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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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Horrorshow

 

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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