Chapter 12: A New Contestant
The next day arrived and Ace had recovered after quite a decent rest. He had a meeting with Vox first thing in the morning and so he was quick to get up and prepare himself for the day.
He took a ride up the elevator to Gleeman Vox’s headquarters. The ride didn’t last long and he arrived in only a few minutes. Vox was already waiting with anticipation at his desk. He was accompanied by his pet Slugga, who sat there with her eyes locked on Ace as he walked up to the desk.
”Greetings, Hardlight. I just wanted to give my own congratulations for the good show you pulled off yesterday. It was quite unsuspecting to see you show up at the end of the episode and POW. Starshield was gone, just like that!”
”Just doing what I do best. He was beginning to get on my nerves, refusing to face me at the Liberator tournament and all…”
”Ha ha yes, I thought so. Anyhow, I have a new line of Hardlight merchandise being produced on planet Torval. Isn’t that great? We can make billions of bolts out of these!”
Explained Vox, rubbing his hands together with excitement.
”Heh, sounds good. So, what do you need me for?”
”I need you to endorse the new line of products in some holovision adverts, posters and the like. The DZ babes are down there waiting to be in the shots for advertising”
”What, them? Isn’t there anybody else who is more professional for the job? All they do is whine and complain…”
”Hmm yeah true, true. Hold on, I think I have an idea”
Vox replied as he looked through the documents spread out across his desk. Slugga moved a bit closer to him to peer over the files, looking curious. Ace stood there for the passing moment, folding his arms in content.
”So when is the next season starting?”
”Oh, in a few weeks!”
”What, really? It’s not even the end of the year yet”
“Hah yeah I know, but the faster we start, the more money and ratings I’ll gain! You see, DreadZone is already the top reality show in the galaxy and beyond!”
”Yeah, yeah I know”
”So there’s no reason to be so surprised then! Heh heh, well you better get down to the promotional area. I’ll call the testbots and let them sort out somebody to replace those girls. Go on then; shoo”
Ace shuddered and turned around to walk down the hallway to the elevator shaft. He was a bit surprised to know the next season was already starting so soon, even though there weren’t very many contestants at the moment, unless Vox’s forces were already out to capture more heroes and heroines alike…
Ace made his way through the central part of the station and already, there were many fanatics standing down the side of the hallways, waiting for Ace as he walked through. Many of them were waving, cheering, some holding out pens and paper, begging for an autograph.
Ace ignored them however and continued walking down the hallway, up until he came to the promotion area, where many people and robots were seen walking about, standing around or sitting on the steps of seats in the back of the room; waiting to get glimpses of the celebrities entering the stage ahead of them.
Entering out into the open, the crowds were already cheering as Ace passed through and headed towards the photography stage, where he could already see the other Exterminators standing there, having already had their photos taken.
The photographer, who was a voelhomen much like Dallas; saw Ace as he entered and immediately waved him down,
”Alright the superstar Exterminator is here, make way people!”
People moved away as Ace came onto the stage. The other Exterminator’s looked over at Ace as he came towards them.
”So, what are you guys doing here?” Ace asked them.
”Oh, didn’t you hear? They’re making Exterminator trading cards so we’ve had to get our own photos taken too. But now that you’re here, I think we’re in for a few group shots…”
Ace replied to Reactor. The photographer positioned his large HV-camera and prepared it, before shouting
”Okay okay, Reactor, stand to your left. Shellshock and the Eviscerator can stay where they are and Ace, stand between the Eviscerator and Reactor, in front. I want you to stand out and be proud of your status. Give off the look of a proud, strong, Captain!”
Reactor moved immediately and Shellshock sighed, seemingly annoyed that he didn’t get to stand in the front while Ace stood there in front instead; right between the Eviscerator and Reactor. He placed one of his hands onto his hip and stared into the camera in confidence, as it began taking several shots with and without a flash.
Many photos were taken but most were of Hardlight, posing for many different products waiting to be sold on the shelves, such as trading cards, video games, lunch boxes, action figures, and much more. What was disturbing about it was that the majority all these products were marketed towards children; even though Ace was one of the worst role models for kids across the galaxy at this point in his life.
He also got to perform various moves for use in advertisements, such as kung-fu kicks and punches on some of the DreadZone robot guards; which he found to be rather enjoyable.
Eventually, Ace had to prepare for some movie poster photographs and the audience waited patiently for the ‘other’ celebrity to come out from the backstage. The crowd was quick to cheer and whistle out as they saw the other celebrity arrive from the back, it was Courtney Gears.
She was one of the most popular pop singers in the galaxy, but her fame fell sharply when she was defeated by a duo of heroes, after she was discovered to be working for an evil mastermind, known as Dr Nefarious, in a plot to exterminate all organic life.
She was almost destroyed during the fight but luckily for her, Gleeman Vox’s robotic medical staff saved her life and rebuilt her - but at a cost. In exchange for all future rights to her music, her image, her name, her likeness, and her personal collection of Secret Agent Clank memorabilia.
Her fame may have faded after her revelations with Dr Nefarious came to surface, but she still had a rather strong fanbase. It was evident as she came out and fans were delighted by her presence.
Ace looked over towards her and was quite surprised. He hadn’t seen her in person before, as she always tended to stay around the robotic crowd and Reactor in the movie sets.
”I get to be in a poster with her? Heh, nice…”
He mumbled to himself.
Courtney walked over towards the photographer and folded her arms, looking slightly bothered before she asked him.
”So, what do you need me for?”
”Oh miss Gears; it is a pleasure to meet you in person! Now, we need you to sit down in front of Ace Hardlight over there - this is for a promotional movie poster”
Courtney’s jaw fell open.
”What, Him? But I am already starring with Reactor in another movie!”
”So, the more the merrier! And this is by Gleeman’s demand, not
mine. So go on miss, pose for the camera! Or else you miss out on the riches… heheh”
Courtney sighed and looked even more irritated, still folding her arms and taking a glance over at Ace.
”You have got to be kidding me…”
She said to herself while looking at Ace; who was standing in front of the holoscreen stage.
With an emotionless face, Courtney didn’t look Ace in the eye at all while he stared at her coming towards him. Ace stood up straight and held his head high, with his fist on his hip again as Courtney sat down on the stage in front of him, looking slightly stubborn but obedient to her role and already, photos were being snapped of the two.
Ace smiled slightly, trying to give off a proud expression. He felt quite good having the privilege to be in a poster with one of the most famous female celebrities in the galaxy.
Even so it was over in a matter of minutes and Courtney stood up, brushing herself off and she saw Reactor standing a few metres away from her – appearing to be utterly heartbroken.
She rolled her eyes when Reactor came running for her frantically-
”Baby… how could you do this to me? It is because... I didn’t turn out to be the Captain of the Exterminators?”
He said in a sad tone, sounding as if he was about to break down. Ace was about to give himself a face palm at his reaction, before Courtney replied,
”Oh Reactor, stop being so ridiculous. I was paid to be in these posters. Not because I actually like him. He’s organic for crying out loud…”
”Oh. OH I see. Heh sorry Ace, for a moment there I thought you were trying to steal my girl!” Reactor joked.
Ace frowned and rolled his eyes at his remark; what an idiot.
”Come on honey, let’s go. Before I get forced to be in more photos with the likes of a squishy...”
Courtney said while she was picked up by Reactor and placed on the top of his right-hand shoulder. Together they made an exit out of the promotional room.
Ace could only scowl back at them. Slightly offended by what Gears had said, he could only frown and say
During the past week and a half, Ace proceeded to help with the promotional side of the Hardlight products; set to hit the shelves at the start of the 6th DreadZone season. He was slowly becoming bothered with having so many photos taken of him, rather than spend time fighting, socializing and exercising.
But he was nonetheless, feeling eager to see how all those products would do when they were released.
Ace was relieved when he was told that the promotional photos were complete, so that he could go and do what he wanted. He looked forward to training himself in the DZ gym again after so long but something caught his attention as he walked down the hallways…
He could hear employees talking about the new contestants having already been captured, as well as a few deaths. But there was a particular contestant the staff kept mentioning…
”Have you seen that new lombax dude?”
”So he’s a lombax? Wow, yes I have! He’s pretty damn good for a newbie ehh?”
Ace walked over towards the two voelhomen staff talking with each other, after hearing the word ‘lombax’. The two staff noticed Ace and waved at him,
”Oh, hey Ace Hardlight! Have you heard about that new lombax contestant?”
”Lombax? I thought those animals were extinct”
Ace said bluntly, with a smug look. The two men laughed, before one replied to him,
”Well, not this one he he! He’s pretty darn good for a new guy. Who knows? He might even get to face you later in the season?”
”I doubt it. Just wait another day or two, he will be long gone and forgotten. Only the strong survive here at DreadZone”
Ace told them, and turned away from them to continue walking down the hallway. It was quite odd for him to hear about a lombax; he hadn’t heard of that race ever since he was a child; back when he was still with his family team. He vaguely remembered hearing about them being wiped out by an evil dictator, from what Kurt Swiftblade told him years ago.