After The Flood

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  1. Autumn lays its soft hands over Iron City, cooling it as the city prepares for the winter ahead. Alita can only feel the breeze on her face, though, as the Motorball plates sacrifice fine sensation for protection. It is the twelfth circuit round of the Second League season. Another round past and another perfect game for Alita. She rolls back through the harsh concrete tunnels of the arena, mind empty. The change out of her plates is swift. She makes the conversation she needs to with the pit crew and Ido. It’s mechanical. Efficient. Certainly not comfortable, but then not much is nowadays. Alita slips past the crew and before Ido can stop her sets out into the streets of Iron City.
  2. With the hood of her jacket up Alita fades in to the crowd. It’s a different kind of discomfort, now. Crowds have been lonely since Hugo died. Was killed. Alita’s jaw tightens and she can feel the tears forming. She roughly shakes her head and moves through the stream of people. There’s a run-down noodle house a few miles from the arena. Not her favourite, but it feels right today. Pulsing neon casts bizarre shadows across the alleyways of the city. The chill in the air grows as she ducks in to the alleyway entrance of the noodle house. The place smells like old fry oil and rust. Still, it’s an island amongst the sea of people crowding Iron City. A few patrons are scattered around the cramped shop. She pays them no heed as she exchanges some choppy Cantonese with the lady behind the counter. It’s hard to order wrong with only three dishes on the menu.
  3. Alita’s bowl arrives, steaming hot with a far better smell than the place deserves. She digs in, savouring the distraction from more brooding thoughts. So caught up is she that when she feels the small tug on her jacket sleeve, she instantly wrenches her arm away, ready to strike. In front of her stands no Grewishka; no Zapan; no killer. A little girl, no older than eight stares at her through a thick fringe. She has one of the new ’Battle Angel 99’ jerseys which just began their print run, though it seems a little too large for her small frame. Alita sees the girl trembling and relaxes her arm. Old habits; muscle memory. The little girl sighs with relief, and with a darting glance over her shoulder begins to speak.
  4. “H-hi. You’re 99 right? Alita?”
  5. Alita sees, over the girl’s shoulder, a woman passing an encouraging wave to the girl.
  6. “Yes. I’m sorry if I scared you.”
  7. The girl smiles bashfully, before a torrent of words start pouring out.
  8. “I just wanted to say that I think you’re the coolest and prettiest and best Motorball player and I wanna be like you when I grow up and I watched every game you played in and-“
  9. By this point the girl seems to have run through her breath and fades off. Alita smiles.
  10. “I like your shirt. The design was from a close friend of mine.”
  11. The little girl’s eyes light up at the mention of her jersey.
  12. “Thank you I love it so much!”
  13. Suddenly the girl’s brow furrows and she reaches in to her trouser pocket, previously hidden by the oversized jersey.
  14. “I have something- I found this today when I visited the fields! It’s for you.”
  15. The girl smiles, bright and innocent.
  16. “I actually have two things! But you have to pick a hand.”
  17. With her finest attempt at a serious face, the girl holds both hands behind her back. Alita matches the very serious face of the girl and nods to the side.
  18. “Left.”
  19. The girl’s frown fades into a hopeful look as she slowly reveals a violet flower with the stem attached, barely bigger than her hand. Alita gasps as she gently takes the flower from the girl.
  20. “It’s your color! Sorry it’s a bit crushed- I think I got too excited in the game.”
  21. “It’s beautiful. Thank you for this.”
  22. Alita carefully tucks the flower behind her ear, feeling the ripples the stem causes as it moves thorough her hair. The girl smiles again now, and proudly presents what was hidden in her other hand.
  23. “It’s a chocolate! I love chocolate but it’s only for special times for me.”
  24. The chocolate is tiny; the smallest size produced by the Factory. Still, the wrapping is unmistakeable. Though it’s surely impossible with the noise and sensation in the noodle-house, Alita swears she can almost taste it clear as day she had her first block with Hugo. Alita feels the tears rise, and silently cries as she takes the paper-wrapped sweet.
  25. “Thank you.”
  26. Perhaps it’s silly, but Alita is proud that her voice doesn’t crack. The little girl stands stock still, and when her mother notices the tears rolling down Alita’s cheeks, she makes her way over to the table.
  27. “Amy, it’s time for us to go.”
  28. The mother turns to Alita.
  29. “I hope she didn’t bother you too much. She’s just such a big fan-“
  30. Alita wipes her tears and softly grasps Amy’s hand.
  31. “You’re Amy?”
  32. She nods.
  33. “Amy is a lovely name. I can give you a present too if you’d like. My sword is at the arena, but if you’d like to see it up close, I can give your mother an access key for an evening. How does that sound?”
  34. Amy’s eyes go as wider than Alita thought possible, before she quickly looks back at the ground, nodding with all her might as she does.
  35. Alita and Amy’s mother exchange Communicator details and with one a quick hug Amy runs off, following her mother back into the streets of Iron City. Alita sits, food forgotten, staring into space. Perhaps there is a kindling of hope left. At least for tonight, the evening brings a comfort which Alita has long missed.
  36. For all the lonely Anons out there. Don’t give up on hope.

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