Galin slapped her hands together to better spread the chalky powder over their surface. It sent up a cloud of dust that made her sneeze, and when her site cleared, she couldn’t help but smile. The view of the stadium from the sidelines of the field never ceased to make her giddy. Ever since she had watched her first town game, at the state mandated age of five, all she had wanted to do was be down here, in the middle of the action.

Not on the field, because that was a level of pain she couldn’t handle, but as a Trainer. Physician, physical therapist, stretcher, surgeon, tension reliever. Whatever the players needed, she was there to handle it. She’d heard rumors of some of the things the players could demand, but it was her first week actually working with the team, and she couldn’t be certain how much of it was truth and how much of it was designed to scare rookie Trainers away from the favored Athletes.

While the politics between trainers could get rough, it was nothing compared to the politics surround the Game in its entirety. This is where the State flourished–on and off the field. Competition within the state was stiff to be the best of the best, trades between teams were incentives on business deals, coporate and political sponsorship was integral to a team’s success. The bigger your sponsors, the better your chances for winning, or at least buying out the referees. And of course, the best of the best were selected for the State’s All-Star team. And once a year, they competed against the best teams from all the other states.┬áCompetition between the States determined trade agreements, treaties and marriages; it was a form of war. Land traded States, companies were bought out by the whim of the winds on the ball.

There were no ties and there were no games called on account of weather. Athletes died every year on the field to be replaced by new young men, eager to show their worth and start gaining sponsorship. Nearly all of them arrived at the stadium with one sponsor from their hometown, or they never could have afforded the trip.

Galin watched one of the new boys warming up on the field now, frowning at the large grouping of sponsor patches on his tunic already. She didn’t know how he had managed to snag the eye of one of the lesser Senators, but that was his insignia above the young man’s heart. Perhaps it was a family connection, that sometimes happened.

A horn sounded from in front of the stadium and the waiting crowd roared in response. This call was repeated two more times, louder at each repetition, until the gates were thrown open and the crowds rushed in to fill the stone pews. The entire city was there, eager to watch that day’s bloodbath.