They were off again, the bulk of the pack stretched out before them, flyers dodging the bots and bombs being hurled through the air as the racers jostled for position. Twice they watched riders and companions fall, incapacitated by a puff of coloured smoke or a flash of light.
“The first barrier is coming up.”
On the inside of her helmet, the view changed, a diagram of a semi-transparent wall, a round hole in its centre, overlaying the skybridge. “What is it?”
“A modified shock skin. You have to jump through the hole.”
“I thought this was meant to be hard?”
“It is.” The feed from Hamnet’s harness grew large on her holo-screen, and she saw a flurry-thyt hunched over a switch. “Unless the switch is down, there is no hole.” An oad-hawk knocked the ‘thyt from its perch, and a doe-oc slammed into the space where the hole had been. “But don’t worry, Hamnet knows what he’s doing.”
Barrier racing is one of the most popular sports in Jørn society, with a thriving professional league that culminates in the annual Intercity Cup.
Barrier racing combines elements from several Old Earth sports, such as orienteering, cross-country and horse racing. In it, teams consisting of two human and companion pairs, compete with other teams to navigate an obstacle course. The first team to complete the course wins.
Teams are made up of one rider pair and one scout pair. The rider pair (made up of a human and a large companion, known as a strider) race other rider pairs around an obstacle course, following the navigational directions of their scout pair (usually made up of a human and a small flying companion, know as a flyer).
Apart from telling their rider where to go, scouts are an integral part in successfully navigating obstacles. They are often required to complete an action, such as holding down a switch, to allow the rider to pass.
Barrier racing is a sport that requires excellent teamwork, between both humans and their companions as well as agility, navigational and problem-solving skills.
Originally developed as a training program for Riders, who faced frequent and often deadly hazards on the surface, the sport helps to build important survival skills for those wishing to go ground side. It is still used as part of the training programs for ground side expeditionary, rescue and security teams as well as the police.
Over the years, barrier racing has become heavily regulated to improve safety and many of the gadgets and barriers that where crowd favourites have been banned from use, if not made illegal. This has helped to spawn an underground racing movement known as street racing, an illegal variant of barrier racing.