GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 55: Highsteak® revisited

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. With new pilots trained and squadrons formed, only hours remain until the counterattack begins.

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“I can’t believe the operation is only a few hours away. I’m waiting for it to feel real…to hit me right in the chest.” Lumin was sitting next to Eldridge on the top floor of his Highsteak manufacturing plant, overlooking the factory floor. The way the industrial sized “taffy pullers” manipulated the undulating sea of synthetic flesh was somehow soothing,

“It’s all happening so fast, but I think that’s a good thing,” said Eldridge, pulling his folding chair a little closer. “Why did you want to meet here, Miss Mira?

“I wanted to enjoy a bit of solitude before our meeting. Your estate is chockablock full of people now…I think this is the least populated place in the entire complex.”

“Yes, I’m afraid Z has become a little cramped of late.”

“You’re starting to get a Jim Jones kind of vibe around here. I hope you don’t start serving Kool-aid in the cafeteria.”

Eldridge smiled, but looked a little hurt.

Lumin regretted her tone instantly. “Oh, hey! No…I’m sorry. That was a shitty thing to say. It’s truly remarkable how well you’ve adapted the compound to handle such a large influx of people. Forgive me?”

Eldridge nodded. “You’re forgiven.”

“Thanks. The invaders…do you have a recent estimate of the amount of nukes they’ve collected so far?”

“Seventy percent of the planet’s stockpile and counting. The closer the aliens get to emptying the nuclear coffers of our world leaders, the more anxious those leaders get to use what’s left over…which would still be enough to destroy the Earth outright. We can’t delay our operation, even by an hour.”

“Christ,” said Lumin. “Did we find out what are the aliens doing with the confiscated nukes?”

“Red orb ‘motherships’–much larger than the scout drones–are regularly loaded with warheads then launched into deep space. Afterwards, we lose the ability to track them. Smaller, non-nuclear munitions are being destroyed in massive terrestrial dumps.”

“Just as weird as I expected,” said Lumin. “Fuck, they’ve been insanely efficient.”

“Not efficient enough to detect our intention to attack. We’ve been lucky.”

“I suppose,” said Lumin, leaning forward, “unless they’re setting us up for an ambush.”

“It’s a possibility, but these fiends seem blunt in their tactics.” said Eldridge. “They’ve underestimated our intelligence, which is why we have to seize this opportunity to surprise them. We have a real chance to deliver them a decisive blow.”

“Well, if nothing else I have faith in my crew.”

“As do I. Most of your Shuffle Pigs teammates passed the recruitment phase with flying colors. Congratulations.”

Lumin nodded. “And now their training is nearly complete. Honestly, I was hoping some of them would have dropped out by now.”

“I have the distinct feeling they’d follow you straight through the gates of Hell, if asked.”

“I’ve already asked! I’m not too eager to face those behemoths again. I would hate myself if anyone got hurt.”

Eldridge shook his head. “An honest concern. But, you given everyone ample chances to back out of their duties. They’re all adults…they know the risks that lie ahead just as much as you do.”

“I don’t know shit, Eldridge,” said Lumin. “Anything could happen out there.”

“If we can’t trust in our plan it’s destined to fail.”

Lumin sighed. “The VR training is good, but it’s not real. Knowing you could actually be hurt, or even die, completely changes the dynamic in the control bell. Believe me.”

“I wish I could offer you assurances, but I can’t. Only hope.”

“Thanks, Obama,” said Lumin. “Listen, I know how I sound. I promise my lack of confidence is temporary. I have a job to do and I won’t let our team know I carry even a shred of doubt.”

Eldridge smiled. “Good. By the way, every one of the engineers on the Kyoto Team made it onto a squadron. Even Sato-san.”

“Kengi Sato?” said Lumin with shock. “Wow. Good for him.”

“He wants to check in with you before mission time. All of the Kyoto engineers would like another chance to meet with your people.”

Lumin smiled. “I think everyone on my crew would enjoy that. It’s funny how the people I despised to the core became my closest allies in the face of a larger threat.”

“Does that mean Ryan Lumb has a chance to reconcile with you?”

“Oh, hell no,” said Lumin. “He’s on a whole other level. Did he get a squadron?”

“He actually took the test if you can believe it, but he failed miserably.”

Lumin laughed. “I’m not too surprised he couldn’t hack it.”

“I’ll find ways to make him useful. Maybe cleaning robots…but I suppose that’s up to you.”

“Scrubbing toilets would suit him better.”

After another laugh, they both went quiet…staring at the rolling waves of lab-grown steak below. “Lumin, I just want to say—“

“Please, don’t,” said Lumin, looking troubled. “We’re on good terms again. Don’t ruin it now.”

Eldridge gave her a nod and they entered another uncomfortable silence before he piped up once more. “By the way, I’ve taken the liberty of upgrading your old unit.”

“Biz? Really?”

“I had BZ-X repaired and retrofitted with our new tech…same paint scheme and all.”

Lumin grinned. “Wow, somehow that makes me feel a little better. The team is going to love that. I love it. Thank you, Eldridge.”

“My pleasure, Miss Mira.”


GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 56: All That Jazz

What is this? I started this “serial” as a way to bring some fun and immediacy to my writing routine. Each chapter is written, edited and posted in a single day (I will do some additional editing if I find a glaring mistake). Chapters are released on an irregular basis
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