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Mirror: Chapter 8

CutOut Mar 31st, 2019 178 Never
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  1. Alita watched as motorball officials stopped the mirrored racer at the entryway. He argued with them a moment before they pointed at him and made a declaration, but they let him pass.
  2.  
  3. Her pole position was in first place since she had the fastest time on the practice run. His position was last, as he didn’t do the practice run at all.
  4.  
  5. “Problems, trash can?” one of the sleeker racers asked. Someone that kept calling himself, "Devil Knives."
  6.  
  7. He looked like a top with three arms, each one ending in a fixed blade.
  8.  
  9. “I’ll cut you up first and then that chick up front. Then I’m going to stalk that bimbo you were talking to and carve her up real good, for fun!”
  10.  
  11. The mirrored racer made exactly no response.
  12.  
  13. She turned back to look at the bladed racer, then the mirrored one. His head scanned the audience. Following his line of sight, she could see two people by the glass, a scrawny and tattooed full-bio man that looked more suited to be in a gang and a total replacement prostitute with him.
  14.  
  15. The prostitute had Sarah's face.
  16.  
  17. “Adem?” she blurted, “That’s you, isn’t it?”
  18.  
  19. Why did I say that?
  20.  
  21. The mirrored racer, Adem, snapped his head at her. He curved his back and prepared to lurch forward straight at her.
  22.  
  23. Alita felt like she was under the scrutiny of a missile’s targeting system.
  24.  
  25. Her kaleidoscope face returned to her from his shattered mask. She looked ready, she looked like she was reveling in his promise for violence.
  26.  
  27. I hate that mask. I can’t enjoy the fight if I have to see myself.
  28.  
  29. What am I saying? Shouldn’t I help him?
  30.  
  31. All racers turned forward and tensed up. The lights fired off.
  32.  
  33. Red!
  34.  
  35. Yellow!
  36.  
  37. Green!!!
  38.  
  39. Out of everyone’s rollers, Adem’s squealed the loudest, burning on the metal.
  40.  
  41. Alita spun around, anticipating his attack.
  42.  
  43. The announcer screamed out right after the go light lit up, “Devil Knives is immediately taken out by racer number 12!”
  44.  
  45. At the go light, Adem had turned ninety degrees and slammed full force into Devil Knives, crushed him against the wall of the semi-circle track, and slammed his fist into his head. It was likely that Knives was killed before he realized it.
  46.  
  47. It was a show of force, with an added helping of retribution.
  48.  
  49. The other races skated away from Adam and Alita giving them a wide berth. None of them were barreling down the path. They knew the score. Race against them and die, or bow out and survive.
  50.  
  51. “It’s a no-contest race!” the announcer lamented.
  52.  
  53. That’s disappointing, Alita thought. You got distracted by that loser. She turned and coasted away. I was sure you’d want to fight me--
  54. “Ahhhh!” she screamed.
  55.  
  56. One of Devil Knives' blades pierced through her thigh, hurled like a javelin. Adem had ripped it clean from the shoulder socket. Killing Knives was a calculated move to gain a weapon.
  57.  
  58. “Never mind! We’re about to see a bloody one-v-one!”
  59.  
  60. You sneaky little shit, Alita grinned and looked at him as he revved up, then charged at her. Blue smoke peeled off his tires. Parts of his reflective mask fell away, but she still couldn’t see his face underneath.
  61.  
  62. Are you happy too? Is it a distraction? Do you have a taste for it yet? Hurry up! Let’s fight! I want to forget!
  63.  
  64. She swung her Damascus Blade, and he predictably blocked it with his combat knife. Both of them knew this dance.
  65.  
  66. Yes! Finally!
  67.  
  68. “Let’s go!” he yelled before she could.
  69.  
  70. Both of them strained to disarm the other at the same time, she used her Panzer Kunst to twist his weapon away, and he used the mysterious acceleration to yank it the opposite. Their weapons linked, like a cross, and both lost their grip as their weapons spun up and over the safety cage, out of reach.
  71.  
  72. “Coach!”
  73.  
  74. “I’ll get it! Don’t worry and win! You’re low on points, so if you don’t come first you don’t advance!”
  75.  
  76. Adem skated by then backward, squaring up to her. His hand reached out and snatched the erratically bouncing motorball, without him looking.
  77.  
  78. “How do you do that?” Alita breathed, excited, “Tell me! Is it a martial art? Which one? Wait, don’t answer! I want to beat it out of you!”
  79.  
  80. Adem snorted.
  81.  
  82. The issue was he was pulling away. The damage to her leg, she realized, was part of his plan. Now she had only one set of wheels on one good foot, and her other foot was dragging behind. He was avoiding a direct fight.
  83.  
  84. To catch him now she would have to be more fearless than he was.
  85.  
  86. A sharp curve was ahead. She giggled and angled to the outside of the track then cut in deep, crossed over the short side, ramped off the wall and over the safety cage--catching air.
  87.  
  88. Suddenly, her path was the shorter of the two.
  89.  
  90. The announcer and crowd went ballistic.
  91.  
  92. Hearing this Adem glanced behind him and didn’t realize until too late Alita was dropping down on top of him. They collided bodily, both gasping from the air compressed from their lungs, and spiraled madly like pool balls colliding.
  93.  
  94. Alita ricocheted off several spikes, laughing, then snatched the safety cage and righted herself before falling off the track. Bits of mirror scattered like dust, as the back of Adem’s head bounced off a spike obstacle, and he slid to a slow stop in the middle of the track.
  95.  
  96. “Show me your attack again!” she demanded, winding up and accelerating at him.
  97.  
  98. After getting to his feet, the rollers on his feet snapped to the side, and he planted himself.
  99.  
  100. For the first time since she started motorballing everything was finally right. Her mind was white, clear and pure. She was inside a cloud, way above this shitty scrapheap, above the floating city, up with the bright moon and twinkling stars.
  101.  
  102. His deadly attention was a memory-erasing adrenaline rush.
  103.  
  104. “Show me your true face!” Alita snaked up to him. He pulled his fist back to his hip, as he did so she could hear his body whirring and creaking from power winding up inside him. Parts of him buckled from the strain. It fired out, cracking like a gunshot. His base was so firmly planted, and his punch so strong, the tubing of the course groaned metallic and shuddered. This second-hand body attacked with the power of an assault cannon.
  105.  
  106. She didn’t even care if she was struck, she wanted to trade shots.
  107.  
  108. In that instant, she saw his true face.
  109.  
  110. There was nothing there.
  111.  
  112. He had no face.
  113.  
  114. His mask was completely shattered away. Inside she could see braincase, reinforced to safely race in motorball, with various tubes connected his neck and head together.
  115.  
  116. He did not use a voice changer. What he had was a simple voice synthesizer, with no mouth and no eyes.
  117.  
  118. What kind of darkness was this man living through?
  119.  
  120. She hesitated at the tragic sight, and she took the punch.
  121.  
  122. The reverberating boom left the crowd and announcer speechless. Alita flew back, flipping and bouncing several times before sliding to a dead stop.
  123.  
  124. Her body was durable, but it had rattled her straight through to her vision. She didn’t expect something that strong but, for the most part, she could get up and keep fighting. Her leg was gone, but that didn’t concern her, she could fight with one. Her joints weren’t quite frozen up.
  125.  
  126. Coach had demanded she get the best possible metal the factory offered and reforged each part to maximum durability.
  127.  
  128. Grinning, she looked at him. Again! I can keep fighting! You haven’t won yet! Let me float a little while longer!
  129.  
  130. There wasn’t going to be a second punch.
  131.  
  132. On impact, his fist exploded. His arm came apart like a blueprint diagram and the parts scattered. After all, he had the inferior body. It was to be expected.
  133.  
  134. He didn’t use magic, the injury exposed his cheap tricks.
  135.  
  136. From the stump of his shoulder extended a carbon-fiber cable, something used in the anchoring of Zalem. On the end of it was a cylinder of superdense metal forcing him to teeter out of position. The cable snapped, and the weight fell loudly to the ground.
  137.  
  138. That’s how he repositioned so mysteriously, she realized, moving that around inside his body.
  139.  
  140. One of his feet detached. There was a foot-long telescopic spike extending from the sole of it, which he had used to immobilize himself. His other foot was barely attached, and the spike on that one was bent, impossible to retract. The spikes tore open several feet of track from the force of him hitting her.
  141.  
  142. He turned and tilted his head, listening for her or for the motorball. She held her breath. The motorball buzzed, and he limped to it.
  143. He’s blind.
  144.  
  145. She covered her mouth in horror.
  146.  
  147. He had no eyes before, how did he see? The EM field… he could sense where the other players were before, that’s why he could race without looking. But it’s offline now, a punch of that magnitude had a shockwave powerful enough to destroy low-quality internal cybernetics.
  148.  
  149. He made one desperate all-or-nothing attack.
  150.  
  151. Oh my god, he’s been racing blindly this entire time. He denied himself everything to keep racing, to earn winnings, and to give them to Sarah.
  152.  
  153. Alita looked at the stands. Where the race started it ended, a loop, so his sister should be close.
  154.  
  155. She and her date were gone already, assuming it was over for him.
  156.  
  157. She doesn’t even care.
  158.  
  159. His collapsed on top of the motorball. It lurched, making his torso hop a bit before he could wiggle his fingers into the ball’s control sockets. The crowd booed when he went the wrong way and cheered alternatively as he got closer to the finish line.
  160.  
  161. She sat and watched.
  162.  
  163. “Kid.”
  164.  
  165. “Can’t, my leg is broken.”
  166.  
  167. “Kid, don’t lie to me. I know it’s sad, but you can still win. Get up and--”
  168.  
  169. She disconnected the call.
  170.  
  171. “In all my years I have never seen anything like this! What an amazing race! We have a winner! Racer number 12!”
  172.  
  173. To be continued...
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