"Next up, boys and girls, is the annual belching competition," Zeke announced during an event weekend in Handler's Corners. "First up, representing Spectra Motors Garage, Spinner Cortez."
Spinner ascended a platform and took his place.
"Next up, also from Spectra Motors, Sherman Cortez."
Sherman blushed lightly as he joined Spinner on the stage.
"A third entry from Spectra Motors, and last year's champion, Agura Ibaden."
Agura waved to the crowd as she took her place beside Sherman. "I've cleared off a spot on a shelf for this year's trophy," she whispered to Sherman and Spinner with a smirk.
"You only won last year because I nearly tossed my lunch," Spinner retorted. "This year I haven't had a thing to eat, so I should be able to get a couple of good ones out."
"Joining us all the way from Griffin Rock, Maine, let's give a hearty welcome to Danielle Burns."
"It's Dani, actually," a young woman with brown hair in a boyish-cut said as she ascended to the stage. She was dressed in a black pilot's jumpsuit, which was half-off, the arms tied around her waist, over a white tank-top, with black boots.
"The final entry in today's competition is also from Griffin Rock, Kade Burns."
A young man with red hair in such a style that his bangs framed his forehead stepped up and waved to the audience. He wore a white T-shirt, yellow fireman's pants with red suspenders, and black boots. "I'm going to win this time sis," he said to Dani, who crossed her arms and glared at him.
"Bring. It. On," Dani retorted. "Let's not forget whose belch registered on Doc's instruments."
Kade rolled his eyes. "Oh, it is on."
Zeke stepped to center stage. "The format is simple. There will be three rounds, which will allow us to narrow the field down to two, at which point the final two will be given three belches apiece. We will take the loudest, longest, and strongest out of three to decide the winner. Contestants, take your marks. Spinner, you're first up."
Spinner stepped up to the microphone, took a deep breath, and delivered a passable belch, which elicited a few snickers and sniggers from the audience. Sherman stepped forward, took a deep breath, and released a very delicate burp, which was followed by a hiccup. "Pardon me," he said before stepping to the back of the stage.
"Agura, you're up," Zeke said, nodding.
Agura stepped forward, smiled at the audience, and proceeded to unleash a belch that lasted for a good ten seconds. Still smiling, she added, "I'm just getting warmed up."
"That was amazing," Dani said in passing as she took her turn at the mic. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath....
Back at Spectra Motors Emma looked over at her water bottle when the liquid within began to pick up vibrations. Flipping her comm open, she asked, "Are we experiencing tremors today?"
"All is quiet across the board," Sage responded, "Though there appears to have been a sonic boom that emanated from the fairgrounds."
"I concede," Kade and Spinner said in unison, both men stepping to the back of the stage.
Agura and Dani sized one another up before Agura put out her hand. "You win," she said with a smile. "Even with all the time I spent with my four brothers, I could *never* learn how to belch like that."
"Thank you," Dani replied, shaking Agura's hand. "I've got three brothers of my own, and I end up being treated like one of the boys."
"Are you a gearhead as well?"
"Emergency response team, actually. I pilot a helicopter for aerial rescues."
"Want to grab some coffee?"
"Would I ever."
As the ladies walked off, still engaged in conversation, Kade looked over at Sherman and Spinner. "The two of you wouldn't happen to know where a guy could get a bite to eat around her, would you?"
"Zeke's," the twins responded in unison.
"The pie is to die for," Spinner added with a grin.