Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing "The Raytona 5,000" Part 1
Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing
“The Raytona 5,000”
Stock Rocketcar Racing In The 24th Century
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Author's Note: This is a spinoff of my Rocketbilly series entitled “Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing” which focuses on Pro Racing in the Rocketbilly Worlds, the Starshine Sector, and the "Old Space" Milky Way Galaxy including Old Earth.
Alcohol fueled rockets, gravity shields, and a crypto-infused pioneer economy define the high tech innovation zone known as the Starshine Sector. Similar to the Rocketbilly Worlds in its ethyl alcohol economy and frontier ethos, it is a place that prides itself on its high octane "starshine" and its latest techno innovations. Starshiners often regard Rocketbillies as having a quaint and sappy affection for pioneer and country mannerisms, garb and culture that is unnecessary and out of step with their own more tech focused moonshiner economy. Others born in the Starshine Sector spend time in the Rocketbilly Worlds and return proclaiming themselves Rocketbillies.
Their races are organized and run on a smartlogic-infused blockchain they call the "racerchain."
I hope you enjoy this novella-length story, “The Raytona 5,000.” I’m proud to debut it here on our own decentralized frontier, the blockchain-powered “space” we call Steemit!
Explore more stories from the Rocketbilly universe at:
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Starshine Sector: Crypto Racing
“The Raytona 5,000”
Raytona. A space station the size of a moon, shaped like a hotrod wheel. Dark solar panels absorbed energy in place of where the tire would have been. The interior surface was a continuous band of beaches, city, and raceways. Its silver “hub cap” and spokes sparkled as it rotated lazily in the sun. Maintenance bots had been polishing them tirelessly for weeks, getting ready for the biggest raceday of the year.
Raytona was the spiritual center of all vehicle racing in New Space, the pride of the Starshine Sector. The central trade hub for performance and racing parts. Rocketcars, rocketbikes, old school wheeled groundcars and cycles, hotrodded gravity trucks - - Raytona had it all.
"30 Racers. 5 Jumpgates. 5,000 miles of track. Over 1 trillion light years traversed in 1 hair-raising lap! Top speeds in excess of 7,500 miles per hour from these alcohol fueled interplanetary stock rocketcars. Inspired by Old Earth's legendary Daytona 500. Revisioned on a vast scale encompassing Core Worlds, Rocketbilly Space, and The Starshine Sector. And including for the first time ever this year - - an alien from the Outer Spaces. Space racing's ultimate event: THE RAYTONA 5,000!!"
A cute newscaster with straight blonde hair came on the screen. Her name and credentials glowed in pink at the bottom of the holographic image: Cindy Sand, Action Sports Team 6 Reporter.
"I'm here in the pits on this pre-race day as the teams run test laps and dial in their rockets. Here's the pit of wildcard entry Zane Polestar. Excuse me sir, can you tell us who you are and what you do?" A small holographic camera bot hovered over her shoulder.
She pushed a holographic microphone/camera towards a heavy set guy in a red western shirt and grey cowboy hat. He had the look of an old time race veteran who had seen it all. But his eyes still sparkled, eagle-like.
"Tex. Just call me Tex. I guess I'm part coach, part engineer, part strategist, part psychologist. They call me a Pit Boss. If Zane were a boxer, I'd be the guy who sits in his corner between rounds, splashes cold water on his face, and tells him to stop playin' around and win this thing!"
Cindy nodded in satisfaction and flitted off in another direction, pointing out for her viewers on the quantum chain another in a string of colorful and fascinating 30 second setups. She was live in full color holographic 3D VR, appearing in realtime throughout the known cosmos.
"Ann, how are those fuel tank temperatures?" Tex turned to mechanic Ann, who wore coveralls, long t-shirt and sneakers. She had electronic scanner goggles over her eyes and didn't bother to remove them. Intricately braided dirty blonde hair was pulled up and back out of the way.
"Cool enough to make the alcohol flow like molasses," she said.
Tex nodded. "Let's draw a sample on this next stop. I want to see how thick it is with my own eyes. It's got to be real viscous."
There was a squawk in his headset.
"OK, look alive. He's coming in."
Like an orange meteor, Zane Polestar's rocketcar came zinging in at nearly 1,000 miles per hour. Glowing and leaving a luminous trail. When it reached the large hexagonal stop plates on either side of their pit lane, the car’s energy bubble sparkled and disintegrated. The car slowed almost instantly to a stop. The stop plates glowed brightly. Vehicle energy suddenly dissipated by the stop plates’ radiators drenched the pit area in wavy lines of heat ripple.
Through the ripple the crew raced up:
Five RG-57 mechbots rolling on miniature rubber tank treads. Extending fuel nozzles, bolt tightening wrenches, and field sensors.
A single AX-99 mechbot: all arms, multitools and sockets radiating from its round body.
Chief Mechanic Ann, holding a bulky robot controller box and scanning the car with her electro-goggles.
Mark, Joe, and Leon remained hunkered behind their screens, computers, and 3D printers. Three tech dudes wearing orange jumpsuits, analyzing the latest data from over 3,000 sensors embedded throughout the rocketcar. The freshest of the fresh data flickered before them and they looked rapidly from screen to screen, soaking it all in for analysis.
Tex went up to the driver side window and leaned in. There was a lot of noise with rocketcars zooming past along the nearby raceway. A zingy, rumbling roar as a dozen stock rocketcars passed in a drafting pack.
Their inertio-gravitic fields shielded them from most of the air resistance. So 1,000 miles per hour produced similar forces to what Old Earth's 20th century stock cars had encountered at 200 miles per hour. The racing action, although interplanetary, was similar. It was designed to be so.
Due to those energy fields, the cars didn't produce sonic booms. But there was still a distinct Doppler shriek as they ripped past. A chorus of zooming booms like moonshine fueled thunder.
"That was a fast lap!" Tex yelled. "How's it feel?”
Zane pulled off his cyberhelm - - a space helmet that superimposed 3D race data on the driver’s vision. "Tanks are still sloshing," he said. "Fuel needs to be colder."
Zane and his team had just switched to cryogenic fuel within the last week. Before that they were racing the more common liquid alcohol. But for The Raytona 5,000 that wasn't enough. You had to have your fuel supercooled to the point that it oozed like molasses. For the performance - - and for the tradition.
When Zane won the wildcard entry ticket in a cardgame, he didn't know how he would come up with the money to run cryogenic fuel. He'd have to upgrade his fuel system and all the fuel handling equipment, get extra mech-bots and all the other stuff.
But this was his shot at glory. If he could win the Raytona 5,000 he’d be a famous pro racer, courted by sponsors and welcome at any race throughout the known cosmos. No more getting by doing circus stunts, racing for small prizes on dirt tracks, and winning outlaw aircar races. He was an epic space racer - - at least, until his recent string of losses. But semi-pro space racing didn’t pay the bills.
Winning the Raytona 5,000 would put his name on the data map. ZANE POLESTAR would be the first name on the 2315 block of the Raytona 5,000 racerchain! The greatest blockchain in all of racing. Eternal and immutable. No one would ever be able to take that away.
Zane climbed out of the car’s window and raised his fist in victory. "We're ready to race!" He strode toward the exit.
"Whoah, where are you going?" Said Tex, blocking Zane's path. "We need to get this fuel temp dialed in perfect. Lap practice time is only half over."
"I only paid for half a day's laps. I want us all fresh for tomorrow." He spoke into his comlink and came on everyone's holoscreens. "Good job everybody! Let’s wrap it up here. We'll meet tonight at that restaurant The Phoenix and review any last minute items."
Tex hesitantly removed his headphones. "Where's our cryo suits? There's a lot of cryogenic alcohol out here. When it's cold enough to pour like thick syrup, it'll take your hand off real quick if it splashes you.”
Zane nodded, going around him. “They’re on the way!"
Ann peered from behind a crate of spare rocket nozzles but didn't take off her electro-goggles. "What time at The Phoenix?" She asked.
"Eight. Eight O Clock sharp." Zane turned and took off running.
And nearly ran right into Cindy Sand. She held her holographic camera/microphone out towards him. The light was on, indicating that they were appearing live in 3D throughout the cosmos. Holographic camera robots hovered nearby. ”Him Zane, I'm Cindy Sand - - Sports Channel Six Action Team Reporter." She leaned forward expectantly, sensing a story. "You're quitting early today?"
Zane was stunned a moment by her beauty. He had only seen her on the holo screen before. Here in real life she seemed like a real person. He’d wondered sometimes if maybe she was a robot. Hair and makeup always perfect, unflustered in the most extreme reporting environments. So exact with her pronunciation and delivery. But now he knew she was human. She was close enough he could smell her perfume. Her sudden appearance like a vision come to life, complete with this warm unexpected small of jasmine, was intoxicating. He put on his best professional racer face.
“We’re here today to practice for tomorrow,” he said as if explaining some complex engineering concept to a child.
"Uh huh" she nodded.
"When I cross that finish line and pull into the pit, I’ll be way ahead. The other cars will still be out there racing, battling for second place. That's the part we're rehearsing now."
He winked and gave his big broad interview smile. Then nodded politely, turned and strode away. Always leave them wanting more!
Once out of sight he began running and glanced at his wristcom. "Damn, I'm going to be late!” He jumped in the gullwing door of his Verocitor sports aircar and mashed the starter. Turbines spun up to speed and powered the grav plates. The car rose up on lift fans. As he gained altitude he engaged the rockets and zoomed off.
In a washed out grey industrial area he set the aircar down. Fifty other aircars and some groundcars and groundcycles were parked nearby in front of a large stadium-like warehouse.
He entered the warehouse and joined a noisy scene where people played holographic cards with big wagers and even bigger egos. Piles of cryptocredz, assetpogs, kryptycardz, and every other type of digitronic asset token littered the tables. Zane stepped up to the biggest table with the tallest mounds of loot. His racer instincts would serve him well in this contest.
Five long hours later he exited back into the parking lot.
To buy his way into the holocard tournament he'd had to put up a smart contract on the racerchain granting conditional title and ownership of all his racing equipment - including all 6 mech-bots and those big new cryo-toolchests. If he didn’t come in first place in the Raytona 5,000 he’d lose it all.
The moment he came across that finish line in 2nd place or later, the racerchain would signal the repochain and repo-bots would be dispatched to drag his racecar and all his other racing property off the raceway. Other repobots would simultaneously haul away all the contents of his apartment, his rocketbike, and sports aircar.
Needless to say, his crew would abandon him after that. No racecar and no racing equipment would make him officially Not A Racer.
He’d won nothing in the card games and still didn’t have money to buy his pit crew the Cryo-Suits they needed. Without those, the Race Officials wouldn’t even let him start the race. They’d nearly shut down his practice runs over the issue.
He paused in front of his Verocitor sports aircar. The moment he lost the race, repobots would descend vulture-like on the aircar and take it away. But maybe he could get a credzyloan on its value now before any of that happened…
There was a rumble overhead.
A large black luxury Visigoth Excelsior aircar limo descended and parked next to Zane.
A bulky man in a dark purple suit with a cigar and pinky ring got out. "Mr. Polestar, we need to talk. I represent Nitrogunx Industries. You know that we produce the ubiquitous fuel additive for which Nitrogunx is justifiably famous. What you may not know is that we also own and manage the pop singer idol you know as Velocitee."
Zane shook his head angrily. "Velocitee is no racer! She shouldn't be driving in the Raytona 5,000! You put her up to it. And you have a robot car to do all the driving for her. You're making a joke of history's greatest race. I've got nothing more to say to you."
Zane turned and started to get in his aircar but stopped when he heard the sound of a gun cocking. The sound came from within the limo but it was too dark to see the gun or its wielder.
The cigar-fuming Nitrogunx man continued.
"I'm afraid it's not that simple. Velocitee is the result of a very expensive program to create a logically constructed singer idol. Every step of her career since childhood has been planned and prepared. Psychographic analysis by the Starshine Sector's best think tanks has shown that now is her critical moment. She MUST ascend into a new level of stardom, or she will fall into obscurity. She must win the Raytona 5,000 and in doing so, make singing idol history. Her name will be etched on the racerchain as one of the greats. Fans of her music will exult and billions of new racing fans will join their ranks. She will ascend into the next level of ultra legendary stardom.
If she loses, the billions of solarions that we invested in her creation will be wasted. She’ll lose many of her fans and become the object of jokes. She’ll fall out of fashion and never have the chance to rise again. The fickle public eye will turn its servile gaze elsewhere... To another macrocorporation's created idol. We can’t have that happen.
To ensure her victory, we paid the Psi Guild a handsome sum to look into the future and alert us to any threat. They gave us your name. You are the one racer they see being able to defeat her - or her auto-driving car, as you put it. The Psi-Guild says that you are the only remaining wildcard.
We have made special arrangements that will ensure our win. The Psi-Guild approves of our methods. But we require your cooperation.
We are only doing what we must do for the fate of our macrocorporation. We’re all servants to our mission. Nitrogunx has no choice, Velocitee never had a choice. I don't, you don't. The cosmic forces that drive market sociology are bigger than any of us.”
He shrugged apologetically.
“So here's what you’ll do: Let Velocitee win. You'll be paid 1,500,000 Solarions, or its equivalent in any other tokens, coins, or cyphercredits that you wish,"
Zane crossed his arms and scowled. "That won't work for me. I came here to race. And to win. Not to play a part in some corporate marketing scheme.”
"You dont know who you're dealing with. The gravity of the situation. The cosmic wuju. There are forces that can move you around like a rag doll. Like a puppet dancing on our strings."
"Nobody pulls my strings," Zane said, getting in his aircar. He closed the gullwing door and took off.
Zane cruised above the lights and neon of Raytona, trying to clear his head. Below him, a sign of salvation appeared. The answer to his most immediate cash flow challenges... The glowing tri-globes of a pawn shop sign. He pushed forward on the controls and descended towards it.
His Verocitor sports aircar was in great shape and a very desirable model. But he was only able to get a fraction of its value in pawn. He walked out with a few credits in his account and no ride.
Zane sat down on the curb and used his wrist comlink to order Cryo protection suits for his pit crew. They were drone delivered to him within a few minutes. You could get anything for racing that fast on Raytona. He held the cryo suits stacked like giant pizza boxes and waited for a cryptotaxi.
Fifteen minutes later a beat-up unmanned robo taxi descended and picked him up. "To The Phoenix restaurant," he said.
The Phoenix was a Chinese restaurant near the edge of alientown. It was a racer favorite since being founded by Tai Saitron, a famous Raytona champion, 50 years before. Racer pictures covered the walls alongside depictions of drag racing dragons and wheeled cobras. Carved wood Phoenix motifs framed the doorways.
Zane was dropped off by the entrance. It was a busy night with many vehicles arriving and leaving.
An Action Sports Six News airvan descended with an entourage of smaller vehicles. A holographic camera crew got out, led by Cindy Sand. They converged towards the entrance and Zane held the door for them with his foot, balancing the Cryo-suit boxes precariously. "Big news at the Phoenix?” he asked Cindy.
"You tell me," Cindy said with a wink.
"I'll tell you later, but I need your number. We'll need to coordinate for that big interview tomorrow after I win."
"Sure," said Cindy, handing him her holocard. He managed to grab it without dropping the boxes.
Zane followed them inside and scanned for his crew. There they sat glumly at a table alongside the representative from his sponsor, Orange Crunchballs. Zane was fourty five minutes late.
The table's mood brightened as he approached, but only slightly. Zane greeted them and stashed the 5 boxed cryo protection suits on the floor beside his chair.
They ate a meal with heaping bowls of rice, prawns, pepper beef, and sweet & sour seaweed, then got down to business.
Tex began. "I'd like to start by reviewing a few of the top competitors in tomorrow’s race…”
“Bugz. The bug-eyed alien from the Outer Worlds. He's a champion racer in his home Galaxy. Those huge multifaceted bug eyes give him 360 degree vision. And his neocortex processes movement and visual stimuli 250% faster than we do.
“Lightnin’ Raybeam Reynolds - Rocketbilly favorite to win. Too many victories to list. The man to beat. Couple other legendary Rocketbilly racers you'll have to contend with: Wahoo Jenkins and Bash Zoomar.
Teela K'Rath. - that's the blue skinned racer with the antennas. From some planet way out on the spiral arms. Had the fastest times duuring today's practice laps.
Then there's the pop singer Velocitee, if you can call her a racer. She has the most expensive car and a lot of support. Her car is practically a robot that can drive itself, so all she has to do is smile and look good for the cameras. They shouldn't allow a self driving car like that in the race. But they do, and it's fast. Best driving computer from the Starshine Sector's top technologists.
Then 23 other racers, any of them would be the top racer in a smaller race. Too many to cover them all. You'll just have to sort it out during the race and see who's up there with you in the front.
"Mechanic Ann, give us the mechanical report."
Mechanic Ann stood and addressed them all regally. As Chief Mechanic this was her time to shine. She was always in a rush to fix things and coordinate the pit's mech-bots. Now they could wait on her and her important report. "Everything is going swimmingly with my pit mechs. We switched out their racetrack slicks for tank treads and got their maneuvers all dialed in. We can refuel in 12 seconds and change every rocket nozzle on the car in 30. The engines are running great on this new Cryo fuel. We've recalibrated for the increase in fuel density and tweaked the turbopumps. I'd like to have some more spare rocket nozzles, but" - she shrugged - "who wouldn’t!"
She smiled brightly. She had quietly worked a miracle getting the car to run on cryogenic fuels, integrating the three new mech-bots, and making sure everything was within rules and specifications in just 5 days! When Zane won the wildcard ticket in a card game at 2 AM, she immediately set to work. Metric tons of research, not just a bunch of wrench turning.
“Another thing I want to remind everyone,” she said looking around. “This latest generation of mech-bots we are using, their behavior is mostly determined by their programming. But due to their quantum processors, they do have feelings. So talk nice to them now and then, don’t push them around or kick them. If they get their feelings hurt it can actually slow their performance.”
Tex nodded and Ann sat down. He turned to the Orange Crunchballs representative, Sam. "On behalf of all of us I want to thank Orange Crunchballs for your sponsorship. Any comments on your company's behalf?"
Sam stood. His tan linen suit fit perfectly. "Zane, I can’t sugar coat this so here it is. Corporate management can't take any more of your recent losing streak. They’re calling it quits after this race. Sales of Orange Crunchballs cereal are down 30% across all categories - - breakfast, snack, desert, and altmeal. Bottom line, if you don't win The Raytona 5,000 they're cancelling your sponsorship. There’s talk of putting the whole Orange Crunchballs division up for sale. I'll be reassigned or lose my job too. I'm just a smallfry."
Sam's typical bluff of age and experience evaporated for a moment and he looked like what he really was - - a 25 year old wheeler and dealer struggling to make some breakthroughs and be a hotshot. With a veneer of business classes and a smattering of experience in corporate affairs. He glanced around the table sheepishly.
"But like you guys, I dream big. I'm willing to roll the dice. I believe in you, Zane. You're the best small-track racer I've ever seen. You've just got to deliver it where it counts - - on the big raceway. As of this moment, Orange Crunchballs is still your sponsor and I'm still your rep. So I will say this as an official statement: We know you can do more than just win a wildcard entry in a card game. Get out there and make us all rich!"
Everyone agreed and laughed at that. He sat back down.
Tex turned towards Joe. "Racing Control team, give your report."
Joe stood and with a gesture, triggered a holographic slideshow that accompanied his presentation. Graphs, diagrams and subatomic models glowed in the air like neon. They probably explained everything but it was hard for the non-technician to get much out of them. Mark and Leon leaned forward in their seats, ready to interject any vital details that their leader Joe might miss. Joe wouldn't give them the chance.
"We've been tracking some advances in tech that could affect racing in the near-term. New forms of gravity manipulation including pulses, beams, and dots. Exotic new fuel additives. Some kind of quantum-based pit bot able to fix broken parts before they break..."
Zane noticed Cindy Sand, across the restaurant, swipe a signing pad and gather her things to leave.
"Right," said Zane. "Got it." He gestured for Joe to sit back down and Joe reluctantly did. Mark and Leon started to object but Joe hushed them. Joe looked at Tex for direction but Tex's expression was blank.
"Speaking of new tech, I have some here for you guys - - the new Cryo suits." Zane handed them the boxes and they withdrew silver protection suits with full hoods that had a clear viewing area in front. A small box mounted on the back regulated the temperature and circulated filtered air. "I haven't had a chance to get our sponsor graphics on these. Feel free to modify them how you want."
Tex took his. "I told you I needed a Mylar cowboy hat with mine." Everyone chuckled.
Ann seemed pleased with hers. She beamed at it a moment, then put it aside and handed Zane a small box. "We've got something for you too, Zane. Everyone pitched in."
Zane opened the box. Within was a belt buckle. The letters GDK in bold relief. He smiled.
Ann continued. "You're the Gravity Drafting King. Everybody knows that. Nobody's ever grav-drafted like you."
Tex agreed. "You know it, we know it. Now you just need to get out there and prove it to the rest of the universe! Right where they can see it. In full 3D Holographic VR!Tomorrow you're going to race in The Raytona 5,000. It doesn't get any realer than that. Say a few words to inspire your crew."
Zane was mesmerized by the GDK buckle. Since he was a teenager grav-drafting all night in the hills near his hometown, he'd been the best at drafting. He was put into the universe to draft. There was more to racing than drafting - - but not much more, he figured. If you could draft well, you could do all the other stuff. And he had the drafting part figured out.
Zane stood. Short and direct was the way with this. “We all have a job to do here. Yours is to get my car completely ready, as superior as possible in every detail. Mine is to get in that car, race it, and win. You do your jobs, I’ll do mine. We’ll all prosper!” He looked around the table, giving each of them his winningest smile, then sat down. He hoped that would charge them up with some measure of his champion spirit.
Cindy Sand caught his eye as she rose from her table with her broadcasting entourage and moved towards the exit.
Tex said a few more remarks, then reminded everyone of the 6:30 AM call time at the track the next morning. They dispersed and Zane started to move fast towards the exit when Tex grabbed his shoulder.
"Zane, you need to open your eyes!" he said. “There’s more to the race than just the driver. The driver is the tip of the spear, not the whole spear! When you’re out there racing, you got 3 primary resources: your skill, your guts, and your team. Take out any one of those elements, and you WILL lose. You’re the leader. I can’t tell you how to use your team during the race. But use them you must!”
"I know you can drive. That’s why I agreed to be your pit boss even though you’ve got no credentials to justify your racing at this level. You can drive like nobody can drive. What I don't know is, can you lead? You'll have to if you want to win. In pro racing, nobody's out there solo. You’re a long way from the amateur space racing you’re used to.
"You ARE the Gravity Drafting King. GDK, that's you. But your specialty is grav drafting. Not atmospheric drafting or re-entry racing. The Raytona 5,000 features all those and more. You’ll have to learn as you go. You’ve got to listen to us out there.”
Zane nodded, broke free of Tex's grip and dashed out to the parking lot. Cindy Sand and her crew were already rising away, the big Action Sports 6 broadcast airvan leading the others.
"I love you" murmured Zane as he watched the departing airvan.
(continued in Part 2)
***************** 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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