“Zone Upgrade: Sleepers” A single zombie appeared in the small gap between Jelly_Jim and the end of the track. He woke it, then it turned to cross the starting line. Dread sliced through the zombie.
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Dread reached the Derby track and stepped across the boundary with her right foot. Her black and gold motorcycle boot attracted a stream of nanos from the track like a magnet pulling metal filings. They flowed from the smooth white surface to assemble themselves into a column of wheels along the sole of her boot. She completed the step, then she used her left foot to push herself forward. Once her other boot crossed the boundary it gained its own wheels and she skated to her position at the starting line, next to Jelly_Jim. Dread’s helmet coalesced around her head; it covered her bone-white spiked hair and tiger ears. The front of her helmet displayed a sugar skull logo decorated with golden flowers.
“First time. What am I in for?” Dread spoke into her helmet to ask Dirge. The shorter, curly haired girl stood at the sidelines to watch the match. A buzzer sounded from the floating scoreboard in the center of the half-mile, oval shaped track. Jelly_Jim took off like a shot, his green translucent body wobbled as he pushed himself forward on the skates. Dread skated forward at a relaxing pace to wait for Dirge’s reply.
“In Derby he gets a hand of five cards after the first lap, then every lap after that lets him draw another card. Card Mages mostly deal with summoning monsters, but they have effect cards too. The longer the match goes the stronger he’ll get, so you’ve got to knock him down fast or find a way to stop him from completing a lap. Oh yeah! You don’t actually have to knock him down. Card Mages automatically lose any game if their hand stays empty for too long, or if they don’t have any more cards to draw,” Dirge replied.
“Does outlasting him work too?” Dread asked. She began to glide faster atop the white track when she noticed Jelly_Jim taking the first turn, a quarter mile ahead of her.
“Not really. He can stop skating any time he wants, and he won’t have to draw a card if he doesn’t complete a lap,” Dirge explained.
“Do I get to know how many cards he has?” Dread asked. She looked to her left to see the green man across the center, on the other side of the track.
“Yeah, you’ll see it when he gets his first hand. Stop asking questions and go knock him down!” Dirge encouraged Dread to get serious. “Hey, where’s your beast?”
“Not yet,” Dread replied. She moved faster now, actively trying to catch up to her opponent. She focused on him as he completed his first lap. A string of five golden, floating octahedrons formed a single file behind him as he crossed the starting line. They followed his every swerve like the body of a snake chasing the head. After all five appeared, one vanished.
“Zone: Outbreak” Dread heard a deep male voice announce the play from the scoreboard when Jelly_Jim activated his first card. The smooth white track shifted. Dread felt the surface grow texture under her skates; she saw the white track darken and become a grey-black city street. Abandoned cars appeared on the street ahead of her while a neighborhood of houses with boarded windows grew in the center of the track. Dread could no longer see Jelly_Jim because houses around the scoreboard, but she heard another play announced.
“Zone Upgrade: Sleepers.” Dread saw a single zombie appear in front of Jelly_Jim on the track, She scanned ahead of him, but saw only the one ragged corpse standing in place. Jelly_Jim touched the zombie as he passed it. It woke up and began to shamble towards the starting line.
“Can I kill it?” Dread asked Dirge.
“You totally should! His monsters drop power-ups sometimes, and he gets more sleepers every time he completes a lap; next time he’ll get two, then three and so on,” Dirge explained.
“So he’s just helping me?” Dread skated up behind the zombie. She crouched low to the ground and ran her hand along the street surface. Thin flowing streams of nanos collected in her hand to form her weapon; a large black, double bladed battle axe. She hefted it with little effort and cleaved through the zombie in front of her. It fell apart in two pieces, then disintegrated.
“Power-Up: Hyper” the announcer’s voice said from the scoreboard.
“Dirge?” Dread asked, unsure of the effect. Ahead of her Jelly_Jim was about to complete his second lap.
“That power-up boosts one of your class abilities, your beast counts too!” Dirge replied through Dread’s helmet. She glided atop the street towards the starting line and she noticed Jelly_Jim moving slower; the gap between them diminished. She picked up speed and gripped the ebony handle of her axe tighter.
“I don’t need my beast for this,” Dread said. Jelly_Jim slowed so much he appeared to be walking to the starting line. Dread twisted her hips slightly, and readied the axe like a baseball bat.
He stopped skating, but Dread did not expect that. The sudden halt threw off her timing. She meant to swing the broadside of the axe forward like a tennis racquet to swat Jelly_Jim’s gelatinous body; however, the stop caught her by surprise and she rushed the swing without putting any power into it. The green jelly caught the axe with a wobble, but Dread built up so much momentum her body continued to move forward while her hands still held the trapped axe. The conflicting forces sent Dread flying, feet first, across the starting line. She completed a lap, but still ended up on the street, flat on her back.
“Point: Jelly_Jim,” the scoreboard announced.
“One point for me,” Jelly_Jim said. He pulled Dread’s axe out of his body and tossed it over the starting line. The heavy blade embedded itself into the track next to Dread’s helmet. Dread jumped to her feet and held her hand out. The axe disintegrated into a stream of nanos that reformed the axe in Dread’s hand. She noticed Jelly_Jim standing behind the starting line. He waved at her, then she noticed one of the octahedrons behind him disappear.
“Sleepers,” The scoreboard announced. Four zombies appeared in front of Jelly_Jim, two for each card played, and he woke all of them. They shuffled across the line, Dread killed all four of them with little effort.
“Sleepers,” The scoreboard announced. Six zombies appeared in front of Jelly_Jim, three for each card played, and he woke all of them. They shuffled across the line, Dread killed all six of them, though it took some effort.
“Sleepers,” The scoreboard announced. Eight zombies appeared in front of Jelly_Jim.
“You have to go around again and push him across the line! But leave your beast out to kill the zombies or he’ll fill up the track. If he gets control of the track you lose,” Dirge said. Dread spun around and skated as fast as she could around the track.
“Your beast!” Dirge yelled in Dread’s helmet.