Told throughout the ages, the epic is a story of strength, power, control, love, and loss. Encompassing as much humanity as possible, the epic is a story worthy of the telling.
This is one such tale.
The famed Port-town of Stumpville, known across the country as Bridgeland.
Covered in a dense pile of damp through much of the year, this hub of the fledgling human race had fallen prey to the promise of money, which brought in the most unsavory sorts of people from throughout the scattered remnants of our civilization. The town was repaired after the apocalypse (which was thwarted by a band of stubborn hackers and a bit of celestial interference, but that’s for another time [insert winking emoticon here]), and sprinkled throughout the layer of evergreens, there was a bar.
A special bar.
Friday’s (so named because of the mythical state of mind reached by so many rich slaves at the prospect of a few days of respite from their mind-numbingly dull days where they actually left their personal palaces) was built around some dark magic. That served as a magnet, pulling in insane warriors from across the land.
When the magic-swarm seeped into the realm, everyone was changed, but Stumpville saw the freaks. The ones who didn’t make it out alive with their souls intact.
They had become abominations, a new species of humanity. Geniuses in the matters unknown to most, this group of people met in this spiritual church and whorehouse, this haven of debauchery known as Friday’s.
And every year, long after their indentured servitude to the dust-sniffing petty thief who owned the tavern, and long after fake-smiling through a conversation with the woman known as the Bitching Blonde, they competed for glory and honor in the F-Cubed League.
Even though a couple had left, they made the trek back, competing in the no-holds-barred action of F-Cubed, their minds and souls shaping their team of data-driven slaves.
This particular year was “nothing special,” but that’s like saying that the sunrise looks the same from a person and a flower. It might be nothing special to some, but you weren’t there; you didn’t smell the blood, sweat, and tears of the warriors. This year, it was all on the line.
This is how it all played out.
The Cast of Characters
Annie July, aka Dray of Greencheese Bay: a random-number-generator aficionado, her passion for the sport was rivaled only by her competitive nature. Statistically, her team was always stacked. This year, some malfunctions ruined her chances, and her chance of being the dark horse were thwarted.
Tiberius Allen, aka Semi the Colon: a rookie to the F-Cube, he relied too heavily on the input of “experts” without actually watching his matches. He has two titles from other leagues, but they were pussies and Busch Leaguers compared to the cutthroat F-Cube. He half-asses his team, which is how he earned his nickname: Semi Colon.
Moudy Eel, aka The Man with the Deep Steel Balls: hailing from the land of the tusked pig, he proudly wears his official Redneck badge, often times using his precious timeouts to drink moonshine and canned lagers. But apparently, his balls were made of steel, and the prostitutes he visited frequently complained of bruised asses from his balls repeatedly banging on their cheeks during intercourse.
Deevee the Great, aka The Pussykat who Bucks: the only person to not ever work at The Tavern That Must Not Be Named, she was betrothed to Moudy, and had assimilated into the Dark Spirits of Flair like she was one too. Apparently, her ability to buck off men with her lady parts was the cure for the banging steel balls of Moudy.
Martini Gabriolis, aka He Who has No Name and All Names: a shape-changing con man with a heart of gold, he was the constant underdog, but no one who covers the sport can tell why. When interviewed in the press, he always came away with something along the lines of, “I lost because I’m the worst.” And that would be that. Curious…
J. MacSlappy, aka The Moss Man of Magic, Madness, and Mystery: the winningest winner of the F-Cube, he had a weird skin condition (some say it was a reaction to some sort of phermone secreted by one of the many crazy women he had shacked up with), leaving giant swatches of moss on his body. He said he was just hairy, but I don’t know. There was a LOT of “hair.” Prone to streaks of silence, his infrequent outbursts of words were a psychological warfare that none could resist.
Silver Grey, aka The Diddler: this womanizer was a government agent so far undercover that he didn’t even know he was a government agent. With his help, they had infiltrated several crime rings, always leading to a dead end. He is currently serving a three-year suspension for getting caught diddling a senator’s wife. But he loved to diddle. And to butcher the language of the people, but whatever.
Jeshua Jameson, aka The Screamer at Gods in Blasphemous Ways and Whatnot: Jameson, affectionately referred to as Daddy Buddha, is the sage of the group of competitors. Known to use numerous different sacred rites during his matches, he cast it all away during this season. He looked up to the sky at one point, urging the gods to fuck off. The gods responded by striking three of his robots with lightning.
Meltonius Davison, aka The ‘Balling Christ: Jeshua’s doppleganger and the man with the rapist wit, the ultimate salesman is usually in the running because of his statistically improbable way of dealing for the best team every match. With an uncanny ability to make you think that the deal is too good to be true, his subversion is usually economics. He has repeatedly called himself the “real” Messiah of the sport, but to be fair, he has a dark sense of humor, so who knows…
A. A. Ron Lickleby, aka That Dude who Literally Eats Purple People: Double A has overcome his particular speech impediment (the one that makes him do the Oh face with his words) to consistently be in the hunt each season. Coming off a tough loss the year before (where there are still mutterings of conspiracy), he fights in the tournament, not for gold, and not for honor; he fights for The Biscuit. Her honor is on the line. Her gold.
Refresher on the Rules
In the F-Cube, each bot-wrangler gets the core setup of 9 small robots:
- 1 Chucker: If you were a chess fan, the chucker is the queen. Able to score by running and throwing, this is consistently one of the most important bots on every team.
- 2 Runners: While the chucker is able to score points in numerous ways, this little bot, using its stubby legs and quick twitch reflex in the legs (well, there goes my career) is frequently the most consistent scorer. These bots are susceptible to pistons exploding.
- 2 Black Holes: Armed with mirrors and magnets, these bots score by deciding where to stand in order to absorb the chucker’s periodic laser flashes.
- 1 Magnet Tank: Usually, the scores with these serve as small buffers between loss and embarrassment, but a few reactions in the tech over the last few years has seen some good potential for new models.
- 1 Booter: Besides a frequent fascination with these bots by Jeshua, most people generally don’t think about these too much.
- 1 Wall & Chain: This linked set of bots is frequently a low scorer, but the F-Cube has custom computational algorithms employed in the governing AI, so this is a volatile group, capable of scoring vast amounts of points.
- 6 open slots for backups: one can be flexed in as needed, but each team must start with the aforementioned required layout.
Every year, some of the most gifted human specimens in the Free Realms gather for the Great Bloodletting. Greedy corporate slave owners usually subsidize the festivities, and these specimens donate their DNA to the great Database. To join the F-Cube, each person pays for copies of the DNA that they think will when them the crown. Each wrangler gets 13 servings of synthesized blood to schedule as needed.
When the sample is inserted into the bot, each bot absorbs it through the patent-pending Biological Unit Translation Technology (BUTT), connects to the Situational Haptic Interface Transmitter (SHIT), and it comes to life.
The bots compete with each other, but not directly. That would make too much sense. You take the scores from the simulated battles between the bots and other bots. This usually means it doesn’t make a lot of sense to people who’ve never battled in the F-Cube.
But they don’t know what it’s like.
They weren’t there when the Messiah rose, a champion fell, and they didn’t see the Quest for the Biscuit.
The Story so Far
Coming into the playoffs, 6 warriors stood, hoping to wrest the championship ring for their own: Both the Diddler and the ‘Balling Christ had scored enough to earn free passes to the semifinals; the quarters saw MacSlappy squaring off against Daddy Buddha (a battle that saw the heresy win out against magic; MacSlappy lost a runner to an overheated AC circuit, and his chucker went down like a little bitch, accumulating his third lowest score across its 15 previous matches), while the man who eats purple people stood against the shape-changing Gabriolis.
Gabriolis and his name-changing squad of bots fell behind early, prompting Lickleby to grin as he pulled out a misshapen, genetically aberrant mini-human from his breast pocket. The small man screamed as he lifted him to his mouth, crunching the head of the purple delicacy. Chewing the sinewy snack as his bots kept scoring unanswered points, he looked at Gabriolis. “Dood. Good game, dood.” Stealing a glance to the patio above, he winked at The Biscuit, watching the players with cool indifference. She offered him a smile before looking elsewhere.
The other players moved to watch the semis, sitting around the two tables, their own bots still fighting each other in the consolation matches without anyone really caring for their outcome.*NOTE* While some disagree with my accounts of what happened next, you must realize that there is a fictionalization that occurs when retelling a story. Some say that the real winners don’t get the mention that they deserve, and to those, I’d just say that Lickelby and The Biscuit financed this story through donations to hospitals that serve children. And most news is paid for by others to shape “reality” in a certain light anyway, so suck it up.
In the first match, the Messiah met the Heretic, a religious war played out with miniature cyborgs. Narrowly losing to the Messiah, Jeshua overturned the table in a rage that went down in the Annals of the F-Cube as the best panty-wadded freakout of the season. Extending his hands to the sky, he held out his middle fingers, yelling, “You motherfuckers! I knew it! Fuck you all!” Davison, laughing gently, scratched his balls and said, “Don’t talk to my dad like that.” And that was that. Daddy Buddha turned in a flurry, but he stopped before leaving, procrastinating his inevitable track back to the frozen wasteland of the Greencheese Bay.
In the second match, the Diddler ambled up to the table, and after uttering several unintelligible curses at Lickleby, started to dance while staring at a couple of lowly bar wenches. They seemed unimpressed, but they were drawn to him, much like flies to shit. Lickleby pulled out a little purple man from his pocked, curled him into a ball, and popped it into his mouth, choosing to suck on this one like a jawbreaker. “Dood, I need a Captain and Cohke, dood.”
As he sipped his cocktail, his team of bots barely squeaked by, even though both of his runners (two of the highest scoring runners of the entire season) ran up less than stellar performances. The Diddler, to be fair, was gracious in defeat, choosing to drown his sorrow in the ample bosom of a dim-witted wench with dreams of marrying a pale-faced gangster.
She would later be disappointed.
The ‘Balling Christ stood across from the Person Eater, neither man choosing to smile. Their bots faced each other on the purple velvet-covered table. The rest of the league stood behind them, some quickly getting in side-bets before the impending carnage. Each one had had their hopes dashed at the feet of Lady Luck, and they would all soon pack up their bots, going back to their lives, tainting everything they touched with the disease that infected them back at Friday’s Tavern. All to wait patiently for another batch of superior specimens to exploit for their own merriment…
But not before this final match.
Biscuit strode out to the center of the patio, overlooking the ornately decorated final table. She pulled at her dress, ensuring the ideal amount of cleavage echoed her ceremonial words. “To the winner, I give my hand; to the loser, I shun. To the mighty who have fallen during the course of this tournament, I say, ‘better luck next time,’ but any interference with this match will earn you banishment from the league and probably a kick in the ass as well.” She looked at the Messiah and then to the Dood. “May the best man win.” With that, she sat down to watch the match.
Each man got out his vials as the bots turned on. There were a few sputters from some of Lickleby’s backups, and one of the Messiah’s backups exploded into flames. The Messiah looked at his vials, straining to read various people’s writing (he had ended the season with none of his original vials, trading his way up the ladder a match at a time). He poured the last of some blood on his chucker, the little bot ingesting and synthesizing its robotic reflexes based on the data in the DNA.
One by one, they doused their bots with blood until the small armies stood, revving their respective motors and transistors, and I swear I could see the Lickleby’s Wall & Chain unit sizzle and crack with electricity.
I’ve never seen a group of bots score that many points during a final match; the Person Eater’s team did everything right. The Messiah’s team sputtered, keeping it close for a time, but in the end, it fell, the final score of 231 – 122 unable to tell the whole story of the fight.
Some say that the Messiah told others that he had won, suggesting that he was, in fact, the real, ‘Balling Christ who had sacrificed himself in order to really win. Some say the Diddler actually made it to the final round, using his mastery of language to craft expletive-laden outbursts as mind games.
Some say a lot of things.
In the end, The Dood and The Biscuit were together, and nothing on the field of battle held any sway over their life together. Ever the rangers, they traveled to the corners of the world, seeing some of the untouched beauty in the wastelands.
But they didn’t live happily ever after; they lived happily for a time.
The call has gone out. The new F-Cube is near, and even Daddy Buddha has resurfaced.
Who will walk away with the title this year? Who will embrace their metaphorical biscuit?
Only time will tell.