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The Viper, slingshotting around Europa, hit max acceleration on the far side of the Moon. Its pilot—using both his hands, his access to augmented reality, his instincts—arced the ship toward the next maneuver, a check-point situated in Io’s low orbit.
“Hector, give me updates!” Raith shouted to his crew through their private channel. Even as a synthetic intelligence, he couldn’t keep track of everything.
“Hold on, hold on, I’m getting you the latest over-unders. Give me sixty seconds.”
“You know how vital this part of the course is; I need it now!”
As Io neared, the Viper topped 100,000 kilometers per hour. It was like threading a needle through a target hidden inside a haystack, but he’d performed this maneuver a hundred times before.
“All right, all right,” Hector said over the com. “I’ve got it. Hundred to one odds on Carlos beating you here, ten to one Kana crashes . . . hundred to one you don’t crash.”
“Well then, glad they have so much faith in me.”
Raith checked the encryption on their secure channel. All good. “Do it. You know what to do, as we discussed prerace.”
“On it.”
The Io Thread: an infamous checkpoint of the Solar Sprint. Situated between two abandoned space stations, racers had less than a kilometer between the twin derelicts to direct their craft. An easy task when not traveling at a cognizable fraction of the speed of light. At Raith’s pace, he had less than sixty seconds to figure out the puzzle before him if he wanted to win the prize—and finally pay off his creditors. The finish was less than a thousand kilometers past the Thread, so it was now or never.
“One thing at a time,” he said aloud. “First, Carlos . . .” He checked his scopes, identifying the pilot a few dozen kilometers behind on the course. After running some subtle calculations, he eased off the throttle just enough so Carlos would catch him before they entered the Thread. A justifiable maneuver, if a racer was concerned about their trajectory heading into the dangerous isthmus. “All right, now what about Kana?”
The Brazilian racer was even closer than Carlos, less than a hundred kilometers back. With his adjusted velocity, Kana would pass Raith hundreds of kilometers before they even reached the Thread. “Well, time for some defensive flying, then. Sorry about this, Kana.”
Raith guided the Viper into the approximated path of Kana’s racer, the Sizor. Ninety kilometers now separated the two racers, the Thread coming ever closer.
“What the hell are you doing, Raith?” Kana’s voice came over the race-wide com. “If you need to slow down, that’s one thing, but don’t block me you—”
With a click, Raith muted the racer, focusing on the other pilot’s ac-tions. “Almost . . .” They came ever closer to the Thread; The Sizor encroached upon the Viper. “Almost . . .”
His maneuver forced Kana to slow, and a few seconds later, Carlos flew by them both, his velocity unbridled. Right on course for a perfect Io Needle.
“Almost . . .”
Ten kilometers out from the thread, Kana only one click behind but on his starboard side attempting the pass, Raith shifted his trajectory just—
Proximity alarms flared. He’d miscalculated. He turned on the com just in time to hear a string of swears from Kana before—

Raith remembered everything. The crash. The ejection. The withdrawal. Through it all, he’d remained in low-power state, contemplating his mistake. It was big.
The Viper? Destroyed. Kana? Dead. Carlos won, sure. But he’d never see the winnings. It probably wasn’t worth it, anyway.
He was sitting inside Ganymede Station, face in his hands. While in vacuum, he’d sent a message to Hector to get out. They’d reconnect when possible. The whole crew needed to scram.
Looking up, he noted three IS-SEC guards standing over him. “Yes?”
“You know why we’re here?”
“This will be easy then. You’re under arrest for fraud, manslaughter, and tax evasion. Will you come willingly?”
“Yeah. We’ll make this easy.”
“Glad to hear it.”

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