“Shovi, are you paying attention?”
You can’t help but grin. For one thing, the metallic voice is utterly comforting to you. In many ways, it’s your best friend. For another, you certainly weren’t paying attention, at least not to the start-up process VALOR-5 is talking about. The source of your distraction is absolutely another reason to grin.
“Sorry, Val. Got a little sidetracked.” You glance around the monitors in front of you. “Everything is hunky-dory. Commence lift.”
Your stomach lurches at the speed of it all. You’ve never gotten tired of the feeling. The last estimate you remember was that VALOR-5 weighed in at twenty tons. It would be considerably more than that if it wasn’t built mostly from fusion-forged titanium. That estimate was before you installed the attack turret which currently sits on the robot’s shoulder, however, and it certainly didn’t take into account the weight of the ammunition.
From VALOR-5’s cockpit, you stare out over the vast expanse before you. Now that the robot has stood to its full height, you’re several stories above the ground, staring out at the vast expanse of rocky ground in front of you. Occasional patches of green break up the obsidian landscape, but not much life has taken hold on this volcanic island. Much of what has managed to get started was destroyed violently. This is a danger botanical life should expect on the island where the robot fights take place.
“Let’s ease into it today. We need to get used to the weight of the new turret.” You definitely can’t afford to lose any of your mobility. VALOR-5 is a medium-weight robot, but you have a reputation of moving like some of the lighter robots. That speed and the durability of the titanium frame has helped the two of you rise to top ranks in the league. It’s also fair to say you’re one of the best pilots in the business, and VALOR-5 is the perfect teammate for you.
“Graceful” is a relative term, but the five story robot takes off with a loping stride which most people still have a hard time believing is possible for something so large. Certainly, you see the cracks in the obsidian where VALOR-5’s feet come down on it, but the huge impact of the strides barely registers to you inside the cockpit.
“What was it which had you distracted, Shovi?”
Of course your friend would ask. Val has always been interested in your life outside of  . . . well outside of being inside itself. The smile returns to your lips.
“Got another message from her.”
“The ‘her’ in this case being GG116-YT7-05? I believe you have taken to calling her ‘Gigi.’”
“That’s her. Let’s try a high-jump. Rockets at ten percent.”
As the positive and then negative Gees send your stomach for a pleasant loop, Val continues its good natured prying.
“Is it unusual that you can have such a reaction to a letter coming from a person whose name you do not know and whom you have never seen nor heard?”
“What do you mean ‘such a reaction?’”
“Your blood flow alters when the subject comes up. It may not be easily visible to a human eye, but as you know, I monitor your vitals at all times. To my sensors, you are blushing.”
You have no idea how to respond to that, so you try to focus on the training. “Two straight kicks and a roundhouse, then let’s try a spinning back kick.”
“Commencing.” Val does not skip a beat as it goes into the sequence. “Do you two discuss the robot fights in your correspondence?”
You snort. ”Well yeah, it’s kind of my life. She follows the sport pretty hard-core, though she has this weird preference for a tank build.”
You’ve never understood why anyone would prefer a slower, more heavily fortified robot. Mobility has been the key to winning most of your matches.
“It makes sense,” continues Val, “she has piloted tank builds for most of her career and to more than modest success.”
Your eyebrows jump. “Wait, you know who Gigi is?”
“It was a simple matter of tracing her user name.”
“And she’s a pilot? Not just a fan?”
“I assumed she had mentioned it in her letters. I apologize for revealing that fact to you, but yes. She is a pilot. In fact, she is entered into the upcoming tournament we are preparing for.”