I woke up with a jarring, metallic smack to my head. “Dammit, there goes the stack of cards…” a distinctive voice muttered as I rubbed my head. Feeling slightly dizzy, I looked around groggily to get my bearings. The metallic confines brought the memory of the last few hours quickly back, as the plane shifted once again.
“Well, look who’s up.” Kara gave me a small wave from where she was sitting cross legged on the plane floor next to a box. Across from her sat Andy, smacking a stack of cards on the box to even it out.
“…Hmm. Playing some kinda card game?” I observed while I wiped the crust from my eyes. “What happened to keeping your seatbelts fastened, eh?”
Andy laughed. “I’m not sitting in those shitty metallic seats for 17 hours, bored out my mind. Gotta do something to pass the time. You gonna join? I can deal you a hand.”
“Uhh, sure. I gotta go to the bathroom first though, they got one in here?” I looked towards where he pointed, seeing a small room next to the cockpit. I quickly returned and we started playing a card game called ‘Golf’.
After a few rounds of cards, we were all having a good time. “Seriously? Greasey here hasn’t woken up once while I was out?”
“Nah man, he’s just been sitting over there this whole time. I swear he snores louder than the damn plane engine, man.” Andy laughed.
“Say, are you guys getting hungry? The guy mentioned there were some sandwiches over here in this box. I’m gonna grab some.” Kara rummaged through a metallic box in the corner, fishing out three sandwiches and bringing them back. We each grabbed one, unwrapped them, and started chowing down. After gulping down a few bites, Kara spoke again. “Hey, actually… while I was thinking about it, I wanted to apologize. I was a bit rude earlier to both of you, so I think we kinda got off on the wrong foot.”
Andy scoffed, spilling crumbs onto the crate. “Ha, don’t worry about it. I like my girls with a bit of spunk anyway.”
“Your girls? I’m not ‘your girl’ just because I apologized.” Kara shot him a smug glance.
“Oh, don’t be so tsundere-”
I quickly cut in, hoping to prevent another half hour argument. “For what it’s worth, I also wasn’t bothered by it. I think we’ve all been a little on edge, considering the situation.”
“Actually, speaking of the situation, I kind of… came up with a plan of sorts.” Kara sat up a bit straighter, rubbing the back of her head in embarrassment as we both turned towards her. “W-well, maybe plan is overselling it, actually. But it was an idea at least. You guys did read through all of the rulebook, right?”
Both me and Andy looked at each other and shrugged. I spoke up. “I read the main parts, of course, but really just enough to make sure I wouldn’t get immediately murdered. I never thought I’d really get accepted, and even then I figured I could catch up on all the little stuff out here.” Andy nodded in agreement.
Kara sighed. “Well, there are three sections you can put in for – you know, singles, partners, and teams. For how many people there are in your competitive group. I’m pretty sure that teams has the smallest number of sign ups, and if the three of us stuck together, we’d be enough to scare most of the smaller groups off, right? And even if we got in a fight we’d gain points really slowly as a team.”
Andy started to nod more and more vigorously as she went. “That’s… actually a really good idea. Plus, you could hold them off with your sword while I shoot at them. It’d sure give us a much better shot if we ever did get into a fight. And Scott could… Uh…” He looked at me expectantly.
“Well I could… I’m not really sure. Like I mentioned before, I haven’t had much experience with fighting, and none with weapons. But once we get our suits on and I have some time to experiment I’m sure I’ll find something that feels right.” I shrugged, figuring it was best to not start worrying quite yet.
Kara smiled. “Hey, that’s good enough for me. We can always change our team composition later... Add more people if we need to, I mean.” She hastily added, concerned I might take her statement the wrong way.
“And what about him, over there?” I gestured my head towards the still snoozing man.
“He seems a bit… lazy, if you ask me. And that’s coming from the NEET, heh.” Andy chuckled a bit. “If he asks or something later, maybe, but no reason to wake him up quite yet. We’ll just play it by ear.” Kara and I both nodded.
I swallowed the last bite of my sandwich before turning my attention back to the game of cards. “Alright you two, count up your cards… Ha, I win again!” I cheered at my victory as the other two rolled their eyes.
In a huff, Kara grabbed up the cards off the table. “Alright, that’s enough of that, you’ve gotta be cheating or something. Time for a REAL man’s game… Go Fish!” Kara giggled to herself as she started shuffling the cards.
“Pfft, Go Fish? C’mon, I haven’t played that since I was like eight…” Andy rolled his eyes once again.
We continued to play cards and chat as the plane flew on and on, further towards our destination. Finally, it began to darken. Standing up and looking at the window, I could see earth below us once again, where there had only been water before.
“I can see land again. Where do you think we are?” I turned back towards the crate, where Andy was putting the cards away.
“If I had to guess… Well, we started in upper New York, and we’re heading towards North Africa, so it has to be some part of Europe. Maybe Spain? Depends on if they’re flying straight or on a curve, I guess.” Andy nodded as he jammed the pack of cards in his pocket.
“I figured we weren’t over Africa yet. Guess we’re getting fairly close, either way. Why is it all the way over in Algeria of all places, anyway?” I wondered aloud.
Kara turned from looking out the window to chime in. “Didn’t Halcyon start building that big city for production, housing and all that stuff a few years back? I remember reading something about it. I think they were saying it was going to be the next Saudi Arabia for all the rich schmucks in the area to hang out in. I guess there would be demand for that sort of thing, considering what happened in Saudi Arabia…”
“Guess they changed their mind, though. Or murder sports are supposed to be the great attraction for the local moguls, I could believe that. Still, I always figured they were building it there just so they could ship their death machines to all the hot war zones easily. Maybe this was the plan all along – I doubt Algeria cares enough to try to mess with their contests, considering how big Halcyon’s grown off these wars.” Andy sat down in his seat, idly fiddling with his slightly longer chin stubble.
Kara shot him a dirty look. “Okay Andy, we get it, you read the conspiracy theories of the Chan. I don’t think Halcyon is going to take over the world just because a bunch of countries want their weapons. I bet you they’re just giving Algeria a cut of all the profit they’re making off this thing. I hear advertising agencies are in bidding wars for even 30 second ads.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Hey, I have to agree with Andy here, Halcyon’s gotten pretty big over the last few years. And making countries send contestants to fight to the death so that their country can buy weapons – that’s not exactly a common sales tactic.”
Kara smiled. “Common, no. But it’s pretty genius – they’ll make double the money off of it, between selling ads and then selling the suits afterwards. They’ve got the powers of the world over a barrel, considering how likely another World War is. They’ll do anything for a new gadget these days.”
“Hey, I don’t care how much money they make, so long as they pay for my college man. That and as long I don’t get my throat slit in my sleep. That’d be nice.” Andy pulled a baseball cap out of his bag and put it on his face. “Speaking of, I’m taking my nap now.” He began to recline in his seat.
Kara shook her head. “Well, hopefully we’ll be close by the time we wake up. I’d appreciate a nice breakfast when we land. Maybe it’ll be nice, if it really was made for those rich snobs.” Kara also placed her head against the headrest.
Not quite tired yet thanks to my earlier nap, I pulled out the brochure for the city the recruiter had given me. “Bastille” – well it certainly did look fancy from the image on the front, anyway. I doubted all the amenities they touted would be available during a death competition, though. In general it seemed like a very strange place to hold a ‘Battlympics,’ but I decided to hold off on thoughts like that until I saw it up close. They always chose the best pictures for these anyway.
Folding it back up, I shoved it back in my pocket and began to stare out the window at the sky. What a shame, it was too cloudy to see the stars tonight; I would just have to look tomorrow night. Looking down at the lights on the land below instead, I let them slowly lull me to sleep.