Friday, April 24, 2015

Lord of the Arena-04

The dozen now reduced to two turned a brawl into a duel, the very thing that the hardcore fans in the stands hoped for, and with one of those two being their own hometown hero and the other from the long-hated home of arrogant asses this promised to be a final that kept everyone talking for years. The arena promoters counted on this result, and they got their wish.

Eric the 30 Second Ace and Manhattan Matt kept circling and jockeying attempting to set up the other for a decisive kill, and the arena promoters were not the least above interfering by way of manipulating the mobile obstacles to thwart those attempts until they felt good and ready to let it happen.

"Keep making the moves, Eric." his tactician said, "But focus on wearing him down until I give you the go-ahead."

"Copy that." Eric said, and he shifted to short bursts of fire from the miniguns to wear away at Matt's car while using the mines and flamethrower to disengage when Matt got too close or near his blindspot. Matt kept going for the kill, and as his frustration mounted he let loose on the arena obstacles as they popped into his line of sight at the last moment to spoil the shot.

The arena crowd got louder and louder as they cheered at each of Eric's escapes, and jeered just as loudly for each of Matt's thwarted kill shots. Eric clearly saw that Matt did not remember that, as arena fighters, the shot--not the fight--came first; his years as a road warrior, one he still revealed in openly, served him badly here as it messed with his good judgement.

"I think the promoters are ready to let it end, Eric. Get ready."

Eric saw Matt cut past him again, trying to take his blindspot one last time, and he punished Matt with a blast from his flamethrower. That served to taunt the arrogant ass from New York City, and he spun about in a wide turn with plenty of drift; his targeting laser flashed out, but when the laser-guided rockets fired they just missed their mark; one got a glancing hit on Eric's right-rear quarter and the rest went just high over the rear and hit the wall.

"He's blown it. Finish him!"

Eric brought his car around, lined up for a maximum angle to strafe, and spun up the miniguns. With the last of his ammunition, he burned through Manhattan Matt's front and right side armor. He hit the rocket launchers' magazines, touching off the solid fuel and causing them to detonate. The explosion blew up Matt's powerplant, and that in turn blew up Manhattan Matt. His car ignited into a fireball and crashed at high speed into a wall- and the crowd erupted as one to cheer on their hero's great victory.

"The 30 Second Ace Wins! The 30 Second Ace Wins!"

Twelve entered. Eight left. Six walked out. Of the four that died, only one had a clone- and it was not Manhattan Matt. This had consequences.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Lord of the Arena-03

The dozen competitors quickly winnowed down to six, and the six cut out two more. Eric remained in the running, along with Manhattan Matt--the New York City duelist routinely touring to cull up-and-coming talent that's said to threaten him--and the perennial Midwest arena regulars: The Chi-Town Twins, Aaron and Adam Lagoon. The Cowgirl Princess had her back tires shot off by the aforementioned twins, double-teaming her without any warning; she crashed into a wall and did not get out.

"Best bet is to join the twins against Matt."

"If they don't triple-team me." Eric said.

"Too late."

The three of them turned and jockeyed for position, with many of the obstacles recessed into the floor. Eric increased speed, popping the capacitors to dump power into the drive train and boost himself up to the cap, knowing that only thinking like an old-time dog-fighter would save him now. The Twins and Matt didn't adjust for Eric's sudden speed boost, missing with their rocket and cannon fire. Eric saw one of the Twins get behind him and the other coming around to directly intercept from the front, while Matt moved to box him in from optimal distance.

"Count it down!" Eric said.

"Five, four, three, two, one- GO!"

Eric simultaneously dropped his mines as he spewed fire from the rear flamethrower, and he spun up the minguns a second later. On the go mark, he threw up the handbrake and turned the wheel, drifting around a curve as he spin about in a Bootlegger's Turn. He did so on a long patch of oil left by The Cowgirl Princess previously, accelerating his turn by decreasing the friction, and instead of a 180 degree turn he spun a nearly-full 360 instead. The miniguns flared to life, tearing up the front Twin's armor, and then ripping up Manhattan Matt as well as the backside Twin; against the Twins he also nailed them with his flamethrower, and as he stabilized he turned just aside the front-side Twin and passed him by like knights at the list ages ago.

The flamethrower's burning fuel stuck to the Twins' cars, obscuring their vision just enough to cut into their reaction time as they dealt with Eric's unbelievable maneuver that should not have worked. It got them to collide head-on, killing them both instantly, leaving a 12-man field down to two.

"We're down to the real fight!" the arena announcer said, "The infamous Manhattan Matt, and our own boy-done-good- The 30 Second Ace!"

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lord of the Arena-02

Eric brought the powerplant out of its resting state, bringing it to full power and charging the capacitors as he sat through the countdown to the match's launch. He woke up the heads-up display in his helmet, displaying information from the car's computer and through it came a voice along with a situation report.

"Kid," said the familiar voice of his tactician, "the floor runs dynamic obstacles, receding and deploying at unknown intervals, so mind the floor- I'll call out shifts if I can see them. You're looking at compacts and mid-sizes, most running rocket launchers or small cannon and looking to do maximum burst in snapshot attacks and slicks or smoke on the rear to break contact. Laser Larry, of course, has his Ginsu Beam arrays instead up front but even he's likely to have them set up for burst over beam fire."

"They're wanting the higher ratings that come from crashes, without doing a demolition derby event." Eric said, "Typical."

The map came up, indicating where he rested in the arean- in the Northwest corner, next to Laser Larry. Well, that settled his launch strategy.

The doors opened, and the light turned green: the match began. Eric didn't rocket out of his bay, knowing Laser Larry's bloodthirst would let him ignore this moment in the hopes of an early kill from across the way, and Larry did not fail to deliver. Eric saw the lasers burst forth in a big blue-white flash, and then again, as he lay on the throttle and the hum of the powerplant picked up as power moved through the transmission to get his car going. Larry rushed out the bay, hoping to quickly get that kill and not thinking that he had an opponent right next to him, and Eric hit the fire button; the miniguns spun up while Eric moved the reticle over the nearest tire. A short, but loud, burst of fire later and the armored tire fell apart- something Larry did not register until he attempted to turn and lost control, striking one of the obstacles and immobilizing him.

"And the 30 Second Ace gets the first kill! Laser Larry can't move, and with no offensive weapons available he's out of the fight!" the arena announcer said.

Eric rolled his eyes, knowing that it should never be that easy, but it is so often just that- and he hates it. He rolled out of his bay and got out into the larger fight.

"We have our second and third kills! The Cornfield Princess popped English Harry square in the rear left quarter with a volley of rockets and got his powerplant, and it looks like he's hit also. Winnnipeg Greg T-boned The KC Kid and then blew through him with that anti-tank cannon; I hope The Kid backed up his brain before the match, because his clone's going to need it."

Eric locked on to Winnipeg Greg and came up around his rear, catching the Canadian off-guard as Greg backed up and turned around. Eric timed when to fire just right, spinning up his miniguns and unleashing a burst that pierced his weakened front-side armor and tore through Greg's compartment.

"Kill #4 goes to the hometown boy! Goodbye, Greg!"

Friday, April 3, 2015

Lord of the Arena-01

"Well, this match is certainly going to show up on the recap for 'Gearhead Gladiators' tonight."

This is the moment that 50 thousand people paid $50, minimum, for a seat in Minneapolis' North Star Stadium to see: a Division Alpha free-for-all match between a dozen of the best road warriors in North America. Amongst those title card heroes was a local boy done good: Eric Anderson, "The 30 Second Ace", originally out of the Brainerd Lakes area and coming out of the post-collapse feuding that happened in the wake of that collapse over 20 years ago. He became an overnight sensation when, at one of the regular Amateur Night events conducted as undercard events sanctioned by the International Autoduelist Association (and its regional and local subsidiaries), he took out the other five competitors in 30 seconds- something never before done.

Now, with 11 other veterans and champions, he's looking to win another main event and take home another big purse. So do the 50 thousand fans in the stands. In a world where most people, once again, live outside the cities farming, ranching, or doing vital work in small towns having one of their own fighting in the arena is a big deal. Anderson's become a folk hero to an entire region, and the expectation to win is huge.

On the livestreams covering the event, marking time before the match starts, are the usual talking heads--including peers not competing tonight, for one reason or another--going over recent events and things like the cars that the fighters chose to use. "...and Anderson's debuting a new variation of Mills Motors' Wolf line of cars. This is an arena-optimized mid-sized car, featuring a pair of miniguns recessed into the forward compartment ahead of the power plant, and a flamethrower mounted aft over a minelayer. The responsiveness is top-quality, with great braking and acceleration, making this a car inspired by fighter jets instead of minitanks. That Bill's Gun Shop sponsorship is making itself felt with this one."

As for Eric, he--along with his opponents--sat in the launch bays arrayed around the arena, waiting in their cars. He could hear the crowd out there, despite the doors being closed. He had no idea what configuration of obstacles would be present in the arena--standard practice for such events--or what elevations levels would be present (ditto), and neither did the others. All they knew for certain was what the promoters told them in the event briefing: "No three-dimensional interactions." (i.e. no need for turrets or thick armor top and bottom), "No open floor." (requiring a mobile vehicle), "No long distances" (favoring short-range weaponry and rear-mounted arms), and "No personal pre-match inspections." (you go into the match blind)

Under those constraints, and knowing what the arena could do, Eric and his team decided to go with maximum dogfighting capability and play to his strengths- at the cost of playing into his reputation. Neither he nor his team could be certain as to what his opponents would do, but Eric kept one of the best tacticians on staff and that man would be in the team's box watching the action as it happens.

Eric saw the ready light go on, and the announcer begin the ritual of introductions. Soon the bay doors would open, and the match would begin.