Discover what it's like to see life though the eyes of a WipEout HD pilot, where the stakes are high, and the pace is even higher. The race is on...
"My God, Tsarong, you alright?"
It's strange. For all the nu-steel, titanium alloy, carbon fibre composites, padding, shielding... it never stops to amaze me how you can still feel the heat of a rapidly expanding fireball going off outside this little anti-gravity craft.
"Tsarong, what happened?"
Apparently this is the same for pretty much all the teams. Although had I'd been in one of the old Assegais instead of this one, I'd probably not even have the chance to navel gaze. Probably because my navel would be rapidly cooking somewhere slightly off the racing line. Wouldn't that be fun for the race League statisticians to log...
"Daniel, answer your blasted comm!"
"I'm okay, Chief, put the defibrillator down."
The radio crackle that came back was expectedly gruff. "I'll put you down next time you don't respond ASAP, old man - what the heck happened out there? We temporarily lost the video and vitals feeds in the explosion and the craft's systems went a bit glitchy."
I gazed over the instruments of my once shiny blue Assegai, the speed counter and energy meter both looking back, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Only spoiled by the big glaring FOURTH PLACE symbol on my HUD. "Everything's fine," I replied, hoping to deflect the inevitable chew-out for my poor current placing. Who needs Tournament gold anyway? "It was the EG-X racer that got hit by a missile. I just about escaped the fallout. Must've been Grifter's ship."
"Well the vid feed's back and it seems whoever it was punched his eject just in time - so get your head in the game. You're already too far behind the pace." My race team Chief: forever the sweet, biting maw of reality. She's a nice kid. Really. Just a little... intense. "You're only a lap off from forever being known as the only FX-350 League pilot to blow a five-point lead in the final damned race. You've been waiting for this your entire career. Don't blow all your good work now."
The radio clicked off as I released the throttle to drift my ship through a gentle curve and into a straight. Final lap. And still far too many seconds behind the leader. The Chief was right; I needed to step up a gear. Jokes aside, anything less than first place would mean disaster. Coming below third in the previous couple of races meant my former leaderboard advantage was all for naught - this finale was the clincher and I couldn't even see the two racers who were currently dangling me from joint first to an utterly medal-less position in the overall rankings.
In a sport like this I guess it's only natural that tournaments can slip away from you so quickly. And the pain of failure tends to last much longer...
I pushed my ship's upper limits feeling g-forces massage me deeper into my seat, avoiding two weapon pads to hit three successive speed chevrons instead. Despite its issues, my Assegai was fast, handled well and was effectively equipped to deal with the rigours of my racing style, namely heavy on the speed, sparing on the weapons. My defences weren't top of the range, unlike the leader's Triakis, but it meant I had the edge when it came to manoeuvrability and thrust, something I'd been using well until the last few races (and this one) where Leech Beams suddenly became the weapon of choice for my competitors, leaving me to play catch up while they rocketed off with my ship's depleted energy supply. Switching tactics meant more weapons oriented racing, though collecting the damned things left me lurching from the race line I so often favoured.
Now there wasn't any more time to adapt to this new style which had seen me drop points. Speed was the only thing that was going to get me back to the top. So with the Chenghou Project course and its surrounding office blocks warping around me in a blur of velocity, I pressed for third, hoping that it wasn't too late to salvage my earlier problems which had left me so far down the pile.
Of course, I didn't factor for Charon being the first person I had to overtake.
I was concentrating so much I didn't realise the error until I passed her and the early warning display beeped and lit my Heads Up Display with worrying crimson, a silky robotic voice offering caution far too late. High calibre proton shells ripped across the hull, rocking my smooth ride into a jerky spasm of movement as I tried to correct my flight and avoid any more damage. The Cannon didn't have much in its magazine, but Charon didn't typically need too many shots to put her targets down, such was her brutal efficiency...
END PART ONE