West Side - Peace, quiet, race!


The morning after our visit to Oldtown Helga and Stavros were suffering from a terrible hangover. Their head was hurting so bad they went for breakfast three times without realizing it. This was not a bad thing, as they certainly needed the repeated morning beverages to rehydrate, albeit the twelve cups of black coffee they each drank probably did not help their stomachs.

Unsurprisingly, they didn't even notice Mara's absence. The French couple and Larry avoided the topic altogether, and instead spent the breakfast discussing the next stop on the tour, West Side Con City. Larry promised a special treat for the group at the race track. Gabrielle was skeptical, but decided to give the driver a chance.

It was late morning when we left the hotel, heading for the West Side. We took the subway train to the central part of the district, where we were greeted by the image of an industrial disaster waiting to happen. As a matter of fact, the future tense that the area radiated in regards to that industrial disaster was very misleading.




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The West Side is the cheapest district in Con City. The main reason for this is the amount of smog generated by the multitude of factories occupying a third of the district. Various products are manufactured in the city from cement through shoes to metalwork. The largest factory of them all, which was the one that first caught our eye upon surfacing from the subway station, is the facility the locals simply call the "Gun Factory".

The affectionately named Gun Factory belongs to McKilsky Firearms, one of the biggest weapons manufacturers in the country. The facility produces all of the most popular McKilsky products such as the 10 millimeter Horizon, as well as high impact artillery for the military. The factory building towers over the district and its three dozen chimneys produce fresh air for the residents of the entire West Side, including the people living in the suburbs in the outskirts of the district. This, in effect, was an industrial disaster not waiting to happen, but in the process of happening, and has been since the Gun Factory was built in 1962.

Upon our arrival the size of the black smoke cloud erupting from the factory chimneys looked like it was big enough to choke the entire West Side were it to descend to ground level. Gabrielle took just one look at it and she immediately wanted to go back to the hotel. Stavros had a violent coughing fit after thirty seconds.

Larry, who had apparently grown up in the West Side and was accustomed to the smog, did not understand the problem. To his credit, like any decent tour guide, he came up with a suggestion. Since our number one destination was the race track, which was in the southwest corner of the district, he recommended that we retreat into the subway system and take the train as far as it would take us.

The final stop of the subway was the Con City Cemetery, which is located east of the race track. Larry explained that the subway used to go all the way to the race track but that an accident a few years ago in which a few race cars took a wrong turn and ended up finishing a lap inside the subway station, the City Council decided to close the station so the racers wouldn't need to pay so much attention to what they were doing. Since then a good number of the visitors to the race track come with cars, which pleases the company that operates the guarded parking lot by the race tracks. The CEO of this company has a brother-in-law who happens to sit on the City Council, but this is a mere coincidence.

The shortest way to the race track from the subway station was through the cemetery, so we decided to cross the graveyard. Fortunately the smog was tolerable in this part of the West Side, so a bit of a stroll in one of the most quiet parts of the city was not unwelcome to any of us.

The graveyard proved quite large and we ended up losing Gabrielle and Philippe among the tombstones. It was almost a half hour later that we found them again. They must have tripped somewhere along the way as there were several blades of grass stuck in their clothes.

Near the west exit we found a ten foot tall monument in the shape of a knight chess figure. The monument stood in honor of Wilbur Summers, Con City's most famous chess player, who was lynched in Brickton after defeating the local chess champion Tyler Brown in a tournament in 1971. Incidentally, a much larger monument stands in Brickton in honor of the people who did the lynching, paid for by Tyler Brown. The Summers monument was covered in graffiti that looked very old and included obscene insults directed at the late chess player. Philippe stopped by the monument and spent a good deal of time observing the graffiti. "You have to admit, it's beautiful street art," he said.

"You think this is impressive?" Larry said. "You should see the giant cock the local boys painted on the Brown monument in Brickton."

Philippe looked sad that we missed out on the aforementioned monument during our brief visit to Brickton.




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Con City's race track, known as the Crash-o-ring, is a two and a half mile long race track where the city hosts various car races from monster truck bouts to rally races. Built in the late 1970s it is the only substantial race track in the entire county. The City Council hoped to discourage illegal street races by building the Crash-o-ring and endorsing the spectacle of motor racing. While the race track failed to meet this hopeless expectation, it did start producing revenue in the mid 80s after the introduction of junk derbies.

When we arrived, a traditional rally race was in progress. Larry was in high spirits and led us up to the ticket office.

"Six tickets for the Adrenaline Walk," Larry said, and he paid for all of us with the credit card of Reaper Travels before any of us could have asked what an Adrenaline Walk was.

"Quickly, this way!" he urged us, and walked past the cashier. He led us to a set of stairs marked with a sign that said, "Adrenaline Walk ticket holders only". A member of the race track staff took a passing glance at his ticket and waved him to go on.

We followed him into an underground tunnel that seemed to lead under the race track. Helga wondered aloud why there would be an underpass to the tribune, but Larry waved her off. "Tribune? That's for losers," he said. "Where we're going, only the brave ever tread! Be proud!"

The tunnel took a turn and ended in another set of stairs. Larry led us up, looking like he could barely contain his excitement. The unmistakable sound of fast moving cars came to us from the top of the stairs. Yet the sounds failed to convey exactly what awaited us above.




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The Adrenaline Walk, as the name suggests, is primarily designed for adrenaline junkies. Secondarily it is made for people wanting to commit suicide. It is a footpath leading along the race track. It differs from conventional footpaths in two respects. First, it is not on the side of the race track, but in the very middle of it, such that cars sweep past the people walking on this path on both sides. Second, there is no barrier between the pedestrians and the cars.

Basically, the Adrenaline Walk is the equivalent of walking along the freeway on the wrong side of the fast lane. Except that the race track has a lot more and much sharper turns than the freeway. Either way, pedestrians are left at the mercy of the drivers who must avoid the middle of the track at all times.

When we reached the top of the stairs, everyone in the group screamed, including Larry, albeit his scream was one of joy and excitement while everyone else's was that of sheer horror. Turning back was not an option as a rotating door operated at the top of the stairs which only worked one way. We could either attempt to cross the racetrack, or go along the footpath and hope for the best.

Larry led the way along the Adrenaline Walk, laughing with glee every time a race car swept past him. We saw little choice but to follow him, as close as possible, and pray that the drivers wouldn't make any mistakes.

As we inched forward between the cars, the audience on the tribune erupted in a loud cheer. As we later learned, no one had taken the Adrenaline Walk in three months due to the injuries suffered by the last group of brave souls who had attempted it. Injuries in this case included lost limbs and fractured skulls. The most grievous fate was suffered by the driver of the monster truck that had inflicted the aforementioned injuries on the pedestrians, for a severed arm somehow got caught in the drive axle and stopped the wheels. The momentum carried the truck forward uncontrollably and the vehicle tumbled over, crushing the driver's cab along with the driver's head. Since that incident, no one had dared to go anywhere near the Adrenaline Walk footpath.

As we later also learned, Larry knew this very well. He was therefore not at all surprised that the audience gave him a hero's welcome. In fact, he was counting on it. The full truth is, though, that a good chunk of the audience, including some with video cameras, was hoping for a repeat performance of the incident from three months ago. Fortunately for us, those fans were left disappointed.

We made it safe and sound to the end of the Adrenaline Walk where another set of stairs led back below ground and eventually to the exit. We left the race track in one piece amidst Larry's ceaseless cheering.

"That was awesome!" he exclaimed. "Wasn't that awesome? Of course it was awesome! You loved it, didn't you? Of course you did! Let's go back for another ride!"

Helga, for the first time since leaving Brickton, let loose her wrath and got up into Larry's face.

"Shut up, Arschloch!" she screamed. "One more word and we will go back just so I can throw you under the wheels of the first racing car that passes us! Now let's go back to the hotel so I can take a shower! I need to wash off all the dust."

Larry raised his hands in defense and conceded to her request. She took a step back and straightened her blouse.

"That's better. From now on, you don't lead this tour. I do."

Stavros chuckled at the scene, and flat out burst out in laughter when Larry chose not to argue with Helga.

The disgruntled sculptress threw Stavros a smile, then turned around and proceeded to cross the street to the graveyard entrance. In the next five seconds, a lot of things happened very fast.

In the first second, the sound of a car engine came from around the corner. In the next second, a large black blur entered our vision and sped towards Helga. In the third second, the black blur smashed into Helga and sent her flying. In the fourth second, the black blur, which looked like a black Runamok Mustang, although at the speed it was going this was difficult to tell for certain, disappeared in the distance, its driver keeping the car steady with the calmness of a professional hitman. In the fifth second, Helga reacquainted herself with the ground, which her bones did not take particularly well, especially her cervical spine.

It took Stavros a good fifteen seconds before Helga's shocking fate registered with his brain, and even then it took him considerable effort to stop laughing. He did, however, demonstrate a sense of survivalism when he refrained from walking out into the middle of the street to cradle her in his arms. 

Gabrielle and Philippe watched the body with shocked faces, unable to look away. Larry rubbed his hands and turned to face the group.

"Well, I guess I'm back in charge of the tour," he said. "So, who wants to go back for another Adrenaline Walk?"

Since no one wanted to cross the street to the cemetery any more, we decided to do the Adrenaline Walk again. And then another three times until the race was over. Then, when we were left with no other choice, we slowly and carefully attempted to cross the street to the graveyard entrance.

The moment we stepped off the sidewalk we sped up to a sprint with which we could have won the Olympics.




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