- Genre: Comedy, Friendship, Angst
- Word Count: 3,366
- Pairing: First Person x ???
- World: Acceleracers
Believe it or not, it took us a full day to reach Highway 35, and by the time we did, the sun was beginning to set. The sky was alive was dark red and orange, swirling together like an angry blaze. Sandstone covered the ground we drove on, kicking up dust something horrible. I had to roll up the window pretty quickly, all while ignoring the ‘I told you so’ look from Taro who had warned me about the window just an hour prior.
I turned up the AC because of how hot it was outside. The middle of summer in the desert at sundown. Can you imagine my struggle?
“Hey, Taro! Wylde’s here!” Monkey’s voice came over the radio, followed by loud coughs as said Maniac sped past us. Unfortunately, Monkey didn’t have the Taro warning system like I did and his window was down. “Hey! This isn’t a race!”
“It’s always a race.” Came Mark’s reply, making me resist the urge to slam my head against the dashboard. He really was impossible. He increased his speed, slamming his car into the female from Teku before hitting his brother’s car from behind. He quickly claimed the lead even though, as Monkey stated, it was not a race.
About ten minutes later, a building came into view. It was square, probably about three stories tall, and looked like it could fall apart with just a gust of wind. The walls barely covered the metal piping that held the building together.
A dark-skinned man with dreads stepped out of the shadows like some super villain, but when he spoke, his voice was something you’d expect from a hero. The man and Vert exchanged pleasantries.
“Vert. It’s been a long time.” The man had some type of accent, but I couldn’t place it for the life of me.
“Good to see you again.”
Monkey stepped forward. “Is that Tezla?”
I rested my forehead against Taro’s shoulder in place of a facepalm. I had been told the exact same stories that Monkey had and I knew that this man, whoever he may be, was definitely NOT Tezla.
“My name is Kadeem.” The man said with an air of pride. A few more notches North and it’ll border arrogance. “Who are you?”
“He’s just a freaky little Metal Maniac, Kadeem.” Kurt’s comment made both Taro and myself tense up and push away from the car.
I growled in annoyance. “Better a Maniac than a pansy Teku!”
“Yeah!” Mark agreed, slinging his tattooed arm over my shoulder. “Metal Maniacs are the best! Like me, Taro and Tiger, huh?”
“Real drivers are Teku!” Kurt argued back.
“Let’s test that then, aye?” I cracked my knuckles as I stepped forward, daring him to move. The Metal Maniacs are multi-skilled, you see. Not only are we badass at driving, we’re damn skilled at beating the snot out of people.
Kadeem’s laugh broke through the tension. “Yes, I see how it is.”
He and Vert started to speak to one another, but I was too angry to care as me and Kurt stared each other down. He may be older than me, but I know I can beat him in a fight, and man did I want to beat his ass. I inched forward, but Taro grabbed the back of my shirt, pulling me back to our side and giving me a look that clearly stated ‘knock it off’. I scoffed in annoyance, shooting the Teku one last glare before looking away. The day will come when I can beat that prick’s ass, but today is clearly not that day.
“So, if this is so important, it must pay a lot. Right?” Monkey’s question caught my attention, seeing as how I want to know the answer as much as he does.
Kadeem only laughed in response.
“Is that a yes?”
His laughter grew louder.
I pinched the bridge of my nose. The horrid combination of heat, anger and now this guys laughter had finally weighed down on me, gracing me with a splitting headache I knew would be near impossible to get rid of. I barely registered Taro gently pushing me toward the passenger seat.
Though it doesn’t happen very often, sometimes I get overwhelmed and when I do, I get these crippling headaches that render me… well, pretty much useless. Taro has been there for most of them, so he knows what to expect by now.
When the pain finally subsided enough for me to open my eyes, I found that we were in the middle of this strange rock maze. I faintly made out the sound of Kadeem ordering us to stay behind him.
Taro glanced at me.“Still with me?”
I grunted in response, trying to force myself to get a grip. I avoided looking out the window since the swirling of colors didn’t help my headache and only served to make my eyes hurt. Instead, I chose to stare at the back end of the Spinebuster, who happened to be in front of us. Before I realized what was happening, we had flown off the edge of a cliff and through a camouflaged opening in the side of a large rock formation.
We drove down a narrow hall before it opened up to this huge dome with a track twisting and turning towards the ceiling. I had never seen anything like it in my life. And just like that, the amazement overwhelmed the pain inside my brain. Taro opened my door but ordered me to stay put just to be on the safe side. I did as I was told.
“Woah, check it out.” Vert seemed just as amazed as I am, which seemed a bit strange considering what he must have witnessed during the World Race.
A bright yellow light shot out from the center of the dome, forming a man’s face. I knew instantly that the face belonged to Tezla. “Welcome… to the Acceledrome!”
His voice was loud and bounced from wall to wall, rattling my head.
“Gelorum and her drones have the wheel of power. Before the wheel was taken, I discovered that it’s more than just a source of power. It’s the key to something much bigger than Highway 35. Countless new tracks and unique new worlds that I call, the Racing Realms.”
Jeez, this guy sounds like a friggin’ commercial or advertisement. Can he get any more melodramatic?
“Reaching the end of Highway 35 was only the first step mapped out for us by the Accelerons.”
Monkey’s vehicle squealed to a stop behind us and I clenched my jaw at the sound, glaring at him as he popped the top half of his body out of his sunroof. “Did I miss anything?”
The group collectively turned to stare at him before looking back to the hologram.
“The journey of discovery… begins here.” The face swirled into a blur before a large ring appeared in its place. Two smaller rings were inside the first, like those Russian nesting dolls. It spun around in a slow circle.
We followed Kadeem to a room with a large table and plenty of chairs. Naturally, the Teku sat on one side, while the Maniacs took the other. Kadeem took the head of the table.
In the center was a miniature ring, an exact replica of the large one.
“Which one is the wheel of power?” The female Teku questioned.
“They are both holograms,” Kadeem answered as a female in overalls entered the room, picking up where he left off. That robot was right behind her.
“Exact three-dimensional recreations.”
“Lani!” Vert smiled. “It’s great to see another Waveripper.”
The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. She certainly didn’t look familiar to me.
“I’m not driving, Vert. I’ve been working with Tezla in the Acceledrome. He didn’t tell me who was coming.” She narrowed her eyes at Taro and it clicked.
Lani… the reason the name sounded so familiar was from Mark and Taro’s World Race stories. She was one of the drivers and apparently she and Taro dated for some time before breaking up. Judging from that look and the tone of her voice, it didn’t end on a happy note.
“Awkward,” I muttered to myself, earning a glare from the man next to me. I coughed and shifted in my seat as the robot started to circle us.
“While studying the wheel, Dr. Tezla recorded a unique pattern of its wavelengths and vibrations.” It explained.
“Yeah, yeah. Scrap the lecture, Gig. We’re here to race.” Mark placed his huge feet on the table, leaning back in the chair with his hands on the back of his head. Typical Mark.
Wait… what did he say? Gig? So I guess that robot does have a name. Maybe I shouldn’t go around saying ‘it’ anymore.
It, I mean, Gig, continued. “The holographic image resonates with the same imminations of the actual wheel of power.”
Monkey looked confused, as usual. “Is he speaking English? He’s speaking English, right?”
“In a very real sense, the image is the wheel.”
“And that means…?” The female Teku asked what we were all thinking. I should probably learn her name, too, huh.
Lani answered, “Dr. Tezla believes the wheel of power has been opening the Racing Realms.”
“My headache is coming back.” I groaned softly.
Taro stood and walked toward the glass wall over-looking the large wheel.
“And that Gelorum’s racing drones have been entering them,” Gig added.
“We must reach the end of the next realm before the racing drones.” Kadeem had become very serious. The change from cheerful weighed heavy on me. It all felt like a dream, but it also felt like everything was about to become very real very fast.
“Why should we? Last time it was to get the wheel for Tezla. What does the doctor want now?” Kurt accused.
Where the hell did he even come from? He was not sitting there a minute ago.
“The drones have already accessed several racing realms.” Gig explained. “Dr. Tezla believes that with each new realm, they become more powerful.”
“Whatever’s at the end of the racing realms must be even more powerful,” Kadeem added.
Monkey laughed and I knew what he was going to say before it even left his mouth. “Well if it’s that powerful, it must be worth a lot of money! Right?”
Kadeem started to laugh again, and I was growing annoyed by it. It’s not that difficult to just say yes or no.
“Why is he laughing?” Monkey asked, sitting back down in defeat.
“Now more than ever, the best drivers are needed.” Gig said just as a loud alarm began to echo through the building.
“It’s moving,” Taro announced. Sure enough, both the large and miniature wheels were now turning, each ring moving in a different direction.
Lani approached the window. “A new realm is about to open.”
“Alright, come on!” Mark sounded like a kid on Christmas, and I found myself smiling. “Let’s go!”
“We need Nitrox,” Vert announced.
The alarm grew louder as we got back to the cars. Those who already have the tanks installed refilled theirs, while the rest installed the tanks themselves.
The smallest ring stopped moving, the symbol on its side illuminating. It looked like a baby snake or a worm… or maybe just a squiggly line.
Monkey picked up the tank of Nitrox, looking between it and Taro. “What exactly does this juice do?”
I raised my brow at Taro’s response.
The second ring stopped.
The third stopped and then a large ball of blue light appeared in the middle of the smallest one.
“The racing realm is open,” Gig announced, barely audible over the screeching of the alarm.
I hopped into the passenger seat and Taro took off before I could even close the door. One by one, the drivers formed a line and entered the sky-high track. A machine sped up the vehicle, the force pushing us back against our seats as the speedometer soared to life, easily reaching almost two hundred miles per hour.
“You must be going three hundred miles per hour when you’ve reached the wheel.” Kadeem announced over the radio.
His words made my stomach tingle as the adrenaline inside my body stirred to life. My lips twitched up as our speed gradually increased. One more machine at the end of the track propelled us past the three hundred mark as we soared into the swirling blue abyss.
I heard the realm before I could see it.
Thunder, loud and angry, rattled the car as the flash of bright light faded. Mark’s cries of there being no track snapped me out of my daze and I frantically looked around. We were falling through the air, surrounded by thick clouds of purple and black. Thunder roared overhead and lightning struck down in the distance. It felt like we fell forever, my heart sinking at the thought that there might not be a track at all. Monkey started screaming and my heart pounded faster against my rib cage.
It felt like an eternity of falling and I briefly wondered if this was hell, when the track finally came into view. My heart rate didn’t slow until the wheels touched the track and we zoomed after Kadeem and Mark, who had landed first.
“Yo, this is wicked.” I stared at the swirling clouds lit up by strikes of lightning, cutting through them like a knife through warm butter. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve always had a thing for storms. They always made me feel peaceful and happy, though a part of me was wishing that it was raining, as well.
“Does anybody know what’s holding this track up?”
I couldn’t tell if Kadeem was being serious or joking.
“Ask the Accelerons,” Taro commented. I found myself grinning at his response.
The track started to turn, creating a tornado down into the clouds. The lightning was no longer in the distance – it was dangerously close now.
The track changed direction again, shooting up into the sky and forming a loop like a roller coaster then plunging straight down in the most wicked verticle line I’ve ever seen.
“Can anybody hear me? What’s the situation?” Lani reached out over the radio.
Monkey was the one to respond and I almost started laughing. “Whatever this dude’s paying us, it’s not enough!”
“Who said anything about being paid?” Gig asked. If he hadn’t been a robot, I would swear that he said that sarcastically.
I howled with laughter when Monkey screamed after hearing the response. I had never felt as alive as I do in this moment. My adrenaline is pumping, working through every inch of my body. I want to drive so badly! Why did I have to leave my car behind and ride with Taro to the race?
After the track straightened out, lightning rods appeared on both sides of the track. Lightning struck down from the sky like a vengeful god, sending power to the rods as they connected with one another through the currents of electricity.
Taro dodged the shocks as they flew from the rods to the track itself, making the drivers swerve back and forth to avoid them. I could see a flash of light hit Kurt’s car, the window shattering as it lost all power. I vaguely wondered if we should help, but the thought was quickly left behind as we passed him. He has his own teammates to help him.
We didn’t just have the lightning to worry about anymore. The farther we got, the harder it became to see thanks to a thick cloud of fog. I could barely see the tail lights of whoever was in front of us.
We were both struggling to see, but I guess Taro’s sight is slightly better than my own. He noticed the car heading straight for us way before I did, and he managed to swerve to avoid it. Unfortunately, the sharp turn of the wheel sent my side of the car straight into one of the lightning rods. The sudden stop sent a jolt through my body as the straps of the seat knocked the wind out of me. Man, having boobs is really inconvenient!
“You okay, Taro?”
He was rubbing his head, growling in anger. He said he was fine, but I could tell that he was feeling the impact as much as I was. Well, you know, except the whole boob-in-pain thing.
“The racing drones are here,” Kadeem announced, and it clicked into place in my mind. That’s what that thing was? Because he sure as hell was not racing!
“Where? I don’t see any racing – ” Monkey’s voice suddenly got very low. “- drones…”
I scowled. “Let’s kick some ass, Taro!”
He nodded in agreement and we took off, passing a broke down Mark on our way. I radioed to make sure he was good, to which he promptly made fun of me for quote ‘worrying about him’. Pft, that’s the last time I ask him if he needs help!
The fog was starting to clear and I could finally see up ahead of us. “Taro, we caught up to the drones!”
Without a word, he pressed down on the gas and rammed the closest one from behind. The force of the impact sent the drone spinning out and we zoomed past. In front of us was Kadeem, with a drone in front of him.
“Good, Taro! We can take on these drones together!”
“I’m gonna pass you.”
I whipped my head around to see that the drone had recovered himself and was now behind Kadeem with another one close behind. Just how many of these things are there?
The drone at the back of the line did something strange – he hit the drone in front of him, sending him off the track. It was then my eyes caught sight of the wire attached to the back of Kadeem’s car, dragging him over the edge.
I glanced at Taro, but he was too focused on the track in front of him. Biting my lip, I decided not to say anything. Kadeem had been racing these realms long before we came along. He’ll be fine.
I turned around and shook my head. I had to stay focused on the task at hand. Even if I’m not the one driving, I can still assist Taro.
Three drones were driving in front of us, forming a wall to prevent others from passing. Taro increased his speed and rammed the one in the middle. The force sent the drone struggling for control and in that struggle, he managed to miss a ball of lightning that hit the track.
I screamed Taro’s name, but he didn’t have enough time to dodge it. It hit us head on, encasing the car in electricity and sending us rolling across the track. I could feel the pain surging through my entire body. It was nothing like earlier when he hit the rod. No, this pain was intense and horrible, like I had just shoved a wet fork into a light socket. My body started to grow numb, and I struggled to keep my eyes open.
“Ta… ro…” I managed out, but he was out cold.
I tried to hold on. Maybe if I could stay conscious until the pain subsided, I could recover from it. All I could think about was the unconscious man next to me. I started to remember my life before I met him and the other maniacs, how drastically everything changed after I met them after they took me in. After they became my family.
I tried to reach for the radio, but I couldn’t feel my arm. My body felt heavy like I had a garbage truck sitting on top of every limb. It was becoming harder to keep my eyes open, and I fought as hard as I could. I don’t know how long I lasted, but my body finally failed me and my eyes closed. All of the sounds around me started to fade until there was nothing left.
Nothing but darkness and silence.
Is this where I die?
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