Welcome back to Level Up. This chapter is just to recap the previous battle that ends the previous story.
My plan for this story to be updated bi-weekly as I juggle three stories at once. One of them will go on hiatus as I finish its third part so I can focus on Level Up and another, then I'll alternate between these two. Of course, I'll have to work around my college duties too, but I'll do my best to uphold this promise. If anything, there will be an update to Level Up at least once a month, as this is a tougher story to write personally.
Enjoy Chapter 2.
Hana, Memphis, Tennessee
"Memphis. Well, it is not Los Angeles or New York City, but it is Joshua's home." I move down the long corridor from the terminal that I disembarked the plane from to the main section of the airport. Since I have a heavy carry-on my shoulder, I let the moving walkway carry me down the corridor until I get to the other side of it.
There is no large gathering of fans, not even a small gathering. I'm not exactly in uniform, instead wearing a brown shirt and jeans, but I would consider myself recognizable. If anyone knows who I am, they either notice me as we pass to or from their flight by or are elsewhere in the city. This is unlike Joshua's arrival in Seoul, in which a (crazy, boy stealing) fan and her little brother met him, got some autographs, and the girl...made a few suggestions. Thankfully, Joshua never met the girl again...or so I hope.
As I come into the main lobby of the B terminal of the airport, I see Joshua across the security gate and he sees me. Waving to each other, he gestures to the lower level where baggage claim is, to which I nod. I head down some steps that lead to baggage claim. I immediately see my luggage, all marked with my world-famous, easy to recognize emblem. As I grab them and set the suitcases on the floor, a hand grabs the largest suitcase. I don't have to look up to know who it is. Instead, I pull my suitcase and hand him the carry-on.
I stop, turn, and raise myself on my tiptoes to kiss Joshua on his cheek. "Is that better?"
He laughs. "No, not really."
Trying to not laugh along with him, I struggle to maintain my hardass attitude. "Wel,l that's too damn bad." Smiling, I follow him out of the terminal to the outside world, grabbing his hand as we head towards the parking garage in the distance.. "You must have parked at the garage."
"Yes. Security gets anal about cars in the pickup zone being around longer than six seconds, so I lose money parking." The rest of the walk is in silence. My mind wanders to the last time we left an airport together last year when Josh arrived in Seoul. That leads me to remember our cooperative championship match against Widowmaker and Tracer last year when we came close to winning my fourth straight Starcraft II championship, Joshua's first.
Joshua, Gaming World Championship, Last Year
"Ladies and gentlemen, here in the arena and all across the world, the time you have been waiting for has finally come! The Gaming World Championship Grand Final for the Starcraft II Division!"
The cheers, clapping, and the excessive shouting is familiar to Hana and I. This will be the fourth time we walk out there, shake our opponents' hand, take out seats in opposing booths, then start the game. But now, things are quite different. I am not facing Hana, and Hana is not facing me. This year, we are a team, going against a new enemy in a familiar scene. I know Hana probably didn't want me to know she's afraid, but it isn't like I don't know that already. I know she's afraid because I am indeed afraid. I slip my hand into hers, she immediately takes and grips hers around mine. Yep, I am right.
"Introducing the challengers… Hailing from London, England, and from Annecy, France, I present to you Team WidowTracer, Tracer and Widowmaker!" Seconds later, the pair of women came on stage, Tracer (who has less tack than most) jumping to the center stage while Widowmaker walks slowly behind, like a predator waiting for her prey to come out of hiding. It is a scary, yet beautiful sight...
"Oww!" I clutch my formerly held hand as the nerves on it throb. "What the hell Hana?"
"You were staring at Amélie. I saw it."
"Okay, but I need my hands, don't you think?"
Hana smiles as she looks back at the stage. "I can do just as good as you can with my own." I didn't understand what she meant by that, but whatever.
"Now introducing their opponents… From Busan, South Korea and from the United States, I present to you Team MEKA, Dva and Hardin25!" Showtime. Hana and I come out the curtains, doing the exact same as the team before us (but like champions would, not like Ms. Bubbly and Spider Lady). As we come up to center stage, I can see Hana looking elsewhere in the corner of my eye, glancing over myself and nearly trip on my own two feet. There, in the front row, is our families, but the real surprise is seeing Mr. Song enthusiastically holding a "Go MEKA Go!" sign. Take that in, everybody. The only reveal more surprising is a Half-Life 3 confirmation. Like, the internet would collapse on itself. I turn to Hana, whose face glowed with just as much surprise as me.
Decorum proceeds once we made it to center stage. We shake Widowmaker and Tracer's hands, hear the rules (it is a simple match like the others, with a 1-hour time limit. Winner decided by either destruction of both Command Centers or by the most health of the CCs if time reaches the limit) then proceed to our respective booths. Once there, we selected our affiliations (you know who Dva and I picked. Terrans FTW). Then after a few short minutes, the clock is on, the fight starts, the game begins.
"Alright, let's get these boys gathering resources." Hana and Joshua quickly command their SCVs to begin gathering of resources, while also building their military structures. The first few minutes of the match are quite dull, as both teams focus more on building their units than fighting each other. A few "oohs" and "ahhs" echo in the room during the period in response to certain choices by either side, but for the most part, it is fairly quiet for around a quarter hour before the first team makes their attack…
"La Bitché and 'Ello Bitch are going to attack soon." I hear Josh sigh beside me as I order a few upgrades to my turrets. We had caught a worker unit from WidowTracer scouting just a minute ago, and the match had gone on long enough that someone should make the first move at this point. Gladly, it is going to be our dumb opponents.
"Would it kill you to not trash talk?"
I shrug. "Why not? They can't hear us, and I bet you a hundred dollars they're talking trash about us." My partner shakes his head, focusing on our shared side of the map. A sharp warning comes to our ears a few seconds later, just as the enemy zerglings appear on my screen. It is a minuscule group, sent to test the waters, not a full-fledged attack.
"No point in using men on them. Let the turrets handle the roaches." The battle between the turrets and WidowTracer's units is short and ineffective to whatever plan they had, a lackluster start to what will be the rest of the match. After a minute or so of peace, I turn to Joshua, smiling. "Shall we demonstrate how we do things in the Grand Finals?"
He nods just as his group of Hellions join the infantry of Marines and Marauders we have assembled, coupled with a few of my Vikings for air support. "It's been thirty minutes. I don't want to spend another thirty with them. Give them hell, Hana. I'll back you up soon." I lean over and kiss Josh's cheek before a demonic grin explodes on my face. My earlier fear is replaced by digital bloodlust, greed for victory, and desire for my fourth gold trophy. I am not going to let these mid-tier gamers take what's mine.
"MEKA, activate." Sending an SCV ahead to scout, I summon our assembled units to attention, then command them to march towards the enemy base. I proceed slowly, not taking them out of my units field of view. No telling whether or not my opponents' set up an ambush or not.
It is close to the middle of the map when I stop moving. Shocked, I move my cursor away from my troops to the large assembled forces of Zerg and Protoss. Zealots, Stalkers, Adepts, Phoenix, Zerglings, Banelings, Roaches, Overlords, Infestors… Fuck. I tap Joshua's shoulder as the stalemate between both sides continue.
"How long do you think you'll be?"
"Five minutes, maybe. Why?" I direct him to my screen, which he responds with a very fearful saying of "Damn."
"Do you think you could get here faster?"
He shakes his head. "No. But you should be able to hold them off. If not, weaken them considerably. Make them remember who's is number 1."
My faith renewed, I command all units to attack first.
Josh, ten minutes later
The battle between us and WidowTracer is not going well for either side. It has been ten minutes, maybe more, ever since the true fight began. Initially in an open area in the map's center (and the most direct route to both bases, it now stems to other parts of the map, little skirmishes here and there while the big battle continues in the map's center. WidowTracer is taking advantage of the Protoss and Zerg's strengths against Terran forces, just as Pharmercy did days ago. As for Dva and I, we are using our wits. I have a plan that just might work.
There is a strategy that I hadn't used in three years that...nearly worked against Hana in our first battle. It's quite simple, but can be risky. I command my factories to begin mass-producing Hellions, save for two which I order to build up Siege Tanks along with my starport producing Vikings. My plan is simple, and either it will guarantee victory or a short respite. My partner has her sweat sweating bullets, so this could be good for her. But there is the other side of the coin: WidowTracer could do use the same tactic I am, which means I need to be quicker. "Hana, babe."
"Do you remember the good words of our lord and savior Gaben?"
Hana looked at me, her face definitely not showing any signs of humor. "What?"
"Half-Life 3 isn't coming, but I am." I select my new force by pressing A and project them down a side path. I keep my eye on Hana's screen as her battle continues, waiting for any signs for me to change my strategy. It hasn't. Smiling to myself, I continue on my warpath to the central battle.
I about to teach these fools what happens on the North American server, and who is its king.
Hana, five minutes later
"Who would've guessed your mass Hellion strategy would actually work again, and to your success this time?"
Josh slaps my arm, not even turning to see my devilish face. He knows what is left to do. Thanks to his plan, WidowTracer's army is wiped from the front by me and from behind by Joshua. Now there is only one place left to go...their base. We command all forces to head towards our opponents' base, quickly under attack by the defenses built up. However, our force made quick work of the first line of defense and began wrecking the place. Oh, I wish I could see the faces of Tracer and Widowmaker. Probably cursing me in their native tongue. We'll, they can go fuck themselves and each other. I'm going home with the gold, again. Suck on this ti-
"Your base is under attack."
Josh quickly scrolls down to our side of the map, grimacing. "What the hell? How did… How did they move an ARMY of that size undetected? And… Oh, you got to be shitting me…"
"They have a Brood Lord and a Mothership with them." I look at Josh as if he said he is pregnant with my child. There's no way in hell I'm letting these...girls win.
I look to Joshua with bloody determination. "Do you have enough resources for...it?"
My boyfriend, who I consider the more merciful person between us, grins so hard I think the Joker himself would be jealous. "You couldn't have said anything better. I have more than enough, maybe for a few of it." He presses a few keys, and while both sides wage a base race, the starports Joshua has using resources releases the Terrans' most powerful unit: the Battlecruiser. Three of them take the fight to the Protoss/Zerg army in order to buy us time to destroy the enemy base. WidowTracer is already ahead, but...Maybe the cruisers could do something. Right now, I focus on getting to their Greater Hive and Nexus. Josh will stay behind to defend his Planetary Defense and my Orbital Command.
I am closing in on the zerg base when Josh cries out, "Hana, they're converging on you first! I'll try to stall them."
Dammit… Oh well. "Time to raise my APM. Hold them, Josh." With a Spawning Pool destroyed, I had an opening on the insects' base. I command all units to focus fire, watching as the health of the base deplete quickly. I turn to Josh, who is biting his lips. "How am I?"
"You're taking some damage, and we're down a cruiser and a Brood Lord, but I don't think they'll be held off any longer."
I nod, accepting the inevitable. "It's okay. Just be ready, alright. You can win this. Just think, you technically beat me in this battle." He smiles at that, then faces his screen. I turn back to mine, witnessing the last few bits of one of two WidowTracer bases' defenses fall. It finally explodes, signaling the end of one of our opponents. With some hope, I direct the troops to the other base, which had already suffered some damage.
"One cruiser left, at half health. They have lost the Mothership. Your base is now rapidly losing health, even with the lack of zerg units."
With that, I began to scroll down to our base. "Switch now. I'll handle defenses, whatever I have left. You press on the attack." Josh complies, moving to the other side of the map as I assume control of the defense. As I look at my Orbital Command, I knew I wouldn't last. But I made a final play. "Josh, sending the Battlecruiser to you. It'll finish the job."
"It's been an honor to play at your side, and a bigger honor to know that in the 12 hours, I lasted longer than you twice."
I laugh, trying to hide my tears as well. "Thank you. It's my honor to know that in the last 12 hours, you wouldn't have done shit if it wasn't for me."
"Yeah…" As Josh turn back to the screen, I lean over, turning his face to kiss him. It is quick but passionate. As we break, I say, "Now you can win the gold."
Hana's base is terminated a few seconds later, just as she manages to send the Battlecruiser to my location. Now I begin to lay waste to the other half of WidowTracer's base while the survivor of that team ravages my home. Unfortunately, there's no need to continue telling you of what happens, because, you see, I'm the hero of this story. I'm the canonical ending. The end of the game. I defeat the final boss, save the world and the girl, and will live happily ever until the next game in the series. What I am trying to convey is that I-
…...The screen went dark.
Hana, Present day
Joshua's house is just a few minutes from the airport. If anyone didn't know Joshua, whose bank account is as big as mine and many other popular gamers, one would think he lives on the richer side of town. However, the boy is a simple guy with money. It makes me look spoiled.
His house is simple in design, being one story with almost the size of a perfect square. Brown bricks create the exterior, blending with the rest of the houses along the street. He had a nice sized front lawn, and from what I can see of the back, it is quite large.
As we park in the driveway, I smile to myself. A year ago, my parents' met us at my door, my dad gave an implied warning to Joshua (as all dads do when their daughters live with a boy). It was...quite different to not see his own. Then again, when the whole world knows your relationship status, does it really matter?
"Why are you smiling?"
"I'm just...remembering the past." I turn to Josh, who looks back a little confused. "This year is going to be different, you know. Once again, we're going to be against each other."
"Not just each other, Hana. Not just other Starcraft players either. We're up against the world. Whatever happens, the only way this ends is with me winning."
I raise my eyebrows to combat his challenging glare. "You? Excuse me, but you're looking at the three-time champion. I'm going to win."
Josh unlocks the car doors, and we exit. "We'll see, champ. We'll see."