Despite the disparity in value between the two mechs, the outcome of the match was still in doubt.
Jackknife Jake’s bladed fish mech possessed superior speed and agility over the larger sea dragon-shaped mech. He showcased his strengths at the very start of the final round by darting along the flanks of his opponent’s mech.
While the Sea King possessed the advantage of power and endurance, he wouldn’t be able to leverage them properly if he couldn’t get a grip on his opponent. The King knew this and didn’t bother to chase after his opponent. He drifted in place and retaliated whenever Jake got close.
“How many weapons are stuffed inside that mech?” Raella asked with surprise as the sea dragon mech showed off its arsenal. “That’s like five or six weapon systems already!”
Ves had also noticed its diverse array of weapon hardpoints. “It’s like a hybrid mech in a sense. It possesses both short and long-ranged options.”
The sea dragon-shaped mech’s main armament consisted of its sharp and sturdy claws and teeth. Jake respected their threat to his mech and always tried to attack the Sea King from the rear.
A variety of weapon systems dotted around the frame of the sea dragon. Much like the octagon mech that appeared before, the sea dragon mech hid the exact placement of those systems underneath identical scale-like armor plating.
The sea dragon fired spikes, torpedoes, harpoons and all other assorted weaponry at the approaching fish mech. Its ammunition seemed limitless as it attempted to constrain Jackknife Jake with suppressive fire.
The bladed fish mech incurred a decent amount of scratches from the barrage. Jake chose to dodge the harpoons even if his mech had to eat a face full of spikes. In return, his mech got close enough to rake through the sea dragon mech’s sides.
“Both of them are not holding back! Jackknife Jake is throwing all caution to the wind, knowing that he won’t be able to last long enough against the Sea King’s superior range advantage!”
“The Sea King must not be feeling so well. His mech’s agility pales in comparison to the killing machine in the hands of Jackknife Jake. Look at how he’s tearing a boatload of armor plates with every pass!”
Jackknife Jake dished out a good amount of damage, but Ves could obviously tell his mech degraded faster than the sea dragon mech. As a speed-focused mech, its armor would always fall behind to a mech that aimed for balance.
More perversely, the Sea King obviously splurged a lot on the armor system of his mech. The scale-like plating took a lot of force to dislodge or cut through. Each time Jackknife Jake made a pass, his mech lost momentum, something which the Sea King eagerly pounced upon. The balance of favor started to tilt against the Myrmidon team captain.
A huge lance emerged from the mouth of the fish mech. Jackknife Jake abruptly ceased dancing around the sea dragon mech in favor of a direct approach.
The Sea King had obviously been off-guard, but a pilot of his caliber didn’t remain stunned for long. The dragon mech opened up its own jaws and ejected a large orb that it had kept hidden all this time.
The lance hit the orb head-on and exploded. Like a mine, it detonated with a furious shockwave that impacted the fish mech at virtually point-blank range.
Just as everyone thought that had been the end of the Myrmidons, Jackknife Jake emerged from the murky waters with a battered but functional mech! Another lance replaced the broken one that detonated the orb, allowing Jake to continue his rush towards the Sea Dragon.
This time, the Sea King had been truly caught off-guard, to the point where his mech instinctively fended off the lance with its claws. The lance pierced right through its left claw and pushed on to impale the upper torso. Jackknife Jake quickly detached the lance before squirreling away, leaving the weapon pinned in his opponent’s mech.
“How did Jackknife Jake survive that mine?! Quick, rerun that segment!”
The entire audience turned to the closest projection to see a slow-motion replay of the last encounter. Moments before the first lance pierced the mine, Jackknife Jake detached the lance and abruptly engaged his mech’s reverse boosters, cutting off its forward momentum and allowing it to escape the brunt of the blast.
“What a fast reaction! Jake chose to overload his reverse boosters at a critical moment! Even if they’re fried, they’ve done their job!”
The lance embedded in the sea dragon mech affected its mobility in a serious way. The Sea King’s mech experienced a lot of problems when it tried to transfer enough power to the thrusters placed along its frame.
The Sea King went mad this time. “I’ll crush you like a bug, Jake!”
The sea dragon mech showed off its full capabilities as its jaw ejected dozens of mines. They floated around the Sea King’s mech like an omnidirectional guard. Cables shot out from tiny openings, connecting the orbs to each other like a net.
The nets then started to chase after the fish mech. Jackknife Jake had to abort his hit-and-run attacks in face of this new weapon. While the nets didn’t move very fast, their expansive reach and coverage fully constrained his mobility.
Having ejected all of the mines in its stores, the sea dragon mech then revealed another weapon from its gaping jaws. The cone-shaped barrel turned out to be a sonic cannon as it started to emit continuous sound waves towards the dancing fish mech.
Like a wide-area flamethrower, the sonic weapon’s range fell off quickly. Nevertheless, the mech piloted by Jackknife Jake already started to fall apart. The Myrmidon team captain had to make a difficult choice. Either he braved the storm and risk annihilation, or he could keep his distance and bet that the sea dragon mech ran out of power first.
Mech pilots tended to favor aggression over inaction, so Jake decided to make one more play.
“Why is he going in? His mech doesn’t have much left.” Ves noted with puzzlement.
From what he could determine, the Sea King piloted a ridiculous aquatic mech. The mine net alone countered every possible move that Jake could make.
“He’ll be letting down his team and his fans if he gives up at this point.” Raella explained. As a former amateur mech athlete, she had a keen understanding of what went on in his mind. “Even if he has to put his life on the line, he owes it to his supporters to continue the fight.”
The damaged fish mech dramatically charged towards the sea dragon mech. The Sea King overloaded his sonic cannon, but the weapon merely tickled the fish mech.
As Jake reached the mine net, he revealed his final trump card. Moments before his fish mech collided against the net, his mech split in half!
The forward section of his mech crashed against the net and caused the mines to explode, obscuring everything in the vicinity.
The Sea King tentatively backed away. His mech’s excellent sensors caught the moment of separation, but before he could put much distance from the blast, Jake emerged from the turbulent water with just half of his mech intact, yet it moved just as fast as before!
Jake’s mech had obviously been designed to split beforehand. The rear part of the original fish mech took on an hydrodynamic spear shape that turned the newly revealed front portion into a stubby wedge that looked sharp enough to split apart its opponent.
His mech bore down on the sea dragon mech with the help of single-use boosters that he kept in reserve up to this point!
“Is he going to make it?!”
As Jackknife Jake came within spitting distance of his opponent, the Sea King ceased his futile attempt to dodge. Instead, he oriented his mech to allow its tail to take the blow in its stead!
A huge explosion occurred at the moment of impact! At the very last moment, Jake ejected his cockpit from his half-mech, leaving the rest to collide and explode against the Sea King’s mech in a cataclysmic blast that spread out countless of broken components in every direction.
The Sea King obviously hadn’t expected an explosion of that magnitude to erupt from the kamikaze mech. His sea dragon mech slithered out of the polluted waters in a bedraggled state.
Only its high quality components kept the mech functional, and even that came into doubt as the mech’s power reactor started failing. The previous lance strike had opened up a weak point in the Sea King’s mech that the collision and explosion had ruthlessly exploited.
A tense and chilling mood ran through the audience as they waited for the Sea King to revive his mech. The outcome of the match depended on whether his mech could still put up a fight.
According to the standard mech duels, even if a mech duellist was left with a cockpit, as long as it possessed a single backup thruster and a piddly little gun, it remained in contention. The floating cockpit piloted by Jackknife Jake demonstrated both requirements as it slowly recovered from its uncontrolled ejection.
Just as everyone thought the Sea King had fallen from his throne, his sea dragon mech emerged from its slumber for the very last time. It moved its broken form and turned a claw towards the slowly drifting cockpit.
A single claw tip ejected from the limb. Even if it hadn’t been propelled with a lot of force, it reached Jake’s cockpit in a blink and pierced through its feeble shell.
“The cockpit has been breached! Jake’s life signs have flatlined!”
“A fatality! The Sea King murdered Jackknife Jake before his victim could concede!”
The entire crowd uttered their outrage at the final move. Only the hardcore supporters of the Sea Dragons remained enlivened. The rest appeared to condemn the unsportsmanlike move. The screams of anger, horror and indignation flooded the entire arena to the point where they drowned out the announcers.
Even Ves expressed his shock at that final, spiteful act by the Sea King. “Why did he do it?”
“Because it’s within the rules.” Raella responded with a sour expression. “When you dance along the edge, you’re going to get cut sooner or later. Jackknife Jake thought he’d be clever by piloting a kamikaze mech, but as long as he and his mech remained combat capable, he’s fair game. It’s not his opponent’s responsibility to save his life.”
“So you’re allowed to deliberately kill your opponent during a duel?”
“Essentially, yes, but most people don’t go out of their way to do so. Not only will you get a bad reputation, you’ll also lose your sponsors.”
“I don’t think the Sea Dragons has any trouble attracting sponsors.”
Whatever the case, the referees had no choice but to rule the match in favor of the bloodied Sea King. It turned out that his crippling mech only had a few seconds of uptime left. If his mech ran out of juice before he did something to Jake, then the long-held Sea Crown would be lost for the first time in three years to the upstart Myrmidons.
The Sea King faced a difficult decision. If the captain of the Sea Dragons wished to retain the Sea Crown, he had to disable Jake’s cockpit by any means possible, even if it meant a lethal outcome.
He chose to do what was best for his team. Even if he had to throw away his reputation, his team secured the vaunted Sea Crown for the fourth time in a row. With bloodied hands, the Sea King cruelly showed how far he would go to defend his title.
As the analysts, pundits and fans poured over those final moments, Ves directed his floating room away from the dome. Numerous bots already entered the ring and began retrieving the remains.
“People will do anything for fame.” Raella spoke up. “Each time you enter the ring, you risk an accident that can take away your life. There’s always a risk of death when two big hunks of metal go toe-to-toe against each other.”
“What about you? Did you ever fear for your life when you entered the ring?”
“Of course, but adrenaline and a little extra liquid courage helps a lot in pushing those doubts away. You don’t want to start a duel with a clouded mind. Even if fatalities happen, I never thought it would happen to me.”
The sad outcome to a hopeful match put the entire mech arena in a somber mood. Ves didn’t pay attention to the subdued closing ceremony where the deputy team captain of the Sea Dragons accepted the Sea Crown for the fourth time in a row. The Sea King himself didn’t dare show up in front of the audience.
The dramatic turn of events put Ves in a strange mood. After having established a lifelong conviction, witnessing the extent the team captains fought to win had opened his mind to what kind of original mech he’d like to design.
Ves closed his eyes and turned his focus inward. A fleeting inspiration bloomed into a vivid image that centered around determination.
“Never give up. Fight to the end!”