The Showdown

A Moment of Significance for Six Below.
by Electric Keet

Basil sounded worried. For the first four laps, he’d only been annoying. At that moment, though… definitely worried. “Bell, go pull some heat off Ira!”

Sphinx and Sweeper, another of Element’s racers, had Ira pinned to the inside two-ninths of the track. The time had come for me to make my own move. “Belay that.” I stayed safely toward the outside of the ribbon while the situation played itself out in my head. “Bell, you good for a skandy?”

The lynx sounded confused. “I guess. Want me to—”

“What do you think you’re doing, Yaz?” Basil shouted angrily.

“Earning us a win.” I barked. “Ira, while those two are on you they’re as pinned as you are. Keep ’em there. Falda, stay in three; we’re front guard. Lady, you’re my second eyes in back. Bell, stay a little behind Ira but in seven or eight, don’t let Neutron harry you, and be ready to skandy in front of Ira’s box at the last. Word?”

I recieved a round of acknowledgments just in time for my goggles to reflect a black cat in light blue coming up on my right flank. “Oo you chat weet, bro?” he shouted, confirming my worst suspicions.

I glanced to the inside to make sure I had an exit… and caught Falda’s eyes along with a grin. Was she— no, she had a plan. I kept my poker face and drifted slightly toward Anton to make him nervous. “Your coach, Ant, but I told him we didn’t have a use for you either.”

As planned, Anton reacted to keep a distance. He didn’t want a collision any more than I did. “Zeno’s End remember you an’ send me to look up your skirt, bro!” At that, he laughed uproariously.

“Hope it was worth it.” That was when Falda pulled in ahead of him.

With a startled, “Ehh!” he dropped back – and nearly lost control, which was not the result I was aiming for – but the wolf and I boosted forward, which was exactly what I wanted.

Lady’s voice came on. “Two from Starkadr coming up.”

I grinned, but only on the inside. “Good, we have one from Zeno between us. Bell, conditions?”

He sounded “One from Zeno on my rear, but still clear to move.”

“Wait for range.” I dared not allow myself a smile yet; there were still about twelve seconds to go. The positions didn’t seem to be changing much, though, and I hadn’t seen the ones Lady mentioned were only just starting to appear behind me, so we looked to be in the clear, unless something or somebody stupid happened.

Just as the Element racers around Ira started to accelerate, Basil came in over the comm. “Ira, get under and boost!”

That was the somebody stupid. “Too risky!” I growled. “Ira, hold. Bell, go!”

I watched as Bell twisted. Briefly, his rear wheels were in the air… and then they were back down, jerking him toward the two racers around Ira. The whole knot of them pulled back in unison, though Sphinx nearly clipped the lynx.

The plan worked, though. As the crowd roared, Bell pulled into the end-strip, followed by twenty-nine racers. Glowing wheels disappeared while racers stood up and ran to their teammates. Right after a race, as the time dilation of adrenaline wears off and the world returns to normal speed, everything seems to happen too quickly. The next thing I knew, we’d lifted Bell up onto our shoulders and a race official was shoving a gigantic golden trophy into his hands.

Bell held it up high. “This one’s for Eekay,” he crowed… and then looked to me. “And Yaz Lenslight!” The rest was a wash of noise and exuberance.

I thought Lady was going to deck him, but she just kept walking, body tense and nostrils flaring. “Say that again, mister, I dare you.”

Basil sneered. “I was fairly clear. Yaz nearly cost us the win.”

“I don’t see how,” Bell said tightly. “Way I see it, he had a strategy. More’n you had, eh?”

We rounded the corner and pushed through the doors to the regen bay. The nurse was the same one I’d seen last time. She watched Basil carefully as we entered.

Eekay floated much as before. Zir voice was still rough from the voder, but zie sounded somewhat less weary. “For a racin’ team, you lot took yer time showin’ up.”

“Good to see you too.” Lady smirked. “Now, Basil, tell the nice cat in the tank what you just said to us a moment ago.”

“Don’t bother,” the snow-leopard said roughly. “Saw the vid live, and that wasn’t a Basil Abbraciavento strategy. That was m’ mate Yaz, right?”

Falda’s tail started going again; she’d only barely been able to control it. “You should have heard him, Eekay. He was perfect!”

The mink motioned wildly. “What is this, some kind of mutiny? Pile on Basil day? I knew what I was doing, and you nearly ruined it with your antics. It’s just a good thing that you all still won.”

I hesitated, but it needed to be said. “You were ignoring everyone on the team but Ira. That’s not a strategy, it’s an agenda.” Ira’s expression stayed even; zie struck me at that moment as a true professional.

Basil prepared to snap back with something, but Eekay cut him off. “Those’re wise words, mate. Words I’d expect to hear from a real manager. Y’know, all of Six Below is right here an’ we’ve even got a witness, right, Nurse Red?” The bear nodded in response. “Then I say, the job’s yours if y’ fancy it, Yaz. Say yes, an’ we fire the mink to bring you back in as manager and coach.”

I watched his eyes dart around rapidly. “You can’t do this to me!” Lady towered over him, intimidation factor at full, and he went silent, staring at me with a mix of fury and panic.

I’d made the decision a hundred times in the two days since Eekay brought it up. I had a great future with the hotel, making it to manager in a year and a half. I had a stable life that didn’t involve travelling all over the place. I had plenty of hobbies to pursue, and none of them involved schmoozing with team managers and owners or yelling at race officials or posting bail for overly rambunctious racers. I had a good, steady, reliable life.

I shrugged. “Yes.”

  1. Rubin "Bell" Gloeckner’s avatar

    I still can’t believe I pulled that off, eh? I mean, I can, but I can’t. Well, looking at the replay, there was more room than I thought, but still… wow!