There was something about her.
It might have been her skin tight crimson motorcycle leathers. It might have been the way her red hair whirled like fire around her head as she blasted down the highway. It might have been the curves of her body, her bike, the three foot long scimitar that she held in her left hand.
Whatever it was, Gillian could barely take her eyes off of her.
The convoy of vehicles careened down the cliffside highway, Gillian and the lady in red near the head of the line of high powered sports cars and tuned up motorbikes. Far below, waves smashed into the rocky cliffside, sending sprays of salt into the gusting wind.
The crimson rider swerved around an oncoming truck, and for just a moment their eyes met. Through the visor on her red helmet, Gillian could see her deep sapphire blue eyes that pierced into Gillian's own, and there was something there. Between the two of them. Was it...excitement? Happiness?
Gillian gasped, lost in a daze, and yanked hard at the wheel as the truck shot toward her. Her midnight blue Audi jumped to the side. A blast of sparks and a horrible screech shot out as the car ground against the metal rail at the side of the roadway.
Four cars and five bikes roared past as the Audi shuddered to a stop. Gillian was breathing heavily, but whether from fear or excitement she couldn't tell.
"What was that?!" a voice cried in her earpiece.
"Who was that?" Gillian replied dreamily.
"Gill," said the voice. "Gill!"
"Wha- what?" Gillain said, with a shake of her head. "What is it, Mare?"
"You're stopped, Gill! What the hell is going on?!" cried Mare, through the radio. "You're losing them!"
"What?" Gillian said, looking around herself. The speedo was at zero, the tacho equally low. The comforting rumble of the Audi's engine was winding down. Gillian looked up, and caught a glimpse of the ocean beyond.
The deep, sapphire blue ocean. She thought, for a moment, about what the red rider's eyes looked like. Were they that same sapphire blue?
"Gill!" roared Mare.
"Right! Shit!" Gillian said, snapping back to her senses. The gearstick slammed into first and the Audi's engine erupted into an angry symphony as Gillian kicked the accelerator to the floor.
"What is wrong with you?" Mare cried as the Audi tore off the mark, weaving hard through the highway traffic.
"It's- it's nothing, I've got this," Gillian replied, as she wrenched the wheel to one side. The Audi slid cleanly through a gap in the barricade and across to the wrong side of the road.
"You'd better," said Mare. "We can't afford to lose to the Rothar Riders again. One more finish for them and all of us are headed for the big house."
"I know, I know!" Gillian snapped, yanking the wheel from one side to the other. The Audi swerved around a chorus of furious honks, terrified screeches and panicked smashes. Car after car flashed passed Gillian's windows, but she was a force of pure momentum. Aside from the scratches from her recent encounter with the barricade, her Audi was spotless, even after fifty races. Nothing would stop her getting back to the front of the line.
Back to the red rider.
"They've already crossed the Denningsborough Bridge and they're halfway down the mountain. Gill, do you really think you can catch them?" said Mare.
Gillian glanced at the heads up display projected on her windshield. Mare's coordinates appeared in a instant; five red dots far ahead, four blue intertwined with them - and one so far back to almost be off the map entirely.
"If you can get me a path, I can catch them," Gillian said.
"I'm not a magician!" Mare cried. A tunnel loomed in the cliff face ahead, a tiny point of darkness in the bright noonday sun.
"This is your job, Mare!" Gillian spat. "Get me back to her - I mean back up there. Do whatever you have to do!"
"I can't just break the laws of physics to-"
The connection died as the Audi blasted into two lane tunnel, the rows of artificial lights whooshing past as Gillian carved the blue sportscar directly through the centre of the twin lines of the frantically honking oncoming cars. Sparks flew from the other cars as they desperately tried to get out of the way, mounting the small concrete kerbs on either side of the tunnel, scraping to shuddering stops on either side. The sportscar flew through exact middle of the tunnel like a missile Moses, a line of cars parting around it on either side. Gillian smiled, but it quickly turned to a frown as she noticed a pair of trucks filling the tunnel, both bearing down on her with no sign of slowing and not enough room to swerve.
Gillian revved the engine and slammed the gearshift into sixth, the tacho punching at the redline as the car accelerated even further. She wasn't going to let that beautiful red rider escape.
Just as the roar of the engine was nearly consumed by the cacophony of horns she jerked at the wheel and the car jumped sideways, catching the kerb with the left tires. They bounced, just enough, and Gillian yanked hard at the wheel. The tires caught traction as the trucks bore down but it was too late. Gillian was long gone.
The Audi blasted along the side of the tunnel, two wheels on the concrete kerb, two wheels riding the tunnel wall, Gillian calm and collected within. She held the wheel tight and her frown tighter as the tunnel curved and the Audi hugged it, chasing the pinpoint of light far at the other side.
Finally, Gillian squinted at the bright sun as the Audi blasted out the other side of the tunnel. Mare's voice filled her earpiece once more.
"-could be possible if we're willing to ignore all sense and reason and-"
"Sounds like another great plan Mare, hit me," said Gillian.
"You're not gonna like it, Gill," Mare replied.
"Did you have to break the laws of physics to find it?"
"Only barely not,"
"They're the the only laws we have to follow, Mare. Everything else is just a suggestion. Hit me."
Mare's coordinates flickered to life on the windshield and Gillian let out a low whistle.
"Ok, that's definitely something," Gillian said.
"I told you," Mare replied.
"For the record, you do understand that I have to survive the race for us not to get beaten by the Riders, right?"
"Oh, sorry," Mare said drily. "Let me fix that for you."
The map disappeared for a moment, then reappeared. As far as Gillian could tell, it was completely unchanged.
"Ah," she said. "Much better."
"Glad you think so," Mare drawled. "Ok, your turn off is coming up,"
"About 45 degrees."
"Chance of death?"
"Chance of success?"
Gillian glanced at the heads up display and grimaced. But underneath Mare's map she could just barely make out the five red dots nearing the base of the mountain.
Her red rider was somewhere down there.
"Let's do it."
The road opened up into a wide arcing S-curve, looking out on a resplendent view of the ocean beyond, held back by a low metal barricade. Gillian glanced again at Mare's map and hoped to all hope that her operator had gotten the calculations right.
Right as the road began to curve back, GIllian let the car straighten and shot out over the edge of the road, smashing straight through the low barricade and out into nothing.
The Audi hung in the air for an agonising second before the weight of the engine dragged it down. A high ringing note of terror sung in Gillian's chest. The windshield was filled with the light blue of the sky, then the sapphire blue of the water and finally-
-the Audi landed hard on the sloped side of the mountain face, and the windshield was filled with the dark brown rocks and dirt.
The sports car's tyres slipped on the rough surface as Gillian fought the steering wheel for control. She punched the accelerator and reached for the traction controls, switching to offroad mode. With a thunk, the tyres caught and the Audi began to accelerate even faster down the steep, steep surface.
"You may just be a maniac, Mare!" Gillian called as she hurtled down the mountain.
"You're the one who decided to drive it!" Mare called back.
The midnight blue car bounced and thrashed its way down the long slope. In her rear view mirror, Gillian could just barely spot the twisting highway above. With a gasp, she looked back to see the slope drop out from under her again. For a brief, harrowing moment she was flying again, and below her she could see the Denningsborough Bridge, slicing across the small river that twisted and turned its way down the mountain. The Audi soared over it and landed with a heavy thud on the other side of the roadway.
The car continued to pick up speed, blasting down the hillside. Suddenly, on the heads up display, three of the dots collided, flickered, and vanished. Two blue dots.
And one red.
Ice shot through Gillian's stomach.
"Mare!" Gillian called, fighting the steering wheel for control. "What happened?"
"Two of the Rothar tried to take out Olivia," Mare said solemnly. "They stuck something in her wheelwell and she skidded out hard. Took out Aoife on the way through."
"What happened to the Rothar?"
"Why do you care? One less of them but two less of us, keep your eyes on the prize, Gill."
"What happened, Mare?"
A flurry of motion caught Gillian's eye in the rear view mirror. She glanced up and spat. The dirt was sliding faster behind her. A few rocks were slipping loose.
"Woah, where is this coming from? The Rothar was taken out too."
"What did they put in the wheelwell?"
"What is up with you today? It was a crowbar, I think."
Her red rider had a scimitar. Had had, at least. No, she couldn't think like that. Gillian breathed out and punched the accelerator all the way to the floor.
"You're going to overtake them at this rate, Gill. You'll get to the last stretch before them."
Gillian looked at the heads up display. The crowd of dots was blasting down a wide curve along the outside of the cliff face, headed for the final straightaway, a raised highway that shot across the deep Marlena Gorge and across to the finish line at the entry to Tamani Caverns. At her location and speed, Gillian would reach the Gorge just ahead of the other racers.
She glanced at the mirror again. More rocks were tumbling now and they were picking up even more as they came She could feel a rumbling in the earth beneath her, just under the rumble of the engine.
She did the math. She grimaced.
And yanked on the handbrake and the wheel.
The Audi slid on the rough dirt and jostled to the side, rotating ninety degrees. Gillian fumbled with the control switches and slammed on the brakes, and smiled as she felt the wheels lock.
"What are you doing now, Gill?!" Mare roared through her earpiece.
Gillian ignored her operator and clenched her teeth, holding the wheel tight with one hand and the handbrake with the other. The car slid sideways down the steep mountainside, momentum and sliding dirt carrying it onwards even though the wheels had stopped spinning. Far below but rapidly approaching, Gillian could just barely spot a sliver of black and grey.
She glanced at the heads up display, at the racing collection of dots, and narrowed her eyes. This was going to be close.
The Audi rumbled faster and faster down the mountainside, the growing cloud of dirt and rocks gaining on it even as it gained on the roadway below. A few rocks sprung loose from the oncoming avalanche and smashed hard into Gillian's side windows, sending a spiderweb of cracks through the glass.
Gillian held the wheel tight, stomped on the clutch, and slammed the accelerator.
The Audi's roar was joined by a concert of other throaty roars as the dots converged. Gillian glanced below her to the road even as more rocks slammed into the other side of the car.
A sky blue Suzuki blasted across the straightaway below, followed a split second later by a biker in deep purple.
"Come on…" Gillian whispered to herself as the rain of rocks began to turn into a hail. "Come on…"
A Kawasaki shot out below her, it's rider clad in neon pink.
"Come on!" Gillian yelled. Her eyes anxiously flicked between the heads up display, the road, and the rocks. More and more slammed harder and harder into the side of the Audi. Gillian watched the last dots, two red, one blue. A wall of earth formed on the side of the Audi. The window let out piercing sound, cracking heavily under the strain. The roadway was agonisingly close now.
If she didn't make it-
The shock in her sapphire blue eyes was there for all of a moment as she blasted across the roadway below the sliding sports car. Gillian saw it, through the rider's red visor, and saw it vanish.
Saw it replaced.
With a smile, a twinkle. A wish.
The same wish Gillian felt in her eyes.
The red rider roared away as the Audi and the avalanche finally met the edge of the road. The car soared through the air, shoved ever downward by a encroaching wave of earthen destruction.
Gillian let the clutch free and released the handbrake as the car dropped to the road. The wheels spun to life, whirling frantically against empty air.
They gripped hard as rubber met road.
The Audi shot off the mark like a champion sprinter, just barely outpacing the smothering, crushing cloud of earth. In her mirror, through the dust and destruction, Gillian could just make out a pale cyan Alfa and a deep russet rider slide to frantic stops on the other side of the avalanche.
Gillian didn't have any time to spare for them. She looked back to the straightaway. It was a two lane arrow straight bridge, stretching high above the Gorge far, far below. Ahead, the purple rider had almost caught the Suzuki.
The sports car roared as Gillian hammered her way up the gears, gaining ground on the other racers. The bridge was long but there still wasn't a lot of time, the red rider was-
The Suzuki swerved, and the purple-clad rider was too slow. She clipped the edge of the bonnet and was flung up, up and over, tumbling end over end into the Gorge. Gillian swore and swerved as the bike bounced along the road.
The last two Rothars were between her Audi and the Suzuki, including her beautiful red rider. Gillian couldn't let it end like this.
She slammed the gearshift into sixth and punched the accelerator so hard she felt it bend under her foot. The Audi roared forward.
The Rothars, red and pink, moved up on the Suzuki.
Gillian saw the red rider turn, glancing over her shoulder at Gillian herself.
For a brief moment, she felt her heart stop.
The Suzuki swerved again.
"No!" cried Gillian.
The Audi surged forward as the Suzuki slowed, but both riders leaned away from it. The Suzuki hesitated for just a moment.
"Don't you dare, Celia..." Gillian whispered under her breath.
"Gill?" Mare's voice was faint, distant; or maybe Gillian just didn't care enough to notice.
The Suzuki made its choice, and Gillian urged the Audi forward as-
- as the Suzuki turned, and wedged the red rider against the barricade.
She turned to look back, and Gillian moved.
The Audi's bonnet clipped the boot of the Suzuki, nudging it sideways, a picture-perfect PIT manoeuvre. Gillian held her breath as the cars struggled for a moment, the red rider caught between the grinding metal and the concrete.
"Gill, what are you doing?" said Mare, somewhere.
Finally, it happened. The Suzuki slipped, and spun. The back slid out, toward the red rider, and Gillian gasped-
- but the rider was ready. She jumped, pushing off the back of the sky blue car as it careened toward her bike, flinging herself up and back into the air. The Suzuki's tail slammed into the bike as it whipped around, spinning out in a cloud of tire smoke. The bike exploded into a shower of red metal as it smashed into the barricade.
There was a stillness in the Audi for a long, terrible moment.
Then the rider landed, red boots crunching onto midnight blue metal.
Gillian had caught her. She let out an involuntary whoop.
The rider turned and pounded up the bonnet and onto the roof, as the Audi continued to blast down the straightaway. The finish line, the Caverns, were fast approaching.
Gillian spied movement in her sideview mirror. The last Rothar rider, the pink Kawasaki, was bearing down on her.
With a tire iron in hand. Aiming for her wheelwells.
Gillian went to swerve the car but stopped herself. Her beautiful red rider was on the roof. How could she-
She felt the metal creak as the rider's weight shifted. In the mirror, she caught a flash a movement and suddenly the Kawasaki crumpled, its front tyre seeming to explode as the pink rider was flung over the bridge.
The roof creaked again as Gillian squinted at the mess that was once the high powered bike. As it slid to a stop far behind, she could just barely make out something in the twisted metal.
Something that looked like a scimitar.
Gillian jumped as what was left of the side window was smashed in by red boots. The rider slid herself elegantly into the passenger seat.
"Gill? Gill!" Mare cried in Gillian's ear. She removed her earpiece and tossed it out the window.
The red rider removed her helmet as the Audi blasted across the finish line and past the waiting crews from both sides, disappearing into the Caverns beyond. Her long red hair, even longer now out of the helmet, flowed behind her like she was a blazing comet.
Gillian had to struggle not to stare at her.
"I guess they'll have to call that a tie," the red rider said, with a smile. "We crossed that line together."
Gillian smiled too, and so did her heart, soul, and spirit.
"A little bit against the laws of the game, wouldn't you say?" said the red rider.
"There's only one set of laws that we have to follow," Gillian grinned back. "Everything else is just a suggestion."
"They'll be coming for us if we go back. But I don't really want to go back to that, do you?"
"Where do you want to go?" Gillian managed to say.
"I'm happy to go anywhere, if it's with you," Her voice was exactly like Gillian had hoped, warm and soft.
"Who are you?" she breathed.
The red rider turned and Gillian stared deep into her sapphire blue eyes. "They call me Scarlet."
Author's Note: This is an entry for the December Labyrinth Writing Contest. This month's prompt was to combine two genres into something new. I chose Action and Romance, though this turned out to basically be Action combined with another helping of Action. Still, it was a fun story to write and I hope it was fun to read. Head on over to the Labyrinth Forums to read more genre fusions and vote for your favourite.