When I was a young boy, my father took me into the megacity to see Deathwish 3000. At that point I was just some mangy kids from the corner of 532nd street, and being all the way on the second level was like something out of a dream, kids fighting over holo-toys, teens sneaking around alleys on biased boards trying to get a hit of Red Eye, and the sickly sweet smell of sonder in the air. All of it together made me feel like I was just floating, or maybe it was just that they cranked the gravity so low from the 3rd level up that you were practically floating, each step or jump vaulted you into the air. My father had to hold my hand to keep me from floating away, I've always been such a runtie that kids at school would use me as an armrest.
After entering into those dark obsidian gates of the arena, I remember feeling instantly smaller, and that sense of wonder was now replaced with some kind of fear as I came face to face with a TeraBot, well, more like the fibrous muscle in the eyeball of the enormous bot. You see, I don't know how many of you have been able to see TeraBots up in person, and honestly I don't barely know how my father even scored us those tickets, but this was in the old Stadium Arcadium Arena where the bots could go up to ten-thousands of kilometers high and the arena was so large it had its own climate and rainstorms and you had to wear prescription holo-lenses with such a small focal length that you could even see the full TeraBot. The bots themselves were dangerous as all hell, not even when they were fighting up just when they stood or walked. Father told me that a long time ago when TeraBot fighting started, one bot walking towards the Stadium would create an earthquake on the other side of the world.
Once they started messing with artificial gravity, they could make the bots bigger, the fights bigger, and safer for the human watchers. Kids could come, and got in for a discount. Tera fighting went from being an annual event to a seasonal event, to a monthly, to a weekly event. Bot fighting in general became less expensive, but the popularity of Tera Fighting was left to the big leagues. The Bigs were either lottery winners or Maxers so hyped up on Red Eye that they hadn't slept for months to make sure their bots worked without a glitch.
I remember being in that stadium, looking into the massive eye of a TeraBot, that's when I felt fear for the first time. My father always tells me that I was so astonished that my heart stopped beating for a solid minute, but he was always one to exaggerate, and always one to check my vitals in any moment like that. When my heart finally got back to beating, we found ourselves a shuttle that took us all the way to our seats in row 1123. It was dizzying, watching as the eye slowly shifted on, what would seem an inch was a mile and once we got to our seats we were so far from the floor that it seemed an endless hole of blinking neon lights and sounds.
A service bot came to us and they warned us that an incoming storm was set for 10 minutes and 23 seconds after the fight began, and apologized that our sector's hydro-converter was broken and was in the maintenance phase, so we would have to wear old fashioned raincoats. My father didn't seem too excited to wear the decades old rubber boots and stiff nylon, after all, raincoats were so old millennia, but I rather liked the sounds the coat made when I rubbed my arms together, and mine was a bright neon green, which I found to be really fun.
Suddenly, I felt my vision distort and my heart leapt out of my chest. It was as if one moment I was looking at my coat and the next I was out all the way at the bottom of the stadium, looking up at myself. My father assured me, touching my face even though he seemed millions of miles away, just a small speck.
"Don't worry Frankie, it's just your holo-lens booting up. It's strange for a moment, but you'll get used to it soon enough. The fight is just about to start, let me get you to your chair."
I let my father pick me up and sat me into the chair, which I quickly melted into. It was warm and comfortable, slowly suctioning onto my back and massaging my scalp. A small ping echoed through my suddenly silent mind.
"Father, what's that sound? Did you hear it too?"
"Oh don't worry about that Frankie, that's your sound device. You can decide if you want to hear music over the sound of the announcer, you can even pick what the announcer sounds like."
"Can they sound like you, father?"
"If you want them to, kid."
Knowing that my choice had been made, another small ping reverberated through my skull, and suddenly my father's voice was on the loudbox.
"Well, Frankie, are we all ready?" The voice boomed through the audience, but just sounded like my father sighing at me after I leave my room a mess.
"HELL YEAH WE'RE READY!!" The scream of the audience was so loud that it shook the ground below me, yet I didn't hear it in my ears. There was some sort of white noise and I heard my father's disembodied voice say again, "Systematic brain scan completed. Audio preferences recorded. Playing now." And some loud screech began to play. I cupped my hands over my ears but the sound was inside my own head.
It was like a scream, falling down the keys and jumping octaves as a quick beat pattern filled in the silence, my heart instantly beating to the same rhythm. A lower sound begins to play, one that quiets the beat and dances around in keys and time. The beat and screaming instrument return, to press on, fighting against the lower part, clashing at first and then resolving.
And then a voice cuts through the fuzz in my head.
"Our first dead ringer, in the north quadrant of the ring, is the freak on a leash, the half-nut of the galaxy, The Red Eye for the Bad Guy, Little JIMMY URINE, accompanied by his Tera UGLY BOY!!"
There's another scream from the entire stadium, and I can feel the ground shake from my little rainboots, and it sends a shiver through my bones which turns to warm complacency once it meets the chair.
My vision shifts, and I know it's connected to one of those cameras filming all this for the people at home. A lanky man, covered head to toe in a bright pink with a tall pink mohawk, waves at me with a snarky tight lipped grin. He's got a half insane look in his bloodshot iridescent pink eyes as he floats up to his command deck behind the eyes of his bot.
No wonder his bot is called Ugly Boy, it's a rough sight. Leaking a dark tar like substance out of its eyes, mouth, and other places, it screeched every time it moved, thousands of miles of metal whimpering under the weight of an enlarged chest, skinny legs just barely supporting it. What might have been the most uncanny was the face, it looked like a battery-bike that had been eaten up in a refinery and spit back out. On top of its dull and misshapen head was a tall circular sawblade. Large craters speckled the entire bot, some covered up by large misspelled decals and crude drawings. With one black eye and one golden one, Ugly Boy smiled with a blank stare, it's mouth perpetually unhinged, showing long squares of golden flaked teeth. To top it all off, the bot wore bright red boxing gloves, perfect and gleaming in all the arena lights.
Once Jimmy had climbed in, the bot's eyes flashed once, and its body creaked into submission and into a halfhearted boxing pose, one fist extended outward and one fist close to its face. My vision split into three divisions, with Ugly Boy on top in a larger space and showing Jimmy inside the bot below, he rubbed his hands together and slipped on his control bracelets on both arms and legs. A cupboard of the inside control deck extended its arm, and dropped something small into Jimmy's hand. He took it greedily and put it into his right ear, and the piece unfolded into a small headset, a small circle of steel encapsulating his brow. He turned to me and gave me a thumbs up with one hand and a middle finger with the other.
Suddenly, the lights went dim as lightning struck above us. With the first strike of thunder cold rain pummeled down on us, and were are quickly drenched as a gust of wind scraped through my lungs, leaving me breathless. With the wind, still shrieking a dank sheet of fog obscured the ground, only being lit occasionally by lightning. I let go of a breath I didn't know I was holding, and a shiver ran down my spine as that screaming instrument played once again its tantalizing and terrible sound. Slowly, a bot rose from the ground, wearing a skeleton face and a long black ripped cloak.
"In the south quadrant of the ring we have the duke of Horror, the shock-rocker from New New Jersey, our Pugilist Prince, the Marvelous Misfit Mister Danzig and his bot the VEROTIK!"
The lights returned and the storm ceased almost immediately. The entire stadium was immediately on their feet, chanting some phrase that I forget, but the bot's mouth opened smoothly, and sitting upon a large red couch sipping on a pack of unfiltered blood was a stout man. He didn't look like much, a short guy with a square frame, with long black hair and a black crew top and some old looking leather pants, but I guessed from all the chanting that he was a big deal.
And he was.
When the buzzer blared off after a few more words and rules from my father (it felt more like a scolding to me) Ugly Boy let out a mechanical roar and sprinted over to the Verotik, which simply took the large scythe they had instead of a left arm, and cut one of Ugly Boy's legs clean off. From his small quadrant, Danzig was still sipping on his blood on that large couch, seemingly half interested, while sparks flew around Jimmy's control deck, and one small spark set his hair ablaze. He worked to pat out the flame, only to not see Ugly Boy's leg falling out from under it, and slowly at first, then all together, the bot fell with such a crash that it might have split the arena clean in half.
After seeing Ugly Boy fall and after my heart returned to its natural beat, I found myself screaming Danzig's name along with the rest of the audience. Holding my father's hand in a near death grip, I cupped my other hand over my mouth. My voice barely sounded human, more like an insane animal as I jumped up in my seat and Danzig winked right at me.
The rest of the fight was one adrenaline filled blur, with Ugly Boy stood on one leg, all its arms and leg cut off but the one foot it was hopping on, until Danzig swiped at it again with the scythe and cut the leg clean off. The leg flew into the air with the sheer force of the blow, and was headed right for my father and my seats, until a few service bots melted in with their breath. I slumped back down into my seat for a moment, but as the Ugly Boy fell down for the last time, I found myself standing, jumping up and down, my voice just a small one in the deafening chorus of cheers.
I didn't so much walk home with my father as I bounced. I was practically aflame, my lenses set back to normal, and my passion burning to learn more about the sport I'd never been able to know of, let alone to watch. And at that moment of victory, Danzig winked at me! I was high off the screams of the crowd, the electric energy pulsating through the whole audience that I didn't fall asleep that night at all. My voice was raw from screaming and we were still both soaked by the rain but neither of us seemed to care as we made our way all the way back to 532nd street and down the lift all the way back to level 2.
That's the day I promised myself that I'd return to the DeathWish 3000, not as an audience member but as a fighter. I was going to be the best bot fighter the megacity had ever seen. I was going to raise some hell.