TOHOKU RUN!!! – An experiment with a different genre
Parking Garage Checkpoint, Suburbs of Tohoku City
Street racing, especially on the tight roads of Japan, is obviously illegal and dangerous, yet this hasn't stopped people from doing it. While the general populace around the world don't hear as much about Japanese tuner cars ever since the advent of films like "The Fast and the Furious", the scene has since evolved over the course of a decade. Racing bubbles under the surface of the island nation.
Jimmy Raven slumped against a wall close to the entrance of the parking garage, his eyes staring out into the night sky of Tohoku City, Japan. His iPod blared hardcore hip-hop, and a rolled cigarette protruded from the side of his lips. Jimmy didn't light it yet, instead he held a box of matches in his fingers, twirling it round and round as he stared ahead into the streets.
It was barely midnight and Jimmy inhaled, the smell of gasoline filling his nostrils. While some turned their noses up at the scent, he welcomed it – he was in for a night of high octane racing. Jimmy smiled and diverted his gaze to his prized possession, a 2010 Yamaha V-Max with a crimson and black color scheme. Ever since he mounted this vehicle a week after its release, he felt that his life changed into an exciting one.
Jimmy, patterning himself as a drifting cowboy, felt that he had no true home, that only the road was fit for him. He rode, he raced, he rested, and he moved on.
He was content with this life. No responsibilities, few connections…and one memory he constantly questions himself over.
"Should I have left? Should I have done things better? Where is…" Jimmy found himself speaking to no one, his words not even loud enough to echo throughout the parking garage. The only traveling sound was the squeaking of his headphones and the engines of passing cars.
A particular noise managed to climb through Jimmy's earbuds and it made him smile – the sound of tuned vehicles were approaching rapidly. He looked to the entrance and sure enough, they piled into the garage, their engines followed by the various music tracks blaring from their radios through their open windows. They numbered almost fifty, all of different races and vehicles. There were only a few other bikers, but they all had generic crotch rockets, Jimmy judged from the idle of their engines. He walked into the crowd of racers, hoodie drawn, and one hand in his cargo pants with the other attempting to light his cigarette through a flickering fire. When he saw that the flame wouldn't catch, Jimmy withdrew his hand to shield it from the wind and struck another match.
Jimmy didn't spot his target after walking around the garage twice and he kept looking back at his bike to make sure none of these upstarts got too comfortable near his baby. Sure, he spoke to the guy once through video chat when he was invited, but he didn't forget this man's face. What, he didn't get here yet?
"Alright, where is this guy?!" Another racer voiced out loud, surprisingly carrying over the music and chatter. Over the course of a few minutes, the music and chatter died down to murmurs as they all repeated his question in their own way to each other.
"Ask and you'll receive!" After a few minutes, the elevator coming down from the top floor of the garage opened and words spilled out, quieting the entire crowd. A Japanese man in his mid-twenties walked out, running a hand through his jet black hair. He was clad in a dark sports jacket left buttoned open to show a white dress shirt and blue jeans. As he left the elevator, two bald men in black suits and shades shadowed him, both stern as the side of a mountain. "First of all, allow me to welcome you all to the Tohoku Run!"
The racers began to cheer. Even Jimmy turned down his music and clapped. After a few moments, the Japanese man raised his hands to quiet them down.
"I'm Nakamura Takeshi, and for those of you brand new to the race, I organize this little shindig every few months. Basically, the Tohoku Run is a tag-team race from here, the suburbs down to the shipyard, approximately fifteen miles across Tohoku City." The newbies voiced slight concern, as they knew about racing within the confines of the city borders.
If the traffic didn't get them, the Police will.
"I'm sure you wouldn't invite us all here to race through Tohoku City without any incentive," a female voice called out, instantly catching Jimmy's attention. He whirled to see the voice's owner and laid his eyes on a beautiful woman clad in a Leather jacket, tank top and pants. Her boots clacked impatiently against the ground as she waited for an answer.
Takeshi continued, "Of course, there's an incentive. $50,000 American, as well as the chance to drive, "professionally", for my coalition. You can rake in a lot more cash than hustling for change and pink slips. The condition is that you must place in the top five slots in at least three races."
The murmurs grew a bit louder as more of the newcomers found the proposition interesting. Either win or just place in three separate runs throughout Tohoku City and you can drive for a fat paycheck. Takeshi approached one of the cars and snapped his fingers, which signaled one of the black suited men, who was holding a briefcase, to approach. Takeshi took the case and laid it on the hood of the car; he opened it, revealing four rows of cash.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg. Money goes to whichever team wins tonight."
"Wait, team?!" A Chinese woman in her early twenties yelled, holding her hands firmly on her hips. Clad in a brown coat, a buttoned blouse with the midriff missing, and black baggy pants, her purple hair nearly draped her face out of existence. "You never said anything about teaming up with some other rube during the call!"
"Before you all get bent outta shape, it's a new feature I added to this year's Tohoku Run. New year, new racers, new additions. I thought this should make things more interesting."
"Twenty five grand a head, eh? I guess it's the promise of the job that hooks them." Jimmy contemplated for a moment, taking a final drag of his cigarette before he flicked it away. "What the hell. I need a little excitement."
The conversing continued as the racers competed to get the best partner. Allyson Cayman's stern and aloof face scared off most racers, but it contorted into one of disbelief when she saw Jimmy walk up to her. The air instantly became still and uncomfortable between the two as Jimmy fought to read what she was thinking through her expression.
"Hey. Wanna team up?" He said simply. His eyes went buggy as he felt he could've been a bit smoother in his execution.
"James Raven," Allyson, nicknamed "Alice", said vehemently. She balled her fists as she slowly approached the still bug-eyed Jimmy. "It's been about two years, and not so much as a phone call from you, asshole."
Jimmy buttoned his lip. He knew that if he said the wrong thing, she'd slug him one. Alice furrowed her brow, expecting him to retort with some witty comeback, but for the first time in her life, he was quiet. Jimmy sighed… and grunted in surprise as Alice DID slug him across the jaw.
The entire garage went silent, the only noise being Takeshi's stifled laugh and chuckle. Jimmy massaged his jaw and checked his lip for any blood. Surprisingly, there were none, given how hard she hit the biker. "The hell was that for?"
"Can't even be bothered enough to say anything for yourself?!"
"What can I say? I was in a bad place and I didn't want to drag you down."
"You didn't want to bring me down, yet you left me with a lot of baggage."
Takeshi approached the two, holding his hands to quell the conflict. He tapped his Smartwatch. "My custom watch is telling us its race time, so I think we better get a move on before the cops come around, sniffing for racers."
Jimmy and Alice kept a stare at one another, no words spoken between the two. Takeshi moved his head into their line of sight in order to get their attention. "Could you two please pick a partner?"
Alice spoke up first. "I'll ride with him," a statement that took Jimmy by storm.
"You may be an asshole, but you're a damned good racer, one of the only bikers who can match me." Alice backed up towards her own bike, a modified Honda CBR 1100 XX that she soon straddled like a horse awaiting its rider. "I want that money – consider it your reparation, Jimmy."
"If this episode of 'Love Connection' is finished, perhaps we can get the run started?" Takeshi said while clasping his hands together.
"You're the boss," Jimmy commented as he walked away, returning to his bike.
The Chinese woman opened the door to her car, a custom Toyota AE86, and poked her head in. Lowered Jazz music was playing, and another young woman, Japanese, laid still in the passenger seat with her eyes closed. The driver rolled her eyes at her sleeping companion and banged her fist against the roof three times, startling her from slumber.
"Huh… What? Hoimei, why you keep making so much noise whenever I sneak some winks?" She spoke in Japanese.
"Madoka, English, please." Hoimei sat in the driver's seat and pulled out a cell phone. "We're on, so wake up. We got him."
Madoka yawned and corrected her posture, cracking her neck back and forth before looking through the tinted glass of the car. "Where?"
"The dude over there with the thirty dollar haircut and the goon squad shadowing him," Hoimei commented without looking up from her phone. Her fingers tapped furiously against the touch screen, typing out a huge message to an unlisted number.
Madoka brushed her long black hair out of the way and searched, finally focusing her sight on Takeshi. "He's kinda cute."
"Don't fall in love just yet – we gotta job to do." Hoimei sent off the text message and was startled as someone knocked on their window. Madoka quickly pulled a laptop from a bag by her legs and Hoimei rolled down her window.
It was Takeshi, who smiled a captivating smile that made the normally shy Madoka blush. "You found a partner?"
"Yeah – she's my navigator, Maddie!" Hoimei said, pointing her thumb at Madoka as she tapped the keyboard to bring up a map readout.
"That'll work. And where are you from?"
"Hong Kong!" Hoimei accidentally blurted out. "I did a lot of driving for the Triads there!"
Takeshi looked intrigued by her statement. "Well, we should see one hell of a wheel girl out there!" He left, and Hoimei rolled up the window quickly. She sighed a breath of relief and reveled in the fact that no one could hear them outside of the car.
"He scared the hell outta me!"
"Driver for the Triads?" Madoka, who was shy and stoic, often called Hoimei out on her brash decision-making. Sure, she brought up a map on her computer to perpetrate their ruse, but saying something that dramatic could come back to bite them in the ass. "What if he calls Hong Kong to check your story?"
"We'll be outta here by then with the cash. Besides, I CAN drive, so what's the problem?"
"Just think before you speak, like I always tell you. Get your head under control and take your time." Madoka continued typing but Hoimei didn't pay attention to the computer display, instead briefly rolling her eyes and turning up the radio volume a few more dials.
Nearly ten minutes later, all the racers were paired up and pitted side by side, engines idling like growling beasts. Jimmy and Alice straddled their bikes while Madoka and Hoimei sat in anxious silence, awaiting the signal to start. Takeshi walked out in front of all the racers, carrying a red baton, and raised it.
"Ready?! Start—" His words were interrupted by the deafening noise of souped-up engines coupled with the alert of sirens. A squad of Tuners squealed up behind the racers, and from the lead car, a Chevrolet Corvette CR6 painted in Police colors, an older Japanese man clad in a dress shirt, a black vest, and slacks emerged. Police Captain Keiji "Storm Catcher" Yanagawa ran a hair through graying hair and shot Takeshi and the other racers a confident smile.
"Looks like we stumbled onto a little get-together of illegal runners! Don't think yer gonna get away from me today! Get 'em!" At his urging, the police revved their cars as did the racers, and they blasted off.
Takeshi wasted no time in bolting to his own vehicle, a 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R, and revving the throttle. He knew Captain Yanagawa would stop at nothing to catch him. "I gotta put as much distance as humanly possible between me and him. Let's see if he can keep up with the path set for the run!"
Takeshi sped off, Jimmy and Alice nodded to each other, and the girls braced themselves to take off! The other racers were getting cornered and caught, but the five managed to keep themselves focused, even as the Police cut them off ahead and set up a barricade. Luckily, a passing car in traffic crashed into a police cruiser, interrupting the cop who was setting up the barricade and causing it to be up-turned. Jimmy took the lead and pointed ahead, hoping that the rest of the five got his idea.
Alice got his cue and increased her speed, matching his as she and Jimmy rode side by side; they zoomed up the up-turned barricade which became a makeshift ramp, and vaulted over a row of police cruisers. Madoka looked at Hoimei, who was gripping the steering wheel hard.
"We need to keep up appearances, so gun it!"
"Don't need to tell me twice!" Hoimei stepped on the gas and gunned the engine of the AE86, pushing it over the ramp and into the air. They landed a few feet behind Jimmy and Alice, only for Takeshi to shoot over their heads and land in front.
"Don't stop! Yanagawa's on my ass!" Takeshi barked, pointing behind him as he sped off. As if on cue, Yanagawa's car blasted through the ramp, prompting the rest of the five to hurriedly increase speed in order to create a distance gap.
The racers tore through the suburbs, turning a sleepy midnight district into a cacophonous chaotic circle. The five came to a makeshift drop that led into a park below and they wasted no time in making the jump. Madoka groaned as they sailed through the air, uttering, "I hope the shocks can hold!" in Japanese.
The five landed, with the AE86 having the roughest landing. Hoimei bumped her head against the roof and Madoka believed she'd swallowed her tongue and gasped loudly. They couldn't stop for a breather, for the sounds of sirens grew louder and louder by the second. Inadvertently, the five found themselves chancing on a midnight pool party near the edge of the suburbs; Jimmy mentally figured that it'd be great for whittling down the number of squad cars chasing them.
"Follow my lead!" Jimmy shouted as he took point on his Yamaha, jumping it over the pool. Alice did the same, only managing to hear the panicked cries of "What's going on?!" before she let loose an excited cackle. Takeshi managed to jump his Kawasaki over the pool while the girls crashed the AE86 through a small shack, avoiding the water without breaking the momentum.
"They got crotch rockets and we got a Toyota! All that stunt driving shit is for the birds!" Madoka vehemently cried as she kept plotting courses with the least amount of resistance.
"Aww, but I love stunt driving!" Hoimei grew a semi-sadistic grin on her face and Madoka rolled her eyes. "We're gunning it through the Garden of Madness, Madoka!"
Hoimei's partner began to lament the day they were paired up together.
Alice matched speed with Jimmy and said, "You're enjoying this, aren't you?!"
"Are you kidding? I'm having the time of my life!!"
The five came to a garage with a closing door; Jimmy, Alice, and Takeshi performed sliding maneuvers, narrowly avoiding the door while the girls smashed through it, creating a rather large hole.
"Aren't you glad I sprung for the reinforced bumper on the front end?" Hoimei cackled.
"That door was like tissue paper! When you can gun this through a brick wall with the car still being able to run, then gloat about it!" Needless to say, Madoka was unimpressed at Hoimei's stunt.
The five came to a winding road with Yanagawa and the Police hot on their tails. Jimmy was lead racer for a while, but Takeshi decided on a tactic that'll help them create more distance – he withdrew a cigarette lighter, and as they raced up to a mechanical bridge that separated the suburbs from the rest of the city, Takeshi threw it into the operations booth, smacking the guard on duty in the back of the head and knocking his noggin against a button.
The bridge began rising and parting as if to allow a large boat through the waterway underneath it; Jimmy, Alice, Takeshi, and the girls all increased speed, jumping the gap with minimal effort. Yanagawa and three other police cars managed to clear the jump while the cars lagging behind tumbled into the water below.
On they raced, as their path led them to a tanker truck. The driver had been working late and was falling asleep at the wheel; he clunked the truck into the side of a building, but not before the AE86 suddenly cleared distance and sped in front of it, narrowly bridging the gap.
"Smart girls!" Alice commented as she, Jimmy, and Takeshi saw what was now set up for them – the tanker truck only allowed a small space that the AE86 couldn't make. Once the time came, they all slid underneath the narrow opening, but heard skidding on the behalf of Yanagawa, as he couldn't keep up without crashing his car.
The racers weaved in and out of traffic, each managing to keep their own advantages as they neared ever so close to the Ship Yard, the planned end of the Tohoku Run. Takeshi smiled as these contestants kept up with him, given that he was quite the runner in his teens. "Especially that Jimmy Raven… he's got his eye on the ball," he thought.
Their sighs of relief were premature, as the sirens grew ghastly loud, and Yanagawa's Corvette reared its ugly head, nearly smashing into the back of Alice's bike. She revved the throttle hard enough that she'd thought she nearly broke it off, but it managed to keep her from meeting Yanagawa's front bumper face first.
The race took them all to the freeway, where the five fought to keep from wrapping themselves around the side of several cars. Despite the time of night, the freeway was surprisingly busy, as Madoka looked around and noted to herself.
"Don't you think this is all too easy?"
"I'm 'keeping up appearances', so I'm concentrating on dodging cars, Madoka!" Hoimei strained as her mind was operating on adrenaline and sheer focus.
The smell of saltwater and gasoline filled the air, and Takeshi could tell the shipyard was near. They'd get to his boat, hide out in the harbor until morning, and let the whole thing blow over. He began to motion for the other racers to follow his lead, and they all tried in their own ways to keep Yanagawa off their tails.
Takeshi's confident smirk eschewed into a frown as he laid eyes on Yanagawa's trump card – the entrance to the shipyard was crawling with cops.
"Oh shit," Jimmy exclaimed once he saw it.
"I'm sorry, chaps, but you're gonna have to shift into turbo if you wanna catch me!" Alice increased speed to reach Takeshi's rear. "I hope you got a plan, because I'm not goin' to jail!"
Takeshi smirked and nodded; he pointed ahead and the rest of the five looked ahead, seeing a yacht move closer to the edge of the shipyard. They vaulted over cargo boats, the last one before the yacht's position beginning its voyage out to sea – the five managed to clear it, with the girls arriving last.
Yanagawa, on the other hand, missed the jump and landed on the boat as it set sail. He stumbled from the car and jumped up and down in anger like an ape building its rage. "Goddamn it!" He repeatedly exclaimed until he was free of earshot.
The racers skidded to a halt at the rear end of the shipyard, obscured by warehouses and decommissioned boats. Jimmy was the first to speak up as he gestured wildly at their antics.
"Holy shit! I can't believe we just did that!"
"I'm surprised we're not drowning right now!" Madoka hopped out of the car, glad to be on solid ground at that moment. Hoimei turned off the engine and exited the car, chuckling at her partner, who was currently sprawled on the cold street.
"You stay down there any longer and you'll catch pneumonia!"
Alice approached Jimmy from behind and punched him, albeit with less strength than before, in the back. "You know we got a big talk ahead of us. If not, I'm gonna wrap my handle bars 'round your neck!"
"Okay, okay, jeez! We'll talk!" Jimmy once saw Alice beat a man up with her dislodged handle bars, so he knows that she meant business.
Takeshi began to clap; he was unsure that they'd make it as well. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't genuinely impressed. We all work well as a team together, especially getting away from Yanagawa."
Hoimei approached and questioned, "The Captain really had a hard on for you. Whatcha do? Tag 'Pigs!' all over his car or somethin'?"
"He's an old friend, actually, and he blames me for something. Now he's a cop and he wants my ass mounted on his wall."
"And what an ass it is…" Madoka commented under her breath. Takeshi turned to her, and she immediately blushed, thinking, "Oh crap, I hope he didn't hear me!"
"So what now, Takeshi?" Jimmy questioned as he sat on his bike.
"Well, you split the money four ways. Then I'll take you to meet with my father."
The mention of Takeshi's father made Hoimei and Madoka perk up slightly. They were close.
The Yacht arrived at their position and came to a stop, docking minutes afterward. Takeshi spoke up, "You're welcome to bring your vehicles on board; there's enough room," before he walked on board.
Jimmy and Alice wheeled their bikes onto the Yacht, but Hoimei and Madoka stayed behind briefly, conversing with each other.
"We should pop him now!" Madoka commented, trying to keep her voice below her regular volume.
"Now who's the impulsive one? We got our orders, so we need to play it by ear!"
"What if he gets away? What if he's on to us?!"
"After that show we put on? We pretty much cemented ourselves as badass wheelgirls, so take a valium and button up! You're making ME nervous!"
Madoka and Hoimei drove the AE86 onto the Yacht, keeping their mouths shut on their true intentions. They met back up with Takeshi and the group, resuming their false pretenses. When the time is right, they'll act accordingly.