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Chapter 4 - The Race

Jack and Halle followed Leonard and Nike out and eventually found themselves at an amateur racetrack. It seemed closed for the day, though, and no cars sped around the grounds or crowds graced the stands.

Halle gaped at the circuit. 'Wow, it's a racetrack!'

All of the excitement that she had felt in the theater came flooding back. It had been years since she had visited one, and the memory of that trip with her father had grown very faint. Seeing this track was almost as if experiencing it again for the first time.

Nike smiled at her enthusiasm. 'You're so cute,' she said.

'Yeah. I can see why King doted on her so much now,' Leonard replied with a nod. 'Well, seeing as you're here...want to see an actual race, Halle?'

Halle's eyes grew wide. 'Can I?!'

Leonard nodded again. 'You can...if the man you're with says yes, anyway.'

Jack shifted uncomfortably as all eyes turned to him.

It was obvious that Leonard's true motivation for the invitation was to get Jack to participate and that he had no qualms about using Halle to that end. King's other former student was still every bit the calculating man that he used to be--and that was something that Jack had never been good at dealing with.

Still, he owed Leonard a lot. He had learned a great deal from his former teacher, but he had learned just as much, if not more, from Leonard. How to drive an orbal car was just one of these things. While King had always been the expert on gambling, Leonard was the authority on sports and all other forms of entertainment.

Leonard turned to Jack. 'I was really happy when I heard that you'd gotten a bit of fire back after that game against Halle. I thought you were a lost cause when King died. All those years wasted just rotting away...' He gestured to the track. 'I want to see the Victory Jack I used to know again. So c'mon. Show me.'

Jack shrugged. '...Well, if you insist. Haven't been behind the wheel in quite some time, though, so I hardly think I'll be a worthy opponent.'

'Heh. That's my man.'

Challenge accepted, the pair set about choosing their vehicles. Leonard, it seemed, was a friend of the track's owner. Not only could they choose whichever cars they wanted, but they had the entire racetrack to themselves as well.

'I'll go with this old Verne model,' concluded Jack.

Leonard laughed. 'I'll use one that has the same specs, then. Wouldn't want to have an unfair advantage against you.'

Cars decided, they moved to the starting line where a delighted Halle was to give the signal.

'On your marks... Get set... Go!'

And they were off, Leonard in the lead and Jack following.

In the past, the two of them had always been equally skilled at driving. In this race, their cars also had roughly equal specs, so the odds of Jack being able to catch up on any of the course's straights were practically zero. As such, the outcome would be determined by how he fared on the course's three corners.

The first corner came.

Jack kept his foot on the accelerator until the last second, trying to seize a chance to overtake. Leonard, however, responded by doing the same and denied Jack his chance.

The second corner came.

Jack followed the bend, conserving as much of his speed as possible, but Leonard maneuvered to block him, and he was forced to remain in second place.

The third corner came.

The last of the corners was a sharp hairpin turn-- a fitting final battlefield to determine the outcome of the race, and it was here that the tides turned. Whether it was due to overconfidence from his earlier domination was unclear, but Leonard made a minor mistake that Jack was able to take advantage of, and he seized the lead.

All that remained was the straight to the finish line. In the distance, Jack could see Nike, racing flag held casually in her hands. Seeing her, he unconsciously loosened his grip on the accelerator. Leonard surged past him and was victorious.

The race was over.

Halle came rushing over and Jack greeted her with a bitter smile.

She clapped her hands together. 'You did really well, Jack! It's just a shame you got passed at the end.'

Leonard and Nike joined them. Nike's expression was impassive, but Leonard's was livid.

'You held back again, didn't you?' he said.

Jack hesitated. 'No, I...'

He hadn't done it on purpose, but he realized that Leonard was right.

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