art by Billy Sagulo
by S. R. Algernon
I saw the court through Athena Washington's eyes. I felt a quiver in her lungs with each intake of breath. Her muscles ached for rest, but training and adrenaline kept them going. Her palms sweated as she bounced the ball.
The score was 101-99, with the Blue Birds trailing.
The clock read 00:07.
At least two billion people watched Athena. Most of them, like me, were brains in tanks somewhere in sprawling storage facilities, tuning in to the video stream. Fifty thousand or so flesh-and-blood fans filled the stands. Most of those spectators were children on furlough from the city's childcare center; minors could stay flesh-and-blood even if they were broke. The rest were upper-crust types who had kept up with the rising Physical Presence Fees, buying the right each year to inhabit their ageless bodies.
I was not so fortunate. Like most people, without cash or credit for the first year's payment, I had gone into the tank on my eighteenth birthday. Still, I counted myself lucky in other ways. I had snagged all-season Follower rights to Athena early on, when the Blue Birds had been struggling and Athena still had those ankle problems. Forty minutes of game time each week was enough reality for me, but I had held out hope for this one moment all season long.
In Athena's peripheral vision, two of her teammates were open near the basket, but I knew she would save the shot for herself. I knew the game was ours.
I had faith in her.