2303: The Day I Ruined My Life

Posted: March 29, 2013 by Kelly in league, stories, the world

I’ve made up so much stories about this moment
that I could write books about it
Million of pages of lies
But I do remember this day

– Lost In Kiev, “The Day I Ruined My Life”

By the time Chang Kun Wei finally raised his gun to the chest of army general Li Nguyen and pulled the trigger, it was nearing midnight and nobody in the pub was sober anymore. I blinked a couple of tears away because I felt for the quiet woman. She did what she did for love, apparently. Her parting words for Chang Kun Wei had been biting, but he had shrugged it off. Chang went for the kill, as everyone expected of him. Chang never hesitated in the Arena, and his third Asia League victory was not that much different.

There was a weird mixture of cheers and silence in the pub when Khan announced Chang’s victory. Everyone was staring at the wall screen with a bit of astonishment, as if they couldn’t believe it could end like this. The battle had dragged on for hours and it had been so epic, so awesomely tense, that the actual flatline was almost an afterthought.

The camera panned in on Li Nguyen one final time and her words about love and honour kept ringing in my mind. Chang Kun Wei looked down on her as he exchanged some final words with Khan about his victory. I wasn’t paying attention anymore, I just had to think of Li Nguyen and the promises she’d made for love.

It was all very tragic and in my drunken stupor I thought that this was the most romantic and sad thing I’d ever seen. I wrapped my arms around my new boyfriend from where I was sitting on his lap and buried my face in his neck. He smelled like sweat, beer and his cologne. It wasn’t unpleasant.

“You owe me a beer, Dani,” one of the boys said behind me. There was laughter in his voice. I disentangled myself from Stephan’s embrace and looked at my boyfriend’s best friend Finn. I’d gotten to know him pretty well over the last two months since I was with Steph and it wasn’t a surprise to me that he would take delight in reminding me that he had won our bet. He had bet on Chang’s victory. I had hoped Nguyen would make it.

“A little respect for the dead, please. Li Nguyen’s body is not even cold yet,” I said.

Stephan’s arms squeezed gently around me as he shifted my weight around on his lap. “Are you crying, Dani?” he asked curiously.

“A little,” I confessed. “I’m drunk, shut up.”

Stephan chuckled and kissed me in my hair. “My emotional girlfriend, awww. It’s okay though. You can buy us all the next round once you’re done sniffling.”

“You suck,” I said, sniffling but with a smile on my face. I slid off Steph’s lap and made my way over to the bar to get the three of us new pints of dark brown ale. I didn’t even know how many we’d drank already. The League battle had dragged on for ages and we’d been steadily drinking the whole time. It was a good thing we didn’t have any classes tomorrow, because I couldn’t see myself going to University first thing tomorrow morning. The world was swimming pleasantly.

I balanced the pints between my fingers with the practise of years of beer drinking with my University mates. I wormed my way through the assembled pubgoers and found myself back to Stephan and Finn within a couple of minutes. They gratefully took their beers and were still discussing the match. It seemed that the both of them had been really convinced from the beginning that Chang would take the victory. I hadn’t been. Nguyen’s battle insight had been legendary, she had maybe been strategically sounder than Chang was. And the way she had offed her opponents had been nothing but awe inspiring. “I really hoped she would win,” I said.

“Nobody has a chance against Chang Kun Wei though,” Stephan said. “He’s the shit. Nobody can touch him.”

“As just shown,” Finn added cheerfully, taking a swig from his pint. His words were slurred, heavy with drink. “Especially not by a lady like Nguyen.”

“I’m sure Valentina Marin could take him,” I said. “She’s just as awesome. No one’s been able to touch her so far, either.”

“She’s not better than Chang, though,” Finn said, setting his glass back on the bar. “I mean, how could the weaker sex hold a candle to a manly man like Chang?”

“You’re so full of shit.”

Finn laughed. “You’re so easy to rile up, Dani. Seriously though, there are more guys in the Arena for a reason. Women just don’t do this shit. They’re not that good at it.”

I slammed my pint on the bar. The dark beer inside of it sloshed over the edge, wetting my hands. I licked the beer off my fingers and glared bloody murder at Finn. “Weren’t we just talking about Valentina Marin? Didn’t you see how she took out Delmont a couple of years ago? Or Lygia Gomes last month? Seriously man, do you have eyes in your head? The evidence is on the streets. A woman is just as good in the Arena as any men. If not better.”

Finn wasn’t impressed. “Give me a gun and I’ll wipe the floor with you, Dani,” he laughed. “I’m sure I could own your ass in the Fortress.”

I planted my hands in my sides. “Want to try that out?”

Stephan was laughing his ass off. “What the hell are you guys saying? Do you want to sign up for the Fortress to battle it out? Seriously, we could all just sober up and go to the city arena if you want.”

“I could take you drunk as well,” I told Finn sharply. “Your sensors would burn so red that it would be permanently ingrained in your fucking skin.”

That ruffled his feathers. Finn wiped his dark hair out of his sweaty face and frowned at me. He knew I was right; despite the fact that he might have been a good shot, Finn was overweight and far from fit. I could run circles around him and he would collapse panting. “Fuck that shit. Fuck the city arena. I challenge you; if we ever end up in the Fortress, I’d wipe the floor with you.”

Stephan grinned and laid a hand on his best friend’s shoulder. “That’s my new girlfriend you’re talking about, bud. I’ve only just gotten to know her, would like to last this relationship a little bit longer.”

I was fuming by this point. I didn’t even look at Stephan. I just continued to stare down his friend. The world was blurry around the edges, but everything seemed clear to me. “I accept this challenge. Let’s go sign up right now.”

It all seemed so clear at that moment. My anger was burning and I felt I should be on those barricades to avenge any slight on my honour or whatever the fuck I was thinking. Maybe it was just a lifetime of posturing during high school and trying to be ‘one of the guys’ at my technical study at University. I don’t know. But at that moment, that very moment, I threw away my life and I felt as if it was the right choice. As if there wasn’t any other choice I could have made at that moment. I could have shrugged it off and laughed about it like Stephan did. He was always the voice of reason against my fire in the handful of years that we were together. Maybe I should have listened to him more, then I wouldn’t be where I am now.

“The assessment center is on the other side of the street,” Finn said, staring me down as if he was intimidating. As if he wasn’t swaying on his feet. I wondered dimly why he felt the need to challenge me; a scrawny nineteen year old girl with yellowblond hair. He had three years of life experience and about fifty pounds on me. What did /he/ have to prove? It only inflamed me more.

We finished our pints in a record time and left the pub right there and then. I leaned heavily on Stephan’s arm as we exited the pub and crossed the street. We nearly got hit by a pod, too, but I managed to pull Steph out of the way in the nick of time. He laughed uproariously and leaned just as heavily on me. “God Dani, I’m so fucking drunk. You’re so pretty,” he slurred at me. That last pint might have hit him a little heavily. I was far from steady, myself.

The assessment center was a beacon of light in the street. White light spilled from the windows and it was strange to enter such an office-like area after hanging out in the pub for the past ten hours. Everything was in orderly fashion. The receptionist smiled friendly at us. It even smelled clean. “I’m surprised to see you’re still open,” I said, leaning on the desk and smiling lopsidedly.

The chocolate-skinned girl behind the desk shrugged and typed away on her terminal, obviously unhappy to have the graveyard shift. “We’re open till 4am tonight. It’s a game night. We always get lots of signups on game nights. I assume that’s what you’re here for as well?”

I nodded. “Finn Johnson here and me.” I turned to my boyfriend and saw that he had heavily flopped down on one of the chairs in the waiting area. “Do you want to sign up as well, babe?” I called out to him.

He waved his hand. “Sure, whatever,” he slurred, grinning at me.

“Okay!” I turned back to the pretty receptionist girl. “And Stephan O’Reilley, please.”

The girl nodded and pointed us to the booths. “There are signup terminals in the booths over there. Be sure to read the contracts carefully and to make sure you agree with the terms before you sign.”

The world was spinning by the time I stepped away from the reception desk. I stumbled a few steps, giggled and said: “Sorry, sure, we’ll do that.”

I’m not even sure anymore how I got there, but a few moments later I was scrolling through the pages of the contract. There were twelve pages of it and the letters were blurry to my intoxicated mind. I hardly even read them. Whatever fine print there was, I didn’t care. I just left my contact information, permission to look up whatever stats I had in a city arena, preferred weapon, preferred bootcamp and League locations if I would be selected, the whole works. I made about a gazillion typos as I did so, too.

Finn finished before I did. He leaned against the side of my cubicle and peaked over my shoulder to see what I was writing. “A flak cannon?” he hooted. “Do you even have the strength to hold one? You have such tiny upper arms!”

I silently debated with myself whether I should make some comment about the tiny size of his dick but refrained from doing so. “What weapon did you choose?”

“The rocket launcher. I would blow shit up. Blow you up!” he laughed, and it sounded infectious enough that I joined in.

“I would like to see you try,” I told him, and then we suddenly heard a gagging sound in the booth next to us. A /hurk/ing sound, as if someone was getting ready to puke. /Stephan/.

I hit the save button and left my booth without a second thought, dragging my boyfriend out of his booth and out of the building, onto the streets. We had barely made it out of the doorway when the contents of his stomach splattered hotly onto the concrete. “Ugh, sorry!” Stephan said weakly, hanging in my arms and spitting the last bits of puke out of his mouth. “My stomach was suddenly disagreeing with my beers. Thanks for getting me out.”

I laughed and wiped his curly hair out of his face. “That’s what a girlfriend is for,” I said warmly. “Come on baby, maybe it’s time to go home.”

Finn came walking out of the assessment center and looked first at us and then at the puddle of dark brown beer and stomach acids on the ground. “Ugh Steph, couldn’t you find a toilet?”

Stephan laughed. “Your face was too far away, sorry.”

All three of us laughed at that and with that we made our way to a metro station that could take us home to the student dormitories.

We woke up the next morning with a humongous hangover, all three of us. Finn crashed on Stephan’s couch and I had cuddled up next to Steph in bed, ignoring the graveyard smell that came out of his mouth. In the light of morning everything that had passed seemed silly and hilarious. Steph placed a call to the assessment center to ask whether we hadn’t signed our lives away and the girl on the phone reassured him that we wouldn’t have to worry; without a sponsorship and with stats like ours we were woefully unsuited for an Arena game.

He came to tell me while I was still lying in bed, entangled in sheets. “Whatever,” I said. “I’d have some water infusions now, please. And perhaps a painkiller.”

My boyfriend sat down next to me, handing me the infusion capsules and a glass of water. “Here you go, babe,” he said, smiling so brilliantly that I fell in love with him all over again. He’d obviously had his infusions and painkillers already. And with the morning sun haloing his curly hair, he looked like a movie star. A pretty one. I chugged the water and the painkillers. “Come back to bed,” I told him with a smile. By the time we’d finished foreplay and got down to have sex, I felt fine again.

And I completely forgot about the whole occurrence. It was one of the stupid things that students do sometimes. I’d done more stupid things during my time as a student. This was kind of silly and funny and after that I was busy with exams and graduation and finding my ass a job before the study loans would kill me. Life went on, and I just… forgot.

Until I ended up in a hospital room in 2309 and Jorn Berntsson gleefully told me that he’d shot me up with poison and that I had about an hour to live. And that he had my signature. Then I remembered how I had signed away my life. How I had thrown away my life and everything that had meant anything to me at that point. I ruined my life on 30 October 2303 and I didn’t even know it at the time.

But yeah, hindsight, right?

——-

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