Author: Michael Anthony Dioguardi
The last man on earth to beat a cyborg on the track? That would be Galen Ryan, of course. To this day I don’t remember why he did it, or rather, what point he was trying to prove; he wasn’t any good, at least in the professional sense. He had only won five times during his professional running career. From the time he started racing his own flesh-and-blood, until the time he took his last steps—literally (he lost his damn legs) against those souped-up bucket-of-bolts, he was a lane one, or lane six starter at best. He went out too slow and had too much pride. With that goofy mustache and bulky build; he looked more like a wrestler.
But that fifth win—there won’t be anything like that, ever again. It definitely started the great ‘conversion,’ or ‘purge,’ depending on who you ask.
Play dirty! That just wasn’t in the cyborgs’ wheel-house. When you’re built on efficiency, it’s tough to pull off something that’s considered ‘illogical.’ But Galen did it anyway—thoroughly embarrassed the suckers too.
We were in Vegas. The cybies loved the dryness and the sun beating down; any moisture would rot them to the core. Galen was the only person entered in the 1,500 that didn’t have a chunk of metal replacing his limbs. And it was a damn-talented field: National champions with robotic legs, decision-enhancing chips implanted in their cerebellums, robotic spines—the list goes on.
The media pounced on Galen. The Vegas odds screamed against him. But he had an ace in the hole. He visited Myron Partridge Stadium the night before the race, broke into the ruined pump house, and tinkered with the pipes. In the locker room the day of, he shared that tidbit with me, telling me to bet big on him winning. I sensed he was up to something but went along with it anyway—put what I had on a first-place win for Galen Ryan, much to the bewilderment of the odds bots.
The stadium roared when he stepped on the line. Thousands of folks were here to witness, what they expected to be, the nail in the coffin for humans in athletics. The gun went off and the cyborgs lurched off the line. Galen did his usual trailing game but seemed unusually comfortable sitting in last place. I shook my head and turned away. My money was gone and Galen was toast—that stubborn pride.
As if from God himself, rain spurted up from the ground. Galen turned on the sprinklers, somehow still installed beneath the turf. The runners sparked and collapsed, and the crowd—mostly cyborgs—panicked and stormed the field.
At some point in the chaos, Galen got his legs blown clean off. Cauterized! Right above the knees.
Galen’s career was over, his final bout ending with a ‘W,’ by default. And the cyborgs learned how to play dirty. Considering I was the only one to bet against the cybies, I purchased myself the best protection dome a homeowner could buy with the winnings. Galen became public enemy no. 1, but I made sure he got a piece of the pie. He lives comfortably, just with two fewer legs.
They watch us every day though. I’m just counting down the days until they finally learn to commit to their new-found logic and play dirty. That day is yet to come. And Galen Ryan is still alive—for now. There are a lot of shadows gathered outside my dome. They’ve been listening.
Better grab the hose again!