BREAKNECK
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The skyscrapers melt away as he shoots past them, fading into the nothingness that lies behind. The neon lights turn into blurs and then streaks as the car winds through the maze of Eurtec. The engine whines as its pushed harder, faster, squeezing just a few more miles out of it. The horizon ceases to exist. The law ceases to exist. The city ceases to exist. There is only the Dragon, and the road.

There are no pedestrians to speak of — everyone knows to stay away from this route on a race day. He takes the freedom to heart and shatters red light after red light after red light.

Inside the cabin, the speed pushes his eyes against his sockets. His organs scream in protest as the G-force hits him like a truck. His heart struggles to pump blood throughout his body, and his grip on the carbon fiber steering wheel is white-knuckled. The fuzzy dice on the rearview mirror fling backward, horizontal with the trembling metal roof. He bites down and tastes copper.

He snaps a hard left and narrowly avoids becoming paste on a megacorp's tower. The street merges left, left, and up until it is an on-ramp. He rockets up the ramp for a full 30 seconds, even at triple digit speeds. The Dragon becomes a golden comet on the skyline.

Then he breaks the sky.

This layer of the highway is nearly empty, unlike the buzzing Autobahn above it. The only other car is a silver Promethean Q19, so low it blends into the street. It sticks to the road like fly to paper, sliding along the curves of the megahighway. Its license plate — purely for decoration — reads "NAGA".

He has found his target.

The Dragon roars as it accelerates another few hundred miles per hour, until it is even with the other car. Against the immense pressure, he turns his head to the right and looks into the Naga's cabin. A reflective black window stares back at him.

He jerks his head back to the road. The cars are neck and neck. Both engines rev, chomping at the bit to let loose. He cranes his neck to look down at his instruments panel. Beyond the horizon, the city of Eurtec glimmers. The race is set. The lines are drawn. The first-place prize is unparalleled influence in Eurtec, and the second-place prize is death. Winner take all.

He guns the engine and accelerates.

250 MILES

Naga pulls the trigger first. The restraining bolts drop off its hood and fall away into the darkness behind them. The car lurches forward, freed of the excess weight. The interior of the cabin warms as the cooling systems prioritize the scalding tires, spraying them with aerosolized coolant.

The Dragon doesn't like being upstaged. It bellows, releasing superheated gasses behind it like a backwash. The restraining bolts on its frame twist and fall, bouncing into the background. Its power output doubles, and the cabin hums with added energy. It's an angry bull, and it's waiting for something to let loose on.

That's when Naga rams into it.

Dragon veers for a split second before recovering with a push in the opposite direction. The cars lean against each other, trying to force the other away. Naga pulls away first, dropping ever so slightly behind Dragon. He grimaces and coaxes out another burst of speed. At the moment, Dragon is pushing 230 miles per hour. He's just getting started. Out of the corner of his eye, Naga suddenly disappears.

Then it reappears, sixty feet in front of him. It's a power play; sixty feet are nothing in this race. Whoever's inside Naga is showing off.

His instrument panel goes into a frenzy, dozens of blinking bulbs and digital readouts telling him about an unfamiliar energy readout coming from Naga's exhaust. He guns the engine to 250 and pulls up behind the silver haze until Dragon's hood is a foot away from Naga's bumper. He can see the Foundation seal screwed to the metal. Then he jerks hard to the left and pulls up to its side. The cars are even again, but both are worse for wear. Dragon is a Danforth Model 99. Its mods to let it run races like this are the best of the best, but even they can't hold up against a customized demon like Naga. And for that matter, Naga isn't designed for aggressive gung-ho manuevers like the psychopath inside seems to be intent on. It'll be a miracle if both make it to the finish line.

Then the megahighway ends and both cars fly into the abyss.

200 MILES

Dragon recovers first. Its tires twist inward and the jet engine ratchets into position, igniting and vomiting out flames. A digital readout screams at him: DANGER! CURRENT SPEED ABOVE SAFE LIMIT! He checks "Do not show me this notification again." and dismisses it. His side camera alert him; Naga has also transformed.

The water below the pair explodes into white as they skim the lake surface. Countless cars have met their doom in the water below. Dragon will not be one of them.

Naga advances, pulling up closer and closer to Dragon as they both speed toward the shimmering lights of the city. Getting rammed mid-air will definitely kill at least one driver. It's time to end this. He slams the button on his dash and twists the lever.

The smoke from Dragon's jet engine instantly changes. It takes on a golden hue, and coalesces, tightening into a serpentine winding form. The column of gas grows appendages, tail, hair, a head, and then it snaps and solidifies. A doppelganger of an ancient Chinese dragon. The Golden Lóng is in play. His ace in the hole.

It floats lazily above the car, ignoring the bone-shattering speed. Then it twists upright in the air and swims over to Naga. The car doesn't so much as twitch. The Lóng settles on the hood, arraying its serpentine body over the car in coils. Then it takes aim and bites into the engine block.

The CRACK is audible even over the roaring of the cars. The Lóng's shimmering pupils narrow and focus on the silvery object in its mouth. It's a writhing iridescent —

Naga's hood shatters as the thing erupts out of it. It's a snake-like thing, coiling on the hood and baring its fangs at Lóng. So this is Naga's counterpart — Basilisk.

Lóng leaps the gap between Naga and Dragon, settling on the roof. The two serpents hiss at each other, daring the other to charge. The cars are even as they shoot toward Eurtec, vaporizing water below them. He prioritizes — winning comes first. Surviving is secondary.

100 MILES

Dragon veers and slams into Naga, who shudders from the impact and compensates by pulling away. It's the split-second distraction Lóng needs to jump back aboard Naga, flecking acidic spittle at Basilisk. The serpents circle each other on top of the roof, silver against gold.

The button calls to him. The plastic safety box is all that keeps him from slamming it now. Not yet. Wait for it.

Lóng lunges first, straight for Basilisk's throat. It pulls backward and counters, trying to get behind Lóng. He responds by clamping his jaws around the quicksilver tail. The howl of pain sounds like metal tearing. The pair grapple and wrestle, curling into a coiling ball of energy. Then Lóng forces Basilisk's jaw open and slams its head into Naga's jet engine. Naga veers crazily, jerking backward to throw off Lóng but never slowing down.

Now.

He flips the safety box and punches the gleaming red button.

Dragon's roof pops off with a hiss of steam and falls away. He doesn't hear it hit the water.

The rear bumper follows the roof. Then go the side rails, trims, the counterweights, the drivespike, sheets and sheets of metal.

In seconds, Dragon is a the skeleton of a car riding the ramjets into oblivion. But even with all the excess weight shed, it only pulls a few feet forward.

It's all he needs.

Dragon settles twenty feet ahead of Naga when Basilisk tears itself out of the flames and throws Lóng off. Instantly, Naga recovers and straightens its course.

Dragon pulls directly in front of it and slams its brakes. Naga, caught off guard, does the same, and for a nanosecond both cars are hood-to-hood. Then Dragon reignites its engines and what's left of Naga's hood bursts into flames. Pipes in the engine block expand and contract and fluids evaporate under the massive temperature. On the roof, Basilisk lifts up Lóng before throwing it at Dragon's ramjet.

It didn't realize it was being pulled along until it was inside the flames. Lóng twists upward and kicks off from Basilisk, pushing it farther into the flames and landing on Dragon's roof as Naga's engine dies with a sputter.

The shrieks coming from the fire suddenly stop as the flames go silver. Dragon twitches. Then its speed quadruples, leaving Naga's half-melted corpse in the dust. In two seconds, it crests 850 MPH and shatters the sound barrier.

1 MILE

The street is free of cars, but screaming fans and bookies press against the security fences. The announcers box at the end is in a frenzy.

"Charlie, this has gotta be one of, no, the greatest matchup in the last two years. We've got camera evidence - that's right, Naga, the Demon of Eurtec, the Foundation Flyer, the Circuit Emperor, has crashed! Can you believe this?"

"All I can believe is that whoever brought down the Serpent is either a psychopath or nowhere near human, or both. Can we get a replay of th— yeah, look at that! Its avatar - looks like a dragon or something - feeds Basilisk into the jet engine as a boost. I didn't even know that was possible! I tell you, this is the greatest upset in- oh f*** here he comes!"

A golden blur rockets down the empty street, flanked by frenzied racefans. It shoots through one, two, three, four, all sixteen stop gates one after another, and hits the street. It doesn't stop.

Sparks fly as the frame of the Dragon skids down the asphalt carbon road for a full mile, leaving scorched black tarmac in its wake. It comes to a rest a few feet in front of the announcers box.

He steps out of the car, black and gold racesuit marred by fire damage. An equally damaged helmet obscures his face. Lóng wraps around him, raising one of its legs into the air, holding something.

Naga's Foundation bumper seal. Lóng crushes it in its fist, letting the silver dust rain down.

He speaks.

"Keep the fucking pigs out of the races."

The street explodes.

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