DISCLAIMER: Killzone, Killzone: Liberation, Killzone 2 & Killzone 3 as well as the Killzone Universe are all property of Guerrilla Games and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. I am not writing this story with malicious intent or for profit. Please support the official releases.
The first couple weeks of a new semester are always the toughest; getting used to new people, tolerating their immaturity just enough so that you don't get up from your chair and knock their teeth out, and watching your ranks thin with each passing week. It is a time of triumphs and failures…huge overwhelming failures, such as the one experienced when taking the first test in my astrophysics class. We won't speak of that anymore or I'll be ranting all day. After receiving such a devastating blow to the old ego, I began to reexamine the possibilities of making it as a pilot. The prospects looked very grim and no amount of reassurance from Aileen or my mother could get me quite back to the level of optimism I had going into the class.
Ah yes, there is also the reaction to recount when news spread at the apartment regarding my decision to abandon the engineer's path to become a pilot. My loving father continued tuning out his eldest daughter while Mother simply asked "why?" After assuring her I had the math and science skills necessary for such an undertaking (and the two important facts that 1. I wasn't afraid of heights or flying and 2. I had spent many a day in my formative years at the shuttle repair bays in Rayhoven further increased my chances), she gave me her support. I'd say unconditional but I knew she had her doubts and that was okay with me. Eva was, well, Eva; supportive no matter what. After bombing that first test, however, all my words began to look as if they were uttered in vain.
So what was one to do in times such as these? Go to a university football game, of course. There was nothing quite like the sight of a bunch of muscular guys with thick pads ramming into each other and grunting on that dirty turf to make you forget your troubles…well it helped me, anyway. The real reason I was at the game was to support Aileen's new beau, Wolf Kramer, who was the kicker for ASU. I had actually played a hand in those two getting together; I knew Wolf from my Standard Language Composition course the previous semester and worked with him enough to know he was the kind of guy Aileen was looking for. Poor girl had never ceased with her endless complaints about not finding the right guy; leave it to her best friend to find her the appropriate suitor. The two clicked almost instantly and were on their third month when the season pitted ASU against the five-time title holder for the South Vektan Division: SJSU. Both sides were giving each other the fight of their lives with ASU down seven points and in field goal range during the last five minutes of the 4th quarter. We both watched, with bated breath, as the coach called out the field goal unit.
Number 11, Wolf, jogged out onto the field as the home ASU fans stamped their feet and chanted "Boot it!" Banners bearing the Rocketeer, ASU's mascot and the name of our team, waved about frantically as the Rocketeer himself, a cartoonish missile with an angry smile, thrust its hands up to rally more to join the war cry. The cheerleaders had no trouble drawing out screams from the men in the audience, what with their skin-tight jumpsuits streaked with the school colors: yellow and orange. The opposing team's mascot and namesake, the Fighting Friar, worked in tandem with the black-silver clad cheerleaders to rouse the visiting fans of SJSU. The battle of the boasts continued as the boys on the field took their positions with Wolf scoping out the post. The Rocketeer on his helmet snarled at the opposing team's clenched fist holding a cross. The calls of "Boot it!" got to Wolf and, after the quarterback's call, he raced toward the ball even as the other team pushed their way to him. He booted it in true Rocketeer style while an obnoxious neon sign the size of a freighter truck lit up with the words "Blast off!"
The kick hit the net and both referees standing on either side of the post stepped out with both hands raised. The home fans, including Aileen and myself, erupted with joy as ASU closed the gap 24 to 28. Wolf raced back to the bench but not before locating us and blowing Aileen a kiss disguised as a three finger salute. He avoided the somersaulting missile mascot to accept the congratulatory pats of his teammates.
Gridiron football hadn't changed much from its Terran incarnation except for the equipment: smaller pads made of lightweight material that were more durable than the foam and plastic used in the past. The same rules applied and, with the exception of football/soccer, it was the sporting event that experienced the least amount of change across the centuries. Colonial gridiron wasn't the bloodsport that Terran football was; people died in the field on Terra while the worst a colonial could get was a spinal injury. Chalk it up to the home world to make things far deadlier than they should have been. I bet the boys on the field were glad to be colonists. In spite of the deaths on Earth, quite a few colonials traveled there to make their fame. It was a dumb choice but it was better than the alternative: join the ISA forces.
Back in our seats, Aileen leaned over to me. "I can't thank you enough, Jimena; the boy is an absolute god! You sure know how to pick them."
"Isn't that why I'm your best friend," I asked.
"Lemme return the favor; I'll find you the right guy. After all, who knows you better than I do?"
"My mom, my sister, my dad, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my neighbors, my-"
"All right then: who knows your taste in guys better than I do?"
"My mom, my sister-"
She threw up her hands in a frustration. "Fine then! Ask them for help bagging you a guy!"
I nudged her playfully. "Relax; I'm just messing with you. They may know more about me but the only guys they know are either in high school or middle-aged and trust me: I don't want no snotty teenager or balding office worker with a bulging gut."
"Maybe I could fix you up with one of Wolf's teammates. I hear the wide receiver's available."
I shrugged. "Eh, I don't know about a football player to be honest."
She put her hands on her hips. "Do you want my help or not?"
"I'm not really looking right now, Aileen. I got too much on my plate right now, like how I'm gonna make it through my astrophysics class."
"Hey: don't let that one slip up get to you. Stuff like that happens to the best of us, alright?"
"Yeah but I thought my math was pretty solid. Guess I'm nothing more than remedial material."
"Oh, shut up Jimena! I hear you put yourself down one more time, I'm gonna throw you out onto the field and let those players have their way with y-whoa, that did not come out right." But it served its purpose; I had to wipe the tears from the laughter away and thanked my best friend for being her ditzy self. Besides: the image itself wasn't that bad…but I digress.
It was a tough battle for Alan Shepard, but they failed to get another point on Junipero Serra; at the same time our defense made it impossible for the title-holders to score another touchdown and a lucky block by one of our running backs on a field goal attempt kept the score locked at 24-28 for the rest of the game. The Fighting Friars would go on fighting but the Rocketeers were grounded for the time being.
When the game was over, the fans piled out of the stadium (yes, ASU was that loaded) and the mad dash for everyone's car began. I stood with Aileen just outside the field for Wolf's consolation prize. The nippy air of late January, coupled with the wind blowing off the fresh puddles on the pavement, had me rubbing my arms even underneath the long sleeve top. I wrapped the scarf tighter around my neck as Aileen patiently scoured her purse for some last minute cosmetic adjustments. The repellent thundering of someone's audio system in their car echoed throughout the parking lot as the old "cherries and berries" flashed every which way. Cop whistles chirped once in a while as did whirring car engines. Traffic would be an absolute nightmare which is why I thanked the stars we had taken the train to Shepard Stadium instead; if she wasn't suddenly whisked away by Wolf, Aileen would crash at my place for the night. Funny, or rather stupid, thing was that my father wasn't a dick toward Aileen or any other of my friends even though he remained one to me. I guess I felt a little better about that, but I'm sure Aileen felt a little uncomfortable by the whole situation. All it took to shut her up was to mention her beau and she was off to La-La Land happy as a clam. I often thanked myself for having found Wolf; he would do the heavy emotional support where I wouldn't have the patience. I noticed as well he was toughening her up a bit; the whole remark about tossing me into the field was nothing the old Aileen would have said. Then curiosity hit and I wondered just how much a guy would change me?
"Well, well: if it isn't Ms. Jimena Robles!" The mention of my name made me jump. I craned my head around to see a familiar face out of uniform approaching.
"Oh, hey…it's you. What's up?"
Sergeant Wong of the REPD replied to my question with a friendly nod. "It's me and nothing much is up. I didn't expect to see you here; I didn't take you for the type of girl that likes football."
"Looks like that intuition of yours got it wrong this time…it's Vance Wong, isn't it?"
"Eh, close enough," he replied with a smile. Fine, I'll admit it; even out of his uniform and in a leather windbreaker and jeans the sergeant was still pretty eye-catching.
"Oh, Jimena; you haven't introduced me to your friend," Aileen chimed in with a knowing tone. I gave her a look that tried to assure her he was nothing but an acquaintance. She wasn't buying it but made an effort to suppress her giggles as the sergeant stretched out his hand for hers.
"Sergeant Vincent Wong, REPD at your service, ma'am." His smile was somehow irresistible to my friend, causing her to break out in giggles. First Eva, now Aileen; what was it this guy had that was so darn appealing?
"Ooh, a cop. Say, Jimena; don't you have a pair of handcuffs at home?" I was going to throw that girl off the train the second we started moving. As I tried to cool down from rage and embarrassment, Aileen introduced herself to the confused policeman. "Aileen Ouimet. You know: she's got a pair of fuzzy pink ones in her bedroom drawer if you're ever in need of…well, you know." The pinch I gave her wasn't satisfying enough; I'd have to sock Wolf as well for making her so bold.
Wong cleared his throat. "Right."
"So tell me: what are you doing here, Sergeant Wong," Aileen asked innocent enough.
"Well as your friend Ms. Robles knows, SJSU is my old Alma Mater. I figured since it was my day off the beat I'd come down and support them. I'd say I was their lucky charm, but the Fighting Friars always cream their opponents."
"Not by much this time," I shot back, my courage returning. "We had you fighting for those points, if you don't recall."
He dismissed my statement with a shake of his head. "Nah, we gave you those points. We know ASU needed the confidence to believe they could stand toe-to-toe with the best, so we gave you that chance. Maybe you'll do better next season by it."
"'We'? Excuse me, but I didn't see you running around on that field in there," I fired back, the wind brushing strands of my hair across my face.
"And here's somebody that was," Aileen cut in as Wolf approached, hair still soaked from the quick shower he took. Aileen raced towards him and, wrapping her arms around his neck, gave him the best consolation prize he could have asked for. She brought him to us and introduced him to the police sergeant. "Sergeant Wong, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend: Wolf Kramer. Wolf, this is Jimena's 'friend.'" Girl was gonna get it, I swear.
"Hello Wolf," Wong replied, shaking the athlete's hand with a knowing smile. "Good to see you again." Somehow the sergeant's words made Aileen's beau cringe with apprehension.
"You know Sergeant Wong?" Aileen prodded.
"Sort of," Wolf shrugged.
"Of course he does," the police officer nodded. "15 March 2354: reckless driving and driving while intoxicated. I took the call for a two car accident and found your beau here bloodied and bruised but otherwise okay. I hope those 72 hours made you think twice about drinking and driving, Wolf."
The kicker nodded furiously. "I'm off the stuff, Sergeant Wong."
"How did you manage to remember that little incident," I asked the cop.
"Easy; the other car involved in the accident was my cruiser. I figured he was an okay guy that made one mistake so I convinced the old man to let him off with a lighter sentence. Glad to see my errand of mercy wasn't a waste."
"Sure wasn't, sergeant. If it wasn't for you I probably wouldn't have been playing ball."
"If you hadn't been drinking you probably wouldn't have been around not to play ball," Wong asserted. The kicker lowered his head while Aileen scolded him gently.
"Wow; you're like God in this town," I informed the sergeant. He laughed.
"No, not quite God, Ms. Robles. More like Jesus; God is my old man."
I shrugged. "I guess."
"Well what do you know," he said after a pause. "You're wearing those studs."
"Huh?" It took me a minute to process the information before I realized he meant the studs he had helped me get a better deal on. "Oh yeah, these things," I replied, my hand going to my ear. "You know you really didn't have to do-"
"I told you to forget about it," he cut me off with a smile. "Anything for a lady; isn't that what men are supposed to do?"
My laughter startled him. "Oh wait; you were being serious." Another pause. Aileen's scolding had taken a dramatic turn; reprimands became kisses and brushing of hair with fingers without the decency to remember Wong and I remained in the vicinity. "You're quite an interesting person, Sergeant Wong."
"Interesting enough to have a cup of coffee with?" The question took me aback; I did a double take to make sure what I heard was right.
"Did you just ask me out?"
"For coffee, Ms. Robles. Nothing more, I promise."
"W-well I don't know what to say, really. Actually I do: why?"
"Don't you remember me saying you struck me as the kind of person I'd like to get to know better? What better way to have a pleasant conversation than over a cup of coffee? Say…Borloff's, Thursday, 1:30?"
His forwardness made me chuckle. It was a nervous chuckle. "Umm…I'd have to check my schedule."
"That's alright if you're busy; I understand what it's like to be in college. You get dowdy."
I raised an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
"Dowdy. You know…dumpy, boring, bland. 'All work and no fun makes Jimena a dull girl?' Come on; you've heard all that stuff before."
He had a point. A cup of coffee wouldn't hurt; as long as he was paying, why the hell not? I made this clear to him and he snickered. "Fine; it'll be my treat," he conceded.
"Alright then, Sergeant Wong: Borloff's off 23rd and Yuzbin, Thursday, 1:30. Be there or your ass is drinking coffee alone."
"Hey! Who invited whom here? I think that was the man's initiative."
"Man doesn't have initiative if he shows up late."
He accepted the challenge with a grin that made the tips of my ears a little warmer. "Well then, I guess I'll have to be there early then. Now, Ms. Robles, I must be heading back. It's the year 2357 and I'd like to get out of that parking lot before 2358 creeps up." He looked back toward Aileen who was still "reprimanding" Wolf. "Say goodbye to your friends for me, why don't you?"
"If I can pry their faces away from each for just a second, I will."
He chuckled. "Fare thee well, Ms. Robles. Oh, and take care of those handcuffs."
Aileen was dead for sure. "Yeah, see you later, Sergeant Wong." And with those parting words he disappeared into the maelstrom of traffic and tailgaters, leaving me looking forward to our next encounter.
The man always did leave you wanting more.