They called the course the rainmaker, and it was my first time experiencing it. It earned its name because, being one of the hardest courses of the season, it gave the winner the most fame and acclaim. Some of the more famous YouTubers had earned their names on the rainmaker, and I aimed to follow their leads.
Most of my competition was stretching out their thumbs, but I had come prepared. I had been looking forward to this day all season. I’d walked the course the day before and watched hours of videos of previous competitions, and I was certain I could pull off another victory today if I kept my cool.
Sitting in the parking lot at the base of the rainmaker, I looked up toward the top of the 20-story building. There was speculation about what type of building the Rainmaker used to be before it was condemned, but no one knew. Inside there were offices, bedrooms, kitchens, and storage rooms, to name a few, and at some point, the course would take us through each type of room.
“Time to get this show on the road,” Marcus Wright said.
Marcus was the man with the golden voice, and he announced pretty much every event. Hearing him talk always brought a smile to my face for some reason, and if there were ever a guy that I could talk to for no reason, it would be him.
I stayed put, as the rules dictated only the drone had to be present at the starting line, while the operators could stay wherever they felt most comfortable. I connected my smartphone to the holder on my controller and pulled up the app that connected with my drone, the Great White Hope.
Before turning her on, I looked into the camera lens for a few moments. Since the camera was built in she was as sleek as could be, and if I could ever be attracted to a machine, it would be to her. All four of her rotors had guards to prevent any unwanted contact. She was long and slender and curvy in all the right places.
Setting her on the parking lot pavement, I turned her on and flew her over to the starting line, bringing her down with the others. I’d replaced her factory battery with one that lasted a couple of hours longer, but I still powered her down in anticipation of the countdown in case I needed some extra juice later.
Marcus Wright excited the crowd a little before the countdown started, and I turned her back on. The buzz of the six other drones powering on sent shivers up my spine, and a smile spread across my face.
This is it, I thought, looking around for a few seconds to see if anyone else was nearby. It’s my time to shine.
The countdown reached zero, and all the drones shot straight up. Floor after floor whizzed by the camera lens, and I silently counted each one so I’d know when to lurch forward through the open top-floor window. I sensed other drones going up faster, which was okay. The Great White Hope was custom built for speed, but ascension was never a focus of mine as most courses were relatively level.
Adrenaline hammered into my veins when I counted off the last floor, and I jammed my thumb forward. The Great White Hope shot through the window ahead of another drone, but I spotted three others make it inside before I did.
The lighting instantly changed in the building, and the camera was a little hard to read for a moment. Because I’d walked the course before I remembered a wall was the first thing we encountered, and I timed it perfectly to make the turn and bend down the hallway.
The only indication of which direction to go was a white piece of paper cut out in the shape of an arrow. Moving at the speeds we were moving, and making the quick turns we had to make, anyone that had failed to prepare would fall behind quickly.
At the end of the hall, we zipped into the stairwell, and I flipped over the railing to pass the guy in third place. He made the mistake of going to the end of each flight before turning and going down the next one. I descended in front of him and flipped again to get over the second railing before turning off onto the floor.
The guy in first had to have been a regular Sonic the Hedgehog because I never even saw him. I saw the second place guy and started gaining on him as we flew through an office space. Papers were fluttering off to the side, and I wondered if anyone would get distracted and crash.
We popped back out into another hallway, and I nearly scraped the wall trying to cut the turn a little closer to shave some of the distance off. I succeeded and gained a little more as we entered one of the bedrooms. I remembered this and thought the turn here was mean, as it required us to fly straight in and then loop under the bed before flying out through a hole in the wall.
Mr. second place took the turn under the bed too high and bumped into the bottom of the metal mattress, giving me just enough room to blow by before he could recover. I blasted through the wall and heading down another hallway.
Rolling over the railing for the steps again I spotted the guy in first place, and he was as fast as I suspected. I only caught a glimpse of his tail for a second before he disappeared into another room.
The only opportunity I had to pull closer to him was on the steps, and it seemed I was the only one doing the flip maneuver. As we descended each flight, I saw more and more of him. By the time I was close enough to hear his buzz we were on the bottom floor.
Marcus Wrights voice could be heard outside now, and the synchronized feed the audience could see was almost loud enough to hear. I tried zoning out as we made the last turn. If I could cut the corner just right I could pull up enough to be even with Sonic, and then when we evened out to the brief straight shot, I could sneak ahead.
But my side propeller clipped the corner and spun me down into the opposing wall before I could make my vision complete. My heart about fell out of my chest as I recovered, and I swallowed hard as the third place guy pulled back into second, bumping me out of the top two. I recovered before the fourth place guy came up, shooting out the front door and feeling like garbage.
I brought the Great White Hope back to me and wanted to throw her as hard as I could, but before I did anything Marcus came up and pat me on the back.
“Better luck next time,” he said. “You’ve got a real promise, and I see you taking first next year. Modify the weight a little so you take turns a little more vertical and you’ve got this thing covered.”
I swallowed hard but put on a happy face for him, wishing he’d been kind enough to say that at one of my other races.