2306: Delusions Of Grandeur

Posted: March 18, 2013 by Kelly in deathmatching, league, stories

It all comes down to moments. Heartbeats. Fractions of seconds. Instants.

In the end, that is all it takes.

Saxa Owens is completely aware of that. She’s fought her way through the Fortress and the other contestants in the Euroleague and in the past months she’s looked death in the eyes on more occasions than she would care to admit. In many cases it came down to moments like this.

An action and a counter-reaction, and she would just have to pray that she was fast enough. The stats all say that she should be; her reflexes are supposed to be quicker than anyone else in the arena. She can take down most of them in hand-to-hand combat. She’s had to train her rifle accuracy like an idiot, but she’s better than most of them at shooting as well now. It all looks so very good on paper, but reality tells a different story. In reality, it all comes down to moments like this.

Night has fallen over the abandoned buildings that once made up a main street in a small town. There’s not much light to go by; the Corporation only fixed up enough streetlights so the viewers at home will actually be able to see something on their screens while the contestants battle it out. The butter-coloured streetlights illuminate a dreary, muddy street, damp with mist and the remnants of this morning’s rain.

Saxa hides in the shadows and is grateful for that extra year of training that Rune Murray’s actions have granted her. Shitty as the whole situation might have been, she’s a better competitor now than she was last year around this time. It’s the only good thing that has come out of the whole ordeal. Milan Anders died in the 2305 Euroleague with Laurent le Blanc’s bullets buried in his body, and Saxa now has to deal with Merle Jourin.

When Saxa had taken out Girelli with a long distance shot that she’d been ridiculously proud of, Karl Lorentz had cheerfully announced that once thing was certain at least; the Euroleague of 2306 would have a female winner. It had been some time since the Euroleague had one; Varya Cheverina had been victorious five years ago, and she’d been the only one. Not like the Northern League, which has been dominated by Valentina Marin for years now.

It doesn’t mean much to Saxa, apart from the fact that the worst one is saved for last. Say what you will about Merle Jourin, but she’s /fucking/ dangerous. In the eight hours that have passed since the beginning of the deathmatch she’s been good for four kills. Saxa’s on two – and it might end here right now, in this very moment. It’s just the two of them now.

Saxa figures it’s better to let Jourin come to her. She crouches on top of a pod docking station in an alleyway. The height of it gives her a good overview of the alley and the street beyond. There is a balcony in the house above her, but the building should be inaccessible and even if it is, it is easy to keep surveillance on it. She should be fairly safe from sneak attacks here.

Time passes; she has no idea how long, but suddenly she feels something – hears something – from the balcony above.

And like a demon, Merle runs onto the balcony – and /jumps/ off, pulling the trigger of her ripper with a maniacal grin on her face. Despite her momentum and her jump, her aim is dead-on. The blade goes flying through the air and Saxa is too late to dodge.

/Well, fuck,/ Saxa thinks – in that one second, that one split second that is granted to her.

/Why have you signed up for the League?/ a journalist had asked her, somewhere last year, during a Fortress boot camp promo session.

She had smiled at the journalist and said: /Because I feel I can do this. Why does anyone test their skills? To see if they can. I think I can./

/You think you can win?/

/Of course I think so. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here./

Milan Anders and Walter Lane, her direct competitors, had been sitting right next to her. She had grinned at them and the both of them had grinned back because they understood. Milan and Walter fought for money, but while the money was a huge bonus, Saxa fought for glory.

She doesn’t feel glorious now that she sees the ripper tear through the evening air. Its trajectory is a straight arc, right for her throat. And she can’t get out, she can’t jump, she can’t crouch in her corner. There is not enough time, not enough moving space.

She does the only thing she can think of.

While Merle Jourin lands on her two feet in a pool of shadows right next to the pod docking station that Saxa is standing upon, Saxa raises her rifle in a last ditch attempt to shield herself from approaching death. Anything to keep that ripper blade from biting her throat.

Her reflexes do not fail her.

The shock of the ripper blade tearing into the metal of the rifle reverberates in her arms. Her throat is safe but her rifle is rendered useless, the blade buried three inches into the metal.

Jourin either screams or laughs below and raises her ripper again, ready to shoot upwards and make sure that Saxa is really dead this time.

This is the moment. That one moment in which everything converges. Death is smiling at her, ready to welcome her home like Milan was welcomed home last year. She doesn’t stop fighting, though. She seizes the moment and does something that Merle Jourin doesn’t expect – what she /should/ have expected, because Saxa has better reflexes than Jourin has.

Saxa jumps off the pod station, right leg perfectly outstretched. Her aim, where it comes to her own body, is always flawless. Her right foot connects with the ripper in Jourins hand, kicking it away. Saxa can hear bones breaking over the sound of her blood thundering in her ears. That same moment, half an instant later, her left foot connects with Jourin’s chest.

And another instant later they both hit the gravel in a tangle of limbs. Jourin slams with her head against the ground with a sickening thud.

The moment is not over. Saxa uses her momentum to roll over and drag Jourin with her, so she straddles the older woman in the muddy, filthy street, on the edge of a gutter. Jourin’s long dark hair has come loose from the bun she had tied it in and fans out in the muddy rain water. There is blood in her hair.

Saxa has to be quick now before Jourin regains her senses and starts to fight back. The ripper is lying discarded in a puddle only a few feet away; Jourin should not be allowed to get there.

So she starts pounding on the other woman’s face. It’s a moment of pure need; pure survival instinct. She’s fought in MMA tournaments and on the streets in the Dregs. She’s fucked up people’s faces. She’s broken noses and jaws. She kicked someone in the head once, on the street. He had barely survived. It’s child’s play compared to what she’s doing to Merle Jourin right now.

The woman wrestles and fights for all she’s worth, but Saxa holds the upper hand. She evades Jourin’s grabbing hands and instead connects with cheekbone, jaw, nose, temple. When Jourin bucks like a wild horse, attempting to shake her off, she finally gets the momentum she needs to make a finishing move.

She doesn’t even hesitate. She flips Jourin over on her stomach so the top half of the woman’s body is lying in the muddy rainwater. Jourin almost manages to get her hands underneath herself; it’s almost enough to get up. Saxa is faster and doesn’t let her. She grabs the woman by the hair – her wet, muddy, bloody hair – she will remember the exact feeling of that filthy hair in her hands for a long time – and then slams Jourin’s face on the ridge of the gutter. Bone connects with concrete with an awful /crunching/ sound.

Merle Jourin twitches a couple of times, but Saxa doesn’t let go and slams the woman’s broken face down on the concrete once more, twice, three times.

“You can let go, Saxa, we have a flatline,” Karl Lorentz suddenly says in her earpiece.

She untangles her hands from Jourin’s hair and sits down on the edge of the gutter. Blood and gore mix with rainwater and mud. It washes over her shoes and Saxa watches numbly as the horrid mixture slowly courses away from her. Downhill. To the sewer and the sea.

“Congratulations, Saxa Owens. You’ve won the Euroleague of 2306 with a respectable three kills!” Karl says and plays his customary victory music over the speakers that must be hidden in the alleyway and everywhere in the Arena.

Saxa looks up to the origin of the sound above her and smiles faintly at the darkened sky. The clouds look amber and brown from the light pollution of the nearest city. They are heavy with rain. It shouldn’t be too long now before the rain will wash away Merle Jourin’s snot and brains and blood completely.

“So what’s going through your mind right now, Saxa?” Karl pushes to get a reaction out of her.

Saxa rubs her hands over her mist-damp face, uncaring that she smears blood over her face. “I wonder why the fuck I ever thought this was a good idea.”

“It was; you took the victory as you said you would. The glory and the grandeur you sought are yours, and you deserve them.”

She thinks of Walter Lane, sitting at home with a crippled leg, watching her take the victory that Rune Murray stole from the both of them. She thinks of Milan’s blood staining concrete, like Merle Jourin’s doing right now. Would his blood still be visible on the concrete, or will the rain have washed him away as well by now?

“It was lunacy,” she says finally, looking at the corpse at her feet. She feels unreal, like she is dreaming. This doesn’t feel at all like she thought it would. She thought she would feel elated. Instead, she feels sick to her stomach and completely exhausted. “Delusions of someone who thought this would bring glory. The boys were right, they were just fighting for money. That’s the only real thing this brings.”

“Fame, glory, money and victory,” Karl says thoughtfully. “We’ll get a team to pick you up, Saxa. After a long shower you’ll be right as rain again.”

“Yeah,” she says with a smile she doesn’t mean. “Right as rain.”

She sits down again on the edge of the gutter and waits underneath the heavy clouds.

The real rain reaches her before the pick up team does.

——

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