“No Books of Men: Side Stories” – Tomas Sparks and the Grand Prix Showdown

My schedule didn’t really let up much from last week, so I’ve still been a bit too drained to do much beyond read and play vidya games. As such, you get another Tom stories from the archives. This one was written from the same convention book as the last one, but during a different year. The theme was racing that year and so the theme for this one is also racing. It’s the first time I tried a hand at writing my wife’s character June, who is Tom and Friday’s teenaged (or in the main No Books timeline, early 20s) daughter.

Once again, as a side story, this isn’t official No Books canon. It is however broad strokes canon, meaning Tom has gone to Monaco to look for a wayward June, but the exact circumstances may have been a touch different.

Tom sighed as a series of cars zoomed past him on the street. “What the hell am I doing here?” He watched the cars idly, noting the large numbers emblazoned across their sides and idly wondering who was going to win. Not that it matter to him over much, but he couldn’t help but wonder.

As to why he was here in Monaco? Specifically during the Grand Prix? He already knew the answer all too well. He was here because Friday had asked him to; maybe asked wasn’t strong enough a word, demanded more like. They had both lost track of something valuable here, and he was supposed to bring it back. Or, at least, find it.

Another set of cars whizzed past, and Tom used their passing as a distraction from the fact that he barely knew where to begin searching in this chaotic mess. Suddenly, there! A hand was shooting out the driver’s side window of one of the passing cars, lifted in a celebratory charge as its driver took the lead; a decidedly feminine cheer accompanied the triumphant wave and, despite the noise and speed and the driver’s obscuring helmet, Tom was certain he recognized it.

Tom’s eyes narrowed and his lips lifted slightly in a frustrated growl, his bright white teeth glinting in the light. He took off in a run, dodging and weaving through the throngs of onlookers here for a race. He was trying to reach the finish line of this route, before the drivers scattered to the winds, ideally.

Moments later, panting and huffing, Tom tore into the winner’s circle, barely in time to catch the driver’s victory dance. “June! June Marisol Sparks! You are in so much trouble, young lady!”

The driver turned, pulling her helmet off as she did so. Her dark brown hair tumbled out from within the helmet, falling past her dark brown eyes and her caramel colored neck to land upon her shoulders. She grinned and her eyes flashed mischievously as she recognized Tom from across the crowd. “Probably. You’ll have to catch me first, though!” She giggled and took off in a sprint to her car. “And even Monaco’s finest couldn’t do that, daddy!” With that, she leapt through the driver’s side window and landed cleanly in the seat. Before Tom even had time to react, she had floored the pedal and shot off through the crowd, nearly clipping a few bystanders as she passed.

“Damn!” Tom cursed, knowing that it would be no easy task to catch up to her now. A grin began to spread across his face then, because he knew exactly how to go about doing that.

A few hours later, Tom was strapping himself into the seatbelt of one of the multitude of racecars in Monaco. He took a deep breath, trying not to think of the breakneck pace of the race he was about to join, and also trying not to let himself think about what would happen when Friday heard how much he paid in bribes to get one of the finalists to loan him this car and a place in the race. Tom tugged on the chinstrap of his helmet, wishing that it were just a little looser so he didn’t feel like he was choking. For all he knew, though, that had nothing to do with the strap.

He looked around, trying to spot June’s car before the race started, but he could only see the cars immediately to either side of his own, and she was nowhere to be found. He turned his attention to the track ahead. He barely knew the course, having only briefly studied it while trying to determine the best way onto it. Now, here he was. About to start a race that he had neither the knowledge, nor the skill, to cope with.

Seconds later, Tom was pulled from his reverie with a start when he saw a flash of white to indicate the start of the race. Instinct took over, and he slammed his foot down on the gas pedal and with a roar of internal combustion, Tom rocketed forward.

The cars all started clustered together, each trying to push the others aside or push those extra few inches forward to gain the advantage. To Tom’s left, a blue car was inching ever closer to Tom’s car, trying to intimidate him into backing off. With a snarl, Tom leaned into a harsh turn to the left and pushed the car forward with a small burst of speed. The blue car found its plan backfiring, as it had to back off slightly to prevent crashing into Tom.

Tom laughed in triumph at this small victory, but he quickly realized that he had shown his hand. In the seconds that had passed since his bold maneuver, the black car that had started to his right had taken advantage of the situation and had shot forward, edging stealthily between a green and a yellow car up ahead.

Tom was falling behind the pack, with only the red car behind him, and he realized he would have to think to stand a chance at crossing the finish line. His grand schemes were abandoned, as instead he began to take a position immediately behind the black car, hoping to both borrow some speed from the other car’s draft and follow in its wake through the gap in the pack. Before he had time to react, though, green and yellow began to close ranks and he had to back off.

Desperate, Tom had no choice but to careen wildly behind the green car and dash around to its right. He grimaced as he heard the telltale sound of scraping, as he came dangerously close to the barricades that surrounded the course. His gambit paid off, though, as he dashed forward with a burst of speed and pulled past the trio of cars that had attempted to cut him off. Before him, a trio of cars had taken a notable lead, and Tom noticed the bright cherry red of his daughter’s car ahead of them. If he could get past the three, he’d be going head-to-head with her.

Fortunately for Tom, there was a sharp corner coming up, and he used it and his handbrake to rocket around the corner and greatly reduce the lead that the other cars had achieved. With patience and a few more turns, he managed to apply his knowledge of geometry and logic to catch and surpass the trio of cars; leaving him to enter the final leg of the race with half a car length separating his daughter’s red car and his own.

He shifted gears, desperately doing anything he could think of to squeeze an iota of extra horsepower out of the already taxed engine, and he started to close the gap. With a light tap, he caught up to and bumped the red car, causing her car to hop forward slightly and requiring her to drop a small amount of speed to maintain control. He followed suit, dropping back slightly to remain directly behind her and keeping the pressure on.

She weaved and alternated between speeding up and slowing down doing her best to shake him. Tom maintained his position behind her, always remaining one step behind her and not letting her breathe for even a second. Then, just as she began to drop back slightly in another attempt to shake him, Tom took the advantage and darted off to her left, gunning the engine as he went. With a brutal roar, the engine revved and he shot forward at the last possible second, edging out past her and gaining the essential few inches to pass the finish line; winning by a nose.

With a deep breath, Tom returned to himself, the adrenaline and focus of the race fading away as the car slowed to a stop near the winner’s circle. He parked the car, and slowly stepped out of the car. Immediately behind him, June’s car screeched to a much more abrupt stop. She practically leapt from the vehicle, pulling her helmet off and tossing it into her car behind her. She stormed up to Tom, who had yet to remove his helmet, she stopped immediately before him, preventing him from entering the winner’s circle.

Her eyes were ablaze and she was breathing heaviy, which seemed to scream frustration and she looked ready to pounce like a wild animal. Then, the rage melted, only to be replaced with a strange delight and satisfaction on her face. “That. Was. Amazing!” She dove forward and wrapped her arms around Tom in a big bear hug. “Best race Ive had in years! Seriously!” She set the larger man down and tapped lightly beneath the chinstrap of Toms helmet. “To whom do I owe the pleasure?” Tom glanced his daughter up and down, unsure what to say. She was excited she lost? Best race in years? How long has she been doing this behind his back? All these questions and more zoomed through his head as he reached up and loosened the strap of his helmet and began to peel it off.

“Your mother and I have been worried sick, young lady” The instant the helmet passed his eyes, he already had a mixture of admonishment and pride firmly set within them.

“Uhh” June was taken aback for a moment, surprised to see her father here, especially as the winner. “Oh. My. God. Da-Aaaad! Why?!?” She groaned loudly, a mixture of shock and embarrassment on her face.

Tom took the moment to reach out and wrap his large hands around her slender wrist. “Im not kidding. Your mothers been having kittens not knowing where you ran off to. Which is disturbing to say the least A fine woman having kittens” Tom let the puns fly in his naturally rambling way, hoping that it would prove to his daughter that he wasn’t overly upset. “Now come on. We need to talk.”

“Ugh!” June groaned. “Fine. If I have to. But I dont regret any of this.” She rolled her eyes and let him begin leading her down the street.

“Fair enough.” He started to turn towards his hotel, ready to finish this finally; the winners circle already forgotten. “I do have to say, youre pretty good behind that wheel.”

“You werent so bad yourself” June replied slyly. “Youd almost think youd done that before.” She eyed the crowd before them, which was beginning to surge forward to greet the new champion; and she grinned when she saw her father hadnt noticed.

“Well, nothing so formal. Just a few chases through the streets of Cairo and Calcutta. You know that though, you were there for some of those” He came to a screeching halt as the crowd of fans and reporters pressed in, blocking their exit. “Uhmm.” Suddenly, he was lost in a see of bodies, questions, and flashbulbs; dazing and confusing the poor man. In the confusion, he momentarily lost his hold on Junes wrist.

June took her moment and dove into the crowd, disappearing in a flash of brown and creamy fur. Shouting behind her shoulder, she said, “Love you daddy! Say hi to mom for me!” Then she was gone. Tom desperately tried to reach through the crowd for her, but she was already dust in the wind.

“Dammit…” He grinned with equal parts anger and pride. “So much like her mother”

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