she sent her senses up high into the air, looking down upon this tiny gathering of man-made structures in the middle of the vast desert waste. Lulu always found it advantageous to get a look of the land.

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"Aw." Liz feigned a pout, turning partway toward the others as she gently swung around a bit of rock. "I want to be big and fast. A semi would be too big, but a truck like this? With the extra wheels and the big booty. Lots of storage space for stuff." She flashed another grin, turning her full attention back to the road as she evened their course back out.


"Though some people do have some pretty fancy motorcycles. Do you think they let people borrow them? Not for long, you know. Just for a bit." She pondered that for a moment, extending a finger out in thought. She didn't sound too serious, but... "...do you think they'd mind as long as they got it back in one piece? You know, like, really mind. Do you think there would be trouble."

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"They... probably would, yeah," Davyd replied, mindful of their backseat conscience.  "Like, what if they needed it for their job... or to visit a sick relative!"  Davyd's mouth abruptly disappeared, the flesh on his lower face now a smooth blank, as he realized that "sick relative" might be a sore spot for Liz.


He shifted his focus back to the GPS, then to the passenger's side window and the rolling dunes outside.  Okay, we all know Something Weird is going to happen on this trip.  Something always happens when Claremont Students are out and about.  So what will it be this time?  The Dakar Rally's been going on for a few decades, but is this the first time it's been here, in Egypt?  We might be disturbing some mummies or scorpion-people or something.  Or maybe some supervillain will attack, looking to steal some cutting-edge vehicle tech that's being tested out here... like our car's batteries!  He looked back to Micah, and pictured the power cells behind him. 

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Micah knew Liz had a different perspective on law than him. He knew his perspective was, frankly, probably atypical for a lot of kids his age, or even people a decade older. But he was also coming from a position of a family that was truly invested in their community as law enforcement; not every member of the tribal police was, or had been. But Lawrence Roebuck had been. 


"Liz. I can't tell you how to live your life, I truly cannot. But I will say, if you're determined to illicitly acquire a vehicle for the purposes of traveling fast at night in less-than-legal races, please do not ever do so with a motorcycle. Please."


He turned and looked at her, and several emotions were rolling around in his eyes, even as one hand grabbed a handy oh-shoot bar in the truck as they went over more bumps.


"If you wreck a car, you'll get hurt, especially if you wear the dang seatbelt. My dad showed me pictures of cubes of metal he said people came out of with small limps."


Micah paused, and licked suddenly-dry lips for a moment, a clear nervous gesture. 


"I never got to see the pictures of what happened with motorcycle wrecks. Never told me with words what it was like. But I know I'd hear him say a couple times, quiet enough he thought I didn't hear, that it was another 'donorcycle wreck'. So please. If you're gonna nab something for a bit..."


A slight grin crept on his face.


"Look for the most ridiculous souped-up pickup that rolls coal or whatnot. I'm sure there's a sedan hidden in their garage they can use too."

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