Author: Robotguru and Rei
Bikes zoom past the stands as a small crowd cheers. The XGRA were hosting invitational races as riders went all out to earn contracts with the biggest teams in the XGRA championship.
In the stands were scouts watching how the riders handled the relatively slow bikes, they were by no means push bikes but still, they would stand no chance even against the sub sonic class, the lowest class in the XGRA professional circuit. Among these scouts was Alicia Raye, the manager of the all girl team, Vixen. Next to her, wearing the purple team colours of her team, was the rookie sensation, Willow Rosenberg.
"I know you have to be here, but I was due an off day." Willow, evidently, wasn't too happy to be watching the rookies. Alicia would normally have agreed, however, Team Vixen had ridden a rider short since the death of Willow's last teammate, Amy.
"There's two reasons I've "dragged" you here Ms. Rosenberg, firstly, you need to see the talent here just as much as I do."
Willow looks across at Alicia, "And I assume a "firstly" is closely followed by a "secondly"."
Alicia looks grim, "As good as you are Ms. Rosenberg, even if you win, we get outscored if a team manages second and third place, if you are unwilling to work with another partner, you'll soon find that these are the only races you'll take part in, I wanted to wake you up to that fact."
Willow looks a little shocked, sure she had never been much a team rider, but she had always been around the top riders, she did see Alicia's point though. "So, who are you looking at?"
Alicia smiles, point made, "There is one rider I'm keen to sign, a young Ms. Maclay, she did quite well on the Peaks." Alicia was talking about Vostok Peaks in Antarctica, a mountain track that wound it's way through a military base. "Rumour has it that Starcom are after her, there's no way I want to lose her to those guys, and considering most of them are misogynistic pigs, she oughta be good of they're after her.
Starcom were Vixen's main rivals, the most brutal rider in the championship rode for them, Angelus. Willow shivered, remembering that fateful day, the worst thing about it was Amy on the radio, she knew that she was going to die.
The riders raced past the finish line of Dunroth's Folly to start the second and final lap, since this was pure racing with no weapons, the riders could only jostle for position, banging bikes together as they sped along a loose hairpin corner before hitting a tight loop the loop right corner. The commentators kept the crowd informed with a constant play by play.
"We can already see rivalries starting to develop, Maclay and Warren have fought tooth and claw all throughout this series."
"Warren's bike is heavier and he is using this to his advantage, Maclay isn't gonna just let herself get pushed around however, her extra speed is ideal, especially when they meet the speed strips."
Warren's tighter handling gives him an edge as the two lead bikes exit the tighter corners. A full two seconds ahead of the third place bike, Tara isn't about to give up as they pass the giant bronze statue of Hercules that guards the valley. Warren hits a speed strip half a second earlier than Tara but now that the track is straighter, Tara has the advantage.
"This part of the track is ideal for Maclay, we haven't seen a woman with this much attitude since Rosenberg when she was in this situation two seasons ago."
"Don't count Warren out yet, Maclay will need a good two second lead before reaching the split track if the last lap was anything to go by.
"Yeah, that figure of eight crossover is brutal, I remember the collisions as one path crosses another."
"And right before the finish line, it promotes superior handling. Beautiful! Maclay nailed those two speed strips, using every inch of them, that should give her an edge."
Back in the stands, Willow and Alicia watch away on the big screen, sometimes finding it hard to keep track of who is who as all bikes are grey considering that none of them have team colours. Usually, only the top couple in an invitational series will get a contract. In Scavenger City, Warren had steamrolled Tara into a wall leaving her to finish in fifth of the eight hopefuls with Warren in third. At Vostock Peaks, Tara proved that she has the speed and reactions as she won by two seconds over Warren. The points gap in both cases was ten points. This left the clincher between the two of them lying here at Dunroth's Folly with third, another woman, a mere five points behind the two.
"She's doing quite well, The Folly isn't the best track for the smaller bikes," Willow observed.
Tara approached the figure of eight section of the track about a second and a half ahead. In the last lap, she had made a mess of this section, Come on Tara, make it happen. She opts to go right at the first turn leaving her a natural left at the next, she crossed the middle, her back tire being slightly clipped on the way out. Tara fishtails her way into the left turn keeping control by the skin of her teeth, riding up the bank of the track. Half a wheel behind Warren, she hit the one hundred metre sprint to the finish as the fans will on their favourite rider, bit by bit, Tara makes up the gap and the two cross the line in a dead heat.
"I don't think I've ever seen this folks, Maclay and Warren tie the invitational series."
"Both Starcom - the reigning champions - and Vixen are headhunting today, I'd say this rivalry can only intensify."
"With the season soon starting, imagine if two riders already with bad feelings towards each other end up on two teams that hate each other."
"This is all we have time for today folks, from all at SINN sports network, goodnight."
On the track, Alicia runs down to meet Tara as Willow watches on. The pod at the top of Tara's bike opens and Tara presses the button that pops the bike on its stand. She opens her facemask and takes a deep breath before unbuckling and removing her heavy grey helmet and shaking loose her blonde hair.
As Tara begins to stand up, she sees a shadow standing over her. She looks up to see Warren with a look of anger on his face. "You got lucky this time bitch, you won't be so lucky when I come out with all guns blazing."
Tara raises an eyebrow but decides to save the trashtalk as she sees the instantly recognisable face of Vixen boss, Alicia Raye walking towards her. "Ms. Maclay, a word if you will."
Willow sits on her bed in her hotel room, one leg curled under her body, tears running freely down her face. She holds a photo of her former team mate and childhood friend, Amy, showing them in happier times. Before that bastard killed her. A "kill" in the XGRA usually meant the destroying of a bike and the rider relying on life support for the rest of the race, in this case... the crowd may like it when a rider sadistically makes a shield crash before using a powerful weapon but it occasionally ends with a fatality, Amy was one of the unlucky ones. It's my fault, I convinced her to try out. I'll never forgive myself... nor him.
"Two new signings in the XGRA today folks, Tara Maclay has joined Team Vixen to race alongside crowd favourite, Willow Rosenberg. Starcom have snapped up Warren to race alongside the current XGRA Global Champion, Angelus. Tara and Warren already have bad blood and they now take their places in the biggest team rivalry in XGRA history."
Representatives from both teams are around the room as both give a press conference over their newest signings. Already, the tension can be felt. Tara officially signs a contract as she wears the logo of the Vixen sponsors, Inoca, emblazoned across her chest. Willow puts her arm around her as both girls give a "V" sign with their fingers as they smile for the photos. As the cameras turn away, a red and yellow clad figure approaches them.
"So, I have another Vixen playmate huh? Should I kill her first Rosenberg, or should I put you out of your misery?"
Willow's shoulders tense as she hears the voice, remembering the maniacal laughter that had sounded down her radio that terrible day. There was a reason Angelus was nicknamed "Soulless", he had enjoyed himself that race as he took down his one remaining rival for the XGRA crown, permanently, this type of brutality had made him a fan favourite but not many other teams appreciated Starcom's violent tactics.
A green clad woman with blonde hair walks towards the group, "Hello Angelus, hi ladies, just thought I'd scope the competition."
Willow gave the newcomer a grateful smile, though rivalries were fierce on the track, Willow and Buffy had always got along off the track, Buffy knew exactly what she was doing by interrupting this little conversation. "Come to see the new gal who's gonna kick your ass week in week out Buffy? I hear that Terranova think they have a chance against the Vixens this year."
Tara gives a half smile as Willow and Buffy engage in light hearted banter but then shivers as she catches the cold look in Angelus' eyes, a look that says "I am gonna make what remains of your life a living Hell."