The Tech Games
The sun shined through the octagonal window of a silent, three-story plugin house. Nanobots covered a transparent desk in a messy bedroom. The quiet in the room was disturbed with a shrill ringing. The noise pierced the ear of a sleeping boy as he gasped and woke up to answer the call on the mote wrapped around his wrist.
“Hello?” said the boy, suddenly alert and ready.
“Charlie, wake up!”
“Hey, Thomas!” said Charlie with a yawn as he stretched his long-sleeved pajamas. “It’s too early. Summer isn’t over yet.”
“Today is registration for the Brook Park Brawl. We have to hurry or we won’t get a spot!” said Thomas quickly.
Charlie’s eyes lit up.
“Meet me at bus stop 32,” said Thomas. “See you in a bit!” He ended the call.
As Charlie smiled and hopped out of bed, he put his right arm across his left creating a letter T. He bent his knees slightly and yelled out, “It’s techie time!”
Charlie tripped over wires covering his navy blue floor. But he scrambled to get up, determined to get ready. He hopped into the shower, music blasting from the small speakers with Charlie singing along to his favorite tunes. Afterwards, he threw on his favorite techie flannel, pulled up his black shorts, placed his colorful striped socks up to his calves and pulled out his beanie, which matched his socks. Charlie looked at the beanie and thought about what it meant to him.
“Miss you, Unc,” whispered Charlie softly as he slid on his beanie.
Charlie walked up to the triangular mirror hanging from a plain wall covered in an assortment of colorful globeanies. Charlie moved his jet-black hair and adjusted a small device in his right ear. The boy, only a few months past his thirteen birthday, went on to fix his beanie to make sure the device was hidden from plain view. He grabbed his red and blue rocket backpack from the floor, then walked out of his room. A moment later, Charlie returned to the room and retrieved from its spot against the wall his fifty-pound robot.
“Oops! Wouldn’t want to forget this,” said Charlie as he slid it inside his backpack. Then he ran out the door once again. The blue glass hallway narrowed as Charlie approached the cylinder glass elevator that would take him down to the kitchen. As he stepped out, he dashed to the entrance door.
“Where are you going?” asked his mother, sitting at the kitchen table in her own long-sleeved pajamas.
Charlie stopped dead in his tracks by the front door and glanced back. “Thomas’s,” said Charlie as he turned the knob.
Mrs. Robles sipped her tea and smiled. “Have fun, mijo!”
Charlie lit up with excitement, then strolled out of his three-level silver house and ran a short distance down the road to a transparent flag that read Bus Stop 32. Charlie plopped on the glowing bench, shaking both legs up and down as he moved his head side to side.
“Charlie,” said an approaching voice. Charlie gazed up and lowered the volume of his right headphone. He saw a teenage boy approach from a black and white pyramidal plugin home adjacent to his own. His blond hair was parted, and he wore a black shirt, white shorts and white tennis shoes.
“Thomas,” replied Charlie as he jumped up and formed a T with his arms. “It’s techie time!”
Thomas crossed his arms. “Let’s get techie!” He fixed his glasses as he glanced at Charlie, who again adjusted the device in his right ear. “You need to lower your hearing aid. You could damage your ear even more,” said Thomas.
“Not so loud. I don’t want people to know,” said Charlie with a finger over his lips.
“Sorry, I forgot,” said Thomas, lowering his eyes. “You should lower the volume when you’re about to sleep.”
Charlie nodded as he turned the volume down. A bus slowly approached from down the road. The bus spoke in a robotic voice: “Please stand back and wait until the doors have fully opened. Be mindful of other passengers exiting the bus.”
Coming to a stop, the bus opened its two white glass doors reflecting the blazing summer sun. Once the light on top of the bus changed from red to green, Charlie and Thomas entered. Charlie and Thomas favored the seats in the rear of the bus by the Lite-Fi. There Thomas pulled out a small cube from his backpack and showed it to Charlie.
“Hey, Charlie, look what I—”
“That’s a space box!” shouted Charlie as he stuck out his hands. “Let me hold it.”
Thomas handed it to Charlie. “It’s a 2499 miniature space box. Brand new,” said Thomas.
“It’s so small,” said Charlie.
“People got tired of traveling with the original. Some wanted it to be travel-sized like a biomech key.”
“It looks just like a biomech key,” said Charlie in awe.
“That’s what I just said,” said Thomas as he shook his head and grinned.
Charlie placed his two index fingers on the sides of the white six-sided cube and pressed in. The space box opened up. Charlie scrolled through the channels to Anime 24/7. He pushed the holographic square and the space box expanded further, its four sides floating onto the bus’s white seat. The sides merged to become a single twelve-by-twelve screen. Thomas and Charlie touched a star symbol that read Favorites.
“Believe it!” shouted a blond-haired boy on the screen wearing an orange jumpsuit.
“Believe it,” copied Charlie.
“Thought it was techie time,” said Thomas, adjusting his glasses.
“In the ninja world, it’s believe it,” Charlie explained, “and in Onan, it’s let’s get techie.”
“The people from Deki No Nippon brought anime to Onan,” said Thomas.
“You mean Nation Seven?” asked Charlie.
“They call themselves Deki No Nippon,” said Thomas.
The bus called out the number of the stops as they arrived, but the numbers soon transitioned into names. “Welcome to Brook Park,” said the bus. “The home of Giga Brook, our very first techie tree.”
“I need to put away the space box,” said Thomas as he opened his backpack.
“Come on, Thomas, one more episode,” said Charlie with his puppy eyes.
“What time is it Charlie?” said Thomas with a half-smile.
Charlie forgot about the space box immediately. “It’s techie time!” he shouted. He grunted as he lifted and strapped on his heavy silver and black rocket backpack and walked toward the front of the bus. The bus slowed down and stopped. Both boys exited the transport.
As the bus drove away, Thomas and Charlie ran past all the pedestrians and rover-runners traveling around the silver huts scattered around the park. “Excuse me, pardon me.”
But Thomas could not keep up, and as Charlie soon vanished in a crowded field of blue-colored grass, Thomas hunted around for his friend. He saw that there were three lines that stretched from the bus stop to the two hundred-foot Giga Brook tree, which glowed a bright blue color in the center of Brook Park. Though he couldn’t see from so far away, Thomas knew the leaves exposed small charging wires that powered any device hooked onto them. Beneath Giga Brook sat all sorts of techies with their devices. Thomas wished he were there just on his Motion Integrated Tablet clicking away. He shook his head to focus on the present and continued to seek out Charlie, finally catching him in the back of the massive crowd with the tree in the distance. He caught his breath, looking up wide-eyed as he said, “What a line! There’s no way we’ll get a spot.”
Charlie looked at the line and said, “We will. It’s open for everyone.”
Thomas surveyed the crowd of techies with gadgets hanging from each backpack. “There’s a timeframe to register and only twenty teams compete. If we don’t make it up there in time, we don’t participate.”
Charlie held his ground at the back of the line. “We will make it, Thomas,” he said with determination in his eyes as he squeezed the straps of his backpack.
Thomas approximated the number of people in line and started to calculate on the mote on his wrist how long it would take to reach the front. “According to my calculations, we won’t.” But Charlie stood his ground. Thomas started searching for a shorter line.
He was about to give up on the brawl this year when he received a call. “Yes, this is Thomas.”
“Thomas! Where are you and Charlie?” shouted a voice through the mote.
“Ahh! Heesah, that was loud,” said Thomas, twitching his right eye.
“Heesah!” screamed Charlie.
“We’re in the back of the line and I have doubts we’ll make it in time,” said Thomas.
“Drop a pin in your mote and send it to me,” demanded Heesah. “I’m going to go fetch you guys right now!”
“I’m on it!” said Thomas, smiling.
“Yay, Heesah!” exclaimed Charlie.
The small blue dot on the mote started to blink as a yellow dot approached. The blue and yellow dots became close in distance, then a loud scream shook Thomas. “Charlie! Oh, my ototo!” shouted Heesah as she squeezed Charlie tight. Heesah was a Japanese girl who sported a white shirt, a checkered black and yellow skirt and black tennis shoe boots.
“Hee . . . sahh, I can’t . . . breathe,” gasped Charlie, turning purple.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Heesah, smiling while extending her hand. “Thomas, you nerdy geek. Give me a high five.”
Thomas gave Heesah a high five and asked, “Are you sure we can cut all these people?”
“Ummm . . . yeah,” replied Heesah. “What are these techies going to do?”
“Thank you. You don’t know what this competition means to me,” said Charlie.
“It’s important to all of us,” said Heesah.
As the group walked toward the front of the line, Charlie admired everyone holding their bots. Some noticed them walking up the line and started to shout, “Hey! We have cutters! Boo!”
Heesah without any hesitation shouted back, “Nani? You want some of this? I’ll give you some.” She held her fists out ready to fight any takers. The people waiting in line widened their eyes and held their bots closer. “That’s right, no one messes with me.”
“All right, Heesah!” Charlie said with a smile, joining her in raising his fists up to his chest.
“Come, guys, we have to hurry. We’re getting too much attention,” said Thomas.
“No need to worry,” said Heesah, slapping her palm on Thomas’s back.
Thomas straightened himself and said, “I’m just ready to get techie.”
“Let’s get techie, then!” shouted Heesah. Running toward the front, they noticed the giant tree with tons of people enjoying the ability to charge their devices and use the internet through the Lite-Fi.
“Come, guys, here’s my spot,” said Heesah. A small mechanical cat with yellow lightning bolts across its entire body stood licking its paws as it stood in place near the front of the line.
“Pawgzy?” said Charlie.
“You had your pet-bot hold the line for you?” asked Thomas.
“Hey! It got the job done, didn’t it? If anyone tried taking my spot, I put Pawgzy on attack mode.” Heesah adjusted the mote on her left wrist and opened up the Pawgzy app. Pawgzy’s large lime-green eyes lit up with rage. Heesah switched attack mode off, which made Pawgzy’s claws retract. Then Heesah toggled again, and Pawgzy’s claws jutted out as it hissed at Charlie.
“Down, Pawgzy!” Charlie said.
Heesah switched the mode to scan. “Friend, not foe,” said the cat in a resonant, robotic voice. The cat retracted the claws and rubbed its purring body on Charlie’s leg.
“Good Pawgzy,” said Charlie as he picked up the cat-bot in his arms.
“The line is moving. We’re next,” said Thomas, looking at the empty space in front of them. “Charlie, set your mote to profile so the Techie Committee can write down your information.” Charlie typed his information on the profile app on his mote. The small window pulled up all his data and locked it in.
They reached an android running up and down the line. “You may place your mote under my hand scanner,” he commanded. Charlie did. “Thank you. Now head to the registration hut.” The android pointed to a group of participants dropping off their permission slips.
“Got it,” said Charlie as Thomas and Heesah had their motes scanned.
Walking with the others toward the registration hut, holding her cat, Heesah said, “Ototo, question.”
“Yes?” replied Charlie.
“I know your parents told you not to sign up,” said Heesah with a stern look. “They won’t be too happy.”
Charlie scratched the back of his beanie. “I told them I was just going to hang out with Thomas.” He sighed. “I know. Please don’t tell them. Ma will ground me again like last year.”
“That’s right. We had to virtual chat for an entire month,” said Thomas.
“But you know why your parents said no, right, Charlie?” asked Heesah, leveling her eyes with his.
“Because of my unc,” said Charlie solemnly, wiping the smile from his face. Heesah patted him on the back, but Charlie jerked away. He stood there in silence a moment. But then he proclaimed, “I’m going to be a tech runner, just like my Uncle Julian.” He walked up to the Techie Committee window of a small white cubicle facing away from the Giga Brook tree.
A long-haired android with glowing lines running down her eyes stared at Charlie and, with a soft voice, expressed, “Greetings from the Techie Committee. My name is Emily. How may I assist you today?”
“I’m here to register for Brook Park Brawl,” replied Charlie.
“We just need your profile and a signature from your parents or legal guardians,” said Emily.
“A parent signature?” said Charlie, his heart skipping.
“Please don’t tell me you didn’t get a signature, Charlie,” said Thomas.
Charlie scratched the back of his beanie once again. “I might have forgotten.”
“Give me the application,” commanded Heesah. “I’ll sign it for you.”
“Oh, Heesah. I don’t think that’s legal,” said Thomas looking concerned.
“I’ve done it plenty of times, relax,” said Heesah, signing the form Charlie gave her. Charlie handed the form to Emily.
“But Heesah, it recognizes all signatures from—”
“Profile and sign-up sheet upload complete. Welcome, techie.” Emily gave Charlie a small T pin with four colors. Thomas’s jaw dropped in astonishment as his eyes met Heesah’s.
“I told you, Thomas, I got this. Plus, the AIs don’t know what I just did,” said Heesah, whipping her purple bowl-cut hair.
Soon all three friends put on their T pins and continued to the next phase of the process.
“Charlie, do you know the four events of the Tech Games?” asked Thomas.
“That’s too easy,” Charlie replied. Thomas pointed to the first color of the pin, which was yellow. “Battle Playground!” shouted Charlie. Thomas pointed to the blue. “That’s Booster Ball!” said Charlie. The red. “Paradox Prix!” yelled Charlie. “And last, but not least, the green one is Puzzle Terrain.”
“There you go. And you’re sure you want to be a runner?” said Heesah.
“I do,” said Charlie with a smile as he raised his hand straight into the air. “Just like my Uncle Julian in Battle Playground.”
“How about you, Thomas?” asked Heesah.
“Oh, I don’t want to be a runner,” replied Thomas.
“Why not?” asked Charlie. He’d always just assumed.
“Because only few become runners. I’m not runner material. I want to be a pro-techie like King David,” said Thomas.
Heesah grabbed Charlie from the back and hugged him tight. They were both cheek to cheek. “I admire you wanting to be a runner. Never give up.”
“And you’ll be my repair techie!” said Charlie.
“You bet! I love getting my hands dirty fixing all that broken tech.”
Thomas looked down at his mote and noticed the time. “We have to get going. All we have left to do is register our controller boards and bots.”
“That’s right, let’s get moving,” said Charlie, running toward the small white and blue huts where short lines were forming. The three friends walked up to the hut that read Gameware Registration Center. Charlie put his rocket backpack down, opened it and retrieved the bot he had almost forgotten to bring. Charlie asked, “Did you remember to bring my controller?”
“I sure did,” said Thomas. “I fixed the sticky left button.” Thomas handed Charlie his arcade controller.
Heesah looked at the controller and noticed the ball knob didn’t move freely. “Put some jelly spray on it,” she said.
“I don’t have it,” said Thomas with a shrug.
Heesah pulled out a bottle of the spray from the bottom zipper of her cat-shaped backpack resembling her pet. She removed a protective cap and sprayed Charlie’s knob. “All better now,” said Heesah.
Charlie moved the knob and agreed. “Thank you.”
“Hello, my name is Elia. I’m your assistant techie. How can I assist?” asked a nice young man from inside the hut.
“We need to register four arcade controllers and four bots for the Brook Park Brawl,” said Thomas.
“Place your controllers and bots on the scanner. Once the scan is complete, you will get a green light to let us know it was a success or a red light to indicate a problem.”
Charlie placed on the scanner the four bots resembling four different insects: a praying mantis, a Hercules beetle, a centipede, and a dragonfly. The scanner made a ding as a blue laser scanned over the bots and controllers. A green light appeared above the hut. “Green is good. Here are your slips. Make sure to bring these confirmation slips with you next week, techies,” said Elia, handing over the slips.
“So techie!” said Charlie with a nod.
A loud voice interrupted the excitement.
“What do you mean it weighs more than the regulations allow? I already took the armor off my lizards. What else can I do?”
“I’m sorry, techie. The komodo is still much too heavy to compete in the brawl,” said an assistant techie at another hut.
A boy sporting a huge red Mohawk shouted and grabbed his bot, then stormed away.
“Well, I guess Eddie is trying to cheat again,” said Heesah.
“This exact thing happened last year. He tried to add extra armor to his lizard bots. He should have learned that the scanner not only weighs the bots, but also assesses the pet-bots for anything illegal,” said Thomas.
“That boy never learns. Where are we off to now, guys?” asked Heesah, gripping her backpack straps.
“Giga Brook, please. I want to get some Lite-Fi,” replied Charlie.
“Giga Brook, here we come!” said Heesah, leading the way.
 Spanish for “son.”
 Japanese for “little brother.”
 Japanese for “what.”