1.2.1

The bright flash of a distant explosion briefly illuminated the massive pipe-like course that Max and Pace sped forward on. It was impossible for them to distinguish up from down, as a strong gravitational force held their bike to the track at any given position. The space quickly fell dark again, with the pulse of an occasional light ring that was built into the track rushing by.

“You’re being awfully quiet Ji-Hye,” said Max. “That wasn’t you, was it?”

Pace laughed to himself.

“Haha, very funny,” responded Ji over the radio. “Jean took them out in one or two shots. I think he likes this new wave cannon Pace, he almost considered saying something with that last hit.”

“Hey, hey,” interjected Jean, “no need to tarnish such a beautiful moment with words.”

Max quickly glanced at her rear-view screen, seeing nothing behind them.

“We have about… 2k to go until we exit the tunnel.”

“Very good,” responded Ji, “any signs of our other friends?”

“No,” said Max, “Zigg and Dee aren’t at the top of their games today. I think we’ve got a good ten second lead on ‘em.”

“No complaints here, just don’t get careless. Let’s take this one home.”

The next few moments were uncharacteristically serene. Pace released his grip on the controls, and sat, watching a dozen or so rings of light pass them by.

“Hey Pace,” said Max softly. “Do you think we can do this?” There was a flicker of doubt in her voice.

“Absolutely.”

“Good. Because I want this more than anything…”

Their bike exited the tunnel and was bathed in the brilliant sunlight of an open, coastal environment. The track curved gently to the right and then back to the left, and finally straightened into a long stretch along the water.

As Max and Pace glided across the finish line, they began to decelerate, passing by their teammates’ vehicle, which was already off the track.

“1022,” said Max with a smile.