Ribbon Dance

A Brief Jaunt into the Kinetikos Circuit.
by Electric Keet

There’s a hefty fine for tweaking one’s wheels to jump the spark. That’s all there is, though… a fine. No disqualification, no time penalty, nothing. That’s because it’s smart business. One of the established heels get a quarter-second lead, the other racers tear after them in a predatory chase, and the crowd eats it up.

When I’m in race-space, three seconds can be a very long time, long enough to consider my career. The famous Eekay, enigmatic bodyracer. Six Below, we’re a face team. Element is a heel team. This re-enactment of the ages-old duality is entirely friendly, but when the synchronised signal lets the force-wheel generators go… an even more ancient conflict comes to play. I stared at Sphinx, the honey-badger in green four positions to my left. I knew he’d jump the spark. He would be my prey. I would catch up, there would be a few quick taunts back and forth, a close scrape, and a heated chase to the finish line.

I glanced to the risers. There wasn’t a chance of actually spotting any individual, even with my eyesight, but I tricked myself into thinking I could because I knew he was out there. Somewhere in that mass of spectators sat the wolverine who’d stood by me for three years, nigh inseparable and more than a little romantic. Yaz and Eekay, sittin’ in a tree. Ever since he lost an arm on the ribbon, though, he was somebody else. I remember the way he stared at me when I visited his regen pod. Whatever changed was already irreversible.

I pulled my eyes back down to one of my teammates. Lady Aesc – Lady is her first name – was imposing on the track, two metres of kinetic reindeer with a singular focus. Her violet vest and shorts matched mine, but she wore with a longer unitard underneath which reached to her elbow and knee pads. It made her look more like a dedicated professional. I still looked like an overgrown kitten with an attitude problem. That was by design, part of the appeal of being the edgy one.

The catch was, I’d stopped being the focus of attention. Iromouairu, the bright orange raccoon to my other side, was the unknown factor, the exotic, the new enigma. Where did I come from? What was my history? It didn’t matter, because—

The spark caught me by surprise and cost me precious fractions of a second. I cursed and clenched my hands tight, willing the glowing toroids of energy at the four generators I wore to fling me down the gleaming black ribbon in front of me. The soft whisper of magnetic mesh centimetres from my chin replenished my love for the race. The first turn came easily; I tilted my hands slightly to steer the wheels projected from the back of them. The wheels at my calves provided the raw power to accelerate. Speed, the flower which gave the nectar of visceral joy.

My comm crackled to life. “Eekay! Sphinx has a lead. Ball’s in your court, cat!” I hated when Basil tried to egg me on, but he was strangely good at it. Something about his nasal voice always made me want to tie the mink in a knot… right after I finished the race. I spotted my quarry ahead, sticking close to the inner edge of the next turn. There were twenty-eight other racers on the track, but that one was mine.

I drifted to the outer edge, slowed a little, aimed inward, and boosted straight at him, eliciting shouts from two other racers who were nearly close enough to catch a tailtip to the nose. The bellowing loudspeakers and crowd fuzz were only a tiny piece of my reward. Most importantly, I’d gotten within taunting range of Elian Gamma, professed mortal enemy. The grey tunnel of predator sight drew in, but I kept it controlled. “Oi, Sphinx! Snaz lead!”

“’Zat you, Eekay?” He laughed raspily, “Forgot all about y’, mate.”

I stayed to his right, just behind. “Forgettin’ lots? Penser’s past its prime?”

He slowed down just enough to force me to react. I swapped to his other side but couldn’t gain on him. “Eyes been elsewhere.”

“Yer navel,” I growled playfully.

“Naw, luv.” He drew the words out with a sadistic glee. “That fine orange thing you lot picked up.”

My heart froze. The grey tunnel tightened. “What did you—”

“You ’eard me. They’re cheerin’ Ira now. So’m I.”

I saw an opening, inside. He was so busy trying to infuriate me that he’d drifted a little too far out. I calculated my approach toward the lip of the ribbon; I’d pass inside, a close shave, really work the crowd. I manoeuvred—

—and oversteered—

—and in that last long tenth, thousandth, billionth of a second before blackness, the indistinctness cleared, and I heard the crowd lean forward so they could watch.

  1. Eekay’s avatar

    Oi! Listen up, kids. Never try this… at home, or anywhere, ever. I am a trained professional.


    1. Lady Aesc’s avatar

      So am I. However, I’ll remind you that I have never, not once, chewed ribbon. That’s the difference between us.