The Carpati believe in myths. Their moon has an atmosphere and at night strange strings of light are visible, but sometimes move or disappear. To the Carpati they are light-fairy nests, and many believe that in ancient times a mysterious class of Bitani were sacred warriors, with the light-fairies their bitter enemies. This is a story encouraged by the Bitani, even taught in school, but Andee resents it, until he meets the mysterious Brothers of the Bitani. Are they the true sacred warriors?
“Then how come
they have all the tech and we have nothing?”
don’t want to talk about it.”
whatever, but my history teacher said that if it wasn’t for the Bitani we would
have all died. They saved our civilization."
“Dude, are you
seriously buying that nonsense!”
It’s history. Our civilization was being destroyed and the Bitani came and
“Is he Bitani?”
far as I know.”
Andee shakes his
head defeated. “So many of our people are brainwashed.”
“Why? If it's
not true how do you know?” Mykee counters with a strong inquisitive look.
brother. Things are complicated. You’re young. It’s better you not know for a
“You're still a
kid. You should be a kid. You're 12 years old. No need for you...”
“Yeah but I want
“What good is it
going to do you?”
“I don’t know...
but I know that I want to know.“
“Ha, cute. And
what are you going to do with that knowledge?“
we'll be late. You want to miss the lightship races?"
you really going to take me to the outcrop?"
you're old enough, of course."
then, lets go."
Chapter 1 - First Horizon
red sun is inching towards the horizon, taking up almost the entire western
view, except where it's partially blocked by Carpatia's moon. It's a quarter
the size of the sun and hazy blue-ish white in cold contrast to the red hot sizzling
surface of the sun. Each is moving in opposite directions. The sun setting,
while the moon rising, maddeningly slow in Carpatia's 36 hour daily cycle. It
takes three hours for the massive red sun to move from first horizon, when the
bottom of the sun seems to touch the edge of the planet, to last horizon, when
the last filament of the sun flickers off as it sets completely. Then there is another
four hours of hazy purplish twilight before total darkness.
Mykee. It's first horizon already. We've got an hour before the races start."
The prelims aren't that cool anyway. Plus the lightships look so much better in
grab your snacks?"
the front door, looking up over the house, Andee can see the wall of the city,
Grand Bitania, up on the plateau of Table Mountain, but that's all he can see.
A giant, hundred meter tall blackstone balustrade that surrounds the entire
mountain top and encloses the city. Few Carpati are allowed in the city. Only
those fortunate enough to have found work there, mainly as servants, but all
are sworn to secrecy about what the city is really like. Speak of it down on
the craggy dry slopes of the Carpatian Township, and it could mean banishment
into the desert beyond.
or what?" Andee snaps through the open door. No answer. He turns west leaning
his left shoulder on the sill. His gaze shoots past the side of the house, past
his neighbors, and deep into the west, settling on the broad and jagged
mountainous horizon sizzling in the broiling solar red sea that is Carpatia's
setting sun. His house is midway up the terraced slope of Table Mountain, and
close to the western edge of the Carpati Township which covers the entire north
side base of that massive orange stone mesa. A small part of the township
extends down into the sandy desert Flatlands below.
isn't much different from the other houses in the Township. It's partly dug
into the orange stone cliff, but with the front end built out from the same orange
rock and clay abundant all around.There's a courtyard up front made up of two terraced levels. They are as
wide as the house which is about nine meters. The top terrace extends about
five meters out from the house, and ends at a half meter tall stone wall which
reaches down to the bottom terrace another meter and a half. The terraced wall
is at a slight angle. The top terrace is mostly dirt and split by paved stone
pathways, but there is a vegetable garden on the east, and some wild shrubbery
on the west of the main central path. The lower terrace is almost twice as big.
Most of it is a root vegetable garden with two berry-fruit trees near the
terrace wall. Both about ten meters tall with beautifully spiraling branches
round a center trunk. Each tip has a serrated giant broad leaf just past a
cluster of pinkish and ripe red berry-fruit. The far end of the lower terrace is
exposed rock, and the roof of house below. The entire courtyard, top and
bottom, is enclosed by blackstone walls, on all three sides, cemented together
with orange adobe.
look lost in thoughts more distant than the jagged horizon. His gaze is long,
far beyond the homes and courtyards shrinking down the horizontal row ahead of
him. His eyes move from the fading row of homes, past the edge of the city, and
to the moon rising from behind the furthest mountains in the deep west. They
are the furthest visible mountains of all, so distant they've never been
explored, and lie along the shores of the very distant Great Salt Sea.
captures Andee's full attention. It's a strange moon. Hazy blue with whirls of
what look like giant white clouds, beautifully lit up on the half facing the
sun. The top half, hidden from the sun, is shrouded in darkness. Yet strangely,
there are patches and strings of lights in some parts of the dark side, but not
in others. A mystery Andee has struggled with for most of his life, but never
gotten a satisfactory answer to. The strange moon and its mysterious strings of
lights that come and go, used to be Andee's favorite subject as a kid, but he
is no longer interested in stories of the Light-Fairies that call the moon
home. And he can no longer believe, as so many do, that the glow-flies that
buzz around during the wet season, lighting up the twilight on Carpatia, are
the larva of the moon-fairies come to bring them good fortune.
Andee turns north leaning his upper back against the doorframe, and looks to
his left. His eyes are still a bit lost as he gazes east at row upon row of
homes until they vanish behind the curvature of the mountain. He then focuses
nearby on the two meter wide path going up the slope, just over their east side
blackstone wall. The north-south path is a rough-cut stone staircase sculpted
into the orange rock centuries ago. No wheeled vehicle can climb its uneven and
misshapen steps, only people on foot or the ever-present Alcama, the primary
beast of burden of the Carpati. Most of the roof of their home is part of the
mountain and the next terrace up, which is flat, broad, and primarily used as a
dirt road by the Alcama-caravans carrying goods, or pulling wheeled wagons when
they have to travel east-west.
there are more rows upon rows of homes, dirt roads, and stair paths carved into
the mountain until it becomes too steep. From there on up the slope gets even
steeper for another 500 meters until it reaches the vertical orange-stone
cliffs that rise for at least another 700 meters. At the top of that, the 100 meter
tall black-stone wall of Grand Bitania rises at more than 2000 meters over the
The same pattern
repeats further below Andee's house, with row upon row of houses segmented by east-west
dirt roads, and north-south carved stairpaths reaching down to the Flatlands
where the markets, factories, and farms are to be found.
I'm ready." Mykee finally answers as he rushes out of the house.
The crowd is
gathering. The lightship races are Carpatia's most exciting event. Held thought
the year, the circuit starts on the unpopulated south side of the mountain and
then rounds towards the west where it winds between the Crags. The Crags are
giant pillars of stone, some up to 2000 meters tall, and look like they were once
part of table mountain when it stretched westward as a single mountain range.
Now long ago eroded it is split up into canyons and mesas. Beyond the Crags in
the distant west, and only visible from high up on table mountain, lies the
Great Salt Sea. Thirty kilometers of the circuit races right above the water.
On calm days it is one of the fastest parts of the race, but when the winds
pick up, or better yet, in the cold season during storms, waves can reach ten
to fifteen meters, and lightships occasionally get churned and mangled in the
rough waters. But best of all is when top notch pilots surf the waves in their
floating lightships, sometimes vanishing into water barrels only to shoot out of
the other end at 600km per hour.
remember it being this far." Mykee mumbles releasing a deep breath after
looking down from the precarious ledge, on the western side of table mountain,
where they are climbing. Mykee and his brother are nearly at the base of the
sheer wall of the mesa and still heading higher on a narrow ledge, barely wide
enough for a single man.
that every time." Andee responds looking back over his shoulder.
"No I don't."
during the last races? Didn't you need to stop three times before we got
"Why is this outcrop so far?" Then trips over a boulder. "See,
and it's dangerous. What if I fall off the side of this cliff?"
little brother. When I was your age I ran up these cliffs."
nickname wasn't Leaping Ghimur for nothing."
have no interest in climbing the sides of mountains like those little monkeys.
These rocks are their home, not mine."
you're missing out. Ghimpour is the most fun you could possibly have."
you like breaking bones."
"Once. I broke
my leg once. Man, when I was your age, I would spend all day up here."
Andee suddenly gets nostalgic. "Me, Gono, and Nayaa, we always came up with
the best games. The others couldn't keep up with us. We came up with so many
games and contests, climbing, jumping..."
it!" Mykee yells cutting Andee in mid sentence, who looks back at his
little brother. Mykee is getting up from his knees.
we stay down and watch the race on the giant Vidrom like civilized
people?" Mykee snarls flustered as he brushes the dust of his pants.
you can do that if you want. I like to see the races from up here. With my
trusty binoculars, I can see the best parts of the circuit. What's better than
the stands of West Market, under an umbrella, drinking ice cold
you become such a glutton for luxury?" Andee starts back up the trail.
Mykee begrudgingly follows. "Plus, the sun is already half set, what do
you need an umbrella for?"
and the sun is huge, if you didn't notice. And this half is just as hot as the
other half." Andee smiles and shakes his head. Mykee continues. "I
could really use an ice cold berry-fizz right now. This crazy hike is making me
funny little guy."
"Why did we
only bring water?"
water is free. Do we have credits for berry-fizz?"
Kicking a rock
as he steps Mykee looks down the precipice next to his feet with a sad pout.
we're almost there." Andee points to a large stone outcrop with a couple of
dozen people already on it. "And look, I think that's Gono, maybe he
brought his little brother with him."
"I hope not."
thought he was your friend?"
we were kids."
don't play together any more?"
"I'm 13, I
don't play big brother." Mykee responds with sardonic seriousness.
you don't hang out with him any more?"
I'm a dork. He plays sports. I like... It doesn't matter."
well... we'll be focused on the races anyway."
Andee and Mykee
reach the outcrop and join the crowd of guys and girls, most of whom are in
their late teens or early twenties. Some brought alcohol with them so there is
a real party atmosphere for watching the races from this very high and
remember the number one rule. Don't drink anything you didn't bring yourself.
away from the edge, no matter what. Remember last year?"
drunk idiot accidentally knocked a kid over the edge."
"This is a
fun spot, but it can get out of hand sometimes."
worry, I got my private lounge. I'll be there if you need me."
I'm a hang with Gono. Yell if you need me."
With that, Mykee
heads up the sheer wall to a large horizontal cut in the rock about three
meters above everyone else. After struggling a bit, he enters the well worn balcony
and settles into it like a lounge carved out rock. It's clear he's been there
before. He takes in the wide open south-western view, while the back of his
'stone lounge' shields him from view below. Down on the outcrop Andee makes his
way to Gono, who is hanging out with a group of friends.
"I told you
he'd be here." Gono announces joyful.
surprised. I thought you dropped out of school cuz you didn't want to hang with
us any more." Dirin responds while flicking his long hair out of his eyes
with a flip of his head.
just you." Andee counters dismissively.
you just couldn't handle it." Dirin responds with a smirk.
what? Being a mindless drone. Learning the same nonsense year after year, and
being expected to kiss ass. You're a natural ass kisser, not me. I want a real
education is real. Maybe you're not smart enough." Dirin responds,
aggressively taking a step forward.
dudes. If you two still can't get along I'll have to break up this party. Come
on Andee, I need to talk to you." Gono cuts the tension and pulls him
how we used to talk about getting jobs in up in Bitania, live in the city, and
talked about it a bit."
Gono comments then stares at Andee with anticipation.
OK." Andee responds dismissively.
seriously? You can't even let me have this?" Gono tenses up frustrated.
point? They tell you they'll hire but they won't. I've never seen them hire
anyone under forty. They're just stringing you along."
not. Remember Jovial Jim?"
you met him, I'm sure. He used to work on my dad's farm. Weird guy. Used to
sing and smile all day... all jovial for no reason. He used to prune the trees
and make weird sculptures out of them, remember?"
"OK yeah, I
think I met him once or twice."
what?" Andee repeats, but Gono lifts up his brows as if expecting Andee to
already know. "Your little suspense is not working, unless you're trying
to piss me off. What are you getting at?"
hired up in the city, and he's twenty-eight."
that confirms it."
Gono reacts flustered.
telling you. They're not serious. Why would they hire that weirdo and not guys
they're not? Besides you."
If this thing with Jovial is true, than he's the only one. Have you ever heard
of anyone else under 40?"
says that many people got jobs up there before 40, and even get to move there
permanently after they turned forty. He said half the people he knew as a kid,
now live up there, and he hasn't seen them in years."
heard of such a thing."
don't do it as much now... but they used to."
did all those people my dad knew go?"
They were probably banished. The Bitani don't give us anything without taking
Gono shakes his
head. "I don't know where you're getting these crazy ideas, but I got mine
straight from the Jovial's mouth. Sure the guy's weird, but he worked for my
father for years, and I'm telling you, now he works in the city. Even my father
was happy to let him go for such good fortune, and he was a great worker. We
still haven't found a good replacement. Listen, last time I talked to him he
promised he would try to convince his employer to hire me too. Up in the
of gardening, landscaping they call it?"
Something to do with growing plants."
city?" Andee reacts with a suspicious glare.
know, whatever, but we both know the Bitani don't do farming. We grow all their
food, but apparently they like plants. And you know Carpati workers aren't
supposed to talk about the city, but Jim, well..."
He sees things in his own simple way so he had no problem telling me all about
you got my interest."
the city like? What did tell you?"
been off the main property, but basically he says that the guy's house is huge,
and surrounded by green plants. They're everywhere. Plants, flowers, all kinds
of strange and beautiful shrubs that don't grow down here. And trees, lots and
lots of trees, some of them huge."
the Bitani grow fruit?"
they grow trees."
"I know, I
thought the same thing at first, but according to Jim they grow them because
they are beautiful and that's why they like them, not for the fruit. They've
got everything they need, so they grow them just to look at them. Well, they
don't grow them, they hire us, people like Jim, and you and me, to take care of
them. The Bitani, they just look at them."
you're losing me."
telling you man, I'm not lying." Gono raises his voice frustrated.
away. "You know what, fine. If this is for real then maybe you'll get to
see it with your own eyes, but I really don't care right now. I just want to
watch the races and enjoy the evening."
really have changed. You used to be a cool guy. Maybe Dirin is right... fine
man. If you're not interested, then you're not interested. Have fun watching
the races on your own." And with clear disappointment Gono walks away to
rejoin his friends. Andee follows him with his eyes. He seems conflicted. He
looks down at his foot. With the tip of his right toe he's been mindlessly
churning the dirt beneath. He looks back up, takes a deep breath, and glances
at Gono and his friends. He was one of them once. With his foot still churning
the dirt, he remembers a time when they had no worries, only dreams. Dreams of
being lightship pilots and living up in the city. Dreams. He looks back at his
old group of friends and knows he can no longer dream like that.
'The hell with
it!' He hears the though as a yell in his own head, then looks up the cliff to
his little brother's hideout. It's the perfect spot. Open to the southwest, it
has a clear view right down the Old Road, or at least that's what it's called.
Some believe that long ago it was a road that led right up the mountain into
the city, but nobody respectable though, only the troublemakers think so. Maybe
it was, maybe not. It certainly doesn't look like a road any more. Just an
uneven rough stone trail, admittedly a very board trail, over 10 meters wide, and
heading up the side of the mountain, starting on its south side. Whether it was
a road once or not, doesn't matter. It's now one of the first stages of the
race. Andee remembers the race. That's why he's here... the race! It was one
dream that he could still take comfort in. It didn't matter that he could never
be a pilot. He already accepted that. But he could still watch the races and see
those amazing floating lightships with his own eyes.
He looks past
the crowd, past the edge of the outcrop at the floating pylons over the old
road. They hover 10 meters above ground and are spaced one kilometer apart.
Each vertical cylinder is two meters tall and half a meter wide. The lower half
of the cylinder has bands of colored lights. Red is smack in the middle, and
the only one currently lit up, meaning there is no race in progress. There is
only one other band of light above red, and that's the yellow warning signal during
crashes, or other issues. The rest of the lights run below red in bands from purple,
orange, white, soft green and then bright green at the very bottom which means
the race is on.
The pylons are
in fact the race course. Pilots have hover directly beneath them or stick close
to them. The further away a lightship veers from a pylon the more points are
lost. Not only are they racing against opponents, but to guarantee a win a
pilot has to pass under each pylon no further than 10 meters out on either
side. It is not uncommon for a pilot who finished first to lose the race
because of veering too far off circuit, incurring penalty points. With every 10
meters out from a pylon, a point is lost per pylon, and with 200 pylons, that can
equal to a lot of lost points. Even with the rule of 1 second for every 100
points, over a full race, especially a 4 hour championship race, many seconds can
be lost on penalty points.
As he walks out
of the crowd the red glow of the nearest pylon lights up a memory in his mind
as fresh as the moment he lived it. It was the first time he saw a lightship up
close. It happened four years earlier in the West Market, when he was Mykee's age.
Old Man Tom took him to see the races, and there, on the edge of the market,
next to the official Carpati stands, the lightship of Carpatia's greatest
champion was on display. Hektor was a legend, but unfortunately for Andee the
champion was long ago retired. For ten years running Hektor was the undisputed
winner of every championship race. Now his actual lightship was there to be
seen in the West Market. To thirteen year old Andee, it was a sight to behold.
The old and
retired lightship was a work of art, to Andee's eyes, that seemed to be powered
by magic itself. It floated a meter off the ground on an green pillow of light.
It was over six meters long with the front half three meters wide. The front
was made of two parallel prongs that came together in the center, around the
pilot's bubble, then tapered into one prong at the back. It was shaped somewhat
like a tuning fork, but with vertical canards, one each up front, and a single at
the back. The pilot's bubble was hexagonal, made of flat panes of glass in
metal frames. Physically separate from the light re-generators, it was attached
at the split of the "tuning fork" by shock absorbers. The lightship
was black with green accents and racing stripes. It was one of the few
lightships with hardly any curves, only hard angular edges.
Staring at the
wall of rock ahead, absent minded and lost in his memory, Andee can see the lightship
in his mind's eye. For a moment, the outcrop, the pylons, all of it disappear.
In front of him is not just a memory, but the lightship. He can literally see
it, as if physically right there, right now, on the outcrop, right in front of
him, but... there's something else. A man. But he's not in the memory, yet a
man, his face hidden in a blue hood, and wearing a draping blue robe, is
standing on the other side of Hektor's lightship, and staring at Andee. Startled,
Andee shivers shaking his head and widening his eyes snapping out of his daydream...
but there's no one there! Taken aback, he concentrates on the spot where he thought
he saw the man, but no one's there. Nor even anyone near by. He spastically
starts looking around. Everyone is gathered at the southern edge of the outcrop
for the best view. There is no one remotely close enough to have stood where
the man was just a fraction of a second before.
Weird." He mumbles out loud, his brow stiffened into a frown. He can't
help but continue to look around. After a moment he stops his search, takes a
deep resigned breath, and shakes off the strange event. He looks up to Mykee's
hidden spot. A smirk of a smile softens his face. He heads towards his brother.
His mind quickly goes back to the awe he felt when he was thirteen. 'How could
those lightships float in the air like that?' His internal dialogue quickly
takes over. He remembers trying to listen for some kind of engine noise that
day, but there was nothing, only silence. 'And the light pillow?' It was both
beautiful and eerie, streaming down from the underside of the lightship like
green misty rain. It wasn't just plain light, it seemed to streak, to stream,
to move and spark, so strange, yet so beautiful and... but a hard bump into
Andee's left shoulder stops him in his tracks--snapping his mind back in focus.
As it does, he notices a faint image of a blue hooded man flash past his left
out of the corner of his eye.
man, I..." Andee apologizes to the man he bumped into, quickly turning
towards him, only to be left staggered, stiff, jaw-dropped, and speechless. He
is looking at the spot, a spot just a foot away from him, where the man he
bumped should be... but no one. There is nobody there. In fact, there isn't
anyone even close enough to have bumped into. He spins around bewildered.
hell?" Andee blurbs out loud as he makes a second, slower, three sixty on
the spot. 'OK, I swear I saw a guy in a blue hood. I just bumped into him.' He
hears himself in his own head. He continues looking around while his internal
dialogue goes berserk. 'What the hell did I bump into? Am I crazy?' Andee's
face contorts into a grimace of confusion.
He is still
looking around hoping to find the man in the blue hood. He looks at his
shoulder. 'Did I imagine... No. The bump was hard. It stopped me. And the blue
hood. I wasn't looking at it, but... damn-it, I saw it! I saw it out of the
corner of my eye, just as I bumped into him. Where the hell is he?' Andee looks
around a bit more, but nothing. No one on the outcrop has anything even
resembling a blue hood, never mind a long blue robe.
rushes to the stone wall and starts climbing up to Mykee. "Is there room
for one more up there?" Andee's voice announces his presence a moment
before he comes into Mykee's view.
there's room. What happened? Why aren't you hanging out with Gono and your old
"I want to
hang out with you."
me a favor. Can you look down over the crowd?"
And he turns to look over his right shoulder.
see anyone wearing a bright blue hood and robe, or something like that down
Mykee frowns at
Andee, but then inspects the crowd below. There's about 60 people on the large
outcrop. He looks and looks. Everyone's got variations of the typical Carpati
style of pants and shirts. Most are earth toned, only a few are colorful, and
most are made of a combination of leather and linen. Some are solid, but many
are made of inch wide strips cross-woven either in a horizontal mesh, or
diagonal. Many are also wearing the typical desert jacket that's so common
among the Carpati, which does have a hood, but a stiff wide hood that hangs
flat against the upper back and shoulders. The jackets are short, ending above
the waist, but with a draping cape hanging from under the 'hood', varied in
length. The jackets too are cross-weaved and in earth tones like the Alcama
leather they're made from. There's not a single blue one in sight.
see it. Who you looking for?"
know. It's just... really strange, never mind."
Mykee looks at
him a bit perplexed, then shrugs his shoulders and goes back to the previous
happened with Gono?"
it's cool up here. You know, this is the best seat in the house."
"I do know.
Why do you think I sit here? Everyone else just wants to party. I'm here for
the races. You can almost see the start, well not really, but it starts down
there, right around that hill. After they start, they all come up the old road
directly at us, and then past us just below, through that vertical turn, before
they head back down towards the Crags. Lots of crashes happen here."
little brother. This used to be my spot before you inherited it."
How come you never sit here anymore?"
said, in the past it was more about hanging with my friends and partying."
Mykee nods, then
with a more somber voice asks a completely different question.
ever come here with dad?"
Andee gives him
a long glare. He almost seems annoyed, but then quickly softens his face.
did." He finally answers nodding his head in agreement.
Why didn't you tell me this before?"
on man, you're too young for that. What's the need for dumb language like that?
Especially when we're talking about dad."
now I'm mad."
But Mykee cuts himself off.
dad and I came up here to see the races?"
Mykee responds with a pout.
little brother. I know you never had your chance. A day doesn't go by that I
don't think about him."
know why I don't sit here any more?"
was dad's spot."
just messing with me."
"No. I was
young. Real young. Maybe only four or five when dad first brought me here, and
this is exactly where he sat. Right here, in fact right where you're sitting.
He sat there and held me in his arms."
never told me this before, because..."
know. We don't talk about dad. I didn't want to say something and..."
so. I was really young. I don't even really remember him, but I do remember his
face. I'll never forget his face."
will I. Hey, you want to know something else?"
you're leaning back, notice how comfortable it is?"
coming to this spot when he was a kid, like us. He found this spot way back
then, and used greystone to carve that lounge shape in this old crevice. That's
why it's so comfortable."
messing with me I swear I'll kick you in the crotch, and ring your bells for
the next three days."
"Why do you
think I'm making it up?"
But it's making me mad."
our spot man, yours, mine, and Dad's, forever."
away. He seems agitated, uncomfortable.
talk about it then, but see, that's why I never said anything before."
Both look away
for a moment. The sounds of drums and sirens echo in the distance. It's
pre-start. It means there is a half hour of music, introductions, and clips of
past races for those watching the giant vidroms down in the markets. Andee,
Mykee, and the rest on that outcrop have to settle for the faint echoes that
are the actual sounds coming from the south side of the mountain. That's where
the Bitani stands are, at the start and finish line of the race. Carpati are
not allowed anywhere near the Bitani stands.
why you always wanted to watch the races from here?" Mykee's voice
startles Andee interrupting his thoughts.
Yeah, well, I don't know."
"I get it.
It's just that... well, in the market you can see the pre-start on the vidrom,
and hear the announcers and all that. They tell you who the racers are... and
you know. Here... we're just high up on a rock."
though you loved to watch the races from here. You were so excited when I
started bringing you."
last year, after years of begging you, but now..."
"It's cool from
here too, and sometimes people have the portable vidrom's but..."
guy right there, he's got one." Andee points forcing Mykee to turn and
look over his shoulder at a guy with a flat panel display in hand.
but look at that crowd around him." Mykee counters turning back.
you don't have to come. I'm sure Old Man Tom would be happy to take to the
stands in the west market next time."
mean... well... I didn't know dad used to come here. That makes it a little
is why I come here, because of Dad, but the views are pretty good. And we both
have binoculars so we'll see the lightships for most the first half of the
circuit, well except for the canyons and caves in the Inner Crags. Plus, I know
all the racers. You want to know anything about them, just ask."
who's in the first lineup?"
that's not what I meant."
you know them all."
screwing around. You know it's only the main race that counts. It's 3 laps, and
every pilot is a legend. The first race is single lap and half the guys are
first timers, most of which don't even finish."
how do the lightships work?"
would I know?"
Hektor's lightship up close. I've never seen that."
little brother, next time they bring Hektor's lightship to West Market, trust
me, we'll be there, watching the races... hell, from on top of the lightship."
would be funny. They would banish us if we did that. Hey, why haven't they done
"I guess I
didn't notice how it works?"
little brother, but no."
don't understand how they get to float in the air like that. Nothing floats in
the air. Even bats have to flap their wings. If they stop they fall like rocks.
Even the tiny insects, they all have to flap their wings, but lightships, they
just float... like magic."
"So do vidroms
and the pylons." Andee reminds Mykee.
but how? How do the Bitani do that?"
I think you're more interested in how they work than the races."
wrong with that?"
other than disappointment."
think I'll ever be able to figure it out?"
sure, but I've never heard of a Carpati that knows how these lightships
know how it worked, he was just a pilot. He had a whole crew of Bitani who took
care of the lightship."
"But he was
do you trust the Bitani?"
"I hope you're
right..." A loud echo from a siren interrupts Andee. "Ah there it is!
That's the horn for the first race." Andee comments excited as the yellow
warning light starts flashing on all the pylons. It is then followed by a
sequence of flowing lights starting from the center of the pylon with red,
followed by orange, changing to yellow, white, then light green, and than to a
hard solid green at the very bottom. This will be the color sequence that will
start the race.
"Only a few
minutes now and we'll see them coming round the hill and right up at us."
Andee blurbs becoming more and more excited.
"I wish we
had a vidrom so we could see who's racing."
brother, look down there." Andee points down past the south edge of the
outcrop. This is the point where the circuit takes a sharp turn back down after
a straight shot up the mountain on the Old Road. It's a treacherous turn on the
south face of the outcrop, infamous in fact, called the Tombstone Turn. It
redirects the race back down at an extremely steep-near vertical fall before it
straightens out following the contour of the base of table mountain into the
Flatlands. There, the lightships now moving at near full speed of over 600kph,
head into The Long Curve ahead of the Carpati viewing stands. It circles around
the West Market, before the course heads into the Crags, which is full of
canyons and tunnels.
lounge, Andee and Mykee not only have a perfect view of the climb up the Old
Road, but also of the steep Tombstone Turn which is literally on the south wall
of their vertical stone outcrop. It's a sharp U-turn that forces the lightships
sideways, literally 'riding on the wall', to head back down the dizzyingly
steep slope towards the market. The people on the outcrop will lose sight of the
lightships for a moment since the lightships turn on the vertical wall just
below their feet, but from their lounge, Andee and Mykee will have a perfect
lateral view of the action happening about 20 to 30 meters below them.
frantically trying to follow Andee's pointing finger.
past the edge of the outcrop, between The Long Curve and stands, down on the
left. That giant vidrom, hovering across from the west market. It's visible
from here now. It's a bit at an angle, but I bet you can read the names of the
racers on there."
right! I see it. It's never been visible from here before."
Mykee jumps on
his seat excited, puts up his binoculars and scans the area. Andee does the
not yet." Mykee answers with feverish urgency in his words. "There,
there, I got it!" He adjusts the focus wheel on his eyepiece. "I see
the screen. I can read the names." A moment later. "Don't recognize a
single one of them."
look they're showing the lightships in the 1st lineup! Oh my god, look at 15!
It's a junker! It looks like it was made out of parts from Old Man Tom's
junkyard." After a pause. "You think the pilot is Carpati?"
We haven't had a Carpati in the races in a long time." Andee answers mater
what I hear, but where is he now?"
know. Maybe living the good life up in the City--but even with a junker I hope
the pilot is Carpati."
I'm sure of it."
"If he was
everyone would be talking about it, no?"
shrugs his shoulders in response.
"Plus, I've seen junkers piloted by
Bitani before, especially in the prelims." Andee continues.
all the Bitani were rich."
brother, I have no idea what goes on up there in their mountain top cites, but
many of these preliminary racers pilot some real junkers."
from his binoculars at Andee. "How many cities are there?"
know." Andee answers still focused on the vidrom through his binoculars.
"Supposedly just this one, but Old Tom has seen another."
don't they tell us this in school?"
question I've asked many times?"
why you quit school?"
"One of the
reasons." As Andy answers, Mykee looks back through his binoculars.
look at Ship1, Oh My God!"
is beautiful!" Andee muses to himself.
this was just a prelim race? Who's this guy with such a fancy lightship?"
Holding on tight
to their binoculars both brothers are locked on the giant hovering vidrom far bellow.
An image of a young guy with his blonde hair sweeping over to one side, like a
lazy crest of a rooster, and dressed from the neck down in an all white leather
pilot's suit, appears on screen. He raises his helmet high up in the air as the
shot cuts away to the crowds cheering before they focus back on the young man
the pilot?" Mykee asks bewildered. "Dude, the guy is the same age as
you. I didn't know 16 year olds could be pilots."
and by the way, I'm 17 now."
name is Ricio Brett. I guess he probably is 18."
The image cuts
to the announcers.
brother can you lip read?"
can." Andee focuses on the lips of the two sharp suited announcers, but
it's futile. He then focuses on the montage running on the background screen
between the announcers. It shows the young man piloting his beautiful
lightship, training, his crew working on it, and so on. Eventually the video
montage turns into a photo sequence and stops on an image that looks like a
like his family... maybe." Mykee blurbs out. "The old guy with the
beard. You think that's the dad?"
Hmm, that's odd."
dad? You know who he is?"
"No, but he
does look familiar."
they're showing his lightship again. It's got a white light-pillow beneath. And
it sparks, look! It's like little lighting bolts. That's really odd.
Light-pillow's are usually either red, green, or blue, and look like mist of
water not lightning. You think that means it has more power?"
"I wish I
it does. I think the secret is in the light. I think that's how they float.
That light is like..."
know... like an energy. And it makes the lightship float and move and
everything.Look! It's called the Silver
Sickle. Man that thing is beautiful. Oh look, now they're showing the other
watch quietly as the specs of each lightship is broadcast on the giant viewer.
only 9 racers. I hope the next race has all 15 spots taken." Andee blurbs
Out of the 9
lightships 1 and 15 are the most unique, each for different reasons. Lightship1,
the Silver Sickle is all white, shiny, and brand new. It's decorated with
sparkling silver racing stripes and designs. The front is broad and rounded in
the shape of a horizontal sickle, with both points extending back. The body flows
from the center of the sickle in long sleek organic curves around the pilot's
obsidian black bubble. At the back, it turns into a flat horizontal wing with pointy
tips on the outer edges. The pilot's egg-shaped bubble is encased in the center
of the body with views above and below the seat. The lightship floats a meter above
ground on a glowing pillow of hazy, but sparkling white light with occasional
electric arcs between it and the ground. The light seems to be the mechanism
keeping this lightship in the air. It is without question the most elegant and
impressive of all the lightships in the lineup.
the other hand is a Junker with no bubble at all. The pilot is completely
exposed, with only his suit and helmet protecting him from the heat, wind,
dust, and sand at speeds reaching 600 kilometers per hour. He does have a front
windscreen, and metal flares on either side around the pilot for some
protection against the elements, but he is still mostly exposed. The center
body of the lightship is a long cylinder with the pilot startling it, leaning
forward as if riding a motorbike. At the front and back there are two more cylindrical
light engines forming T shapes at both ends, both of different sizes. The front
one is wider, but the rear one is thicker. Both light engines have hand-forged
bent metal shields over them. The lightship looks like a hodgepodge of formerly
crashed parts hobbled together to create this masterpiece.
The rest of the lightships
are variations in between. Lightship4 is a simple teardrop, larger in the front
and tapering to a point in the back. It's the color of rust, because it's
completely rusted. Lightship5 is made up of two four meter long parallel
cylinders that house the engines, and produce the purplish-blue glow beneath.
Between them, the pilot's bubble is attached to both cylinders by flexible
arms. The lightship is all black including the perfectly spherical bubble in
the center, but it does have a triangular metal mohawk pointing backwards as a
fin. The solid black metal bubble has a vertical window crossed by another
horizontal one, forming a perfect glass cross up front. Lightship6 is shaped
somewhat like a classic streamliner locomotive. The center is vertically taller
than wide from front to end, and flanked by its engines on both sides, making
the bottom half wider. The pilot's bubble is right up front, in the
"nose" of the lightship. Lightship8 is the same as ship4, a teardrop
shape but clean and glistening in black with chrome grills up front and around
the sides. Lightship9 looks exactly like an almond, a blue almond with a bubble
at the very back. Lightship10 is the smallest and a perfect round saucer with a
transparent bubble in the middle. Lightship13 is the second biggest after ship6,
shaped like a spear point with a pilots bubble towards the end flanked by two
light engines on either side. Both engines have small rounded vertical canards
with a large vertical one behind the bubble. The lightship is gray with black
racing stripes and accents.
"Who do you
think is going to win?"
Andee answers mater of fact.
joking, the junker? I think it's going to be 1."
"A fancy lightship
is no guarantee. A good pilot in a junker will outrace a mediocre one in the
best lightship. Its not just about speed."
the Long Straight after the Salt Sea. That's all speed."
I prefer the twists, turns, and blind corners of the canyons and dunes."
the course is pretty hardcore, especially the Crags." Mykee answers
shaking his head in agreement.
graveyard, that's what some people call the Crags. That's why there hasn't been
a race without a crash in more than four years."
crashes are pretty cool."
Another echo of
what sounds like a distant horn goes off. The yellow warning lights on the
pylons flash three times.
go, they're lined up." Andee blurts out.
"I know, I
know, I've been watching the giant vidrom this whole time."
The pylons light
up bright in a kaleidoscope of colors.
the countdown is up." Andee blurts out as he stares at the vidrom through
his binoculars. Above the old road the pylons fade to dark for a moment and
then the top red light shines bright followed by the sequence.
orange, yellow, white, and greeeen!" Mykee counts down the lights to
off, little brother, they're off! They should be coming around the corner any
be a minute." Mykee answers as he takes away his binoculars.
your precise measurements." Andee speaks from behind his binoculars still
watching the vidrom. " Lightship5 is pulling ahead with Lightship13 right
behind. It looks like it's going to be Lightship5 coming around the corner any
"Man, 1 is
falling behind. It's already in fifth position." Mykee resigns
disappointed as he focuses back on the vidrom below. "Here they come, here
they come!" Mykee shouts as Lightship5 is first to round the corner.
At more than
four kilometers away, the lightships look small but they can be clearly seen.
Lightship5 and Lightship13 are up front fighting for first spot with the rest
on their heels. Junker 15 is already trailing last behind the battling cluster.
Look!" Mykee shouts. "It's ship1! It's ship1! He's pulling ahead!
He's passing. He just passed ship10, and he's coming up on ship6."
"I see it
brother, I see it."
"I told you
he's going to win-look! He just passed 6. He's in third place and moving
faster, he's gaining on 13. Holly crap, he's going to pass 13."
He just passed 13! He's in second place!"
you mean slow down, he's gon'a pass ship5, he's gon'a take the lead!"
he's coming up too fast on Tombstone. He's passing cuz everyone else is slowing
"He got it!
Lightship 1 is up front now!" Mykee shouts in excitement.
he's not slowing down! He needs to slow down!" Andee shouts concerned.
"Mykee squat down man, this dude is going to crash right into us!"
are now moving at more than 300 kilometers per hour, with lightship 1 quickly
"Oh my God, here he comes, here he comes!
takes the turn hard, heading up on the sheer wall vertically, but his momentum
is just too great. As he tries to turn back down, the lightship skids sideways at
400kph right up the wall. A second later it spins over, and the top of the lightship
smashes into the southern edge of the outcrop tearing the lightship to pieces
while breaking off chunks of rock from the edge. The impact is so brutal debris
and dust fly up dozens of meters into the air with thundering noise, while chucks
of rock are now falling like a storm of stone right onto the circuit and into
the incoming lightships. The spectators on the southern edge are knocked back,
both by the impact, and their shocked reactions of it happening just meters
under their feet. All either leap back, or are thrust backwards, falling to the
The first three
lightships, being directly behind lightship1, 5, 13, and 6, are through before
the storm of stone, but lightship10 gets slammed hard by flying boulders and
the saucer spins out of control, crashing into the rock below. It skids like a
mad sled down the steep and rough slope, but stays in one pierce.
The next two lightships are just as unlucky
and are damaged simultaneously. A boulder smashes right through the front windshield
of lightship4 causing it to immediately crash a fraction of second after
lightship10. Smaller rocks and boulders smash into lightship9 some of which get
into the engine. Smoke bellows from the lightship and it starts wobbling. Still
moving fast, it's out control, and hits a protruding stone causing it to spin
overhead tumbling violently down the slope breaking into thousands of pieces.
Lightship8 passed through the stone storm untouched, by sheer luck, not any
particular pilot skill, and is now in fourth place. Lightship15 finally chugs
along unharmed as it passes by all the carnage in last place.
On the outcrop,
the spectators survived only by the skin of their teeth. By some miracle not a
single one was seriously hurt even though many were only an arm's length from
the debris flying upward during the impact. Dust, rocks, and lightship parts,
arenow starting to rain down. The
spectators on the outcrop are beginning to scramble and panic.
Mykee shouts pointing up in the air. "That's the bubble! It's still
intact. Oh no, the pilot!" Mykee cuts himself off as he watches the
bubble, with the pilot still inside, come to a stop from its vertical thrust
only to then accelerate back down speeding faster and faster towards the jagged
edges of the cliff below.