"I hate the crowds. Hate the noise, hate the red tape, hate my team. But I tell you what - that feeling of shooting some smug newbie right where it hurts? That's why I'm here."— Frank Belzinski, Jawbreakers team captain
Tank Commander. Arena Fighter. Celebrity Superstar. Ask ten people this question and you'll get ten different answers. But what exactly is an Armoured Persona?
Metal made Flesh
The term 'Armoured Persona' is a label for someone who fights tank battles as part of a team in the Armoured Combat Arena (ACA).
During an ACA battle, each Armoured Persona (AP) is allowed to use a single armoured combat vehicle of their choosing. These vehicles must fulfil the following criteria:
- It must be a replica of a 20th century armoured vehicle,
- The vehicle type must be sanctioned for use by the Armoured Combat Arena Association, and
- They must be the legal owner of the vehicle schematics for fabrication and use in Arena battles.
In many cases, APs tend to single out a particular vehicle that suits their personal preferences in combat, allowing them to develop a mastery over their machine of choice.
The incredible level of skill attained can be seen in the highest levels of competition in the sport. In fact, the fluidity and precision of their actions are the exact reason why the term ‘Armoured Persona’ was bestowed; in battle, the combatants almost seem to be the humanoid incarnations of the vehicles they control.
Rockstars of the Arena
Armoured Combat as a sport is still considered relatively new, but it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular in the world. With a massive industry-wide revenue numbering in the billions, it's no surprise that several Armoured Personas have transformed into newly-minted millionaires almost overnight.
Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising in the slightest. All Armoured Personas spend their careers playing on behalf of a team or organisation in exchange for a stable salary. Depending on their performance and the team's relative wealth, an AP's monthly income can easily range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And that's not including the extraordinary fame that comes with being an accomplished AP. The most successful among them regularly grace late night talk shows and star-studded events, while those who retire from the stress and rigour of battle invariably find themselves capitalising on their newfound popularity towards other ends.
The War Machine, Deconstructed
The various armoured vehicles used in the Arena look, move and sound very much like the ones used in the mid-20th Century, but they only seem so from the outside. In truth, the machines used by Armoured Personas today are, while certainly modern marvels of engineering, designed solely for sport.
The methods used in building the original, real-world versions of these vehicles may have comprised welding large metal parts together, but the ones currently used by the APs are now assembled in Fabrication Chambers instead, using intelligent nanomachines as a literal building block. The entire process can take as long as an hour to complete from start to finish.
Each vehicle is fully combat ready upon completion of assembly, with ammunition loaded and available for use in an Arena battle.
There are only a limited amount of Fabrication Chambers built in the world at the time of writing. Due to the massive spatial requirements to house its components, many of them can only be found in the garages of Armoured Combat Training Centers and the Arenas themselves.
Why They Fight: The Arena as a Career Option
As glamorous as it may seem, the life of the Armoured Persona is one filled with immense stress and fatigue. Although their hardened bodies can withstand more damage than the average human, Armoured Personas are still capable of experiencing pain, which in turn creates stress. If left unchecked, every hit they suffer in battle can amount to significant psychological effects in the long term.
Physical pain is not the only source of concern for active APs. Each year, the ACAA receives up to 200 resignation requests by Armoured Personas wishing to leave the sport. When surveyed, most of them cited 'lack of success' as their primary reason for doing so. In other words, they were most likely stuck in underperforming ACA teams that did not deliver on the lofty promises of wealth and fame that had initially sold them on the career.
Of those that found themselves in the same situation but have chosen instead to remain as Arena combatants, some thankfully manage to find their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But the numbers tell a more sobering story: only 20% of all Armoured Personas remain with the sport past the 7 year mark.
Armoured Personas: An Uncomfortable Truth
It’s safe to say that Armoured Personas in general enjoy widespread recognition and admiration as a result of their work as entertainers. At the same time however, they are also subjected to significant amounts of fear, resentment and prejudice.
Their detractors include:
- Crazed conspiracy theorists who believe that all Armoured Personas are a secret government initiative to wipe out all humankind,
- Ultra-religious types that proclaim their very existence as an affront to their god(s), and
- Fear-mongering scientific minds that are convinced that the human race in its natural form is at risk of extinction.
The reason for their disgust is simple: Armoured Personas are human cyborgs in essence, individuals who have submitted their bodies to extensive artificial modifications that replace flesh with metal. These augmentations allow the APs the ability to deploy their vehicles easily and control them with absolute precision in battle, something that would be nearly impossible for a 'pure' human to accomplish.
The modifications usually include near-flawless facial features and physiques, which allow APs the freedom to socialise without much incident. This attempt at disguising their true selves has allowed the general public to 'forget' their existence somewhat, but an undercurrent of discrimination still exists in society and the media today against Armoured Personas, whether active or retired.