writefriend99 Apr 20th, 2019 (edited) 355 Never
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- Training in the off-season for Motorball is a miserable, grueling affair. Constant laps around the sleet-grey circuit blur in to a haze of exhaustion. Alita spits as the pit dust rakes at her lungs. The pain is a welcome distraction from other, less pleasant thoughts. She rolls over to the interim Tuner’s pit; settling in to the harness in his bay with practiced ease. The wiry pneumatic tubes and screeching hand-tools should appear any second now to cut away the accumulated debris, and to refill her body’s coolant. It takes her a moment to realise that the sounds are missing. She shakes her head to break the layer of detachment from her mind and glances around the pit area. The emptiness would be disconcerting if not for her manager’s slow steps moving towards her. Alita rolls to meet him halfway and speaks, her words ragged from the dust and fatigue.
- “Where’s my Tuner?”
- Her manager scratches the back of his head before responding in kind.
- “New track hazards coming up soon. No training during the rebuild. Go take a day, kid.”
- Alita bites back the acerbic response on the tip of her tongue. It’s not his fault that the track is closed. She rubs at her eyes for a moment and feels the exhaustion weighing down on her. Maybe a day would be good. Her shoulders slump as the adrenaline of the training tapers off. Her manger firmly grabs her shoulder and without a word supports her over to the changing bay. Swapping bodies is now as routine as the rest of her training. She barely notices the slick, wet feeling of her spine being reinserted to the berserker body. At least with the berserker comes a burst of energy; the nanites pouring to her artificial bloodstream pulsing in time with her heart. Alita’s voice is softer now, with the fresh energy of her body smoothing out the rough edges brought on by the training.
- “I’m sorry I was harsh before. You’re a good manager.”
- He simply nods as he watches Alita grab her gear bag. She’s come to respect the impassiveness of him. It keeps their relationship professional. With a final wave she ducks out through the tunnel and in an instant, she finds herself swept away in the city crowds. The last hints of sun have just dipped under the horizon as Alita drifts through the heart of Iron City. She’s vaguely aware that she should head home and rest. It’s been too long since she had a full night’s sleep. Still, the prospect makes her skin crawl. She shudders softly, trying to push the memories of nightmares past out of her mind. Instead, she wanders aimlessly, simply sensing the world around her. A Centurion patrol passes her on the corner of a Factory enforcement booth and she stares it down while it lumbers through the crowd. The delighted sounds of a street Motorball game catch her as she continues her journey, raising memories unbidden of a life, now long-past. She hurries away from it and eventually finds herself rounding a street corner which seems particularly familiar-.
- She freezes as she recognises the bridge, hanging over the dingy bar front where she met him. It feels like a different lifetime. Her memories crash over her with the force of a tidal wave. Her nerves flowing through the new body as she landed near him. The adoration in his eyes as he watched her laugh with him. The warmth of his hand along her tensile skin. She feels tears prick at her eyes as the bridge stares back at her. The emptiness of the scene is a mockery, and anger roils amongst the sorrow and longing.
- It takes her a moment to realise that a figure is waving at her by the bar front. She snaps out of her daze and spots Koyomi beckoning her over. The bright yellows and reds of her outfit are a stark contrast to the dull grey of Alita’s coat; though as Alita grows closer she sees the smile of Koyomi’s face waver slightly. It does not touch her eyes. Alita stops a few paces from the bar and the two of them share a beat of silence before Koyomi speaks.
- “Hey Alita. Long time no see.”
- Alita cringes a little inside as she suddenly remembers all the missed messages on her communicator. Still, she needs to respond.
- “Hi. I’m sorry I’ve been hard to get a hold of.”
- Koyomi’s face softens slightly and she sighs.
- “Yeah, I haven’t really been myself lately either.”
- The silence drags out between them. Alita grasps desperately at words, mulling them over in her mind as she examines and then discards them. Nothing seems right to say. Koyomi glances at the cobbles around them and in a split-second Alita knows she needs to leave. It’s unbearable, the gap between them. But again, she finds herself frozen, and when Koyomi looks back to her, Alita sees the sorrow in the creases around her eyes. The tension is cut finally when she again breaks the silence.
- “Why don’t you come for a drink? Unless you’re busy?” The glimmer of hope in her voice is enough, and Alita feels the twitches of a smile despite the gloom of the evening. She nods as she speaks.
- “Ok. I’d like that.”
- The inside of the bar is even more run down that the outside, if that’s possible. It is quiet though, and as the two girls drink together in their dingy booth they track across the stories in life which they’ve missed out on. Koyomi recounts the details of the new jacking crews pushing in to Hugo’s old territory, and Alita responds with the intricacies of the Motorball training regimen. The conversation drifts through the dreams they share, and even a few short peals of laughter arise as they reminisce on Ido’s reaction to their wish for Christmas presents. It takes until well in to the evening for the sorrow hanging over the pair to be addressed though. The alcohol is flowing through Alita’s veins now and she feels the edges of the room grow fuzzy. Koyomi finishes her drink and sighs, staring in to the middle distance before she speaks. Her words are blurry from the alcohol, or maybe Alita just can’t understand them as well. Same difference.
- “I miss him, Alita. Every day.”
- It takes her a moment to realise who Koyomi’s talking about. Tanji. She’d only heard about his sacrifice afterwards. It feels especially bitter since it didn’t end up mattering in the end anyway. Could as well have run. Alita looks down and sees her hands trembling and she knows she can’t ignore the pain stabbing at her heart any longer. Sharp tears form in her eyes as she nods in agreement. Her voice quavers as she stifles a sob.
- “Me too. I wish-” Alita pauses as another sob wracks through her. Koyomi is crying now too, and the two girls stare in to space as the tears flow down their cheeks. “I wish we just left the city and ran.”
- Koyomi looks back to Alita now, and with a clumsy movement steps over to sit down next to the cyborg. She grabs Alita in a tight hug, and Alita feels the wetness on her shoulder as Koyomi buries her face there. Together they cry as the pain of the evening washes over them. Memories clash with reality in a spiraling tempest and they can do no more than cling to each other as the waves crash around them. It seems like the waves will never end, but eventually, achingly the tears slow, and Alita’s sobs grow softer. Koyomi releases her grip, and the two of them sit together, collecting their scattered feelings in to a semblance of cohesion. Alita watches as Koyomi reaches in to one of the many pockets on her jacket, and takes out a wooden-beaded bracelet. She recognises it as Tanji’s; he wore it to their first Motorball scrimmage. Koyomi runs her fingers along it as she speaks, contemplation mixed with the sorrow from before.
- “I wanted to keep this to remember him by. It’s not much, but it means something, y’know?”
- Alita smiles through the last of her tears and feels around in her bag for the trinket of her own. She manages to fish up Hugo’s old key necklace, and Koyomi gasps as she carefully touches it. Alita’s response is firmer now.
- “I understand. I kept this for the same reason.”
- They compare the pieces, and together they share in the memory of those they’ve loved and lost. They sit long in to the night, and though eventually they break off to leave, Alita feels the change in her. It’s a quick trip home this late at night, and before long Alita lies in her bed, staring at the marbled ceiling in the moonlight. Though she’s stared here for many an evening before, this time tomorrow feels just a little more approachable. She sends a goodnight message to Koyomi, and for the first time in forever, feels the soft tendrils of sleep wrap around her without a struggle.
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