A crowd cheered as a lineup of anti-gravity racing vehicles raised up onto the starting line of the inaugural race of the new Anti-Gravity Racing Championship, ready for the start of the first season. People came crawling out of the woodwork to see the official start of this fledgeling sport and it was looking like it would not disappoint. Eight of the new anti-gravity racers were raised up out of the bays and onto the grid, each manned by a professionally trained pilot looking to earn the honour of being the winner of the first race. The loudspeakers around the grid crackled to life and the voice of a certain special guest from a partner company was heard throughout the stands.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, humans and mobians alike, my name is Ivo Robotnik, head of Overtel Corporation, and I would like to welcome you to the dawn of a new era, the beginning of the A.G.R.C, beginning here and now on this very track, hereby dubbed Empire Climb. Nova State City is looking great this morning, and so far it's shaping up to be an awe inspiring performance from our contestants, who I'm sure you're all familiar with from the sheer amount of advertisements plastered everywhere, in no small part thanks to the generous efforts of Overtel Corporation. Without further ado, we've gotten the green light from the pilots, and the track is set. RACERS, START YOUR ENGINES."

A countdown appeared on the screen above the starting line, and a collection of mighty roars came from the ships lined up. A collection of mobian and human pilots were present in the ships themselves, and while the diversity wasn't nearly as great as it was in the stands, there was no question that they were ready for what was about to start. Some were veteran racers from the Formula 1 days, one of them was even more venerable, while the rest were relative newcomers to professional racing. One particularly jumpy hedgehog, aptly nicknamed Sonic by the rest of the crew, was almost bursting with excitement, barely keeping himself in the seat of his FEISAR speed-class craft, and almost jumped right out of his seat when his radio activated, and the voice of his crew chief came through. "All right Sonic, we've run the simulations plenty of time so we've got full confidence you can bring this home. Remember your ship is a jack of all trades, but don't be afraid to redline it if you need some extra speed. Getting this win would secure us the extra funding we need to really kick things into high gear. Don't let us down kid."

"Don't worry Rotor, this'll be a breeze!" Everyone leaned forward and when the timer hit go, the racers were off like rockets. Keeping up with the track was easy enough, even at that speed, although Sonic found himself staring down the bumper of a particularly tenacious Qirex Fighter in front of him. The Qirex was bumped by an Auricom Fighter from the side with a peeved Echidna in the cockpit, and Sonic got a chance to accelerate past them both, weaving through the pack just in time to get a clear view of the city off the side of the track. A sharp turn pulled his attention back to the race, and he managed to veer onto an off road, cutting a corner. The rise in front of him was a straight vertical climb to the top of the skyscraper that's the namesake for the track, it was only thanks to the magnetic strip technology that he didn't fall off backwards. He'd have to buy that engineer a drink if he ever met him.

He lurched forward and felt his ship get racked by a barrage of cannon fire from behind, and he saw his energy indicator drop down to 85%. Still plenty to continue the race. The Qirex from before shot past him before he could accelerate back up to full speed, a rather smug black hedgehog in the seat. Sonic wasn't about to take this lying down, and as he sped over a defensive weapon pad at the base of the climb, his UI flashed with the icon of a turbo boost. Exactly what he needed. He gunned the turbo and blitzed past the rival hedgehog, Shadow, if the pre-season advertisements were anything to go off of. Leveling out after the climb and resisting the urge to look over the side and see just how high he is, Sonic kept his eyes squarely on the transparent, light blue track beneath him, with a full view of the drop below.

"Nothing to worry about, just a multiple hundred meter drop, keep eyes on the road, I'll be back on the ground soon enough." He rounded the corner and was greeted with the drop he was expecting, and a clustered collection of boost pads on the way down. It didn't take much maneuvering to get each of them, and he flew off of a set of monorail tracks straight back to the starting line. "One lap down, two to go."

His radar showed that the rest of the pack was close behind, and he barely managed to swerve out of the way of a stray rocket. The two fighter craft from before came up on each side of him and he saw the Echidna in the Auricom ship gesture for him to slow down a bit. Fighting his desire to just accelerate away, he obliged, and saw the ship crash into the Qirex ship on the other side, only to bounce right off of an activated shield and fall to half speed.

Oh well, it was a valiant effort.

Sonic caught a glimpse of Shadow shrugging it off and managed to pull away in time for the next run of the climb. Right up until his ship was almost torn apart by a plasma bolt and slammed into the side wall. All thrust was killed, energy was at 25%, he needed a refresh as soon as he could get one. He put the pedal to the metal and managed to get back to fourth place in time for the final lap, but was still in danger of elimination if he couldn't grab a pickup. He sped over a defensive weapon pad and saw exactly what he needed, a leech beam. Locking targets on a particularly airbrake happy AG-Systems Agility, he let the beam fly and saw the human inside slam his fist against the console as he fell behind, and before long his own ship's energy was back at a respectable 65%.

Just in time too, they were two corners away from the climb again and he needed to think fast and fly faster if he was to get first place back. He saw the off road again and slipped through, dropping an acquired set of mines in the tight passage to slow down anyone behind him. "Sonic, I wasn't going to mention it because it wasn't exactly finished in time, but I think now's the time to try it. If you can pull off a barrel roll just before the finish line, you can use the energy to get a speed boost that should give you the win."

"Thanks for the advice Rotor, but do me a favour and warn me next time, you scared me half out of my skin."

"Sorry, you're pressed for time. Get us that top spot kid, you've got this!"

Sonic refocused on the track to see a missile fly past and impact Shadow's ship, slowing him down enough for them to be neck and neck. Going over the drop, Sonic took Rotor's advice and sent his ship into a roll, just barely making the landing and zooming over the finish line, right before his engine bellowed smoke and died. The crowd went wild, and Sonic withdrew the cockpit's canopy and climbed out, seeing the other racers bring their own ships to a stop just further down the track. Sitting down on the wing, he saw the engineer team running out towards him and he raised a hand in excited greetings.

"THAT WAS AMAZING!"

"I didn't realise we had gotten that system working before the race!"

"Sonic, you're a credit to FEISAR. I get the feeling that this is going to be the start of something great."

They raised him up in time for the other racers to cruise back to the starting line. They would need to send a hauler for his own ship but that was someone else's concern. Once they got back to the grid, they saw a camera crew with Robotnik in the lead walking towards them, and the engineers let Sonic down to the ground again.

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A WINNER. THE FIRST RACE OF THE SPORT GOES TO SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, FROM FEISAR!"

The crowd started cheering again, and some even started to chant his name.

"You hear that kid? You just made history! Do you have any words for the crowd after your victory? I'm sure it'll be the first of many."

Robotnik leaned the microphone towards Sonic, who pondered it for a second before responding.

"First of many isn't the half of it, this is just the beginning, and the sky's the limit now."