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.
We now join the third and final match of the tournament, already in progress.
The horn blared across the arena to signal the start of the third and final match of the tournament. Before Lumin could raise her guard, the Kyoto Team’s new robot leaped at her with incredible speed, delivering a massive punch to Biz’s chest from one of its twin battering rams.
Lumin gasped for air, feeling like she had just done a bellyflop off the high dive. The dense ferrofuid in the control bell slammed against her body, leaving her quaking in pain. The vicious strike had concaved Biz’s chest and left a massive depression in the ferrotank. Had Lumin been in a standard cockpit she might have been killed.
“Lumin!” screamed a voice in her ear. “Are you alright?”
“Skip? Yeah, I’m alright…I think,” said Lumin, forcing the words out of her mouth.
Hayashi laughed in delight within the cockpit of the Kyoto Team’s latest monster, dubbed the Mark 3. He rocked back and forth on the robot’s feet, preparing for another attack. Kengi Sato had abandoned the clunky, three-for-one combo featured in the previous match in favor of an entirely new design—slim, sleek and powerful—with one of Sato Corp’s mock-generators as its internal power source.
Lumin turned off a shrieking damage alarm. “Alright, I get it.” She hurried to reroute and restore BZ-X’s systems while the robot leaned prone against one of the towering shields protecting the arena’s audience. She lifted Biz upright just in time to dodge another punch that rattled up the clear aluminum barrier like a thunderclap. Lumin strafed away, firing several blind rounds from her concussion cannon as she waited to stop seeing double.
“Christ…what a hit,” said Skip, up in the booth with the rest of the Shuffle Pigs. “I think I crapped my heart into my pants.”
“Ew. Stop making everything worse!” scolded Katerina.
“Huh?” asked Skip, barely hearing Katerina as he stared out the window of the skybox. “At least those huge haymakers their bot is throwing seem to need some warm-up time.”
“Can someone please tell me what we’re up against here? Does anyone have any clue what this bot is carrying?” Lumin asked through her comlink after coming to her senses.
“Samuel here, Lumin. I’m afraid we don’t know a damn thing about Sato’s new toy. Be ready for anything.”
“You could have just said ‘no,’” said Lumin, trying to keep out of range of another attack. “I need to concentrate. Hale me if you glean any information…I’m going slient.”
“Roger,” said Samuel.
“Kyoto’s Voltron setup in the last match looked mean, but this sucker is streamlined. I don’t see a hard angle on its shell. No exposed weaponry either, just those tear-shaped battering rams,” said Spotswood.
Samuel moved closer to the window. “If their last machine was a gorilla, this is more of a…um…”
“It looks like a slimy black pollywog to me,” said Katerina. Yasamin shrugged in mild agreement beside her.
“Good enough,” said Samuel.
“Whatever you call that thing, with its speed and arm span it doesn’t need much weaponry on board to deliver a world of hurt,” said Richard. He took a bite of his hot dog. “Hey Spotswood, have you tried one of these Highsteak wieners? Not bad.”
“Hell no. I’m vegan, remember?”
Richard rolled his eyes. “You remind the world every ten minutes, how could I forget? Anyway, this is lab grown meat…it doesn’t count.”
“Double hell no,” said Spotswood, with a horrified face.
“Hey, you two,” Yasamin interrupted, “can you keep your focus on the match? How can you be so flippant with everything on the line?”
“Sorry, I think we’re all a little fatigued by all the stress this tourney has put us through,” said Richard.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love Lumin to death, but I’m so exhausted I have nary a damn left to give,” added Spotswood.
“Lumin just got hit with the equivalent with a freight train, and you think you’re stressed?” asked Yasamin.
Spotswood crossed his arms. “I told her not to reduce the armor density of Biz’s torso.”
“It’s a little too peppery,” said Richard, distracted by the last bite of hot dog.
Katerina stomped closer with clenched fists. “BE USEFUL!” she yelled, with surprising volume.
“Okay! Alright!” said Richard, sitting up straighter. Spotswood’s eyes widened and he nodded with enthusiasm.
Yasamin smiled and gave Katerina a slap on the back in approval.
“Give me the mic, I got something for her,” said Richard. “Lumin, do you read?”
“Yeah, go ahead.”
“Judging by their bot’s speed and apparent weight, I’m almost certain they’re not carrying a power supply large enough to support any kind of quantum vibration tech…so that’s good news.”
“Yeah,” replied Lumin, “especially considering our lovable C.O.O. demanded Biz’s chainblade be stripped of quantum tech before the fight.”
“Fucking Lumb,” said Samuel. “He’s a sore loser.”
Spotswood slid next to Richard. “Lumin, this is Spotswood. The pollywog’s armor seals look super tight, but a few panels near its shoulders have wider gaps. If it’s keeping any aces up its sleeves, that’s where they’ll be.”
“Nice work guys, thanks,” said Lumin. “Are we really calling this robot bastard a pollywog? Whatever…I’m out.”
Skip came up and put his hands on the shoulders of Richard and Spotswood. “Now, was that so hard?”
“Morons,” grumbled Samuel.
Evelyn Mira couldn’t bring herself to go to her daughter’s match, leaving Lumin’s father to attend the event alone. She attempted to read a romance novel as a distraction but her curiosity eventually consumed her. After grabbing a few tiny bottles from the mini bar of her hotel room she plopped down on an ottoman in front of the 60 inch television.
“I hope Diego left this thing on the right channel,” she said after picking up the huge remote. She pressed the largest red button she could find and sighed with relief as the television came to life, showing the arena.
“…THAT WAS A TREMENDOUS HIT. I CAN’T BELIEVE SHE GOT BACK UP FROM THAT.”
Evelyn clamped her hands over her ears. “Diego, you old deaf doofus!” She scanned the remove furiously, but soon became lost among the functions. She punched what looked like an up and down arrow but the volume remained unchanged. After fishing around in her purse she pulled out a cotton ball, tore it in half and stuffed the wads in her ears. “Better.”
“It looks like we’re finally having a moment of calm here folks. What an explosive start to the match! I’m Cannon Bastion and beside me is Zane Ibson. We’re sitting ringside at the T-Mobile Arena in beautiful Los Vegas, Nevada to call the play-by-play of the third and final match of this incredible robot fighting tournament between the American-led Shuffle Pigs and Japan’s own Kyoto Team. One team will walk away from this final fight with the Golden Bolt trophy and a billion dollars for their charities.”
“They’re going to need some of that cash to buy some fresh batteries for their robots after this wild tournament, Cannon,” said Zane, forcing a laugh. The television cameras showed Biz barely evading a punch that slammed into the arena’s protective wall. “Wow, the Americans just pulled off an incredible evasive maneuver! You can only see this action on the Roundstone Sports Network, folks!”
Evelyn cringed and sucked back a tiny bottle of Jim Beam.
“Zane, I find it remarkable that the American team has slavishly stood behind their original robot design, while the Japanese have rolled out something new for every match. Even their roster of pilots has been fluid.”
Cannon laughed. “Rumors are swirling that Kyoto’s budget has swelled to three times the size of the American Team’s. With a match standing of 1 to 1, It’s questionable how effective all that cash has actually been.”
“Despite the budget disparity, BZ-X—or Biz as he’s affectionately known—is clearly the public’s favorite robot.”
The camera angle widened to show Biz firing concussion rounds at Hayashi. “It’s more than just the robot, Zane. The American Team’s pilot, Lumin Mira, has emerged as the true celebrity of this tournament. Her wild fighting style and tenacious attitude has won over a lot of fans, even in the Kyoto Team’s home country of Japan.”
“Not to mention that skin-tight body suit,” said Zane with a chuckle.
Evelyn cringed. “How degrading.”
“We’ve got the man simply known as ‘Hayashi’ piloting the Kyoto Team’s bot today. He’s certainly been an impressive presence in the arena,” said Cannon.
“I agree, Cannon, it takes a good pilot to completely change robots mid-tournament. He’s looking mean and lean in that slick new machine. Lumin better not let her guard down. WHOA, hold on!”
Evelyn gasped. “Oh no!”
“Hayashi delivers two solid blows to the chest of BZ-X after a crunching leg sweep. Lumin’s got to get that bot upright in a hurry!”
“Ouch, Zane. Hayashi’s Mark 3 obviously has some serious range and agility! He’s definitely concentrating his punches on BZ-X’s damaged torso.”
“I’ll make a Vegas-style bet he’s trying to make Lumin tap out of the match. She can’t take that kind of abuse for long.”
Evelyn closed her eyes as the talking heads prattled. The sudden sound of clashing metal made her skin crawl.
“THERE YOU GO. Lumin has managed to kick the Mark 3 away and now she’s back on her feet. That girl’s got heart, Cannon!”
Evelyn covered her face with on hand while tilting back little bottles with the other. “I don’t think I can watch this.”
“The Kyoto Team’s C.O.O. isn’t even in attendance tonight. That’s not so great for his team’s morale, if you ask me,” said Zane.
“Rumor has it Kengi Sato was forced to return to Japan to answer to Sato Corp’s board of directors after ballooning his team’s budget,” said Cannon.
“Nice!” said Zane, distracted. “Lumin finally strikes a major blow of her own, swinging her chainblade directly into the Mark 3’s midsection.”
“The crowd’s loving it, but it won’t be enough to win,” bemoaned Cannon.
“A tremendous spin kick from Hyashi looks to have completely disabled the left arm of BZ-X!” yelled Zane. “I didn’t think these goliaths could move so fast!”
“That limb’s hanging limper than hot celery. That means BZ-X’s rocket fist attack AND wrecking ball are disabled. Too bad.”
Evelyn forced herself to look. “You can do this, Lumin!”
“Lumin’s in trouble out there. She has to regain some momentum or this is match is as good as over,” said Zane.
“Lumin strikes with her sword…again! And again!” yelled Cannon. “But the Mark 3’s moving incredibly fast even after losing a significant chunk of its chest plating.”
“Any idea why the Americans aren’t utilizing the weird plasma feature of their sword? It really brought the house down during the last match.”
“No clue, Zane. The event organizers have been quiet on the matter. A technical malfunction is my best guess. I agree, It’s a real shame to not see it in action today.”
“There’s nothing fancy about this match. It’s more back alley brawl than sci-fi showdown…but it’s still damned fun to watch.”
“Goooood night!” Cannon’s voice raised an octave. “Lumin Mira just smashed her sword to pieces while attempting to defend an incoming blow! This could be all she wrote, folks!”
“The Mark 3’s closing in. Oh! Once again, a massive hit knocks BZ-X into the arena’s protective shield.”
“I’ll never get used to that sound, Zane. Looks like we’ve got some movement near the Mark 3’s shoulders! It’s panels are sliding open.”
“A weird mass of gray tentacles has shot from the Mark 3, entangling the legs of BZ-X. The Americans are on their knees, literally,’” cried Zane. “Lumin’s struggling to break free but she only has one arm to work with. She’s emptying her shoulder-mounted concussion cannon as fast as she can to keep Hayashi at bay.”
“KICK HIS ASS!” yelled Evelyn, standing up.
“Lumin Mira has grabbed the end of her broken sword! She’s stabbing it into the tear she made earlier in the Mark 3’s waist…over and over! She’s got Kyoto’s bot staggering. Scrap metal and fluid is flying everywhere.”
“Shank that sucker!” yelled Zane. “Um, I mean…what’s your take, Cannon?”
“Hyashi’s definitely backpedaling. Lumin’s doing her best to cut those steel cables off her legs with what’s left of her sword. She’s up! She’s up!”
Evelyn finally found the mute button. She watched as the Japanese robot’s twin battering rams opened to reveal a pair of three-pronged claws. The claws clamped onto the arms of her daughter’s machine and tore them off violently.
Evelyn Mira turned off the television and began weeping into her hands.
“I’m not done yet, son of a bitch!” yelled Lumin. Her robot had been reduced to little more than a head and pair of legs. She stumbled, trying to regain her balance. Reluctantly, she accepted a incoming transmission from Hayashi. “Took you long enough to gloat. Come on then, make your move!”
“I’m savoring this moment, Miss Mira,” said Hayashi with a laugh. “Stop struggling like a wounded animal…you must realize this is the end.”
“I’ve nearly cut you in half, Hayashi. The top half of that black bowling pin is teetering on top of a few cables and struts. Don’t kid yourself, I almost had you!”
“Nearly. Almost. These are the words of a loser.”
Lumin screamed as she launched Biz into a sprint. She bent and aimed her robot’s head directly at the pollywog’s slashed middle. The collision was so intense it made the arena’s lights flicker.
The hit lodged half of Biz’s cranium into the Pollywog’s spurting innards. The Japanese bot clamped its pincers on Biz’s shoulders, dislodged the mangled head from its middle and shoved its opponent away.
With Biz freed from the tangled mess, Lumin wasted no time. She bent her robot’s legs, digging the steel spades into the dirt, and sprang forward with tremendous energy. Once again, BZ-X’s head plowed into the abdomen of her opponent, gouging even deeper.
“You’re insane!” yelled Hayashi, floundering. His robot’s claws failed to latch onto Biz in time and he was forced to absorb yet another headbutt.
Lumin pulled away, and stood Biz back up with a flattened head erupting a shower of sparks. Although mangled and disfigured, Biz was still standing solidly with most of his core systems online.
Hayashi’s pollywog faltered as it stepped to the side, its top half threatening to topple as it rocked back and forth like a cheap bobble-head. The sound of scraping metal and spurting lubricant belched from its slashed stomach. The illuminated red lines tracing the robot’s body were flickering out steadily.
“You’re mine!” screamed Lumin with fierce joy.
“No! Damn you!” Hayashi was forced to drive his robot’s claws into its own hip joints to keep the top half from separating. He searched his instrument panels for a solution to his dilemma, but found none. The Mark 3’s systems were failing, one by one.
Having lost most of her sensors along with Biz’s head, Lumin had to rely on a backup camera in the robot’s torso to have a sense of her surroundings. Through her flickering feed she was able to see the sorry state of Hayashi’s robot. She rushed ahead, preparing to deliver a final kick; hoping it would bisect the pollywog and send it to the ground.
Lumin’s heart pounded. “This is it. We’re going to win the tournament! Holy shit. We did it!”
As Lumin brought Biz’s leg upward to deliver the final blow the arena’s foghorn sounded, signaling a forced break in the match. The emergency shut off system in each bot–mandated after the Dokujima fight–activated immediately, sending the machines crashing to the arena floor. They landed next to each other with a simultaneous smash.
“No! It’s over! We won!” yelled Lumin, thrashing her arms in the ferrofluid.
Lumin had lost the ability to hail her team when Biz’s head pancaked its sensors and antennas against the pollywog’s metal guts. Only her life support system was still functional. Even cut off from the outside world she could hear the incredible roar of the arena’s angry crowd.
“Shit!” cried Lumin in frustration. “What’s happening? What’s going on out there?”