Chapter 7:

Reckless Swing

Red-Black Course

One week ago, after the training session.

“So, kid, what plan do you have in mind?”

“I have one, yeah, but I need to confirm something first. See if it’s gonna be easy for me.”

“Ask away.”

“This whole thing here,” Rex waved around him to imply the entire training field that they were in, “is just a part of the actual system in the prison, right?”

“Indeed,” AIDE gave a confirmation, rocking its body around to imitate a nodding motion. “Of course, I’m also blocking any log or history saved in this session, so you don’t have to worry about our info being leaked to the other side.”

“That’s good to hear. Then all of the data stored here – the field, the bikes, even our avatars – are connected to the system.”

“That is correct. Do you plan to alter your own specs?”

“Nah,” Rex shook his head. “I’ve been trying that ever since we got here. Looks like our avatars are strictly made to accurately mimic our physical capabilities in the outside world… Unless some sort of weird fusion happens, I don’t know if enhancing my own body would be a good option.”

“I see where you’re going for…”

“Yeah. Rigging the bikes seems to be the best idea. If we can increase their collision hitbox and adjust the impact equation between them and the ball, …”

“Are you planning to increase our offense or defense?”

“Defense, of course,” answered Rex. “That guy’s wild riding is already plenty of offense for us. I’ll lower the collision speed and weight for my own bike, and if I pick one with an already large hitbox, a little bump up wouldn’t make anyone notice.”

“You’re picking your ride right now? What if the wardens picked that before you?”

“I’m not worried about that,” Rex let out a grin before the question, but he already knew that it was just a test from the self-proclaimed healthcare AI rather than a genuine lack of knowledge. “You showed me the clips, remember? The wardens participating have a very specific set of bikes that they will use. And besides, they’re rigging their own stuff anyway, so it’s a guarantee that they’d pick what they wanted.”

“Looks like we’re in capable hands,” AIDE, satisfied with the answer, spawned a pair of robotic arms to summon Rex’s choice for him. “Knock yourself out, hacker boy.”

* * *

The present.

“Why you little…” Bruce, having lost his thought-to-be-sure goal, gritted his teeth in anger and revved up his bike to charge straight at Rex. The boy, however, had already anticipated the rough play and swiftly turned his bike sideways, utilizing its steel frame to block the warden’s advance.

A clanging sound echoed through the stadium. The impact was reduced, but the residual energy was still enough to knock Rex out of his center of gravity, giving him goosebumps all over his. However, his bike only wobbled for a second, before rebalancing itself back to its usual performance, and the most important thing, the ball, was still being kept firmly in front of the bike.

“You gotta do better than that, pal,” with a confident grin on his face, Rex revved up his own bike and started the counterattack. Compared to Zain’s incredible burst of speed just a second ago, Rex’s bike was nothing but a poor snail. However, like a snail, penetrating its tough armor was not an easy task.

“You won’t get away from me!” Bruce quickly approached Rex, ramming their bikes’ sides together. However, even through the relentless grinding, Rex’s bike still stood firm on its track, and it was instead Bruce that got pushed aside little by little.

“What the hell did you do?” The warden ragingly shouted.

“I told you, didn’t I?” Rex, meanwhile, was laughing in joy. “Just a bit of change to the collision algorithm. And now… adios!”

As the words left his mouth, Rex pushed all of his weight to his right, where Bruce’s bike was colliding with him, pulling the bike’s center along. With the added weight, the hulking machine easily towered over the shoddy bike, knocking the warden over and clearing a straight path toward his awaiting teammate.

“Zain!” Rex shouted, flicking his bike’s head as hard as he could. A perfect cross from the midfield up to the awaiting front of Zain’s bike, and just in the nick of time as the latter’s fried engine showed signs of life again.

“Oh no you don’t!” Jack, seeing the danger about to unfold, accelerated and chased after Zain as fast as he could. But in a game of speed, he had no chance of winning in the first place.


A trail of fire lit up behind Zain as he charged forward akin to a living arrow. The bike’s tip pierced the ball and blasted it forward with all its might, sending the spherical object flying like a shooting star, tearing through the wardens’ net like a sharp blade through a piece of paper.

“GOOOAAALLLL!” AIDE’s digitized shout signaled an eruption all over the field. “A magnificent performance from our challengers! All of us had thought about a backfired goal when their first quick attack didn’t work, but challenger Rex’s incredible strength and ball control helped them turn the tables at the very last moment! 1-0 to our challengers, Team Evolution!”

“We have a name?” Both Rex and Zain, meanwhile, exclaimed in doubt and confusion at the same time. A brief second later, the former clicked his tongue in annoyance:

“That damned AI, always saying nonsense…”

“A fine name you got there,” Jack approached the two with a smirk as if he was still in a regular sporting competition. “But can you evolve past us?”

“We’ve already gone past you, blondie,” Zain let out a grin in response, but the reaction only served as more amusement for the opposing him. Squinting his eyes with a hint of mockery, Jack answered:

“We’ll see about that.”

“Come on Zain, let’s get back to our position,” Rex’s voice sounded from behind to remind Zain of the match still at hand. They might have taken the lead, but it was still mere minutes after the starting whistle. A comeback could happen at any time, and Zain was very much aware of it.

“Alright,” the young man nodded in return. However, as he turned around, Zain could immediately tell the reasoning behind that threat Jack just made a few seconds ago.

“You okay?” Zain called out to his partner, and for good reasons. Even if they were a few feet apart, he could see Rex’s triceps lightly twitching, and sweat had been pouring on the boy’s forehead.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Rex answered with a smile, but he already knew he was anything but. The little maneuver he just did had already caused his muscles to burn like hell, meanwhile, his hip and shoulder joints were just a bit further away from snapping off.

At that moment, Rex had realized his biggest mistake yet: his avatar was still his own body, and his own body didn’t have the strength needed to pilot a machine like this. And unfortunately for the two of them, Rex’s reaction did not escape the prying eyes of his opponents. With a smirk on their faces, Jack and Bruce returned to their positions as well.

The second whistle sounded, signaling the return of the match. Immediately, the wardens switched to a new strategy: both Bruce and Jack advanced at once, keeping the ball firm on the latter’s possession. A one-two pass quickly left Zain in the dust as they continue, but the young man knew that his bike was only limited to a single moment of brilliance. If he tracked back now, he wouldn’t be able to score later on. Gritting his teeth, Zain instead sped up and rode forward, approaching deep inside the wardens’ field.

However, little did he realize that they had just fallen into the worst trap possible.

The wardens pincered Rex from both sides, with Jack still keeping the ball in front of him with great control. Rex tried to flick his bike’s head one more time to steal away the ball, but his large hitbox this time had backfired, sweeping the ball further away from him with only the slightest movement, which was quickly retrieved by Jack once more.

“Can’t move now, can you?” Jack grinned as he pushed Rex further toward his partner.

“Guh… But you can’t score either!” The boy answered with a powerful push of his own, wrangling back his freedom of movement by force. However, the effort was not enough, as whenever he picked a side to lean on, the warden on the other pushed his advantage further.

“What’s the matter, little man? Isn’t your partner going to help?” Bruce threw in more taunting lines.

“He… trusted me… to pass him the ball!” Rex pushed forward in a last-ditch effort to steal the ball. However, he was too late.

“Better try next time, kid.”

An instant wheelie to lift the ball up in the air, and, utilizing the torque generated, a follow-up 360 spin. Hitting the ball with the tail part of his bike, Jack scored a beautiful goal in what could only be described as a genius brush stroke on a polished painting.

“GOOOAAAALLLL!” AIDE’s voice once again flooded the stadium. “The wardens strike back! Taking advantage of challenger Rex’s lack of mobility, they created the perfect pincer and scored an equalizer in an instant! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a game in our hands!”

As the crowd erupted in hype, Zain had returned to his position mixed between annoyance and concern. “Switch with me,” the young man ordered.

“What do you mean?” Rex, confused by the request, asked.

“Switch bikes with me.”

“What? No! You’re not used to controlling my bike, and I’m definitely not used to controlling yours! If we need to take time getting used to things again, we’ll never win this!”

“We’re already losing thanks to your shitty defense! Switch if you want to live!”

“Stop caring about me! I thought you’re only in it for your own gain? I’m not here to play safe; I’m here to win!”

“Who said I was caring about you? I’m caring about my win! I can’t win a 2v1, dumbass!”

“Then shut up and return to your position! I’ll defend this goal with my life!”

Zain could have forced Rex out of his bike if he wanted to. However, at the last minute, he decided on something that he never thought he’d do – to place his trust in someone else. Was it to preserve a good team atmosphere? Or was it because it was the boy that defeated him? Zain didn’t know the answer himself, but at that moment, he betted on things working out if he followed their original plan.

The whistle blew once more, and once again, Rex was put in a pincer. This time, however, he put all of his strength onto Bruce instead, even though Jack was the one holding the ball like before.

“Tell me, do you want to lose that bad?” Jack let out a conniving smile. “… Oh well, suit yourself.”

The warden then accelerated as fast as he could, diving deep into Rex’s field, while his partner rammed onto Rex once again with all of his strength. Without Jack to keep a steady pincer, Rex’s bike was swiftly knocked over, but at the same time, the boy refused to give up so easily.

A returning ram onto Bruce jammed the engine on his bike, but the collision was too strong that the outer layer was broken, and along with it came a giant explosion engulfing both contestants in a ball of fire, just in time for Jack to score another goal to put the wardens ahead.

“Shit!” Zain could only swear as he rode as fast as he could to the scene of the crime. Both Rex and Bruce were covered in burn marks and smoke, but while the latter only suffered from minor bruises despite being the owner of the destroyed bike, the former was looking as if he was on his death bed.

“Damn it! What the hell did you do?”

“You told me… you can’t win a 2v1… right?” Trying his best to form a grin, Rex painfully answered. “So... I made it into a 1v1…”

“No, you didn’t! The guy was barely hurt, you dumbass! And the bike could be replaced any time!” Grabbing Rex by the collar, Zain tried his best to drag the boy out of the burning vehicle. “Heal up now, goddamn it!”

“Nah, he’s also… hurt quite a bit… But no worries. I have… another plan…”

“What do you…”

“Do you… trust me…”

After the failed strategy, and especially after Rex’s reckless move, there was no reason for Zain to trust his words anymore. But just like before, the young man inexplicably nodded his head.

“Good…” Rex, seemingly able to convince his partner, let out a smile and took out a small remote hidden within his suit. “It’s time… for the King to appear.”  

Steward McOy
T.K. 月狐
Robin Paharya
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