I could hear a gigantic boom, causing the car to judder and bounce nastily. I tighten my grip on the wheel and look for whatever caused it.
“What was that? Assistant?”
“They’ve started activating the track hazards, as well as releasing the castle keeper from his chains”
“The castle keeper?” All of a sudden a chunk of wall blows out from the right, on the outside of the first corner. A giant leg appears from the hole made in the wall, and the creature that stepped out made my stomach crawl. It was a huge golden brown dragon, with stumps where I’d expect his wings to be, as well as a giant collar and a broken chain hanging down from it. It was big enough to be able to pluck a car like mine and eat it like a croquette. The dragon lets out an ear-piercing shriek and swings its tail out.
I was thankfully just far ahead enough to avoid it but I watched half the field behind me get collected by it, with a single spec managing to jump over it. I hadn’t seen that vehicle yet, it was much smaller than everything else from the glimpse of it I could see. The dragon started pounding after the rest of us who had escaped the carnage caused by it. The single survivor of the tail sweep quickly caught up to us in the leading trio. I think I recognise it as the type of vehicle Hitomi had selected. I hope it was her, but I couldn’t tell who was driving it.
As we left the first turn for the last time I could tell that the dewinged Dragon was catching us, but the bridge was too thin for him to be able to cross it. So I breathed a sigh of relief as me and the fourth placed machine entered the bridge without being chomped by the scaly monster. That sigh of relief quickly was forgotten though, as the beast leapt into the air and landed right behind me, causing the bridge to collapse and crumble. I could feel it shake and wobble underneath me. I just powered through as the road on the other side seemed to grow taller ahead of us. “Assistant. I’m not going to make it!”
“Activate your weapon” I have no time to question why. I grab the lever and push it forwards again to engage the blade. The next thing I knew I was cartwheeling through the air. The blade must have wedged itself on the cracked uneven bridge and the resistance of that caused it to flip over. “With the blade engaged your vehicle’s weight distribution shifts forwards!” He hoots and hollers in my ear. I still have to land the car first. In another quick reaction I disengaged the blade and I willed the car to slow. Games with arcade physics tended to have a degree of in-air control, and assuming the same here. I hoped it would stop the car toppling end over end.
Thankfully, it worked. The impact of the landing on the gravel went right through my spine. The vehicle was not designed with jumps in mind, as the course was mainly smooth. The Dragon chasing us down vanished from the rear view screen, giving me a breather. “Now lets win!” I say to myself, trying to reign in my emotions and concentrate...
...Benji always knew my weakness was my emotions, it was easy to rile me up and also to upset me. I liked him as a friend, but when it got competitive between us. It got nasty from time to time. We always made up after a while, but I always kinda hated that part of my relationship with him, the guy-ish back and forth always upset me after a while…
With the giant monster now not an immediate threat, I got my first good look at the final of the four vehicles left. It was this relatively small looking four wheeled motorcycle, with huge spiked wheels, three at the front and one huge one at the rear. From what I could tell the two outside wheels at the front tilted and moved, whilst the centered wheels remained fairly stationary. It was a really strange contraption and absolutely nothing like I’d seen in real life. Even in magazines and web articles. I vaguely remember that this was similar to the vehicle I’d seen Hitomi pick. This meant that, if my guesses were correct. We might have all four of us here.
Whilst Milton and the bike stuck rigidly to the inside, me and the leading car slid slightly wide, maintaining an easy drift. Alexander may be insane, but his technology seemed to work incredibly well. All the feedback I received through what was left of my legs seemed to just make sense. What to do and how to do it came naturally, which kind of unnerved me. Having never driven a vehicle before in real life, due to being way too young. It gave me a distinct feeling of unease, not towards the car and driving, but towards how that translates into my brain. If I even really had one in this body.
The bike entered the tunnel just ahead of me, dropping me down into fourth. No matter though, I was fairly confident that I had enough power, and enough energy, to blow past them on the straight.
“Assistant. Do I have a boost function?” I ask, just in case.
“I think I understand your plan. Yes, kind of. I can direct all of the energy towards one final burst, but you might run out on the other side” He responds calmly.
“The other side?” I ask, curious about what is intended by that.
“You’ll see. Just trust me”
“Roger, redirect the power when I say go okay?” We exit the tunnel and begin the climb up towards the finish line.
“Okay. On it” He says. “Your cockpit will go dark, just hold on”
The corner just doesn’t seem to ever end, its killing me, the rear end of the car slips out again. They must have designed it to do that. I can only assume Alexander likes everything to be flashy and exuberant...
“Are you ready?” The assistant asks, I can see the beginning of the straight, as the castle walls loom into view, and the viewing tower hangs overhead, glinting purple in the sunlight.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. Go-” And like that I was hurtling into what felt like hyperspace. This wasn’t like a launch coaster. This was well beyond comparison to that. Everything else seemed to blur into infinity as all the instrument screens went dark and the world outside the windscreen became scrambled. I couldn’t tell what had happened to the rest of them. I only knew I was travelling at a truly ridiculous rate of speed towards the finish line.
All of a sudden, just beyond the finish line. I see a familiar array of sparks growing out of thin air. “A portal? Where?” It was too late to bow out. Either I go through it or I crash, and I don’t feel like crashing today. The portal opened with a bang a few yards down the road after the line. I could feel the car slowing, it was beginning to give out on me. All the feedback I was receiving had shut down and my legs felt numb and lifeless once more. As the speed died away I could see the rest of them catching me from behind. This was not good. I could only hope that I’d still reach the line first.
Those moments were agonising. I was helpless, a sitting duck. I could do nothing but hope. Both the finish line and the other racers grew closer and closer and closer. But I just just scraped in ahead of them. And at a more pedestrian pace I slowly rolled into the portal.
Lord 4L3-X5-D3R watched with a mix of amusement and surprise as he watched 4L1C3 soar into the lead. None of his other subjects had ever had the processing power to do that before. “You are learning, adapting, overcoming the obstacles.those blasted Games Masters have set up” He says to no-one in particular.
“Just bring it in. My first victory in the game in years. The start of the revolution is upon us” As the car, which was clearly slowing, crosses the line in front of him. He raises a golden fist in the air. “Victory at last”
The viewing box he was seated in appeared to rumble and shake slightly. It was finally time for the show to get truly underway. He cranes his neck to look above him as the portal came to take them to the Hubworld. It enveloped the whole tower as it began to lift from the ground into the portal. He sits back in his seat and places the restraints on, clicking them together with a scraping clunk. It was a simple but inelegant part of the design. “Blasted people can’t design anything properly. We will show them all how to build the best machines, better than people and flesh can. I will relieve them all of the burden of fleshy ligaments soon”
The viewing box retracts back into the ship, all the light of the dimension they were in vanishing behind dark purple metal. The only thing illuminating the room is his harsh gold glare. “Soon, soon, soon” He mutters to himself.