Chapter 2

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Anakin


"Hey Deebu, how's my dust taste back there, buddy?" Anakin teased, as he vectored his anti-grav brakes towards the lip of a hairpin turn. The anti-grav brakes repelled the lip of the wall as Anakin raced towards it, helping Anakin flip around the turn at maximum velocity.

The key to the anti-grav slip maneuver was to aim both the thrust and brake precisely. Do it wrong and you go flying off the course or into a wall. Flying instructors typically didn't teach this technique; Anakin picked this one up from the holosims.

"It'd smell better if you ever washed your speeder." Deebu retorted. Anakin saw Deebu attempt the same maneuver in the rearview vid, but Deebu overcompensated on the brakes, falling further behind.

"Heh. Why don't you catch up and tell that to my face?" Anakin neared the O-rings section, and the floating rings appeared on his heads up display, trailing into the horizon like an electronic, twisting cornucopia. He could ace the stationary version of the course, so Anakin flipped to the veteran level, and the rings started to oscillate in hard to predict patterns. He might miss a few, but he'd still tunnel through enough to destroy Deebu's score.

Deebu didn't reply. As Anakin expected, Deebu stayed on the standard O-ring course, quickly catching up to him. Anakin smiled to himself; Deebu probably thought he had a chance to win the race on points. Exiting the final curve of the race into the straightaway, they both hit maximum throttle to the finish line.

Both Anakin and Deebu swung down off their E-77s, exchanging mocking smiles. "Rodia to Anakin - you've just been owned!" Deebu waived his green suckered hand in front of Anakin's face.

A shrill, but familiar, droid's voice rang in Anakin and Deebu's ear. "Anakin. Deebu. Your scores."

Anakin and Deebu turned around, facing TCH-34, their instructor droid. TCH-34 was surprisingly laconic for an instructor droid. TCH-34 insisted that this was the right way about it - you walked away only with what you needed to know.

"Deebu. 95% accuracy on the O-rings." Deebu nudged his friend in the ribs and smiled. TCH-34 continued, "Focus on your fundamentals. Your move on the hairpin turn was reckless and cost you time. Final score: 435."

TCH-34 turned his chromed head to Anakin. Anakin knew the droid had nothing like human emotion, but he worked hard to get under TCH-34's metal skin. Based on the time he had spent at the course, the anti-grav slip maneuver he pulled on the hairpin turn was sure to merit at least a passing lecture.

"Anakin. Flamboyance is for holosims. You struggled on the advanced O-ring course. It requires maneuvers you have not yet mastered. Final score: 509." TCH-34 paused for a moment, and then said "Your flying lessons are over. Dismissed."

Anakin sniffed his own shirt deeply. "Hey Deebu, you smell that?"

Deebu replied sulkily, "Nah."

Anakin grinned. "It's the smell of victory."

"Some of us don't get to fly their grandpa's starship every summer," Deebu retorted, as he made a loop out of left index finger and thumb, shoved his arm through it, and waved his hand in front of Anakin. This was a Rodian's colorful way of metaphorically smearing feces in the face of his opponent. "Let's head back so you can shower that stench off," Deebu said.

The time stamp at the corner of Anakin's vision caught his attention. 11:00 hours. There were still 18 hours left in the day, but he felt edgy. He could swear he had something to do soon, but he couldn't remember what. So he thumbed up his virtual assistant, Sheila, from the holocommunicator on his wrist.

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