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CHAPTER THREE.

THE CHALLENGER RACE LAP: 13 OF 30.

The Challenger Race was run at a blistering pace - if you took a turn an inch too wide, you were overtaken by the car behind you. If you missed a turn by a few metres, three drivers would shoot past you.

You also had to take into account the constantly-falling rain of confetti in the city sections of the course - it made the air misty, cloudy, affecting visibility. The bullet-paced cars left spiralling snow-trails of the shredded paper in their wakes.

The Challenger course was a super-tight track that twisted and turned through Greater New York - from the home straight on Fifth Avenue, out to JFK International Airport via Brooklyn, and then back to Manhattan via Queens, the Bronx and Yankee Stadium. The intricacy of the course made it especially tough on magneto-drives - each racer would require no less than five pit stops over thirty relatively short laps.

Right out of the gates, two drivers had zoomed out to the front.

Xavier and Jason.

Xavier had gone straight into the lead. Jason had tucked in close behind him.

A larger chase pack of ten racers loomed behind them - with Ariel and Varishna Krishna embedded in it.

Then, on the third lap of the race, as the chase pack came roaring down the home straight, the nasty Russian twins, Igor and Vlad Krotsky, claimed their first victim: the Indian racer, Chandra.

The result was catastrophic.

In fact, it would go down as one of the most spectacular chain-reaction crashes in recent hover car racing history.

Chandra had been leading the chase pack, and the Krotskys, in an attempt to push past him, had squeezed Chandra from either side, one hitting him on the front left side, the other pus.h.i.+ng on Chandra's rear right flank, forcing him into a sideways lateral skid.

The problem was, Chandra - intent on winning this vital race - didn't give in.

And he made his biggest mistake. He powered up... and flipped...turning his car fully sideways into the wind and as such, he lost speed instantly - Bam!

Bam!

Bam!

The next three racers slammed into him - at full speed.

Carnage.

Hover cars flew every which way across Fifth Avenue. Chandra's car hit the ground hard, crumpled against the asphalt - then Zhang Lao careered straight into it. Ejection. Explosion.

Varishna Krishna came next. Boxed in by two other racers, there was no way he could avoid the ugly pile of

metal that was Chandra's and Lao's cars. He and his navigator ejected a nanosecond before the Calcutta-IV hit

the pile and it too became shrapnel.

The fourth and last car to hit the pile was Markos Christos's Arion. It banked to avoid the pile, but clipped it

with its left wing, snapping the wing clean off - which caused the Greek racer to lose all control and shoom at

right angles right across Fifth Avenue and take out three more racers!

It was only the magnetic Dead Zone protecting the nearest build

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