Chapter 28: Preparations

Several days passed, days that were largely uneventful. Talia had woken up two days after the Chrome Realm, largely lucid and aware of her surroundings. The injuries were still paining her if the torrent of curses that had spewed out of her lips when she woke up each morning was anything to judge by. As Lani suspected the girl did have a concussion, meaning that she spent most of her time napping or lying in a darkened room. She was bored, but Lani didn't want to tire the girl out while she was healing. And, like most things when it came to injuries, what Lani said happened, whether the patient liked it or not.

Most of the drivers had fixed their cars, and the Metal Teku had worked on getting TechTyte back into working order. Terra was constantly looking over her vehicle, as the engine was starting to sound a bit strange. Whenever she examined it, however, everything appeared to be fine, but the girl could not shake the nagging sense that something was wrong with her vehicle.

Of all the drivers, Taro and Karma were the only ones that were still working on repairs. The broken axle that Taro had sustained in the Swamp Realm was much worse than he had originally thought, and there was some underlying structural damage that made it so that the entire frame of his car had to be replaced. He was almost done, but still had several hours worth of work ahead of him. Karma, on the other hand, had discovered that her crash right before the Swamp Realm had damaged some of the more delicate internal workings of Chicane, and her entire computer system had to be reprogrammed. They were time-consuming repairs, but her car was technically in a driveable condition in case Tezla decided to send her into one of the Realms.

Shirako was helping her when he could, but the skinny Asian was largely splitting his time between helping out everyone on his team with their repairs, fixing his own vehicle, and spending some quality family time with Gale. That meant that the pair usually brainstormed new ways to annoy Pork Chop and then execute said plans.

By far the most impressive thing they had done was completely hack into Jack Hammar and reprogram the computer to blare some of their favorite electronic dance music whenever the vehicle was turned on, and then disabled the Metal Maniac's ability to change the music, turn the music off, or reprogram the computer. So far Pork Chop had avoided driving for a week and counting.

Aurora, too, was busy spending time with her cousin. Or, as the blonde liked to phrase it, she was helping him. Vert disagreed with that statement quite heartily. Aurora's idea of helping appeared to be pulling various pranks on both the surfer and his car that involved green things or shamrocks in some way, shape, or form. Her favorite thing to do at the moment was to completely cover Power Rage with green sticky notes that had shamrocks drawn on it, before sticking a pot of gold and a fake rainbow on the hood. Needless to say, most days Vert was in a foul mood at breakfast.

Things were slowly getting back to normal by the time a full week had passed since the end of the Chrome Realm. The drivers were grouped at their respective tables eating breakfast, some more awake than others. Vert was glowering at his bowl of cereal, fuming over the fact that Aurora had somehow managed to cover the entire interior of his car with fuzzy green pompoms. Fortunately, they hadn't been permanently attached - the girl thankfully wasn't that cruel - but he was getting rather sick of all of the pranks he had been subjected too. Coincidentally, Aurora looked absolutely giddy with the success of her exploits the previous night.

Suddenly the klaxons began to wail again, causing more than one racer to jump. Eventually, the teams sat up straighter, both of the Takamoto siblings pulling one of the speakers in their headphones away from their heads, annoyed looks decorating their faces as the noise disrupted their tunes.

"The following drivers will enter the Realm," Tezla announced over the public address system. "Shirako Takamoto, Karma Eiss, Deezel Riggs-"

"It's Pork Chop!" Monkey snapped, slightly annoyed over the fact that Teza seemed to refuse to call the man by his chosen nickname, much as the old scientist refused to call Monkey by anything other than his given name. A few of the drivers glared at him, while Karma groaned. She really didn't want to drive in a Realm when her car wasn't in perfect condition, but Tezla appeared to not be leaving her any choice.

"-Kitano, Gale Takamoto, Tork Maddox, Kurt Wylde, Mark Wylde, and Aurora Wheeler."

"Which Kitano?" Aurora inquired. It was a valid question since Monkey's little outburst had covered up that part of the announcement.

"Since I don't have a working car at the moment, I assume he means you," Taro replied, directing his words at Terra. The younger Kitano rose silently with a scowl before walking out of the room. The chosen drivers followed the girl out of the cafeteria, running for their cars to prepare them for the race.

"Yo bro, come here a second!" Gale called out, causing Shirako to run over to her. He pulled his headphones off for a brief moment to allow Gale to whisper something to him in Japanese. Both brother and sister looked over into the Metal Maniac's garage, where they could see Pork Chop climb into his vehicle and thank his lucky stars that they had taken pity on him and undid their previous work on his vehicle. Loud rock began to blare throughout the Acceledrome, causing both of the Takamotos to flinch as it assaulted their ears. Mischievous grins flashed across their faces briefly before the pair went back to getting ready for the Realm, climbing into Bassline and Bass Vortex as if nothing was wrong.

Pork Chop hadn't noticed the looks directed his way, too busy celebrating the fact that he no longer had to listen to his car pumping out that electronic and techno music that the Takamotos seemed to be addicted to. Kurt, however, had noticed the rather devious facial expressions that had briefly adorned the faces of both Shirako and Gale. The man smirked, recalling the last time Shirako had gotten that look in his eye. That had ended in Pork Chop almost trashing Bassline. To put it mildly, the burly southerner had been rather ticked off, to say the least. The Teku, on the other hand, had managed to have a good laugh over that event, and an even bigger one over the video of the incident that Shirako had managed to tape.

Despite the fact that they were on rival racing teams, Kurt couldn't help but feel the tiniest bit sorry for the redhead. Whatever the Takamotos had planned, it had to mean bad news for Pork Chop, especially since they had taken pity on him and removed their tampering with his car. But Kurt didn't feel that much pity for Pork Chop, he was too busy starting up his car. The man gunned his engines a few times, the rumbles of the cars driven by the other occupants of the Acceledrome answering his a few moments later.

Finally, the rings of the Wheel came into alignment with each other, the symbol of the chosen Realm starting to glow. There was a brilliant flash that momentarily blinded everyone looking in that direction, and the crackling blue portal appeared.

"Alright! Let's go!" Aurora cheered before speeding onto the track, accelerating towards three hundred miles an hour. Terra, much more reserved than her teammate, was right behind her, followed closely by the Takamotos and Pork Chop. Kurt and Wylde jostled each other as they both tried to get ahead of their sibling, until finally, Wylde shoved Battle Spec out of the way to take the sixth slot, leaving Kurt to be resigned to seventh place. Tork was next in line, and then last but certainly not least was Karma. The portal was coming up, the cars going faster and faster as they neared the proper speed to start the dimensional jump. Aurora grinned as she felt the first trickle of pure adrenaline flowing through her veins, setting her heart racing with excitement.

"This is going to be epic." She proclaimed before one after another the sailed off the jump and let the portal swallow them up.


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