The boxing glove hit the ground with a dull thump, the dull sound of cheering filtering through to her brain. Blood smeared the glove’s white strip.
She glanced around the dark warehouse. Her eyes skimmed the throngs of people as her arm was held above her head by the referee. There were just as many sore punters booing as there were cheers. She paid them no mind as she dusted off her knuckles, picked up the glove and climbed out of the cage.
She collected her winnings but ignored the organiser as he begged her to go another bout. She was done and going home, as soon as she could pass through the crowd.
A line of what were clearly hockey boy toys blocked her path to the exit of the warehouse. They had had decided on illicit fun for the night, but she was not going to be the one to provide entertainment because of their jeering and waving of money. All but one were staring along the sharp lines of her body. The one whose dark hair was swept over his dark eyes that had locked onto hers.
That’s how she met Aleksis.
The Academy’s cafeteria doors swung open and Aleksis was carting an elk across the threshold. She didn’t want to know. The shocked opinions of the other pilot students gave her no entertainment so she turned to walk back to their quarters.
“I bet you’re glad you’re not actually married when he does shit like that.” The Australian man said as she passed him. She was startled but chose not to respond.
They had married in Magnitogorsk, where Aleksis grew up in awe of the Ural Mountains. His father was a steelworker, supporting his dying mother. They were so proud of his making the KHL. Less so about following a woman into battle and certain death. Her favourite wedding photo was of their parents screaming at each other during the second toast. It was hang in their quarters.
Sasha noticed the Australian was walking with her and her thoughts when he stopped her at the elevator.
He moved to press the button of the elevators, leaning across the space between her and the panel. His arm was millimetres from her breasts.
She gripped his testicles, her knuckle busters crushing them before he could press anything.
“I am married.”
She smiled as he waddled away whispering, “Bloody hell.”
The female members of the crew in Russian brought Aleksis food. Beef and cabbage rolls, borshch and black bread, herring shuba salad, and coffee sour cream cake passed to him as he walked through the Vladivostok Shatterdome.
Broken nosed and bruised woman couldn’t possibly be a Hockey Wife. A boxer couldn’t possibly be nurturing to a big lad like Aleksis. The drift was too much for woman. They weren’t married.
The women tittered out of her sight but the conversations filtered down to her. She had heard it all before.
Aleksis asked her if the talk bothered her.
“Gossip has 59 dumpy women willing to hoard it. Talk will not change anything.”
The edges of his lips curled up to hide under his moustache. It was the smile that meant he was thinking about their life together. She loved the secrecy of that smile.
He started dying his hair after their first kill. He couldn’t braid his hair but he could braid hers.
The women were horrified but Aleksis just smiled.
The fog rolled into Vladivostok and brought with it the black PPDC aircrafts from Anchorage.
It was as they feared. The program was being shut down and Cherno Alpha was being shipped down to Hong Kong.
They had been waiting for the next attack, six kills marked on their record, but nothing. The Marshall had been expected.
Stacker Pentecost passed his jacket to the young woman at his side as they walked through the Vladivostok doors. The entire crew of the Shatterdome stood to attention upon his entering the work floor.
“I would like you on my team. With the longest recorded handshake, even outside of a married couple, you are both wanted in Hong Kong. It will not be like it once was and we are fighting until the end.”
The blue tipped hair was jostled as the young woman spoke to the Marshall in hurried Japanese.
“Thank you, Miss Mori. I will view the documents later.”
Sasha assumed Pentecost never had time to read the personnel files in any depth.
Hong Kong Shatterdome was very different than Russia. The heat that curled around her as the rain tried to battle with her sweat. The scrounging for materials felt no different than the rest of her life. She had grasped for something every day before she met Aleksis but they had never wanted for Cherno Alpha.
She made sure Pentecost knew that whatever they needed to finish this, she would do everything to arrange it.
“I heard it was a White Stripes type of situation with those two?” The scientist with the tattoos was pushing a cart of kaiju blue.
The research department was definitely different. The funding had all but dried up trying to find miracle cancer cures from kaiju dust.
“I do not understand that reference.” The other was trailing after him, cane thumping the Shatterdome floor as if it were his colleague’s head.
The scientists did not see her waiting to pass into the mess hall.
She curls her finger at Aleksis to bring over a tray of food for her. Their crew cackled when she relayed the scientists’ conversation.
“You know what they are talking about?” She asked of Aleksis.
“They think we are brother and sister.”
His hand curled around her thigh.
“They do not know you dye your hair.”
This would not go any further, she decided. He watched her gathering her thoughts about how to correct assumptions. She tugged on a braid before walking back to their quarters, lunch forgotten.
“We have recently discovered proof of Aleksis Kaidonovsky and Sasha Kaidonovsky’s marriage nuptials. The pictures are posted in the mess.”
Choi’s gleeful and terrified voice echoed over the public announcement speaker. She would find him later.
The wedding photo of their parents and a copy of their marriage license were posted on the wall of the mess hall. The two pictures were taking up several noticeboards.
The photo had been enlarged and edited so that the lens flare from their rings was not as bright, revealing their ecstatic kissing in the midst of the toast war.
He was doing his little smile, their smile, as he looked up at the picture.
“Maybe Pentecost will frame this, yes? Anniversary gift?” He asks of her, chuckling when she boxes his ears.