Prologue 

Prologue  by John Supinski

 

 

Before there was a Professional Bionics League, there was greed. Six massive corporations had come to rule the Earth. Some had gained fortune through the manipulation of financial institutions, others through media conglomerates and war industries, but each of these companies had stock in the commercialization of new energies created for our technology-addicted society. Massive skyscrapers were erected as monuments to the powerful creators of wealth, but when bigger and better finally reached its peak, the race to become the greatest inevitably ended in space.

 

Hessian Energies was the first to scrap the idea of a towering office building in favor of a space station large enough to house an entire city. Other companies quickly followed suit, in an undertaking that combined the historical relevance of the Cold War with the rise of the auto industry. Before construction could begin, gigantic flying robots were designed and engineered to do the job. Pilots were trained to fly the robots, and massive crews of workers were organized to ensure the completion of the project.
 

This project not only showed off the power of the different energy sources, but it ensured that a select few could carry on the human race in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Jobs were plentiful and a promise was made to the world that prosperity would return.

 

When the project came to an end, six moon-like space stations had been created with each team finishing the project just days apart from each other. Humanity felt a great sense of pride in its collective accomplishment, but the crew and pilots felt an even greater sense of pride for the station and the robot team they had worked for. Wherever people gathered, there was constant banter about which type of robot was best; the greatest controversy surrounded the Crystal, Obsidian, and Solar bots.

 

This type of unity hadn’t existed in decades since the slow demise of professional sports began. The triumph of the body had faded into obscurity as technology surpassed athletics, and the leagues of old failed to attract young fans. With the completion of the space stations, the robots, crews, and pilots sat upon an unfathomable amount of potential, but had no place to present their craft. These facts, combined with the possibility of even more money, were the mother and father to what we know now as the Professional Bionics League.

Heroes and Legends

by John Supinski

 

As told by: Redd

 

Chapter 1

 

When I was a boy, we didn't have to worry about cyborgs, animals, and artificial intelligence ruining the game. It was a game of wisdom and skill; the first massively popular sport where women and men could play in the same arena. Never, had I ever, or have I since felt the same rush that I felt when I mounted a Mech for the first time.  The moment when you lock in your first upgrade, and a code of over three billion alpha-numerals download into your robot. That stays with you. The sound of the armor all but instantly printing, bonding, and replacing one of your limbs reflects the new skin we grow every day. That is the moment where the cliché of being one with everything, even inanimate objects, finds truth in popular reality. The world was at my fingertips. This was the culmination of the human experience through technology, and I haven't let go of it since.

 

At the time of my rookie season, Jergus Trinidad had already established himself as one of the best Starter Pilots in the game. He hadn't won a championship yet, but everyone knew that he was destined for greatness. Jergus had the uncanny ability to understand what his opponent was going to do before they did it, like a chess savant from previous centuries. This ability to dissect his opponents’ brains earned him the nickname Doc, and with scalpel like precision, Doc began to dominate the league.

 

During his Starting Pilot days, Doc was an absolute assassin. He didn't care about anything but winning, and his obsession with the sport made him impossible to be around if you were a rival Pilot. During his seventeen year run as a starter pilot, Doc captured the PBL Cup a record eleven times. His first win came in his fourth year against the great Cove Chamberlain, but he refused to let his Cinderella story end at midnight. Doc rattled off a record eight straight championships between his fourth and eleventh year, becoming the most decorated PBL Pilot of all time.

 

Doc's eighth championship signified the pinnacle of his career, and the pinnacle of Professional Bionics. Fans packed the stadiums, crews made more money than they'd ever imagined, and Pilots were treated like Greek Gods. Entertainment was changed forever. In the PBL, we were smarter, more powerful, more explosive, and better suited for television. Watching traditional sports became like watching ants moving fruit to their home or counting with an abacus.

 

The height of PBL unfortunately coincided with my lowest point in the league. In my ninth year I was sent down to the Rookie League after finishing in tenth place. I was doomed. I was thirty-nine years old and only eligible for the Rookie League until my fortieth birthday. I became a hermit, refusing to interact with any other pilot, and with Jergus as my role model, I studied every piece of every Mech I was meant to operate. I knew my opponents better than they knew themselves, and I developed my own sense of precision based on intuition. When people started calling me a wizard, I grew a beard and started wearing a robe to fit the character. I was magic. I am magic. I have no doubt. I am rambling. Sorry about that, let's get back to the story.

 

My ticket back to the pros was cemented by a twisted group of rebels that changed the game forever. I hate that my fate runs parallel to what I despise most, but in the real world angels and demons tend to run together. In my tenth year, the J.s Henry Industrial Corporation created a home-helper robot named Geometric Joe.

 

Joe’s primary function was to make drinks, answer doors, and help with menial chores around the house, but when the robot didn't sell due to its clunky design, J.s Henry decided to market the robot in the PBL Stadium using the robot as a crew member on one of his teams. A group of young rebels, thought to be led by the crew member Tarrison, broke into the stadium the night before a match, reprogrammed Geometric Joe to kill, and escaped without leaving a trace of evidence. The next day Geometric Joe killed Pilot Pappy Johnson.

 

Crowds went wild and much to the disappointment of the rebels, Joe bots sold out of control. Geometric Joe and his violent ways became the toast of PBL and the game was changed forever. Pappy Johnson’s death put the pilot’s union into an uproar and after a brief strike, Joe bots were reprogrammed to only chase other crewmembers out of the hangar. To this day, no crewmember has stood up to a Joe bot, knowing that he has the ability to inflict severe pain, and death through electrocution.

 

The death of Pappy Johnson opened up a spot for a tenth starter pilot. Due to my newly marketable wizard status and my flawless rookie league statistics, I got the job. In my first game back, I lost three limbs very quickly. I couldn't believe that I had made it all the way back just to tank again. That was the moment I went into my first trance. I channeled the entirety of my anger and coupled it with all my skill and knowledge. Suddenly, my attacks were doubled; my body and the Mech had connected in a critical form. That year, I rode my newly found abilities all the way to the championship where I faced eight time champion Doc Trinidad.

 

Sidenote: A few years ago I met a young boy named Luke Epico who helped me focus my critical energies into an even more powerful critical attack...

 

In the championship match, I was blessed with an unbelievable Mech. It came down to the last limb, but a final blow action allowed me to use my critical form twice in a row to win the championship. It was truly a magical season that I've never been able to recreate, and it ended Doc's streak of eight straight championships. Doc took the loss with great gratitude, and made a speech to the crowd thanking them for their support over his eight year run. At the end of his speech, he introduced me as the new champion and handed the trophy over to me. During that off-season we became great friends.

 

Doc would go on to win the next two championships and one more in the final season of his starting pilot days. He is truly the greatest pilot that I've ever seen play the game, and I'm so proud to have won my championship against the greatness that was Doc.

 

Doc retired to become a top-notch expert pilot after his seventeenth season.

 

Chapter 2

 

When Doc gave up the starting reins, he finally had a chance to spend some time with his talented daughter Maxine. Maxine had grown up in the pits watching her dad pilot himself into being the best Mech operator of all time. It was only natural that she had learned a thing or two along the way. Doc was surprised to find that at age thirteen, she had already become a very accomplished engineer and was dabbling in simulations for trainee pilots. Doc, being the proud father that he was, began to train Maxine. The two became very close as Doc taught Maxine everything that he knew, and Maxine quickly became as good a pilot as she was an engineer.

 

Maxine became the talk of the Rookie League as the first person in PBL history to work as both a crewmember and a pilot. Her blazing speed and inherited intuition allowed her to simultaneously mount her Mech while modifying it to her exact specifications. The name Trinidad had grown from a name associated with great, to a name associated with dynasty, and Doc was now being hailed as the greatest teacher in the sport. Doc and Maxine appeared on the cover of every sports magazine and the nickname he had earned from his precision seemed to translate perfectly. My favorite headline had to be, "From Surgeon to Professor."

 

Being the competitor that he was, Doc decided that he would be the first person to take on two apprentices. During an off-season expedition to the Antevellum Mountains, Doc stumbled upon a boy with no last name. Doc routinely made the trek to the highest peaks of the Antevellum Mountains as a sensory deprivation training regime. At the caldera of the highest peak, the pig-headed boy-wonder made first contact with Doc, by throwing a rock at him. He went simply by the name, Shero.

 

The independent and snarky Shero had run away from home and had been living in sensory deprivation for three years. When Doc brought him to Alvidon, the kid looked pathetic, but Doc swore that Shero had the stamina that was needed to be the next great pilot. For years, Doc had been training at the Antevellum peaks to get an edge on the competition, but Shero had grown up in this environment. The fact that he was alive at all proved to Doc that there was something a little extra special about the kid. His attitude was horrible, but Doc wanted the challenge of training him.

 

The first leg of training was just getting the kid to eat. He was short and bone skinny due to his malnourishment, but didn't seem to have any interest in food. He hated people telling him what to do, and the fact that someone was telling him to eat caused him to avoid food like the plague.

 

It was actually Maxine who got Shero to start piloting. At the time, Max had already established herself as the Rookie League Champ with the potential to win in the big leagues the following season. When her dad brought Shero home, she started to make fun of him, telling him that he wasn't big enough to reach the pedals and that operating robots required discipline that he didn't have.

 

That was the spark that Shero needed to become a great. Suddenly, he was training over twelve hours per day, refusing to sleep or eat. The kid got so good, so quick, that Doc recommended he skip directly to the Pro League, an act that had never even been considered since the institution of the Rookie League. Since Doc had been an instrumental piece in developing the Rookie League and scouting potential pilots for it, the big wigs up in the PBL offices decided to grant him his wish. This vote of confidence seemed like a good move for the league at the time. Even I was excited to see a pilot who was so advanced at such a young age. Unfortunately, a bird that does not crack his own shell, sometimes feels the need to assert himself by pecking at others. Shero accepted this honor with entitlement and cockiness.

 

I met Shero during an orientation with league officials a few months before the new season was set to begin. I jokingly said to him, “Hey kid, I hear that you’re the savior of the sport.” He responded extremely defensively and started berating me about a game that I had played over ten years ago. “Game thirty-two, Season thirty-five, one limb to go, why would you use any bombs in that situation?”

 

Before I could explain, Shero had already dismissed me. He yelled, “You’re an average pilot with a lucky championship,” and walked away. He had no interest in what I had learned in the game over my time. The boy pissed me off. If I wasn’t who I am, I would’ve smacked that little grin off his face, but that wasn’t what the league was all about. It was not supposed to be about violence or antagonizing, but about a battle of mental prowess; A sport for the thinking folk that pleased the masses with explosions. Growing up in a Mech had always been about respecting the technology and the people who had taken the time to learn the profession. Unfortunately, the way of the old league was about to change drastically.

 

As Shero was prepping for his fast track to the Pros, Maxine was becoming the first rookie pilot to win the PBL Cup. She was a hero of young girls everywhere and famous in a way that her great father never had been. After her win, Shero’s infatuation with Maxine grew. The two spent a lot of time together and Shero was always trying to impress Maxine. I’d even go out on a limb and say that he was in love with her, but the boy was too cold blooded to admit it to himself. He had himself convinced that hanging around champions would make him the greatest and that that was the only reason why he should associate with anyone.

 

After a single season of mediocrity for both pilots, Maxine and Shero regained their form and found themselves facing off in the PBL Championship for the first time. Maxine had come back to have a great season after a sophomore slump, and Shero had finally matured into a dead eye assassin starter. The two seemed evenly matched throughout the game, but Maxine had gained an advantage by using her engineering skills to build a gigantic Mech. With both pilots down to one limb, owner J.s. Henry sent Doc Trinidad into the Mech to terminate his student and win the game for his daughter. When he did, Maxine officially won her second championship. Shero went into a rage, cursing out both Doc and Maxine for conspiring as a family against him, refusing to believe that the owner, Henry, was just doing what the team needed to win.

 

After the match was over, Shero disowned Doc as his teacher and left the League. He disappeared to an unknown location. Some believe that he went back to his home in the Antevellum Mountains, but a number of conspiracy theories began to surface and fans began to worry if Shero would ever come back. Interest was slipping and owners were panicking over the fact that the Trinidad Dynasty was taking over the sport. No one wanted to see another generation of unrivaled dominance especially from the same family.

 

Chapter 3

 

I write this next section because I am fearful that my memory may not be fully intact for much longer. The League will say that I am an old man losing his mind, but I assure you that I do not fear losing my memory due to my age. At this current juncture, I am completely cognitive. I fear that my memory will begin to slip away because I have knowledge of information that I should not know about. I am being watched because the owners feel that sharing this information could have a very serious effect on the legitimacy of the sport. Personally, I feel that most of the fans have been brainwashed to not care. Even if they became fully aware of this information, I believe that they would still pack the stadium. In any case, the League has ways of making people’s memories change, and I fear that I may become a victim of this inhumane action.

 

When Shero left, PBL owners called for a league meeting to discuss a future of the sport without their savior. Without their new superstar, interest for the sport had dried up, and the cost of putting on matches without crowds and viewers would inevitably bankrupt the people invested in ownership teams. All persons of interest were invited to the meeting, including the great Jergus Trinidad who had recently bought a large stock in the League after a career of winning prize money. It is because of my friend Jergus, that I have this information now.

 

From what I’ve gathered, the plans for the new PBL included:

 

1. Age acceleration for young pilots that would allow them to reach their prime in critical form.

2. Game fixing, through collusion, clone substitutes, and through new armors such as the Eye of Horus.

3. Unleashing an experimental creature named Tormax who had been created in a lab to reproduce himself through dangerous, new armors.

4. Modified air would be pumped into stadiums to excite fans.

5. Memory modification drugs would be packaged as legal performance enhancers, giving pilots and crews the mental sharpness needed to operate new and unusual armors.

 

These plans were meant to be extremely confidential and owners were sworn to secrecy. A breach of this contract would void all ownership rights, and it was understood that traitors would not only be banned from all operations, but would disappear forever.

 

At this point, it should be clear to anyone reading my journal that Jergus did not keep his mouth shut.

 

Although it was assured that these modifications to the League would be conducted in a safe way, Jergus felt that he couldn’t allow his daughter to be subject to the possible dangers that these changes presented. Minds were literally going to be put under control, and he couldn’t stomach the idea of his daughter being used as a guinea pig for entertainment.

 

Fearing the consequences that the League would lay down on him, Jergus did everything he could to get his daughter to quit piloting without breaching his contract. He focused on encouraging her to work simply as a top-level engineer, swearing to her that skill Level 3 crewmembers were the future of the sport. Maxine took this advice seriously, but still felt no need to discontinue her piloting. She had already won a championship as a starter pilot and felt no need to quit now.

 

Jergus persisted, stating that piloting had become too dangerous and that he could no longer train Maxine, but Maxine took this as a statement of jealousy. She felt as if her father was protecting her only to protect his own records and legacy as the greatest. This created a rift between the two and a situation that the PBL quickly capitalized on.

Chapter 4

 

During the off-season, media attention swirled around both Maxine and Doc. Doc was suddenly cast as the villain teacher who had turned his two students against him. Not only had Shero quit the League, but his own daughter was now refusing to take any advice from him. The League reveled in this opportunity, making it impossible for Maxine and Doc to even come into contact with one another. Owners even made a collective decision to disallow Doc onto teams that had Maxine as their starting pilot. In reality, things weren’t ever this bad. Maxine was a twenty-year old girl, and Doc had gotten into a fight like most fathers and daughters do, but in this particular case, the League decided to use this fight for promotional purposes. Owners also suspected that the fight had been triggered by conversations about changes in the sport. The two were being watched very closely.

 

The new season brought great promise when pilots Tataya Park, D-Rock Kingston, and former rocker Kimbo Ono Domingo Frio joined the starting ranks. Never had three rookies joined the League at the same time, but this was a desperate time, and new interest was key. The most interesting of the new faces was Frio, whose reckless attitude and offensive skill made him a fan favorite. Park, a new age tomboy, was the daughter of a former baseball player and possessed healing qualities that she had inherited from her late mother. Kingston wore a mask and kids loved him.

 

New armor was being introduced in every game, new pilots were winning games, and games were closer than ever. Owners had officially and artificially made our sport into the exciting wire-to-wire entertainment that everyone craved. PBL was back, but it had come at the expense of the League’s greatest ambassador. Jergus, my good friend, was not the doctor he had once been. He had sunk into a depression that he could not shake. He had seen deep into the belly of the beast and been forced to understand the secrets that shape our world.

 

Doc contacted me about Maxine halfway through the season. Before speaking he stated, “Do not respond to anything that I’m about to tell you. The Eye is upon me and every move I make, every word I speak, is being noted. If they find that I’ve spoken to you, your fate will be the same as mine.” From there, he told me that he and Maxine were barred from having any communication and that he was worried about the young starter pilots. He expressed to me the changes that were happening behind closed doors and that he had been given two options: comply and shut up, or disappear forever. Finally he said, “You go that way and I’ll go this way,” and disappeared.

 

This was the last time I ever spoke to Jergus, and at the time I felt that he had gone crazy. The next day, The Six were in our hangar asking about him. I’d never seen them at ground level before, but there they were, grilling crewmembers and pilots, asking if they’d seen him. At this point I knew that Jergus had told me the truth.

 

Sidenote: The Six is slang for the six owners that own everything.

Chapter 5

 

The next piece of the story is where truth meets legend. Only Pelpe and Shero know what truly happened in Antevellum, but I don’t trust either of them. Pelpe might be the best man to start a crew, but his story telling abilities rely on screeching sound effects and plot lines that seem to change with every telling. Right before he disappeared, Doc passed me a note that said listen to Pelpe. Not only is this physically impossible to do, but everything he says seems too crazy to be real. I suspect Doc knew another side of him, and at this point I have no other basis for the legend that I will speak as the truth.

 

Shero simply doesn’t talk about the situation to anyone; either because he’s been paid off, scarred by the moment, or lacks interest in talking. I personally would never doubt the level of pompousness that Shero can exhibit. I get the fanfare thing, and he plays himself off as being some kind of a hero, but personally I can’t stand him. I know I’ve already made this clear, but seriously, he’s the worst.

 

Anyway…

 

My theory is that Doc knew he was going down and that he didn’t know if he’d be killed, locked away, or what. As a last ditch effort to save his daughter and the League, he set off to find Shero. He knew that the PBL’s only weakness was its need to appease the fans, and if he walked back into Alvidon with Shero, the press would make it impossible for The Six to make him “disappear.” His best guess was that Shero would retreat to his home in the Antevellum Mountains, which was just past the village of Antevellum Valley.

 

Antevellum Valley had become a bustling village full of art, trade, and education. The town had yet to take on the personality of a modern metropolis, but the technology being used was unprecedented. People, animals, and all those wishing to study flocked to this area of culture with great intrigue. For years, the Valley had been a wasteland, full of stocky troll like individuals only concerned about their next meal. Those days had passed.

 

As Doc trekked through the outskirts of the village on his way to the mountains, he was hurt quite badly. From the accounts I’ve heard, he suffered a severe head injury and ankle break, injuries that almost definitely resulted from an attack. News of his death began to circulate throughout the news almost instantly, but no body was presented for evidence. It had foul play written all over it and I refrained from mourning my friend’s death until I knew it to be true.

 

The quick reporting of this story makes me believe that an assassin from the Gamblers of Pioria was sent to murder Doc, but had a change of heart at the last moment. If this is true, I believe that assassin was Coringus the Synthesizer, a now defected member of the group. Before Coringus left the Gamblers, they never failed to kill a mark. Now, their aim is suspect.

 

As reports of his death dominated the media, PBL fans grieved deeply. The greatest hero their sport had ever seen was seemingly gone in the blink of an eye. What they didn’t know was that he’d be back with a surprise they couldn’t even fathom.

 

Doc wasn’t dead, but his head was hurt and his foot couldn’t carry any weight. Locals rushed him to the Restoration Hangar, which was currently being housed by students studying better ways of healing. They praised Doc for the work that he had done for the Valley, and congratulated him on his career continuously. Doc had no recollection of helping these people in any way, but was in no state to argue.

 

He thanked them with great gratitude as they explained to him that they could heal both his head and ankle instantly with a combination of reptilian DNA and a simple acceleration. Doc refused, stating that he was against these types of technology, and that his status as a professional athlete prohibited him from taking such things. When medics reminded Doc that these treatments had been accepted by the PBL, Doc demanded that he would be fine with a brace and some time spent alone.

 

As Doc was leaving the hangar, he had a chance encounter with a local fan, Pelpe Derdae.

 

“Chairgust Trinidad! Is there any way I could get an autograph!”

“Aren’t you a little old for autographs? What’s your name?”

“Pelpe!”

“Why are you yelling?”

“I’m not!”

“Well Pelpe, I don’t know if you noticed earlier, but I took a tumble down into the Valley. My foot is hurt pretty good. It also just so happens that I have to go to the peak today. Do you know the mountains?

“Yes sir!”

“Well I can definitely give you an autograph, but in return I need some help. Do you have a vehicle of some sort or even a mountain mech that I might be able to ride?”

“No… But I could give you a piggy back ride!”

“You’re a funny guy, but seriously I need to get there. Do you know anyone who can help?”

“I’m serious! I can give piggy back rides for days! It’d be an honor to give a ride to the great Chairgust Trinidad!” (many shrieks were included here I’m sure)

“You do realize that it’s a twelve thousand foot peak?”

“Ya, I climb it once a week! I know some shortcuts!”

 

For the next two days, Pelpe and Doc hiked to the peak of Mount Antevellum. The hours passed slowly as Pelpe grilled Doc about his career, asking him questions about games that Doc had long forgotten. Pelpe also insisted that Doc eat his trail mix -- which I’ve since had, and can only compare to rat poison. Pelpe had the spirit of a child. He would ask why they were climbing at least three times an hour, but Doc refused to answer. The other time was filled with conversations that exhibited Pelpe’s vast knowledge of the PBL. He has an annoyingly vast knowledge. I guess you have to love the guy.

 

When they reached the peak, Pelpe again asked, “Why did we come here?” to which Doc refused to respond.  Pelpe came again with, “I know who you’re looking for.”

 

Doc responded with a dumbfounded look. “Who are you?”

“This is almost exactly where you found him before.”

“Wait, how do you know that?” Doc responded.

“Because when I found him here, he told me.”

“You know Shero? Do you know where he is.”

“Yes.”

“Can you tell me?”

“No… My job is actually to keep you away from him!”

Chapter 6

 

Pelpe told me that Doc became very fearful at this point. He was stranded on top of a twelve thousand foot mountain, injured, and with a local who had been commissioned to keep Doc away from Shero.

 

“Shero tells me that you’re here to kill him, and it’s my job to keep you here!”

 “Why would I want to kill him? I think of him as my own son.”

“He says you’re jealous of his skills, that you don’t want him to be better than you.”

“Well, honestly, I don’t want him to be better than me, but I want him to at least have a chance. I came here to save my daughter and the league. Shero is the best we’ve ever seen and without him the PBL has gone into turmoil.”

 

At this point I’m sure that Doc made a fine speech to rally Pelpe around his mission. He was an honest man, and when he spoke his integrity filled the room around him. We all know now about the quick but meaningful relationship that Pelpe and Doc shared, and it’s needless for me to go into detail about how Pelpe joined Doc in the search for Shero.

 

After hours of outlining his plans, Doc hit Pelpe with the question, “So where is Shero?”

 

“He’s in the Valley! I’ve never seen someone with his mental toughness before! He’s locked himself in a sensory deprivation unit for over six months, and I’ve never seen someone able to do that for even a day! I think he’s planning a comeback! Also, he doesn’t seem to be a big fan of you!”

“Has he used any age accelerating performance enhancers.”

“He’s too proud! All he wants is nothing.”

“Please Pelpe, take me to him.”

 

Chapter 7

 

After safely making their way down the mountain, Pelpe and Doc headed to Shero’s Luxury Hangar, which he had purchased with his year’s salary from the PBL.

 

“I don’t think this is a good idea! First of all, he’s mean to me! Second of all, he’s not going to answer! He doesn’t answer for anyone. Also he’s mean!”

 

*KNOCK *KNOCK *KNOCK

 

“Shero, its Doc. Maxine is in trouble.” There was no answer.

“Pelpe. Do you have a key to this thing?”

“No!”

“Do you know of a way to get inside?” Doc didn’t realize this at the time, but this was a stupid question for someone like Pelpe, who knew everything there was to know about hangars.

“If I let you in there, Shero might kill me.”

“Well, he’ll come after me before he comes after you, and if you don’t open this door you’re going to have to deal with me.”

“I’m already dealing with you! And Shero is definitely scarier!”

“Pelpe, this is about saving the League. Don’t you remember the mission?”

 

Pelpe got them into the hangar because as we all know now, he’s Pelpe. Not only is he a great man to start a crew but, he literally knows everything that was ever meant to be known about hangars.

 

Unfortunately, when they got in, Shero was nowhere to be found.

 

“He went back! I knew he was leaving, but I didn’t think he’d be this quick. He’s gone!!!” shrieked Pelpe.

 

What Doc didn’t know was that The Six had made a personal visit to Shero to tell him that Doc was dead and that now was the time to return. As Doc and Pelpe were searching the Luxury Hangar, The Six were planning a ticker tape parade for the “unprecedented” return of Shero.

 

Chapter 8

 

“Shero was our ticket back. I can’t just waltz into Alvidon by myself. Someone who is surely affiliated with the PBL has already attacked me, and there is no way that I’ll get within twenty miles of the city. I’m sure they are ready for my return. I’m sure they know everything.”

“You’re right, but they aren’t. You, Chairgust Trinidad, might be the greatest pilot of all time, but you underestimate the power of a good crew. The Six hired me to protect Shero. They knew where he was all along, and when you came to find him they tried to kill you. Yes, they know that the Gamblers somehow failed to take you out, but when you checked into the Restoration Hangar, they immediately got wind of it. If you had taken the acceleration drugs then you would have been under their control, but when you didn’t, I was asked to take you to the top of the highest peak and leave you there.”

“Why would they trust you?”

“Because they think that I’m one of them!”

“Why would they think that?”

“Because I own everything in this valley and PBL is my only client! Every change you’ve seen to the sport has been overseen by me.”

“Even the age accelerants and performance modification patches? You’re a monster! How could you let that happen?”

“Doc, right now, you have no other choice but to trust me. I assure you that those mods were created for armor. We employ scientists here, but when science is put into the wrong hands, things get dangerous.”

“So you agree that these mods are dangerous.”

“More than you know. This is why you have to trust me. We have a new plan, but you’re going to have to take these. I’ll tell you on the way there. We’re headed to Alvidon!” exclaimed Pelpe.

 

I know what you’re thinking. Pelpe Derdae, the screeching little troll man, is one of the most powerful people in the entire world? It seems really far-fetched to me too since most of the conversations we’ve had are about how he likes rocks, but this is the best I have to work with. I imagine that behind the screeches is a calculated businessman who was somehow able to get Doc back into Alvidon, but on the outside I can’t see it. One thing I know is that he does know an awful lot about hangars and that I love to have him on my team to start a crew. For now, I guess we all have to trust him in the same way that Doc allegedly did.

Chapter 9

 

On the day of Shero’s return to the PBL Stadium, I was drawn as his challenger. I was more nervous than I’d ever been in my life only because I wanted to beat him so bad and knew that I couldn’t. Shero was older and had returned to Alvidon quicker than anyone who had ever taken the pre-match physical. His distaste for me made me fear that he wouldn’t show mercy even after all four of my limbs had blown. As match time approached, something happened that would alter the history of PBL Robots forever.

 

I was sick as I walked out of the dressing room and approached my cockpit, but when I cleared my eyes of my hood, I saw myself, me, locked in and ready to go. At this moment I knew that Doc was right. The PBL had cloned me, and I was in trouble. On the floor read a note that said, “I’ll never understand why you always wear green. Make sure to listen to Pelpe.” And it was off. My clone self was sent into the PBL Robots stadium to face off with Shero.

 

Note: In PBL Robots each pilot has a personal cockpit that is stored beneath the stadium. When a pilot comes into play he/she shoots up into the robot they are going to operate.

 

The people of Alvidon were on the edge of their seats. Every hologram was tuned into the match, and even The Six peered out of their towers with great anticipation. Shero was back. It was a time of celebration.

 

Feeling disheartened but relieved, I made my way into the stadium. After all, this was the return of Shero. As I reached the top step, the stadium went into an uproar. The hood of the man I thought to be myself had come off, and there he was. Doc had revealed himself to the crowd and had dropped out of his Mech. Everyone including The Six had thought that he was dead and the stadium was in an absolute frenzy as Doc was now calling Shero out of his Mech. As Shero dropped, half a million people suddenly went silent. Even The Six had their faces pressed to the glass of their towers.

 

“Shero, I want you to know that I love you like a son, but know that you’ll never be able to forgive me. You have a chance to be the best ever, but to do that you have to beat me today. This will be our final battle… If I win, I’ll retire knowing that I’m the best ever, and no matter how well you do in your career, you’ll have to live with that. If you win, you can have my Legendary Pilot contract, be known as the best ever, and make more money than you could ever imagine, only having to enter robots already primed for victory.”

“Deal,” replied Shero simply, and they both shot up into their Mechs for a battle that would never be duplicated.

 

Doc finally had the stage that he needed, and with it he took a moment to address the stadium.

 

“Before we start… Friends, family (looking at Shero and Maxine), fans… PBL Robots is the greatest sport that has ever been created. It is the culmination of competition in an era where technology has surpassed athletics, and sports test the mind. We cannot destroy this. The Six companies that own this sport are not concerned with our well-being. Their only goal is to pump as much money as they can out of us and if anyone tries to get in their way they discard it. They tried to kill me twice only because I want the world to know that they are using modifier drugs to change our behavior. We are under their control, and what I do tonight isn’t my first choice. This sport is in my blood and I need to protect it.”

 

With that, Doc looked deeply at both Maxine and Shero, whispered I’m sorry and flipped his go switch. The battle had begun.

 

Shero started the battle by attacking fiercely with his right arm, but Doc was able to avoid a blow off to his left arm by swiftly shuffling to the left and throwing out an extra shield. Quickly, Doc hired Pelpe who was able to install both a Lightning Hangar and a Shell Hangar on the first move. “Traitor!” yelled Shero, “I see how it is, Pelpe!” As Trace Law would say, “Defense is how the game is best played.”

 

With Doc’s resources already drained, Shero attacked again, blowing off Doc’s right arm. For a second it looked as though Shero had gained a distinct upper hand, but from the rafters came a call from the owners that Doc loved to hear, “Commabakk!” Over his next few turns, Doc continued to build his Mech, attaching some of his favorite armors: Wiester Hooves and the Stabilizer Mask. Doc had built a truly classic looking robot, one similar to the robots he had built in route to his many championships.

 

In response, Shero finally took a step back and began building armor. Blaster Cannons to the feet, Gears of Alvidon to the head, and on Doc’s next turn Shero absorbed a hit to his left arm. Doc knew that he would need more fire power if he was going to take a limb off of Shero’s Mech, and with his next turn he attached the Plasma Knife. Shero responded by attaching a construction pod to his head that drew awes from the crowd. Everyone knew that a powerful Level 3 would soon grace Shero’s crown, but with all the new armor being introduced to the league, no one knew what it could be.

 

Doc immediately attacked Shero’s head with his Plasma Knife, but Shero sacrificed his left arm to take the hit. Doc had finally blown a limb off, but he knew that a Level 3 head was coming for him. On Shero’s turn, the Eye of Horus made its first appearance and drew the kind of applause that I’d only heard for a termination. For a full minute, the match stopped, as the half million fans gave a standing ovation to a piece of brick and metal. Everyone knew they were in for something spectacular.

 

Doc attacked the Eye knowing that its weak defense made it vulnerable, but Shero blocked again, this time with his feet, and allowed Doc to once again blow off a limb. Doc was now ahead two limbs to one, but knew the Eye was coming for him. On his next turn, Shero attacked with the Eye of Horus and easily blew off Doc’s Plasma Knife, sending him into what had been popularized by Soda Fats as “Hot Dog Formation.” Not only did Eye of Horus do critical damage to Doc’s arm, but it completely scrambled his resource team, leaving both the crew and Doc himself confused.

 

When Doc attacked on his next turn, he thought that he was once again attacking the Eye of Horus, but with all the confusion that it causes, his strong attack landed on Shero’s remaining arm, which Shero once again allowed to blow off.  Shero began to laugh and spoke from his cockpit microphone. “You’re losing your touch old man.” What Shero didn’t know was that Doc and Pelpe had a plan that couldn’t be beat.

 

On his next turn, Shero again attacked with the Eye of Horus, this time from a smoking alter formation (the name for a robot with all of the limbs blown off except for the head) towards Doc’s Wiester Hooves. Once again the damage was critical and Doc’s feet were blown off. The powerful blast left the resource team even more confused than before and Doc began to wonder if his plan would even work against the all mighty Eye of Horus.
 

Still reeling from the blast, Doc knew that he had to attack, but the damage to his mind and resource team left him virtually malfunctioned. In order to implement his final attack, he needed Pelpe to make his way to the cockpit, but that was going to be impossible for this turn. As a last ditch effort to stay in the game Doc recruited Trace Law, the defensive mastermind, with the hope that he could stand up to the Eye of Horus just once. Trace had made his fame by being the only human who could stand up to a Mech. In most cases he could do this for an entire game, but he had never done so against the Eye of Horus.

 

The crowd was on the edge of their seats, critical to critical, with everyone knowing what was going to come next. Shero was going to attack and destroy Doc to earn the title as the greatest pilot ever. Shero charged up and blasted an attack from the Eye of Horus directed at Doc’s head. If he had connected on a direct hit it would have ended the game, but the attack was slightly weaker than the two previous hits. On the smoking shoulder of Doc’s one hundred-foot Mech, Trace Law stood strong and absorbed the power of the Eye of Horus. It’s a miracle that he wasn’t ripped to pieces, but as he absorbed the hit, Trace’s glasses exploded and his eyesight went white. He has no memory of the event, but I truly believe that it was the greatest defensive stand of all time.

 

Not only did Trace save the head, but he was able to save Doc and Pelpe from the confusion that an Eye of Horus blast inevitably causes. This allowed for the moment Pelpe and Doc had planned for. As soon as the attack missed, Pelpe charged into the cockpit with an age modification patch. Both Pelpe and Doc knew that the PBL would kill Doc at the end of the match. He was supposed to be dead already and this was his final chance to make a statement to the world of PBL Robots and his daughter. Pelpe, who would later scream that he was trying to prevent Doc from using the patch, appeared to plug the patch into Doc’s left arm. This moment is etched in my mind like no other, as the saddest second I have ever witnessed.

 

A teary eyed Doc looked toward Maxine and I who had been watching the match together and muttered his final words, “Study Always,” as a tremendous amount of potential energy began to charge deep within Doc’s body. Suddenly Doc began to age infinitely at a pace that seemed like ten years a second. Exponentially Doc aged into a decrepit old man, and then the lights went dark in his cockpit as an ultimate blast from the head of his Mech seared the air with the sound of a million sonic booms. Everyone’s eardrums were blown and cheers began to fill the stadium as Doc had beaten Shero. It seemed that Doc had defended his title and disappeared into thin air, but then the call came from the rafters of the stadium. “Misfire.” When the smoke cleared, Eye of Horus was still fully intact.

 

With the miss, Shero finished the match off with an Eye of Horus blast to the head and the stadium went into another uproar. It was almost as if both pilots had won, but in the end, Shero came out the victor. The crowd charged the grounds and surrounded Shero as if he was their savior. Outside of Maxine, Pelpe, and I, no one seemed to even notice that Doc had disappeared. The masses had their hero, but we had our legend

Chapter 10

 

After the dust settled and Shero had taken the title as “Simply the Best,” speculation about the disappearance of Doc Trinidad finally started to dominate the news. Maxine gave a tearful press conference on the subject of Mod Drugs and took the time to call out her father and his final move as a pilot.

 

“My father, Jergus Trinidad, was a great pilot, but we cannot ignore that he arrogantly used age modification drugs in an attempt to beat Shero in his last match as a professional. Even though these drugs are technically legal in our sport, I believe that this taints his entire record as a pilot. It brings me great shame, and with regret, I must inform you all that I will not be able to return as a starter pilot until the sport is free of any game fixing and drugs. Thank you.”

 

At that time I knew Jergus would be proud of his decision, but if there is anything that I know about the Doc, it’s that he knows what’s going to happen before we do.

 

I was also asked to testify about Jergus hijacking my cockpit.

 

“He was a desperate man with a desperate need to be the best. He hijacked my cockpit and that’s really it. There wasn’t anything I could do about it. “

 

We both know that Jergus was a hero for what he did, and his legend will have to carry on with us. Maxine and I have discussed his sacrifice in great detail: the goods, the bads, the maybes. And in the maybes we find the magic. Until the time when we can make this public we can only wonder what happened to the great Jergus “Doc” Trinidad. He could be dead, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have planned ahead.

 

At this moment, all I can say is that his location is unknown.

Written By: John Supinski

Story By: John Supinski and William Hessian

Illustrations By: William Hessian

Edited By: Christian Shiveley and Ted Russell

 

2015

 

1st Edition