2305: The Night Is Dark

Posted: March 3, 2013 by Kelly in deathmatching, league, stories

2305: The Night Is Dark (And Full Of Terrors)

His heart is pounding slowly and heavily in his throat by the time the dropship lifts off from the landing platform. He looks around the dropship at the faces of his competitors, while the amiable face and voice of announcer Karl Lorentz talks the viewers at home through everyones stats and stories. There is a heady air of expectation in the dropship. Some of the twelve faces are showing signs of excitement, some a schooled blankness. The convicts are just looking aggressive.

Karl announces them first; since they haven’t done things like bootcamp or sponsored events, they are the unknowns to the audience. He starts with the most famous of them all; Bertrand Razon. This long-haired man with the scarred face took an assault rifle to a playground and emptied his rounds in the innocently playing children. Fourteen dead, many more traumatised. Conflicted army veteran, full of PTSD and medication abuse that has escalated in the past couple of decades since the war ended. He’s good with that rifle, though, Milan notices, when Karl announces Razon’s stats. Near sniper like accuracy, trained for combat situations. This is one to watch out for. Milan watches the older man’s face and hopes that Razon will die quickly. He certainly wouldn’t mind taking him out.

Then there are Henrik Idesson and Wendel Sprenger, who are both cultists who have been planting car bombs in Scandinavia to make the world pay attention to the Cult Of The Dying World. They are together responsible for about two dozen deaths. They have known each other for years and it seems likely that they will work together in the arena. Alliances in the arena are not unheard of, and Milan is sure these guys will watch each other’s backs for at least a while. They’re even sitting next to each other right now, like a unity. Their rail guns are held in similar gestures. Milan doesn’t agree with them being here; this match will bring only more attention to that crazy cult of theirs. Yet apparently the world wants to see them bleed and Milan isn’t the one who makes these decisions.

Karl moves on to introduce dark-haired Landra Abrantes. Iberian, thirty two years of age. An athlete, like Saxa. She trained for this gig her whole life. She was a terror in the South Fortress with her shock rifle. She had been the favourite from the very first moment she entered bootcamp. Milan quite likes her. She speaks with a beautiful south European accent, which makes her seem exotic. She also offered him drinks last night, which he declined in favour of phonecalls with Rune and a bottle of his own champagne. He smiles at her when her great stats are discussed, and she smiles back at him in return. “I think there’s quite some money riding on you in the betting stations, Landra,” Karl says. “It’s been a while since we had a female Euroleague champion. Do not let your fans down.”

“I’m not going to,” Landra says. Her smile is bright and excited as she places her shock rifle on her knees. The shock rifle reminds Milan suddenly of Walter.  /You should have been here, not me,/ he thinks fervently. /I’m going to win this one for you. For you and Saxa and to prove that I can do this; that the Fortress wasn’t a fluke, dammit. I’ll show the world./

From there on, Karl introduces the others. Goran Brody, winner of the Southeastern Fortress. He had won by the skin of his teeth, with only one kill. Milan doesn’t pay him much mind; according to the stats he can own Brody’s ass any time of the week.

Stan Horak, East Fortress. Karl prattles on how Stan is short for Stanimir, and it apparently means something like to hold, or to become. “Here’s to hoping your name will bring you luck,” Karl says friendly. Horak needs it, his stats are pretty average, despite the fact that he fights with a minigun.

“It’s gotten me this far,” Horak says cheerfully. He has crooked teeth and a mop of dark curls on his head, but when he grins he seems somehow endearing. It is said that he has quite the fanbase at home in Eastern Europe, and suddenly Milan understands why Horak is here and why he does this. /First the money, then the bitches/. His own words, echoing back at him over the course of the past two months. It seems like a lifetime ago when he spoke those words to Walter in bootcamp.

Sven Kowalski, a blond guy that fights with a rocket launcher. /Dangerous in close areas,/ Milan judges. /Only to be engaged in open spaces, preferrably from behind. Need to make use of rocket loading times and gank him in the meantime./ He’s not that fast either, his stats tell the world.

Some hope uncurls in the pit of Milan’s stomach. He is better than these three. Landra might give him a run for his money, and obviously Le Blanc, but he is not the worst statted person in this drop ship. This is good news.

Then there’s the only other female in the dropship. Mirna Milovan, a bulky and heavily muscled woman who fights with a flak cannon. She’s incredibly strong and has a stamina that is unheard of; she hardly even needs stimms to stay alert all game long. She’s not fast, but strong and steady has won her the race in the Central Fortress. That, and a fucking good aim.

Dennis Meier represents the Northern Fortress, and does so very well. His stats are comparable to Milan’s, only he fights with a minigun. He’s fast, a very good and accurate shot, and he seems to be able to think his way out of situations quickly. Milan was glad they didn’t meet in Northwest, where he had been situated. He would have been competition for Walter, Saxa and himself. And fuck knows there had been a lot of talent in Northwest anyway.

“Next up, Milan Anders,” Karl says cheerfully. He pulls up one of Milan’s more flattering pictures and then goes on to some pre-mixed footage of him in the Fortress. “Trained by Rune Murray till the bitter end.”

“Hopefully not very bitter,” Milan interjects quickly, trying to ignore a pretty graphic image of Rune and himself in the throes of passion. “This story isn’t done yet.”

“It already ended with Saxa Owens disqualified and Walter Lane crippled. That’s a pretty bitter end for the Northwest Fortress, at least,” the announcer says mildly, while the images focuses on a distraught looking Saxa, hunched over a bleeding and unconscious Walter. “And even though Murray hasn’t been convicted yet, we all know what happened here.”

“The things we do for love,” he sighs, stopping mid-breath when he realises that he’s just spoken out loud. He catches himself, smiling a wry grin when he hears some of the others chuckle. “And stupidity, I suppose.”

“That’s how we like them in the Arena, young and stupid,” Karl says. There are wrinkles of amusement around his eyes and somehow Milan doesn’t like him as much anymore. “But honestly though, we checked everyone’s guns here in the dropship, and they are fine. No more sabotage for your victory. You’ll have to do it all by yourself now.”

Despite everything, Milan offers him and the audience a brilliant smile. “Bring it on, bitches,” he says. Next to him, Meier is laughing.

And then, last but not least, respresenting the Western Fortress and the Euroleague of last year: Laurent le Blanc. Dual guns, expert marksman, all of the combative skills from his time in black ops. Ice cold under pressure, a predator, and  pretty damn terrifying to share a room with. He exudes danger and death like a bad odor, and he keeps staring at Milan with that unnerving pale stare of his. /How will you fare under my guns, Milan Anders?/ the man asked him last night.

Milan glances at the stats and hopes that perhaps Landra or Meier will take this guy out for him. Because according to the stats, he’ll be in real trouble when he runs into Le Blanc. Just like everybody else. Le Blanc is the absolute favourite for this match, that much is sure. /Let’s see if you’ve taught me enough then, Rune,/ Milan thinks. /If it’s enough to stay alive in an arena with the likes of fucking Le Blanc. It’ll give the viewers at home something exciting to look at, at least./

He hits the ground running five minutes later. He’s the sixth one to enter the Arena. It’s a cityscape, reminding him of the Dregs, but then even more in ruins. The air smells like sewer and filth and the area looks like it hasn’t been cleared up after the war bombings had reduced parts of it to rubble. Still, it looks like a pretty neat Arena. There are buildings to stake out in, to take the high ground, areas with low walls to hide behind, alleyways for sneaking around. There are no lights, no flickering advertisements gliding over the concrete walls. All the colours in the shops and the apartments have bleached out years ago. The place looks incredibly depressing under the unforgiving steel grey sky. “This is not the place where you die,” Milan whispers to himself, and then runs for a good place to take cover while the others enter the Arena at their own intervals. There are only five people before him, it could have been worse. One of them is Le Blanc, so he needs to be extremely careful. The Belgian menace is the last person Milan wants to come face to face with.

He can almost feel the stimms and the enhancers latch onto the adrenaline in his system. As he scouts out the area and finds shelter in an abandoned ground level apartment, the world snaps into clear focus. For now, all of his doubts about Rune are gone. He doesn’t wonder if he deserves to be here; he /is/ here now and he is going to fight for his survival. His heavy pulse gun feels like a comfort in his hands. When the sun starts shining like silver daggers between the heavy clouds, it feels like a blessing.

In the bliss of his focus, it almost seems too goddamned easy when he suddenly spots Idesson and Sprenger walk down the street. They are both scouting their own sides of the street, and they are staying so beautifully close together. Milan breathes shallowly through his mouth and soundlessly cocks his gun through the cracks of the broken window. The sunlight is illuminating the street and reflecting off the window; there is no way they can see him stand in the darkened livingroom. They hardly even look his way, dismissing the angle of the shot he would have to take to get them both. Still, he feels confident he can make it; he can nearly see the lines of trajectory through the nearly deserted street.

He softly pushes the trigger halfway and listens with satisfaction to pulse gun humming to life in his hands. It’s charging the plasma within the barrel, filling it with green shiney death, just waiting to be released. And when they even come to a short stand still in his line of fire, it’s like God himself is giving him a fucking break. It’s the easiest thing in the world to pull the trigger. He aims slightly in between them, where Idesson is holding his rail gun.

The street flares up green and explodes in fire when Milan’s shot instantly kills Idesson and heavily wounds Sprenger when Idesson’s gun explodes. He falls to the ground, screaming. He is full of plasma burns and his face and arms are a bloody mess. Not dead, but dying.

With an icy coldness that Milan doesn’t know from himself, he doesn’t take the next shot just yet. He waits a few seconds, while Wendel Sprenger’s agonised screaming fills the air. He watches and waits if any other competitors will be drawn by the sounds of the fighting and dying. Maybe someone wants to off Sprenger and get the money for the kill. Seconds pass and Wendel’s screams die down to moans. No one shows up. Milan surveys the street one more time, but there isn’t anyone but the dying man out there. He shifts his position slightly and takes the mercy shot. For the second time in as many minutes the street lights up green and Sprenger’s cries are abruptly silenced.

He’s already out of the back door by the time Karl calls first blood and the death of the two crazy cultists. “Good riddance,” Milan mutters and smiles at the empty alleyway he finds himself in. He looks up, but there is no way anyone can take a shot at him here. There is nobody, but this situation will never last. He needs to get out of here, keep moving. See that nobody gets to him; not Landra, not Meier, and definitely not Le Blanc.

Still, he made first blood and took out two competitors already. He already has two of the three kills he boasted he would have, and he feels pretty damn good. /Are you watching this, Rune? Tell me again how you didn’t teach me enough./

It is almost enough to throw the feeling that he’s being watched and stalked.

For a while there, nothing much happens. He stays on the move, quietly moving beteen buildings and pods and rubble, taking in situations, always calculating the best shooting angles, imagining the best hiding places. Minutes pass, and then hours. Some competitors are taken out of the game. Meier apparently kills Goran Brody, Kowalski kills Horak. The latter fight he can hear from a distance when the sounds of rocket explosions echo through the afternoon air, but it is taking place somewhere upstairs in some building and he isn’t planning to fight a battle with someone who has the higher ground.

He avoids that battle and then nearly runs right into Landra Abrantes. The angle for shooting her is all wrong and he isn’t sure he wants to try to take her on anyway. She doesn’t see him while he ducks away and exits the place like his ass is on fire. Two minutes later he hears gunfire and Karl calls the death of Sven Kowalski by Landra’s hand. Landra hadn’t seen him because she was apparently going to confront Kowalski. Milan exhales deeply in relief and goes on to search a better hiding spot. The weaker statted people are all dead, all that there’s left is Meier, Landra, Milovan, Le Blanc, and Razon. Fighting these people will be tougher. He needs to up his game. That, and he needs to stay close to a regen station. Any chance to make it out of here, he’ll take it. He’s still not planning to die here.

The skies are darkening with the onset of both rain and evening by the team he hears the tell-tale sound of a flak cannon going off in the street next to him. The sounds echoes trough the alleyway and he hurries out, towards the sound. He’s still careful though, moving quietly through the ink black shadows. A flak cannon means Mirna Milovan. Who is she shooting?

He finds out a second later, when he peeks around the corner and finds Milovan kicking someone to the ground. The man is moaning, trying to say something, but he is bleeding in his shoulder and his legs both.

“You fucker,” Milovan hisses at the man. It is Razon. The man doesn’t look nearly as imposing now as he was on the news all those weeks ago. Even in the limited light Milan can see that the man’s scarred face is ashen and that he is bleeding out in places. His gun is far out of his reach, lying discarded in a gutter. The look on the child-killer’s face is a mixture of rage and horror, as Milovan yanks up his head by his dark hair and turns his face towards her flak cannon. “They were kids,” she shouts passionately, tugging at his hair to keep him upright. “They had parents, a family! You fucking cunt!”

“Please,” Milan can hear Razon say over blood-flecked lips.

Milovan doesn’t have mercy. She pulls the trigger and the flak cannon goes off in his face. His head explodes in the most gruesome of ways and the lifeless corpse of what once was a vindictive, dangerous and insane individual now crumples to the pavement.

Milovan stupidly nearly shoots her own hand off in the process, injuring her hand pretty severely. “Worth it,” she mutters to herself, holding her left hand against her chest armour. The blood stains look black in the faint light. She looks up at the regen station that is situated at the end of the street. He can see her consider the possibilities of an ambush where she can’t escape, then look at how her left hand is now coated in her own blood. It must hurt like a bitch.

Milan smiles when he sees her turn towards the regen station after a quick look to ensure herself that she is alone. /You aren’t,/ he tells her in the silence of his thoughts, and cocks his gun again.

“Sorry, Mirna,” he whispers soundlessly and pulls the trigger.

The street abruptly lights up green. His plasma hits her in the back. She doesn’t even have the time to turn around. She goes down flat on her face and doesn’t get up anymore.

Karl confirms the kill only ten seconds later. “Mirna Milovan dies at the hands of Milan Anders. Think that’s your third kill now, Anders. Are you going for four today?”

Milan grins at where he thinks the camera drone might be, somewhere to his right. “Sure, why the hell not. I’m feeling lucky.”

The next moment, it feels like someone hits his gun hand with a hammer. His pulse gun clatters to the ground, combined with the sound of a gunshot from the left. The first moment there is a feeling of shock; his heart skips a beat and the air in his lungs stills and he can’t think, can’t register. He stumbles backwards against a burnt out pod and his pulse gun is by his feet, he can’t shoot anymore and /Oh god, my hand…./ He’s lost fingers and there’s blood everywhere. He turns, whirls around.

Sees Le Blanc standing there in the shadows of an twilight-darkened alleyway, smiling slightly, his head cocked. Dual guns pointed at Milan’s chest from only ten feet away.  “Not so lucky,” the man says. “But at least you got your three kills.”

Milan’s gaze flicks one panicked moment to the rifle that lies on the cracked pavement, but then realises that there is no way he can pick it up in time, no way to shoot it without a proper hand to hold it or pull the trigger. /It is over./

He looks back at Le Blanc and just nods dumbly. “I should have checked my left, shouldn’t I?”

“Yes, you should have,” is all Le Blanc offers him, and then Milan can /see/ him pulling the trigger. In a horrible slow motion, he can see the bullet leave the barrel, the explosion of it, the scent of gun powder in the air over the already present smells of burning flesh from his own pulse gun. The trajectory to his chest; flawless, perfect. It’s only a split second until impact.

It doesn’t even hurt that much. The world greys out, then goes to black.

Hundreds of kilometers away, Rune Murray watches him on her viewscreen in her holding cell and bursts into tears.


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