Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing "The Raytona 5,000" Part 4
Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing
“The Raytona 5,000”
Stock Rocketcar Racing In The 24th Century
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Author's Note: This is part 4 of the story “The Raytona 5,000” from my series “Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing”
Part 1 can be found here:
Explore more stories from the Rocketbilly universe at:
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(continued from Part 3)
Old Earth’s Daytona 500 had been a massive tri-oval. Like a rounded triangle, its banked turns and blazing straightaways presented a zen-like matrix within which the greatest racers of the time could reveal their skill. Other types of racing featured hairpin turns, ramps, jumps, sections that went through city streets, obstacles, and other features to spice up the action. But in 20th Century stock car racing, there was no need or desire for such accessories or adornments. Racing had never been so pure and pristine as it had been in Daytona. Racers’ skill had never been refined and transformed to a higher level in a more effective crucible. Within the seemingly-simple tri-oval shape, the variations of racing - - and racers - - were revealed in all their rich complexity.
When the decision had been made to build the interplanetary, multi-sectioned Raytona raceway, it was intended to be inspired by the epic and historic Daytona super speedway. But they would not try to duplicate it. Daytona and the Daytona 500 remained an active raceway in the year 2315. It would always be there, an ultimate. Like the racerchain itself, it was eternal and immutable. A legend unto itself.
So while they engineered the Raytona 5,000 to provide similar racing and drafting action - - although at speeds up to ten times faster - - no attempt was made to duplicate or segment Daytona’s legendary tri-oval. Instead, each racing section incorporated a unique feature that drew on the wider heritage of racing both historical and present.
Sundew had its banked wall. Forgeglen features S-turns and the animatronic bootlegger simulation. Virgomech was famous for The Trench. And here on Old Earth, in the outskirts of Daytona Florida itself, Raytona Raceway featured The Loop.
Ahead of them The Loop rose, gigantic. So high that fluffy white Florida clouds drifted by its top.
Zane felt a tap on his bumper. He had lost track of things for a moment. That’s all the time it took for the Rocketbilly Trio to surround him. Raybeam and Wahoo were on either side of him and Bash was behind him. Smiling like a maniac. They had cornered their quarry and were moving in for the kill. Or so they thought.
“Watch this, Bash!” Zane murmured, and shut off his main engines. He jammed his rudder pedals in opposite directions, firing vernier rockets that spun him around so he was travelling backwards.
“What the hell are you doing!?” Tex yelled.
The big retro-rockets normally used for slowing to re-enter an atmosphere popped out of panels on the rear flanks of Zane’s car and fired furiously, assisted by the smaller retro-rocket on the car’s front grille. Zane mashed the accelerator pedals to maximum overboost. Flames scorched Bash’s hood and Zane accelerated a hundred meters ahead of him, starting up the gradual lower slope of The Loop.
Warning symbols flashed on Zane’s cyberhelm display and alarms sounded with an insistent “whoop! whoop!”
“Retro rockets aren’t made for overboost!” Tex said, “You’ll need those to re-enter at Raytona!”
“OK Bash,” Zane said under his breath. “Let’s see how much guts you’ve really got.”
He switched off the retro rockets and they retracted back into the car’s flanks. Then re-ignited his main engines and jammed the accelerators to full overboost. His movement up the loop reversed and he accelerated rapidly back down, towards the Rocketbilly trio. Directly towards Bash.
“Whoo!” Zane yelled, his head spinning from the acceleration. “Moment of truth!”
Zane and Bash were on course for a head to head collision that would most likely obliterate them both. Could their ejection seats save them in a case like this? It seemed questionable. But to racers in the moment, suffused with the spirit of pure competition and ego, there was more at stake than mere life or death. Neither wanted to lose their nerve and be a “chicken.” Certainly not on 3D holographic VR being broadcast throughout the cosmos!
Zane wasn’t a pill-popper, but he’d taken zoomtabs before and felt time slow down. It felt like that now. But now it was due to a massive dump of not just adrenalyne but all those other rare chemicals which the body holds in absolute reserve for that last-ditch twitch that could make the difference between survival and… not.
Time expanded and slowed down as the distance between Zane and Bash’s cars collapsed from a hundred meters to ten meters, then less. The window of choice for either of them to take action and avoid a direct head-on collision was closing. Neither moved their steering wheel in the slightest. The situation was now an instinct, no longer any time for a thought-based choice.
For all his love of aggressive driving, bumping, colliding and intimidating, Bash still harbored a secret survival instinct. As he saw Zane’s hood and grille rapidly approaching, just meters away now, his life flashed before his eyes. He hadn’t always been called Bash. That was a name he earned on the racetrack, early on as a young aggressive racer. Now it was the only name he answered to, the only name by which he was known. Bash Zoomar. But his Momma had named him Edward. Bash would have taken the hit. But Edward wasn’t ready to die.
Bash jerked his steering wheel right and pulled it back all the way. Vernier rockets tilted his car up and diagonal. Zane’s bumper scraped across the bottom of Bash’s car and ripped into it, tearing off his lift rockets and severing fuel tank and oxidizer lines. The impact flipped Zane’s car into the air and turned it around. He dropped back onto the racetrack and kept his drive rockets on overboost, getting back into the flow of traffic. Raybeam and Wahoo passed him on either side and started up The Loop. He followed, rocketing back up the incline and gaining speed to catch up.
Bash followed up too, but his situation was not so good. Without lift rockets, his car scraped along the raceway losing speed. Halfway up the loop his main engines shut down due to the damaged fuel lines and he coasted upwards, a huge multicolored peacock plume of sparks and fire jetting out behind him.
Bash’s speed dropped as he rose thousands of feet toward the apex of The Loop. He passed through a layer of puffy white clouds near the top as his speed dropped to less than 200 miles per hour… 100 miles per hour… 50…
Alarm klaxons blared a stall warning. As if he needed computerized help to realize the situation.
With speed approaching zero he fell away from the racetrack surface near the apex of the loop and entered freefall. From this height it would be thirty seconds of before his helpless vehicle struck the ground. He messed with the vernier rockets, hoping to generate enough lift to put it down softly, but it was no good. The vernier rockets were dead now too. Seconds before impact he punched out with his ejection seat and it deposited him by the side of the racetrack. He clambered out of the ejection seat and shuffled away, still shaking, dejected.
“Yes!” yelled Zane. His car was trailing smoke, but his cyberhelm display showed no critical damage that would immediately take him out of the race.
“That’s the stupidest thing I ever saw a so-called racer do,” said Tex.
Zane completed the loop and there was a long straight section leading to the ramp to space. He tapped his overboost again to catch up to the leaders. His rocket nozzles were starting to burn through again from all the overboosting. But there would be no more chance to change rocket nozzles. No more time for pit stops. The final dash to the stop/finish line would come too soon.
Ahead, Bugz was tussling with Wahoo. Somehow Wahoo clipped his rear quarter panel at just the right angle to send him spinning off into the air at the side of the racetrack. Zane didn’t see what happened to Bugz after that.
Zane got a boost from drafting right behind Velocitee and passed her. Only Raybeam and Wahoo were ahead of him now.
Then the Nitrogunx satellite appeared and he saw it fire its beam like a spotlight centered on Velocitee. It surrounded her car extending several meters on either side, its edges extra bright like a luminous circle with a fainter glowing center. A theory flashed through Zane’s mind and he reduced his throttle ever so slightly, letting Velocitee pass. As she passed he dropped into a drafting position behind her and saw the bright edge of the beam intersecting his hood. He felt a surge of acceleration and had to ease off his throttle pedals to keep from striking her rear bumper. He tapped his brakes, firing the retro rockets on his grille to slow down further and fell back and away from her.
“You’re firing your brakes, not your gas!” yelled Tex. “What the hell is going on?”
“Technical issues,” replied Zane.
In the pit area Tex shook his head and triggered the private communication channel that would block his transmission from reaching Zane. Only the rest of the pit crew heard him when he declared, “Zane’s lost it. Completely loco.”
The racers arrived at the ramp and redirected upwards for the vertical climb back into space.
Velocitee was first, then Raybeam and Wahoo. Zane got in drafting position behind them and let his engines cool a bit. His main rocket nozzles were nearly shot. He received a data packet from Racing Control and the results weren’t good. The rocket nozzles would last on cruise speed til the end of the race, but on full overboost they would burn out after three seconds.
“One more patch!” Zane said. “Just give me a program that will fire main engine overboost for those three seconds but no more. So I can get the last drop from the overboost without blowing the engines up completely. So I can still retain cruise thrust through the end of the race. Put it on auxiliary switch 4!”
“You got it,” said Tex.
Upward he zoomed, right on Wahoo’s bumper. The flames from Wahoo’s rockets scorched his hood and obscured his view, but it was worth it for the gravity boost he was getting from this close drafting position.
Wham! Wahoo had cut his engines and fired his retro rockets, slamming his rear bumper into Zane’s front bumper. The impact reverberated with a rattling jolt. What was he doing? Didn’t he want to win? This close to the finish every bit of speed you lost could be critical.
Zane looked more closely at Wahoo’s car and the cyberhelm display began pulling additional analytics off the racerchain. Data from the 3,000+ sensors in each racercar was fed into the racerchain’s smartlogic and was available to spectators and racers alike. Component failure icons and countdown-to-failure digits formed a visible cloud around Wahoo’s car and told the tale. Wahoo’s car was falling apart. His engines’ exhaust cones were critically burned through. He wouldn’t even finish the race. He should have made one more pitstop to replace worn nozzles and turbopumps. Wahoo had gambled and the gamble didn’t pay off; now there was nothing he could do about it. Now he wasn’t trying to win anymore. He was just blocking for his buddy Raybeam. Trying to put Zane out of the race.
Zane tried to veer around him but Wahoo stayed in front and fired his retro rockets to slam into him again. That caused warnings to flash on Zane’s display as an auxiliary turbopump failed and fuel lines automatically re-routed.
Raybeam was pulling ahead, following Velocitee into the darkening sky where stars began to glitter.
Then out of the side came Bugz, roaring upward on full overboost. Still in the race after recovering from that bump from Wahoo that sent him off track. Bugz seemed intent on returning the favor. Zane backed off enough to make room for Bugz and Bugz slammed into Wahoo’s rear bumper at a high rate of speed, sending parts flying and pushing Wahoo ahead. Zane dropped behind Bugz and they both drafted behind Wahoo. Wahoo had to swerve to miss hitting Raybeam.
Bugz went to leapfrog them all but Raybeam wouldn’t let him pass. Zane noticed on his cyberhelm display that Bugz had almost used up the last of his available overboost too. Bugz also had only seconds of overboost left.
Just ahead of them Velocitee went through the jumpgate and disappeared through its glowy spiderweb-like portal. There was room for two cars to pass through the portal at the same time, but not four. Yet as they charged towards the portal Raybeam and Wahoo were side by side with Zane on their left and Bugz on their right.
Seconds before reaching the portal, Zane made his move. He hoped Bugz would catch on and do his part. Zane pushed hard right against Raybeam, pushing against he and Wahoo. Raybeam and Wahoo both resisted, and together were able to counteract Zane’s push and drive him the opposite way. But Bugz had figured out what the play was, and wasted no time. Bugz did a fast left barrel roll and came up against Zane’s left side, adding his push to the right. Wahoo’s weakened car was no match for the added thrust of Bugz’ reasonably intact vehicle and together Zane and Bugz pushed Raybeam and Wahoo to the right.
Zane and Bugs went through the jumpgate side by side.
Through the glowy tunnel of speed-streaked stars they travelled light years in seconds and emerged near the wheel shaped space station Raytona.
Wahoo cleared the outside of the jumpgate’s structural ring, clipping a few lights and antennas but went tumbling past into a barren void of space without much additional damage. Not so with Raybeam.
Such an obliterating crash was rarely seen outside of demolition derbies. Raybeam’s car struck the jumpgate’s ring structure and shattered it, sending angry high-energy electrical bolts arcing throughout the sudden debris cloud. The remnants of the ring went spinning off in all directions. Raybeam’s car was literally disintegrated. His ejection seat didn’t fire like it should have but at least its emergency gravfield activated, shielding him from being torn to pieces, electrocuted, or vaporized into plasma. He’d be fine, but this was a wreck for the record books. Not the part he’d hoped to play in the year 2315’s running of the Raytona 5,000. But such was racing.
STARSHINE SECTOR - RAYTONA
The race ended where it began - back in the Starshine Sector. At the great space station Raytona, shaped like a huge chrome hotrod wheel from the great age of groundcars. Debate raged endlessly about exactly what wheel it was based on. Was it Cragar? Rocket Racing? American Racing? Billet Specialties? Boyds? Or some other legendary brand from the great 20th century? Raytona’s architects wouldn’t say. So it spun lazily in the sun as both enigma and icon. If Daytona was the center of racing on Old Earth, Raytona was the hub of intergalactic racing. And once again, the greatest event in stock rocketcar racing was about to reach a conclusion and crown a new winner there.
Re-entry through the atmosphere at Raytona was shorter than at the planets since its artificial atmosphere only reached a few miles up.
Velocitee was in the lead, already singing a victory tune for her fans as her self-driving racecar fired its retrorockets and picked a logical re-entry angle. She had hardly touched the steering wheel during the whole race. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, since it wasn’t hooked up to anything. Velocitee couldn’t have driven her car even if she’d wanted to. Even if she’d actually known how.
Like most singer idols, Velocitee had adopted a wide range of looks, hair colors, and makeup styles during her marketing evolution. Today was the debut of her exciting new “racer” persona. Her flashy silver hair progressed from a close crew-cut by her ears to a swoopy wave up top. Her custom pink racesuit was covered with a plethora of extra pockets, zippers and pouches designed to make her look like a fighter pilot or an early Astronaut. Already, copies of this garb were available in all sizes so that her eager fans could emulate her new look and share in the glory of her victory. “Let’s just be together again and again - - tonight after night!!” she sang. This was the unexpected debut of her new instant hit song “Tonight After Night” from her new instant hit holodisk of the same name. Her fans were already whipped into a frenzy about it. Years of careful and expensive social conditioning by Nitrogunx Corporation had ingrained within them just such a pre-programmed response.
Zane fired his retro-rockets and dropped down towards the racetrack surface. The racers descended surrounded by the meteor-like glows that their gravfields induced during their deceleration through air.
Tex’s tone was stern. "No more stunts. No more excuses. You’re a card player, so I’ll put it to you like this. If you’ve got some hidden wildcard left to play, the time to play it is NOW!”
Taking turns drafting each other, Zane and Bugz were able to catch up to Velocitee. Then as they reached the surface of the raceway, they went wide and passed her.
In the distance the start/finish line came into sight.
(continued in Part 5)
***************** links to other parts of this story ******************
“The Raytona 5,000” (Part 1)
“The Raytona 5,000” (Part 2)
“The Raytona 5,000” (Part 3)
“The Raytona 5,000” (Part 4)
“The Raytona 5,000” (Part 5)
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