After a brisk bout with writer's block, the third chapter has arrived.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own F-Zero. Nintendo owns it. All I own is Velos Inner and his Cyber Chariot (which I based off a machine in my garage on F-Zero GX). Happy?

Chapter 3: Bet Race Dollars

The Grand Prix accident four years ago, the same one that had temporarily suspended the F-Zero, had a number of effect: the pilots of the Mighty Typhoon and Mighty Hurricane had mysteriously vanished from the hospital without a trace, the pilot of the Red Gazelle became a near-complete robot, and almost all of Pico's fan base disappeared in a flash. Another effect currently raced in the Prix.

Blood Falcon was a maniacal clone of Captain Falcon, serving the villainous racer called Black Shadow. When Captain Falcon was hospitalized in the accident, the Dark Million—Black Shadow's criminal organization—pounced on the opportunity, taking some of Falcon's blood and creating an altered clone. Blood Falcon, the red-and-purple garbed madman, was the result.

The clone was currently sulking near Bet Race Dollars, bemoaning his loss in the Grand Prix to himself. Despite being supposedly capable of everything the original Captain Falcon could do, Blood Falcon had lost the Prix to his clone template for the second time. In addition, his master Black Shadow had been banished to unknown regions by the enigmatic Deathborn. Aside from his master's second-in-command, Miss Killer, Blood was likely the only member of the Dark Million loyal in any way to Black Shadow.

A flash in the sky caught the clone's attention. Blood looked to see a dark figure fall from the sky a great distance away. Impulsively deciding to investigate, he entered his machine—the Blood Hawk—and sped towards his intended destination. Upon his arrival, he bounded out of the crimson machine and cautiously approached the body.

"Master?" Blood Falcon gasped.

True enough, Black Shadow himself rose from his fall. The dark racer stood, clutching his arm. Only two words came from his mouth:

"Where's Falcon?"

****

The next day, the Night Thunder led the Cyber Chariot down the streets of Mute City once again. This time, however, Neelson's machine slowed outside a building with a sign marked "BET RACE DOLLARS". The sign, in addition to its bright neon lights, had a small model of the Blue Falcon built on it.

"Here we are, kiddo," Neelson proclaimed, "Bet Race Dollars."

After parking their machines, both racers stepped into the bar. Immediately they were met with the sounds of racers talking, burps from too much to drink, and the occasional tussle between rival pilots.

"Let me explain the bet races to you, kiddo," Neelson began, leading Velos past the counter where the bartender worked. "Each race has exactly twelve racers in it. People bet on who they want to place in the top six, second, third, or first."

"Let me guess, people always bet for Captain Falcon to place first," Velos said.

"Yep," Neelson nodded. "Falcon always wins. Rumor has it that he practically breathes racing and bounty hunting, and that's why he's so good!"

"Racing 24/7?" Velos remarked. "No room for any personal life."

He turned his head, looking out to the starting gate below.

"Not sure I'd want a life like that," Velos added.

A purple-skinned figure suddenly crashed next to them, his most noticeable feature being a yellow tube connecting the top of his head to his chest. Velos immediately identified the figure as Zoda, pilot of the Death Anchor and high-ranking member of the Dark Million. Though he had a number of enemies among his fellow racers, the ones who gunned for him the most were Ryu Suzaku and Super Arrow.

"Ten space credits says 'Super Arrow threw him'," Velos said.

"Super Arrow!" Zoda snarled as he arose. "You'll pay for that!"

"I'm ten credits richer," Velos smirked as Zoda charged back towards his costumed arch-nemesis.

"You might be even richer when you enter," Neelson said. "Speaking of which, we need to sign up."

"What makes you so sure people will actually bet on me?" Velos asked as Neelson led him to the registration desk.

"Velos," Neelson began in a serious tone, turning to his apprentice, "people knew how good your parents were. They always managed to keep up with Falcon, and even though they never beat him, they always managed to place in the top six. They've got high hopes for you, kiddo, and your parents surely do, too."

"Yeah," Velos said simply. "I bet they do."

"Hey, Vee!" called a familiar, slightly high-pitched voice.

"PJ?!" Velos cried as the cabbie approached. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm entering the bet race," PJ answered while Neelson began registering himself and Velos.

"Any reason?" Velos asked.

"I wanted to show everyone how good we taxi drivers are!" PJ proclaimed proudly.

"…you got fired, didn't you?" Velos asked with a knowing look in his eyes.

"Uh…suspended, actually," PJ reluctantly replied. "I got in a fight with my boss because I wanted a raise, since I'm the highest faire earner in Galaxy Cab. And maybe a bigger taxi, too, so I can actually fit passengers over thirty feet tall. So, he suspended me."

"Good thing I don't need the cab anymore," Velos said, shaking his head as his hair slightly swung. "I can't stand some of the other cabbies."

"Then I remembered that you were going to be an F-Zero racer," PJ continued. "So I had my cab converted into an F-Zero machine. Better watch out, 'cause the Groovy Taxi's coming to town!"

"…Groovy Taxi?" Velos asked slowly. "PJ, disco died out over 300 years ago."

"Not on some planets!" PJ countered jovially.

"Okay, kiddo, you and I are signed up," Neelson announced. "Let's check the board and see who we're up against."

A large screen displayed a list of twelve names, lined up in the position that they were intended to start in. Each name was bright neon green contrasting a black screen, displaying the name to the entire bar. The twelve racers listed were:

Michael Chain

James McCloud

Samurai Goroh

Mighty Gazelle

Velos Inner

Super Arrow

Zoda

Bio Rex

Octoman

Silver Neelson

Captain Falcon

PJ

"Hey, how come I'm in last?" PJ complained.

"Because people know what your flying is like," Velos answered, jabbing a jest at the cabbie-turned-racer.

"Well, what do you know, kid!" Neelson chuckled. "You're gonna race against the famous Falcon!"

"And lose miserably," Velos responded.

"Hey, Vee, just because it's your first real F-Zero race doesn't mean you need to win," PJ encouraged.

"Yeah, kiddo," Neelson added. "Just do your best. That's all that matters."

"I agree," said a fourth voice.

Behind the three appeared a fourth man, garbed in a white jacket and green pants with silver boots and brown gloves. His eyes were obscured by dark sunglasses, and his brown hair was spiked backwards with a white streak running down the middle. The brown shirt underneath his jacket matched well with his gloves.

"Wait, don't tell me," Velos suddenly said, "I'm psychic that way. Let's see, it's coming to me, it's coming to me…James McCloud, right? Pilot of the Little Wyvern, number ten?"

"You're one smart kid, Velos," James smiled. "I guess that knowledge comes from watching various GP races."

"So, James, how you doing?" Neelson asked.

"Fine, Silver, thanks," James nodded. "I was actually wondering about your little protégé here."

"Say what?" Velos asked suddenly.

"James McCloud trains a lot of good F-Zero racers," PJ explained. "Word is he even trained Ryu Suzaku, and he's the best racer next to Falcon!"

"It's true," James nodded. "I had the honor of being able to give Ryu a little training. The Federation racers aren't as bad as you think they are, Velos."

"I don't think they're bad at racing," Velos denied, "I just think they're as annoying as Zoda is messed up in the head."

"So this is the famed bruise over the 'orphanage incident'," James smirked. "I guess fate has a funny way of doing things."

"I'll say," Velos agreed, looking over the two names that his happened to be placed between. "Oh, great god of irony, why dost thou torture me so?"

"Don't like Mighty Gazelle and Super Arrow?" James asked. "Arrow I kind of understand, but what do you have against Mighty Gazelle? He was a victim of the accident, just like your parents."

"Yeah, but Cyber Stick Incorporated managed to fix Roy Hughes by making him a walking moped," Velos said. "I've always felt that if that kind of thing was used for my parents, they would still be here, y'know?" Velos added with a shrug.

"Well…I have an offer for you, Velos," James began. "If you can place in the top six here, you can train with me sometime."

"Now that is a primo opportunity, kiddo!" Neelson chimed in.

A smirk spread across Velos' face. A chance to train with James McCloud! If he could keep up with James, he could keep up with Ryu Suzaku and perhaps even Falcon himself!

"Sounds good," Velos said. "See you then."

"I'll be looking forward to it," James smirked before leaving to attend to his machine.

"You are one lucky kid!" Neelson laughed. "Being trained by both me and James McCloud! You'll be one to look out for in the Prix, that's for sure!"

"Yeah, that reminds me," Velos said, "have to get the Chariot at the starting gate."

The three racers headed off to the garage, eagerly awaiting the start of the bet race.

****

Moments later, Ryu Suzaku, Mr. EAD, and Jack Levin approached the list of competitors.

"Looks like we're too late to register," Ryu pointed out.

"Heh, don't sweat it, Ryu!" Jack laughed. "We can find out what that Inner kid can do just by watching!"

"I know," Ryu said grimly, "but look at who he's racing against."

He pointed at the three top names on the list, to which Jack quickly shed his cocky demeanor.

"He's going against Michael Chain and Samurai Goroh?!" Jack cried. "Falcon and James McCloud, too?! Man, looks like that kid's in for a rough ride!"

"Obviously," Ryu said. "Let's just see how he handles it."

****