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 builds a gigantic robot to compete in a best-of-three fighting tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada.
When the tournament abruptly ends amidst chaos, eccentric billionaire Eldridge Roundstone reveals he has been secretly funding both robotics teams, with the goal of developing unconventional weapons to combat an impending alien invasion. The doubts of the American Team’s pilot, Lumin Mira, are erased when she witnesses the alien invaders arrive and use their towering beasts to destroy all who oppose them.
Roundstone welcomes the American and Japanese teams as well as their loved ones at his compound near Cupertino, California. There, he reveals his plan to attack the invaders using a robot army built with a hybrid of American and Japanese technology.
Lumin started hunting down able men and women to pilot Roundstone’s new robots. Dozens of squadrons still needed to be assembled and there was no time to waste. Her goal was to find 75 pilots and complete their training within ten days—an undeniably lofty objective. She was excited to see how her core group of engineers would perform in the trials she had devised.
After the recruits learned the basics of robot control in a briskly-paced classroom setting, testing in the control bell simulators began in earnest. Each of the five rigs was essentially a full-sized ferrotank sitting on a series of hydraulically-controlled pistons to simulate movement and impacts. After putting on an adjustable switch suit, each trainee was immersed in the ferrofluid of the test tank. If they could handle the claustrophobic conditions in complete darkness for five minutes the simulation would start, enabled by a state-of-the-art VR system built into the subject’s visor. The recruitment test had three trials: one to test basic movement, one to assess combat readiness and another to test basic flight capabilities. Lumin made sure she was present to witness the trials of all of her Shuffle Pig compatriots.
Richard Den performed admirably despite his suit being a tight fit. Initially apprehensive, he came out of the tank wanting to go back inside immediately. Accepted.
Still despondent over his missing family, Darwin Spotswood balked over taking the test but changed his mind at the last minute. During the combat portion he fought ferociously, taking down three simulated enemies in the span of five minutes. He seemed pleased to have found some catharsis. Accepted.
Skip Pantheon couldn’t walk in a straight line. His VR robot tripped over its own legs and fell multiple times during the test. Before giving up, he adjusted the density of the ferrofluid and his performance improved drastically. He did remarkably well in the simulated flight portion and was even able to turn off the A.I. assistance. Accepted.
To Lumin’s surprise, Samuel Maston froze up in front of his VR opponents and was unable to complete the test. When he came out of the tank he told Lumin he couldn’t get the faces of his children out of his mind. No matter how badly he wished to fight, the idea of dying on the battlefield and leaving his young boys without a father was too much for him to handle. Lumin told him they’d find another way he could be useful. Rejected.
After nearly failing the five minutes of isolation, Katerina Andriano became the best test subject Lumin had the pleasure of watching. Her enthusiasm was off the charts and her skill with the virtual chain sword was unrivaled. Accepted.
Yasamin Jones couldn’t seem to find a connection to her VR robot. Her movements were tentative and her combat skills were abysmal. After three restarts Lumin was forced to end Yasamin’s run despite her heavy objections. Rejected.
Dezzie Lynch made eye contact with Lumin as soon as she exited the simulator. She was wearing a perfect poker face.
“You did great in there, Dezzie! Better than great,” cried out Lumin. “You’re in!”
Dezzie wiped the ferrofluid off her switch suit and descended the ladder. She walked closer to Lumin, staring into her soul.
Lumin felt uneasy as Dezzie walked up and stood face-to-face with her, wordlessly. “Jesus, Lynch, what is it?”
Dezzie remained quiet for a long moment. “You’re not thinking clearly, Lumin,” she suddenly said.
“What? About what?”
Dezzie put her hands on Lumin’s shoulders and smiled. “I’m excited to see how this plays out.” With that, she walked away.
“Stop screwing around Dezzie!” yelled Lumin, feeling flustered as Dezzie disappeared into the locker room.
Skip walked up beside Lumin. “What was all that about?”
“I don’t know, but I feel like I should,” replied Lumin.