The light tree started counting down from the top with a pair of yellow lights, producing a quick chime as the next light down on the tree was illuminated. It was just after sundown, and the course beyond the starting line was lit up like a neon playground. Everyone’s drone was in line in standby, and almost everyone was staring at the light tree.
Another chime signaled the next light, and I steeled my nerves. It may have been my first regional qualifier, but I was ready. I flexed my fingers and thumbs, glancing at my drone. I’d dubbed her the Millennium Falcon, as she was a little wider and longer than most of the racing drones. I’d balanced her properly so she could flip and turn just as good as the smaller drones, but in the straight paths, her speed was second to none and first to all.
“Hey, Little Piggie,” a guy to my right said, grinning.
I looked over with an annoyed look and rolled my eyes as he put his thumbnail to his neck and drew it horizontally across. I’d earned the name Little Piggie for two reasons. Some of it was because I was a little overweight, but mainly I was called this because my father was a police officer.
The last light chimed on, and everyone’s head snapped down to their view screens. Thumbs flew forward, sending the drones up and off to the course in a flurry of buzzing and disturbed dust from the ground colored red and white from the drone lights.
The Millennium Falcon pulled ahead like she always did, but on the first turn, a few drones blasted by, their neon red rear lights causing the anger to boil in my veins. I rounded the turn a few drones back, dropping my pitch to go beneath one of the course checkpoint markers. Another turn allowed another two drones to go by and I knew my strategy needed a mix-up.
Though the course had two levels, everyone was taking the higher level. The organizers had reported that the lower level had fewer bends, but took longer, while the higher course had more turns, most of which fell in the hairpin category, but it was shorter.
The five drones in front of me entered the skull turn, which was a giant skull with neon eyes and a mouth. The skull marked a 180 in the course that also allowed an entrance into the lower portion of the course.
Intentionally disrupting the lead cars, I flew directly at a few of them. I knew if we crashed the Falcon would survive, but theirs may take a tumble to the ground. I heard one of the competitors spew of a sling of curses as he had to drop lower to dodge me. He has been boxed in a while trying to squeak into first place, but with no other options, he scraped the floor for a second before bouncing back up behind the two that had boxed him in. I focused away from my rear camera and back to the front, forcing the fourth and fifth place cars to swerve left.
As I entered the right eye of the skull, I cut off all of my rotors except for one for a split second. The single remaining rotor spun me quicker then if I had to turn manually, and I reactivated the three rotors. Now having all four back up and my drone turned around, I turned the pitch of my nose down and gunned it forward, thanking my cousin for helping me customize the Falcon to change the rotor speeds at any given time independently.
Flying forward as fast as she would go, I blew through the mouth like a sneeze and kept up the pace even as I rounded the lower course turns.
The announcer had been rattling off positions the entire time, but I had been ignoring him until I dropped to the low course. No one was in my rear view camera, and I heard him say something about how daring I was to take the low road.
Passing beneath the fourth neon marker, I knew there were two more before I had the option to rejoin the top course. Toward the end of the track, I remembered there was a hairpin turn that led into a straight shot to the finish. After the option, I had planned to take there was a final exit that was toward the end of the straight shot, but the bottom course rounded out a near complete circle before going to letting out to the straight shot, and I knew I could be competitive backup top if I focused.
My exit marker whizzed by, and I dropped my butt to fly up, rocketing back onto the top course. Somehow I had popped out in front, but the hairpin turn marking the end was sooner than I expected and I was only able to drop out two rotors for the quick turn. The slower turn gave the two trailing drones time to whiz by, but I recovered and gunned it after them.
My eyes narrowed as I ate up the straight shot. The neon markers whisked by faster than I could count but I passed the second place car. I gobbled up the distance to the first place drone, but as I passed, he had the gall to try and bump me. I raised up a little, and he flew beneath me, allowing me to secure first place.
Glancing over at the guy that had called me out at the beginning of the race, I dropped three of my rotors and did a 180, spinning across the finish line and snapping a picture of his drone almost reaching me but failing.
I popped awake the three rotors and flew the drone back to me, smiling. He rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to talk, but I held up a hand to shush him. He raised both eyes in anger, but I ignored him, snagged my drone, and walked off to the announcement tent where they would officially report the winners and give them their medals.