Ten minutes later, the crowd started screaming.
The announcer shouted, “The Murdilator wins! The paramedics are taking Electroman out of the arena, and in five minutes you’ll be able to see the next round—Rook versus Frog! That’s right, the up and coming Rook versus a brand new opponent in powered armor. All that, in just FIVE minutes. Get your drinks and snacks now because you won’t want to miss a second of it.”
Larry took a breath, realizing that he actually felt nervous. And how crazy was that? It was just a fight. How many of those had there been in the last few years? This time his opponent would at least be human, and a kid at that. He’d seen worse.
No denying though, that Rook probably hated him, and wouldn’t hesitate to kill him.
Well, it wouldn’t be his first opponent with a grudge.
He decided to run through the suit’s checklist. He’d already done it when he started the thing up, but if it kept his mind occupied, he wouldn’t complain.
Three items from the end of the list, the announcer stated, “Frog and Rook, we are opening the doors. Please proceed to the middle of the arena, and don’t start fighting until the referee gives you the signal!”
The doors opened, and Larry walked the Frog suit forward. It felt different than the Rhino suit, more like the cockpit of a plane.
There were reasons. If his arms and legs were directly inside the Frog suit’s limbs, they’d probably get ripped off. Human limbs just didn’t move the same way.
On the other side of the arena, a bird-like figure extended its wings, and flew, landing at the halfway point next to the referee.
Larry pressed down on the accelerator pedal, giving the suit a little speed, but nowhere near the max. Rook didn’t need to see that.
The Frog made a comfortable series of jumps. The suit’s computer plotted each point of contact with the floor on the helmet’s faceplate, extending them out in a line, and indicating the spot with the image of a frog. He wasn’t sure anymore whether he or Joe had swapped out Man-machine’s graphic with the one from the Frogger video game, but they’d both thought it was funny.
Larry set the end point at a few feet from the ref. The suit made a few more jumps, slowing with the last few, and stopping perfectly on the last. However much of pain it was to fight Man-machine, Larry couldn’t fault his design. Lots of suits would have fallen over on the last jump.
The ref wore powered armor just like the security people, except they’d painted the upper half with white and black stripes. The ref’s helmet was black, the faceplate too dark to see anything inside.
Given the type of person who fought, the ref could use a secret identity, Larry thought.
“Alright,” the referee said, “you’re both here. I’ll remind you of the rules. Keep the people in the stands out of it, take surrenders, and if we tell you to stop, stop. Got it?”
Rook’s beak dipped, but he didn’t say anything.
Larry clicked on the speaker, and said, “You got it, man.”
The ref backed up a couple steps. “When I drop my hand, you fight.”
He lifted his armored right arm. “One…”
In a low voice, Rook said, “I’m going to kill you.”
The ref said, “Two…”
Larry set the endpoint to the ground just on the left side of Rook. “I figured,” he said.
“Three,” the ref said, and let his arm fall.
Larry clicked the jump button, and the suit moved instantly, landing perfectly positioned for Larry’s punch.
The Frog’s fist hit Rook in the abdomen, knocking him backward. He rolled, wings flopping everywhere.
Laughter and cheering filled the arena.
Larry pointed the suit toward Rook, and pressed jump again. This time it made the distance in two leaps—but not quickly enough. Rook had taken to the air.
Rook whirled around, making quick circles above him.
“What are you going to do now? Huh? No guns? Well, I’ve got guns.”
Bullets rained down from above, hitting the armor with dull thuds. Larry could feel each hit. He jumped. The suit could take bullets for a while, but not forever.
He landed forty feet away, leaving Rook to fire wildly after him, mostly missing. Bits of the concrete floor shot away from the Frog’s feet. Larry set the Frog to jump again, choosing a more complex pattern he’d preprogrammed—forward and to the right, forward and to the left, backward to the left.
He checked the faceplate for Rook.
A red dot pointed out Rook—thirty feet to his left. From the jerky movement as Rook wheeled around, Larry guessed Rook had only just realized that Larry had doubled back.
Or maybe Rook had damaged his wing.
Either way, Larry thought, there was only one thing to do. He set a spot just ahead of Rook as the endpoint, and jumped into the air.