Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
I am miles underwater. Iâ€™m the only human competing.
Iâ€™m riding a ten-foot cretaceous seahorse named Cheval. I pronounce it â€˜shovelâ€™ as a private joke. No one here would understand the mispronunciation.
There are representatives here from sixteen planets. Mostly aquatics but there are two air breathers like me. A hindbrain Mohr-nex with 288 as an identification marker. Itâ€™s riding a bio-rocket jellyfish ringpulser. The other oneâ€™s a silicate rocksliver named CPR. We talked a little before the race. Itâ€™s riding a ramjet mollusk with cold, blue eyes.
Thereâ€™s even an avian from a gaseous tiny-giant. It has beefed up muscles to â€˜flyâ€™ in the cold, pressure-rich water. It doesnâ€™t have a mount. Itâ€™s going it alone. In the absence of a mount, itâ€™ll end up a slave if it loses. Weâ€™re all racing for mount ownership here. I admire its courage but it doesnâ€™t have a chance. Thereâ€™s an insane glint to its one red eye that makes me doubt my assumption for a second.
My articulated pressurized scuba suit is working fine. The stats are all lit up like Christmas lights on the inside of my faceplate, showing blues and greens. An overlay of the caverns is pulsing stationary with topographical lines. Iâ€™m hoping that my human tech will be more accurate that the other racerâ€™s means of navigation; the sonar from whale-face, for instance. I have no idea if itâ€™s more precise than my radar.
I lean forward and with my black servoglove, I pat Cheval just above the ear-hole. He flexes his massive tail and swishes his equine head. Heâ€™s eager to get on with it.
The huge transporter building behind us lights up the dark water around us. The beings laying wagers are little figures in the windows. Theyâ€™re the super-rich that can afford ringside. There are millions of others watching on the telly and d-sense around the system.
The aquatics are all more suited to this environment but no one racer present has raced this course before. This equalizes the playing field. The rules are simple and brutal. No weapons are allowed but your mount is allowed to employ whatever naturally occurring offensive or defensive capabilities that it possesses.
The electrified hallowfish that last yearâ€™s winner is riding gives us all a chill. We remember the stats of that race. Last yearâ€™s winner sits proud and straight in his saddle above the hallowfish. Heâ€™s striped like a zebra and glows with bioluminescence. His eyes are huge and glowing. His mouth is a shattered nail bucket of teeth. Thereâ€™s an anticipatory cloud of fang-poison floating in a halo around his mountâ€™s head
Iâ€™m hoping speed and maneuverability will win the race.
The glowing balls of angler fish in front of us change colour.
On your marks.