The Pipes are Harbourtown’s premier underground racing event. Even though they’re illegal, organised crime has enough of a grip, and greased enough palms, to keep them running every month.
Millions tune in via the darkweb. It’s a money spinner, much more edgy then the legitimate Formula Grande; in the Pipes racers have to meet checkpoints within a certain time, or they are disqualified. Racers bring their own cars, and it’s last racer standing, so a lot of guys and girls get aggressive. There’s big spills, injuries, explosions, and death.
That’s what the people like to see, I guess.
The current champ is a racer without a name. The Mask, they call him. But there are plenty of other racers on his heels.
One fellow that’s been attracting a lot of attention is Igby Merlyn, a racer from the SHINE. Calls himself ‘The Prince.’ Igby’s a rich kid who led the fast life. Now he’s slumming it in the Pipes, carving out a new niche for himself. Here’s a piece I found about him on the web.
The Merlyn family were big in the antique world, big time in the SHINE. Igby had grown up in the walled off neighbourhoods reserved for Harbourtown’s elite, working in the family business. It was here, they say, that he developed a love for fast cars.
Formula Grande is a prestigious event. Most of the racers came from big families. Winning wasn’t just about the money. It was about the exposure. That’s what everyone wanted. Not just a name on the guest list, but a table in the VIP.
Igby could drive. It took more than that to race Formula Grande, but Wales Merlyn senior saw the potential in his son at a young age. Getting from the minors to the big leagues was expensive and no expense was spared. The pit crew were all top of their field. The chief engineer, a balding fellow named Spaulding Gray, worked tirelessly on tweaking his ride, a Coupe Seville Speciale. The cost of Igby’s helmet alone could feed a family of five for a year.
Soon, Igby was talk of the town. He had a good face, he liked to party, and he liked to drink. He liked the girls too. The ones who brought him the drinks and the ones whose fathers own the liquor companies, it was all the same to him. In the races he was deft, swift, daring, and completely and utterly unforgiving. The press labelled him ‘The Prince.’ He led the life every kid with a car dreamed. When he finally cracked the majors though, things changed.
“Clean up your act,” his father told him. “No more booze, no more girls.” He found Igby a nice boring high society girlfriend, cut him off save necessary expenses, and put minders in place. For a while, it worked. Igby focused on his racing, was genial in press conferences, and only wrote off one car in six months. But the kid was a pressure cooker. When at last he boiled over, the lid went flying.
Day of his first Formula Grande. Wales Merlyn Senior hired a whole trackside villa. “Whatever happens, son, I’m proud of you. Now go out and win that race’,” he told the boy.
Igby didn’t win. Didn’t even place. Ten laps in he was forced into the pits after Ramone Boulette’s Falcon x80 clipped him through the midway chicanes. Coming out of that pitstop, Igby was a man possessed. He gained through the back end, chasing down Boulette, who had risen to fourth. The crowd cheered him on. It was the sort of narrative they lived for, the sort of daring retribution they had come to expect from The Prince. Normally a crowd pleaser, Igby had other things in mind.
Corner five, Igby gets inside Boulette, who comes across, hard. Rather than brake, the Prince dropped a gear and floored it. The Coupe hummed, driving into the Falcon, which jackniffed before ploughing into the barrier. Flame engulfed them. Boulette died immediately. On strong winds black smoked flooded the villas, choking the Merlyn family and their guests, who rushed to the safety of the VIP lounge. Wales Meryln dragged his sobbing wife to the limousine. They were halfway home when Wales got the call. His son lived.
Cast out and cut off, but with a strong bankroll from royalties that were legally his, Igby found his way to the Pipes, bringing with him Spaulding Gray and a more modestly priced pit crew. Where other racers stole their cars, or rebuilt them from scrap, Igby had a fresh ride to trash, every race.
He was still The Prince, he told himself. Once he took down the Mask, he’d be the king.