CHAPTER 5

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The Season Opener was the biggest race of the planetary cycle on Taris. The first race of the standard year, it kicked off the rest of the races around the galaxy. Hundreds of racers competed, and competition could be fierce. Bets had already started in the cantinas throughout the upper and lower city.

The rules were simple, the racers all ran their heats throughout the day, the racer with the fastest time at the end of the day wins. The track was long and winding, with obstacles set up along the way that got progressively more difficult as it looped back around the finish. Each racer got to run three heats throughout the day. Their fastest time out of their three heats would be the one that represented their standing in the race.

The stands were packed with people from mostly the lower city, the upper city residents preferred to watch on the holonet. Flags waved in the air representing various planets throughout the Outer Rim. The Black Vulkars glared at the Hidden Beks from their pit areas as they worked on their swoop bikes. Various other swoop gangs also were present though none as notable as the Vulkars and the Beks.

Venar wore a biker's jumpsuit which was similar to a flight suit. His goggles hung around his neck as Gadon's men worked on the swoop bike, double and triple checking to make sure everything was in order. Gadon would've been present but Diedra had urged him to watch from the comfort of the base.

Venar spoke into his wrist com, "Carth, any eyes on our Jedi friend yet?"

"Negative," Carth's voice came back, "be careful though. Tensions are high between the gangs, and you're going up against experienced racers."

"Relax," Venar said smugly,"how hard could it be? You know what they say: like stealing candy from a Jawa."

"No one says that."

"Sure they do. Well at least I say it."

Venar turned to see Mission and Zaalbar had just gotten back from a concession stand. Zaalbar was munching some giant fried leg of... something.

"You sure you wanna do this?" Mission asked, "Swoop racing is dangerous stuff even for experienced veterans. They say tons of racers have died on this track."

"I figure its our only shot at freeing our Jedi friend," he replied.

"You must really like her."

"What? I haven't even met her."

"Wait, you're going through all of this for someone you haven't even met?"

"Its a long story." Just then an official came over to announce to Venar and his crew that his heat would be next. The crew gave him the nod that everything seemed to be working properly.

He settled himself into the cockpit and adjusted the goggles onto his face. He felt the thrumming of the engine as he slowly moved it out onto the track. He glanced at the scoreboard which showed that one of the Vulkars currently had the fastest time of three minutes and ten seconds. It also displayed the all-time record for the track of two minutes and forty five seconds. He pulled up to the starting line and all eyes were on him.

He watched the signal lights ahead for the signal to start. He revved the engine a few times. The signal light showed red. He adjusted his goggles. The light turned yellow. He disengaged the engine dampener. He hit the throttle the instant the light turned green and the vehicle shot forward picking up immense speed.

The wind shot through his hair and he struggled to keep the vehicle steady as he winded in and out, dodging obstacles while trying to keep it moving as fast as he could. He took a tight turn a little too fast and the vehicle scraped the side wall sending sparks flying and causing a small dent in the side of the speeder. The crowd oohed and ah'd as he struggled to regain control. He was able to stabilize it and continued to accelerate through the track.

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