Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing "The Raytona 5,000" Part 5
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 5 of the story “The Raytona 5,000” from my series “Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing”
Part 1 can be found here:
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(continued from Part 4)
By now Zane’s cyberhelm display analytics were able to predict what could and could not happen. Possible routes within the time available, fuel burn rates, remaining overboosts, impending mechanical failures and thousands of other variables were being updated in realtime as computers raced to predict the outcome. Summaries of these calculations appeared in glowing numbers, symbols and paths superimposed on the cyberhelm’s synthetic vision.
Zane’s analytics still showed that he had 3 seconds of overboost to use in the final stretch. He glanced at Bugz’ vehicle and noted that according to the analytics, Bugz had about the same overboost remaining. This was going to be close!
The Nitrogunx satellite came into view. Zane switched on his cyberhelm’s gravity-vision mod and saw the satellite’s blue gravity beam spotlight Velocitee’s car. She surged forward and passed them.
Zane looked towards Bugz and saw him looking back. Zane waved his hand for Bugz to follow and flicked auxiliary switch four on his dash. That was supposed to fire his remaining overboost; he hoped they had completed the mod! Otherwise the race was over for him.
Extra fuel surged into his rocket nozzles and the acceleration pushed him back in his seat. Bugz fired his own overboost and pulled alongside him.
As they approached Velocitee Zane went to her left and pointed right. Bugz saw his gesture and went to her right. Then both their overboosts ended and they tucked in close to Velocitee’s car, within the bright outer fringe of the gravity beam. When the beam struck their cars they surged forward. Velocitee’s car fired its overboost but they remained seemingly glued to her car, inching forward along the beam’s bright outer edge.
What Zane had suspected was right. The gravity beam’s edges showed up brighter on his cyberhelm display because they were stronger there. With the beam centered on Velocitee’s car, she only received the weaker inner boost. By “surfing” along the outer, stronger edge of the beam, he and Bugz were slowly but surely passing her. They would make it past her before she reached the finish line.
Velocitee would lose. One of them would win.
But which one of them was impossible to say. It was now a true test of raw racing skill. Which of them could surf the fringes of that energy beam better and get the slightly better boost that would enable them to edge ahead?
Nitrogunx could have probably done something to stop them if they had anticipated this ending. If they were smart enough, they could redirect the beam ahead of Velocitee so that only its edge struck her and not them, depriving them of any boost. The beam had another mode, that showed up red on the cyberhelm, like an anti-boost beam. That was what they had used to drag Zane back earlier in the race. But it took several seconds for the beam to switch modes. The race would be over by then.
There were other things they could theoretically still do with the beam to make her win. Simply shutting the beam off might even do it. But they had been caught by surprise. With only seconds remaining, the unseen engineers manipulating the beam were confused and unable to improvise. Unable to receive timely commands from their masters in the Nitrogunx executive suite.
The gravity beam was probably a prototype with limited testing. Being able to boost Velocitee and slow down others in the way they had used it ought to have been enough. Maybe they hadn’t even tested it enough to realize that the beam’s edge delivered a stronger boost than having her whole car covered by the weaker center section. The beam’s controllers were engineers, schemers, manipulators - - not racers. What a racer like Zane or Bugz could figure out quickly might take them endless testing to quantify and understand.
Zane focused his whole awareness on seeking speed in this final dash across the finish line. He and Bugz were past Velocitee’s car now, their rear bumpers still immersed in the gravity beam’s bright and strong outer glow.
There was the final victory line. The cybernetic race-starting maiden stood atop a scaffolding above it, holding checkered flags. Zane passed over the finish line and glanced right at Bugz. Zane had been so focused on seeking speed he didn’t even know who’d won. But the instant they passed that line, the racerchain registered a winner. And Zane Polestar’s life changed forever.
It was the closest of close races. Zane had won within brief fractions of a nanosecond. The repo contracts on Zane's groundcar, his rocketcar, the race equipment, and all the rest were now null and void.
In their place, huge positive balances flooded into his account from his race winnings! Already he was receiving massive tributes from new fans and supporters throughout the known universe. An avalanche of everycoins, alltokens, omnicreds, and bunchabucks.
Fireworks launched by myriad drones painted glowing arcs and blooms across the sky.
The great space race - The Raytona 5,000 of the year 2315 - had its winner, and he was it. The Grav Drafting King had been crowned King of stock rocketcar racing. At least for this day, he owned it. A new feeling welled up within him - - the responsibility and obligation to get out there and spread good cheer in the way only a Champion can do. He savored the idea of what he could build for the community with that power with which they had entrusted him. Maybe he was just being sappy and sentimental, he thought, overcome by the magnitude of the moment. But he doubted it.
His pit crew arrived through the pit jumpgate and came running over cheering and hollering. Tex waved his mylar cowboy hat, whooped and exclaimed “I knew you could do it!” The pit mech-bots followed after them, showing emotion in their primitive way by waving their tools and limbs in celebration.
All except the one mech-bot he’d kicked while trying to get away from the liquid oxygen spill. It trailed behind uncertainly. He walked over to it and it drew back. Mechanic Ann stood near it protectively. He leaned over and apologized to it. “Sorry about that, buddy, you didn’t do anything wrong. I was just scared I’d get hurt by that liquid oxygen. I’m proud of you. We won!” He raised his fist in victory and the mech-bot’s mood visibly brightened. It stood taller and mirrored his gesture. Mechanic Ann smiled.
A massive roar of approval echoed through the Raytona Super Space Raceway Stadium as the half million attending fans came to their feet stomping and whooping.
Zane smiled at his own face on the huge holographic screens throughout the stadium. Internally, he shifted gears. The massive jolt of adrenaline that had fueled his body through the finish became a slow burn of utter satisfaction and elation which would fuel him for hours, days, perhaps weeks.
It was good to be the King.
Then there was a disturbance. The crowd was becoming quiet. Cindy Sand appeared on holographic screens throughout the stadium. Her tone was serious. “It is with a sad yet grateful heart that it is now my responsibility to break the biggest story ever in the biggest race ever,” she began.
“The most important piece of you-are-there 3D VR Holographic racing video that has ever been broadcast across the quantum net! What you are about to see is authentic cyberhelm video shot by Zane Polestar during the race we just saw. Revealing something we could not see… until now. A special mod produced by his genius pit crew allowed Zane’s cyberhelm to reveal gravity waves being used by the Nitrogunx satellites in an attempt to fix the race for their sponsored singer idol Velocitee…” A collective gasp seemed to suck the air out of the whole stadium.
On giant screens everywhere you could see Zane’s video. The Nitrogunx satellite appearing, firing its bright blue beam at Velocitee, her car surging forward. The video was on a loop and kept repeating. Closeups showed details of the beam, the satellite, Velocitee and her car. You could see Velocitee singing her head off, her hands not even touching the wheel.
The crowd began booing and giving a thumbs down. They stomped and yelled, angry at Nitrogunx and Velocitee’s betrayal of the most basic principles of sportsmanship. Of the sport they held so dear. The race that meant so much to them all.
Flashing red and blue lights appeared at the edges of the stadium - - police aircars.
“In conjunction with law enforcement, Raytona race officials have declared all those involved in this conspiracy banned for life from the race. The mayor of Raytona and the Chief Of Police have issued a joint statement that justice will be swift and sure.”
On the screens and throughout the stadium, Nitrogunx executives, technicians and associates were being rounded up and handcuffed. Velocitee had bright silver cuffs slapped on her wrists. They matched her wavy silver hair. She’d stopped singing. They stuffed her in the back of a police aircar and it flew away.
A utility door by the Nitrogunx pit area opened and Nitrogunx technicians in jumpsuits and executives in business suits came streaming out like frightened ants. Zane spotted the cigar-chomping executive with the purple suit who had tried to buy him off. Who had hacked into his communications, spied on him and threatened him during the race. The cigar fell from the executive’s mouth as he sprinted towards the infield.
A police aircar landed near him and one of Raytona’s finest stepped out. He unholstered a Taser, took steady aim, and pulled the trigger. It was a good shot. 20 meters of fine electrical wire trailed behind the self-propelled Taser round and it hit the Nitrogunx executive squarely in the back of his purple jacket. He tripped, fell to the ground and writhed as voltage raged through his body. The crowd cheered and applauded.
In the background, repo airtrucks loitered in disappointment like dejected dragonflies, then turned to leave. Their repo computers had bet that Zane would lose and they could grab their share of the bounty. Now the whole endeavor was a loss due to the fuel they'd burned and nothing to repossess.
The Raytona 5,000 was the Starshine Sector's race. But to Rocketbillies it was also their race. And to Coreworlders who loved racing, it was their own special race. And to remote outposts and mysterious seldom-seen aliens in the Outer Spaces who becomes fans of rocketcar racing through monitoring weak and distant 3D VR signals, it was their own special race too. The Raytona 5,000 was personal to billions of humans, proto-humans, aliens and cyber-entities throughout the universe.
The realtime quantum-entangled net allowed everyone with holographic 3D VR to share the moment and join the celebration.
And celebrate they did!
Sales of genuine Rocketbilly and Starshine brand moonshine spiked like a rocket launch at that moment, breaking once again all records. Seemed everyone suddenly wanted a taste of that high octane space moonshine! That rocket fuel from the stars.
Orange Crunchballs cereal likewise did a moonshot. Racing fans everywhere ditched their usual cereal to try those crunchy orange spheres. For Zane’s sponsor representative Sam it was a massive boost. He got a promotion, respect from corporate headquarters, and a brand new Lamborghini aircar.
THE BIG INTERVIEW
Cindy adopted an earnest tone. “Zane, you were born on one of the Rocketbilly Worlds. You grew up in the Starshine Sector. And by tradition, any winner of the Raytona 5,000 gains Raytona citizenship. So ultimately who are you - - a Rocketbilly, a Starshiner, or a Raytona local?”
Zane didn’t have to think long about that one. “All of the above.”
Cindy's interview of Zane Polestar, Winner Of The 2315 Raytona 5,000, was coming to an end. After 15 minutes of in-depth discussion about space stock rocketcar racing rules, techniques, strategies, Zane's journey from humble rat-racer beginnings to ultimate historic Champion, and the existential meaning of it all, what more was there to say.
Zane picked up the conversation, just before Cindy was going to tie a nice shiny bow on the interview with one of her signature Action Sports Six signoffs. "So there's something I've been wanting to ask YOU, Cindy Sands!"
"What's that?" Cindy asked expectantly, leaning forward with her holographic mic/vid pickup. She thought they had covered just about every angle of the epic race and Zane's equally epic part in it.
"Now that I've won the Raytona 5,000, can we go on that date?"
It was a good date. Cindy Sand was more real of a person than he’d ever imagined.
She had gone to the restroom and his wristcom chirped. An incoming call from an unknown number. He answered it and Lightnin’ Raybeam Reynolds appeared on the screen. He looked a little bruised, but his characteristic smile was intact. His moustache looked combed or groomed, possibly waxed.
“Zane ole buddy! Congratulations. You’re a champion now, reborn on the Racerchain! Now listen… Me and the boys know you been hangin out with Starshiners the last few years, but you was first born out in Rocketbilly Space. Same as us. Rocketbillies got to stick together. Let’s you, me, Bash and Wahoo get together, play some cards, drink moonshine and talk racing.”
Cindy Sand walked up behind Zane and waved at Raybeam.
“I see you’re busy now, so - - just gimme a call when you’re free. Shine on brother!” Raybeam tipped his bootlegger hat and ended the call.
For once Cindy didn’t seem in any rush to get back on the air and broadcast in full 3D holographic virtual reality - - on the blessedly entangled quantum communications chain or anywhere else.
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***************** 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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