Apex Universe

Chronicles - Chapter 2

CASSIUS "MAD BANGER" RAW

by Fernando Kornijezuk

That ghostly voice came in his ears suddenly, as usual. Cassius Raw was unable to control when it happened, which often was on the most disturbing moments. Framed in white mist, the image of the nurse holding a scalpel towards him clouded his senses. He was back to the operating room, and a chilly burst ran through his spine.

“Increase the valve pressure, and prepare the anticoagulant.”

He heard his own voice as if it came from someone else.

“Doing it now, Doctor Raw,” – the nurse’s response came promptly.

Doctor. That word sounded more farfetched than all. The incision was very small and precise, as always. The aplomb while cutting showed the accuracy, the attention to detail, of someone used to deal with life-or-death situation as easily as anyone preparing a ham sandwich in the morning. Everything was all right. Everything under control.

So where was that persistent sound coming from? That non-stopping alarm clock-like “beep, beep”? And it became louder and louder, as if it were trying to foretell some impending more important occurrence. Cassius quickly glanced at the patient monitor, and his gaze caught the nurse’s attention.

“Doctor Raw?” – whispered the nurse, sounding concerned – “Is it all right?”

It was always that same question, like a broken record. The monitor showed nothing wrong. The patient was doing okay. But where was that noise coming from?

“Doctor, Doctor!” – The nurse’s voice showed an aggravated concern.

Cassius could feel his hand shaking. The initially accurate incision gradually turned into a furrow that only a butcher would dare to make.

“DOCTOR! DOCTOR!” – The nurse was screaming as loud as she could.

Blood came spurting from the patient’s veins, flooding the operating room. Cassius was hit by a spray that painted his face and chest red. The noise from the alarm had turned into a deafening buzz. Yet nothing was more intense than that metallic taste in Cassius mouth. Blood tastes like steel.

And then again Cassius “Mad Banger” Raw was at the wheel of Lady Laura, his truck, his tarmac-hungry steel beast, leaving rubber tattoos on the highways. That persistent noise was actually Myrna, his small drone, warning that she had finished her repair job, and that the throttle was ready to be stepped on. Mad Banger gave her a thumbs-up signal, turned off the cruise control, and shot Lady Laura at full speed to reach the other Apex Racers. The K-CUBES were at full blast again, and the veteran pilot and his truck could resume their hunt.

 “What’s up, Mad Banger? You are obviously buying dinner, but if you manage to get closer to me, I’ll relieve the old man from buying the beer!” – Kaneda’s voice came squawking on the intercom.

That low-grade Japanese accent was quite a nuisance, but Raw had to admit that the kid was good. He had won the last two races among the newbies, and had managed to survive his first five missions against the mega corporations. Maybe he really had what it takes to be a K-Truck Racer. It was the time to check.

The apex of the curve was getting closer pretty fast. Kaneda was right in front of him, with his large red and white truck, the Shaolin Alpha, approaching the curve with technical accuracy. Cassius laughed. Using his right hand, he lifted the lid of the small yellow and black compartment labeled “TURBO”, and set his trap. He ignored all the warnings Myrna was sending to his H.U.D. screen. It was not the time to be “technically correct”. Everything seemed as cool as in the operating room, and Raw got ready to hear Lady Laura sing.

Like a predator, Cassius took the inside lane while in the straight stretch. While the thorough Japanese began his braking procedure, Lady Laura took the chance for overtaking, without lowering its speed. Side by side, the two trucks enjoyed a brief metallic kiss, and Cassius could see through the window Kaneda’s scared face from that maneuver, while the voice came squawking through the intercom:

“What the f...!”

Screw the kid! Now Cassius would have to focus on controlling his deranged beast. He carefully turned his control panel, and the K-CUBES began their magic act. Lady Laura’s tires began a screeching symphony, while the truck finally began to turn in an impossible angle. The rear was out of control, swaying insistently, while Myrna shouted warnings. The road pavement was not wide enough. The wall seemed to be the unavoidable destination. Yet Mad Banger didn’t seem to care, he knew what he was doing.

Raw fired the Turbo, and the high voltage prototype cube was sent into the engine. As if a demon possessed, Lady Laura responded to that new blast. The tires clung to the track border, and the engine roared like the trumpets of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The skillful pilot got the slippage under control, and shot the truck far ahead of his Asian colleague, ruthlessly approaching the finish line.

“This is physically impossible!” – screamed the youngster, bewildered.

“That’s why they call me Mad Banger, kid. Mine will be a steak parmigiana, with French fries.”

© 2018 by Old Pirate Studio