Mar 26th, 2019
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  1. Like most people in Iron City, you’ve typically been a casual Motorball fan. In the past you’ve had a favourite player, and when you get an evening free it’s always fun to watch a few rounds with friends, but the intricacies of the pool selection system were entirely opaque to you. Thanks to a certain angel though, it has become far more important.
  3. Tonight is the first round of champions’ league selections. While the exact nature of the process is a well-guarded secret, the general idea is that the public votes on their favourite Motorball player in a series of rounds. The votes are converted in to points, and eventually the top thirty-two move on to the champions’ league circuit.
  5. The balcony of your apartment has a view of the screen overlooking market square, and together you sit with Alita, watching over the crowd below. The evening air is mild, with the usual buzz of the city dying down in anticipation of selection results. She’s perched on the edge of your decade-old couch, staring intently at the screen as the results start pouring in. You gently touch her back and feel a jolt of surprise in response.
  7. “It’s going to be a long night. The selections can take hours sometimes.”
  9. She takes your hint and settles back in to the couch, laying herself half on top of you. You take her hand and feel the strong squeeze back. Her eyes are still fixed on the screen. The worry is clear on her face, so you wrap her in a hug with your other arm. Your voice is soft and caring.
  11. “Hey, it’s going to be ok. Everyone loves you.”
  13. You finally get a weak smile in response, and she cuddles deeper in between you and the couch. When she speaks though, the waver in her voice sends ice through your heart.
  15. “What if I don’t get many votes? I’m so new and there’s so many strong competitors.”
  17. You’ve seen the projections and despite your best hopes, things look grim. Still, you run your fingers along her side, and offer what comfort you can. A shiver runs over her in response.
  19. “We’ll just have to wait and see.” The words sound hollow, even to you.
  21. The two of you lie on the couch, sharing in each other’s warmth as the points begin to appear on the screen. The murmur of the crowd provides a quiet backdrop for the rise of the champions’ league players. The first block is unsurprising. Jashugan shoots upwards, easily clearing 2000 points. Juggernaut, Gangsta, and Mortagor all make respectable starts; people in the crowd share nods and whispers as credits are exchanged. Even Kinuba, who has been missing for weeks manages to net a few points. Finally, you see the name pop up: Alita. She exclaims and points at it as her numbers rise. You smile and give her a kiss on the cheek. The points rise slowly at first but as the evening goes they tick upwards. It still feels achingly slow though when she breaks past the first projection. The dread you’ve held starts to ebb. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll make it. The seconds blur in to minutes blur in to hours and you hold her close. It takes until the very end of the first round, but Alita’s name pushes just past the second projection. You let out a sigh of relief, but you can still feel her worry through the touch of her cybernetic skin. As the first round selections close, the finalized tally appears on the screen. Your eyes desperately search for it; the numbers grow smaller and smaller until-
  23. Place 30: Alita; 400.05 points.
  25. You almost jump out of the couch, laughing with delight as you pull her up too. She smiles shyly, but before you can pull her close she speaks.
  27. “What if things change in the second round? I only just made it.” She points at the screen, where you can see Juggernaut’s name flashing. “Juggernaut got over 900 points and it might keep going up!”
  29. You look back briefly, but nothing can wipe the smile off your face. Seeing your enthusiasm widens her own smile, and you see the glimpses of hope shine through the clouds of worry.
  31. “Ali, you did so much better than people thought. You’re new to the game, from an entirely different world.” You hug her tight, feeling the hum of her body against yours. “The last person like you was Ghost, and they didn’t even make it to 200.”
  33. Her lip quivers, and she leans in for a kiss. It’s soft and caring, and you can feel her smile a little through it. You break apart and stare deep in to her eyes.
  35. “You’re one of a kind Ali. Now it’s time for you to show everyone what you’re made of. Show them what a Final Champion looks like.”
  36. She glances down and then back at you. The steel in her eyes has returned, and her voice is firm; full of resolve and spirit.
  38. “Yeah, I will.”
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