Robo Muffin walked out of the field covered head to toe in pink blood. Only a tiny bit was hers, just some spittle from a kick she took to the face. The rest was from the opposing team, the losing team.
She got back to the locker room and the others made way for her. Conversations ended and eyes followed her as she passed them by.
Heading to the showers, she tore her armour and clothes off and went straight in the spray. The girl who was getting a shower at that moment yelped, “Hey!”
Robo Muffin simply shoved her out. The girl fell on the floor, wet and stunned, but Muffin didn’t care.
She let the scalding water wash her sins away. One more match. Just one more bloody match, and the sword was hers.
Muffin didn’t enjoy hurting people. Sure, she’d protect herself if someone took a swing at her, but she wouldn’t go out and deliberately hurt someone.
At least not outside the Cyberpink field.
It had been ten years. Ten bloody years, and she was promised she’d be out six years ago. The contract was simple, play jugger, earn cash, pay off your debt, earn your freedom.
Such an easy concept, isn’t it?
But the fine print was what truly fucked you over.
She had fought tooth and nail to get into a good, winning team to get the cash early. She had waded through opponents with her sword, had torn ligaments, had crushed bones and ended careers.
A million euro, was the end total.
It wasn’t that high in the beginning. Buuut… accumulated interest here, a tiny bit of delayed payment there, and it added up to a ton of money. Nobody explained the fine print to you. Nobody. Not your owner, not your fans, not your next owner who your paramone contract was sold off to.
And then it was the injuries. Jugger was a fast game, a brutal game. Injuries were a daily thing. You got injured, and then you got medical care. But, in this time and age, you couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to also augment yourself. Why let the arm heal when you can just augment it and become stronger? Why live with that neck problem with silly brittle bones, when you can augment it and fortify the entire neck area against incoming blows? Why settle for human reaction times, when you can supercharge your nerves and get superhuman ones?
It added up. A toe here, an aug there, you ended up trading pieces of your soul. Bit by bit you got replaced until you looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognise yourself any more.
Daisy was gone. Robo Muffin stared you back.
Covered in pink blood, washing over you, its spectrum shifted to avoid the streaming laws but the smell remained the same. Blood.
Muffin pushed the wall of the shower and let her head hang under the water. The water trickled around her short hair and somewhat covered her nose and mouth, making her drown a bit. She liked that, simulated drowning.
A waterboarding of your own.
Hundreds of opponents would have liked to see her go through with it.
Muffin was feared, envied, cursed upon. She had the guts to actually claim freedom, to fight for it and get close enough that it nearly burned her.
The precious Spatha sword. It was what you won along with the cyberpink tournament trophy, but it came along with something more important: Freedom.
You won the tournament, you won the sword. You could trade it in for enough money to buy out any paramone contract.
Or, you could keep it, and keep on fighting. Why anyone would want to choose the latter was beyond her.
Muffin walked out of the shower, dripping water. She didn’t bother to get dry. The girl who was there before was gone now. She put on her clothes and armour back, clipped her current padded sword on her belt and headed out of the locker room.
On her final match, she didn’t hold back. At some point during the final few seconds, her opponent got in a lucky hit and paralysed her. Muffin happened to be in an awkward angle as the implant kicked in and made her freeze. Her head was slumped down, her hair doused in pink blood. It trickled down, rimming her nose, filling her lungs with every panting breath.
One stone. She felt she would drown, so close to reaching the end.
Two stone. She surrendered to the blood’s thick delight.
Three stone. Dammit! Not like this.
Four stone. She braced herself, coughing and chocking. No. She would simply not lose now.
Five stone. She looked around, deciding her next strike.
As soon as Robo Muffin got free, she charged the opposing enforcer. She went down in an instant, clutching her torn off cyberarm, pink blood and blue hydraulic fluids spraying in the air. Then she tore through the other one.
With the opposing team disabled, her qwik picked up the skull and scored a point.
The fans screamed their lungs out, but all she could do was cough and cough and cough. The blood was inside her, stuck there, infecting her. She coughed to get it out, but she couldn’t.
Journalists and cameras and microphones got shoved in her face, but all she could do was barely contain her coughing.
Someone gave her the Spatha sword. She held it. It was heavy and felt great in her grip. It had a corporate logo on it, and came with a holographic surface that made it shoot out rainbows from the beams of light that hit it.
She stared at it, mesmerised.
“So, what will be your choice, Robo Muffin?” some man asked her.
“Uh? What?” she stuttered.
“The sword. Do you keep it and defend the championship next year, or do you trade it for your freedom?”
Everybody went silent, waiting for her reply.
She looked down at her hand. It was alien, augmented, powerful. It held the coveted sword. With it, came power. Fame. Glory. It shone back a rainbow as an errant light hit it, like a naughty wink at her.
What was she doing? Was she really considering it, carrying on? She had one goal all these years, one single goal: to earn her freedom. Why was she even hesitating?
Raising her chin, she gripped it tight. She knew what her reply would be.
Robo Muffin raised it in the air, took in a big breath, and shouted, “Molon labe!”
You can read the Cyberpink books here: https://cyberpinktournament.com/pickle-pie/