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The Second Drift


Redro
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This thread marks the continuation of the story in "The First Drift".  It begins 20 years after the conclusive race between the 4 facing teams (the Blazing Wheels, the Destiny Racers, the Galactic Flash, and the Dimensional Speedstars) and the Яeverse.

Alongside this "chapter" of the story, I will be posting cards in THIS THREAD which will correspond to characters/places/events/etc. of the story.  The cards may also give clues/hints about the direction of the story and other things not explicitly said here, so it's usually worth a look!

The first "piece" will be posted tomorrow!

Edited by Redro
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(Link to the corresponding card thread HERE)

"So it was that even when the central hub of the universe was removed and the spokes began to warp and fray, there were those who sought to restore the Universal Constant.  Did they know what they were doing, or were their actions simply ones seeped in self-interest?" - The Annals

 

A generation has passed.

The universe is filled with unrest.

Yet on a small, backwater planet called Gaia, a new hope was beginning to rise.  The Blazing Wheels, a last gen team of racers that had disbanded twenty years prior, was poised to make a massive comeback under the watchful eye of one of the old team members: Dr. Lenore Madoka.

The new generation of Blazing Wheels had several big names.  Besides Dr. Madoka, who was CEO of the world's largest and most profitable automotive company, the team had several racers who were known as local legends in their cities/countries.  Alongside the star power that came from the world-renowned but short lived racing name “Blazing Wheels”, the new crew announced their intent to go a world tour, ending with a formal challenge to the atlantean King Ædra and his best undersea racers.

As it had in the old days, this announcement was huge and it inspired many.  It seemed as though the old drive had been reignited and across the world new racing teams sprung up from nowhere, hoping to be the ones to beat the best.

~~~

“...That is my final word.” Dr. Madoka said with exasperation.

Striker glared at his mother and shot an ugly glance at his cousin before taking his seat and crossing his arms.  How could his mom pick her as team leader over him?  He was the best racer here!  He had trained his whole life, been around cars his whole life, dammit!

Dr. Madoka watched her son for a moment, expecting him to say something.  When he didn’t, she exhaled and addressed the rest of the seated racers.

“I don’t expect you to believe everything that I have told you.  It is information that only a privileged few across the world know.  Yet I trust that you understand the truth of everything I have said.  After all…” Dr. Madoka took off her tinted glasses, revealing her glowing silver eyes, “I can tell you all feel the drive to race.”

The table was silent.  The four newcomers shuffled nervously.  Dora Young was preoccupied fiddling with a paperclip.  Striker continued to glare at Dora.

“While compelling, I do still find this hard to swallow.” said Victoria, a racer from a small volcanic island nation in the far north.  “All this about aliens and driving robots and… how it ties into all those people who died before we were born… That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Dr. Madoka put her glasses back on and nodded.  “It is your first time hearing all this.  My son and niece are already familiar, but I suppose without proof, it does seem far-fetched.” Madoka tapped a few times on a touch screen built into the arm of her chair and waited.  “I had personally requested for Zenith to come and explain things, but he had said that he would not be able to.  But he did send an ambassador in his stead.”

The door to the room opened, and an older looking gentleman with salt and pepper hair walked in.  “Madame Madoka, you called for me?”

“Good evening, Hiro.” Dr. Madoka said, “You are in good company, you may drop the guise.”

The man looked around at the curious faces before nodding.  Before their eyes, the man seemed to melt, face becoming nothing but a stalk-mounted mouth.  The body collapsed in on itself, becoming a greyish, opaque ooze.  The ooze grew a couple long appendages out of its side and after a moment, opened up some eyes in the middle of its body.

The newcomers all had some mix of shock and revulsion written on their faces, but the performance was convincing.  ‘Hiro’ explained the situation to them again, reiterating the main points that Dr. Madoka had covered.

“So,” Dr. Madoka finally said, “Will you all join the next generation of the Blazing Wheels?”

Everyone agreed.

Edited by Redro
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(Link to the card thread HERE)

~~~

Twenty Years Ago

A distraught undersea kingdom mourns its lost leader.  When the race against the Яeverse had concluded, several high members of the royal court had died.  When the bodies had been examined, a black goo seeped from every orifice.  To the public, the story was poisoning of some kind.  In the time of greatest desperation and confusion, the Prince - the prophesied savior - returned to his people.

No one had been any the wiser.’ King Ædra mused.

No one had questioned his identity as the prince and no one had expressed doubts about his rule.  He may have been the first clone of the departed Prince and picked up the most of the Prince’s mannerisms, but still, it had felt so strange.

The young king had been able to resolve the most pressing issues and he had declared the undersea realm to take temporary isolation from the surface until the confusion could be settled.  His diligence in taking charge was a comfort to the Atlantean peoples, and any who may have had doubts in their hearts were eased by the steady control Ædra displayed.

It was only five years into King Ædra’s rule when dissent first began to rise.

“From this day henceforth, we will be abolishing the cloning program.” the regent to the king declared.

That was the first major backlash I had faced, wasn’t it?’ Ædra continued to think.  

A large part of what seemed to keep the peace was the continued racing program.  Ædra had allowed it because the people wanted it, but every crash, every clone death was like a personal stab.

Their lives were worth nothing according to Horizon’s account, just like the Яeverse.  To Horizon, a clone’s death was worth as much as the pavement they drove upon.  Every clone’s death reminded Ædra of this.

The real prince had to sacrifice himself because Horizon believed I was worth nothing.’ King Ædra thought.  He thought he could feel his lips twitch upward.

Upon outlawing the clone program and banning the remaining clones from racing each other, there had been a mob at the undersea palace.  There needed to be resolution.

“All you people find value in the clone’s reckless driving.” The king addressed the mob, “I will give you a chance to prove yourself.  The scientists will be developing a new program, new racers.  You have five years to race among yourselves.  Learn, adapt, and perfect your treacherous techniques if you must.  In five years, we will have a race between your best and the new racers.  If you win, I will renounce my last law.”

So the people went away.  It was annoying, but a fair request that fit into the spirit of their desire.  Besides, how could the scientists come up with new racers in only 5 years?  Even making 1 clone took several years!

The people did not know that I had expressed my intent to shut down the cloning program long ago.’ King Ædra mused

Five years passed too quickly and it was time to see the best Atlantean racers face off against the king’s new project.

The anticipation for this race was palpable.

The Atlantean racers were made up of some rough-and-tumble racers who got to the top through their dirty tactics as much as their skill.

On the other side of the track the scientists’ new racers were revealed to be… fish?

These fish were no ordinary fish though.  They had been both bred and genetically developed to the point of sentience and were given specially designed cars that read their neural pathways to essentially become an extension of their bodies.  It had been a massive undertaking and even still the scientists were not sure if the technology was perfected.

The race began… and ended as a completely one-sided victory for the fish.

As it turned out, the scientists had chosen a development path that would directly counter the dangerous stunts of the Atlantean racers: hyper-safe driving that would cause the reckless drivers to self-destruct.  The neural extensions allowed the fish racers to react much more precisely to the Atlantean’s dangerous stunts and maneuver in a way that those performing the stunts would crash, overcorrect, or have to slow themselves significantly.  It was a new age of Atlantean racing and a refreshing reminder that racing should not come at a random cost your own safety. 

Almost overnight, there was a huge shift in both favor of King Ædra and a simultaneous drop of Atlantean vehicle accidents.

I had hoped that these new racers, and their desire to put survivability first and foremost, means they would be able to live their own lives.’ King Ædra thought.

Of course, the complete one-sidedness of the race also prompted an intergenerational question: who was better at racing, the King or the scientists’ new drivers.

While things seemed to be going well in most other aspects, the people’s new burning question seemed to weedle its way in and around the King’s court.  For the next year, as the new animal team became better and better racers in their own right, King Ædra could not seem to get away from that implicit question.

King Ædra had refused to let himself get behind a wheel for eleven years at this point.  Ever since that race with the Яeverse, the king had refused to.  For the people, this avoidance was both due to the busyness of the position, and also the danger of the races at the time.  It was disappointing, but understandable.  If King Ædra died, what would happen?

However, with the new driver’s focus on avoiding conflict, the pressure was mounting on the king to at least try once.

Another year passed.  12 years since that day, and King Ædra could no longer take it.  His every waking moment seemed to be pestered with whispers, and his dreams offered no escape.  He could feel the energy of Horizon possess him in dream races… all of which seemed to end in his death.  Still, the question would remain until he raced.

“Fine!” the king snapped to his court, “In two weeks time, I will face the animal racers.  Set everything up.”

I suppose everything was leading up to this moment.’ King Ædra thought.

As anticipated as the Atlantean/fish race was, it was absolutely dwarfed in comparison to this race.  King Ædra, who no one had seen drive for twelve years, was now going to participate in an overtake challenge against the best racers of the new generation.  The challenge was set up so that Ædra would have to overtake the five of the best animal racers within a lap to win.

As Ædra settled into his vehicle, he felt at home as he had not in a long time.  The race began.

He caught the first animal at an early corner.  The animal had taken a corner at a safe wide margin while Ædra took it at a tight drift.  The crowd went wild.  The Prince of racing had returned.

‘It was so easy and yet, no Horizon…’ King Ædra had had thought.  He passed a second and a third.  ‘Am I not going fast enough?’  He sped up.  Nothing.  Still nothing.

He came up on the tail of the second racer.  A moment later, that racer was looking at Ædra’s tail lights.

Ædra had grimaced in frustration.  He could feel Horizon manifest itself in his dreams, yet now as he raced, he could not feel its presence?

He caught up to the last racer on the last straightaway.  No easy way to pass.  Ædra remembered the theme of the Horizon and he could almost hear the Prince’s voice in his head.  ‘The sacrifice has to mean something’.

Ædra’s mind went silent as he had confronted himself.  He had been avoiding racing for all these years.  It was never because he lost the passion.  Nor was he scared of losing - he had lost a lot in his youth when scientists were developing better and better clones.  It was the fact that after all this time, he truly saw himself as a clone.  Even after all these years, did he really hold value?  Did the Horizon still see him as a sum-zero entity?  He was cloned from someone who was destined to save the Atlanteans.  The Prince had done so, so what was Ædra’s purpose?

It was time to confront this once and for all.  He knew he didn’t need the Horizon to help him win this race, but if he didn’t try now, would he ever know?  Or would he go back to his life never knowing?  No, no regrets.

“Horizon, give me the win here and now!  I declare my eye forfeit for the cause!”

Ædra’s foot slammed to the floor and he accelerated, nearly rear-ending the racer in front of him and then… as though the universe bent to his will, he was ahead.  He was nearing the end of the straightaway and Ædra glanced back.  He saw the last animal racer over two car lengths behind him and getting further.

Suddenly, in the mirror, he began to see ghostly images.  Drivers over the era racing along the same track.  It was too much.  What was real?  What was false?  Too many drivers, too much to process… Ædra’s eyes moved back to the front but, he saw a racer alongside him…

The Prince was racing alongside Ædra and they locked eyes.  The Prince gave Ædra a knowing smile and pointed at his own right eye, before vanishing into green smoke.

Ædra looked forward, but it was too late.  He was going too fast.  No time to turn…

CRASH!!!

Ædra could hear doctors shouting and he could feel his mind running through memories.  As his life flashed before his eyes, he succumbed to the warm glow of the Horizon and let himself dip into the dimension.

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Ædra opened his eyes.  He wasn’t in the race anymore.  He wasn’t anywhere in his palace or even on his planet, however, he recognized the place immediately.

He was standing on what looked like a kind of solid liquid.  As he stood up, he made ripples on the silvery surface, but even when he stood, he did not sink into it.  The sky was blue and there was absolutely nothing as far as the eye could see.  A golden line punctuated the point where the blue sky touched the silver sea.  There was nothing but that golden horizon.

“I was not sure I would ever see you again.”

Ædra turned around and saw Captain Young.  He was clad in the silver garb he’d worn as a Dimensional Speedstar and he was smiling sadly.  The sad smile didn’t suit him.  It made him look older than Ædra had remembered.

Ædra went over to the Captain and held out a hand.  The Captain ignored it and gave Ædra a bear hug.  He hadn’t changed after all.  When he backed away, he gestured for Ædra to sit and he made a motion to sit.  As he descended, the silvery floor moved up and formed a solid rounded seat.  Ædra sat as well.

“You weren’t expecting me to come back?”

“I thought you might not race again.  You’ve noticed the shift in the air, right?”

Ædra nodded.  Ever since the race against the Яeverse, racing had felt… dulled in his mind.  His spirit had never wavered though.

“Your people lost interest in racing as well then?”

“Hm?  No.”  Ædra said.

The Captain smiled, “Interesting.” he said, “You may not have come here, but you never lost the spirit of Horizon, huh?”

“No…” Ædra said, “Wait, I’m confused.”

The Captain reached down and grabbed a water bottle that formed from the silver.  It solidified in his hand and he took a drink.  He offered it to Ædra who waved it off.  He shrugged and put it on the ground and it melted back into the silvery surface.

“I’m assuming your people went back into isolation, so you don’t really know much of what’s happened on the surface.”  The Captain said.

“I kept in contact with a few of the others, but we don’t talk much anymore.”  Ædra said.  “It has been busy.”

“You know what happened when we defeated the Яeverse.  Any people who had been Яeversed died.  Fortunately, that didn’t affect your people too much.  However, defeating them required for me to use the power of the Final Horizon, remember?”

Ædra nodded.  How could he forget?

“Using the Final Horizon came with a cost.  It had unlimited power to win any race, but it was structured that way because the universe was built with racing as a universal constant.”

“I'm confused.”

“Why do you think this place exists?”  The Captain asked, “Why do you think racing was something both the surface and the undersea had in common?  Why do you think the Яeverse were racers?”

Ædra didn’t speak.

“The universe hinged on racing as a means of bringing people together.  It was kind of like a nail which bound the universe together.  Accessing the Final Horizon was a means of controlling all aspects of the universe through that nail.  You could say that I was omnipotent at that point.  However, the cost was the removal of that lynchpin.  I have full access to Final Horizon at any time now, but it only has superficial effects on the universe rather than the direct control I’d had the first time.”

Ædra was silent for a moment.  “So… I don’t feel that same strong desire to race because that desire was removed when things became unraveled?”

Captain Young nodded.  He exhaled.  “You’re the last Speedstar I have to ask about this but… was it worth it?”

Ædra looked away from the Captain.  He knew what the Captain was implying and…

“I do not blame you.  It was literally the only way to win.” Ædra said.

“But… the Яeverse didn’t kill…”  Captain Young said, “I not only destabilized the universe, but I probably caused the death of trillions…  I took away many people’s lives and as for the rest… I took away their peace.”

Ædra tugged his beard and sat back.  “You have been killing yourself over this for all these years haven’t you?”

The Captain was looking down.  Ædra couldn’t see his eyes.

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Ædra asked the Captain.  The Captain looked at Ædra.  “Listen, I am a clone.  That knowledge has haunted me from the moment I was told what it meant.  The Prince trusted me to complete the race because he believed that despite the circumstances of my birth I could truly have value.” Ædra paused.

“Defeating the Яeverse was never about the sanctity of racing.  You always knew that.” Ædra took a deep breath as realization of what he was going to say hit him. “Every person the Яeverse controlled, they stripped of value.  The sacrifices of the Яeverse meant nothing… just like me and my clone brethren.  Whether we won or not, it was the Яeverse who had killed the personhood of everyone they controlled.  We didn’t kill anyone.  They were already dead the moment the Яeverse entered their bodies.  Our race simply revealed that truth.”

The Captain was silent.  “Value, huh?”  He sniffed and wiped his eyes with the back of his arm before looking up at Ædra and finally giving the smallest genuine smile.  “It sounds like I wasn’t the only one wrestling with things over these years.”

Ædra matched Captain Young’s small smile.  “You still hold knowledge, right?  I’m surprised you hadn’t figured it out yourself.”

The Captain’s face fell.  “Not… not really.  Remember, I-- the nail has been removed.  My connection with the universe is sparse and it mostly comes through you guys… the remaining Speedstars.”  The Captain said, “While here though, I did think up a way for the nail could potentially be restored.”

“You said that your people still love racing, right?” The Captain continued, “It’s because they feel the connection of Horizon through you.  The surface is a lot more widespread, and my wife can’t really restore the passion for racing among the peoples on the surface.  At least not by herself.”

“What do you need me to do?” Ædra asked.

“Host a race.  Undersea versus surface, just like the good old days.  You and Madoka need to be in it though.  She is trying to find other racers who might have a bit of Horizon in them.  I'm sure she will let you know when her plan is ready."

“And…?” Ædra said

“…And it should solidly connect our planet to Horizon.  Hopefully, that means I can come back, but at least it should mean that the racing constant will be present within the universe again.”

“Ok, but…”

“The fight isn’t over.”  The Captain said, eyes growing dark.  “The Яeverse were a vanguard.  They were built as a means to take over by taking advantage of the universal lynchpin.  It was someone’s intention to either use the Яeverse as a tool to corrupt racing, OR use them as a means to remove the racing lynchpin.  Control or chaos, and I’m not sure which was their true intention.  I need to get back so we can figure things out…”

Ædra nodded and smiled.  “I’ve got just the racers for this.”

The Captain nodded and Ædra started feeling lightheaded.  The golden horizon was glowing brighter.

“Oh, one last thing,” The Captain said cheerfully, “Hope you get used to the new eye.”

“Mm” Ædra grinned, before the light enveloped him and he woke up.

Ædra was sore all over.  He could hear beeping to his side.  He tried to turn his head to see, but he felt a sharp pain in his neck and he remained still.  Things looked strange.  He couldn’t place it until he tried to blink.  He could only feel his left eye move.  He closed it and gave himself a small smile, even though it hurt.

“Your Majesty, are you awake?”

“Yes.  I… I believe I will be fine.” King Ædra replied.

“Your Majesty, your right eye… I- I am sorry.”

“Do not worry.  It was a small sacrifice.” King Ædra said. “Fill me in on everything later.  We have a lot of work to do.”

 

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