Welcome to a very special BattleBots Beat vignette for Halloween. For your enjoyment, but hopefully not for your pleasure, because eww, we bring you this tale of a plucky underdog doing anything and everything to try and shock the world. We call this story, “Conquering the Reaper.”*
“6… 5… 4… 3…”
“Bombshell’s gonna do the impossible here!”
“2…1… we’re done, knockout!”
“Michael Jeffries and Bombshell are moving onto the final!”
And with that, the Chaos Corps, with their robot Bombshell, a Swiss-army robot that was a wild-card selection, had gone all the way from the 19th seed to the 2016 BattleBots final. After getting clamped and lifted and burned alive by Complete Control in the qualifiers, they had redeemed themselves by beating the dangerous British bar spinner Cobalt and then the upset-minded Red Devil; this was followed by victories over a pair of deadly drums—Poison Arrow, which had successfully helicoptered the venerable Son of Whyachi, was their victory in the quarters, then in the semis, the Brazilian Bull that was everyone’s pick for Most Destructive, the mighty Minotaur. And now, Mike Jeffries and his team were one fight, one victory, three minutes from the most famous prize in robot combat: the Giant Nut.
Of course, there was so much work to be done—yes, Bombshell had won, but when you go into a fight with one of the RioBotz drum spinners, whatever weight class it may be, you do not escape unscathed. Between the wedge, the vertical disk, whatever looked like it was starting to smoke against the end of the fight, the rest of the armor, there was much to check on in the little bit of time while the other semifinal—Tombstone vs. Yeti—was going on. Plus strategy, which set-up to use for each opponent. Probably not the axe against either, so either the vertical disk or the long undercutter blade.
The other semifinal was on the TV in the pits. Mike Jeffries, the captain,
went to check on the action, and ultimately saw the judges’ decision, as given by Faruq Tauheed-Jenkins inside the Box.
“The winner, by unanimous decision, is… TOMBSTONE!”
With that now determined, the strategy work could be halved, even if the repair work would still take them every minute they had. There wasn’t one to lose, repairing the damage from one dangerous spinning weapon and preparing for an equally dangerous second. As he walked around, back to the team’s table, he muttered something along the lines of “What I’d give to beat Tombstone…” All of a sudden…
“Oh, hi Mark.”
It was Mark Setrakian. One of the godfathers of combat robotics, Mark built one-time Robot Wars co-champion The Master, along with six-legged Mechadon, all the robots from that Robot Combat League show that was kinda cheesy on the Sci-Fi channel, and was tinkering with his most recent robotics build, that spinning table they had put the Giant Nut on.
“So Mike, Tombstone in the final. How’re you feeling?”
“Well, Mark, we took some damage against Minotaur, the disk got dinged pretty badly, so I don’t know if we’re going to be able to use it. I’m thinking we’ll have to use the undercutter, hopefully our reach is better than Ray’s and maybe we can catch the weapon chain. But it’s going to be a tough fight, and hopefully a great fight against a great robot. I know I’d give anything to beat it.”
“Anything, you say?”
“All right.” Mark snapped his fingers, and Mike had a brief moment where it was like he saw a giant flash of light, having to duck his head and close his eyes for a moment.
“Go get ’em, Mike. And, uh, you know what? I’m feeling generous, and knowing everything that you’ve had, or actually,” Mark looked at his watch, “will have to go through… consider this one free of charge.”
“Uhhh, okay Mark, thanks? I’m not sure what you mean but…”
But the man from Team Sinister was already gone. Mike looked around. Something looked different, but it just had to be memory or something. Like where did Will Bales get that neon yellow racing suit anyway, and why were there other people dressed up like hamburger ingredients? Who knows, he had probably been in the pits for too long. Someone from the Chaos Corps waved to bring him back to their table to get ready for the fight, and when Mike saw that the robot was back together he couldn’t believe his eyes. Sure, it was Bombshell all right, but… what was that at the front? Instead of the small wedge and large vertical disk, there was, well, this:
Well, that but a lot more scuffed up. So clearly whatever that wedge was, wherever it came from, it was not brand-spanking new. Which was even stranger, because that was an attachment he had never seen before and you’d think the captain would know of any secret last-minute “hey we found this giant plow of a wedge” moments. But, assuming there was some sort of brilliant ingenuity from the rest of the squad in his moment of reflection, which is totally possible, they went to go fight.
“Oh, is that Tombstone’s chain? …It is! It is, it’s the chain of Tombstone! The champ has lost his weapon only 40 ticks into this fight!”
“…Don’t look now, Chris, but Bombshell thinks he can win this fight.”
“…Chris, I think Tombstone may have just backed onto his own weapon chain here!”
“Aww, did the champ high-center himself on his own chain? A rare mistake by Ray Billings!”
“10… 9… 8… 7… 6…”
“The countdown has started! Do we have a 16 seed upsetting the 1?”
Mike froze. “16 seed?” he thought. “Wait, when did we get a bump up the seeding? And mid-tournament?”
“2… 1… knockout!”
“The champ! Is gone!”
“Wait, but Bite Force is the champ, so…” All of a sudden Mike Jeffries heard a voice. It wasn’t from anyone around him. It wasn’t the ref. Or Chris, or Kenny, or Faruq, or his team, or even Ray. It was the voice of Mark Setrakian. But, from inside his head? How?
“Mark? Did we just… How are… what’s going on?”
“Michael, you said you wanted to beat Tombstone more than anything at that moment, right?”
“Well, you beat Tombstone.”
“So why are Chris and Kenny talking about Tombstone being the defending champ? And Bombshell moving to the quarterfinals? And—”
“You didn’t say when.”
“When you beat Tombstone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, you must be so glad I did this one for free, but I have no need for souls, I build robots. Mechadon might though since that’s a beast of its own accord, but the motors aren’t in so he doesn’t know about this. Probably for the best, for your sake.
“This does happen, this fight you just witnessed. You do beat Tombstone. When the Internet sees it, well, of course, their reaction. None of it at you. Just at the situation. How you get there and how you do the rest of the way in 2018 is… exquisite, if I say so myself. So now that you know your wish is granted, and at no cost to your soul to boot,” Mike heard an audible finger-snap sound in his brain.
Mike was back in the driver’s booth, with the starting lights coming on to start the final. Bombshell had its undercutter, meant to hit the weapon chain and destroy it with one fell swoop. Meanwhile, Tombstone was coming at Bombshell, blue bar spinning, knowing there was no time to allow Bombshell’s undercutter to adjust.
“Back to reality,” Mark chuckled. “Oh, and do get well soon, for next time, this will cost you.”
“…Uh-oh! One of the wheels has come off of Bombshell!”
*Loosely based on actual BattleBots events. Very loosely.