"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.