Chapter 1: Desert Dreams and Distant Memories
If somebody were to ask you, what is speed? What would you say? Is it simply a measure of distance over time? A magnitude of velocity? Or is it something more? For us, speed is more than a number, it is a state of being. Speed is a shock to the soul. Speed is a call to action. Speed fills the void that hollows every one of us. It’s our drug, we need it, we push it faster and harder until we can fill that quickly depleting void that consumes us. This need for it is what makes us the best damn pilots in the universe, and we know it. It takes a special kind of stupid to break the barrier of sound (760 mph) two feet of the ground, and then to push it even faster. It takes a special kind of lunatic to try a ninety degree vertical turn without slowing down. We know the risks, that’s why we love what we do, and that’s why there so few of us. And now there will be one less.
The sun is right above us, burning whatever moisture was left of the night freeze. It is hot and dry, no wind and no flora or fauna. It is the perfect weather for an atmos race. I move up to the glass house, I jump into my ship and perform last minute checks. It is called the glass house because the engine’s’ exhaust is so hot that it melts all the sand into glass, I try to avoid and think about what the heat would do to my body. “Welcome.” A computer generated female voice greets me as I turn on the plasma engines. I quickly check the state of the engines, the data seems to be alright so I move on to the fuel and coolant. The fuel gage is at max, so is the nitro-hydrant based liquid coolant. The engine is completely surrounded by a thin membrane coated with the liquid coolant to allow rapid and effective heat dispersion. Everything seems to be in order with the ship. I’m running low on time so I proceed with the suit check. I look around my F32-C racing standard compression suit. No tears in the suit, not even a scratch on the helmet visor. I put on the helmet and turn on the life assist, the rush of pure oxygen wakes me up and reminds me of what I am about to do. Adrenaline rushes to my head making all the colors around me even brighter and sharper. The sun is still above us, anticipating the race. I grip the control column and force myself to calm down. When you go this fast you can’t risk making any mistakes. One millimeter off and you could end your career as a large ball of flames. I turn on the comms and hear the gratifying click of the helmet’s interface coming to life.
“The race starts in 5” I’m on time, and this may just be the race to fill my void. I look to my left and see a couple pilots rushing to their ships, stragglers are common but it is a dangerous practice.
A young female voice booms inside my helmet “See you at the finish line!” She sounds familiar but I can’t place the voice with a name.
“Stay in your own comms, the race is about to start”, I answer back.
“You are no fun!“, and then I hear the beep of somebody switching their channel. I lift the ship to the standard ten feet above the ground standard position, there is no turning back now. Too many people have put too much money on this race for one of us to quit. A countdown appears on the corner of my helmets HUD, thirty seconds and counting down. Anxiety starts to grip me, did I miss something? Did i forget to check the engines? No, I checked just ten minutes ago. The tension begins to grip me, making my muscles solid as I start to panic. I know what will happen if I don’t relax so I start to breath slow, controlled long breaths.
“Race starts in five”, this time I’m focused, prepared for the explosion of speed about to happen. “One, Go!“, I step on the accelerator and I lean back on my chair. The force of going from zero to 400 in less than one second could be enough to knock somebody out if they weren’t wearing the compression suits. I focus on the dunes ahead of me and prepare for the launch, the explosion of breaking Mach 1. The few seconds of tranquility before the storm of explosions from all the ships breaking the barrier of sound is one of the most stressful moments a racer will ever experience, one degree off and you could tear your ship apart.
“You can run”, a male voice says in my intercom “as fast you can. But you cannot hide from us”. Fear starts to crawl inside of me as I realize something is wrong.
Who was that? What do they mean? But all these thoughts disappear as I feel the shudder of a small internal explosion near where the regulator is located. The regulator that prevents the ship from going faster than it can take, obviously it’s overclocked, but if it stops functioning altogether who knows what could happen. Suddenly I realize what will happen, the launch is about to occur and I brace for the impact. My ship boosts forward as it becomes surrounded by a cloud of mist as it enters the speed of sound, but the ship doesn’t stop there. Panic burst on my face as I realize that I can’t stop the acceleration of the ship.
“Good bye”, the male voice whispers in my ear as I realize this is going to be my last race. The regulator is what manages the acceleration and deceleration connect to the controls, which means the ship will continue to accelerate without my control. The ship is nearing Mach 2 (1521 mph), and it begins to rattle violently as the fuselage begins to rip apart. Another internal explosion tears a hole through the plasmium fuselage, jerks the ship to the right while the ship keeps accelerating. The ship is going so fast that the atmosphere in front of the nose begins to compress rapidly, igniting the air and heating up the engine.
The coolant can’t handle the increased temperature and the engine reaches critical. Then the cockpit window is covered in smoke and flames as the nose of the ship touches the ground and disintegrates into molten scrap. The sudden stop sends me flying towards the the carbon double plated plexiglass designed to protect the interior from the harshness of space. The safety harness rips from the seat and I raise my arms to brace for the impact. My right arm breaks through the glass, and it overwhelms my entire nervous system with pain as it shatters with the glass. A small explosion near the left side of the cockpit sends a mixture of shrapnel and engine coolant into my leg. Sharp pain like that of a thousand needles takes hold as the coolant enters in contact with the open wound created by the shrapnel. Then just as quick as the pain came it’s gone, as the coolant destroys any nerve that it came in contact with. I am launched out from my ship at a blinding speed, the protection of the ship is gone and the G’s from reaching terminal velocity send blood into my eyes turning my vision red. I crash into the sand, my visor shatters and I skid on the surface of the planet. I can’t feel my right arm, as it is no longer attached to my body, but my guess is that the suit is keeping it in place.
Warm wet blood starts seeping up my pant leg, it is sticky and hot. The blood is oozing out slowly and consistently, so no arteries have been ruptured. As the adrenaline of the accident starts to wear off I begin to feel a sensation of paranoia mixed in with anxiety, something is wrong. I close my eyes shut and force myself to breath, these are the symptoms of bleeding out. I have lost enough blood to enter into the first stages, this means I’m running out of time and I need to apply pressure into the wound. I make some quick assumptions as I’m laying down on the floor, at the rate that I’m bleeding out it should take at the very least a couple hours before it becomes fatal. That means I need to focus on moving as little as possible, trying to prevent any extra pressure from pumping out more blood. I try to think about what happened. I can’t quite picture what just happened. It’s all shifting into one large blur. There was a voice. It was talking to me. Damn, I forgot about my shoulder. I was too busy worrying about my leg that I hadn’t realized that my arm is no longer attached to my shoulder, which means that I’m losing even more blood that I anticipated. I lift my left arm, slowly and painfully, and reach for my shoulder. All suits come with a size adjuster for all of the joints, none are located above my leg wound, but I can at least stop the blood coming from my shoulder. I press the override and force my shoulder adjuster to shut completely. The pain sends needles all the way up my spine and into my eyes as the suit puts pressure directly on the open wound, rubbing the bone and muscle still attached to my body.
This just bought me a couple more minutes until the emergency vehicles arrive, they can’t be more than two minutes away. I steal a look over my shoulder and see the crash site of my ship. It is unrecognizable, not even worth scrapping. There are lots of small fires all over the ship, liquid coolant is being pumped out sporadically and there is a trail of blood on the sand from where I crashed. I look right in front and I’m stunned to see a ship approaching. My vision is slowly disappearing into a lifeless black and white world devoid of color, I’ve lost too much blood. The ship is too blurry to make out the model number, manufacturer or what kind of ship it is. As it lands a figure comes out and approaches me, panic starts to sink in my impending doom as I realize that this isn’t a medical ship. A pair of brown leather boots, clean and shiny except for the traces of dust from the sand near the bottom of the boots, stop right in front of my face.
“It is a shame isn’t it”, a familiar voice i can’t quite pin down with the drowsiness that has taken over me. “You just don’t die don’t you”, the right boot swings back and comes crashing down on my face forcing me into a kneeling position. The momentum of the kick strong enough to send my helmet flying and to lift my upper body. The pain, if there is any, coming from my leg and arm is overcome by the blood coming down from my forehead. I must have hit my head hard, hard enough to shatter the helmet from the inside and have it cut the skin on my head. I am too tired to move, I just want to sleep. I begin to close my eyes as I near the last stages of bleeding out, unconsciousness and death. The brown blur in front of me pulls out a silver colored smaller blur, aims it at my head and whispers, “You never escape Paragon”, and the world goes dark.
Updated with stable tenses, no more switching from past to present -Thanks To DiMencia-
Updated with better dialogue format and paragraph spacing. -Thanks to Tapp-
Feel free to Review with constructive criticism, I may even take some of your ideas!