We contestants started our engines.
And let me tell you, there's no sound like it. The roar of a dozen (maybe more!) Podracers is so loud it hurts your ears. It's like sticking your head inside a hyperdrive motivator. For me, that sound is mere adrenaline. It makes me want to go fast and win.
The starting light turned green and I pushed hard on my racer's thruster bars. The Podracers ahead of me zoomed ahead in a pack...
Meanwhile, with a sickening cough, my engines went dead.
Sebulba! All at once I knew he'd sabotaged my engines. But it didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was getting back in the race.
I hit the starter again...and again. Tense seconds passed as I waited anxiously to see if the turbines would catch. Finally, they did!
I was off. Of course, I was way behind, but maybe that worked in my favor. Ahead, I watched Sebulba's bright orange racer and Mawhonic's Pod go neck-and-neck in the first turn by the rock formations. Mawhonic didn't know what he was up against. If I had a comlink, I would try and warn him.
Too late. Sebulba veered into Mawhonic, sending him straight into the rocks. KA-BOOM! Even at the back of the race I could hear the explosion as Mawhonic vanished into a huge ball of flame. I know it must sound crazy, but all I wanted was to catch up to the creature who'd killed Mawhonic.
But first I had to pass the rest of the pack.
Gasgano was the first challenge I faced. He was running a new Ord Pedrovia, which is really fast and agile. I tried to pass him, but he cut me off. Again and again I tried, but it wasn't until we dropped off a mesa cliff that I put a move on him and slipped by.
PANG! Out of nowhere, something hit the back of my Podracer and made me swerve.
Then I saw them: four Tusken Raiders hiding in the Canyon Dune Turn! They were cheering and dancing with delight.One of them must have gotten lucky with his rifle and hit my racer. I gritted my teeth and shot past them.
KA-BOOM! I heard another explosion and saw Sebulba racing away from a second huge ball of flame and smoke along the canyon wall. I didn't see what happened, but I knew that Xelbree had been trying to catch him a few moments before.
And now Xelbree was gone.
KA-BOOM! Ody Mandrell cut too low over a stalagmite and crashed. Now he was gone, too. I felt a shiver. When you lost in this race, you lose everything...including your life.
The first lap was over. I told myself to be patient as I worked my way through the pack. Coming through the Arch Canyon for the second time, I was 300 meters behind Teemto Pugales when his racer suddenly exploded in a bright orange ball of fire.
Just like that, Teemto was gone, too.
By the beginning of the third lap I was in third place behind Sebulba and Terter. Obitoki and Habba Kee were right behind me. Terter was smart enough to stay off Sebulba's tail, which was always a bad place to be. But as they came up through Jag Crag Gorge, Terter tried to sneak a move that would bring him too close. I knew what Sebulba would do even before he did it.
THWANK! Sebulba jettisoned a spare part. Terter couldn't avoid it. One of the engines sucked the part in and Terter veered right into me!
Whoa! The next thing I knew, my racer was out of control. Terter's vertical stabilizer had snagged the steelton line to my left engine, unhooking the main binding! Obitoki, Elan Mak, and Habba Kee slipped past while I whipped all over the sky, fighting to get my Podracer under control. To be honest, I thought I was a goner. Flying a Podracer with a loose engine is like hitching a ride on a comet. I figured that even if I didn't crash, I'd probably be pulled into the upper atmosphere and freeze to death. The other danger came from the loose steelton line. Flying free, it could snag a rock and swing me right into oblivion at any moment.
I kept fighting for control, working the stabilizer pedals with my feet...using the magnetic retriever to try and grab the loose line. But my Podracer was swinging wildly. It seemed hopeless...until I remembered Qui-Gon's advice: Feel. Don't think. Trust your instincts. By then I realized I had nothing to lose.
And I focused. Stabilize. Catch the steelton line. FOCUS! I stopped thinking about and just reacted. And then I did something I'd never managed to accomplish before. As the Podracer swung toward the loose line, I reached out with the magnetic retriever and managed to grab it. An instant later, I rehooked the line to the left Radon-Ulzer.
Suddenly I was back in control.
But this was the last lap and I'd lost valuable time. Would I still be able to catch up?
I passed Elan Mak.
KA-BOOM! Ahead, Obitioki disappeared in flames and smoke. Sebulba had flashed him with his side vents, the same trick he had used on me in the last race. Only I'd managed to crash-land and walk away.
KA-BOOM! Blinded by the bright blast at Obitoki's racer, Habba Kee crashed.
That left Sebulba and me.
I came up on his side. Sebulba might have had a lot of dirty tricks, but he didn't have a lot of imagination about using them. He knew flashing his side vents had worked on me once before. I had a feeling he would try it again.
He did! My Podracer was forced onto the service ramp for a moment. Unintentionally bursting the fence, I came right back. With a controlled thrust, I ducked inside and took the lead!
Now Sebulba was behind me in second place! Boy, how I wish I could have seen his face.
KRUNK! The jarring jolt from behind caught me by surprise. Sebulba was taking out his frustration by butting me. Now he was tight on my tail. He knew I wouldn't let him get past me, so instead he chose to crowd me and push, trying to send me out of control. And that was a big problem, because it could work! It's hard enough to maneuver those turns at top speed without someone bumping you from behind.
Sebulba kept pushing me and I kept fighting him off. My control board flickered. Something had been knocked loose and was shorting out! Poodoo! It flickered again. I knew I'd have to switch to the auxiliary, but to do that meant backing off the RPMs. The electronics couldn't handle the jolt of switching at a flat-out thrust.
It took less than a second to make the switch. But it was all Sebulba needed to retake the lead.
. . .
Last lap. Last turn. Last chance. A Nubian spacecraft was a lot to lose, and I had a feeling that was only the beginning of Qui-Gon's problems. Thus I tried every move I knew to get past Sebulba. But either he'd gotten smarter during the race or he was just lucky, because he'd managed to keep me behind him.
Feel. Don't think. Trust your instincts. As we came out of the final turn, I put one last fake on him.
It worked! Suddenly we were side-by-side in the final stretch.
KRUNK! Sebulba slammed his racer sideways into mine, trying to knock me off course.
KRUNK! He did it again.
It took every last bit of strength I had to keep my Pod under control.
KRUNK! Again! He was crazy! Smashing our pods together like this could hurt him just as much as it could hurt me.
KRUNK! This time, when he slammed into me, our racers didn't bounce apart. I looked over the side and saw why. Our steering rods had gotten caught on each other!
In his Pod, Sebulba was frowning at me. If we crossed the finish line together, we'd tie. Neither one of us wanted that. We both wanted to win! I had to get loose!
Leaning as hard as I could on my racer's steering arm, I slammed my thrusters back and forth, trying to break away from Sebulba's racer. At the same time we were screaming down the final stretch at top speed. I pushed the steering arm harder.
SNAP! It broke!
Just before we burst apart, I caught a glimpse of incredible surprise on Sebulba's face. Then I was spinning wildly and pumping my stabilizers to straighten out.
A few moments later my racer limped through a cloud of black smoke and crossed the finish line! The smoke was coming from Sebulba's engines, which had exploded when his Podracer crashed into an ancient statue. I don't know how he managed to survive that crash, but he did.
Only he didn't win the Boonta Classic.
I slowed to a stop and just sat there in my racer, so tired I couldn't even reach up to unbuckle my straps. My face was wet with gritty sweat. My ears were filled with the hiss of cooling turbines and the roar of the cheering crowd. The twin suns glared down out of the cloudless sky, glinting off the Radon-Ulzers. My race...my win...my dream...
Kitster was reaching into my Pod and undoing my straps. I looked up into his proud, smiling face. His lips moved but I couldn't hear his words over the roar. Hands were picking me up and the next thing I knew, I was being carried to Jabba's box by a crowd of cheering fans.
I done it.