GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS: A thank you

robot thanksGIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS is finished! Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read this crazy serial. Whether you came for the story or for the illustrations, I appreciate your support. Eventually I may condense this into an e-book, so if you find that prospect interesting let me know in the comments.

Every chapter is listed below, if you want to catch up.

Stay tuned: It’s quite likely a new serial will be popping up here soon.

-Nate


GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 1: Lumin lays down the law

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 2: Drips

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 3: Buttercup in the darkness

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 4: Lumb and Lumin

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 5: Fantasy fulfillment

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 6: Test run

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 7: Buried hopes

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 8: The Wizard of Z

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 9: Highsteaks

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 10: Painful stomach pressure

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 11: Ferrofluid forever

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 12: Shuffle Pigs unite!

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 13: Edridge Roundstone checks in

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 14: Meet the Kyoto Team

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 15: Lamb plantations

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 16: 7 Minutes

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 17: Shuffleboard

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 18: Dirty Dozens

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 19: Eight days until the match

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 20: Seven days until the match

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 21: Six days until the match

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 22: Robot Monster

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 23: Three days until the match (includes motivational montage playlist)

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 24: Cardboard Riker

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 25: S.N.A.F.U.U.F.O.

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 25½: Two days before the match

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 26: Rubber

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 27: Wasteland 2.0

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 28: Less than a day before the match

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 29: Final preparations

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 30: This is happening

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 31: Filament

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 32: Loss

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 33: Control the narrative

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 34: Concessions

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 35: Crappie

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 36: Sheer, stupid luck

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 37: The Outlaw

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 38: Never good

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 39: Hog fodder

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 40: Early death

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 41: Amateur psychology

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 42: An entirely different place

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 43: Sorry for your loss

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 44: Not even Beyoncé

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 45: No love lost

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 46: Hail Mary

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 47: F***ing maniac

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 48: Jared Leto

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 49: We now join the final match, already in progress

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 50: I’d rather be at Loaf ‘N Jug

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 51: Samurai

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 52: CBGB & OMFUG

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 53: Shuffle Pigs are go!

GIANT FREAKIN ROBOTS part 54: Poker face

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 55: Highsteak® revisited

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 56: All That Jazz

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 57: The 5th Dimension

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 58: Ragtag

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 59: Joan & Lita

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 60: R.I.P. Lumpy

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 61: Unit 04 (死/し) and Unit 09 (苦/く)

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 62: Miu Dokujima mourns

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 63: The world misses you

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 64: Head to toe

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 65: The woods

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 66: Fat little toes

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 67: Giant freakin’ robots

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 68: The Reset

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 69: The Consecrated Planes

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GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 69: The Consecrated Planes

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Although faced with a grim decision, Lumin found it impossible to hold on to a coherent thought. With her world spinning into a vortex of absurdity, all she could do was laugh. When her brief fit of hysteria subsided she wiped the tears from her eyes and caught her breath. “How the hell did we get here, Eldridge?”

“Lumin?” asked Eldridge, raising an eyebrow.

“If you could only fathom how much I regret not joining that nonprofit conservation group. God help me, I was so sick of scrounging and scraping to survive. I had no defense against the $50,000 signing bonus Ryan Lumb was offering. I chose Louboutins over Doug fir seedlings only to end up wrecking every pair of fancy heels I bought.”

“I’m not sure I’m following your train of thought,” said Eldridge.

“Somehow, I never questioned why someone with so little experience would be considered for a management position. You were pulling Lumb’s strings behind the scenes all along.”

Eldridge shrugged a bit. “Only in regards to the tournament. Soon after Mr. Lumb suggested the contest to Kengi Sato I took the reins of the project. Later on I provided full funding to the American team so I could have more direct involvement in the project without raising too many questions.”

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GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 68: The Reset

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. Lumin and her squad mates manage to defeat the horde with some unconventional tactics, but their victory is tempered by the shocking news that Eldridge Roundstone has manufactured the entire alien invasion to forward his own secret agenda.

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Lumin forced the insane ramifications of Skip’s discovery out of her mind so she could concentrate on getting her injured teammates extracted from the battlefield. Z’s medical facility was too limited, so she had the wounded airlifted to Regional Medical Center in San Jose.

22 pilots had been injured; suffering burns, broken limbs, concussions and lacerations. Three pilots, Hayashi among them, were knocked unconscious and couldn’t be roused. The forces inside the control bells must have been immense for the cushioning ferrofluid to have failed so catastrophically. Although many pilots had been critically injured, somehow, none had died.

Miu Dokujima sustained a concussion and two broken legs. As Lumin watched her being loaded onto a helicopter she finally broke apart and allowed herself a few seconds to weep inside of BZ-X. When the last injured pilot was extracted she joined the rest of the squadron, already on its way back to Z.

Lumin was drained and emotionless by the time she arrived at the compound. The news of Eldridge’s treachery had pulled the rug pulled out from under her and she was still stumbling. As the retrieval team lifted her from Biz, she saw Skip waiting for her on the ground. She smiled seeing he was finally able to stand, albeit with the aid of crutches.

Lumin hugged Skip carefully as she stepped off the cherry picker, staining him with inky grease. He didn’t seem to mind. “Please, don’t say a word. Let’s just find somewhere…quiet. I need to think but I don’t want to be alone,” said Lumin.

Skip nodded and they left together. Lumin didn’t bother changing, opting to huddle inside the white robe covering her switch suit. They walked across the courtyard to the empty cafeteria. After getting some coffee from a machine they sat in the corner of the room and hunched over their paper cups.

Skip couldn’t handle the silence any longer. “Did you try to contact that bastard? Does Eldridge know…that we know?”

“He knows. He’s disappeared along with his toady, Andrew,” said Lumin. “No one in Washington will tell me shit.” She had an idea where he might be hiding but she didn’t want to share it with Skip.

Skip slammed his fist on the table. “The behemoths and the orbs were just Roundstone’s fucking toys…and so were we. There never were any aliens trying to take over the planet, just him!”

“Having unlimited means must have left Eldridge pretty bored for him to attempt something like this,” said Lumin. “The only thing a guy with his kind of wealth desires is more power.”

“You think it’s all just a power grab? If he really is a low-rent Bond villain trying to take over the world, why would he back the invasion AND the resistance forces? It doesn’t add up.”

Only Lumin’s confusion was keeping her anger at bay. “Remember, he’s done this before. He backed both robotics teams in the fighting tournament in order to develop better weapons. His theatrics always have some kind of ulterior motive.”

“Yeah, keep telling yourself that. All this fighting has been completely pointless.” Skip shrugged. “Sorry. I’m just frustrated.”

Lumin shook her head. “It’s alright.”

“Okay, so I’m guessing Roundstone’s goal was to build perfect soldiers for his new world order. He wants to know which model of robot he’s built is the most lethal.”

“Maybe.” Lumin stared at the swirling foam in her cup. “There has to be more to this.”

“If nothing else his fake aliens were a great distraction; no one suspected he was behind the invasion. But what did he do with all those nukes he pilfered?”

Lumin hadn’t thought of that wrinkle. “Nothing good.” She stood up suddenly.

“Lumin?”

“I have to go. Keep an eye on things here, I’ll check in soon. Don’t follow me.”

“Wait!” yelled Skip as Lumin started walking away. “Are you nuts? You can’t go after him alone!” He grabbed his crutches and stumbled to his feet but he couldn’t keep up with her. “At least tell me where you’re going!”

Lumin ran all the way back to the hanger. She commandeered a cherry picker and lifted herself back up to Biz’s control bell. The robot’s head was still crumpled.

Samuel ran up to Biz’s feet and looked up at Lumin. “What the hell are you doing?” he shouted.

“I have to go, Sam,” Lumin yelled back as she strapped herself into the harness and started lowering into Biz’s ferrotank.

“You only have 25% power on that battery!” yelled Sam.

Lumin wasn’t listening. Minutes later she was strapped in and blasting through the sky away from Z.

——–

Lumin did her best to deny herself any access to her emotions as she flew north toward Oregon. She somehow knew Eldridge would be at the ostentatious cabin he had constructed in the middle of nowhere. Remembering their brief tryst added embarrassment to her list of banned feelings.

Lumin dropped beneath the clouds into a rare desert thunderstorm. She could see the lights of Eldridge’s cabin cutting through sheets of rain in the distance. Something else was there, leaving a humongous silhouette against the gloom. A lightning strike illuminated the plains revealing a titanic red and white robot at least three times larger than Biz.

Lumin’s stomach churned. She stopped her rush and landed in a muddy pasture about 100 yards from the hulking machine. A series of flood lights on the front of the top-heavy, bipedal robot ignited, leaving her blind for a moment. Someone was hailing her on the radio.

“Eldridge?” asked Lumin.

“Hey Loomz! We had a feeling you’d show up,” said Andrew, cheerfully.

“Where’s Eldridge, you little shit?” asked Lumin, her anger steaming up her visor.

“Whoa, take it easy,” said Andrew. “No need to get your panties in a twist, babe. He’s in the cabin, waiting for you.”

“Huh, I never would have guessed your career as a balloon artist would have prepared you to pilot a robot,” said Lumin. “Don’t fool yourself Andrew, you’re a puppet just like the rest of us.”

“You’re hot but you can be a real bitch, you know that? Come park that thing near the porch and come inside. Eldridge just wants to talk.”

“Why don’t I just blow that fucking cabin to bits with concussion rounds right now?”

Andrew laughed. His robot lowered a gigantic cannon which immediately began tracking Biz’s every movement. “Not one of your best ideas, Lumin. Besides, you’re no killer.”

“You don’t know—”

Andrew fired his cannon. A blue beam left the barrel and impacted the desert, leaving a 50 foot crater belching black smoke. The force of the impact knocked Biz to the ground.

“There won’t be another warning shot. Just get in there, please? Don’t make me do this,” begged Andrew.

“Fine,” said Lumin. She stood Biz back up and walked through the piercing spotlights of Andrew’s bot as she made her way toward the cabin.

“Hey, hey…on second thought, don’t get too close,” said Andrew, following behind.

Lumin stopped her robot and lowered the emergency ladder. She crawled down the rungs carefully in the pounding rain and slopped through the mud to the cabin.

Eldridge was waiting on the porch with a towel and a smile. “Highsteak meat suits? Complete genius! The behemoths’ A.I. was left completely confused. I’ve been forced to rearrange my plans to accommodate your victory.”

Lumin, dripping wet, knocked the towel out of Eldridge’s hand to the slats below. A tremendous thunder clap made her wince.

“Woo! Did you see that one?” Andrew yelled through a loudspeaker. A lightning bolt had slammed into his robot, but it seemed unaffected.

“Please, Miss Mira…come inside. No harm will come to you,” said Eldridge. “Would you like some wine? I just uncorked an amazing 2012 Evening Land Pinot noir.”

“No,” said Lumin. Reluctantly, she followed Eldridge into the cabin. She walked into the living room and stood near the window with her arms crossed. “Are you going to kill me now?” she asked.

Eldridge laughed. “Oh, please, Miss Mira. You know me better than that.”

“I don’t know you at all!” yelled Lumin, tightening as she turned around. “What was the point of any of this?”

“Well, after listening to your conversation with Mr. Pantheon in the cafeteria, I can say your suspicions were mostly valid…but there’s still much you don’t know.”

“You had the cafeteria bugged? I don’t know why I’m surprised,” said Lumin.

“All of Z is wired for sound. I have to keep track of my compound, after all.”

“You’re coming back with me to answer for your crimes, Eldridge,” said Lumin. “People are hurt–people have died–because of you. For the love of god, why would you nuke Seattle?”

“I went out of my way to keep people from harm, but alas, sweeping change always creates casualties. Although my behemoths can absorb most of the shock of a nuclear strike by quickly burrowing into the ground, I didn’t want to risk them being damaging by the blast. I worried any loss in alien numbers might upset the careful balance of power I had created between the invaders and my robot army. That’s why I chose to reroute the missile while it was in flight. Funnily, it turned out your meat suit assault created an even bigger power imbalance.”

“You’re not answering my question! If you had full control of that missile, why didn’t you let it explode somewhere unpopulated…like the middle of the ocean?”

“When I learned the military was planning to launch a nuclear warhead in desperation, I realized I could frame the incident to fit my agenda. I sent an orb mother ship to hover above Seattle, which triggered an immediate evacuation of the area. When the weapon was launched I used an OMFUG to intercept and redirect the missile to the empty city. The nuclear blast will serve as a lasting reminder that the world governments not only failed to stop the invasion but made the situation even worse.

“Skip’s right…you are a Bond villain. You’re a fucking cliché!” screamed Lumin.

“Please, sit down. Don’t you see? I’m not a villain…I’m saving the world.”

“You’re delusional.”

Eldridge gestured to a leather chair. “Please.”

Lumin slammed herself into the chair. “Go ahead, spill your evil monologue. Let’s get this over with.” She listened to the heavy patter of rain hitting the roof of the cabin and wished she could be anywhere else.

Eldridge pulled a chair closer and sat across from Lumin. “Environmental destruction, global climate change, endless war, overpopulation, rampant poverty and inequality…we’ve all become numb to the scope of human folly. We live every day in a state of denial just to survive to the next. Humanity was manufacturing their own apocalypse long before I dreamed up my meager version.”

“How does simulating an alien invasion solve the world’s problems?”

“It doesn’t…it was merely a catalyst for greater change. Humanity has proved it cannot handle the responsibility of unabated freedom. Our collective quest to fulfill our endless desires has nearly destroyed the planet. We are woefully out of balance and tumbling toward annihilation. The human race needs to be put in check, so to speak.”

Lumin looked Eldridge in the eye. “So, a mock-alien authoritarian regime is your answer? You know, we’ve tried that before…without the aliens.”

“I don’t want an empire, I want to build a utopia–a society where we live in harmony with nature, where we don’t overstep our means in the service of unsustainable dreams. A simple life is the only life that brings meaning and happiness. I’m giving humanity a reset button.”

“There’s no going back, Eldridge,” said Lumin, “When the dust has settled, no one’s going to give up their smartphone for the sake of simplicity. Change comes from within, one person at a time…you can’t force it upon anyone and expect it to stick.”

Eldridge shook his head. “Attempting incremental change has not worked thus far. No one’s been willing to do what it takes to survive as species so I have taken it upon myself to make the difficult decisions for them. People need a push sometimes.”

“This really is nothing more than a power trip.”

“I have no interest in power. This is my gift to the world! A chance for all of us to return to purity…to live our lives completely free from guilt.”

“Purity, huh. Now you sound more like Hitler,” said Lumin, dismissively.

“Hitler was a fearful coward. I am not. Everyone is equal in my eyes, for better or worse.”

“Do you actually expect people the world over to fall in line with this glorious vision of yours? You can’t scare everyone into obedience with fake aliens forever!”

“The aliens will soon be defeated in a final, glorious battle…one even grander than your victory today. Soon after, my robot army will oversee the rebuilding of the world. You and Kengi Sato–may he rest in peace–have helped me develop an unstoppable peacekeeper of unmatched proportions.”

“Hold on, did Kengi Sato help you build the behemoths?”

“Yes. Sato Corp’s Japanese complex is cavernous. The Kyoto Team’s engineers and builders for the tournament were left completely in the dark about the secret secondary project occurring dozens of floors below them. Deep beneath the Kyoto Complex, Sato and I had a team in place working tirelessly to fulfill my vision by replicating the innovations of both the Japanese and American robotics teams. They built the robot army, the ‘aliens,’ and the orb ships using technology developed for the tournament. The Shuffle Pigs were the Yin to Kyoto’ Team’s Yang; a chaotic counterpoint to the Japanese’s by-the-book precision. Together, both teams unknowingly created the technology that will help me enforce the reset of the planet.”

“So, Sato eventually got cold feet and wanted to reveal your operation…is that why you had him killed?”

“No. Sato-san was one of my closest allies. Even though his views may have ultimately shifted from mine, his death remains a tragic accident.”

Lumin paused as a round of thunder rolled over the valley. “I don’t believe you Eldridge. You may be a master manipulator, but you can’t lie worth a damn.”

“You don’t blame you for not trusting me. I know I mistreated you, but I still swear that the moments we shared were—”

“Stop, Eldridge…just stop.”

“Lumin, you were the one uncertainty in my life…and it was thrilling. I became too caught up in our relationship and I let my feelings for you overtake me. There were many times I wanted to tell you everything. Many, many times.”

“But you didn’t,” said Lumin, coldly.

“No, I didn’t.” Sadness seemed to engulf Eldridge but Lumin suspected it was just another ruse. “When I told you before I wanted you to have plausible deniability in case the authorities ever caught wind of my plans it wasn’t a lie…I just didn’t reveal the full scope of those plans. I was always aware my surreptitious behavior would eventually lead to you leaving me–you’re not the type of woman who’s quick to forgive someone who’s abused their trust. Losing you was an inevitability but it didn’t make our parting any less painful. Sacrifices had to be made for the reset to occur. I was not excluded.”

“Good. I hope it hurt like hell, you bastard,” said Lumin, denying her tears. She took a few seconds to stare at the pounding rain outside and compose herself.

“Lumin, I’m not asking for your forgiveness, just your understanding.”

“You’ll get no sympathy from me,” said Lumin. “You used me, nothing more, nothing less.” She decided to change the subject, feeling sorrow and regret starting to gnaw at her resolve. “So, how exactly will your utopia-or-else scenario work?”

Eldridge seemed happy to change the subject. “While the aliens are still rampaging they’ll spread specially designed nanomachines across the world. These tiny robots will essentially ‘poison’ the world’s petroleum reserves, making it incombustible and worthless as an energy source. The next phase will make all sources of nuclear power similarly inaccessible. In the end, only clean sources of energy will remain. That alone will change the world to an incredible degree.”

“Change? More like create global chaos. Speaking of nukes, what did you do with all the warheads the CBGBs collected?”

“I released them into deep space, never to be seen again.”

“I find that hard to believe,” said Lumin. “You seem to think this ‘reset’ of yours will be quick and simple. You can’t be that naive.”

“I know this will not be an easy transition but it will succeed. My aliens will continue to collect and destroy military might the world over for the next few weeks. Any weapon more powerful than a hunting rifle will be melted down. When they finish crushing the world’s defenses they will trample the infrastructure on every continent. The internet will be ripped apart, cable by cable. Communication satellites will fall burning from the sky.”

“I don’t understand. What good will it do to cut people off from each other?”

“The collapse will cause populations to become more isolated. People will no longer be lured by the empty kinship of strangers across the Internet and will rediscover the concept of true community. Small pockets of modest dwellings will spring up in the place of trampled cities. Neighborhoods will be close-knit out of necessity, relying on sustainable agriculture and the products of local artisans. Transportation will be limited by the scarcity of energy; with horses, trains and perhaps even airships becoming the prevalent modes of travel.”

“Christ, you want to put us back in the dark ages…but with blimps?” bemoaned Lumin.

“There will still be a place for science, but all research efforts will benefit mankind and the planet. Computers will be used as tools, not toys. Engineers will develop clean energy systems, not weapons or useless gadgets. We will stave off sickness with holistic means whenever possible, but medicines will continue to be developed and distributed as needed.”

“Communist much, Eldridge?”

“Maybe it is communism, but in an incorruptible form that’s never been possible before. Finally, we’ll find a true equilibrium with our environment just like our earliest ancestors.”

“Yes, when we all lived to the ripe old age of 30”

Eldridge shrugged. “30 good years of hard work and happiness beats 80 of prescription drug-addled dependence sustained on the back of slaves. Still, I see no reason why people won’t live long, healthy lives.”

“If this movement arose organically, I could almost be on board…but no one, I repeat, no one is going to embrace this idea when they find out it was all orchestrated by some megalomaniac. People will hate you, and hate every idea you ever had as a result.”

“Don’t you see? The reset will arise organically and I will remain completely invisible throughout its duration. The only thing that will be forced upon the populace is the apocalypse, which will be blamed on the alien invaders and the failure of the world’s governments to contain them…they’re the ultimate scapegoats. After my robot resistance army finally defeats the invaders for good, everyone will be begging me to help rebuild a better world.”

Lumin was skeptical. “Say you do manage to keep all your secrets and lies from spiraling apart, how do you expect to keep the peace?”

“After society has been rebuilt from the ground up, my robot sentries will keep watch over the populace and prevent further war until the time comes when they are no longer needed. The robots will be symbol of humanity’s victory over the aliens and their presence will be welcomed. I will quietly pull the strings of any remaining governments in order to push society in the proper direction. It may take 20 years to achieve balance–maybe even a 100–but the human race will be saved.”

“And what happens to the people who refuse to play ball? There will be plenty.”

“Uprisings will be quashed. Repeat offenders will be placed in a community away from everyone else to live out their lives.”

“Prison, that’s called a prison.”

“Essentially, yes. These first years will be admittedly delicate but eventually all will learn the benefits of a simplified life…unfortunately, mine will be riddled with complexities, but I am ready for what lies ahead.”

“This…this won’t work,” said Lumin, only half believing herself–if anyone had the will to bring such an elaborate plan to fruition it was Eldridge. “I can’t let you do this. I’ll expose you to the world!”

“Lumin…accept my heartfelt apology and let’s move forward. You are well aware of the direction our planet is heading. Deep down, you know this is the only answer.”

The rain stopped and the cabin became eerily quiet. The silence filled Lumin with dread. Damn him! she thought. Could this actually work?

“Please, Lumin,” begged Eldridge.

“No!” yelled Lumin, flipping over her chair as she stood up. “There’s already blood on your hands and this will lead to the deaths of millions more!”

Eldridge paced, becoming unusually animated. “Billions will die if nothing is done! The sky will choke…the oceans will flood…the soil will turn to dust…the forests will burn…starvation will drive us into endless war!”

“You claim you want to save the human race but you have absolutely no faith in humanity! People will eventually pull together to solve our problems…somehow!”

“Somehow.” Eldridge let out a sigh and relaxed his posture. “I have the means to save us all from destruction…should I just sit idly by, hoping and praying that humanity eventually comes to its senses?”

Lumin slumped and sobbed into her hands. “Damn your God Complex, Eldridge. Damn you for pulling me into this.”

“I need you, Lumin. Your legend is quickly spreading across the world as the fearless leader of the resistance. You don’t have to love me…you don’t even have to like me…just stay by my side so our beacon of hope will shine bright the world over! The people will need symbols. They’ll need stories of heroes to sustain them through the great changes ahead.”

Lumin felt trampled. Her mind had gone completely blank. She leaned her body against the cool of the picture window and felt the low rumble of fading thunder through the glass.

Eldridge put a finger up against a small com-link in his ear. “Andrew? What is it?…Yes…I see…Give me a moment.” He lowered his hand and walked closer to Lumin.

“S…stay back!” said Lumin, her voice wobbling. Don’t let him fool you again.

“Lumin, please listen…I’m afraid Miss Jones has tracked you to this cabin. Your friends managed to disable the kill switches in seven robots before I could shut them down remotely. They’re in the air as we speak and will be here in less than five minutes. Andrew is watching them on his radar.”

“Oh my god!” said Lumin, covering her mouth in shock.

“Andrew has dubbed his robot sentry Obliterator, which should give you some idea to his current mindset. I’m afraid he’s become a little too fond of his machine’s destructive power. He’s carrying advanced armament none of your people—not even Dezzie Lynch—could dream up. He’ll protect me at all costs.”

Lumin clenched her fists. “All the battlefield data in the world couldn’t help you understand the depths of those pilot’s hearts! Don’t be so quick to write them off.”

“Do not mistake my warning for braggadocio…if your friends choose to fight Andrew they will be destroyed, without question. A hundred robots couldn’t defeat him.”

Lumin had always suspected Andrew’s Valley Boy charms were somehow disingenuous. “You’ve been wrong before, Eldridge. Call him off!”

“Andrew won’t listen to me…far too much is at stake. He’s just as invested in the reset as I am. It’s you, who must make a choice: either order your friends to stand down, or join them in a losing battle. My fate, your friend’s fate, the fate of the world…it’s all in your hands.”

“Some choice. I couldn’t hail the pilots if I wanted to,” said Lumin. “BZ-X’s antennae array was completely mangled in the last fight. I won’t be able to contact them until they’ve already arrived. By then it will be too late.”

“You can reach them,” said Eldridge. “I have equipment here that can push a radio transmission through to your friends. Call them, Lumin. Tell them you’re not in danger then order them to stand down immediately and return to Z. Once they’re safely grounded, you and I can discuss how to introduce them to the idea of the reset. They’ll listen to you, Lumin. I know it.”

“Don’t get ahead for yourself,” said Lumin.

“That leaves option two, which I hope you’ll consider carefully. I let you walk out of this cabin and reenter your robot so you can join your friends in a battle to the death with Andrew. If you somehow rise above the odds and defeat him, the ‘invasion’ ends and the reset comes to a halt. However, it will mean all the pain and destruction you’ve experienced thus far will have been for naught and the human race will continue its blind march toward oblivion.”

Lumin wanted to scream but all she could do was tremble.

“Miss Mira, this can’t wait…make your choice. Now.”


GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 69: The Consecrated Planes

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

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 67: Giant freakin’ robots

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.

pixel_meat march_sm

Five hours remained until the invaders reached the compound. Lumin was running on anxiety, caffeine, and little else. She met with Yasamin at Z-Command to watch the progress of the invaders through the radar terminal and run through some potential battlefield strategies.

Once Lumin was confident Yasamin and her team were ready for the operation, she left to check on Skip at the infirmary. She was pleased to find he was recovering quickly and was in good spirits. Although he had regained feeling in his legs they were still extremely weak and he wasn’t able to stand. He begrudgingly agreed to forgo the coming battle and told Lumin he’d help out Yasamin at Z-Command instead. Watching a nurse help Skip into a wheelchair as he winced with pain filled Lumin with so much hate for the invaders she could barely contain her rage.

Lumin dragged herself away from the clinic to supervise Samuel and Richard’s production of the Highsteak ‘armor.’ She stepped into Warehouse 4 and took in the ludicrous sight of dozens of meat suits hanging in a row. The bamboo netting helping contain the wet slabs made the suits look absolutely perverse. At least 50 former members of Sam’s maintenance crew had been relegated to assembly line workers, manning oversized sewing machines and robotic arms that flipped and manipulated meat chunks as they rolled along conveyor belts.

Samuel was hunching over a monitor when Lumin walked in. After noticing her, he stood up straight and stretched his back. “Hey, Lumin. Welcome to our sweatshop.”

“It certainly smells like one,” said Lumin, flaring a nostril. “Z-Command says we have about five hours until the invaders arrive. I want our bots out of the compound and marching towards the CBGBs a good hour before that happens.”

“We have 24 suits constructed. We’re managing to build about 12 per hour but we’re getting steadily faster. I think we’ll be ready in time…barely.”

Lumin hugged Samuel tight. “You’re amazing, you know that?”

Samuel laughed. “Well, I had some damn good help.”

“Tell your team I’ll double…no triple…their pay,” said Lumin with a smile.

“Gee, thanks boss…what’s zero times three?” asked Samuel.

Richard walked up. “What, no love for me? I programmed all this machinery myself. My fingers are numb.”

“C’mere you big lug,” Lumin hugged Richard too.

“You seem to be in a cheery mood,” said Samuel.

Lumin shook her head. “I’m just delirious. Like…seriously looped. I just want to get this mission over with.”

“I hear you,” said Richard. “I think I’m going to end up a vegetarian after this job is done.”

Sam and Lumin both stared at him skeptically.

“What?” asked Richard.

“Sam…I’m going to give a quick briefing to all our pilots in an hour, but I want you and your crew to skip it and keep working,” said Lumin. “I’ll give you a quick rundown of the operation now so you can relay the information to any pilots you have working on the floor.”

—–

Four hours until contact…

—–

Lumin and Yasamin took to the cramped stage in the cafeteria to go over the upcoming mission with her pilots. She could see the doubt on everyone’s faces, which meant she couldn’t dare reveal any of her own anxiety as she spoke to them.

“Where’s Ryan Lumb?” Lumin whispered to Yasamin.

“He left on one of the buses,” Yasamin replied. “I didn’t think you’d be too heartbroken about it.”

“I’m not,” said Lumin. “Good riddance.”

Lumin stepped up to the microphone. “Thank you for coming, everyone…and thank you for not deserting the compound after hearing my admittedly bizarre plans to counter the coming threat.”

A small rustle of laughs filtered through the crowd but a shared sense of apprehension prevailed.

“I know everyone is aware of the general scope of this operation but I’m going to spend the next few minutes going over the minutiae of our battle plan. Any questions so far?”

A woman raised her hand. “There’s no name for this operation?”

Lumin shook her head. “We’re all working so quickly I haven’t had time to think of one. Operation Meat March? No, it’s too silly. This is our final battle…there’s nothing silly about it. Anything else?”

“How do we know these meat suits are going to work? Will they actually keep us hidden?” asked a man near the back.

“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough time to test our theories. But, even though we’re flying by the seat of our meaty pants I wholeheartedly believe this is going to work,” said Lumin. “Any more questions?”

A woman rose up in the front row. “If we do somehow manage to cut down 500 of those things, what’s to say they won’t just drop 500 more from those damn mother ships?”

“It could happen. Who knows? Maybe the aliens will turn to taffy and shit gold? It doesn’t do us any good to speculate what might happen without any evidence. We can only tackle what’s in front of us or else we’ll all go insane.”

The room went quiet.

“Alright. Please open your mission packets that we handed out and look at Phase 1.”

—–

Two hours until contact…

—–

Lumin and the rest of the pilots put on their switch suits and entered their robots. Their heavy feet shook the ground as they left the hanger like a line of ants. They queued up in a row outside of Warehouse 4 where the Highsteak suits were waiting to be worn.

Lumin hailed her team on the open radio channel. “Remember, everyone…this process could prove to be a little awkward. You’re going to feel like a four year old trying to dress themselves for the first time. Cranes will be stationed at each side of your robot to assist if necessary. Once you’re…dressed…walk to the designated assembly area on the other side of the compound. If your suit rips, for whatever reason, return to the warehouse for immediate repairs.”

The robots lined up to put on their Highsteak armor as each suit rolled out of the warehouse on rails. It was a laborious and awkward process, so much so that nearly everyone was laughing by the time the last robot had finished suiting up. Lumin was happy the mood had lightened, if only momentarily. Even she let loose a giggle when the most braggadocios member of her team, Hayashi, ended up falling to the dirt after stumbling out of a slippery pant leg. The A.I. enabled bots put on their suits on with such ease it was embarrassing. She wished the support units acted more creatively as ground fighters but ultimately, they were  lacking; they’d be relegated to bringing up the rear during the charge.

Despite being composed of weak materials the suits were sturdier than Lumin had anticipated. Still, Samuel warned her they would only last a few hours at the most and it would take nearly a full hour to march into the desert to meet the invaders…flying was completely out of the question.

—–

One hour until contact…

—–

The robot army was dressed in meat and waiting in formation for Lumin’s order to march. She planned to intercept the behemoths while they were still a good distance away from the compound. Before she prepared to give her final address to the team she contacted Yasamin in Z Command.

“Yes, Lumin?”

“Yasamin, did Skip ever show up there?

“No. I expected he’d arrive by now. That wheelchair doesn’t seem to slow him down much. We have a few other people missing as well, but we’ll be fine without them.”

“Shit. Can you patch me through to his cell phone?”

“Will do. “

“Thanks.” Lumin waited as the line switched over.

Skip answered on the first ring. “Hello?”

“Skip, why aren’t you at Z-Command?”

“Lumin, we never found the weak point of the CBGB you recovered. I’m in the warehouse preparing to resume the dissection of the behemoth. If we can find away to dispatch the horde more efficiently than chopping off all their heads it could make a world of difference.”

“No! Digging around in that thing isn’t safe…it nearly killed you last time!” yelled Lumin, desperately.

“It’s already sprung its trap. There’s not going to be anymore surprises. You know I have to do this.”

“Skip…”

“Please Lumin, don’t worry about me. Let me do this…I can’t do much else.”

“Alright, fine,” said Lumin, angrily, “but I don’t want you alone in there!”

“I have four volunteers from Z-Command with me. We’ll be fine. I’m going to get cutting. Hopefully I’ll have an answer for you by the time you arrive at the horde. I love you.”

“I love you too,” said Lumin, taking a deep breath.

Lumin called Yasamin back. “Skip’s determined to find a weak point on the CBGBs and equally determined to piss me off. He’s got four of your people in the warehouse helping him resume the dissection.”

Yasamin laughed. “They knew I wouldn’t let them try anything behind your back. Sneaky bastards.”

“I gave Skip the go-ahead. It’s not like he’d listen to me anyway.”

“Alright Lumin…be careful out there.”

“I will. I’ll stay in touch.”

—–

A half-hour before contact…

—–

The robot army trudged beneath a sapphire sky over low hills of barren scrubland. Z had become a speck in the distance behind them. The meat suits had been inundated by swarms of flies, which while disgusting, was nothing more than a nuisance in the pilots’ view screens. The Highsteak was holding up well but the bamboo mesh “shoes” were delivering plenty of awkward steps.

Lumin hailed her team. “We’re nearly there. Once we make visual contact with the invaders we’re going to split up into two groups and flank them on both sides, making our way to the rear of the horde. If any of you are noticed by the behemoths, retreat immediately. I will sound an alert if our cover has been blown. Don’t be a hero…your lives matter more than the compound. The behemoths are too numerous to beat in a fair fight.”

As the robots climbed up a low slope a humongous cloud of dust could be seen lifting in the air on the other side of the hill. “We might have a dust storm on our hands,” announced Lumin through the open channel. “If your view becomes compromised, switch to thermal imaging. We…oh my god…”

—–

Contact.

—–

As the robots crested the hill the behemoths in the valley below came into view…hundreds of them, like an emerald-hued mountain range somehow brought to life. The CBGBs’ slow approach was lifting tons of dirt into the air with each pounding footstep. Lumin could feel the constant vibration through her ferrofluid.

“Nobody panic! We were expecting this!” she called out.

One of the robots broke formation and started back toward the compound, tearing the meat off its body as it scrambled away. It activated its turbofans and lifted into the sky. Another robot broke ranks and followed the first deserter over the hill.

“Let them leave! Come on, keep moving. Let’s go!”

No one else fled, although Lumin felt tempted. Her heart was pounding against her ribs. This is impossible. She stuffed her doubts into the pit of her stomach and forced herself forward.

“There’s no time to waste, as soon as we get to the rear of the horde, start chopping their heads off from behind on my signal. Keep it as clean as you can!” Lumin wished they had a better option for killing their enemies. They had to engage the CBGBs in a way that wouldn’t expose too much of the quantum blades, which would give away their inorganic presence. Lopping off the heads of the monsters with just one blow from the tip of their sword would prove tricky; the things barely had a neck.

The most critical moment of the operation was underway. The robots separated into two groups and began moving alongside the CBGBs through the stratospheric cloud of swirling filth. Lumin gasped a giant breath of relief when it became apparent their machines were indeed invisible to the horde. The Highsteak suits were working–the aliens’ complete indifference couldn’t be blamed on limited visibility alone.

“Yes! We’re in the clear. Everyone, proceed with caution.”

Lumin led a formation to the right of the behemoths while Miu led another group to the left. The pilots were forced to turn on their thermal imaging as the dirt cloud became even thicker.

Lumin noticed Yasamin was hailing her. “Yaz…they can’t see us! The meat works,” said Lumin, overjoyed.

“Thank God,” said Yasamin. “Lumin, Skip has some important news for you, let me patch him through.”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“Lumin?” asked Skip.

“Yeah Skip, it’s me. Did you find something?”

“Before that…have you made contact? Can the behemoths see you?”

“We’re moving alongside the CBGB horde now…my god, it’s terrifying…but we’re completely invisible to them.”

“Yes!” yelled skip. He turned to his assistants in the warehouse “The suits worked! They can’t see them!” he shouted. Everyone started cheering.

“Skip, I don’t have much time, you had something to tell me?”

“Okay, so, these monsters are completely synthetic. They’re designed to appear organic–even just below the surface–but deep down they’re nothing more than giant freakin’ robots.”

“Really? I thought they would be at least partially organic.”

“I don’t think so. The skin of the CBGBs looks fatty and fish-like, but it’s actually some kind of weird, self-sealing polymer. It’s pretty incredible. The gray ‘blood’ is a lubricant for their internal moving parts; it starts hardening upon contact with the air.”

“Bizarre.”

“Yeah. We’ve already cut halfway through the behemoth’s chest and we’re working our way down to its abdomen. The robotics we’ve found so far may be a little exotic, but they function a hell of a lot like ours.”

“Hurry it along, Skip.”

“Long story short…Lumin, we’ve found a weak point! Attack the CBGBs from the rear and strike them directly in the center of their right shoulder—directly through the trunk of that huge starboard tentacle affixed to their back. They’re completely dependent on a power routing unit located there, just below the surface.”

“Really?” asked Lumin. “Are you 100 percent certain about this?”

“I guarantee results or your money back! Hit each monster’s weak point cleanly with the tip of your sword and they’ll fall like 100 tons of bricks. That router distributes power through their entire body…without it they won’t be able to move a claw. It’s an easier kill than lopping off heads. One poke is all it will take.”

“You actually found it!” marveled Lumin. “What exactly is powering the behemoths? Is it nuclear?”

“I have no idea, but all of this beast’s wiring is pointing towards the lower back. We haven’t cut down that far yet but we’re on the way.”

“I’m actually in awe of you,” said Lumin, “I didn’t think that would ever happen.”

Skip laughed. “Go on! Knock a few of them down for me.”

Lumin wasted no time getting the news of the CBGBs’ weak point to Yasamin and her pilots. Only the tip of the quantum blades would be required to pierce their targets, as opposed to using nearly half the length of the chain sword to cut off their heads. Lumin had every pilot adjust the output of their swords then send a status report to Z-Command for confirmation. Yasamin made the necessary adjustments to the A.I. piloted bots remotely.

The two squadrons reassembled in the trampled wake of the invaders, a few yards behind the horde. The status reports all came back clean. Everyone’s meat suit seemed to be holding together. The robots’ power cubes were reading a ¾ charge across the board. It was time to strike.

“Everyone, raise your weapon!” ordered Lumin The robots hoisted their hands, which had been covered along with their swords with a massive, grotesque mitten of meat.

“Ignite blades!”

The tips of the meat sheathes burned away as the quantum blades lit up, sending shards of white light through the cloud of grime. The behemoths showed no response.

“Attack!”

One by one, row by row, the behemoths fell as the robot army stabbed their quantum blades through simulated flesh into the beasts’ power routers. As each CBGB toppled, the robots stepped over them to their next row of targets.

“Don’t move too fast! Find your footing before you strike.” Lumin could feel the thumps of the behemoth’s bodies crashing to the ground. In a matter of minutes they had cleaved through hundreds of them. Lumin dared not to acknowledge they were actually winning. She felt even better knowing these weren’t living things—just husks—but if these weren’t the aliens, who were their masters?

Lumin slowly became aware that something was drastically wrong on the far east side of the line. Her thermal scanners were picking up a robot making large, sweeping movements instead of the small steps and quick jabs the pilots were supposed to be performing.

Lumin hailed Yasamin. “One of our pilots is going nuts on the other side of the formation. I don’t think I can make it over there without climbing over a mountain of bodies. Who the hell is that? Can you tell?”

“The radar blips are merging together…it’s a real mess. Hold on,” said Yasamin. “Okay, yes, one of the robots is definitely acting erratically. Damn it, I can’t get an accurate GPS reading on individual units…everyone’s too close together.”

“Hurry, this could be a real problem,” said Lumin, still stabbing her way through the alien ranks. She noticed her suit was starting to fray a bit. “Shit.”

“Let me try something different.” Yasamin started scanning through the bio-metric data transmitted by every pilot. “It’s Miu Dokujima in Unit 03. Her heart rate is through the roof compared to the other pilots.”

Lumin closed her communication with Yasamin and forced opened a channel with Miu. “Miu, what the fuck are you doing?” She didn’t answer. All Lumin could hear were growls and grunts.

With her anxiety spiking, Lumin made her way around the pile of hulking alien bodies toward the commotion. The haze lifted as she got closer, revealing Miu ferociously slashing through the CBGBs in front of her. “Miu, stop!” she yelled, horrified. Several other pilots had stopped their assault and were backing away slowly in confusion.

Miu had the entire length of her quantum chain sword ignited. Instead of stabbing and moving slowly ahead, step by step, she was slicing through the behemoths in a fit of rage; lopping off heads and limbs as she rushed forward. Her robot tromped relentlessly through a shallow sea of gray fluid as the CBGBs fell around her. Her fierce attacks combined with the caustic lubricant splashing against her robot’s body were rapidly degrading her Highsteak suit.

Lumin didn’t know what to do. She was momentarily frozen with fear. “Miu?”

“THEY WILL ALL PAY FOR KILLING MY FATHER!” Her scream was so loud Lumin’s ear piece crackled.

One CBGB stopped in its tracks. Then another. Slowly, they all began to turn in unison.

“Yasamin! How many are left? How many invaders are left?” Lumin yelled.

“There’s approximately 200 remaining. Lumin, they’re aware of your presence! Get out of there!”

The world went still for an immeasurable amount of time. 200. You can still win Lumin. You can do this.

“Everyone, shed the suits! I repeat, shed the meat suits and attack! Attack at full force!” Lumin shouted to all the pilots on the open channel. “Yasamin, send all support bots to the front lines!”

A tremendous roar–audible even through the control bells–rose into the sky from the remaining horde. They were alert and angry. The first row of robots succumbed to the hammering tail tentacles of the CBGBs and were knocked to the ground. The beasts dashed at their attackers with surprising speed, trampling the robots under their clawed feet.

“Break into pairs…cover your partner!” yelled Lumin. She looked up and saw pulsating red shapes start falling through the dust cloud. Heavy thumps peppered the muck on either side of her as the red orbs began firing from above. “Incoming! Units 1-10, get airborne and dispatch those OMFUGs!”

A behemoth lurched at Lumin as robots began jetting into the sky. She tried to step away but the CBGBs’ spilled ‘blood’ had transformed the clay floor of the valley into a ankle-high pool of viscous mud. The attacking behemoth quickly closed in and vomited its strangling tentacles around her robot’s head and promptly crushed it.

Quickly switching to her backup sensors, Lumin cleaved through the meridian of her opponent, sending both halves toppling into the mire. Finally, she was able to pull herself onto solid ground. “Everyone, retreat to dry ground, don’t get caught up in that sludge.” She went on the offensive, doing her best to ignore the crunch of metal surrounding her in every direction. A robot’s dismembered arm flew against Biz, knocking the robot to its knees. Lumin stood back up, firing her concussion cannon to halt the advance of a behemoth that was readying itself to pounce on one of her compatriots. As her steel orbs smashed into the beast, she rushed in and struck it down. She helped pull the prone robot out of the murk and saw it was unit 08.

“You alright in there, Gold Swamp?” asked Lumin.

“Arigatou gozaimasu,” said Kanazawa.

Together, they lured a pair of behemoths out to solid ground and successfully chopped them apart.

Lumin hailed Yasamin. “How many are left?”

“Approximately one hundred!”

Lumin looked out at the battlefield. They were still severely outnumbered. With horror she saw that several escape pods had launched from damaged robots only to steadily sink into the mud. If the pilots inside didn’t drown they would soon be trampled.

“Kanazawa, go down there and collect all those eggs! I’ll cover you.”

“Hai!” Kanazawa didn’t hesitate to fire up his turbo fans. He put his robot into a hover and began skimming over the mud, plucking up the escape pods with impressive dexterity. Lumin fired more steel balls at any CBGB that approached until Kanazawa cleared the acidic soup carrying an armful of pilots, still safe in their pods.

“Nice work. Get our people as far away from here as you can and protect them.” Lumin resumed her attack as Kanazawa carried the pilots to safety. She rivaled Miu’s display of savagery as she cut an impressive swath through the remaining horde. Disintegrating red orbs were falling out of the sky all around her. She prayed the majority of the horrifically wrecked machines on the battlefield were the A.I. support units.

After bisecting a wayward beast Lumin noticed Miu’s robot lying a few yards away. Four CBGBs were viciously tearing it limb from limb. “Damn you!” Lumin fired her rocket fist as she leaped forward, successfully knocking one of the assailants to the ground. As she landed she cast her wrecking ball and lassoed a CBGB around the neck with her chain. She beheaded it with a hard pull then dispatched the remaining two with a sword swing that tore trough their heads. “Miu? Miu!”

“I’m here, I’m alright,” said Miu, sounding weak. “I came loose from my support arm. Feeling dizzy. My ejection system…it’s not working.”

Lumin pulled Miu’s robot from the muck. It had been reduced to little more than a hunk of torso. She quickly retreated away from the thick of the battle and placed Miu on dry earth away from danger. “I’ll be back, don’t worry!”

Lumin turned around with her sword, ready to keep fighting. She watched unit 18, Dezzie, lop a behemoth limb from limb. Unit 37, Richard, quickly stabbed through the weak points of three CBGBs in a row. Unit 51, an A.I. unit, grappled one of the beasts in a stranglehold until they both exploded into burning hunks of metal. Unit 20, Ako, dispatched two fiends with scaled-up Kendo maneuvers that were remarkably effective. Unit 33, Spotswood, fought sloppily but effectively, mowing down a series of foes.

One robot was moving so fast Lumin could barely track it’s movements. It spun and flipped through the mud, completely unencumbered. Its sword was a blinding blur, leveling several beasts with each swing. She finally saw the number on its shoulder as it dispatched it’s last target: unit 10.

“Katerina. Holy hell, girl,” Lumin muttered to herself. She quickly hailed her. “Kat! I thought you decided to sit this one out? Weren’t you hoping to hear some news about your folks?” Katerina’s parents had been exposed to radiation from the nuke that had hit Seattle.

“Search and Rescue found my mom and dad. They’re getting treated for radiation sickness right now. All I was doing was worrying, so I decided to kick some ass instead,” said Kat. “So, I guess we done here?”

“What?” Lumin realized the battlefield had gone quiet.

Lumin kept her sword lit, unwilling to believe the fight was actually over…but it was true. They had won. Every CBGB and OMFUG was burning away into piles of white-hot ash, dotting the landscape like dying fireflies.

Lumin hailed Z-Command. “Yasamin, we fucking did it…I don’t know how, but we won. It’s over.”

“Lumin, Skip has something you need to hear.” Yasamin sounded rattled.

“No,” said Lumin, her building elation extinguished as she remembered the battered, broken robots lying in every direction. “It can wait. We have several wounded pilots here that need immediate medical attention. Send out as many helicopters as you can.” She couldn’t bring herself to think about how many pilots had died in the face of such carnage.

“You need to hear this!” yelled Yasamin, with rare and disturbing urgency.

“Okay! Alright…patch Skip through,” said Lumin.

“Lumin, it’s Skip. Do you read?” Skip sounded crestfallen.

“I’m here.”

“That place Sato told you to attack the CBGBs, above their right hip…remember?”

“Of course,” said Lumin.

“Well, there’s a device there that controls reservoirs of thermite spread throughout the body of a Behemoth. When they sustain a catastrophic blow, these thermite packets ignite at 4,000 degrees, leaving no trace behind.”

Lumin felt her tears slipping. “Goddamit Skip, people are dying out here, I need to help them!”

“Sato wanted you to know the truth with his dying breath! I know what he was trying to tell you!”

“What the hell are you talking about, Skip?”

“I found the Behemoth’s fucking power source, Lumin. It’s one of Sato’s energy cylinders. A battery, identical to the one sitting in your robot’s chest right now—it’s even stamped Sato Corp.”

Lumin dropped her sword to the dirt. Her mind was reeling. “Why? Why wouldn’t he just tell me?”

“He must have thought you wouldn’t believe him,” said Skip. “You weren’t exactly on good terms. He knew stopping the thermite reaction was the only way to leave some evidence behind.”

Lumin tensed every muscle to keep from vomiting inside her helmet.

“Lumin?”

“Kengi Sato may have designed these batteries but they were commissioned by someone else.” said Lumin, calmly. “Eldridge Roundstone. The son of a bitch has been playing all of us from the beginning.”


GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 68: The Reset

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.

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 47: F***ing maniac

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.
The American Team’s maintenance crews rush to complete repairs to their robot before the final match. Fellow team member Skip Pantheon returns to southern Oregon in an attempt to shed some light on some secret technology the Japanese Team’s C.O.O, Kengi Sato, has lost in the desert. In the meantime, the American Team’s treacherous C.O.O, Ryan Lumb, moves to confront the team’s pilot, Lumin Mira, after her daring actions have forced him to abandon his plan to forfeit the remainder of the contest for self-serving business reasons. 

tinybot_3D_070116

Ryan Lumb’s constant stream of lies had fatigued him by the time the press conference ended. He managed to exclude Lumin from the Q and A with the spurious claim that she couldn’t be removed from Biz’s cockpit in a timely manner. Realizing they wouldn’t get any face-time with the tournament’s star, the media left in a huff.

Lumb waved away the dust from the fleeing white trucks of the news outlets and walked off the podium toward the hanger with clenched fists. Biz had already retreated inside and the retrieval team was busy pulling Lumin out of the ferrotank.

The Shuffle Pigs giggled and scurried away as Lumb walked in and stood silently on the hanger floor, waiting for Lumin to descend atop the cherry picker. She was smiling ear to ear, wrapped in a robe as the platform clunked to the concrete.

“Well, that was enjoyable,” said Lumin, tying her robe tighter around her waist.

Lumb was dead faced. “You look tired, Miss Mira.”

“Yeah well, you’d be tired too after climbing up a rope ladder attached to a 200 foot tall robot while trying not to be noticed by thugs with machine guns.”

“I’m actually impressed. Thanks for lifting that iron smelter off my useless security squad. Apparently, the fools were getting a little claustrophobic.”

“Hey, don’t be too upset with your men. Most people do what they’re told when confronted by a concussion cannon that could flatten a farmhouse. They huddled up nice and tight for me so Biz could clamp the dome over them.”

Lumb pinched his brow ridge and blew out a sharp breath. “I was ready to march over here and proceed to ruin the lives of you and everyone you know, but frankly, I’m exhausted. Seeing as I’d rather pull out my own toe nails than talk to you any further, let me end our conversation by saying good luck with your final match. I’ll be expecting your resignation as soon as the tournament has concluded.”

Lumin nodded with a grin as Lumb turned around and left; his toadies following close behind.

Lumin’s team flooded the floor as soon as Lumb’s fleet of black SUVs fled the grounds. Cheers swirled throughout the hanger.

“Stop! All this applause is going to give me a big head,” yelled Lumin.

“That noggin’s plenty big already,” said Spotswood as the applause steadily died down.

Katerina was nearly hopping with delight. “The look on those jack-booted thugs faces when you clamped that cup over them like potato bugs was amazing!”

Samuel patted her on the back. “Damn fine show out there, Lumin.”

“You guys kicked ass in getting Biz prepped for me in time,” said Lumin, “but if I have to climb that damn ladder again there’s going to be hell to pay.”

Yasamin walked up wearing her standard no-nonsense expression. “You probably noticed that despite our robot’s exterior sheen, BZ-X still needs significant work completed.”

“Yes…Biz was definitely a little wobbly. Is that a new tablet? I like the rose gold.”

Yasamin nodded and tapped her screen. “I know we’re celebrating having the chance to continue the tournament but if we don’t hurry to finish this laundry list of repairs we’re not going to be ready to fight.”

“Huh…well, don’t tell Lumb that,” said Lumin. She clapped her hands in the air. “Alright everybody, Yasamin says you all need to work harder, so let’s get back to it!”

Yasamin stepped in front of Lumin again. “You still—”

“I know, I know…I have a stack of forms on my desk a mile high. I’ll get to them as soon as I take a shower. Ten minutes in this suit is like 10 months in a rain forest. Ugh.”

Lumin managed to sift through all the work orders and whip the team’s various maintenance crews into shape by the time the moon lifted into the sky. Happy to have survived the day, she put her feet up on her desk and sighed. After leaning back in her chair she punched up Samuel’s phone number and put him on speaker.

“What’s up, Boss?” asked Samuel.

“The pinup of Jane Russell on Biz is a nice touch, Sam. I assume that was your doing?”

“Yeah, The Outlaw. Seemed appropriate to me,” said Samuel, happily.

“I’m looking at the most recent batch of progress reports from Yasamin. We’re in excellent shape. Tell everyone to stop working for the night and we’ll pick up again in the morning. I’m heading to my cot for a rest, but call me if the world resumes kicking our ass in the meantime.”

“Will do. Goodnight Lumin.”

“Goodnight, Sam.”

As Lumin trudged to her makeshift bed one of her pockets began buzzing. “Shit, now what?” She noticed it was Skip calling and quickly held the phone to her ear. “Skip! You were supposed to call me when you landed, you asshole!”

“Sorry about that Lumin, I immediately resumed my obsession as soon as I got back to the factory…things are a little crazy.”

“You already started in on Sato’s generator? What did you find?” asked Lumin as she put the phone on speaker and began putting on her pajamas.

Skip groaned. “I barely know where to start. I found the cube humming like usual when I got to the storage room in the factory where I had stowed it away. After rigging up a chain hoist to move the thing around easier I accidentally flipped it on its side. That’s when all hell broke loose.”

Lumin picked her phone back up. “What do you mean?”

“When I knocked the cube over the hum got louder and this green light started shining through the rubber sheathe. I think something inside of the generator must have been damaged when it fell from Sato’s ‘UFO.’ When I started jostling the thing around I must have reconnected whatever had come loose.”

Lumin sat on her cot. “Oh my god. Go on!”

“After powering up, the cube it self-righted on its own and fell out of my hoist. There’s some kind of gyroscopic mechanism inside the generator trying to keep it level at all times. Anyway, just as I was getting ready to cut through the rubber coating the cube’s drill started up.”

“Wait…drill?”

“Yeah. I nearly shit my pants. A small-scale, thermal stress-fracturing drill revved right out of the cube’s bottom panel and immediately started boring through the concrete floor. I got scratched up from the flying debris.”

“No way.”

“Yeah! The drill was fast, too. By the time I coughed all the lime out of my lungs it had already tunneled 20 feet straight down, past the foundation, straight into the earth below the factory. Then the cube stopped. Even the hum stopped. The thing went completely cold.”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”

“The sound was horrendous but it didn’t last long. The drilling process sheathed off the shell of the cube half way down, destabilizing the tunnel as the covering tore away. Only seconds after the drill activated the hole had completely collapsed in on itself.”

“Why would it dig into the ground?”

“The cube was designed to hide itself—I would have never found it out in the desert if it hadn’t initially malfunctioned.”

Lumin nervously twirled her hair. “This is not at all what I was expecting to hear.”

“I’m not even to the weird part,” said Skip. “I immediately set about exhuming the bastard. I went and collected a bobcat with a crane attachment along with a half stick of dynamite from the old hanger. Sorry, but I kind of had to smash down a wall to get the equipment into the building.”

“Christ Skip! Well, as long as it wasn’t a load bearing wall I don’t care. Wait, did you say dynamite?”

“Um…yeah. I didn’t feel like digging and I assumed the cube was fairly sturdy so I decided to blow out most of the dirt in my way. Probably not the best idea but I was pretty fried by that time and not in my right mind.”

Lumin groaned. “I assume you still have all your limbs?”

“Yeah, as soon as I explained the situation to the sheriff’s department and made a few quick lies about building permits being stuck in transit everything calmed down. I still can’t believe the factory’s security guard ratted me out but I suppose I didn’t give enough warning that I’d be igniting explosives inside the building.”

“Yes, how short sighted of them,” said Lumin, in disbelief.

“Anyway, the dynamite worked like a charm but that room is never going to be the same. After clearing away the rest of the dirt with the bobcat I attached a winch to its crane arm and pulled what was left of the cube out of the hole.”

“Was the generator damaged?”

“Actually no…just a little burned and dirty. When it yanked it up I saw it was no longer a cube but a stainless steel cylinder.”

“I’m still trying to process how you thought setting off TNT inside the building was a good idea. You’re a fucking maniac.”

“It got the job done.”

Lumin groaned. “Is there more to this or I can I hang up now?”

“The rest is all gravy, don’t worry. The cylinder came up negative for excess radiation on my Geiger counter so I started carefully cutting the bitch open with a plasma torch.”

“What the hell does Sato have in there?”

“Well, most of the ‘generator’ is just a housing for the drill. Lumin…this isn’t a generator at all.”

Lumin sat back up on the cot. “What?”

“It’s just a battery. A state of the art, high-efficiency battery, but a battery none-the-less. This thing isn’t creating a single joule of electricity, just storing it. A lot of it.”

“A battery?”

“It’s a damned impressive battery. I’m guessing it’s beefy enough to output a decent amount of electrical power if it were hooked to a power station, but it wouldn’t last more than a couple weeks, if that.”

“So Kengi Sato’s just running some kind of massive energy scam?”

“Yeah, his free electricity initiative is definitely bullshit.”

Lumin squinted and shook her head. “This still makes no sense. Why is he burying all these batteries?”

“The first thing that popped into my mind when I started cutting the housing open was that I was dealing with some kind of a bomb. I hadn’t figured Sato for a terrorist but it was the only thing that made sense at the time. Thankfully, I was wrong. There’s nothing explicitly explosive about this device.”

“Now I know how the team must have felt when they thought I’d gone nuts during the last match. So, what do you think Sato is up to?”

“I was hoping you might have some idea.”

“No clue. Come back now. I miss you, you unhinged freak.”

Skip laughed. “I need to sleep, but I’m getting on the first plane tomorrow morning. How’s my baby?”

“Don’t worry, your hideous hatchback is fine. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, see you then.”

“Let’s not do the whole ‘no you hang up’ thing alright? I’m just going to hang up…now.”

“Alright, sleep tight Lumin.”

Lumin sighed, realizing how much Skip’s voice had soothed her after the day she just had—despite all the insanity he was spouting. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

“See you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

“Bye!” Lumin forced herself to end the call and plopped down to her cot. “What the hell am I even doing?”


GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 48: Jared Leto

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.

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 46: Hail Mary

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.

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“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.


GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 47: F***ing maniac

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.

GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS part 32: Loss

THE STORY SO FAR:

Braggadocio between American and Japanese robotics engineers on social media escalates to a real-world, multi million dollar face-off. Backed 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 massive purse for the charities of their choosing.
Despite a valiant effort the Americans have just lost the first round of the tournament. Their pilot, Lumin Mira, waits to be retrieved in the dark control bell of her powerless robot, unaware she’s still in danger.

tinybot_3D_042816

“The jaguar’s not moving! Why?” asked Dezzie, peering down from the Shuffle Pig’s box.

“That’s a good thing, Lynch,” said Samuel. “The match is over; maybe the pilot came to her senses.”

“I don’t think so,” said Dezzie. She watched Ako and Miu Dokujima sprint in front of Lumin’s robot, delaying Kokone’s next attack. “Go, blood sisters!” she shouted, to the confusion of her teammates.

————-

Ako and Miu quickly climbed up Biz’s limp body. They stood atop one of Biz’s thighs and waved their arms to get the attention of their sister. The jaguar’s humongous piston clanked; its killing blow delayed.

“Kokone! Stop this!” yelled Miu.

A loudspeaker in the jaguar’s mangled face activated, sending out a blare of feedback. “Ako, Miu, get out of the way!”

“We won’t let you kill their pilot!” screamed Ako.

————-

Richard squinted as he stuck his head out the door of the skybox. “What is that woman ranting about? I can barely hear her.” Only Kokone’s voice was audible as it pumped from her robot’s speakers.

“That thing could crush Lumin at any second,” said Katerina, her voice quivering. She stood up as if possessed, a sudden look of determination crossing her face. “That’s it, I’m going down there!” She stomped past Richard out the door.

“Katerina, it’s not safe,” said Richard. Katerina flipped him off and hurried down the concrete steps, out of sight.

————-

The jaguar’s speaker went quiet for several seconds before they crackled again. “Sisters, all we’ve worked for…all our ambitions…you’re destroying it all.” Kokone’s voice was intense, but subdued. “Mercy has made you weak, made us weak. We swore a pact to make the world pay for its crimes against our family…have you forgotten?”

“You’re right. We are weak, Kokone. We should have never let you push us toward a future only you wanted…a future full of suffering and death,” said Ako. “We followed you because we feared you. Now we beg you to stop because we love you!”

“You’re losing what little respect I still had for you, Ako,” said Kokone.

“Please Kokone…there’s other ways to show the world our strength, to restore our family name,” said Miu in desperation.

A dozen armed men in body armor stomped on to the field. Ako held out her hand, signaling them to stay back. The men halted, many of them seemingly relieved they wouldn’t have to confront a gigantic murderous robot.

————-

“Oh sweet Satan,” said Dezzie, looking at her phone. “Miu sent me an email a few minutes ago.”

“What is it?” asked Yasamin.

“It’s…everything,” said Dezzie, reading the email quickly. “The triplets have gone rogue. They planned to use Sato’s robot to tear out Biz’s nuclear power core. They were going to march the reactor into downtown Las Vegas and blow it up, dirty bomb style. Thousands would be killed.”

Richard–the designer of Biz’s nuclear core–felt his heart sink. He was speechless.

“Stop…” said Spotswood, before fainting. His anxiety had been running rampant throughout the entire match.

“Someone help him, for Christ’s sake,” said Samuel. “Richard, would it even be possible to blow up that thing?”

“Very,” Richard managed to say. “The explosion wouldn’t be equivalent to a true nuclear bomb, but the resulting fallout would be devastating.”

Samuel turned back to Dezzie. “Lynch, did Miu say if Sato knew about their plans?”

Dezzie shook her head. “Miu email says they kept Sato and the rest of the Kyoto Team in the dark about their plot. After she revealed her apprehensions to Ako she admitted to having cold feet as well. When they saw for themselves that this town wasn’t the den of evil Kokone had described they decided to play along, but not go through with their sister’s plan.”

“Wow, Kokone must have really overplayed the evil card if her sisters found Las Vegas worth saving,” said Samuel.

“Why didn’t Ako or Miu say anything until now?” asked Yasamin.

Dezzie put down her phone. “They were scared. The sisters really only have each other. I’m Miu’s only friend…literally…and we’re only pen pals.”

————-

Katerina forced herself down to the arena floor but couldn’t will herself to step a foot inside the dirt ring. “Lumin, please get up,” she muttered to herself, mesmerized by the gleaming black steel of the predator hovering over Biz.

“If you don’t move, you’ll be killed. I won’t stop…even for my sisters,” announced Kokone, leaning her Jaguar closer.

Lumin could hear a voice resonating in the ferrofluid tank, but couldn’t make out the words. “What the hell is going on out there?”

“We won’t move!” yelled Miu.

“Shikata ga nai. prepare yourself to die without honor just like the rest of these pigs,” said Kokone, coldly. She shut off her loudspeaker and fired her battering ram.

————-

“No!” yelled Richard, helplessly. None of the other engineers in the skybox dared to look at the scene below them.

————-

Kokone’s ram clunked lightly against Biz’s chest. Ako and Miu looked up in surprise as they cowered atop the robot’s leg. The jaguar’s menacing red eye flickered and went dark as the beast finally ran out of power. The hydraulic piston hadn’t been able to build up enough pressure before the robot’s emergency battery ran dry. The once intimidating machine slumped at its joints as it straddled over Biz. Kokone emerged from the hatch, infuriated. “I trusted you!” she screamed to her sisters below.

Ako looked up at her. “We’re not going to let you hurt anyone. The backup power supply you had us install in secret was never fully functional. You’re clever though, Kokone–when we realized you were rerouting your robot’s emergency life support system to give yourself a few more minutes to attack we knew we’d have to confront you face-to-face, no matter the cost.”

————-

“What are they saying?” asked Yasamin. “Is it over?”

“None of the mics on the field are picking up the conversation,” said Richard, cycling through an array of audio channels on the console.

“I’m going down there too!” said Dezzie, rushing out of her seat.

————-

“Traitors!” screamed Kokone. She opened her robot’s hatch and stepped out onto an awkwardly tilted platform, high above the ground. A look of tranquility spread across her face. “My own sisters have failed me…betrayed me. I suppose the time has come to meet Mother in hell.”

“Kokone, stop!” shrieked Miu.

“Neither of you deserve to be a Dokujima,” said Kokone, her tone frigid. “The family name dies with me.” She spread her arms out and stepped off the platform; plummeting 100 feet to the ground. Her body hit the dirt with a heavy thump.

“Oh my god,” said Katerina, holding her hands to her face. She jumped as Dezzie put her arm around her. “Dez!”

“I’m going out there…you coming?” asked Dezzie.

Katerina shook her head, looking pale. “My legs are jello.”

“It’s okay, stay here,” said Dezzie, forcing a smile. She ran out onto the arena floor, past the stunned security officers.

A collective gasp rattled through the crowd after Kokone jumped. “It’s all part of the show, folks!” said the Fight Master, his voice wavering. “Wow, what a dramatic ending! Everyone, give the Kyoto Team a round of applause to congratulate them on their first victory.” The nervous audience clapped halfheartedly as the security forces and paramedics finally rushed to Kokone’s aid. Ako and Miu climbed off of Biz and lowered near their sister, weeping inconsolably. An ambulance arrived and stopped beside the triplets. Kokone was wheeled inside on a stretcher and spirited out of the arena, quickly and quietly.

Ako and Miu were clinging to each other as Dezzie hurried up to them. She hugged them tightly. “It’s going to be okay, you did the right thing! You saved so many people today.” The sisters didn’t respond.

————-

Several minutes later a retrieval team pulled Lumin from Biz’s innards. Her legs were barely strong enough to hold her upright but besides exhaustion and a sore neck she was mostly unscathed. Samuel and Yasamin were waiting for her on the cherry picker. They wrapped a towel around her shoulders as the platform slowly lowered.

“Will someone please tell me what’s happening?” asked Lumin.

Yasamin was busy on her tablet again. “I’ll tell you everything when we’re back in the locker room.”

“The hell you will,” protested Lumin. The crowd had cheered when Lumin emerged from Biz but they quickly slipped back into an uncomfortable silence. Droves of people were filing out of the arena. “Something’s very wrong here. Out with it, Yasamin.”

“Just a second,” said Yasamin, tapping furiously.

“No need to worry folks. I think we’ve all been put through the ringer tonight! What a spectacle!” announced the Fight Master. “The Kyoto Team now leads one match to none! A hearty thanks to the pilots and their teams for an amazing show. The next event is in one week…be there!”

Lumin swallowed her frustration with Yasamin. “I was so close to pulling it off,” she said after taking in a long breath of fresh air. “Even after all their dirty tricks, we nearly won.”

“You were incredible out there,” said Samuel with a reassuring smile.

“Lumin, I’m so sorry…I was trying to get some answers from Kengi Sato,” said Yasamin. “Kokone Dukojuma was getting ready for another round of attacks after the horn sounded. It didn’t matter that the match was over, she wasn’t going to stop hammering you with that battering ram until you were dead.”

“What?” said Lumin, shocked. “I thought the triplets were just spewing trash talk before the match, pro wresting style!”

“Apparently not,” said Samuel. “Ako and Miu had a change of heart and stopped their sister from killing you. They got between you and the ram, delaying her attack until the jaguar’s power finally ran out. They saved your life.”

Lumin was dumbstruck. She looked at the ambulance leaving the arena. “Where’s Kokone?”

Yasamin looked up from her tablet. “She either fell from her robot, or she jumped.”

“She jumped,” said Samuel. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

“Jesus” said Lumin as the cherry picker lowered them to the ground. “Is she alive?”

“We haven’t got word yet,” said Samuel.

Lumin shook her head. “I can’t believe she’d try to kill me.”

“There’s more…much more,” said Yasamin. “I’m setting up a sit-down meeting with Sato as we speak. For now though, let’s get to the locker room and I’ll fill you in on the details.”

“Is this going to delay our next match?” asked Lumin.

“There might not be another match,” said Yasamin.


GIANT FREAKIN’ ROBOTS Part 33: Control the narrative

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.