Adam Lockhart gazed at the extraordinary structure that rose high above him and stretched in to the darkness either side.
“How big is it?”
He’d asked this question every time he visited the site and every time the answer was the same: just over 12.6 kilometres in total.
He couldn’t quite get his head round the fact that the total was made up of many possible routes through the maze of steel tubes that composed the world’s biggest rollercoaster and that no two rides were ever quite the same.
Lights flashed all over the structure as robot cars rode the tracks testing the velocities and g-forces and occasionally pausing briefly to reinforce a weld.
“And it’s all computer controlled?”
“Yes, Lockhart san.”
Sabi Koyashi was executive engineer on the project. A precise little man who had brought this project in on time and on budget and who would shortly be taking the first ever ride on his creation; the ultimate proof of his confidence in Big Mouth. Lockhart shook his head in frustration. He was sure the computer’s English rendering of the Japanese name for the ride had lost something in the translation. Computer designed, computer controlled and inspired by M.C. Escher, Big Mouth was the biggest, fastest, most torturous ride in the extraordinary history of rollercoasters and top of the hit-list for thrill seekers world-wide.
The multiple entry points for the ride could handle up two hundred people a minute and up to a thousand roller-heads could be in the cars at any one time. Even at 25 quid each, they couldn’t print tickets fast enough and there were eight hours yet to the opening.
“Lockhart san.“ Koyashi bowed. “I take ride. Make sure everything is O.K.”
A car rolled into the loading dock and Koyashi and members of his team quickly filled the seats.
“Please wait, Lockhart san.”
A pause and the car abruptly accelerated away into the maze of tracks and cross-struts. For the next ten minutes Lockhart thought he caught glimpses of the car hurtling about at impossible speeds and angles, but he concluded he must be mistaken because the car didn’t seem to be full anymore. Then almost like the resolution of some high-speed card-trick the car was back in the dock again. Koyashi still in his place but almost half the other seats empty.
Koyashi stepped out of the car and gestured for another to take his place. The car filled again but some of passengers looked worried. Koyashi tapped at an iPad handed to him by an assistant and a moment later the car raced away.
“Five percent” said Koyashi cryptically, “50 percent, big mistake!” The assistant bowed low clearly chastened. When the car returned only one of the twenty seats was vacant.
“Much better Lockhart san, Ōkii kuchi should not be overfed.”
Lockhart swallowed. ‘Big Mouth should not be overfed.’ Was he hearing things?
“All rollercoaster have risk. This rollercoaster have biggest risk of all. You take ride, you maybe no come back.”