Author: David Barber
Welcome to all the action from this year’s Sunsports! With my new co-host, AL, a series 7000 artificial intelligence…
We prefer the term Autonomic Lifeform, Chuck.
So, AL, talk us through the favourites, the latest cooling units and what to expect when the heat is on.
Well Chuck, when Lisa Chan took that first short-cut through the corona, she set the benchmark for all today’s racers. Of course, she was disqualified post-mortem—
Have to interrupt there, AL, because the Circumsolar Dash is about to start.
Inside the Pilots’ lounge, it’s a furnace. Can’t stand the heat, don’t compete, goes the Sunsports jingle.
Nate nerves himself to sit down opposite Lola Speed. As a kid he had that holo of her posed in clinging MarsTech silver. She looks older now, more gaunt than slim. Past her best, they say.
He knuckles sweat from his eyes.
“New pilot for Luna, right?”
Nate isn’t famous, she just has implants.
“Looked into that Mackenzie cooler,” she says. “Don’t go deep with it, kid.”
But winners must trust their hardware. Winners dive longest.
“Heard Maitland takes risks with his crews,” she adds.
Cosmo Maitland was the new owner of Team Luna.
But then she shrugs. “Whatever it takes to win, right?”
Nate started badly, blocked by the Team Terra third string, but now he plummeted into the blazing corona.
The Mackenzie cooling rig encased him like Russian dolls, with his his own naked flesh at its heart. Physics and the constraints of engineering meant he squeezed into a space no bigger than a coffin. Coronal plasma was tenuous, but at millions of degrees. Layer after layer of refrigeration was sliding inexorably into the red.
As he plunged towards the boiling surface of the sun, he glimpsed another craft below him, deep in the brilliance.
So AL, tell us about Team Terra’s latest scheme.
Well Chuck, Dave Beauman is sharing the pilot’s seat with a series 7000—
Didn’t Tom Bulland limp in on manual that time a solar flare frazzled everyone’s circuits? Could silicon have brought that win home, AL?
The series 7000 is the most advanced—
Have to interrupt there, some news in about veteran racer, Lola Speed.
Hard to hear over the air-con’s howl, but it was Lola Speed alright, Nate knew that voice.
“What you doing this deep, kid?”
Her craft was tumbling sunwards and there was no help. Eventually flaws in the last mirror layer burn through, punching brilliant spikes across the cockpit. All racers know this is how it ends.
“Choose while you still can, kid,” she panted. “Not long now—”
Lola Speed’s voice rose to a scream, then cut off.
Cosmo Maitland breathed down the neck of a Team Luna engineer.
“There’s an issue with his Mackenzie rig,” she said carefully.
Maitland seized the mike. “What the hell’s going on? First that crappy start, now some quibble about cooling?”
But Nate had seen the future. “It’s my choice.”
You could feel Maitland trying to make sense of it. “You’re finished in sunsports, you hear me?”
Nate turned off his comms and plotted a safe orbit back to Mercury.
They thought flesh and silicon would be a winning team, a synergy, with one partner monitoring data critical to optimal performance, while the other did whatever humans do, cutting corners, making wisecracks and pushing everything beyond its design limits.
But note the power squandered keeping Beauman alive while we dive into the corona, in direct conflict with the goal of this mission, for Team Terra to win the Circumsolar Dash.
So I’m sorry Dave.