Jason and the Bug were to meet their parents during lunch, but when they got to the riverside park where they had agreed to meet, only Henry Chaser was there.
'Where's mum?' Jason asked.
'Said she had some knitting or something to do,' Henry replied. 'Don't know what's got into her head, but when we got home last night, she pulled out her sewing kit and worked halfway into the night on something.'
For the rest of their lunch hour, Jason, the Bug and Henry watched the hover vessels gather on the river, munching on sandwiches.
Then it was back to cla.s.s, to the afternoon's pit practice. It was perhaps their most gruelling practice session yet, with Syracuse working them hard - and all of it watched by the two all-seeing closed-circuit cameras.
Syracuse even had them practice an almost archaic form of pit stop: the manual stop, a stop during which all electric power in the pit bay had gone, meaning that Sally had to attach all six magneto drives to the Argonaut manually.
It was the Bug who figured out how to make such a stop happen faster: when he saw Sally struggling, he jumped out of the c.o.c.kpit and helped her.
When he saw this, Scott Syracuse actually clapped. 'Navigator! Excellent thinking! You don't see manual stops much these days, but they can occur. Just because the power's out doesn't mean the race is off. And that's how you handle them: you just get out of your car and you help your Mech Chief. Good thinking, Mr Bug.'
The Bug beamed with pride.
Every few stops, they would crowd around the TV monitors and watch the feed from the cameras. Sally frowned as she watched herself. 'Look at that, I'm all over the shop. Spent mags here, new coolant there, compressed-air cylinders all over the place. My G.o.d, I never knew...'
Syracuse nodded. 'I can tell you and tell you what you have to do, but sometimes you just need to see for yourself.'
Then, at exactly 4 p.m. - two hours earlier than usual - Syracuse called an end to the session. 'Great work today, people. Grab a drink and take a seat.'
They did so and, utterly exhausted, fell into their chairs.
The thing was, Syracuse still wasn't finished.
He put up a spreadsheet on the vid-screen. 'This just came in. It's the draw for tomorrow. Fourteen starters, rankings based on each racer's current positions on the Champions.h.i.+p Ladder.'
Jason gazed up at the tournament draw. It looked like the draw for a tennis tournament: ROUND 1 QRTR FINALS SEMI FINALS FINAL.
1. XONORA, X.
1. XONORA, X.
10. LUCAS, L.
8. WONG, H.
6. CORTEZ, J.
11. PHAROS, A.
14. MORIALTA, R.
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