Cry Havoc

A Taste of Challenge, Conundrum, and Chaos on Mercury.
by Electric Keet

“I know that look,” the lynx said. “Last time I saw it, you’d just swigged some rancid beer. What’s eatin’ Yaz, eh?”

“I’ll tell you what’s eating me,” I grumbled. “Eekay is still strutting around like this is zir chance to steal back some starlight, and I can’t read Ira at all so I have no idea how zie’ll act on the ribbon.”

Bell nodded. “It’s been like this for a while, and I think Basil fed the flame intentionally, but…. Look, Eekay’s not all there, but zie’s no idiot. You have a plan and you have the skill to make it work, so I think zie’ll listen to you during the race. Don’t let the drama panic you, eh?”

“I hope you’re right.”

Some sort of team chant started up in the direction of Zeitmaschine. Bell shot a smirk in their direction, then looked back toward me. “That wasn’t the only thing, was it?”

I tightened my jaw. “No, but the other thing is just an annoyance. It figured that Team Parallax had to withdraw. I could cope with their manager, at least. But with Zeno’s End filling in, that means dealing with… what, is there…?” The lynx grinned and nodded slightly to a point over my shoulder, so I turned to face— “Ah! Ms. Mahatapa.”

“My dear Mr. Lenslight.” The leopard’s eyes scanned slowly down, then back up my body with a sort of practised distaste. “You are still mister, yes?”

I did my best not to visibly grimace. The last thing I needed was to be reminded of… how… well I was dressed. “Last I checked, yes. It’s good to see you.”

Her tail hooked in exactly the fashion that drove me nuts about Eekay… in both good and bad ways. “Of course it is. Ah, and there is the famous Rubin Gloeckner, in with a surprise first-place in that final race of the Jovian League.”

Bell smiled politely. “Surprised me, too, ma’am. Just goes to show that anything can happen, eh?” He clapped me on the arm and whispered, “I’ll be in the pit. Don’t let the ice queen freeze ya, mate.” He straightened his collar, nodded to the leopard, and turned toward the team staging area.

“Anything indeed.” She took a step closer with a dangerous grin that got colder near her eyes. “Anything goes on Io, but we are no longer in a pageant of personality. These races will be the test of not showmanship, but true ability. Tell me…. Being so new to the position and with your star racers so preoccupied with acting out an absurd rivalry, do you not feel that you are perhaps slightly out of your league?”

I’d been expecting some amount of that sort of psychological warfare from her, and I came prepared to duel. “Yes, perhaps… but it heartens me that I’m out of my league on somewhat more than a… technicality.”

Her grin remained, but withdrew from her eyes. I’d drawn blood. “I see. Well, of course, best of luck to you and to Six Below. It will be a fascinating race.”

“And best of luck to you and Zeno’s End.”

She turned and sauntered away with a taunting sway to her hips. I shook my head and walked toward the observation deck lift to the sudden percussion of the Martian team riveting their uniforms on. The stands were already nearly full with spectators, many of them cheering names I couldn’t hear through the deafening rush of nervous blood in my ears.

Impossibly black shadows cut the surface from the ribbon and the racers from their wheels. I traced the thin, parallel threads of white along the edges of the racing track with my eyes. The interposing display highlighted each set of four turquoise dots with call-outs and team identifiers, and I liked the arrangement I saw. Every Zeitmaschine racer was isolated by a Six Below racer immediately in their lead. I wasn’t certain that we could take first like that, but we could defeat the Mercurians’ tactics on their home turf and keep them on their toes, something worth far more later in the circuit.

Lady’s voice over the comm pulled me back out of the trance of heartbeat and thought. “I think the tigers are up to something,” she warned.

Two of the Martian team, The Humblest, were using the inside to come up on both her and the raccoon behind her. “If you’re good on the turn, boost it,” I said. “If they start in on your buddy, you’re fine. If they try for you, they’ll be in his way anyhow.”

I watched her wheels accelerate sharply away. One of the Martians followed, but the gap had already widened. “Good work. Hang in there, team, just a little longer.”

A few seconds later, Eekay piped up. “Got a pozzy vec here, Yaz. Gonna boost it.”

I shook my head as though zie could see it. “Hold the block, Eekay. Ira, stay with them!”

“Oi! we’re here to win!” Zie darted away from the cluster around zim.

“Pull it back, you can still spook ’em into scattering!” No longer restrained, two racers from Zeno’s End – precisely the ones I wanted to keep in lower rankings – bolted out from behind the knot to vie for second. “K’r’roc fleabait! Ira, do what you can to recover position.”

I held my breath. Five long seconds passed.

“That’s a first for me, an’ yer first run as a manager, Yaz-boy. Snaz opener to the Thirteen, spot?”

The point totals rolled in to the right of the display. I breathed out, “You may have snagged first, Eekay… but the team didn’t.”

  1. Yaz Lenslight’s avatar

    The scoring system for Kinetikos-style races can be quirky. Each place has a different point value, and a team’s score is a total of those values. This is why sometimes a team might not have anyone in the first couple places, but enough in the next few that their score puts them in first.

    As you can see, that’s not how it went down for us on Mercury.


    1.’s avatar

      I was wondering if it was something like that! Eekay pulling a stunt like that must have lost you a few handfuls of fur. Makes me wonder if Basil had a few ulcers when he was at the job, even if he was being divisive.


      1. Yaz Lenslight’s avatar

        I never thought Basil was a terrible guy or anything less than a solid team manager. That’s what gets me about all of this. After I left, something changed in him, and I wondered what caused that. Now I’m beginning to think that something was Eekay, literally diving him mad.


        1. Eekay’s avatar

          Ol’ Eekay gives Basil ulcers? What ’till you spot what zie’ll give you for that little jab, mate.


          1. Seabhac’s avatar

            I’m sure they have shots for it, whatever it is.