Rows of pylons rushed by on Max’s right side, united as a stream of undulating blue light. She glanced to her left and eased back slightly on the throttle that she gripped loosely.
“Pace, how’s the scenery back there?” She accelerated as they exited their turn.
“Still no sign of Corona,” responded a young man’s voice.
She grit her teeth slightly. “ –Don’t blink.” She scanned the environment around her for a moment and then tapped on a screen. “Ji, talk to me.”
“We just crossed paths with their second bike at the last junction. Think they took the upper road. Got a few shots on us but no serious damage.”
“Good, we’ve got a lead on number one but not by much.”
Max and Pace’s vehicle shot through a tunnel carved into the dark landscape.
“Where the hell are-”
“I see them,” reported Pace.
“Where?” Max responded, rapidly looking over the array of displays surrounding her.
“Just came up from the lower level – south tunnel.”
A volley of vivid red laser blasts grazed their rear cockpit.
The bike shot forward as Max slammed the throttle away from herself, nearly colliding with a line of metal pillars in the center of the track. Another series of blasts narrowly missed them.
“Send something back there way, will ya?”
Pace focused sharply on the view outside his rear cockpit window, anticipating the trajectory of the vehicle trailing them. He shifted the yoke-like controls carefully down, and slowly compressed a pair of triggers with his hands.
A series of short but powerful snaps could be heard as a torrent of laser blasts emanated from the turret on their own bike, racing backward toward their opponent. The Corona vehicle swung to the left and then right again as it was struck by three or four of them.
“Too early…” grumbled Pace under his breath.
They glided over a smooth curve in the track, which sent them downward on a slope that extended deep into a canyon, the walls covered in screens displaying an impressive variety of signs and logos.
“I’ll shake them at the fork-” began Max, but Pace interjected.
“-Stay to the right, they’ve taken more hits than we have.”
Descending into the rushing blur of neon displays, Max pulled their bike close to the canyon wall.
“We need to close this gap between us, at this distance they have plenty of time to react.”
“You want me to-”
“Yes, slow down.”
“I’d rather leave those posers in the dust.”
“Excellent synergy you two,” Ji’s voice rang over the speaker, thick with sarcasm. “Cut it out and win this thing.”
Max pulled back on the throttle and the vehicle behind them slowly began to draw closer. There was a tense, brief calm as the racers faced each other down, immediately followed by a storm of crossfire.
“Here we go,” said Pace who flashed a brief smile. He compressed the triggers in each of his hands one last time, and the Corona bike behind them exploded into a violent cloud of flame and smoke.
“That’s how it’s done!” shouted Ji. “Great work, now bring it-”
Her words were cut short as the broad side of Max and Pace’s back wheel was struck by another line of laser fire. In a moment of slowed time, their vehicle spiraled into the air and then down to the canyon floor beyond the racetrack. Corona’s second vehicle, which had emerged from a tunnel above the main path, shot forward and out of site.
Max blinked several times as she tried to find her orientation. Before she could piece together exactly what had happened, the world around her dissolved away, and she found herself standing in a vast, empty white space with the words “Players 3 and 4 Disqualified” hovering above. She took off her helmet, and a cascade of bright red hair fell past her shoulders.
“Damn,” she said.