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.

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