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“Now this was a groovy idea,” Speed said through a mouthful of pizza. Kate smiled shyly and looked down at her plate. The group, which now included Sparky, was seated around Speed Racer’s dining room table munching away hungrily at the dinner which had been brought over.
The pizza box was sitting open in the middle of the table, and most of the slices had been taken already. Jay and Speed were responsible for eating the majority of them, but Kate and Alicia had been able to get a few. Sparky had declined eating any of the rest of the pizza because he had already eaten before coming over.
“Thanks for bringing over the pizza,” Alicia remarked to Sparky as she finished her current slice and wiped her mouth with her napkin.
“Don’t mention it,” he replied, shrugging and smiling at her. Alicia smiled back, blushing a little. This ‘Sparky’ guy interested Alicia, as she didn’t know a lot about him. She hadn’t watched 'Speed Racer' that much, even though her best friend Kate was a fan of it.
Sparky turned his attention to his friend Speed, sitting adjacent to him on his other side, across from Alicia. “So Speed. What’s going on?” he asked, puzzled. “Aren’t you supposed to be in China?”
“Yeah, I was, but the plane I was on got hijacked,” Speed answered, and he took a bite out of his pizza slice.
“That’s what the guy at the pizza parlor said he heard, on the radio,” Sparky said. Speed winced. So, word was already coming in that he hadn’t made his destination. Speed realized suddenly that his father probably wouldn’t be fretting about whether he made it to the People’s Republic 500, but whether he was alive or not. It occurred to Speed that his parents didn’t know anything about the madman or his transporter device.
Sparky continued, as if to reassure himself that Speed was actually there. “But the report only said that you might have been on the hijacked flight. They don’t know for sure, because the airlines won’t release that information. The pizza guy says he figures now that something must have kept you from boarding that plane. He says that you’re having car trouble.”
“Yeah, well, I am...sort of. But that’s not what kept me from getting to China,” Speed said, and added, “I told you what happened to my car, didn’t I?”
“Yeah,” Sparky answered. “Didn’t you say on the phone that your car was on the hijacked plane with you?”
Speed sighed wearily, the events of the last couple of days catching up with him. “Yes, I did,” he answered. “But I don’t know where they landed the plane, which means that I don’t know where my car is. Furthermore, I don’t know how I’d get back to wherever it was anyway.”
Jay, who had been sitting at the other end of the dining room table opposite Sparky, finished the slice of pizza he’d been eating and excused himself from the table to go watch more TV. Kate remained seated next to Alicia at the table, working on her slice of pizza and listening to the conversation. She thought it was interesting.
“You don’t know where it was they landed you?” Sparky asked, curious. “Did they blindfold you before they landed or something?”
“No,” Speed answered. “I mean, I know the hijackers landed me on an island somewhere, but they told me that no one would be able to find it since it was uncharted,” he said, clarifying his earlier statement.
“Hmmm,” Sparky mused. “So you’re saying your car’s lost on an uncharted island. Well, somehow we’ll have to find a way to get it back. We can’t just leave it there.”
“I know, but...” Speed trailed off, and sighed. There was silence for a moment between the two men. ‘Star Trek’ could be heard in the background, as Jay watched TV.
Finally, Sparky’s curiosity on a certain issue broke the silence. “By the way, Speed,” he began, “how did you get back home, anyway?”
Speed smiled and chuckled a little, thinking of how absurd his explanation would sound. But he recounted the conversation he’d had in Alicia’s living room, and the conversation he’d had with Jay and Alicia at his dining room table.
Sparky sat wide-eyed, and after Speed finished, gave a low whistle. “Gee, Speed,” he commented. “That’s a little bit—”
“Unbelievable?” Speed finished. Sparky nodded. “Yeah, I know, but that’s what happened,” Speed said, and shrugged. Sparky pondered Speed’s story for a moment, then shrugged as well. Weird things had happened to he and Speed before. Still, this had to be the weirdest.
Kate, who had been listening to the whole conversation and who had finally finished her slice of pizza, interjected. “Wait a minute,” she said, and both men turned to her. “I hope you don’t think I’m too nosy for listening, but I’m curious about something you guys said. If Speed Racer was supposed to be in China, then when he called you—” Kate pointed at Sparky—“how did you know he was at his house? Wouldn’t you think he’d be calling from China?” she asked.
“Well,” Sparky explained, “Before he left, Speed Racer told me that once he got to China, he wouldn’t be allowed to call out of the country due to government restrictions on the foreign drivers visiting there. I guess the Chinese government was afraid that the foreign drivers would call out and report bad things about them to the rest of the world, or something.” Sparky smiled. “But that’s how I knew he was here, and not in China,” he concluded.
“Besides, a long distance call of that caliber would’ve been really expensive anyway, and Pops would’ve blown a gasket,” Sparky added, and laughed. Speed laughed with him, knowing that Sparky was probably right. Alicia grinned, and Kate nodded, thinking of what her own father would say about a long-distance call like that. “Yep, long distance calls are pretty expensive,” she commented, getting up from the table and taking her plate over to the kitchen sink. As she did so, Kate remembered that it had once been said in a history class that a long distance call was not yet a common thing in the 1960s. To call from China would have been very costly, as that phone call would’ve had to travel through a cable under the ocean. A call like that would be costly anyway, even with communications satellites, Kate thought.
Alicia excused herself from the dining room table then, to go watch TV with Jay. Kate, too, went over to the living room after she put her plate in the sink. It was just Speed Racer and Sparky at the dining room table now.
Speed reached into his pocket and pulled out some money, remembering that he'd told his friend that he'd pay him back for the pizza he brought over. “Hey. Here's the money I owe you for the pizza,” he said, handing some dollar bills to Sparky.
“Oh, it's no big deal,” Sparky replied, politely declining. He hadn't minded in the least doing a favor for his friend, and thus didn't really want Speed to give him money for it.
“No, I said I'd pay you back,” Speed insisted, pushing the money across the table toward Sparky. Sparky had no choice but to take it. He shrugged. Well, at least his friend was being honest. That was one thing that was admirable about him. Sparky put the money in his pocket.
After that, the conversation drifted off to other topics as the two men caught up on the things that had been going on since Speed had left for China. Sparky suggested that Speed call Trixie and tell her what was going on, as she probably didn't have a clue and would probably be worried sick about him. Speed groaned inwardly as it occurred to him that he'd have to explain everything again to his girlfriend, who was much less forgiving than Sparky. The two men talked late into the night.

It was dark outside now, and everything was winding down. Sparky had left, and the remaining Group of Four was getting ready to go to bed. Jay got up from where he’d been sprawled on the floor in front of the TV and he shut it off. Alicia yawned and stretched, shifting to stand up from her spot on the couch. Kate had been sitting at the opposite end of the couch, and she, too, got up. She stretched her arms over her head and locked her fingers together, pushing them out so that her knuckles cracked. She yawned. Jay moved over to stand by Kate, and dusted off the front of his clothes. Jay, Kate, and Alicia stood together now between the living room and dining room, looking like a group of tired wanderers. It was going to be their first night in this new place.
Speed was going through the kitchen and dining room now, checking things over and preparing the house for the night. He crossed over into the living room and shut off a lamp next to the couch. He also pulled the curtains shut on the living room window. Alicia watched Speed work, and it occurred to her that she would be here in his house again the next day. She wondered what the next day would bring, and decided to ask.
“Hey, what are we going to do tomorrow?” Alicia asked.
“Well, I was thinking of taking you all out shopping tomorrow, for clothes,” Speed replied as he straightened the pillows on the couch.
“Shopping?” Kate echoed, surprised. Alicia was also taken aback. Jay was slightly surprised, but didn’t show it. Why does he want to do that? he thought. Speed turned to face them.
“Yeah. It just occurred to me that you don’t have anything else to wear, except the clothes you have on right now,” Speed responded.
“Oh, but you don’t have to take us shopping,” Kate said, shaking her head. She was trying to be gracious and didn’t want to impose on her host.
“Yeah,” Alicia agreed, feeling the same way. “We could just wash our clothes.”
“No, I want to take you all shopping,” Speed replied positively. More soberly, he added, “Actually, to tell you the truth, I think the clothes you’re all wearing now could use replacing.”
Jay frowned. “What’s wrong with what we’re wearing now?” he asked defensively. Alicia also wondered what was wrong with her clothes, but was more gracious than Jay.
“Well...” Speed hesitated, taken aback by Jay’s defensiveness and trying to think of something to say to the group that would be honest but tactful. “Your clothes just seem a little...ragged. That’s all.” A little less tactfully but partly on purpose he added, “And Jay, that costume is just ridiculous.”
Jay scowled, but inside he knew that what Speed was saying was partly right, if not right on. His costume was kind of cheesy; it hadn’t seemed to impress Kate that much anyway, as she had been more shocked than pleased to see him in it and hadn’t seemed to pay much attention to him after that, ducking into the kitchen to get some lemonade. Then the real thing had shown up. Thinking of this made Jay feel bitter.
Jay looked down at his attempted costume. The red scarf that he’d swiped from his mother was too long, and was squared at the ends. His blue polo shirt lacked white lining on the inside and a “G” on the front. Also, instead of remaining open at the top, Jay’s shirt had buttons that could close the collar.
Furthermore, Jay’s pants, although white, were too long and flared at the bottom, which caused them to drape down over his shoes and drag along the floor. The hems on the pants weren’t ragged yet, but they were dirty. Also, instead of loafers, Jay was wearing a pair of rather beat up sneakers. Jay sighed. There remained his hair and glasses, but he didn’t need to see those to know that what he wore couldn’t compete with the model in front of him. Jay became disappointed in his costume, and chided himself for not watching at least one of the episodes of 'Speed Racer' he’d taped before putting the thing together. However, he couldn’t be too hard on himself, as he hadn’t counted on meeting Speed Racer when he went to see Kate.
Meanwhile, Alicia was looking down at her outfit and studying it. She was wearing an oversized black Coal Chamber t-shirt that had a few stains on it, but not many. Her sister, who’d spilt nail polish on it, had put the ugliest one there but Alicia had gotten most of that out in the wash.
Along with her t-shirt, Alicia wore a pair of Velcro-fastened nylon pants that had huge, baggy legs and giant pockets on the sides, down by her knees. These pants swallowed her feet, making it difficult for her to walk and thus resulting in the hems becoming very ragged and very dirty as they dragged along the ground constantly. After surveying herself, Alicia looked up and shrugged.
Kate was also surveying her clothing, and wondered what was wrong with it. Heck, she hadn’t scrutinized her clothing this much since junior high school. She was wearing a ¾ sleeve softball tee with a picture of Super Mario on the front, jumping into the air and giving a “V” for victory sign. Her jeans were like Jay’s, in that they were long and flared at the bottom, draping down over her shoes and dragging along the ground. Her hems were very ragged, and she had a hole at one knee and a patch on her back pocket. Kate glanced at Alicia, puzzled.
But then it occurred to her as she looked at her clothing again and looked at what the others were wearing that there was a very good reason for getting new clothes. None of the clothes they were wearing would fit into this era. She remembered that it was supposed to be 1967. Super Mario and Coal Chamber were unheard of. Kate sighed.
Speed Racer moved past the three now, heading for the doorway to the foyer to go to the staircase.
“Well, if you really want to take us out shopping, then...” Alicia replied, trailing off and shrugging. She was going to say whatever, but decided not to. Alicia wasn’t sure she felt comfortable with the idea of someone she barely knew spending money on her. But if he insisted, she couldn’t stop him. The fact that he’d also be spending money on Jay and Kate consoled her somewhat.
Jay, Kate, and Alicia moved to follow Speed out of the room.
“Are you sure you want to take us shopping?” Kate asked one more time as the group went up the stairs, mindful of the fact that it meant Speed would have to spend a lot of money.
“Yeah, it’ll be fun,” Speed remarked. He knew that it hadn’t occurred to anyone in the group yet that international racecar driving had made him rich. He smiled. “We’ll go downtown. There are some cool shops down there.”
The group reached the upstairs landing, and Kate and Alicia went off down the hall to their room, to go get ready for bed. Speed had ended up putting Jay on a mattress on the floor in his room, and this was where Jay was going to be sleeping while he was at Speed's house. Speed lent Jay one of his extra pairs of pajamas and Jay dressed in the bathroom. While Jay was dressing, Speed decided to go find some nightclothes for Kate and Alicia to wear. Since his mother wasn't home, he figured they could borrow some of her nightgowns to wear for the evening, until they could get out the next day and buy nightclothes of their own.
Meanwhile, Kate was digging through her backpack looking for her toothbrush and contact lens carrying case. Fortunately for her, the backpack she’d grabbed when she’d left Alicia’s house was also the same one that she’d traveled with to visit Alicia and thus had all her stuff in it.
“Hey, Kate,” Alicia said, as Kate rummaged. “I can’t believe that guy’s going to take us shopping.”
“I know,” Kate responded in agreement, then added, “Want to know why I think he’s so insistent on doing it?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Alicia responded, curious to hear Kate's theory.
“I think it’s because he knows our clothing doesn’t fit with this era,” Kate said. “Except he can’t put his finger on it. He just knows it's not right.”
“What do you mean?” Alicia asked. Kate explained to Alicia that by taking Jay's theory into account and judging 'Speed Racer' by the time at which it was written, she had concluded that she, Alicia, and Jay were all in the 1960s.
“You mean, like when ‘Austin Powers’ takes place?” Alicia asked, surprised.
“Yeah, right around there, if you’re thinking of the beginning of the first movie,” Kate said. She finally retrieved her contact lens case, along with the saline solution to clean her lenses, and headed down the hall to the bathroom.
Kate surveyed herself in the mirror for a minute, then pulled back her bottom eyelid with her left hand. She reached in with her right finger and carefully slid the lens out of her eye. Speed Racer walked up behind her. Kate noticed him in the mirror, standing in the bathroom doorway.
“Hey, Kate. I left you a nightgown in your room, to wear to bed,” he said, gesturing in the direction of Kate’s room.
“Uh, huh,” she affirmed and nodded slightly as she pulled her other eyelid down to get the lens out of her other eye. Speed watched Kate curiously, to see what she was doing to her eye. She brought her hand away from her face and he noticed she had something balanced on the tip of her finger. He watched her knock this object into the palm of her opposite hand, then pick up a squeeze bottle nearby and douse it in something that looked like water. Finally, his curiosity got the better of him.
“Kate, can I ask you what you’re doing?” Speed said.
“What, you mean this?” Kate answered back, holding up her cupped palm. Her contact lens sat in the middle of a small pool of saline solution, all crumpled up.
“These are my contact lenses,” Kate explained. “I wear these to see, instead of glasses, because keeping track of my glasses became too much of a burden.” She smiled, and opened the left side of her contact lens carrying case. She filled it with saline solution and dropped the lens in.
She has contact lenses, Speed thought. She’s able to correct her vision without wearing glasses. Wow. It was an enviable position to be in, but it was also an expensive one. Speed was mindful of this fact. Although, he did think it was odd that her lenses crumpled. He’d never heard of a contact lens that crumpled before. And there was one other thing that was odd.
“Say, shouldn't you have to boil those to clean them?” he asked.
“No,” Kate replied, picking up the squeeze bottle and showing it to Speed. “This saline solution cleans them. I just leave the lenses in it overnight.” Speed nodded, fascinated.
Kate saw Speed turn and leave, in the mirror. She sighed and closed her lens case, leaving it on the bathroom counter. The stress of the day was catching up with her.
Kate walked into her room and saw the nightgown laid out for her on the bed. Noticing her friend was already asleep, she stayed in the room to change.
There was only one bed in the room, and Alicia was already sleeping under the sheets. Kate laid down on top of them and curled up as best she could. Kate wondered what the next day would bring to her in this strange new place. It was a long time before she fell asleep herself.

On to the next chapter. ---->