Finlay’s Fortune & Fame II
Fan-made Story written by @tanzofett introducing Alpha Fame on Serra

Prologue I: Preparations

“News today of more protests against the construction of the domes in more than a dozen hextricts has alarmed some local government officials. We will have more on this on the evening news. Now, back to our look into the future Champions already making names for themselves.”
Heavy bag of seeds in hand, Finlay paused to listen to […]

Prologue II: Hitching a Ride

Sleep had not come easily, the frustration with his mother at dinner the night before weighed heavily on Finlay. He knew there was a large contingent of people, more than just small-town natives, were convinced the threat was overblown and the way it had been for centuries would continue for centuries more.
This was very much against his thinking. Since his younger years, he had always been bored. Same old chores day after day, same old events year after year. He understood how someone could be lulled into that safe and comfortable feeling, a denial of anything else since what was happening now was so simple; so nice, so complacent.
The average person simply wanted everything to stay the same. And when all they have ever known was peaceful and good, it was not strange in any way. Finlay hoped there was more out there than a life on the farm; more than a life of hauling seeds around. He was staring at the ceiling as Nora chimed in.
“Good Morning, the temperature outside is 20 and the forecast shows clear skies all day. Time to get up.” The voice was chipper but even half-asleep Finlay knew there was no emotion behind it. He sighed as he swung his feet out of bed, scrunching his furry toes against the cool stone of the floor.
“Morning Nora, any messages?” There was only one message he was waiting for and for just a moment, he held his breath.
“You have: 1 message. Shall I read it?” The voice exuded false excitement at the prospect of reading the mail for him. Finlay hated it. Hated it in the way you grow to detest some things so completely familiar to you. He would not be able to get along without Nora, and he knew it. But he just sometimes felt like he should.
“Who’s it from?” He was fairly certain he knew who had sent the message.
“Your Mother.” Finlay threw his head back with an exasperated sigh. It was barely morning and already she was messaging him, a list of chores no doubt.
“It’s almost noon actually.” Nora replied cheerfully, startling Finlay.
“Wha- what? Did I say that out loud?” Sleep brain was weird sometimes, Finlay was notorious for thinking before being awake. And if he did not know Nora so well he would never have caught it, but there was an imperceptible pause before she responded.
“I could pretend you didn’t say anything if you would prefer?” Equally cheerful and monotone, purely infuriating.
“Are you giving me sass Nora?” His shirt slid over his head easily and he stretched as he stood up. Another imperceptible pause.
“No.” Finlay narrowed his eyes at the small node on the bookshelf before pointing two fingers at his eyes then at the node.
“I’m onto you Nora, you are the Arbiter of Sass. If there was a sass council? You would be one of its Six.” He looked around the bed for his Data Pad and scooped it into his sling pack before heading to the door.
“I have no idea what you mean Finlay.” The liar, Finlay knew better. Nora was exactly as sassy as she chose to be. “Don’t forget the earbud, you shouldn’t be buying any more this month, not till the next credit payment comes in.” He raised his head in frustration as he turned back to the bookshelf to grab the earpiece. With as sarcastic motion as he could muster in the node’s direction, Finlay turned and walked out of the bedroom.
Fried egg smell found its way easily into the young man’s nose as he rounded the corner and made his way to the ice box. At the stove was his mother, already cooking his breakfast. Though of course, she would call it lunch and let him hear no end of how late he was getting up.
“Well, look who showed up finally. Did you get my message?” His mom set a plate of Mudhen eggs and toast on the table along with a glass of Tava Juice. “It’s just a list of chores-“
“-you need done. Yeah, yeah, don’t worry Mom, I’ll get them done.” He poked the egg yolk with his toast and swished it around a bit before taking a bite. Perfect as always.
“You’re a good boy Finlay,” she said as she kissed his head, “even if you are a lazy ass sometimes.” She moved back to the stove and began cleaning up the pots and pans, putting them in the dishwasher as she went. Finlay did not answer, he knew his mom loved him, never once ever questioned it. But lazy? As if.
“You know, studying the tournament is not being lazy. We have to be ready to fight when we have to.” He took a bite of toast, crunching forcefully to accent his point.
“Do you even know which end of a blaster to point at these ‘bad guys’?” She accented the words with air quotes. “This whole Tournament thing is nonsense, just a pastime to keep everyone calm and collected.” His mom had never liked the Tournament. Not ever and not one little bit.
“We have to train mom, even if the threat isn’t real, what if something else is out there? What if we do need to defend ourselves some day? What then?” He took another bite and continued. “We have to be ready.” His mom frowned.
“Did I forget to teach you manners? Close your damn mouth when you eat, my goodness.” She swatted at him with the dish towel she had been using to wipe down the counters. “The list of chores is short today; you should have plenty of time to play who-knows-what with that Data Pad lady friend of yours.”
“Mom, seriously, her name is Nora, Neuro-Realistic Assistant, is it that hard to remember?” He never really understood why that made him so protective. His mom threw her hands up in mock surrender.
“I’m sorry, Data Pad Nora.” Finlay rolled his eyes. “You know she’s not a real person, right? You do know that?” He shook his head.
“You know mom, there are lots of Virtuals out there that might be really offended by that.” He pointed his fork at her accusatorily to accent his point, “and they are definitely “real” people.” He cut some of the egg and put the piece on his toast and took another bite, crunching happily at the delicious flavours. His mom just rolled her eyes and started polishing some of the countertops with her towel.
“I’ll get it all done mom don’t worry. Nora, can you read mom’s message please?” Nora rattled off the mundane tasks that were his list today as he finished his breakfast.
Finlay was sitting on the low fieldstone wall, kicking his feet in the midday sunlight, when the delivery truck rolled up, repulsors kicking up small puffs of dust as they fired against the road. The telltale sound of magnetic pulses pushing against Serra slowed and came to a stop as the truck lowered to the ground.
The driver rolled his eyes as he jumped down from the cab and saw Finlay waiting. “You again, you in a better mood today?” The driver was tapping his index finger on his data pad as he walked over. “Still wanna earn a few extra credits and do all the heavy lifting?” Finlay hopped down, flicking his tail as he pulled his own pad out and tapped it against the driver’s.
“Yeah, sorry about yesterday. The heat was getting to me I think.” It hadn’t, Finlay thought the driver was annoying and lazy, but politeness always worked best. Sometimes, being the bigger person was letting your own feelings about something go so you can move forward.
“Kid, listen, water under the bridge. There’s twenty bags today, so its not a lot of creds but every bit helps right?” Finlay smiled.
“Yeah, Randall, it all helps.” With that he started grabbing the heavy bags off the pallets in the back. “So, who are these deliveries for you were talking about yesterday.”
“Not supposed to say anything, but I’ve been moving a lot of the gear the Council is selling to the champions. There’s more than I thought there’d be. Must be going well signing people up.”
“Signing up?” Finlay had been waiting for an announcement with the details on how to sign up to be a champion, he spent hours searching for information most nights, and of all people it was Randall who was letting him in on it.
“Oh yeah, more and more every day. And the Council is keeping track of all the biggest buyers so far. All on the net for everyone to see, distributed ledger.”
“So, the champions I keep hearing about are just signing up? There’s no test or anything?” Finlay had thought there must be a test of some kind. The Council couldn’t just let anybody in, could they?
“Nope, no test, just sign up. The news says its to encourage everyone to at least start on an equal footing. Can’t buy your way in. The gear is also just extra stuff, more for personalization than anything else. I don’t know a lot about it myself, I’m not getting involved in it.” Randall was ticking things off with a finger on his data pad. Finlay silently moved the sacks off the truck and into a rough pile on the walkway.
“You goin’ into the city after this?” Randall looked up and nodded, cybernetic eye focusing quizzically.
“Yup.”
“Mind if I tag along?” Finlay had not fully thought through this before the words came out of his mouth. Randall paused momentarily before answering.
“Yeah, I guess so.” He looked at Finlay intently. “Why?”
“Just thought it might be easier than taking the shuttle.” He lifted the last bag down from the truck. “Have to go sign up in person, right?” Randall chuckled.
“That is one of the rules, yes.”
“Well then, its gotta happen some time.” Finlay grabbed a bag under each arm and started moving them into the warehouse. They felt lighter now somehow. He felt like he should be nervous, like he should be shaking and terrified, but he just wasn’t. Finlay smiled and hurried faster to get the work done.
Hours later, standing in front of the half-finished arena, Finlay was in awe at the building’s size. A massive construction of metal and glass, easily dwarfing the buildings all around it. A magnificent marvel of modernity and engineering.
Also, a stark reminder to Finlay that something lay out in the darkness beyond Serra’s blue skies. Something that may not be entirely friendly. Because of this, the arena was also a reminder of duty and dedication.
Steeling himself, Finlay took a deep breath and started out across the road only to be yanked backwards by something as a massive truck barreled through the space he had just been standing in. The tug on his shirt was as welcome as it was unexpected and alarming. Turning, he looked directly into the face of a Cyborg, face only modestly augmented with technology. The ocular implant whirred as it adjusted focus, the sound was soft and mechanical.
“Wow, thanks. That would have been-“
“-bad, yeah. No problem buddy.” The Cyborg smiled and stepped back, extending his hand as he did so. “I’m Keely, glad I could help.” Finlay smiled back and shook the offered hand firmly.
“I’m Finlay, and seriously, thank you.” Finlay’s heart was racing, and he took a shuddering deep breath to calm down. “Can’t sign up for the arena from a hospital bed.”
“Can’t sign up from the morgue either, that was a big-ass truck, friend.” Keely smiled again, wider if it was even possible. Finlay already had the sense that this was par for the course for this cyborg. The striations of black and grey fur around the eyes lent his smiling face a strange quality, like he was wearing a mask. Even still, Keely’s face beamed. “Are you signing up for the arena too?” Before Finlay could even nod, the Cyborg had taken him by the shoulder and begun dragging him across the road. “Come on, let’s go!”
Finlay chuckled as he slowly regained his footing and excitedly moved across the open park area in front of the arena.
New datapads in hand, Keely and Finlay were adding each other as contacts when Finlay felt a tug at his elbow. Turning, he saw two younger Cyborgs staring at him. The taller of the two stepped forward and bowed her head respectfully.
“Are you two going to be Champions?” Finlay looked at Keely, who just nudged him with his elbow and nodded.
“Yes, uh, yes we are.” He knew it was true but it still felt strange to say out loud. The young girl turned to her friend.
“I told you they were Champions.” She turned back to Finlay. “Can we have your autographs? In case you become famous?” This time even Keely was speechless. After they both gave their autographs and the two kids were walking away, Keely jumped and whooped excitedly as both his and Finlay’s datapads registered two new followers each.
“My friend,” Keely put an arm around Finlay’s shoulders, “we are going to be huge.” Finlay was still equal parts embarrassed, proud and shocked. He nodded softly and felt himself smiling widely.
“Yeah, we will be.”
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Prologue I: Preparations
Prologue II: Hitching a Ride