Season 1:15 ‘The Grid’

by P WIlliam Ross

You will not defeat me, not in my own arena,”

A drawbridge is lowered across the castle’s moat at our arrival. I expected there would have been even more opposition. Einstein is changing up his tactics for our final showdown. We pass through a small courtyard and Jason shoves open two large brass doors leading into the castle.
We’re no longer in a fantasy game. The inside of the castle is much larger than it should be given the size of the exterior. Of course, we’re playing by a different set of rules. Einstein has brought back the sense of science fiction and robotics present in our encounters with his other creations.
There are no defined boundaries in the new space. We’re standing on a grid of glowing blue lines with no ceiling or walls. The door behind us hangs in space. It’d be something to marvel at under different circumstances. Our outfits have changed to match the new decor. Black bodysuits with illuminated belts. Jason is left shirtless again.
“Welcome to my home,” Einstein says.
He has chosen to assume a new form for our fight. He’s much taller than he was in the videos and carries an over-sized sword. Whomever programmed him was really into the failed sci-fi aesthetic of the late 80’s. The sword is one sleek black piece with a glowing orb at the end of the hilt. None of us were afforded weapons.
Jason charges headlong at Einstein. I understand time is of the essence, but we’re fighting on his turf. Even though we outnumber him I have a bad feeling about this fight. Then again, what else should I expect Jay to do? Einstein sidesteps the charge and swipes with his sword, leaving a cut on Jason’s shoulder. The rest of us spring into action.
Einstein moves to finish Jason off, but Mach shoves his swing off-balance. Ingot tries to manipulate the sword. In this domain it could be made of anything; not metallic.
As I had suspected, his mind is impenetrable. He may look human, but he’s just lines of code at his core. It explains why I’m failing to invade his mind. Einstein makes an overhead cleave at Jason who grabs his wrists before the sword finishes its arc. Jason’s body tenses under the force of the swing. Dragonette sprays a cone of flame at Einstein as a distraction. He’s unscathed.
“How do we beat him?” Ingot asks.
“I was kind of hoping you’d have an idea,” I say.
“He’s a computer program. We’d need access to a console or something. Some sort of administrative override.”
“What if we stab him with his own sword?”
“We could try it,” she says.
“On it,” Jason shouts.
Mach dashes forward and rolls into Einstein’s legs. It’s enough to trip him up. He stabs the sword into the ground to catch himself. Jason grabs onto the hilt to wrest control of the weapon. They struggle over control; Einstein refuses to give up so easily.
“You will not defeat me, not in my own arena,” he says. He grabs Jason’s wrist with one hand and materializes a dagger in his other hand. Einstein stabs Jason with one stroke in the forearm, piercing through to the other side.
“No!” Dragonette shouts. She charges forward to exact revenge.
Jason has maintained his grip on the sword. Einstein twists the dagger in Jason’s arm and I can see the pain boiling up inside of him. But there’s even more rage waiting to be released.
“I didn’t know superiority meant cheating,” Jason says.
“There’s a difference between cheating and outsmarting. Machines–”
“How about you shut the fuck up?”
He releases the hilt and lands a devastating punch to Einstein’s face, cracking part of his helmet. Einstein staggers and is met with a fire blast. Dragonette gives a flap of her wings to propel forward. She wraps her arms around Einstein and they topple over. Jason grabs the sword from the ground.
Einstein lays flat on his back. Dragonette burnt most of his face. Jason plants a foot on his stomach, there’s a glimmer in his eyes and a wicked smirk on his face. He heaves the sword down with a cry and plunges it into Einstein’s chest. One final yell before he dissolves into fragments. Our surroundings flicker and then fade to black.
I’m conscious of my real body again. All of the computer screens are showing static. Jason has no cuts on him.
“Wow. That was a trip,” Chase says.
“Can we go home now? No after-party for me,” Dragonette adds.
“I feel you,” I say.
We’ve defeated our first villain. He was really just a menace to us, but in the end he threatened to wipe out most of humanity and repopulate the Earth with machines. Or at least I would’ve if I were him. Moments like these are what mom and dad must really enjoy; knowing they’ve made the world a little bit safer. Even if no one else is aware of it.
One of the monitors changes to a broadcast from inside a train car.
“So you sons, and daughters, of bitches beat the big brain computer program. I hate to spoil your party, but Einstein let me in on his plan long before your five showed up.”
“Cougar.”
“You’re looking at her. I’m here on a train headed to London, and let’s just say it’s carrying some special cargo.”
“But we beat Einstein, he said the bombs would all be disarmed.”
She moves the camera to bring a small metal box into view. There are two glass cylinders strapped to the top and filled with a black liquid. It must be the bomb.
“They were. I just re-armed one of them. Don’t think a little explosion and virus will have any effect on me.”
“Chase.”
“Yeah?”
“We’re going to need you to run.”

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