Race Day by Pent Ghelsburg
Disclaimer: The characters depicted in this work are purely fictional. They are the original and rightful intellectual property of their creators. I use them with permission and respect is given to their owners. Any similarity to real persons, alive or dead, is purely coincidental. This work contains underaged content. You have been warned.
“Don't rest after your first victory because if you fail in second,
more lips are waiting to say that your first victory was just luck.”
The innate human desire for success is a strong one. The want of coming out on top, always ahead, always better, and always stronger is at the heart of every competition. There is no doubt in the thrill that comes with winning. The exhilaration and adrenaline that pumps through one's body often drives the human need for more. For some, it becomes an obsession but for the mass majority of society, it becomes a secondary goal.
But parents often recite to their children that winning is not important as long as their kids give their top effort. Other tenants underline this teaching; the core ones being teamwork, diligence, and perseverance. Of course, it builds their kids character, such practices often lead to a more successful personal and professional life later on. However, the importance of such achievement is very much an individual aspiration.
Scouts Canada is the pre-eminent organization in Canada leading the development of youth across the ten provinces of the country. Recently the group had been seeing to building co-operation and unity through its brother and sister organizations throughout the world. An initiate mostly pushed by the boy scouts was its global box car initiative. The plan was simple, invite teams from other regional boy scout groups and then engage in a larger race than what they usually planned.
Scouts Canada had decided on a group from Ontario while each of the other major regions being represented by one troop. So far they had managed to get a total of 12 troops ranging from the US and South America all the way to Russia and Australia. The interest garnered by the activity was nothing short of astonishing. Though Russia had already entered, Asia had sent two more groups from Taiwan and Japan. The groups were to be traveling together.
The location and date of the event had been set. It was to be August 1st through the 3rd as it seemed to be the only days that the majority of the kids had off from school. Those that didn't would have to get some sort of waiver or excuse. But the organizers of the activity thought that building a more international community through competition was important enough to make such an exception. Now all that was left was getting the kids to the location, which was decided to be San Francisco.
The date rolled around and each organization made their travel to San Francisco. The first to arrive was the Americans but of course, the other groups soon made their arrival shortly after. It had been planned so that they all showed up around the same time. By 1 PM local time, all the scout groups had arrived with the Asian groups and Australian groups arriving last. The amount of both human and furry children around was nothing short of astounding, especially to the everyday normal traveler.
At the helm of the entourage of kids was the Canadian group which was composed of primarily furs. Boys wearing the a-typical bright green uniform long-sleeved shirt with slightly darker cargo shorts. One of them was an Arctic Fox by the name of Pent. At 12 years of age, the boy was very much your typical scout. Already quite decorated in badges, the kit was very much looking forward to the opportunity to show off his race skills.
What he didn't know is that a fair amount of the other boys were just as ambitious as he was. The Taiwanese group, which was a conglomerate of both humans and furs, had been practicing at home for several months. Now while they couldn't pre-design anything, as the rules prohibited it, they had been making designs for the project since the event was announced. Every single one of the kids in their group knew exactly what they were making and what it required.
One boy in the group, a domestic shorthair tabby, had even planned to supercharge his box car by using metal wheels instead of rubber one. He figured it would offer less resistance on a wooden surface. His other friends within his group didn't have the same idea and thought it would be silly, still, the kitten was set on at least trying it. All of the scouts made their way out of the airport in an effort to be away from the threshold of general travel traffic.
Outside of the terminal, once every boy remained within their own culture group. Self-segregation was never intended and eventually, the leaders of each group caught wind of the phenomena. Forcing them to commingle with each other. Eventually, the fox and tabby cat found their way to each other.
“Hiya, what's your name?” Pent wasn't the best at being social but decided to try anyway.
“My name is Sabi.” The cat decided on the shorter moniker for his name since the longer one was harder to pronounce for foreigners.
“Cool, where are you from?” The fox wagged his tail slowly behind him.
“Taiwan. How about you?” Sabi walked closer to the somewhat taller boy.
“Canada. Excited about the competition?” The kit wasn't sure what else to talk about.
The kitten simply nodded and the two chatted idly for a bit making some small chat. As with the rest of the kids, it seemed the ploy had worked to get them from isolating groups from each other. Eventually, the group of three buses arrived to the location where they were to be picked up. No longer did the kids defer to their own groups, instead deciding to sit with new friends. The leaders of each group smiled once they realized their small measure of success.
The modes of transport were all but full minus a few seats here and there. Pent and Sabi found their way onto the second bus. Finding an empty row of the seat towards the middle of the bus. The other scouts sat all around them. Once the vehicles were full they pulled away from the spot where they had parked and began heading towards the Moscone Center which was to the place where the competition would be held.
It was a fairly large complex, so much that the organizers only booked one out of the three buildings. The location was pretty far into San Francisco but was only a short way from the airport, about 15 minutes give or take with traffic. The hotels they had booked weren't a far distance either so it was a fairly good trade-off considering most of the boys would be restless from their trip. While the buses were making transport, Sabi and Pent were making small talk.
“So what kind of stuff do you like to do?” Pent asked trying to be friendly despite his own sense of awkwardness.
“Well I like anime and video games. What do you like?” The tabby responded with a quirky smile.
“I like hockey and RC planes .” The fox responded with his own smile.
“RC Planes? In what kind of way?” Sabi wasn't sure what the other cub was referring to.
“You know...like flying a model plane with a remote control. It's basically the same thing as RC cars.” Pent explained as simply as he could.
“Oh, that's cool. I bet you're really prepared for this then, huh?” The smaller boy asked seeming a little concerned.
“Nah, not really. There is no engine here. How about you?” The kit put his paw over his head and scratched his head as if he was deep in thought.
“Hmm...well we prepared for a while before our trip over but I don't know how many edges that will give my team.” The feline was blunt and to the point with his concerns.
“I'm sure you all will do fine.” The vulpine placed his arm over the other cubs shoulder and pulled him in for a friendly hug.
The gesture caught Sabi off guard but it was nothing hurtful so he just let it happen. Eventually, the motorcade made it's way to the convention center. Even with traffic it only took 20 minutes and by the time they arrived, the boys were all ready to be done with being confined to just a crowded sitting space. It didn't take them long to file out once the vehicles had mad a stop on the side of the building. It took a few moments before all of the buses were completely empty.
Each group of boys had an adviser who got in front of their group with a megaphone. Individually they spoke in their own language as if to instruct their group. They all had the same message:
“Alright, we are here at Moscone, you are to stay within the Western part of the building. The inside will have tables set up with flags. Meet up where our flag is stationed. Materials and tools to prepare your box cars will be available on each table. You will have 2 days to work on your car, with the final third day being reserved for three sets of races. The first will be elimination rounds, the second will be semi-finals, and the last will be the finals. The winner will be awarded a badge as well as a $25 gift card to a store of choice.”
Afterward the groups broke towards inside the building. The initial crush of traffic was insane, so some boys opted to wait outside while the mass majority went inside.
Sabi and Pent went in together despite not being in the same group. But once they made their ways inside they were forced to break up. Each cub returned to his culture group and they began in making their cars. The construction process was rather easy since all it involved was shaping wood and then proceeding to attach two sets of axles as well as wheels. Some paint and decals were included so that each boy could decorate the cars as they liked to.
The tabby cat decided on a rather intricate design with three protruding cones outside of the front of the car and only two in the back attached instead by a seamless square shape. His goal was to make it look similar to Mach 5 from one of his favorite anime's Speed Racer. The cub even intended to paint it in the normal white and red scheme that he had seen so many times on the cartoon. It was a rather ambitious task as he began on widdling away on it using a knife and coping saw.
Pent meanwhile had settled on a much more simplistic design. Instead of going with a singular cone build on top of a rectangular chassis constructed over 2 sets of thin axels. His idea was to rely on a time-tested design based on Formula One racing type vehicles. Pent had even designed on a color scheme of black and green similar to a Lucas de Grassi design he'd seen before on television. The fox wasn't too keen on the sport but had done enough research to feel fairly confident the design would be feasible.
Each team had on average eight boys which had been chosen by a rigorous selection process. Now while they hadn't participated on a pinewood derby before, the boys that were chosen had earned their place in the competition through other means. The organizers thought the process in this was to maintain a level playing field while keeping discipline and focus throughout the groups. As the scoutmasters looked on, they couldn't help but feel like this was all going according to plan.
The feline boy had begun working on his axels and wheels first. Selecting aluminum as a base for his project. A soldering iron and reinforced snips would all he would need to make the undercarriage portion of his box car. Cutting out the shapes of the wheels was simple enough. Axels were already prepared for them in several different sizes and makes. Attaching them took but a few seconds of melding the two metal products together.
Unlike his Taiwanese counterpart, Pent had decided on a more efficient design with rubber wheels and titanium axels. It wasn't quite as simple to attach to the metal but after creating a socket in the center of the inside of the wheels, it attached easily enough. All that was needed to assure it wouldn't slide was a cap which he softened by heating it, then attached it before allowing it to dry. Sure enough, the wheels seemed secure enough. Now all that was left for the both of them was the top.
Sabi's thought his design as going to be more difficult. Simply shaping the wood wouldn't be enough, so he decided on a hand plane and chisel to shave down his wood into the cone shapes he had in mind. Occasionally his scoutmaster came around, but the feline was much too focused on his work to notice. Slowly but surely the face of his wooden wedge was becoming more and more like the Mach 5 he was intent on re-creating.
The fox meanwhile had a much easier time making what he had in mind. However, he began with the base of the project, deciding that the core of the car needed to be done before the nose or end of the cockpit could be messed with. He began designing the plane by cutting the wood into two equal parts and placing intakes on both sides of the middle of the base. He then fiddled down a ramp as if to create a more aerodynamic design. The last touch on his base was an interesting fin that he decided to glue onto the back of the tail.
Over the course of the day, the majority of the boys finished at the base of their vehicles. The second day was to be designed as “decoration day” where the organizers would provide them with paint and decals. However, the day had grown old and many of the scouts were becoming weary from their long trips. The leaders of each group decided together that the day was to end.
“Alright everyone pack up your stuff and leave your work here. It won't be touched until you return tomorrow. Meet up in the mess hall and we'll have dinner and retire for the night.” Each scout master spoke to their group in their own language.
The groups all went into a separate part of the building that was already set up with Pizza and beverages. All of the boys were quite hungry and quickly got into a line that snaked well into the previous room they'd just come from. Sabi found his way behind Pent and the two smiled at each other as they waited for food.
“So what did you get done making?” Pent asked wagging his tail behind him softly.
“I have the front half of my car done but need to finish the back. How about you?” The feline asked before moving forward in the line a few steps.
“I finished the base, I just need to carve out a cockpit.” The fox responded confidently.
“Oh, yeah? What are you making?” The cat couldn't but help but be curious about the other boy's project.
“I based my box car off a formula one racer. What did you make?” The taller cub continued behind his new friend.
“I am making one based off Mach 5 from Speed Racer.” Sabi was unsure Pent would know what he was talking about.
“Oh, that's really cool. I can't wait to see it when you're done.” The vulpine had heard of the show before, though had never seen it.
“Sure! Can you show me yours as well?” The kitten had only seen formula ones a few times before and wasn't too sure of their design.
Pent simply nodded and they made their way through the line. Once at the front, they were able to pick from a couple of different options of slices of pizza. They also had pasta, though it looked fairly untouched by the time they got to the front. Sabi chose a slice of cheese while Pent went with the veggie supreme slice. There were plenty of tables around and they were able to join some other kids who didn't really pay them any mind when they sat down.
“Maybe we could do something once the competition is over?” Pent asked trying to come up with a way they could hang out.
“Sure, we could also do something before the competition starts. Our troop didn't really plan anything else.” The cat calmly began to eat his meal.
“Oh, that sounds good. I'll have to ask and see what we have planned.” The kit responded before thinking for a moment.
The two finished their meals and soon retired to their rooms. They were a bit dismayed that they couldn't room together. But it was a rule they couldn't subvert. Instead, they would have to look forward to getting together tomorrow. Pent did end up asking his scoutmaster about their plans and discovered that on the third day, they would have free time. This, he thought to himself, would be the perfect opportunity to hang out with his new friend.
Pent was excited for the next day and anxious to get back to work on the car. It took him a while to allow his body to go to sleep. His mind was always moved a kilometer a minute and he could seldom relax. But eventually sleep overtook him. Sabi too was anxious. He was a bit nervous that his design wouldn't be up to snuff. As with most boys their age, the cubs were highly competitive and wanting nothing other than to win.
The next day went like clockwork. The whole assembly of boys worked on finishing their cars. Of course, the entire day was designated for it, as the deadline had to be met in order for them to complete. Most of them finalized whatever bodywork they had remaining, others obsessed over their paint job and other finite details. By days end, inspections were given to each table to assure that each teams cars met the requirements for the pinewood box derby.
Each team had at least one boy who didn't follow the rules. The scouts were rather strict and so no leniency was given especially since the boys had been given a list of the restrictions beforehand. After some consolation from their make-shift coaches, the teams were all but ready for the real deal tomorrow. Once the day had ended and all the teams had retired to their hotel, preparations began for setting up tracks and ramps.
The initial setup was simple enough. A curved metal ramp that led into a finish line that had a clocking mechanism over top of it. The idea was to use this with a movement sensor instead of a photo finish which would be more open to interpretation. Another addition to the competition they added was just a simple open space on the floor. They would allow the boys to use balloons to push their cars, though it would just be for fun instead of actually counting towards the run.
All that was left after was creating brackets for elimination. There were 12 teams in total so they decided on single elimination rounds. Deciding to go Alphabetically by country name seemed to make the most sense, so they filled out the tree with the names from top to bottom with a few extraneous teams thrown into the second round. It was simple enough it didn't take but 5 minutes before they posted a larger poster version on the wall so that the scouts could easily access it.
Now everything was ready and the organizers retired to their hotels as well. Tomorrow was the big day and they could only hope that everything would go well. The next morning came as quickly as the last with alarm clocks buzzing to wake up the scouts in their rooms. There was to be a big breakfast before the competition began. Each boy began the day by fixing themselves up in their uniform before making their way down to the meeting room.
Not every group was at the same hotel so they had planned to have the big meal at the convention center. They all arrived by 9 am and when they did the catering company had already set up. It was one of those buffet type breakfasts with metal close-able lids so that they maintained warmth. Sabi and Pent had managed to find themselves deciding to keep each other company during the event. Many of the other cubs had decided to do the same with new friends they had made recently.
“So you ready for the big day?” Pent asked, slowly wagging his tail behind him as they made their way to the serving station.
“Yup, want to show me your final product?” Sabi asked seeming just as keen as the fox was.
“Sure though I would like to see yours as well,” Pent suggested trying to not be selfish about showing off his accomplishments.
“Of course. Let's get food first, though.” The feline purred softly as they neared the front of the line.
The two made their way through the line and decided on a suitable meal. Sabi choose pancakes while the fox chose waffles. Their choice was similar enough that it resulted in a chuckle from the two of them. They found their way to an open table. There was a fair amount of kids around them, so there was a lot of chatter to deal with. Regardless the two decided to try and socialize a little before they were broken up for the big race.
“So what's your plan?” Pent asked rhetorically, already knowing there wasn't much strategy involved in the Pinewood Derby.
“Hmm...my plan was originally to just utilize an all titanium frame but the rules didn't permit it, so I instead went with just an aluminum undercarriage,” Sabi responded seeming a little disappointed.
“Ah, well you can always make one on your own. Maybe we can even turn it into an RC car in the future.” The fox suggested in order to perk up his friend's mood.
“Really? You think we could?” The felines ears perked up hearing that suggestion.
“Sure, I'll give you my contact information and we'll talk about it over the internet.” The fox began eating his meal slowly.
“Cool, I would like that.” The cat took out his phone so they could exchange information.
Pent did the same and the two shared a hearty paw-shake as if sealing some important deal. It was rather a playful gesture of friendship between them. Once the meal was over they made their way into the main corridor. By the time they arrived many of the other scouts, had already congregated in the room. Several of the scoutmasters were standing atop of platform, preparing to give the opening ceremony announcement for the event.
“Good morning, scouts. Today is the big day. Behind us is the bracket chart and on it, you will find your name. There will be two tracks, but the first one will be designated for the competition. The other will be used later. Make sure you follow the schedule on the board, as we have lots of teams to get through. Be at least 5 minutes early or you will be disqualified.” Each of the men read the same instructions in the same manner as before.
The first round of races went well enough. Each circuit of races had 4 cars, each confined to their lane by a metal median that separated them. The idea was to have a single winner for each round with the victor being sent to the next round. Pent was in one of the first rounds and the fox filed up his formula one racer on top of the drop point. The officials dismissed all the boys once they set up each of their cars at the top. Several seconds later a loud snapping sound was overheard as the cars began there rush down the ramp.
Pent's car clocked in at 3.102 seconds far ahead of the other cars, one of which was so poorly made that the wheels wobbled off. But it wasn't much of a contest, the fox was declared the winner by over a second. The kit smiled as he retrieved the car and returned to the side of the track to wait and see who he would be put against. Group after group filed in as the races continued. It didn't take long before his new friend appeared for his match.
Sabi showed up towards the end of the rounds. His country was last and one of his own mates was teamed up against two Swedish boys. Two humans versus two furs, it was very much the apex of the day's events. The cars were lined up at the starting line as they had been the entire day. The furs and humans segregated themselves, no longer caring about their national divides. Before long the pop was heard as the cars raced down with speed. The cat came out on top by a good half second with his human competitors coming in a close second and third.
Once he had won, the furs congregated in a cheer. Even if one of their own had lost, the fact that another cub had come out on top was enough reason to celebrate. Eventually, the celebration was cut short as the organizers came out over the announcements again.
“The next round will continue the last. Those who won their berths will follow the same alphabetical order, by country. Brackets have been updated and will remain on the walls behind us. Make sure you are early to your rounds. We still have three more rounds to get through before we have a winner.”
A spotlight shone upon the list in the back of the room. Sabi and Pent looked upon it. It didn't seem they would yet face each other.
The next two elimination rounds went by much like the first. Pent sand Sabi continued to dominate their rounds with both of them making it to the semi-finals. Both feeling rather confident about their own likelihood they would come out on top. Their scout masters giving them accolades and encouragement along the way after each win. But now the time came, they would have to face each other. It was something they had each considered but never realized its likelihood.
“So looks like we have to face each other huh?” Pent said approaching the smaller boy.
“Yup, best of luck to you.” Sabi wasn't deterred in his victory, extending a paw out to the other cub.
“You as well, friend.” The fox returned the shake as the two were beckoned over to the starting line.
The track had not been thinned out for them, so instead the organizers fashioned their cars in the center. Each boy to the side of the track where their car was situated. This time it was a little more gimmicky in that one of the scoutmasters even pulled out a checkered flag. Waving it once, the pop was heard as the two vehicles were released. Within seconds they reached the bottom of the finish line. There cars within mere seconds of each other but the fox had come out on top.
“Good job, Pent.” Sabi Congratulated the boy.
“Thanks, you can have the gift card if you want.” The fox tried to console the other by offering up his prize.
“Nah, that's fine. You earned it.” The feline was being a good sport about the whole thing.
There was a small celebratory event afterward with a medal and a trophy handed out to the winner and runner-up. Both cubs did end up getting a prize, with the larger of the two going to Pent. Afterward the groups of cubs participated in the closing event which was a continuation of the first. However, the boys had come up with a better use of the balloons and had begun using them as propulsion systems.
Pent and Sabi spent the rest of the trip together, knowing that their time would soon be spent and they would have to return home soon. The organizers felt rather happy about the event's success and decided to make it an annual thing. The fox and feline did end up exchanging contact information and did maintain their relationship. Though the cat had a new goal in mind: He wanted nothing more than to one-up his new friend. It would have to wait until next year....