APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 7 July, 1999


Bragging Rights

Christian Schaller

Amelia "Fast" Donimo involuntarily held her breath as she slowly gained on the GREL's icejet, her grip an iron deathlock on her own jet's control bars. The wind howled and ripped past her shielded face at over 120 kilometers per hour. Despite the layers of thermal insulation in her racing suit, despite the insulated cowl she wore over her head beneath her protective helmet, Amelia shivered. She ignored her helmet's HUD status readouts; Her world was a line shaped and formed by her speed. It began with Minerva Degregory's icejet and ended at her own vehicle's nose.

She narrowed her eyes to keep from blinking and forced herself to breathe. Agnes' Sieve was up ahead, and it was Amelia's last chance to gain on the GREL ahead of her.

There! Degregory's icejet hit the slight hump known as Agnes' Sieve and leapt into the air, followed a fraction of a second later by Donimo's. The GREL landed poorly, as Amelia had hoped. Distance and slope were hard to judge at 120 kph, and rookies almost always dug their jets' front runners into the ice just enough upon landing to lose precious tenths of a second.

Agnes' Sieve separated the rookies from the veterans.

Moments later it was over, the finish line flying past Amelia in a blur. She heard the announcer's voice over her headset as she engaged her braking thrusters. "And the winner of the 1938 Mount Agnes Challenge is Amelia Donimo of Réunion at 2:52.8--a new world record! Second place goes to Ellen Claire of Atsi at 2:53.5, followed by Minerva Degregory at 2:53.9. In fourth place..."

Claire?!? Amelia shook her head. It was no surprise that the Minerva GREL had done well, despite being a rookie. She had been created specifically by Earth to drive their hovertanks and pilot their shuttles. But this other rookie? A complete unknown who didn't even have a moniker, no one had expected Ellen Claire to place.

Her icejet finally slid to a gentle halt almost a kilometer past the finish line. Amelia pulled herself out of the cockpit, tugged off her helmet, and dropped to the ground. An army of mechanics, officials, journalists, and fans swarmed across the ice and snow, and suddenly it hit her: She'd won! She'd finally won the Challenge, even beating "Lightning" Lee's record by eight tenths of a second!

It was a hollow victory, however. The Interpolar War had prevented her long-time rival, Monika "Lightning" Lee, from participating in this cycle's race. Lee was a citizen of the CNCS, from Pioneer.

Amelia frowned. "Damned war," she muttered. Beating Lee's record meant nothing if Lee wasn't there for it herself.

"Nice job."

Amelia, lost in thought, looked up in surprise at the face of Ellen Claire. The other woman winked and walked away toward the approaching throng. "Too bad you can't brag about it, though," she added cryptically over her shoulder.

Amelia laughed. The face was a stranger's, but she knew the voice well. Ellen Claire of Atsi, indeed! No wonder she hadn't slipped up on the Sieve. She was no rookie! That was Monika Lee's voice behind that face! "I don't need to brag," she shouted back. "You know and I know. That's all that matters!"

Monika Lee, alias "Ellen Claire," laughed and saluted Amelia just before the two were swallowed up by their fans.

Author's Note

I'm pretty happy with this piece, for two reasons: First, I'm not much of a sports enthusiast. I do like video game racing, however, and the description of the IceJet Plunge in the Southern Republic Sourcebook (DP9-031, p 97) really caught my fancy. So, despite not caring for the basic subject, I managed to find something to write about.

Second, though, is that this piece is only 567 words long. Honestly, that's quite a personal accomplishment; my stories are usually huge. This time around, I set myself the goal of writing a piece similar to the vignettes that begin the chapters of Dream Pod 9's Heavy Gear sourcebooks. The vignettes are about 500 to 550 words each, so I think I achieved that goal.

It sure took a long bloody time to think up, though. In the process of so doing, I came up with a number of characters and vehicles. I'll present those next month, along with more details of the Mount Agnes Challenge, since they're quite a bit unpolished at the moment.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 7 July, 1999