Lost in Translation has covered BattleTech a couple of times, once for the animated adaptation, the other for the fan-made Tex Talks BattleTech series. BattleTech started as a tabletop wargame, featuring BattleMechs, giant piloted mecha that are the kings of the battlefield of the future. The wargame spawned RPGs and video games, the most recent of which being published by Harebrained Schemes.
Among the various video games was MechWarrior 4 series, with MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries being released in 2002. The game allowed the player to become Spectre, the leader of a mercenary unit. The unit takes on several contracts in the region known as the Chaos March, the border between the Capellan Confederation and the Federation Commonwealth during the time of the FedCom Civil War. However, one of missions for the players takes place on Solaris VII, the Game World, where individual and teams of MechWarriors battle in arenas much like combat sports today, except with giant mecha. Matches are recorded and sent through the known galaxy, allowing for massive revenue for the licensor and licensees.
Of course, when there’s a sport, there is a sports announcer. In the game, the announcer is Duncan Fisher, voiced by George Ledoux. Ledoux wanted to get into Duncan’s head a little better, so he commissioned Cody Ouellette to write a short story about Fisher’s past. Ouellette at the time was a writer for BattleCorps, a subscription-based website that provided stories, news events, and scenarios for players. However, the story, “The Last Contender”, isn’t considered canon. It also doesn’t quite fit as fanfiction, considering what the story was commissioned for. It is an adaptation, though.
The story leans heavily on setting knowledge. As mentioned, Solaris VII is the Game World, along the lines of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Silesia is the main city, home to the major arenas and split into sectors controlled by the major Houses/nations. Kai Allard-Liao and his customized Centurion, Yen-Lo-Wang, appear in a number of BattleTech works, including Michael Stackpole’s Blood of Kerensky trilogy covering the Clan Invasion. Allard-Liao was considered the best in the Solaris games, having won the Grand Championship two years in a row. Naturally, any MechWarrior in the games would want to test his mettle, much like Duncan does.
Like the early years of Vegas and Atlantic City, organzied crime has a foothold on Solaris VII. Fixing games isn’t unheard of. However, strong arming a pilot who has a massive walking tank tends to not go well. The media is also pervasive on Solaris; there is a demand for the games throughout the known galaxy, though there are elements that are not happy with them.
The story’s focus on Duncan Fisher is its strength. “The Last Contender” is about how an ambitious man became a popular announcer, bitter but still in love with the games, the former athlete now in the broadcast booth. All to get into the mind of a character for a small portion of a video game. But it works.
Duncan Fisher’s legacy continues, though. The character is memorable and has appeared in a number of the Black Pants Legion’s videos and is the arena announcer in Mechwarrior Online. Ledoux’s portrayal of the character gives nuance that is unexpected for an announcer role.
“The Last Contender” is a bittersweet story. One door closes, opening a new door for Duncan, who may not be ready for the change. There’s no doubting that Ouellette knows the setting, having worked with it prior to writing “The Last Contender”. Ledoux’s reading fits the grittier parts of Solaris VII, the side that the media would never show to offworld viewers. Combined with Shaw’s art, the story paints a picture of a man thrown off stride and trying to deal with the hand life dealt him.