Ignore the other racers unless they are in your way, and then just fly like you always do. Avoid the obstacles, keep things tight. You’ll be fine.”
“Will you be mad if I lose?”
Anthony’s dad laughed. “Absolutely. I’ll be so mad you’ll be grounded for the rest of your life until you come in first place fifteen times in a row.”
Anthony detected the humor in his father’s voice and chuckled as well, the reassurance of no pressure calming any remaining anxiety he had, heart pounded within chest.
They stopped at the starting line, and he set his drone on the mark designated with his number. His dad waved farewell as Anthony headed over to the pilot’s circle since coaches or parents weren’t allowed in that area.
Anthony entered the circle and found his position among the group. His entrance pulled a few looks from some of the others, but only the girl standing next to him bothered to say anything to him.
“You’re going down, dork,” the girl said, her voice as deep as any boy’s at their age.
Anthony wrinkled his face but tried to ignore her. She stepped a little closer and nudged him on his shoulder.
“Hey, leave me alone,” Anthony said, anger rippling across his face.
“Or what. You are going to cry to your dada. Tell him the big mean girl gave you a sad face?”
Anthony growled at her, and she laughed. She backed off a little as an organizer walked over and said they had 30 seconds before the race started.
“I hope you like the taste of dust,” Anthony said to the girl, pulling a confused look from her. “Cause you’re about to eat a whole butt-ton of mine.”
She rolled her eyes and Anthony powered on his drone. The connection was solid, and the monitor on his remote came through clear. He focused and thought of the course. They had been given a map of it, but practice runs had been forbidden. His father’s words came back into his head, and he thought of all the obstacle courses his dad had created that he had easily mastered.
An announcer started counting down, and adrenaline exploded into Anthony’s veins when the count reached zero. At the same time, all the drones lifted into the air and shot forward. Shoulders heaving and fingers shaking, Anthony guided his drone around the first bend, hugging the curve like his dad had told him to do.
He had started in fourth, but after the first turn, he snuck by into second. The course progressed into a tunnel that was illuminated in blue. The next turn came up quick and against the walls were bulbs that prevented a tight hug. He compensated and hugged the bulbs instead, pulling past the first place person and powering forward.
Pressure on his shoulder pulled his attention away for a second. The girl had shoved him again. Moments before scraping the side of the tunnel he recovered and pulled back to the center. He failed to see her monitor to try and judge her positioning, but he assumed she was close.
The tunnel dead ended to the front and fell into a 15-foot vertical drop. As the lead drone, Anthony knew he only had a couple of seconds before others came up and bounced into him, possibly causing a pile-up. He stopped his drone in mid-air and powered it off. It fell straight down, and he swallowed. Timing it almost perfectly, he powered it back on foot from the bottom. He descended the rest of the way with the controls, and just before exiting the drop, two drones fell passed him. One drone’s forward rotary blades had been cracked at the base, while the other’s back blades had the same damage. They crashed into the ground, and Anthony eased over top of them.
The crowd comprised of parents and friends was roaring in approval of something, but Anthony drowned them out and continued onward. The tunnel opened up into an elongated dish, and each turn required tilting the drone to ensure the body didn’t scrape any of the walls.
More pressure on his shoulder told him the girl was pushing him again, but he stayed focused and aligned himself in the middle of the final straight shot. He had no cameras on his rear, but his father’s words popped into his head, and he ignored the possibility that another person was closing in on him. He kept going as fast as he could, and moments before he passed the finish line he heard the girl start to cry.
“Yes!” he screamed, pumping a fist into the air.
Glancing over at the girl he smirked at her as she tried to dry her eyes. One of the organizers started to guide the kids over to the waiting tent where they would announce the winners.
“Tears coming from too much of my dust in your eyes?” Anthony said to the girl as they made it to the waiting area.
She remained quiet stuck out her tongue. The family and friends were allowed to come over to the waiting area as they awaited the announcement of the winners.
“Great job, son. I knew you would do it,” Anthony’s dad said, rubbing his son’s back.
Anthony just smiled, and the announcer went to a podium. Someone whispered something in the announcer’s ear, and he held the mic at his chin. He reported the third and second place finishers first before announcing Anthony as the winner.
“Along with this magnificent trophy, Young Anthony River will also receive a lifetime membership to the Kennywood amusement park. Membership comes complete with food vouchers of up to 50 dollars per week.”
Anthony’s dad’s eyes widened, and he pats his son’s back again. Dad was all talk of how great the prize would be for them as a family, but all Anthony could think of was the trophy he had also been given, and how good it felt to win.