The drivers of the waiting cars all simultaneously revved their engines. A thundering sound like an earthquake arose as they all roared at once.
Minho’s excitement increased with the anticipation of finally having his second relic.
‘I guess it’s a qualification test where I have to pass all the cars in front?’
Minho carefully looked ahead and counted the number of cars.
A total of ten. They were sleek cars that looked fast. In the back window of each was a cameraman and it seemed like they were there to capture some realistic footage of the cars being overtaken.
“But what movie is this?”
[It’s a film that was never released.]
The unknown artificial intelligence on the radio that called itself Bumpety Boo replied in its monotone mechanical voice.
“It’s a production of this scale but it wasn’t able to be released?”
The camera trucks on either side began to move. They drove off the road and into the desert to film from a distance. As the cars set off in ones and twos, Bumpety Boo spoke again.
[Maintain the starting RPM at 5,500.]
“Bumpety Boo, I have a license but I don’t really drive.”
[The deficiency in driving technique will be forcibly compensated until the end of filming.]
The gear shift clicked and moved into first gear.
Rather than actually driving, if this was as difficult as a simple racing game that would be plenty.
Minho pressed on the accelerator and warmed up the engine by increasing and decreasing the RPM, pretending to be a professional racer. The cars in front of him accelerated in an instant and took off.
[5, 4, 3, 2…….]
Bumpety Boo began the count down.
Minho felt the compression as if his entire body were being buried in the seat as the tires spun on the dry road. The gear shift automatically moved 2-3-4 and the car reached its highest speed in a few seconds.
Minho who wasn’t used to that pressure took his foot off the gas, but the acceleration was maintained by Bumpety Boo’s forcible compensation.
As the acceleration let up, the speedometer needle’s inertia held it fast against the 12 o’clock position. Minho could finally breathe.
‘That compression is no joke.’
The car sped down the desert road and soon reached the first car that it had to surpass. It was running below its top speed and wouldn’t have any trouble passing, but the other car wasn’t giving it any room.
Minho turned the steering wheel left and right looking for an opening but the other car skillfully blocked him.
[Follow in the path of the front car and maintain a two meter distance.]
Minho was at a loss, but Bumpety Boo’s golden words of help came. He followed tightly behind the front car that held to the middle of the straight road.
“Is this good?”
The deafening sounds of the engine and the road lessened, and he could feel the lead car blocking the wind and making it easier for him.
He felt more power in the engine as the car’s shaking stabilized.
[Corner 120 meters ahead.]
Up ahead the road curved to the right around a gradual slope. The lead driver tapped the brakes a few times to decelerate and hugged the inside of the curve.
Minho tried to decelerate following him. But what the–? The brake pedal was being forcibly compensated and didn’t budge a bit. The steering wheel was fixed as well and didn’t move to the right.
It was a suicidal speed that ignored the common sense of decelerating when turning a corner. The car closed in on the corner in that state.
Minho wouldn’t have guessed that, even outside of reality in a relic’s test, he could have his life flash before his eyes. The memories of 24 years passed through his mind like a dream and disappeared.
The car nosed into the small gap between the lead car and the edge of the road and finally braked.
As Minho instinctively turned the steering wheel, he felt the compression pull him to one side and he was sure that he would have catapulted out like a rocket if it weren’t for the seat belt.
In the space of a breath the gearshift moved 5-4-3 like lightning. Minho’s eyes grew wide in shock as the car turned the corner in a gliding movement, sticking close to the line.
With outstanding drift control over the subgrade with minimal friction, he passed not only that car but also the car in front of it that had just finished turning the corner.
[Prepare for the next corner. 150m ahead.]
“I might die of a heart attack like this!”
[You won’t die.]
At Bumpety Boo’s calm response Minho glared at the radio, but of course a machine wouldn’t have a face. Either way he had no choice but to depend on Bumpety Boo for the next overtake so he just kept quiet and went along with it.
‘It’s not that simple.’
He had his game playing skills, but that didn’t change what he felt in the driver’s seat. And on top of that, if the other drivers’ driving was normal then this car’s driving was a stunt in itself.
Minho didn’t even have the energy to look at the surroundings that passed in a blur. He could only concentrate on the car in front of him.
‘Stay sharp!’ Minho kept close to the car ahead and aimed to pass it, but breathed in deeply when he saw the next curve bending to the left.
“That’s too sharp of a turn.”
[Increase the speed.]
“Not decrease it?”
[Just pay attention on the overtake.]
Minho felt the back of his head growing tense as he heard the monotone mechanical voice that didn’t suit this intense driving.
Just as he was closing in on the corner–
Minho kept pressure on the brake that was being forcibly compensated. It was pushed all the way down. He felt a dizziness from the cornering that was as intense as a roller coaster.
This was a different kind of experience that left him stunned, without even the energy to scream.
‘That was better than the first time. It’s just a realistic game. Don’t wuss out!’
He overtook that car right away and now there were only seven cars left.
[ Wait for the braking point. Get used to feeling it through your back against the seat.]
“What does that mean?”
[If your head isn’t so good just feel it with your body.]
[The brake won’t be forcibly compensated the next time.]
“What? That’s not what you promised!”
But he had no choice but to do it. The treasure that was equal to the brilliant relics in his father’s safe was right in front of his eyes!
Cornering without the car’s enhancement started with the next corner and continued on the corner after that.
After Minho clenched his teeth and persevered he was able to calmly press the brakes at the right moment. Under the tension of fear and rapid changes of speed, he kept muttering to himself that it was just a high level of a very realistic game, and managed to achieve some level of self-hypnosis which seemed to help.
[Next the accelerator won’t be forcibly compensated.]
“This is hard!”
But Minho didn’t take his foot off the accelerator like he had the first time. He waited until he found a space he could strike in and then brake!
“How was that?”
[It wasn’t bad but you only overtook one car in the time that you could have passed two.]
“That means it was bad, right?”
He juggled between the clutch, brake and accelerator pedals. The gear moved so quickly the eye couldn’t catch its movements. Minho had to focus his concentration in order to control the steering wheel along with this chaotic driving.
Coming out of the curve under momentum, he overtook two cars consecutively with a much higher accelerating speed on the straight road.
“Good! Now there’s only one left!”
The car ahead stirring up dust as it drove was a silver coupe with tinted windows.
[This is the climax.]
As the car that he had to overtake deliberately slowed and drew next to him, Minho thought of a cliche movie scene just like this.
Actors lowering their windows to look into each other’s eyes. Probably it would be filmed from each of their perspectives.
“So this part is the final showdown with the rival, right?”
The window of the coupe driving next to him went down. The very young-looking foreign man in the driver’s seat smiled confidently.
『I won’t let you just pass.』
Minho clearly heard these words even though he shouldn’t be able to over the loud engine noise.
[The training is now finished. Now is the actual match. Good luck!]
Minho tilted his head. The radio turned off with a static click.
Bumpety Boo kept silent.
‘This can’t be.’
It smelled strongly of the true mission.
Win without the compensations since you’ve been taught enough. Then you will pass the mission.
It was completely predictable if this was like a racing game that started the actual mission after the tutorials were finished.
Minho was seized with anxiety.
It was absurd to think of winning against a skilled racer just by himself, but luckily the road ahead was straight. There was no problem with changing gears if it wasn’t on a corner.
Minho glanced to the side and discovered a camera filming from the back seat of the coupe.
‘It’s a battle between men’s bravery after elaborate driving. That means there must be a cliff somewhere.’
So it wouldn’t be a cliched ending. Was this not a Hollywood movie?
“Whatever, let’s drive!”
The coupe next to him sped up. Minho had to step on the accelerator as well. On the dashboard, the speedometer needle had reached the top and couldn’t go any further.
The two cars were side by side, the race down to speed alone. Minho realized by the vibration he felt through the steering wheel that the car had reached its upper limit.
“Huh! Why is that car faster?”
The coupe next to him slowly inched ahead, deciding the victor in the contest of engine power.
“This guy is the main character!”
There was no reason anyone would hear him. If he lost this he wouldn’t pass the test! This foreigner didn’t seem like the type who would stop the car to grab Minho by the collar just because Minho made a fuss honking and flashing the high beams at him.
‘What do I do?’
Minho looked in the rearview mirror at Chul Park’s face once again. He was an Asian filming a car chase scene in a foreign movie which meant he didn’t have just ordinary skills. And he was playing the main character.
“You were filled with regret because you failed here, is that it? But you lost because the other car was just better. You have the skills!”
He shouted at the mirror but neither Chul Park nor Bumpety Boo answered.
Minho grew anxious as he saw the coupe pulling away. Just then a green light began blinking on the dashboard. The light flickered as fast as the engine’s RPM that was running at full speed, but then decreased to half the speed and then half again.
Minho wasn’t aware of it and just kept his eyes to the front. He felt the car slow down for some reason and looked to the side.
Minho flinched in surprise. The dry desert scene where even the grass was parched and brown came into view like a still photo.
The eyesight of a racer concentrating on the race was exceptionally accurate compared to an ordinary person. Minho in Chul Park’s body was sharing his reflexes and was able to experience the dynamic visual acuity in real time.
Just as he turned his gaze back to the front–
“What is that?”
Minho spotted an obstacle across the middle of the road. It was still a small dark smudge but Minho knew that at this rate of speed, when the other driver spotted it he would be on it before he could hit the brakes.
“Hey, hey! Stop! Stop!”
He honked and flashed his headlights at the coupe ahead of him but the coupe didn’t decrease its speed.
Then Minho understood what was happening.
Winning or losing wasn’t what was important. This was a movie filming, anyway. He knew the car in the front would overturn for sure if this situation was the same as the past.
‘Was there really a cliff there?’
The rival darted off like a hothead, not caring about the filming and it had led to a big accident. Chul Park deeply regretted this.
The question was how could he stop this foreigner who didn’t understand him?
“I can’t ram into him or anything.”
Minho stared at the cameraman who was filming from the back window of the coupe.
“Shall I demonstrate my original wreckless skills?”
Minho decreased his speed and turned the steering wheel to the side.
The car began to stir up a grand dust cloud as it drove off the road. The coupe racing ahead on its own began to waver as if it were taken aback.
‘Traditionally, the rule is the camera only follows the main character.’
The coupe urgently turned its steering wheel and followed behind Minho.
The situation of the race had turned. And the movie scenario had changed as well.
The two cars drove wildly toward the sunset.
The coupe’s driver finally came to his senses and decreased his speed, sliding in a flashy drift. The director who was filming this scene and giving commands from the ridge gave the OK to all the staff through the walkie talkie.
Wrap it up!
The car automatically came to a stop. Minho looked around at his surrounding which had turned into a empty plain.
The coupe glided over and stopped next to him. The foreigner lowered the window and spoke.
『Foul! Mr. Park, I didn’t think you were the kind of person who would avoid the match.』
Minho felt the soul of Chul Park or Bumpety Boo stirring and let his body go.
Chul Park opened the door and ran towards the foreigner and dragged him out by the collar.
『You punk, you should drive straight! Can’t you see in front of you!?』
Chul Park was a typical Korean man who got riled up while driving, so Minho just automatically nodded.
He had been a popular racer who became a popular stunt man, up until this moment of this day when he had to give everything up because of the unfortunate accident.
Minho understood the long-cherished wish that Chul Park had held onto. He felt the scene and the moment dissolving from his consciousness.