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 best-of-three fighting tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. The winning team will take home bragging rights and a massive purse for the charities of their choosing.
The American Team (also known as the “Shuffle Pigs”) and Japan’s Kyoto Team are currently in the midst of their first match.
“I’m going to need some quick answers, guys!” said Lumin, readying herself for another attack. Pain was shooting down her neck from the Kyoto Team’s first strike.
“Alright, shoot,” said Richard.
“First off, isn’t having three freakin’ robots against the rules?”
“No. All three of their machines are connected by retractable cables to an external power supply.”
Lumin kept moving, doing her best to keep all of the Kyoto Team’s robots in front of her. “You mean that armored box on treads?”
“Yes. Because they’re all connected and sharing the same power they’re technically within the rules of the tournament. Here’s the good news: if you can manage to sever one of the bot’s lines they’ll go dead in seconds.”
“Right, easy,” said Lumin, her heart pounding. She evaded another lunge by the jaguar and retaliated with a vicious kick. The Japanese bot skidded through the dirt and clanged against one of the clear aluminum barriers.
“Alright Lumin!” cheered Katerina, jumping up from her seat.
Lumin armed her concussion cannon and it dropped over Biz’s left shoulder. A pneumatic burst sent a wave of dust through the air as she fired her first shot. The “beanbag” of steel collided against the leg of the jaguar as it started to rise, sending it back to the floor. “This seems too—”
“Look out!” Samuel screamed into the mic, but it was too late. One of the bipedal bots dashed at Lumin and sank its oversized claw into Biz’s thigh, prying off one of the armored panels with a twisting creak.
“Shit!” Lumin yelled. She managed to keep Biz on his feet and punched the “crab,” sending it reeling backwards. After strafing to the edge of the arena she firing more concussion rounds to get some distance from her opponents. “I can’t find an opening to cut those damn cords. The triplets are obviously aware of their robots’ weakness.”
“You gotta keep trying,” said Dezzie, taking over the microphone in the skybox. “I spoke to the officials. Despite that egregious sucker-punch Kyoto threw at you they’re not going to stop the fight. Bastards.”
“I’m already over it,” said Lumin, keeping on the move. “Dez, can you give me your best guess on Kyoto’s offensive capabilities? I’m guessing the jaguar is carrying some kind of battering ram on its back.”
“Yeah, don’t let it touch you with that thing. It’s massive. One shot could put Biz out of commission,” interrupted Dezzie.
Lumin flinched as a metal cube launched from the crab’s chest. It smashed into Biz’s head, knocking off a cluster of sensors. “Ow,” said Lumin, “I’m glad that wasn’t my actual skull.” Lumin leaned into the next volley, letting it glance off the thick armor of Biz’s shoulder, leaving little more than a scratch. She could feel the ferrofluid cushioning her body from the impact of each cube, which was a welcome–if somewhat unsettling–sensation.
“They’re using pneumatically fired rounds, similar to ours. They won’t have many of those shots left. Fend them off as best you can,” said Dezzie.
“I’m trying!” said Lumin, absorbing another chest blast from the robot carrying the strange, geodesic appendage.
“You’ll also be out of rounds soon,” Dezzie added.
“The beanbags are only leaving dents, anyway.” Lumin fired a few more shots while shuffling away. “Okay, I get the crab and the jaguar, but what the hell is that thing with the bucky ball?”
Katerina turned to Richard. “Bucky ball?”
“Buckminsterfullerene. It a molecular structure found in certain types of carbon. It was named after Buckminster Fuller, who invented the geodesic dome—which kind of looks like that thing on the arm of the Japanese robot,” said Richard.
Katerina rolled her eyes. “Sorry I asked.”
The bizarre robot stepped forward as if had been summoned. “Bucky” raised its geodesic ball and launched it like a rocket. The projectile trailed a long chain as it flew toward Lumin and wrapped a hundred yards of jagged links around Biz’s left shoulder. “What the hell is this?” asked Lumin, feeling a tug.
“Lumin, draw your blade, cut that chain off now!” urged Dezzie. Buttercup barked as if in agreement.
As Lumin reached for her blade, Bucky’s chain began sawing back and forth violently on Biz’s shoulder, scraping along the armor plates until it slid into the joint between the robot’s arm and torso. In seconds, BZ-X’s severed arm fell to the arena floor with a booming thud that lifted a cloud of dirt into the air.
The engineers in the skybox were stunned into silence as the audience hollered with excitement.
The Fight Master wrangled his fear and crawled to his P.A. system to resume his M.C. duties. “Ow, that’s gotta sting! Let’s see if the Americans can recover!”
Lumin skittered Biz away as the chain retracted back to the Japanese bot. “Goddamit! I can’t keep my footing!”
“It’s the missing arm…the lost weight is throwing your balance out of whack. We’re adjusting the torque of the servos remotely and re-calibrating your gyroscopics. You should regain stability in a few seconds,” said Richard.
The jaguar ran up, and started “playing” with Biz severed arm like a cat would with freshly killed mouse. “You have to be kidding me,” said Katerina.
“Such showmanship,” sighed Dezzie. “Okay, Lumin, get ready to cut that goddamn chain if it comes flying up again.”
The adjustments worked–Lumin no longer felt like she was riding on the back of a drunken sailor. She brandished Biz’s sword and held it in front of her. “I’m ready!” she said, turning on the chain blade–its motor roaring like a jet engine.
“Activate the quantum edge!” said Dezzie.
“No!” said Lumin, still intimidated by the technology.
The crab bot attempted to sneak behind Lumin, but she saw it moving out of the corner of her visor. She spun around and sent Biz’s chain sword into the machine’s middle as it rushed toward her. The ferrofluid surrounding Lumin’s body pulsated in concentric rings, reacting to the vibration of her lacerating attack. “Die!” she screamed, slicing the ripping blade through the robot’s waist. Jets of grey-green lubrication gushed over Biz’s chest plate.
“Oh, the brutality!” yelled the fight master with glee.
The crowd went insane as each half of the bisected Japanese bot fell to the dirt; still spewing fluid. All the engineers packed against the glass of the skybox.
“I’ve…I’ve never seen anything so beautiful,” said Dezzie, tearing up.
Richard was unimpressed. He leaned over the mic. “Goddamit Lumin! Just sever the cables, you don’t have time for that shit!” he yelled.
Lumin unclenched her teeth and slipped out of her rage. “I’m on it. Wait…no!” She dropped her sword and spun around in time to catch Bucky’s spinning chain in Biz’s remaining hand.
“Not good,” said Yasamin, watching as the chain activated. It sliced off two of Biz’s steel fingers before Lumin could pull away.
“I still have enough fingers to hold my sword!” said Lumin, picking the blade up again as the jaguar lunged at her. With no time left to swing, Lumin delivered a glancing kick that sent the robot’s colossal battering ram off target. The hydraulic piston crushed into Biz’s hip joint instead of his chest but the collision was still enormous, sending BZ-X spinning wildly before toppling to the floor. The impact rang across the arena’s rafters.
Katerina cringed. “Lumin! Are you okay?!”
“I’m good,” said Lumin, feeling a little disoriented but none the worse for wear. Adjusting her view, she saw Bucky step in front of the jaguar and fire its geodesic projectile. Impressing even herself, Lumin swatted the mass out of the air with her sword. The momentum of the wayward ball pulled Bucky off balance, allowing Lumin to counterattack. She took one long step then threw the sword as its chain blade roared back to life. The saber traveled 150 feet, tearing over the ground until it sliced directly through Bucky’s power cord. The Japanese bot crumpled lifelessly to the arena floor.
The fight master spun his microphone staff dramatically, as if anyone still had their eyes on him. “Boom! Another one bites the dust, folks. Maybe the Americans can pull this off after all!”
The audience stood to their feet and cheered while the engineers cheered along with them. Lumin returned to a defensive stance, feeling exhausted. Her arms and legs were burning. “One…more!” she said, as the jaguar turned to face her. She retrieved her sword and stomped down on the remaining robot’s power cable, preparing to chop it to pieces.
A familiar hum sounded. Lumin couldn’t quite place it at first. Then a blinding flash bathed the arena in white light. She felt Biz falling, but couldn’t understand why. The sword spilled out of Biz’s weak grip and tumbled away with the force of a derailed freight train.
Confused, Lumin looked at her diagnostic screen and realized Biz’s foot had been completely severed when she stomped on the jaguar’s power cord. As Biz crumpled to his knees, she saw a thin filament glowing intensely on top of the cord. More pulsating filaments had ignited on the Kyoto Team’s external power cube, surrounding it in a protective net of light.
“The quantum vibration blade…they’ve adapted the tech into a mesh,” said Dezzie, awed.
“Bastards…I should have known. They’ve just been toying with us!” cried Lumin. Expecting an attack, she pivoted to face the Jaguar, but it sat quietly on its haunches as if to mock her. A com request flashed across her screen from Kokone Dokujima. Lumin patched her through, listening to her giggle for several seconds before she disconnected.
“Thieving pricks!” Lumin tore a chunk of the titanium alloy armor off of Biz’s forearm, and sent it down into the jaguar’s power cord hoping to sever it. Instead, the blinding filament cleaved the armor plate in half like the proverbial knife through butter. The Jaguar was starting to stir. Its claws were glowing, augmented with the quantum vibration technolgy as well.
Dezzie wouldn’t let anyone else touch the microphone. “Lumin, a quantum edge burns energy insanely fast and they’ve been burning that filament continuously for several seconds. They must be running low on power by now. If you can manage to avoid Kokone’s attacks you might—“
The team watched in collective horror as the Jaguar jumped and shredded a titanic hunk of metal from Biz’s middle with its claws. A metric ton of armor and robotic entrails spilled across the arena floor. Lumin somehow kept Biz upright on his knees, knowing her robot’s mobility was compromised. She fired her concussion cannon desperately, managing to concave the jaguar’s face with several consecutive blasts. Despite its mangled visage her opponent seemed relatively unaffected as it stepped away without a hint of urgency.
“Don’t walk away from me!” screamed Lumin, sweating through her suit. Her cannon was spent. “Shit!”
“Lumin, you only have one more chance! You have to activate the quantum blades of your chain sword.”
“Absolutely not!” said Lumin, with authority. “We have no idea what could happen if two quantum edges clashed. It could be disastrous!”
“It’s the only way to cut that mesh, Lumin!” begged Dezzie.
“I’m not going to risk an atomic implosion or a catastrophic warping of space time! You’re crazy if—”
Lumin’s voice dropped away as the Jaguar attacked again, firing its gigantic battering ram against Biz’s chest. A sickening clang echoed through the arena.
“Lumin!” yelled Samuel, his hands shaking on the console.
The fight master went silent along with most of the crowd.
The piston on the robot’s back crushed against Biz a second time, concaving his trunk. A huge wave of ferrofluid shot upward from Biz’s rear hatch as it warped from the impact. The engineers stared at the console as Biz’s power levels dropped to zero.
Richard shook his head and lowered his corndog. “Biz is taking too much damage. His nuclear power core has initiated its emergency shutdown procedure. God, I hope Lumin’s okay in there.”
The jaguar reared back, resetting its piston for another strike. “No!” screamed Katerina while the rest of the engineers recoiled in horror.
Samuel rushed to the edge of the skybox and picked up the red phone hanging on the wall. “Tell those assholes we’ve thrown in the towel! We’re done!”
A blaring air horn filled the arena, signaling the end of the match…but the jaguar was still hovering over Biz’s limp and battered frame.
Yasamin called Kengi Sato directly. “It’s over! Call off your pilot or I’ll have your whole team brought up on criminal charges,” she demanded.
“I’m afraid we’ve lost communication with Miss Dokujima. Her actions are now solely her own,” said Sato, calmly. “We’ve shut down the power to her robot but she’ll still has several seconds of autonomous control”
Yasamin hung up and looked out at Biz, tears welling in her eyes. “Come on Lumin, get out of there! Eject!”
Lumin’s heart was pounding and her body ached. She suspected she had lost consciousness but couldn’t be sure how long. Biz had lost all power after the second hit of the ram, leaving her in complete darkness. The emergency backup system had obviously been damaged as well. Through the clear display of her helmet’s dead visor she could see glimmers of light peeking through the bent hatch above her. “We’re done,” she sighed. An air horn blared, signaling the end of the match. “It’s over…we did okay. Better than anyone expected,” she said into her dead comlink, absentmindedly. “Oh, right.” Her fingers ran over the emergency eject lever, but she decided not to pull it.
They’ll be here for me soon enough, thought Lumin, unaware she was still in grave danger