"Von Derzel" sat on top of a motorcycle he'd never ridden before that had his name printed all over it. He wouldn't be there at all if it wasn't for the many corporate sponsors whose names also coated the sleek white surface of his ride...

"Hell, who am I kidding," Bruce muttered, running a hand through his hair as he tried to get comfortable, "I wouldn't be here if the REAL Von Derzel hadn't spilled coffee all over himself on the ride here..."

Bruce knew Von Derzel in real life. The guy was really pretty personable, but like a lot of action movie stars he knew... a bit of a chicken. But Bruce liked the guy, and he decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and imagine that he really did somehow spill hot coffee (Derzel always drank iced mocha when Bruce had to run out and get him coffee on set) all over himself, and that he didn't just wuss out and turn with his tail between his legs. "Christ, what a-"

"Chiiiiiiickeeeeeeen!" a voice chirped from his PET, followed by imitation clucking sounds. "What's the matter, the last time you jumped a parking lot! Don't tell me poor Brucey's traumatized..." Dare was attempting to prod Bruce back into fighting spirit, knowing that the best way was to make digs that would really get beneath his skin.

Unfortunately, Bruce wasn't scared, just frustrated. "For the last time, Dare, I'm not afraid of this! I just don't get where this promotional is coming from. How the hell did they get that this was a good idea with my track record?!"

The "promotional" Bruce was referring to was a cool event Von Derzel was participating in that his sponsors had thought up... really, a very harmless motorcycle ride off a ramp, over a flaming car, and onto a ramp on the other side. Bruce felt that that was something most teenage kids with a dirt bike could handle. The problem was, the promotional part was to allow a passenger to ride along with him...

The "track record" Bruce was referring to was the tire skid burns he was still trying to work off his legs, the burnt hair he'd just managed to regrow, the broken arm he'd narrowly avoided his last time on set, the bandaged nose he DIDN'T manage to save himself from...

"Hey, hey, none of that now!" Dare chided her operator, giving him a bright and cheery smile. "If you're truly confident, you don't think you can fail! If you don't think you can fail, how can your passenger get hurt?"

"Well, uh... normally I'm all for it, but the fact is that thinking I can't fail has failed me in the past... now, when it's just me, you know I'm all for it," Bruce told her, adding a nervous laugh and flashing his teeth in a habitual grin that accompanied a show of machismo, "but when it comes to someone else-"

"Aah, no way," Dare interrupted him, putting a hand to her forehead. Her eyebrows peaked in a display of despair above her shades. "If you've survived it so many years, don't you think they can take it as well? I really wanna see your stunt!"

"Hey, we both know I'm not most guys," Bruce said, happy to take the opportunity to pat himself on the back.

Dare just continued to look at him in dismay. The fact of the matter was that she couldn't comprehend the danger in play here: since her conception, she'd only seen Bruce get up and walk off accident after accident at the set where he was employed. All she saw was Bruce turning down a perfectly good (and frankly, perfectly easy) challenge. If his passenger happened to get thrown and have to nurse a bruise for a while, well, that was the price of showbiz.

"All right, all right, I'll give it a test run. If I can do it perfectly, I'll go through with this: if I can't, we'll..." Bruce had to pause, realizing he actually had no idea how to explain it to his employers if he couldn't do it. "We'll call Von Derzel and get his lazy butt down here to do it himself, like he agreed in the first place! All right?"

"I'm telling you, there's no way you'll fail. Don't make me have to call Derzel, his Navi's a jerk," Dare commented, tilting her shades down as if to convey with eye contact that this was a serious matter.

Bruce had talked enough. Putting his PET on his belt and his helmet on his head, he gripped the handlebars firmly and started the ride up. There wouldn't be anyone watching for his test try, so he didn't have anything to worry over. He'd done stunts harder than this in worse condition... so there was no reason to worry. Just get it out of the way now...

Put on a good show for the peanut gallery...

"Damn, and I even have to wear the helmet and the friggin' visor when I meet the audience. One day, these people are going to know Bruce Shiner's face," he sighed inwardly.

The motorcycle budged and then zoomed forward, but Bruce wasn't worried at all. This was routine, and no one was watching.

Suddenly, a rock guitar began playing from his hip. "Oh, right, there's your alarm, man!" Dare called out. "That means the park's opening!"

Already over the ravine, listening to his own personal rock theme playing at his hip, feeling the flames licking at his boots, "Von Derzel" turned to look at the crowd that had already begun to gather, forgoing the rides which were just starting up to look at the act going on here and now...

Because Bruce wasn't watching his landing at all, the motorcycle landed with a slighly forward vertical incline. Realizing his mistake by instinct, the stuntman bailed for dear life and hit the dirt to his right hard. He watched as the bike hit the ramp, seemed to roll forward on its front tire like a deranged unicycle for a moment, and then spun out toward the guard rail someone had been smart enough to set up in front of the crowd. The bike had begun to lose steam at this point, and thankfully came to a smooth stop on its side before reaching the rail.

Bruce got up gingerly, coughing from the dust he'd raised and testing all of his joints with the practice of someone who'd seen it all before. He was still a little dizzy, but he thought he'd had marvelous fortune in avoiding even minor injury in the accident.

"I caught it on the park cameras! I knew you could do it, Br-" Dare began, before Bruce sharply hit the mute button on his PET.

"Von Derzel" walked up to the half-horrified half-exhilarated crowd, still dusting himself off and straightening his helmet. "All right, folks! Welcome to AdrenalineWorld, the theme park that always delivers the thrills! I'm Von Derzel, star of the upcoming Cycle of Tragedy, and I'm here to take one of you on a wild ride! Who wants to hop aboard and jump a flaming car?!"

Bruce had forgotten everything but the barest bones of the speech he'd reheard on his way here, and his Von Derzel accent left a lot to be desired. Dare realized that she might have seriously dropped the ball on this one...

Worse still, the entire audience (even those who had been enthusiastic about the stunt they'd seen) appeared pretty cold to the idea of hopping on board with the movie star they'd just seen nearly break an arm in what they presumed was a preliminary try of the stunt he was now describing.

"Aw, hell..." Bruce mentally groaned, looking the audience over to see if there were any potential takers among his quickly backstepping audience.
Teruko arrived at the amusement park; her athletic shoes squeaked as she left the metroline platform and headed towards the gates. "Good gosh, I'm excited! There's so many people right here at the front, though... I wonder if something's going on just ahead?" she mused, trying to stand on her toes and see over them. Of course, this did nothing to fix her basically average height, so she had no luck.

"It could just be the ticket line. Unless you've ordered in advance, I'd imagine we're going to be seeing that group for a while," Ante replied, keeping her smile as her spirits dampened. She wasn't all that interested in roller coasters, but still, it'd be better than standing in line.

"Ha ha ha! No way! See, I won free tickets a long time ago from some radio call-in event! I got like three sets!" she giggled. "It pays to keep trying some times! Still, it feels a little silly that I'm here by myself... Well, with you, of course! But navis get in free."

"It would be a little strange to make the navis pay," her navi chuckled.

Teruko lifted one eyebrow quizzically. "Wait, Ante... you didn't think the rides were just for people, did you? They've got rides all over their network designed for navis too! You're going to have a blast! Just make sure you hold on to your hat when you ride. It looks pretty expensive."

Smiling and pretending to be enthused, Ante tried to silence her quivering stomach.


Making it past the front gates, Teruko was entranced to spot Von Derzel immediately after entering. "Oh my goooosh! It's him! Von Derzel! From Motorkill and Floor It! And Motorkill 4!" she gasped, trying to get to the front of the crowd of spectators. It was surprisingly easy to do so; they didn't seem nearly as excited as she was to see the movie star. Furthermore, Teruko realized that he was looking for a show assistant. "Oooooh, meeee, Mr. Derzel! Me me me!"

Ante was the first of the two of them to catch sight of the bike he'd lost hold of, sitting with wheels spinning near the audience railing. "Teruko..." she gulped. "I don't think you want to ride anywhere with this guy... I certainly don't think I want to hear Von Derzel and Motorkill in the same sentence."

Clenching her fists briefly, Teruko then exploded with vigor, waving her hands above her head. "Mr. Derzel! Mr. Von! Er, Von! Sir!" she continued, bouncing up and down so that both her upward-oriented hair clip and boobs flailed as well. "I've got to be in the show with you, pleeeease!"

"I think that I'd be significantly more comfortable facing hostile opponents in a jackout barrier than riding in or on any sort of motor vehicle with that man. Please reconsider," Ante whimpered, trying to keep a cool expression. She was just as worried about her own safety as Teruko's at this point.

"It's really just a gamble, right? Imagine a table where the dealer just sits there and nobody even tries to make a hit! That'd suck," she lectured her navi. "It's really just like flipping a coin, heads or tails. Heads, I get Von Derzel's autograph and get to jump over a flaming car! Tails, I don't get an autograph and don't get to jump over a flaming car."

"You left out the part about how the motorcycle ends up overturned on the other side..." Ante murmured, feeling as if her virtual lunch was starting to come up.

"Pleeeease, Mr. Derzel! I'll be a great motorcycle buddy! I even checked my weight this morning and you should be able to do the jump even with me on there! I'll be your best friend! Well, I'm already your biggest fan, but best friends are even better than biggest fans, right?!" she wailed, clinging desperately to the audience-separating rail.
Bruce was glad the motorcycle visor was hiding his face, because the faltering expression on his face certainly wasn't a crowd-winning grin of invitation. "Hey, Derzel buddy, maybe you aren't as popular as you thought, if not even one of these guys is itching for an opportunity like this. I thought you superstars had legions of fans who were crazy for you!" It suddenly occurred to the stuntman that maybe they weren't buying his impersonation... "One more time, folks, aaaaaaanyone up for a ride...?"

Apparently this last bid had not fallen on deaf ears, because somebody was suddenly showing a lot of enthusiasm. Since he hadn't seen her before, Bruce could only imagine she'd just arrived... and seemed to have no concept of the minimum enthusiasm she had to show to be the biggest fan in the crowd. "That's more like it, a truly head-over-heels fan!" Bruce noted with a hidden grin, imagining the day he had some of his own. His grin widened a little bit as he noted the extra baggage his volunteer would be carrying along for the ride.

Bruce thought he was about to lose his volunteer as she began talking on her PET. At first, he feared she might be taking a call, which of course she would leave for... then, it seemed more likely someone was trying to talk some sense into her, but Bruce was happy to see that "sense" didn't look like a word she knew. Frankly, Bruce was starting to feel a little scared riding along with her.

"You, there, are clearly the biggest fan and the craziest daredevil in this audience! Climb over here and hop on Bruce-"


"Uh... bruised-up honest-to-God Von Derzel's Cycle of Tragedy!" Normally, he'd be getting some ominous vibes from how badly he was messing up already and how damn depressing his correction and the bike's name were together... but he figured that this one looked so eager to see herself get hurt that it would just be in tacky taste for life to do anything to her.

Bruce took a seat on the bike, scooching up a bit past where he'd normally sit to make room for his "motorcycle buddy." He was actually thinking how much fun it'd be to ride with his new best friend in front, but of course there was no way he was going to try something in a situation like this. "Come on over and hold on tight!"


Dare, meanwhile was pouting and watching the cameras. Watching Bruce do a stunt he had already braved more-or-less successfully while unable to talk or even be acknowledged was not her idea of a fun time.
"Oh wooow! I'm going to ride the Cycle of Misery with Von Derzel! This is the greatest day of my life," Teruko gasped, giggling incessantly as she ran to get on the back of the bike. She sort of wanted to try riding on the front, just cause she thought the view would be so much better, but she supposed that might be imposing. Besides that, could you actually ride at the front without driving the motorcycle yourself? She suspected not.

"Teruko, I think this would be a good time to get a few things in order. First of all, do you have any experience in motorcycle safety? You should at least make sure that Mr. Durzel plans to offer you a helmet... Oh, and also, I don't believe I've ever heard you talk about your workplace's healthcare benefits..." Ante muttered, feeling increasingly upset. She couldn't help but start mentally counting off all of the things that could go wrong with the dangerous stunt.


"Alright, we got it! Let's take off!" Teruko cheered. "Blastooooff!"

"Yeah, alright! Danger's my middle name!" Von Derzel laughed, reaching his hands back to squeeze Teruko's buttocks and move her closer to the front. "Von Danger Derzel! Hey, and don't wear a helmet, baby! Better to have the wind flowin' in your hair!" With that shout, Von Derzel threw off his helmet, revealing his stunning golden locks and dazzling smile.

"Yeah! Let's set another car on fire too and ride over that as well!" Teruko cried out in glee.

"Alriiiiiight, do it!" they both shouted in unison as the motorcycle sped off across the ramp, then across two flaming cars. Somewhere mid-jump, Ante's PET fell out of Teruko's pocket, sending her down in slow motion towards the immolated cars below.


"Teruko, I don't feel like we should do this," Ante reiterated, gulping nervously as she snapped herself out of her vision.

Her operator simply chuckled, then blew a big, silly raspberry. "Don't be a spoiled sport, Ante! You're just jealous cause I'm riding with Von Derzel," she laughed, hugging her arms around Bruce's chest and smushing her breasts up against his back. Her voice reverberated inside his helmet as she shouted into his ear: "Let's goooo!"

"N-No. I think you're just a little starstruck. You're thinking, 'because this is Von Derzel, I'll do anything he asks me to.' Thrillseeking can be a dangerous hobby without proper preparation," Ante warned. "It's not so different in concept than netbattling or virus busting."

Teruko didn't hear any of Ante's lecture; the hum of the motorcycle was making it hard to hear her navi. "Hey, just a thought, I don't need a helmet or anything, do I?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.
Bruce tried to concentrate on what he was supposed to be doing, knowing that he wouldn't be forgiven for any screw-ups this time around. He had to admit, though, it was pretty tough with the force of this woman's body against his back and her voice against his eardrums. While he was checking his own preparations from atop the motorcycle, he was surprised to hear her chime in about the helmet herself. "Sh*t, I completely forgot... I'm sure they left passenger helmets around here somewhere..."

He turned on his two-way communication with Dare inside his helmet, talking into a single-headphone microphone he was wearing beneath. "Hey Dare, did they say anything about a passenger's helmet for this?"

"Yeah, they did... but now that you mention it," Dare responded, going over the information, "I'm pretty sure Von Derzel was supposed to bring his own..."

"And that son-of-a-gun didn't show up. Are you telling me I'm wearing the passenger helmet?"

"Hey, you've seen Von Derzel enough that you should know what his custom helmet looks like before you put it on!" Dare chided him. "That thing you're wearing now looks ultra-pedestrian."

Bruce was now in a tough spot... he had to either neglect the passenger's safety by keeping the helmet, or reveal his identity by giving her his...

"I know what you're thinking," Dare told him, her confident grin in place in spite of the situation. "Think of it this way: if you reveal your identity, the whole thing's blown before you even jump. If you just put safety on the back burner as usual, as long as you manage the jump fine, there'll be nothing to worry about!"

Normally, Bruce would have considered other factors like the weight of the consequences, but right now the whole thing was giving him a headache. He took a deep breath before settling back into his best Von Derzel and raising his voice back to a level that allowed his passenger to hear him: "Nah, no way! Danger's my middle name! Von Danger Derzel! You don't need a helmet with a professional like me at the pedal. Better to have the wind flowin' through your hair!" Bruce thought the last part sounded a little cheesy, but it sounded like the kind of thing Derzel would say.

The stuntman still had his doubts, but he was starting to get a little bit more scared of what would happen if he kept the lady waiting any longer. "Hold on tight! Ahahahahahaaaa..." Bruce's laugh tapered off... "Seriously," he added as a low-key punctuation.

Revving the motorcycle, Bruce reminded himself to keep focused. He realized he might be experiencing his first taste of stardom right here, but he would have time later to think about the fans... the adoration... the close-contact hugs with those huge-

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Bruce shouted, "Let's ride!" The motorcycle shot forward and cleared the ramp just as gracefully as it had before. Bruce kept his eyes planted straight ahead, gazing intensely at the landing ramp he had to hit at just the right angle...

"Don't look down!" Dare shouted into his ear. "Don't lose your focus and don't look down! Is she holding on tight enough? Is she still there?! Maybe you'd better look back and check! I'm looking at the cameras and I don't see her... unless that's her down on the flaming car? Oh, man, it doesn't look good, maybe you'd better look back and-"

Bruce ignored all of his Navi's babble with practiced patience and landed the bike perfectly. He had done it. The stuntman skidded to a sliding stop, dramatically catching the dirt with his foot and leaving the bike slightly tilted.

"Hah, way to go, Brucey boy! You didn't even let me distract you at all this time!"

"Hell yes!" Bruce exclaimed, hopping off of the bike and pumping his fists in the air, completely oblivious of the passenger he'd taken along for the ride. "That's how we get it done!" The adrenaline was pumping strong in the man's veins, and without thinking he took off the helmet and bounced it hard off the ground. "That's how Bruce Danger Shiner does it!"

Dare's confident smile went to stone on her face, her eyes blank behind her shades. She waited to see what events unfolded with an outsider's curiosity.
Ante closed her eyes and began to pray when Derzel started to exactly mimic what she'd see him do in her nightmare just moments ago. Teruko, on the other hand, just got more excited. "Oooh, right! Like those trapeze artists that perform without safety nets just for the raw thrill of it! So awesome..." she responded, hugging her arms tighter around Von Derzel's chest.

As it turned out, it was a good thing she'd tightened up, because Derzel wasn't holding back on the jump. Almost immediately after telling her to hold on, the motorcyclist shot his bike up and over the flaming car. Teruko cried loudly, looking out over the crowd; she had the briefest thought of holding her hands in the air like she was on a rollercoaster, but quickly remembered that the end result would be deadly. Instead, she simply cheered as loudly as she could during the hang time.

Of course, the hang time wasn't very long, although it felt that way to her. One car-length turned out to be a shorter distance than she'd imagined, and she quickly found herself on the other side. Standing up and feeling dizzy, she continued holding onto Derzel's shoulder and stood up straight. "Wooo! Wooooo..." she continued, clutching at her gut and trying to keep her lunch down. "Von Derzel, you're the greatest!"

Ante shook her head; apparently, her operator had missed the piece of information that he'd just let slip out during her stupor. "I think there's been some mistake. The man there is Bruce Danger Shiner, not Von Danger Derzel," she sighed, wondering how her operator would take the mistake.

Pausing, Teruko stared blankly for a moment at Bruce Shiner. She moved to his front and placed both hands on his shoulders, then stood on her tip-toes and squinted extra-hard into his face. "Woah, you're right! Von Derzel's bald!" she gasped. "His nose isn't that big either." Backing up, she tried to piece together what had happened. "Wow, so you're like... the next Von Derzel, right?!"

"From my understanding, he's imitating Von Derzel for some reason. I couldn't say why..." Ante mused, placing one fist to her chin.

"No, I get it! He's like the new Von Derzel!" Teruko cheered. "It's like those guys who start in an impersonation band before they become the next star, right? He's just Von Derzel for now, while he can do one flaming car. Once he's got four or five lined up and he jumps them, he'll hit the road on his own. That's how it works!"

Ante rubbed her forehead, trying to imagine how Teruko got the idea that the road to stardom was so simple. "S-Sure... Perhaps we should move away from this crowd?" she asked, realizing that Teruko had attracted a lot of attention.

"You know what you should do, Bruce?! You should ride the biggest rollercoaster here with me! It'll probably give you an idea for your next big stunt!" she encouraged him, tugging at his arm. "I've got some ideas for great stunts, we can talk about them together! One of them's really good; it involves a water-ski, a hang-glider, and a scuba mask."

"I admire your outgoing nature, Teruko. On the other hand, maybe it's easier to talk to him now that you know he's not Derzel? W-Which isn't to insult Mr. Shiner, but er..." she muttered, trying to cope with the rapid developments. It seemed like they might be hanging out for a while.
Dare let out an inaudible sigh and let her tight smile widen and relax. It sounded like the fan wasn't angry about Bruce's charade at all, which was good enough for her. It didn't occur to her that they ought to explain anything that was going on to Von Derzel's baffled audience.

"Hey..." Bruce said, rubbing his finger across the bridge of his nose. He was pleased that his new fan wasn't upset, but his ego wouldn't stand for him being downplayed. "I've jumped more flaming cars, both at once and in total, than Von Derzel will in his life! Unfortunately, promotions don't work the way you're thinkin'," Bruce explained, leaving out the part where he figured you could break out as a director based on stunt acting experience.

"Anyway, I'd love to take you up on your offer, seeing as I'm already here and my plans for the afternoon are blown, but my Navi here's real needy: she'll start crying if she has to go without doing anything for too long. Besides, I've been on so many roller coasters that none of them even phase me. I mean, don't get me wrong, they're fun! But when it comes to thinking up stunts..." Bruce muttered, conveniently overlooking his fan's stunt idea. "Well, I don't get to think up stunts for movies - yet, anyway - but I like to think about that kind of stuff in my spare time. The problem is that when you get on a roller coaster, it's all designed so you're perfectly safe, and you can only enjoy it as much as everyone else? We'll go later if you want, but let me show you the way I like to enjoy one of these places. We can keep our Navis from getting bored, too!"

Bruce waved for her to follow and headed over to what looked like a very plain and pedestrian park tour bus. It appeared to go through a jungle greenhouse of some sort. As of this moment, nobody was on-board but a tour guide, who was obviously trying to keep from looking sleepy. Bruce hopped on, swinging around the pole grip at the side to land hard on one of the hard-cushioned seats. "Right, since I'm going to be big one day, I should go ahead and introduce myself! I'm Bruce Shiner," the stuntman told her, forgetting that he'd already spoiled that information earlier as he reached out his hand to help her aboard.
Teruko accepted his hand, hoisting herself up so that she stood in the cart. "My name's Teruko! I'm just a fitness instructor for college folks, though. Being in showbizz must be so different! People knowing your name from the news and all that. Well, not that I knew your name already, but you get it," she laughed, rambling carelessly. After the motorcycle ride, she was half expecting the trolley to shoot over some more flaming cars. She was a little disappointed as she sat down next to Bruce in the ordinary trolley cab, rather than on the back of a cool motorcycle.

Looking around, Teruko began to feel her excitement taper off. Sure, maybe the rollercoaster wasn't that exciting... but this was? She pouted to herself briefly, resting her cheeks in her hands.

"Excuse me, Bruce. I'd like to meet your navi, if that's alright. It's good to become acquainted with one's allies before a battle actually begins," Ante piped in, trying to break the silence and take initiative.

"Oh? Huh? Are you sure he has a navi? I haven't heard him talk to anyone since we started," the operator muttered, turning her head idly to Bruce. She knew that most everyone had a navi nowaday, but she didn't want to seem too interested. After all, she wouldn't forgive him if his navi was the only exciting part of this ride.

Ante nodded, feeling certain. "I have a feeling that Bruce must communicate with her regularly. It's just a hunch, but he seems..." she started, then realized that saying "he seems like he needs someone to talk with so he doesn't get lonely" would be kind of harsh. "He seems like his on-the-go lifestyle sort of necessitates one."

"Fine, we'll meet her! I wanna know what's so exciting about this ride too though!" Teruko huffed, craning her neck around as she tried to figure out what had made Bruce recommend it.
Bruce thought to himself that the first time anyone would see his name could easily be in the obituaries:

"Stunt Double Suffers Tragic Motorcycling Death!:

"Friends and Relatives Claim: 'Bruce Had It Coming'"

He easily managed to shake the thought, though, putting himself back into his normal state of optimism for his future. "Hey, I'll admit nobody would know my name: you'll see me in the credits right between 'Best Boy Rigging' and 'Elephant Trainer' right now. But that's gonna be different in the future, you can count on it!"

Bruce took the chance that Teruko's brief silence gave to give a secret wink to the driver, who gave him a wink back. Normally the special treatment he was about to receive was for when Bruce was a few cans under and wanted to pick up chicks (unsuccessfully), but Bruce was high on adrenaline at the moment and figured it would be interesting enough for now. Not that Bruce currently had any interest in a prolonged engagement with Teruko... she seemed a few flaming cars short of a stunt lineup. Still, she had braved his half-*ssed stunt, and he figured he could at least show her a good time for that.

"And hey, a one-night stand with that body might be fun, too..." a leering inner voice told him, which he brushed aside in order to keep from drooling.

Bruce finally started paying attention again and realized he was being asked about his Navi. "Oh yeah, Dare! You can meet her but, uh, I dunno if a battle's really what we're thinking of here. I mean, it's like I said earlier: ride one roller coaster and you've ridden them all, right? Anyhow, I'll leave it up to you two. Of course, you can jack in to the tram," Bruce told Teruko, demonstrating with his own PET.

"And don't worry about the ride! Take it easy now, because you won't be able to for long..." Bruce leaned back and kicked his feet up, crossing his arms behind his head.

Nobody else had gotten on the ride before it started moving, so the two of them were alone. The tram entered the jungle canopy at a pedestrian pace... the conditions inside were darker, hotter, and muggier, but the air-conditioning in the vehicle helped. Light peeked through the treetops above.

... It seemed like the tour guide normally would start talking about this time, but he was still remaining silent.

Meanwhile, Bruce continued to lean back and look satisfied. He turned to Teruko and smiled, asking, "How do you feel about dinosaurs?"

While jacking Ante in to the net through the park trolley, Teruko looked herself with slumped shoulders. In a childish fashion, she crossed her arms and pouted. "Isn't this just a little trolley tour? Does AdrenalineWorld have a zoo or something?" she asked, then suddenly perked up. A zoo at AdrenalineWorld? That could be sort of awesome! What if the trolley suddenly jolted up to super-speed and darted under some dangling snakes or something?

Even though Bruce had told her to relax, Teruko was all wound up now, thinking about a trolley doing barrel-rolls through a cave full of bats. "Huh? Dinosaurs? Oh, I met a dinosaur just recently!" she laughed, thinking about KaijuMan, whom Ante had shared a good deal of busting time with. "Well, more of a dinosaur head, but it turned into a dinosaur-man later. Dinosaurs are cool," she affirmed with a grin.

Slowly, she tried to piece together why Bruce would be talking about dinosaurs. "Dare's not a dinosaur, is she? I guess it'd make sense if lots of operators wanted dinosaur navis," she mused, raising one eyebrow while keeping her eyes in their usual squint.

Ante, in the mean time, was slightly off-put to hear that Bruce found battle boring. How could anyone dislike netbattling or find it boring? What could possibly be more worthwhile? "Disliking battles... that's like disliking fair-weather picnics, or... or classical chess!" she thought to herself, trying to hide her disdain. There were certain things that a person of class just didn't dislike, or at least should not mention disliking.

"Alrighty, Ante, you go on ahead into the net. In the mean time, Bruce's going to show me his dinosaur," Teruko nodded to her navi. Ante looked confused, but obeyed all the same.

((Jacking in to Netsquare))
"I was expecting the mission to be a little bit more dangerous, but so far, it feels like Dare's just cruising," Bruce commented, still leaning back and crossing his arms. "I guess she's probably on cloud nine, though... she's never seen a place like that, and I bet she's fired up about competing in front of that large of an audience. Even though she has no idea what she's getting into." Bruce shrugged and grinned. "If she has to play the clarinet or something, we're screwed... but it ought to be entertaining, at least."

The ride was starting to pass by some things that looked like shadows of dinosaurs in the dense topiary, but the driver wasn't speaking into his microphone and talking about any of it. What he was doing was picking up speed, first slowly, and then at an alarming rate. The cart audibly protested at the unusual speed it was being forced to manage... and it was still gaining speed.

In spite of this, Bruce didn't appear shaken. "My pal Lucio, he's the driver for this ride... it's old and most people don't take it, so they actually don't bother watching it carefully. So, when I come along and we get out of the open, we can turn this ride into something really exciting!"

Bruce got up from his seat, gracefully keeping his balance even as the cart struggled to navigate its width through the sharp, premeditated turns, and headed for the bars of the car. Without missing a beat, he stepped onto the side railing, crawled to a ladder on the side, and climbed up. The sounds of robotic dinosaurs first grew and then shrank as the cart whizzed past them, and Bruce shouted to talk over them. "Follow me up here! We'll find Dan in some kind of crazy velociraptor get-up, but he won't bother us!"

The stunt man continued upward fearlessly, as he had a number of times before. Normally, he helped his chosen date target up, but he felt like Teruko would do fine without it. "You don't have any health problems I should know about before we get up here, do you? Asthma, or something? You look pretty healthy, but I figure I should ask!" Suddenly, the cart passed a dinosaur arm reaching out of the brush, accompanied by what sounded like a car zipping by as heard from roadside. Bruce had to squish himself against the car to avoid being hit. "Oh right, and be careful! Don't worry, that was the only one of those... but be careful and hurry, so we can get up there before we have to start operating!"
Looking up from her PET, Teruko was amazed to see Bruce climb up out of the cart and disappear from view. She didn't let him stay gone long; inquisitively, she poked her upper body out from the cart, barely missing being decapitated by the dinosaur arm that stuck out from the brush. "You're going up there? That's extreme!" she called out in amazement. It suddenly dawned upon her that he'd asked her to come up too. That seemed absurdly dangerous, but he probably wouldn't ask her to if there was any real danger in it, right?

Carefully, Teruko mounted the railing, then pressed her body up against the ladder. Steeling herself with a determined frown, she quickly climbed up and joined Bruce on the top. Standing up still seemed to be a little beyond her scope... in fact, she couldn't bring herself to dismount the ladder. "Bruce, uh... Is this sorta like surfing? Like, should you give me some lessons or something before I finish climbing up?" she asked.

Suddenly, she remembered that he'd asked her about medical problems. There was her weight problem, but like hell was she divulging that without reason. "Oh, nope, no medical problems! Just uh... a healthy concern of how I stand up on this thing," she called up, watching warily for approaching pterodactyls.
With the practice of a man who'd done it many times before, Bruce grabbed Teruko as gingerly as he could manage and pulled her up on top of the cart. He did it carefully but surely: Teruko was actually in a lot more danger on the side than here on top. As Bruce had mentioned, there was indeed a guy up there in a costume of some sort: the current section of brush they were passing under made it too dark to make out details. With a quick "hey" to Bruce, the man-creature descended the ladder, apparently trading seats with the pair.

Happily, it looked as though there were plentiful measures to make a trip on the cart's roof a breeze. The top of the cart was actually false, allowing the actor to lie flat inside until the cart was in the jungle and remain unseen while outside. Inside that space, which was now folded open, were regular grips for safety.

Bruce was ignoring them entirely, the wind sending his hair flying around behind him as he reclined against the raised parapet of the tram's disguised top. "What'd I say? Pretty exciting, eh? Speaking of which... It seems like Dare's got herself quite a gig there. I'm sure she's got some good ideas there, but I already had a good one of my own!"

Bruce crossed his arms and extended one pointing finger, waving off his points. "Y'see, Dare's probably got some big stunt planned. I'll leave that to her end, since this is practically her dream, but I got a great idea of how to accomplish it: stunt rigging! They can make the arena whatever they want, so that's the set, they can make the props and the special effects, but that's one thing the audience won't be counting on! Not flying or anything like that, but the appearance of defying gravity... and invisible stunt rigging, I think they can make that happen."

Bruce smiled smugly while continuing, adding more quietly, "There is one teensy problem, though. You see, uh, Dare and I... well, we've never... done a NetBattle. So uh, she might not know how to do the moves well, and she probably can't program the dummies to do anything that'll look cool, either. Any suggestions?"
Teruko laughed and bonked herself in the head with one fist, once she was safely up inside the cart. "Ha ha! I thought it'd be kinda flat and breezy, like in the action movies! I was starting to think that you didn't do anything unless it posed the threat of you falling off and breaking every bone in your body," she giggled. It didn't really sound like she was joking, though; she really had started to think that. "Was that a raptor just now?" she asked, resisting the urge to peek over the top of the cart at the guy in the suit.

Listening over Bruce's plan, Teruko nodded excitedly at every point until the last one. Pensively, she lay her head against the roof of the cart and tensed her eyebrows in thought. She soon realized that the roof was vibrating a bit too much to be a good rest, so she opted to leaned against the parapet, imitating Bruce. Her updo ponytail flapped comically in the wind as she tried to decide how to answer.

"Yep, we have a little experience. I'd bet Ante would be pretty comfortable manipulating the dummies and stuff, too. Would you need them to fight, though? Or do something else?" she asked, tilting her head. "I'm sort of hearing you say Dare's going to do a motorcycle stunt or something, but I dunno how we can fit fighting in to that." It all looked pretty bizarre and overly theatrical in her head.
"Yeah, that's the idea I had. I don't think our Navis are required to both attack the dummies, so my idea was that Ante could control them while Dare attacked. She could pretend to be the evil mastermind and control them as minions. You remember Derzel's movies, right? He has fights with guys on bikes all the time! Now, I bet if you've had some battles before you've seen some baddies. Just have Ante design them like those. Make em' fly or whatever if she wants. I dunno, maybe Dare will have some more ideas. Meanwhile, we'll set up Dare with some stunt rigging and she'll play the part of the hero, which I'm sure she's all set up fo- Woah!"

Bruce suddenly grabbed Teruko by the top of her head and pulled her to the floor of the roof. "Your, uh, hair thing... almost caught that animatronic T-Rex head that comes from the ceiling back there! Sorry about that... Uh, anyway, I was thinking you could lend me some of your chips, just for this event. I've only got three sucky ones, and while we can modify the looks of the attacks and all, I think it might go over better if the dummy 'minions' are actually destroyed, right?"
"Sure, sure! I remember Fight Cycle and Two Wheels, Two Fists! Those were awesome," she sighed, thinking of Von Derzel's dreamy portrayal of a hero who could clothesline enemies while riding on a high-speed motorcycle. "Gosh, did you see the one where-?"

Before she could finish, Bruce suddenly squished her cheek up against the roof of the vehicle using one hand. Hadn't she just picked her head up off of the roof because it was uncomfortable? She was about to protest, but he explained it to her quickly enough to avoid her complaints. "Oh, I get you! Thanks, buddy!" she beamed, feeling ironically thankful considering that it was completely his fault that she'd almost just lost her hair-bob to a mechanical dinosaur.

"So what, you don't have any chips at all but just those three they sell in starter packs at the shops? Boy, that's lamer than lame!" she laughed, now lying down on her stomach across the cart so as to avoid being decapitated or scalped. As she began to reach into her chip pouch, she thought the situation over... did Teruko really want to hand out her chips on this bumpy car ride to a guy she barely even knew? That would be a little disrespectful to Ante...

"Ante will transfer chips to you! That's the way to do it," she laughed, hoping that would let her keep her goods to herself. "Dare's not gonna believe all the awesome chips we have. I mean, I just started, but my chips are badass," she bragged, kicking her feet as she continued lying on her stomach. As a result, Bruce got a nice look at her shapely bottom, but she also nearly kicked Bruce in the nose several times with her white running sneakers.
"Hell, I didn't have a Navi until just this month! I've been busy, y'know, stunt-doubling for the stars of your favorite action movies? Risking life and limb? I haven't had time to train a custom Navi," Bruce told her defensively, laying back against the side of the cart. Normally he wouldn't have gotten upset, but being laughed at by a chick like Teruko somehow got on his nerves. "Anyhow, just keep the badass chips coming and Dare will make something work for the two of them."

Bruce turned to enjoy the view for a second, before squeezing back a bit to avoid a foot to the nose. "Damn," Bruce thought, "How tough can Ante really be, with an operator like her? I mean, she looks nice for a good time, but..." Bruce really couldn't imagine a Navi executing any kind of advanced combat operations coordinated by someone like her.

"Maybe that means Ante herself is a battle genius?" Bruce liked that thought, and used it to keep himself pepped up as he focused on his screen, waiting to see what Dare had cooked up.
"Huh, I never thought about it that way. I guess I don't do a lot besides gym instruction, exercise, and busting," Teruko murmured. Suddenly, she was thankful she didn't have such a demanding job as Bruce seemed to. "Anyways, this event's going awesome! You know, Dare has a real knack for this showmanship stuff. She ought to be on one of those big TV specials; you know, like the one they did for Christmas last year, or one of those Showbizz blowouts where they tape girl's butts and raise charity."

The operator kept swinging her feet, oblivious to how many times she could have accidentally kicked her ally in the nose by now. With a vacant smile, she kept verbally reading off potential lines to her navi, which Ante received through a private channel. "And then Hearts says: 'Once I slap that ass to loosen you up, I'm gonna take my big-'" she started, then stopped as Ante gave her some private reply. "What, you think that's too much? Okay, uh..."

Pressing her finger to her bottom lip, Teruko thought hard about what she ought to help her navi with. "Oh! I got it. You need to practice your sexy voice. The best way to do it is by trying out some sex moans. I know it sounds ridiculous, but really, I hear porn stars do it! Try it like this: mmmm~! Uuuunh~! Yeah... Yeah~!" she cried into her PET, oblivious of Bruce sitting just nearby. "Well, I'm not that good at it, but you get the idea."

She listened to Ante speak over the private channel for a while, then rested her cheeks on her fists. "Oh, did you know that when you're in front of a large crowd, it's better to use your ass than your boobs? It's cause it's a bigger center of attention; easier to grab people's attention with at a range. Practice elevating your ass a bit; that's what they do in the erotic dance class at the gym," the operator continued, demonstrating by raising her own butt into the air, such that her breasts remained pressed against the floor but her lower body was nearly even with Bruce's face. "No, really! I'm serious!"
"Yeah, she'd probably get a kick out of something like that. Dare's not shy about showing off in any situation," Bruce responded, being personally intimate with the Showbizz programs Teruko was referring to. "I wonder if there's money in that? I could probably talk her into it..."

Bruce continued to watch Dare's show, mostly using the time to observe Ante instead. He was happy Dare was having such a good time, but special effects weren't of much interest to him. He was impressed that Ante was acting so clearly out of her comfort zone: he hadn't realized it at first, since Dare had managed to cut into her so quickly, but there was something to be said for that Navi's composure and professionalism.

"A Navi like that's pretty clearly bred for battle, but she sure seems out of place with Teruko... I mean, how could a cool-headed tactical Navi have been trained by that ass!"

Bruce's train of thought was rudely interrupted by Teruko's butt waving near his face, accompanied by sexual moans. "Once I slap that to loosen you up, I'm gonna take my big..." Teruko's faux-bad guy words ran through his head.

"I can't let Dare have all the fun! I forgot I've got a grade-A dream to live out right here... but damn, how am I supposed to get someone like her in bed? She talks big about it, but I bet she won't be that quick to jump in... I haven't got any booze up here to soften her up with, and even if I did, she sounds like a health nut so she'd probably turn it down... Dammit! I'm Bruce 'Danger' Shiner, and I refuse to just pass this up! But... if I get shot down by someone like her, I bet she won't be easy with it. I dunno if my pride can take that..."

Bruce realized he had to find some middle ground here between hanging his head in shame for the rest of the car ride and forcing himself upon his new acquaintance's inviting body. "Is there some way I can sell myself...? Usually, just the fact that I'm a big stunt actor is enough to get em' hot and bothered," Bruce mentally remarked, omitting the part where his invitation to his house was usually laughed at or thrown back in his face, "but I think I blew that earlier when I set Von Derzel as the opposing standard..."

If he was going to have a chance, he'd have to do it with good old-fashioned small talk. "So, you and your Navi seem like two hands on th- er, two ends of the pole. How did your end, I mean you end up with her?"
"Hey, besides money, there's good health benefits to be found in... er... that kinda show business," Teruko remarked, trying to imagine Dare doing the awkward drunken pole dance that Ante had showed off earlier. She couldn't help but imagine that Dare would be more of a natural at it. "Like I said, we teach a sexy dance curriculum at the gym; it's pretty popular. I've never done it though. Somebody else teaches it," she continued, shutting off any likely fantasies that were popping up in Bruce's head.

Hearing Bruce's next question and apparently not catching any of his ass-lust, she tensed her eyebrows, thinking as hard as she could back to that day. To start, she sat up, crossing both legs beneath her. "Man, it was such a routine day I barely remember it. See, I didn't know a thing about technology and I've always been kinda independent, so I never had a navi. But, you know, I was doing a yoga class and had just finished up, so I took a shower. Then I came out, but while I was headed back to my locker, I noticed someone had left a PET on one of the benches," she recounted, trying to recall all of the details.

"I wanted to give it back to someone, but most everyone had left. So I decided to turn it on, hoping that'd give me a clue as to who's it was. When I did, the thing asked me to enter my name. I did: I put in 'Teruko Hotta,'" she continued, then paused. Suddenly, she wasn't so sure that it was wise to continue. Ante had always been sensitive about her glitch and might not want her operator telling Bruce about it. Sighing, Teruko tried to figure out how to finish her story without mentioning it.

"Er, anyways, the PET had been reset. It's former owner couldn't be identified, and even Ante wouldn't tell me. So ever since then, I've been using Ante as my own navi," she finished, patting her lap and beaming. "We get along great, most of the time. I mean, I basically got a free navi, right? A free, awesome navi! Ante said she didn't want to go back to her previous owner, so it was almost like adoption."

Pausing again, Teruko thought about Bruce and Dare. Their personalities seemed to match up, but some other aspects didn't. "So what about Dare? Did you make her yourself?" she asked, trying to resist the urge to tag on "does that mean you like black chicks?"