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How To Keep Up

AN-LRs1AdDuring the development of Champions, a rather obvious problem came up: if ordinary people like Stephanie Shylock and Mike Strong are supposed to protect a genetically-enhanced human like Alex… how do they keep up?

As readers caught up to Snapdragon will have noticed, when a Champion is told ‘get to the airport as fast as you can’, she doesn’t whistle up a taxi… she turns in the appropriate direction and starts running. Referring back to the Champions’ ancestors –– the savages of His Majesty’s New World –– we know enhanced men and women can out-sprint horses… so how could someone meant to protect them not get left behind?

By driving a Land Rover. Obviously.

Admittedly, Land Rovers didn’t arrive in our real history until 1948, as a result of post-war re-industrialization in Britain… but I’ve cheated on more than a few aspects of history in our alternate timeline, so I figured I could get away with this. Knowing how well the Hubrin lorries had performed on the new world, and how poorly their own vehicles had done in 1920, it only made sense that the British and American governments would pour money into the development of military all-terrain vehicles that could go anywhere.

And as often seems to happen in our alternate timeline, these efforts mysteriously led to technology that directly emulates machinery that appeared in our own past, but decades later. Basically, what I’m saying is I wanted an excuse to include later-Series Land Rovers in Champions… and I got my way. As such, Stephanie and Strong have a vehicle that can do this:

These days most people (in North America, at least) see Land Rover as a premium foreign luxury brand. Some criticize the fuel consumption, others feel the trucks represent needless excess. Many covet the appearance of wealth that comes with driving a new one. In our family, and among Land Rover enthusiasts around the world, the brand means something quite different.

My mother has written about her childhood experiences with the trucks; my grandfather loved them because he was an engineer, and they made it possible for him to do anything. He rigged up a plow to his Series truck, and when Newfoundland blizzards swept over St. John’s, he and my mother would clear the streets, then help get essential people to their offices. At the time, only a Land Rover could do that.

Over the years, Land Rovers became harder to acquire in North America, and the arrival of Range Rover began to move the brand from pure utility towards luxury. My grandfather eventually had to leave his Land Rovers behind, in favor of Jeeps and Fords that had come to emulate them… but the loyalty to Land Rovers remained, and for all the posh improvements to their newer models, the trucks always retained their genuine, go-anywhere ability. That’s why Jacqui was so excited when she was able to get her own 2002 Kalahari edition Discovery, and why Iceberg’s first-ever book launch took place at a Land Rover dealership.

The first truck I ever owned was a 1998 Land Rover Discovery, in green. I loved that truck. I was much too tall for it, it drank premium-grade fuel at an astounding rate, and like all Land Rovers, it had its own aches and pains… but I never, ever, ever, doubted that it’d get me where I was going.

People who expect Land Rovers to be flawless feats of engineering generally don’t understand what they’re getting. Land Rovers –– in particular, the older ones –– have personalities. They go through bad days and good days, but when you really need them, they do things that they technically shouldn’t be able to do. They look after you. They care. Like great ships, they have souls of their own, and if you treat them right, they’ll do the same in return.

Eventually, the practicalities forced me to let my Disco go –– I couldn’t deal with the ongoing maintenance costs of running a 90s-era British truck in Canada. Jeeps were, and are, more practical here, so I’ve made that unthinkable switch –– though to be fair, the Americans did launch their first Jeep in 1941, so that line deserves great respect. My 2008 Liberty continues to be a loyal friend and partner…

Though my next truck may be another Land Rover.

In the meantime, Stephanie Shylock and Mike Strong have the perfect way to keep up with Alex. Indeed, our whitecoat’s famous wrestling match (with the moose) happens on the Land Rover testing course at Jimmystown, and after that introduction, we get to see the trucks in action in Scotland, Hong Kong, and on the new world. If you’re caught up to Snapdragon, you know they’re the only vehicles with any shot at beating a Newfoundland blizzard. Basically, they’re omnipresent in Champions; unassumingly allowing the stories to happen, without making a big fuss about themselves.

Oh, and though it doesn’t happen as often in this ‘SUV’ era, please don’t casually call Land Rovers ‘jeeps’. Even my grandfather was guilty of using that moniker for his Series trucks, because during his time in the Royal Canadian Engineers, ‘jeep’ was a generic military term applied to many different makes. As Mike Strong pointed out in Whitecoat, the ‘trademark men’ don’t like their brands to be watered down, so I always try to say ‘Land Rover’ whenever possible.

Because really, what else could you drive when you’re trying to go beyond the limits, and keep up with a superhuman hero who likes to run?

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Well, the U.S. military in Champions do actually drive Jeeps… but more on that in another note.