Death Run was not for the faint of heart. The three frequent flyers who had challenged Tech on the racing circuit were already learning that, and falling far behind as a result. Tech caught a glimpse of them in the rearview window of his headset visor as he shot the Fireball through an abrupt turn and barrel-rolled through a palisade of shock spikes thrust from a low overhang at the last possible moment. His trio of opponents were piloting flashy vehicles of the sort any novice flier might design. The one closest to the blazing thrusters of Tech's silver needle-nosed interceptor was a Nighthawk F-117 fighter jet, complete with tinted cockpit canopy and V-shaped tail. To Tech the purple metal-flake fuselage and orange trim said one thing: all show, no go. The pair at the rear of the pack were nearly identical Stormbird rocket sleds--wedge-shaped vehicles straight off the menu Death Run offered when you entered the course. The sleds' maneuverability made up for their inherent lack of power, but only an experienced flier could hope to fly a Stormbird to victory. Angling for clear space, Tech decelerated slightly and allowed the Nighthawk to come alongside him. As the fighter jet edged into first place, Tech paid careful attention to the data displays in his visor, for there was a precise moment when a skillful flier could borrow speed from an opponent's cybercraft and turn it to his own advantage. When that moment of data drag came, flashing red in the visor, Tech fired his afterburners and leaped back into the lead, surging through a stretch of twitchy S-turns and launching the Fireball over a hidden trap that opened like a yawning tooth-filled mouth. The Nighthawk didn't fare as well. Coming out of the last of the tight curves, the sleek-bodied jet overcorrected, tilted up on one wing, and flew directly into the trap. The mouth snapped shut and the teeth gnashed, grinding the ship to fragments, then spit the pieces back onto the course. Mangled jet parts, caroming and careening off the retaining walls, greeted the Stormbirds just as they were emerging from the S-turns. Tech watched the two rocket sleds attempt to slalom through the tempest only to collide with each other. With loud explosions Tech could feel in his chest, the Stormbirds came apart and disappeared from sight. Stoked on car-shredding, high-adrenaline crashes and multivehicle wrecks, the crowd yelled and hooted. Chuckling to himself, Tech cranked the volume of his speed-metal soundtrack. DisArray blared in his earphones as he entered the final lap of the course full out, whipping through a perilous loop and dropping into a roller-coaster downhill that nearly sent his stomach into his throat. Even though gravity held sway on the Death Run circuit, you could perform some truly astonishing maneuvers. And Death Run was nothing compared to some of Grand Adventure's other options, where you could log into space combat scenarios or fast-paced action adventures. On many of those courses, pedestrians wandered out in front of you--not people, but aliens or monsters--and your run could be slowed by out-of-control three-sixties on an alien blood slick or end suddenly in a head-on collision with a giant scorpion. Still more sophisticated runs required you to tear through fantasy worlds, perform power ups at sublight speed, fly by instruments in the dark, or streak through clouds laced with acids that ate away at your craft. The newer courses mimicked actual conditions on Venus or Jupiter or were set on completely fabricated planetscapes, where predatory life-forms could swoop down and pluck you from cinnamon skies. But weightlessness was for science fiction geeks. Tech was a fan of gravity if for no other reason than that gravity amplified the hazards, and Death Run was flat-out hard-rock exhilaration. If you weren't lightning fast, you were geek drivel. Add a state-of-the-art motion-capture vest to yLuceno, James is the author of 'Web Warrior: Memories End' with ISBN 9780345444714 and ISBN 034544471X.