A roar from the crowd and a blaring siren signalled the start of the final check sequence. It was only the first round, so there wasn’t much pressure, but then again, it was the first match of the season, so it needed to start with a bang.
“How’s it going, Thatch? Everything working properly -yoi ?” Marco asked through the comms.
“Yeah, we’re all good here! Phoenix’s weapons are up, except... no, wait, the laser cannon’s up too!” Thatch replied, sitting down in his cockpit.
“Good! Let’s scrap the Red Force, and show these losers just who they’re dealing with -yoi!!” Marco yelled, a resounding ‘aye!’ following his outburst.
Phoenix kicked into action, its jet propulsion system lifting it quickly off the ground and into the air. The Red Force also powered up, and Marco could feel the anticipation rolling off the crowd in waves. It sort of fueled his own desire to beat the other mech into a pulp. Normally he was the calm one of his brothers, but in the pilot seat of his own mech (designed and partially built by him, he might add), his adrenaline spiked to new levels of extreme. Thatch was about as bad though, why he chose the man to be his gunner, only his past self knew.
A klaxon sounded, marking the start of the match, and also the start of Moby’s annual mech competition. Phoenix soared into the air, high above the range of any of the red Force’s ranged missiles, or the sword it had currently at one side. This was, of course, crowd pleasing. The real fight would come later.
The Red Force, in turn, unsheathed its massive saber, and slipped into a traditional battle stance. The weapons expert on the other team, Shanks Roux, was a brilliant swordsman in or out of a mech, so it was no surprise to those who knew the man (not that he could really be called a man, more like an irresponsible idiot) that his mech’s main weapon set was a sword and shield combo. Shanks had always been one for the medieval. After about a minute, the real fight began.
Marco turned the phoenix into a dive towards the Red Force, stopping just before it, and gave the signal to shoot the laser. Thatch obliged, all too keenly.
The Red Force saw it coming, though, and raised its shield to defend. Damn that shield!
“How long left till the laser is recharged -yoi?” Marco asked.
“About a minute, give or take. If you want it faster, we’ll have to give up some engine power!” Came the reply. Thatch seemed slightly rushed. Maybe something had malfunctioned.
“Keep the engine as it is please, we need Phoenix to stay functioning for as long as possible, to drag the fight out some -yoi. You doing alright back there?”
“I’m ok but who last piloted the weapons system? There’s a whole pile of food waste down here! It’s disgusting!” Thatch yelled through the comms, while setting off a round of short range missiles at the Red Force, who managed to dodge. Damn Benn’s piloting skills!
“I think it was Fossa, though... maybe Haruta?” Marco guessed. In truth, it was most likely Thatch who had forgotten he’d done that, then blamed his brothers for it. He could almost hear them laughing their asses off in the control tower. Actually... he could hear them!
“What do you guys want? If we’re dying via a critical engine failure, please tell me, because I don’t see anything going on out of the ordinary... well, unless you count that dude with a sax in the stands - yoi. That is something I don’t think I’ve seen before at one of these things!” Marco said, slightly exasperatedly.
“No, nothing like that. Just thought we should tell you the mech lineup for this year,” a cheery, oddly high-pitched voice said from the other side of the line, “we have the old-timers, like Thriller Bark, Punk Hazard, Marineford and of course you guys—“ “Oi!” “— And we also have some newbies! They’ve been dubbed the ‘11 supernovas’ by the press. We have the Polar Tang, the Iron Maiden, the Bonney Mai, the Jack of Diamonds, the Going Merry and the Thousand Sunny who have made it through from the Alabasta league, plus some others! So you’ll have new rivals!”
“Haruta, that’s cool and all, but tell me when I’m not in the middle of a match!” Marco shouted unintentionally, as he turned a tight corner, before digging the Phoenix’s titanium alloy claws into the red force’s shoulder blade gap. “Jeez, I’ll leave then! No need to be so stingy!” Haruta huffed and disconnected.
“Hey, Marco! the laser’s back up and fully charged! Can you dive in for a close shot?” Thatch cut through.
Marco smirked. “One nose-dive, coming right up -yoi!” And Phoenix turned into (surprise, surprise) a nose-dive, levelling out just higher than the Red Force’s visor, then perching on a shoulder pad. Marco moved the controls in such a way that it looked like the metallic bird was preening its feathers, then Thatch (with the same amount of unadulterated glee as last time) slammed down on the laser controls.
Needless to say, when Phoenix was in its blind spot, and it didn’t have the arm capacity to get it off without using its sword and risking cutting its own arm or head off, the Red Force was completely and utterly screwed. Its right arm was sliced clean off by the laser, and on its visor a white flag was shown, signalling its surrender.
Marco, Thatch, and the rest of the Phoenix team cheered, and Marco did a celebratory loop-the-loop before landing back on the ground to exuberant cheering from the crowd.
He and Thatch both got out of their cockpits, and went over to Shanks and his pilot Benn, to thank them for a great match. “Dahahaha, it was nothing. Gotta start the season off with a bang, right?” Shanks brushed it off, completely uncaring that their mech was now down one arm.
Benn was not quite as easily swayed. “You owe us at least half the money there! Our mech now only has one arm, which will take a while to fix and most of us are skint, thanks to someone’s desire to party no matter what happens!” He said, glaring at his co-pilot while poking Marco harshly in the chest. Thatch let out an ‘eep’ and ran off to join in on the celebration occurring in the control tower, leaving Marco to deal with an angry Benn Beckmann. How dare he!
Marco sighed, then asked, “How much is the paycheck?” “Well, the entire arm would be 500 million ren at Spade Mechanics, so half the price? You owe us quite a lot, mate,” Benn said, a smirk flitting across his face. Marco gulped. 250 million? Then they’d be skint!
“I’ll send you the money when i get back home, i don’t have a tablet on me right now. Okay?” He asked. Benn was a demon when provoked, especially when provoked about money. When Marco went to sleep, he and his family were going to be a hell of a lot poorer then before the fight. Hopefully his brothers would be sympathetic towards him. Nobody could fend off an angry Beckmann... except seemingly Shanks. How that one worked, nobody knew.
Benn nodded and Marco took that as his cue to get the hell away from there. He ran up to the top of the control tower, briefly hearing the commentators wondering why he was running so fast. He didn’t stop to answer them. When he got up to the room at the top, he shut the door and grabbed himself a drink and something to eat, then got ambushed by Haruta.
“You’d think that you now and you in the cockpit are two different people from the way you act! Soo.. you wanna hear the stuff I was talking about earlier now?”
“Yeah, sure. The supernovas, was it?”
“Good to see the adrenaline rush doesn’t affect your brain too much! Yes they are the supernovas, or at least the press thinks they are. 11 different teams who’ve been moved up the ranks through Alabasta’s tournament 2 months ago, you remember that one?”
“Yes, I remember that one. Speaking of, there were twelve cleared to reach the Moby tournament, weren’t there?”Marco distinctly remembered there being twelve groups cleared, though the naming sense of the press had sort of thrown him for a second.
“There were, but Sables was disqualified for trying to overthrow the authorities. Anyway, here’s what we know about the other teams.” Haruta handed him a list in a notebook. It read:
Teams list-Supernovas (some of these people wear helmets, so the public don't know all of them)
1) The Iron Maiden. It’s essentially a tank. Massive missile launcher as a gun turret, based on the anti-aircraft guns of 1945, with a machine gun at the back and spiked tire tracks.
Pilot- Eustass Kidd. History buff, part-time mechanic, has a fondness for guns. Bright red hair and a set of steampunk-style goggles.
Co-pilot- Killer, real name unknown unless that is his real name. Nothing else known.
2) The Polar Tang. Think Bumblebee from that really old TV programme transformers, but it turns into a submarine. Homing missiles on shoulders, massive nodachi that comes from.. somewhere. Haven’t figured that one out yet. Blue electrical orb that comes from the hand. Seems able to be launched off, but not yet seen to be able to.
Pilot- Trafalgar Law. Surgeon, known for his 100% success rate, and always tired. Like, always. The bags under his eyes could be used for carrying your shopping! There are rumours circling that he lives in the submarine, and gets very annoyed when it gets broken, ’cause he can’t sleep in his sub.
Co-pilot— Bepo. Albino guy who apologises for everything. Always seen in an orange jumpsuit. Not sure what he does, but he’s good at it.
3) The Snake Princess. An armoured snake with a mane-thing which has concealed guns in along the chassis. The teeth on the thing are titanium alloy as well, so watch out for those.
Pilot- Boa Hancock. Known as the most beautiful woman in the world, she’s a model with an immense vain streak. Has kicked puppies. So very evil.
Co-pilot— her sister, Boa Sandersonia. Massively tall, and yet really quite graceful for her size. Really long green hair, a forked tongue and a face about the same width as her shoulders. Don’t say it around her, she’s sensitive. Part-time model, also works as a biologist. She likes to coil the robot around her opponent before delivering the finishing blow like you enjoy doing, but with the teeth.
4) The Going Merry. Looks like a sheep. Don’t give these poor notes such an incredulous glare, Marco! (How did Haruta know that was what his facial expression would be?) Armed with 3 cannons on each flank, titanium-alloy horns and hooves. The horns have two settings: placid and angry. Placid they’re curly and the spike is at the side of the head, angry they stand up, like a gazelle type thing. There’s a cavity for the head to go into, so the spikes can cause maximum damage.
Pilot- Monkey D. Luffy. Garp’s grandson. Eats more than should be humanly possible, currently works as an MMA teacher. Pretty damn good at it too. Distinctive ‘shishishi’ chuckle thing. Constantly seen wearing a straw hat with amazing similarities to Shanks’ old one. Maybe that’s where it went...
Co-pilot— Tony Tony Chopper. He’s a doctor, one of the best, works at the same place as law. Has a growth deformity so looks like he’s a kid, when he’s actually 18. Aims to be the best doctor in the world and make something to cure all diseases and injuries. I say he should go for it, it would help us when either of you go out and get injured accidentally! (Hey! They didn’t get injured that often! Only once or twice… A week... okay maybe they did get injured that often)
5) The Thousand Sunny. Lion shaped, although the mane looks like a sunflower. Titanium alloy claws, missile launchers on shoulders, barbed spike for a tail. Apparently it can fly, dunno how though. Giant (and i mean massive) cannon in the mouth, never been seen used. Runs entirely on cola. Weird, but true! Seriously!
Pilot- Sogeki Usopp. Part-time mechanic, part-time artist, full-time pinocchio. Yes, I’m being serious! His nose looks like it, plus he has been known to tell long stories about ‘The Great Captain Usopp’. He’s the one who operates the mouth cannon.
Co-pilot— Franky. No surname known. Full-time mechanic and shipwright. He's a cyborg who also runs entirely on cola, so not too hard to guess who made the Sunny. After a train accident he was forced to rebuild himself out of metal. For that same reason his front is impenetrable, but his back is incredibly weak, ‘cause he couldn’t reach it to rebuild. Also has an odd speech trait of adding SUPERR (yes with the extra ‘r’, it’s accentuated) into any sentence, eg. Meet my SUPERR friends, etc.
These guys seem to be in league with the Merry and the next two guys, it could be just as a massive group , or it could be more...(Marco scoffed at this. Those guys a criminal syndicate? He would sooner see Thatch finally admit his feelings for Izo).
6) The All Blue. Humanoid mech. Jet thrusters on the bottom of each foot, for extra jumping capacity. Could possibly get as high as you and stay there for an amount of time. The feet also have titanium-alloy soles (soles? What is that on a foot?) Not that many other weapons, so the power comes mainly from the feet. There are, however, missile launchers on one shoulder, and a cleaver on the back.
Pilot- Kuroashi Sanji. A sous chef at the Baratie restaurant downtown. Very good at savate, so it makes sense he can transfer it onto the All Blue. Also has very interesting swirly eyebrows. Like a hypnotising circle thing. Has an obsession with the ladies and becomes a complete pushover when asked to do something for them. Towards everyone else, though, can and will politely say shitheads in the same tone someone else would say sirs.
Co-pilot— Roronoa Zoro. Kendo teacher and professional swordsman, which is probably where the cleaver on the back comes from. I’d like to see him come face to face with Shanks, or Mihawk. Only known user of the three-sword-style. That’s one in each hand and one in his mouth, not anywhere else, Thatch! Has green hair, unsure if that’s natural, but it sure seems to be.
Oddly enough, these two seem to hate each other, which makes for some... interesting situations. Most of the time they work alright together in the mech, but there have been some amazing comedy moments when they haven’t. In league with the last two and the next one seemingly.
7) The Ohara. Humanoid female. Fights with a long metallic pole which seems to influence the weather. I don’t know how it works, don’t ask me! Also produces extra versions of its arms, each with different weapons on them, eg. lasers on two arms, daggers on two others. Daggers can be put on the back if the pole arms are destroyed. The pole also has a holster on the right hip.
Pilot- Mikan Nami. Orange hair, constantly in a bikini top. Brilliant cartographer and navigator. Currently working on a map of the world by sailing around with her crew (probably these guys on top!), visiting islands and mapping them out.
Co-pilot—Nico Robin. World-famous archaeologist. Currently working with Nami to find clues about this world’s past. General morbid sense of humour, mainly seen wearing a cowboy hat or sunglasses.
In league with the last three sets of mechs I mentioned, probably.
8) the Bonney Mai. Humanoid female as well. Spiked shoulder pads, made with... you guessed it! Titanium alloy! (It was getting rather obvious now to Marco that Haruta had got at least partway bored whilst writing these notes) also has laser beams coming out of one hand, and a massive knife-skewer-thing out the other, made of titanium-alloy! It also has an impressive escape function, in that it can shrink its size down to a sort of childlike version of itself, which shows there’s quite a lot of free space enabling it to be hard to kill.
Pilot- Jewellry Bonney. Yes she named the robot after herself. Pink hair and a complete glutton, no-one knows what she does, but she had enough money to make this thing, so it must be something important.
Co-pilot— Mai. Also named after her. Blue hair, in a high ponytail. Generally sour-looking, but nothing else known.
9) The Allosaurus. It’s an allosaurus. That’s it, really. Titanium-alloy claws and teeth. Laser on end of tail, machine gun in the middle of the back. Not much else to say, really.
Pilot- X Drake. Former marine. Left to go do... something. Think he’s a palaeontologist now, but I dunno. Sort of an angry guy, with a stuck-out chin with an x scar on it and an X tattoo on his torso. Sort of obsessed with x’es isn’t he? Maybe he’s had a few...
Co-pilot— unknown. Actually, I don’t think I’ve seen a second guy come out after the fights. Maybe he solo-pilots.
Not much to say here, damn. the previous ones had so much to say!
10) The Scratchman. Humanoid but with two joints on the arms. Fights using blasts of sound from various places, including both arm joints, shoulders, knees and the mouth. Oh, don’t forget the feet and the hands. It can send sonic blast waves through the floor, or through another mech if it touches them. With the lengthened armspan, it could probably hit you if it tried hard enough. If that (admittedly quite impressive) strategy fails there are a couple of machine guns in the chest area. It also has a last resort EMP remote shockwave. It sort of just throws it vaguely near the target, so it doesn’t hit itself in the process.
Pilot- Rumbar Brook. Really tall, skeleton-thin guy, with an afro. A reaally poofy afro. Bounce-on-it-like-a-trampoline afro. Distinctive ‘yohohoho’ laugh. Musician, most well known for his take on Bink’s Sake and ‘Bone To Be Wild’. You should listen to them Marco, you’d like them! Also most likely in the aforementioned group, though his co-pilot isn’t.
Speaking of... co-pilot— Scratchman Apoo. Yes that is his name. Don’t mock it, or he will END YOU. MESSILY. DJ, he only asked Brook to pilot because he wanted to use the sonic blast weapons himself. A bit egotistical as well. Comes from the land of Longarm over in the east and does have the double arm joint which is fabled to come from over there. His teeth also look like piano keys. Just a random fact, there.
11) The Jack of Diamonds. The only flying ship in this list (aren’t you excited, birdy?) (Marco scowled at this nickname. Just because he worked in an animal centre part-time and had a small obsession with birds of prey didn’t mean he wanted to be one!) Shaped like.. you guessed it, a 3D diamond! PIlots like a UFO. Jet thrusters on each corner, including the middle ones, for up and down, and in the other four directions. A 360 degree laser on the bottom, and a flamethrower on each of the top sides. Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.
Nothing known about the pilot. I seriously can’t find anything on them.
Co-pilot, though— Tori Grant. Yes, Sylvia Grant’s son. Yes, Sylvia Grant who piloted the Magnolia until it was scrapped 5 years ago. Black hair with specks of red, orange and yellow dotted around it. Most likely natural, it would take too much effort to dye that. Scar down right side of his face, and another one down his left leg. Currently an electrician at Spade Mechanics. Whether the pilot is someone who works there, we don’t know. It does seem very likely though. A nice guy, endlessly loyal (perhaps too much?) with a pronounced albionic accent. Not posh, more cockney-type. (Not that Marco needed the personal information, he knew the guy personally. He often came round to the animal centre with his albionic bulldog, Buster) If you want the rest of the pilots, go find another list of notes.
“So?” Haruta sprung at him again. After reading that rather lengthy set of notes, Marco needed a drink. Another one. Never underestimate Haruta’s information-gathering abilities! He now knew quite a bit about each of the new guys, and he and Thatch could start planning strategies. Or just him, as was usually the case.
One thing that was really bugging him though, was the mystery pilot, and also Killer, Mai and the possible second guy on the Allosaurus team. Okay that was more than one thing, but meh.
For Haruta to get nothing meant that there was nothing to get without going through extensive hacking (which he would do as well, on occasion) or Haruta was sleep-deprived and not doing it properly, which was unlikely, as Haruta had been bored, and thus more likely to chase any hints he got. “You sure on these guys? For you to get nothing means that either they’re really good, or you crashed - yoi. Did you use any hacking on finding them out, or were you just being lazy?”
“I did use some hacking, but nothing much. Someone would notice if I went poking around the medical archives of the known world. The only reason I know Killer’s name at all is that he is mentioned on Kidd’s Weasl account a couple of times. Whatever these guys want hidden, they’re damn good at hiding it. Or they just don’t interact with the web at all.”
Haruta put on a face of deep thought. “Oh, by the way, what did you think about my theory? I mean, those four have a similar design and if they’re all designed, made and maintained by Franky, it would explain the similarities!”
Marco pulled a disbelieving face. “One: if the things were designed by Franky, it doesn’t change anything, they could all have been sent to the same random mechanic. Or they could all have been sent to franky, but does that change anything -yoi ? No, cause that’s his job! He could’ve been commissioned to make all of the mechs here, and be in one of them himself, and would it matter? No, ‘cause it’s his job - yoi! Two: stop making this into a conspiracy. There’s no rule that says they can’t do that in the tournament, in fact it happens pretty damn often - yoi. Three: go show these to Thatch or Jiru if you want someone to believe your conspiracy theories. I have a massive debt to pay off- yoi.”
And Marco walked back out of the control tower, down the stairs, into Phoenix, and flew off. He didn:t want to deal with this shit. When he got to the mech depot on the other side of Moby, a massive glass-ceilinged hangar which smelt of oil but looked much nicer, full of mechanics, chore bots and random punters who were just there to pickpocket unsuspecting owners, he parked in Phoenix in a garage, locked the doors, and started the long, arduous walk home.
Well, not really. He walked around the corner of the closest street, and got on his hoverbike (named Peregrine) which he had parked there that morning. It had a blue and yellow paint job, a top speed of 150 mph, and it was his second-favourite thing to drive, Phoenix being the first.
He scanned his hand on the dashboard, and it roared to life. He lifted it higher into the air, then leaned forwards, and it whooshed forwards. It only took a left, straight, left, right, straight, 3rd exit, left, right and another left until he was at his doorstop, sort of.
He parked the hoverbike on the drive of the apartment block he lived in, and started for the stairs. Yes, there were more efficient ways to get to the fifth floor, but Marco liked to stay fit...ish. He still had muscle definition, but they weren’t anywhere near as defined as they were when he came off that summer job at a railyard. When he reached his apartment, number 510, he ran through the door, through the living room, and into his study. There, he found his tablet, still on charge.
He logged on using a fingerprint scan, and immediately went onto his banking app, Kingston. Thankfully, he had had to pay Benn before, so his name was quite high up on the list of people he could send the 250 million ren to. He clicked the send button, then put down the tablet and went to get himself some food. He had a lot to think over, and food always helped with that.
He put a pasta tray bake into the oven and sat down on a worn sofa in the adjoined living room. First on his thinking agenda? How to combat a sonic shockwave.