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(Story) Green Ghost of Selva Rocosa

Discussion in 'Videos, Screenshots and other Artwork' started by DriftinCovet1987, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. DriftinCovet1987

    DriftinCovet1987
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    Hello! This is a story that I've been working on since November of 2017 called Green Ghost of Selva Rocosa. This story takes place in JRI (called Selva Rocosa, or "Rocky Jungle" in Spanish, in the story) in the late 1980s. Anyway, here's the prologue to my story. Enjoy!

    Stage 1 (April 1987-June 1989)

    There were only pinpricks of light in the midnight sky, barely enough starlight for the naked eye to make out the dim outlines of Selva Rocosa standing against the choppy pacific waters. Waves lapped at the foot of the old lighthouse at the south end of the island and sprayed across the rusting cranes of the abandoned port. The thick, fat rain common to monsoon season in the south Pacific beat heavily on the port’s containers, and swollen streams forged new paths as they emptied into the ocean at every depression.

    It was somewhat ironic that water, the substance most known for bringing life, was responsible for the bulk of Selva Rocosa’s decay. It had seeped into the cracks of every building on the island, from the ancient Fort George to the massive aircraft hangar perched atop a ridge at the end of a pockmarked runway. Even the mighty port factory, the former lifeblood of Selva Rocosa, the one that had once produced small cars for three decades, but which had failed to produce a profit, was reeling from water’s devastating effects. The metal roof had rusted away and caved in in certain places, and the rest of the red-brick structure was slowly sinking into the mud.

    No building was worse off than the former Andronicus Observatory though. Named “Victorious warrior” in the original Greek, it was on the verge of faltering in its longstanding battle against the wet season. Its very foundations were in danger of slipping out of the mound’s muddy grasp and tumbling down into the roiling sea below in a calamitous landslide. Stubbornly, like a victorious warrior, its rusted telescope still pointed skyward, taking in the pinprick starlight.

    Had an observer been present, they would have been treated to a sudden spectacle. A meteor streaked brightly over the observatory dome, bathing the entire island in an eerie pale green light before falling earthwards. There was a thunderous boom as it embedded itself in Mount Hutch, punching through the centuries-old volcanic rock and into the magma chamber below. A tremendous hiss filled the air as molten rock slowly bubbled to the surface, but the long-dormant volcano lacked the energy to do much more than patch over the meteorite’s crater.

    It was a different story deep underground though. As the blueish gas from the meteorite slowly stabilized into an odorless, colorless state, it channeled its way up through the myriad fissures of Selva Rocosa’s vast interconnected geyser system, slowly enveloping the island in an invisible cloud.

    After a few minutes, the meteorite's godlike boom was replied by the sudden burst of activity that resonated throughout Selva Rocosa. The deafening clatters, roars, and whines of three diesel truck inline-sixes, a herd of diesel inline-threes and inline-fours, and a few American V8s echoed from the port to the lighthouse. These sounds mingled with the loud whirring of an American V8 from the jungle of Mount Hutch. The inland town blared the deep growls of a few large American V8s and inline-sixes, complimented by the obnoxious buzzes of a bunch of Japanese inline-fours. Two more German inline-sixes and an Italian V8 echoed from within the hangar, fiercely muffling the howls of the monsoon winds. Slowly but surely, the headlights of almost every running abandoned car on the island blinked on, piercing the pitch-black forest around them with blinding light and mirroring the pinprick-like pattern of the stars above.
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    One bright, sunny mid-April afternoon in 1987, the brick walls of the car factory echoed with celebration and cheering. An assortment of grey-coveralls-wearing workers pushed a tiny, seafoam-green, three-wheeled kei truck out of the factory’s expansive back doors and onto the reasonably-wide, gently-curving concrete main road. The little truck’s windshield was festooned with a white banner reading “500.000th IKCP Car” in thick, black lettering.

    The kei truck was mounted on small, thin, white-painted steel rims wrapped in tiny street tires. Two of these wheels were placed at the back, while the third was hidden in between the slightly-tapered sides of the front end. A young male worker opened the truck’s thin right door via its black-plastic handle and hopped into the basic driver’s seat, grasping a keychain in his right hand. All around him was bare seafoam-green fiberglass, matte-black plastic and cloth, and mildly-tinted plastic windows. He inserted the key into the truck’s keyhole in its rectangular, silver-and-black dashboard that reached from the far-right side of the vehicle to its center.

    This required him to lean slightly to the right side of a two-spoked, plastic steering wheel, marked with a silver center cap and attached to a black-painted steel steering column. He turned the key sharply into its “ON” mode, holding it in place while the CHITTER-CHITTER-CHITTER-CHITTER of a starter motor whirring into action resonated through the windows and into the cabin. Suddenly, the motor went CHITCHIT-CHITCHIT as it fired the engine into life with a resounding diesel clatter. All three of its miniscule pistons rocked their tiny cast-iron block on its engine mounts, shivering the little truck’s steel frame. All the workers outside the truck stepped back a few feet, watching hopefully and loudly cheering as their friend inside it stared around at the interior.

    Above the keyhole was a small, domed, orange-needled, plastic gauge cluster that had two smaller, lower-mounted gauges: one on the right for fuel, and one on the left for temperature. A black mechanical odometer walled the fuel and temperature gauges from the sweeping arc of the top-mounted speedometer needle, whose white letters and dashes marked out speeds in ten-kilometer-per-hour (kmph) increments. To the left of the gauge cluster were six small, square, plastic buttons, arranged in a horizontal rectangular fashion next to a small, rectangular yellow label that read “WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MAKE A STEERING SHARPLY AT THE HIGH SPEED”. The worker inside the truck glanced over to the rectangular, black panel on the far right of the dashboard, sliding its top slider to the left.

    A gentle, cool breeze emanated from the single, plastic, square vent on the far-left side of the dashboard, weakly cooling the warm interior of the truck. He was interrupted in his admiration of his handiwork and of the smaller brick buildings to the right of the main road by a soft rapping on the driver’s-side window. He turned quickly to the right to see a fellow male worker, looking roughly ten years his senior, holding a wooden clipboard in his left hand. The worker inside the truck grabbed onto a small, plastic window crank, which he then rotated gently to allow the window to roll down. His colleague outside the truck beamed back at his friend as he lowered his clipboard to reveal its long to-do list upon yellow paper.

    “We finally did it! 500,000 Ibishu vehicles in thirty years of production,” the worker outside the truck cheered, gently patting its roof with his right hand. “At this rate of increased productivity, we might see our one-millionth vehicle out of these doors by the early 2010s.”

    “Yeah, I know…that’s amazing,” the worker inside the truck said rather flatly, staring through the windshield before noticing a black-suited man standing behind a large camera mounted on a wooden tripod.

    Suddenly, all the workers near the truck crowded around its front, grinning brilliantly as the cameraman said convincingly, “Everyone smile! We’re not going to get another moment like this!”

    POOF!

    Only the worker in the truck hid his teeth, smiling just as gently as the little Ibishu did. Its rectangular plastic grille, headlights, indicators, and front bumper all gave off a bored expression that belied its tiny size and tippy nature, making it seem more like a large pickup than a kei truck. Everyone around the truck stepped away from it and off to the sides of the road. As the worker with the clipboard came back to the driver’s-side window of the truck, he said more formally while reading the list, “Right…so, if you just start driving over that way,” pointing to a straight piece of road on his right. Gently taking the banner off the truck, he continued, “we will begin our quality assurance tests to make sure our 500,000th vehicle…”

    “Yeah, yeah, I know…” the worker inside the truck grumbled, glowering slightly at the single, weakly-mounted, square, plastic mirror on the driver’s door. “I’ve done these a thousand times before.”

    Placing his right foot on the plastic accelerator pedal, he then grasped the round, plastic shift knob marked 1-2-3-R in a white H-shaped pattern. This knob hooked into the transmission under the comparatively-large drivetrain hump in the floor via a medium-length metal stick and padded with a plastic shifter cushion. He floored the 658-cc diesel three-cylinder engine, its 57 pound-feet of torque twisting the truck’s chassis slightly as it revved to its redline of 4,500 revolutions per minute (RPM). The narrow, silver aluminum exhaust spewed a few diesel fumes and a lot of steam out of its downward-bent tailpipe, Pressing the plastic clutch pedal into the floor, he gently shifted the shift lever into the top-right position of first gear, quickly released the clutch pedal, and the truck leaped forward. The speedo needle jumped to pause momentarily underneath the 20-kmph mark, the driver being pushed back into his seat from the sudden speed increase. The little truck shook and shivered under the immediate torque of the diesel three, its clatter becoming more intense as the speedo needle moved to its 30-kmph mark.

    It passed by a narrow side road that led to the plain-looking, large parts warehouse and a much wider side road that led to a small parking lot surrounded by identically-compact sheds. This currently had a dark-green truck identical to the 500,000th IKCP vehicle, parked with its back toward the main road, its tailgate exposing a large, circular Ibishu logo and the word “PIGEON” printed into its tailgate. Turning his head forwards to look the rows of rusty containers in the middle of a grassy field near the main road, the driver stepped on the plastic brake pedal to bring the truck to 15 kilometers per hour. He twisted the steering wheel to the left at the T-junction after the overly-defective lot. He floored his little truck to 30 kilometers per hour once more, slowing down to turn left at another T-junction. This one led to the long, wide, concrete test course, surrounded by tropical trees and shrubs along its top and left sides.

    He noticed that there were 11 other Pigeons like his, in a rainbow of colors, all arranged in a neat arc at the left end of the course. A few others were quickly looping around a series of cones, white-and-red concrete barriers, and hay bales arranged in a little obstacle course. They were producing a ruckus of diesel clatter, a relatively large amount of smoke, and a load of squeaking and groaning from their suspensions. About half-a-dozen employees, all wearing white shirts, white caps, and blue jeans, observed the progress of these Pigeons through each of the tests, noting the results on their wooden clipboards. Four of the trucks in the test area were equipped with small, boxy rear fender flares and domed boxes on top of their beds, allowing them to haul more stuff than their box-less counterparts. A white model at the end of the obstacle course had a small, vertical bed extension on it; a small, green garbage bin hanging off the tailgate; and an orange dome light mounted on its roof. It meandered down the right side of the thinner, straight side road to the right of the main test area, slowing down to turn to the left at the T-junction and continuing down the road to the port.

    The driver of the 500,000th IKCP vehicle lined up his truck at the back of the line, shifting its shifter into the center position of neutral. As he stared behind the rear of an orange boxed Pigeon, he barely noticed that its bumper-mounted tail lights had turned off upon its driver’s release of the brake pedal until it lurched forward, causing him to jump slightly and rapidly shift his Pigeon into first gear. He watched as one Pigeon after another exited the test area and cruised down the side road to the port, the putrid smell of diesel smoke polluting the air. More Pigeons of varying bed types and paint colors came from the main road out of the factory, passing by their tested counterparts and parking behind the 500,000th IKCP vehicle. The driver of the special seafoam-green truck watched eagerly as the Pigeons in the test area raced around the traffic cones and barriers, popping in and out of sight on either side of the orange van Pigeon in front of him. Closer and closer he and his truck came to the covered white starting gate, maintained by a middle-aged male worker.

    “When’s it gonna be? When’s it gonna be?” the driver of the seafoam-green truck asked anxiously, watching as the orange Pigeon van parked at the starting gate.

    He looked around the interior of his truck, trying to see what had caused the air-conditioning to turn off, when he saw that the little slider for the heater and air conditioning had been automatically returned to its middle position. What? Could this be a defect? the driver thought. But no, it can’t be a defect, it’s…it’s…it’s preparing itself for the testing by turning off anything that saps its power...

    The gatekeeper crouched down to the driver’s side door of the van Pigeon, talking to its driver and writing a few things down on some white piece of paper on the clipboard. After he stood up again, the little orange van jerked forward as it proceeded to speed down the long straight that tested acceleration of the completed vehicles. The driver of the seafoam-green Pigeon shifted his truck back into first gear, stopping before the white line and rolling down its window. The gatekeeper crouched down once again to come level with the driver, looking very eagerly at the little truck.

    “So…what does our 500,000th vehicle feel like so far?” he asked before noticing the driver’s flat expression. “Anything different about it?”

    “Nope, nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever,” the driver replied assuredly.

    “What a shame…I was hoping that this might have acquired something special. Seafoam green is a very rare color to spot a Pigeon in, especially in truck form. In fact, this might be the last year seafoam green is ever offered for a Pigeon, even though some higher-end Ibishu models like the Pessima sedan and 200BX sports car are both rather popular in this color.”

    “Yeah, true…but it’s not like a rare color will suddenly make it be able to drive at a thousand kilometers per hour or grip the road ten times better than a normal car.”

    “I was not meaning that level of special, my friend. Something more modest, but still unique, would fit this truck better. Anyway, I am confident that you know what to do with this Pigeon, right?

    “Yeah, all I need to do is not crash and I’ll be fine. I’ve done it a thousand times before.”

    “Excellent...well, I shall let you go, then. Have fun with the tests!”

    The gatekeeper stepped back a few feet, letting the driver roll up his window. He squeezed the gas pedal to allow the little truck’s engine to rev up, pressing the clutch pedal and shifting it back into first. He released the clutch pedal, and the little Pigeon bolted and shook off the line, the speedo needle flicking to the 20-kmph mark. He floored the throttle as the Pigeon’s engine clattered to 4,200 RPM, whizzing past the orange traffic cones set up around the makeshift 95-meter-long straight. 30…35…shift—45...55…60… The little truck kept accelerating as it passed by another worker, this time a young lady, who was holding a radar gun and tracking the Pigeon’s speed intently. It zoomed past her before its driver slammed on the brake pedal, the truck slowing down rapidly to just under 20 kilometers per hour. He shifted it down to first gear, watching the cones and haybales in front of him become gradually larger as the Pigeon’s tiny front disk brake and rear drum brakes stopped it successfully. Meanwhile, the young lady stared down at her radar gun’s digital display, which showed the two red digits of “68”.

    “Sixty-eight?! Wow…that’s crazy fast for a Pigeon,” she remarked, looking astonished that such a tiny, underpowered car could have accelerated so quickly.

    She quickly jotted the speed down on a piece of paper on her wooden clipboard while the seafoam-green Pigeon turned around at the hairpin at the end of the straight and accelerated down a shorter straight. Between the second and third straights was another worker, this time a young man who blankly watched the Pigeon lean gently into the corner at 20 kilometers per hour.

    “Hmm…” he said, watching it race away from him. “That seemed to have been a bit faster than usual.”

    “My goodness, this Pigeon has got some pep in it!” the driver exclaimed happily, pushed back into his seat as the speedo needle raced to the 50-kmph mark.
    He pressed on the brakes once more for a moose test, which was simulated by a concrete barrier and was watched by two more workers, both muscular-looking men in their thirties. Speeding into the test at almost 40 kilometers per hour, he turned the steering wheel to the left, the rear tires squealing desperately for more grip, the chassis leaning hard on the live-axle rear suspension. To the right he flicked the wheel, the little truck lifting its right-rear wheel a couple centimeters off the ground. It then landed it back on the ground with a quiet screech of the lifted wheel gaining grip and braked along a 15-meter-long straight heading to a tight left hairpin. Both men at the moose test stood and stared in awe as the little green Pigeon pelted around the hairpin at 20 kilometers per hour, rapidly catching up to the orange van Pigeon that was just exiting the course.

    The seafoam truck clattered its way to over 70 kilometers per hour down the 110-meter-long straight at the end of the course before stopping right at the finish line. The second gatekeeper, this one a young man who looked like the green Pigeon’s driver, ran clear across the curve in the exit road that led back to the factory and pier. A look of terror was on his face as he watched the peppy little truck pelt toward the finish line. After it had stopped, he walked back to the end gate, staring dumbfounded at how a three-wheeled diesel truck could be so crazy fast.

    The driver of the “sporty” Pigeon rolled down its driver’s side window as the second gatekeeper bent down to look through the open window, looking at its driver like he was insane.

    “Wha…wha…what was that?!” he squeaked, quaking as he stared at the speedo. “How…how can any Pigeon do anything like that?”

    “Bro, it’s fantastic,” the driver replied, beaming proudly at his brother. “You know how I’ve still got that rusty Miramar that I bomb around in? I may want to replace it with this. It’s that good to drive. It’s so good that it could beat Civettas and ETKs like they were nothing around these mountain roads.”

    “No, don’t do that! You don’t need to kill yourself driving this piece of junk.

    “What do you mean, a piece of junk? Didn’t you just see what this truck could do? I bet this thing could destroy your custom Moonhawk on the Mount Hutch downhill run, and…”

    “Boys!” a middle-aged man in a black suit and tie shouted, standing in front of the finish line. Both the second gatekeeper and his brother jumped slightly in surprise. “That is more than enough bickering and nonsense about racing. Move this truck off the starting line and stop blocking everyone’s way out!”

    He pointed towards two white Pigeons that were coming down the last straight, braking at around the halfway point to avoid crashing into the back of their seafoam-green counterpart.

    “Sorry, Dad,” the two young men at the finish line said.

    “It is alright to discuss things about racing, but not here,” their father replied assuredly.

    The boss of the ICKP’s operations walked to the right of the finish, carefully observing each Pigeon’s travel around the test course. The driver of the green Pigeon revved it up once more and shifted it back into first gear, its frame shaking slightly as it rounded the acute right turn to head onto the side road to the port. His father, on the other hand, beckoned the young lady with a radar gun to face him.

    “What did that green Pigeon my son was driving clock at?” he asked rather loudly.

    “Sixty-eight!” she shouted, her short hair frizzing around her head as a brown van sped by at 55 kilometers per hour.

    “Sixty-eight?!”

    “Yeah! And your older son at the exit gate just told me that it topped out at seventy-five down the final straight. It also went through the moose test at almost forty. In fact, it broke every Pigeon record that we have around here.”

    “Even those that were set by some of the earlier tuned Pigeons we’ve built?”

    “Yep! Even those weren’t...”

    SCREEEEEEEEECH!

    “Aaaaaaaaahhh!!!”

    A scream echoed from somewhere in the port, sounding very much like one that the driver of the speedy Pigeon would utter. His father ran as quickly as he deemed safe towards the port, being especially cautious as he walked through the rows of containers and past the two tall, yellow cranes near the pier. As he got closer to the medium-sized rectangular pier in the middle of the port, he noticed a little green truck that looked far too familiar to the one that had been speeding around the test course, except that it was pointing towards the concrete ramp that led towards the factory and test course. Its front wheel was pointed far to the right, and its driver poked his head out of his truck’s windows at looked woefully at his father.

    “What happened?” the father said worryingly.

    “Dad…the whole steering system’s gone. Completely and utterly gone. I can barely steer this thing to the left, and all it wants to do is turn right,” his son replied.

    With that, his father paused and stared at the skid marks that the Pigeon left behind after it broke its steering. It had made a hard jerk to the right as it transitioned onto the pier, indicated by one harsh skid mark left by the “broken” front wheel. The rear wheels seemed to have skidded and turned the truck around, but there were three distinct skid marks, as the boss noticed. Three distinct skid marks…that means that it didn’t lift any of its wheels off the ground, he noted. But that’s impossible. No Pigeon would have been able to turn around so quickly and keep all three wheels on the ground…unless…

    “How fast were you going when this happened?”

    “Oh, just about thirty.”

    “Can you describe to me how you think it broke from such a low speed?” the boss said while proceeding down the ramp.

    “I’m not sure…I think that it wants to stay here, but I’m not sure.”

    The boss walked right up to the right front area of the broken Pigeon and stared down at its triangular steering system. “I don’t see anything that is broken here,” he said calmly as he looked at the grey steel suspension components. “Why don’t you step out of the truck and examine this?”

    The driver of the Pigeon hopped out and walked to sit to the left of his father, crouching down to examine it with his tiny flashlight. “Strange…everything looks fine to me, and I built that steering system myself.”

    Meanwhile, Pigeons were continuing their cyclic stream from the factory, to the test course, to the pier, and finally onto the giant, white-and-dark-blue cargo ship that rested peacefully at the port.

    “Hmmm…I have a theory about this.”

    “What, that we might not be able to sell this thing?”

    “Well, that, of course, but I think that this Pigeon has a strong connection to this island.”

    “But that’s impossible and you know it, Dad. It’s a machine, for crying out loud; it doesn’t have any emotions to it at all.”

    “Or does it? You see, I think that what it was trying to do at the test course was to prove to you that it was worthy of you, that it was worthy of your crazy street-racing habits. It broke every record that our ’83 Pigeon Cup once held on the test course.”

    “Every record?”

    “Yes, every record. This Pigeon no longer wants to go away from the island because of you, and you know what? That’s okay. I’d be more than proud to keep this little truck after seeing it perform so well around the test course if it still works.”

    “Alright, Dad, let me try steering this.”

    The driver of the Pigeon hopped back into it, fired up its little diesel, and shifted it into first gear. The Pigeon’s steering wheel had moved back into its normal resting position, and he could steer it to the right just fine as he pointed his truck to the left side of the port

    “Strange…this is working very well…” he said absentmindedly.

    He gently slowed his new truck down, steering it casually to the left and up a dirt incline at the south end of the port. As he turned right around a small brick shack, a few tumble-down buildings came into view, including a miserable-looking, rusty shed at the border of the vegetation. The Pigeon seemed perfectly content to let its driver park it in front of a brick-built matching pair of shacks, both with reinforced square windows and thick steel doors. A rusty white mid-1960s Japanese mid-size sedan sat bleakly next to the right shack, its sides streaked in dirt. He hopped out of the Pigeon and turned off its engine, expecting it to move, but there was not even a squeak from the suspension as he closed and locked the driver’s-side door.

    Walking in front of the truck and his Ibishu Miramar, its round headlights looking much more cheerful than the Pigeon’s rectangular face, the young man suddenly beamed as he realized why the Pigeon had behaved the way it had behaved. He saw, or thought he saw at least, why it had turned around at the pier; why it had been so fast at the test course; why it had wanted him to build it in the first place; and why its steering column had “broke” on him. It was not just a pile of fiberglass, steel, cast iron, and black plastic like his brother thought it to be; no, it was something much more. Dad had known all along that I would be getting this, didn’t he? he thought, looking somewhat confused. How did he know? How did this little truck become something so fast and crazy? Is it just me, or could it be something else?

    That night, as the last boat of Pigeons left the port from the exit on the south side, the driver of the green Pigeon sat in the shed that he parked it in. He stared relentlessly at its front end in his black raincoat while the late-night rain pelted down on the island and pinged off his Miramar and his sheds. In the port, he anxiously heard the roar of a German inline-six and saw two white beams of light on the rusty containers near him. He grinned slightly as he recognized an ETK 2400i from the thick fog around him, the German sedan stopping a few meters in front of the shed. His father exited his grey, mid-size, two-year-old car and walk closer to him, also wearing a black raincoat.

    “So…you’ve been enjoying your big nineteenth-birthday present, haven’t you?” he asked, sounding slightly sarcastic.

    “I sure am…I’ll try my best to find out what you’re hiding from me in this little truck,” his son replied, an air of determination about his voice.

    “Listen…you can’t just stare at it and see something out of the ordinary. Nobody could, even if they were trained to spot differences. The only way you’ll be able to learn why that Pigeon wanted you to keep it is to drive it, not look at it. You’ve always wanted to beat that punk with the Bolide at Mount Hutch, right?”

    “So, what you’re saying is…if I don’t beat Cesar with this, then I’ll never learn why it behaved like it did today?”

    “Correct you are, Tim. However, you might not be able to before we…before this whole place closes down.”

    “What? Are you serious about this, Dad?”

    “Tim, I would never joke about something like this. That little truck may save our company, but the way things are going right now, we won’t be able to keep our factory running much longer. Ibishu no longer wants, needs, or cares about us. There have been several more, and bigger, car factories built in the Philippines since the 1960s. If they decide to no longer send parts ships here…”

    “…then the entire island is doomed. We won’t have any money to do anything about shipping our cars out of here, and we don’t have anything unique to be building or providing for them and their markets. Andronicus might live, and Josephine Field might still be used, but everything else on the island will crumble after the IKCP closes down.”

    Then, the boy turned to look at the little Pigeon, its front suspension sagging slightly.

    “Unless…unless we could show them Percy.”

    “Percy?”

    “Yeah, I decided to name him Percy earlier today. It alliterates with Pigeon, and he kinda reminds me of my uncle Percy.”

    “Well, I don’t think they would care about Percy the Pigeon, to be honest. That may have been why he turned around at the pier; he didn’t want to go off and live with an abusive business owner. He wanted someone who cared deeply about him, and you cared a great deal about his steering assembly.”

    “You really think that he would have picked me when you were planning what to build next, right?”

    Tim’s father paused for a second before replying, “Perhaps. Now, if you don’t mind, I believe we should go to bed. Goodnight.”

    “Goodnight, Dad.”

    Tim’s father hopped back into his sedan, its matte-grey basket-weave wheels and chrome-and-black trim flecked with mud. The big ETK lurched backwards, its plastic headlight wipers, rectangular headlights, round chrome grille badge, and rectangular plastic grille disappearing into the fog.

    Tim turned back to look at the little green truck, then at his Miramar, and finally at the right-most shed. What does it mean for a car to be like a person? he wondered as he walked into the shed’s plain, grey interior, took off his raincoat, and sank into his bed. Is it physically or through its driving characteristics? I’m not sure yet…

    …but it may have something to do with Percy.
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    As the fog gradually lifted over the port, Tim groped around and turned off his beeping alarm clock. He slowly rose out of his bed and walked over to the foggy-looking square window on the right of the front door. As he wiped the condensation off its bottom left corner, he could see the outline of a large, black-hulled container ship being towed by two dilapidated tugboats. The brilliant sunrise that gilded the palm trees on the east side of Selva Rocosa stopped at the summit of Mount Hutch, which glittered like a beacon in the dark waters. The threesome of ships inched their way forward, the tugboats’ smokestacks billowing with thin black soot. He noticed the small brick shack on the short, palm-tree-sprinkled sand bar still had its red warning lantern turned on. Ted must’ve forgotten to take the lantern off this morning, Tim thought. Strange…he almost always takes it down before the first ship comes.

    Tim removed his green foam earplugs that he had put on last night to block out the sound of the rain, and suddenly heard a muffled voice near his shed while he took off his black slippers. He walked over to the nearest window on the left side of his shack and saw a man in a dark-blue naval uniform muttering to himself. Oh…so, that’s where Ted is. What’s he doing out here? Tim thought as he turned away from the window. He went over to a scratched wooden dresser, flicked a brass switch to the right of it, and began to pull out his grey mechanic’s coveralls, hat and underwear from the dresser’s top drawer. He plopped the clothes onto his bed, took off his grey pajamas, and took a quick shower in the small bathroom at the back of the shed.

    Then, Tim carefully put his uniform on, combed his hair in the bathroom with his black plastic comb, and stowed his pajamas into the bottom drawer of his dresser. After he had pulled his mud-spattered green rainboots on, he took the Pigeon’s small keychain off a hook on the right side of the door and placed it into his uniform’s shirt pocket. He then unlocked the front door and tugged on it hard. A faint bit of warm tropical wind creeped into the house and heated the slightly-chilly shed, and the blare of the container ship’s horn quickly followed.

    “Geez…that’s something to wake up to,” Tim grouched as he walked out the entrance and closed the door behind him.

    “Sure is, Tim,” a familiar male voice said. “Anyway, I heard that that Pigeon of yours broke some records out at the test track yesterday.”

    “Sure did,” Tim replied, turning to look at the Pigeon’s shed. “Every one of them but the moose test.”

    “Never would’a thought that a li’l Pigeon would’ve been that fast,” Ted replied, giving his friend a reassuring glance before turning back to the truck. “I remember back when cars like your Mir’mar were the fastest things ‘round here, but now this Pigeon’s right up with ‘em.”

    “Hmmm…” Tim said, looking at the warning lantern on the side of Ted’s shack.

    “Well?” a confused Ted replied, his short black beard and mustache twitching slightly.

    “Why didn’t you turn off the warning lantern?”

    “Ah, that…that was ‘cause I wanted to get up close an’ personal with your Pigeon before headin’ to breakfast, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a bit more safety while the fog’s clearin’ up.”

    “Okay, makes sense,” -Tim stared out into the fog surrounding the island, which still looked a little thick- “but I still don’t get why you would want to…”

    Before Tim could continue, the front door of the left shack opened, and a young lady wearing pink pajamas popped her head out of the entrance, looking somewhat annoyed and tired. Tim immediately recognized her as Hana, the same person who had measured Percy’s acceleration at the test course.

    “What is all of this commotion about? I’ve been trying to get some sleep around here,” she spat, switching her glare from Tim to Ted to Percy.

    “Oh…well, hello, Hana,” Tim said. “We apologize if we were being too loud for you., but…”

    “The noise around here,” Hana replied, “is already bad enough without you two getting up this early and talking about…wait, what are you talking about?”

    “Oh, I jus’ decided to come over ‘ere an’ see what this tiny Pigeon that everyone was talkin’ about was like. I heard a li’l thing or two ‘bout it, an’ I guess I was expecting somethin’ else when I saw it.”

    “Oh, believe me, Tim’s Pigeon is amazing,” Hana replied, sleepily staring at her friend. “It’s one of the fastest vehicles around our test course, and…”

    “I’ve heard it’s fast, but it sure doesn’t look like anythin’ special to me.”

    “Okay. Anyway, I guess it was nice that you two woke me up fifteen minutes early. I was planning on going into town to pick some stuff up before work, so this gives me plenty of time to get there and back home. Tim…would you mind if I use your Miramar? My Dove is currently being serviced, and your Pigeon isn’t even registered yet.”

    “Go right ahead,” Tim said assuredly. “I’ll get the keys and set up the car while you get dressed and take a shower.”

    While Hana and Tim went into their shacks, Ted turned to stare at Tim’s Pigeon. He walked into the shed, looking all around the right side of the truck to see if there was anything unusual about it. He took a quick peek at the Pigeon’s rear end before hearing the door to one of the shacks open. He glanced nervously at Tim, who was holding a slightly-rusty keychain in his right hand.

    “Ted…what are you doing?” he asked bemusedly.

    “Tryin’ to spot anythin’ unusual ‘bout this Pigeon of yours,” Ted replied.

    “There’s nothing different about him in terms of appearance. However, he’s got premium brake pads all around, a stronger differential and gearbox, a custom steering system, a lighter flywheel, and heavy-duty rear shocks.”

    “I didn’t get all tha’ technical stuff, but him?” Ted asked, walking around to the little green truck’s front in disbelief. “Whaddya mean, him?”

    “Yeah, I decided to name him Percy. Is that strange?” Tim pointed towards a little yellow label on the lower part of the windshield with “PERCY” written on it in black marker.

    “Y-ye-yeah…” Ted then trotted away, saying absentmindedly to Tim, “Anyway, I’ve gotta head outta here. Lots to do today.”

    “Well, it was a pleasure seeing you, Ted,” Tim replied, “even if it may have been a little awkward.”

    “Ditto,” Ted said before disappearing down the dirt trail and behind a small brick house.

    Tim walked around to the Miramar’s rear, staring at the slightly-bulged rear arch before looking at the mildly-sloped rear fascia. He peeked at the sedan’s boxy cabin, which sat neatly atop the flat-sided body like a top hat. He then watched as the small, rusty, tailpipe billowed steam from underneath the left side of the car. The small steel bumper was speckled in rust spots that stood out sorely against the original chrome. Two tiny, black plastic bumperettes had been built into the bumper and sat underneath the inward-pointing D-shaped curves of the rectangular tail lights.

    On the left side of the rectangular black rear panel, the word “Miramar” had been written in chrome, italicized, blocky lettering. Tim looked at the capital “M” that had been emboldened for emphasis. In the center of the rear panel lay a white license plate with green blocky lettering, which was situated between two black plastic license plate lights. “SELVA ROCOSA” was written in small lettering at the top of the license plate, with “DRM-658” stamped out in a larger font size in the middle. Smaller lettering spelled out “PHILIPPINES” along the bottom section of the license plate, which was flanked by two registration stickers showing “1987” and “88”.

    Tim glanced back at the tailpipe and saw that the steam coming from it had begun to fizzle out as the engine gradually warmed up. He smiled as he then got up and watched the tugboats detach from the container ship and turn around to sail out the port’s entrance on their right. One of the cranes had already begun to lift a container from the ship, lowering it onto a flatbed truck. As he walked a few feet away from his Miramar to watch the tugboats disappear from the port, a hand rapped on his left shoulder.

    “Wha—oh, hi,” Tim said as he looked at Hana, who had dressed herself in her work uniform.

    “Who else did you think would tap your shoulder to tell you she’s running off with your car?” Hana replied, sounding quite pleased as she walked towards the driver’s door of the Miramar. “Anyway, I’m off to do my thing. Bye!”

    “Bye,” Tim replied absentmindedly, waving meekly at Hana as she entered the sedan and closed its door.

    Tim walked in front of his shed as he saw the Miramar’s small, rectangular reverse lights shine brightly from the tail lights. The tailpipe spewed out a few tiny puffs of steam as the engine reached optimal running temperature, mixed with light smoke that grew thicker as Hana revved the little inline-four. Suddenly, the Miramar lurched in reverse, its engine grumbling as it turned gradually to face its rear to the Pigeon’s shed. Hana pressed the brake pedal to stop the sedan’s advancement backwards, revved it in neutral, and gently shifted it into first gear. She quickly let off the clutch, and a small cloud of dirt billowed from both rear tires as the Miramar roared down the lane. Its headlights flicked on, brightly illuminating the alleyway in front of it.

    As Tim watched its tail lights disappear behind the same house that Ted had vanished behind, he pushed the door of his shack open. Turning to the right to look at the hook rack, he almost panicked when he saw it was empty before realizing that he still had his Pigeon’s keychain.

    “Oh, good,” he said to himself, “I thought I had lost it.”

    Then, he walked out of his shack and locked the door behind him. As he trotted towards Percy’s shed, he stopped for a moment to look at its surroundings. A bunch of shrubs and bushes were clustered around the left-hand side of the shed, canopied by a row of trees above. Meanwhile, an Eastern osprey soared over the sand bar, its sharp, black beak clamped viciously to a small Tomini surgeonfish.

    Tim watched the bird of prey carry its load towards the tallest tree behind the shed. The osprey graciously swooped down upon the top of the tree, handing the fish to a group of eager, cheeping hatchlings in the nest. After it had done that, Tim lowered his gaze to his three-wheeled bird, which was nested cheerfully in the shed. He walked towards the driver’s door of the truck, but instead of opening it, he crouched down to look through the window at the pedals and steering assembly.

    “Huh…no evidence of anyone breaking in here,” he said, staring at the black metal steering column. He looked down at the floor, which showed no evidence of tampering with the pedals or any new footprints near the base of the column. “I don’t even see why anyone would want to steal a Pigeon, though,” he continued softly. “Surely, they would have just stolen my Miramar, as that thing’s a lot more valuable…but Percy is a brand-new truck…wait, what was that on the dashboard?!”

    Tim quickly unlocked the driver’s door of the Pigeon, opened it, and then closed it with a hollow PLONK! from the fiberglass. He glanced over to the little yellow label and stared at it hard. “I swear I thought I saw something weird on the label,” he said. “Must have been my imagination, though.”

    He inserted the key into its hole on the dash, turned it over, and the little diesel inline-three’s vibrations resonated through the cabin. The signature GLOCK-GLOCK-GLOCK-GLOCK! diesel clatter echoed from the tailpipe, disturbing the ospreys slightly. He gently pressed the accelerator, hearing the clatter intensify as the engine revved higher. He shifted the gear lever into first gear, releasing the clutch cautiously and shaking slightly in his seat as the Pigeon raced forward.

    It sped down the lane, accelerating rapidly up to 40 kilometers per hour as it rounded a sweeping turn to the right. Tim then slowed his truck down as he made a sweeping turn to the trail on the left that led through the maze of old, double-stacked containers. He passed through a narrow, smooth chicane that led directly to the road to the pier, making sure not to tip his truck over. He then slowed his truck to 20 kilometers per hour as he came to the parking lot, turning in smoothly to stop the seafoam-green Pigeon next to a matching dark-green trike. Tim opened the driver’s-side door of his truck, stepped out, and then gently closed it behind him. He knocked on the front door of one of the shacks in front of him. After a few moments, the door opened to reveal the shack’s spartan interior. A trio of co-workers in their coveralls looked eagerly at him from the back of the shack.

    “Morning, Tim!” the three of them said.

    “Hey,” he replied. “What’s up?”

    “Oh, you know what’s up,” a relatively-short, plump middle-aged man in the trio announced eagerly, pointing at the front door.

    “Alright…what’s so important about my Pigeon?” Tim said casually, staring bemusedly at the young lady of the group.

    She was blocking out the square window behind her, whipping her blonde ponytail around as she glanced through the glass.

    “Well,” she said, gazing level at Tim, “the boys have got some crazy idea involving your truck. Walter can tell you all about it,” -she pointed at the tallest man of the group- “he was the one who tuned that trike’s suspension.”

    “What’s this all about?” Tim replied. “I’ll all for ideas.”

    A brief pause followed, before…

    “Okay,” Walter said, flexing his right arm slightly as he walked closer towards Tim. “We were thinking that maybe you could use your truck as a racing vehicle, considering how fast it was in yesterday’s testing.”

    “I’m not sure that it could work well for a normal truck, let alone a racing truck, my friends,” the young lady replied, glaring at Tim.

    “Oh, it could,” Walter replied, staring behind thin-rimmed, round glasses at his female co-worker. “You see, Pigeons have a very low center of gravity because of their plastic bodies and steel frames, and their diesel engines provide massive amounts of low-down torque to…”
    “Yes, yes, I know their advantages; I help build these things in this factory. However, I know full well that even my old inline-six Barstow will eat this thing alive on any racetrack, any day.”

    “Perhaps not,” the middle-aged man interjected. “Anyway, Tim, Hana took your Miramar, right?

    “Yeah, she needed to do some business in town. Her Dove broke down a couple days ago, so she’s using my car until it gets fixed.”

    “Right,” the young lady said, walking towards the front door. “I believe we should be heading to work now. After all, your dad won’t be happy if we end up late in the roll call.”

    “It’s only seven past seven. Dad won’t be doing the roll call for another ten…oh.”

    As she opened the door, Tim and his friends noticed that the green Pigeons were surrounded by at least two dozen co-workers, most in coveralls and some in their white-and-blue test-course outfits. All grinned and waved at Tim as he walked out the shed, quickly followed by the three others.

    “Hey,” Tim said absentmindedly.

    “Hello!” they all cheered back.

    “So…I see you’re all interested in my Pigeon.”

    “Of course, we are,” a young man said sarcastically from the middle of the cluster, standing up on his tippy-toes.

    “Oh, hello, Adrian. How’re you doing today?”

    “Excellently. I was just here to see what all the commotion was about.”

    “Has anyone seen Hana anywhere?” a middle-aged lady at the back of the cluster said anxiously. “I haven’t seen her today.”

    “She went off in my car this morning to do some business in town. She’ll be back soon, and…huh?”

    Just then, the BRAAAAAAAPPP! of a little inline-four became more pronounced as a white sedan trundled down the two-lane-wide highway behind the port. It was barely visible as a Miramar while it cruised behind the thicket of trees that separated the highway from the test course. Then, the sedan’s round headlights peeked through the trees that lined the curvy, downhill entrance road to the port. It turned to the left down the side road to the pier, slowing down to 40 kilometers an hour. After a few moments, the Miramar popped out from behind a shack to the left of the parking lot, sighing slightly as its engine turned off. After it had parked, the sedan’s driver gently pushed her door open, stepping out of the interior before closing the door behind her with a definite CLUNK!

    “Hello!” Hana said, staring admirably at the fascinated cluster of people in front of her.

    “Good morning!” everyone replied.

    “Thanks, Tim,” Hana said cheerfully, jingling the Miramar’s keys in front of her friend before pocketing them.

    “Hey, no problem,” Tim replied just as merrily.

    “Well, then, since you’re all here…” a familiar voice said behind one of the sheds nearby “I guess it wouldn’t hurt if we all did our roll call a few minutes early.”

    Tim’s father came into sight from the right side of the parking lot, walking casually and carrying a plastic clipboard. Everyone quickly formed themselves into two distinct lines, marching behind their boss towards the factory’s expansive entrance. At the back of the right line, Tim looked back at his Pigeon after he heard a mild squeak behind him. However, he sighed and turned to look at the back of the blonde lady’s head. What was that sound? he thought as the lines stopped and the roll call began. Surely, it can’t be what I thought it was. Surely, Percy can’t have been trying to communicate with me in some way or another…can he?

    After a relatively-uneventful workday, Tim walked out of the factory’s front entrance at 16:25 and towards the parking lot. All the while, he was being followed by a few of his friends, who all looked surprisingly eager for having endured a day’s worth of hard work.

    “So, Tim…what’re you going to be doing tonight?” Hana asked as she hopped beside him.

    “Oh…just the usual.”

    “Are you sure? Don’t you want to go out with me and our friends to Mount Hutch? I’ve heard that we’re going to get a magnificent view of the sunset tonight, and I think that we ought to watch it from the summit. It might be the last time we get to see one this season.”

    “Hmmm…” Tim thought as he looked up at the large, pointy, light-brown peak of the mountain. “I think I’d prefer to view it from my shack, to be honest.”

    “From your shack?” Hana and everyone else said, looking as if Tim had just said that the sky was falling.

    “Yeah, and…wha-what’s the matter with that?”

    “Are you kidding me?” the blonde-haired lady grumbled, pointing towards Mount Hutch’s summit. “It’s ten times more awesome to look at a sunset from up there than it is from anywhere else on the island.”

    “And anyway,” the tallest of the three men said, looking somewhat annoyed, “I don’t want to get splashed with seawater again like what happened last time. So…we’re all going to Mount Hutch at sunset.”

    “Yeah,” the rest of Tim’s friends agreed.

    “Okay,” Tim said, grabbing the handle of the driver-side door of his Pigeon, “I guess I’ll join you lot. Also, I might as well head to town for an early dinner, as I’ve got nothing better to do.”

    “I’ll come with you,” Hana said, rushing to the truck’s passenger-side door. “Oh, and here…”

    She handed Tim the keys to the Miramar, pointing towards the glasses-wearing man.

    “Hand him these.”

    Tim tossed the keys over to him, then wordlessly unlocked his Pigeon’s door and opened it gently. As he entered the interior, he saw that the rest of his friends had hopped into his sedan and were beginning to have a pleasant conversation between each other.

    “You know, Tim…I really like your Pigeon,” Hana said cheerfully, staring at her friend from the passenger seat and buckling herself in. “It’s such a chipper little truck…but I don’t understand why you don’t like it.”

    “Well,” Tim replied, starting up the Pigeon’s engine and buckling himself into his seat, “I just think that I would have preferred something else for my birthday. Percy’s cute and all, but…I really don’t need him for anything.”

    “That’s sad to hear that you don’t enjoy it as much as you should,”-Tim was reversing his truck out of the parking lot and onto the road out of the factory’s main entrance- “but I still don’t get why you drove it as quickly as you did at the test course.”

    “Well, I just wanted him on the boat ASAP so that I could move on to getting my Miramar upgraded. After all, testing’s part of my job, you know?”

    “No…it was something more than that.” Hana looked behind her at Tim’s sedan, which had just rounded the T-junction onto the side road to the pier. “I’m not sure what, but it’s certainly no ordinary Pigeon, by any means.”

    “I know he’s special, but…he’s another financial burden, and I don’t want to have to borrow money for a Pigeon.” Tim turned Percy to the left at the T-junction out of the port, flooring the little truck up to 40 kilometers an hour as it drove down the tree-lined two-lane road.

    “True…but look at how happy everyone is that you have it. Why, there’s been more enthusiasm and cheerfulness from all our friends in the past two days than there has in the past two months. This Pigeon is…”

    Both Hana and Tim stared at the expansive tunnel to their right, its white overhead lights giving it a somewhat cheerful ambience, even if it was being gradually crushed by the massive stack of rock above it. Just then, a massive, grey tanker truck stopped at the T-junction that the little Ibishu was at. Its long rectangular nose and curved front fenders extended from its split-screen day cab and large vertical exhausts. Its giant chrome grille was capped by a rectangular red badge and surrounded by a thick chrome bull bar. Three axles of gargantuan, polished-aluminum wheels held up its titanic mass, each shining brightly in the afternoon sun. However, its middle-aged male driver waved cheerfully at the Pigeon, giving Tim a thumbs-up as the miniscule truck accelerated onto the highway.

    “See? Even the truckers enjoy your Pigeon, and they drive giant T-Series trucks every day.”

    That night, Tim stood inside Percy’s shed again, staring at the little truck’s front end.

    “I don’t get it, you know that?” Tim said mostly to himself. “I know that you might be special, but…I just don’t get why Dad would pick a Pigeon for a street-racing truck. After all, even if you may have a low center of gravity, you’ll still tip over at the first corner. I know what I said to my brother when I first tested you out, but that was just overconfidence and silliness. Even my rusty old Miramar is faster than you.”

    With that, the Pigeon’s door began to open slightly.

    “Wha...how are you doing that?”

    Tim walked closer to Percy, scooching by the small gap between the open door and the shed.

    “But…I’m not planning on going anywhere tonight. After all…wait a minute…”

    He hopped into the driver’s seat of his truck and immediately glanced at the label on the dashboard. A load of gibberish was being rapidly displayed on the label, getting ever less sensible by the second.

    “What is this nonsense?!” Tim said as he watched the numerals, letters, and random symbols fly by his eyes. “Percy, I don’t understand a single thing you’re trying to say, but whatever it is, I’m not doing it. I refuse to take you down the Mount Hutch downhill after how unstable you felt around the corners. You may have been fast for a Pigeon, sure, but you’re already outclassed compared to everything else.”

    After a brief pause from the label, Percy’s handbrake disengaged, and Tim quickly scooched around the seafoam-green Pigeon. He walked around to the front of the shed, staring calmly at the Pigeon’s front.

    “I know...it’s sad to hear the truth, but the only reason why I forced myself to drive you so quickly at the test course was because it was my job, and I also wanted to get done with it as soon as possible so that I…wouldn’t have to see you again.”

    With that, Percy’s door closed shut, and Tim could visibly see the little three-wheeler’s frame begin to shake slightly.

    “What do you think that’ll do to me? I don’t care how much you twitch your frame; the fact is, you’d make a terrible racing vehicle. You hear that? Any old car on the island could beat you down Mount Hutch, even…”

    CHEE-EEE-EEE-EEE! VROOOOOOMM…

    “No, Percy…not even tha—aaaaaa!“

    Tim had just enough time to jump out of Percy’s way as he launched out of the shed. The Pigeon raced down the dirt road, disappearing behind the house at the sweeping right turn ahead. Tim stared at the tire marks that Percy had left in his wake before craning up at Mount Hutch. He watched three pairs of headlights peep through the trees that lined the snaking mountain road, then heard a diesel engine rev away near him. His Pigeon turned left at the port entrance T-junction and accelerated down the road to the next intersection.

    “Of course, there would be three cars coming up the mountain…it’s Saturday night, and Adrian’s going to be racing Walter around…wait…”

    Tim rushed back to his shed, opened and closed its front door, and picked up the handset for his black plastic landline phone on the right-side wall. He quickly pressed the buttons on the dial pad and rapped his foot on the floor as he waited for the call to be received. After the second “boop” of the dialtone had passed, he heard a big V8 engine rumbling in the background before…

    “Oh, hey, Tim. What’s up?” a middle-aged man said.

    “I want you to do something for me, and I want you to listen closely, understand?

    “Understood.”

    “Percy’s coming up Mount Hutch right now, and I don’t want any of you getting hurt by him. I may have angered him slightly…How far are you guys from the top?”

    “We’re right at the summit.”

    “Listen…call off the race until I get Percy back into his shed.”

    SQUEAK…CLUNK!

    “Are you sure about that?”

    “Yes, I’m sure of it. I have no idea what he’s going to do now that he’s angry.”

    “Huh? I have no idea what’s up with you, but all I know is…we didn’t come up here to not have a race down the south side of Mount Hutch, right?”

    A few cheers in the distance suggested that everyone agreed with him, and Tim heard the dismal “boop” of his call being hung up.

    “Urgh…” Tim grunted as he banged the wall of his shed with his clenched right fist. “Great…nobody believes that Percy’s gonna run up to Mount Hutch and crash the race. Just brilliant.”

    I had no idea how determined that Pigeon would be to race against anyone…I just thought that he was just trying to intimidate me, but no. Percy is a racing truck, through and through, even when everyone else thinks that he might not be. Who knows what might happen now that he’s angry?
    screenshot_00145.png screenshot_00148.png screenshot_00153.png screenshot_00151.png screenshot_00154.png
    Percy, on the other hand, was racing uphill along the patchy highway at 70 kilometers an hour. The sliver of moonlight in the sky punctured the evening gloom, while his bright-yellow headlights further lit the way. He then saw a paved road that was hidden behind some trees from the corner of his windshield. He quickly slowed himself down to 50 kilometers an hour, turning smoothly through the 90-degree, slightly-uphill right turn. Here it is, the road to Mount Hutch’s summit.

    Immediately following the right turn was a 90-degree left that spat the little Pigeon onto a flat, wide right hairpin. He leaned heavily into the turn, his rear right wheel spinning wildly as it burned a trail of rubber into the concrete. After a short straight, Percy was pitched into a sharp, slightly-banked left hairpin that flowed onto a slightly-longer straight. He saw that the thick tree lines that had surrounded the last few turns had faded away to reveal the expansive Pacific in front of him.

    Tim’s probably going to be mad at me for doing this, but I’m doing it anyway. I want to prove to him that I can win races around here!

    “Did Tim just say that he’s coming up tonight to beat me in his pathetic Pigeon?” Adrian asked on Mount Hutch’s summit, looking at his all-matte-grey, mid-1970s coupe.

    “Yeah, he did,” the race coordinator replied. “In fact, he even said that it was a rogue Pigeon.”

    All ten people around him laughed as they glanced at the matte-grey coupe.

    The Moonhawk’s massive front bumper, round headlights, and split eggcrate grille subtly challenged anyone to race it. Its magnesium racing wheels and white-lettered sport tires hinted at its street-racing pretensions. All the side trim and rear fascia badging had been removed, but it still had a big, fancy-looking chrome “B” in the middle of the grille. A small chrome plate spoiler had been mounted on the rear end, which gently sloped down from the Moonhawk’s raked, angular C-pillar.

    “So, you think your big, fat Bruckell can beat my Miramar on the downhill?” Walter asked, staring at his bright-orange Miramar.

    Unlike Tim’s sedan, this example was in almost-perfect condition, with nary a scratch or a bit of rust on it. Its black roof shone brilliantly under the clear moonlight, and its wide fender flares and small rear lip spoiler sprouted from the sedan’s sides and trunk. It sat low on its custom, chrome-and-black four-spoke wheels, which were wrapped wide sport tires. However, it had four headlights on its front end, which glared from their black surrounds. The slatted black grille had a split down its middle, topped by a little chrome Ibishu badge, while the flat-sided fenders had small chrome mirrors mounted on them.

    “I won’t have to worry about that thing. It’s got nothing on my Moonhawk when it comes to the straights,” Adrian scoffed.

    “But what about the corners? I’ll be right on your tail after each turn, and that coupe weighs almost twice as much as my Miramar,” Walter replied from the driver’s seat of the sedan, looking at a sweeping pair of bends on the left side of the summit.

    Just then, the coordinator’s walkie-talkie broke out, “Hey, guys, looks like we got someone joining us tonight!

    “What do you mean?” the coordinator replied.

    Down near the town, a man hidden in the bushes watched as Percy raced through a long sweeper passing by all the town’s four entrances.

    “I just saw a seafoam-green Pigeon blast by me. Must’ve been going over 80, and he took an excellent line through the downhill chicane.”

    “Did it have any license plates?” the coordinator asked.

    “Nope. Just a fast Pigeon heading towards Mount Hutch. Anyway, you still want to do the race?”

    Everyone at the summit except the drivers stared stunned at the coordinator’s walkie-talkie as he lowered it from his ear.

    “Hello?” they heard the man near the town say through it. “Are you doing the race or not?”

    “He shouldn’t pose any sort of threat to us out here,” Adrian said. “We’ve got street-tuned monsters; that Pigeon may be quick for what it is, but Dad and Tim are silly to think that it could keep up with these wheels.”

    “He won’t stand a chance against us in the second half of the course, so I say that we do it anyway,” Walter continued.

    A few cheers from the others suggested that everyone agreed with them.

    “Yeah, we’re doing the race,” the coordinator said through his walkie-talkie. “We’ve decided that he likely won’t disrupt the race, considering how slow he would be. What’s he doing now?”

    “Errr…sounds like he stopped past the town. I certainly don’t see him anymore.”

    “Alright,” the coordinator replied, before turning to one of the young men in the crowd. “What’s the situation down at the finish line?”

    “All clear,” he said.

    “Excellent. Well, then, let’s roll out!”

    After a minute or two of setting up, the coordinator was standing in between the two cars on the left side of the summit, holding his hands in the air.

    “We’re going in 10 seconds!” he shouted.

    VROOOOOMM….VROOOOMMM, VROOOOOMM…

    BRAAAAAPPPP-POP-POP-POP-POP….BRAAAAAAPP, BRAAAAAAPP…

    “It’ll start any moment…” Tim said while pacing around his room, periodically glancing at the ominous red numerals of his alarm clock. 21:58…21:59…

    “5…”

    VROOOOMMM, VROOOMMM…

    “4…”

    BRAAAAAAPPP, BRAAAAAAPPP-POP…

    “3…”

    Time to get into gear, Percy thought as he revved his diesel motor.

    “2…”

    “Come on, Percy…don’t kill my bro up there.”

    “1…GO!”

    SCREEEEEEE!!!!

    The Moonhawk and Miramar raced off the line, speeding towards the first few turns. The coupe’s better launch and higher power allowed it to get ahead of the sedan as they came through the first two sweeping turns. They came down a medium-length straight, Adrian going to the inside and Walter switching to the outside line as they sped towards the first right-hand hairpin at over 80 kilometers an hour. The Moonhawk braked hard into the corner exit, giving the Miramar enough room to sweep around the outside of the corner. The grey coupe fell behind slightly as Walter used his sedan’s lighter weight to his advantage as they accelerated out of the turn. The tree lines opened on either side of the road, allowing for better vision of the tiny industrial town below.

    “Oh, just you watch this!” Adrian shouted from inside his car.

    He slammed on the throttle, allowing his Moonhawk to race ahead of the Miramar as they sped down a shallow chicane. They passed between two geysers spewing out sulfuric gas that marked the first checkpoint of the race. A faint diesel engine sound emanated nearby as they passed through a straight before a sweeping chicane and a T-junction. What could that sound be? Walter thought, before…

    “What?!” both the racers said as they passed through the chicane; the faint outline and brilliant headlights of a seafoam-green Pigeon popped into their rearview mirrors. Percy joined in the race right behind the sedan, losing a car-length on them as the three vehicles raced towards a sweeping right hairpin. This was a perilous corner – nothing at all, not a guardrail, tree, or rock stood between the outside line and plummeting into the jungle below. The Moonhawk came into the corner a little too fast and drove out wide, allowing the Miramar to shove its nose to the inside line. After this turn, the road will get much rougher, the sedan’s driver thought as he passed the understeering coupe, and that’s where that Pigeon will eat our dust.

    Down the short straight after the hairpin, Percy used his diesel engine’s low-down torque and excellent momentum from the corner to briefly get ahead of the Moonhawk. However, he had nowhere near the top-end power of the big Bruckell. He watched the grey coupe pull away from him as the trio came towards a left sweeper onto a short bridge, with the sedan leading the way. Percy just barely noticed a large pothole on the inside of the corner, pitching his weight over to his left to skim over it. Adrian scowled slightly as he shifted his Moonhawk into second gear.

    “How did that Pigeon glide over that pothole like that?!” he asked as he raced his coupe past Walter’s sedan on the long, rough main straight.

    “Oh, I see what you’re doing back there, Tim” Walter said as his Miramar raced over another rut after the first sweeper section of the straight. “That’s quite brilliant using the Pigeon’s tipping nature to skim over dips in the road.”

    I gained on them quickly through that hairpin, Percy thought as he tipped himself slightly over the pothole that Walter had sped over. He watched as the two racers blasted away from him down the straight, even though he was pushing himself to nearly 100 kilometers per hour. But what am I going to do about their monstrous acceleration?

    As they approached the next turn, Hana was standing on a secluded area on the side of the road next to a fallen tree. She was holding a pair of radar guns mounted to a pair of clamps in her right hand and a walkie-talkie in her left hand.

    “I see them…Adrian’s up the inside of Walter…”

    ZOOOMM, ZOOOMM!

    “115 for Adrian, 112 for Walter, and…”

    BEEP-BEEP! ZOOOM!

    “103 for Tim! Wow!”

    The little green truck skimmed over the pothole right after the tree, watching the cars ahead of him turn to the left. This corner is where I was strongest when I was practicing with Tim earlier…I could try his lean technique through here to possibly gain more on those cars ahead.

    Meanwhile, the Moonhawk continued to be defensive against its competitor’s outside runs, desperately hugging the inside as much as it could. The two drivers slowed to 80 kilometers an hour as their cars’ tires screamed for grip through the left sweeper. However, Percy flew through the corner at 72 kilometers an hour, perilously leaning his weight onto his right rear tire. I’m closing the gap! he thought as the three cars slowed for a slow, tight, banked left turn. Once again, the big coupe understeered wide, forcing the Miramar’s driver to stomp on the brakes and try to go for the cutback.

    However, just as he was about to turn in, Percy raced to fill the inside gap at 60 kilometers an hour and accelerated out of the turn. He left the two racers in the dust on the one-lane-wide straight, glancing for a moment at the large, jagged tan rockface on his left. He spotted the first of the banked S-bends in front of him and moved as far as he could to the right to try and get a better line through the corner. You’ve done well so far, Tim, Walter thought as he fell into line behind the truck, but I’m afraid you’re tipping into the weeds at the next right hairpin.

    Percy flew through the first S-bend, keeping to the left of the large pothole on the inside and just brushing the weeds. Then, he sped over to the right edge of the road to avoid another pothole on the inside, placing himself perilously on the edge of the road. He raced through the next series of S-bends, keeping to the inside of the left sweeper’s pothole. After that, he braked slightly from 70 kilometers per hour to 60 as he approached the downhill right S-bend that marked the end of the section. All the while, the incessant BRAAAAAPPPP-POP-POP-BRAAAAPP! of the Miramar’s engine blared directly behind him, its headlight beams surrounding him as he went down the straight before the third hairpin. Behind the sedan, the giant coupe was nipping at the heels of the two Ibishus, trying desperately to pass.

    Percy spotted a pothole on the left side of the road, which prompted him to move as far as he could to the left. He accelerated to just over 100 kilometers per hour on the slope, braking just after the pothole, but then…

    He’s not doing what I think he’s doing, right? Percy thought as he glanced to the inside to see nothing but a thick tree line.

    I know I tuned that Pigeon’s suspension the best I could, Tim, Walter thought as he slowed down for the hairpin, but even I can’t tune it to go this fast into this hairpin!

    Percy held his line around the outside at just under 60 kilometers per hour, perilously leaning at the edge of tipping through the turn. I don’t care about them right now, he thought. The only thing I need to do is to not… Just then, his right rear wheel lifted ever so slightly, just enough to gently unsettle the perfect line that he had planned out. Eek! he thought as he saw the corner tighten up rapidly. He slowed to 50 kilometers per hour, then 45, as he tried desperately to prevent himself from flying off the road. Percy felt the rough edge of the road as he inched over to the wide shoulder near the hairpin’s exit. Then, he saw it.

    A giant pothole had formed right at the hairpin’s exit, right where most people going up the hill had driven. My inner tire is gonna hit that pothole! Percy thought. If I just lean a bit harder, I should be able to drive right over that. He accelerated slightly out of the exit, waiting for the CLUNK! and the dewy dampness of the jungle weeds on his front end. However, he skimmed over the pothole at just over 40 kilometers per hour, racing ahead of Walter’s Miramar as they left the last hairpin.

    “Wha-wha-h-h-how?!” both the racers said as they watched Percy accelerate away.

    The three of them drove along the flat exit straight, where the tree lines increased their thickness and blocked out the waning moon’s reflection in the road. A long, uphill left sweeper mercilessly challenged the trio’s climbing power. Come on, come on…Percy thought as he barely accelerated up to 70 kilometers per hour, even with the gentle arcs that he made through the first pair of sweepers. He had just barely held off the lead from the Miramar’s inside attack on the exit and was gradually accelerating up the next one-lane-wide straight.

    “What even happened back there, Tim?” Walter said. “How could anyone pull that off with a Pigeon, even a specially-tuned one like that?”

    Percy turned left at the final uphill sweeper and came racing down the downhill sweepers, picking a more central line than he did for the uphill curves.

    “A defensive line, eh?” Adrian scoffed. “Doesn’t matter to me, I’ll just…”

    Percy suddenly went fully to the right of the road, almost hitting the mound of dirt in the inside chicane. His brake lights shined red before he moved to the left. Both the racers watched the little Pigeon lift its left rear wheel a few centimeters into the air, dangerously near the edge of rolling. Just keep it steady…Percy thought as he saw the second bridge, its short concrete wall coming closer and closer as he sped through the corner at 75 kilometers per hour.

    “He’s gonna crash!” both the racers shouted as they pressed hard on their cars’ brake pedals.
    screenshot_00162.png screenshot_00161.png screenshot_00163.png
    However, Percy stayed in the middle of the road as he plonked his wheel down, slowing to 50 kilometers per hour for a tight, downhill left turn. The racers stared as at the little Pigeon as he drove over the second bridge. Percy accelerated down the short final straight, smoothly steering through the last 90-degree right turn. He saw a group of ecstatic people on the opposite side of the highway, staring eagerly at the final corner.

    “It’s Tim!” he heard the first gatekeeper from the test course exclaim. “Tim broke the record down the mountain with a—hey, why isn’t he stopping?”

    “B-but…how?” almost everyone else in the group gasped.

    “I’m going to tell everyone at the top about this right away,” the gatekeeper said, grabbing a walkie-talkie from his belt.

    Percy, on the other hand, turned right at the four-way intersection and headed down the highway to the port.

    “Yes?” the coordinator asked through his walkie-talkie.

    “Tim won the race,” the gatekeeper replied while the BRAAA-POP-POP-POP of the Miramar resonated through the speaker.

    “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Would you mind repeating that?”

    “Tim won the race and set a new downhill record in his Pigeon just a few moments ago.”

    “He WHAT?!” everyone at the summit said.

    “Yeah, I just saw him come before Walter with my own eyes. Here comes Adrian right now.”

    “But…that’s impossible…” the coordinator said, moving his device from his left ear.

    The clatter of the Pigeon’s diesel engine echoed as he entered the old tunnel. Its worn sides were brightly lit by a row of overhead lightbulbs that shone their soft yellow rays on everything near them. Man, was that a race and a half, Percy thought as he reached the tunnel’s midpoint. I wonder if there’s anyone tougher to race against, though; I’d love to race some actual race cars with real racing drivers at their steering wheels. He stopped at the first T-junction after the tunnel, blinking his left indicators before turning towards the uphill road to the port.

    He gently cruised along at 40 kilometers per hour in third gear, turning calmly to the right at the T-junction to the port. Then, he trundled down the port entrance road and turned to the left to get onto the side road to the pier. Percy continued to turn left to drive onto a wide dirt road, spotting Ted’s warning lantern shining mystically in the fog. As he passed by the L-shaped brick house on his left, he saw a tumbledown shed before him, surrounded by trees, shrubs, and other vegetation. Home sweet home, he thought, before seeing on the arched gantry above his parking spot…

    “Hey, Percy!” Tim shouted.

    BEEP-BEEP!

    “I have no idea what that means, but I heard you won the race.”

    Tim walked to the left of the shed and climbed down a ladder at the left steel walkway’s end. Meanwhile, Percy turned around in front of his shed and reversed into it, turning his engine and lights off once he had finished parking. Tim meandered around Percy’s right side, pausing for a moment to look at his truck’s front end.

    “You know what? I think you’re the greatest little Pigeon in the whole world. You defeated my brother out there when I thought that that could never happen, and I…I’m honestly impressed. Good night, Percy.”

    Tim then walked happily back into his shed, gently closing the door behind him. Percy saw him turn off the soft yellow lights inside his house. A few engine sounds emanated in the background for a few minutes before the entire island fell into silence once more.

    On a bright afternoon two months later, Tim was happily navigating the first S-curve section of the south side of the Mount Hutch road in Percy. Tim kept the speed under 50 kilometers per hour as he came through the second pair of sweepers, feeling Percy beginning to tip slightly through each turn. All the while, the loud VROOOOOOOM-POP-POP-POP! of an Italian V8 echoed through the mountain, getting ever louder. He was just exiting onto the downhill straight to the third hairpin when he saw a low, wide black wedge behind him.

    “So…Cesar’s back from his two-week vacation, I see,” Tim said. “Boy, do I have a lot to tell him.”

    As the two cars rounded the third hairpin, Tim pulled over to the shoulder on the left side of the turn, the black sports car quickly following. He turned off Percy’s engine and carefully stepped out of it, facing the sports car’s sleek front end and retracted pop-up headlights. The car’s engine whirred into silence as its blonde-haired driver unlocked his door. Tim noticed that the car’s wide, standard black steel wheels were wrapped in thick sport tires which looked brand-new.

    “I see you got some new tires for your Bolide,” Tim said as Cesar exited his vehicle.

    “Yeah, I did,” Cesar replied in a faintly-Italian accent. “I see you’ve got yourself a new Pigeon.”

    “Yeah, this is Percy. He’s my new truck that I take around the island while making deliveries and practicing on the downhill.”

    “Say, that’s interest—wait, you’re not telling me that you race that thing!”

    “I do. In fact, I beat my brother and one of my friends down the south side of Mount Hutch with this very Pigeon.”

    No, you had no part in it, Percy thought as he looked in his side mirror at the Bolide. It was I who beat your brother and that Miramar, not you.

    “But…but how? How could anyone do that with a three-wheeled truck?”

    “Well…it’s got a low center of gravity, and it’s a lot quicker with its hot-rodded engine.”

    “How much horsepower does this “hot-rodded engine” have?”

    “Thirty-eight.”

    With that, Cesar paused as he stared at Percy’s rear, carefully scanning the white-and-green license plate that read “PER-383”.

    “Thirty-eight? And you were able to beat Adrian and Walter down Mount Hutch? Boy…that’s an impressive feat if I ever heard of one.”

    “Yep, that’s it, along with seventy pound-feet of torque. Oh, and I’ve also got some fender flares to match Percy’s racing pedigree.”

    Tim pointed towards the rear right wheel of Percy, showing the small boxy fender flare that now surrounded it. The rear wheels’ track had been widened slightly to fit themselves neatly into the flares.

    “Huh…” Cesar said, looking out at the large southern peninsula to his left.

    “No, I’m afraid I can’t compete with your Bolide around the peninsula. My Pigeon’s just got too little power and stability to keep up.”

    “I’m not suggesting a race, boy. I’d just like to see firsthand how well this truck drives. If you don’t mind. I’ll park my Bolide back at my port, and we’ll head over to the peninsula in your Pigeon. I’d like to drive it there as well. See what sort of differences there are between Percy and an ordinary Pigeon.”

    “Sounds good to me. I was planning on going to the peninsula later this evening, anyway.”

    Twenty minutes later, the two of them were driving down a narrow, winding one-lane road at 64 kilometers per hour. Tim watched as the road gradually widened for a downhill hairpin at the tip of the peninsula, feeling Percy dive slightly as Cesar pressed the brake pedal.

    “This thing…man, does it ever feel awesome for a little three-wheeled diesel truck!” Cesar commented as he turned the wheel to the left.

    “Cesar, I gotta ask you something…why is it that you’re suddenly so fascinated in my truck?”

    The road narrowed at the exit as Cesar’s lip scrunched up.

    CLUNK!

    “It handles potholes quite nicely for a racing Pigeon, though…”-the road gradually widened once again for a long, sweeping turn- “that’s something I didn’t expect to say about this.”

    “Well, it is only mildly tuned, so…”

    “That’s nothing to be ashamed about. It doesn’t need anything more than this.”

    Cesar slowed Percy down as he exited the hairpin, turning to the left to park at the shoulder. He turned the engine off, pulled the black handbrake back, and grabbed the door handle to pop the door open with a soft CLICK!

    “Why’re we stopping here?”

    “Don’t you want to take a break and look around?”

    “Hmmm…” Tim said, staring at a dirty Japanese pillbox on the grassy shore of the peninsula. “I suppose we could.”

    Tim and Cesar exited Percy, walking through a clearing between two palm trees to the right side of the road. They traversed through a rough, grass-covered trail towards the pillbox’s reinforced concrete door.

    “You know, Tim…there’s something about these funny-looking things that makes them almost special.”

    “Yeah…I guess.”

    Tim stared at Josephine Field’s giant hangar, its rusty, arched metal roof and grey brick sides peeking over the trees and shrubs that grew at the base of the airfield’s elevated foundations. He saw that the red-and-grey, brick-built air traffic control building to the right of the hangar had a few people chatting pleasantly on the flat roof of the built-in garage.

    “Cesar…I know you regularly drive around the peninsula, but I still don’t get your fascination with these little pillboxes.”

    “They’re basic and well-made objects that did their job well, just like your Pigeon. Anyway…I brought you out here to ask you something.”

    “What?”

    “Does Percy ever…drive around by himself sometimes?”

    “No.”

    “Are you sure? Because from what I heard, Walter didn’t see you in the driver’s seat of your Pigeon during the race.”

    “He might not have noticed me. I-I mean, surely, during the heat of a race…”

    Right on cue, Percy’s engine started up ferociously. Both men glanced to look at the Pigeon, who quietly shut himself off.

    “So…he’s one of them, isn’t he?”

    “One of who?”

    “More like one of what. You know how I keep telling you about how my Bolide keeps getting “stolen” during the night whenever I’m on vacation in Manila?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Well, it turned out that it wasn’t being stolen. That car has got about twenty or twenty-five vehicular friends whom it visits, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that Percy is one of these ‘intelligent vehicles,’ as well.”

    “I don’t know what you’ve been taking, man, but…”

    “It’s real. You saw it right before your eyes. Now, tell me...did Percy win that race by himself?”

    “Y-yes.”

    Cesar chuckled softly before replying, “Right. Now, would you like to go back home?”

    “Yes, absolutely.”

    “Then let’s go.”

    The two of them walked back to the seafoam-green Pigeon, with Tim entering the driver’s seat and Cesar riding shotgun.

    “Honestly,” Tim said as he started up Percy’s engine, “I’m not sure if I believe you.”

    “That’s what I expected, to be honest,” Cesar replied. “However, perhaps he might have some way of ‘speaking’ to you while you’re driving. I’ve seen it before with some other cars.”

    “You’re right…but still, talking through a label is a pretty crazy way to communicate with the driver.”

    “Wait…he ‘talks’ through that label?!”

    “Yeah…admittedly, all he can ‘say’ is gibberish.”

    “Huh…rather ingenious, if I say so myself. Although, I’m sure that he’ll get much better with his label after a while.”

    “Hey, if he gets good enough at it, maybe he can do my homework for me!”

    “I don’t think he’s got enough space to do that.”

    With that, they both laughed as they drove back into town, driving at no more than 60 kilometers per hour as they navigated along the peninsula’s winding concrete road.

    On a dark and rainy mid-June night two years later, Percy was driving towards Southpoint Lighthouse when he saw the faint outline of a white small airliner in the fog. Cesar’s coming back! he thought as he parked beside a downhill dirt road on his right. The plane quickly came into view, and Percy saw that its left engine seemed to be smoking slightly. It was flying perilously low

    “DR-145 to Josephine, left engine is failing. Requesting emergency aid,” the pilot said as calmly as he could. He pulled the plane hard to the left as he spotted the lighthouse, desperately attempting to avoid smacking the left wing into it.

    WHACK!

    The left wing severed off the airliner as it hit the lighthouse. The airliner tilted slightly to the right before crashing into the rockface and bursting into flames. Percy launched quickly as shifted into first gear, racing down the coastal dirt road towards Southpoint. As he came around the corner, he saw that the some of the trees had suffered damage due to the debris from the crash. He noticed that the plane was being gradually doused by the rain, but it still blazed strong enough to keep him from advancing.

    A few seconds later, the grey tanker truck advanced towards the wreck from the right. Three firefighters leaped into action as they extinguished the plane and cut the crumpled plane into sections to examine the wreckage. Percy turned around and drove back up the dirt road, sniffing slightly as he trundled towards the port. How could anyone do that to him? He was one of the greatest friends I’ve ever made, one of the best friends that Tim ever had…

    …and now he’s all up in smoke.

    One bright morning a week later, Tim, his father, Hana, and a few remaining factory workers stood in the emptied assembly hall, looking around at the bare concrete and brick that surrounded them.

    “Unfortunately,” Tim’s father said, “some of the representatives from Ibishu told me earlier this morning that we are now closed for good. You are all dismissed.”

    As most of them turned to leave out the front door, Tim and Hana stayed grounded to the spot.

    “But wait,” Tim said, looking somewhat anxiously at his father, “didn’t you tell them about my Pigeon?”

    “Oh, that,” his father replied. “They burst into laughter when I told them all about it. They told me, and I kid you not about this, that Percy was ‘the funniest thing in the whole world.’ When I asked them if it was possible to turn this factory into a tuning shop for three-wheeled and four-wheeled Pigeons, they said, ‘There’s no way that a blasted Pigeon could even beat a donkey! Why, even we old men can out-run them.’”

    “But we all know that Tim’s truck is living proof of the greatness of the Pigeon, right?” Hana said.

    “Yes, Hana, but they’ve been wanting to rid themselves of us for years. Ever since the Mindanao factory was built in 1982, we’ve pretty much been hanging on by a thread through building Pigeons. Now, the Pigeon is being phased out due to new safety and emissions regulations, and…well, this factory was never built to handle anything much more complex than a ‘58 Satsuma 210.”

    “Huh…” Hana and Tim said, staring at each other hopelessly.

    “Anyway, I guess that we’re all leaving Selva Rocosanow that almost everyone else is gone. After all, this place has been a malaria haven for the past week, and we’ve been lucky to not have too many people get infected.”

    “Dad,” Tim said, “can we bring my Pigeon with us?”

    “Unfortunately, that will have to be a no, Tim,” his father said. “It is too new, unsafe, and polluting to be imported to the U.S. under any circumstances. And anyway, I couldn’t afford to take all of us and your little truck to the U.S. It must stay here.”

    “Right…” Tim replied. “I guess I’ll go grab my bag, then.”

    “Meet us out at the airfield in…” his father said, looking at his black watch, “oh, about fifteen to twenty minutes.”

    A few minutes later, Percy watched as Tim took his brown duffel bag stuffed with everything that he could fit in it and placed it into the back of his Miramar.

    “Goodbye, Percy,” he murmured, glancing back at his truck. “Hope you have fun out in this abandoned island while I’m gone.”

    After Tim and his family drove to the airfield, they all took their duffel bags out of their cars’ trunks and hauled them towards a small grey airliner parked on the runway.

    “Let’s get in!” Tim’s father shouted over the loud buzz of the plane’s four-cylinder engine.

    He, Tim, Adrian, and Hana all hopped into the plane after one another, clambering into the cramped interior. They all buckled themselves into its plain, brown seats as the pilot glanced back at them.

    “Everyone set?” he said.

    “Yep!” they all replied.

    “Right. Well, then, we’re taking off!”

    Right before the pilot increased the throttle, Percy jumped out from behind the hangar, nipping at the heels of the plane. He shifted into second gear, racing past 50 kilometers per hour as he pulled even with the airliner. He saw Tim and his family wave to him from the window, gradually fading away as the plane picked up speed. Percy shifted into third as he sped to 80, the waves in the airstrip unsettling him slightly as he approached 100. The airliner lifted into the sky and retracted its landing gear, flying over Southpoint Lighthouse as it made a swooping turn to the left. Percy hit the brakes, rapidly stopping at the end of the runway. He stared upward at the ever-shrinking grey dot that disappeared into the horizon. As the blare of the plane’s engine faded away, a new sound came from over near the peninsula.

    VROOOOOOOOMMM-POP-POP-POP…VROOOOOOOOOM!

    Huh…now that everyone’s gone, that Bolide’s finally decided to reveal itself, Percy thought. But how do I make friends with someone of my own kind? I mean, I’m perfectly fine around humans and such, but what would a sentient vehicle like a Bolide like most? What would it be most interested in? How would it behave around a little truck like me?

    Stage 2 (October-December 1989)
    screenshot_00165.png screenshot_00174.png
    As Percy sat fast asleep in his shed the morning after the meteor crash, he was awakened by several engines and voices somewhere in the distance. But that’s not right…he thought. Selva Rocosa’s been abandoned for four months now, and I haven’t seen anyone return to the island…maybe it has something to do with that meteor strike. He tried using his windshield to see the road ahead, only to find that there was a large, black panel in front of it. But this doesn’t make any sense...I don’t cover my windshield during the middle of the night to help me sleep. The engine sounds and voices in the background grew louder as a group of cars entered the port. I just turn off my vision to go to sleep, and that’s that. Surely, nobody could have put something on my windshield; there’s nobody on this island to put it on.

    He tried shaking the panel out of the way, but instead of pinging off his windshield like he thought it would, it stayed stuck to him. This isn’t right! This shouldn’t be happening at all! But hang on…I remember Tim showing me a toy car from a ‘50s cartoon where cars had...eyebrow panels, or something like that, above their eyes on their windshields. Maybe this panel over my eyes is something like that…but how do I get it open? Percy pushed his front wheel up and down to try lifting the panel up, but no matter how hard he tried, the panel did not budge.

    Pffffftt…maybe I could ‘think’ this open? After a few moments of intense focus, the panel gradually began to lift towards his roof, and the dark outline of Port Manhavik came into view. He saw Tim and Hana’s old shacks to the right, the rusty yellow cranes near the pier, and a hint of the assembly hall’s collapsing roof. Huh…everything seems in order. I’m not sure what happened with all those engines revving last night, but I sure hope that Carla wasn’t affected by it. Just then, he heard two voices and the buzzing of a Japanese inline-four, all of which rose above the background discussion.

    “But Daisy, I just wanted to see what was back here!” the first of them said, sounding quite squeaky.

    “Priscilla, I know that you want to help out,” Daisy replied, sounding much older than her companion, “but finding other cars on the island is not a job for a three-wheeled van like you.”

    So, that would be the restaurant owner’s orange ‘85 Pigeon…but that van isn’t alive! Are these two cars that are talking to each other?

    “B-but…what if there’s another Pigeon like me? Or even another Dove like you?” Priscilla said.

    “That would be up to search vehicles like me to determine, not you,” Daisy replied as the two of them popped out behind the house to the right of the dirt path.

    Percy noticed something strange about the orange Pigeon and the tiny, olive-drab four-wheeled truck beside her. Both had remarkably humanlike eyes centered in their windshields; which had somehow changed from transparent glass into an opaque white. The blue irises of the Pigeon and the Dove’s green pair stood out sharply as the two microcars carefully examined their surroundings. They also had body-colored eyelid panels with thin black borders that seemed to substitute for eyelashes. As he saw Priscilla blink while she checked his shed, he noticed that her front bumper was bent slightly upwards in the middle. Wha—is she damaged or something? he thought. But then he watched as her bumper bent slightly downwards as her eyes rested on the shed, exposing humanlike teeth as she broke into a goofy grin.

    So that’s her mouth… Percy thought as he watched Priscilla scan his shed. Interesting…so that explains why they can suddenly talk out loud to each other. He was almost blinded by the orange van’s headlights as she turned them on, allowing her to see him clearly.

    “Daisy, Daisy, Daisy!” Priscilla squealed in excitement.

    “What?” Daisy replied flatly.

    “I found another Pigeon, and he’s really cute, and…”

    Daisy motioned her companion to back away with her olive-drab front right wheel and proceeded to stare coldly at Percy. He noticed that she had the same bed extension as a street-cleaning Pigeon, and that her front end looked like a Pigeon’s front that had been stretched flush with her sides.

    “Sir…can you speak?” Daisy asked.

    “What?” Percy replied. His voice sounded squeakier than Daisy’s, but more mature than Priscilla’s.

    “Excellent,” the olive-drab truck said. “May I ask your name?”

    “Percy.”

    “Just…Percy?”

    “W-why would I have a last name? After all, I was never given one, so I don’t feel the need to have one.”

    “Well…”-Daisy glanced to her left- “everyone else has one. I’m Daisy Parker the 1980 Ibishu Dove one-liter L, and this is my cousin, Priscilla Irwin the 1985 Ibishu Pigeon Van.”

    Their being cousins sounds about right. After all, the Pigeon and the Dove are based on nearly-identical frames, and both are practically the same from the cab back.

    “Daisy, please,” Priscilla remarked. “I don’t think it’s proper to be this formal all the time.”

    “True,” she replied. “But I felt that he wouldn’t understand what I was saying if I had used slang.”

    Both female trucks glanced at Percy as they backed away from his shed.

    “Well, then...Percy,” Daisy said, “let’s get going – we wouldn’t want to keep everyone else waiting.”

    “Everyone else? You mean there are more vehicles like you two?” he asked.

    “Oh, we have about twenty or twenty-five more vehicles at the parking lot down this road. We’re hoping that we may find a few more vehicles hidden in the mountain, but our scouts have not yet reported back with any new information.”

    “That mountain’s called Mount Hutch, and I’d like to see these vehicles firsthand.”

    Daisy backed herself up and out of the way of Percy’s path, saying, “Right this way, sir—excuse me, Percy.”

    “I don’t mind if you happen to call me ‘sir’ occasionally. Just don’t do it too often; I don’t deserve the title.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind.”

    Percy trundled out of his shed, turning around the house that Daisy and Priscilla had driven around to see him. He spotted a huge crowd of somewhat-rusty vehicles looking amiably at him from the large parking lot in the port. Everyone in the crowd had eyes and upper panels in their windshields, as well; some of them were double-arched, others had a sharp dip in the middle.

    One of them, a medium-blue late-1950s Japanese pickup truck, pulled out of the group to greet Percy. His four-cylinder engine buzzed loudly as he drove away from his spot near the edge of the trees. As he came closer, Percy noticed that the truck’s trapezoidal chrome grille had the word “SATSUMA” printed out in small lettering at the top.

    “Hey, there,” the truck said, in a voice that reminded Percy of Tim’s father. “So…I guess we have another Pigeon joining the party.”

    “Oh?” Percy replied, staring at the crowd. He heard Daisy and Priscilla’s engines get gradually louder as they drove towards him.

    “Yeah, we’ve got two other Pigeons who both will be very enthusiastic to see you.”

    “Huh…interesting.”

    “Oh, by the way, I’m Sam Irwin the 1958 Satsuma 210…1200 Pickup.”

    “I’m Percy the 1987 Ibishu Pigeon.”

    “Interesting…” Sam squinted at Percy’s rear fender flares. “Were you previously a van?”

    “Uncle Sam…we can save these questions for later,” Daisy said. “For now, we should introduce him to everyone else.”

    “True,” Sam mumbled as he began to reverse into a three-point turn, “There’ll be plenty of time for questions later.” And with that, the blue truck eased along the path and into the crowd.

    Percy, Daisy, and Priscilla quickly followed the blue Satsuma down the path and towards the crowd. As Sam’s high-cut bed and tiny round tail lights disappeared to the left, Percy nearly ran into a large, black coupe with a massive chrome front bumper and double-stacked rectangular headlights. He saw that this car had the stylized “B” of a Bruckell, as well as the chrome eggcrate grille of a Moonhawk. He also noticed that her windshield had a double-arched panel border, and that there was a little red dome light on her roof.

    “Oi, watch it!” the annoyed coupe said.

    “Sorry,” Percy replied. “I didn’t see you there behind Mr. Irwin, so…”

    “It’s okay,” the Moonhawk assured, her front bumper bending slightly downwards in the middle. “Sorry, I didn’t realize I was blocking your way to the parking lot.”

    “I’m fine,” Percy replied flatly. “I just woke up, so I don’t really have the best vision or sense of direction yet.”

    “I’m Mandy MacAdams the 1977 Bruckell Moonhawk Detective Special, by the way.”

    “Nice to meet you, Mandy,” Percy said, watching as the big Bruckell backed up to give him some room.

    “The same to you.”

    Mandy reversed herself around the same matte-grey Moonhawk that Tim’s brother once owned, parking herself neatly between the male coupe and a Burnside police car. Percy then drove over the grassy median between the former test area and the side road to the port. As he trundled down the two neat rows of vehicles on either side of him, his bright-green eyes darted around his windshield to look at them all. Three T-Series trucks – the grey tanker truck, a fire-red cement mixer, and a white rollback tow truck – towered over the rest of the vehicles in the right row, busily chatting about something that Percy couldn’t make out. Two Pigeons near the end of the left row – a cream base model with dark-grey stabilizers, and a white street-cleaning version – were discussing something about an evil Bolide when the street cleaner paused to stare at Percy.

    “Look, there’s another Pigeon!” he squeaked, bouncing his front wheel slightly as his hazel eyes took in the green truck’s form.

    “Good morning,” Percy replied absentmindedly, barely moving forward before he felt something metal touch his left door.

    The cream Pigeon, who he noticed was a female, scowled slightly at him as she yanked her right stabilizer away. “What’s the matter, Percy? You don’t want to talk to my little brother, Patrick?”

    “Ehhh….” Percy replied, staring at a beaming, excited-looking Patrick.

    “Anyway,” the cream Pigeon said, “I’ll just let you talk to him while I try to—”

    VROOOOOOOMMM-POP-POP-POP!...RRRRRRRR!!

    Everyone stopped their discussions to peer at the port entrance, gradually hearing the engine sounds become more and more deafening as they echoed through the tunnel.

    “W-what is that?” Mandy chattered.

    There are only three cars on the island that make engine sounds like that…Percy thought as he watched three pairs of headlights barely peek through the trees.

    “Here they come…” a female voice said behind him.

    SCREEEEEEEE!!!

    Just then, Cesar’s old Bolide popped out from behind the trees and drove down the port entrance road. It was quickly followed by two ETK I-Series sedans – one dark-grey and one silver - both of which were bumper-to-bumper as they all slowed down to drive into the middle of the group of cars. The Bolide, which Percy quickly noticed was female, had angrily fixed her midnight-black eyes on Percy as she drove towards him. Both ETKs parked behind her, watching both rows of vehicles intently.

    “What’s the matter, Carla?” Percy asked.

    “You do realize,” she replied in a light Italian accent, “that you are exactly where I and my friends need to be, you pathetic little truck?”

    “No, I never realized that.”

    “Well, then, shoo! We’ve got business to attend to.”

    Percy did not even budge. Everyone stared intently at the group in the middle, frozen in surprise or anger.

    “Nice try, but I won’t move for those who are disrespectful, madam.”

    A few giggles echoed from the crowd, and Percy watched as the Bolide quickly rolled her eyes. However, the red and white T-Series trucks and a couple highly-tuned cars poked their front ends out of their lines and glared at the defiant little trike.

    “Don’t you dare talk back to one of our best racers and the owner of Josephine Field, kid,” the dark-grey ETK said gruffly. “You’re just some nobody barging in here like you own the place.”

    “Yeah,” the rollback T-Series, the grey Moonhawk, the cement mixer, the orange Miramar, and a couple other vehicles piped up.

    “When Carla tells you to move,” the cement mixer barked as he pointed his radio antenna behind Percy, “that means that you MOVE, no matter how rudely she might have said it. Got that?”

    “Yeah,” Percy replied, “but I happen to be a racer, as well. In fact, I’m rather quick considering that I’ve got way less power than any of you, and…”

    The vehicles who had moved towards the center looked like they were desperately trying not to laugh until the orange Miramar burst out wheezing and cackling. His fellow supporters of Carla followed suit, and soon about half of the vehicles in the crowd were laughing out loud as they tried mimicking a Pigeon tipping around a corner.

    “Scrrrrrr! Oh, no, I’m going into this corner at 40 kilometers per hour! I’m gonna fly off this cliff!” the grey Moonhawk exclaimed as he leaned to one side. “Guess my entire life as a racer is the big, fat lie that it always has been. Ou-wheeeeee!”

    Percy, on the other hand, moped a little and reversed a few centimeters away from a smug-looking Carla. Well…that’s certainly rude, but it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. In fact, I was expecting much worse from these vehicles.

    Please calm down and go back to your spots, everyone,” Mandy said in an annoyed tone.

    Percy watched as the cream Pigeon backed herself up and over the ridge between the parking lot and the side road to the pier, making a spot for him to drive into.

    “It’s all yours,” she said, driving towards the back of the crowd.

    Percy then turned himself around and reversed himself next to Patrick, who cheerfully smiled at his friend as he turned on his orange dome light and began to imitate a siren. “Woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo…”
    “Agh! Would you please turn that light off, Patrick? I can’t focus on anything with a bunch of orange light in my eyes!” came the same voice Percy had heard behind him.

    “Sorry, Aunt Minnie,” the street cleaner replied, staring over to his left.

    Huh? Percy thought, peering to the left to see a charcoal-colored female Miramar coupe sitting on a flatbed trailer. He noticed that the front end was like that of the orange Miramar that he had raced two years ago. However, unlike the sedan version, this car had a cream-colored roof that sloped down more gradually, the rear pillar marked with a small red “Z” badge. A small crease zipped its way out of her rear fender, which then led to a slightly-more-sloped rear end.

    “That’s alright, dear,” Minnie said. “Anyway, do we have everyone here?”

    “No, not yet,” the tanker truck said. “Helen still hasn’t come back yet from exploring the dirt roads on this…” -he pointed his long, chrome radio antenna towards Mount Hutch- “mound of dirt yet.”

    “You mean Mount Hutch,” Percy replied.

    “Mount Hutch?!” everyone around him asked incredulously.

    “Yep, that’s what it’s been called for a long time.”

    “And how did it come to be called ‘Mount Hutch’?” Minnie asked. “I do not believe that any vehicle here is called ‘Hutch’.”

    Oh, gosh, now I have to tell them about the humans who created them…Percy thought as he looked around at all the curious expressions everyone was wearing.

    “Some man named Hutch climbed it in 1879,” he said.

    Some nervous discussion filled the air around him as most vehicles tried to understand the situation.

    “A man? What is that, some weird thing that Sam’s kids made up?” came an angry growl from a medium-light-green male Satsuma wagon.

    screenshot_00176.png screenshot_00166.png screenshot_00182.png
    “Hey! Knock it off, Sid,” Sam said from his spot near Minnie.

    “No, a man is a two-legged creature that’s roughly as tall as an Ibishu Hopper,” Percy said. “They can be incredibly intelligent, but they can also be quite stupid, as well.” And they were the beings that built us.

    “Are there any…mans, manses, or something along those lines…” Minnie struggled for words.

    “Men.”

    “Oh, right. Well, are there any men left here?”

    “Nope, they all packed up and left four months ago.”

    “Why? Were they scared of something? Us?” the rollback T-Series said as she glared at Percy.

    “No, it was a variety of reasons that were completely unrelated to us, and…”

    VROOOOOOM-POP-POP-POP!

    Somewhere in the distance, an American V8 roared and popped louder and louder as it came closer to the port.

    “Huh? That doesn’t sound like any engine I’ve heard,” the tanker truck said. “It’s a bit too low-pitched to be something like Carla’s V8, but it sure sounds loud.”

    “Oh, that engine sounds really good, Terrence,” an orange Miramar next to the tanker truck remarked with a sly grin. “I wonder if it’s another street racer who was hiding out on Mount Hutch.”

    That’s the same orange Miramar that I beat two years ago, Percy thought as he peered at the sedan. He even has a similar character to his former owner, in some ways.

    Just then, a white jeep-like female vehicle popped out onto the entrance road, followed cautiously by a lifted, pastel-yellow male Moonhawk who came to a halt in front of the parking lot. The hardtop Hopper drove through the crowd, attracting stares from everyone around her.

    “Good morning, Minnie,” she said cheerfully, turning to face the parked yellow Moonhawk. “I just found a new resident while exploring the trails of Selva Rocosa. This” -she pointed her radio antenna at the yellow Bruckell- “is Maurice Jensen-MacAdams the 1978 Bruckell Moonhawk.”

    “Excellent work, Helen,” Minnie replied. “But why has he stopped right on the entrance road?”

    “Well,” Helen grumbled, “he’s a little nervous about revealing himself to everyone. He even tried racing away from me once we got onto the highway loop.”

    Suddenly, Maurice lurched forward, surrounded by shocked stares and gasps as he nervously crawled past the rows.

    “What happened to you?” most of the vehicles near the entrance road asked.

    “Goodness me, is he a car? Is he a truck? Is he an off-roader?” Terrence inquired.

    “N-nobody knows!” the orange Miramar said comically.

    “Hello, Maurice,” Minnie asked, before announcing, “Everyone, please quiet down!”

    Silence.

    “So, Maurice, what is all this commotion about being a car and a truck?”

    The yellow Moonhawk stared wearily at her before turning backwards to reveal his side profile. Minnie’s windshield panel flew up as she noticed that the coupe’s signature sloping C-pillar and trunk had been cut off and replaced with a flat-sided truck bed. She peeked over the sides of Maurice’s bed to see a large, rectangular chrome fuel cell bolted securely onto the front half of the bed.

    “Huh…do you happen to be a quad, Maurice?” Minnie asked eagerly.

    “A what?” the yellow Moonhawk replied as he turned to face her.

    “A four-wheel-drive vehicle. After all, cars like…whatever you’re supposed to be, could be highly useful to us for rescue missions.”

    “Unfortunately, I’m only rear-wheel-drive, ma’am. Never have had my front wheels powered once in my life.”

    “Huh...” Minnie reversed slightly to reveal a large blackboard on a stand near one of the I-Series sedans, with the cream Pigeon parked in front of the chalkboard. “Pamela?”

    “Yes?” she replied.

    “I’m afraid that we may not be able to categorize Maurice into any of our predetermined classes. He’s neither car nor truck, and he’s unfit for off-road purposes with his rear-wheel-drive drivetrain. Does anyone have any suggestions?”

    Percy lifted his front suspension slightly and rolled himself out of his parking spot.

    “What if we make a new category just for Maurice?”

    Rapid and concerned discussion spread through the rows of vehicles around him.

    “Percy,” Minnie replied, “I’m afraid that it is not going to work like that. We only have three classes to put vehicles into: cars, trucks, and off-roaders. Maurice is going to fit into only one of those classes. We are not going to put him into his own class just because he happens to be so different from us.”

    Percy tried to spot any nervousness or anger in Maurice’s expression, but the yellow Moonhawk remained calm.

    “Well, I do ride on a truck frame, and I have a decent-sized bed,” he said. “I’d say that I’m closer to a truck than anythin’.”

    “But you look too much like a car to be a real truck,” Sid remarked.

    “So? I’m still useful as a truck, and I’m almost entirely truck-based.”

    “Errr…errr….” -Minnie stared at Pamela, who was holding a piece of chalk in her left stabilizer- “write him down as a truck.”

    “I’ll get right to that,” the cream Pigeon said, getting to work on writing.

    A few giggles emanated quickly from a couple of the vehicles, most notably Patrick.

    “Done,” Pamela announced, eagerly lifting her front wheel.

    “Excellent,” Minnie replied. “Maurice, Helen, go to your parking spots.”

    “Right,” both vehicles said.

    Maurice turned himself around and drove towards a spot between Terrence and the orange Miramar, while Helen parked herself next to Patrick.

    “Finally,” the charcoal Miramar sighed. “Anyway, thank you all for coming here this morning for our first meeting. Today, I believe that we should go over the rules that we have decided upon for the safety and success of our community. First off,” -she glanced at Pamela, who had flipped the blackboard over and was now checking the list of rules and regulations- “anyone who wishes to participate in or watch a race must always stay off the main road loop or the road leading into town. We do not want to block anyone from traveling around the island as quickly and efficiently as possible. Does everyone understand?”

    “Yes,” everyone replied.

    “Excellent. Secondly, we will only be hosting the mountain or peninsula races in the evenings to prevent any interference with traffic. However, drag races at Josephine Field can be held at any time of the day, as the field is well off the main loop. You may participate in practice sessions in either this parking lot or the east lot in the town during the daytime, as well. Those are all the rules we have come up with right now for racing. On the other hand, if any of you happen to be caught racing on the highway loop, we will be cutting your weekly fuel rations in half for two weeks.

    “Speaking of fuel rations, we will be setting them based on size. Smaller vehicles, like Percy here, will be receiving only one and a half liters of fuel a week. Bigger vehicles, like the Giants” -Minnie pointed her radio antenna at the three T-Series trucks- “will be receiving five liters a week. Anyone who runs out of fuel during the week can have a small refill, but that will take away from your fuel ration for next week. Everyone understand?”

    “Yes.”

    “Great. That is all that I wanted to tell you all today. You may carry on your merry ways…” -everyone began to drive out of their parking spots- “…except you, Maurice.”

    Percy watched amidst the commotion as the yellow Moonhawk pulled out of his spot to approach Minnie. After almost everyone was gone, Percy turned around and drove towards the abandoned assembly hall. He looked up at its rusty arched roof, noticing that a few patches of sunlight brightened its floor. The corroded girder above the road in front of the hall dripped murky brown water in his path. Well…wouldn’t hurt to look around in here, Percy thought as he looked at the empty doorframe.

    He drove around the puddles of rusty water under the girder to enter the hall, stopping underneath a large roof panel to stare at the scene. Rusty support beams lined his field of vision all the way to the back entrance, with a rough quilt of early-morning light seeping in through the roof. Nothing but bare concrete lay beneath his wheels. Wow…there really is nothing here at all, Percy thought. Tim’s father wasn’t wrong when he said that they would be stripping the plant to its foundations. All around him were echoes of factory workers milling around the hall; taking cabs, frames, beds, drivetrains, and suspension components together and building them into hundreds and hundreds of Pigeons.

    He could still hear the cheering, clapping, and high-fiving from their celebration of his construction on that fateful April day. Boy, was that a chaotic day for me, Percy thought. But it was all worth it seeing Tim happier than he has ever been since.

    Three hours later, Percy was happily driving towards the town. He noticed that the Burnside police sedan that he had seen at the meeting was driving in front of Minnie in the opposite lane. Interesting…he thought. Wonder what they’re up to this time of day. As he saw the first town entrance to his left, he slowed down and turned onto a dirt road partially covered by a shed that looked almost identical to his own. He then drove through a chicane passing an L-shaped house before turning left at a gap in the vegetation.

    The huge concrete town square was surrounded by a wide, narrow warehouse on its east side, a collection of houses and shacks to the south, and a giant concrete water storage tank to the north. Pamela, Sam, and a bamboo-tan female Satsuma wagon were lined up along the north, west, and south sides of the square, anxiously watching the commotion in the middle. Patrick, Priscilla, and a mustard-yellow male Dove were haphazardly chasing each other around as fast as they could, with the two Pigeons tipping and leaning through the corners.

    “Eeek!” Patrick and Priscilla exclaimed as they turned in far too quickly to the right.

    The mustard Dove cackled as he drove to the south end of the square and turned to face the two Pigeons. “You still wanna chase me around or are y’all tired of tipping and busting your suspension?” he jeered.

    “Why can’t we keep up with you, David?” Priscilla said. “Every time we get near you, you just race away from us like we’re standing still!”

    “Yeah!” Patrick concurred.

    “It’s simple, really; I’ve got four wheels and you’ve got three. I’m way more stable than any Pigeon will ever be.”

    “Well, then…how about I challenge you to a chase?” Percy asked.

    With that, the mustard Dove’s sneer turned into a devilish grin as he stared at Percy. “Oh, I’d be delighted to,” he said, glancing at Patrick and Priscilla. “After all, look at how easy it was for me to run from Pat and Prissa.”

    “Right. Shall we start?”

    “Yeah, but first, a couple rules we’ll have to follow. I’ll be trying to run away from you, and if I happen to get near your rear bumper at any time, or if you tip into the weeds, I win. If you manage to hang on to me for more than two minutes, or if I spin out, you win. Sound easy enough?”

    “Sure, that sounds simple enough.”

    “My name’s David, by the way. David Parker the 1982 Ibishu Dove 1.6-liter GLX 4WD. Ready to lose against the best drifter on Selva Rocosa?”

    Ouch…Percy thought as he looked at David’s chrome “4WD FULL TIME” door badge, narrow white steel wheels, and black side trim. He’s got 90 horsepower, four-wheel-drive, locking differentials, a 5-speed manual, and only 750 kilograms to move around. Most of that mass being down low, of course.

    “Yes…very ready to win.

    While Percy and a somewhat-confused David lined up near a sapling on the west end of the square, every other vehicle except Pamela drove out the first town entrance and towards the highway loop. The cream trike puttered into a two-lane street between two houses at the south end with a stopwatch in her left stabilizer. Patrick and Priscilla got one last glance at the mustard Dove as he revved his engine at them.

    BZZZZZZZZZ, BZZZZZZZZ, BZZZZZZZZ…

    “Three…two…one…go!” Pamela shouted as David launched off the line, pitching himself into a long, lazy left-hand donut around the square.

    Two seconds later, Percy followed him into the circle and leaned hard as he tried to keep up with the drifting Dove. However, every time that he came close to David’s rear bumper, he found himself shaking, lifting his inner rear wheel, and bouncing around as his rear suspension tried its best to keep him on the ground. Geez, is this tough, Percy thought as he fell behind David once again. I’ve got the skill to catch him, sure, but I can’t quite keep up with him long enough, and... hold on.

    “If you ever find yourself going in a circle or needing to take a tight corner, Percy,” Tim had said one mid-August evening two years ago, “just turn enough to let your inner rear wheel spin a little to help yourself turn into the corner quicker.”

    Of course! The Lean-Spin-Accelerate maneuver would work perfectly here!

    Percy adjusted his steering angle to roughly half-lock and leaned as far as he could to the outside, letting his inner rear wheel blaze a trail of rubber on the ground. He caught up rapidly to David’s tail and passed by the Dove’s rear axle as he approached his door.

    “Take this!” David said as he flicked to the right and drifted past a couple of the houses.

    He opened the gap as Percy tried to turn to the right. David knows the disadvantages of a Pigeon very well, Percy thought as he caught back up to the mustard Dove. But I can still turn tighter circles faster than he can.

    “Wait, what?!” David exclaimed as he watched a seafoam-green truck enlarge in his rearview mirror. “I thought I lost him when I changed direction back there. He should have flown into the scenery on that transition!”

    Perfect…he’s feeling the pressure already, Percy thought. It’s only a matter of time before he goes spinning into the weeds.

    For another minute, the two trucks repeated this cycle, David pulling away on the transitions and Percy gaining through each tighter circle that he made on the concrete. On David’s fourth transition, he twitched to the left near the houses before suddenly snapping to the right and spinning wildly out of control.

    “Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!” he screamed as he slammed on the brakes.

    Pamela backed up rapidly as the mustard truck skidded towards the street. He shut his eyes tightly in anticipation of the hard crunch of fiberglass and metal colliding against each other. His engine stalled as he stopped in the alley, and he opened his eyes to see a nervous-looking Pamela in front of him.

    “Good job, David,” Percy said as he pulled up behind the halted Dove. “Almost had me beat there, to be honest.”

    “W-where d-d-did you get a-all that skill and acceleration from?” David stuttered as he started his engine and turned to face the green trike.

    “Racing, more specifically mountain racing.”

    “You’re…you’re a mountain racer?!

    “That’s right. Specially tuned for mountain racing, as well.”

    “So that’s why you accelerated so quickly. You probably have at least a couple more horsepower than a standard Pigeon, maybe even some weight reduction.”

    “I don’t have more power, but I’m still about the same weight as a standard Pigeon. Well, anyway, I should be going home now. Thank you for the practice session, by the way.”

    “N-no, thank you for not crashing into me when I spun out.” David’s front bumper broke into a cheerful grin, revealing his shimmering teeth to his little green cousin.

    “Anytime, pal.”

    Percy turned around and headed back out the first town entrance, smiling slightly as he drove towards the port.

    Boy, was that some great fun, he thought. It may not have been nearly as thrilling as that race I ran against Adrian and Walter…but it still was a nice refresher after all these months of loneliness. Who knows, I might also have gained a new friend today who’s decently skilled in racing.
    screenshot_00184.png screenshot_00183.png screenshot_00186.png
    “Alright, everyone! Line up!” Pamela said as she picked up the last of the black jerrycans and dragged them to the middle of the port’s parking lot.

    Fifteen vehicles, including Percy, Maurice, Mandy, Minnie, and Sam all formed a winding queue in the lot, an action that had become no more organized over the last month of practice. They anxiously watched and waited as vehicle after vehicle was refilled by Pamela. As Percy pulled up to his spot, he popped his fuel door open and parked neatly next to the cream trike.

    “Hey, Percy?” Pamela said to him as she slowly filled up his tank.

    “Yes?” Percy replied.

    “You’ve been hearing all this stuff about Terrence potentially being a monster, right?”

    “Yeah. I dunno what it’s all about, though. I mean, he’s completely harmless, from what I’ve seen.”

    “I heard that he almost wrecked Mandy one early morning while driving along the highway loop. He may also be responsible for the disappearance of one of my jerrycans last night,” Pamela said before she pulled the jerry can’s nozzle out of his filler hose.

    “Wait, really?” Percy replied. “I thought Tyler only stayed in the assembly hall during the night.”

    “Well, at least, that’s what may be the case. Anyway, you’re all set.”

    “Thanks, Pamela.”

    “Anything for a fellow Pigeon.”

    Percy drove towards the side road to the pier, turning to head out of the port. He then saw Priscilla and Patrick speeding out from behind the maze of containers, giggling slightly before they spotted their seafoam-green friend. Percy noticed that they both had stabilizers on that wiggled and waved around as they drove.

    “Err…hello…” Percy said.

    “Hey, Percy!” they both replied.

    “Where’d you get those stabilizers from?”

    “Where do you think?” Pamela remarked as she filled the tank of a white-and-black Barstow with a green jerry can.

    “Pamela gave ‘em to us, and they’re absolutely awesome!” Priscilla squeaked.

    “Yeah, these stabiwizers are the best,” Patrick concurred.

    “Okay…that’s interesting, I suppose,” Percy said.

    “Interesting? It’s amazing!” Priscilla remarked. “Also, Pamela said that she’d be taking us on a little drive around the island today. Isn’t that right, sister?”

    Pamela turned to face her and said, “Unfortunately, I’m going to be extremely busy today with vehicle and building maintenance, and Mom and Dad are going to a meeting. Everyone else that I could think of is going to be busy, as well, so I’d like to ask you a favor, Percy.”

    “What do you want me to do? I mean, I can’t do much-”

    “Well...you do know the most about this island, and I think you need a couple more friends in your life, Percy. Patrick and Priscilla are eager little trikes, and they have been begging me or anyone else in the Ibishu clan to tell them all about this place. To be honest, I’m as clueless as they are about the history of our home.”

    “I can do that.”

    All the Irwins’ eyes lit up as they stared at him, with the two youngsters anxiously wiggling their stabilizers.

    “You can do that?” both Patrick and Priscilla squeaked.

    “Yes, I can,” Percy replied. “When should I take them around Selva Rocosa?”

    “Anytime you want, although Pat and Prissa would prefer you do it as soon as possible,” Pamela said as she grabbed a few of the jerry cans and carefully placed them in her bed.

    “Right. I’ll start this off right now…”-Percy glanced at Patrick and Priscilla-“…if you two don’t mind.”

    Patrick’s mouth broke into a toothy smile, while Priscilla perked her front suspension up as she heard Percy speak.

    “Yes, please,” both said in unison.

    Priscilla continued, “We’d love to explore around our home while Mommy and Daddy are off at their meeting.”

    “Well, then, come on. I’ve got loads to tell you about this island.”

    Percy drove between Patrick and Pamela and headed towards the port exit, with the two younger Pigeons in tow.

    “So, what’re we gonna be looking at first?” Priscilla asked as they stopped at the first intersection.

    “Well…I would like you guys to see Andronicus Observatory, but that’s under Helen’s control, and she doesn’t like having lots of visitors,” Percy grumbled

    “Same thing at the airfiewd with Carla,” Patrick said. “She always turns us away from there.”

    “Well, there is one place that we could go,” Percy said.

    “What’s that?” both the Irwins asked eagerly.

    “Oh, you’ll see soon enough.”

    As the trio of Pigeons were driving down the highway, they came up on the exit to the town road. Percy slowed down to turn towards the town, with a confused Patrick and Priscilla behind him.

    “Err…Percy?” they both asked.

    “Yes?” Percy replied.

    “Why are we going down here?” Priscilla said. “After all, this road leads us to town, and we’ve already explored everything there is to see along this road.”

    “Well, I figured that I ought to tell your parents where we’re going and for how long we’ll be gone before we head out.”

    “True…but isn’t there a shortcut or something that’ll lead us back to the highway? I hate hills and sharp turns.”

    Percy spotted the first town entrance on the left but chose to turn onto the paved second entrance instead.

    “Oh, yes, there are quite a few shortcuts. You just gotta know where to look.”

    As Percy passed by the brick police depot to the left of the entrance, he saw Mandy talking to an irritated white female Ibishu Pessima HX in the second square. He glanced around to see if anyone else was in the town, but no other vehicle stood out amongst the houses and trees around him.

    “Penelope, I just wanted to remind you that crawling around the highway loop is a hazard to other vehicles! I swear I never intended to offend you!” Mandy said.

    “Oh, yeah?” Penelope replied as she glanced at Percy. “Well, I’m just trying to do my part by saving fuel for gas guzzlers like you. Why, I only took a liter and a half of fuel for this week when I could have had double that. I am helping you guys by driving slower and being more economical. But no, that’s apparently being a ‘hazard’ on this island. I wonder what other helpful things you’ve got me booked for.”

    Mandy stared in shock at the white sedan while Percy drove towards the two larger cars.

    “Err…hello?” he asked sheepishly.

    “Good morning, Percy!” Penelope replied. “What’s up?”

    “Today, I’m taking Patrick and Priscilla on a little drive around Selva Rocosa to explore some of the artifacts and history of the island. How about you?”

    “Interesting. Well, I’m probably going to get my third talking-to from Sarge and Mandy about being ‘too slow’ while I’m driving.”

    To be perfectly honest, Percy thought, you do drive very slowly all the time, so it’s somewhat understandable that other vehicles would be annoyed at you.

    “Percy, are you sure that we’re going on our little drive?” Priscilla asked anxiously. “It seems to me like you came here just to watch a couple older cars bicker at each other.”

    “No, I didn’t,” Percy replied. “Penelope, do you know where Mr. and Mrs. Irwin are?”

    “Oh, they left for their meeting at Josephine Field a couple minutes ago,” Mandy said. “They’re currently trying to smooth out a few issues between Carla and Minnie. I could relay a message to them if you want; I’m supposed to be heading back to my post shortly, and Josephine Field is only a short drive away.”

    “Hey!” Penelope interjected. “I was just about to say where Sam and Sally were before you interrupted me.”

    “Right,” Percy replied as he watched Penelope storm off into the warehouse behind him. “Tell them that I’ll be taking Priscilla and Patrick around the perimeter of Selva Rocosa for the morning. Also, thank you for relaying the message for me.”

    “You’re welcome,” the big black Bruckell said as she turned around and sped out the second town entrance.

    After she left, Percy motioned his fellow Pigeons to follow him in a line out the second entrance.

    “You know,” Patrick said as they turned back onto the town road, “as much as I like driving on the highway loop, I don’t want to do that today. It takes so long to get somewhere using that road.”

    “Thankfully,” Percy replied as he spotted an uphill dirt trail to his left, “we won’t need to take the highway.”

    Percy slowed down and turned to the right along a narrow dirt path. Patrick and Priscilla paused for a moment, looking at the mild slope in front of them.

    “Come on,” Percy said as he stopped at the crest of the path.

    “But Percy,” Priscilla squeaked, “that path’s where Daddy almost crashed when he was trying to get to Josephine Field yesterday.”

    “We won’t need to worry about crashing as long as we engine brake.”

    “Engine brake?” both the Irwin Pigeons asked.

    “Yep,” Percy replied, “we’ll just coast down this dirt path in first gear to keep our speed low, which should prevent us from hitting anything.”

    All three Pigeons drove over the crest and down the other side of the path; coasting at 20 kilometers per hour. Bushes blew around in the wind on the left, while trees small and large formed a precarious barricade on the right. The path curved towards a flat two-lane dirt road that was lined with trees, which led slightly uphill for a while until it flattened again.

    “Whew,” Priscilla breathed as she pulled up next to Percy. “Thanks for teaching me and Patrick that. I think it’ll come in handy for when we come across steeper roads.”

    “Yeah,” Patrick concurred.

    “Well, I’m glad to hear that,” Percy replied as the trio drove towards a sandy pit in the middle of the jungle.

    The road sharply banked to the right before smoothing out for a left sweeper, where a small puddle had formed in the middle of the road.

    “It this group of puddles anything interesting, Percy?” Priscilla asked.

    “Nope, just a bunch of puddles,” Percy replied as he went up and over a crest in the road. “But this next spot will be very interesting.”

    “What is it?” both Irwins said as the trio drove over the highway and onto the next section of dirt road.

    “I’m not telling you just yet.”

    The second section of dirt road was more curved than the first, with less bumps or elevation changes. It was lined with trees up until Percy saw a rough uphill dirt path to his right.

    “Here it is,” he said to the two Irwins as he turned onto the path and cruised up it.

    “But this is only a dirt path,” Patrick remarked while he and Priscilla followed their seafoam-green friend. “There’s nothing cool about this.”

    “True,” Percy replied as he spotted a tall tree and a rotting grey building ahead of him. “But what’s up here is worth the rough ride to it.”

    The three Pigeons trundled past a small ruined 16th-century Spanish fort perched at the peak of the short cliff. Despite the Spaniards’ best efforts, it had succumbed to the persistent forces of nature. Bushes peeked out of the few remaining windows of the fort, while a young palm tree sprouted from its southeast corner. After centuries of pounding from the rain and wind, the roof and most of the sides had collapsed into the soil. The fort was surrounded on three sides by a stone barrier with two guard spots pointing towards two land formations on or near the main island. One spot jutted towards a northeastern Y-shaped peninsula, and the other pointed to a long sand bar along the middle of the eastern coast.

    As the trio of Pigeons turned right into the dirt lot in the middle, Patrick and Priscilla stared at the vast ocean in front of them. “Woah,” they said in unison.

    “This is awesome,” Priscilla said under her breath.

    “Welcome to Fort George, the first modern human settlement on Selva Rocosa,” Percy announced as he drove towards the northeastern section of the barrier and turned to face his two companions.

    “Is this that old building that Tyler says he destroyed in his youth?” Priscilla asked.

    “Well, yes and no.”

    “Huh?” both Irwins asked.

    “Yes, this is the same old building that that petty cement mixer talks about. No, he did not destroy it. In fact, he would have never been there to destroy it in the first place. This 16th-century fort was abandoned in the late 1800s after Spain lost its control over the Philippines, and…”

    “Wait,” Priscilla interjected, “what’s Spain? What’s the Philippines? Why couldn’t Tyler have had the opportunity to destroy Fort George?”

    “If you insist,” Percy mumbled, before replying in a clear tone, “Spain is a relatively large country in southwestern Europe, one of the smaller continents of the world. It had built up a giant empire of several different countries that spread across the world. The Philippines is a country made up of seven thousand different islands along the east coast of the gigantic continent of Asia. We happen to be on one of the smallest islands in the Philippines. Tyler couldn’t have destroyed Fort George because he didn’t even exist back when it finally crumbled in the early-1940s, when a Japanese bomber destroyed it during a bombing run.”

    “Huh, but…wait, what’s a bomber?”

    “It’s a type of plane that drops bombs – big explosive objects – out of the sky and onto whatever target it may have.”

    “And why would a country want to rule other countries?”

    “Typically, countries want to take over other countries to gain land or money or resources. They also might want to gain control over the entire world.”
    “Even Selva Rocosa?” both Irwins inquired.
    Especially Selva Rocosa. This place would be great for setting up a secret base away from everyone else, as it is tiny and easy to miss.”
    Priscilla and Patrick shivered slightly as they looked at the sand bar to the southeast.
    “W-will these people attack us and come to take Mommy and Daddy away?” Patrick stammered.
    Percy’s faint smile faded as he replied calmly, “No, don’t worry about them. They’re all dead.”

    “Oh, thank goodness,” Patrick sighed in relief.

    “Dead?” Priscilla chirped.
    “If you are ‘dead’, that means that you cannot speak, see, move, or feel ever again. It’s like sleep, only permanent and possibly very painful,” Percy said. “Any more questions?”
    Both Irwins briefly raised their right stabilizers before putting them down sheepishly.
    “I’m not sure if I like this place, to be honest,” Priscilla murmured. “Can we go somewhere else now?”
    “Sure,” Percy replied.
    He squeezed around Priscilla and parked at the top of the downhill dirt path in front of him. The path formed a neat series of switchbacks surrounded by rockfaces at the bottom.
    “Well, looks like we got ourselves a scary downhill section here,” Percy said. “What do you guys think we do now?”
    “Engine brake!” both Irwins exclaimed with joy.
    “Excellent. If that’s the case,”-he began rolling down the path-“then let’s go!”
    screenshot_00195.png screenshot_00196.png
    He cruised down the S-curves at 20 kilometers per hour and heard his fellow Pigeons following right behind him. He drove smoothly onto the dirt road and traveled up its second half before accelerating back to the main road loop. The highway was lined with trees along the right side, while on the left side there were only a few scattered bushes and some short mounds preventing anyone from driving onto the beach. Nobody seemed to be out on the highway besides the trio of Pigeons driving along at 60 kilometers per hour towards a pointed mound in the distance.
    “Percy, where are we heading next?” Priscilla asked as she pulled up alongside Percy.
    “I think that we should visit…hmmm…” Percy broke off.
    “What about those giant piston heads hidden off the road?” Patrick suggested.
    “You mean those Japanese pillboxes? Sure, there’s one located just off the highway near Josephine Field, and—”
    “No, no, no!” both Irwins squealed. “We don’t want to go into the airfield.”
    “We’re not going into Josephine Field, guys,” Percy clarified. “We’re going to drive past it.”
    “But Carla still has those scary ETK guards that lurk around her field and chase us away. W-what if we anger them?” Priscilla said anxiously.
    Percy sighed before replying, “You do have a good point, but we’ll be far enough away from them to prevent any conflicts, and if they ask us to leave, we’ll comply with them. Got that?”
    “Yep,” both Irwins replied.
    “Excellent,” Percy said as the little party drove past the pointed mound on the left side of the road.
    As the trio of Pigeons puttered around the long 90-degree right turn near Southpoint Lighthouse and drove down the next straight, Percy saw that one of the ETKs was lounging around at the edge of Josephine Field. He was calmly watching the little green trike with his steel-grey eyes before he reversed towards the hangar, accelerating quietly to try to prevent the three Pigeons from noticing him. I wonder what that was all about, Percy thought as he trundled through a right sweeper before speeding through a fast chicane and onto a long straight. I don’t know which ETK that was, but either way, they typically wouldn’t move from their spots unless Carla told them to. Could they be stalking us?
    “Hey, Percy?” Priscilla said as the tree line on the left began to thicken.
    “Yeah?” Percy replied.
    “Didn’t you notice that one of those horrible ETKs was watching us back there?”
    “Yeah, I noticed.”
    The road gradually curved uphill to the left, passing by a steep entrance road to Josephine Field.
    “Well, why would they do that-” Patrick began before being interrupted.
    “Shhhhh,” Percy hushed nervously. “He might hear you.”
    Sure enough, another one of the ETKs appeared on the entrance road, with Sam and the bamboo-tan Satsuma wagon following him.
    “Well, I’m still not sure about that, and—oh, hello, dears!” the wagon exclaimed.
    “Mommy! Daddy!” both Irwins squeaked as she approached.
    “Hiya, kids,” Sam said as he maneuvered around the somewhat smug-looking ETK. “How’s your day been?”
    “It’s been awesome!” Patrick said. “Percy’s been showing us so much cool stuff around the island.”
    “Yeah!” Priscilla chirped. “He even taught us how to engine brake so that we don’t fly off into the trees whenever we’re going downhill.”
    “Excellent,” the Satsumas replied in unison.
    “Well, Sally, should we tell Percy what we’ve been thinking about recently?” Sam said.
    “Errr…” she muttered as she stared at the green trike. “Maybe we should save that for later. You know, when we’re with more members of the Ibishu clan? They’ll likely want a voice in this business, as well.”
    “Sure,” Sam said. “Anyway, we just wanted to check on you for a bit before getting back to our meeting.”
    “Bye!” both Irwins said as they waved their stabilizers at their reversing parents.
    After Sam and Sally had returned to their meeting, Percy turned his attention to the ETK sat in the middle of the road.
    “Good morning, Immanuel,” he said. “I see that you’re looking excellent today. May I ask what time it is?”
    “How dare you speak to me in a tone like that, hinfallenwagen,” Immanuel said with a light German accent.
    “I was only asking for the time, and…”
    Nein. I don’t give people the time willy-nilly, you know. Especially not to little trikes like you lot.”
    “Is it nine o’clock yet?” Priscilla asked.
    Immanuel thought for a few seconds before his dark-brown eyes widened in realization. “How did you know that it was exactly nine o’clock?”
    “Because you told us so,” both Irwins replied.
    All three Pigeons giggled as they reversed away from the stunned ETK, driving past him and towards a short downhill straight leading into a banked right sweeper.
    “That gets him every time,” Priscilla chirped after they exited the sweeper.
    Patrick was still giggling as they rounded a sharper right sweeper. Percy slowed down and turned to the left at the sweeper’s exit, driving towards a Japanese pillbox located in a clearing between two palm trees. The trio of Pigeons pulled off the highway and stared at the pillbox from the right side of the clearing.
    “You know what I think these…what are they called again?” Priscilla said.
    “Japanese pillboxes,” Percy replied.
    “Pillboxes?” both Irwins asked.

    “That looks like a piston to me,” Patrick said as he drove closer to the pillbox.
    “It looks like a very hungry monster to me,” Priscilla replied. “It’s almost like it’s about to open its mouth and eat you alive!”
    “Eeek!” Patrick squeaked as he backed a meter away.
    “Now, now, Priscilla, don’t go scaring your little brother like that,” Percy reminded his orange friend.
    “But still, that’s what it looks like, right?”
    Percy stared hard at the pillbox, noticing that the rusty front door and rectangular side windows near the door did form a semblance of a mouth and eyes.
    “Huh…you’re right. I guess that this really does look like a face.”
    Just then, Pamela came along and parked behind Percy, looking somewhat cheerful as she noticed her happy siblings.

    “Hi! I just came here to check in on you after I finished up with my maintenance at the port,” she said. “How are you two doing with Percy?”

    “Great!” Priscilla and Patrick replied.

    “We’ve been learning so much about our home, and he even taught us how to engine brake so that we can drive down slopes without crashing,” Priscilla chirped.

    “Excellent!” Pamela replied. “Well, then, I see that it was a great decision to let you two spend the morning with Percy. I assume that you’re taking them home soon, right, Percy?”

    “In a moment, after I’m done here,” he said.

    “Great. Also, I was expecting you to have taken a bit longer, so good job on shortening the distance on your trip. That will save me from having to do a premature refill on Pat and Prissa, which I do not want to do. Anyway, I guess I should be going back to the port now in case Tyler or Minnie want me to do something else. Goodbye!”

    “Bye!” Patrick and Priscilla squeaked as they waved their stabilizers at their older sibling.

    As she drove away, Percy heard a large diesel engine echoing in the distance. It grew louder and louder as the white rollback T-Series raced past Percy and towards the peninsula intersection, speeding towards Pamela.

    “Pamsy!” both Patrick and Priscilla screamed.

    Pamela dodged away from the tow truck and watched as she blasted around the long sweeper to the port tunnel.

    “Sorry, Pamela, I didn’t see you there!” she roared.

    “Typical Tammy – always driving places without bothering to look at the things ahead,” Pamela muttered as she continued towards the port.

    “Why would she do that to Pamsy?” Priscilla squeaked.

    “Don’t worry,” Percy replied. “It was most likely an accident, or a coincidence.”

    “What’s that?” both the Irwin Pigeons asked.

    “Well, a coincidence is when one thing happens at the same time as another thing – or one vehicle ends up in the same place as another vehicle – without anyone planning them to happen or meet in the same place and/or the same time.”

    “Oh,” Patrick and Priscilla said in unison.

    “That would be a coincidence,” Percy replied.

    Everyone giggled for a few moments before Percy continued, “Anyway, I think that you two would like to…” -Patrick and Priscilla puttered towards their cream sibling- “…go see Pamela now.”

    Guess I might as well go home now that this whole trip has been taken off-track. Then again…why would Tammy want to drive so quickly towards the port? Is there some sort of emergency that I didn’t hear of?

    That night, Minnie drove towards the assembly hall and parked herself a few meters away from the three T-Series trucks and Immanuel. Pamela and Penelope were parked near Minnie on the exit side of the hall, with the former holding a piece of chalk in her right stabilizer in front of a two-sided chalkboard.

    “So, gentlemen – and Ms. Griffin – I came here to ask you about the current situations in every aspect of life in or near your respective areas,” Minnie said. “I have brought two of my most important citizens, Miss Parker and Miss Irwin, along with me to help all of us in this meeting. Pamela will be recording the minutes of meeting as we go along.”

    “And why is Miss Penelope here?” Immanuel asked intently.

    “Well, she has an important fuel-related announcement to make to all of us, which we will get to after we have covered the rest of our agenda,” Minnie replied.

    “Right, let’s begin,” Tyler growled.

    After roughly twenty minutes of discussion, Minnie cleared her airway and announced, “Now that we have gone over citizen satisfaction, illegal activity, and fuel distribution, the final topic on our agenda is fuel usage, and I believe I have to be perfectly frank here. Although it may look like our fuel supply is sufficient, I still think that we should start cutting down the usage of our reserves to help our cause. Penelope has developed a fuel-saving strategy that I believe could work quite well for most vehicles.”

    “And what would be your ‘strategy’ in fuel saving?” Tyler remarked as he laid his cold blue eyes on Penelope.

    “Well, from my experimentation over the past week, I have found that by driving in the tallest gear possible for as long as possible, and by clutching in or even turning off the engine whenever possible, I can use only a liter and a half of fuel for most of my daily activities,” Penelope explained, seemingly unintimidated by the gigantic cement mixer. “Although shifting to the tallest gear would not work very well with automatic vehicles like Minnie or our police force, anyone should be capable of turning off their engines on a steep downhill or disconnecting their engines from their drivelines.”

    “And what exactly is this ‘clutching in’ technique, and how does it work?” Terrence inquired pleasantly.

    “I’m glad you asked. I’m aware that all of you know how to use your clutch pedals to shift up or down a gear, right?”

    Everyone except Minnie nodded their hoods slowly.

    “Well, to ‘clutch in’, all you need to do is to hold your clutch pedal down until you need to use your engine to power yourself. It’s quite simple and is a highly effective way to save fuel.”

    “Interesting,” Terrence replied. “If these techniques work well enough for us over the next week or two, I believe that we should have ‘gravity racing’ as a new motorsport.”

    “Great idea, Terrence!” both Minnie and Pamela exclaimed.

    Minnie continued, “The only problem with that is…well…we do not have anywhere where we can do something like that. The town road is steep enough to get any vehicle going fast enough for an exciting race, and it is relatively straightforward to travel. However, it is too short for a proper race, has way too many hazards for a motorsport event, and it might be a bit too fast for racing – I mean, have you seen how many potholes and other hazards there are on that road? A couple of our racers have said that they have almost crashed trying to get through the harrowing first two turns on the downhill, and to make matters worse, a couple of our regular citizens have reported at least three near-misses from speeders heading down the road. It is far too dangerous to be used for gravity racing.”

    “Thankfully,” Penelope replied with a sly grin, “I’ve found just the road. On the east side of Mount Hutch, there is a second pass that is mostly made up of long, sweeping turns with only a couple potholes on the fourth straight and a small rut in the right lane of the second straight.”

    “Hmmm…” Minnie said. “Well, it could work.”

    “Yeah, it could be an interesting way to allow more vehicles into the racing scene,” Terrence replied. “After all, most vehicles shun racing because of how costly it is on their weekly rations.”

    “I have a complaint about this whole ‘slashing our fuel usage” ordeal,” Tammy said. “If I only have, say, two and a half liters of fuel to use every week, how am I possibly going to be able to tow any of you back to the port to allow Pamela to fix you?”

    “This rule will only be applicable to normal citizens,” Minnie replied. “Service vehicles, especially ones as important as you, will still get the same amount of fuel every week.”

    “Oh, excellent,” Tammy said.

    “Well, then,” Minnie continued, “I believe that is all we wanted to tell you all about. Goodbye, and thank you for joining us tonight.”

    “You’re welcome,” the T-Series trucks and Immanuel said as the latter drove out the assembly hall entrance.

    As the three Ibishus left for the town, the rain began to pelt down on Selva Rocosa once more.
    screenshot_00200.png
    On a sunny afternoon a week later, Percy turned off the Mount Hutch pass at the T-junction on the first long straight. He cruised down the smooth, tree-less cliff road that ran parallel to the first straight and leaned through the long sweeper before coming to a halt near a small road shoulder on the right. He saw that David had parked on the shoulder with the orange Miramar and a male white Barstow TrackSport, quietly discussing something about gravity that Percy could not quite overhear.

    “Hey, David,” Percy said.

    “Afternoon, Percy,” David replied as he turned to face him. “So, I heard that you’re interested in racing around Mount Hutch and the peninsula, eh?”

    “I sure am. Why don’t all four of us meet up there this afternoon and…”

    “Us?” David asked, looking almost incredulous as he stared back at the Miramar and Barstow.

    “Yeah. After all, I have raced Han once before and beat him – well, technically…”

    “If you beat me, I don’t remember it,” the Miramar replied. “Anyway, whatever you’re planning, you wouldn’t want to try and race any one of us Fort George Falcons. Why, even my good friend Roman here would beat you, and he’s not exactly the fastest of us when it comes to corners. Am I right, my Barstow buddy?”

    “Quiet, Han; I’m still better than you at drag racing, remember?” Roman growled. “But he’s right. Why would you want to consider racing anyone down Mount Hutch or around the peninsula? I mean, you have the skills, according to what Dave’s told me about you. However, I don’t see you coming anywhere near us or the Mount Hutch Dominators in an actual race.”

    Percy replied, “I’m not thinking about racing Carla or any of the big boys just yet; I’m only looking to enter the racing scene.”

    “Well, Penelope happens to have this thing called ‘gravity racing’,” David said. “Pretty much, you go down the east side of Mount Hutch with your engine off, relying upon gravity to get you down the mountain. It’s some great fun, to be honest; even Minnie’s promoting it as a more frugal method of mountain racing.”

    “Yeah, it’s an excellent alternative whenever we don’t have much fuel to use,” Han interjected as he looked at the next downhill sweeper. “It’s a lot safer and it eliminates power differences between vehicles, giving a much fairer way to compare skills. In fact, since we’ve got such a massive downhill before us, we might as well head to town to get you to your meeting with my sister.”

    “What does Minnie want with me today?” Percy replied.

    “She told me that she wanted you to go to the town for something related to Carla,” Han explained. “Of course, Carla’s likely already there since she seems to head to meetings a few minutes ahead of time. My friends and I will be driving off to the port, so we’ll be escorting you there.”

    David and Roman nodded their hoods in agreement, and all three vehicles released their parking brakes to gently roll down the road. Percy quickly followed them, gradually accelerating to 30 kilometers per hour as the tree lines thickened.

    “Wheeee!” David, Roman, and Han exclaimed as they raced up to 40 kilometers per hour, then 50, climbing to 60 as they flew through the next sweeper.

    All four cars braked gently for the next corner, a wide left hairpin with a large ditch on the inside. Roman and Han whooped loudly as they went side-by-side through the corner at 60 kilometers per hour. David clung his way around the bend at 65 and caught up to the bigger cars at the exit. Percy, on the other hand, squealed as he desperately tried not to tip as he raced into the corner at 65. He leaned hard enough to lift his front wheel a millimeter off the ground, skimming over the ditch on the inside and closing in on his friends.

    As the four vehicles exited the hairpin, the road ahead of them quickly roughened and the tree lines thinned on either side. A large pothole had formed in the middle of the road, which – although shallow – was large enough to let everyone feel its presence as the little group clunked their way over it. Two deeper, smaller potholes sat a few car-lengths after the first, prompting the four vehicles to quickly move as far to the right side of the poorly-maintained road as possible. However, just as Percy was adjusting to his position, Han called out, “Now to the left!”

    His three friends switched to the left side as they spotted a fourth pothole just after the right shoulder. Percy quickly followed David down the long left sweeper, where the road began to smooth out and allow everyone to accelerate to over 70 kilometers per hour.

    “You know,” Percy said as the road flattened, “I’d have to agree with you guys that this gravity racing is very cool.”

    “Well, that’s great to know,” Han replied as they passed by the dirt-covered fourth town entrance and looped through the long town sweeper.

    As the road straightened, the four vehicles passed by the third entrance before turning on to the second. Han and his group stopped after the second entrance and allowed Percy to park inside the second entrance.

    “Well, here’s where we leave you, Percy,” David said as he and his friends started their engines. “Have fun.”

    “Yeah, good luck with my sis and Carla,” Han remarked.

    All three of the Falcons puttered towards the port while Percy entered the town. He noticed that Daisy, Penelope, Helen, and all the Irwins except Pamela were playing a game of “I Spy” in the second town square before they saw him roll towards them.

    “Percy!” they cheered.

    “Hello,” he replied absentmindedly. “I was told by Han that I had a meeting with Minnie today. Where would I go for that?”

    “Oh, just head into that big building behind the houses,” Priscilla said as he pointed her right stabilizer at a large metal roof behind some small trees.

    “Right, that makes sense,” Percy replied. “I’ll see you in a bit, then. Goodbye!”

    “See you later,” everyone else said.

    Everyone else with the sole exception of Sid resumed their fun and games as Percy turned around and drove across the two-lane concrete road between the two squares. The light green Satsuma wagon was sulking as usual in his preferred parking space; a shaded spot between two houses on the left. As Percy admired the sheer scale of the abandoned brick warehouse, he turned to the left and continued down the narrower alley towards a small entrance on the side of the large building. He glanced up at the top of the entrance and spotted the fading white letters spelling out ‘BEAMNG’ painted above it.

    “Good afternoon, Percy,” Minnie said to him as he rolled inside. “Would you mind parking next to Carla for a few minutes while Pamela and I explain the situation?”

    “Sure,” Percy replied.

    Carla had parked herself between the two pairs of broken, dirty 36-pane windows on the east side of the warehouse. Every metal support beam and window grid were covered in rust, and all three windows on the west side were just as broken or dirty as their east-facing counterparts. Another entrance had been made on the south side of the warehouse, while only one support beam reached its way to the ground.

    “Right,” Minnie said as Pamela grabbed a piece of chalk with her stabilizer, “as you know, neither of you have a last name or any other way to identify yourselves.”

    “Well, you could just call me ‘the Bolide,’” Carla spat. “I’m completely fine with being called that.”

    “Yes, yes, we could do that, but I don’t believe that it would be proper to call you ‘the Bolide,’” Minnie replied. “Take a look at this chart here.”

    Percy and Carla drove forward to look at the list of names on the portable two-sided chalkboard. In the ‘Port Manhavik’ column, there were the Irwin Pigeons, all three Griffins – Tammy, Tyler, and Terrence – David and Cindy Parker, Roman Galford, Ingrid Sanders, and Percy. The “Cliff Town” column had the names Han and Minnie Alberts, Sid Parker, Sam and Sally Irwin, Larry Barnstorm, Mandy MacAdams, Bonnie and Sarge Burnside, Penelope Parker, and Nathan Sanders written in it. In the “Josephine Field” column, there was Daisy Parker, Isaac and Immanuel Edelmann, and Carla. Finally, in the “Andronicus Observatory + Others” column was Helen Harper, Louise Barnstorm, Martin and Max MacAdams, Maurice Jensen-MacAdams, and Donovan Parker.

    “Notice something in common about everyone else?” Minnie said after a few moments of silence.

    “They all have last names,” Carla deadpanned.

    “Yes, and that’s what I wanted to ask you two about. Percy, I’ve been getting requests from Sam and Sally for a few weeks about adopting you into their family. They say that they’re very interested in it, and they believe that you would fit perfectly into their family. What do you think about that?”

    “Well…” Percy trailed off. It would be excellent for me to have vehicular parents and siblings while Tim’s family are gone. However, I don’t believe that I fit in to the Irwin family one bit; I’m a racing truck, not a standard-fare Pigeon. “I think I’ll pass on that.”

    “What?” both Minnie and Pamela replied.

    “Well—well, then what is your last name going to be?” Minnie asked.

    “Alberts. Percy Alberts.”

    Pamela dropped her chalk as she and Minnie glanced at Percy, then at the board, and back at Percy.

    “No...no, that can’t be,” Minnie replied. “I mean...how can I be a mother to you? I barely have any time to do anything most of the day.”

    “It’s just a coincidence; I was given that last name by proxy by my owner,” Percy replied. “Besides, I can take care of myself just fine, and you have Han to help you out.”

    “Right, that makes sense.”

    Before Minnie could open her mouth to reply, Carla piped in, “I’d like to pick Bellato as my last name if you don’t mind.”

    “Uh—uh, alright,” Minnie replied, still looking somewhat shocked as Pamela hurriedly picked up her chalk and began writing out Percy’s last name.

    “I’m assuming that was Cesar’s last name, right?” he whispered to Carla as the two of them reversed to the east side of the warehouse.

    “Yes,” Carla whispered solemnly, sighing and sniffling a little as she stared out the south entrance. Then, she glared at Percy, hissing, “Don’t mention him again, please; not unless I decide to.”

    “Right,” Percy replied. He then raised his voice to ask Minnie, “Are we free to go now?”

    “Yes, you are,” Minnie said. “Thank you both for showing up here today. It really helps all of us when we only need one meeting instead of two.”

    “You’re welcome,” Percy and Carla replied before driving out the west entrance and through the street. As they entered the first town square, they both heard some loud squealing as Priscilla and Patrick whizzed past them.

    “Wheeeeee!” the two Pigeons exclaimed as they tipped through a sharp bend around their parents.

    Carla sighed before saying to Percy, “I swear, if Sam and Sally can’t keep those two under control—”

    Just then, Patrick and Priscilla parked in front of them and grinned merrily at Percy.

    “So, big brother, you ready to take us out for a drive again?” Priscilla chirped.

    “Well, unfortunately, I am not your big brother. However, I think I’ll be taking you out on a drive again sometime soon,” Percy replied.

    Both children moped, whimpered, and stared at the ground.

    “What do you mean you won’t be our big brother?” Patrick mumbled.

    “I’ve decided to become an Alberts member. After all, I think that your mother and father have enough trouble keeping three children in line that they wouldn’t need a fourth one to manage, as well; especially not a race Pigeon like me.”

    With that, Patrick and Priscilla perked up slightly.

    “Really?” they both said excitedly, their stabilizers beginning to wiggle.

    “Yes,” Percy replied. “Of course, it’s out of sheer coincidence that I happen to have the same last name as Minnie and Han, but it’s something.”

    “That’s great news,” Sam piped in as he and Sally turned to face Percy. “I’m quite sure that Han and Minnie would be glad to have you in their family.”

    “Well, as much as I’d like to have a big brother, that won’t change our friendship one bit,” Priscilla said as she hugged Percy with her stabilizers.

    “Yeah,” Patrick concurred.

    “Excuse me, Priscilla, but can you please move?” an annoyed Carla asked. “I really must be going.”

    Every Irwin near her jumped about half a meter backwards and stared at her awkwardly. Carla rolled her eyes before passing by Priscilla and cruising out the second town entrance.

    “Well!” Sally remarked as Carla’s V8 engine revved in the distance. “I don’t get what we did to her to make her angry again, but…whatever.”

    “She’s a crazy one, alright,” Sam replied. “In fact, I think that Dave’s rumors of her being an alien might not be too far off.”

    “Or she could just be annoyed at how you all seem to treat her like an alien,” Percy retorted.

    “Don’t be silly,” Sally said. “We’ve been treating her fine; she’s the one that’s all out of whack.”

    “Right, because treating her like she’s not even there is completely fine,” Percy replied.

    All the Irwins proceeded to drive towards the second town square while Percy drove out the second entrance and towards the port. To be honest, I wonder what’s going on between Carla and the others to make them treat her like that. It may have to do with her being a mid-engined sports car; everyone else on the island is front-engined, so she may feel a little like an outsider. Then again, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
    screenshot_00178.png screenshot_00205.png
    Roughly two hours later, Penelope was sitting at the top of Mount Hutch with a cream female Barstow I6, a beige male LeGran S V6, and Helen the Hopper.

    “So, Penny, you’re certain that you want to gravity race against Percy?” the Barstow asked.

    “Aw, come on, Ingrid. You know that I’m better than that little trike at my own racing style. Sure, Han may have been training him well for the past half-hour or so, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll be able to beat me down Mount Hutch. Even with his skill and a head start, he’s got far too little stability and much too little weight to accelerate quick enough to pass me.”

    “Makes sense,” everyone else replied.

    “Do you think it would be a good idea to take one last practice session beforehand, Penny?” the LeGran asked. “It could be helpful.”

    “What use would it be to anyone, Leonard?” Penelope remarked. “I’ve got this in the bag. There hasn’t been anyone who could keep up with me in a gravity race, except for Carla. However, that Italian is a low-tier supercar; I never expected to beat her.”

    “True,” Leonard replied.

    “Anyway, I think Penny will be just fine out there,” Helen piped up. “She’s got 1300 kilograms to lug around, which makes her heavy enough to get some momentum down these slopes, but not so heavy that she’ll have issues through the corners. She also has some low-rolling-resistance tires, an aero grille, and all the skill she’ll ever need for this event.”

    Just then, Percy slowly appeared from behind the trees as he drove up the short straight on the right side of the summit hairpin and pulled over to the outside shoulder.

    “Hello!” Percy said as he turned off his engine and parked himself.

    “Good afternoon,” Penelope replied. “I see you have taken an interest in gravity racing, haven’t you?”

    “Yes, I have,” Percy said. “In fact, I’ve become highly interested in racing you down the east side of Mount Hutch. Will you accept my challenge to a race now that almost everyone else has tried it out?”

    Penelope continued, “Absolutely; in fact, I think that this would be a great way to end off today’s gravity-race marathon. Just to let you know, I’ll go easy on you in the beginning because you’re a Pigeon. You get to drive until the first hairpin; then you’ll have to turn your engine off and coast down the rest of the course. Got that?”

    “Yes, I do. When are we going to start?”

    “Right now, if you want. Everyone’s already set up to watch the race, and you’ve just been practicing with Han, so I think that now would be a perfect time to start the race.”

    “Right, makes sense. I think that I’d be up for that.”

    “Excellent! Then, let’s start. We’ll line up next to that sapling on the right side of the road, and Ingrid will count us down. I’m quite sure you know the rest of the basic mountain racing rules from talking to Uncle Han, so I don’t think I have to mention them to you again.”

    “Han has already given me a rundown of the rules of this sport, so you don’t need to repeat them.”

    “Great. However, if you do happen to use your engine at any point beyond the first hairpin, you’re out of the race. And yes, I can tell when a vehicle is using their engine to try and gain an advantage; Leonard tried doing that on me three days ago while we were showing the course to Minnie, and that didn’t go quite to plan for him.”

    “I’m not planning on cheating here.”

    “Right. Ingrid, Helen, get to your places.”

    While Helen drove down the pass towards a sandy mound on the left side of the first turn, Ingrid parked herself in the middle of the road a couple meters in front of the start line. Meanwhile, Penelope pulled up on Percy’s left, lining up in the shade of the sapling as Ingrid started the countdown.

    “Alright, we’re going in 5…”

    CHEEE-EEE-EEE-EEE! VROOOOMMM…

    “4…3…”

    BZZZZZ, BZZZZZ…

    “2…1…GO!”

    With a squeal of his right rear tire and a tremendous clatter from his engine, Percy rocketed past Ingrid and down the first short straight. He raced through the first switchback, taking in the sudden sunlight as he turned off his engine and braked for the first hairpin at 70 kilometers per hour. He tipped slightly through the hairpin at 35 and rolled out the exit at 28. With a gradual left turn, Percy maneuvered around the large, muddy dip in the second straight and slowly accelerated to 50. He braked slightly for the second hairpin and smoothly trundled through it at 35.

    Meanwhile, Penelope had released her handbrake and was rolling through the first switchback at 40 kilometers per hour. She quickly accelerated down the steep first slope to 60, then braked to 35 as she rounded the first hairpin. As she came onto the second straight, she gradually sped to 55 and tapped her brakes to enter the second hairpin at 40. At this rate, I’ll catch him before we get to the final corner! she thought as she rolled through the second hairpin and down the sharp slope of the third straight.

    Percy was rolling down the fourth straight at 65 kilometers per hour before he braked for the third hairpin. He leaned hard through the corner, tipping slightly towards the lone tree on the outside and landing back on his wheels as he exited the hairpin at 30. I lost a ton of momentum back at that turn, he thought as he cruised along the flat fifth straight. And now I’m losing even more! 28…27…26…can’t this straight just end already?! Just as his speedometer dipped below 25, the straight began to drop out of sight and allowed him to pick up some more momentum. Yes, I’ve got the slopes again! he thought as he rounded a long downhill 90-degree turn lined with trees. But the only question is…how quickly will Penny catch up to me?

    Penelope flew down the fourth straight and braked for the third hairpin at 70 kilometers per hour. Her tires squealed away as she understeered slightly through the hairpin at 45 and onto the fifth straight. Unlike Percy, the sedan had executed the hairpin flawlessly and she began to accelerate along the flat straightaway. As the straight sloped downhill, she quickly rolled up to 65 as she rounded the downhill 90-degree turn. Did I just see him? she thought as she came through a dirty chicane surrounded by palm trees and rusty shelves. I must have...after all, he’s likely having trouble staying on all three wheels. Penelope smiled as she proceeded along the slightly-uphill sixth straight and through the fourth hairpin.

    Meanwhile, Percy was struggling for speed as he glided down the short downhill final straight at 45 kilometers per hour. As he approached a long, tree-lined crescent turn that could easily fit three cars abreast, he saw Penelope racing towards him in his rearview mirror. He tried to go for the inside, but the white sedan silently took the piece of road that he was aiming for. She winced as her front tires broke traction from the inside shoulder and carried her out wide. Spotting his opportunity for victory, Percy dove for the inside and came alongside Penelope as they both raced towards the exit at 40 kilometers per hour.

    However, as he desperately held onto his line, he tipped towards the outside and knocked his cab into Penelope’s roof. Unaffected by this mild collision, she continued to accelerate to the finish line. Percy drove across the grassy shoulder from the corner exit onto the highway, with Penelope sweeping around his outside. The finish line, marked by the traffic cones on either side of the highway and surrounded by five or six cars, came closer and closer into view as Percy used the steep slope to race to 55 kilometers per hour. Just as he was about to blitz past the cone on his right, Penelope’s hood came even with his as they crossed the finish line.

    “And we have…” Daniel said as he watched the two racers come to a halt down the road, “…I’m not sure what we have.”

    “It looked like they were perfectly side-by-side as they crossed the line,” Roman said. “What do you guys think?”

    “I think that Penny got it on the last corner,” David replied.

    “Percy won! Percy won!” Priscilla and Patrick chanted on the opposite side of the road.

    Everyone around them cringed a little as they glanced at Percy and Penelope.

    “Well, Percy,” Penelope said as she turned to face him, “what do you think?”

    “I honestly don’t feel like I won anything,” Percy replied. “After all, I was given an advantage at the start and I knocked my cab into your roof, which was a poor move in my opinion.”

    “Listen, I gave you an advantage because you were technically inferior to me. It was meant to balance ourselves out; otherwise, I would have beaten you by a kilometer or two. Well, maybe not that much, but still. Also, what you did at the final corner was completely understandable because of how unstable you are.”

    “Hey, I’m not that unstable or technically inferior.”

    “Well, no offense, but you are quite unstable compared to me or any other vehicle on Selva Rocosa. That’s beside the point; I was the jerk by trying to make a move up the inside like I always do instead of braking and holding back until the exit. I almost ran you into the trees because of my carelessness, and I don’t think that I should be given the victory.” Penelope twisted her right windshield wiper until it almost met her hood before continuing, “Tie?”

    “Tie,” Percy replied as his windshield wiper met Penelope’s and the two vehicles “shook hands” with each other.

    “What’s the verdict?” the dark grey Moonhawk shouted.

    “It’s a tie!” Penelope shouted back.

    “Yay!” Patrick and Priscilla cheered as they rolled towards Percy.

    “Aw, come on,” the Moonhawk grumbled. “I came all this way and wasted almost a quarter of my weekly fuel ration just to see an inconclusive finish to a race. Just great.”

    “Hey, at least it was fun, right, Max?” Han remarked.

    “Quiet, Han,” a dark-blue customized Barstow next to Max growled.

    “I wasn’t meaning to poke fun at either you or your friend, Nathan, so you can lay off on that aggressive attitude.”

    Well, even though I technically didn’t win, Percy thought, at least Pat and Prissa were entertained by the race—

    “We’ll see who needs to lay off at next week’s drag race event,” Nathan replied.

    “Right, I’ll see you there,” Han said with a mischievous grin.

    A drag race shootout? Between the Mount Hutch Dominators and the Falcons? Gee, that sounds like fun. Too bad that I likely won’t be able to watch it because I used more fuel than I should have during today’s practice sessions.

    And with that, everyone slowly trundled back to their respective homes as a few rainclouds crawled towards Selva Rocosa from the east.

    screenshot_00211.png

    It’s been roughly a month and a half since our first meeting, and already things are going well, Terrence thought as he left the port entrance road and drove up the peninsula route one dark and dry night. Tyler’s ruling the port excellently, the races have been going well, and everyone is doing just fine. However…with Percy becoming a threat to David at the races, perhaps I could use that publicity to shame the Falcons at their own game.

    Shifting into seventh gear at 46 kilometers per hour, he spotted a tall tree in front of him. I’ll show Percy how slow he is around here. Without the downhill slopes of Mount Hutch, he’ll be crawling in my dust before I…

    SCRRRRRRRRR!

    …race through this uphill 90-degree left turn, then sail through this 90-degree right…

    RRRRRRRRRR!

    …like that! And before he’ll know it…

    VREEEEEEEEEE! WHOOSH! VREEEEEEEEEE!

    I’ll be long gone as I lay 628 turbodiesel horsepower upon all these straights!

    Just as he was slowing into a short sweeper and a wide, 90-degree left turn, a pair of headlights appeared in his left rearview mirror. Huh? That thing’s too small to be anything but a Bird. Whatever it is better stay behind me through here.

    He blasted through the turn, flowing onto a long downhill sweeper with a wide, grassy inner shoulder. Don’t let him through, don’t let him through, Terrence thought as he dove for the inside. Make him go the long way around, and…

    CLUNK!

    Squeaks and groans emanated from his rear air springs as he rode over a massive bump on the shoulder. He tipped onto his left wheels, steering his fronts slightly to the left as he watched the thick left tree line get ever closer.

    “AAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!” he screamed.

    CRASH! CLUNK-SQUEAK-CLUNK!

    With a bit of spring damage, he landed back on all ten wheels, tipping slightly to the right as the next 90-degree left turn approached.

    Brake, brake, BRAKE! he thought as he slammed on his massive air-powered drum brakes.

    SCREEEEEEEEE!!!

    Nothing but shrubs and a sloped grassy shoulder would prevent him from flying into the sea if he failed to stop. He flicked his front wheels as fast as he could to the left, hearing the groans of skidding rubber as he flew through the turn. Miraculously, he narrowly avoided hitting the shoulder, understeering wide to unintentionally let the vehicle behind him past.

    VRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

    As Terrence looked to his inside, he spotted a tiny green truck whizzing past him, just catching the “PIGEON” imprint on its tailgate as it leaned to the right. He watched the Pigeon pull away from him as a raindrop fell onto his cab.

    Rain? NOW? But I’m in the middle of a race! He plowed through the right sweeper and onto the next straight. Surely, this must be just a drizzle and…

    Right then, the rain began to pelt down on him as he watched the Pigeon’s taillights shrink slightly on the straight. Hang on…that Pigeon’s accelerating a little more quickly than it should. Surely, Pigeons aren’t that quick out of turns and-

    “AAAAAAAAHHH!!!”

    The freshly rain-slickened road made him lose almost all grip as he braked for the next right sweeper. His left rear tires grazed the grass, his high-pressure rear brakes quickly locking the wheels and sending him into a spin. He screeched to a stop on the shoulder before the next 90-degree left, his air brakes hissing angrily as he shuddered to a halt. The Pigeon’s diesel engine blared away as the truck disappeared into the trees, which swayed gently in the wind.

    After a few seconds of tense waiting, Terrence sighed and trundled from his spot towards the port. He glanced at his mirrors every time he went into a blind corner to check if the Pigeon was still following him, but no matter how close he got to the port, they only showed the tree lines and road behind him.

    Wonder what that was all about, he thought as he entered the port. Certainly couldn’t have been any of the Irwin kids following me; they haven’t got the skill or the power to keep up. But the way that Pigeon moved through the course…it was almost like it had four wheels.

    It was like a ghost. A green ghost of the Selva Rocosa peninsula...and I’m gonna find out who’s behind that, if I can.

    “So, you’re telling me that during the middle of the night…you came across a seafoam-green Pigeon which sounds very similar to Percy, and you think that it was a ghost?” Pamela asked inside the assembly hall the next morning.

    “Yeah, I did,” Terrence replied. “But you gotta believe me; there’s no way that Percy could have driven as quickly as that ghost.”

    “Yeah, I’d totally see how a stabilizer-less Pigeon could stay upright at racing speeds in the pouring rain. That seems like it would work perfectly.”

    “Pam, I know it’s hard for you to believe me, but it was flying through those corners like it had four wheels…or magic stabilizers, or something.”

    “Maybe I should call you back for a refuel when you’ve settled down. Take some time to think this whole “ghost” thing over – I think you’ll agree that it just doesn’t add up. Anyway, I’m heading out now to refuel a few other vehicles.”

    How can she not have come to any sort of conclusion as to who it might be? Terrence thought. She meets with everyone on this island, and she’s seen all their talents and skills. She’s pretty much my last resort whenever I need to know about something...and yet even she doesn’t know who it might be.

    “Well…could you at least tell me where Percy might be? I want to ask him where he was last night.”

    “Oh, he’s off to visit Maurice for something.”

    “Drat…I had hoped that he hadn’t decided to go off-road, but thanks for telling me where he is.”

    Meanwhile, Percy was turning off the highway loop and driving up a narrow, bumpy dirt path lined by thick vegetation. He kept his speed between 20 and 30 kilometers per hour and felt every bump as they bounced him roughly on his leaf springs. Two medium-green bushes on either side of the road gently brushed along his paint as he began to lose speed. As his speedometer dropped below 20, he shifted down into first gear and tenaciously crawled his way up the crest.

    After a short dip in the trail, it began to flatten out to allow Percy to see a large puddle after a short right sweeper. As he rounded the corner and dipped his front wheel into the puddle, he felt the soft sting and heard the sharp hiss of his engine skimming across the water’s surface. Even after crossing that puddle three times, it still hurts a little to go through it. While he pushed himself out of the puddle’s and through a short-left sweeper, he spotted a smaller puddle in the middle of a T-junction.

    Percy carefully crawled around the second puddle, using the narrow grassy left shoulder to avoid touching any more water. Excellent, he thought as he accelerated along the next straight and cruised through an uphill right sweeper. However…I wonder if he’s even at his shack at this time of day. For all I know, he could be getting chased down by Helen or one of the other quads roaming around in the jungle. But then if that was the case, then I’d hear them driving around.

    While he thought this, Maurice had parked himself in the middle of a small dirt lot to the right of the trail. He stared blankly at the rusty cranes and tall concrete stacks that lined the pier of Port Manhavik, barely visible through the thick jungle canopy below. He turned around as he heard a diesel clatter softly in the distance.

    “That sounds like a Pigeon…” he said softly before raising his voice, “but I don’t know why any of the Irwins would want to come up here to see their home.”

    Right as he finished speaking, Percy appeared from behind the tree lines and cruised into the lot.

    “Hey, Maurice,” he said as he parked next to the yellow Moonhawk.

    “Hi,” Maurice replied absentmindedly.

    “Well, I was just practicing on the mountain trails again, so I decided to stop by and say hello. Of course, if you don’t want me to…”

    “No, I don’t mind.”

    “I notice that your tailgate has a couple of dents in it which weren’t there before.”

    “Yeah, that was from my chase with Donovan earlier today. I was just cruising along the mountain trails until the pickup truck decided that the best plan possible would be to hunt me down along the harrowing dirt paths of Selva Rocosa.”

    “Donovan chased you again? I thought that camo D-Series had an agreement with you to not chase you unless you were committing an offense.”

    “That didn’t last for more than four days. Of course, I’ll still out-run him every day of the week, but he’s got four-wheel-drive to help him get around the roughest trails of the mountain. Speaking of helping people…could you possibly tell me what that grey building with the four large exhaust pipes are? I’ve been trying to figure out what they are for as long as I’ve lived here.”

    Percy stared down at the building in question, which was located next to the old factory.

    “That’s a silo, a building used to store things for later.”

    “And what would be in this silo from the port?”

    “I believe that there would be cement stored in there.”

    “Right, makes sense. What about the silo at the town?”

    “Well, if I remember correctly, it stores…”

    “Wait, stop. I think I heard something.”

    The whirring of a Gavril V8 echoed through Mount Hutch and shivered the trees around Percy and Maurice. It gradually got louder as an olive-drab camouflaged D-Series raced around a hairpin in the jungle trail.

    “Percy,” Maurice said as he turned around to stare through the thin line of saplings next to his shack, “I want you to stay behind me, okay?”

    “Right,” Percy replied.

    As Donovan blitzed towards Maurice’s house, the yellow Moonhawk moved in front of Percy to shield the little green truck from view. Donovan braked hard and skidded into Maurice’s lot with a smug expression on his front bumper.

    “Mornin’, half-breed,” Don remarked.

    “That got old three weeks ago, Donovan,” Maurice replied. “Besides, I’m no longer offended by that.”

    “I just came here to see where Percy was going after I saw him at the hairpin after the Mount Hutch T-junction. After all, you do realize that Helen and I are starting to build up some enthusiasm for around-the-island rallying, and I figured that Percy might be interested in something like that. Where has he gone, anyway?”

    “I think he would. Speaking of which, he’s right ‘ere.”

    As Maurice said this, he moved out of Percy’s way; exposing him to Donovan.

    “Rallies?” Percy asked.

    “Yeah, Helen and I are thinking of organizing more racing events for people to participate in,” Donovan said.

    “But wouldn’t that cut our fuel supply even further than it already has? I mean, even with Minnie and Penelope’s careful fuel-saving measures, we’ve got six or seven jerrycans left. That’s nothing for twenty-five or thirty vehicles.”

    “We’re thinking of holding them every other month, alternating with the drag races. That way, there would be a bit more variety for racers and spectators. Of course, if you want to join in, you’re more than welcome to. Just know that we quads won’t be going easy on you; not one bit.”

    “Hmmm…I’ll think about it.”

    “Right…anyway, I guess I’ll leave you here with this miserable lot while I run off.”

    And with that, Donovan drove down the trail and out of sight.

    “Well, that was a lot nicer than I was expecting it to be,” Percy said.

    “True, I thought that he would try an’ insult ya at every opportunity,” Maurice replied, “but I guess he was more preoccupied with trying to get’cha into this whole thing.”

    “Speaking of ‘getting into something’, would you like to head to the port? I’ve heard that there’s going to be a little race between David and Immanuel in the port parking lot.”

    “I don’t like going to big events, especially not races. Everyone stares at me like I’m the big attraction, not the races. They may not say anythin’ negative towards me, but they don’t seem like they appreciate me bein’ there.”

    “Well, then, how about we drive over to the observatory?”

    “To be honest, Percy, I’d much rather prefer to stay here.”

    “Are you sure about that?”

    “Yes, very. Why does it matter to you, anyway?”

    “Well, I thought that it could be helpful for you to have another friend to support you in your life.”

    “You really do?”

    “Absolutely. Anyway, I’m going to the observatory,” Percy said as he started his engine and cruised out of Maurice’s lot. “See you later!”

    “Wait!” Maurice half-shouted. “I think I know what we can do.”

    “What?”
    “Would you like to explore around the deep parts of the Selva Rocosa jungle? It might be useful.”

    “Huh…I’d like that. I’ve never been there before.”

    “Then let’s go!”

    With that, Maurice slid around a few saplings to the right as he exited his lot. Percy followed him as the two vehicles cruised around a square hairpin and up a short, bumpy straight. The tree lines were so thick that Percy could barely see anything else around him. Maurice seemed to be unsettled by the constant stream of bumps as he and Percy trundled under the first bridge of the Mount Hutch pass.

    “Maurice, how big is the Mount Hutch trail system?” Percy asked as they approached a fork in the road that was sparsely lined with a few palm trees, bushes, and saplings.

    “It’s huge,” Maurice replied. “You can go pretty much anywhere you wanna go using the trails. This little section of the road” -he pointed his radio antenna at the uphill opposite half of the fork- “leads to the top of Mount Hutch and the mountain pass.”

    “Wait, we’re actually that close to the top of Mount Hutch?”

    “Yeah. If we keep going along this trail” -he pointed forwards- “well, we’re gonna pass by a lot of interesting things that I know you’ll love to see. Which one are you gonna pick?”

    “I’m willing to go all the way through the main trail – I’m curious to see where it goes.”

    “I’m gonna warn you about this trail, though; it’s narrower, bumpier, and more dangerous than any road you’ve ever been on. One wrong move, and you might be tumbling down a cliff or into a river. Just be cautious, alright?”

    “Right. Show me the way, my big yellow friend.”

    “As ya wish.”
    screenshot_00216.png screenshot_00214.png
    Both vehicles started their engines and cruised along the bumpy trail at 25 kilometers per hour. The neat tan dirt road quickly faded to a patchy, grassy trail with thickening tree lines. Percy kept about two to three car-lengths behind Maurice to allow him to react to any sudden stops. Percy let off the throttle as the trail dipped towards a small switchback that had only saplings to protect the unwary from a drop into the jungle.

    “Maurice, how often do you drive down this trail?” Percy asked.

    “Ehhh…‘bout once every two weeks or so,” Maurice replied as the two vehicles drove over a bumpy right hairpin. “I often do it right after Donovan pays me a visit – driving this road is a good way to get rid of stress and anger.”

    “Right, I understand that and…hey, why are we stopping?”

    “We’re not! We’re just-”

    BUMP! BUMP! BUMP!

    “-avoiding suspension damage from that big ol’ bump back there,” Maurice exasperated as he and Percy rolled down a patch of dirt road.

    “Okay, now I understand,” Percy replied before he shifted into second gear to climb up the next straight and around a wide-angle left hairpin.

    After the two vehicles drove up a short straight, Maurice said while turning around a right hairpin, “We’ll be at the peak right about…now.”

    Right as he finished his sentence, the tree lines faded away to reveal the massive, light-brown peak of Mount Hutch. Percy stared in awe at its jagged edges and swirly layers, while an army of bushes seemingly advanced towards the gaping mouth of the peak’s crater. Even in its diminished size, it jutted out of the rich jungle below and blocked almost all life forms from growing on it. The ferocious hiss of the geyser within the crater echoed throughout the island and scared a few roosting parrots out of a nearby tree. As Percy and Maurice drove through a switchback surrounding the peak, they stopped before a streak of landslide residue that covered the dirt road.

    “So that’s what happened to this side of the peak after the meteor hit,” Percy said absentmindedly as he parked to the left of Maurice.

    “What’s that?” Maurice replied as a few more birds flew from tree to tree.

    “I said that this peak was hit by a meteor roughly a month and a half ago.”

    “What do you mean? It’s always been like that!”

    “No, it hasn’t! You’ve got to take my word for it. It’s only been like that for less than two months!”

    Maurice sighed, “Well, I’ve never seen it any other way, so I guess you could be right.”

    “Thanks,” Percy replied. “Well, shall we continue?”

    “Absolutely, we should. I don’t feel like stayin’ around too long, especially considerin’ that Don or Helen could be driving along here at any moment.” Both vehicles set off down the dirt road and were quickly shaded by the thick tree lines surrounding the peak. “Also, I’d like to show you all of this mountain trail as quickly as possible. There’s some very important things you oughta know ‘bout it.”

    From there, the trail began to get even rougher. As Maurice and Percy traversed the grassy and muddy patches that covered the dips and bumps along the next switchback and straight, Percy began to feel a little dizzy from being shaken from side to side by the bumps. He saw a smooth patch of road over a small crest near the end of the straight and perked up in excitement.

    “Will the roads be getting smoother from this point out?” he asked joyfully to Maurice.

    “Nope,” Maurice replied as he and Percy rounded a hairpin and dove down a short dip. “In fact, you might wanna speed up when the road fades into a trail…which is now!”

    “Why?”

    “Here we go! The biggest hazard of all time, right ahead of us!”

    “What?” Percy asked desperately as he desperately tried to keep himself on all three wheels at 30 kilometers per hour.

    “It’s coming…it’s coming…” Maurice half-shouted as he raced to 60.

    “What is it?!” Percy asked as he watched Maurice’s suspension decompress.

    “Wooohoo!”

    “Aaaaaaah!!!” Percy squealed as he jumped over a crest and noticed that the road had narrowed until it was barely a Pigeon’s width.

    As he skimmed by the sprawling branches on his right at 40 kilometers per hour, he felt his left rear suspension skim along the ground and dip perilously towards the rough ravine below. Before the banked road had a chance to take him to his doom, he drove over the next crest and nearly ran into the back of Maurice.

    “Whew…” Percy breathed as he parked to the yellow Moonhawk’s right.

    “Well, Percy…I’m glad you could make it over that,” Maurice said.

    “Why didn’t you tell me about that ravine?”

    “I figured I oughta surprise you with something like that, just to see how you react to the possibility of tumbling down a cliff.”

    “Well, that was very rude of you, you know that?”

    “Hey, I just wanted to have some harmless fun.”

    Percy scowled slightly before setting off once again, with Maurice quickly accelerating ahead of him. As the two vehicles drove down the jungle trail, Percy thought, Why would Maurice want to hide the fact that there was a giant ravine back there that could have destroyed me? Any normal person would have told me that there was a ravine, but ‘be careful around this dangerous trail’ Maurice? Apparently not.

    Percy and Maurice drove through a river between a tall steel bridge and the steep slope of Mount Hutch. Percy said during the following incline, “Huh…it actually wasn’t that bad driving through that river with a bit of speed. I feel much cleaner!”

    “See? What did I tell ya?” Maurice replied while they took a 90-degree right turn.

    “When-” BUMP! “will this-” BUMP! SQUEAK! “road-” BUMP! “flatten-” BUMP! BUMP! “out?” BUMP!

    “Once we get to this next hairpin. Take this corner slow.”

    As they approached the right hairpin, Percy began to tip towards the saplings on the outer edge. “Eeeeek!” he squealed before landing back on his wheels for the next uphill straight.

    “Percy, this isn’t a race!” Maurice said.

    “I know,” Percy replied. “I was just trying to keep up with you.”

    “You don’t even know that you should keep a gap between us?”

    BUMP-BUMP-BUMP!

    “Well, no, I do, but…hang on, is that an intersection I see up there?”

    “Yep, that there’s an intersection.”

    Both vehicles calmly stopped side-by-side at the small T-junction in the road in front of them. Percy noticed from his position to the right of Maurice that a small dirt road led to the southwest of the trail and into a tree-blocked section of sunny jungle.

    “Maurice, where does that road go?” Percy asked.

    “That road?” Maurice replied. “That goes to the wide dirt road that runs from Josephine Field to the north end of Port Manhavik.”

    “Oh,” Percy said absentmindedly. “So, I can use that road as a shortcut?”

    “Absolutely, but make sure that you aren’t being followed too closely before divin’ in here. You wouldn’t want any of the Irwin kids to be drivin’ down here; it ain’t safe for them to be doing that, and they love following you around. There’s also only two ways outta this T-junction: the bumpy and dangerous trail, or the narrow bridge. Pick your problems.”

    “Right, I’ll keep that in mind.”

    They continued through the last bit of the T-junction hairpin and along a long, bumpy straight before Maurice saw a clearing in the trees.

    “We’re at the bridge!” he half-shouted before gently stopping along the two steel support beams that lined the decking.

    As Percy behind Maurice along the first third of the bridge, he glanced around at his surroundings.

    All around him, he saw hordes of palm trees calmly swaying in the lazy wind. One palm tree, which was sprouting out of the cliff face to Percy’s left, had stretched itself out towards the nearest rusty support beam for the bridge. The river below him gently flowed towards the peninsula bay and carried a few rotten palm leaves with it. The river snaked out of sight a few meters after it passed the bridge and disappeared behind the jungle overgrowth to Percy’s right. Far into the distance, the peninsula’s canopy crested and dipped over the horizon and blocked out the view of the ocean to the south. However, he was surprised to see that there were no large support beams above him; almost all the structural rigidity for the bridge came from four steel pillars that extended from the riverbanks to Maurice’s roof.

    “Wow…this is what you come every two weeks to see?” Percy asked.

    “Well, yeah,” Maurice replied. “Isn’t it amazin’?”

    “Absolutely. In fact, it might be one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen.”

    “This isn’t all that I wanna show you. We’ve gotta go further for that.”

    And with that, both vehicles resumed their drive along the flatter trail. However, after it became as lumpy as the Mount Hutch peak, Percy shivered his frame over every bump and rut in the grass and dirt below his tires.

    “Percy, we gotta go faster now,” Maurice said anxiously. “There’s another drop ahead of us.”

    Both he and Percy accelerated to 45 kilometers per hour as the trail suddenly shifted to the right. Percy spotted Carla driving along the paved road next to them, which sent him into a mild panic as he began to think of where Maurice might be taking him.

    “Well, Percy, this is where I leave you,” Maurice said quietly as he stopped calmly. “You can take the rest of the trail up to the dirt road loop to get you onto the highway and back home. Although, you could go through either one of the holes on the left side of the tree line and get home that way. Take whichever one you wish but watch out for Carla and her guards.”

    “Is that what you wanted to show me today?” Percy almost whispered back. “A way to stalk Carla?”

    “Nope. I just wanted to show you another way to travel around the island in case one of the other roads gets blocked.”

    “Right…well, thank you for your help, and goodbye.”

    “Bye.”

    With that, Maurice turned around and drove back towards his house while Percy crawled past the thick tree lines that surrounded Josephine Field. As Percy peeked through the tree branches, he saw that a low-slung black vehicle was inching its way towards him. I would go back towards that intersection, but I’m afraid that I might fall off that bridge and into the river, he thought. Guess I’m going to have to risk it. He shivered once again as the vehicle drove to his right and said flatly, “There’s no point in hiding yourself anymore, Percy. I already know you’re there.”

    Percy sheepishly drove towards the first gap in the trees and turned into the airfield to come front-to-front with Carla. He noticed that she was not her usual irritable self, nor was she wearing her devious smile that indicated that some vehicle – most likely a Pigeon or one of her guards – was about to face her infamous wrath. Carla instead looked completely emotionless as she glanced to Percy’s left at the thin line of saplings beside him.

    “So, it looks like we have another person who’s learned how to use this path, haven’t we?” she said.

    “Yes, we do,” Percy said sorrowfully before continuing in an anxious tone, “Look, Carla, I never even knew that this trail existed, let alone that it would lead me to your airfield. I…I’m sorry for interrupting whatever you were doing. If you don’t mind, I’ll just…”

    “Oh, you’re not going anywhere just yet, Percy,” Carla replied, her mouth stretching into her signature grin. “Who taught you how to use this path?”

    “M-Maurice…d-d-did,” Percy answered.

    “And why did he show you where it goes to?”

    “He–he wanted to show me another way to travel around the island in case something got blocked off or I just wanted to be alone for a while.”

    “What was your original intention? To find a way to intrude upon me and my friends?”

    “No, not at all. I just wanted to explore around areas of Selva Rocosa that I had never seen before. I wanted to learn more about how this island works, and what wonderful things might be–”

    “I didn’t ask for a story from you. I asked for an explanation, and I’ve gotten enough of you and your silliness to last me a lifetime! You are free to go.”

    And with that, Carla reversed away from the gap to let Percy drive towards the airfield entrance road.

    “Well, Percy, if you want to set your tires on our airfield, feel free to,” Carla said as she re-entered her hangar. “Just don’t expect us to be pleased by your presence.”

    …….

    Late that night, during a short dry period in between the persistent showers, Maurice was frantically driving through the Mount Hutch jungle trail and racing past the peak. Donovan was nipping at his rear tires as the two trucks blitzed down a long, bumpy straight and drifted around a sharp hairpin. Maurice’s engine spluttered and coughed as his fuel tank was quickly drained by the high-speed action. As he desperately tried to accelerate to 60 kilometers per hour down the next straight…

    PUFF!

    He felt his engine give out and quickly clutched in to prevent himself from spinning into the trees. The jump over the ravine gradually came into view as he slid to a precarious halt on the ragged edge, with Donovan’s roof-mounted spotlights bathing him in a sickly-white glow.

    “Well, well, well…looks like our favorite helper can’t help himself over a tiny mound, can he?” Donovan said mockingly before pointing his spotlights down at the ravine. “I heard that this is a great shortcut to get down the trail. Wanna try it out?”

    “No, but you can go right ahead,” Maurice replied flatly.

    “Nah, I think I’ll let you go down there first, half-breed.”

    With a rev of his engine, Donovan pushed his bull bar into Maurice’s rear bumper, sending the Moonhawk plunging over the edge.

    Donovan watched Maurice twist and tumble down the ravine, each collision that the yellow Moonhawk made with the ground punctuated by a sharp CRASH!, BASH!, or SMASH! of broken glass or suspension. As Maurice fell the next trail straight, he collided roof-first into a tree on the left side of the ravine. His entire roof and frame buckled under the force of the impact and violently extinguished what life he had left. Donovan chucked menacingly as he backed away from the ravine.

    “Excellent,” Donovan muttered before turning around. “With Maurice gone, we’ll have nobody to worry with out in the trails. Everyone else is either too slow or entirely unsuited to these backroads, so if we catch anyone back here…”

    They won’t have him to cry to for backup.
    screenshot_00220.png screenshot_00221.png screenshot_00222.png screenshot_00223.png
    Even the sun’s powerful mid-day glow could not break through the thick layer of rainclouds above Josephine Field. A muggy grey deluge filled the runway’s divots and potholes with puddles and streams. Carla glared at the dark clouds above her hangar before reversing underneath its comforting roof. As she bitterly turned off her engine and tried turning on an old Hirochi MusicaFicta, she heard a Japanese inline-four engine buzz close by her.

    “Carla…Carla!” a female voice exclaimed.

    “What?” Carla mumbled. “Leave me alone.”

    “It’s me, Daisy. I’ve got something to tell you about the traffic around Josephine Field!”

    “I don’t wanna hear it. I just wanna…take a nap and…not deal with any of this disappointment,” Carla replied as the piano finally started playing a soft tune. “All I wanted to do today was watch some drag racing and…”

    “Forget about the drag race shootout. This is seriously important.”

    Carla turned her eyes to see Daisy parked in front of her. The Dove looked like she was going to shiver herself apart in sheer panic, but she relaxed as she saw Carla look at her.

    “Well?” Carla said in a mildly-irritated tone. “Has anyone been driving nearby?”

    “Not from what I’ve seen so far. I did hear Donovan driving around early this morning, but other than that, everyone’s been staying far away from Josephine Field for the past few days.”

    “Strange…Immanuel and Isaac have reported a similar behavior around the other entrances to the airfield; only Penelope seems to like to roll around here. I assume that everyone’s still sad about Maurice’s accident, right?”

    “Yeah, that’s hit most of the community hard as of late. I don’t even know how it could happen; I mean, Maurice was one of the most skilled off-roaders around…well…anywhere, really. It didn’t matter what trail you threw at him; he would always find a way of beating it, and…and…”

    Daisy slowly put her wipers up to her windshield and sniffed as hard as she could.

    “I mean, who would want to do that to him? He never did anything wrong to anyone in his life. And can you please turn that piano off?”

    “Fine, then! I’ll turn Hamilton off,” Carla said as she hit a switch on the piano. “Look, Daisy, just…calm down, alright? Everything’s going to be fine. I’m quite sure that it was only an accident.”

    “How do you know?” Daisy replied as she twisted her wipers back into their normal position and slowly uncovered her eyes.

    “I don’t. I can only guess based off what I know about him. You know how quickly he always drives around; nobody reasonable would try that on those slick, muddy trails.”

    “Speaking of doing something, are you afraid that this might mean the Giants are starting to close in on us?”

    “No, not really. I don’t see why they would want to come here anyway. The town and its residents would be much more useful for their purposes.”

    “You do have a point…but are you absolutely sure you’re not worried?”

    “Yes, I am. Having said that, I’d just like to thank you for taking time out of your day to guard my airfield. It really helps me sleep a lot better every day, and then I have another friend to talk to during the night time.”

    “Hey, no problem. I’m just doing my job for my nocturnal friend—”

    “There’s no need to be modest about this, Daisy! It is highly important to me and my friends.”

    “Right…but you seem to be quite active this afternoon. Do you have anything big planned today that would require my assistance?”

    “No, I shall be heading off for a little drive around the island. I won’t be out for long; I don’t have plans of meeting anyone today.”

    “Copy that. Have fun!”

    And with that, Carla drove down the airfield entrance road and onto the highway loop. As she passed by a wide dirt road nearby Josephine Field, she spotted a white sedan in her left rearview mirror.

    “Morning, Carla,” Penelope said as she cruised past the sports car. “How are you doing today?”

    “Doing well, thank you,” Carla replied. “What about our favorite ‘silent racer’?”

    “Oh, I’m doing alright; just practicing around the mountain roads, like I usually do.”

    “I see. Would you like to join me in a cruise around the island?”

    “No, that’d be wasteful; I’m heading to the port to help Pamela with something.”

    As the two racers passed into the peninsula intersection, they saw Mandy parked in front of the peninsula road.

    “Hi, guys!” Mandy said.

    “Hello, Mandy!” both Carla and Penelope replied.

    “Glad to see somebody out on these…roads,” Mandy said as she watched both vehicles enter the tunnel. She gently placed both her windshield wipers on her windshield while continuing, “Drat…I just wanted to talk to someone today.”

    While they trundled under the tunnel’s pure-white overhead lights, Penelope and Carla re-started their engines and cruised towards the port.

    “Where specifically are you going today, anyway?” Penelope asked.

    “Nowhere,” Carla replied absentmindedly.

    “Really? Well, if you’re going nowhere, would you mind coming with me to the port? It’ll be somewhere.”

    “I did not have any plans of meeting anyone today, especially not in the bustling port,” Carla said as she watched Penelope turn left at the tunnel T-junction and park on the right shoulder.

    “I just thought that we could spend today with the port vehicles; maybe even comfort them a little.”

    “How can I help them?” Carla replied as she drove alongside Penelope towards the port entrance road. “They all think I’m some sort of extraterrestrial being, so it would be difficult to convince them that I wasn’t behind all this.”

    “Nevertheless, it could be worth a shot,” Penelope said as the two vehicles rolled down the entrance road and into the port parking lot.

    Although the fog was thick enough to shield most of the vehicles from view, Carla spotted Patrick and Priscilla on her right. Both Pigeons whimpered and moped on the ground, with Priscilla barely hanging on to a rusty metal beam in her right stabilizer.

    “Prissa, can’t we go see Maurice again?” Patrick moaned.

    “I’m sorry, Pat, but I…I can’t do that,” Priscilla replied. “I mean, the road’s been blocked off now, and I tried finding a shortcut into the trail like Percy did during our first field trip…but I couldn’t do that, either.”

    “You...you c-can’t? Then who–who will?”

    “I don’t think that we can do that without being noticed, and…” Priscilla noticed the unmistakable wedge front end of a Bolide poking itself out from behind Penelope. “Speaking of noticing something…Carla, I can see you there!”

    Carla rolled forward and scowled slightly at the two Pigeons near her. “I am glad that you noticed me behind Penelope.”

    “Whaddya want now?” Patrick mumbled angrily.

    “Oh, nothing much,” Carla said. “Penelope said that I should come over here to help you lot in dealing with this truly tragic loss, and—”

    “Wait, you cared about Maurice?” both Pigeons asked.

    “Not really, but I was never against him. I will admit that he helped Immanuel out of a ditch once, which I greatly appreciated. He also chased Donovan away from my airfield for me a couple weeks ago, which was absolutely hilarious.” Carla chuckled before continuing, “You should have seen the look on Don’s front as Maurice hunted him up the trail; best entertainment I’ve ever seen.”

    “So, pretty much…you supported him,” Priscilla replied.

    “Correct,” Carla said.

    “Right. Well, I apologize for being a bit annoyed at you when I saw you behind Penelope. I didn’t know what you were up to to want to be hiding from us.”

    “I understand your frustrations, and I hope that I have relieved as many of them as I can.”

    With that, both Pigeons stared curiously at the Bolide before an orange female Covet DXi cruised through the fog and towards the little group.

    “Is everything alright here?” the Covet asked anxiously.

    “Yes, Cindy,” Penelope replied.

    “Excellent. I just heard Priscilla’s angry voice and I thought that something was wrong,” Cindy said.

    “It was only a bit of a mix-up,” Priscilla said. “I just saw Carla hiding behind Penelope and thought that she was up to something.”

    “Well, that’s great to hear. Speaking of which, Carla…Minnie was wondering if you heard anything when…when Maurice…”

    “I heard only two engines that night; I know that I definitely heard Maurice’s V8, but I’m not sure what the second engine sounded like.”

    “So, the attacker was alone, then?”

    “Presumably.”

    “Alright. Well, thank you for your information, Carla; it’ll be a great help to us.”

    “You’re welcome,” Carla said. “Anyway, I guess I’ve done enough here, so I’ll be heading off. Goodbye, everyone!”

    “Goodbye!” everyone else waved.

    After Carla had driven around Cindy and towards the pier T-junction, Penelope said, “I’m honestly surprised that Carla would be so nice all of a sudden.”

    “So are we,” Priscilla replied.

    Meanwhile, Carla was turning towards the assembly hall and passing by the factory parking lot, where Sid and Donovan were parked next to each other.

    “There goes that wedge-faced alien again,” Sid said grouchily as he watched her turn onto a smooth dirt road to the right of the hall. “Don’t know what she’s so happy about. I mean, quite a few of the vehicles in the town suspect she’s behind Maurice’s crash.”

    “Well, maybe she’s happy that the rain’s clearing up,” Donovan replied.

    “True, there’s always that possibility.”

    “Anyway, I’ll go tell the Giants that our ‘citizens’ are turning against Carla. Thanks.”

    “Hey, no problem.”

    Carla carefully cruised past five water tanks before gliding through a long, smooth right sweeper next to the hall. She spied Tammy and Tyler taking shelter in the building and having a pleasant chat with Percy that was inaudible over the purr of her V8. She then glowered slightly as she approached an uphill 90-degree right turn, shifting down into third gear to climb the slope. Wait—what is Percy doing talking to them? Carla thought as she turned left at the top of the dirt road and onto the highway.

    Although the damp fog was thick enough to shield most of the road from view, Carla’s pop-up headlights and low wedge shape pierced through it; allowing her to spot every tree, sapling, and blade of grass alongside her. She squinted her eyes to try and locate any other vehicles on the highway loop, but not one set of headlights or tail lights shone through the tree lines or the fog in front of her. She passed by the first dirt road entrance and the town entrance road. She even skipped the second dirt road as she cruised through a downhill switchback.

    When Carla saw the steep entrance road to the observatory, she thought, Hmmm…I could go up there, but ehhh…I prefer driving rather than viewing. She looped around the observatory and into the concrete shelter of the Northbeach Tunnel, the northernmost of its kind on the entire island. Although it was not as long as its counterpart near the port, the tunnel’s large rectangular windows on its left side allowed her midnight eyes to view the vast ocean wrap its way around the island. As she glided onto the short sheltered straight, she spotted the long and narrow North Beach stretched smoothly along the edge of the calm waves. Even as the thick jungle seemingly advanced towards it, nothing could disturb this part of the island’s sheer tranquility.

    Even after living here for almost six years, the north side of Selva Rocosa still takes my breath away, Carla thought as she exited the tunnel and rolled around a long sweeper. As the fog cleared, the jagged and chaotic shadows of the right tree line were complimented by the smooth, star-like patterns formed by the palm trees on the right side of the road. Rocks and palm trees settled along her right field of vision, although they were interspersed by a few sections of regular tropical timber. As she cruised by an especially long group of trees, she spotted a section of beach that caused her to stop for a moment and gaze around in wonder.

    Palm trees framed her view; dancing gently in the passing wind and casting long shadows across the soft sand. The near end of the beach stretched out until it was almost three or four cars wide before smoothly curving back to one car wide and disappearing beneath the grass. Far into the distance, a tiny sand bar and peninsula jutted from the shore and blocked part of the island from the waves. Before Carla restarted her engine, she noticed that a couple small birds were twittering and hopping between the trees, which brought a smile to her usually-grim front end.

    It may not be the biggest beach in the world, but somehow, I prefer this over any other beach I’ve ever seen, she thought as she trundled along the highway. As Carla approached the north dirt road intersection, she heard what sounded like a few engines revving nearby. Strange…nobody ever drives out here; that’s exactly why I picked this place--
    screenshot_00226.png screenshot_00238.png
    Carla shivered slightly as she saw Nate and Max pull onto the highway loop and park in front of her, with a nervous-looking Terrence in tow. Both muscle cars looked quite smug at seeing their rival so far from anyone else, and both formed a gap between them to allow Terrence to fully block the road.

    “Oh…hello, Carla,” Nate said. “I wasn’t expecting you to be cruising along here at this time of day.”

    “Good afternoon,” Carla replied. “Would you mind moving back a bit so that I can pass by?”

    “Why should we?” Max asked. “We’ve got nothing else to do today, so we might as well challenge you to a little race.”

    “Where? When?”

    “Right now, if you want,” Nate replied slyly. “We could do it around the highway loop. Could be interesting, you know? All this fuss about ‘sticking to Mount Hutch’ and ‘not racing around the highway’ seems really restrictive, doesn’t it?”

    “No…” Carla said as she noticed Terrence reversing out of the way.

    “Hey!” Nate and Max yelled.

    “What’re you doing?” Max asked as he and Nate quickly spun around and tried to block the tanker truck from reversing further.

    “I-I just realized that I have to get back to the port for something,” Terrence said sheepishly.

    “We can handle that for you,” Nate said in an ice-cold tone.

    “I’m afraid not. This is a job for a big, tough truck like myself.”

    “Was that your plan all along?” Nate asked as he and Max drove around Terrence to face him. “To let her get back to the airfield?”

    “No, that wasn’t what I was thinking at all!” Terrence replied. “I thought you two would do that for me while I…”

    “That’s what we brought you here for!” Max said.

    “So? Why not Tyler, or Tammy, or anyone else? Why me, eh?”

    “Because you’re the only one suitable for the job. Tyler and Tammy are both busy managing the port, and nobody else was up to the job.”

    “Donovan would have been a great option, you know—”

    Nathan snapped, “Are you kidding me? You should already know that he’s off with your own siblings doing something…nefarious, shall we say.”

    “True, that,” Max said. “Anyway, since we failed in our objective of bringing Carla with us, we might as well head back to the port. Wouldn’t look good if we were all hanging out near the highway loop chatting to each other.”

    “Or...we could go up to Mount Hutch and continue the discussion there,” Terrence said. “We’d be well out of the way of most other vehicles, and we’d have plenty of space; even I can fit on the dirt road at the peak.”

    “Great idea!” Max replied.

    “The only great idea that’s come out of his thick cab for the past three weeks,” Nate whispered to Max, followed by a harsh grunt from Terrence.

    And with that, the three vehicles drove onto the highway loop and up the east side of Mount Hutch, keeping a close eye on any vehicles lurking around the summit. To their relief, nobody else was willing enough to waste fuel on a trip around the volcano while the roads were still slick and muddy.

    Meanwhile, Carla rolled around the rainy southwest area of the main island and down the highway loop before seeing a pair of headlights in the fog.

    “Good afternoon, Carla!” a male voice called out as she approached the airport entrance road.

    Pamela and Immanuel were parked in front of the entrance road, with the former looking a lot more pleased with herself than usual.

    “What are you so happy about?” Carla said.

    “Oh, it’s nothing much,” Pamela replied.

    “Nothing much? Nothing much to be happily parked out here in the middle of this awful downpour just to talk to someone whom you don’t even like?”

    “Yeah. However, I just got here.”

    “Interesting. Oh, and Immanuel?”

    “Yes?” Immanuel replied.

    “I was blocked off by Nate, Max, and Terrence earlier today. Have you or Isaac ever experienced that problem?”

    “None at all. We have been able to drive everywhere we want without impediment.”

    “Hmmm…right. Anyway, Pamela, what did you come here for?”

    “I just wanted to see what everyone was doing over here,” Pamela replied as menacingly as she could. “Got bored and thought I ought to make a little drive to the airfield.”

    “Well, then…I think you can clearly see that we are doing nothing over here. Good day!”

    And with that, Carla drove around Pamela and into the airport, disappearing into her hangar.

    “Good day to you, as well,” Pamela replied bitterly before driving back to the port.

    Pigeons, the supercar thought harshly as she went back to sleep again. Often the foulest vehicles to ever tread the planet. Even a base LeGran, Moonhawk, or Covet is better off than any of those tricycles.

    The thought kept her up until the waning moon had risen high into the foggy night sky; and Carla found herself so restless that she needed to get up and drive somewhere. The peninsula road seemed particularly inviting. She was cruising anxiously around it when she spotted in the fog a Burnside police car parked on the side of the road. She slowed cautiously and pulled up next to him.

    “Wha—oh, it’s you,” the Burnside said as he began to drive towards an uphill tree-lined switchback at 30 kilometers per hour.

    “So, this is what you do in your free time while everyone else is asleep? Stare at an empty road to try and catch criminals who won’t come here?” Carla asked with a smirk as she followed him along a wide left hairpin and up a short straight.

    “No, I’m not looking for them,” the Burnside replied before he rounded a 90-degree left turn.

    “What were you looking for instead, Sarge?” Carla remarked as the two vehicles cruised around two 90-degree right turns and up a straight that ran along a river.

    “Carla, I think that we both know what we are doing out here, where Terrence last saw the Green Ghost,” Sarge replied while the road reached a peak at a left sweeper. “We want to catch it before anyone else does. We want to see it in action as it flies down the road, blasting past everything in its way.”

    “Well, tonight’s the perfect weather for it,” Carla said as they approached a tree-lined 90-degree left turn. “It’s been pouring rain all day long, and now…there’s nothing that the Ghost would have to worry about, especially in this massive sandpit down on our right. It’s foggy but not rainy, and the sea is completely calm, so that will make a quick disguised drive around here as easy as possible.”

    “Yep…that’ll easily hide anyone impersonating the Ghost,” Sarge remarked as the two vehicles rounded the switchback in front of them.

    “Well, if it really is a ghost, like you say…then why would you bother following it? You wouldn’t be able to catch it, anyway,” Carla said as she drove along the next hairpin and stopped at the next straight.

    “W-what do you mean? No Pigeon could drive as fast as the one Terrence spotted last week! It would just tip over! And I’m just…curious.”

    Both vehicles stared down into the sandpit, their headlights beaming light down into the thick fog below.

    “Have you ever seen this ‘ghost’ with your own eyes before?”

    “No, I never have. I don’t know why it only comes out when Terrence is on the loose; that tanker truck barely even knows how to race in the rain.”

    “Hmmm…I have a feeling that this ‘ghost’ may not be a ghost at all.”

    “Why would you think that?”

    “I don’t know about you, but I’m quite sure that ghosts can’t be seen as vividly as Terrence saw this mysterious racing Pigeon.”

    “Ah, what do we know? The kid could just be hallucinating stuff again, like he did that one time he said he saw a monster lurking in the jungle.”

    “Did he really? Wait…what’s that noise?”

    “Sounds like a Pigeon engine to me.”

    A few moments later, a pair of headlights peeked out from the fog, seemingly detached from any vehicle as they floated towards Carla and Sarge. A few moments later, a seafoam-green Pigeon glided into view. It stared up at both other vehicles with pupil-less black eyes from an opaque white windshield. Carla felt herself shiver in her frame as she watched the Pigeon leer at Sarge– and him only.

    “No…it can’t be…” Sarge muttered.

    “It…it is the ghost!” Carla shouted.

    Right as the rain began to pelt down on the peninsula, the Pigeon almost-silently accelerated along the dirt road and took off up the little trail that led out of the sandpit. Sarge and Carla both were taken aback as they watched the ghost merge onto the peninsula road and stop in the middle of the fog.

    “But how can we tell if it is a ghost, Carla?” Sarge asked. “It could just be one of those Irwin kids messing around with us, or maybe we’re just hallucinating something, or…I don’t know anymore.”

    “It’s quite simple, really,” Carla said with a chuckle. “If we can drive through it, then it’s a ghost. If we cannot, then…then we’ve got something much bigger.”

    Carla crawled towards the Pigeon with her engine off, peering through the damp, cold fog to see that the little truck had already disappeared. Sarge turned on his police siren and engine and cruised past the supercar as she stared bewildered at the spot where the Pigeon had once sat.

    “Come back here, you little demon! We’re not finished with you yet!” Sarge shouted as he disappeared.

    “No, wait! Sarge!” Carla said while she started her engine. “You might scare it away!”

    She whizzed her away through the next long straight and pair of 90-degree left turns at over 50 kilometers per hour, quickly catching up to Sarge as he tailed the speedy Pigeon.

    “Pull over, ya rowdy punk!” Sarge bellowed.

    But the Pigeon did not seem to notice the Burnside’s incessant commands. It accelerated through the next sweeper and barely braked for a tight hairpin after it, even though the shrubbery offered no protection from a potential flight into the ocean. It continued to pull away from Sarge as it raced through the next succession of sweepers and bolted towards the hairpin at the end of the peninsula. Not even Carla could keep up with it in her vain efforts to see if she could go through it.

    What is this thing? Carla thought as the rain pinged off her roof. She noticed that a few raindrops ricocheted off the Pigeon’s cab as though it were solid. But raindrops shouldn’t be doing that to a phantom, and---

    “Eeeeeeekkk!” Carla squealed as she spun wildly out of control near Bunker Beach.

    As she desperately tried to keep herself on the road, counter-steering and locking up her brakes, the Pigeon sped along the next straight and disappeared into the jungle. Carla shuddered to a halt in a large patch of grass and bushes and stared out incredulously at Mount Hutch. Before she could restart her engine, the rumble of a Burnside V8 echoed through the fog.

    “You couldn’t catch that thing?” Sarge asked incredulously.

    “No, I could not…even with all my skill and speed, I was embarrassed by an old dockyard tricycle,” Carla replied.

    “Well, what do you think? Did it look like a ghost to you?”

    “Not at all…I think we might have something far more intriguing than some legend made up by a tanker truck. It looked far too solid and real to have been an apparition…but the way it moved, the way it cornered…it was like nothing affected it in the slightest.”

    “Well, if you need a police officer or two to help sort this out, you can count on Mandy and me. We can—”

    “I believe that this situation has gone far outside the realm of the law, Sarge.”

    “You sure? Because we could organize a roadblock at either entrance to the peninsula, and we’d be able to block it off no problem.”

    “But didn’t you see how quickly the Pigeon drove? There’s no way you would catch it if it happened to run.”

    “No matter what sort of barricade we throw together, a Pigeon isn’t going to break through it. In fact, we could call Terrence out to help us block off the road; I’m sure that he’d be plenty good at stopping anyone from escaping the peninsula.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Carla thought as she drove back towards her garage and went to sleep.

    Stage 3 (December 1989-?):
    screenshot_00243.png
    A few of the puddles from the previous night’s showers still shimmered as the early-morning sun weakly warmed Selva Rocosa. Minnie sat patiently in the middle of the town’s second lot and stared down from her trailer with her crystal-blue eyes. She had never wanted to hold a memorial service for anyone on the island, but it seemed that Maurice had just been far more unfortunate than anyone else among them. She watched as all the Irwins glumly cruised into the town lot and parked in a neat line with Sam in the middle.

    “Good morning, Sam,” Minnie said.

    “Morning,” Sam replied.

    “I’m quite sure that you are aware of what’s happening today, right?”

    “Yes,” Sam said. “We got your message yesterday, and all of us agreed that it would mean something if we were here today.”

    “Oh, excellent. Well, then, I guess we don’t have anything left to do other than wait for the others.”

    A few minutes later, roughly two thirds of the vehicles on the island gathered around Minnie and waited for her to begin her speech.

    “First off, I’d like to thank every one of you for coming out here today to honor the efforts of one of our finest citizens,” Minnie announced. “I’m quite sure that you all knew Maurice as a kind young…truck-car…thing who would do anything to help anyone out—”

    “He was a ute, for crying out loud,” Percy remarked.

    A few of the vehicles shot him angry glares before settling down once again.

    “I’m quite sure that you all knew Maurice as a kind young ute that who would do anything to help anyone out, even at the risk of using up too much of his own fuel reserves,” Minnie continued. “Yes, Maurice was quite possibly the best trail navigator that we could possibly have – even Helen could not match the invaluable skill that he had in finding a way around the deep trails of Selva Rocosa.”

    Helen tensed up a little as she fixed her pale-green eyes on the little gray coupe.

    “However, even he could not prevent himself from having a horrible accident. He unfortunately tumbled down the trail ravine less than eight days ago. His crash is one that all of us cried over, but it should also be one that serves as a reminder of the dangers of venturing off into the jungle. It should also serve as a reminder that…”

    I guess that the jungle trail really is as dangerous as he said it would be. I almost fell down the ravine myself on our trek around the jungle. But who or what would do that to a perfectly innocent truck like Maurice? I mean, he never even harmed a fly...but he did have several opponents from all over the island. He was snapped out of his thoughts when Minnie finally said, “Thank you for coming here to honor one of our citizens. You are all dismissed…”

    Everyone began to slowly reverse and turn towards their respective homes.

    “…except you, Percy.”

    Huh? What could she possibly want me for now? Percy thought as he watched Minnie drive off her trailer and towards him.

    She sighed before saying, “Whatever am I going to do with you? Every time we have a meeting of any kind, you interrupt me with the silliest questions that you and I both know are either irrelevant or just plain wrong. It’s as if you’re trying to be as disrespectful and obtuse as possible.”

    “It’s what I feel is right to do,” Percy replied. “I want to clarify some things for people who might not understand what you are saying.”

    “You really think that you’re the only one smart enough to understand what I am saying? You think that nobody else knows how to do anything by themselves?”

    “No, I never said that—”

    “But you are implying it with what you say and do. You want to seem like you are a far smarter vehicle than everyone thinks you are.”

    “So, what if I actually am as smart as I think I am?”

    Minnie glared at him and pointed her radio antenna directly between his eyes. “I don’t care about that. I want you to understand that we are just as intelligent as you are. But if you want to take that kind of attitude, then bug off to your crummy little shed.”

    “Alright,” Percy said as he turned around and cruised out of town. At least I was trying to help people instead of sitting back and letting everyone remain confused like you were. Sure, the townsfolk are fairly intelligent, but they never quite understood what Maurice was, and I think we owe it to him to at least try.

    Mere hours later, a massive shadow darkened the doorway of the assembly hall. A meeting of a very different nature was gathering momentum.

    “You’re late, Tyler.”

    “Deal with it Tammy. I came as soon as I heard Minnie placed another ban.”

    “Again? Seriously? I thought it was bad enough when she rejected Donovan and Helen’s proposal for a rally series to go along with the drag races.”

    “Yeah…I wasn’t too happy about that,” Donovan said as he drove out from behind Tammy’s shadow. “I thought that we would’ve won Minnie over if we got Helen on board, but no…even our trustworthy ambassador couldn’t persuade that stubborn old Miramar.”

    “So, what does that mean?” Max asked as he and Nathan sat parked on the opposite side of the hall.

    “You don’t know what that means? That means that we won’t be able to follow through with our plans for Carla.”

    “And that also means that you failed with this ‘subtle’ approach,” Tyler growled at Tammy.

    “Hey, at least we didn’t have to push anyone off the road or dent one of their buildings like you would have,” Tammy retorted.

    Tyler quietly backed away into his corner and eyed his sister suspiciously.

    “Do I need to step in and solve this?” Donovan said sheepishly. “If you want to, we could just leave the hall and—"

    “Don’t worry about that, Donovan,” Tyler said with a smirk. “I’m sure we’ve still got just the thing for our favorite supercar.”

    Everyone else stared at him curiously before they all heard a Satsuma engine buzzing nearby.

    “Afternoon, everyone,” Sid said absentmindedly as he rolled into the hall through its rear entrance.

    “Afternoon, Sid,” everyone else replied.

    “So…it seems that our little plan worked, eh? Now that everyone’s being forced off the trails, we can use them to sneak around. And I won’t have that pesky Moonhawk pestering me on my Sunday drives.”

    “Yeah,” Donovan replied, “but honestly, I’m a bit bummed that our rally series has been cancelled. I was really looking forward to that.”

    “I don’t give a good pile of dirt about any form of racing. It’s just a load of garbage, anyway. Why would anyone want to waste their fuel on petty and useless activities like that?”

    “It’s great entertainment for everyone, and we get to settle conflicts with far less risk of damage with a gravity race or two than with a full-on war,” Nate said. “What’s not to like?”

    “What’s not to like? There’s so much not to like about racing. Cars could crash up there, all the noise bothers me to no end, and it’s honestly the most boring thing I’ve ever tried doing.”

    As Patrick trundled towards the assembly hall, he beeped his horn before stopping at the front entrance.

    “H-h-housekeeping?” he asked while Tyler turned to face him.

    “Can’t you see that we’re busy here?” Tyler grumbled. “You can come back later.”

    “B-but-but…”

    “Trust me, you can do whatever you want after we’re done here.”

    “Okay,” Patrick said as he turned around and drove towards the port water tanks.

    “Anyway,” Tyler said as he faced his fellow vehicles, “anything else that you have to tell me?”

    “Not as far as I know,” Donovan said.

    “What about that drag race that we were going to have this week with the Falcons?” Max asked.

    “Minnie’s cancelled that, as well,” Tammy replied. “She said that it was too dangerous after watching the last one.”

    “Drat,” both muscle cars said.

    “I was looking forward to beating Roman again,” Nate muttered.

    “Didn’t Carla try to keep the drag races happening?” Donovan asked.

    “Yeah, but she’s not exactly going to be persuading Minnie into something anytime soon,” Max replied.

    “Speaking of persuading, I think that’s something Sid could do quite well,” Tammy suggested.

    “Please let this not be another one of your dumb ideas,” Tyler grumbled.

    “I’m telling you, this will work.”

    “How so?”

    “Well, since Minnie is worrying about which one of her citizens might have caused Maurice’s crash, I think we could feed into that fear by having Sid go tell one of the Irwins that Daisy was behind it. After all, Donovan and Daisy both share similar paintjobs, and she’s quite good off-road.”

    “You know…that would work excellently in our favor,” Donovan chuckled. “We could cause chaos in the most discreet way possible, and then pick up the pieces by defeating them in a race or doing something to crush their hopes.”

    “But who are we going to race?” Max snapped. “If we were to compete with a Pigeon or a Satsuma, that wouldn’t be nearly impressive enough. We’ve got to race someone with power, someone with skill and speed…but everyone’s backing out of the races now.”

    Tammy seemed to attempt a shrug by slightly tilting her front wheels in. “We could always do it without Carla and the Falcons.”

    “But then who would we race?” Nate replied indignantly. “Outside of them, we’ve got barely anyone else.”

    “I’m quite sure you two could find someone competitive enough if you go out to Mount Hutch this afternoon to watch all the other racers practice their gravity racing,” Tammy replied. “Anyway, I’ll see you later today, Tyler. You’ve got anything else to say?”

    “No…not yet, at least,” Tyler said.

    As she and Sid cruised out the back entrance, Max and Nathan glumly idled out the front of the hall. “See ya later, boss,” Max mumbled to Tyler.

    “Well, I guess I ought to be going as well,” Donovan said, “Even though I don’t have much patrollin’ to do, I’ve still gotta make sure that stragglers – especially one speedy green Pigeon – don’t get into the jungle. Goodbye.”

    And with that, he drove out one of the right entrances and out of sight.

    Tyler sighed, “Busy, busy, busy vehicles. Geez, it seems like only Terrence has nothing to do. Come to think of it…where is our prize moron anyway?”

    While Tyler left the assembly hall, Sid was puttering his way back to the town. He was about to turn onto the town road when he spotted something white quietly approaching him in his rearview mirror.

    “Oh, hey, Penelope,” Sid said.

    “Afternoon, Sid,” Penelope replied.

    “So, what’s on your mind today?”

    “I’m just wondering why Carla’s been acting so cheerful recently. How about you?”

    “Well, I’ve got some vital information to tell Minnie.”

    “Yeah, I can clearly see that.”

    “You can?” Sid said anxiously.

    “No, I don’t.”

    “Oh, good. I want to be convincingly serious when I deliver the ‘bad news’.”

    Both vehicles kept their bumpers as straight as possible as they entered the town. Sid glanced towards the Irwins, who were enjoying a game of I Spy in the middle of the first town lot.

    “Weren’t you going to talk to them?” Penelope asked. “I mean, they are your family, after all. I reckon that even though they don’t respect you as much as everyone else, they would be more willing to believe what you say than almost anyone else on the island.”

    “Ehh…I don’t think so,” Sid said as he rolled towards the nearest warehouse behind the second parking lot. “They’d think I was losing my mind or something.”

    As they rounded the corner, the two vehicles caught sight of Minnie relaxing peacefully in the back half of the building. She remained motionless for a moment, but then suddenly jolted up and stared at both of them.

    “Well, what a surprise that both of you are back already from your little trip to the port,” Minnie said. “I thought you would have spent more time out socializing with the island’s citizens. What do you both want now?”

    Penelope replied, “I came here today to check on how you were doing. I know that it was hard for you to hold Maurice’s memorial, and you’ve been trying to keep yourself together emotionally for everyone’s sake. Are you doing okay?”

    “Well, I’m doing just fine right now, thank you…and how about you, Sid?”

    “Well,” he said, “I’ve got some really unsettling news for you.”

    “Such as?”

    “You know that we’ve long suspected Daisy of being a little…overzealous in guarding Carla’s territory?”

    “Yeah…for maybe a few weeks or so. But even if she was, why would it matter to us? She doesn’t want the town, nor does she want to harm us. In fact, other than being a little frustrating to deal with, she’s not a problem to us at all.”

    “Well, I personally think that Daisy could have assisted – or even caused – Maurice’s crash. After all, she does have off-roading–”

    “Daisy doesn’t even have four-wheel-drive to go off-road, especially not into the deepest parts of the jungle. And anyway, she’s a rather particular vehicle about her appearance; she prefers to look as clean as possible, something that even a brief stint on any trail would absolutely wreck.”

    “Alright, I can understand that, but what if she wanted to go off-road? She’s been looking a bit dirtier recently, and I think I saw some yellow paint on her front fender.”

    “Wait…you’re not suggesting that Carla may have sent Daisy after Maurice to…to…”

    “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

    If Minnie could have paled, her front end would have turned completely white with astonishment at Sid’s statement. After a few seconds of thinking, she finally said, “One moment, please,” and drove around both other vehicles.

    They heard Minnie chatting with David outside the warehouse. They were almost going to join in the conversation before the Dove buzzed out of town and towards the highway loop.

    “What was that all about?” Penelope asked.

    “I sent David to bring Daisy here,” Minnie replied calmly. “Unless you have anything else to say, you’re free to go.”

    Penelope left the town through the second entrance while Sid trundled by the Irwins and into his alley, where he finally relaxed into a gleeful smirk.

    Well, my plan worked, Sid thought. It worked wonderfully, and yet somehow, I feel like it’s not going to work in our favor.

    The next day, Helen was rounding the last tight uphill hairpin of the observatory road. She was accompanied by a rusty bright-yellow female Burnside sedan without a grille. Atypically, instead of the low purring of a Burnside V8, the shrill buzzing of a tired Miramar inline-four rose sharply as the yellow car struggled against gravity.

    “Come on, Bonnie, I can go up this slope without using my low range,” Helen said anxiously as she sniffed the awful stench of a burning clutch. “This is the third time this week that you’ve failed to—”

    “I know that I’m a bit too heavy and underpowered for my own good, Helen” Bonnie grumbled as she parked at the bottom of the hairpin. “You don’t have to keep reminding me about my chronic lack of power – and you know that there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.”

    “Well, you could take a run-up along the highway, and—”

    “I’ve tried to do that, Helen, but that doesn’t help me – I can’t keep momentum through the tight bend right at the top.”

    “Do you want me to help you?”

    “No, I don’t want to be responsible for pushing you into a tree; you’re much more valuable than I am.”

    “Wow…th-that…thanks.”

    “You’re welcome. I guess I’ll just leave you up to your business while I head back to town to do something that doesn’t involve climbing up steep slopes.”

    “Alright, bye,” Helen replied as he watched Bonnie turn around and drive back down the short, straight entrance road. Drat…I was hoping that she might be able to join us today.

    “Hey, Helen? Are you just going to park there or come up here?”

    She jumped as she heard Leonard calling to her from the observatory parking lot.

    “Of course, I’m going to come up to you,” Helen replied as she restarted her engine and drove into the lot. “What else do you think I’m doing here at the observatory?”

    She looked to see that Leonard, Ingrid, and Penelope had already gathered around in front of the observatory’s dome-shaped brick telescopes and brick garage on the right.

    “Hey, I didn’t mean to come across as unfriendly, Helen.”

    “Well, you certainly did.”

    “So, Bonnie can’t make it up here at all? Not even with you helping her?”

    “Nope, she can’t. I mean, sure, she can drive up Mount Hutch any way she wants to just fine, but the road to up here is far too steep for her, I guess. No idea why.”

    “That’s unfortunate,” Penelope said.

    “It sure is,” Ingrid replied.

    “Guys…please,” Helen said, “let’s not whine about Bonnie right now. We’ve got...we’ve got…gah, my train of thought’s been de-railed again.”

    “You came here to discuss the upcoming race that the Giants have planned,” Lester said. “Along with some other things that you want to do.”

    “Oh, yeah, right! Anyway…so, Nathan has been practicing a lot around the peninsula as of late, as he’s the only one who has a hope of keeping up with Carla.”

    “Why not Max? I thought he would jump at the chance to run in a race, right?” Ingrid asked. “That’s why he watches and participates in every race he can.”

    “Nate considers his Moonhawk teammate to be a bit ‘too slow’ and ‘incompetent’ in his words,” Helen replied, “which I completely understand.”

    “But still…wouldn’t it be better to have two cars to ensure our success? Sure, Max isn’t the quickest, but he’s fast enough to ward off just about anyone outside of Carla. She’s probably going to be the big contender in that race, but I don’t know who the people at the town would pick.”

    “Well, we are only allowing every major region of the island – the port, the town, and the airfield – to bring one car to the race,” Helen said. “For us, that one car is Nathan – the most powerful, the fastest, the most-skilled, and by far the most-experienced vehicle we’ve got. And anyway, Max’s clumsiness would probably work against us if he happened to crash into Nathan or any of the other racers competing.”

    “Well, the townsfolk have been thinking of picking me,” Penelope said.

    “Penny,” Helen replied, “the only type of racing you’re good at is slowpoke gravity racing, and that can’t be done on the peninsula. I had known that Minnie and her gang are a bit slow-minded, but I didn’t think they’re that stupid.”

    “Hey! I’m not half-bad at racing normally, and I never said that they picked me. And what’s your problem with gravity racing, anyway? I thought you said you liked it--”

    “Alright, alright, I apologize…geez. Who else are they thinking of?”

    “They’ve got the Falcons, as I’m sure you all know,” Leonard said. “They’ll always be their first line of defense when it comes to racing.”

    “Yeah, sure, David would be a great choice for a nice sprint around the peninsula if it happens to rain on Saturday night,” Helen replied. “But what about the Green Ghost?”

    There was a pause as everyone else looked at Helen like she had said cement mixers could fly.

    “Seriously?” everyone else replied.

    Leonard’s jaw hung slack, to the point where his front bumper was in danger of scraping the pavement. “You really believe that a ghost will come along and win the race for the townsfolk?”

    “I’m serious,” Helen replied. “I think that the Ghost could be a bit of a threat to Max, maybe even Nathan.

    “Bit nothing,” Penelope said. “If Carla can’t follow it in the pouring rain, then I don’t think that Max or Nathan have a hope of beating it.”

    “Well, it would help them if the Ghost actually existed,” Ingrid remarked.

    “Ugh…guys, you are all missing the point. It’s been confirmed to exist by at least three other vehicles – Terrence, Sarge, and Carla – and Carla said that the Ghost might be a solid vehicle.”

    “What does that have to do with anything?” Ingrid replied.

    “What that means is that the Ghost could be one of the Irwin Pigeons…why, it could be some mysterious Pigeon that’s been…skulking around in the forest all this time.”

    Penelope said, “I know that Pamela always talks about this ‘prototype shed’ where a whole bunch of supposedly ‘lifeless’ Pigeons have been sitting for years.”

    “If that’s the case, then…wait, what color is this ‘Ghost’ again?” Leonard asked.

    “Some shade of green, according to everyone who has seen it,” Penelope replied.

    “But there’s only one green Pigeon that we know of,” Helen said, “and you know firsthand that Percy is rather skilled when it comes to racing.”

    “Sure, he is,” Penelope remarked, “but that’s only when he isn’t moving all that fast. Even if he was racing against me, he’d have his doors blown clean off before we would get to the first corner.”

    “And then he’d have his hood come off at the first turn when his teeny little hood latch decides it’s had enough,” Leonard remarked. “He’d get hoodwinked by his own hood.”

    Everyone giggled before returning to their serious attitudes.

    Everyone except Penelope, who had a massive grin on her front bumper.

    “Right, Penny…what are you so happy about?” Helen asked.

    “Well, Sid and I were over at the town talking to Minnie—” Penelope started

    “Like you always do,” Leonard and Ingrid interrupted.

    Penelope shot a harsh glare at them as she continued, “Anyway, as I was saying, we went over to tell Minnie that lie about how Daisy had caused Maurice’s fall and how she and Carla were becoming extremely defensive of the airfield for no clear reason.”

    “Probably because they’re paranoid,” Ingrid muttered.

    Penelope giggled before continuing, “Yeah, they probably are.”

    “Did Minnie believe it?” Helen asked eagerly.

    “Oh, she didn’t just believe it; she acted upon it. In fact, she even called Daisy into the town because she thought that Daisy had been involved in Maurice’s ‘unfortunate accident’.”

    “Well, then, what do we have to worry about now?” Leonard said. “All our competition for the peninsula race might have been eliminated – at least, from the town – and Carla said that she wasn’t very interested in the race, away, so Josephine Field likely won’t be defending the town, either.”

    “We got almost nothing to worry about at all!” Ingrid stated.

    Everyone burst into another round of laughter which echoed through the forest and into the Northbeach Tunnel, where a sleek black sports car had just parked. What could be so funny about me, anyway? she thought as she turned to drive back to the airfield. Even if I didn’t want to race, I’d still beat those lousy muscle cars any day I wanted to.

    But didn’t they say something about the Ghost joining in?

    screenshot_00263.png screenshot_00265.png screenshot_00270.png
    As the sun was gently setting on Port Manhavik that Saturday, the thwacking sound of metal slashing through some weeds echoed near the port water tanks and into the warehouse next to the assembly hall. Patrick was angrily grunting and shouting as he sliced down a bush behind the warehouse.

    “Hey, Patrick!” Pamela said as she parked next to her brother. “What did that poor bush do to you?”

    “Nothing!” Patrick replied while cutting the last of the bush off its roots.

    “Then…why did you chop it apart? I mean, seriously, I thought you liked plants.”

    “I do. It’s just that I’m trying to keep the bush from…err…destroying this warehouse.”

    “Well, if you’re that concerned, why don’t you and I go see something really cool inside this old parts shed?”

    “Sure! What’s inside?”

    “I’m not telling you just yet,” Pamela replied as she drove around the warehouse.

    “But what if it’s…scary or something like that?” Patrick asked as he followed her into an alleyway next to the factory parking lot.

    “Oh, no, it’s nothing dangerous. It’s just really, really amazing. So amazing that I’d hate to spoil the surprise.”

    Pamela moved a chopped bush out of her way and trundled into the warehouse. While she was sorting out another bush at the building’s other end, Patrick looked around at all the lifeless Pigeons rotting in a neat line on the right side. There was a yellow example with a missing grille and a tiny flatbed on the back; a white version with round, Hopper-like headlights, a tiny bullbar like the one on Donovan, chunky off-road tires, and two circular roof-mounted fog lights blinded by cobwebs; a custom long-bed edition with four wheels; a black-and-white police van; and another round-light truck with fender flares and a white-and-blue Okudai livery.

    “Woah…” Patrick said as she examined the Okudai van. “To think that all this time, we were just sleeping in the building next door.”

    “Well, I regularly sleep in here,” Pamela replied. “In fact, this is where I was parked on the first day, and I have no idea how or why I got here.”

    “Wait, really?”

    “Yeah, I was. I often just look at these things for hours on end whenever I’m bored, imagining all the silly things that these Pigeons would do if they were alive.”

    “But why aren’t they alive?”

    “I haven’t the faintest idea, Patrick. I did notice that none of these vehicles have any fans behind their front wheels, so maybe they don’t have any engines in them.”

    Patrick gasped, “Who would do such a thing to some harmless little Pigeons like us?”

    “I don’t know…but anyway, I believe that this white-and-blue truck is what Percy was referring to yesterday when he said that the humans who had lived here had ‘built’ at least one other racing Pigeon before he was ‘built’. Not sure how that works, but I’m no authority on the entire process of how we are created, so he could be right.”

    “Well, how do you think we were made?”

    “Let’s just say that if I were to tell you, you would forever be scarred by horrible mental images of…things happening.”

    “What kind of things?”

    “Oh, believe me, it’s a mystery that we wouldn’t want to go into.”

    With that, Pamela backed out of the garage and drove into the assembly hall, leaving Patrick alone to ponder the origins of every vehicle on the Island of Selva Rocosa.

    Just then, Immanuel cruised around the factory T-junction and into the parking lot. He seemed to be much more agreeable than his usual annoyed state.

    “Good morning, Pamela,” he said quietly. “Carla has requested that I bring Percy with me to the peninsula intersection. Do you know where he might be?”

    “Well, as far as I know, he should be over near his shed doing…Percy things,” Pamela replied. “But wait, why would you-”

    “Right…thank you,” Immanuel said as he reversed out of the parking lot and drove towards the maze of containers.

    “Hey, you didn’t tell me what you were going to do with Percy!”

    But Immanuel had already turned around and driven down the ramp to the pier by the time Pamela had started her engine, which left the Pigeon flustered with confusion next to an overgrowth near the parking lot.

    Meanwhile, Percy had parked himself at the south end of the pier and was staring at his windshield wiper in confusion. What is going on with the Giants recently? They all seem like they’re hiding away from society more often than usual – except for Terrence, of course; he’s always liked driving around to see other vehicles. Maybe they’re holding parties in the evenings. I don’t know what they’d be celebrating, but cars have been coming and going at all hours of the night. He almost jumped when he heard another car near him and immediately drove up the south dirt ramp to his shed. When he turned right to look at his home, he saw Immanuel looking around in the small housing complex in front of it.

    “Errr…hello,” Percy said sheepishly.

    “Good morning,” Immanuel replied as his turned to face the Pigeon.

    “I’m surprised that you haven’t decided to insult me yet.”

    “I believe that it would not help my cause to insult you right now. Carla has requested that I bring you to the peninsula intersection for a little drive.”

    “Did she give any specific reason, like telling me why the Giants are trying to keep me up every night?”

    Wow, he really is cracked up. “No, surprisingly. She was extremely determined to not give me or Isaac any specific details about the chat. I suppose that it might have to do with your knowledge of the island’s history.”

    “Right. Well, I’d be happy to come see her.”

    “Excellent. I see no reason why we should wait any longer.”

    And with that, both vehicles drove out of the port and onto the highway loop, keeping their speed to less than 50 kilometers per hour as they cruised through the port tunnel.

    Once they had gotten to the peninsula intersection, Percy noticed that Carla was already waiting for him on the gravel shoulder.

    “Hello, Percy,” Carla said.

    “Hello,” Percy replied.

    “Also, thank you, Immanuel, for bringing me Percy today. I honestly commend your willingness to do that for me.”

    “You’re quite welcome,” Immanuel replied, “although he does seem to be acting a bit weird as of late.”

    “That should be expected of him. Anyway, Percy and I should be going now.”

    “Right. Well, goodbye, and have fun.”

    Immanuel drove back to the airfield while Mandy watched Percy and Carla trundle past her and along a short straight.

    “Immanuel told me you’ve been ‘acting weird’ recently…something on your mind?” Carla asked as she rounded a 90-degree right turn.

    “I’ve just been wondering why I’ve been seeing so many of Tyler and Tammy’s ‘friends’ driving around my shed recently,” Percy replied as they drove up a longer straight.

    Carla glanced at him curiously and replied, “They’re doing it to you, too? I thought they didn’t bother going anywhere near your house.”

    “That’s not the case,” Percy said as he and Carla drove up a left-bending tunnel, “Anyway, you were going to tell me something important.”

    “So, you know that the Giants have their own little team of nitwits, the Mount Hutch Dominators?”

    “Yes, I do, dumb name and all,” Percy replied as he turned through a right hairpin.

    “Well, I overheard a meeting at the observatory last Sunday and apparently, they’re planning on racing me tonight here on the peninsula.”

    “But the peninsula races are run the opposite way to how we’re driving!” Percy said as he exited a left hairpin and drove through a small series of switchbacks. “What are we doing going this way?”

    “I want to keep an eye on my airfield while I’m driving.”

    “Alright, but why are you telling all this to me? I’m not exactly Minnie’s first choice when it comes to racing.”

    “I remember seeing the Green Ghost here a week ago, and I thought that it was you,” Carla said as she trundled down another long stretch of concrete. “The Giants think that it could be an unknown Pigeon lurking in the forest, but I highly doubt that.”

    “Well, maybe they’re right.”

    “You went on a trip around the trail with Maurice last week. Did you see any Pigeons like yourself on that drive?”

    “No…and anyway, I’ve been noticing Tyler looking a little more frustrated at everyone than usual. What’s up with that?”

    “Well, his sister’s plans to secretly influence the townsfolk have not been working recently, and he’s not happy with Terrence either. Apparently his ’dumb brother’ is spending more time gravity racing than he ‘should be doing’.”

    “But Terrence is rather smart, right?”

    “Oh, yes, he is – perhaps smarter than even I realize from my few conversations with him.”

    Percy braked for a tight left hairpin as he said, “So, what do you think they’re up to now?”

    “I have no idea, but I’ve been seeing a couple of their members sneaking around my airfield.” Carla replied as she hesitantly took the hairpin.

    “What, are they secretly fearful of you or something?” Percy asked as he headed onto another downhill straight. “Like they think you’re some mysterious being from outer space?”

    No, I don’t think they fear me. If they did, they wouldn’t want to try and take over my airfield in the first place.”

    “Interesting…what about this ‘race’ you mentioned earlier? Who are the Giants sending out?”

    Carla thought for a moment as she entered a right hairpin.

    “They have been thinking of using Nathan…although it could be both Max and Nathan if Tyler convinces them both to race for them.”

    “When do you think they’ll be starting?” Percy asked as he drove along a short straight leading into an uphill series of switchbacks.

    “It looks like it might rain tonight, so I’m not sure when.”

    “But we almost always start the night races at 10 o’clock. Why would they want to hold it back? We’ve had a couple rainy races here before, and we’ve only seen a few spin-outs.”

    “I’m afraid you don’t understand the potentially grand importance of this race, Percy,” Carla said as she turned onto a wide-left hairpin.

    “How important is it?” Percy replied.

    “According to what I’ve heard from Penelope, the Giants are planning on taking over the entire island and securing their power with a race victory.”

    “And why would they do that?” Percy asked as he rolled down another straight towards a right hairpin.

    “Well, think about it; what’s the most impressive thing that anyone trying to conquer Selva Rocosa could do?” Carla asked as she parked herself on the side of the road at the hairpin.

    “They could brutally destroy any one of their opponents to make people not want to challenge them. That would work brilliantly, right?”

    “Perhaps, but that would turn support for the prospective party away from them. I’m talking about something that would not harm any vehicles while putting legitimacy into their rule. They would need something truly glorious, something epic that ‘no other vehicle’ could achieve, to show that it is they who are superior to everyone else.”

    “Maybe a drag race win or two? Or even winning a race up Mount Hutch? Those would show power better than anything else.”

    “Yes, they would, but what if brute power is no longer attractive to a fuel-starved audience?”

    “What do you mean, ‘fuel-starved’? Most of us are doing just fine, from what I’ve seen.”

    “Perhaps, but that’s because most vehicles on the island are not massive, gluttonous diesel trucks that swill through their fuel rations almost as fast as they get them. The Giants have long been envious of Minnie’s townsfolk having easy access to the gasoline and diesel silo, especially considering that their own silo is full of cement and sand.”

    “How do they know that their own silo has that stuff in it?”

    “The Irwin Pigeons tried filling up a bucket for a test once. Let’s just say that Tyler and Tammy were not pleased to learn that.”

    “Oh…okay. So, the Giants want to have the town silo – and thus, the last of the fuel reserves on the island – and they want-slash-need to prove to everyone that they are superior to everyone else – and therefore deserve all that fuel. Why not host a race on the jungle trail? That would sound like the perfect place for Donovan to strut his stuff.”

    “Ah, yes, but that’s unfortunately not an option when everyone is afraid to go off the paved roads. There would be no real competition, and therefore, nobody would be impressed by someone beating an over-eager LeGran or Pigeon. No, they would have to go where the best racers go, where there are challengers serious enough that an upset would leave other vehicles with no suspicions of the offending party’s power. And that road…is the Bunker Bay peninsula road.”

    “So, that’s why the Giants want to race here.”

    “I’m glad you get it now, and…”

    “Wait, Carla! Look!”

    “Look at what?

    “The highway! I see Tammy and Tyler and a bunch of other vehicles coming towards Josephine Field.”
    screenshot_00000.png
    Carla stared unamused as she saw two giant red and white specks in the distance, with several other specks following them like insects after large fruits. She started her engine with a sudden blare of her quad custom exhaust and took off along the peninsula road, with Percy hot on her trail. As Carla hurtled westwards towards the airfield, dread began to slowly spread across her features. The day that she had feared would come had finally arrived; and despite what she had thought, it was no less grim for the anticipation. There was no telling what chaos was overtaking her home at this very moment. Any one of the vehicles closest to her – Immanuel, Issac, Daisy - could be facing grave danger or worse at the hands of the Manhavik Giants and their followers.

    It was the uncertainty which was eating away at her. Were they safe? What did this mean for the future? If she had stayed at the airfield this morning, would this still have happened? It was a distracting line of thought, one that kept her from being more than dimly aware of Percy’s presence somewhere behind her. Had she been more alert, she might have taken more note of the strange fact that the Pigeon was not falling behind as might be expected. Instead, the little green trike was actually gaining ground; steadily approaching the speeding supercar’s taillights.

    Indeed, Carla was so distraught that she almost missed the flash of olive-green and brown as she flew through the right sweeper. It barely registered as the form of Sid Parker, the Satsuma half-camouflaged by the natural colors of the pillbox area. It was an expected position for him to be in if he wanted to keep her out – she knew that although the dirt road at the south end was narrow and twisty, it still could be used to siege the airfield. Besides, compared to what was likely happening at the north end right now, Sid was nowhere near her primary concern at the moment.

    She took the next sweeper at what was doubtlessly an unsafe speed. Her rear tires strained at the limits of their grip, and broke traction for one petrifying instant. Reacting quickly and on pure instinct, she backed off both the brake and the throttle and pointed her nose down the long straightaway. It cost her a fragment of precious time, but it was infinitely preferable to a sudden drive into the roadside vegetation.

    Once again, she became dimly aware of a third presence hustling down the hill towards her. For a brief instant, she glimpsed flash of sunlight glinting off of something – but by that point she was already turning up the northern access road. The Bolide bolted around the final corner, screeching to a sudden stop at the sight before her.

    Halfway down towards the southern end of the runway, there was Isaac darting back and forth, holding back several vehicles. Ingrid and Leonard were among the crowd and seemed generally content to remain where Isaac blocked them. It was Max who was giving the ETK trouble by trying to find a way around. The Moonhawk seemed to be trying to outflank him, but every time he dipped a tire of the edge off the runway, Isaac rushed in and cowed him back.

    Closer at hand was Immanuel, parked nose-to-nose Nathan. The dark-blue Barstow looked quite unhappy with this arrangement, his eyes narrowing behind the high crest of his cowl-induction hood. He had been brought to a halt probably twenty feet or so away from the control tower, not quite at the heart of the airfield, but still too close for comfort.

    However, the big problems were too close for safety. Tyler was maybe forty feet from the hanger, and completely consumed by a frothing rage. David was zipping wide arcs around him, the mustard-yellow dove looking for all the world like a hornet circling an overripe raspberry. The massive cement mixer was hammering fresh potholes into the runway surface and howling furiously at the top of his voice.

    Still more uneasy was the scene at the hangar. Tammy was maybe eight feet from the entrance, nosing in and raised up menacingly on her axles. Right on the threshold was Daisy, who mirrored the much larger truck’s posture almost exactly. Her scraped and battered nose stuck out in a defiant gesture and her bright-green eyes burned with a determined intensity that momentarily awed Carla – it looked like the Dove had improbably managed to win a physical scuffle with the T-series. It hadn’t been much, but it was enough that Tammy was hanging back for the moment.

    With a sudden squeal of tires, Percy reappeared at her side. If she was honest, she’d almost forgotten that he was there. A second sound – the hissing of air brakes – reminded her that there was something else she’d forgotten about. Terrence’s bulk loomed in her mirrors, pointedly avoiding eye contact as he turned and reversed across the narrowest point of the access road. It was … a defensive position. So was the place that Sid held when he parked in the gap between Max and the eastern forest.

    Carla suddenly saw the scene before her with fresh eyes. Terrence was blocking the north entrance, Sid and the crowd covered the south entrance, and if she strained her eyes, she could just barely pick out a flash of white on the trail that overlooked the east side of the airfield. Helen must have been watching from a concealed position, and Carla would have been willing to bet anything that Donovan was covering the secret back entrance that Maurice had shown to Percy. The Giants’ followers weren’t interested in keeping Carla out – they were interested in entrapping the airfield dwellers.

    Carla swallowed a rising sensation of dread as Tammy drew back and faced the black supercar. The wrecker’s devilish grin was marred with a smattering of small dings and dents, but it was all minor cosmetic damage. If she had wanted to, Tammy could probably have already taken the field by force, but the Giants had apparently been waiting for Carla to arrive.

    As Tammy lowered herself into her normal stance, about half of the Giants cackled harshly at seeing Carla look so dumbfounded.

    “Ah, Carla. It’s so nice of you to join us. We’ve been expecting you.”

    Furious at falling for what was obviously recognizable in hindsight to be a trap, Carla responded with blistering sarcasm.

    “So I’ve noticed Tammy. If you and your friends have come for a drag race, I’m afraid you’re out of luck – I don’t race against people with such…destructive mindsets.”

    Tyler snorted, abruptly distancing himself from David before lunging at Carla. The supercar reflexively flinched, but Tammy had already stopped her brother well short of striking the Bolide’s front bumper.
    “I’m here on official business. You know what we want.”

    Tyler growled low, a sound that -with the command that followed it - was enough to send the chills back in her frame.

    “You’ve got three hours to clear out of the airfield or else, and take your pathetic little squad with you!”

    There were murmurs of assent from the crowd down the runway, and Nathan side-eyed both Tammy and Tyler before breaking into a sneer. Carla hung on those words for a moment, knowing that any response would likely have an immediate and irreversible effect.

    Fight, or flee? With such a large, hostile crowd, the odds of either weren’t great. Fighting was an especially grim option against so many vehicles … but was it inevitable anyways? Would fleeing simply postpone the fight until another day? Would it ultimately be better in the long run to make a stand here and now? Could she live with the consequences of either option?

    In the end, it wasn’t Carla’s choice to make. Daisy noticed the desperate hesitation of her leader, and jumped into the fray for the second time that day.

    “That’s rich, coming from the island’s biggest thug! Not only have you and your hooligans already tried and failed to push us out, but you have the insolence to say that we’re pathetic! That threat is as empty as the cab of the stupidest truck on this island!”

    Tyler howled in frustration and pounded the Marston matting until several of the steel strips broke loose.

    “I won’t stand for an insult like that, even if it was directed at Terrence!”

    The reaction from Tammy was swift and twofold. With one front tire, she bopped Daisy square in the grill, sweeping the small truck back into the hangar. In the same motion, she turned towards her crimson brother and roared for him to shut his stinking mouth and let her handle this. He fumed and sputtered, but David zipped around the cement mixer once again, drawing his ire once more.

    Carla was now caught directly in Tammy’s gaze. It took a good deal of effort to avoid flinching, although the knowledge that all escape routes were cut off helped quell the urge to flee. If she could keep calm and steady in the face of the island’s most feared and cunning vehicle, then there might just be a chance that she could retain the airfield while keeping everybody’s bodywork relatively intact. She had to act quickly too - Daisy was already back on the airfield, dented and scratched, but still spoiling for a fight.

    “I wouldn’t be so cheerful about any of this if I were you.”

    Carla hadn’t realized that she’d been smiling. Tyler’s reaction had been somewhat comical, but this was still a deadly serious situation.

    “Now, I think you and I both understand why we haven’t just waltzed in and outright claimed this stack of bricks.”

    “Yeah – because it’s not about the airfield, isn’t it? It never was, and never will be. It’s about the fuel. If you want to get the last of the reserves, you have to take the whole island first, along with everyone on it. And that’s not something you’re going to be able to do with brute force alone. You’re not here to force us off the land – you want something else.”

    Tammy smiled the Cheshire grin of a skilled manipulator watching her opponent put together the pieces of the puzzle too late to act on them.

    “Right you are. We’re here to … shall we say … ensure your presence at a little race tonight.”

    “A race?”

    Carla once again became aware of Percy’s presence behind and to the right of her. Judging by the sight in her side-view mirror, the Pigeon had backed off a few carlengths when Tammy had pushed Daisy into the hangar. Maybe if he hadn’t been distracted, he could have snuck off while everybody else was. She noticed that his front end positively glowed at the suggestion of a race – perhaps understandable, considering that they had been few and far between for the past few weeks. Even so, he had no business getting involved in this – and he should have been smart enough to stay out of danger – but the allure of racing was irresistible.
    Of course, it was also puzzling. It was Nathan who suavely provided an answer, edging his way around Immanuel with nothing more than sheer hubris.

    “Yes, a race. Nothing too extravagant. Just three cars sprinting along the peninsula on a moonless night. In fact, we’ll even invite you …”

    Carla watched Percy mouthing the word “me” in her mirror – there was this odd, fervent gleam in his eyes. She didn’t like the look of it one bit – it was going to cause a disaster one way or the other.

    “… to spectate. We want as many people as possible to take in this race. It’s sort of a community event.”

    Percy’s eyes hardened, and he pressed his lips firmly together. Carla didn’t know what Percy had been expecting other than Nathan raising his hopes just to dash them.

    “Of course, we need a few things to draw a crowd. The first is an all-star lineup. I’m one-third of that. Carla will suffice for a second entrant. The third is still undecided.”

    “The other half of the attraction,” Tammy interjected, “… will be the fabulous prizes to be won.”

    Immanuel stifled a laugh. Unfortunately, he had apparently decided to grow a sense of humor at exactly the wrong moment. Dozens of eyes bored into him with angry glares.

    “Somethin’ funny you wanna share with the rest of us, you pompous slowpoke?”

    “Exactly what are you supposed to offer us? You have nothing – nothing at all that we want!”

    Tammy grinned that devilish grin again. Carla felt chills running along her frame anew.

    “That’s not exactly true. We have the airfield, now don’t we?”

    Dead silence rang out. The sheer audacity of the tow truck’s statement left even the supportive crowd along the runway with mouths agape.

    There was a vicious growling from inside the hangar. Daisy edged her way back around the door; dented and scratched, but with a fire in her eyes that surprised even Carla.

    “You haven’t got this airfield yet, you motorized parking space! I think we’ve already established just whether or not you’re capable of taking anything from us!”

    The grin grew even wider.

    “Have we really now?”

    “Yes, you have, because you and your dumb-drum brother’s charge left all your friends to be blocked out by us. If you really want to take anything from us, you’ll have to try a lot harder than that.”

    “Well then, if you insist.”

    Tammy reared back and walloped Daisy square in the grill with her massive bumper. The tiny green truck flew backwards into the hangar and ricocheted off of the back wall with a sickening crunch. Carla couldn’t see Daisy from where she was standing, but the way Immanuel’s face flashed between horrified and sickened told her all she needed to know.

    “If Nathan wins, we keep the airfield. If you win, you have my word that we’ll return it. Do we have an understanding?”

    Carla once again found herself standing firm in Tammy and Tyler’s twin gazes. She wasn’t quite certain how exactly she was managing to do that. The way her voice stayed even and smooth was strangely unnatural to her – it was as if she was watching someone else stare down the massive trucks.

    “We do.”

    Tyler grinned to match his sister, and all Carla could think about was how much she wanted to knock all those huge, square teeth out.

    “Wonderful. In fact, since you’ve been such a good sport, we’ll even let you stay here for the time being.”

    And with that, Tammy pushed past Carla and down the paved south exit. Tyler followed suit. Nathan just sat there for a moment, looking Carla directly in the eyes.

    "If I were you, I would start packing right about now.”

    “I’m not too worried Nathan. An ego that big must really weigh you down.”

    Nathan only smirked and turned to follow the crowd off of the north end of the runway. Carla stared after them for a long moment as the sun began to sink over the peninsula.

    “Daisy! Daisy! Get up! Get up!”

    David’s shouts snapped Carla back into reality in time to hear Percy mutter, “What was that?”

    That,” Carla replied, “was what happens when Tyler and Tammy decide to bring out every vehicle they’ve got on the whole island.”

    “Wow…”

    “Yeah, w-wow,” David stuttered, still trying to shake his sister awake. “Goodness me, that punt by Tammy’s gotta be one of the most powerful attacks I’ve ever seen on anyone.”

    “But we have to get Daisy to the town, Dave,” Percy replied as he saw the green Dove’s eyes flit open. “Pam and Prissa might be able to repair her to the point where she can drive again.”

    “Right…well, let’s go.”
    screenshot_00001.png
    For what felt like hours, Percy and David struggled to push a stricken Daisy through each hairpin on the town road. Every time there was even the slightest of an uphill, David fell behind as his lack of low-end torque handicapped his pushing ability. As Percy glanced in his side mirror and saw a long trail of coolant still leaking out of Daisy’s busted radiator, he could not help but wonder why David had insisted upon pushing his sister if he was to perform so poorly at the task. “Believe me, guys, I’m fine right now,” Daisy said as she spotted fellow trucks’ concerned expressions in her mirrors. “Besides, now that I’m here, I won’t have much to worry about.”

    She let out a wail as her heavily-damaged steering system gave up with a loud snap under the stress of turning through the town’s fourth entrance.

    “If you say so,” David replied.

    Pamela and Priscilla seemed to have expected Daisy’s arrival, for they both pulled out from behind the trees on either side of the entrance. Amidst their frenzied murmuring, they slowly pushed Daisy under the concrete stacks of the gasoline silo and into the town.

    “What do you think will happen to her?” David asked Percy. “You don’t think she’ll…”

    "No…Daisy is military surplus,” Percy replied. “Army Doves are legendary for holding together under rough circumstances. While I don't know if Pam will be able to fix that kind of steering damage, I do know that Daisy is a lot tougher than most vehicles think she is."

    “Interesting….well, I hope you’re right. Anyway, we’d best tell Minnie what went down at the airfield. She’s probably worried sick!”

    With that, both trucks bucked and tipped around over the rough muddy road under the silo and trundled past a shaking Mandy and rolled into the second parking lot. Percy barely noticed the camouflage paint job of Donovan – or, at least, the mangled remains of Donovan – hidden under a tarp until David stared intently at the wreck. Both Ibishus noticed that the D-Series was parked in front of the third town entrance – a tiny dirt path that led directly into the parking lot.

    “Huh… a pretty nice blockading strategy by Minnie and her council,” he commented. “Nobody’s getting in through this entrance with that hunk of scrap metal blocking it.”

    “What happened to him?” Percy said as he stared at the truck’s misaligned wheels and punctured tires. “I knew something was off when I didn’t see him in the port for a few days, but that…that’s just brutal.”

    “He deserved it,” Mandy hissed as she glared at the pickup.

    “Okay, maybe he did, but…how? I thought Donovan was skilled and strong enough to have avoided a crash like this.”

    “You didn’t know about this?” Mandy replied. “It’s been the talk of the island all morning, and you happen to live next to the Giants themselves!”

    “Then again, he does stick to his shed all day,” David said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he kept himself just far enough out of the hubbub to have not learned about it. I wouldn’t blame him, either.”

    “But…but I...whatever. I think it would be better if we carried this out indoors.”

    With a slight glare at David, Mandy motioned her friends towards the second warehouse and just barely squeezed through the tiny entrance. Percy had much better luck at rolling into the comforting shade under the building’s damaged roof. As he looked around at all the usual rusty pillars and smashed windows, he noticed a familiar dark-grey coupe parked near the very back of the warehouse.

    Minnie had already organized herself and what appeared to be the members of her council – for what purpose Percy had no idea, but he appreciated the advanced preparation anyway. However, the same could not be said for the four other vehicles that were parked in a half-circle around her. Sam’s dark-blue eyes kept wandering into space, Sally seemed to be on the edge of a mental breakdown, and Han and Roman tried their best to not slouch lazily on their treadless tires. Almost as soon as Percy had parked himself in front of her, Minnie broke the silence that hung in the air like a chilly fog. “Good afternoon, Percy and David. While you were sulking around in your shed this morning, Percy, we were attacked by Donovan and a few of his ‘friends’ this morning.”

    “Right…that explains why Donovan’s out there looking so damaged,” Percy asked.

    “Speaking of damage, have any of you noticed what happened to Daisy?” Han asked as he stared at the mustard Dove.

    Everyone else in Minnie’s group paused for a moment before their eyes expanded in surprise.

    “Come to think of it…what did happen to her?” Sally questioned.

    “You know how aggressive Tammy can be. Especially when her aggressiveness fails to produce the results she wants,” Percy replied.

    “Yeah, I’m perhaps a bit too familiar with that” Sally said, “but why would she direct her aggressiveness at Daisy? I thought that Tammy would target larger and more ‘threatening’ vehicles.”

    David could sense Sally’s confusion in her voice and replied, “I think that Tammy would go after anybody who calls her a ‘motorized parking space’ right to her face.”

    Han and Roman both snorted at the fitting description of the wrecker, drawing annoyed glares from everyone else in the council.

    “So, that’s what all that noise was about,” Roman said. “I thought it was a race we missed out on.”

    “No, it wasn’t,” David replied.

    “Was it another battle?” Sam asked.

    “It looked like it would be one, but…it sort of devolved into a stand-off.”

    “From what Daisy looked like, it seems more serious than a petty standoff,” Han commented.

    “She was the only one who was harmed…at least physically,” Percy replied.

    “I assume that they mentioned their desire to acquire Carla’s airfield,” Minnie said. “How are they planning to get it?”

    “A race around the peninsula tonight,” David replied. “The Giants are sending out Nathan to represent them, and Carla will be joining him in the ‘fun’. They want us to bring one of our vehicles too.”

    “Wasn’t this supposed to be one of those little sprints to Bunker Beach and back?” Han asked.

    “Oh, no,” Percy said. “Whoever’s going to be racing for us will have to run the entire way around the peninsula. I already doubted that they would settle for anything less – after all, what’s more spectacular than beating your rivals around the most challenging course on the island?”

    “You do have a point about that…” Minnie replied, “but even with this extended length – and the slightly higher chances of him crashing in the rain – I still think that David would be our best hope out on the peninsula. He represents to us the best possible attributes that any vehicle on Selva Rocosa can have – light weight, four-wheel-drive, and a decent amount of power.”

    “And I’d still be skilled enough for the job,” David said reassuringly.

    “Right…well, I understand – and commend – Daisy’s efforts in trying to rid us of that unsightly wrecker. I will make certain that her sacrifice will not go unnoticed by anyone within our ranks.”

    “Speaking of unsightly, why are Donovan and Sarge still out there?” Percy asked as he noticed a bit of black and white underneath another white tarp.

    “Tammy is currently… an objectionable presence due to current circumstances,” Minnie said. “And since the Giants have been trying to sneak into our town – and since we lost Sarge to this morning’s attack – we decided that Donovan and Sarge would function as a temporary blockade until we find something else suitable for the job.”

    “Hmm…that sounds reasonable enough,” Percy muttered.

    “Thankfully,” Sam said, “the potential all-out showdown turned into a one-on-one scuffle between the two of them. But that’s the only good to have come from this.”

    He took another quick glance outside at Sarge’s remains, his frame shivering as he then averted his attention from the old police car.

    As if Minnie could sense the immense confusion running through David’s mind, she said sorrowfully, “He held off Donovan for long enough for us to get Daisy to the airfield and for everyone else to distract that truck’s subordinates. But Sarge’s best just was not good enough.”

    “You know, you lot are treating this like it’s ‘just another thing that happened’ way too much,” Mandy spat, desperately trying to keep her fury at bay. “We just lost a stalwart pillar of our community, for crying out loud!”

    “Mandy, please,” Minnie replied, “I understand your concern, but getting angry will not help any of us in making our plans. We can save our sorrows for later; for now, I think it is time to decide who will avenge us. Thank you, Percy and David, for bringing Daisy back home safely.”

    “You’re welcome,” both tiny trucks replied.

    As he followed David out of the warehouse, Percy wondered just why Minnie picked the ‘Mighty Mustard Midget Monster’ over himself. Doesn’t she know that I’m a better racer overall? he thought. I was the only one except Carla who could at least tie with Penelope in the gravity races, and I know that I can beat Nathan or anyone else on my home course. Surely, she would realize that David’s too inconsistent for a full race around the peninsula, right?

    Carla slowly opened her eyes as she lay next to Hamilton and watched the entire world slowly blur into view, only to be suddenly snapped into reality by the honk of an ETK’s horn.

    “Ugh…what is it?” she groaned.

    “Tonight’s the big race around the peninsula!” Immanuel said anxiously. “Aren’t you going out there? They’re starting in exactly…twenty-five minutes!”

    “Race…wait, I’m participating in a race tonight?”

    “Yes, you are.”

    “Who wanted me to do this? Who forced me into going out there?”

    “You did,” Isaac deadpanned as she pulled into the hangar. “You said that you wanted to stake the ownership of your airfield on winning this race against Nathan.”

    “Right,” Carla said as hazy recollections of the standoff floated back into her mind. “I remember now…but what about our third contender?”

    “Pamela came by an hour ago and said that the townsfolk have chosen David to represent them tonight.”

    “Strange…I thought that Minnie would have picked one of the more experienced racers,” Carla said. “But wait…David is only an amateur racer – he’s never done something like this before! Han and Roman have participated in almost every race that they could, and those took place all over the island. They sometimes were run in the pouring rain! Even Percy’s probably much more adept at maneuverability and picking racing lines, if his tie with Penelope is any indication of his skill.”

    “Percy might be a little underpowered for the long straights near the end of the course,” Isaac said, “but Han and Roman’s tires have been worn so far that it’d be unsafe for them to race if it rains.”

    “And judging by these clouds,” Immanuel said as he stared up at the sky, “we’ll be lucky to not get a drizzle or two in the next hour.”

    “Right…however, what about you guys? Don’t any of you want to participate in the race?” Carla asked. “I mean, sure, you haven’t had much success with drag racing, but I’m positive that the both of you have a decent shot at winning against Nathan.”

    “But you’re the only one who can compete against Nate out of all of us,” Immanuel replied. “Even though it hurts to admit that Max is right for once, his remark about me being a ‘slowpoke’ isn’t that far from the truth.”

    “Similar situation with me,” Isaac concurred. “I’ve got four-wheel-drive traction like David has, and I probably could keep up with Nate and Max in the corners, but down those long straights at the end? I’d have hardly a chance.”

    “Well…for what it’s worth, I guess I’ll go out there for you all,” Carla replied softly as she drove around both her friends and towards the airfield entrance road. “If I do end up wrapped around a tree or in the ocean, at least I know I wasn’t at fault for being the only one willing to step up to the plate.”

    “What does ‘step up’ mean, and why should we do that to a license plate?” Isaac asked. “Is it for good luck or something?”

    Carla groaned as she realized that her use of human idioms would fly over her friends’ roofs.

    “Sorry, I forgot that you don’t understand human phrases,” she muttered as she turned around and rolled a little way down the airfield entrance road.

    “O-o-okay…well, g-go on, then,” Isaac stuttered.

    While Carla was trundling along the highway loop, she did not see a single pair of headlights or tail lights anywhere near her. It looks like everyone has already turned up to watch the race, she thought as she drove through a pair of downhill 90-degree corners. Wonderful…it’s not like I need even more pressure while I try not to spin out.

    A few minutes later, Minnie watched as Pamela tightly clutched a freshly-topped-up jerrycan nearby the gasoline silo. The thin clouds gently sprinkled drops of water on Selva Rocosa, causing minute puddles to form in the potholes and divots along its roads. Both vehicles, along with David, Roman, and Han, heard another V8 rumble towards them as Mandy frantically pulled into the second parking lot.

    “Carla’s just come to the starting line,” Mandy said in a panicked tone. “You got David ready now? They’re going to be starting any time now!”

    “Yes,” Minnie and Pamela replied.

    “Oh, great! Well, what are we waiting for?”

    “To be honest, I’ve sort of been re-thinking my decision on choosing David.” Minnie said. “Although he’ll easily be the best all-rounder around the peninsula…I might want to choose someone else for the task.”

    “Do what?” David said absentmindedly as he drove into the parking lot.

    “You said you wanted to race last week…you’re still up for that?”

    “Oh, definitely, I am. I’m ready to destroy Nathan as I blast by him and outta his sight.”

    “Right. Well, good luck out there. I wish you the very best.”

    David gasped, “Awe-some! Thanks so much!”

    “But Minnie, who else were you thinking of…” Mandy trailed off.

    A tire squeal filled the damp air around them as Percy and Penelope pulled into view. The Pessima came to a controlled stop in front of David, looked Minnie square in the windshield, and gave her a confident smirk. “Excuse me, but do you realize that the Giants have banned all four-wheel-drive vehicles from entering their race? Nathan personally told me that he didn’t want David participating, as he considers him to be a ‘cheater’s tool’ compared to the ‘real’ racers.”

    “What?” Mandy and Pamela replied.

    “I am not a ‘cheater’s tool’!” David barked. “That punk muscle car thinks that he stop me from racing that easily? Well, I’ll show him what stubbornness looks like!”

    “The problem with that approach,” Minnie said, “is that Nathan has a lot more vehicles backing him, and I do not believe that you would want to be on the wrong end of one of Tammy or Tyler’s tantrums. But still...I would have appreciated it if you all had told us sooner.”

    “Well, we would have if you had told us who you were bringing out first,” Penelope remarked. “That way, you wouldn’t be in this tizzy of trying to find anyone to race for you.”

    Recieving an agitated glare from Minnie, Penelope snickered as she turned around and drove back to the port.

    “Whatever the case for this…unfortunate circumstance,” Percy replied, “I believe that I should go out to the peninsula. After all, it is my home course, and if the rain picks up, I won’t have to worry about tipping over. There’ll be so little grip out there that I doubt I could tip even if I wanted to.”

    “I do not doubt your skill, Percy; it is just that…well…I am afraid that you’ll be out-run when Carla and Nathan get to the slightest hint of a straight. Are you sure you know anything about racing on the peninsula? It’s a tough course at the best of times.”

    “Oh, do I know how to drive there? I know it about as well as the back of my windshield wiper.”

    “Speaking of parts,” Pamela said, “I don’t want anyone with worn tires blitzing around in the rain. We’ve already had to disqualify Han and Roman from participating, as we haven’t found any spares suitable for them.”

    “Oh, Pat and Priss already gave me new tires, so I’m good there.”

    “Right…well, since you are the best racer currently available, I suppose that your skill could counteract your tendencies to tip, especially since you seem to have sorted that out.”

    “I sure do.”

    “Excellent! Well, what are you waiting for? Go right ahead.”

    “Thanks,” Percy replied as he puttered out the second entrance.

    “Aunt Minnie, please, this is a very serious choice you’re making,” David said.

    “I’ve seen Percy race out at Mount Hutch in the rain once; he’s almost unstoppable once the road becomes slick enough to counter his tipping tendencies. I have complete confidence that he’ll be able to win – or, at least, beat Nathan.”

    “But-but—oh, forget it!” David said as he took off out of the town before Mandy had a chance to react.

    “David, what are you doing?” Minnie squealed. “Come back here this instant!”

    But it was too late. David was long gone as he sprinted towards the highway loop, occasionally glancing at his rearview mirror to check if anyone was chasing him. A pair of tail lights appeared in front of him as David caught up to Percy onto the highway.

    “Why are you chasing me?” Percy half-shouted.

    I’m gonna race Carla and Nate tonight!” David replied.

    “But didn’t you hear what Penny told you? You’re already out of the race, and it hasn’t even started.”

    “I’m sure that my idea will work, Percy. Don’t worry about our chances, alright? I’ve got this in the bag.”

    “But you won’t even be able to race in the first place,” Percy replied as he and David turned onto the start of the peninsula road. “The Giants won’t let you!”

    As David was about to reply, he noticed that Carla and Nathan were already waiting for them, along with a crowd of vehicles congregated around the start line.

    screenshot_00002.png screenshot_00005.png
    “Where are they?” Nate asked indignantly at Percy.

    “You mean, Han and Roman?” Percy replied. “I think they’ve already chosen a place to spectate somewhere along the peninsula.”

    “They’re sitting this race out?!”

    Nathan roared with laughter as he thought about all the reasons why Minnie could have stopped his main rivals from racing him.

    “I can’t believe they would actually do that, considering how much they wanted to beat me three days ago. And you’re stuck on the sidelines with them, mustard boy.”

    If looks could kill, the glare that David gave the dark-blue muscle car would have silenced him immediately. “This isn’t fair…this isn’t fair…” the yellow Dove growled.

    “So, what does that mean? Who’s the town sent out here for me to utterly destroy?” Nathan asked.

    “I don’t know about you,” Carla said, “but I think that Percy’s going to be racing us.”

    Nathan’s front bumper wavered as he tried to contain another bout of cackles.

    “They’re…they picked you?” he said through a few accidental giggles. “Okay, then…I wasn’t expecting that, but…but hey; at least the town’s got somebody to…to race for…”

    Before Nathan almost collapsed from his indiscreet attempts to not guffaw at Percy, Carla jolted him upright with a honk of her horn.

    “Let’s get this over with,” she said coldly.

    Tyler chuckled heartily, “Yes, let’s.”

    “Everyone who is going to race, line up!” Helen said up the road.

    Carla, Nathan and Percy all lined up next to the Hopper, with Percy positioning himself behind his two rivals.

    “Still ready to lose your precious home, Carla?” Tammy jeered as she pulled up next to her brother.

    “Ready as I’ll ever be,” Carla retorted. For now…

    “3…”

    VROOOOOM, VROOOOM…

    “2…”

    VRRRRRR, VRRRRRR….

    “1…”

    TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP…TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP…

    “GO!”

    Helen dropped her flag and all three vehicles skittered off the start line and sped into the peninsula, with Nathan in the lead and Carla trailing Percy. As the three racers charged into the first corner, Nathan developed a healthy gap back to the other two – a gap that allowed his to concentrate more on her own driving as the rain began to pelt down on Selva Rocosa.

    Even though I could run away from anyone else in the dry, this rain is not going to help me one bit, she thought as she drove through the first turn. Especially not when I haven’t been practicing here all that much. She continued through the next two corners smelling the awful stench of Percy’s exhaust fumes and being sprayed with diesel particles. Both vehicles perilously slithered and slid around each bend at 50 to 100 kilometers per hour, desperately trying to keep up with one dark-blue muscle car a corner ahead of them.

    Why isn’t she going in front of me? Percy thought as he braked for the third and fourth corners. I mean, she has everything she needs to blast after Nathan, and yet she sticks behind me? Strange…

    Carla slid slightly through a long-right sweeper as she grazed over a puddle, desperately counter-steering to keep herself from spinning into the weeds. As she began to plow through a left sweeper, she tried to mimic Percy’s wide-in/straight-out line to maximize corner-exit acceleration, only to nearly collide with the tree line around the chicane. How does he do that? she thought as Percy blasted away from her down the next straight. He’s just a Pigeon, and…wait a minute.

    Meanwhile, Nathan skidded through another right sweeper and entered an uphill chicane before he heard an unmistakable diesel blaring behind him. He’s already caught up?! he thought as he rounded a wide hairpin. We haven’t even reached the halfway point, and yet he’s all over my bumper? That…that just can’t happen. Not if I can help it. He accelerated as quickly as he could to 70 kilometers per hour and slid through another uphill chicane, the river below him thundering down its slope and into the sea. But try as he might to shake Percy off, the little truck was still mere centimeters from ramming him off the road as they entered a downhill right sweeper.

    Nathan slammed on the brakes and threw himself into a high-speed four-wheel drift, his worn tires barely able to withstand the strain he was subjecting them to. Percy, on the other hand, simply tilted himself enough to allow his left rear wheel to spin and turn him towards the apex. He blitzed past Nathan and left the muscle car slithering in his rain rooster-tails as he went down the next straight.

    As Nathan and Percy had fought for position, Carla had been able to catch up to the former and capitalize on his understeering into a 90-degree right turn. She spotted a pair of tail lights ahead of her which seemingly beckoned her to follow them up the next straight. She got ever closer to Percy’s back as they turned into the next trio of sweepers, but she had nothing against his corner speed as he flew through the corners at over 60 kilometers per hour. No, seriously, how does he do that? Carla thought as they blasted along a 90-degree right turn behind the sandpit. He’s driving at least as fast as I am with little to no issues despite the pouring rain.

    However, as she entered a second right turn, she noticed that Percy’s right wheel was pelting more water at her than it normally should. But maybe he’s using the rain to his advantage. There’s far less grip out here to flip him over, and he’s spinning up his inner rear wheel to do…something to assist him with turning— She almost twitched off her line as her thoughts were shattered by the roar of Nathan’s thundering V8 as he gained on her and Percy. The three vehicles all entered the wide hairpin at the end of the sandpit section at almost 70 kilometers per hour. Carla plowed to the outside, Nathan followed her in a mild drift, and Percy tenaciously held his line on the inside and grazed a few of the branches on his way out of the turn.

    Try as she might to understand how Percy could carry so much speed through the turns, Carla had nothing on the little green truck as she skidded through the next few sweepers. The road gradually narrowed to one lane wide before the hairpin at the peninsula’s tip, which prevented Nathan from shoving his nose up Carla’s inside. Percy, on the other hand, had pulled away from the others enough to be out of their sight as Carla tried to turn herself towards the hairpin’s apex.

    BUMP!
    screenshot_2018-11-25_07-22-47.png
    Nathan sharply tapped her rear bumper, sending her into a nearly-uncontrollable spin. She nearly panicked as she watched him race by her. As she flipped herself around to chase after Nathan, only one thing was on the Italian supercar’s mind: revenge. It showed in her furious glare and mild frown, her roaring V8 blaring in anger as it zipped to 6,500 RPM. Oh, so that’s how we’re rolling, eh? she thought as she blitzed along the Bunker Beach sweeper. You think I’m just going to let you run after Percy after doing that? No way would I let someone get away with a scummy move like what you just did to me!

    She didn’t crash? Nathan thought as he hauled up the next straight. That spin should have sent her down the cliff. Whatever; I’ll still out-run you for as long as I can. He skidded through the next left-hand sweeper and braked for a right-hand turn, feeling the white-hot glow of Carla’s headlights behind him. He spotted the faint tail light trails left by Percy as the little green truck disappeared behind the tree lines, which wavered in the howling wind.

    The two trailing vehicles slid through the next 90-degree left turn and powered down the next straight towards another right hairpin. Nathan threw himself into his signature high-speed drift while Carla gripped her way around the muddy inside lane. Nathan was just about to get on the power at the corner exit when he saw a mudslide blocking the left side of the road – a side that he was understeering towards.

    “Agh!” he screamed as he slammed on the brakes to steer around the obstruction.

    However, Carla narrowly whizzed past him on her drive up towards the next long-left corner. Nathan heard a crash of thunder as a large thunderbolt streaked across the midnight sky, landing only a few meters behind him as he and his Bolide competitor raced into the bend. The never-ending curve almost overstressed Nathan’s front tires as he desperately held onto his inside line. Despite narrowly skimming the outside tree line, Carla was able to slingshot ahead of Nathan out of the turn and towards the next bend.

    Meanwhile, Percy had just exited the tunnel in the middle of the second long-left corner and was clattering his way up another straight. The moon cast a faint beam of light upon him as he leaned into the top hairpin at 45 kilometers per hour. He revved up the next straight and over the tunnel bridge before braking for the next left U-shaped bend.

    Percy raced down the series of downhill switchbacks after the hairpin, quickly climbing to over 100 kilometers per hour as he barreled onto the uphill straight section. The waves crashed into the shore as he decelerated for the next left hairpin and powered into the corner apex. His left rear wheel spun madly as it tried to handle all 57 pound-feet of torque up the next stretch of chilling, rain-slickened concrete. He could hear Carla and Nathan’s V8s blaring in the distance, getting ever closer to him as his two challengers soared past the trees at over 80 kilometers per hour.

    Carla spotted the next hairpin and gently pressed her stoppers before shoving her nose up Percy’s outside. Although he was startled by her sudden intrusion, he easily out-accelerated her out of the corner and shifted into third gear down the longest straight on the peninsula. His rearview mirror flashed the headlight beams of his two more powerful opponents as they quickly pulled alongside him. Nathan and Carla charged past Percy at the kink and inched towards each other as they raced to over 100 kilometers per hour. The Bolide pulled ahead of her Barstow competitor and stabbed on her brakes for another series of shallow chicanes.

    As Carla began to gently turn through the right entrance sweeper, she felt her rear wheels snap underneath her and send her into a gentle slide. She squealed with her tires as she tried desperately to countersteer away from the looming tree line on the right. As she slid in the opposite direction and smacked a few weeds with her tailcone, she saw Nathan plowing through the chicanes in her sprayed rearview mirror. His massive front bumper came closer and closer to hitting her left door as she scrubbed her speed into the concrete. She quickly centered her front wheels and floored the gas as she exited the chicane. A look of shock spread across her front end as she calmly drove into the next hairpin.

    How did I pull that off? Carla thought as she heard Nathan skid behind her. I should have been splattered into the ocean from reckless driving like that. But even if Percy tries to pass me…

    A seafoam-green flash passed by her before forming into the same little Pigeon that had confounded all Selva Rocosa for the past month and a half. Carla saw Percy nearly tip over as he flew into the corner. She quickly followed the green truck through the next pair of hairpins, not needing to hear the intense roar of Nathan’s V8 and blinding headlights to know that he was itching to pass her. She blitzed out of the second sharp turn and barely missed a large puddle on the outside lane of the peninsula tunnel. As she left the bent concrete tube, she saw the moon unveil its cratered surface for a split second before shrouding itself in the rainclouds once more. However, as she accelerated towards the final corner, she did not notice her Barstow competitor approaching her once more.

    As the race sped onwards, Tyler was barreling through the port tunnel, his headlights setting the whole cave ablaze with a sickly white glow. Tammy’s gonna be livid when she sees what I’ve done, but I’m sure she’ll get over it when she conquers the island. He stabbed on his massive air brakes before he even spotted the end of the tunnel. He had good reason to be cautious, as the left bend that the underpass spat him onto was tight enough to get his inner rear wheels spinning madly. But even so, I’ve always wanted to see Carla lose at something in her life.

    As his giant diesel six clattered to 2,000 RPM, the needle on his fuel gauge dropped further towards empty, and a faint cough of diesel spluttered out of his stacks. Tyler muttered a vile curse under his breath as he spotted his brother parked at the peninsula intersection. If anyone was going to stop a charging cement mixer in its tracks, it was Terrence – but the tanker truck had his upfit facing Tyler’s headlight beams and remained blissfully unaware of his brother’s dangerous driving. “I just need that idiot to stay put for a little longer…”

    As he sailed into the intersection, almost everyone parked in front of him sprinted towards the other side as fast as they could. They all stared in terror at the fire-red cement mixer blazing down the final straight. Our whole empire rests on this one race, and this race isn’t gonna go our way without something from me…

    He floored the throttle, and his massive turbocharger wailed to peak pressure one last time.

    …it’s time for you to go, you pesky black barn owl-wait, what?!

    As Tyler rushed headlong into the final turn at over 90 kilometers per hour, a tiny flash of green entered the opposite end of the blind corner. Percy cut through the sheets of rain as he dove for the shoulder, only to find a giant chrome-and-black object standing between him and victory. He screamed and snapped his steering to the right to avoid the obstacle, only to feel a huge gust of air push him over to the left as Tyler narrowly missed his rear bumper. Percy was so distracted that he could not hear the tremendous crash behind him. He was already barely keeping himself upright as he tried to avoid the line of trees he was rushing towards.

    Percy’s live rear axle bucked him sideways as he tried to get back into line, and his mirror was suddenly ripped off by a branch on the right side. The searing pain of suddenly losing his ear was only made worse as his cab smacked hard into the concrete. A harsh grind filled the air as sparks and seafoam-green paint speckled the final straight. He felt another sharp jolt as his right fender flare clunked into a tree root bulging out of the shoulder, sending him spinning wildly out of control. Percy dared not look at where he had finally stopped, but he probably had ended his slide a little way off the side of the road, judging by how soft and muddy everything felt. If the mushy, brackish smell of bark was any indication, he had also barely missed splitting himself open on a tree.

    As he readied himself to view his resting place, he faintly heard two familiar V8s roaring towards him. He shut his eyes tightly, waiting for one of his opponents to smash into him. They sounded too close to stop in time, and both cars were accelerating onto the final straight. He braced himself for the impact as he felt Nathan’s quad headlights illuminate his cab. Another large rush of air passed inches from Percy’s front bumper as both V8s reached a deafening crescendo. But their noises receded into the rain, as did the ominous red glows of Carla and Nathan’s tail lights.

    Nothing could possibly shake the nervousness out of Percy’s mind, not even the silence that surrounded him for what felt like several hours. In that silence, only the dewy grass softened the throbbing aches that ran through his cab. The downpour above pelted his left side with brutal pellets and sheets of steel. But that was nothing compared to the thoughts of how Minnie and her townsfolk would react to him losing the most important race of his race. He could only imagine all the scolding from his ‘aunt’ and the ‘told-you-so’s that the Falcons would throw at him; even the Irwins would not dare to support a failure like himself.

    Percy had failed them all. But more so, he had failed himself and his own goal of beating the best racers on the island. Even though he could have done zip about avoiding a rogue cement mixer hurtling at him, he knew that nothing would make up for his tremendous loss of the biggest race in his life. He tried to reassure himself that only Carla needed to win to secure the last of the fuel reserves – but even that did not seem right to him.

    He took a deep breath through his grille and smelled the sickly stench of vegetation and seawater, mixed with a bit of diesel exhaust still lingering in the moonlit air. Percy’s eyes snapped open when he realized that Tyler had likely plunged into the sea after the two trucks’ near-crash. There was no way that a twenty-ton cement mixer could have made the final turn at full throttle. Even without his mirror, the little tricycle could faintly hear a loud pop and a few gurgles resonating from behind him. Percy hurriedly tried to get up onto his wheels again by pushing open his driver’s door. But just as soon as he had gotten a few centimeters off the ground, his fiberglass door bent and plopped him back onto the grass with a sickening lurch.

    Percy wailed in pain and desperation, fervently trying to run away from the plunging T-Series. Tammy or one of her comrades could appear any second, and he did not want to be on the receiving end of one of the wrecker’s attacks. He knew that if they saw him lying on his side against a tree, they would be able to finish him off as easily as Carla would out-run him in a drag race. There was nothing he could do about his lack of a proper view – he had no space to turn around, and neither did he have anything with him to see behind him. With one final glug, Tyler’s massive drum sank below the waves and disappeared into the murky seafloor.

    Silence filled the air once more as Percy laid on the shoulder in a seemingly bottomless pit of defeat and sorrow. As he gently closed his eyes once more, he heard a V8 whirring towards him – a whirr that was unmistakably Italian. He slowly came back to reality only to be immediately blinded by a pair of pop-up headlights. While the lights dimmed and retracted into their apertures, he stared at the strange wedge-shaped apparition for what felt like an eternity before the blurry black lines contorted into the sleek curves of a Bolide. As Carla pulled in front of Percy, she softly said to him, “Thank goodness, you’re alive. I would have thought that you…”

    The dark supercar trailed off, quietly wishing she could take back the last sentence. That wasn’t a line of thought she wanted to pursue at the moment, and she could hardly imagine how Percy would feel about it. It was then that she noticed he hadn’t responded to the sound of her voice.

    “I can still hear you…barely,” Percy replied. “And I might be able to drive away from this.”

    “Oh, great! Now, would you mind lifting your door a little bit so I can push you back onto your wheels?”

    The stricken tricycle barely wanted to move his windshield wiper, let alone mutilate his driver’s-side door any further. Carla noticed the hurt look in his eyes and realized that if she was going to put him right, the process would have to be as painless as possible. After a few moments of scanning the nearby area, her gentle gaze hardened in determination as she spotted a sharp mound on the shoulder. She bumped Percy’s roof and pushed him as hard as her thinly-tread rear tires would allow.

    He felt his front right corner dip into a puddle before his wheel ran into the same stubborn tree root that it had skimmed along in his slide. The saplings on the other side of the road slowly rotated upright as Carla furiously spun her wheels in the mud. She gave him a slight tap of her horn when she stopped her lawnmowing, which shocked him so much that he whacked his bent door on Carla’s front and plopped onto his wheels with a harsh clunk.

    “Sorry about that, and—oh my gosh!” Carla said.

    Percy heard Carla’s V8 surge before she quickly silenced it. He turned to look at the black supercar and saw her stare aghast at his scratched and beaten right side. With a heavy look in her eyes, she rolled towards him and said, “How does it feel?”


    “I think it’s not as bad as it looks. Other than the mirror. That hurts like mad.”


    “Yes, but are you okay?”


    “Yes. I’m okay.”


    “Percy, it’s alright for you not to be okay. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be okay after a close call with a rogue cement mixer.”


    “…”


    “It’s alright not to feel okay.”


    “I don’t feel okay.”

    Percy merely stared at her for a few moments as the rain began to let up. As much as Carla was grateful that Percy did not end up splattered on a tree or meeting Tyler on the sea floor, the pain and misery that he had gone through must have been little better. Combined with the severe trauma of losing a race and nearly crashing or being crashed into three times in about ten seconds; the emotional wreck before her looked even less like the confident little truck that had led the fastest cars on the island for over half the course.

    As Percy tried to start his diesel triple again, he was met with the chitter of his starter motor, which was as familiar as the smell of burning oil was unfamiliar. Carla eyed the blue smoke cloud pouring out from behind him with a strong suspicion, but she still jumped when some unburnt diesel exploded out of Percy’s exhaust. He clenched his teeth as he tried to shift into first, a move that almost destroyed his gearbox as he ground the cogs together. Sensing the problem – and a possible solution – Carla waved her wiper downwards, attempting to tell Percy to turn off his engine.

    However, the little tricycle naturally followed the movement of Carla’s wiper and tipped himself onto his driver’s side rocker panel. She rushed forward to catch his fall and received a very minor fender scratch when Percy hit his cab on it. He squealed as he felt his window wobble against his door, producing a sickly rattling sound that died off almost as fast as it had come.

    “Thanks,” Percy said in as sincere a tone he could manage.

    “Oh…oh,” Carla groaned.

    “What?”

    “Oh, it’s merely a scratch.”

    “Are you sure? It didn’t sound like ‘just a scratch’ from what I heard.”

    “That was your window. I’m thankful that you’re built entirely out of plastic – I can’t bear to think what would have happened there if your window had been made of glass.”

    “If you say so.”

    “No, no, I’m fine – honestly.”

    From the tone of her voice, Percy could sense Carla’s dampened spirit as harshly as he could feel his own throbbing side window. He gently pushed his driver’s door open to plonk himself onto his wheels, only for Carla to turn to face him a moment after.

    “Percy, I have to ask you something.”

    “What?”

    “Can you still drive?”

    “You mean, at racing speeds? Nah, I don’t think so.”

    “No, I mean, can you move by yourself? I would call a tow truck, but...you know. Would you mind if I pushed you to the finish line?”

    “Don’t worry…I got this. I think.”

    With that, Percy’s tiny starter motor chirped into action once more. Three miniscule pistons wildly burst into life with a familiar tapping sound from the pushrods, which whacked all six valves in time with the explosions of diesel fuel. As his engine’s violent start smoothed into a gentle idle, Percy dropped his clutch with a spray of rainwater from his tires and a harsh lurch from his transmission. He puttered away from Carla, whom he had drenched by mistake in muddy water, and left her shocked at how quickly he had recovered from his near-death experiences.

    “Well…I guess there’s still some speed left in you yet,” Carla commented as she followed the tricycle to the finish line.

    screenshot_2019-06-14_06-40-51.jpg
    As Percy bolted to the end of the peninsula road, he heard the loud roars and screams of several vehicles blaring away from him. When he skidded to a halt in the middle of the junction, he scanned around to see Han, Roman, Terrence, Minnie, Sam and Sally staring back at him

    “Hey, glad to see you,” Sam said.

    “Oh, thank goodness, you’re alive!” Sally cheered.

    As she and Sam came up to congratulate Percy, the little green tricycle heard Carla pulling up a little ways away from him.

    “I know…” Percy replied. “But somehow, I missed his attack and didn’t end up crashing any more than I did.”

    “Well, I gotta say…I’m impressed you managed to dodge a speeding cement mixer and drive out of it in one piece,” Han replied.

    “Two pieces,” Percy corrected. “I lost a mirror on a tree.”

    “Oh, that’s gotta hurt. But for what it’s worth, Carla told me that you led almost the whole race,” Roman said. “That’s a win in my books.”

    “Yeah, and it sounds like Nathan’s either had enough of this or is out celebrating,” Percy replied as he heard a loud screech in the background. “Honestly, who did win? Because if it was Nathan, then…”

    “It was close…” Han began.

    “…and we might have seen the finish a little awkwardly…” Sally continued.

    “…but from what we saw, Carla won. But not by much,” Sam finished.

    “No, I was ahead of him,” Carla said as she parked next to Percy. “You didn’t see me get angry at Nate as he roared into the forest. Besides, I had already passed him after the final corner, so…I don’t get why you think I didn’t win.”

    “Speaking of which, I don’t know where Nate’s going, but I believe that we’ve seen the last of him,” Sally commented.

    “I don’t think we’ll be seeing bed or bumper of Tammy or her little ‘team’ again, either,” Minnie said. “They’ve all buggered off into the jungle, and they’ll be staying there for good.”

    “Well, then, I…” Percy began.

    “Percy…I know it probably stinks for you to have lost,” Han said, “but I still think that you might have won had you not crashed.”

    “He would have won by a long way, Han,” Carla replied. “He was easily about ten seconds in front of Nathan when he entered the last turn. Nobody’s going to make up that much time in one corner. Not even me.”

    The orange Miramar paused for a moment to reflect on what Carla had said. “Okay…I take back what I said. You really would have won had you not crashed.”

    “So, how are we gonna call it?” Sam asked.

    “We could call it a tie and be done with it,” Percy grumbled.

    Everyone else but Carla stared at the little trike as if he had shouted at them to buzz off. All of them wanted to drive away to give him some space and time to recover from his impacts, but they also knew they needed to stay to make a final decision on the race results.

    “Percy, is this really how you want this race to end?” Carla asked.

    “No, it’s just that…” Percy trailed off.

    “I offer you a victory for your efforts, and then you throw it in my face? What kind of reaction is that?”

    “I thought you wanted to beat Carla at her own game,” Terrence piped in, “and become the best one there ever was on this muddy rock in the middle of nowhere. That’s why you became the Green Ghost, wasn’t it?”

    Percy’s mind froze at the mention of his alter-ego – a fact made even more unbearable by the excited looks everyone else was giving him. A few tense seconds passed as his thoughts gradually recollected into one biting question.

    “How’d you know it was me who blew your doors off that night?” he asked.

    “It’s quite simple, really,” Terrence replied. “As you were passing me, I noticed that the raindrops bounced off what I thought was a ghost. Now, I don’t know much about phantoms, but I do know that they’re not solid enough to have raindrops pinging off them.”

    “Alright, but you could’ve been seeing things weirdly.”

    “That’s what I thought back then, but when Carla told me that she noticed the same thing happen when the ‘ghost’ appeared again, I knew that it would’ve had to have been you. It didn’t help that you took up every opportunity to race that you were given. Not many Pigeons would casually suggest taking on a supercar and a highly-modified muscle car on one of the windiest roads I’ve ever seen.”

    Carla chuckled, “Oh, please, Terrence – I’m only a base-model Bolide.”

    “My point still stands on Percy taking on cars and events that should be far out of his league as though they were the Irwin trio in a tiny parking lot and coming out on top every time. And besides--” Terrence inched closer towards Percy, but not so close as to block out the tiny trike’s view “—how many other little green Pigeons do we know exist on this island? Anyone?”

    Nobody bothered answering his question – everyone knew that the tanker truck had figured out who had been the ‘ghost’ all along. A sudden buzzing sound emanated from the port tunnel as David sped towards the group at the intersection.

    “Hey, guys! What happened here?” he asked as he looked at all the excited vehicles in front of him. “Did we win?”

    “Carla did, but…” Minnie began.

    “What about Percy?!” David interrupted as he spotted the mangled trike.
    “What happened to him?”

    “I think you already know what happened to him, but…you know that ‘ghost’ that everyone’s been talking about for the past few months?” Sam said.

    “Yeah…so?”

    Everyone tilted themselves slightly towards Percy – who then felt the increasing discomfort of having his friends silently judging his mangled side and revealing a secret he had tried to hide for several months.

    David’s questioning quickly broke the densely tense air around the green trike. “Why didn’t you say anything sooner? Dude, we could’ve been training together to go off and become the best racers on the island! We could’ve—"

    “David, I’m sure he had his reasoning for doing so,” Sally replied. “He might’ve been waiting for the right moment to tell us, but he could’ve felt a bit too shy about it.”

    “But still, I would’ve loved to have known that he was so great at racing all along! That explains why I kept hearing a Pigeon racing around the peninsula – I mean, I thought that maybe Patrick would have taken it up, but that noise being Percy makes so much sense now! But hang on…how did he—"

    “Dave, please. Give him some space to—” Terrence began.

    “I’ve already been giving him space all this time!” David said at the tanker truck. “I barely gave him the slightest bit of attention after my demonstration of my…heh…’sub-par’ drifting skill.”

    Really? You’re putting yourself down like that in front of me? Percy thought. I don’t need you thinking you’re worse than you are just to make feel better.

    “Meanwhile, he’s gone off and defeated just about everyone on the island while keeping a secret identity and sneaking past the Giants and their goons for months to go pelt around in their backyard in the middle of the night while still not being noticed by anyone but Terrence and somehow—”

    “Dave!” Han snapped. “Look at the state that Percy’s in.”

    David took a good few seconds of staring to suddenly realize how poorly his three-wheeled friend was. But he also noticed that Percy was giving him a slight scowl, as if the Pigeon was trying to shut his enthusiastic fellow racer up without disrupting the conversation. “Well, I thought that my talk would help him, you know. Cheer him up a little after all he’s been through.”

    “I don’t think Percy responds well to fans, Dave,” Carla said. “Especially not when they’re shouting about his big secret he’s been trying to hide.”

    Everyone stopped glowering at David to turn towards the black supercar. Most had blank expressions that suggested they roughly knew how Percy was feeling, but the yellow pickup still glanced questioningly at the Civetta’s wedged front. “So? Almost everyone had at least some idea that it could have been Percy. It’s not like it was the best-kept secret on the island or anything.”

    “Well, still, you don’t have to yell about it. I watched the ‘ghost’ race around his home track firsthand with Sarge last week, and I never went off and tried to tell everyone and their friends that I’ve ‘seen the great Pigeon racer’ or something like that.”

    “Wait…you saw him in action before?” Minnie asked.

    “Oh, yes, I did,” Carla replied. “I was amazed by Percy’s immense skill, but I never told anyone that when I knew that I could have put him in hot water with Tyler and Tammy very quickly.”

    “Alright, but you could’ve at least told us somethin’ about it,” Roman said. “I don’t think any of us would’ve gone tellin’ that mixer that he’s got an enemy champion speedster in his backyard.”

    “Oh, no, nobody would’ve done that in my town,” Minnie remarked. “No way would I have allowed a breach of information that serious!”

    “Still…there may have been one or two…unsavory characters who live in your town who would’ve been more than happy to throw Percy in the Giants’ deep end,” Terrence commented.

    “Yeah, I think that Sid would’ve been all over the ‘ghost’ story in a blink, even if he’s a bit antisocial,” Sam said. “And Penny wouldn’t have been a bit of help, either.”

    “You have to remember that I had personal reasons for keeping the ‘ghost’ thing under wraps, as well,” Carla replied.

    Everyone paused for a moment to contemplate what the supercar could have possibly meant by this statement.

    “What do you mean?” David asked. “Besides, of course, that you might’ve had something serious going on between you two.”

    “No, not that kind of ‘personal’!” Carla snapped. “I mean in terms of my racing career here. Do you have any idea how boring it is go up against the same old cars over and over again on the same tracks with the same strategies and outcomes every week?”

    “A lot?” Terrence said.

    “It is dreadfully dull being on top. I’ve had just about nothing to do in the past couple weeks because if I ask for a ‘race’, the only thing I’ll expect is Nathan and Max coming to my airfield with their overinflated egos and big rumbly V8s, only to get spanked by me every single time. Of course, if I want to watch a ‘race’, it’ll very likely be Penelope crawling down Mount Hutch at a snail’s pace with a couple of her junker friends. I don’t care that I got beaten by Percy – I actually had a competitive event against a different vehicle for once, and I had an absolute riot trying to keep up with him.”

    “Well, to be honest, that whole rally project Donovan and Helen were trying to organize—" David started.

    “—would have been far too risky for us,” Minnie interrupted. “After all, the route they were planning on taking would have led straight towards the airfield – a perfect excuse to have that brutish pickup truck attack Carla and her friends while nobody was watching.”

    “Hmm…maybe so,” Carla said. “But I think that I would’ve also chased Percy off the racing scene if I had spread a rumor that he’s a great racer. Isn’t that right, Percy?”

    Carla and everyone else turned towards the spot next to Carla to find…

    “W-where’d he go?” Terrence stuttered.

    “Never mind that!” Carla snapped as she punched a hole through the crowd. “Percy, come back here!”

    screenshot_2019-06-19_18-38-55.jpg screenshot_2019-06-14_06-55-01.jpg
    But the little green tricycle had not gone as far as he would have liked. His sore rear axle put him limping along at 40 kilometers per hour. It’s only a minor problem, just a little…inconvenience, he thought. I can still drive! I can still move under my own power. The same can’t be said for...some vehicles. Maurice, Donovan, Sarge, Tyler…they’re all gone now.

    Thankfully, he was still able to mount the hill before the airfield, his diesel engine clattering in second gear. Percy breathed a sigh of relief as he puttered through the sheets of chilly rain. Percy almost jumped as he heard a slight whirring and a muted moan, but he pushed any thoughts about them out of his mind. All Percy wanted now was a moment’s peace. As he crested the hill, he started as he spotted the all-too-familiar outline of Penelope in front of him, blocking off the road to Carla’s home.

    What does she want this time? Percy thought as he parked himself in front of the white Pessima.

    “Oh, uh…hi,” Penelope said. “I know this is really awkward timing, but…are you up for a rematch? I think now would be a great time for a gravity race, especially since we’ve got this little hill to race on.”

    “Not really…” Percy replied. “I don’t think I would be up for—"

    “What? You really believe everything Carla’s told about me? I’m not like that, Percy, I assure you. After all, I just went around with Tammy and her ‘friends’ to help you, not to cause you to harm yourself like this.”

    “Are you sure about that?"

    Percy turned around to see Carla roll silently toward him, maintaining a steady stare at the white sedan behind him.

    “What are you here for?” he asked.

    “I live here, Percy,” Carla replied, earning a slight giggle from Penelope.

    The supercar pulled around her tiny friend and stared the Pessima square in the eyes. “Alright, Miss Parker – what’s so entertaining?”

    “I can’t believe you still think I’m your enemy,” Penelope remarked. “I mean, seriously? Have I ever caused you any harm? Have I ever said that I wanted to see you get wrecked by Tammy and her pompous loser ‘friends’? I’ll let you know that I could’ve easily run Percy into the trees on our gravity race if I had wanted to, but I didn’t, because I was never against him in the first place. I accepted a tie, despite having created the format myself, because he gave me an excellent bit of afternoon fun. And I even let him start the race with a decent head start because I knew that he wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise, and I wanted an even playing field. How, then, am I your enemy for having been so kind to your best friend? He even got a bit of hypermiling practice out from the whole deal. I don’t see how that’s bad.”

    “Yeah, I know all about that. But still…I thought you fit snugly into your role as Tammy’s ‘pet’,” Percy said. “You were so confident in your position that you referred to yourself as ‘we’ when you barged into town before the race. You came right out and showed yourself to the world, and I believe I’ve seen enough to conclude what kind of vehicle you are. You mean something when you say ‘we’. Do you mean ‘we, myself and all other humane vehicles on this island’, or does it mean what I think it does?”

    That was all an act.”

    “Oh, really?” Carla asked. “So, your constant use of ‘we’ in our conversations when it came to your interests was just something silly you did? It was all just to annoy me? ‘Oh, we’d love to have you on our team!’ ‘We’re totally not going to mess you up like we would to Percy. We’d never do that!’”

    “I don’t know what you’re getting at with those examples – especially that second one, which I never said – but if I did say it, it was all in jest. An act to overinflate Nathan’s ego, and to help Percy get into the race. After all…he always wanted to beat you, didn’t he?”

    “Perhaps so, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you wanted me to become Tyler’s new hood ornament, didn’t you?” Percy’s whole frame began to shake as he realized how the Pessima had nearly thrown him into the sea. “Yes, that was your plan all along…get me out there by spurting some random excuse for David to not race, and then let me experience a crushing defeat by Nathan or a high-speed ram from Tyler.”

    “No, I knew that you would win,” Penelope replied. “I’ve always wanted to see that big muscle car’s smug grin get wiped off his face as he watched a tiny tricycle speed away from him. He was the one who suggested that I tell David he wasn’t eligible for the race. And I didn’t expect you to get rammed off the road either. Tyler didn’t tell anybody he was planning on doing that. Even Tammy wasn’t expecting him to do something that stupid.”

    “Well, I can say that I, a tiny diesel tricycle with just 27 horsepower, survived both vehicles. Carla and I both trounced Nathan like he was standing still, and I survived Tyler’s attack to fight another day, and I’ve concluded that you were behind that attack.”

    “No, I never told him to wreck you, Percy.”

    “I don’t think that you could force your former leader to do something so drastic, but surely…surely, you had some intentions of me ending up in Tyler’s grille. Perhaps a bit of…vengeance from having ‘lost’ to a Pigeon on your own race format? That seems like a good enough excuse.”

    Revenge? No, no, I wouldn’t think of that. What do I have against you?”

    “Or maybe it wasn’t against him,” Carla said. “After all, I have been noticing that you’ve been growing increasingly bitter about going on highway drives with me, and you know that I have quite a good friendship with Percy.”

    “Yeah…a ‘friendship’ where you yell at him for no reason. Doesn’t sound very friendly to me. Why, I thought you hated him for a while there. ‘Oh, no, I’m not going out with some wimpy little tricycle!’ I heard you say the first time we met.”

    There was a brief pause as Carla tried to think of how to reply to the smug Pessima, but Percy broke the silence as he remembered what he heard while driving to the airfield.

    “I’m not sure, but…that was you who ran outta fuel, right?” Percy asked. “I heard a whirring which sounded very…suspicious.”

    “Well…no!” Penelope spat. “That was just me realizing how foolish I was to think that you two could ever be rid of the idea that I am some mini-Tammy waiting to happen and that I’m going to come and destroy you in your sleep and stuff like that.”

    “You can make a sound like that?”

    “Yes, I can! Anyway, that was not me running on fumes; no way would that happen.”

    “Can you prove thi--” Percy began.

    He was promptly interrupted by the chirp of a starter motor as Penelope tried to get moving. To her dismay, she was met with a gurgle and a harsh stall as whatever fuel she had left burnt up in an instant. “Alright, then…” she murmured.

    Carla saw her opponent’s confusion and pounced at the opportunity to attack her. She howled with laugher and spat, “How can someone like you, a vehicle so obsessed with ‘fuel economy’ and ‘efficiency’ to the point where she coasts down hills in ‘races’ to feel good about not being fast or skilled, have the gall to criticize whom I befriend when she’s run out of fuel right in front of my home? And you’re blocking my friend and I off in the process, too! Isn’t that, shall we say…inefficient? A disruption of economical driving? And here I thought that you were my friend. If you really were, you’d be fine with me going off with whomever I please, not getting angry at me for liking a ‘lower-status’ vehicle. You wouldn’t be trying to bring me into your traps and almost getting me rammed off the road by Tammy and her goons.”

    If Penelope’s paint could have been any whiter after Carla’s lambasting, it would have glowed brighter than a chrome hubcap. As it was, she was left parked awkwardly with an empty tank and two hostile vehicles in front of her. However, she conjured up one last remark that she could throw at the complacent supercar.

    Inefficient?” she wheezed as she turned to face her ex-friend. Her bright-yellow eyes seemingly bulged out of her windshield as she began to dissolve into madness. “Y-you think that I cared about you? You think I wanted to go around on your highway drives which are a complete waste of fuel and time? Why, I didn’t even want to associate myself with such a gas-guzzling birdbrain who does things that no sane vehicle or ‘human’ or any other living being would ever do! Especially not when said birdbrain is going out with another wacko friend who thinks that he’s suddenly hot stuff for beating a claptrap base-model ‘supercar’ and a muscle car who thinks that his giant hood scoop gives him a thousand horsepower.”

    “Those highway drives preserve my sanity, thank you very much,” Carla snapped back. “And anyway, who are you to complain about how I spend my fuel when you drive up Mount Hutch twice a week, wastefully looping around the entire island just to get to the port? You could simply take the town road that leads almost directly into the port, but no, you choose to promote your ‘economical’ gravity racing by climbing up a mountain and inching around the island for almost an hour. What are you going to do now that your fool of a leader no longer is bringing you extra fuel reserves?”

    “Errr…hmmm…well, Percy, how did your race go? Judging by your current condition, I’d say that you did…rather well? Everyone told me that you lost to Carla, but I wanted to make sure. After all, it’d be shameful for a supercar to get wiped off the road by a stinky diesel tricycle.”

    “First, it went smashingly well…almost,” Percy replied.

    “Yeah, right,” Penelope muttered.

    “Second, everyone’s right that I didn’t win. Third, I’ve gotten over not winning, as Carla swooped in and seized the victory – but I did my job at annoying Nathan until he lost to her. To be honest, I’m grateful that Carla was there to step in for me. If she hadn’t been there, you guys would’ve still been crushing little cars and trucks into the ground. out there in the seven or eight minutes that I was racing out there than you’ve had in the entirety of your bitter, hate-filled life.”

    It was at that moment that Penelope released her handbrake that had been barely holding her still against the tirade that had been launched against her. She silently sped backwards down the corner, barely paying attention to how quickly she was approaching the treeline on the outside of the course. She flicked her front wheels to the right and flipped to the opposite direction just in time to spot the trees she was rushing towards. She squealed in panic and slammed on the stoppers to prevent herself from smashing into the saplings in front of her. Unfortunately, her eco tires skidded on the rain-slicked mud and she plowed straight into the vegetation, directly hitting a hard with her front. A nasty crunch echoed through the forest as the Pessima came to a sudden and unexpected stop.

    Percy could barely hear Penelope’s muffled “Ow…” in the distance. It was not a pleasant reminder of the white sedan’s condition, but it still showed that she was still alive.

    “I…never would’ve thought she would’ve reacted like that,” he said to Carla. “Did I go too harsh on her?”

    Carla chuckled, “Oh, no, it wasn’t your fault she decided to do that. Penelope just had enough and realized that she no longer had anybody she could piggyback off. It’s nothing that you should worry about.”

    Also, here's a map of Selva Rocosa (JRI) by @Googlefluff, outlining the locations of all the landmarks mentioned in the story.


    Credits:

    @YellowRusty: Prologue (and the artwork for the prologue), the new name, inspiration, and almost all the editing. Seriously, if it weren't for this guy, I doubt this story would even exist.
    @Googlefluff: Location names and map
    @NinetyNine!: Miramar Z Coupe (and Z Coupe front end swap)
    @Inertia: T-Series Rollback Tow Truck
    @mike94: Ibishu Dove and '58 Satsuma 210
    @Crash Hard 01: Offroad Moonhawk/Pickup
    @SandwichesANDmilk: Tanker T-Series\
    @Taza: Pigeon Mod Pack
    BeamNG Devs: The rest of the vehicles, JRI, this awesome game
    @DriftinCovet1987: Everything else

    Percy

    The main character of the story, and the only vehicle which has a write-up for this chapter. Percy looks like a typical 1987 Ibishu Pigeon Base on the outside, except he’s very different on the inside. Although he still has a stock engine, he is the pet project of Tim’s father’s secret plan to end Cesar’s reign over Mount Hutch. However, Tim was assigned (without reason) to build the best Pigeon steering system that he possibly could, which was then fitted into Percy to help Tim manage the increased horsepower. Of course, the IKCP workers questioned the legitimacy of their boss’s actions to build a specially-tuned Pigeon, but Tim’s father persuaded them to make the one-millionth IKCP vehicle a very special Pigeon. Modifications include a stronger drivetrain, a lightened flywheel, heavy-duty rear shocks, and premium brake pads.

    Tim

    Despite being only 19 years old and owning a rusty, stock 1964 Ibishu Miramar Base with a four-speed manual, Tim is a decent racing driver around the perilous roads of Mount Hutch. Having grown up around his father’s factory, he has developed a knack for building and repairing vehicles. The first car he ever built was a dark-green 1984 Pigeon Base with stabilizers, which he completed in May of that year, and still uses it for parts runs and deliveries when his Miramar breaks down. Even though his brother may own a better car, he shows no envy whatsoever to him. He is quite calm and curious most of the time but can sometimes get annoyed at his family and co-workers. However, when he races his Miramar or tests out the Pigeons that come from the IKCP, he drives them with a passion that few of his peers can even match.

    Tim’s father

    A friendly, compassionate 46-year-old father who leads the old IKCP factory’s operation. He enjoys using his 1985 ETK 2400i as a workaday vehicle to get him around the island from his house near the factory. However, he has a displeasure in inefficiency, especially at the IKCP, and can get especially angry if his sons happen to be the ones holding up production. He was a street racer in his youth who raced around Selva Rocosa in a 1958 Satsuma 210 sedan, often beating his friends’ modified Burnsides, Gavrils, Bruckells, and Ibishus in rallies and races around the island. Although he may secretly (or not so secretly) admire his sons’ driving skill, he sometimes discourages their efforts to become street racers, having had firsthand experience of the dangers of street racing.

    Tim’s brother

    At 22 years old, Tim’s brother is much more experienced in street racing than he is. He drives around in a 1974 Bruckell Moonhawk V8 Sport that he bought as a birthday present in June of 1984. Almost immediately, he began upgrading his Moonhawk with whatever money he could find to compete with his friends’ tuned vehicles, especially with Cesar’s Bolide. By March of 1987, he had fitted it with race suspension, matte-grey paint, a small rear spoiler, Alder Dragger wheels, a 5-speed manual transmission, and a few other modifications to help him lug its 3,900 pounds of mass around Mount Hutch. He has a disdain for his brother’s preference to keep his old Miramar stock, even though Tim may be a much better driver and mechanic than he is and is terrified that his Moonhawk may get destroyed by his brother’s new Pigeon. To him, being beaten by a Pigeon or a lower-tier Dove is the ultimate embarrassment anyone can have in their lives.

    Cesar

    A relatively-wealthy, 32-year-old man who dominates Mount Hutch with his 1983 Civetta Bolide 320. He is a highly-skilled “lone wolf” in the conglomerate of street-racing teams that often speed around the backroads of Selva Rocosa, and respects anyone that can come close to his world-record time on Mount Hutch’s downhill. Unlike Tim’s brother and the rest of the street racers, Cesar doesn’t look down upon anyone who thinks that they can bring a normal car up against the specially-tuned vehicles he races against. He has much respect for Tim, as he helped fix his Bolide when its engine had been damaged in January 1986.

    screenshot_00179.png
    Name: Carla Bellato
    Model: 1983 Civetta Bolide 320
    Modifications: Quad Custom Exhaust (+18 horsepower)
    Status Relative to Percy: Bad (Chapter 4-?)

    Description: Having been raced hard all her life, Carla is a natural at Mount Hutch's mountain pass and the peninsula road. She loves the excitement of racing, and often vents her held-in frustrations while defeating her rivals. Despite being a "Mediterranean mistress", she is far from a romantic vehicle. She can sometimes be cold and cynical to cars and trucks who are naturally below her, like Pigeons and LeGrans, but she can be quite kind once she gets to know someone. She is highly protective of and clingy towards those whom she has befriended, meaning that she can be a little frustrating to deal with. She also suffers from mild depression after her owner Cesar died in a plane crash, but she tries her best to cope with his passing. However, she does tend to be snappy and arrogant around other vehicles to hide her sorrow, as she feels that it makes her look weak and vulnerable.
    screenshot_00173.png
    Name: Minnie Alberts
    Model: 1966 Ibishu Miramar Z Coupe
    Modifications: None
    Status Relative to Percy: Neutral (Chapter 4)

    Description: This cheerful little Miramar is one of the most-respected small cars on the island. Her enthusiasm for leadership makes her a near-prodigy for town representation. However, she can be irritated by people whom she has to repeat orders to, especially if they are her friends. She enjoys watching street racing, but believes that it should only be kept to the peninsula and Mount Hutch to lower the risk for her fellow citizens. She is not as pleasant as her cheerfulness may suggest, though; she can become cranky and irritable if she believes that something has gone awry, and she feels that Percy is not as responsible as he should be. She wishes for peace and quiet on her island, and will do almost anything to keep it.
    screenshot_00175.png
    Name: Maurice Jensen-McAdams
    Model: 1977 Bruckell Moonhawk V8 Custom
    Modifications: 1978 Bruckell J-Series truck frame, 1981 Gavril D-Series V8 (221 horsepower/256 lb-ft of torque), lifted suspension, racing fuel cell, chopped truck bed, 5-speed manual transmission, locking rear differential.
    Status Relative to Percy: Good

    Description: A "vehicular mish-mash" of off-roader, pickup truck, and muscle car, Maurice is by far the most oddball vehicle on Selva Rocosa. Modest and relatively meek, he prefers driving around on Mount Hutch's many trails over cruising down the highway like most of his fellow vehicles. His mish-mashed build style is highly advantageous to (he can go off-road, haul stuff, and drive fast equally well), but it tends to confuse most vehicles who are used to cars and trucks being separate entities. Therefore, he tends to be snubbed out by a few of the racers (Percy is one of the few vehicles on the island who has even the slightest interest in becoming his friend), and he finds himself constantly against the "superior" four-wheel-drive off-roaders.
    screenshot_00178.png
    Name: Penelope Parker
    Model: 1988 Ibishu Pessima 1.8 HX
    Modifications: None
    Status Relative to Percy: Neutral

    Description Having been designed for maximum fuel economy, she devotes most of her racing passion towards fuel efficiency, trying to discover ways to reduce her usage of the island's limited fuel stores. She has incredible patience compared to most of her friends, although she can be somewhat irritable when people hoon around the island as fast as they can. Her preferred style of mountain racing relies purely on gravity, and she can be amazingly fast compared to her opponents down the east side of Mount Hutch. She typically prefers sticking to as tall of a gear as possible while driving, even turning her engine off on downhills, which inspired the town's residents to nickname her "The Silent Racer".
    screenshot_00167.png
    Name: David Parker
    Model: 1982 Ibishu Dove 1.6 GLX 4WD
    Modifications: None
    Status Relative to Percy: Mostly Neutral

    Description: Despite his humble appearance, tiny wheels, and small power output, don't underestimate this drift maestro. Weighing only 750 kilos and equipped with locking differentials, a short wheelbase, decent ground clearance, and a 5-speed manual transmission, he is one of the most balanced racers on Selva Rocosa. Called "The Mighty Mustard Midget Monster" by most vehicles, he prefers drifting over other forms of racing, but he still can race and rally quite well compared to his rivals. He is the first vehicle to race Percy, and is often considered to be the green trike's four-wheeled opposite.
    screenshot_00177.png
    Name: Helen Harper
    Model: 1989 Ibishu Hopper LXT-4
    Modifications: None
    Status Relative to Percy: Neutral

    Description: Being the newest vehicle on the island, she is one of the most-capable off-roaders around the tough trails of Mount Hutch. Despite her 131 horsepower, she can easily keep up with, and out-run, more-powerful vehicles in the off-road sections. This incredible capability means that she is often a bit haughty and stuck-up, although she does have a few friends (including Penelope) in her observatory home.

    Sid Parker (1958 Satsuma 1000 Wagon)

    Immanuel Edelmann (1985 ETK 2400i) (used to belong to Tim's father)

    Isaac Edelmann (1987 ETK 2400ix)

    Nathan Galford (1969 Gavril Barstow 423 V8 Custom "The Nightsnake")

    Also, here's @Car8john's picture-book version of Selva Rocosa. I find it to be absolutely brilliantly childish, as well as a nice way to sum up the main events of the story, so I'm adding it to the OP.
    Prologue:

    Long ago, on a island far far away, laid a old village, where people used to work and build itty bitty cars. One night, a lone meteor struck across the sky, and landed in the towering mountain in the centre


    Chapter One:

    There was a big red brick building, there, a father and his two sons made tiny cars, one day, a very special car was made

    This car had a special colour, the sons where happy with it, in fact, one of them was chosen to drive it through a obstacle course to see how special it was

    Zoom! The little car went through the track faster than any tiny car before it. The father was delighted by this news, and he gave the car to one of his sons, as the car seemed to be connected to the island. That night, one of the sons was with the tiny car, and believed that this car could challenge a mean bully, who rules the hill

    The father believed in the son, and told him that the little car could beat the big mean car on the top of the hill, even though many others thought it was foolish

    FAQ:

    *What sort of vehicle mods are you most looking for?

    Anything that is near-dev-quality, (preferably) unique from anything currently in-game, not a 1:1 rebadge of any real-life car (i.e. Prasu, 2015 Barstow, '94 Covet), and highly-customizable will be considered for inclusion in any of my stories. However, I am primarily looking for vehicle mods that date from 1969 and older, so if you are considering making a mod to show up in my story, your best chance is with any old classic car that fits my requirements for inclusion.

    *Will you be writing your '69 Belasco spin-off story?

    That story will be handled by @YellowRusty for the most part, and it is not promised for release due to a lack of vehicles available for the story.

    *Will you be using other people's versions of official maps or including modded maps into your stories?

    I will be including one modded map (as a part of my version of an official map) and at least one modified version of an official map into my stories, but other than that, no.

    *When will you be publishing your next chapter?

    When It's Ready(TM)
     
    #1 DriftinCovet1987, Apr 15, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2019
    • Like Like x 26
  2. DriftinCovet1987

    DriftinCovet1987
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    Well...I guess I now know that all the months of time, effort, and dedication that I put into this story mean nothing to anyone. Oh, well - at least I learned how to write much better because of this story (I've also got several completed chapters ready to be published).
     
  3. Fast-Subaru71

    Fast-Subaru71
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    That's a pretty good start.
    I haven't read a lot of BeamNG stories, but this one seems like it's going to be interesting.

    I'm not too surprised with the lack of feedback, for some reasons, few people seem to fully stories when they see some. Don't let that discourage you, your story is nicely written in my opinion.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
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  4. DriftinCovet1987

    DriftinCovet1987
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    Thanks for the feedback.

    Admittedly, I think I was expecting a bit too much from this on the first day. Then again, a story isn't exactly as sensational as a video or as easy to review as a picture, so it does make sense that this thread isn't nearly as popular as some other artwork threads.
     
  5. ViperCobra

    ViperCobra
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    Interesting. How long is the story in question?
     
  6. YellowRusty

    YellowRusty
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    Truth be told, we don't know yet. Plans are for twelve chapters, averaging around 5400 words each, plus the prologue.
     
  7. alex hart

    alex hart
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    So you're basically writing a whole book?
     
  8. DriftinCovet1987

    DriftinCovet1987
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    It'll be about 12-14 chapters long (each chapter is ~5,000 words each), plus the prologue and the epilogue. That equates to roughly 62,000 - 72,000 words, or about 186-216 pages.

    Yep, this will be possibly the first BeamNG.drive-based novel ever written. It's also going to be the longest piece of literature I have ever written.
     
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  9. B727ClassicFlyer

    B727ClassicFlyer
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    I applaud you for doing something unheard of on these forums...making a book based off of this wonderful simulator.
     
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  10. Cheekqo

    Cheekqo
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    Hmmm, I can get a few haunting images in there if you want, I can do black & white in paint.net and can posturize it.
    --- Post updated ---
    Might even make my own spinoff version of it based in ECUSA.
     
  11. DriftinCovet1987

    DriftinCovet1987
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    The thing is, BeamNG.drive is the best 'game' that I can use for storytelling purposes because it provides me the insane adjustability that most other games don't provide. If I want to have a chase between a city bus and a supercar in a tiny Maine town, I can do that. If I want to drag-race a tuned cement mixer and a sportbike-engined three-wheeled kei truck in a California canal, I can do that. If I want to rally a three-wheeled kei truck against an off-road pickup truck around an abandoned island in the Pacific, I can do that. Pretty much, it was the best choice available for my purposes.

    Right. I'll certainly look forward to any fan art that you'll be providing.

    Don't worry about that; I've already got that covered with Green Ghost of Firwood, a sequel to this story taking place in ECUSA and Hirochi Raceway during the summer of 1997. (You can go right ahead and make your own spin-off story if you wish to; I'm just saying that I'll provide my own story as a continuation of this one.)
     
  12. Flippi 284

    Flippi 284
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    Wow. Very detailed! I like where this is going.
     
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  13. @op@

    @op@
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    Wow. This is a really good start.
    Will be watching this.
     
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  14. DriftinCovet1987

    DriftinCovet1987
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    Thanks!

    Thanks!

    It's great to know that I started this story well.

    Also, here's a sneak teaser of what's going on in Chapter 1 of Beamaru.
    screenshot_00101.png
     
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  15. Mullethead

    Mullethead
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    It'd be interesting to see community mods involved in stories, especially ones as big as this.
     
  16. Flippi 284

    Flippi 284
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    Maybe you should set the time to evening to take the pics, so it looks more erie.
     
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  17. @op@

    @op@
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    And add fog.
     
  18. Flippi 284

    Flippi 284
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    Is there a way to add fog? I’m not quite sure.
     
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  19. @op@

    @op@
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    Im not 100% sure either but I think there is?
    --- Post updated ---
    Yes, there is
    20180418110809_1.jpg
     
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  20. FLyInG 2 YoUr SoUL

    FLyInG 2 YoUr SoUL
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    Oh, somehow I missed this thread... I love this, novel (pun not intended!) and very original idea.

    Prologue is very promising, writing flows well. Looking forward to the next chapters.

    Keep it up! :)
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
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