Intercosmic - Chapter 24 - Mawrth Exalted

Basketball is one of those sports that just never goes out of style. I’m sure it’s way different than when it started centuries ago, but an almost classic version is still played. It never went out of style in the marines; a great way to blow off steam and get some exercise. After last night with Renan’s mother, I needed a game. Unfortunately, the only thing that I can seem to find is a version with zero gravity. Higher rims, less focus on jump shots, more on aerial play. I watched a few games, and I’ve still got no clue how to move out there, but that’s all I’ve got unless I just want to go running, and I hate running without a purpose.  Renan was supposed to meet me here, but I’ve seen no signs of him and there’s two more games before our turn. I can’t really play the game alone but he assures me that’s he’s good enough for the both of us. Unfortunately, I can’t really see that, or maybe it’s just another layer he tucked away. I send another quick message as the last game before us begins, but he doesn’t respond.

A small commotion begins towards the entrance of the gym, mostly children but a few adults. I don’t pay it any attention, until it starts to move this way. When the crowd begins to disperse and take up spots around the court I spot Renan. His hair dyed turquoise with various patterns cut into his hair. He’s wearing what looks to be an entire professional uniform with the words “Mawrth Exalted,” across the front, the letter “x” made of holographic flames occasionally sending embers across the jersey. He takes a seat next to me, and removes a second pair of shoes from his bag.

“You learn anything from watching,” he asks.

“Yeah, a little.”

“If you want to win, just block for me. You can be a little rough if you need to, rules give a lot of leeway,” he talks as if he’s really a professional.

“What’s with the costume? You look like a weekend warrior.”

“It’s my uniform.”

“What?”

“It’s my uniform.”

I lean back and spot the name “Morais,” and I start to wonder if that’s Renan’s last name. Was Renan a pro? Is that why his mom said he used to be in the league? His grand entrance has filled me with a lot of questions, removing any focus I had on the game.

“Which team is winning?”

“Tall guy ginger guy and the round bearded guy.”

“Did they win the last game,” he doesn’t look away from the court.

“Last three.”

“Good, they’re tired, not just slow. They play rough, but they can’t keep up with me. The plan, just give me the ball because there’s no way they can keep up. Try to stay in their way and don’t get lost basking in my glory,” he smiles for the first time since we left for Mars.

“Nice hair by the way.”

“When inspiration strikes, you have to go with it.” 

We take the court and Renan just gives the other team the ball without shooting for it. I spot the bearded guy going for the first point and side step before jumping into the air to block his path. I must have jumped too hard because his shoulder clips my legs and I start to spin. At least the landing on the ground is gentle, but he’s already scored by the time I regain my composure. The crowd is only here to see Renan. They don’t hesitate to laugh at just how bad I am. Renan takes the ball and just flings it to the other half of the court, not even trying to score. 

“What are you doing,” I yell at him as the other team scores again without interference.

“Making sure they’ve got a chance. You just worry about getting your legs.”

The other team scores nine points before I remember how to move in zero gravity. I’ve done this before; the only difference is there’s no thrusters or space suit. I bounce off a wall and manage to grab the ball on a lazy pass between the ginger giant and cannonball, the nicknames Renan had given them. He’s been giving nothing but jokes while I struggle. I throw the ball at him, giving him a chance to prove his worth. He takes off like a rocket and blaze to the other end of the court. None of us are able to adjust before he slams the ball through the rim after moving it between his legs. The spectators are suddenly more energetic. I manage to collide with the ginger giant and stop him from scoring, my only other highlight of the game. Renan really proves just how far ahead of everyone else he is, wrapping up the game almost entirely by himself in a few minutes. The next four games aren’t much different before we decide to retire.

It’s odd watching people ask Renan for autographs, it’s weird that he had a pen and phots prepared. Is that just something famous people do, or is he feeding his ego after last night? I thought he was just a high-priced escort but in the two days I’ve been here on Mars, I’ve learned a lot more about him than I thought was there.

“So, you really were in the league?”

“Yeah, four years, two championships. Just the Martian league, but it paid well enough,” he acts as if it isn’t a big deal.

“You’ve got a lot of fans still, why did you quit playing?”

“Someone found out I was gay, took pictures of me and an ex. Nothing explicit, just kissing. Every time I went to a game it would just get worse and worse. My hotel room was vandalized a few times and eventually, I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

I get it now, Mars is more conservative than Earth, but not as much as he made it seem. Most people probably wouldn’t have had any problem with us in public. Sure, people like his mom would have an issue, but clearly, he still has fans. He has active trauma, from all over this planet, thousands of people harassing him.

“How long you been out the league?”

“Two years.”

“You should try out again.”

“For what,” he seems offended.

“You looked like you were having fun, there were kids out there that looked up to you, and you’ve still got way more skill than anyone here.”

“It’s easy to say when you’re only seeing pieces of me.”

“I’m going out to Valles Marineras in three days. You should come,” I try to change the subject. “We can spend some time in the sunken forest, get to see some nature.”

“Yeah, I’ll meet you there.” 

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