Tresha could still here the roar of the crowd through the walls. Three levels down and 200,000 voices still sounded like they were in the next room. Booze performed wonders.
She'd spent the first twenty minutes standing in the shower, letting the water cascade down. When the sprayers completed their first rotation around her then the system requested she lift her arms she didn't move. The system squawked out a few gentle reminders, insisting she lift her arms because the armpit was the third most likely place where fungus grew, but when she failed to response it beeped it's affirmation and continued along its routine. Shampoo, soap, conditioner. It all streamed off her body in creamy waves. She wanted to enjoy it, wanted the smell of the natural oils to soothe her, but nothing penetrated. Head down, she watched it drip down her hair in long, foggy streams, hitting the drain and swirling around it.
The water will get recycled, she thought absently. She didn't need to finish the thought, or make the connection to her career.
She'd been sitting on the bench for... she had no idea. Had she even dried off? Her arms were cold. Water still dripped from her hair. No, she concluded. The dryer room would've cleared all that up. She wanted to go there, to stand in the center of the cylinder and let warm air blast against her skin. But the thought of standing, of picking up her head, felt insurmountable. I might walk like this for the rest of my life. Shoulders down, back hunched, eyes glues to the floor.
Maybe she could get a job as a mascot.
But then again, mascots were supposed to inspire joy, and encourage fans to cheer and believe in their team.
She managed to get herself dressed. She didn't know how. Had no memory of donning her suit, doing her hair, stepping into her shoes. Peopled floated past her in the hallway. From behind her sunglasses, she could see them stop, mid-stride, turn their heads as they watched her go. A few of their mouths were open. They had seen what happened and from the looks on their faces assumed she had been banished not just from the game, but existence altogether. Thresh knew the feeling and wished it were true. How much easier would it be if she passed through the tunnel, out of sight of the cameras, and simply melted into the shadows of the stadium? Doomed to linger, idling her days away by haunting visiting teams and staff.
Better than this, she thought. Better than anything else I have to look forward to.
Out of the see of sidelong glances and shocked expressions, one face stood out. Youngish. Hints of baby fat still clinging to his cheeks. Sweat glistening, making the pinkish hue of his skin seem more vibrant, more extreme.
For fuck's sake.
"Anthony Ciprio, I run BattleBoards. Could you sign this?"
Thresh planned on walking past him. Stopping now would only invite chaos. She was fine floating away like this. A cocoon had formed around her, blocking out every superfluous detail and allowing her to simply glide along without having to bother with things like feelings or thoughts.
But the little shit had something in his hand and he waving it back and forth like it was on fire. Had she kept her eyes straight, Thresh may never have seen it and a terrible day would not have gotten worse. But curiosity got the better of her and for a split second, her eyes betrayed her. Flicking down, they picked up the color, the general shape. Black with a tear design.
Dammit. All league equipment was supposed to be unhackable. Chips in the helmets, gears, and guns kept them from falling into the hands of any unauthorized persons. If a charity requested an auction, or if a player wished to keep a particular piece as memorabilia then an official request could be made. Bumptious little pricks like this didn't get to just go around, collecting pieces for their rinky dink sites.
He waved her gun back and forth, higher now, so she couldn't ignore it.
"This will be the centerpiece of my collection. I'm writing a review of the [Team's] season so far and want to include this with the piece. If you could just--"
She remembered the flash of white. That must of been her hand. She'd forgotten to put her gloves on, so it made sense. Except she didn't recall any pain. She'd punched plenty of guns in the arena and even in the heat of battle it still stung. This time, she felt no pain. The kid's eyes fell, following the gun as the weight of Thresh's strike knocked it and his hand down to his side. He looked shocked and a little sad. See, she thought, that's something I can understand.
When his eyes came back up they were a mess of confusion and, if she wasn't mistaken, a hint of anger. No. That wasn't it. If he was angry she would've just ignored him. Well, maybe she would've told him to go fuck himself and his site. But she definitely wouldn't have done what she did next. It was the indignation, the sense that she had no right brush him off while trying to get on with the worst day of her life. That he was owed some sort of