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The Pro


He knew the life of a professional racer was hard, but he didn’t expect to be dodging lasers and missiles.

Zane Silvering, the youngest professional racer in the Antigravity Racing League, competes with his powerful craft on vertigo-inducing rollercoaster circuits across the galaxy.

He signed up for the toughest racing in the universe, and in this season he has a new coach, who is more like an army drill instructor, and new teammates, who seem more like enemies. Soon Zane finds himself out of the racing lineup and at odds with his girlfriend.

To get a chance at the championship, he must navigate intergenerational power-games, use his flying skills in dogfights with killing lasers, deal with the shady women of his past and, of course, beat the best of the universe on the track.

When it all comes together, Zane must make a hard decision: how far is he willing to go?

If you like underdog stories, awe-inspiring galactic trekking, and high-adrenaline racing (think F1 in space), The Pro will keep you strapped to your seat until the finish line.

Print length: 350 pages
Audiobook length: 8 hrs 53 minutes digitally narrated
Audiobook sample:

Chapter One: Amera

Zane’s back pushed hard against the seat of Kispeed Arrow One as he let his engines roar unencumbered. The engineering marvel under him whizzed over the winding metal track, entering sonic speed while hovering a mere three metres above the surface.

Their lap times in practice had put Zane into second place, on the front row with Martina Trudnak. She had a better start than Zane and took the lead before the first corner.

Zane’s wasn’t bad either, so he retained second place, tight on Trudnak’s tail, with Christian Avardeur tailing him. Joanna was fourth.

They would run a full race of forty laps, so anything could happen.

The ARL season 702 was about to begin, and merged teams Kispeed and Xorand had a live test run on the Amera circuit—Zane’s home race, and the one that had claimed his father’s life.

Now Zane raced for the spot in the racing line-up. The first race of the season would be on Fendra in just a few weeks. The first internal qualification, this race would put the racers in order as a precedent for the entire season with the merged teams.

Zane had but one goal. To win.

He raced with Joanna Locksloe, still the most popular racer in the whole league based on the media coverage. Her relationship with Matt Clay, part of last year’s winning team, Reckoner, had all the passion and drama the public craved, and with everything that had happened with her family, she was still the number one news item. Last season had been rough for her, but Zane knew she was a fighter and respected her on the track.

Together they were the favourites from the Kispeed side. The favourites from Xorand were Martina Trudnak and Christian Avardeur.

Christian was the son of Benno Avardeur, Xorand’s former owner. One of the top contenders, he was known as a hothead on and off the track. The sports network called him the Businessman, and Christian, loving the game, did everything to play the part. He made deals fast and piloted even faster. Last season he had finished second in the personal standings, losing only to Matt Clay. His partner, Martina ‘The Announcer’ Trudnak, was a living encyclopaedia of racing knowledge and one of the strongest women in the league.

In addition, from Kispeed’s side, the qualifying race included Kristy Ripperstop with Dorian Mut, and Shonda Shannan with Trent Hood, who had been their star during the last season until his accident, from which he was still recovering. And from Xorand they had Rez Husma and Cadera Celtenara.

Ten craft on the track was almost like an actual race. The Xorand racers piloted Xorand’s particular craft, which were heavier (and thus more powerful, but less nimble) than the Kispeed Arrows, but they, too, wore Kispeed colours. The intent was to engineer a new craft, one that combined the best of both worlds; that would take a while, however, so in this season, the plan was to use both craft.

In the league, every team provided two racers, one male and one female. If they arrived at the finish line in this order, he would race with Martina Trudnak. That wouldn’t be bad, but he wanted Joanna to be his teammate. It was a team sport, after all, so he would need to keep his spot and pull Joanna up. Then again, Trudnak could do the same with Avardeur, and because she had the lead, it would benefit him more.

Unlike most racing, the team scores mattered above all in the ARL, although the individual scores were a token of bragging rights. The teammates could talk to each other during the race for executing various tactics, the biggest one being the light tow. When both racers engaged the light tow, it would pull the slower one up on max speed with inertial dampeners protecting the pilot. It worked for just five seconds (with the maximum load) and could only be used once in a race. Often the pilots used it as a last resort towards the end of the race, shuffling the whole pack in the last few laps, but sometimes the leader used it earlier in the race to get their lagging team member into second place and block any attempts by the competition to overtake.

Zane had missed the sonic speeds of the ARL craft during his holidays; then it had been training, so this was his first race with real craft, no simulators, and he loved the fast-paced action.

They sped through the corners, following each other with margins so small that any mistake would have their shields sparkling against each other or the side railings.

Zane focused on intimidating Trudnak before him. The world around him disappeared as he yielded to the flow of tight corners, applied the spiral and yaw to optimise his lines, and changed polarities with clockwork precision.

Martina Trudnak was good, and she left him no openings. Often, she gained distance, which Zane soon got back. Zane had to find a weakness, but so far, he hadn’t seen one.

‘Yeah, that’s how we roll!’  Joanna’s voice shouted through Zane’s earphones, her image on the screens beside the Elodie pop-up. She had passed Avardeur and was now behind Zane.

‘Good work,’ Zane said. ‘Keep the Businessman behind, I’ll get the Announcer. Then I’ll pull you along and we’re the top two.’

‘Sounds like a plan,’ Joanna said. ‘Despite everything, I’ve a good feeling about this season.’

‘Will be the best one,’ Zane replied quickly as he had to focus on passing Trudnak. She had gained distance from him.

Zane had felt at home immediately when they began training, and the moves he had learned on the street scene during his break complemented his skills. He even toyed with the idea of winning the championship. Who would have thought that the Entrant from the middle of the last season would lead Kispeed to win this one? That was his goal, and that’s what he visualised every morning.

Again, he closed in on Trudnak. He was a better racer, and she knew it. He would stay close to her tail until she made that slight mistake that would cost her the race.

He noticed a spot where she braked too late and lost exit speed; it was a minor error, but potentially useful. After a few laps, she had established a pattern, and on the twenty-third lap, Zane deviated from his usual line to use it to his advantage.

He braked earlier. She didn’t. For a moment, the distance between them grew. Then, in the apex of the tight corner, they were close again, but Zane could accelerate earlier, and he did.

His gambit worked. On the following straight, Zane inched beside her and past, before braking to the next corner.

‘Woohoo!’ he shouted.

‘Good work, keep it up!’ Joanna said.

‘I’ll get some distance and pull you up.’

‘Patience,’ said a thick voice, and a moustached Yoonan man appeared on his screen: Tut Gammon, Kispeed’s head coach. ‘They’re experienced racers and their manager doesn’t seem worried at all; keep your wits about you.’

‘Who do you think I am?’ Zane said, as he flipped the polarity to red, and back to neutral in a second.

‘You’re our youngest racer.’

‘And the best,’ Zane said.

‘Perhaps. But don’t let it get to your head. There’s a third of the race to run.’

‘Got it,’ Zane said, and rounded the corner where a tall building had once stood. The corner would always remind him of the day his father had shot off the track and into the structure, a freak accident caused by the complete failure of standard safety mechanisms.

He reminded himself that he wasn’t his father, and that he had to focus. He gave his mind over to the blur of buildings, lights, corners, crests and… into the flow he lived for, the thrill of racing.

‘That was mean!’ Joanna shouted and woke him up.

Joanna had fallen not one but two places to fifth. ‘What happened?’

‘Avardeur passed me, pushed me with his spiral, and I hit the railing, but I’m all right.’

‘Pushed you with his spiral. How’s that even possible?’

‘That was new to me, a ninety-degree tilt… I’ll explain later. Now, let’s hit the tow before it’s too late.’

She was right. If she fell too far behind, even the light-tow couldn’t pull her up to second place, and Zane would have to race with Trudnak. She was a formidable racer, but Zane couldn’t stand her for longer than a few minutes; the woman kept on talking, talking, and talking. Also, Joanna was as good as her on the track, or better.

Zane entered the thirty-fifth lap. The other Kispeed racers had done all right; Dorian had climbed into fourth spot over Joanna, and Shonda was sixth. Xorand’s Rez Husma and Cadera Celtenara were coming in last—good news for the Kispeed racers.

He was about to ask Joanna if she could engage the tow, when he noticed Christian Avardeur had overtaken Martina Trudnak. ‘Is that some kind of team tactic they’re employing?’

‘Must be,’ Joanna said. ‘Martina let him pass without losing much speed.’

‘Clandvil isn’t giving anything away,’ said Tut. Ystance Clandvil was Xorand’s coach; it seemed his approach differed from Tut’s and they were headed towards a power struggle of their own. ‘But whatever the case, focus on your own racing, and get that tow going with Joanna.’

‘Got it,’ Zane said.

In a few moments, Dorian and Joanna flipped places in the standings. ‘OK, I’m ready,’ she said.

Following a blue field, Zane flipped the polarity to neutral, and slammed both red and blue buttons. Joanna had done the same, and a green light-line appeared, trailing behind Zane.

‘Love it,’ she shouted.

She passed Trudnak. But the light-tow’s energy faded before she could reach Avardeur.

Zane sighed. He hoped she would’ve gotten past Avardeur as well, to help him secure the win. But if the standings remained, Zane and Joanna would be the top pair for the first race of the season.

Avardeur showed no signs of giving up, though. Like a wasp, he buzzed behind Zane, giving him no room to breathe.

Zane tried to put his full focus on optimising the lines through corners, crests and jumps, but because Avardeur harassed him, he couldn’t, and had to concentrate on keeping him behind instead.

By the second-to-last lap, Joanna had caught up with Avardeur, but Trudnak was still trailing close behind her. Anything could happen, and that’s why he loved ARL—but not now when he was in the lead.

They were a tight pack again, just like in the beginning, but now in the order of Silvering, Avardeur, Locksloe, and Trudnak.

Then one of his fears came true: Trudnak passed Joanna.

‘What happened?’ Zane said, trying furiously to keep Avardeur from overtaking him.

She shook her head. ‘I don’t know, she just… She did well, dammit!’

Zane took a deep breath. There was nothing he could do to help Joanna. But at least if he won, he might have a say in who raced with him. That would have to do.

The standings changed again. In quick succession, Shonda passed Joanna, and Trudnak passed Avardeur.

What’s going on? Zane thought. It was the last lap.

Then a creeping feeling ran up his spine. Avardeur and Trudnak hadn’t used their light tow yet. Now in second place, close to Zane, Trudnak could pull Avardeur, and with them so close to each other, he would slingshot past her, and maybe past Zane.

The green light glimmered behind him. He gulped.

They neared the final straight. Martina Trudnak was so close that Zane could feel her presence through his engines. They rounded the last corner, and the main straight opened, too wide to block a fast-moving craft that appeared behind Trudnak’s and thundered past Zane’s before the finish line.

Avardeur won. Zane was second. Trudnak third. Shonda fourth, and Joanna fifth.

Zane hit the side panel. Avardeur and Trudnak had won. They’d be the racing pair. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. He had lost, Joanna had lost, and there was nothing he could blame it on, other than his competitors being too fast.

He had lost, fair and square.

* * *

At the pits, Zane stepped down from the craft and removed his helmet. He brushed his black, sweaty mess of hair off his face, and headed towards the others behind the craft.

Going into the race, he had been certain he’d get a position to represent Kispeed in Fendra, and his only worry was whether Joanna could make it. Now they were both out, but if he had learnt something, it was that he should swallow his pride. Once he might have gone blasting the opponent, but now he knew that wouldn’t help.

The racers gathered around the two coaches. Tut Gammon, Kispeed’s head coach, a scruffy bald Yoonan man with a thick moustache and the signature black leather coat, met Zane’s eyes briefly as he arrived. His expression said he had wanted Zane to win.

Joanna bumped Zane’s shoulder as they stepped towards the others. ‘That was a bummer; you know I competed in every race last season.’

‘We did so well, but then…’ Zane couldn’t find the words.

‘That’s ARL. It’s a reminder that you’re only as good as your last race.’

They approached the others. Christian Avardeur, a young man with spiky brown hair, maybe a few years older than Zane, spoke with the Xorand team coach. His face had an intense quality to it as he explained something.

Zane hadn’t met the Xorand coach before. He was an older Elandra man—tall and slender, with stylish grey and white hair pulled back in several knots. Dressed in a Kispeed coloured suit, he looked the complete opposite of Tut Gammon. As Zane and Joanna joined the group, Tut spoke and everyone quieted.

‘That was a good race, everyone. You’ve all met me, and now I would like to introduce the Kispeed racers to Ystance Clandvil, Xorand’s head coach.’

Ystance ran his eyes over Zane and his teammates, holding his chin up.

Tut continued, ‘He and I will work together to create a new plan for the team, and also work with you to make sure that you become the best racers you can be.’

Everyone nodded. Tut seemed serious, even more so than usual.

‘Thank you,’ Ystance said in a deep but melodic voice. ‘My background is in the Elandra Royal Guard where I trained fighter pilots, but for the past twenty years, my focus has been on high-performance sports coaching. My approach is simple, and I believe in values of strength, integrity, and selflessness. Those values are the solid foundation on which we build everything else.’ A smile visited his face, and he continued about his work with Xorand.

Joanna had served a stint in the Elandra Royal Guard before joining Kispeed. ‘You know him?’ Zane whispered to her.

‘He was there before my time, but his reputation remained…’

Tut shot a sharp eye at Zane and Joanna.

Ystance continued, ‘…Look forward to working with you. As top performers, Mr Avardeur and Ms Trudnak will be the representative racers, and I expect everyone else on this team to match or surpass their speed in the upcoming tests.’

‘That’s right,’ said Tut. ‘Good work, everyone. That’s all for today. Get ready to board Kispeed Crux by eight pm tomorrow.’

The pilots acknowledged this and relaxed to talking.

Tut stepped over to Zane. ‘Your thoughts about the race?’

Zane sighed.

‘I understand it wasn’t ideal, but you raced well. Let’s figure out how to get you to the championships; Fendra is a pass, but we should make the most of it.’

‘I guess,’ Zane said.

He had to remind himself that he was part of one of the premier racing teams in the ARL, something that just a year ago had been only a dream. But he had tasted the glory, and now he couldn’t remain a substitute. He needed to race.

‘Zane Silvering,’ Avardeur said with an intense gaze. He pushed a hand forward. ‘I’m Christian. Thoroughly enjoyed racing with you today. That was one of the most exciting races ever.’

‘Thanks,’ Zane said. ‘And congratulations on the win; you did well.’

‘You too,’ he said, and glanced back. ‘I have to go, but I will see you around the Crux—I hear it’s awesome.’

‘It is…’ Zane said, but Christian was already hopping away towards Ystance.

He left Zane wondering whether he liked the guy. He projected high levels of energy but seemed driven like a highly-strung robot. Zane wouldn’t let the nice exterior fool him. Avardeur was a teammate, but he was also a competitor.

Zane wouldn’t give up the number one spot at Kispeed like that. He would get it back. He had to get it back, and soon. But how?

He would seek guidance from the best.

* * *

The cool sea water dripping down his chest, Zane slogged out of the water, and over the smooth sand of Snow Beach, Dawnia’s best one. This was his last day on Amera before they shipped out on Kispeed Crux to race across the galaxy.

Elodie Harmen lay under the cover of a big red beach umbrella in a black and red bikini, reading.

She was a granddaughter to Love Harmen, who owned Kispeed along with the KI business empire. Zane still found it hard to believe she was his girlfriend, even though they had been living together in a fancy penthouse apartment throughout the off-season.

Zane grabbed the towel, set it on the sand beside Elodie, and lay down on his back.

‘You know,’ he said, ‘the purpose of the beach is to enjoy the sun and the sea.’

She continued reading for a moment, then turned to him. ‘There’s no single purpose.’

‘You sound like a spiritual leader.’

‘I mean it; for me, the sounds of the waves provide a perfect backdrop for focusing, and the slight breeze the perfect temperature.’

‘But we have the perfect temperature at home.’

‘It’s not the same.’

‘Under the umbrella, you miss all the sun.’

‘You have your father’s complexion. My father, while Human, is pale like a Zetramain.’

‘That is a good point,’ Zane said.

While they were both half-Human, half-Zetramain, Zane had inherited his father’s dark skin.

He turned onto his side. ‘What are you reading, anyway? You’re done with the business course at the university, aren’t you?’

‘I am going to be ploughing through the integration process with Huu Simmer, helping him pull all the parts together, and I kind of need to learn on the job. This is Rutheimer’s classic text about managing large-scale mergers.’

While Zane had mostly relaxed during his vacation time on Amera, Elodie had been busy preparing herself for the upcoming season. When Zane had resumed practicing, she had hooked up with Huu Simmer, Kispeed’s manager, to work as his right hand.

‘How’s the integration going?’

‘It’s a mess. But we have a plan. Some of the Xorand people are helpful, but some of them are making things difficult on purpose. The same with Kispeed. Everyone’s afraid that their jobs will be cut, and they’re trying to lock themselves in by any means possible. Like this guy in comms, who accidentally deleted the press contacts from the servers. Can you believe it?’

‘I can imagine,’ Zane said. Like him. He wasn’t being difficult on purpose, but because of the merger, he had to race for his spot, and now he had lost it.

‘People are weird,’ she said. ‘On Kispeed, because of my name, some people think I’m an all-powerful queen, and the others, because I’m a young half-Zetramain woman, think I know nothing about business. Especially the engineering department!’ Angry lines developed on her forehead.

It was a massive project, and just thinking about the complexity made Zane happy that he only had to worry about racing. But worry was a worry, nevertheless.

‘Let me know if I can help,’ he said. While he knew little about the engineering team, his race mechanics, the rowdy furry Cetsen, and the introverted ginger Human had won his trust. ‘Reffer and Greta are my friends.’

‘They’re not the trouble, it’s more the head of the organisation… but that’s just one thing we have to deal with,’ she said, and rolled onto her back. ‘What about you? Are you ready for the season?’

‘I guess,’ he said.

‘You don’t sound too excited.’

‘I am,’ he said, because he should’ve been. ‘No, I’m not. It’s the Xorand racers, and their new coach—’

‘Stop it right there. It’s the beginning of the season. You must deal with a racer and a coach. Big deal. That’s what you do as a professional racer, and you’re great at it. I need to manage everyone in these two organisations… that’s almost two thousand people!’

‘But it’s not the same. I have to win.’

‘Why do you have to win?’

‘Isn’t it obvious?’

‘No. I’m asking because it’s important.’

‘OK,’ Zane said. ‘If I’m losing against our internal racers, I’ll never get to race, and if I never get to race, I’ll never win the championship.’

‘You want to win the championship. That’s good. Why do you want it?’

‘I don’t know,’ Zane said. ‘I guess I’ve always wanted to be the ARL champion. Like my father was. A famous, and then perhaps a legendary, racer.’

‘Fame and status are illusions,’ she said. ‘What’s inside is real—do you want to be another Christian Avardeur, high on fame, empty on the inside?’

‘What do you know of him?’

‘He is my uncle, you know. My mom’s stepbrother, but still.’

‘Oh man, that’s bizarre.’

‘We’re a big family. But what I know of him is that he seems to be more interested in partying than racing.’

‘I thought he had an impeccable work ethic.’

‘Well, he has, in that he will do anything to win. That way, one might succeed for a while, but at some point, it will catch up to him… you alienate people who care about you, and for what? Believe me, I’ve seen it many times; I know rich kids from every category.’

‘I guess I’m not one of those?’

‘Not yet, unless we marry,’ she said with a grin. ‘But when I say a rich kid, I mean a young person with rich parents; I’ve created a four-field of my own.’

‘Sounds scientific. Tell me.’

‘First, we split them into heirs and rebels. Heirs are the conservatives who continue developing and protecting the family interests, whether it’s a business or something else. There are two kinds: fake heirs and true heirs. The true heirs do just what I described. The fake ones play nice until they have the power, and then do the opposite. Avardeur is a fake heir, believe me.’

‘OK, that’s interesting. Are you a real heir, then?’

‘No, I’m a rebel. A true one. True rebels take a publicly visible step away from the family and create their own path, shunning the support from their families. And the fake rebels are those who make it look like they’re on their own but are actually fully funded by their parents.’

‘Aren’t you then a fake rebel—’

‘No! I’m real,’ Elodie said with surprising conviction. ‘But that’s beside the point. When Avardeur’s façade crumbles, that’s when you have to be ready.’

For someone so beautiful and young—well, she was older than Zane—she was sometimes uncannily wise, like a prophet.

‘So, you recommend I just yield?’

‘No, you don’t understand… Your focus shouldn’t be on Avardeur or the result of a single race. Focus on what you can control. Focus on getting the best lap times. Focus on making yourself a better racer.’

He took a deep breath. She was right about the big picture. ‘But what if Avardeur doesn’t fail? What if I can’t beat him, and am stuck behind him for the rest of the season?’

‘You sound like some engineers I’ve met.’

‘Ouch,’ Zane said. ‘I get what you’re saying, but it’s a bit too philosophical. I need to beat him to get to race.’

‘Thinking about why you do things is critical. So is investing time in making yourself better. Shortcuts are an illusion. In the end, they only slow you down.’

Zane knew she was right, but her advice was hard to swallow. He had to train hard to grow as a racer but couldn’t wait on the side-lines for the entire season. Every race he missed took him further away from winning the championship. He needed a shortcut.

* * *

‘You chickening out?’ Dorian said.

‘No,’ Zane said. ‘I’m just choosing how to humiliate you.’

On their last day on Amera, Kispeed movers were dismantling their barracks, a set of interlocking capsules they used to build a temporary base of operations on the racetrack. They would haul them up to Kispeed Crux, just to build them again on the Fendra racetrack. This time, they also had Xorand’s similar set-up and had to make choices about what to keep. Most of the Kispeed barracks remained—they had the branding right—but some of the Xorand ones would be repurposed to extend what they currently had.

They had stacked the remaining capsules to wait for the buyer to pick them up. The capsules were designed as components, with multiple ways to connect them to each other and to the stabilising elements, so their sides had a mesh. And that mesh was big enough for feet, which meant one could climb it.

While Elodie thought Zane was too competitive, he was nothing compared to Dorian. The man wanted to compete at everything. And now he had challenged Zane to climb four stacked capsules. The first one to reach the top would win.

And Zane couldn’t say no to a challenge like that. He was light, and had become stronger in the past year, while Dorian, a sturdy Yoonan fellow, had the strength, but lacked the agility.

‘You sure about this?’ Shonda asked. ‘That stack is, what, at least fifteen metres tall.’

Dorian laughed, his eyes covered by his trademark visor. ‘You race at sonic speeds with jumps of hundreds of metres, and you’re worried about a few stacks?’

‘It’s different, but hey, I’m not your mother!’ Shonda shrugged, leaning her hip against the wall. With her tattoos, and her long hair down, she looked more like an alternative model (which she had been), but Zane had learned she was an excellent racer with a strategic mind.

‘That stack is exactly 15,200 mm tall,’ said Ant. Zane’s best friend and his former mechanic, Ant studied engineering and was dating Greta, one of Kispeed’s race mechanics.

‘15,450 mm,’ Greta said. ‘You missed the foundation.’

Ant cringed. ‘Back to mathematics 101.’

‘So,’ Dorian said. ‘If you nerds are done with your numbers and worries, let’s do this. The winner gets on the first shuttle out of here.’

Zane was about to agree, when someone said, ‘Wait a moment.’

Joanna approached the wall. ‘You’re racing to the top? I want in.’

Dorian looked uncomfortable, but mustered, ‘Anytime.’

Trent, the oldest of the racers, looked at them from the side and said, ‘This I want to see. She will humiliate you boys.’

‘Wanna bet on that?’ Kristy said, and suddenly every racer had put money on one entrant. The climbers, including Zane, bet on themselves. Trent bet on Joanna, Kristy on Dorian, and Shonda on Zane.

‘You have to compete on everything?’ Greta said.

Everyone quieted and turned to stare at her.

She blushed.

The pilots burst out laughing. ‘Sorry, Greta, this is who we are,’ Trent said. ‘If we can’t race, we can always bet.’

‘Why don’t you race?’ asked Dorian.

‘Let’s not go there,’ Trent said with the tone that meant the end of the discussion.

Dorian shrugged and grabbed hold of the mesh. ‘You guys ready?’

Zane was about to shout yeah! but in the corner of his eye he saw something. The Xorand coach approached. ‘Wait.’

Ystance Clandvil walked with a gracious Elandra gait, and his gaze moved from person to person. ‘Pilots. At ease.’

Zane let go of the mesh.

‘Shouldn’t you be preparing for the season?’

‘We are preparing for the season,’ said Dorian, and received an icy stare from Ystance.

‘What exactly are you doing?’


‘Zane Silvering,’ Ystance said, and stepped closer, his grey eyes piercing. ‘What are you doing with that capsule?’

‘We’re just… a bit of exercise.’

‘Doesn’t look too useful,’ Ystance said. ‘But if Mr Gammon thinks this is what you should do, then carry on. I will have a meeting with him later to discuss the training regimen.’

Nobody said anything.

‘As you were,’ Ystance said. ‘Remember, it’s going to be a tough season.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ Trent said.

‘We’ll be ready,’ Kristy said.

Zane nodded along with the others, as Ystance’s gaze made another swoop over them. Chin up, he patrolled away.

Dorian said, ‘What a killjoy.’

‘I like him.’ Shonda said.

Everyone turned to her, including Zane, who thought that if Ystance was their coach, he or Joanna would never get to race. He, too, had to talk with Tut.

‘What?’ Shonda said. ‘We need values, discipline, and structure… The Elandra Royal Guard didn’t become what it is today by people slacking around.’ She looked at Joanna.

‘You’re right on that,’ Joanna said. ‘But I trust Tut’s judgement. Perhaps them working together will eventually turn out for the best.’

‘Doubt that,’ Dorian said.

‘Yeah, I have to agree with Shonda,’ said Trent.

Kristy nodded along with him as their eyes turned to Zane.

‘Tut’s my coach,’ he said.

‘Word,’ said Dorian. ‘Let’s make pins out of that!’

‘I like that,’ said Joanna. ‘But let’s give them a chance to sort things out.’

‘That we should do,’ Trent said.

‘OK, Mum and Dad,’ Kristy said. ‘You guys racing to the top or not?’

Dorian grabbed the mesh. ‘Let’s try again. You guys ready?’

Zane stepped up beside him. The metal mesh was cold and hard under his fingers, but easy to grab, and the spacing was perfect for his feet to slot in. ‘I’m ready.’

‘Me too,’ said Joanna.

‘I’ll start you,’ said Greta, and pulled up her universal tool. She fiddled with some settings on it, raised it up in the air, and said, ‘On the bang… three, two…’

Zane grabbed hold of the mesh with both hands.


Dorian and Joanna were ready beside him. He looked up. Only fifteen metres— should be easy.

Bang! A loud crackling noise ripped the air.

Zane pulled himself up at a fast pace, focusing on moving swiftly. He moved his left arm and right leg at once, then the right arm and left leg, getting into the rhythm. Dorian grunted on his left. They were neck-and-neck, but on his right, Joanna had disappeared. Her feet were already higher than Zane’s head. He sighed.

Reaching the third of the four containers, his muscles burned, and the mesh hurt his fingers. He was still tied with Dorian. Someone cheered at him, and he glanced down.

A mistake. He had over ten metres between him and the ground, and now he agreed with Shonda. Climbing heights was different to racing heights.

His distraction slowed him down, and Dorian passed him. But he didn’t taunt him—why?

‘Are you ever gonna…’ Joanna said, looking down at them, stretching her arms, and smiling.

‘Damn it,’ Dorian lamented and glanced at Zane. ‘But we’re still on.’

Zane gulped. He had to do it, but his legs had become jelly just from the thought of the empty space below him. He tried to convince himself that he was close to the ground. He just wouldn’t look down.

Dorian reached the top and shouted, ‘What a view!’ He tramped over the capsule.

Zane got to the edge and leaned against the side. ‘Congrats, Joanna.’

‘Won’t you come up?’

‘Nope, I’ve had enough,’ Zane said, and began his descent. Going down wasn’t as hard on his muscles, and knowing he’d soon be on solid ground helped. But of course, Joanna zoomed past him.

A wave of relief washed over him as his feet touched the floor. He had forgotten he detested heights, but now he remembered. He also remembered that he hated losing. ‘Sorry, Shonda, I’m not much of a climber.’

‘What did I say about the heights? I saw how you froze after you looked down,’ she said.

A wave of heat rose from Zane’s neck to his cheeks.

‘Nice work, Jo,’ Trent said, and raised his hand. ‘I knew you’d show it to the boys.’

Joanna slapped him a high-five, but looked beyond him, as if she had seen something.

Martina Trudnak and Christian Avardeur headed towards them. She wore black trousers and a white top, her long curly hair down. His hair was spiky, and he donned a sharp suit.

‘What are you monkeys up to?’ Christian said, looking up at Dorian, who was still making his way down.

‘You raced well,’ Trent said, ‘both of you.’

‘Thanks,’ Martina said. ‘I’m happy we’re getting more resources to compete for the win this season. We were so close last time, and this season might tip towards us. But we need to do a lot of work. Still, I feel as if all the signs are saying we’ll be the championship winners this time. And of course, with us, you’ll also be in the winning team.’

Zane didn’t like the way she talked, and by the looks of his colleagues, neither did they.

‘That’s right,’ Christian said. ‘Consider yourself privileged for accompanying us on this ride.’

Joanna said, ‘You did well in our first race, but remember, it won’t be so easy the next time.’

‘Joanna “the Body” Locksloe!’ Christian said, ogling her. ‘You are absolutely right. You have a primal drive in your racing. I’d love to do a few laps in the simulator with you one day.’

Did he wink at her? Zane thought, as Joanna responded with something he didn’t hear.

‘Joanna,’ Martina said, ‘I’d also be happy to do a few laps with you, and perhaps we could… you know, these guys think they’re all the jazz, but we know better, right?’

She definitely winked at Joanna.

Zane said, ‘I think we’ll have a lot of chances of battling it out on the Crux, even before the Fendra race.’

‘Zane “the Entrant” Silvering!’ Christian said, and pointed at him with both of his index fingers. ‘You’re funny. I love it!’

Zane didn’t know what to say.

Martina glanced at her phone. ‘We should head back—they’re hauling my stuff to the new base, and the organisation is terrible; I need to look after everything myself! I miss my personal assistant. Maybe I could get another one with Kispeed… although nobody will be as good as Yuna was. But hey, Joanna, let’s hook up later. There’s so much for us to talk about. The others, too, all right?’

‘Meeting you guys was literally the best thing today,’ said Christian, pointing to everyone at once. ‘Brilliant! I’m looking forward to racing with you.’

Silence fell as they left. Like everyone, Zane stared at their backs as they walked away. Once they had disappeared, Trent was the first one to speak.

‘Something doesn’t feel right; the new coach and these guys… by the way, have any of you met the other two, Rez and Cadera, at all?’

‘No,’ Shonda said, ‘but if they don’t hang with Avardeur and Trudnak, they’re probably good guys.’

Joanna sighed.

Zane agreed that Ystance seemed overly disciplined, but he also believed that hard and systematic training brought results. Did he need someone like Ystance to help him with that? In the last season, hard training hadn’t been a problem, and the support he needed was more about making things click in his head. Still, Joanna’s clearheaded approach was probably the best way.

But Avardeur and Trudnak were something else. They were so full of their own excellence and weird vibe. Zane would do what he always did. He would show them who was the best racer. Their antics outside the track didn’t matter.

Thinking about these things, he remembered what Elodie had said to him on holiday when he had been missing the action. She had said he would miss the simplicity. And now he did, even though the season hadn’t even started.

* * *

‘That was the last one,’ Zane’s mother said, as she exited the doctor’s office at the Dawnia Gene Clinic. She held a paper in her hand and passed it over to Zane. ‘There.’

Zane looked at the printout. The name of the disease she had suffered was still unpronounceable. Her age: 45 years, blood type: Z negative (the most common Zetramain one, he knew), maternal haplogroup: ZHA1, and several other data points, which probably explained something about her health if one knew what they meant.

‘What’s a maternal haplogroup?’

She grabbed the paper from his hands, looked at it, and hastily folded it away. ‘Probably something related to being a mother. To be honest, I don’t understand most of this,’ she said, stuffing the paper into her purse, ‘but I understand I should be completely free of the ailment. No need for additional therapy, and I feel great.’

Since she had begun the therapy, she had transformed from a stiff and frail old woman into a thriving one. She now had visible muscles under her glowing skin. ‘You look ten years younger.’

‘Thanks,’ she said, and opened her arms for a big hug.

‘So,’ Zane said, as they stepped out of the lobby to the elevator hall. ‘Will you join us on Kispeed Crux? It would be great to spend more time together.’

His phone buzzed. Ystance.

‘I’m sorry, it’s our new head coach,’ Zane said.

‘Go ahead.’

Zane stepped away, answered, and put the phone against his ear.

‘Zane, I trust you’re well…’

‘Thanks. I was just talking with my mother, and I’m about to head out. May we talk back at the Crux?’

‘I’m afraid this is timely. I haven’t spoken about this openly yet but have already conducted a few one-to-one sessions. Here’s the thing: the leadership has asked me to improve our results and efficiency. Now we have ten racers in this combined team, which makes no sense financially or operationally. So, we will reduce the number, ideally below the ARL average of five-point-two.’

Zane gulped. Removing five people would be a lot, especially when he doubted Ystance would remove Avardeur or Trudnak.

‘…because who needs eight redundancies? With fewer pilots, we can invest more quality effort in coaching. You’re a smart lad; you must understand what I’m talking about, don’t you?’

‘I do, but what does it have to do with me?’ Zane asked, glancing at his mother.

‘You’re one of the least experienced pilots we have, and truth be told—because I believe we’re all better for it—your performance so far has left a lot to be desired. I agree that your run on Gothonia was great, but I’m not seeing the consistency in your data.’

Zane gulped again. Was Ystance planning to drop him?

‘So,’ Ystance continued, ‘to make things easy, I’m offering you a lucrative deal if you resign your place and stay at Amera—which I believe, as your home-world, would suit you perfectly.’

‘I’m not—’ Zane said, and at the sight of his mother, lowered his voice, ‘taking that deal. Gothonia was just the start, I can do better than that.’

‘Your data says otherwise. But don’t you want to hear what I could offer you?’

‘Not if it means dropping out of Kispeed.’

‘I see,’ Ystance said with a dramatic pause. ‘I hope you understand it will be more difficult for you to drop out later in the season—after all the effort you put into trying to keep up, but can’t…’

Zane wasn’t listening anymore. Something about Ystance’s offer was wrong. He knew his contract from beginning to end, and knew that Kispeed could drop him without offering him anything. That’s what was wrong. Ystance was trying to get him to resign. ‘You don’t have the authority to drop me, do you?’

Ystance said nothing.

Zane continued, ‘Tut Gammon and Huu Simmer don’t know you’re doing this.’

Ystance breathed slowly on the line. ‘Zane, unless you hit the top four with your lap times, you will be out sooner or later. Remember I gave you the option.’

‘I can’t forget,’ he said.

Ystance closed the line.

Zane stared at the phone in his hands, wondering why Ystance had resorted to such a weird scheme. Maybe the man didn’t have as much trust from the leadership as they indicated, or the leadership didn’t tell him everything. Of course! Ystance didn’t know about Transients.

The Transients were an active extension to Kispeed’s security team—both led by Ruck Loress—and a strong arm to guard the Harmens’ interests when needed. An undercover strike force and a smuggling outfit, they needed fast pilots—the sole reason why Kispeed had so many, though most people in Kispeed knew nothing of its existence.

‘What was that about? Trouble with the team?’ His mother stood right beside him.

‘The new head coach is… different, but we’ll work through it,’ Zane said, and popped the phone back into his pocket. He would call Tut later. ‘So, any chance of you changing your mind about joining us on Kispeed Crux to roam the galaxy?’

‘I don’t think it is for me,’ she said.

‘I thought as much,’ Zane said, as the Crux was leaving the next day and his mother had been avoiding the topic. ‘It’s all right. I just thought you’d be happy to join me and Elodie; you got along so well.’

‘Elodie’s a charming young lady. But the rest of her family… those people, everything I’ve seen and heard of them suggest the same thing: they’re manipulators who would do anything to get their way.’

‘You just don’t like rich people. To me, at least, they’ve always been super nice.’

His mother sighed. ‘Of course they have, that’s how they win your trust.’

‘Mom, you’re hopeless,’ Zane said, and stomped ahead of her. ‘Well, the fifth race of the season is here in Amera, so you’ll have another chance to join us.’

‘I’m all good here. This is my home, and things are going great with Hermes. You don’t have to worry about me.’

Hermes Humphries had coached Zane in the Amera League and his father in the ARL. He was much older than his mother, but after the last season, they had gotten together and found a lot in common. Zane was happy for both of them, but mostly for his mother.

‘…and I’ve also been seeing a therapist. Actually, you should visit her as well.’

Zane stopped. ‘A therapist?’

‘So that you could talk with someone about… your father, and any other issues you might have, you know, find the way forward.’

‘I already know my way. I don’t need anyone to mess things up.’

His mother stopped and pursed her lips in a condescending expression. Did she think of him as just a child? She said, ‘Give them a chance. I’m meeting her tomorrow afternoon and was thinking you could join us.’

‘What are you thinking? You know I’m leaving today!’ he couldn’t believe his mother. She should’ve known he was a racer and supported him instead of trying to ruin his career. He stomped towards the staircase.

‘Zane!’ his mother called after him.

He didn’t listen. He ran down the stairs. His mother could take the taxi by herself. Elodie had already packed all their stuff to board Kispeed Crux. A therapist? He didn’t need anyone to mess with his head, he had other troubles to sort out.

Reaching the ground floor, Zane was panting and sweating. He found the way to the exit and let the cool breeze calm his nerves. It helped a little.

He walked along the side of the massive building, pulled out his terminal, and found the contact he needed.

‘Tut,’ he said, ‘what’s going on?’

‘I’m happy you called, because it means you want to come with us.’

‘Of course I do! Why wouldn’t I?’

‘We went through everyone’s records with Ystance—he’s looking to create individual development plans—and for you, he thought it would be best if you’d take at least a year to find what you really want to do, and sort out the trauma relating to your father.’

Zane couldn’t believe it. ‘What? Really? You think so?’

‘No,’ Tut said. ‘I knew what you’d say, and I told him I’m not losing one of my best new racers. He disagreed about you being one of the best, but I still have some power over these matters. So welcome aboard Kispeed Crux, but we need to make sure you run well.’

‘Thanks. For a moment, I was worried. And that running well part, I’m all into that.’

‘That’s good to hear. It won’t be easy, but this season is yours to take. Your girlfriend will be on board, working with Huu Simmer, and you… you’re born to race. You should be with the team.’


‘Zane,’ Tut said, and glanced to the side. ‘I don’t want to talk on the phone. Just make sure you get to the Crux, all right?’

‘You can count on it.’

Tut and Ystance didn’t agree on how to lead the team. And clearly, Zane wasn’t on Ystance’s good side. Was it only because he was from Kispeed, or was there something else? His mother had acted strangely. Harmens and therapy… maybe she was the one who needed counselling. One would think that she’d know better. He was happy for her recovery, but he couldn’t understand her. He had wished to have her onboard the Crux, now that she was well, but it seemed it wouldn’t happen. And with a heavy heart, he had to leave her behind, again.

Zane found a taxi stand, grabbed a ride, and called Elodie. They’d meet at the Dawnia Space Port, just like at the beginning of his ARL career. But now everything had changed.


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Rock Forsberg

Rock loves awe-inspiring stories and writes to create epic worlds and stories of his own. He has also written songs, poems, and short stories, both in English and in Finnish. For him, writing is a long game, with a lifetime of learning and dozens of novels to write.

"I hope you will find the same awe in reading this book as I found writing it."


Long Live Editors!

As any quality-conscious independent publisher, I work with several professional editors and proofreaders.

I strive to deliver the best product possible, but it's impossible to be objective about one's own work, so the editorial support is vital.

The quality of my prose wouldn't be what it is without my editors.

Customer Reviews

Based on 1 review
Action Packed Adventure on and off the track.

The lead character is Zane Silvering, a young racer with dreams of winning the championship. After an intriguing first season (The Entrant), Zane has realized there is a much wider galaxy out there and that being a racer will be rough. With the second season drawing near, Zane finds himself in a newly merged team where he has to fight once more for a spot on the starting line. With this, he has a new coach that seems to favour his own racers. Will Zane get back onto the team in time to win the championship?

If his professional life was complicated, then his personal life is in absolute chaos! Zane may lose it all with a failing relationship, new love interests, criminal activities, and family drama, taking up necessary practice time. Can this young man do what it takes to survive and win the ARL.

Overall I loved the title. As I started reading the first page, I was instantly absorbed into the racer lifestyle. The pacing was fast and exciting, and the ending was action-packed and heartbreaking at times. I really hope this isn't the last we hear of Zane. Compared to book one, I would say the racing took a bit of a back seat with the main story happening out the grid, but this in no way took away from the drama. It was nice to see returning characters and new ones appear within the tale and help keep the story fresh and exciting. Overall a stunning read, and now to read the opener, The Racer.