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 leader, 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, named “Z,” 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, the resistance begins. Despite winning some battles, the invaders regroup and start to converge on the compound in gigantic numbers. Knowing there’s little hope, Lumin hatches a desperate plan for a last stand.
When Lumin left the clinic to let Skip get some rest she saw her mother and father standing on the pathway. “Mom? Dad? You were supposed to leave on the bus!”
“We decided to stay,” said Diego with a gentle smile.
“No! You have to go, it’s not safe here,” said Lumin, running up to them.
“Look at you in that fancy pencil skirt and designer top,” said Evelyn, “you always look like you’re playing dress-up.”
Lumin looked down at herself. “This is far from fancy, Mother…it was the only outfit worth wearing in Eldridge’s box of scrounged-up clothing remnants. I sewed a dress for Kengi Sato’s service but I can’t exactly…” She redirected her attention to her mother. “Hey, don’t change the subject!”
Evelyn shrugged. “Such vanity…they say that’s the sign of a narcissist, you know? I read it on the Buzzfeed.”
“Yes Mom, it’s all about me,” mumbled Lumin. “Come on, we’re going to the livery to find something that can take you far away from here.”
Diego put his thick hand on her shoulder. “Luma, forgive your mother…you know how she gets when she’s stressed out.”
“I know, Dad…that’s why I’m not angrier,” said Lumin, cutting her eyes at her mother.
“Stop talking like I’m not here,” protested Evelyn.
“You’re gonna beat these Martians and send them packing,” said Diego. “That’s why we’re staying. We know when you set you mind on something you get it done, no matter what.”
“I don’t think they’re from Mars, Dad. Anyway, this isn’t like the time I got my motorcycle license or won those blue ribbons at the county fair…this is life and death. Anyone who stays in the compound could get hurt. Thank you so much for your faith in me, but you simply can’t stay.”
“An eight year old winning a blue ribbon ain’t nothing to sneeze at. I loved that pencil drawing you did of your Mom’s feet,” said Diego.
“Ugh. You could have warned me you were sketching my feet. I was in desperate need of a pedicure that day,” said Evelyn.
“Mom, I was a kid, get over it!”
Diego smiled at Evelyn. “I thought your fat little toes looked cute.”
Evelyn slugged Diego in the shoulder but a small laugh slipped out of her mouth, betraying her anger. Her mood suddenly softened. “It’s going to be okay Sweetie,” she said, touching Lumin’s cheek. “If I can’t convince you to leave the fight, you can’t convince us into leave the compound. Fair’s fair.”
Diego nodded. “You’ll beat ’em, Luma. I can feel it in my bones.”
Despite her father’s words Lumin already felt defeated. “I wish I had your confidence,” she said with a sigh before her brow lowered. “Ugh! You’re both stubborn as drunk mules! Fine…if you’re going to stay I want you to know exactly where the bomb shelter is and be ready to duck into it at moment’s notice!”
“Oh for Pete’s sake, we already know where it is,” said Evelyn.
“It’s not far from where they set us up in those dorms,” added Diego.
Evelyn produced a pair of oversized sunglasses from her purse and put them on. “Well, Dear, I’m sure you have lots to attend to before your battle…and I certainly don’t want to know any details. Just tell us when it’s all over, okay?”
Diego hugged his daughter tight. “Go get ‘em, Luma.”
“I will, Dad,” said Lumin, thankful her tear ducts were completely spent.
“Come on, Diego. I know Roundstone has a stash of cooking wine somewhere in that mess hall of his,” said Evelyn, pulling him away towards the cafeteria. “I need a drink.”
Lumin turned around with pinched eyes. When she opened them she saw Dezzie Lynch sitting on a bench a few yards away. She was feeding seagulls from a paper bag full of stale bread. Buttercup was asleep next to her with a crust hanging out of his jowls.
Lumin walked over and sat next to her. “Where the hell did you find such inner peace and can where can I get some?” asked Lumin. Buttercup woke up when he heard Lumin’s voice and his tail started wagging excitedly. The little Boston terrier stepped over Dezzie and plopped in Lumin’s lap. She scratched behind his ear. “Good boy.”
“I’m just enjoying the ride, Lumin,” said Dezzie.
“Uh huh,” said Lumin, skeptically. “So the threat of eminent death at the end of this ride doesn’t give you at least a little pause? Don’t you ever get scared?”
“I was hoping to lure a few crows closer but all that showed up were these shitheads.” Dezzie threw her last hunk of bread and the seagulls chased after it, sending up a flurry of squawks and loose feathers. “Scared? Lumin, death comes for us all. I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime…done a lot. I’m pretty much ready if my time comes.”
“You’re younger than me, you dope. You have plenty of years left to experience,” said Lumin as she scratched the stump where Buttercup’s leg used to be. He twitched in approval.
“I’m 31 years old…the next few decades are fairly pointless for someone my age. You either raise a brood of soul-devouring children or travel the earth doing good deeds to make yourself feel better about your pointless, childless existence. Fuck all that.”
“Always a ray of sunshine,” said Lumin, smiling.
“To be honest, I didn’t really think I’d ever make it this far,” said Dezzie. “There’s really nothing to worry about at the moment, anyway.”
“Excuse me? There’s 500 giants coming to stomp us dead.”
“They won’t,” said Dezzie, flatly.
“You swung from pessimist to optimist so fast you gave me whiplash, Dez,” said Lumin.
“My views having nothing to do with hope…or the lack thereof.”
“Okaaay,” said Lumin, with confusion. “Personally, I’d enjoy living a few more years.”
The women both went quiet for a moment. A stiff breeze obscured Dezzie’s face with her hair as the sounds of the seagulls faded beyond the walls of the compound.
“Listen Dez, I wanted to thank you personally for developing the quantum tech,” said Lumin, unable to bear the silence. “You really saved our asses. We wouldn’t have made it very far without those blades.”
Dezzie laughed and pulled the hair away from her purple eyes. “You’re still hung up on surface details. There’s a lot more going on than this.” She waved her hands in front of Lumin’s face obnoxiously. “I’m disappointed you still can’t see the truth.”
“I don’t like this cryptic shit, Dez. Just say what you want to say,” said Lumin, feeling annoyed.
“Fine, I’ll be honest with you. Am I scared? Sure…but I’m also realistic.” Dezzie grabbed Buttercup out of Lumin’s lap and stood up. “Eldridge Roundstone isn’t going to let a single hair on his precious little Lumin come to harm, so, as long as I stick close to you I’ll be perfectly fine.”
Lumin stood up with clenched fists. “Okay, first off, Eldridge and I are over and he knows that!”
“No he doesn’t,” said Dezzie with a smile.
Lumin ignored her and kept ranting. “Second, Eldridge isn’t the invincible super-savior everyone thinks he is! He’s not able to keep anyone safe. I’m not either for that matter…just ask Kengi Sato!”
“That’s not what I’m saying…at all. Sweet sulfurous Satan, could you be any more dense?” Dezzie turned and walked away, with Buttercup chasing behind, barking excitedly. She turned her head after taking a few steps. “I’ll still ride into battle in one of those meat suits with you. How could I turn that opportunity down? But ultimately…it’s fucking pointless.” She turned back around and kept walking.
Lumin stomped off toward Z-Command, frustrated with Dezzie, with herself, with the entire world.