All I can say is AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! AAAAAAAAHHHH!!!
But that's over a hundred pages in the future.
After a half-hour nap or break Heller turns on his radio, giving the reader a lot of italicized text to go through. There's information about which driver is getting which pit, an interview with one of those "bomber" drivers, a snippet of humor where an old man is brought in to compare the current blizzard with those of eighty years ago, and even a little "were you paying attention?" moment where the announcer mentions that there's a busload of spectators from Jackson High School. Remember waaay back in the beginning of Book Two, when Heller was shopping for clothes and he picked up some surplus clothing from a high school? Clothes he picked because they shared the same initials?
On the one hand it's heartening that the author had the foresight or attention to detail to include such a little continuity nod. On the other hand it's astounding that he expects the readers to keep track of such a minor detail from two books ago. The only reason I remember it is because I wrote it down in a blog post. Maybe he expected us to take notes.
Two hours pass with Heller just sitting in his car, while Gris just sits in his van, watching Heller sit in his car without so much as wondering what Heller was up to, much less getting up to use the bathroom or growing bored and opening a magazine. There's more hilarity as a weather report sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce mentions the "warm and sultry breezes of Miami Beach." But finally at nine in the morning, there's an important announcement over the racetrack loudspeakers - due to the terrible conditions, the "bomber" drivers have refused to race without spikes or chains. The crowd uproar is immediate, causing the announcer to hastily declare that all rules about spikes and chains are now suspended.
Which is exactly what Heller was waiting for.
Heller muttered, "That's what I've been waiting for."
Heller finally drives into the racetrack and enters the pit, and Gris' heart sinks as he recognizes Mike Mutazione and others from Jiffy-Spiffy Garage, the same guys who refurbished the Caddy, as Heller's crew. Good for him, because otherwise I'd have to look the name up on a character sheet. He hands over the Sack of Dead Thugs' IDs and asks Mike to hide it somewhere, then breaks out his secret weapon for the race: spiked metal wheels, "internally braced steel donuts" with both grooves and spikes for traction.
What is it with Hubbard and cleats in this novel? His hero wears them all the time, uses them to kill people, and now he's putting them on his car. Why does this need to happen? Why can't there not be a blizzard and Heller runs the race in normal tires?
Well, there's another special feature about these wheels - the alien carburetor Heller is using creates more energy than it expends as fuel, so he's wired things to ground the electricity in the metal wheels. Sure, sounds logical. Metal conducts electricity, and the wheels touch the ground, so everything should be fine. (I'm taking refuge in the written word's difficulty to convey sarcasm, so if this is legit I can sound like I approve, while if it's bogus obviously I know about it and am laughing).
And the inspectors have to allow it because they just suspended the normal rules, right. The weird thing is that they aren't at all weirded out by the spiked electro-wheels, but are instead only interested in whether or not there's a motor hidden in there. Not that they check, they're happy to accept Heller's word on the matter.
...Hey, did Heller have to ground his wheels when he was testing the car earlier? I don't remember any mention of it, or of a dangerous static build-up. Hmm.
Gris is a little thrown by this twist, but reasons that even if the metal wheels won't blow like a normal tire, a sniper round will still gouge them up something awful. As Heller moves into position behind the starting line, he radios someone with the callsign of Fancy-Dancy, but Gris decides it's one of the pit crew and disregards the message.
"Bye-bye, Heller," I said. Oh, how I was going to enjoy watching this (bleepard) fail! Him and his stinking, snobbish Fleet officer manners and ways! His lousy popularity was about to go up in smoke!
Assuming you don't miscalculate and the sniper ends up killing him in a car crash, resulting in fresh attention towards Mission Earth and your probable execution by your vengeful boss. Or that your snipers don't screw up and Heller wins anyway.
Also, when did Mission Earth become about Heller's popularity? Wasn't there something about an alien invasion and clean energy technology? But I guess the important thing is how many people like Jettero Heller.
Back to Chapters Two and Three