Power systems… online
Redundant backups… online
Temperature control systems… online
Hydraulic systems… error… recent parts installed, components untested. Control shackles are not within feedback tolerance levels. Are you sure you wish to proceed?
Lilly tapped an override code in to the virtual keyboard on her left arm.
Override accepted. Beginning completion of initiation sequence, initializing com’bot Artificial Intelligence systems.
Slaved Targeting Systems… online
Communication suite… online
Virtual Ego… online…
Hello Lil’ I’ll open up and let you in.
The six meter dark green beast of a machine began to stretch before her, there was a hiss as the recently repaired ‘bot stood. Like a fighter before a match, she seemed to shake off her tight joints, an almost human shudder. Nessie stepped out of the cradle that she had been resting in thick articulated legs, rocket booster packs venting gasses as they were brought online. They caused the ground as they slammed down before Lilly. Kneeling the bulbous chest plate, livid with fresh with fresh welds where new panels replaced the old over Lilly’s hasty repairs on Nessie. A chair slid out of a tight cavity housed in a control baffle resting between the twin rocket pads in Nessie’s torso.
Grabbing up her helmet Lilly looked up at the stubby dome of Nessie’s “head” the arch of transparent material shielding her optics suite. Lilly stood on her toes reaching up she patted the side of Nessie’s face. “Let’s rock and roll!”
Climbing in to the seat she placed the helmet on her head mouth piece slipping in to place as the chest cavity began to close around her. The helmet was more for protection of her hearing and to prevent concussion should be any sudden jolt but the mouth piece served as an additional command interface her tongue making “gesture” commands across the surface. “Sure thing Lil’ sealing the command capsule.” Nessie said, her voice filtering through Lilly’s helmet’s speakers.
The chest hissed shut and though she couldn’t quite hear it but there was the sound of fluid rushing in to the cavity between the command pod’s baffles and the external armour. Sealing up the helmet it finally blocked out the external noises, in the case of a catastrophic failure of Nessie that’s about all the helmet would be good for. Nessie’s chest closed up around her and her eyes closed Lilly’s only connection to the universe were the ghost letters drifting across her cornea reminding her of her successes and failures and Nessie’s voice in her ear. She didn’t hear it but she felt it, the hum of Nessie’s “heart” as it came to life. The final reactor core going online, opening her eyes Lilly’s vision seemed to stretch she could see “sideways” the artificial vision of the optics system giving Lilly a 280 degree view of her surroundings.
“So Lilly, that last match was a close one but we kicked their asses in the end?” “Not before they kicked ours, I was almost unable to welcome back to the land of the living. Are you ready to show those bastards who’s the boss?”
“Very much so Lilly, let loose the hounds of war.”
“That’s right Nessie, I’m sorry I’ve not been able to give you all the stretches we like to do before going out to dance but you know what we face here today.”
“Does that mean what I think it does?”
“Yes, it’s the Demon Days.”
“Hells yeah honey, let’s go pound them in to the dirt.”
“You got it Nessie.” With that the restraints finished sliding in to place and Lilly was immobile tied to tons of alloy metal, wiring and hydraulics. Micro-movements translated in to gross motor movements in the com’bot as the shackles sent signals along the hydraulic and servo systems and Nessie strode out of the gate. “All right Nessie, let’s show them what we’re made of.” As she said that Nessie started running audio through the helmet’s system. This one was a song her mom loved, it became kind of a “theme song” for Lilly and Nessie when they went out to “dance”. She could hear the crowd cheer as the refrain echoed through the ring:
Kids with guns, kids with guns
Taking over but it won’t be long
They mesmerized, skeletons
Kids with guns, Kids with guns
Easy does it, easy does it
They got something to say no to
Victor Alley as a one kilometer stretch leading to the giant enclosed arena, the ring itself was designed to simulate combat scenarios ranging from close quarters fighting to open fields and even ugly gladiatorial demolition derby combat pits. The crowd, even in a bush league ring like this were safely enclosed behind a 5 meter thick wall of plexi. Sure they were only using rubber bullets and low yield explosives, but a flying piece of shrapnel that would bounce of a com’bot would shred a human. The entrance was an ancient ritual that gladiators, sumo wrestlers, boxers and luchador all went through. She would enter from one side, her competition would enter from the other. Once the buzzer went off all hell breaks loose and as dad enjoyed paraphrasing that old movie he loved “two bots enter, one bot leaves.” As she approached she felt the haptic feedback suite rumble underneath her, it was the ring transforming.
Lilly reached the Amber arch, her competition was coming through the arch directly opposite her. The ground had finished shifting to a simulated urban combat space. It was high density low height, a shanty town with a few stand-out buildings. This was always a tough arena, you could use the low buildings as cover crouching but if your competition got up on one of the vantage points before you there was little you could do to hide from them. Looking up she saw Nessie and her competition overlaid with the faces of their riders on either side of a vast projection splashed with the crimson and amber colours of their entrance arches. The announcer’s face imposed between the combatants “Ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the final round of the regional finals of the Hephaestus Bowl Challenge. This match will determine who goes on to fight for the prestigious cup, can we give the combatants a cheer?” The roar of the audience shook the haptic feedback suite almost as much as the configuration of the ring.
“In the Crimson Corner we have William Styles piloting Percision Incorporated’s com’bot Crossbow! William is a 5 time semi-finalist and the favourite for tonight’s competition. Give him a cheer!” Another roar came out of the audience almost as loud as the first. “In the Amber corner we have Lilly Bryce, she stepped in as a pre-match substitution for Bryce Assemblage Limited. Substituting in Bryce Assemblage Limited’s com’bot Nessie let’s hear it for this determined spark plug,” Lilly grimaced, she hated being treated like a little girl. Sure she was younger than any of the other competitors but she made it this far, it should be proof enough of her competence. She’d like to see them call Styles or one of those burly techs from his sponsor “spark plug”.
To her surprise though a cheer rose up even louder than that when she walked in to the ring, being the underdog apparently paid off apparently. The trouble with the pro-am com’bot circuit was some of the competitors like Styles had corporate sponsors and that meant high grade weapons, finely tuned precision machinery, and money to buy the most accurate suites of software you could find. That always helped keep you in the game, in her case she had none of that. Homemade com’bots seldom made it this far as they didn’t have the access to the resources but dad’s dream was to make it to the cup the sting of the announcer’s words still fresh substitution was a nice way to say it. She was going to make sure that her dad’s dream came true for the company even if he wasn’t there to see it.
Lilly and Nessie settled in to the starting gate, Nessie was muttering running potentialities through her predictive software. Most people mute the potentialities and waited for the final calculated suggestion from the combat routines. Lilly preferred to hear the options, sometimes taking a less likely strategy could through your opponent for a curve. The gate tilted as the clamps grasped the braces along the back of Nessie the chimes of the count-down echoed through the ring. The crowd roared in its animal voice, Lilly closed her moving her tongue in a motion she blocked out the visual feed and took a breath. The first count down tone sounded… she took another breath…
Lilly’s hand was in her mothers, the memory of her mother was fuzzy and indistinct. She was five, she must have been because her mother was there. She remembered her hand stretched up to her mothers and the sun was warm and nice. Lilly’s mother led her out to the barn where her mom would say “Dad was playing” she could hear dad in the back, the old time music his dad used to play blearing in the background. Dad turned around with a huge smile on his face, Lilly’s mom let go of her hand.
Running past the ancient motorcycles and cars her grandfather had built, past the equally old cars and basic bots her father had built, her father grabbed her in his strong grease covered arms and lifted her atop the hood of a nearby sports car. She later learnt the car was over two hundred years old.
“Honey,” he said turning down the volume of the music. “When my dad was your age his dad taught him how to fix cars, when I was your age my dad taught me how to fix cars and build basic robots, it’s kind of a Bryce tradition.” He turned and rummaged through a pile of stuff and came out with a child sized tiny tool belt with its own little tools tucked in the pockets and straps. Strapping it around her she hugged her dad and laughed with glee.
“Oh you kids and your toys,” her mom said and walked back in to the sun closing the door behind her.
She felt the arch’s clamps lock down on Nessie’s brace clamps and tilt her in to a randomly generated angle pointing somewhere out in to the arena. The second tone echoed in her skull.
Her dad had been putting her through her paces that day, he had her field strip an engine, rebuild the control baffles of a basic construction bot with the help of nothing but a basic Hardware ‘bot. Then he had her recompile the targeting and intuition constructs on one of his backup com’bots. “In the field you never know what you’ll face and what you’ll have at your disposal. Sure with all the nice toys you could do it all fine and easy, but in a pinch you need to be able to do it on your own with nothing but your hands and the most basic of kit.”
Since her mom had died this had been where they spent most of their time, Dad tried as best he could, he may be a wizard with a spanner and could recode the AI algorithms of the most complex of ‘bots but he couldn’t cook a meal that didn’t come out of a box and a broom seemed to confuse him. For the last eight years she had tried to fill the void that disease had left in both of their lives and some days were better than others. This wasn’t one of them.
Her dad turned down the speakers on the audio system, he had been sulking in a corner watching her all day not lifting a finger to help “Click and clack,” she thought “what’s he going to bust my ass about this time.”
“Okay Lil’ I’m going to go out back can you join me in ten minutes?”
He never called her Lil’ that’s something mom had called her and since she died he always called her by her full name. Something was up. She spent the next ten minutes distracted unable to properly code. After the third time reversing the targeting algorithm she just gave up and sat out the remaining few minutes afraid of doing more damage to the AI than good.
As the clock ran out she got up and trudged out to the back of the barn. This is where they usually kept the scrap parts, bits and bobs they’d either use to replace in one of her Dad’s bots or melt down and remould in to new armour plates. Her dad stood there nervously twisting what looked like a grease covered envelope. He stood in front of a clean fresh set of new tools. It was an entire kit, a brand new Hardware ‘bot, even a new welding set! Behind him was a tarp covering God knew what, but it was huge. He looked at the ground and held his hand out the note trembling like a child bringing home a bad report card.
The note had said “Lilly, I don’t share well, get your own toys. Love, Dad.” She rememberd giggling with anticipation as she pulled off the tarp, the parts weren’t pretty. There was a lot of scrap and used systems, raw parts pulled out of dead ‘bots of various calibres and classes but her imagination was already running wild with possibilities. When she turned and saw her father’s beaming smile but also the tears in his eyes she ran and hugged him and he hugged her in his big strong arms. Even with her head pressed in to his chest he remembered feeling his beaming smile looking at her and the warm wetness of his tears falling on her head.
The whine of the catapult’s magnets being fed power in the launch tube of her arch caused Nessie to sympathetically vibrate as their field covered her. As the third tone sounded her mind started drifting in to focus.
“Okay dad, you can come in now!”
“Good grief Lilly, you’ve been keeping me out from this section of the barn for months. It’s about time, I know I gave you your own section but that doesn’t mean you were allowed keep me out entirely.” There was a cheer to his voice as he pulled aside the grease covered drop cloths sewn together that Lilly was using as a divider.
She had been working for months, years really, ever since he gave her that pile of parts. She started small with her own drones, custom Hardware ‘bots, weld-spiders, Diagnostic crawlers but this was her’s. Her first com’bot from tip to toe and she wanted to surprise him.
Her dad stopped dead as he slipped behind the cover, “Holy Hell girl, that thing is a beast!”
And it was, Her dad was a big man but like her mom Lilly was a slip of a thing. Her dad told her to use that, she could get in to places and make welds and rewire or run house that they would usually need to use a ‘bot to do but she could do it by hand and with that she could feel out the metal. Spot imperfections and weaknesses that another tech might miss but her fingers never lied, and sometimes they were better than the sensors.
Nessie was a giant, six meters tall covered in a coat of cheap military green paint a slight reflective shine from the laser resistant ablative armour. “Well, dad, I wanted to introduce you to my new friend. Her name is Nessie.”
“Nessie?” he asked a puzzled look on his face.
“Yes Nessie, she’s big and green and a monster! I was able to pack a belt fed machine guns on her arms, they’ve also got a hydraulic hammer systems installed to allow for a killer right punch with a killer follow up. Oh, I sacrificed some ammo space on the right arm and put a flame thrower in there for close quarters clearing. The chest based rocket pods are single fire chained ten packets, no reload system as I figured get up close and personal and let ‘em have it I used that space for extra armour and cushioning for the command pod. It’s a free floating restraint system in electro-conductive memory gel. If I want to keep them off guard I’ve got a shoulder mounted long range .905 calibre rifle.”
“Holy shit!” The only times her dad swore was when he was either very angry or very impressed. This was one of the latter.
“And that’s not all dad,” she grabbed up a control tablet slaved to Nessie’s systems. After a few quick jabs Nessie shuddered and came to life. “Say hello Nessie,” Lilly said cheerily.
Nessie bent down bringing her optics near Lilly’s dad’s face from the external speakers built in to Nessie they heard “Hi honey,” he gasped.
Lilly didn’t have much memory of her mom any more but she searched out everything she could find. Every recording, every picture, every personality profile, even her old social matrix from her mom’s various social network profiles. She used this to profile and construct the behaviour architecture and communications suite for Nessie. Her mom may not have been able to see her do this, but she was going to make sure she was able to share a little bit of her and her dad’s triumphs.
“Now, do you want to see me and Lil’ go out to the back nine and show you how we dance?”
His face wet, the first time she had seen that since that day with the tools and the parts, he said “yes,” and she smiled grabbing up her control jacket wiping away the wetness on her face today was the day he basked in Lilly’s glowing smile.
Lilly’s tongue moved over the control palette setting up the command macro on a time. The fourth tone warbled it’s warning.
Lilly didn’t remember much from a month ago. It was a preliminary round, this was when there were more amateurs than pros but this was the Hephaestus Bowl Challenge. They were home built kits and they were all inspected and ensured to be in spec but like every sport sometimes things were missed. Either incompetence or bribery and this was the big leagues. Everyone wanted to win, it meant a cheque but also a ticket to the majors for upcoming talent.
All she remembered was the fire and the hole and the smoke. Dad had been riding in Vespa, it was a light frame com’bot one that always gave her and Nessie a tough time in sparing. Lots of quick strikes always moving, Nessie was more of a brawler and liked to get up close to “slow dance”.
The hole was square in the chest where the command pod was located. She vaguely remembered she was screaming, it was a blur, and Lilly thought maybe she had been crying. She was led off by one of the recovery crew taking her back to the med skiff. Sometime later an official came up to her. She didn’t know how much time had passed but an official approached her “the pilot admitted to using a shaped armour piercing explosive charge.” The man spoke so plainly, so matter of fact. Rubbing her eyes Lilly looked up, it was clear by the expression on his face he wasn’t sure how he should act. The man had the expression of someone trying to say something uncomfortable but not sure how to get it out. “He had intended to hit a weak point and make it look like structural failure but it was a fluke. He was disqualified and arrested for bribery and gross negligence causing death. I don’t know if this is the right time… but you’re the backup rider. The man has been disqualified which means the slot goes to your team. If you’re not-“
Lilly stood, a deep shuddering breath cleansed her of the pain. Her dad always put her on as the backup pilot. Ever since the first day she brought Nessie out to dance her dad had included her on the docket. She had done some low level bouts but never led the show. The Hephaestus Bowl was the big time and was that much more dangerous. He would never have let her ride in this if he was there but he wasn’t and she would be damned if she was going to let some fucker rob her father’s shop of its chance.
“I’ll suit up when’s my next round,” she said voice hard as Nessie’s chassis.
“You’re off the docket today, your team’s next bout isn’t until tomorrow,” the man seemed taken aback.
“Right, do you need me for anything? If that’s all I’d like to cycle up my bot and start diagnostics, I have a lot of work to do before tomorrow.”
The man nodded, something passed over his face. Respect? Saddness? Relief at not having her break to pieces in front of him? She didn’t know, she didn’t care, all Lilly cared about was getting in to that arena and tearing those fucking sons of bitches limb from limb.
The fifth tone sounded, it was a higher pitch than the previous four and with a shake Nessie accelerated in to the air shuddering as the mass accelerator threw her in a steep arch out in to the arena. The timed macro launched as Nessie began to move bringing online the optics and started running a series of predictive, targeting, and mapping routines. Not every match started with a free fall but this added an element of randomness to the match which the crowds always loved. Sailing up over the arena Lilly was too far away to thrust directly on to one of the three taller buildings sliding her tongue up and around a coloured overlay dropped down in to her vision showing from the quick overhead scan the relative level of obstruction each road had. If she could land in the square at the centre of the arena she could then angle off from there to try and close with Crossbow. Crossbow had carried a wicked long range rail gun and if Styles was half the pilot she was he’d be trying to make it to the high ground as far away from her and Nessie as possible. Nessie was a brawler, high calibre belt fed machine guns mounted on her arms and she had a high calibre long range shoulder mounted rifle but its range and power paled in comparison to the magnetic powered rail gun that Crossbow carried.
Nessie’s rockets slowed and directed the descent, she was going to land where she wanted but looking at the predictive software’s trajectory estimate for Crossbow he had a much luckier launch. He was coming down right atop the distant tower on the far side of the arena. “Nessie, initiate playlist Tear You Apart and then give me a solution on that far building,” Lilly and Nessie slowed their descent the rockets causing Nessie to shake. Twitches translated in to movement causing Nessie to spin, as she did she felt Nessie shudder as the rail gun’s projectile sped past her. That was luck, drawing a solution in flight especially with something like rail gun is tricky but if she could try she should have guessed that Styles wouldn’t wait until he landed to try to nail her either.
Nessie and Lilly were dropping but she had to time this right. As she was about to drop out of sight of the base of the tower Styles and Crossbow were headed towards she emptied her one shot rocket pods. Streaks of exhaust filled the sky as two dozen low yield explosives streaked across the arena. Crossbow landed atop the tower just as the rockets found their target shredding the bottom four floors of the tower, it began to tilt and lurch violently as she finally tapped the ground Nessie’s servos and rockets making for a deceptively light landing she could see the tower drop out of sight and Crossbow fire off his boost rockets trying to get off the building so it wouldn’t come down around him and Styles. The boost was bad and she saw Crossbow going sideways, that was going to be a hard landing.
She smiled, she was sure the announcer was shouting up a storm about that she always loved hearing the announcer talk about the crazy moves her dad would do but in the ring you didn’t get any of that. “Unfair tactical advantage” dad told her, still it’d be nice to have some encouragement but that’s why she had Nessie there. “Good shot Lil’!” “Thanks Nessie I couldn’t have done it without you.” Pulling back she started towards the middle tower, if he hadn’t recovered already Styles would be sliding Crossbow through the streets to make it to the tower as soon as he could. In a face to face confrontation he’d be at a disadvantage so she knew he needed to get vertical advantage as soon as possible.
Keeping in a low crouch Lilly sprinted down streets towards the central tower, it was the closest to Crossbow’s estimated landing position and she wanted to keep below the roof line to prevent Crossbow from taking a pot shot. She could hear rockets landing off in the distance. Styles was trying to flush her out, or maybe herd her, she wasn’t sure but she had to get to that tower because she knew he was going to be there. After a few tense minutes explosions echoing down the streets and more than a few exploding ramshackle buildings next to her she made it the tower. Standing to get a strong line on the building she tried to scan the arena to spot Crossbow, she couldn’t see him but if she waited she could just be letting him get in to position. Lining up the belt feed machine guns the casings rattled on to the concrete as she chewed up the lower floors of the building. She moved along the perimeter trying to keep cover and an eye open for Styles and Crossbow. The building began to tilt and just as it did through the hole she tore from the building she saw Crossbow pop up a kilometer away about half way between the central tower and the far tower. What was he doing?
That’s when she felt it, the shock of the projectile hitting Nessie and tumbled backwards smashing through the buildings behind her. He was good, Styles had figured out what she was doing and made a mad break for the far tower trusting she would think he was going for the nearer tower. All this flashed through her head in the 10 seconds it took her to crash in to the buildings behind her. As she looked up she saw the tower coming towards her tons of rubble dropping towards her at terminal velocity. She couldn’t get up in time so with a twist and a fire of her rockets she tried to get Nessie to tumble out of the rubble. Metal screamed as she made the ‘bot move in a way it was not intended. The wall of dust kicked up by the collapsed tower obscured the line of sight between her and Styles but she knew he’d have had time to make it to the tower by now.
As she tried to get up Nessie screamed and red letters flashed across her eyes. The right arm’s hydraulics had blown and as she stood it had come loose from its moorings, it hung broken at Nessie’s side. “Shit,” she thought, that arm had the flame thrower attachment but also more importantly one of her two machine guns. That left her with one arm, one machine gun, her long range rifle and a very close quarters hydraulic impact cannon or as she liked to call it her “mean left hook”. She couldn’t stay here, the dust would be clear soon and Crossbow would be picking at her from his perch. Lilly and Nessie sprinted down a street that took her diagonally towards the final remaining tower. She had to get to it and she had one chance. About half way there with her working arm’s machine gun she carved out a hole in one of the buildings sitting Nessie down in the little sanctuary she waited. The collapsed buildings had settled and there was a deathly silence over the arena. Crossbow was waiting for her to poke her head out to remove it from Nessie’s torso. She had one chance at this, with her working arm Lilly had Nessie reach up and tear the dead limb from its socket. Systems screamed in pain and the interface shuddered with scarlet warnings as systems blinked off one by one going from amber or red to white on black dead.
What she did next was technically not against the rules but it was incredibly insane, a single flying piece of shrapnel or a stray bullet would kill her instantly. Dropping the arm Lilly slid her tongue along her palate, bright light flooded the cavity as Nessie’s chest cracked open “Are you insane Lilly? You’ll get yourself killed!” She didn’t reply as she moved her fingers to disengage her restraints. Jumping out of the cockpit before the chair even finished sliding in to its exit position she ran over to the broken arm.
Ripping off the helmet she could smell the arena for the first time. The filtered air in the com’bot meant she never actually breathed in the air of the arena. It smelt of ash and plastic. She didn’t have time to dwell on the smell of synthetic death, moving her hands along the casing of the flame thrower on the arm she found the junction point, popping the cover off the port she drew a cable from her sleeve to the input and the arm’s control systems flashed up. Moving her right hand along the virtual control surfaces of her left arm she saw what she hoped. The Flamethrower was still good and the control system’s redundant slave systems were still alive. Programming on the fly she disabled the nozzle injector.
With a hard sharp yank she pulled the igniter from the tip of the flame thrower and pushed it in to the open hole of the arm pushing it next to the fuel canister. Her hands barely fit but it wedged home, with that she slipped down on to the ground and began programming the slave systems to initiate the ignition burn setting a timer she dropped it in the upper right corner of her vision. Grabbing up the helmet strapping it back in place she heard Nessie screaming at her over the helmet’s speakers “in here right now, you’re insane you’ll get yourself killed! Please I can’t lose you too!” that caused Lilly to stumble for a second.
Nessie was programmed with a pilot preservation layer. Most good com’bots were, it was a layer to prevent the predictive systems from endangering the pilot. It could be over ridden but it was risky to do so. What Lilly had just done contravened every routine layered in to the program and the plaintive tone that the systems were making almost made her cry but it was also the fact there was enough of her mother’s personality there to remember her father and feel that loss and be concerned for her own “daughter’s” life was something she had never thought of. This startled and concerned Lilly, she didn’t have time to think about this now though. That arm was on a timer.
Ripping the cable out of the arm’s data port she lept in to the chair and initated the restraints as it drew back in to Nessie’s chest and it closed and sealed around her “NEVER EVER DO THAT AGAIN!” Nessie yelled at her. “I’m sorry Nessie, I had to or we’d be out for the count but I promise I hope it’s something I never even have to consider again.” “Okay, God you had me worried, what’s the plan.” Slowly inching her way on her hand and knees Nessie crawled out of the shell of the building down the street doing their best to not stir up any of the silt or dust coating the arena.
Positioning herself at a direct line to the last tower Lilly quickly poked Nessie’s head around the corner just enough to get a glance at the building. Crossbow was pointed at her looking in the general direction of where she left her arm. The internal count down she had set had 15 seconds left, once that went up her hope was Crossbow would unload on the site of the explosion. If he did that gave Nessie and Lilly 15 seconds while the rail gun reloaded and the coils charged back up and how ever long whatever other systems Crossbow still had online. At five seconds Nessie and Lilly tensed up on one knee and hunched ready to move. As the timer in Lilly’s upper right hand corner of vision blinked to zero there was a rumble as the canister of compressed fuel exploded. A half second later if that she could hear the thud of the projectile hitting dirt somewhere nearby followed by several rocket pods and machine guns letting loose their payload. She was already in motion running as fast as Nessie could carry her, the tower was in direct line of sight straight ahead of her, twisting Nessie’s dead side towards the building she kept Styles and Crossbow in her sight. She was about 10 meters away from the building when the 15 seconds ran out and by that time he had already seen her coming spinning around drawing his weapons on her. Lilly jumped pulling left, the projectile from the rail gun hit a half meter away from where her left leg was, exactly where it was two seconds ago and a half second later debris and dust exploded from that same spot as rockets and bullets shredded that spot. A half second later she felt Nessie jolt as she crashed through the walls of the tower.
The tower itself was a simulated office structure, the floors were empty but the layout of the building was a simple open concept. Again she had one chance, Nessie clawed at the broken floors around her clearing out enough room to crouch, Nessie jumped rockets pushing her up further her good arm spraying bullets up shredding the floors between her and the top of the building. Exploding out of the roof of the building she saw Crossbow running towards the edge of the building. Rolling Nessie came up and headed straight towards him leaping just as he began to drop off the building. Her booster rockets fired just a half second before Crossbow’s the two com’bots crashing in to each other tumbling the 15 stories to the ground rockets sending them spinning locked together. As they fell Nessie reached up and crushed the barrel of the rail gun rendering it useless.
Hitting the ground hard Lilly pushed Nessie up, dust settling around them Crossbow stood a handful of meters away rocket pods unloading in a random firing arc. Nessie twisted facing her dead side towards Crossbow, the rockets shook Nessie violently and Lilly spun back around laying a layer of high calibre fire down keeping Crossbow pinned where he was. Styles had two options wait it out or run in to the fire, Lilly hoped he chose the former. Closing the gap between Nessie and Crossbow Lillly stopped firing raising her left arm the impact cannon driving her fist forward just as Crossbow brought his own small weapons to bear on Nessie bullets rattling across her armour tearing holes in her weak spots. Systems started to go amber and blink off but right before cutting out Lilly Nessie’s arm strike home.
Everything was black, for all intents and purposes Nessie was dead. The emergency power illuminated the cockpit. That last gout of small caliber fire probably hit the control trunk, she heard a horn call out through the arena. The all clear sign given Lilly pulled the emergency release, explosive bolts popped around the chest cavity as the panel flew out and dropped to the ground meters away stabilizing gel sloshed out of the hole as the command pod was ejected from its cavity. The restraints disengaged and Lilly stepped out of Nessie’s command pod. Looking around Crossbow was lying on the ground in front of the crippled and limp form of Nessie his head 10 meters away buried in the side of a building. Styles stood atop Crossbow surveying the wreckage his helmet at his side. The face she saw proudly posed on the billboard from the top of the match looked her up and down and broke in to a wide and shockingly friendly smile.
The young man stepped out of the chest cavity of his com’bot tossing his helmet back in to the hole he just stepped out of he strode forward right hand held out open palmed. Lilly didn’t know what to do, she wasn’t used to someone other than her dad treating her like this. She was the bot-rat, the sparkplug, the kid hanging around the arena with her dad. It was only now that she noticed Styles was only a little bit taller and now that she saw his face clearly, only a little bit older than her. “It’s Lilly right? Great match! Best tumble I’ve ever faced!” Stunned Lilly didn’t know what to say, she wasn’t sure if it was a concussion or just being overwhelmed she took his hand and shook it back. “Well Lilly, given standard rules decapitation is an immediate loss and it’s pretty clear you decapitated me! Good job, the match couldn’t have gone to a better rider.”
As Styles said that she finally heard the clatter of the emergency response crew sliding down the rubble, their skiffs hovering above the ledge of the crater that the com’bots lay in. “I guess you have some repairs to do,” and with that Styles turned and walked towards his approaching coaches waving like a cheerful boy on seeing his family in a crowd. It was the same wave her dad used to give her when she came clambering in to help repair his ‘bots. She turned to face the shattered broken form of Nessie only seeing strangers running towards her with an array of diagnostic devices. The med techs mouths were wagging at her, she wasn’t paying attention as they popped off her helmet and directed her to a stretcher unzipping the jacket checking for injury on the clothing’s bio monitor suite. As she lay in the stretcher she looked up at Nessie and smiled. “I have some repairs to do,” and with that she closed her eyes and let the med techs buzz about her doing whatever it was they did as she dreamt of system optimizations, chassis reinforcement, and UI overlays.