Written by Fred Vosk and Lewis Pratt

Copyright © 1995 Fred E. Vosk
All rights reserved.


Leather clad motorcyclists swarm through a small high desert town like wasps over a picnic spread. These, the GRUNGERS, are a defiant, independent breed of bikers and racers who stage impromptu match races throughout the Southwest. Baker is crawling with them. They circle lazily around the gas stations and parking lots. They cruise the main street in formation and lounge around the streets and storefronts from the city square to the old landing strip on the outskirts of town. Merchants hire extra help to handle the huge increase in customers. This is the biggest boon to the local economy since the last bike race. In fact, racers are the economy here; they spend a lot of money. But the racers and spectators are here for one thing: the word has gone out that the BIKESTERS and the awesome V-8 powered SUPERBIKE will compete against any and all takers in a "Run what Ya Brung" midnight match race. Everyone stops what they're doing and stares as the Bikesters' truck and trailer pulls into town and stops in front of the Truck Stop Cafe. They all know SuperBike has arrived.


This truck stop hasn't seen a truck since Johnson was president. Still, it's the dive of choice for the Grungers. They spin in and out of the gravel front lot as if they own the place. Inside, CELESTE, an attractive and street smart 20, pirouettes among the reveling Grungers in an impressive demonstration of balance and finesse. The Grungers may act like they own the place, but Celeste runs the show. She takes orders, serves food, cleans tables, and keeps everybody in line with efficiency and grace. Despite their rough edges, the Grungers are a decent bunch-and know better than to challenge Celeste's clear authority.

At the video games, NAIL, a punkish twenty-something, hammers and pounds the controls as he struggles to displace Celeste's high scores. Something tells you he'd rather break the machine then lose-especially to a girl.

In the back, TK, a small black kid in a wheelchair, passes his tattered blue sticker book among the Racers, collecting new stickers and autographs. He's a computer prodigy-a fledgling hacker who attends college by computer modem-but he's also a fanatic bike racing fan. Elated, he introduces Celeste to BIG DADDY CORLISS, the Grunger racing champion who had remained undefeated until Terry and SuperBike appeared on the scene.

Celeste and TK have a special relationship. Raised in foster homes, they've long considered themselves brother and sister. On her eighteenth birthday, Celeste moved out on her own and began to work as a waitress so that she could obtain legal guardianship of the young genius. Since then, she's worked an endless succession of subsistence jobs to pay their rent, and put her own dreams on hold so that TK's schooling and Internet access bills are always paid.

Exasperated, Nail finally challenges Celeste to prove herself on the video game: if Nail can only work his way up to the tenth highest score-there's no way a girl can hold numbers one through nine. He bets two passes to the race that 'CEL' is somebody else. Celeste easily replaces the number two score, bumping Nail from the list. As he hands her the passes, the place erupts in catcalls and hollering.

In a back booth, Terry and Nitro hold court; talking and joking with the racers and fans who come by to visit or just say, "Hi". Since the end of their daredevil and boat racing days, Terry and Nitro have gotten back into Drag Racing. First, it was with Dragsters and Funny Cars, which were fast, but weren't exciting enough for Terry, then with bikes, which were exciting, but weren't fast enough. Now they have Nitro's latest creation, 'SuperBike', a motorcycle powered by a AA/Fuel Dragster engine. This seems to be both exciting and fast enough for Terry. In fact, it's just plain "scary"! It's so scary that it isn't allowed to race at sanctioned events that count toward the national championship, however there's lots of very lucrative match racing, against everything from AA/Fuel Dragsters, Funny Cars and the occasional Jet Car on down. Sometimes Terry races against Pro Stockers and gives them a two second head start. He always catches them, but it's always the most fun at an all bike race, like the races the Grungers put on. Terry and Nitro crisscross the country, going wherever there's a race for them.

Terry looks up and growls at the face of BO BARNS, the famous ("Just ask Bo") international dragster driver, as it appears on the TV screen behind the counter. Barns likes to brag he's the best in the world. The only problem is that he is. For the third year in a row he is likely to amass enough points to win the season championship. For Terry, beating Bo Barns is what SuperBike is for, the rest is just practice. They may not let SuperBike run at their races, but Terry knows he can beat their champion: "Especially that loudmouth!"