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Jason swallowed. He had to stay close to Xavier - since Xavier knew the way through.

The black entry tunnel to the mine rushed toward him like the open mouth of a hungry giant. Jason drew in a sharp breath.

'Hang on, Bug. Here we go!'

And with that the Argonaut shot underground, disappearing into the blackness of the mine.

CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE SHORT-CUT LABYRINTH.

LAP: 17 [OF 20].

Rocketing through darkness.

The close square walls of the abandoned mine whipped past Jason at astonis.h.i.+ng speed, the whole underground world illuminated only by the sabre-like beams of his headlights. Each tunnel was about the width and height of an old railway tunnel.

Up ahead, he saw the glowing red tail-lights of the Speed Razor descending into the bowels of the Earth, following the steep entry tunnel straight down. Then without warning, the red lights cut left, having arrived at the bottom of the entry tunnel.

Jason shot off after them. He had to keep those taillights in view - The Bug said something.

'I know! I know!' Jason yelled back. 'I'm trying to stay with him!'

The Speed Razor swept momentarily out of sight, and Jason followed it, only to find himself staring at a fork of two tunnels...and no tail-lights in sight.

A bolt of ice shot up Jason's spine.

No...

Then he saw the tail-lights way up the right-hand fork and relief swept through him and he took off after them.

The mine flattened out and the Speed Razor swept through it at rocket speed, taking turns easily, a sharp left here, a sweeping right there, with the Argonaut close behind it.

And then Jason noticed that the tunnels had started to slant upward. They were approaching the surface. Trailing close behind the Speed Razor, he rounded a final bend before - blinding sunlight a.s.saulted his eyes.

They were out!

They'd got through the short-cut maze.

The eastern coastline of Tasmania stretched gloriously away to the left, with Prince Xavier's Speed Razor rocketing away along it.

The Argonaut blasted out of a trapezoidal pipe halfway up the coastal cliffs and banked sharply to avoid the specially placed set of demagnetising strips at the junction of the short cut and the regular course, just as - shoom! shoom! - two cars boomed past him on either side.

Varishna Krishna and Isaiah Was.h.i.+ngton!

The former race leaders!

And suddenly Jason's eyes widened.

Thanks to the Black Prince, the Argonaut was back in the race.

The next lap-and-a-half saw some of the fiercest racing of Jason's life.

Through the S-bends up at the top-right corner of Tasmania, winding between Cape Barren Island and Flinders Island - trying to avoid the demag strips while also trying to overtake his foes.

And then Varishna Krishna tried to slip past Xavier at the hairpin next to Pit Lane, but Xavier cruelly rammed him, forcing the Indian out over the ripple strips.

Krishna reeled, skidding wide, and as he did so, Was.h.

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