Melee Ex Machina – M. Brito

cyborg_by_bugball

Terra Wrath reeled violently across the sweat-stained arena, her agile cyborg frame bracing just in time to dull her crippling impact with the foot-thick Plexiglass wall. To any other human, such abuse would have been instantly lethal, but Terra had been engineered by the now-extinct Marlune technodieties. Her seamless bionic anatomy had been the species’ dying gift to the universe, which lagged so far behind their genius. Even cursory glances at Terra’s inner machinery had exponentially propelled human understanding of both durable super-alloys and applied cybernetics, so when Terra crashed with shattering shockwave force into the clear arena wall, the crowd saw not an explosion of bolts and bones, but rather Terra falling cat-like onto her perfectly engineered feet.

Even dues ex machina cyborg Amazons have to make money somehow. Terra simply went the avenue of underground prizefights.

In the opposite corner, standing just shy of eight feet, Terra’s Skell opponent roared, his shimmering obsidian carapace vibrating with the force of his flexing primal call. Jozef. He, too, was a figure whose origin lay in quasi-surrealistic bio-enhancement. But while Terra’s machine had been precisely constructed with careful Marlune cyber-discipline, Jozef’s hydraulic-driven, carbon-black exoskeleton was Skell crafted. The Skell were bipedal, quasi-humanoid invertebrate space pirates, dual masters of planetary usurpation and the calculated, Mengelean nature with which they experimented on their own kind. It helped make Jozef a superior product. It was he who had survived the anesthetic-free substitution of alkamitic chitin into his carapace, he who had endured the injection of concentrated hydraulic plasma into his limbs, he who had held back screams during the raw surgical replacement of his mandibles for adamantine poison fangs. It was he, not Terra, who had survived the hardships.

But that didn’t make him any less victim to Terra’s piston-backed cannonade of gut-bursting jabs. Now it was Jozef’s turn to reel. With a sickening thud he slumped to the ground, overcome by the cybernetic salvo of cuts and punches. But there was no escape. A she-wolf on the prowl, Terra’s battery-packed constitution leapt hungrily on her prey, sheer punk energy pinning her armored opponent to the floor despite her tiny size—the solider ant going in for the kill. Jozef could feel his battle-hardened exoskeleton begin buckling under the pressure of the assault. He wouldn’t last much longer.

With an ear-bleeding ding, the round ended. The Skell was saved by the bell.

Terra sat upright, straddling the monstrous warrior. Her breath was barely elevated—her cyborg biology required little oxygen—and she didn’t sweat. Then, in a degrading, yet friendly act, she reached down and roughly slapped Jozef’s alien jaw. He groaned with reluctant exasperation.

“You’re gettin’ rusty, bug,” Terra chided. Her voice was caramel-like and gentle—a feature exclusive to her Marlune construction, for human engineers had yet to eliminate the tinny whine from their artificial voice boxes.

Regardless, Jozef responded to Terra’s comment with a laugh in his strained, insectile basso.

“Well bug,” Terra asked, “same time next week?”

Jozef nodded—his mandibles couldn’t produce human speech—and Terra dismounted. She reached out her hand to help the Skell to his feet (something probably no other human had ever done; Skell were homo sapiens’ mortal enemies) and together the two rose from the stained arena floor.

“THE WINNER…” an announcer screamed over the raucous crowd.  “TERRA WRATH!”

Terra raised her fists and smiled.

 

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