GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 18: Dirty Dozens

THE STORY SO FAR:

Braggadocio between American and Japanese robotics engineers on social media escalates to a real-world, multi million dollar face-off. Backed by corporate donors, each team begins building a gigantic robot to compete in a fighting match to the “death” in Las Vegas, Nevada. The winning team will take home bragging rights and a massive purse for the charities of their choosing.
A driven young woman, Lumin Mira, is sent to a secluded location in the southern Oregon desert to manage the American team’s stable of talented but erratic engineers. Her team toils under a tight deadline to design and build their robot using limited resources.
When the Americans lose their financial backers, an eccentric billionaire named Eldridge Roundstone steps in and restores full funding–with the strange stipulation that Lumin pilot the robot herself. Despite Eldridge’s quirks, Lumin finds herself drawn to his charms and their partnership becomes more than professional.
Lumin’s team endures various setbacks, including a disastrous test run of their robot–dubbed “Biz”–and a traitorous engineer who has given designs of their most powerful weapon to an already dominant Japanese team.

robot 020316 sm

Bo Dozens entered the factory and headed toward his office with a timorous shuffle. A week had passed since Lumin had exposed him and he was becoming progressively paranoid over his uncertain fate. A security guard intercepted him as he was unlocking his office door and brought to the room Lumin had designated for their clandestine talks. The sight of her caused a cold sweat to soak through his his dress shirt as the thick steel door shut closed behind him.

“Good morning, Bo,” said Lumin, with a flinty stare.

“H-hello Lumin,” Bo sat down directly across from her at the substantial oak table. “I didn’t think we had a meeting today.”

Lumin leaned back in her chair and nearly fell over. Dammit Lumin, stay imposing! “I’m going to get right to the point, Bo. I’ve watched you fumble through two conversations with your Japanese handlers, neither of which bore any useful information. Not only that–”

“Lumin, I need something else to dangle in front of them! They’re not going to give me any–”

“Shut up and listen. Sato is on to you, Bo. Your shit acting and utter failure to play it cool has caused Kyoto to double-down on security. The increased scrutiny led them to a mole under the employ of our sole financier, Eldridge Roundstone.

“What? Roundstone had an inside man?”

“I had no idea Eldridge had a plant until he’d already been exposed.”

“This shit storm is Roundstone’s fault, it’s got nothing to do with me!”

“It’s all my fault, actually. When I figured out you were screwing us over I should have sacrificed you to get the upper hand on Kyoto, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Kenji Sato did what I couldn’t…he’s leveraging this mess to make a bunch of demands. If we don’t meet them he’s going to pull out of the match entirely.” Lumin unwrapped a roll of breath mints and and popped one in her mouth. “Want one?”

“No thanks,” said Bo. “What do you mean by leverage?”

“The Kyoto Team’s threat to publicly condemn Roundstone’s mole in the press have pushed us into a corner. They were smart to strike first. I can’t expose their own corporate espionage without it being perceived as a desperate ploy to save face–even with all the evidence we’ve collected. If we act defensively the media will tear us apart; they’ve been itching to paint one of the teams as the ‘bad guy’ to create a better story. A ton of bad press so close to the match would force Roundstone to pull his remaining funding. We’re being bullied into penitence.”

Bo rolled his shoulders and let out a sigh of relief. “Well Lumin, I wish I could turn back the clock and rethink my actions, but what’s done is done I suppose.”

Lumin leaned closer. “Oh no, Mr. Dozens, you’re not off the hook yet. Beyond this international drama you’re still facing a homegrown litany of lawsuits and criminal charges. I’ve burned through any trace of sympathy I had for you.”

Bo put his shaking hands on his smooth head. “What do you want from me?”

“You’re done, Bo. A security detail will be escorting you out of the state…all expenses paid. You’ll crawl back to your basement apartment in Fresno and stay there until the tournament is over. Breach of contract proceedings will begin after things calm down.”

Bo was shaking. “Lumin please! You can’t! I just got wrapped up in–”

“Shhhh,” said Lumin, holding a finger to her lips. She walked around the oak slab to Bo and sat on the table near him. “I don’t know why, but I’m giving you another chance to redeem yourself. If you behave during your escort home and manage to keep your mouth shut you may end up with a portion of your career and reputation intact. No litigation…but only if we win the match.”

“Thank you, Lumin. I know I fucked up, I–”

“There is no strike three, Dozens. Mess up again, and you’ll end up dea… NO! Too imposing, back it up! …dealing with mountains of litigation.”

“I understand…I do!” Bo looked like he may pass out from nodding so hard.

Lumin’s heels clicked as she stood back up and went to the door. “Some nice men will be here in a few minutes to cart you from the premises. Please be patient while you wait.” She closed the heavy door behind her as she left and exhaled a giant breath. Jesus, I hate this shit. She could hear Bo Dozens sobbing as she walked away.


Part 19: Eight days until the match

What is this? I started this “serial” as a way to bring some fun and immediacy to my writing routine. Each chapter is written, edited and posted in a single day (I will do some additional editing if I find a glaring mistake). Chapters are released on an irregular basis.
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