THE STORY SO FAR:
Braggadocio between American and Japanese robotics engineers on social media escalates to a real-world face-off on a massive scale. Utilizing multi-million dollar budgets provided 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 billion dollars for the charities of their choosing.
Despite a valiant effort the Americans lose the first round of the tournament. The deception, drama and conspiracy surrounding the first match has convinced the American team’s pilot—Lumin Mira—to leave the team.
“Excuse me? You’re kidding, right?” said Spotswood, fidgeting on the bench.
“It’s no joke. I’m so sorry, but I’m done, guys.” Lumin had just finished delivering the news of her resignation to her compatriots. She had called the core members of her team back to the lockers after finding herself unable to step foot in another conference room.
The room had gone quiet except for a steadily dripping showerhead nearby. Dezzie broke the silence, looking pained. “Lumin, I was the one in closest contact with the Dokujima sisters. I should have been able to see their plot coming. I should have stopped them.”
Katerina put her arm around Dezzie. “This isn’t your fault. Who knows? Maybe those letters you sent to Miu helped convince her that there were some people in the world actually worth saving.”
“You’re the sweetest Satanist I know, Dez,” said Richard. “I think Yasamin’s right. The kindness you showed to an outcast probably saved the city.”
“I just wish I could have reached Kokone. Miu was the only one who ever wrote me back.”
“No one here is at fault. All of you have busted your ass for this team,” said Lumin.
“So why are you letting us twist in the wind?” asked Richard after brushing some cracker crumbs off his shirt.
Lumin leaned forward. “I’m almost certain that Ryan Lumb knew Kengi Sato was going to put mentally unstable pilots inside his robots. Had Kokone’s sisters not had a change of heart we might have all died today. Now both project leaders are actively trying to sweep a terrorist plot under the rug to save their butts. I can’t lie for them. I refuse to be involved in their cover-up. I just can’t.”
“I’ve been thinking,” said Richard, “even if Kokone had somehow managed to rip out Biz’s nuclear core, there’s no way she would have been able to breach that protective shell,” said Richard. “I designed it to withstand the impact of a hydrogen bomb.”
“Hello, Richard…they had their own version of the quantum vibration tech! They could have sliced through that core like hot margarine,” said Lumin.
Richard raised an eyebrow. “Oh…right.”
Lumin gripped the edge of the bench. “Bottom line: Sato and Lumb need to answer for their incredible negligence.”
“For Christ’s sake Lumin, do you want all of our assets frozen and everything we worked for to be confiscated and thrown in some dark warehouse until the end of time? Dezzie was corresponding with the triplets as their plot evolved. If you don’t think she’ll get hauled away and interrogated by the F.B.I. or C.I.A. you’re nuts,” said Samuel.
Spotswood nodded. “If word gets out that we were involved in some insane plot to blow up a dirty bomb, even tangentially, we’ll never find work as engineers again. That’s the best case scenario. Would you like fries with that?”
Lumin tensed up. “Okay, fine. As much as I’d like to hold Sato’s and Lumb’s feet to the fire I won’t go public with anything–but I won’t lie for them and I won’t be their pilot anymore.”
“So, it’s all about you, like usual,” said Katerina. She was shaking. “We’re supposed to be a team!”
“You don’t need me!” said Lumin, getting flustered. “I learned how to pilot Biz in just a few days. Hell, outside of the simulator it was only a few hours, total. I’m not unique! One of you could take my place.”
“Yeah, right,” said Dezzie. “Lumin, you’re Biz’s pilot…no one else can match your skills. You’re a natural.”
“You’re ‘The One,” said Spotswood, shamelessly.
Yasamin rolled her eyes. “Hollywood allusions aside, Spotswood is right. Samuel…you can explain it better than I can.”
Samuel nodded at Yasamin then crossed his arms. “Lumin, we’ve spent a month syncing BZ-X’s servo load and gyrometric data to your physical specifications and your mental response times. Like it or not, we’ve essentially put all our eggs in one basket. Anyone taking your place would be wildly disadvantaged the instant they got into that ferrotank. We only have a week to make repairs until the next match…we can’t possibly recalibrate Biz for a different pilot in that amount of time.”
“I…I can’t…not for them,” said Lumin, burying her face in her hands. “I can’t explain how sick I feel. Sato and Lumb belong in prison. Maybe I do too.”
“Suck it up,” said Dezzie. “We all feel sick but the city is fine.”
Lumin shook her head. “Only because of sheer, stupid luck.”
“Sheer, stupid luck is all that we know!” retorted Katernia. “Who cares about the dipshits in charge of this tournament…there’s still a billion dollars on the line that could do some real good in the world. If the tournament ends prematurely all that cash evaporates. Isn’t that enough motivation to keep you going?”
Lumin looked up, her eyes shining with welling tears. “I’ve already quit. It’s over! Don’t you realize?”
Dezzie stood up. “Well then, I quit too.”
“Me too!” said Katerina, getting up from the bench. “I quit.”
Spotswood stood up next. “Fuck it. I quit.”
Richard swallowed the rest of his Twix bar then stood up with a sigh. “I’m quitting too.”
Yasamin stood up and threw her tablet computer to the ground, shattering the screen. “I quit!” Everyone gasped. “I can’t believe I did that,” said Yasamin, wide eyed.
“Woo hoo! Go Yas!” cheered Katerina.
Samuel stood up last. “Yeah, let’s Spartacus this thing! I quit…and so will everyone else on the maintenance crew. I guarantee it.”
Lumin felt a tear slide down her cheek. “Be reasonable! You’re throwing away all your hard work.”
Dezzie shrugged. “All our hard work. Lumin, if you want to take the moral high ground, you’re going to have to carry us all with you on your back. We’re a team…we’ll go out together.”
Lumin stood up angrily, wiping her eyes. “Goddamn it…you’re all such stubborn assholes!”
“Pretty much,” said Samuel, smiling. Everyone nodded in agreement.
Lumin brought up her phone, seeing it had filled up with countless texts and missed calls from Ryan Lumb. She called him back.
Lumb answered on the first ring. “Lumin! What the hell do you—”
“Shut up, Ryan.”
“You are under contract! If you don’t finish—”
“I said shut up! I’m coming back. I unquit.”
“I’m back in. But I have some stipulations.”
“You’re hardly in a position to make—”
“Shut up, you prick. I know you need me…so just listen for once.”