I’m pretty excited about today’s Discover Challenge post, because the stars have aligned to get me to post the first bit of story I wrote many weeks ago, that would eventually turn into this whole new Neeka adventure I’m embarking on lately. I’ve gone back today and heavily edited it, and finished the scene as well, but this here is why I wanted to write this story. This was where I met Neeka herself.
Today’s theme is Perspective:
You could experiment with a new perspective — write as if you were someone else, take a photo that highlights your unique position — or reflect about the vantage point you currently occupy (literally or figuratively). Or take the topic in a totally different direction: whatever you do, just be unabashed in your deliverance.
I’m only getting the prose finished at the very last minute today, so I’ll let it speak for itself, but I hope you enjoy this unique perspective in the midst of my cyberstory!
“4… 3… 2… 1…”
Neeka’s heart was pounding in time with the countdown, but when the starting buzzer went off, her quadcopter left the ground smoothly and took off like a shot, leading the pack of nine other UAVs down the wide corridor of the empty three story shopping mall. They’d been warned to stay on the ground floor for the first lap, and that they’d know when it was time to cut up to the second and third floors through the open spaces in each corridor.
She blinked to bring her virtual display into first person view mode. The lens in her cybernetic eye showed her the view from the camera attached to her racing drone so she could react to the twisting route and the obstacles throughout the course. Below that, she saw the virtual control board she manipulated with her hands held before her, although she touched nothing in the physical world. Three of the other pilots were still using the clunky VR goggles and mechanical control boards of a generation ago, she had noticed earlier, and wondered again how they had even gotten an invitation to this elite underground race.
“And they’re off! Drac0Fyre takes the early lead, followed by Ac1D, CrashHavok, Shark…” Neeka shut out the voice of the announcer at the bank of screens off to the right of where the racers stood in a line, instead focusing on avoiding the shuttered kiosks in the middle of the wide path and flying around the next curve as close as she could get to the inner wall.
The pack of quads and multis was still bunched together after the first lap around the huge rectangular complex when Neeka saw her chance to break away. UAVs like those she flew at her day job, armed with cameras to film all the action, hovered at intervals around the course, but now she saw they also had screens, and the ones just past the starting line ahead had arrows flashing upwards.
With the modificiations she’d made after the last race she’d managed to lighten her quad even futher, so it responded lightning fast as she sent it up through the skylight to the second floor of the mall.
She didn’t have time to appreciate any of the closed shops on either side as she sped past, the quads now flying near max speed as they completed another lap around, although they slowed when they had to manuver a sharp 90 degree turn at one point on this level where a restaurant jutted into the space. At least, most of them slowed — one of the racers must not have seen the turn in time, as Neeka heard loud swearing and a control board smash to the ground somewhere down the line of pilots beside her.
She watched for the arrows to send them up another level as they rounded the curve where they’d risen last time, but they were instead directed once more around the second level, so Neeka turned on the speed in the straightaway and prepared to cut a closer line on the curve just ahead. She was so focused on the calculation she almost missed the flashing arrow that told her to instead swing wide around a set of escalators on the outer edge of the courtyard on that corner instead, but she was able to make the correction in time and just barely held on to her lead.
“Are you kiddin’ me? Dammit!” the guy next to her swore, and Neeka figured he hadn’t adjusted for the course change. This time there was no smashing of the control board, though, so either he had a virtual display or more self control than the first pilot.
They were coming up on the hallway with the banners hanging from the ceiling again, and Neeka was tempted to dip under them as she and the others had done last time, but something made her take the risk to cut between them instead. She only had about a half meter of space on either side, but her daring paid off when she saw a flash of gold near the top of one of the banners. It would have been impossible to see from below, but her suspicions were confirmed when the emcee excitedly announced, “Drac0Fyre found the first of the bonus medals, for an additional 1,000 points!”
Her excitement was short lived, however, when they reached the 90 degree turn once again and someone managed to pull ahead of her as she became overly cautious. She hated being in second place, especially because it meant she had to divide her attention between the course and the quad in front of her.
When they passed the place they’d risen to the second level for a second time, Neeka knew something must be up and she kept watch for the next trick that must be coming. Sure enough, just after the next curve, arrows started flashing to send the racers down a side corridor. Some of the heavier multis wouldn’t be able to handle the sudden S curve this created, Neeka thought, but the quad in front of her managed it with no problem.
Just as quickly as they were speeding down this new corridor, arrows started flashing again, signaling them to rise to the third level. The ceiling was low in this wing off the main mall circuit, and there were plants as well as kiosks to manuver around, but Neeka and her opponent made it up to the third floor with no problems.
More flashing lights greeted them, however, signaling them to turn 180 degrees and head back toward the center of the mall and the main corridor. Neeka had been expecting this, since it made sense that this wing would be a dead-end, and was able to pull off a sweet flip with her quad that even the emcee commented on. In moments, she was shooting back down the hallway, taking the lead once again.
Instead of signaling to turn right to continue around the main mall corridor as they’d done for the first three laps, the arrows above pointed straight ahead and into the center of the mall complex. In the darkness, Neeka almost didn’t see that she had to fly over the fake painted mountain scenery of a mini golf course that created a separation between the mall shops and the huge children’s theme park she was flying into, but she pulled up in time.
As she emerged into the open space of the park at the center of the mall, the arrows instructed her to fly straight across, avoiding the roller coaster tracks and ziping through the spokes of a huge ferris wheel. “And CrashHavok has found the second bonus medal! 1,000 points!” the emcee announced, and Neeka cursed under her breath, wondering if it had been up near the ceiling where she’d seen a pair of fake trees rising from the painted mountains.
She didn’t have time to wonder long, however, as the next set of arrows were pointing right, sending the racers back into the main mall corridor but going the opposite way of the previous laps. Neeka remembered just in time that that meant if the 90 degree turn was also on this level, it would be coming up fast. Sure enough, she made the corner and heard another pilot go off on a tirade in a foreign language shortly afterwards, as that racer apparently did not.
The six remaining quads sped down a new straightaway on the third floor at breakneck speeds, the stars glittering through huge skylights in this very dark section. Wait… Neeka saw glittering up ahead of her as well, as if the starlight were filtering down…
Just in time, she dove her quad and barely avoided the massive art installation decorating this otherwise sparse corridor. She risked a quick dip and climb to look up while still flying low enough to avoid the danger, and saw thousands of cut crystals hanging from hundreds of nearly clear filament lines, spanning the entire width and breadth of the corridor in an effect that Neeka thought must look like rainfall frozen in space.
Before she could appreciate the beautiful scene, however, the whole thing shuddered as one or more of the pilots crashed into the lines, sending a wave ahead of Neeka that she could no longer pay attention to going into the next curve. She thought she heard at least three voices start cursing beside her where she stood in the real world, and perhaps control board hit the ground far to her left.
As she came out of the curve, still in the lead, she was relieved to see the finish line flashing in front of her, at the end of this straightaway. As she got closer, however, she realized it wasn’t quite the finish line, but a row of UAVs with flashing screens that read “BEHIND YOU” in bright flashing letters in alternating languages.
Pulling another flip move as she had in the dead-end corridor earlier, Neeka was suddenly racing back the way she had come. But there was another quad ahead of her, someone who had made the reverse before she had. She saw the arrows pointing them back down to the second floor and then to the first, and she chased the other pilot through the opening in the floors, steadily gaining on them.
But while she pushed her quad to its limits, the actual finish line loomed large ahead of them, and to her deep dismay, the other quadcopter crossed it first, just before she caught up.
Now it was her turn to swear, but she bit her lip to keep from speaking aloud while she flew her quad at a less breakneck pace back to the starting line where she stood.
As she landed it on the ground in front of her her, she blinked off her virtual monitors and knelt in silence to start disassembling it to fit in her carrying case. The announcer was gushing over the winner, and the final crystal obstacle, and the entire race, and the racers who hadn’t flown their quads back to the start were heading out to pick up the pieces.
A shadow fell across her quad as someone stepped in front of her, and Neeka looked up in annoyance. It was a winner-take-all race, so she had no reason to stick around for a consolation prize; she just wanted to take her bruised ego back to her neighborhood dive bar and get a couple consolation drinks in before she had to sleep, and then drag her butt to work in the morning.
“Nice race,” he said, extending his hand to shake hers.
This post is copyright © Jamie Lyn Weigt. All rights reserved. Please do not share without credit and a direct link back to this post and my site, writingdragonsblog.com.
This beautiful Dragon Tattoo is by deviantartist Spirit-Candy, aka Venetia Jackson. I really like the wing detail, especially the lower tips. Venetia says she designed this as a personal tattoo (hence the watermark, to deter others from getting the same), but then never had the courage to get it herself. She has more really great work, including Pokemon and fantasy art, at her deviantart site that you should check out.