Game Worlds > Dark Waters

Dieselpunk Deutschland: The Race

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Mathieu Montand glanced down at the stopwatch in his hand and shook his head at the time which the numbers had paused at.  He sighed in frustration, licking his cold lips and wiped his face with his gloved hand.  It was beginning to annoy him.  He had longed for this moment for so many years -- to be reunited with Vanessa Cameron on the speed track -- but it was now several years too late.  The woman was no longer the young champion which he had once loved; her winning streaks had come to an end, and her podium finishes were few and far between.

"You're ten seconds behind the pace.  That's amateur stuff, Vanny..."  He stood up and slowly skated towards her, stopping about a foot in front of her.  "...and that's me being generous."  Montand turned his head to the left, watching some of the other skaters practicing in the distance.  They were inexperienced and green, with very few wins between them but they were young and full of energy, with fresh legs that Montand could only dream of having.  The doctors had told him years ago that even one gentle race could leave him unable to walk without a cane.  For once, he decided to listen to someone.

Vanessa had came to him a few weeks ago, having been released by her racing team after a string of bad races.  They waved her off with faux smiles, wishing her the best of luck for her future but as soon as she walked of the door, they did not care about her no more.  Montand was the only one who still welcomed her with open arms, and it didn't take long for that old spark to come back.  He agreed to become her coach once more, but it was more for old times sakes than genuine belief that she could still cut it.

His voice suddenly changed, and standing in front of Vanessa was her caring friend instead of her tough coach.  He turned back towards her, his hand touching her cheek.  "Just give it up.  Please.  It's finally time to take the boots off and your feet up."

Vanessa shoved Montand

Montand sighed when she refused to give up, and he watched her return to the starting line for yet another attempt at beating her time.  They had been out here for minutes, and Montand could no longer feel his face.  The scarf which coated his neck did not do enough to protect the tops of his ears or the tip of his nose, and they were red raw from the cold wind that only seemed to get colder as night approached.  Montand was well known for being a tough coach, and long nights of training were common.  A few years ago, he refused to let his skaters go home until they had all completed a perfect lap.  They finished at eleven o'clock at night.  They had begun their training almost eight hours before.

After his accident, Montand didn't take the news of "no more skating" lightly.  It was a continious battle to try and prevent himself from going for a lap around the track.  Heck -- even now, years after it happened, he still wanted to stand on the starting line and see what it was like.  To get that rush of going round the ice at such a high speed.  He could only dream of what trophies and medals he could have won had the injury never happened.

With Vanessa, he was the opposite.  If this had been another student of his, he would have kept her out here until her feet began to bleed.  But with Vanessa, he didn't want her to be anywhere near the track.  She was stubborn -- oh boy, she was stubborn -- and he knew that she would flat-out refuse to accept defeat until she brought her time down.  But it wasn't going to happen.  Montand wished that she would prove him wrong, and as he retreated to the side of the track once more, he prepared himself to push down on the stopwatch button again.

"One more time."  He said, but he prepared himself to be saying it a few times again.

It was the same thing he

In all his years affiliated with the sport -- whether it was racing, or it was training others to race -- he had never seen someone with as good a technique as Vanessa Cameron.  It was the reason for her success throughout the majority of her career.  Always keeping her body in the best position and posture to get the fastest speed possible.  And even now, with Vanessa in her mid-30s (who was he to judge -- even if he could race her, she'd beat him by miles) she still had it.  Or at least, to the untrained eye she did.  Something was clearly wrong, otherwise she wouln't be hitting such slow times each and every time.

As she glided past the finish line, Montand's thumb pressed down on the little button on top of the stopwatch.  For those brief few seconds, she had no idea how she did.  It was difficult when you were racing, your mind was focused on beating your time but you were also concentrating on getting everything right.  If you made one mistake because you weren't focusing on that upcoming corner, then you weren't going to finish the race.  He could see it in her eyes, and he just wanted to tell her that she had done it -- and scrub the score from the screen before she could see it.

But he couldn't do that.  He knew that she didn't want to be lied to, and if she didn't improve her lap by ten seconds then she wanted to be told.  "You were... two seconds slow."  He said to her, not sure how she was going to take the news.  On one hand, she hadn't achieved what they had set out to achieve.  But on the other hand -- improving her time by almost eight seconds (technically seven-and-three-quarters, but he rounded it up for her) was an unbelievable accomplishment.

He approached her slowly and put an arm on her shoulder, lightly squeezing the blue fabric.  "You almost did it."  He said, giving her a faint -- albeit, cautious -- smile.  It was almost tragic to see her like this, she looked both physically and mentally exhausted from willing her body to do something it was no longer capable of doing.  "It's still a good time..."  He lied.  It wasn't.  In a proper tournament, it still wouldn't have been anywhere close to being good enough.


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