Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story comes from a dream I had last night. In my dream I was Speed Racer and taking part in a race. Of course in my dream something kept me from being there at the start and so I was joining the race extremely late. There was also a weird puzzle at one point to get the rest of the map for the race. I woke up knowing I wanted to use parts of that dream in a story.

When all vehicles are roughly equal the most important part of a race can be those first few seconds.   If you’re sitting in place spinning your wheels trying to get started while your opponents are already moving down the track it’s hard to catch up.  I think that could be an analogy for many things in life, but then again, I tend to think of life in terms of racing.  The goal is getting the most power to the wheels while holding on to the most traction in as little time as possible.  There are way too many variables that can go wrong in that process, so you must be in just the right headspace when the green flag drops.  Seriously is there anything that can fit life philosophy better?  Of course in this race the cars are not all equal and a few seconds doesn’t mean as much as in a closed circuit race.   

As I shot off the line, I envisioned myself going into the first curve as the leader.  The moment you accept that you won’t win a race is the moment you lose it.  Sure skill, technique, and vehicle performance play a part, but a race is really won or lost in your head.  As I approached that first curve I switched to break lightly and get down into the speed range needed to avoid slamming into the side wall.  When I felt the car reach the end of the corner, I moved to straighten the wheel and accelerated forward maximizing my momentum.  Despite all my planning and having the right mindset I was in third as the cars raced out of the starting track and onto the open road. 

The GPS display being projected up onto my windshield set out the best route to the first checkpoint.  My team had set that up, so I wouldn’t have to look at my dashboard as often.  It was a good thought, but I hadn’t practiced enough before using it in an actual race so it distracted me more than it should have.  I needed to keep my eyes straight forward on the road ahead of me, but because the race was across open roads and incredibly illegal, I also needed to keep an eye out for other drivers and police. 

My car has a full stealth suite that could turn it invisible, but being invisible on a highway with other cars isn’t very smart.  You are more likely to have cars get in your way or outright hit you.  It also doesn’t work as well when moving at high speeds.  The system just can’t keep up projecting the images fast enough.  It does work very well even when just leaving me blurry to lose anyone trying to follow.  Even if they call in the helicopters for air support.  Just one of the many advantages my car has over my opponents. 

Every car in the race has technology built into it that would probably make far more money for the inventor by patenting it and selling it on the open market.  Most of the creators are too worried about it falling into military hands or having to safety test it.  This type of racing tends to draw the rather excentric inventors that worry about things like that and prefer not following rules.  They also love the challenge, are horrible with money, and don’t trust any corporations to not steal their work.  Ok, I’ll just say it they’re mad scientists and yes, they tend to have absolutely insane and unruly hair.  It comes with going multiple days without sleep.  You couldn’t find a more fun group of people to hang out with though, especially when they start comparing notes and boasting about their accomplishments.           

My inventor isn’t like the rest though.  He is clean shaven, has impeccable hygiene, and doesn’t go into ranting fits at the drop of a hat.  Sinclair is by far the smartest and most organized person I’ve ever met.  He doesn’t even care about racing, which is something I’ll never understand.  The only reason he is willing to trick out my car is because he wants me to do more with his technology.  Sinclair has this crazy idea in his head that we can help people and is trying to set me up as some sort of superhero.  Racing is my life, but for him this is just a way to stress test the technology and make sure that no one else out there can stand up to it.  The same technology is integrated into a boat, motorcycle, helicopter, and a suit of power armor that I haven’t let him talk me into taking out of the lab yet.  He is really pushing though. 

The projected GPS starts flashing orange indicating that I’m approaching the first checkpoint.  According to the feed this one is an underground garage right across the street from a large food truck garden.  Just racing isn’t enough for the people that organize these things.  They want a challenge at each checkpoint.  A puzzle that must be solved, but we know very little about the puzzles until we reach them.  As the system updates, I get limited information on the puzzle.  There is a very specific order that I need to pick up from one truck and find the right person to trade it to for the map to the next checkpoint.  I suspect that there will be multiple people trying to get the order and give incorrect maps based on past challenges.  The puzzle will be figuring out who the right person is.

The puzzles are the worst part of these races for me.  I hate them.  When I’m behind the wheel everything makes sense, but when I’m out on foot trying to figure out something trying to trick me, I’m completely out of my element.  Thankfully I’m not alone though.  As I pull into the checkpoint there is a very large gray-haired man waiting for me.  Gramps isn’t really my grandpa, but he might as well be.  He spent more time raising me than my actual parents did and taught me everything I know about cars.  I can’t help but smile seeing him not just because he’s one of my favorite people in the world, but because I don’t know anyone better at puzzles than him. 

I can’t help but hug him when I hop out of the car.  He of course grumbles complaining about me being too mushy and wasting time.  My suspicion was correct, and it seems like every working in a food truck wants to trade me a map for my order.  Gramps comes up with the brilliant idea of asking them the specifics of my order.  If he is right only the right person knows the very specific order I had to make from the first truck.  Sure enough the first five people give me incorrect orders before the sixth gives me a huge smile and recites the custom order exactly.  The old woman with at least three missing teeth hands me a USB jump drive containing the map to the second checkpoint. 

I have no idea what place I’m in as I pull out of the garage and back onto the highway.  In my head though I am in first because like I already said a race is won or lost in your head.  Whatever place I’m actually in doesn’t matter until I cross the finish line.  Besides, as much as I want to win, the real fun is in the journey to get there.  See racing really is just like life.