The words played through his mind as darkness descended suddenly with the blotting out of the sun. The Dome was early on this twelfth day since the game had begun. It seemed that things were spiraling out of control and the Admins needed everything to run smoothly lest the crowds lost interest in the long drawn spectacle. Usually humans died by the third day; four if they were skilled enough. Tobor was the first exception to the rule.
“We commence day twelve of Last Robot on Earth!” A voice boomed from the Dome’s overhead speakers. “In this amazing spectacle of human survival, contestant 27274 has eluded Exterminator for yet another day. Is this not fantastic!?”
“Hell no.” Tobor whispered as he jogged to a stop and took a swig from his flask. He grimaced against the taste, shook his bedraggled locks then swept them back with one hand. It was completely dark. He knew this was some city lost during the Machination War, perhaps Chicago, perhaps Lagos – hell it could be Johannesburg or Mumbai for all he knew. But what he did know, was that he needed to get out of the street and find another place to hide. Artificial light had been completely shut off to make the game that much harder, but what the Admins didn’t know, was that Tobor didn’t need artificial light. In fact, he didn’t need much at all, which had so far helped him survive for so long. He saw the haphazardly parked cars as clearly as he saw the dilapidated buildings still crumbling as though the attack had been an hour ago rather than a couple of decades. He was about to move when the voice boomed into the darkness.
“And now a special announcement for the first time on Last Robot on Earth, a second human will be introduced into the game. That’s right folks! It’s a two for one special here on LRE!”
Tobor grunted, tucked his flask into the side pouch of his backpack and scanned the buildings for a vantage point,
“And of course, with a change to the game we must also change the rules slightly. Contestant 27274, I hope you’re listening carefully because this one is for you. If Exterminator finds and kills the second human, you must forfeit the game. And your life of course.” A laugh echoed through the silence.
“Ah come on.” he spat as he vaulted over a car hood and ducked through the broken entrance of some building. It looked like a bank from the tiny cubicles separated by broken glass dividers. He blinked a few times and let the world cascade from green, to amber to white; with his vision adjusted, he spotted a staircase and moved for it.
“Because we are such gracious hosts, we’ll give you thirty seconds to prepare yourself. Good luck to both of you.” There was an audible click and the silence that followed seemed deafening. Nonetheless Tobor was moving. From a decent height, he might be able to see the new player enter the stage; but knowing the admins, they would probably sneak the player in – and closer to the Exterminator too. Taking the stairs two at a time, deft and agile over some of the broken pieces, he reached the highest point he dared to go – a floor with a window surprisingly still intact - and looked across the concrete jungle.
“Not even a countdown for your best player?” He asked in the silence, adjusting the pack on his back. Looking out the window, he spotted a fleck of white further in the distance radiating with an aquamarine hue through its system. He realized it was the Exterminator but something about it was different. Usually it was a tall, bulky creature with humanoid features and none of the humanity. This was a smaller, sleeker version and its humanity disappeared with the six arms protruding from its torso.
“Well, well, well, Exterminator 2-point-spider. Someone’s been reading too many Spider-man comics.” He was about to laugh when he saw a new glimmer about two blocks from the human-arachnid. This glimmer was clearly human when the orange and red silhouette crawled out of a hole in the ground.
“Player two has entered the game.”
But player two was significantly shorter. The silhouette started to dash forward and smacked right into a car. The clang of bone on metal was loud in the ensuing silence and Extermi-arachnid turned towards the sound.
“Damnit!” Tobor considered running back down the stairs and knew he wouldn’t have enough time. He thanked the Admins for lack of light as his next feat would have crossed him off the human list. And ended the game. He moved back in the room, took a running start and dived out the window. He could still hear the tinkle of glass as his peripheral saw the Exterminator turn towards him and dash in his direction. He landed hard, the street breaking underneath him into a mini crater. But he was already in a crouching run, moving down the road and towards the second player. Within moments, faster than he’d anticipated, he sensed his opponent behind him. And sensors were like magnets facing opposite directions. He dashed forward, running with the balls of his feet hitting the ground first to soften his steps, moving around cars rather than over them but he could already feel his pursuer approaching. Looking ahead, he saw the pulse of red and orange further in the distance behind a car. At the same time, machine gun fire broke the silence as bullets ricocheted across cars and buildings. Tobor instinctively ducked but kept moving forward. Always prepared, he reached for a carefully stitched zip on the bottom of his backpack that he could reach without taking off the bag. He zipped it enough to drop a spherical object into his hand and a quick zip up closed it. He was nearing player two now, and he knew he only had one shot at this. The Exterminator stopped firing and at that point, Tobor rose from his crouch and sprinted forward. At the same time, Exterminator fired a single shot from a pistol. It was a dull sound compared to the machine gun fire, but it was as loud as it could have ever been. Tobor grunted as he felt the projectile lodge itself in his shoulder with a searing pain. It spun him around and at the same time he pulled the pin on the spherical object in his hand with a soft clink. He was still turning, when he threw the object at the pursuer and as the object spun in mid-air, he dived backwards over the car. There was a single clank as the object hit the ground and in the next moment, a white pulse flashed through the streets radiating with an electrical surge. The EMP would have worked on him too, but he’d gone to great lengths to appear as human as possible. And although the charge swept through his body as it surely did to the Exterminator, his inner insulation - which also made his vitals appear in the same red and orange as a human - prevented the charge from short-circuiting him. He twitched into a seated position and looked over at player two, blinking his vision back to green. Long curls fell over the boy’s face where a bruise was swelling on his forehead. Tobor rose to his feet and picked the limp body up into his arms, his arms crackling under the weight and weakened synapses.
“Typical admins, bringing a noob to the battlefield.” He started moving fast as he knew the EMP wouldn’t keep Exterminator down for long. He gazed down at the drooling face and shook his own locks from his eyes,
“If it’s come to this, I guess it’s time to end this game.”