The Fall of the Phoenix
by TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at cranfield.ac.uk)
'Whuuurrrrr beep,' Tennyson honked as Holmes went to lift him
gently out of his hoverchair.
Taller than average and with strange piercing eyes, Holmes would
have stood out on any street at any time, but his Victorian clothing and
his companion Watson did nothing to help him blend in around 22nd century
New London. Wiggins and Deidre were already sitting impatiently in the back
of the sky car while Watson used his strength to manoeuvre the now empty
hoverchair into the boot. Tennyson’s aunt, Miss Fayre, followed them down
the path, rubbing her hands on her apron.
'I really am grateful for this, Mr Holmes,' she said, smoothing her
hair out of her face. 'I couldn’t possibly miss the church meeting today
and Tennyson enjoys going to see Tessa so much.'
Holmes finished helping Tennyson strap himself in. 'It’s not a
problem, Miss Fayre. I have been interested for quite a while to see how
these races run; it shall be quite an experience, I would imagine.'
Deidre called out from the car. 'And we’re meetin’ Beth down there;
she was sent up to help with overnight security.'
Miss Fayre froze. 'Are they having problems then?'
Holmes smiled. 'No more than usual, Miss Fayre; one of the drivers
has been complaining of a stalker.'
It made her relax a little bit but not much.
Wiggins was partly stretched out in the back seat reading the
programme. 'Says here the race starts at eleven.' Wiggins rubbed a hand
over his bald head. 'Oh, man, that’s hardly enough time to buy hotdogs, at
the rate we’re going'
Deidre prodded him in the stomach. 'The last thing you need,
Wiggins, is hotdogs.'
Under his bandanna, Tennyson grinned.
Holmes turned towards the car with a sigh. 'He’s right, though,
Deidre; we had better be off. Ready, Watson?'
Watson shut the boot with a metallic clang. 'Ready when you are,
Holmes. And I’m driving.'
Holmes reluctantly moved to the other side of the car. Tennyson
waved at his aunt as she disappeared from view out the back of the sky car.
Miss Fayre stood at the end of the path for a minute and watched the
car go. 'Oh, Lord, why have I got a bad feeling in my bones about today?'
Tessa was in full racing gear, apart from the helmet, when the
little party arrived; the orange, black and red of the Phoenix on the
back of her jumpsuit stood out in the bright sunlight. She leaped over the
short wall that blocked the entrance pathway off and ran over, enveloping
Tennyson in a gentle but firm hug.
'Risen again from the ashes, Miss Moriarty, I see.' Holmes had
raised a quizzical eyebrow over the motif on her suit.
Tessa got up from saying hello to Tennyson and bowed deeply, laughing.
'Better than resurrected from the dead. Holmes, Watson. Good to see you;
I never thought I’d get you two out on the tracks.' She looked past them
to the other two Irregulars. 'And these must be Deidre and Wiggins.' She
nudged past Holmes and soon had the other two in bear hugs. 'Tennyson’s
told me so much about you.'
'All good, I hope,' said Wiggins nervously.
'Put them down, Tessa; you don’t know where they’ve been.' Ling
vaulted the wall and strode over. Two red dragons were emblazed on his
black jumpsuit; his black hair moved in the slight wind. She let go of the
two Irregulars and punched Ling in his shoulder; he pretended to rub the
area in mock pain.
'Everybody, this is my racing partner, Peter Ling -- otherwise
known as the Dragon. Ling, these are my friends Holmes, Watson, Deidre
and Wiggins. You remember my little bro, don’t you?'
Ling walked over to Tennyson and gave him a grin, holding out a
hand to shake. 'How could I forget, Phoenix... you never shut up talking
A horn blasted over the track.
'Zed -- 10 minutes till lineup. We’ve got to go, guys, Tennyson,
find Gary; he’ll get you sorted out.' She ran to follow the figure of the
Tennyson led them over to a mechanic ticking off things on an
electronic notepad. Tennyson honked the horn; the mechanic jumped and
turned, breaking into a grin when he saw who it was.
'Hello, mate -- you back again, and brought friends this time, eh?'
'Let me guess -- little Miss Scatterbrains has run off and left me
to sort you out, right?'
Tennyson honked again. Deidre had to suppress a giggle at the
Holmes looked around the pit with interest. 'Tell me, are these
four-jet turbos or six-jet?'
The mechanic looked shocked for a second. 'Six-jet, sir; no one
can catch up to the leader with less, these days.'
'Why not eight then?'
The mechanic laughed. 'With eight, sir, you’d be putty on the side
of the first bend. They're not only impossible to control; the fuel
consumption would make the damn board over the weight regulations, unless
you managed to pass off a stick insect as the rider.'
Holmes satisfied, the mechanic pointed over to where a small group
of people was gathered near the track. 'You lot head off over there;
there’s some spare deckchairs and a good view of the screen...If you want
some free advice, though, keep out of the way of Keynes.' He pointed to a
podgy man in yellow overalls. 'Ling gave him some stick yesterday and he
ain’t the world's most happiest man at the moment.'
'We’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.'
They were just about settled when Lestrade came bounding over; she
flashed a badge at the security guard who glanced at her, before sitting on
a nearby wall. She was in work trousers and a T-shirt, her badge hanging
from a chain around her neck. 'I thought I’d find you all here.'
Holmes looked up from the track. 'How’s the surveillance going?'
Lestrade shrugged. 'He hasn’t been jumped on yet. I thought I’d
keep a better watch on things looking at the screen, now he's on the
starting line, than over the comlink.'
Wiggins pointed as the lights started up. 'They’re going off now.
Man, look at the vibes on them.'
The boards started shaking as the turbos were readied and kept in
check by the thrusters. Lights blinked down to green and at once the boards
shot forward already nearly out of sight down the track. All eyes turned
to the screen as the race continued.
Tessa locked her arms behind her back and bent at the knees until
she was ready to push out her body at the 30-degree angle typical to
board racers. She was in the throng of the fight for the main positions
and jockeying for position with four others before she could reach the
top three. A flash of Mosquito green streaked out of the throng seconds
before she managed to shake off the last of the main group. She’d heard
rumours about her old teammate Jut being signed for the Hornets' rival
team. She hoped they were just rumours; he played a foul race.
The screen was pretty intense viewing as it continually switched
backwards and forwards between position fights and the obstacles the racers
had to pass. The camera wasn’t on Tessa all the time, but when it was, she
could be seen to be catching up to a green-suited rider in front of her.
In the background Holmes, Watson and the rest of the small group could hear
shouts coming over from Keynes and the group of people he had round him.
Tennyson had his hearing mostly tuned in on the screen. He’d seen Keynes
around before and was getting to know when to keep well out of his way;
this was one of those times.
'Stupid, that’s what it is, stupid; she’s not even going to try
and overtake him on the straight.'
One of his companions who was following the progress on a track map,
straightened. 'Dragon in second place over the first straight; Phoenix
coming up to the Pipeline, sir.'
Keynes went white. 'Oh, no, please tell me she’s not going to do
what I think she’s going to do.'
The screen chose that moment to switch to the Pipeline and the
approaching figures of the Mosquito and the Phoenix. The first rider tried
to do a high corkscrew manoeuvre to begin the descent, but Phoenix suddenly
powered her turbos and then let the power cut. The board dropped down the
hole, her helmet narrowly being missed by the Mosquito’s board.
'And a death dive from the Phoenix into the Pipeline, narrowly
missing a decapitation by Buzz. The Hornets now have second and third
Keynes began breathing again; over to the side he heard a horn blast
and then stop. The Phoenix emerged from the exit of the u-bend, followed
closely by Buzz.
'When I get my hands on her after the race, there won’t be enough
left to put in a hotdog bun.'
'Dragon over water, still in second, tracking the Cloud Skimmers'
Falcon in first. Phoenix and Buzz coming up the first straight, ours in
third, Buzz in fourth...just.'
Holmes gently moved Tennyson’s hand away from the horn as he went
to blast it again. 'Enough for now, son; we don’t want to annoy the others.'
Tennyson nodded; he was really enjoying himself, and he was looking
forward to after the race. Tessa always took him cloud skimming round the
racing track. On occasion some of the other racers joined in too; more
often than not it was Ling who would come up and make a path of cloud for
Tennyson to follow. The trick was to get close enough to avoid getting
freezing water vapour in your face.
Deidre leant forward to get a look at the electronic map to the
right of the screen; the orange blip that marked Tessa was coming up to
the lake. Tennyson crossed his fingers; she hated water.
Keynes was hammering a fist on the wall. 'If she slows down, I’ll
kill her; I’ll frickin’ murder her!'
'Dragon in second over the blocks, gaining ground. Phoenix now over
Sure Lake, Buzz closing.'
Water streamed under her as she left the ground. The minimum height
was a lot lower here than other places and water parted to either side under
the board. She ignored the rider behind her and tried to focus on keeping
the board above the spray. She really hated deep water. Images of the blue
surface suddenly reaching up to grab her rose in her mind; she fought them
back down but only just. Hitting the boosters, she tried to gain a little
height...there was a shudder, then a jump; then they cut. Almost at the
same moment the Mosquito hit her back, sending both riders into a dive
towards the Lake. In her helmet Tessa screamed.
On to Part 3!
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