Spice’s hands clenched the steering wheel of her rental car as anger began to build up inside her. Waves of heat rose up off the front of the car as the temperature outside on the highway was a blistering 142 degrees. Traffic on intermodal 1 backed up for miles and crawled at a snail’s pace and accordion-like pockets opened up and then closed again as drivers moved through the stacked assemblage of cars. The aerial beacons for the airway system were offline and everyone was now stuck to surface transportation for the afternoon.
“Look at these assholes,” she flipped off the driver of a red car that just squeezed in front of her. Her head turned to her left, to the passenger seat. Sitting there was Apath, her husband, co-pilot, and much calmer individual. He looked up from his cellphone with a look of disapproval on his face, saying nothing.
“Can you believe these people,” shouted Spice. “They need to stay in their lane or use their damn blinker!”
Apath finally replied to her. “Would you just calm down. Traffic is bad and there isn’t much you can do about it right now. Besides, if you wouldn’t have spent the entire afternoon making a cake we would have left on time." Apath gestured to the cake sitting in the back seat, "I told you we needed to leave by two o’clock.”
The returning glare from Spice shut Apath up. Apath tried to lighten the mood by putting on a little bit of music.
“Look, let’s just calm down a little bit. It’s hot out, but the air conditioner is working fine, we got some music, and the cake isn’t going to melt. If we are a bit late to Anna’s birthday, the world won’t exactly come to an end." he said.
Anna was Spice’s niece and she was turning fifteen today. Spice and Apath were heading to her party and Spice insisted on bringing a cake that she made, despite indications from her sister that there would be plenty of food. Apath touched a couple of buttons on the phone that he was still holding and a deep thump of minimalist techno came on over the car’s speaker system. It was a slow rhythmic beat with a soft, but deep kick drum and a short but smooth hi-hat. Over top of the percussion was a light dance of melodic synth lines, that were filtered just a bit to take off the edge. The whole track had a slightly muffled sound to it and Apath knew that this sort of music always seemed to relax Spice. He set his phone onto shuffle before going back to browsing the latest news feeds.
After several minutes with the melodic beat of the music, the tension inside the car was beginning to subside. Apath could see Spice’s hands ease up a bit on the steering wheel, and the car was once again creeping forward in the traffic. Spice’s eyes darted down towards the center console, to the screen with the rear view camera of the car. Her hands tightened up once again and she began to stare at the screen.
Apath couldn’t see what she was looking at since the center console was angled towards the driver seat. He pulled himself up from his slouched position and looked over his right shoulder through the rear view window. What he saw was a sleek black sports car coming up off the on-ramp at a high speed. It was swerving in and out of traffic. The driver was using the car’s grav-pods to boost the car up off the ground, to make it jump over other cars. Whoever was driving the car was a good driver, but what they were doing was dangerous. Only an amazing driver could pull off something like that and not crash into the vehicles around them. The technique required the driver to handle the throttle on the vehicle while also engaging and disengaging the grav-pods in such a way that would bounce the car up. It was a completely manual process, but not something you do in bumper to bumper traffic in the middle of the day. Few people could do it at all, and those that could were racers or some sort of pilots.
As it just so happened, Spice was also one of those individuals who was able to pull off a stunt like that. Before meeting Apath, Spice was a JUNT pilot. A JUNT pilot was a race car driver that raced in lower earth orbit. Before the asteroid hit the moon and caused planet-wide chaos and destruction, there was a time where humanity was beginning to stretch its wings into space. Space exploration even got to the point where it was cheap enough, or at least profitable enough, to set up race courses in low earth orbit that were televised on the net. Crazy, twisting, and three-dimensional race courses were set up and the ships that raced on them were called JUNT cars. Compared to most vehicles a JUNT car was massive in size. The race tracks were often several hundred feet across. The JUNT cars were all space ships in pretty much every way. The only difference being that they had magnetic pods to keep them attached, to the race track. Most of them were engines strapped to a cockpit, and they achieved incredibly high speeds racing across these tracks. Even Apath had to admit that it was an impressive looking spectacle when the races were going on. The magnetic pods under each of the vehicles created a blue glow that expanded out from under the cars. The race organizers preyed on this and enhanced the look by making most of the tracks display a light trail behind the vehicles, utilizing organic lighting embedded into the track. This also allowed the track to act as a massive digital billboard that showed advertisements or any number of other things. The result was a spectacular rainbow of colored trails flying by at hundreds of miles an hour. The sport wasn’t violent, but every once in a while you would get a crash that would send one of the cars careening off the track into space. It always made for a spectacular show on the web.
After the asteroid hit, it was pretty much impossible to do anything like that again. Not only was most of the population of earth wiped out from the resulting debris from the moon, but the aftermath of the hit created a new debris field around the planet. This debris pretty much covered the entire planet except the poles. Scientists estimated that it would finally flatten out with gravity in another five to six hundred years. That pretty much nixed any space travel and also destroyed all those satellites that everyone used to rely on so much. What remained were some isolated major metropolitan areas and not much else. From there on, Spice’s racing days were pretty much over.
The black car behind them was now a quarter mile away, and dangerously swerving in and out of traffic. Even Apath was beginning to get a bit nervous. Spice’s eyes were completely fixated on the camera as she watched the car.
“Let’s just stay calm here,” stated Apath, gesturing a downward motion with his hand. “The guy is a dick, but we don’t want an acci…..”
Just as Apath was about to finish his sentence the black car rushed past them clipping the outside camera on Spice’s door.
“That’s it!” she shouted.
Spice threw her left hand down to the console, boosting the grav-pods on the car and then hitting hard on the throttle, bouncing the car into the air. Apath was almost thrown from his seat while hitting his head on the roof of the car.
“Spice!" he shouted, while at the same time trying to fasten the second part of the crash belt. His phone flew out of his hand and suspended for a moment in front of his face as the car reached the apex of its ascent. He juggled the device between his fingers before the car began its downward descent back to earth and the phone fell between the seat.
“The cake”, he shouted.
Spice didn’t hear him. Spice didn’t her anything at this point, except perhaps the music, which now, had shuffled to an intense techno breakbeat with a throbbing baseline and an edgy synth line full of distortion. Apath reached into the back seat and grabbed the cake, placing it on his lap.
“Spice, would you just calm down.”
She looked over at him with a glare as if indicating that if he said another word, he would be losing some teeth. She then went into an almost incomprehensible lecture about how rude people were and how bad most people were at driving. Apath wasn’t quite sure if she was actually speaking to him or just speaking out loud. The whole time he couldn’t help but note in the back of his mind that she was right now doing the exact same thing she was ranting about.
Their rental car was now barreling down the highway, weaving in and out, and up over traffic. The black sports car was still approximately a half mile ahead of them. Apath was able to fish his phone out from between the seats and started dialing Spice’s sister Mariella.
Mariella was almost ten years older than Spice and had married a well-off engineer at one of the major corporations in the city. Almost everyone in the city worked for one of the three major corps at this point. Then there were those like Spice and Apath who had other means of finding employment.
The phone rang twice before Mariella picked it up. Apath made sure that this was a voice only call.
“Hey Mari, it’s AP. Yeah, we are uh, stuck in some traffic. I think we are going to be a bit late.” Apath whipped around the seat, his head almost hitting the window several times while he tried to manage the phone in one hand and the cake on his lap with the other. “Yeah, it looks like the elevated…… The elevated track is offline so everyone is stuck to ground traffic. Yeah, well keep some food warm for us and we will be there as fast as we can.”
When Apath hung up the phone Spice was just pulling the car onto its side to slide it between two container trucks. Apath tossed his phone into the back seat to free up both hands to grab the cake and rotate it ninety degrees to keep it upright. The car landed back onto the pavement with a thud as the chassis scraped the ground. It appeared that they had now hit the open road with the traffic beginning to stretch out.
Spice was continuing to gain on the black sports car and by this point, the driver had noticed that Spice was trying to catch up with him. The game was now on, and it was now just a matter of pure speed and intensity. The traffic to deal with here was thin compared to the jam they were just in. Spice pulled closer and closer to the black sports car, and Apath once again chimed in to try and persuade her not to keep pushing it.
“Spice, please, this is a rental car. We can’t afford to get any damage on it.” Without even turning to look at him she approached the black sports car and swiped into his rear corner.
“Jesus Spice!” he said.
A large grin spread across her face and the two cars continued to now jockey for position. The black car pulled onto the off ramp that led out of the city. A good idea Apath thought to himself. It also occurred to him that things could get dangerous outside. There were no police out there, so whatever happened was all on them. The two cars raced through the tunnel leading through the barrier wall. Signal lights flashed overhead, indicating that the vehicles were leaving the city, and the car’s computer indicated to the drivers to proceed at their own risk. One last large sign in the pavement saying “DANGER" whipped past them under the car and the tunnel opened up to grassland stretching for miles beyond the city walls.
The two cars raced out into the open land. Spice pulled up beside the black sports car and looked out her right side window. The windows on the sports car were all tinted black. With a sudden jerk, the sports car swerved to the left and crashed into the side of Spice, almost putting her into a spin out. Spice recovered and returned the side swipe to the sports car. Both cars continued to jockey for an advantage bashing into each other in uncountable ways. At times Spice would fall back and try to clip out the back tail end of the sports car, at other times, the sports car would do the same thing. All the while the highway leading out of the city was degrading from tech pavement to 20th-century asphalt, to finally nothing more than a worn dirt path. The cars were moving at blindly fast speeds, at times near 200 mph. All the while they were dodging large boulders and other debris. Throughout this entire period, Apath was still sitting in the passenger seat, with a cake gingerly set in his lap, both hands balanced on the outside of the box.
Both cars by this point were completely wrecked. Side panels were crumpled in, glass was cracked, grav-pod rims were spinning at awkward angles. Spice was finally able to get her advantage while the vehicles were ripping through an old abandoned town. The sports car had to slow down due to the width of the old streets and the debris that was strewn about the road. Spice was able to dip the nose of her vehicle down just underneath the back tail of the other car by decelerating, and then accelerating once again to raise the nose of her vehicle back up. This resulted in the back end of the sports car to lift higher off the ground than the grav-pods were currently powered for, and they tried to compensate. When the tail end of the car came back down the grav-pods were outputting too much power and resulted in the tail end of the car once again bouncing back up into the air. The black car bounced once, twice, and then finally lost control and spun out, grinding the driver’s side edge of the nose into the ground. The nose caught and the car began a series of violent flips before finally settling upright thirty or forty feet later.
“Jesus, Spice you are going to kill someone” shouted Apath. In fact, the likelihood of any sort of real injury was unlikely, despite the violence of the crash. Both Apath and Spice could already see the crash foam oozing out of the edges of the doors. All vehicles these days that were grav-pod or flight based featured racing grade harnesses and crash cages. They also had an advanced crash system that injected the inside of the vehicle with an expanding and then drying foam that would cover the entire inside of the vehicle, including the passengers.
Spice pulled her car over in a move that resulted in it sliding to a stop, kicking up a cloud of dust.
“Stay here,” she said to Apath, not turning her head to look over at him. He sat quietly in his seat, the cake still in his lap, looking at the dashboard in front of him and then down at the cake. It did look like a good cake. It was chocolate, with a double layer of chocolate fudge icing. Spice had created spiraled swirls of fudge icing into elaborate shapes. On the top of the cake were the words “Happy Birthday Anna!”. Spice spared no expense either and bought real chocolate, not the manufactured stuff.
Spice was starting to come down out of her rage, but her anger was still high. She needed to know exactly who she had been chasing. She stepped out of the car and closed the door without taking her eyes off of the sports car. The black sports car was sitting motionless, steam pouring out of the back, and dark green fluids were pooling on the ground under the engine. The vehicle did not look like it was going to be flying anytime soon. Spice went around back to her car and opened the trunk, pulling out her shock baton. Spice hated using guns, she was never a good shot and the loud “bang" always made her flinch. Spice instead liked to carry around a shock baton, the type of baton that you would see in prisons or used by riot police. It was generally a non-lethal weapon and could be brought most places that a firearm couldn’t. It also had a nice intimidating look to it when walking the street, strapped to her back or at her side. It looked like a large baseball bat that at the end had three rings carved into it. When those three rings came in contact with skin they discharged an electric shock that would incapacitate most individuals.
As her hand wrapped around the handle, the baton charged up with a quiet hum and a small vibration filled her arm, giving her added confidence. Spice approached the vehicle, the baton down at her side in her right hand. The tinted window was still intact and she could not see the driver as she approached the vehicle. It crossed her mind that the individual on the other side of the vehicle may, in fact, be holding a gun or some other sort of weapon. She hesitated as she stepped up to the vehicle and glanced back over her shoulder to Apath for reassurance. She then pried open the driver side door.
Spice had walked to the far side of the black sports car. Unfortunately, she was not in a good position for him to cover her if the situation turned bad. His Berathia MKII was in his right hand resting on the dashboard and the cake still sitting in his lap. His patience with Spice’s temper had now gotten to the point where he was fed up. How the hell were they going to pay for this car and what would they do if the person in this other car wanted money? Hopefully, none of this would go to the police. They likely would not have to pay for the other guy’s car, since he was the aggressor, but how were they going to explain a high-speed chase inside the city? That was going to be some hefty change that they just didn’t have.
Apath continued looking on as Spice rested the baton across her shoulder and with her left hand swung open the door to the black sports car. She paused for a moment before taking the butt end of the baton and then smashed into the hardened crash foam.
Spice paused for a moment after she broke open the foam and finally saw the driver in the car. Inside the car staring back at her was a young man, perhaps sixteen or seventeen years of age. He had a huge grin on his face.
“That was so much fun,” He said. Spice stopped dead in her tracks for a moment before her eyes grew wide again. She reached her hand into the car to pull out the individual.
Apath couldn’t hear anything from where he was sitting. All he could see was Spice reach into the car and pull out an individual and throw them to the ground. She then began shouting at this person. Her hands were waving in the air and she was pacing back and forth, the shock baton swinging wildly. Apath relaxed a little bit as he realized that the situation wasn't dangerous anymore. The driver appeared unarmed and Spice no longer appeared as if she was planning on clubbing someone to death. He placed is gun back into its holster and then put the cake in the back seat, deciding to join the now lecturing Spice. He had to find out who this mysterious driver was.
Apath opened the door and the heat hit him immediately. The temperature was almost scalding and he had forgotten how hot it was out today. He began his slow walk around the car. When he finally walked up to Spice, he noticed that the driver of the vehicle appeared to be a young man, in his late teens. He was laying in the sand, with a huge smile on his face. His hair was dark, almost black and he had light skin with green-hazel eyes. On his face were a pair of yellow hollow vids. He was wearing an expensive designer shirt with a pair of dark blue jeans and sneakers. He had a small smear of blood on his lip, where it seemed he may have bit his tongue. Spice was still standing over him lecturing. The more she lectured at him the more he appeared amused. She stopped as Apath came walking up.
"That was the most fun I have had in a long time. You two are 'buzz.'" said the young man with a chuckle. "I haven't met another driver like that before, you must have been a drop racer? Tell me you were?"
Spice was standing with her arms folded across her chest. Her anger had diminished to just a simmering annoyance.
“JUNT pilot" she replied.
“Yeah!!! That is killer!" replied the young man. He now stood up from the ground and dusted himself off. He circled around Spice once, eyeing her up. He seemed completely unaware that she still held in her hand a shock baton that was humming. Apath stood to the side. The sweat was starting to stick to his shirt along his back and his shoulders were beginning to ache.
"Look Spice, can we please get back into the car and get going? It is so fucking hot out here,” he said.
She turned around without a word and began making her way back to the car. Apath followed. The young man fell in step behind them.
"Where do you think you are going?" Spice said over her shoulder.
"What? You aren't going to leave me out here in the desert are you?"
"Do you have a cellphone on you?"
"Then hell yeah we are. You're an asshole driver and you wrecked our rental car. Do you think we are going to drive you back to the city?
"But I could die out here in the heat."
"Well, you better find a way to stay cool then until someone comes and picks you up."
“Wait, hold on a second," he said. "Come on, you can't just leave me out here."
A small look of panic washed across his face as he realized that Spice wasn’t joking on leaving him in the desert.
"Look, I'll pay for your car. "
Spice paused for a second and the young man came running up with his phone.
“How much do you want? 15,000 credits?"
Spice pulled our her own phone and held it up and the young man touched his to hers and transferred the funds. She stared at her own phone for a moment in disbelief that the guy actually had that much money to throw around. Even Apath was surprised at how this young man was able to transfer those funds.
"Who are you?" asked Apath.
The wide smile returned to the young man's face. He opened is mouth to say something, but before he could there were a loud thunderclap and a bright flash of light. All three of them covered their eyes while turning and looking up to the sky. Above them, a raging fireball was hurtling down towards the planet's surface. One of the asteroids in the debris belt circling Earth had broken free and was now a meteor rushing towards the surface.
This was not an all too uncommon occurrence and was one of the reasons why life on earth was now isolated to a few major metropolitan areas. Cities were easier to protect, and the statistical likelihood of them was low. That being said, a major strike by a meteor could not be stopped. Minor debris could be shot down, but there had been more than one city that had been wiped out by a meteor. Even a moderately sized meteor could destroy several hundred square miles. Every major city had significant blast protection with high walls, so most explosions, save for a direct hit could be weathered. This meteor was nowhere near the city, but the three of them were a hundred miles away and in the danger zone.
“Remember what I said before about it not being the end of the world? Well, I was wrong. Get in the car." shouted Apath. He pulled back the seat to the rental car and the young man climbed in sitting next to the cake.
"Hey, a cake.” he said
"Hands off kid", Apath pushed the seat back and closed the door. Spice pulled herself in beside him.
"Let's go, honey," he said. She was running her fingers up along the controls of the startup panel and the engines on the car began to power up with a smooth tone that started out as a low hum and then increased to an inaudible whine. The car lifted itself off of the ground and Spice rotated the car around. Before she could lay her hand on the throttle, there was a shudder that shook the entire vehicle and a loud metal grinding sound. The whole vehicle dropped from the air onto the ground again with a thud.
The kid was sitting in the back seat with the smile still on his face.
"Hey, you know you need to..."
"Shut the hell up kid." said Spice, "I am trying to get us going here." Her fingers were running through the control console as various icons were flashing red across the main display.
"You know, if you just....."
"I said shut the hell up....." She muttered under her breath, "we must be leaking some engine coolant. With all this damn heat, the engine must be overheating.
The meteor was now visible through the windshield in front of them. It was going to hit twenty or thirty miles away, but the resulting shock wave and debris from the explosion would obliterate their tiny vehicle.
'Look, miss. If you would just."
"I said, shut......Your......Mouth," Spice turned around in a furious rage. Her face red hot and her hair was sticking to her cheek. She was breathing heavy and she could not figure out what exactly was causing the car to stall out.
At no point did the kid lose the smile on his face. He looked Spice right in the eye and without a second thought, leaned forward and slapped a button on the console and the entire vehicle came back to life.
"I was trying to tell you, you had the AI for the airway engaged. The car was trying to find the guide beacons."
"Dammit Spice, just go." shouted Apath.
She punched the throttle and rounded the car back towards the city just as the meteor hit the ground behind. A large debris cloud threw up into the air. Expanding outward from the impact site was a massive shockwave followed by a dust cloud. Apath could see huge pieces of earth thrown miles into the air in all directions. He tracked a couple of the pieces up and looked back out the window to follow their ascent upwards. They seemed to be moving almost as if in slow motion, but they continued to rise higher and higher into the air. It seemed like they would slow and begin their descent at any moment. They rose out of sight and he turned his attention towards the rear window and the rapidly approaching shockwave.
“Brace yourselves.” he shouted just before the wave hit the car.
The shock wave hit the car and sent a shudder through the entire vehicle. Dirt lifted up from the earth and settled into the air as if someone had just stamped their boot onto a dusty rug. The kid was sitting in the back seat, strapped in and with his right hand playing with the corner of the cake box.
"Hey, it is your responsibility to make sure nothing happens to that cake," said Apath turning around in his seat. He looked past the kid and once again out the cracked rear view window to see the expanding debris cloud.
"We need to go a little faster here Spice.”, he said .
Spice was accelerating the vehicle as fast as she could. Debris from the impact was now starting to rain down on them. It started out with small pebbles that sounded like hail rattling across the top of the metal panels of the car. The size of the debris grew from pebbles to pieces around the size of baseballs and finally large pieces almost as big as the vehicle itself. Craters, some sixty feet across and twenty to thirty feet deep formed from the impacts of the largest pieces of rock. The car’s computer system was sounding out proximity warnings about the incoming projectiles. Spice was dodging them as best she could, but the vehicle was in bad shape. The handling was off and the vehicle was not responding as well as it could have. The dust storm continued to get closer and it was only going to be a matter of time before the storm caught up with them.
That moment came sooner rather than later when a large rock crashed just a hundred or so feet in front of the vehicle. Spice swerved to avoid the boulder, but in doing so spun the car out as the edge of the chassis caught in the soft sand. Spice recovered, but it was too late. The dust storm behind them rushed over the car and the sound of the sand and pebbles was almost deafening. The debris was so thick that the sun was completely blocked and the sky was dark outside the windows. The vehicle was being sandblasted by the storm, and they were in tremendous danger from a large rock smashing them to pieces. The cake was still in one piece, safely in the young man's lap. There was a shudder through the vehicle and the console display lit up full of red lights before the car dropped from the air and slide to a halt in the sand.
There were few things that truly had terrified Apath in his life. The claustrophobic feeling inside the vehicle at that moment one of them. The pure darkness inside the car was punctuated by the flashing red lights on the panel. Apath couldn’t hear anything beyond the whine of the debris hitting the car, but in the flashing light, he could see the kid and Spice both hitting buttons on the control panel, while at the same time yelling at each other. The scene in Apath’s mind was something almost out of a horror movie. Panic was beginning to well up in his head, but he didn’t know what he could do. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the console lit back up and the car lifted off the ground. The cabin light switched on and Apath finally let out a breath of air. Sweat was pouring down Spice’s and the kid’s faces. Spice punched the throttle and the car lurched forward. The instrument and navigation panels on the car couldn't read their direction and to the best of Apath's guess, they could be heading right back into the impact crater. All they could do was push forward and hope that they didn’t plow straight into a large rock or a wall of fire.
One minute passed. Then another, and another, and Spice continued to push the car forward. The tension inside the vehicle was beginning to rise and the outside scenery did not improve. They were driving straight into blackness. Apath was shifting in his seat and even the kid in the back seat was now looking straight forward towards the black windshield. Everyone’s expression was flat and intense.
Spice's eyes locked straight ahead, both hands on the wheel, with concentration written across her face. Apath didn't notice it before, but the kid had his hand on his shoulder and was gripping it. The cake tucked on his lap as he leaned forward putting his face just between the two front seats.
After what seemed like an eternity, the car finally burst through the dust storm and into open daylight. A thick layer of earth was on all the car and Spice flipped on the windshield wipers to clean off the windshield. A spray of wiper fluid shot up and a single steady stream hit the windshield right in the center. The wiper blades smeared the mud several failed attempts before finally getting a clear spot. The car was now clear of the storm, and ahead of them they could see the city with its walls ten or so miles away. They made it out.
When they finally made it back into the city, there was a collective sigh of relief between all them. In the back seat, the young man was leaning back, a grin once again upon his face.
“Well that was something wasn't it? If you guys want you can drop me off at the next corner."
Spice pulled the car off onto a side street and Apath got out to let the young man out of the car as well.
Before walking off, Apath asked the kid what his name was.
"My name? Why it is Quinton Rocheford. Don't worry, I put my contact card on Spice's phone and I got both of your names from your constant shouting at each other. Besides, I know who your lady is from the old racing vids. I would love to race her again sometime."
"Yeah, well I don't know about that," said Apath as the kid turned around and began walking back up the street. Apath got back into the car and settled into the seat next to Spice.
"So what was his name?" she asked.
"Quinton. Quinton Rocheford."
"Rocheford? He is a Rocheford?"
“Yeah, I guess, so what?”
"Do you know who the Rocheford's are?” she asked. "Laurena Rocheford is the woman who owned most of the suborbital racing circuit. That family runs one of the largest corporations in the city. They manufacture the parts for just about every vehicle manufactured on the continent. Her husband Arden was also a former space pilot. If they are his parents, the kid has some money."
"Not only that, but I guess I can see where he gets his desire for a thrill ride." replied Apath.
"So," he said looking back over his right shoulder at the birthday cake still sitting in the back seat, "Should we finally make an appearance at this birthday party?"
Several minutes later Spice pulled her car up to the front step of her sister's building and turned off the car. Mariella was standing in the glass vestibule looking out to see which vehicle they were in as they pulled up. When the destroyed vehicle came to a stop she made a face hoping that it wasn't her sister, but deep inside she knew it was. Spice always had a habit of being reckless and this wouldn't be the first car she wrecked.
The hatch popped open on the passenger side and she saw Apath step out, a pleasant smile on his face although she noticed him wince as the heat hit him. The door on the far side of the vehicle popped open a moment later and Spice popped out of the vehicle. She waved over the vehicle in a childlike manner and she could see her mouth "Mariella" to her through the glass. Spice came bounding through the rotating doors and into the lobby to meet her sister. They embraced in a huge hug with all the glee and delights that you would associate with two kids.
“So what the hell happened to your car?” asked Mariella.
"It is a long story, something we can go over on the way up the elevator. First, we need to get that cake to the party. How is our Anna doing?”
Both turned around to look back out the window at Apath. He was reaching into the back seat for the cake. He pulled it out and turned around to face them with a smile on his face. Nodding once as if saying “I got this” he took a step forward up onto the curb away from the car. As he did so the smile on his face disappeared as his eyes became wide with horror as he began to tumble forward. The toe of his boot had caught the top edge of the curb. Apath now found himself in a slow motion free fall towards the sidewalk. Both Mariella and Spice reached out as if wanting to try and catch the cake. All they could do is look on in horror as Apath tried to recover. He stumbled once, getting his right foot out in front of him, but it was too late. The cake was out of his hands and the top lid of the box opened up as it began to fall. The cake and Apath landed on the hot pavement. Apath was on his hands and knees with an upside-down cake now laying in front of him and sweat dripping off the tip of his nose. A single drop fell and landed on the moist fudge frosting.
“Hey, it isn’t like the world is going to end,” he said to himself.