All the demo derby drivers decide to... damn, can't figure out a way to keep the alliteration going. Well, they gang up on Heller and get in a little formation that forces Heller to try to shoot through a gap between their cars. It, of course, doesn't work.
The gap for Heller was wide open and inviting.
He was apparently just going to go through again.
The bombers began to back! They would hit him!
He suddenly stamped on his brakes and gave his steering wheel a yank to the left!
He spun in a complete circle!
The bombers crashed into each other!
Heller wasn't there!
He came out of his spin and gunned his engine and streaked by, almost scraping the grandstand barricade!
He had gone behind them! He had used a lane just vacated!
The crowd howled with joy!
I'm wondering what a high school English teacher would say if I got a student to turn in an excerpt from Mission Earth as a creative writing exercise.
It is at this point that something unexpected happens: Heller's engine abruptly dies as he comes out of a turn. He tries to coast through the enemy drivers but is slowed by the rough, icy track so that he ends up approaching the "bomber" driver formation at only twenty miles per hour. Predictably, they pounce on him, trapping the Caddy in a pile-up. Heller notices that his car's hood is now glowing red-hot, pops his seatbelt, says "Good-bye, you Cadillac Brougham Coup d'Elegance. It wasn't your fault!", and then bails out of the vehicle, hopping from roof to roof as he flees towards the pit. He urges the other drivers to run too, but the two that manage to get out of the tangle try to run him over instead.
Sure enough, the hydrogen and oxygen tanks fueling Heller's car explode, shooting flames into the air and scaring off most of the other drivers. But the two going after Heller converge on him in a pincher attack. Heller somehow pushes off against their hoods with his hands, launching himself up to roll over the hood of one car to land safely on the icy track while the two "bomber" cars have a fiery crash of their own.
So I'm curious - how does slapping an incoming car with your hands negate the impact of a multi-ton vehicle? Because regardless of where it's hitting you, the car is still hitting you. I guess this is another case of Heller's superior Voltarian physiology, specifically his adamantine wrists.
End Chapter Nine. Chapter Ten starts with the announcers reporting the Whiz Kid's sudden stop. Meanwhile one surviving "bomber" pilot manages to get his rolling wreck going and works on completing the race.
The crowd goes nuts, but in a bad way. With cries of "That God (bleeped) Whiz Kid cost us our shirts!" they rush the pit intent on tearing Heller limb-from-limb. Heller makes an obscure reference to one chapter two books ago by muttering "Just like it said in Hakluyt's Voyages. Very hard to make a safe landing amongst the natives of North America!"
As the mob descends "like a storm cloud gone crazy" and smashes through racetrack security, Mike shouts "Now!" before he and the rest of the pit crew grab a dozen oxyacetylene hoses and spray a cloud of fire over the heads of the mob.
I've tried to make sense of this with the help of Wikipedia, and from their article on the subject it sounds like oxyacetylene fuel sources are used for welding torches. I had no idea that stuff was in the pits of racetracks, or that a welding torch is capable of producing a "fan of fire" at a range of over twenty feet. And since the article throws around numbers like 6000 degrees Fahrenheit for the temperature of these kinds of flames, I am awestruck that this counts as a nonlethal crowd deterrent. Even if the energy was dispersed over a large cloud, you're still looking at flash burns at least.
But nope, the cloud of fire succeeds in scaring the mob off, enough so that some of them are knocked down and trampled during the panic. But don't worry, everyone who fell over got back up again and ran off safely, the author said so. And nobody caught fire or anything. After all, Mike had evidently planned this.
Aaaand that's the race.
Hammer Malone's old wreck staggered past the grandstands and wrecked cars and knocked along, working to complete his thousand laps.
But the race was over for the crowd. They were going home.
Of course they're leaving, a lunatic pit crew is using industrial equipment as flamethrowers!
So. Against all odds, Heller lost. He has failed... in his mission to... win a race? How'd we come to this again? When did he decide that the best way to introduce his new carburetor was on a racetrack? Why didn't he hand off the blueprints to a think-tank or car company? And how does losing this publicity stunt foil his mission?
Heller's lost, but it's not quite clear what he's lost. It's a defeat that's only tangentially related to his actual goal. So it's hard to feel like any of this actually matters.
Back to Part Twenty-Nine, Chapters Seven and Eight