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Thread: There in the Zone

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    GMT + 7

    Default There in the Zone

    Also posted at

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    With the infamous F9000 league long passed as it is, I guess it’s time to break a story.

    My dad was an anti-gravity sport journalist then. AsiaCast. Been at it since F8000 and very enthusiastic about it. Keeps coming home late at night. Sometimes not at all (to the dismay of my mom). Popping up at race tracks around the world. So close with league staffs and the teams they used to often go for a drink and crack jokes at midnight. I used to wonder as a kid why he love his job so much. But when he took me to one of the races, that became easy.

    Then the F9000. You all knew what happened. He kept up his happy self but I think I know how he felt deep down. I still remember my AG fanboy classmates complaining about it. The floodgates opened. My childhood memories suddenly bare their ugly fangs. The entertainment we watch is actually men with cash playing power games in shadow. The war didn’t go away, only changed its form, served to entertain nations through a small holographic screen. Who knew the world has become so dependent on a sport. But that’s not the point.

    Phonix Systems were an AG system supplier. In short, they specialized in electronics and AG ship control modules. They were trying to reboot the scene. My dad got a call at midnight, swore at first, then jumped out of the bed. They wanted to test run a certain machine but the AG scene was still a sensitive topic and nobody was willing to write about it. Finally, work that was worth doing; the first occasion in a long while.

    Mom was pulling her hair out when they flew him to Tibet the next morning.

    I know there is AG scene in Tibet, but it seems so strange for it to exist in a country so closely bonded with spiritual beliefs. My dad described it as a frank experience. Anti-grav racing invaded the land like a storm. Imagine teenagers in flashy clothes flooding machine shops and racing their colorful modified crafts (legal or not), a stark contrast to the once-tranquil countryside. The elders watched on, knowing they could do nothing about it. It never was this big, a local told my dad, and never would have been if not because of one particular woman.

    The team did preparations at the company’s workshop there.

    “Zone Box” was a simulator. The first that could apply G-Forces to the user realistically without the usage of moving armatures (unlike the big, clunky ones spaceflight trainees use). Phonix Systems decided: what better candidates to stress-test it than the best AG racer with the highest CMGFL rating in the known universe?

    Dig up Myima Tsarong and you will find the winner of multiple F9000 pilot championships and the rider of Pirhana’s legendary Swiftkiller. She’d risen from the relatively unknown Tibetian amatuer scene to the top of the AG league, and yet she was calm and reserved even in front of the press, famous for her non-violent racing style (which speaks a lot considering what carnage F9000 was). She was almost monk-like. But after The Collapse, she disappeared, and no one had seen or heard about her since. If Pirhana knew, they were being tight-lipped about it.

    My dad and I don’t know what Phonix Systems did to find her. They carried the unassembled Zone Box on a 6-wheeler to a Buddhist temple 3 hours out of the capital. Turns out she really became a monk! Her seniors didn’t take well to the presence from outside, my dad told me, as evident in the lengthy and heated discussion he overheard.

    Tsarong was keen though. My dad descibed that her interest in AG could be considered the purest, especially when compared to the showboating FEISAR pilots, the bickering Tetsuo sisters or her more ‘tactical’ teammate Jann Shlaudecker. She was the kind that didn’t express herself much, but anyone could see how her face lit up when discussing anti-grav topics. It was subtle, but there was a difference if you looked hard enough. (My dad’s words, not mine. Mother won’t be pleased.)

    She took the temple chief away for a private talk. Not long after, Phonix Systems was let in.

    The team gathered in a spacy unused room that the monastery was generous enough to provide. The Zone Box was the size of a small truck and looked the part. Just a simple white box with one top half opening up for a cockpit inside, sticks and pedals and all that, and a set of external monitors and control panels connected to it. G-force emitter calibrations was the major source of delay, so Phonix took to briefing Tsarong: they wanted to push the Zone Box to the limits by having the simulation accelerates itself further and further until she give a signal to stop or the system dies, which ever come first.

    And my dad’s job was to record all of it for the world to see. If we could make the simulator better, safer and small enough to be put inside of an average house, the fundamental ideals behind AG racing would become much more accessible. Phonix Systems’ engineering chief spoke to my dad.

    “The AG scene wasn’t that bad as people thought. We wanted to show the world what it really was about, without all the scandals and corruptions getting in the way. That’s not what it was. We’re resetting it, starting with the new blood. We are re-igniting the torch and passing it on to the next generations.”

    Tsarong was quick to catch up. A few calibrations to the flight controls module, some familiarizing and the team was set for a warm up run. Mandrashee was selected for its simple layout. It’s full of subtle curves, but nothing impossible. (“We don’t want to kill our pilot. And no Temtesh Bay, Jayce. It’s not funny.”) My dad sat down with the rest of the team to watch the test from a monitor. The track was close to the real thing, but rendered in rough polygons, like unfinished 3D models. Some staffers were afraid that the constant increase in speed would be too hard to control.

    But Tsarong donned her old Pirhana outfit, worked her Tibetian AG magic and did a perfect 25 lap around the track without a scratch. The warm up run was completed.

    The team wasn’t allowed to go any further. The temple chief was extremely fixed to what he and Tsarong agreed on; after all, their intrusion into a sacred place was rude enough. Buddhism and the modern world didn’t really mix. And he had seen enough religious ideals become co-opted that he ordered Phonix Systems to return home. Heads were dropped.

    By a weird chance, a freak storm passed the area. Footages of vehicles flipped over and trees swaying dangerously in wild wind were shown on several news websites. The team stayed at the monastery for that night, not wanting to risk the machine. I would call it the byproduct of a then-worsening environment. A badly written plot device if I were to be blunt. But my dad told me he could’ve believed it was a miracle.

    Tsarong, alone, knocked on his door at night. Said she wanted him to interview her. My dad told me it was alarming, but he kept his cool throughout.

    “A confession, if you will.”

    “I thought that was a Christian thing.”

    “Hush, you.”

    She told him her story in that candlelit room. On her demand, my dad wrote it down on note papers instead of recording it.

    “As you can see, my mentor doesn’t like any of us mingling with AG racing. I would like to apologize on our behalf. He has been that way since I was a kid. His name is Binam, by the way.

    “Before all of you start thinking: no, I’m still a normal girl at the time. Our family grew up close with the temple. But I was young then. Simple curiosity. And for a kid there’s nothing much to do in the rurals. You could say that AG racing had some sort of gravity that drew attention. (laughs) My parents let me have a go at local tournament, borrowing one of my friends’ ships. It was legally-modified domestic class. With time, maybe I’ll grow out of it.”

    “Any reason why you continued down this path?”

    “It’s because I’m still exploring. I thought, ‘Hey, you’re getting good at this.’ So I won my first tournament and my head was all about winning the next and the next. Then I found out that I’m not really thinking about winning. It’s fascinating. We came from our two feet to cars, to anti-grav and I wanted to see what I can do with it. I just wanted to go faster.”

    “I could see why Pirhana picked you.”

    “Right. They had top-of-the-line equipments. How could I pass up that offer? (laughs) In the league there were competitions, managements and rivalry but those were still secondary for me. Speed. That’s all I cared about.

    “The elders at home didn’t see it that way. When I made a name for myself, the teens followed, some of them blindly. Tibet wasn’t ready for AG culture; not even now, in my opinion. They said my performance was corrupting the children. I objected. I even proclaimed that my interest was ‘pure’. I think everybody knows I kept my distance from bad things that happened in the scene but F9000 was far from nice. I couldn’t change their mind.”

    “Still you stayed.”

    “Part of it was about team’s contract. The other part is that, ” She paused, “I made friends with the staff and the pilots. I learned many aspects of anti-grav. I’ve done too much to go back. I became attached. In Buddhism the first and last lesson it teaches you was to let go. You can’t lug your baggage around forever, for it brings misery in the end. Attachments is bad, you see.

    ”Then that day happened. I lost faith.”

    Temtesh Bay Disaster. An accident in converted mine tunnel that killed six pilots. Tsarong probably saw it from the sideline. The news of her retirement shortly after would go on to occupy lesser sections of all news websites the entire month. The reasoning for it was undisclosed.

    “My teammate Jann was lucky, I guess I’ll call it that. He already pulled ahead of the race when the mine blew up. He told me afterward that stuff happens. But there were various theories and accusations flying around, and many of them were twisted. I doubted most of it.

    Things like, ‘It was a plan to kill an Overtel board member.’ ‘No! It was to destroy Van-Uber’s new prototype.’ I heard this, and I thought, what has this world came to? We were supposed to be racing!

    “So I left. I’m thankful that my friends at Pirhana kept it quiet. I didn’t ask them! My mechanic Sandra Yao volunteered to keep the press at bay. Even Jann phoned in to see if I was alright.”

    “How did your homeland react to your return and the following Collapse?”

    “The fans felt sad, naturally. I was a global superstar to them. An ‘AG goddess’ (laughs). But they knew about Temtesh so they didn’t pry anything further. When I arrived at this temple I was expecting a long lecture. But Binam just said ,‘Told you.’ and let me in. The Collapse came later and everything was practically said and done. Tibetian AG went completely dead for a while. And now it’s branded the sport for the thugs.

    “‘You should’ve pursued Dharma, else this wouldn’t happened and you wouldn’t be disappointing yourself,’ Binam said. ‘Nirvara (Buddhist term for the state of nothingness -- My dad) is our singular end goal. Anything else doesn’t matter.’ But this morning I argued that we should always pursue something while we still live. Wasn’t what I did a similar pursuit of the absolute?

    “He shook his head. ‘You’re damn stubborn,’ he sighed, and let Phonix Systems have their way.

    “I guess I’m a bad person. (chuckles)”

    “Why are you telling me this?” My dad asked. He said to me this one was his own.

    “Guilt, perhaps. Maybe that’s what Phonix Systems and I have in common. We have let the world down. And now there’s an opportunity. We wanted to keep the spirit continuing on and on, until eternity if we can.”

    Thus concluded the interview. They went their separate ways and slept.

    Well, not really. Binam came to the team at breakfast in an angry fit. Said Tsarong didn’t attends her morning prayer.

    They found her sleeping in normal pilot pose inside the Zone Box that was supposed to be already disassembled yesterday. The simulator was running. The Zone craft seemingly still on the track. Except that millions of input commands per second still entered the debug screen. G-force emitters died from overuse. Everything single thing stretched into the flats and the lines. Every single number going 9999999999999999…

    What was this? Possession? Hacking? Magic? The Zone Box works on analog input yet Tsarong wasn’t exactly touching the controls. The team tried to came up with all sorts of explanations. That’s when graphic processor cluster melted.

    And with it went the world's first Zone Box prototype - and it’s legendary racer.

    My dad didn’t know how the monks in the temple felt about Tsarong’s quiet funeral. They were quite calm about it, for one. The mood was hard to read. One of Phonix’s junior staff offered to let the damaged Zone Box stay, as tourist attraction. Monks aren’t supposed to break their vows. So the rest of the team took turns punching him in the face instead.

    What actually happened to the machine? Was Binam right about the stubborn pilot? We may never know. Phonix Machine would later went on to become a part of Mirage Anti-Gravity Excellence Centre. And FX300 race committee were afraid that the public would take the story of the haunted machine the wrong way.

    But many, many years and Zone Battles later, and here we are.

    - - - - -

    The story has been around in my head for a year, but I got a sudden urges to write just before my birthday of all things.
    Many thanks to Dreadofmondays for proofreading and corrections.
    Last edited by TypeProton; 29th November 2014 at 10:49 AM. Reason: More corrections.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
    GMT -3
    PSN ID



    Amazing story!!! :O

    And happy birthday again!!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Cheltenham, United Kingdom


    Loved it! O.o

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