2310: Memories Confined

Posted: March 16, 2013 by Kelly in league, stories, the world

2310: Memories Confined

But we are, we are
The only thing that matters in the end
But these scars,  these scars
Are well shaped nightmares that pull us down
~Soilwork, “Memories Confined”

Friday evening after her first month on her new job finds Rune Murray in the local bar, well on her way to become very drunk on cheap wine and hating all of her life’s choices. It’s been five months since she was released from prison. She’s still being monitored and on probation, but as far as she doesn’t leave Western Europe or try to kill anyone again she’s pretty much free to start up her life again.

The first thing she’s done is find a shitty apartment in Eclat. The second thing she’s done is trying to find a new job. It’s been… humbling. It was something she had worried about in the handful of years she had to spend in prison. Before she ended up there she had been one of the most sought-after personal trainers in the world. She had trained League champions. She had the first pick of every litter in the European Fortresses. The money she asked for her services was outrageous, and the sponsors still happily paid up.

It had all ended with Milan. She fucked up spectacularly, and once she got out of prison it became increasingly clear that her time on top of the world is over.

She has to claw her way back there again, and she’ll have to start at the very bottom. It’s like being twenty again, just out of the sports academy – only now with the stigma of her past mistakes clinging to her like a bad odor. There have been only two real job offers since she got out of prison. She’s gone for the better paying and more low-profile one, because she figured she needs some time to get back in the game and back on her feet again. The money doesn’t hurt either. She blew a lot of her fortune on lawyers and legal settlements.

She’s been in Rowena Duval’s employ for a month now and she’s already completely burnt out on it. Rowena Duval is the twenty-two year old heir to the Duval fortune; her father was the owner of one of the bigger financial institutions in Eclat and died in some shady pod accident a year ago, leaving all of his assets to his daughter. She’s a complete brat that has taken up the notion that she should totally compete in a League match because she knows how to shoot a gun. Rune has been working with her for four weeks and while the girl is not completely talentless, she seems to assume that skills and strength will just come to her naturally and she won’t have to work for it. When Rune presses her into action, the girl just waves it away and then blames Rune for not training her well enough. She acts so entitled that Rune is fairly sure that she’ll strangle the girl at some point.

/It’s funny,/ Rune reflects as she leans on the sticky formica bar and takes a swig from her wine. It tastes too artificially sweetened. She’s totally going to have a hangover tomorrow. /I could handle ex-military guys, killers, tough guys. And now some bratty kid is driving me up the walls?/ She wonders if it is because she is getting older and less patient, or if it is because of what happened. Rowena’s barbs about the last person that Rune trained aren’t helping either. The girl quickly figured out that Milan is still a sore spot for Rune, so she’s using that to try to put Rune in her place. Sometimes it even works.

She drinks deeply from the wine even though it’s not tasting any better even when she gets further into the bottle. The bartender has given her the whole bottle, so she can pour her own drinks. The bar is pretty much deserted; most of the rich kids in the area go to fancy parties, they don’t hang out in bars like this one. The local pub is usually for their employees. It is a hole in the wall; just a small brown café on a street corner. It smells like cheap booze and cheaper food. There are blue lamps on the toilet in an attempt to keep people from shooting up drugs in there. Rune approves of the place; it serves her purpose. If she gets too drunk to find her way back to her pod, she can still walk home. And then there will be a weekend of feeling miserable until on Monday the whole ordeal with Rowena starts over again.

/Maybe I should have taken the Southern League job after all,/ she thinks with an audible sigh. The bartender shoots her a curious look, but she ignores him, too lost in her own thoughts.  /Dani Summers is a high profile convict and I’d have to go to prison to train her, but at least that girl would be motivated to train and learn./

She is so deep in thoughts that at first it doesn’t even register that somebody is tapping her on the shoulder. So much for her battle instincts.

“How the mighty have fallen,” somebody says behind her. And that /voice/, that is enough to make her swivel around on her bar stool. She recognises that voice immediately.

She now looks up at someone who she had really hoped she would never see again. And she has no real weapons on her. All she has is the wine glass in her hand which she could perhaps break and wrench into his face. Her hands clench around the fragile glass.

“Hello Walter,” she says more calmly than she feels.

Walter Lane looks down to the glass in her hands and smiles wryly. “You can put that glass down, Rune. I’m only here to talk.”

She holds her glass in her hands anyway, regarding him closely. He is standing up straight and he’s looking fit, as if he’s been working out a lot. He looks more muscled than he was when he was in boot camp, stronger. And despite that, there are lines in his face that weren’t there before, either. Fatigue and depression are clouding his blue eyes. And beyond that… anger. She shifts uncomfortably on her bar stool. “You’ll forgive me for not exactly believing you,” she says slowly, catching his gaze. There is so much there that she immediately feels inadequate, horrible, petty. /No, that’s not the word. Guilty. That’s it./ “What do you want from me, Walter?”

He steps past her and sits down on the bar stool next to her. He gestures the bartender for a glass and then promptly pours himself some wine from Rune’s bottle without asking permission. “For a long time I thought I wanted an apology from you. I got one from Milan, and the whole fucking ordeal wasn’t even his fault.”

“Oh believe me, I regret everything about what I did.” She tops up her own glass before he drinks all of her wine, avoiding that unnerving gaze of his.

He barks out a laugh. “No, you really don’t.”

It stings, although she can’t say why. She looks up sharply at him and remembers, despite everything, that she never liked him. “What do you mean?”

“Because you don’t know half the things you should be fucking sorry for,” he says from between clenched teeth. She can see his knuckles whiten around his wine glass and subtly shifts positions so the angle for slamming the glass in her face is more awkward. “I don’t know what you regret; probably that Milan died, but you don’t know what else happened after that fucking bootcamp.”

Oh God, she doesn’t want to be here. She wants to leave so fucking badly. She breathes deeply and asks anyway. “So what happened?”

“Lannie died. Didn’t you hear?” His voice is completely flat.

Rune cannot help looking at him and the crippling grief on his face is so recognisable that it feels like a punch in the stomach. She knows, of course. She’s seen Lannie Williams die in the World League just like everyone else in the world. She hadn’t thought much of it, despite what her brother would think of it. Despite the fact that Lannie had cheated on him and had abruptly left him to shack up with Walter, her brother always had a soft spot for her.

It had been glaringly obvious that Lannie had not been good enough to take the championship. She had been surprisingly good; maybe even good enough to take a regional League – but not for the World League. She wasn’t top tier. Not like the reigning champions who had entered that Arena with her. “My condoleances,” she says, because it’s expected of her. “I’m not sure how that’s my fault, though.”

He shoots her a sharp look and his fury is burning blue and hot. “Tell me Rune, how did it feel to watch Milan die? What was it like to see him cough up blood and to see the light go out in his eyes?”

The images come unbidden. She closes her eyes for a second and the memory is crystal clear in all its intensity. Milan’s brilliant smile to the cameras when he made his third Euroleague kill. The hope shining on his beautiful face; the first inklings of hope that he might indeed make it out of here. And then the footage shifting to Laurent le Blanc in the shadows, furrowing his brow in concentration. The drone camera showed his line of sight and by then Rune had been standing on unsteady legs, screaming at her screen, begging of Milan to turn around, to /notice/, to check his /fucking left/… and by then it was already too late.

“It was the worst thing,” Rune says hoarsely. Her voice doesn’t sound like her own and her eyes are burning. She rubs them vigorously, but the burning sensation doesn’t let up.

He doesn’t respond for a while and when he does, his voice sounds as hoarse as hers. “And I had to watch Lannie die in exactly the same way. Seriously, Rune, what the fuck did I ever do to you that you take everything from me?”

“You talk to me as if I’m God or something,” she says, chugging the rest of her glass in idle hope it will help with the churning in her gut. It’s been nearly four years since Milan died and it still hasn’t gotten much easier. “I didn’t put Lannie in that League. She went on her own.”

He turns to her and the anger is back, more prominently than ever. Her old fighting instincts wake up and she can feel the adrenaline jolting through her system, burning the alcohol away as if it was never there in the first place. She is on guard, but he doesn’t attack. He just sits there, blue eyes spitting fire, and his words are sharp like broken glass: “Everyone keeps telling me that. But do you know why she was in there, Rune? She was there because she wanted to fix up my fucking /leg/. You know, the one you got fucked up.”

Somehow she has never connected the dots. She has taken the guilt over the sentence of attempted murder, because that’s what it had been. She deemed it worth it, too, because it got Milan through the Fortress and into the Euroleague. His victory there was an idle hope, but at least she had given him a flying start; she had helped him. She took the fall for him in hopes that he would live. She hadn’t cared about Walter, nor about Saxa’s career. That collateral damage could burn in hell for all she cared; Walter was supposed to have died anyway. And once she had gone to prison, she’d hardly thought about what the impact of her actions on her collateral damage were. She’d had enough on her mind as it was.

“Lannie died like Milan did,” he continued. “Looks like you got more people killed than you thought. So if you ever had /any/ hatred towards me, I hope you consider that paid off in full by now, because I’m seriously done with the fallout of your crime passionel.”

She blinks at him. “You and me both,” she says softly. She feels like she is dreaming, detached from reality. As if this all hasn’t really happened and she is still lying in Milan’s arms, snuggled up against his chest in the afterglow of spectacular sex. Just the two of them, together under the blankets to shield them from the worst of the cameras in the boot camp dormitories. The warmth of his skin against hers. “If it makes you feel better, I wouldn’t have taken him to bed if I had known it would turn out this way.”

Suddenly there are tears in Walter’s eyes. “That’s funny, Milan said almost exactly the same when he came to visit me in the hospital.”

Rune sets down her empty wine glass on the bar. “Yeah, he would have. Why are you here, Walter?”

“Because of my bucket list,” he answers. He looks wistful now, blinking away the moisture in his eyes before tears can roll over his face. “I’ve got a bucket list that I’ve been fulfilling. You are the last stop on my list.”

“A bucket list? Are you dying?” He doesn’t look the part. Apart from the anger and the depression he looks healthier than ever.

“I might as well be; I’m entering the Southern League in two weeks.”

She’s seen the vids of the Southern League bootcamp. It’s a habit she can’t shake; of course she follows the League bootcamps. This year’s Southern League seems like it’s going to profit from a fun batch of trainees. She would have loved kicking Mégane de la Croix into shape.  “You’re shitting me. I didn’t see you in bootcamp. The Fortress game is tomorrow.”

“They let me enter the League immediately,” he says and his wistful expression turns into a smirk and then into a shit-eating grin. “No need for fucking bootcamp. I’m kind of done with that anyway. So yeah, two weeks and I might die. So I’m finishing up on my bucket list.”

She raises an eyebrow at him. “Talking to me was on your bucketlist?”

He laughs. “No,” he says lightly, as if there isn’t any blood between them. As if she never conspired to have him killed so her boyfriend could live. As if the two of them have never watched their loved ones die in the Arena. “Not quite.”

And then he strikes, too fast for her to block. His fist connects with her face and she can feel the burning pain of her nose breaking in that one instant before she falls off her bar stool and hits the wooden floor with a bone-rattling thud. She sees stars for one moment and her hand goes to her face, trying to feel the damage. /Yeah, that’s broken,/ she thinks dispassionately, while staring up at Walter Lane in disbelief.

“Punching you in the face was, though,” he says, laughing. “I came here to say fuck you, Rune Murray. So here you are: fuck you.”

And then he turns away and walks out of the bar, while blood from her broken nose stains her hands. She just sits on the floor and holds her throbbing face in her hands, while around her the bartender places a call for a medic.

It isn’t until half an hour later that it occurs to her that she’s seen that move before. That strike; directly to the face like that, that angle. That move had been Saxa’s.

When the paramedics finally arrive, she’s laughing and crying both.

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