PROLOGUE

The music blared in Siba Castron's ears, and she reluctantly flicked a gloved hand at her helmet to lower the volume. She nervously paced back and forth at the starting line, going over her mental checklist as she waited for the minute call. Wheels replaced – check. Suit repaired – check. Helmet...gloves...joints oiled...check. Eventually, there was nothing else to do but wait. Siba jumped slightly as a loud horn shot through the air, cutting through the music in her helmet. There was a moment of dead silence, then the racers began to move towards the track, and the spectators began to gamble on the outcome of the race. Reporters ran hunched over next to the racers in the hopes of getting one final statement, but usually to no avail.

Siba lined up at her position at the line, and the music continued in her ears, helping her to relax, to focus.

"You're gonna lose this race, girl. You don't stand a chance."

"Face it, punk. Your winning streak is over. Why don't you save your dignity and drop out now." Siba couldn't tell who it was that spoke, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore. Only the race mattered. Only the race. A human voice, sounding mechanical through her helmet, proclaimed, "Three...two...one...go!" Siba hunched down and accelerated, easily pulling ahead of the rest of the racers. The instant she was clear of the pack, she began to go through her graceful routine of stunts designed to impress the spectators while helping her to calm her nerves. Unfortunately, she became so wrapped up in her stunts that she failed to hear the sound of someone coming up behind her. Indeed, she barely recognized the fact that she was coming up on a jump. Part of the routine's benefit was that it helped to relax her, and coupled with the music that was still playing, it could be argued that during a race, Siba was not in the same world as the rest of the competitors. She took the jump perfectly, as always, but unknown to her, at the moment of her takeoff, she had been brushed ever so lightly by one of the other racers.

It hadn't been much, but with a Suit as light as Siba's, it was enough. Siba became aware that something was wrong as she began her descent towards the track. Something was very wrong. Siba tried to compensate for her disastrous takeoff, but it was too late. Siba landed in the worst possible way a racer could, her right leg pinned underneath her body as she skidded down the track. The rest of the racers flew past, none of them willing to take the time to help a downed racer out of their own race time. Suddenly a dark shadow fell over the downed Racer. She tried to see who it was, but was too weak from the fall. She heard a deep chuckle above her head, and thrashed wildly, desperate to get away.

"You were warned, Siba. Now you pay the price."

"That's...Racer...Siba...to you," she breathed. The unseen voice chuckled again.

"Former Racer Siba, I believe. Now, I do apologize for being rude, but I have a race to win." The wheels moved away, and Siba was left alone on the track. She gathered enough strength to lift her head, and saw her helmet perhaps five feet from her back wheels. The helmet had just been installed with a communication device that would connect her with the people at the starting line, but it did her no good if she couldn't reach it. Finally, she lay her head back down on the cool track, knowing that she would not be discovered missing for at least another nine minutes when she did not finish the race. The knowledge was dark enough that Siba finally gave in and sank into the empty blackness of unconsciousness. Nearby, soothing music still played from an abandoned helmet.

Be kind...this is my first attempt at fanfic...but please do review... Thanks much! The Lady