Victoria

Anyone who knew Victoria would have told you that she was smart, fun-loving, and a joy to be around. As an undergrad studying wildlife science, her future looked bright. Graduation was three months away, and she’d already accepted a job with the Forest Service starting in the summer. Things couldn’t get better.

That all fell apart when Victoria’s car was hit by a tank truck on the freeway home to visit her parents. The explosion killed the truck driver instantly, and doctors gave Victoria forty-eight hours at max. As her state declined over the next eight, attempts to save her stopped, and questions turned to funeral arrangements.

By nothing short of a miracle, researchers from Western Special were visiting the hospital for the week. Seeing Victoria’s state as an opportunity both to save a life and to create a vision, they coded her soul onto a biochip as it left her dying body. When she awoke days later, it was into a new body and a new life.

As far as anyone could find out, a human soul had never been transferred into a robot body. For Victoria, nothing about the change was easy. Including her friends, most people refused to believe that she was really Victoria. Her parents even disowned her, calling her new body a gross insult to their daughter’s memory.

Apart, Victoria quickly gained empathy for robots in society. Where before she’d had little opinion on their rights, now life reminded her daily that she was a second-class citizen. Her peers ignored her, stores refused her business, and most everyone treated her like an appliance instead of a person. The Forest Service retracted it’s job offer, too, and she was only allowed to graduate after working with a pro-robot senator.

Most would have given up, but not Victoria. Her mechanical body isn’t suited to the forests she loves, so she threw herself onto the front lines of the robot rights movement. Today she spends most of her time at outreach events and political rallies, and she’s developed a deep love for the robot community.

In short, Victoria is nothing like who she used to be. She’s a new citizen of a strange world, and it’s far from welcoming. But in her words, she wouldn’t go back if she had the choice. This is her new life, and she’s determined to make it her best.

FortiFi

Everett was never athletic, and that didn’t do him much good in the stadium. Between heavy armor and heavier weapons, he failed to qualify four years in a row because he simply wasn’t strong enough. That changed when a friend at NASA got him a miscellaneous research grant. A mechanic at heart, Everett set about to build an all-in-one stadium combat solution. Rules don’t allow mechs or robots, so he designed the next best thing. It’s called FortiFi.

The idea started with Everett’s quantum laptop. Quantum computing had about tapered off in the medical and aerospace industries, but it had never been tested in combat systems. With a little coding—okay, several weeks’ worth—Everett managed fine control over a foam dart turret by aiming an empty Nerf pistol at a paper target and firing. From there it wasn’t a stretch to link pistol control to a pivoting minigun, and then switching control through an assortment of mounted weapons was child’s play.

But FortiFi’s real game changer is its defense system. Everett used most of the grant money to buy quantum processors, and they power countermeasure arrays that target incoming bullets and shoot them out of the sky before they reach him. The system handles shrapnel, too, and while it certainly costs FortiFi’s processors to do it continuously at short range, it has yet to fail.

The defense system completely replaces armor. While normal game armor is heavy even for strong players and covers the whole body, all Everett needs is a bulletproof vest and a lightweight helmet, and even those are just safeguards.

Everett’s control pistol is a definite step up from the Nerf gun used in testing, too. It links seamlessly with FortiFi to control its respective weapons. When Everett aims, FortiFi triangulates his target, and when he pulls the trigger, FortiFi fires. FortiFi maintains an optimal position with respect to Everett, too, jumping back or flying overhead when needed.

Needless to say, NASA was impressed with the end product. Everett’s combat tech turned out to be some of the best in the States, and it shows in the stadium. No one expected FortiFi’s social impact, though. Even though FortiFi isn’t a robot, the way Everett trusts it has become a metaphor for what robots can accomplish when humans decide to trust them. Of course, games are games, but who knows? FortiFi might mean a new era for robot rights.

Wind-up

This wind-up unit was built to fly into a room and exhaust all of its munitions (including the two rockets) before detonating its power cores in an impressive explosion. The entire affair lasts about six seconds. I think that comes out to something like $60,000 per second, give or take.

Lightning

The first design for the Lightning included an experimental drive for nearing lightspeed in atmosphere. When the drive project lost funding (let’s face it; it was always going to), the Lighting looked like it was going to with it. Then Brad on the shop floor stole a copy of the blueprints and drew in a low Earth orbit rocket where the lightspeed drive was going to be. He probably meant it as a joke, but since the design already called for a frontal force field projector to take air friction, strapping on the rocket turned out to be perfect. After a few short months, the Lightning hit the airways. And yes, it still managed to break most airspeed records.