Victoria checked over the suit, running diagnostics through the lenses she wore, every circuit and cable checked for flaws. She had a live feed running of Theresa’s workshop in Los Alamos, used it to fuel her disdain and keep her sharp.
The smart money was on them in the final. The visuals alone would make for a larger audience share. It helped Victoria to not like Theresa Montoya, thirty-five million in endorsements and never had her eyebrows done.
Victoria came from a line of alpha females. They were a genetic production line of achievement. Victoria had not won science fair projects, she had won Google competitions. Moving into Power Combat was a good way to generate raw funding for her personal projects but she enjoyed the objectification.
She needed the win. The suit had a few surprises to bring in.
Theresa hung from the ceiling in a harness, underneath the guts of her suit, Toreador with a tablet connected to a data port, doing the final checks before the tournament tomorrow night. Her second title defence, and this time with a new contract, she would net eighteen million dollars if she won.
She was thinking about the rated contender, Victoria Ashford, and the things she had said online. The commission encouraged theatre but Victoria had said things which cut a little too deep to bear without comment. She had done homework on the suit too, the tentacle array which got around the ban on projectiles. It gave her a reach Theresa could not match without going heavy on the boosters but it was sloppy work.
They both burned fierce, afraid it would turn them to ash in the middle of the chamber.
The introductions boomed out. The audience roared from their couches and virtual reality stations across the network, beamed into their audio, along with audio tracks for conferences with their support teams and even a specialist ‘shit talk’ track if they chose to.
Theresa had no taste for it.
Victoria was all over it.
She did not hold back. The names were all ones Theresa heard growing up, made dismal by the educated voice delivering them.
Racism wasn’t the career-ending sentiment it used to be. Theresa focused on her breathing, flexed inside the suit with muscles trained by mixed martial arts coaches. She lived on determination and tailored protein, spending her nights running through programs with the suit, making it move to her will.
The klaxon sounded and they launched at one another.
Tentacles whipped. Theresa kept her hands up, monitoring the propulsion system and getting ready to brake.
She registered the impact in her left side, just under the arm.
It was too fast. She checked the suit’s vitals, sent commands to run basic repairs as she brought her left knee up.
Victoria whipped forwards, throbbing elbows, elongated to blunt points before they whipped backwards, like water struck then returning to its shape.
Theresa tilted her hips upwards, struck out with a muay thai front kick. The heel of her foot caught Victoria in the face. The impact rocked her backwards, tentacles flailing about her as she sought to regain control.
Theresa boosted with shimmering bursts of gravity behind her, through the chill to finish her.
There had been a show Theresa watched as a girl, British where people built robots to fight one another. It was genteel in a way which drew her attention. Friendly competition, which soon developed a sense of evolution and possibility which made her want to do something just like it.
It never occurred to her she could not. She flew towards Victoria not with hate in her heart but wonder. The endorsement money went to fund wells in Peru and schools in England.
The racist stuff lent a little pepper to her actions though.
She cracked Victoria again, sending propulsive blasts behind each blow, the good mechanics she had believed in since seeing the tv show for the first time.
Victoria fought back, but Theresa swept around her, threw rocket kicks into her hips and sides. Raw blows delivered without mercy.
Victoria pleaded with her, and Theresa flew backwards.
The klaxon brayed. Victoria managed a listless, unsteady flight back to her platform and Theresa watched her go with a dark warmth in her heart.
She raised her arms to the sky and bellowed her joy into the void.