GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 25½: Two days before the match

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 a stable of talented but erratic engineers as they design and build the American team’s robot with 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.
The American team endures various setbacks, leaving them a clear underdog to the dominant Japanese team. Less than a week remains until the two teams’ giant machines clash in the first match of a best-of-three tournament.

tinybot_3D_032416

Two days remained until the Americans were set to face off with the Japanese in their first match at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Against all odds, the Shuffle Pig’s robot–dubbed BZ-X in its final design designation–had been completed (if barely tested) and was ready for transport.

Filled with apprehension over the travel arrangements, Lumin made her way to the factory’s second floor. She watched from a large bay window as Biz was lowered from an array of towering cranes to a cargo plane waiting on the air strip. A support crew, including Lumin and her engineers, was set to join the robot the next morning at an old blimp hanger just outside of Vegas.

Biz was being transported by an Antonov An-225 Mriya–a Russian relic from the Cold War era turned commercial hauler. Initially designed to carry the Soviet equivalent of the Space Shuttle on its back, the monstrous aircraft was capable of lofting nearly 500,000 pounds with its 290 foot wing span. The team’s robot would be strapped to the top of the Mriya, similar to the way the Buran Space Plane transported NASA’s shuttles. BZ-X’s limbs were secured tightly against his body in a steel cage, making the scene resemble an oversized tribute to one of Houdini’s stunts. The airstrip near the factory had been recently updated with reinforced concrete in order to support the weight of the hulking plane.

Lumin had been skittish to join the rest of the engineering and build crews as they watched Biz’s transfer from the hanger bay. She took refuge in the factory, thinking if something went wrong with the cranes it would be somehow easier to stomach the devastation from a distance. She was tearing off a loose cuticle with her teeth when she heard footsteps in the hall. She turned and saw Ryan Lumb–the American Team’s Chief Operating Officer–striding toward her. “Mr. Lumb? I had no idea you were coming!”

“There you are, Lumin…surprise,” said Lumb as he walked up beside her. “Have a better view up here?”

“Things felt…too real…up close. It’s hard to explain, Sir,” said Lumin.

Lumb nodded. “I understand…our team has been put through its paces lately. Frankly, you’ve all been turning my hair gray. I was getting sick of this whole affair until I was arms-length from our robot. I have to tell you, I’m damned impressed.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Please, just ‘Ryan.’ You’ve realized my childhood dream, Lumin,” said Lumb with a smile as he turned to the window. “Even after watching every bit of field-test footage Miss Jones provided, it took seeing the robot in the ‘flesh’ to grasp the enormity of this project.”

“Speak of the devil,” said Lumin, looking around Lumb’s shoulder. Yasamin was clicking through the hallway in her heels.

“Mr. Lumb, aren’t you slippery! I was collecting your security badge when you disappeared on me,” said Yasamin, her tilted stance and crossed arms displaying her annoyance.

“Apologies, Miss Jones. I suppose I can be a touch impatient,” said Lumb, collecting his badge.

“I should have alerted you he was on the way up, Lumin,” said Yasamin.

Lumin felt surrounded on all sides by Lumb’s presence, or maybe it was just his cologne. “No worries, Yasamin.”

Yasamin flicked a finger over her tablet screen. “I thought you both should know that Kengi Sato’s mysterious energy generation units have gone into production ahead of schedule. They’re being air lifted from Sato’s production facility in Japan to locations the world over as we speak.”

“Jumping the gun isn’t he?” asked Lumin. “They haven’t beaten us yet.”

Yasamin shook her head. “Sato’s not waiting for the prize money—he’s taking a big gamble, actually. By all accounts his company has sunk far more money into energy development than he’s willing to admit.”

“Interesting,” said Lumb. “I can’t figure out Kengi’s ploy. I don’t see any possible way he can profit from this venture…and as a charitable act, he’s gone far beyond the pale. The man’s an eccentric genius but I didn’t think him crazy enough to sink his company into bankruptcy.”

“Each generator is guarded by a security squad provided by the receiving nation. The press have been denied access to the units and no one’s quite sure how they’re generating power—it’s likely some kind of small-scale fusion reactor,” said Yasamin.

“I was hoping someone had figured out how the damn things worked.” Lumin kept her eyes on Biz, who was touching down to the cargo plane. The robot connected with a resounding clang that rattled the factory’s windows. Lumin breathed a sigh or relief. “He’s down! And the plane wasn’t flattened. So far so good.”

Yasamin was still scanning her small screen. “Sato’s generators are amazingly small…20 square feet at the most. They’re simply plugging them into existing infrastructures. It’s incredible tech.”

“Too incredible. Something’s off,” said Lumin.

Lumb shrugged. “Sato’s in a tough spot.”

“How so?” asked Lumin.

“I believe Sato’s worried his team might actually lose the tournament. He’s rolling out these generators to distract the public from a potential loss,” said Lumb.

“News of limitless, free energy will certainly obliterate everything else in the media for weeks–even giant, fighting robots,” added Yasamin.

“Miss Jones is right on the money, as usual,” said Lumb with a grin. “Maybe I should have given her your job, Lumin.”

“I’m already doing most of her job,” said Yasamin.

“Watch it!” said Lumin, cutting her eyes at both of them. “Come on, Ryan…Sato doesn’t strike me as the anxious type.”

“Please, Lumin, the man’s Japanese through and through! Saving face means everything to him. His recent actions only make sense within that framework.” Lumb looked at his watch. “Well, this has been fun but business never sleeps. After I collect my reports I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Sure you don’t want to stay?” asked Lumin. “We’ve set up a full spread of food and booze for the team in the hanger to celebrate the completion of the build. It’s the last chance they’ll have to unwind before things get insane again.”

Lumb lifted an eyebrow while adjusting the jacket of his steel-blue Canali suit. “I’m good, but thanks. I’ll see you in Vegas, ladies.” He gave a small nod before turning and walking away.

“We actually managed to assemble Lumb’s toy in time. I think I’m in shock,” said Yasamin, looking down at Biz as he stretched across the Mriya.

“Me too. Soon we’ll both be out of a job.”

“I have several offers already lined up, actually.”

Lumin rolled her eyes. “Of course you do, Yasamin.”

Halfway up the hall Lumb stopped and spun around in his cap-toed oxfords. “You know, I’m a little surprised Eldridge Roundstone hasn’t contacted me about Sato’s roll-out. The energy trade makes up a significant portion of his wealth…as well as mine to be honest. Sato’s units are destined to rip a huge hole in all of our portfolios. Have you heard Roundstone say anything about it, Lumin? Beyond funding our project, I know he’s taken a great personal interest in you.”

Lumin stiffened. “I haven’t heard anything, Mister Lumb.”

“Hmm. Fine then. Too busy with his go-karting monkeys, perhaps.” said Lumb, directing a wink at Lumin. He looked Yasamin up and down. “Never stop wearing silver and gold, Miss Jones.” He turned around with a smile and continued up the hall.

Yasamin shook her head. “That man thinks he rolls the world beneath his shoe leather.”

Lumin glared at Yasamin. “Did you really have to tell him Eldridge and I are…you know?”

Yasamin’s eyes went wide. “I didn’t say a thing. It’s hardly a secret.”

Lumin’s phone began to buzz. She held it up to her ear with a sigh after seeing it was Skip calling. “I thought you quit?”

“I did…but something’s come up,” said Skip, sounding agitated, “This morning I didn’t know what to do with myself so I–”

“Not my problem,” interrupted Lumin, her heart rate suddenly accelerating.

“Lumin, just listen, this isn’t about us. I used the Doppler radar data to retrace the UFOs flight path. I went for a drive in the foothills, following the coordinates on my GPS and I…I found something.”

“What? What did you find?”

“I’m parked behind the factory. Get out here.”

 


Part 26: Rubber

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.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s