46 - "Burnin' Rubber, Baby!!"
Originally Written: February 23rd, 2001

July 21st, 2001, 12:30 a.m.
"Aren't you going to even tell me where we're going?" the young gargess asked of her
companion, watching him merely click fast his ashen gray eyes to her, and smirk.

"Nope." Todd answered back, a relaxed position of crossed arms, and leaning against the
rear wall of the elevator compartment, as it descended the entire length of the Eyrie
building.

Annika fumed, and pouted, an angered, yet still arousing display of her large lips forming
a scowl. "You barge into my room, pull me from my sculpting, let the bowl I was
working on collapse to a pile of brown mush, force me to get cleaned up, and drag me
into the elevator. And you're not even going to explain why we're now," she gazed to
the electronic readout of the descending levels above the doors, "almost to the bottom
floor?"

"Nope."

Annika clenched her fists and suppressed the urge to smack the handsome bastard,
hoping whatever he had planned to surprise her with was worth all the hassle. "Fine.
This had better be good." she hissed, crossing her own arms, effectively mimicking her
boyfriend's stance.

"Yep."

"Oh, shut up!"

****************************************

The elevator slowed it's descent, and lurched to a sudden stop, slightly unnerving the
gargoyle, having never traveled this far down into the Eyrie building. "Basement?" she
whispered, as Todd pulled forward from his position, waiting for the doors to pop open
with their usual hiss. "We're in the basement. Is there anyone else down here? You
know, people who may scream and faint or do something even worse when I step out?"

"Nope." Todd answered back. "We're now at Xanatos' private parking garage. This is
where Elisa keeps the Fairlane." The doors trembled with the release of the hydraulic
locks, and the shimmering walls of titanium gracefully slid from his path. "C'mon..."
He walked out, and Annika timidly poked her head from the elevator entrance, darting
her gaze to the brightly lit environment of concrete walls and support beams.

She picked up the foul aroma of exhaust and gasoline, and a faint scent of rubber upon
the slick floor, even with the massive ventilating fans above. She quickened her pace to
catch up to her beau, and nervously continued behind him, still fearing discovery even
though he had assured her of her safety. Perhaps a security guard would choose to patrol
here this night, and only turn a corner to gaze onto a rose-colored female gargoyle.

"Would you stop that!" Todd barked, having stopped and whirled around to grasp
Annika's arm. "No one's here. Xanatos has this garage sectioned off for his personal
use. Even Goliath and Trinity sometimes wait here when Elisa comes home from her
shifts. Now let's go, I want to show you this..."

Annika skidded to a halt, and twisted her arm to reverse the hold Todd had placed on her,
and pulled him forcefully back, using her superior gargoyle strength. "Show me what?!"
she demanded, and Todd merely grew a wicked smile, and planted a soft kiss to her lips.

"C'mon," he urged once more, "you'll love it, I promise." They continued their journey
to the far end of the parking structure, and though a short walk, it seemed an awfully long
distance to Annika, feeling quite exposed in these desolate surroundings. She turned her
head to each side, as the couple passed by the legion of automobiles owned by Xanatos
and Fox, even Todd's black Jeep and Elisa's dark cherry-tinted, nineteen-fifty-five Ford
Fairlane. As their journey came to an end, only to be halted by the opposite wall, Todd
wrapped an arm around her shoulder, and curled his hand to her chin, directing her gaze
to an indistinct corner. "There..."

Annika cocked a blond eyebrow, as her sapphire eyes lay upon a dark gray sheet,
covering a massive shape, and she judged it to be the size of a vehicle. "Woooow," she
drawled, "a big gray lump. I'm impressed."

"Under the sheet." he cut back in a caustic tone, annoyed that she had picked up his gift
for sarcasm. "And it's not just a sheet," he remarked as he moved to the side of the
covered form, "it's a very expensive, poly-urethane and Teflon coated, breathable, water
and dust resistant, mink lined, protecto-cover."

"And this protecto-cover, is actually covering...what?"

Todd bared his teeth, and grasped his hands to the sheet. "This..." He pulled it away,
and the soft florescent lights cast upon a gleaming vehicle, and Annika gasped in shock.

"W-What is it?" she asked, actually forming the slight beginnings of a grin as she
approached the automobile.

"This, my beautiful winged goddess, is a nineteen-seventy Plymouth Superbird." Todd
explained, his heart beating incredibly faster when peering in the glass-like, painted
surface.

"A...Superbird?" she asked, never tearing her eyes from the machine before her. "That's
some kind of car I take it?"

"No. A seventy-two Datsun is a car. This...is what the gods use as a chariot to get to
Mount Olympus. This is the ultimate in muscle-cars, with a four forty, six pack engine,
bored out to point three zero, with a Holley carb, chrome lifters, and two matching cherry
bomb mufflers. This sucker has over four hundred and fifty horsepower under the hood,
and is able to melt the tires in all four gears." Todd wiped away mock tears in describing
this vehicle to a staring Annika. "These cars were built to race on the NASCAR circuit,
and now, are available to us normal speed demons at a fraction of the cost. Well, thirty
years ago. This sucker cost me an arm and a leg when I found it a couple years back. I
had to decide whether to buy a bigger T.V., or this. Guess what I chose...especially when
these motherfuckers can reach speeds up to two hundred miles per hour. Oh baby..."

Annika edged closer, seeing her reflection in the dark purple paint of the long hood.
"You never told me you had a car like this..." she whispered, her eyes caressing upon
every rounded shape. From the scooped nose with the ivory painted headlight brands, to
the sleek lines screaming for the wind to pass along the sheet metal, the thick raven tires
with bright white lettering surrounding the shining mag wheels, the large 'Plymouth' in
white paint on the rear quarter panels, and even the massive spoiler raising behind the
cab, complete with the small pictures of the Roadrunner from the animated cartoon.
"I've never even seen a car like this..."

"They're rare." Todd explained, coming back beside Annika and pulling her into his
arms. "I've been working on it for a while now."

"It's...beautiful." she suspired, actually surprised she could like an automobile this much,
usually unimpressed with this section of human technology.

"I know," she agreed with her, literally choking in his lust, "I know."

"Why didn't you ever tell me you had a second vehicle?"

Todd shrugged. "You never asked." A sharp pain erupted in his mid-section, as Annika
used her elbow spur to nudge him gently in the ribs. "Well, I didn't know if I could
afford to keep it, but with all the jobs I've been hired for in the last few weeks, I had
some spare cash to finally slap some paint on it. I kept it at Crash's house, his parents
have a garage out back where I could work on it, and all it needed was the paint.
'Metallic In-Violet'. You like?"

"I like." she answered back, noticing the purple coat shimmering similar to the stars in
the night sky as the light passed over it.

"And now that I'm doing one of the clan, I'm practically family, so Xanatos told me I
could keep it here. OUCH!!! Stop poking me there!" he yelled back to a grinning
Annika, rubbing the sore spot on his side. "Anyway, tomorrow night, after I've finished
the last part of the mural in Demona's office, we'll take a spin."

Annika swiveled around with wide eyes and a beaming smile. "Really?!!"

"Oh yeah, the maiden voyage. It'll have to be after midnight though, at least. Less
cops..." Todd decided to leave the cover off, folding it gently into a packed square, and
he then shoved it into the trunk, and swerved around Annika to walk back to the elevator.

The gargess never followed, instead electing to remain near the front and take in every
nuance of the vehicle before her. She noticed Todd almost near the elevator doors, and
turned back, slowly leaning over, her taloned hand tentatively reaching out to smooth her
fingers over the surface. She was mere inches from the steel skin and it's paint, when a
voice rang out...

"HEY, NO TOUCHIES!!!"

Annika immediately jerked back, slapping her hands to her sides, straightening out as if a
child caught stealing. She cursed his uncanny power to detect any impending damage to
his belongings, even though Annika would never harm anything he owned. She followed
behind him, head hanging low, the child now scolded, and her lips once more in her
familiar pout. Todd angrily tapped his boot on the cement floor, waiting as the gargess
sheepishly passed by him and entered the elevator.

"Sorry." she muttered.

"Yeah, you're just lucky you're so damn gorgeous..."

****************************************

July 22nd, 1:20 a.m.
"Toddy needs a Jolt, Toddy needs a Jolt..." Todd sang a joyous tune as he walked into the
castle's kitchen, with a duffel bag strapped to his left shoulder, and hoping to refuel his
body before the big trial-run of his car. He noticed the refrigerator door was wide open,
and peered over the massive sterling barrier. "Raiding the fridge again, Broadway?" he
asked.

"What?" A red-haired woman popped up, with a chicken leg between her lips, nearly
giving Todd a complete coronary collapse.

"JESUS!!! Who the hell are you?!"

She cocked her head, and steadied the several Tupperware dishes in his arms.
"Mi'mphhmmff..."

Todd pulled up an eyebrow, at the woman's garbled response.

She yanked the half-eaten chicken piece from her mouth and tried again to answer the
young man. "Sorry. I'm Iliana Starr."

"Oh yeah, Elisa's friend." he replied, now recognizing her for the friend she was. "Don't
you have any food at home?"

Iliana excitedly eyed her treasure trove of leftover cuisine. "Not like this place..."

"Yeah, I know. Grab me a Jolt, will ya?"

Iliana flicked him the soda in question, and then proceeded to the kitchen table, while
kicking closed the refrigerator door with a knee-high leather boot. "All I have is a half
eaten onion sandwich, two weeks old, and a box of baking soda. So I decided to go...ah,
grocery shopping."

Todd smiled, knowing the bachelor life could be hard at times. "Tell me about it. Good
thing these guys and gargesses always have plenty to eat." He watched her delve into the
food as if she had not eaten for days, relishing Broadway's gourmet cooking.
"Iliana...Iliana..." he repeated her name to himself a few more times, refreshing a
memory from a month ago, and then suddenly burst into a smile. "Oh man, now I know
why that name's so damn familiar. You're the chick who saw Shadow's dong!! Ha ha
ha..."

Iliana immediately stopped her gorging, and let her face drop into her open palms. "Oh
god..."

"I wished I could have seen his face...'oh jalapena'," he mimicked Shadow's low rasp
and Japanese accent, "ha ha ha ha ha..."

"It wasn't that big a deal!!" Iliana screamed from her hands.

"Then why are you turning completely red?" Todd excitedly skipped to the tableside,
and leaned over on his elbows. "Come on. How big is it? Really? Come on. I need
some dirt on that guy."

Iliana looked up, and Todd suddenly lost his sardonic grin, seeing both the absolute
feminine lust and the aching regret present in her ice blue eyes. "You have no idea..."

Todd slowly rose up, and backed away, cursing the gargoyle anatomy under his breath,
and now knowing why Delilah and Elisa loved their chosen companions so very much.
"Stupid gargoyles and their humongous dongs..." he muttered, as he grabbed his bag and
hurriedly left the room.

Iliana resumed her meal, and when she grabbed the Vienna sausage, she gasped and
threw the massive tube of meat back to the table. "Oh god..."

****************************************

1:30 a.m.
"Of course, Rain. We'd love to have you." replied Elisa, clutching the phone to her ear.
"Anytime you wish to come is fine by us. In a week? On one condition, if you bring
pictures of Crystal." Elisa released a warm chuckle as she walked unwittingly into the
hall, engrossed in her conversation with the Canadian gargoyle. Suddenly, a flash of dark
rose brushed past her, nearly knocking the slender woman over. "Whoa! Annika!
Where are you going in such a rush?"

Annika ground to a standstill, and whirled around to face Elisa. "I'm taking a ride in the
Superbird." she replied excitedly, before tearing off down the corridor, heading for the
elevator where Todd was waiting for her.

"Superbird?" Elisa released her confusion into the phone. "Huh? Oh, Rain. No, that
was just Annika. Yeah, the one who's dating the human artist. Anyway, we'll see you
soon. Bachelors? Well...there may be a few, but if you even think of trying to steal
Goliath away from me, you'll regret it. Yeah, all right. See you soon. Bye."

****************************************

1:49 a.m.
"So, you ready?" Todd asked, as the couple once again found themselves in the parking
garage and in front of the Superbird.

"Yeah," Annika replied, yet the excitement had washed away some when actually faced
with the certainty of the impending tour of Manhattan's streets, with a slight fear in it's
place, "but..."

"What?"

"I...I don't want you to...what if someone sees me?"

"What's your point?" he asked, still not getting what his girlfriend was stammering
about.

"Hel-lo! I'm a gargoyle. One sight of me sitting in the passenger seat, and you could
have an angry mob after you, or something else along those lines."

Todd shook his head. "It's dark, and we'll be going too fast for anyone to notice."

"Too...fast?" Annika's fear now turned from her boyfriend's safety, to her own.

"Hey, you look almost human anyway." Todd illustrated in a soft voice. "You have
almost normal colored skin, and we can hide some of your more...gargoyle-like features.
I've prepared for this..." Todd reached into his duffel bag, brought with them to the
garage, and he pulled out a large trenchcoat. "Cape your wings." he commanded lightly.

She quickly complied, and soon her dark rose wings were wrapped around her shoulders,
with a mere snap of her membranes. Todd threw the jacket over her, helping her find the
sleeves. He then grabbed a large bandanna, and captured her head with the dark blue
material. He wrapped the bandanna around the base of her brow, concealing most of her
bone spurs, yet still leaving almost half the length of the spikes to rise up unfettered. He
threw a hand into her free flowing locks, and fluffed them slightly, pulling some of the
golden strands around the spurs. "Good enough." he said simply.

"If you say so..." Annika responded to his makeshift disguise.

"Now come on, let's roll." Todd quickly veered around to the driver's side, and pulled
himself into the seat.

Annika walked around to the other side, and slowly descended into the passenger seat.
She positioned her tail for the maximum comfort her appendage would allow, and closed
the door, effectively trapping them within the car's black-hued interior. She gazed
around at the car's inner workings and embellishments, and noticed the black fuzzy dice
hanging from the rearview mirror. "Cute." she joked, batting the decoration, leaving
them to sway and slowly return to their place.

"Hey, those things are lucky." Todd defended his choice of ornamentation. "I had those
in the Jeep, and I haven't hit a single pedestrian. Well, almost." Todd flipped out the
keys, creating the familiar musical jangle of metal upon metal and positioned them into
the ignition. He paused and instead turned to Annika, and with a sudden jerk of his head,
the sunglasses, which had been sitting just above his brow, fell into place over his eyes.
The key turned, and the car roared to life. The entire parking garage was filled with the
sound of an animal's growl, erupting from the chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. A creature
born of steel and rubber, brought back to life with specialized tools and fresh paint.

Annika felt the entire car shift, as Todd revved the engine to flood the lines with fresh
fuel, and when it fell back into an idling stance, it rocked violently back and forth.
"Whoa..."

"Ready?" Todd inquired craftily, trying anything to keep himself from slamming on the
gas pedal in such a confined space.

"I think so." she gulped.

"Good." He moved the stickshift into gear and the car lept from it's place.

Annika quickly snapped her seatbelt on, and gripped tightly to the sides of the bucket
seat. "Do you really need those sunglasses? It's after midnight..."

"It's all about the style, baby." Todd directed the car to the massive door leading outside,
and with a push of the remote opener strapped to his sunvisor, it rose from their path.
Todd wheeled the Superbird up the ramp ever so slowly, mindful of the vehicle's low
stance and the sharp edges of the steep ramp. Once clear, he closed the door, and
continued his way until they were sitting on the edge of the street. Todd leaned back into
his seat, noticing the once blush pink of Annika's skin tone, turning a pale white about
her knuckles. "Don't worry, gorgeous," he assured her in his charming soothe, "I'll drive
slow for a while, until you get used to it."

Annika looked back to him, apparently nervous. "Really?"

"Uhhhhh..." he stalled, until a malicious grin curved upon his lips, "nah." He pushed the
accelerator pedal to the floor, and the car responded in a lightning fast reflex, the engine
tuned to an exacting precision. Todd barreled into the light traffic, and the Superbird
relished it's freedom, with the speedometer rising to over forty miles per hour in just
seconds.

"OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!" Annika screamed, as Todd dragged her along for the
tortuous joyride he so wanted to share with her. Her hands slipped to the dashboard as
her boyfriend rounded a sharp corner at sixty miles, cutting into the oncoming lane
slightly, and receiving a shrill honk in response. "What are you doing?!!"

"Just stretching her legs." he laughed. He pounded the pedal with his feet, seeing just
what his car could do, and how much asphalt he could grind up. He increased his speed
down a straightaway, and savored the near empty streets at such a late hour.
"Neeee-hah!! Ha ha ha...oh man, I love this car!"

Annika was glued to her seat, forcing to witness building after building flash by in a
distorted blur. The engine was blazing with an incredible power, screaming with an
abraded grunting being released into her ears, and she wondered why humans would ever
consider building a car to go this fast, and what kind of man would sell this monstrosity
to her psychotic boyfriend. "I'm going to die in this thing..." she muttered between
clenched teeth, feeling the forces of gravity push her to the door when Todd took another
corner, at three times the posted speed limit.

They reached another straight street, and Annika noticed the signal lights far ahead turn
quickly to an amber glow. "Uhh, Todd, dearest, honey, sweetie?" she attempted to sway
his furious 'testing' of his new toy. "Doesn't yellow usually mean slow down?"

"Yellow what?" he answered, appearing oblivious to the streetlight quickly approaching.

"The yellow light!"

"Where?"

"There!"

"That's not yellow, that's red."

"Oh god." Annika buried her face in her hands, expecting the worst. Todd slammed on
the brakes and the car heeded it's master's wishes, with a high pitched squealing along
the pavement signaling it's attempt to stop it's massive girth. Annika felt the car finally
cease it's forward momentum, and peered out from her fingers. They had indeed
stopped, and she turned slowly to see her lover smiling down on her.

"I saw it too." he chuckled. "Just...testing the brakes. And hey, they work."

Annika was breathing hard, her chest heaving beneath the trench coat, both from an
intense fear and a swelling anger towards this smiling jackal. "Good for the brakes."

Todd flashed to her his winning smile, and then, cocked his head slightly, redirecting his
gaze just past her, and through her passenger side window. Annika perked up and looked
around, only to see another automobile rumbling right beside her. The couple both
peered to a large vehicle, perhaps almost as loud as the Superbird, and another couple
staring right back at them.

The man in the driver's seat had dark brown hair, slicked back with a wet sheen, and
wore a crooked smile, similar to Todd's but with none of the charm, grace, or tenderness
he offered. He was clenched to the steering wheel, with the woman beside him leaning
forward, possessed of a mean scowl. Thin, with blond hair, and heavy, garish make-up,
she seemed to roam her eyes to Todd, the Superbird, and then to Annika. She smiled
craftily, and then whispered something into the man's ear, causing him to form a
matching grin.

Annika growled, and desperately forced back the crimson glow of her ocean eyes, hoping
to keep her guise intact. "What do they want?" she hissed.

"Looks like they want a race." Todd answered coolly.

The other man simply lifted his hand and cocked a finger to the street. Todd knew this
gesture well, for it was the challenge he had been hoping for all night.

Annika turned to Todd, and he smirked back. "I take it, that's the universal language of
the streets. He does want a race, doesn't he?"

"Oh yeah."

"Todd, this is dangerous." she warned, fearing for his well-being, having been witness to
car accidents either when flying patrols or skimming the television programs. "You
could crash, or get caught by the police."

"I'm confident in my skills and my car." he whispered. "Are you?"

Annika fidgeted nervously in her seat, and stared to the glove compartment.

"Better make up your mind, the light's about to change."

Annika turned back to the other car, where the couple were watching intently for their
provocation to be accepted. She and the other girl locked eyes, and the disguised gargess
was met with a sneer.

"What's the matter, honey?" the girl called out with a voice of broken glass. "Scared?
Can't your man drive his car? Or perhaps the little birdie isn't tough enough?"

Annika suppressed the growing want to tear off the roof of their car and attack this little
bitch, as she continually berated her lover and their vehicle.

"Or just maybe, the little woman doesn't want to boyfriend to get his ass kicked. Are you
even his girlfriend? Perhaps he just paid you for a good fuck in the back seat," the girl
thinned her eyes, "slut."

The gates of Hell were torn open, and Annika bared her fanged teeth, grinding them
together in her erupting rage. Her entire body was trembling, and she slowly turned back
to Todd, who was wearing an injured expression at the other girl's words, and hoping he
would not have to weld the door back on after Annika tore through it in her bloodlust.
"Mr. Hawkins," she rasped, "kick...his...ass."

Todd smiled, and silently thanked whatever gods that smiled down upon him, that he had
found such a cool girlfriend. "Yes, dear."

Annika glanced to the other couple, and assumed the gesture, pointing her index finger
down the street. The challenge once extended, was now met. The other man instantly
revved his engine, and the subsequent sound exploded from underneath his car, an equal
outburst to the Superbird. Annika now thought she had goaded her boyfriend into
something he could not win. "Todd, are you sure you can beat this guy?" she asked
hesitantly.

"Hmmm, he's driving a sixty-nine Camaro super sport." Todd responded, eyes trained on
the opposite set of lights on the crossing street. "Judging by the sound of his engine, he's
been doing some 'upgrading'. We're probably almost equal."

"Then maybe we shouldn't..."

"See that little red switch on the dash?" Todd inquired to his lover. "When I tell you, flip
it."

Annika found the brightly colored toggle, and nodded. "Flip the switch. Got it."

The lights had turned yellow now, as the street they were forced to wait for was part of a
major roadway coursing through Manhattan, giving ample time to allow traffic to flow.
Annika prepared herself, assuming the position of her hands seized upon the dash, with
her left hand just above the switch. Todd powered his engine, pumping the pedal a few
times and making ready his car. The other car shook as well, and as the lights turned red,
both drivers anticipated their own light to change in just a few seconds.

Time stood still, as the flow of minutes, seconds, came to a stop. No sound, just the
heavy breathing of Todd and Annika filling the compartment of the car. His eyes were
trained on the lights, even through the purple tinted sunglasses, and his heart raced with
pure adrenaline through his arteries. He was born for this, he was conceived for the
ultimate rush, and the car he had spent so much money on, and wasted away his free
nights while sanding and polishing, would now face a trial by fire. In a flash, the crimson
faded, and was replaced by the sharp certainty of an emerald light.

Todd stamped the accelerator to the floor, nearly driving his foot through the
undercarriage, and slammed the shifter down. The Superbird soared into the air, and
both driver and passenger were pressed against their seats. The roar of powerful
machinery filled the night air, and the screeching of tires were as loud as a gargoyle's
battle cry in the throes of a bloody war. Both cars left only twin trails of black rubber
and a clouded mist of gray smoke in their wake, as they vaulted from their positions, and
surged down the empty street.

Todd watched the speedometer spiral around, reaching the hundred mile mark in a few
seconds, and continuing past ever steady. Annika's mouth was gaped, yet no sound
spilled forth, as her eyes followed the yellow line to their left, never wavering. Todd
kept his vehicle steady, as the powerful engine heaved with unrelenting strength, and
soon they were almost to one hundred thirty miles, and still ascending in speed. Through
the entire race, Annika saw from the corner of her sapphire gaze, the other car was
slightly pulling ahead, and she found the woman's grin being flashed to her once more,
taunting her yet again.

"Annika," came Todd's voice over the thunder of the engine, "flip the switch...and hang
on."

Annika stalled, unsure of what this switch would do, until she found the other car pulling
past them. She lifted the safety catch, and flicked the switch. A slight hissing could be
heard from behind them, and Annika thought it was emanating from behind the back
seat, in the trunk space. Then suddenly, as if the Superbird had grown wings to suit it's
name, it lurched ahead, and the speedometer almost shattered, as the orange needle
jumped past the one hundred eighty mile mark. Annika was violently thrown back into
her seat, as the vehicle was launched like a rocket past the other car.
"HOOOOOOOLLLYYY CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPP!!!" she screeched.

"NEEEEEEEE-HAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" Todd yelled out in triumph. "Nitrous
Oxide, baby!! HA HA HA HA HA!!!"

The Superbird reached the two hundred mile mark, screaming down the pavement, and
almost lifting from the ebony surface. They had left the other car in the proverbial dust,
barely a speck in the mirrors. Todd looked to Annika, who was reveling in the euphoria
of speeds she never could attain in the air, screaming like a banshee in their victory.

Todd slowed the car, noticing his road was coming to a quick end, and before they
rammed through the front window of a Chinese restaurant, he brought the vehicle under
control, and came to a halt, a slight waft of smoke rising from the tires. "Well, we won."

Annika slapped off her belt and wrapped her arms around her lover, clamping her mouth
over his. She nearly sucked out a few of his fillings in her passion, and released from
him with a distinct pop. "I like this car," she whispered seductively, perched on his lap,
"very much."

Todd grinned. "Chick magnet." he explained, and licked his lips, tasting Annika's
flavored lip gloss. "So, wanna check on the losers?"

The gargess climbed back into her own seat. "You're damn skippy I want to check on
them, and see that little bitch's face, knowing both her man and his car weren't up to the
task."

"A woman after my own heart. I should marry you..."

"What was that?" Annika turned around, her attention having faltered, focused on the
rear window and searching for the other car.

"Nothing." Todd responded indifferently, twisting the steering wheel to bring the car
around. They traveled back down the road, half expecting to see their fellow competitors
still trying to catch up. "Where'd they go?" he asked, as Annika shook her head, using
her honed sight to look even farther into the darkened street than her boyfriend ever
could.

"Wait." she cried out, almost surprising Todd in her alacrity. "What's that?" She
pointed to a pair of flashing lights.

"Cops." Todd whispered, slowing the Superbird to the speed limit, and watching Annika
pull the bandanna lower, and draw the collar of her coat up. As they approached the
glaring lights, Todd broke into a smile and Annika burst out laughing at the sight.

For it seemed the defeated duo had swerved slightly off track in their attempt to catch up,
and only found themselves careening into a police car, having pulled out into the street at
just the wrong moment. The Camaro was a contorted wreck, it's entire front end
demolished, and even with the stark contrast between the two vehicle's paint jobs, no one
could tell where the Camaro ended, and the police cruiser started.

Todd pulled the Superbird closer, and parked on the opposite side of the street, watching
the young driver across from him being thrown over the back end of his own car, with
two very irate police officers in the process of arresting him.

Annika spotted the girl in the passenger seat, with a heated glower that could perhaps
scare off Shadow himself. The gargess leaned out the window, and whistled, grabbing
her rival's attention. The young woman snapped her eyes to the violet-colored car sitting
far from her, and she was simply trembling with anger and disgust in her steady beau.
Annika held up her right hand, and flashed the girl her middle finger, while scrunching
her lips and forming kissing sounds.

The girl blew out the driver's side window, only to be grabbed by one of the cops, who
possibly thought she was making a break for it. She flailed and struggled against the
officer's steel handed grip, and soon found herself bent over the hood alongside her
boyfriend, and her hands shackled behind her.

Annika laughed out loud and Todd pulled away, leaving their victims to their deserved
fate. "Oh man," she cheered mirthfully, "I love this car! Can I drive it now?"

"I don't think so, Drunky McSwerveandcrash."

"Oh, come on. I'm great at driving. I'm just as good as you are in the video racing
games."

Todd never tore his eyes from the road, instead fumbling with the radio to drown out his
girlfriend's steady pleading.

"Please?"

"Let's see, oldies, classical...ahhh, rock."

"Please?"

"Sweeeeeet Home Alabama!!"

"Turn that off and listen to me! I want to drive now!"

"...ooooooooh my darlin'...my angel, I huuuunger foooor yoooooour touch..."

"Come on!!"

****************************************

"Well, well, well, look who decides to show her face at long last." The wind carried a
grated rasp, edged with malice. "Here I am, searching this entire island and the
surrounding city for you for months, and then you happen to fall right into my lap."

A large figure stood on the rooftop, watching the violet Superbird drive out of range, but
not before getting the license plates. "What twist of luck..." he hissed, punching in the
seven digit plate number to the computer in his hovercraft, tracing the owner from the
DMV records. "Hmmm, what kind of young man would have the license plate...grg lovr.
Ah, Mr. Todd Hawkins. So I finally place a name to the face of the young man who stole
my property from me last year. Parading around on the empty streets with his
sweetheart, just begging to be caught. How...fortunate for me."

He stood up, his jagged features still camouflaged in the shadows. "No matter, this boy
will find himself wishing he had never found my daughter. I will take her back, and if he
resists, I will kill him. No one crosses Therias Ebon Crowe, without proper retaliation.
No one..."