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.
With less than a week remaining before the last round of the tournament the American Team’s project leader and pilot, Lumin Mira, learns their project’s C.O.O., Ryan Lumb, is preparing to forfeit the final match.
“Hey Katerina…yeah, not great…I’m on my way back to the hanger…listen, we may still have a chance to salvage the tournament but it’s going to be a real hail-Mary…make sure the team knows that if they decide to go along with this it could mean the ends of their careers…no one is required to participate, if anyone objects tell them to leave the hanger as soon as possible…Time is of the essence”
Ryan Lumb climbed up to small platform that had been set up in front of the blimp hanger by his cronies. He slid behind a podium while a dozen members of the press hollered questions and held cameras aloft to capture him looking cocksure in his Brioni windowpane suit.
“Mr. Lumb, why did you call this press conference today?”
“What is the ‘big news’ you alluded to in your press release?”
“How do you feel about the public response to the brutal nature of these fights?”
“Why is the American Team called the ‘Shuffle Pigs?”
“Ladies and gentlemen of the press…I’ll get to your questions in time but first I must make an announcement. Please, take your seats.”
Begrudgingly, the journalists plopped into the folding metal chairs that had been set up for them. Ryan Lumb cleared his throat and adjusted his microphone. He peered over at his team, warily. The Shuffle Pigs had been cordoned into a special zone several hundred yards away, guarded by Lumb’s private security force to ensure they wouldn’t create a ruckus. Despite this, most of the team members wore smiles on their faces.
His employees’ tranquil expressions took Lumb by surprise. He had expected some consternation or at least some anxiety, considering he was about to railroad them off of a job they had worked so hard to complete. After shrugging off his concerns he cleared his throat, ready to begin.
“Esteemed members of the press, I’ve called you here today to announce—”
A massive thump echoing behind Lumb sent him ducking beneath the podium. When he rose back up he noticed something was diverting the press’ attention. He turned quickly and saw the massive front panels of the hanger starting to open slowly, creaking and scraping along debris-filled tracks. Biz was normally delivered to and from the arena through a hatch at the top of the structure—the front doors hadn’t been used in decades.
Lumb’s heart skipped a beat. “What the hell? No! Stop!” The press didn’t seem to care about his outburst. He put his hand over the mic and squinted inside the hanger as a strip of sunlight illuminated the armor plating of BZ-X. “Goddamit!”
The press left their seats and scrambled closer to the hanger. Lumb yanked up his phone and frantically called the leader of the security unit he had assigned to guard the building’s interior. When no one answered he hailed the squad leader watching over the Shuffle Pigs’ pen. “Stop them! Stop them from opening the hanger doors!”
“Roger,” said Lumb’s squad leader. He dashed toward the building in his sweat-stained black fatigues and disappeared through the steadily widening doors.
Lumb waited impatiently for a few seconds until calling the squad leader back. “Why are those doors still opening?”
“Sir, the entire squad units stationed inside appears to be trapped underneath what I can only assume is an upside-down smelter of some kind. I can hear them yelling but I can’t budge it.”
“Forget them! Close the doors! Close the doors!”
It was too late. BZ-X stepped out of the hanger into the light in all his glory. The robot was fully repaired, freshly shined and ready for action. Biz’s chest plate featured a new emblem directly across from the Shuffle Pigs symbol: a pinup painting of Jane Russell from Howard Hughes’ film “The Outlaw.”
Lumb watched in horror as Biz emulated a series of body building poses to the delight of the press while the Shuffle Pigs cheered and yelled from their corral.
As the media slowly returned their attention to Lumb he did his best to erase the dumb-struck look on his face. His excuse to forfeit the match no longer existed. Biz was obviously in peak condition. There was no choice remaining except to continue the tournament. Lumin had won.
“Mr. Lumb?” asked a journalist in the crowd. The media’s exhilaration was turning to confusion.
“Yes,” Lumb took a quick moment to straighten his jacket and run a hand through his slick hair. “I…I’ve brought you here today so that you may show the world that our robot BZ-X—or Biz as he is affectionately known—has been completely repaired, upgraded and primed for the final match.”
Although Lumb felt proud of his bullshitting prowess the press still seemed unsatisfied. He nervously continued his improv. “We…um…we want everyone to see that we’re ready to take on the Kyoto Team no matter what they throw at us!” He went pale as Biz lowered to a squat and extended a hulking hand right next to him. The robot turned its fist to the side and pushed a digit into the air, delivering a massive thumbs-up. The journalists laughed and applauded.
Lumb breathed a sigh of relief, thankful he hadn’t been smashed like an ant. “Yes…well…we wanted the press to have an opportunity to ask questions and snap some photos up-close and personal with our robot for the first time. It’s been long overdue.”
The press seemed sated by Lumb’s improvisational performance and began asking questions, most of which he easily fielded.
Lumin’s laughter fogged up her helmet as she floated within Biz’s ferrotank.