|Author||Keith R. A. DeCandido|
|First published||10 September 2008|
|Timeline||12—13 February 3071|
|“||The show must go on. The Word of Blake continues the Broadway tradition on Solaris, making sure the games happen like clockwork. But can they adapt when their warriors go on strike, or more importantly, strike back?||”|
Long-time fight commentator Mariko Guardado is still working on Solaris, but this time under the auspices of the Word of Blake. Before the Blakist invasion, Mariko provided commentary on fights at the Silesia Coliseum with her partner and lover, Patricia Bracken, an experienced former MechWarrior. Patricia vanished during the fighting, but the Blakists have kept Mariko in place to provide commentary on the staged fights they arrange on a regular basis; every fight is actually an execution dressed up just enough to look like a fight for propaganda purposes, but Mariko knows that each is rigged, with the Blakist combatants inevitably using top-of-the-line equipment against opponents with disabled, older 'Mechs.
The fights at Silesia changed when the Blakist Vanquisher "Vision of Judgement" began fighting; whereas previous battles had seen Blakists fighting four-on-one against their opponents, Vision of Judgement's battles were the reverse - up to four hapless opponents would fight against the lone white 'Mech, and every time, Vision of Judgement has been victorious. Mariko's life has become a repeating cycle of being escorted to and from the arena by the Blakist guards she's named Pail, Mail and Tail to commentate on their latest fight, and little else.
One of the most notable deaths during the battles between the resistance on Solaris VII and the Blakists was that of Giuseppe Kishi, a Draconis Combine Mechwarrior and the best Combine champion since the late, great Theodore Gross. After yet another commentary run, Mariko finds herself musing over the death of Kishi - a pilot so skilled that he was referred to with the honorary title shihan, "master", while going through yet another dull evening in her apartment, keenly missing Patricia.
The next morning, Mariko is surprised when her guard is replaced by a new female guard she doesn't recognize - one who produces a white noise generator, and swiftly removes a prosthetic nose, wig and various forms of make-up, revealing herself to be Patricia in disguise. The normally taciturn Patricia is a bundle of energy, determined to enlist Mariko's help in a plan to break into the Coliseum to reach the pilot of Vision of Judgement - a pilot she reveals is actually Kishi, drugged into believing that he's living the life of a samurai in ancient Nippon, fighting against the enemies of his overlord.
Mariko is initially unwilling to help, having worked out that Patricia's working with the yakuza... but is eventually persuaded, and the two manage to reach Kishi, who is deep inside his historical hallucination. Patricia manages to distract Kishi long enough to administer a drug that counteracts the brainwashing, but he refuses to leave - instead, he marches Vision of Judgement into the Coliseum and attacks the Blakists and their local collaborators there, killing hundreds before finally falling himself.
Having escaped from the Coliseum, Mariko argues with Connor DeLon, the local yakuza koman and Patricia's ally. Pointing out her value in the propaganda war Mariko successfully convinces Connor to provide safe passage offworld for both her and Patricia, viewing the results of the day as a good day's work.