Taking aim was easy. The red hull of her target was easy to spot in the darkness. The enemy was close enough to see. Her copilot was taking care of their defense. Now it was up to her to win the fight. It was a challenge she was up to. Precise aim. A maneuverable enemy. The flashing lights all around. Such a fierce battle. The Protectorate was putting up a good fight. But the Directorate was pushing hard, and cracks were starting to appear in the armor of the enemy. A defense line of countless battleships, fighters, bombers, armors, and even the asteroid that they were fighting at being turned into a fortress. The sole base of a planet that was central the Protectorate’s ability to continue their war machine. If they lost here, it was all over.
Focusing on her target, the red armor danced around with everything it had. This pilot had skill. But whoever it was, they knew that their time was running short. She was right on them, and there was nowhere to run. Sending out lances of particle beams, a smile grew on her face.
“Stop running and fight, you coward!”
One last particle beam, right into the leg of the enemy. It blasted it open, sending the armor spiraling out of control. Now she had it! Aiming her cannon at the machine desperately trying to right itself, she changed firing mode. Switching over to the physical ammunition, she send rounds right at the body. Ripping open the synthetic muscle and machinery, it was a twisted mesh of red and black metal, with red circulator fluid flowing out like blood. Then it struck the cockpit, and the enemy stopped moving. A round straight through the cockpit, whoever the pilot was had to have been blown to bits. Nothing but red chunks inside.
“Too bad he didn’t fight,” her copilot said. “Maybe he would have lasted longer.”
She shook her head. “He was dead before this started. Just didn’t know it.”
On to find a new target. That red color, with the black metal, it brought memories back. Of speed, and who she used to be. The memories were a harsh feeling.
The danger was unbelievable. The track was suspended 200 stories up. It was built on the most elaborate skyscraper of all time. A palace for the opulent, who came to bet on the most dangerous race that has ever been. If you fell from this place, you died. It wasn’t a question of if. It was a mathematical certainty. There was no way to survive an impact from this height. Fear was in the air with all the people with any sense.
To her, it made her feel alive. When the light went green, and she slammed on the accelerator, this was everything she had dreamed of for so long. The racers all blasted forward at speed that made you barely able to comprehend what you were saying. A beautiful, sunny evening. So much ambiance. It was amazing. Setting sunlight shimmered on the red paint on top of her racer. Tiger was its name. A racer that had passed down through her family for three generations. Listening to her father talk about it with her and her brother, it was her legacy. A legacy which stood with her now, as the machine blasted forward.
There was no guard rail. Just gravity plating that kept them suspended and on the track. Blasting forward, it was tight. Every racer knew the score. Whoever took this race took home the Platinum Cup. The last race in the season.
Flying forward, she banked through turns. This course was tight, and with no guard system, any onboard navigation assistance was good as useless. She never turned that on anyway. It was her racing skills that were going to carry this! A voice in her ear, telling her about the track and the position of other racers. Her crew. Every racer had one.
A purple racer came up beside her. It smashed into her side. So that’s how this is! She snarled and took the hit. A turn was coming up. It was trying to edge her out to get close to the edge and keep it tight on the inside. Or push her off and kill her.
It made another move to edge her out, when she did the unthinkable. Suddenly hitting the brakes, it aimed over, flying right off the edge. That’s one piece of competition out. Whoever that pilot was, he had a good 30 seconds to really think about how dumb that was. Smashing the accelerator again, the g-forces hit her like a load of bricks. A couple racers had pulled ahead, but no matter. These guys were amateurs. Hence why she had gotten ahead of them before.
Second lap, and now it was tighter. The lead racer was a black and green machine. It got into a bad battle with a very robust blue machine. A muscle racer. Not at all like hers. Made for handling and speed, it wasn’t made to fight it out. This could be trouble. The green machine was made exclusively for handling, and had some muscle. Enough that the two of them were fighting it out at the front. Coming up behind them, she looked for an opening to make a pass. Don’t play your hand yet. Let them fight. Let them damage one-another. Her time would come.
That’s when it happened. A yellow racer was taking the same approach as her. It had an opening! Right as she was going to pull ahead, the racer swung on the inside. Not even made for handling, this tiny thing was built for speed alone. A glass vehicle. Taking a clear lead, she swore. Now her chances were down. Second place? The second place purse was no slouch.
No! This wasn’t how the legacy of the Tiger and her family was going to go down! Third lap. One more after this. Green racer couldn’t handle the pressure anymore and decided to drop back and let the blue racer pull ahead. Smart move. The blue vehicle was a monster. This track had so many turns, though. Muscle vehicle had to sacrifice speed during the dangerous curves. Got her closer. But too close and it would turn its eyes on her.
Meanwhile, the yellow racer was losing some lead. It didn’t have the handling to take these insane corners and risk falling off the edge. This pilot was good, but not brave enough to go the distance. Blue racer was much moreso. These two were a risk. At the top of the track again, now a winding way down for the final lap. She knew this had to be it. Either she would do something daring, or fail.
Seeing a curve ahead, with a path right below. She knew what she had to do. In a flash, she disengaged the gravity controls. Her pit crew was screaming at her, but that didn’t matter. This was it! She steered right at the edge! Able to hear the crew screaming, she began a swift descent almost straight down. Seeing the endless abyss below, if she hadn’t timed this right, it was a fact that she’d be dead in 50 seconds.
“Fuck it!” she swore. Hitting the accelerator, her boosters kicked on. Just a little further! Down further and further, then hit the gravity controls. The machine damn-near smashed into the track, but she made it! Dropping a Naseel Crystal into the engine, the machine roared back to life and took off with a mind of its own. This was it! No one even close to behind. But that wasn’t enough. Not just to win, but to fly through that finish line and have the entire Directorate seeing what a master she was at this race.
This level of g-force was crushing her chest. It was blazing through her entire body. If it wasn’t for the g-suit, this would surely be killing her. Keeping the blood flowing. The Tiger was barely able to be controlled. It had a mind of its own! The speed was beyond the ability of the cameras recording and broadcasting the race to keep up with. Her pit crew was pissed at her. Who gives a fuck?! In that moment, she didn’t just feel alive. She knew she was.
Last leg. Blue fire coming out the back as the Crystal made its way through the engine liquid. The final segment was the blaze down the last wall of the skyscraper. A straight shot down. So freaky to see the ground coming up at her so fast, but the gravity plating guided her up at the last second. Through the finish line, blazing through in a way that blasted over all of the spectators and announcers there. It was chaos! Sliding in to the winner’s circle, her racer came to a stop. Smoke and steam was pouring out of every single linking compartment. The Crystal had done so much damage. Pushed the machine well past what it was capable of handling. She didn’t care.
Breathing so hard, the yellow and blue racer tied for second. It was a perfect tie. The judges couldn’t call it for either, so both had to be given the second place purse. But the trophy and Champion’s purse went to her. Opening the cockpit, she stumbled out and hit the plating, unable to stand. Her pit crew ran to her side, helping her up. Taking off the helmet, her ears were greeted to the thunderous applause of the crowd. Everyone was in awe of what they had just seen. Announcers could be heard saying this would go down in race history for both the most dramatic finish, and the most insane stunt ever pulled. The name of the racer was being shouted into screens everywhere – Tiger.
In that moment, her father and brother could be put to rest. It made her smile.
At the awards ceremony, the pilot of the yellow racer went over, eager to meet who had won. This girl was so cute. Naturally blonde hair, a product of genetic engineering. Hadn’t been a natural blonde in three generations. The girl gave her her number and told her to call. Sounded like a good idea. Why not celebrate with a gracious loser? No point letting that perfect body go to waste.
At the end of the day, the pit crew was taking Tiger back to their base to begin repairs. Everyone was talking about how after this they’d enjoy some time off. No other races for months. Heading up to the apartment above the garage, a voice called after her.
“Can we talk?” her chief mechanic said.
Looking over, she let out a sigh. “Sure.”
Heading into the office, he poured her a cup of coffee.
“What the fuck was that today?” It was clear there was barely-contained rage.
“What was what?”
“You know what I mean! That stunt you pulled on the track! What the fuck was that?! Were you trying to get yourself killed?!”
She shrugged. “It was the best way to get ahead.”
“Bullshit! You could easily have waited and then used the Crystal to get a last boost on the final leg. At that speed, you easily would have passed the two from where you were.”
“Maybe. And maybe that muscle racer would have smashed me to bits as I tried it.”
“No way! Nobody is that crazy. Not at the speed you’d be going. It would have fucked up both of your vehicles beyond repair.”
Another shrug. “I guess we’ll never know, will we?”
“Spirits, woman! If you’re looking for a way to die, there are much easier ones than this!”
Looking him right in the eye. “I was looking for a way to win. I just didn’t care that I was risking my life.”
“Yeah, and that scares the hell out of me! There are a lot easier ways to kill yourself than this. What if you had died? What would happen to the Tiger? It’s legacy would be the last racer in your family destroying it in a foolhardy stunt!”
A cold look. “But it wasn’t! Its legacy is to go down as the racer the won the Platinum Cup from a pilot who has no sponsors. Tiger will go down in history! So will I! I should have died doing that. Now, dozens of pilots are going to get themselves killed trying to outdo me.”
He walked away, shaking his head. “And what will it be next time? When the next race comes up, what insane stunt will you try?!”
Looking out the window. “There won’t be another race.”
Genuine shock. “What?!”
“I’m done. Me and the Tiger are retiring. I just did something that should have gotten me killed. There’s nowhere else to go from this. I can retire easy on the Champion’s purse, even after paying for repairs for Tiger.” A little smile on her face. “You gotta know when to bow out. I’m gonna go out on top. Forever have the respect my dad always wanted. That’s fine by me.”
The mechanic thought for a moment. “So it was go out on top or die?”
She nodded. “Yeah, pretty much.”
“You’re insane, you know that?”
A little chuckle. “I’d rather be known as insane than weak.”
Breaking the news to her crew wasn’t easy, but they took it better than she expected. A lot of them liked the idea she had. They would be known as the pit crew for the greatest racer who had ever been, on the best racer ever built. That was a phenomenal thing to put on a resume. They’d have no trouble finding jobs after this.
There was a fairly epic party planned to go out on. Retirement for the now-legendary Tiger. A call to the cute blonde who had given her her number. Time for some fun? Heading over, she took that woman and did things to her that she’d remember forever. All fun and games. Getting back home was hard. Would she see her again? Why not. An offer was made for next time she was on this planet to come have some fun.
Saying goodnight to Tiger, it was a slog up the stairs. The tiredness hit all at once. Her head hit her pillow at what she assumed was mach five.
What woke her was the blast that sent her and her bed careening toward the wall. The impact brought her to her senses in a millisecond. What had happened?! Getting to her feet on wobbly legs, she looked out the window to see impacts happening everywhere. An attack?! Who would attack the Directorate on a core world?! It was madness! Then the thought came to her – the Tiger!
Not even putting on pants, she went running toward the garage. Slamming the sensor to open the door, she was greeted with flame pouring in. Inside was a twisted mess of burning metal and destroyed parts. No! Peering through the burning metal, she saw Tiger. Or at least what was left of it. The last legacy of her father and brother. All that remained of them now. Tiger was torn up and burning. It hurt her. Charging into the fire to reach the last remnant of her family, using her jacket to try and wipe the flames away, she desperately ran to her machine.
The torn parts, broken glass, and hot oil on the floor was murder on her feet, but the pain didn’t register. It was all about getting to the machine. There had to be a way to save it! Coming out of the fire, it was a clear path to it! Like a demon possessed, she charged toward the cockpit. The damaged was all on one side. The one facing the exit that was blasted open. Could it be saved?! A dream. The only dream that mattered.
Hitting the sensor, she brought her regular vehicle online. All she had to do was hitch Tiger to it and get the hell out of here! The seconds that the car came over were the longest in her life. It came in, stopping right in front of her. Grabbing the gravity tether from the back, she attached it to Tiger’s cockpit block. Once it was secured to the back of the car, it was time to go! Running for the entrance, time suddenly stopped.
She registered the rocket right as it impacted at the entrance. The force hit her like bricks. Lifting her off her feet, it was blind, stupid luck that she just happened to be right in front of the office door, which opened as soon as it detected her coming. Sliding along the floor and smashing into the desk, her crumpled, broken body went unconscious.
Her eyes opened in a white room. She looked over to see flowers on the table by the bed. Were these real? That sure was nice of whoever it was who bought them. There was a screen playing the news. It talked about something, but she couldn’t focus. Mobilizing? A call to action? That was all so distant. Black again.
When she woke up this time, there was a voice. “The whole crew got this. We had to dig through the rubble of the garage, but we got it. Figured you’d want it here.”
Her eyes saw metal. It was the Tiger’s insignia! Why was that here?! Where was Tiger?! That’s when she realized, they had to dig through the rubble to get it. Tiger was destroyed. The legacy of her family, destroyed. Pain gripped her heart, agonizing. Then she was out. In her mind, there was a little voice – the people who did this are going to pay! Oh yes, they would pay.
Three weeks later, she stood at the entrance to the Directorate Naval Enlistment Office. Still with a limp from the work they had done to fix her legs, she walked inside.
A young man in uniform sat there.
“May I help you?”
“I’d like to know who I talk to about signing up.”
“That would be me.” His eyes went wide. “I know you! You’re-”
“So it’s you I need to talk to. Good. I’d like to enlist. Figure you need pilots.” The anger was a dull, burning rage. On her arm, there was a tattoo. It was the Tiger’s insignia, with a line underneath.
Kill Everyone Now
Until next time, a quote,
“Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder!” – Divine, Pink Flamingos