“You ready?” asks Miller, Alec, owner-prime and enhancer of my system.  He wants to tap my back, but when he sees his grease coated hands, he relents, not wanting to stain my exterior plating.

“I am prepared,” I reply.

“You remember what we talked about?  Dodge at all times.  All you gotta do is dodge.  Then, when you get an open, you hit ’em with…what?”

“What?” I ask.

“No, that’s when you…never mind.  It’s when you swing your arm.  That’s under sub-router 12.  Just remember your programming, and you might just stay in one piece until the first round, got it?”

“Affirmative sir.  You will be pleased with your coat of paint,” I reply, as per my programming.

“Coat of what?” asks the announcer, who made his way backstage, overhearing the last bit of our conversation.

“I will be coating the walls–,”

“–with their blood!” Miller, Alec interjects, raising his index finger and pinky in the air.  I feel it wise not to correct him about robot units and their blood quantity, which is zero.

“Mn, right.  Scrawny thing, ain’t it?”

“That just makes him lean and mean.  A regular Mayweather, made of polymer and steel, am I right, buddy?” Miller, Alec says, nudging me with his elbow.  My cue to respond accordingly, per rehearsal.

“Indeed sir,” I say, raising my bladed arm in a display of ferocity, as per my programming. “Engage and destroy opponent!  Engage!”

“All right, settle down, ‘Death Metal’.  Let’s scan its QR,” the announcer says.  My designation code loads up on his display, which seems to surprise him. “Paint-bot?”

“Pain-T-bot, son!” Miller, Alec grunts. “The T stands for Terror!”

The announcer shrugs and clears me for arena entrance.  I am not certain as to why Miller, Alec chose to misinform the producers during the sing-up procedure.  The guidelines forbid maintenance units, even decommissioned and obsolete ones like myself, yet here I am, with new combat subroutines and my brush replaced with a diamond honed axe.  He assured me earlier I would do fine, though I feel there might be a connection with his promise to his debt collectors to supply a bot for the match and the failure of the Destructor’s battery processor that led to my promotion to combat unit.

The announcer guides me into the ring, placing me in the red corner, as he did with my four predecessors this evening.  The crowd boos me, some pelting me with popcorn or shouting expletives.  It seems they do not share my owner’s confidence in my abilities.  Parallel to me stands my opponent, designation: the Harbinger.  It towers over me with about three and a half feet.  Its hands are equipped with pneumatic pistons to allow rapid punching.  My new combat program calculates my odds of victory at 12%.  Oh dear.

“Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for the next round of Killbotz-X!  The new challenger: Pain-T-Bot!  Place your bets now.  Put a ten on the clock,” the announcer roars through the microphone.  The crowd joins in with the countdown.  I access my subroutines, preparing for brushstroke level 6, which should deliver sufficient power to my enhanced arm.  My odds of victory are still at 12%.  Oh dear.

“–three, two, one!” the crowd chants, cheering when the screens read “FIGHT!”

A siren blares, beginning the match.  The bot charges at me with a speed too fast for me to register.  A fist collides with my face.  Another hits me in my solar plexus.  My battery life drops down to 35%, with only ten seconds on the clock.

The voice of Miller, Alec, comes through my com-link. “Run the program, you scraphead.  Remember the program!”

I try to access the new OS, but my routines are scrambled with each blow to my system.  My opponent grasps me by the left arm, holding me in place as it continues to hammer its fist against me.  I hear the owner-prime’s voice come in once again, though fragmented and distorted.

“He’s gonna–ill yo–run th–progra–!”

The program.  Yes.  I must run the program.  But I can’t recollect which sub-router I need to access.  Another impact to the central processor, causing a soft reboot.  Power at 17%.  Factory setting restored.  I switch to program prime.  Canister one is at 20%.  Activate.

Blue paint sprays out from the nozzle on my frontal lobe, hitting my opponent in its single ocular processor.  Its grip on my arm loosens.  Disoriented, it grasps at its face.  Program prime is still in process, so I heave my arm up and bring it down, expecting to spread the paint with my brush.  The axe cleaves through the harbinger’s polymer skull, splitting its cerebral processor.  Sparks fly from its head, as its arms drop down, unsupported.  The crowd goes silent.  The harbinger stumbles forward, falling onto the canvas with a loud thud.  Miller, Alec is cheering from the sidelines, a lone voice amidst the silence.  Then another joins in.  And another. Then, applause.

The announcer checks his display, bringing up the replay for the judges to inspect.  After a quick talk and a few shrugs, they approve the move with three green marks.  The announcer re-enters the ring and takes my hand, raising it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give it up for our surprise winner: Pain-T-Bot!”

Miller, Alec, rushes to me, throwing his arms around me. “You did it!  You beaut, why didn’t you tell me you could still access your paint reservoirs?”

I try to speak, but my vocal processor converts my reply to: “Xcgrrhll-asked–”.

“Take it easy, buddy.  You done good.  We’ll fix you up real nice.  Apply some new features.  See if we can add napalm to those canisters of yours.”


“Yeah.  We gotta get you ready for your next match.”

Oh dear.

© Joachim Heijndermans

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