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Magic is the shade of gray inside the clouds that traverse the sky beyond the windshield in impossible silence, made structures of cold crystalline edges in my vision by the rush of adrenalin-pumped senses burning sugars out of my blood into sweat and heat.

Eight seconds before physics shakes its head and gently revokes my hall pass.

Although the seat is shuddering behind/beneath me, I cannot feel it. I can only know it. Sweat is pouring off my forehead and temples in a spray; the byproducts of unsustainable crisis consumption in my body leaching precious water as emergency coolant. The Lotus is crying in its rage around me, with me, now. Were I to look to my left, I would see metal, rust and dirt sliding past in a storm of disturbed grit and billowing junk. No time. No time. The magic locks my eyes. I know the car's pain and rage as it tells me about its struggle in the shudder of the yoke, the slight but even more telling shimmer in the boost collective. Somewhere in the world there is the sound of a 9mm round bisected against the edge of a thousand-year-old wakizashi - a stone has struck one of the lift fans now raging to burn down my forward vector as they scream against the oncoming wall of air. Brief moment of humble prayer to stave off the demon FOD.

Six seconds left of unknown dispensation.

Grey is sliced from my view by darkness, hard-edged and brutal. Noise returns to my awareness as the acoustics wring a deafening distortion-based ripple from the roaring around me and the Lotus slides beneath the ancient highway bridge, still miraculously balanced on its rear turbine thrust with its lift fans' note rising as their blade pitch fines out, thrust dropping and speed rising. Instinct and quantum luck rule my left foot sliding the lift collective down its track, matching the deceleration started some seven seconds earlier by brutally yanking the nose of the car skyward to force its lift and the full shape of its underside against the momentum of six hundred kph of forward flight.

Light drops down underneath the bridge. The car has started to spin slowly. I can't do anything about that now, and it could work out for the best.

Just as I lose sight of the clouds, there is an eye-tearing burst of light and noise as four lawcraft rocket past overhead. Long trails of flame and vapor protrude from emergency braking rockets in their noses and curl back over and beneath chunky armored hulls. Their formation, once a perfect computer-controlled finger four, has begun to disintegrate. I have time to wonder if they have been dumped to manual in an attempt to stay with me, or if their carcomps have begun safety maneuvers to keep them from colliding due to one or more of them attempting to brake before it's too late and the bridge takes them from my view.

The bellowing of the fans has dropped off to a multitimbral whine of fully fined blades and the roar of fullburn boost out the back, blue flame washing off the old cracked tarmac beneath the car's rear to ignite forgotten petrochemicals stored in the roadbed in long orange flares washing out around me. I'm almost stationary, now, and it's time - Even with the gyroscopics from the fans, the Lotus can't stay vertical much longer. Weed-choked sculptures of of rust-striated metal fill the windshield, the underside of the bridge throwing photons back. The carcomp screams against the overrides, scarlet petals blooming on displays filling the cabin with their frustrated anger.

Two seconds.

Feeling is all I have. The nose starts to wobble as stability imparted by velocity evaporates. Before it can twist, I blip the rear fans to kick the back out and cram the lift collective back upwards, twisting my foot; the front fans come fully up slightly before the rear so that the nose falling forwards is counterbalanced by their earlier impulse. The Lotus falls back flat as I yank my left hand back and cut turbines. Dirt billows out to extinguish the flames as the fan blades, already spinning near their maximum velocity, twist slightly to bite the air and grab. The computer, tested to its limits, juggles the fans and somehow manages to keep any of the car's corners from hitting pavement. I pull all my hands and feet off control and slam my palm down on AUTOSTABLE. Released from bondage and handed a mostly-stationary vehicle, the carcomp instantly pulls the Lotus into a perfect hover beneath the bridge, pointed at right angles to my previous direction of travel.

I look out my window.

A kilometer or so downlane, the four lawcraft are finally getting themselves sorted out. They're much larger than the Lotus, and the carcomp helpfully informs me that they're pissed, as well. Freqs are alive with all manner of warnings and threats both electronic and human. Laserlumes and plain old spots are training back along their flightpath as they try to figure out where I went. They saw me go under the bridge, of course, but they're still looking along the lane to see where I came out the other side.

I give them a tight grin and turn to look out the windshield again.

Magic is the dark blackness, pierced by my front lasers, that hides the empty lost railway tunnel from my eyes.

Hands onto the yoke. Feet onto the pedals. Switch the hat to translate.

"Hey, car."

"Online."

"I got it."

"Manual controls released."

Right hand to the main boost lever. Advance. Advance. Advance.

Blue flame. In the dark.

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Written while under the influence of The Chemical Brothers and Darth on a decent highway, for no good reason.

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