The Vanguards of Darkwind
The life and times of the Vanguards, a gang struggling to survive in the wastelands of Evan, based on the game Darkwind by Psychic Software

Why I deathrace – part III

“One lap down, five entrants out, Time to make my play.”

Amy passed the lap marker and considered her position. Her armour was gone on the left, but otherwise strong. The pack was reduced, more than half the competitors had resigned. At least two of them were dead.

She was at the back of the pack, five Sunrises all vying for the deathrace cash. But for Amy, the cash didn’t matter. She needed the kudos, to prove to the Vanguards that skill and tactics are what make a survivor, not sheer dumb bravery.

The Somerset Rally Circuit was perfect for her tactics. With its figure eight loop and tight corners, she would have good sightlines to hit the paper-thin armour on the Sunrises, and ample opportunity for her laser to recharge between shots.

She put her foot down hard as she approached the intersection. It would be dangerous as hell here, as the pack spun round the hairpin and headed back towards her.

Sarsfield Grenadiers was in the lead. An arrogant youth, gangly and pimpled. She picked her spot carefully, waited three seconds.

Pzow. The laser lanced out. Steam erupted from the engine as the coolant lines melted. Amy passed behind the slowing car on the crossroads. One down, three to go.

“Christ.” A shot from the left, searing pain in her calf as the beam sliced flesh and burnt skin. She reflexively jerked the wheel right, moving out of line as another beam missed behind her. Then she was past the crossing, and turning the wheel to slide into the corner.

As she straightened, she saw the good news. The wrecked Sarsfield Grenadiers was coasting to a stop, and one of the other contenders had driven smack into its rear. The driver was slumped over the steering wheel, not moving. She hoped he was just concussed, not dead, but either way, only two more cars stood between her and victory.

She tightened her grip on the wheel, her fingers leaving indentations in the black leather covering. The chicane ahead was a strong opportunity, as the leaders would be forced to expose their weaker sides to her. The three of them were bunched together as they entered the chicane – Battlefield Crew in the lead, the driver a red-headed novice; the Fighting Celts second, an grizzled veteran at the wheel; then Amy.

And this chicane was going to win her the race. Beam after beam of laser fire lanced out. The Fighting Celts were taking chunks out of Battlefield Crew, and Amy held fire as the Celts softened up the armour of the leader for her. Then, as she swept through the turn, she pressed down on the firing stud. The pent up energy of the laser burst forth, showering sparks in the driver’s compartment of the Celt’s Sunrise. The second beam hit the driver, and Amy saw a fountain of blood spray from his wounded forearm. The third beam severed the steering linkages, and Celts was out of the race.

Amy blasted past, barely able to acknowledge the salute of the defeated driver of the Celts. She had lost time, and Battlefield Crew was out of sight at the hairpin. She threw the Sunrise into a powerslide, risking a wipeout as she battled to maximise the speed through the turn. Through the corner of her eye, she saw the rockface hurtle past. She blanched as she remembered her left side was unprotected, the memory of One-Eye slamming his damaged Asp into the concrete wall coming unbidden to her mind.

“I WILL NOT DIE TODAY.”

Not today, not any time soon. She accelerated through the corner, her left side scant inches from the protruding rock. Sweat gathered inside her helmet, blurring her vision as it dripped into her eyes. She shook her head to clear it and homed in our target.

50 metres. 45. Amy conserved the power in her laser. This driver was a rookie, a novice. She didn’t need to kill him. Just make him break his line on the final corner, steer left and wide, and she’d be past him to the winner’s circle.

40 metres, 35. Time. The crimson beam sizzled through the air, diffracting on the armoured glass by the driver’s head. Amy saw the glass deform and crack, saw the driver flinch as megajoules of power fractured the flimsy protection on his left.

She pressed the stud again. “Flinch, damn you. Flinch.” The second shot landed exactly on the first, and the glass shattered, shard of crystal spraying out, coruscating with the crimson energy from the laser. The driver cried out and jerked the wheel left, losing his racing line and veering into the grassy outfield.

“Yes,” exulted Amy. She hugged the wall close, cut inside Battlefield Crew and crossed the line.

***

“You did it!” Earl was the first to reach the car, to congratulate Amy on her win. “And everyone was watching.”

Amy looked behind Earl to see the every member of the Vanguards crowding onto the track. Even Darrell was there, all 6’6” of him, and Amy was surprised to see that he was sporting a grin.

He pushed through the throng as she climbed out of the shattered door of the Sunrise.

“Banestorm, maybe you got it right. You need brains, and you need balls to survive out there, to lead a gang. I knew you had the brains, and you just proved, you’ve sure as hell got the balls.” He reached out a massive hand. “I’d be honoured to follow you, Amy Banuelos.”

Amy took his hand, and shook. Darrell’s smile broadened, and he enveloped Amy in a bearhug.

“The Vanguards gonna be unbeatable now,” he said.

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