SFX League

Arbitrary Approach

|| Double parentheses, ”(( ” is used to identify internal dialogue.

”Next, ” ushered a hefty man dressed in a white security shirt.

A woman proceeded from the outdoor security table with a green entry bracelet, and the next in line stepped forth.

”ID, ” issued the guard, holding out his hand in receipt.

A state license landed in the patrols hand, and he compared it to the young man before him. The card was two years old, but the photo resembled him well. A tall, slim, though athletic build. Brown skin like roasted almonds and an incurably salty resting bitch face to accompany. Tiny strands of hair on his shoulder exposed that hed recently had his black, short, undercut hairstyle restored.

”Gavin Dance Jr, age 18, any felonies? ” The guard asked, to which his subject readily responded, ”Just misdemeanors. ”

Prying further, the security swiped left on a digital tablet. ”According to your file, youve been charged with: Trespassing, petty theft, destruction of private property, disorderly conduct, and illicit use of nanotechnology. ”

”All petty crimes, ” Gavin replied, confidently presenting his bare wrist.

”I get it; I was your age once too, ” shared the guard. A thin green bracelet was attached to Gavins arm as an indication of being reviewed. He proceeded past the clearance table and boarded a parked red trolley crowded with other individuals.

The inside was unlit, every red chair was stained brown, and it was deathly quiet. Rows of strangers eyed him as he walked down the aisle to an open seat. Once sat, he zipped up his jacket, then adjusted in his spot to peer out the window.

The sun was cloaked, hoards of dark gray clouds threatened rain, and a chilly early morning breeze made him regret not bundling. It was a lousy setting for Gavin, who went by Vin to ease the confusion around his household.

”Does it always have to be so gloomy, ” he said. Not that it mattered because even when the forecast called for warm weather, Vin was inherently cold. As a lame joke, he told anyone questioning his jacket obsession that he was genetically born cold-blooded.

Before long, the trolleys wheels screeched and commenced its journey up the hill of their small town.

Headphones kept Vin company as the vehicle climbed past the citys shops and homes. At the time, a new feisty pop song called ”Wake Up ” by ”Cave In ” had become his hype anthem. He heard it playing on radios everywhere, and athletes usually jammed it while active.

After a four-minute trip, theyd arrived at the hills peak and disembarked. He was poised even as he glanced down the steep road at the rooftops of buildings below.

An old, rusted speaker on the trolley enabled, and an excessively eager voice announced, ”race starting in 3 minutes! ”

With that, Vin detached a 32inch board from his back and laid it on the dark asphalt.

(( ”They didn close the street? ”)) he thought to himself, peeking at the continuous traffic of cars and trucks. (( ”Hope no one gets injured. ”))

His light, sharp brown eyes unhurriedly shifted from his right, then to his left, where 40 local skaters prepared themselves to descend the tallest hill in their small town. Vin had no gripe with the course; he continuously examined his watch and counted the seconds until the event started.

It was a dull, quiet wait, but the intercom finally sounded again to initiate the race. ”Activating SFX field, ” the man announced. With the flip of a switch, colorful holograms outlined the road, defining the course with borders and directional arrows to keep racers on track. Digital screens abruptly displayed in thin air, revealing the thousands of hollering and cheering fans waiting at the finish line.

”Nanospheres now online, ” added the same speaker.

Vin reached into the pocket of his tracksuit and withdrew a baseball-sized, steel, solid black orb. ”Nanosphere ” was the official name. It housed billions of nanobots, each individual the size of a grain of sand. They were essentially mini displays that emitted light, sound, and temperature.

Those tiny bots were programmed to create flashy and dynamic effects. In 2080, almost everything affiliated with entertainment employed these machines to add extra sauce to publicized events.

This brings us to Vins current affair. A potential invitation to a new, exclusive university specializing in SFX entertainment. In other words, it was an opportunity to do what he loved most, race.

Digital fireworks went off in the gloomy sky, and a large red number 10 appeared. Vin pressed his left foot on the front of the deck, then hunched over the entire board.

|| Deck: Top side of a skateboard.

The digit dropped from 10 to 9, then a painstakingly slow 8 seconds passed before the red number burst, and a blaring horn erupted.

Vin launched off at the signal, balanced and steady. His nerves were perfectly appeased even as dozens of other racers matched his pace and barreled down the road.

”There are too many people, ” he mumbled to himself. ”Its going to be a headache when the fighting starts; I should clear outta here soon. ”

He accelerated more by the second while stanced so low he could reach down and touch the street. His eyes were squinted to combat the whiplash of incoming winds and glimpse ahead at closing obstacles.

With two lanes of oncoming and ongoing cars, most racers prepositioned on the right to travel alongside traffic. Vin, however, strayed left to cross the oncoming vehicles. One to separate himself, and two, to collect style points.

|| Style Points(SP): Automatically rewarded when performing tricks or impressive actions. Points are displayed on the racers wristwatch and are needed to activate nanospheres.

Vin hauled his weight far left and dragged his wheels across several unexpecting racers. He confronted the blaring horns of startled vehicles as he cut cleanly across the road, stood, then kickflipped the skateboard onto a sidewalk littered with people.

|| Kickflip: Flicking the board horizontally. Does one full rotation before landing.

While bodies shuffled to clear the way, Vin apologized and endeavored to steer close to the edge. His path was no less treacherous than the main road, but getting there was a worthy risk.

A glance at his wristwatch revealed his quantity of Style points. 40 in total, each equating to a single second of use of the nanosphere.

”Good enough, ” he calmly muttered, ”Help me out, Miyo. ”

Nanobots flooded from their steel home, clustering and taking shape. In seconds, a black, shadowy, flaming phoenix was molded from the tiny robots. It was no larger than a pigeon with lengthy wings, three blazing tails, and wide inviting eyes, unlike its owner.

”Lead the way, ” he commanded. The summoned being, Miyo, nodded, then flew ahead, leaving a dense trail of black fire. Vin followed his little navigator, hugging the line drawn for him and maneuvering around pedestrians.

Cars parked on the side of the street made it difficult to see where the central pack of racers was. Vin knew they could appear any moment, so as a safety measure, he planned to gather more points to maintain the summon.

There was a lot to utilize when skating down an urban area. Vin navigated toward, then popped his board upside down onto a metal bench; he slid across the top and then skillfully flipped the board back onto its wheels. Immediately after, he steered for a man kneeling down to tie his shoe.

The plan was to leap over the knelt man, but before Vin executed the action, blaring car horns sounded at his flank. He pivoted to see a female racer cutting through the moving traffic and progressing toward his secure location.

The stranger snapped their board on the same sideway, only a few feet ahead. She rotated, sneered at Vin, then sped up before vaulting over the bent-over man and snatching his hat off.

”Find somewhere else to skate, ” she hollered back, placing the stolen cap on her head and activating her personal ability. A pink flame engulfed the hat she swiped, then she snatched a water bottle that caught fire upon contact.

Additionally, a thundering roar sounded on the opposite side of the street and momentarily robbed both of their attention. Materializing in the middle of the race was what Vin believed to be literal Big Foot sheathed in ice. Maybe its arctic cousin or something.

The hairy, blue giant was as tall as the second-story building it ran alongside, swiping its massive hand across other skaters and knocking them off their rides.

”Its a good thing we got away while we could, ” he plainly mumbled.

While inattentive, he overlooked the opposition up front. From the corner of his eye, he glimpsed the pink flaming hat rotating wildly toward him. All too late to dodge, the object was already inches away from crashing into his face.

Vin didn brace but blinked and looked lamely at the zooming attack.

Miyos shadowy body appeared, flung in front of the attack, and took it head-on. The tiny summons body combusted and shattered upon collision, returning to a mist of nanobots.

Every summon had a different threshold for when it was programmed to break; Miyo had its uses, but their defense stat was exceptionally low.

”Dude, that thing is hella weak, ” mocked the woman ahead. ”I may even feel bad about sneak attacking you. ”

With a draw of her arm, she prepped to throw the flaming bottle as well, only another competitor interrupted.

”No hard feelings! ” blurted the new individual. They vaulted from between the parked cars with golden bear claw overlaying their hand, then slammed into the woman just as she was about release the bottle.

She lost balance and drove into a street lamp post before rasping in pain. Vin watched her crumble, then observed the new rider become immediately ambushed by an entirely different racer, ”Ha! You let your guard down! ” they laughed.

Only a second later, the new arrival was also ambushed. The fourth participant said a similar corny one-liner before they, too, were attacked. Thus, an endless cycle of new racers appearing and instantly getting mobbed began.

Vin stood straight on his board, arched his brows in wonder, then surveyed the racers that emerged one after another.

”They must be escaping from that thing, ” he uttered evenly, rotating to see the ice giant creating a mess of the rightmost racers. ”Now, nowhere is safe. ”

Vin drooped his eyes, then grabbed the zipper to his tracksuit with his left hand. ”The real race starts now, Miyo. ”

With a burst of black flame, the previously destroyed creature regenerated into its original form and landed on his head. It wasn as physically strong as the other summons. But, Miyo could resurrect from, as far as Vin knew, any attack.

He unzipped his jacket, tied it around his waist, then dropped his full weight onto the skateboard. Miyo returned to its role as the navigator, and together they steered off the dense sideway and into the middle of the ongoing lane.

Every wheel he rode on became unstable, rolling on the uneven asphalt road. On a downhill course, he exceeded

the speed of vehicles, and rashly raced between the narrow openings between cars.

Unpredictability was the most significant hindrance to street skaters. An unannounced lane change into his space threatened to sandwich Vin into an SUV at his left. Skateboards didn have built-in breaks, but they could be twisted horizontally to drag the wheels against the floor and create enough friction to reduce acceleration.

Vin peeked at the incoming car and prepared to back off. But, after reconsideration, a faint frown unwrapped across his face. ”Not like it matters, ” he muttered.

At some point in his life, luck had become a curse. No matter the danger, everything seemed to work out to spare him from injury.

Vin held his position and then alerted Miyo, who anchored their claws on the nose of his board. While their defense was low, Vin was proud of his summons strength. He parted his legs on the board and then ollied the wheels off the road; once up, Miyo pulled upward and lifted him onto the SUVs roof.

Once on the high ground, he scanned the field meticulously. (( ”Next, we can-, no, we should-, actually, that truck will be within range to jump soon. But then Ill miss the street light. ”))

Vin had become plagued by what his next could have been. He always had a great imagination, which helped him visualize secured, or outside-the-box paths to his goal.

While the SUV moved, Vin started to balance his skateboard on the rear wheels, a trick known as a manual. ”Well gather more style points for now. ”

From the back wheels, he tucked his foot under the deck and flicked it horizontally. The board rotated four times before landing on the hind wheels again; then, to add the cherry on top, he performed a careful handstand on the board.

Highly enthralled in his moves, Vin didn regard the holy grail of dents he was installing onto the SUVs roof. Nor did he hear the driver get out and start shouting for him to get down and fight him. What finally woke him was the incoming fireball that Miyo had to jump in front of to save his skin.

”Sorry bud, ” Vin apologized, snapping upright and disembarking the automobile.

Two spaces away was a perfectly unscathed, white 18-wheeler that he couldn wait to board. He leaped onto the roof, skated to the front, and jumped off to tap the street light as they passed by.

By the time he accomplished this, Miyo was already regenerated, and they dashed for the finish. With a steady pace weaving through traffic, and the abundance of SP he had from styling, Vin made up lost time. It was a perfect run; if it had stayed the way it had, he could have won.

But SFX racing wasn just a race. It was war. As such, everyone was prone to perishing on the battlefield. A neat function called ”Health Points, ” or ”HP, ” meant a racer could be disqualified if they were hit by too many SFX attacks.

The allotted HP varied per event, but the standard amount was 100. Because each nanospheres ability was different, damage ranged. Vin had taken as little as one point in injury but, in another instance, had lost all his HP just before crossing the finish line.

In an unfavorable turn of events, the track changed when they entered the final few yards. It pivoted from the busy road and toward an unobstructed celebratory stretch where rows of watchers clapped for the competitors. With nothing to hide behind, Vin could only use Miyos sacrifice to elude the barrage of attacks at his rear. Fireballs, magic arrows, glowing bullets, hell, even big foot. It all laid waste to any skater that dared to lead the pack.

Vin zigzagged as if escaping an alligator, but the sheer multitude of attacks was unavoidable. Eventually, he felt a mild pang in his upper abdomen, like being punched by an infuriated toddler. When Vin dropped his gaze, he noticed that a solid white, cartoony arrowhead squid had impaled him.

Some jerkwad had thrown his summoned ally like a spear and pierced him. Vin knew that wasn the summons intended use because the squid looked just as confused as it tried to wiggle itself free.

There wasn anything physically holding it in place, nor was Vin harmed. One of the appeals of SFX was realism. The weight of weapons, the feedback on flesh, seeing a genuine struggle as a teenager tied to dislodge a squid from his back.

In addition to the 30 points of damage he took, Vin lost concentration while dealing with his intruder. So, he was pummeled by what felt like everyone and their cookie-baking grandmas. A flurry of mild pressures hit his back, and his wristwatch beeped to inform him he was disqualified.

It was over. Vin reluctantly steered off the course. Only a few yards away from the finish where the first three competitors completed.

”That makes 42 consecutive losses… ” Vin was disappointed by the outcome but not surprised. He felt like some mysterious energy was at work stunting his progress. The same force that equated to the phrase ”you peeked in high school. ”

When Vin was younger, he dominated competitions. He was even dubbed a prodigy at a young age. But, after what he considered a ”minor accident, ” he began losing his mastery. He mostly blamed the implementation of SFX; if it wasn for the hurling squid and giant monsters, he believed hed still be invincible.

While the winning circle got hype. Vin wiped the sweat off his face, cursed, and checked his phone for the nearest bus home. Miyo had regenerated to join him in his brooding. They unhurriedly wandered off the track and brushed past the pesky roaring crowd.

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