I know it's a little quiet here, but I've been on such a huge binge lately and part of the nostalgia wave happens to be Fusion.

I went back and revisited some of my old Fusion stuff and re-read my old Fusion fic, only to come away from it with my skin crawling and a huge flood of nausea which threatened to bring up my dinner. I know that Wipeout of the Hero was written a long time ago (At least 18 years ago), but I still couldn't shake off how bad it was.

Over the last few years I have been approached by a number of people who have told me they remember me from the old Fusion forum and also from THAT FIC! I genuinely feel irked that I am attached to it, so... I decided to re-write it! I felt it was high time, especially now I'm inspired while riding this nostalgia wave. I genuinely hope to make this fic worth at least a read.

I will censor the swearing and will post up the first 3 chapters that I've finished, but future chapters will contain some more adult themes, so if you want to read more you'll have to seek it out on AO3. I don't want to be breaking any rules, after all.


Chapter 1

The New Race Season

Daniel was good. He knew he was good. Everyone else knew it too. Though Carlos Beneto would sooner stab himself in the eyeballs with a rocket than admit it. He was bitter about the fact that he had pushed, no, smirked his way into the lead pilot position and he had gone tumbling unceremoniously into second pilot position. The underdog. He would be damned if he would be shamed by that smug, wavy haired b**tard.

It was well known throughout the AG racing league that Carlos Beneto hated Daniel Johnson with the fury of a thousand plasma bolts, but they let it continue. It was great publicity for the team and the ratings were through the roof every time the pair had a spat. In fact, Carlos and Daniel weren't the only pilots who had a rivalry going on. Nami Mishima of Van-Uber and Zala Wolff of Xios had apparently had some sort of a tiff and were staring daggers. Though their rivalry appeared to be a lot more dangerous than Daniel and Carlos due to sabotage being involved. And everyone knows that the last thing you want when you get strapped into an AG craft is sabotage.

The new season had begun with the usual media coverage and opening ceremony. This year they had gone for a robotic cat theme which had confused a good number of people, but delighted the rest. The managers of each team had stood at the podiums in the boxes overlooking the first race track and had given their little opening speeches. Though, for some, those 'little' speeches had turned into mind-buggeringly long ones. And nobody wanted to hear about Xavier Menendes and his foot fetish, his olive oil intake and his fear of yet another butter war.

Each pilot had been preparing for months for the new season. It was a rigorous regime indeed. Weight loss, weight gain, muscle toning, g-force tests, blood tests, urine tests, a strict diet, precise sleep regimes. All standard for each team, of course, and expected. Before each race they were not allowed to eat for 2 to 4 hours before and going to the toilet once suited up was impossible. It was actually a subject that Daniel had pondered inside the cockpit of his Feisar craft every time they sat waiting for the countdown. Why oh why had no one invented a suit you could p*ss in!? It was 2160 for heaven's sake!

With the speeches now over, the pilots were strapped into their craft as the opening fireworks roared over the track they were about to race on. Below the track was very different from above. It was cold, dark and smelled of fuel and other liquids that were used in the maintenence of the various craft. The docking claws creaked and groaned with the weight of the heavier ships and the sound of welding could often be heard down in the depths. Each ship was then taken over to their pads and the claws disconnected with a loud 'thunk' and retracted into the walls again like a hideous spider beast. The ships now in place, the race could begin. Up the pads went, the claxons sounding for all crew to evacuate the area. The crowd went wild.

There sat each team. Feisar with Daniel Johnson and Carlos Beneto. G-Tech with Roberto Sergio and Naomi Turner. Auricom with Pascale Rouser and Franco Gonzalez. Van-Uber with Nami Mishima and Songen Grey. EGR with Paul Cheung and Alex Reece, Tigron with Omarr Khumala and Sveta Kirovski. Xios with Natasha Belmondo and Zala Wolff. And finally Piranha with Myima Tsarong and Jann Schlaudecker.

Roberto gave the crowd a wave from his cockpit, followed by kisses as the roar grew louder from his actions. It made Naomi roll her eyes. Why was she stuck with such an ego maniac as a lead pilot? She decided at that point that she should protest his actions as soon as the race ended.

Daniel was also giving his own waves to his loyal fanclub. Carlos was fuming. Those cheers were once for him and he wanted them back. How dare they cheer that concrete-faced dickwad? What did he have that he didn't? Oh, sure. He was younger. 24 to be precise. But Carlos had EXPERIENCE! Something, in his opinion, was fishy about the whole deal Daniel had been offered. Either he had paid them off, had to blow Xavier, or he had dealings with some supernatural forces. Either one of those made him shudder with anger.

Checks complete, they were ready. The countdown began. Carlos was still stuck in his inner monologue and didn't even notice until the very loud 'READY' came over his ear piece. He shook himself free of his thoughts and gripped the steering column tightly. Daniel was NOT going to win. He peered into the cockpit next to him to see Daniel grinning widely back at him. At least, he thought he saw it. It was hard to see. But it sure looked like that was the case! It was like he knew what he had been thinking. Surely not! But, who knew what he had up his sleeve. Maybe he was psychic too! Carlos mouthed a 'f**k you' just in case he could actually see him and went back to concentrating as the voice which had broken his thought process originally yelled 'GO' down his ear.

Off they went. The sound of the engines whistling down the track and the clank of metal as they all jostled for position. The first few had picked up weapons from the access pads and were training them on each other. BANG! A missile connected with the chassis of Nami Mishima's ship. BOOM! Another hit Myima's ship right on the tailpipe sending her in a spin. The cloud of smoke that ensued engulfed that part of the track, obscuring the race from the view of spectators for a split second.

Carlos had also picked up a weapon, but he was saving it. He had a plasma bolt and he had someone in mind he wanted to use it on. He grinned to himself as he rounded the corner and there in his sights was none other than Daniel. It was perfect. Maybe the gods were on his side after all? The stretch of road was straight, but Daniel was zig-zagging left and right. What was he playing at? It was as if he was drunk! It didn't make any difference to Carlos though. He increased his speed and jammed his nose right into Daniel's tailpipes. He didn't even care that he was damaging his own ship in the process. It was too good to pass up. He pressed the button to fire on his steering column and BLAM! Daniel's exploded in a shower of hot metal shards, leaving the poor pilot in his escape pod. For him, the race was over. For Carlos, the possibilities were endless! Oh vengeance, how sweet the taste. He wanted more.


Chapter 2

Is This In My Contract?

The atmosphere in the male changing room after the race had ended was thick and tense. Songen Grey of Van-Uber had dressed and stowed his gear ready for collection as quickly as he could and went off to have the standard post-race bloods drawn and urine tested so he didn't have to be involved in any possible arguments or confrontations. And he knew damn well there would be judging by what had happened on the track.

Jann of Piranha had taken to a bench on the far right of the room by the entrance to the showers and was attempting to clean off his helmet and respirator. Normally he would have let other people do it for him, but with all the sabotage going on, he felt it necessary to do it himself. As Carlos walked in, he visibly cringed. Daniel had instantly piped up, his loud, almost shrill yelling echoing in the tiled room. He almost envied the EG-R team for always being collected post-race by a team official as if they were precious objects, never having to set foot in the changing rooms.

"Carlos!" Daniel, who had finished his shower and was busy trying to keep his towel around his hips, marched forwards towards his teammate. "What the actual f**k was that about!?"

"Don't know what you're talkin' about." Carlos smirked and dumped all his equipment down carelessly, an official instantly springing on it to keep it from breaking from the fall.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about, you piece of s**t. You had plenty of targets out there to choose from, yet you chose me! I saw you! You followed me, you tracked me, you deliberately targeted me!" Daniel's hands flew up in a wild, dramatic gesture, only to go shooting back down again to catch his towel before it exposed something he really didn't want to at that moment.

"You think yer special?" Carlos laughed and folded his arms. "F***'s sake, you sound like I'm obsessed with ya!"

Roberto Sergio of G-Tech had also just finished in the shower and came marching out, closely followed by Franco and Omarr, and he overheard what Carlos was saying. "Well, you are."

His statement caused Carlos to shoot him a disgusted look. "Shut your hole, princess. No one asked you!"

Roberto just shrugged and returned to the large mirror beside Jann that he'd been using before his shower. "Not denying it, though. Hey, DJ!" He waved at Daniel. "Maybe he has a crush on you."

Daniel would have laughed, had his blood not been like magma in his veins. Instead he let out a loud huff and reached for a nearby towel to scrub at his hair.

"Just because you ain't fussy, doesn't mean everyone else swings that way." Carlos unzipped his inner suit and began to peel it off. "I wouldn't be interested in this skinny egomaniac if you paid me a quadrillion credits!"

Roberto just shrugged and returned to preening at his damp hair. He'd been subject to plenty of assumptions during his racing career and none of them bothered him at all. Carlos taunting him in such a way was just another supposed insult in a long line.

"Are you going to answer me, or not?" Daniel lowered the towel, his hair looking more like a porcupine after he'd scrubbed at it furiously. "What... The ****... Was that?!"

Carlos just ignored him and reached for a clean pair of underwear, before dropping his suit entirely, buck naked and not caring who looked. "Hey, Franco! You better have not left your god damn moustache trimmings in the shower again, you god damn b***ard!"

Franco shook his head. "Why, scared they might bite?"

"I'll bite you in a minute!"


"CARLOS!" Daniel threw the towel he'd been using for his hair at his teammate, only for Carlos to instantly throw it back twice as hard, almost sending him toppling backwards. "****!"

"What are you playing at!? Get off my d*** already!"

Roberto froze, then looked over at Franco who looked back and they both grinned widely at each other, before returning to what they were doing. That was too easy to make fun of. Low hanging fruit.

"You targeted me! You did that deliberately! It was my debut race and you ruined it!" Daniel threw the towel into the nearby basket and reached into his locker to get his clothing.

After letting out a smug sort of chuckle, Carlos tugged on his underwear, followed by his clothes. "Ah well. Some ya win, some ya lose, eh Danny boy?" With that, he turned and joined Omarr in heading for the post-race tests.

The entire room seemed to instantly decompress as he left, apart from the small space around Daniel which seemed to exude an aura of absolute rage.

Roberto moved over to the big-chinned pilot and handed him some of his hair care products as a sort of peace offering. "Don't think too much on it." Daniel took them without much protest or comment. He knew Roberto had good taste and he'd been wanting to try the wax he used for a while.

Franco nodded and moved closer, fully clothed and moustache neatly trimmed. "You knew he was gunning for you. You'll be able to get back into it. It's just one race!"

"Exactly!" Roberto offered Daniel the small comb that came with the wax. "Just one race! I know you had a lot of stuff to prove, but think of it this way... It'll be so satisfying blasting Carlos in the ass next race and showing you really deserve that lead pilot position."

Daniel sighed and warmed some wax up in his palms, mulling over what Roberto had just said. For a himbo, the guy was making a lot of sense. "I guess. Yeah, you're right."

Franco leaned in. "And just think. You could do SO well that they decide to kick him off the team entirely and replace him as second pilot!"

Daniel's lips curved into a small, sly sort of smirk as he smeared the wax onto his hair. Oh, now wouldn't that be quite something?


The next race wasn't for a whole week, which gave Daniel time to keep in shape, train and think strategically on how he wanted to grind Carlos into the dust. He had to admit, though, he was impatient. He wanted to get into his craft, onto that track and blow that smug piece of **** to kingdom come, but he had no choice but to wait and be patient. Ah yes, patience. How he wish he knew what that meant. He was not a patient person.

When he was called in to have a meeting with Xavier Menendez, the director of Feisar himself, he actually welcomed it. It was a good distraction, even if he ended up chewing him out for getting his rear handed to him. That was the only thing Daniel could think of that he wanted a meeting for. After all, it was not very often that a pilot was asked in for a meeting with the boss. Usually it was his underlings who dealt with everything. That, or race officials and delegates.

The meeting was to be held at the local Feisar human resources division branch which was near by. Feisar had a branch of one variety or another on every single European circuit and this was one of the larger locations. It was part of the sector that helped develop what they called 'organic resources'. In other words, a location for human education and processing. Or, as Daniel had begun to call it, the 'pilot factory'.

Inside they held families, willingly of course, generation after generation. Only the finest of specimens were chosen. They were rigorously screened, prodded, poked, had all kinds of tests and if they made the grade in they went! These humans were then subjected to a range of alterations. In a way, similar to genetic modification of plant life. Then they were housed within these large complexes as 'Feisar families'. They would then partner up and have families and, as soon as the resulting child could sit up, they would be educated in the 'Feisar way', the pinnacle of engineered and orchestrated breeding. As soon as they were able to walk, they were put through their paces, trained day in and day out, educated, groomed for service. It was thought that by doing so, Feisar would breed some of the best AG pilots and humans for other projects that they held in the world. And they hadn't been doing such a bad job, either!

Of course, there were regular, non-engineered humans who were allowed within the complex and, provided they passed their standards, they were allowed to join the elite in training and education, but the standards were extremely high. You either had to be really special, good looking, or offered Xavier Menendez foot pictures. Daniel was one of those chosen few. He and his family could have gone into the family genetic modification business, but his life took a surprising turn when he was scouted for the team. Something he was actually incredibly grateful for, despite the problems with Carlos.

As he reached the building, the company run automated transport vehicle hummed to a standstill and the side door hissed open. Daniel let out a sigh through his nose, as he slowly and carefully extended a leg out. Then the other. Once he had straightened up outside the vehicle, he peered up at the towering complex in front of him. It was huge. And wide. And oddly sterile. He shuddered a little, turned to swipe the back of his hand so his chip could be scanned and the vehicle slammed its door shut and hummed its way down the road.

"Well, let's see how bad I'm in trouble."

He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his red trousers and marched his way inside the gates. The chip in his hand allowed him instant access and the person who was on security didn't even bother to look up from his desk. The screen in front of him had shown Daniel's image, so the last thing he wanted to do was expend any extra energy on having to raise his head all the way up and offer a greeting. The data pad he was reading way WAY too interesting for such a waste.

Daniel looked at the signs. The message he had received had told him to meet Xavier in the 'overlook office'. "Where the **** is that?" He had no idea where to even look. There were no sign posts for it. Nothing! He supposed he could walk back to the desk and ask, but he saw the expression on the guard's face. He knew that expression all too well. It was a 'leave me alone, or else I'll jam my pen up your left nostril' expression. He'd worn it enough times himself.

He rounded a corner and came to a set of double doors. Big, heavy, metal double doors. They opened as he approached, so he assumed he was at least going in the right direction.

As the doors creaked open, the hydraulics protesting under the sheer weight of it, he was greeted by a sight that he was ill prepared for. People. Hundred and hundreds of people!

The room behind the double doors could hardly be called a room. It was more like an absolutely gigantic aircraft hangar, at least the size of an old world football stadium. Inside there were people of all ages and all genders or none, sections of the hangar were dedicated to separate things, all open plan. There was a section to the right of the double doors there were children who ranged from the youngest of babies all the way up to young teens. There were engine parts, partial Feisar craft, full size craft all sat dotted around and being worked on for educational purposes. Younger people stood to the right on podiums learning dance routines. The cheering section, Daniel mused to himself. Older people milled around, data pads clasped to their chests, voices echoed in one huge, skull pounding mess, the smell of fluids, grease, food and body odour all drifted and mingled. Daniel's stomach lurched and he was about to take a minute to try and recover from the sensation of being completely and utterly overwhelmed, when he caught sight of an office in the very back of the hangar. It was high up. It had a large mirrored window. It looked over the hangar. "The overlook office, I assume."

He made his way slowly forward, but it was then he noticed that it had gotten quiet. Too quiet. He slowed down until he came to a complete stop and looked around. Every single person had stopped and were now staring. Staring at him!

"Oh, uh..." He offered a wave. "Hello."

There was a sudden eruption of cheering and yelling and what could only be described as the shrieking of banshees, which were actually teenaged girls having a fainting attack.

Thankfully, it didn't take long for Xavier to take notice and he sent down a few guards to take control of the situation and keep everyone away from him, lest the new acquisition loose some of his hair, clothes, or body parts to his fans.

Daniel was rather hastily bundled up the metal steps to the office and virtually thrown through the doors, before the guards locked them behind him. He let out a shaky breath as he braced himself against the wall. He was fine with the attention. Absolutely. Hell, he loved it! But, that had not been expected and he hadn't been prepared. It was a close one. He could have been mobbed to death!

"Johnson. Are you feeling well?" Xavier wore a sarcastic smirk as he regarded the flustered man before him.

"What do you think?" Daniel's face was an interesting shade of pink and he felt as if he couldn't catch his breath. "I almost died!"

"Oh, don't be so dramatic! They wouldn't have laid a finger on you! They know better than to. We even briefed them all this morning. They sounded worse than they were." That was, of course, a bare faced lie. Not that he'd ever tell Daniel that.

"Oh, now you tell me! I was fearing for my life!" He swore, boss or no boss, if Xavier didn't stop grinning at him like he was stupid he would knock that moustache off his face. "My LIFE!"

"Johnson. You were fine. Suck it up. We have things to discuss." Xavier gestured to the chair in front of his desk. "Sit."

"With pleasure..." Daniel moved over and slumped into the clear plastic chair and rested one leg over the other. "What's the problem, boss?"

"Well..." Xavier sat down and leafed absent-mindedly through a few stacks of data pads, before he produced three pads with pictures and names. He held onto them and looked back at the pilot in front of him. "This is about your first race."

Oh ****. It WAS about that. What if those data pads held his replacement? Was he being fired?

"Listen, Sir. I can explain about-"

Xavier raised his free hand and cut him off mid-sentence. "No need. I know very well what Carlos is like. I have had to put up with him and his attitude for a long time now." He shuffled the pads into an order that seemed more pleasing to him. "The reason I wanted to discuss it is because I want your opinion on something."

The boss was asking for his opinion? What was going on? What was the catch? Daniel narrowed his eyes. "OK, shoot."

"I would like to preface this with the fact that we have no problems with you and Carlos' little... Rivalry. In fact, it's a good thing. You are making us a lot of money. More people watch when there's something juicy to get their teeth into. So, that is not the issue."

"Gee, thanks. OK, then what is it?"

"The subject of Carlos' retirement has been brought up in board meetings."

"...Ah." S***, Franco was right! Was he psychic, or something!? Daniel stared at his boss in silence. He knew very well that Carlos would not like that one bit. Not only had Daniel taken his position, but now the boss gunning for his retirement? That could make him a whole lot more dangerous. He would have nothing to lose. "What's this got to do with me, sir?"

Xavier finally spread the data pads out in front of him. On them were one woman and two men. "Training."

"Training?" Daniel leaned forward and stared down at the three individuals, one after the other. "I'm sorry, I don't follow."

Xavier pointed to the first data pad. "Finnegan 'Finn' Lang. 21. High aptitude scores on the initial 3 tests. Aced the simulations. A little weak of stomach, though. He struggles, even with the basic pressure suits." He pointed to the next. "Rachel 'Rae' Prince. 23. A little older than most potential candidates, however she has shown real skill in the simulations and tests. Scared to use weapons, however. I think she just lacks racing experience due to the trainer in charge of her drills being injured." Finally, he pointed to the last pad. "Wendell 'Reaper' Johansson. 20. Well built, strong, he wouldn't look out of place in a Tigron craft. He, like the others, did well in the simulations and tests, but he is hot-headed. reckless. Holds deep grudges. We aren't sure where his temper is coming from, but he looks to be one to go far if he could keep hold of that temper."

Daniel stared down at the pads, noting each of them by appearance. Finnegan was gangly thin looking in the face, dark red hair curly, a face speckled with freckles and deep green eyes. Rachel had a round face, light brown-blonde hair tied into a pony tail and light blue eyes. Finally, Wendell had dark skin, long white hair and angular, yet angry features with very dark coloured eyes. "I still don't think I'm following."

Xavier let out a frustrated sigh. "Let me put this plainly so you can understand. Carlos."









It took a second, but as soon as it clicked Daniel's eyes widened in a look of both shock and sheer terror. "Me!?"

"Yes, you!"

"No. No way. That's what you have trainers for!"

"True. We do employ a vast array of trainers. You even encountered some on the floor down there." Xavier moved to the large window overlooking the hangar and rubbed his moustache as he watched the trio of potentials line up below.

"Why should I do it? What makes you think I have a single teaching bone in my body? No." Daniel leaped to his feet in protest. The old man had lost it. This wasn't part of his contract. he'd have words with... Someone, damn it!

Xavier laughed to himself. "I had a feeling you'd say that." He gestured for him to join him by the window and Daniel reluctantly obliged. He looked down at the trainees below as Xavier pointed at them one by one. "Just look at them. Ripe and ready. Just imagine what they could be capable of!"

Daniel's face only offered a look of sheer disinterest, which made Xavier hook an arm around his shoulders. "IMAGINE!"

"Oh, I'm imagining alright. I'm imagining one of them stealing lead pilot off of me and me becoming Carlos. I might wake up one morning bald!"

Xavier let out another laugh, this time coupled with an extra tight squeeze around the pilot's shoulders. "Ever the dramatic one, aren't you Johnson. I like that about you. Drama creates media attention and media attention makes us money! Which is precisely why I want you to train these three potentials. The media coverage would send our popularity through the stratosphere! Think about it! The rookie who shot to lead pilot position in record time at a young age is the one training the next Feisar pilot!" He moved his hands as if reading a headline.

Daniel just stared at him even more dubiously. Media coverage he liked, but the extra effort sounded like a waste of his time.

"I can see it now! Daniel Johnson, racing prodigy trains the next generation of pilots!" Xavier let go of Daniel's shoulders and moved to the desk to take the data pads. "I won't take no for an answer."


"Johnson! Do you want me to tell the media about your little... Mishap with the company vehicle and the pickle that one evening?" Xavier lifted an extra data pad which showed Daniel in a rather compromising, yet fully unintentional position inside the vehicle, naked with a pickle somehow lodged in a rather delicate looking area.

"WH..." A sound emitted from his mouth instead of words and he sounded like a cat being played like bagpipes. "SIR! NO! Where did... No one told me there were cameras in the vehicle!"

Xavier tapped the side of his nose. "There are cameras in every single one. You should know I like to protect my interests!"

"You dirty, rotten..."

"Ah-ah, Johnson. Do not forget I am your boss." Xavier waggled his finger, before marching over and thrusting the three data pads into the pilot's now shaky hands. "You wouldn't want your career to be the shortest in history, would you?" The threat was empty. Xavier knew Daniel was the gold mine he'd been searching for for years and he'd be damned if he let him go over a few insults. "Now, let's go meet the recruits."


Chapter 3

Trainee Trouble

Xavier lead Daniel out of the office and down the metal stairs to the hangar floor so that they could get on with his plan. The three hopefuls were all lined up next to a couple of assistants and were fidgeting. Wendell was trying to tell one of the assistants to back away. His personal bubble was being invaded and he was not standing for it. Finnegan was leaning in towards Rachel, whispering nervously in her ear as Xavier approached. It was only when Daniel stepped up beside him that all 3 realised that he was there and they stopped mid-sentence, eyes wider than saucers.

"Ah. Good good." Xavier rung his hands together as he looked them over, completely disregarding their stunned silence. At least they weren't acting like lunatic fans. "Very good. Yes. Fine specimens!"

Daniel just stayed silent and regarded all three of them with a measure of scepticism. He was still not happy with the proposition that his boss had offered to him. It wasn't even a proposition, it was an order. It wasn't as if he had a choice! Wendell scoffed as Daniel made eye contact and rolled his eyes. "F*****' fantastic..."

"What was that?" Xavier looked over to him and raised a brow.

"Are we s'posed to be bowing and frothin' at the mouth because he's here?" He gestured to Daniel with a nod, who furrowed his brow and took a slight step back.

"Johnson is here for a reason."

"If that reason was to make me wanna introduce the floor to my dinner, then mission accomplished." Wendell folded his arms. He hated Daniel's popularity. It almost felt as if the man had risen purely on luck to him. Of course, he was talented, not that he'd ever acknowledge that fact, but to become lead pilot before earning it? Something stunk.

"Hey." Daniel took a step forward, returning to his former position and stabbed a finger out at Wendell. "I don't like this situation as much as you don't."

Wendell just scoffed, before Finnegan meekly piped up. "What situation is this anyway?"

Xavier chuckled. "I'm glad you asked, young Lang. There are plans in motion within the team to make some serious changes. As such we are looking at developing a brand new second pilot."

Rachel furrowed her brow in confusion. "Forgive me, sir, but... That's Carlos Beneto's job."

"It is." Xavier nodded thoughtfully, before brushing his thumb and forefinger over his moustache. "For now."

A loud grunt emanated from Wendell's throat. "For now? You ****ing him off already? Christ, talk about cut throat!"

"The plan is to train you up in reserve. We need as many capable pilots as possible, all primed ready to hit the track as soon as possible if needed."

"And what's the pretty boy gotta do with it?" Wendell gestured to Daniel. Normally, Daniel would have taken offense, but being called a 'pretty boy' didn't seem to hit him as hard as he thought.

Xavier reached over and hooked his arm around Daniel's shoulder again and squished him against his side. "Johnson here will be training you personally."

There was a deathly long and uncomfortable silence, followed by an eruption of laughter from Wendell. "You gotta be sh*****' me. What makes you think this bouffanted fruit could teach us? He's only just got to the team! Hell, he even lost his first race of the league!"

Xavier stomped his foot, his voice booming suddenly. "You will be training under him and that is final!" It appeared as if he had finally lost his patience. "If you don't like it, I am sure you can find work as an AG-trolley park attendant!" He thrust the data pads that he'd carried with him into Daniel's hands and marched off, leaving the trainees with him in an awkward silence. The tension in the air was so thick Daniel thought he was about to suffocate, but thankfully someone spoke and cut it in two.

"I... I'm sure you are more than qualified. Right?" Finnegan's eyes darted between Daniel and Rachel, completely avoiding Wendell lest he combust on the spot. "The boss wouldn't have set this up otherwise."

Daniel couldn't help but feel somewhat boosted by the man's comment and a slight swelling sensation filled his chest.

"Exactly. Menendez knows what he's doing." Rachel frowned over to Wendell. "You really need to stop arguing with your superiors. Do you want to keep your job?"

"Superiors?!" Wendell scoffed. "These people are no more superior than the dust under my boots. Don't make me laugh!" He turned and scowled intensely at Daniel. "You may be lead pilot, but you'll see. One day I'll be lead and you'll be kissin' MY ass." He stormed his way off, not even caring if the man retorted. He didn't need to hear it. He'd said his piece.

"Lovely man." Daniel shook his head at the pair in front of him. He really wanted to chase after him and argue some more. Maybe pull him up about his terrible hair care routine, or something. But he thought better of it. He already had the league to stress about and now this other task. He didn't need anything extra on top.

"Sorry about Wendell." Rachel sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "He's an asshole. We really don't know why he's kept around. I guarantee if it was me making all this stink I'd be out on my ass by now."

Finnegan nodded. "It's only because of his talent. People put up with it, because they see his use."

"Well, I don't like this situation either. I didn't ask for this." Daniel looked down at the pads and then back up at the two people in front of him. The likenesses were obviously pretty recent, as they looked exactly like their pictures. "I genuinely don't get why the boss is piling this on me. Hell, why not shove this on Carlos? Especially if..." He stopped himself. He didn't want to stir things more. He knew talking about the potential Carlos booting in public could be dangerous. He was already surprised that Xavier had done it so openly.

Rachel held out her hand. "Regardless. It's nice to finally meet you."

Daniel shook her hand, then Finnegan offered his hand too with an excited smile. "You probably have no idea, but so many of us look up to you." The green in his eyes seemed to almost glint brighter. "Me included, it's great to meet you!"

This, of course, only boosted Daniel's ego. He could listen to that all day. In fact, he couldn't help the smile that spread across his face. "Well, I mean..." He tried to mumble humbly, but it just came off more as smug.

An assistant swooped in and reached for the data pads, while the other began to bundle Daniel away from the duo. Meet and greet was over, Daniel assumed. Feisar certainly were protective of their pilots. The assistant with the pads looked at the pair and listed off some of their stats quickly, before turning to Daniel. "Training will begin promptly."

"Surely not while I'm racing in the league! That's..." He struggled a little against the other assistant leading him away rather roughly. The assistant just nodded, which only made Daniel begin to flail. "That's... Just... Ngh... Slave labour! I won't have it! I will speak to my union rep!"

"You don't have a union rep."

"I'll speak to my trainer!"

"Yeah, he has no authority."

"I'll... Speak to my cleaner!"

Rachel and Finnegan watched as the man was ushered quickly out of the hangar, glanced at each other in shock and made their way back to their posts.


Carlos was p***ed off. But that was nothing new. He had taken a seat in the bar a few blocks away from the Feisar complex. He knew he shouldn't be drinking during league season. But he also knew he didn't give one flying AG-****. He'd been in the game far too long and had frequented bars between races for far too long. The urine and blood tests always seemed to come back fine, no matter how much he drank. Perks of paying off the test people. He swilled the contents of his glass, the ice tinkling against the sides. He needed a plan. A way of getting even. Hell, the satisfaction of ramming that plasma bolt up Daniel's tail pipe was short lived. He needed to solve the main problem of him taking his position.

Just as he was about to take a sip, the door swished open and in walked Wendell, his face like thunder as he slapped down a hand on the bar. "Selcrine and make it a triple."

The bartender obliged with his request. The sharpness of the customer didn't phase him at all. He's had much worse. After he'd poured the clear liquid into the glass, he reached over and scanned Wendell's hand chip, before turning to serve the next customer. Wendell took his drink and sniffed at it. It was not the highest grade, but he didn't care. It would do. It was as he was taking a sip that he noticed Carlos in the corner and he slowly made his way over, plonked in the seat opposite and sipped his drink.

Carlos sat in silence, giving him a strange sort of look. Who was this guy? What made him think he could just mosey over and sit with him? "The **** do you want?"

"I think we have a mutual interest."

Carlos downed his drink and gestured for another. "Heh. What makes you think you know anythin' about me?" He glanced down to see the Feisar logo peeking out a little from under the man's brown trench coat. "Rookie."

"I know plenty. Like how much you hate Johnson." Wendell took another sip of his drink and winced from the burning sensation that ran down his throat.

Well, that was something pretty damn obvious. This guy had come over to his table just to say he knew he hated Daniel? What a waste of time and air! "And? This better be goin' somewhere. I don't share my table with anyone."

Wendell lowered his glass. "I know you want to be rid of him."

Carlos leaned in with a scowl. "Shh, do you want the whole ****n' world to hear you? Shut the **** up!"

"I'm just sayin'. So do I. And I think I would like to assist you in your goal."

After reaching a hand up and running it over the dome of his head, Carlos reclined back into his seat. "I'm listenin'. Whatcha got?"

"First of all, I want to ascertain how much you know about Xavier's plans for you. What has he said? What is your strategy for this season?"

"Kid, I don't have time for this." The bartender walked over and placed down the ordered drink, before walking back to serve another customer. "If you have somethin' to say, say it. And for your information, not that it's any of your god damn business, he's told me nothin'. Squat. All I gotta do is just win races."

Wendell let out a sigh and furrowed his brow. "Christ, they didn't even tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"Xavier plans on replacing you. I don't know when or how, but he's training up 3 potential recruits. And Johnson is the one who will be personally overseeing their training."

Carlos was just taking a sip from his drink and he ended up inhaling it with shock. He rammed his fist against his chest as he coughed and spluttered from the burn of the alcohol down his windpipe. "What!?"

"Xavier gathered them all together earlier on and made his plans known. He asked Johnson to train the recruits. He said somethin' about having reserves too. **** knows what he's really planning, but it definitely sounds like if these trainees do well, you are out."

Carlos slammed his glass down, then thought better of his volume. The last thing he wanted was for people to listen in. It was already embarrassing enough that he'd been pushed down a peg by the grinning swimwear model in the first place, let alone being booted out entirely! "The **** I am! If that old man thinks I'm going to be takin' this lying down, then he's got another thing comin'!"

"That's why I came to you. I can't ****in' stand him either."

"What' your damage? It's not like he's done squat to you. What's your interest in this?"

"Well, he's the one training me."

Carlos's eyebrows raised, then formed a line across his forehead. "You? You're one of the trainees?"

Wendell nodded. "Indeed."

"Right. But... The **** makes you care? I know damn well that you aren't doing this just for me out of the goodness of your heart."

"I just hate him. Can't stand the sight of him. Everything he stands for, everything he does. The fact that he's idolised by so many and yet seems to have done so little to earn it. Not like you. You've been racing for the team for years!"

"Damn right!" Carlos folded his arms across his chest. The kid was talking his language and so what if it was flattery of a kind? It had been so long since anyone had offered any kind of flattery to him. He was going to take all he could get! "Guy wins a few minor leagues and in he swans with that smug ****in' grin all over his big-chinned face!" Had he not been in a bar, he would have spat to make his point, but he liked the bar. It was a cosy little hideaway from the cretins at Feisar and he didn't want to get barred from it. "So, what exactly are you thinkin'? Because I know you didn't come here just to trade bitching."

Wendell nodded and finished his drink in one gulp. Something he regretted on hindsight, as his lungs now burned and it took him a moment to be able to collect himself to respond. "I'm sure we can put our heads together somehow and figure out a way of fixing our... Mutual problem. I will, of course, be working VERY closely with him."

Carlos couldn't help the sly grin that spread across his face.