Undercover Operations: discover the mystery surrounding Maximatics – Season 8 Lore, Act 1
The Maximatics automated factory complex never slept, its machines running at all hours of the day. They had grown quickly after the Lady of Winter’s defeat. Among the corporations and nobles of Metal City, they alone had made profits during the Ice Age that had fallen. From heated bunkers to automated construction to aid in rebuilding, Maximatics had expanded their products, becoming a household name.
The Patrons had even approved their request to build on the outskirts of Metal City. Soon, it had become its own neighborhood. The people who worked for the company hardly ever had to leave its secure walls. Not many in Metal City knew what went on inside. The trucks came out from the facility to deliver their products to the market, and then returned. No one could remember seeing a driver.
When Maximatics announced they were sponsoring the next Heavy Metal Machines tournament, however, that had caused quite a stir.
“I don’t like it, Jada,” Stingray said. The pair were staring down at the sprawling factory from the nearest outlook. Stingray watched the small figures move about through a pair of binoculars. “Maximatics has never backed any pilot in the tournament before. Why the sudden interest?”
“Not sure. But given the message we got, seems we’re not the only ones interested.” Jada said.
“Another thing I don’t like. They bounced that signal off so many relays even I couldn’t trace it! Any news on that?”
“Seeing a machine approaching our position.”
It wasn’t long before the two could hear the sound of the engine as well. A silver truck, glowing with blue lights and with a dragon’s head in the front roared up with as much stealth as it could. The big wheels had little trouble on the rocky ground. It was someone Stingray was familiar with, though not usually outside of the Arena.
The truck door opened. The bearded fellow leaned out, giving a wave to go along with his big friendly smile. “Hello there! Did I make you wait? Sorry, I got lost trying to find which rocky outlook Lord Ian was talking about.”
Stingray raised his eyebrows at that. “Lord Ian sent you?”
Icebringer’s smile faded as it dawned on him what he had said. “Oh, right, I probably shouldn’t have said that. Nope, shouldn’t have mentioned that…” The trucker hopped out of his machine. He was rubbing the back of his head, chuckling. “CeeBee really is right, I need to think before I speak sometimes…”
“Alright,” Stingray said. That answered one question. It seemed like the Patrons weren’t any less interested in what was going on with Maximatics than he was, though he would not have guessed they would have reached out to him of all people. “The message said if I wanted to know the truth, come to this spot. You have information, Frost Giant?”
“Oh, yeah!” Icebringer’s grin returned as he tossed a data device from his coat pocket to Stingray. The hacker caught it in the air. “You can always count on a trucker to get something where it needs to be.”
Stingray looked at the drive for a moment, checking for any obvious signs of tampering. The last thing he needed was to fry his systems. It looked clean enough. He slid the drive into his robot, which projected the files for them all to see.
“These are blueprints!” Jada said, adjusting her glasses as she leaned in to take a closer look. “They look like artificial intelligence systems, as well as the specifications for chassis of some kind…”
“But A.I. for what?” Stingray frowned, staring at the detailed schematics. Even knowing they were blueprints, there was a lot that was blacked out or marked as classified. He continued to sift through them, as one after another was projected before them.
“That looks like a machine,” Icebringer said. “Just look at those wheels on it! Don’t know what S.E.U.V. means, though.”
“These all look…familiar,” Stingray said.
“Wait, stop!” Jada suddenly called out. “Look! That one. It’s humanoid! Like an android!”
Indeed, the design was. FU-20: Azure Flame. The chassis looked very strikingly like a woman. Designed with thermal and visual sensors in the head and a blowtorch in the hand. Long strands of coolant dispensers served as makeshift hair.
“Flame Unit? Says it’s designed to be used in high temperature industrial environments.”
Icebringer whistled as he read on. “I don’t know much about robots, but I don’t like this. Seems like they’re getting a little too high tech.”
“There’s nothing wrong with technology,” Stingray said, trying to not sound too defensive. “But you’re right. We need to get to the bottom of this. But I think we’ll need some muscle.”
“My sensors are picking up Rampage in the area. Maybe we could ask him?”
“Eh, I don’t know about that, Jada. Rampage doesn’t operate well as a team. And you remember the last time? Put him anywhere near a Maximatics facility, he’s going to go out of control!”
The three were silent for a moment, thinking on whom they could call. Icebringer clapped his hands, his face breaking into a wide smile. “I know just the guys!”
“…So that’s what we’re dealing with. Looks like they’re trying to build some automated machines that drive themselves!” Icebringer finished his story. Stingray and Jada just gave each other looks as they stood behind in the cluttered scrap shot, piles of crushed beer cans scattered about, with the covers of ‘Magnets and Metal’ magazine taped on the walls.
“Darn Maximatics boys, they’re already stealin’ our customers. Ain’t that right, Rufus?”
“Now they go thinkin’ they can make cars that don’t need towin’!? That’s half our business!”
“Gonna cut into our beer funds, Billy.”
“Ya got that right, big guy!” Billy Clunker said, slamming his fist down on the counter. The smaller Clunker reached for a can, chugging the liquid inside down before letting out a belch. “Alright, ya want to take these jerks down? Count us in!”
“We’re ready to rock.” Rufus said, scratching his huge gut. “And we can be all sneaky like, too!”
Stingray gave Jada another look before stepping forward. They’d just have to make do. “Alright, you two. Here’s the plan…”
“Do you really think, this is going to work, ‘Manta’?”
Stingray adjusted the cuff links on his shirt, looking out over the top of his sunglasses. His tie was neatly arranged, tucked into his vest. He had spent a lot of time ironing his suit the night before. “Of course. I’ve already spoofed my credentials as a Maximatics executive. The downside of automated systems; once they’re cracked, it’s just a matter of faking the authorization code.”
He leaned against his machine, affecting his cool and powerful persona. His car had been given a sleek dark blue paint job that matched his clothing. The image recognition software wouldn’t have a chance against his new look.
Stargazer shook her head, but she couldn’t resist smiling at the performance. Hiro always was a showman at heart. “Well, hopefully the stealth systems I’ve installed work. I’ll need to stay close to coordinate with all of you. I’ll be listening into their communications.”
“Wonderful. I’ve gotten in touch with “Cryo”. He’ll meet us on the way. Now all that’s left is for my…bodyguards…What is that sound?”
Stingray could only look on with abject horror as the wailing sirens grew louder as the Clunkers’ truck rolled to meet them. The brothers had painted their magnet red, standing out against the black and white color scheme that made them look like a policeman’s pastiche. The sloppy star and scribbled on ‘Poliss’ only added to the ‘authenticity’.
“Everybody, freeze! Get on the ground!” Billy said, holding a taser in his hand as he leaned out the window. “This is a police escort! We got important cop business to do!”
“You tell ‘em, buddy,” Rufus said, his suit straining to contain his girth.
Stingray just rested his face in his palm before taking a deep breath. “I can work with this. Alright, let’s roll. We have business with Maximatics.”
It took only a little while for the three machines to be rolling out of Metal City in the direction of the Maximatics facility compound. Along the way, the radios crackled to life. “This is Cryo!” Icebringer’s cheerful voice came through. A truck painted black with purple X’s joined their convoy. “Got myself painted nice like you asked, Manta! Hauling as much raw materials as Lord Ian could spare. Should be enough to sell our story.”
“Good work. Alright team, it’s time we go undercover.”