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Newbs Make Dinosaurs

Emily Scharff is a Vampire from the planet Xena (reclassified as the dwarf planet Eris by the earthlings) who daylights as a Product Manager for Chrome & Chrome OS Accessibility. This is (surprisingly for her) her first published story.

Newbs always make dinosaurs for their first bio-battles. The vets know it takes more than a fierce-looking bio to win.
"Katie! Katie!" My older sister Meg squealed as she burst into my room. "We got a bio-printer! My condensed electroplaques paper won. We can compete in the tournaments!"
I jumped off my bed and hugged her. "Wait. We?" A goofy grin burst on my face. "You want me to help?"
"Obviously." She elbowed me. "Someone needs to do the manual labor."
Of course, we chose to make a dino: A T-Rex we named Ella.
"What's that do?" I pointed at the line Meg had just typed.
"This sequence controls how her teeth will form. Some need to be sharper than the T-Rex template to pierce through particularly sturdy opponents, but that makes them more breakable, so we also need some wider-duller ones that rely more on her jaw strength."
My sister typed a few more lines before turning to me. "Did you get the calcium we need?"
"Yup!" I held out my hand, pleased at how I'd scraped together the money fixing old-people's printers. I curled my fingers over the white vial. "Before you use it... could we make her pink?"
Meg started laughing. "What other color could she be?"
Ella's jaws snapped, missing the spider-like bio as it darted away. My hands gripped the edge of the stadium's bench.
Meg spoke quietly into my ear. "That speed might carry it through the qualifying melee, but even if it survives the top eight, it'll lose quickly in the tournament proper."
Ella charged a cat-like bio, again missing.
"See the Octopus-looking one on the right side of the field?" Meg pointed towards a bio with tentacles that ended in a large ball. "That'll be one to watch when we get to the tournament proper, diffused organs and huge potential for blunt force."
As if she could hear Meg, Ella charged the Octopus. A tentacle swung out at Ella and smacked her in the side, pushing her to the ground. It hit her again. And again, until Ella stopped moving. Guess Meg was right: that was a bio to watch.
Meg looked away.
"Do...." I shut my mouth, having wanted to say something but no words coming to mind.
The melee went on in silence until mercifully the bell rang signifying they had their eight qualifying survivors.
I tugged on Meg's sleeve. "C'mon, let's get Ella. We'll fix her up before the winter tournament."
"You go ahead, I'll meet you by the car."
Cradling Ella in my arms, I found Meg talking to a woman in a white pantsuit. "I wanted to thank you--"
"Yes, well your paper showed a lot of promise." Mrs. White-Pantsuit glanced at me, "Perhaps if you stopped playing babysitter and started competing you might manage one of our college scholarships."
After months pouring over Meg's notes without progress, I knocked on her door. "Meggy, could you help me with Ella? I don't understand the sequence you used."
"I've told you, I'm busy getting ready for the tournament. I don't have time for baby bios."
I failed to fix Ella in time for the winter tournament, but by summer we were ready to show Meg what a Dino could do.
I clenched my teeth; My sister's whispered battlefield commentary missing from my ear.
Ella charged a triceratops getting pounded by a crab-like critter clinging to its back. She snatched the crab with her jaws and flung it against the wall. It cracked and crumpled to the ground.
The two dinos locked eyes before turning back-to-back facing the rest of the arena. Pack instincts! My neurochemistry tweaks worked!
A muscly bio bounded over. Ella swung her tail at its torso. It caught her tail as the triceratops speared it through the side.
A horned worm-like bio burst from beneath Ella's feet aimed at her soft underbelly. Ella leaped up, landed on it, and shredded it with her claws.
The bell rang. I turned to share the victory with Meg, but of course, she wasn't there; her winter performance had let her skip the quals.
Ella's first-round opponent was a bat template with a sharp hook-like beak and serrated wings.
I took a deep breath. When I'd asked Meg if we could give Ella wings she'd told me flying bios were foolish. What they gained in mobility was sacrificed five times over in fragility. Keeping the bio under regulation size while making it light enough to fly always resulted in a squishy bio.
The bell rang. Ella's opponent shot into the air as Ella charged the now-empty space.
I bit my lip. Ella had no way of reaching the other bio, but the bat-thing needed to come down to attack. It opened its mouth and spewed out tiny black dots. The videos floating above the stadium zoomed in. Were those ant-based bios?
The ants scurried toward Ella as they hit the ground. Ella, happy to have something in reach, ran towards them.
Nothing that small could hurt her.
Ella stomped on the ants. They exploded giving off little pops. I grinned. No way explosions of that size could penetrate Ella's skin. My eyes narrowed; A yellow-tinted gel spread from the ants' carcasses covering Ella's feet. Ella wobbled.
She didn't fall. She may be stuck, but it was just her feet. She didn't fall.
The bat-bio dove. I clenched my fists. It spun, picking up speed and strength as it flew like a guided missile towards my trapped Ella.
Ella's tail lurched up and slammed the Bio out of its trajectory, its fragile body breaking against the ground.
"Yes!" I punched the sky. We'd done it, we'd won the first round.
Three more to go.
Ella's second-round opponent lacked artistry. It was a palm-sized black ball with six sinewy appendages each with a scorpion-like hook on the end. I grinned: those hooks wouldn't be penetrating Ella's skin.
The bell rang. Ella charged. Her opponent rolled forward, propelled by its appendages.
Come on, Ella, you beat this thing and we can face Meg. Show her what you're worth.
The ball shifted left, inches from a collision. Ella bit down on one of the appendages and pulled it skywards. Yes!
Ella flung the appendage across the stadium... and the appendage neatly split off from itself leaving the ball next to Ella. Damn lizard models.
Ella spasmed.
The joint of her knee, where mobility required softer skin, had been pierced by a stinger.
Meg made it to semis. The sponsors for the various top Bio schools sat in the ground seats. White-Pantsuit was probably beaming having convinced Meg to abandon us.
The ball-bio that had defeated me shot towards Meg's bio.
Meg's bio stood still as a statue. It was a sleek lizard base with rough skin, a tail that ended in a pointed claw, and four additional limbs sprouting from its backside. The front two looked like morning stars and the back like a crab's pincers.
The ball-bio pierced Meg's lizard. I gasped. The ball-bio spasmed, there was a slight sizzling sound as smoke emanated from the ball.
My eyes widened. Electricity!
Meg's lizard extracted the Ball's stinger with its pincer and allowed it to fall limp to the ground.
Yes!
My smile faded. Meg had won as fast as I'd lost.
Meg walked towards us as we left the arena. My stomach clenched as I prepared for her to ask why I'm still using a "baby's bio." Or worse, for her to ignore me entirely.
"Great job out there." Meg fidgeted with her earring. "You should check out Mcawl, he's written a bunch of stuff on anti-venoms."
I smiled back at Meg. Ella and I might have lost, but next time we'd win. Because the vets forget: Dinosaurs are awesome.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, September 3rd, 2021


Author Comments

I'd been toying with the idea of a biological-based battle bot tournament, but the story only clicked for me after hearing a writing prompt for a dinosaur story. After I wrote the story, it was clear that the true origin of the story was the first time my sister told me she was too old to play "little kid" games with me.

- Emily Scharff
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