I was still miles from the arena. The noxious cloud of exhaust, dust, and chemical fumes was illuminated; diffusing a million watts of incandescent light into an ominous off-white dome that loomed precariously on the crest of the mesa. Even from this far out I could smell the place. The sharp sting of racing fuel burned at the back of my throat. I wrapped a cloth over my mouth and nose in a poor attempt at filtering something breathable from the air, but it served to do little more than add the scent of old cotton to the melange.
I parked near the edge of the lot, planning ahead. In the event things got hairy, I would hate to have my only transport lost somewhere amidst the various highly modified units piled about the overcrowded space. I removed my camera from its case, and trudged into the haze toward the arena - double checking my locks. You can never be too careful around Gearheads.
The races were about to begin. A cacophony of sound erupted from somewhere past the gates. Cheers and chants from the crowds of Gearheads and Speed Freaks blended together into one solid drone, like they were summoning some ancient speed demon from the depths. It was deafening from where I stood, and I wasn’t even past the gates yet. Speed Freaks
There was a large mass of huddled bodies near the main entrance. Jacked up race geeks all itching to pay their fare and get a glimpse of their favorite driver or, if they were really lucky, see him and his racer explode in flames halfway through the race. Luckily I wasn’t aiming for the front entrance. I made my way around the edge of the lot, to a small gate marked Press and Vendors. As I approached, and tall, inhumanly skinny man slinked out from a small shack near the gate. “Whatcha need, friend?”, he slurred. He stunk of a combination of fuel, liquor, and chem sticks. “Press”, I replied, showing him my credentials. He unlocked the gate, and shakily gestured that I should go ahead. “Check in at the first booth on yer left.” I stepped through the gate and he quickly sealed it behind me, shambling back to his gate to watch the races on a cheap monitor.
Once inside, it quickly became apparent how much I stood out amongst the throng. To my relief, however, the vast majority was far too busy whipping themselves into a frenzy waiting for the first match to begin. The vendor lot was dense with a variety of peddlers, scamming their wares on anyone foolish or desperate enough to toss a few credits their way. Auto parts, tires, chems, tech mods. If it was crude tech, you could bet you’d find it here. Most of the junk was clearly stripped from vehicles, likely in the lot I had just left. I was suddenly thankful I had double checked my locks.
Suddenly, as if a great fissure had opened in the earth, there was a great roaring from the center of the arena. Low, bone-shaking tones, dissonantly harmonizing with the shrill sucking sounds on air intake. From where I was amidst the vendor lot, I couldn’t see the source of the sound, but it was not hard to identify. The races had begun.
Screaming around the track at ludicrous speeds, the drivers pushed their machines to their absolute limits. Each vehicle looked like some sort of freak automotive experiment. Great hulking machines, like great junk behemoths. Sucking the oxygen from the area and belching out thick dark exhaust as a replacement. It was like watching terrible metal titans wage war. Each turn a treacherous maneuver, certain to send even the most skilled Speedfreak spiraling into the wall in a flurry of sparks and twisted metal. Crashes were frequent here, if not encouraged. The crowd craved the carnage. Each collision was met with a roar of pleasure from the crowd.
There were recorders everywhere. Large network broadcast units perched on high lookouts around the borders of the track. Personal data recorders in the shaky hands of many spectators, no doubt streaming the events to violence-starved audiences inhaling their own bottled fumes and trying to vicariously live the experience on a vidscreen wherever they happened to be picking up the signal. I snapped my own camera to life. I had a buyer back in the city looking for exclusive footage of the event. I didn’t know the purpose. That wasn’t part of my job, or something I was particularly interested in. I was just there to get the footage, and get out ruffling as few as possible. So far so good.
The block of races ended. An indicator on my camera informed me that I had the requisite data, and could make my leave. I wasted no time doing just that. My trek back to the gate was met with various Gearheads looking to labor for parts. Asking about my vehicle. Offering to make modifications in exchange for transport back to their bago densand fugee camps. It was a clever guise, and one that was all too familiar from the Newsfeeds. They would entice a charitable person into giving them a ride, only to leave them bleeding out in the desert someplace and stirp their ride of any valuable parts.
I made it back to my van, unlocked the doors, and hopped in. I placed the datacard from my camera into a read/write dock I had installed in the console. It would analyze the footage and transmit the files to my client. My payment would be wired to my account by morning. Just a few hundred credits, but it’s a living.