Chapter 14: An Unexpected Loss
Days passed by and Ace was becoming more and more curious of a contestant in particular. He kept hearing people speak of him; the lombax. One who was covered in a protective DZ styled armour, rarely revealing his face. It was the first time Ace had ever seen a lombax though, but what surprised him most was how small this ‘superhero’ was. He didn’t even have a muscular frame; like most of the other heroes had.
Ace was doubtful either way, and firmly believed that this lombax was only lucky - fluking all the challenges so far. He wasn’t taking that he could be talented or quite experienced with the sport into consideration.
At the moment, Ace was incredibly bored. Walking about the DreadZone station, he tried looking for something new to do; it seemed that all he could do is either go off to earn more dreadpoints, relax at the bar or just exercise.
Walking around aimlessly, Ace thought to himself over and over, trying to decide on what he should do; right until he was suddenly put to a halt by someone in particular.
He almost bumped into Shellshock when he came from around the corner. Ace stood there straightening his stance and folding his arms; staring right ahead at Shellshock, looking bothered. Shellshock took the cigar out of his mouth and gave off a slow laugh.
”What are you laughing at?”
Ace questioned him, unimpressed.
”Oh heh heh, well it is just that I am going off to exterminate the little furry man!”
”What, you mean that lombax thing?”
”Huh huh yeah. He has enough dreadpoints so it’s time for me to terminate! Oh yeah, I saw something funny that you might like to know about…”
Ace looked at Shellshock, still unimpressed and looking even more bored. He rolled his eyes and asked,
”Okay, what is it?”
”While I was speaking with Juanita on live HV, I saw something interesting when she had her legs crossed…”
Ace sighed, “Look, I don’t care what you saw okay? And I don’t have time to stand around talking with the likes of you-”
”-She was wearing Ace Hardlight underwear!!!”
Shellshock said and immediately roared with laughter, with one of his metallic hands over his face. Ace was not amused; not believing a single word he said. He scowled up at the robot, frowning even more than before.
”… you’re not funny, so scram”
”But, but it’s true! Boy you are a lucky man. Juanita is so pretty. If she liked me, I would happily upload and download with her-“
”Oh will you just shut up and leave. I don’t need to hear about your stupid robotic desires... so go on now; move it”
”Suit yourself, Captain!”
Shellshock said, giving off a salute before turning around to burst out laughing while walking down the hallway.
Ace could only look down, shaking his head in shame at the presence of the lowest ranked Exterminator. But he also had a thought; What if he wasn’t joking? That would be… so damn creepy.
Ace shook his head immediately, trying to push the disturbing thoughts out of his mind as he moved to walk down the right corridor of the station, in search for something different to do for a change.
The on-going talk about the lombax contestant was beginning to get to Ace’s head.
Why do they keep speaking of him? He’s not all that great.
Ace spent time in the weaponry part of the DreadZone station, practicing with how to use the many different weapons Vox Industries had produced. Ace, however, preferred to use his homemade and modified weapons, rather than using ones that were mass produced, no matter how good they were. But he did use a Vox Industry produced weapon once, called The Silencer. Ace gave the gun its name after he used it to ‘settle’ a dispute with his former agent.
Ace meanwhile, was trying out different energy mods for his HL Launcher, to see how they would react when coming in contact with their targets. His targets were a variety of decoys and various robots, including the harmless, innocent testbots - who tried to flee from him as he chased them around the weapon testing facility.
Ace gave off a menacing grin as he charged down each one, obliterating anyone who was unfortunate enough to be caught in his view. But the thrill only lasted a few minutes, as the robots in the course became scarce. So he stopped, holding out his HL launcher, and pointing it in the air in a victory stance.
He left behind the weapons facility and walked out into the passageways; passing by HV screens and something caught his attention as he saw a DreadZone battle, happening live on holovision.
It was Shellshock, fighting against the lombax contestant. Ace couldn’t help but stand there watching the battle. Shellshock was hovering with his own jetpack built into his back, suspended over the small arena on the planet Kronos. The lombax contestant was also barely visible - very small in comparison to Shellshock - but from what Ace could see he was very agile, quick and doing quite well against the Exterminator robot. Firing his pair of Dual-vipers towards Shellshock, occasionally switching his weapon over to a Magma-cannon; both weapons were made by Vox Industries. Shellshock threw bomb after bomb, including shockwave grenades but the little contestant avoided most with relative ease, and continued firing at the Exterminator.
Ace stood there watching the HV screen as their fight went on. He couldn’t help but be mildly impressed by the lombax’s performance; especially for being such a small contestant. Even so, he felt that the lombax was only lucky; because he also had the help from two battle-bots, robots that a few contestants have alongside them at times.
But his thoughts were slowly changing as he saw that the lombax was winning. Shellshocks head armour was finally blasted off, revealing his face and the robot Exterminator fled the arena, presumably to go and repair himself and reload his ammo.
”What a stupid coward…”
Ace said, watching Shellshock disappear off the screen. After he was out of sight, the battle course continued and the lombax contestant moved on, before a commercial break started playing, advertising some of the Exterminator trading cards.
Feeling rather bored again, he walked down the station hallways. For some odd reason, very few DZ employees were seen walking about and even the testbots weren’t hanging around as they often would be. But it was close to the lunchtime break so Ace believed they would be in the DZ cafeteria or the nearby Galaxy Burger restaurant. He thought about heading to one of the cafés, but hoped that the Eviscerator wasn’t serving; after the ‘surprise gourmet meal’ he tried serving Ace last time.
In this particular Cafeteria, there weren’t as many people in here as had Ace expected. But there were plenty of testbots walking around, cleaning and keeping the tables and chairs tidy and sweeping the floors. Ace was about to order at the counter until he noticed the few staff in the café watching the large HV screen in the centre of the room.
Their attention was focused on the screen, as they had stopped eating and drinking to watch the action. It was Shellshock and that very same contestant again, fighting against one another with bullets and lasers flying all over the place. Ace also finally heard the name of the contestant by Dallas; who was speaking out on the loud speaker during the fight.
So his name is Ratchet. Never even heard of him.
Ace stood there at the counter, watching them and the cashier behind Ace had his eyes on the HV screen too, and he smiled.
”He’s not bad, ehh? Sort of reminds me of when you were a teenage contestant…”
Ace turned around to see who spoke. He simply scoffed, before replying,
”So you’re comparing me with the likes of a little furry runt?”
The cashier looked very nervous at Ace’s hostile look, and he tried to keep on smiling; sweat already forming on his forehead.
”Heheh… well uhh no; of course not! You’re the greatest gladiator of them all! He he… I am err… he’s not bad for a contestant though, right?”
Ace frowned upon the employee who cowered, moving away slowly; scared of what he would do to him. But Ace was in no mood for senseless violence so he quietly walked off, heading on the way to another part of the DreadZone station.
In Gleeman Vox’s office, everybody had their focus on the large screen in the centre of the room, behind Vox. He had his chair turned around, watching the intense battle rage on between Shellshock and Ratchet. Slugga was watching the fight as well; quite excited and wide eyed by how it was going, sometimes even gasping when Ratchet was close to getting hit by the huge metallic fists of the android. Ratchet’s two battle-bots were there helping take down any smaller robot foes passing by.
Ace was also in the office. He stood there at the desk, watching the screen as well. He was expecting Shellshock to lose anytime soon; seeing that his armour began to shatter even more; revealing his inner robotic structure and allowing Ratchet to finally finish him off with a good few blasts from his Magma-cannon.
Shellshock finally had enough. His limbs started to shake violently, and Ratchet ran back several metres; to avoid Shellshock as he stumbled to the floor in front of him, shouting out angrily as he came to realize he was defeated. He dropped his cigar on the ground and was lying there, motionless. His robotic body started smouldering with ash and sparks continuing to fly violently.
”Wow just look at that Ladies and Gentleman! Shellshock has now been defeated! Let’s give a round of applause to team Darkstar, for their shining victory!”
Dallas shouted from high above in the hover cart, and all the fans watching live were cheering. Even the sounds of many fans inside of DreadZone were heard from here.
Gleeman Vox was not impressed though, as he stared at Shellshock’s broken body on the HV screen. He was more annoyed after hearing one of his own employees praise Ratchet for the victory; which only caused him to become angrier.
”Look at these idiots cheering! 6 million bolts of hardware down the drain and those ingrates are celebrating like, like I won the freakin’ lottery!” Vox sighed, turning around on his chair to face Ace at the desk
“Ugh… remind me why I put up with these morons…”
”Who else would watch Vox news? Temptation Asteroid, Galaxies Funniest Decapitations?” asked Ace.
”Queer eye for the Tyhrranoid…”
”I get it!” shouted Vox, slamming both fists onto his desk. While looking down at his little pet, he gave off a slight grin.
”Seems we underestimated our little lombax friend…”
”He got lucky. Shellshock was too slow and too stupid to be an Exterminator. He should have been retired years ago”
”Well he’s retired now! Ratchet however… ahh… he may just be useful. He’s even more popular than you were back in your ‘heroic youth’. Come to think of it, he reminds me of you…”
Vox told Ace. Ace was feeling quite irritated though. How dare he compare me with that lombax!
Clenching his fists, he came forward suddenly to slam both his fists down onto Gleeman’s desk, causing Slugga to squeal and move away in fear.
”I said he got lucky. His luck won’t last forever…”