Seeing Alexander's car pick up it’s nose and accelerate towards the bridge I followed swiftly, not wanting to be left behind. Perhaps I will find my friends at the other end of the portal. At the top of the cockpit was the projection of a mirror. In which I watch as a bunch more similar silver drones form up behind us, travelling in a giant chrome surge up towards the bridge.
The wheels clonk with a dull thud as I cross over a change in the road’s surface where the bridge merges with the ground. It was wide enough for about 4 cars to fit side by side, I push harder to catch up to Alexander and to pull clear of the drones behind me.
“Eager to perform I see” his voice rings out from somewhere in the cockpit. I wish I could shut him out. The rise in the bridge and the speed I was travelling pushed my body down in my seat with a force I hadn’t felt before. To say it was like a rollercoaster would be a cliche and not accurate.
This felt like I was strapped to one of Concorde’s Rolls Royce engines at the precipice of breaking the sound barrier
I glanced down at the speedometer GUI that was projected onto the windshield. I was doing well over 160 miles per hour, much quicker than I’d ever travelled in an actual car. A thunderous rock song blasts from somewhere as I rise the crest and am presented with the portal up close and proper. The pressure it generates was like nothing else, golden geometric shapes appear and disappear into the pulsing goop that it consisted of. Alexander skids to a halt in front of the portal and positions his car at an angle facing towards the growing horde of shiny chrome vehicles coming up the bridge. I slow to a half in front of him and sit there. I don’t want to have to get out and get back in again.
The horde stops about a car length behind me, a sea of whirring machinery behind you rather intimidating, even if you’re apparently on their side. I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with whatever foes I come across. Just play along James...Alice...whoever I am anymore. You’ll get out eventually. Flashes of the old me pop up in my mind, that body I was so melancholic about. I shook them away, that was real. This isn’t. Real is better right?
Lord Alexander clanks towards the group behind me, stopping a metre or two away from my door before tapping on a set of buttons on the back of his wrist.
“Today, Today is a brilliant day for the Xeraphim! We begin our conquest of the dimensions anew! Your job my troops is to support my champion 4L1C3 here. He swings a metal arm on my direction in a gesture that could only really be described as properly cartoonish villainy. I almost laughed but I thought he might still hear me.
“So rejoice! We will soon have the spoils that we desire!” The engines behind me pick up in a chorus of roars, clearly they all wanted this too. “Right then! Forwards!” Alexander spins around and points towards the portal. “Onwards 4L1C3! Lead us to victory!” I take one undisguised look of sheer hatred towards him before advancing into the portal.
When you travel between dimensions for the first time, you expect many things, nausea, possibly headaches, floatiness. What I got was actually more in line with a stable sense of movement. Not acceleration or deceleration, just a gentle push forwards through the blue and gold void, which slowly starts to darken to a pitch black.
“It looks like its time to get the games started” A smug voice rings out in my head. “I hope you’ve settled in to your new body James” Why did that irk me? What was so wrong with my name now?
“Where are my friends?”
“You’ll be seeing them soon, don’t you worry” The voice chuckles “I will redirect you to the grid” The black void slowly lightened up into a light brown before I eventually burst out in mid air, landing on the ground with a harsh thump on the suspension of the car, a jolt which went straight up my thighs. I looked out the windows at my new surroundings. I looked to be in the ruins of a great castle, with a makeshift grandstand and spectators tower. The grid was made up of a variety of machinery, and I couldn’t make out exactly how many cars there were. I opened the door of my vehicle and disconnected myself from it.
Grabbing hold of the roof I haul myself out of the seat and onto the sill of the car. It was wide like a supercar or a race car, and more than adequate for me to sit on it. However-
“4L1C3?” It was a different voice, one I faintly recognised. The central screen poked out on its arm again, showing the voice of the assistant from earlier. “Hello?”
“I hear you, what is it?” I ask, swivelling myself back around to face it.
“Your race suit is in the centre console compartment, also I received a promotion! I’m going to be your navigator from now on”
“Oh thank fuck, I don’t have to listen to-” I stopped there, I didn’t want to offend the first person who treated me like I was anything other than a tool. Even if he was part of this nutcase’s legion as well.
“What does that word mean? Fu-”
“Ignore me, its code” This guy was so innocent. I edged myself back in the seat and fiddled around with the aluminium looking centre console, trying to find the latch or button to open it, after a few moments I hit the jackpot, I pull at the latch with a feminine finger and it slides open revealing a bunch of different versions of that same gun looking thing that loaded this outfit.
“They swap, so when you load a new outfit it’ll take the old chip and store it, so don’t worry about losing the dress”
As...strangely appealing it felt. I wasn’t too worried about losing it. I grabbed the closest one to me and sat back in the seat, pulling down the dark coloured sun visor down in the hope for a mirror. I strike it lucky and open a slot on the back to reveal what I needed. I tilt my head and line the thing up with the slot and press down on the trigger. I felt the same pinch of pain from earlier and the dress goes hazy and reforms as a silver suit that was almost skintight. It looked a lot like your typical fireproof getup but shinier. “Thank you...Assistant”
“No worries 4L1C3, I’m excited for the games this year. I think we have a good chance with you for some reason! Lets go conquer!” He gives me a beam so radiant you could bounce radio waves off of his teeth.
“I’m going to go...look at the competition. How long before the race begins?”
“I think in ten minutes time, I’ll call for you when there are two minutes to go for your briefing. Its a relatively simple circuit”
“Yes, that would be good” I haul myself onto the sill again. I can’t wait to get some proper legs. I look up and down the grid. I appear to be about 6th out of maybe two dozen cars. There were various humanoid creatures and races strolling up and down the grid, although they seemed wary of my car and a few of the other Xeraphim machines nearby. Ahead of me were a pair of tall looking machines with big chunky tyres and lots of external caging. I vaguely remembered that Milton had picked a vehicle a bit like that.
I twist my neck to look back at the screen. “Assistant?”
“Is there a way to open communication to the other vehicles in these races?”
“Not at the moment. Thats a strange question, why would you like to talk to our enemies?”
“Uh, I’d like to make some strategic alliances”
“Hmm” he rubs his chin on the other side. “I will try and figure something out, that is a smart idea. No wonder his Lordship expects to win more than ever” I leave him to it and try to get a scope on the competition. The cockpit of the buggy ahead of me pops open with a heavy unlocking noise and a creature of some kind crawls out of it. It was very furry with a huge pair of ears, almost like those of a rabbit. Once on the ground I could make out that they were mostly slim, but with almost cartoonishly thick muscled legs. The thought that they could just run the race physically crossed my mind, until it struck me that they’d just get mown down like a Badger in the road.
There was something vaguely familiar about the mannerisms of the Rabbit-man as he grabbed a piece of fruit from another one of their species. The way they cautiously bit into it, Milton was sort of always picky about food. If this was him then he had gone through what was possibly an even bigger bodily shift than I had. I might have changed gender and gained some degree of good looks, but he was properly tiny and furry!
Milton in reality (if I could even call it that anymore) was a big dude. I wonder how that change was affecting him, if at all. I felt strangely comfortable already in my new body, although I had chalked that down to sitting most of the time, I shook my head and noted down the number plastered on the rear engine panel of the vehicle he’d come from. I couldn’t see much behind me, not anything that rung a bell to me. They’d placed a huge pair of vehicles behind me with smaller drill weapons on the front of them. None of us had gone for a vehicle like that.
“I guess I’ll see them in the race..” I decided to just sit there and soak up the atmosphere until my Assistant gave me the notice. After a couple of minutes the sound of engines starting up from behind me gave me a shock. I’d closed my eyes and tried my best to relax before the inevitably stress filled race, and I hadn’t prepared myself for the noise of the drill machines. They sounded powerful and deep, unlike the sophisticated scream of whatever powered my car. Each of the drills on the front seemed to whirr hypnotically as they got faster and faster. I really want to avoid them at all costs. I slid back into the driver's seat and slid my legs into the receptacles.
“Good timing! We’ve got two minutes until the race starts. You go when the five red lights at the top of the windscreen go dark”
“Okay, what's the course?” The Assistant’s face fades away and is replaced by a track map.
“Five laps around the ruins, its a simple double figure eight, with a long sweeping left into a bridge over the track that you should see ahead of you” he was right, there was a stone overpass that passed over the track, it looked thin and underused. “Then another sweeping corner, this time its a steep slope downwards with debris on the road. You pass under the track and then back upwards to the left to meet the start finish line. Weaponry will activate on lap two. You got all that?”
“I do, thank you” Just in time as well, as the lights on my dash had started to glow, signalling the race is about to begin.