Issue XVI -- Sports

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Read about some of the contributors to issue sixteen and see excerpts from each article or story.  

Issue XVI Contents

Retirement -- Terry Bramlett

Alekhine's Defense -- Cherith Baldry

Striders -- John Alfred Taylor

Killjo -- Terry Dartnall

Mississippi Dragons -- Scott William Carter

Congestion -- Andrew Burt

 

Retirement © 2005 Terry Bramlett

Mickey leaned back into his locker. He'd been the last to shower and almost everyone else left an hour ago.

He smiled. Bottom of the ninth, game seven of the series, and he hit a one-two pitch for a two-run homer. What a way to end the season, he thought. The smile would not stop. After fifteen years, he still loved the game.

"Hey, Mick, great hit," Babe said.

Mick leaned forward, noticing Babe’s silk suit. "Going to a funeral, Babe?"

"Get off me, Mick," Babe said. "I really meant it. Great hit. Man, it's been a hell of a season."

Mickey remembered this was Babe's first year in the league. He nodded. "Yeah, Babe. They all are."

"Gotta go," Babe said. He slapped Mickey on the thigh as he walked past. Babe stopped at the locker room door. "Joe and I are meeting Yogi and Thurman for dinner at Elaine's. Why don't you come and celebrate?"

"I'll see if I can make it," Mickey said as he hauled himself off the bench. He dropped the towel and started dressing.

"Hey Mick," Babe said. He flashed that Hollywood smile. "It really was a great hit." Babe exited without waiting for a reply.

"Later, Babe," Mickey said to the empty doorway. He finished stuffing things into his bag. A muffled ringing set him searching for his phone. He found it wrapped in a jock.

"Yeah."

"I saw the dinger," said a familiar voice, dripping with an Oklahoma accent. "Now, that's the way to go out."

Mickey sighed. "I'm not going."

"I know, you still think you can play, but we only get fifteen years. You know that Mick." The voice paused. "We don't age, but the skills still deteriorate. Only a little at first, but the deteriorization is there."

Mickey stood silent. Ralph, the first base coach, waved. "Hold on," Mickey said into the phone. "Yeah, Ralph."

"Casey wants to see you."

Ice filled his chest. Mickey nodded and returned his attention to the phone. "I gotta go. Casey wants me."

"There are things I need to teach you, Mick," the voice said. "All you’ve ever known is baseball, now you need to know more. My predecessor taught me and I have to teach you. You go see Casey. You know what's coming. Call me." The phone clicked off.

Casey sat behind a wooden desk. Older than sin, Casey knew more baseball than any of his famous players knew. Even his assistants, Joe and Billy, deferred to Casey and they never deferred to anyone.

"Mick, sit down," Casey said. He took a long drag on a cigar. Smoke streamed from the old man's mouth, but disappeared before it reached Mickey.

Joe and Billy leaned against the wall behind Casey. Neither man looked at Mickey, embarrassed by this meeting. He knew Casey wasn't going to congratulate him on the game-winning homer. Oh, god, Mickey thought. Baseball's all I know.

"No use beating around the bush, Mick," Casey said with his classic abruptness. "Your contract is up."

"I can still play," Mickey said. "I hit three-oh-one this year, with forty-five homers and one hundred ribbies. And that's not even mentioning the fact that I won the series for you guys."

"You get fifteen years, Mick," Casey said. "After that the scientists tell us the skills begin declining. Something about the life of DNA, but I don't understand all that stuff. All I know is that the organization wants a younger model."

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Alekhine's Defense © 2005 Cherith Baldry

“Smugglin’ amber?” Captain Denver, of the starship Reprehensible, spoke in tones filled with injured innocence. “Now why would you be suspectin’ I’d do a thing like that?”

The Customs official, who had appeared on board as fast as the teleport beam would bring him, eyed Denver coldly. “I know you, Denver ,” he said. “Why else would you be here?”

Denver scratched himself amiably. “Came for the chess congress.”

The wealth of the planet Baravia lies in amber. It is a resin, but unlike Terran amber it appears in a variety of colours. Black, bronze, copper, greenish-gold, and – rarest and most coveted – white. The Baravian population spends vast amounts of time and effort searching for, shaping and selling amber, imposing export taxes on amber, and preventing the smuggling of amber. Knowing Denver ’s reputation, no Baravian customs official could believe that his visit was for any purpose other than the acquisition – possibly illegal and certainly unauthorised – of amber.

Denver , however, made no contact with any dealers. Once he had rid himself of the customs official, he collected his medical officer, Dr Holroyd, and beamed down to the conference hall where the chess congress, under the auspices of the Fédération Intersidérale des Echecs, was taking place. Denver was carrying a battered plaswood box, of the kind that holds chess pieces. Holroyd was carrying a shell: a large pearly conch, which he cradled in both arms like a baby.

They found their way to a table where a harassed-looking FIDE official crouched before his computer. “Name?” he snapped.

“Alekhine,” Holroyd replied.

The FIDE official looked startled. “That’s a coincidence for a chess player, Mr Alekhine.”

“Oh, I’m not Alekhine,” Holroyd told him. He proffered the shell. “This is Alekhine.”

The FIDE man’s eyebrows climbed into where his hair had once been.

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Strider's © 2005 John Alfred Taylor

THE LUNAR LOOP

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Archimedes to the Spitzbergen Mountains

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Through the Spitzbergens

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Spitzbergens to Kirch

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Kirch to Mount Pico

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Mount Pico to Plato

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Plato to the Lunar Alps

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Through the Alps to the Alpine Valley

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The Alpine Valley to Mount Blanc

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Mount Blanc to Mount Piton

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Mount Piton to Aristillus B

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 Aristillus B to Archimedes D

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Archimedes D to Archimedes

 

Chris Hawkins had been pacing himself, but sped up now it was only four kilometers to Kirch. He already expected to beat Denis Depuytren's time, but wanted to finish first this stage for the additional points. Depuytren's half-minute head start wouldn't matter if he pushed hard enough.

He needed the extra points, because the handicap had paid off for Denis yesterday: he'd beaten Chris's time through the Spitzbergens by nine seconds. What made it galling was that Chris had done the climb up the pass enough times to know it meter by meter. But Depuytren was no slouch, and had probably explored it just as often.

The glare of Chris's chestfloods showed the regolith directly in front, but beyond that his opponent was a wan mote in the Earthlight, dimmer than the strobe flasher on the tower next to the crater wall. No telling how far ahead. Better ask the crew.

"Liz."

"Yeah, Chris?"

"How far behind Depuytren am I? Can't really see him. Worth a rush?"

"Looks like sixty, seventy meters separation. But here's Jesse."

"So what's up?"

"Your left lower thigh actuator's hot, boss."

"How near to redline?"

Jesse took a moment to answer. "Not too close as far as I can tell."

"All I need to know"

Liz came back on. " Toyota team is out. Whether or not for good I can't tell, but it sounds like complete systems failure. Hakagawa is swearing up a blue streak. Doesn't like being stuck in a dead suit."

"They were way back anyway." Chris said and signed off.

He rushed on, remembering an old saying from the days of sail. A stern chase is a long chase. The thought didn’t daunt him, but reminded him to look in the rearview mirror beside his faceplate.

Mohamar’s headlights were way back, twin pinpricks in the darkness. Nothing to worry about there. It’s between Denis and me, he told himself, increasing his pace even more.

Earth has the Tour de France, the Indianapolis 500, the Global Challenge and America ’s Cup yacht races. The Moon has the Lunar Loop.

The race started when two friends hired to test new Lower Extremity Exoskeletons decided to enjoy their job, at least until the one from GMC-Luna broke down nine klicks out. No disaster, because striders were designed to carry cargo where no vehicle could go. The Honda man leaned over to let the other climb up on his back and lock arms below his faceplate, and the two made it back to Archimedes with no sweat.

Next lunar night six guys got together for a fifty-kilometer race, but a year or two later the run was organized. Then it metastized, the Lunar Loop turned long and grueling, with rule after rule, with laser timers, factory teams and striders specially designed for racing.

Chris was the only amateur left, because he could afford his own team, running in the Hawkin’s Special he’d helped design. The others had carapaces plastered with logos of sponsoring companies; his hard torso was bare except for the logo of his favorite charity.

One of the few things he enjoyed about his status as a millionaire was being able to half-kill yourself any way you wanted.

It was time, now that he could see Depuytren's back. He called up the strip map of this stage's end in his helmet display, making sure there were no surprises ahead before he kicked up the oxygen feed and started his controlled sprint, careful not to bound too high between steps.

Closing with Depuytren, he thought of Achilles and the Tortoise, wondering if Zeno had been racing when he conceived the paradox. Not impossible: the Greeks were jocks and competitive, and called contests agons – a thought that inspired Chris enough to increase his own agony and pass Depuytren bare meters before the finish.

Chris collapsed the instant he was through the laser beam, with Denis falling over him. They helped each other up before their teams gathered round, then waved to Mohamar as he broke the beam.

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Killjo © 2005 Terry Dartnall

Everyone said Harrison was dull. Everyone said so – his ex wife, his colleagues, even his friends and neighbours, who knew him better than anyone. They all said Harrison was dull. He was solid and dependable but he was so, well, so normal and conservative that people smiled when they talked about him and said, ' Harrison 's a bit dull, isn't he? Solid and dependable – but dull.' And they wondered if that was why his ex wife had left him. Because she was bored.

So it surprised everyone when Harrison took up Killjo, the most deadly and dangerous, the most terrible and terrifying, pastime of them all. Everyone said that Killjo was for suicidal maniacs and homicidal morons – not for the likes of safe, dependable people like Jonathon Harrison.

"When can I start?" said Harrison .

The blond looked up at him. Her hair was piled high on her head and she was chewing gum.

"Ya got the wrong place," she said. "This is Killjo. The library's on the next block."

"I am here to play Killjo," said Harrison .

"Oh yeah?" she said.

"That is correct," said Harrison .

"You gotta sign an indemnity," she said, giving him a form. "Ya wife left ya? Ya wanna kill yaself?"

"Not really. Well, yes, my wife did leave me, a long time ago. I think she was bored. I want some excitement now. I want to play Killjo."

"Ya come to the right place," said the blond. "Ya gonna shit yaself."

"I've read about Killjo," said Harrison .

"Ya ain't done it," said the blond.

"Well, we're going to do something about that, aren't we?" said Harrison .

 

Harrison said afterwards that he would never forget his first game of Killjo. It was, he said, the most deadly and dangerous, the most terrible and terrifying, and altogether the most uplifting and wonderful thing he had ever done. Harrison ’s victims would never forget it either. In a convincing simulation of the Borneo jungle, and in short order, Harrison dispatched twelve of them – eight with a 5.56mm carbine, three with a .357 magnum, and one he decapitated with a 21½ inch parang with a buffalo horn handle, which he retained as a trophy.

He showered and walked back to the foyer.

The blonde's mouth fell open.

"Ya ain't dead," she said.

"I'm feeling rather good," said Harrison . 

The blond looked at the screen in front of her. Then she looked at Harrison . Then she looked at the screen again.

"Jesus Christ," she said. "Who are you?"

"Jonathon Harrison. You know, I filled out the form."

“You're a professional, aincha?” she said. “It's illegal. I’m gonna call the cops.”

"I'm a school teacher," said Harrison . "I teach English and botany, and I write musical comedies in my spare time."

Without taking her eyes of him, the girl lifted the receiver. "Mr. Stevens. Mr. Stevens? Will you come to the foyer, Mr. Stevens? We have a situation here."

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Mississippi Dragons © 2005 Scott William Carter

Abraham Lincoln was acting odd. Sandra noticed it during the third show of the day.

The wall-to-wall network processors filled the control room with a steady hum. The white glow from her three monitors provided the only light. There was barely room to turn around, and it was unbearably warm. Chicken-scented steam rose from the cup of noodles on the desk. She was about to reach for the noodles, having once again been forced to work through lunch, when she glanced through the window at what was happening down in the arena.

Lincoln had stopped fighting.

The audience – a light crowd, not more than three hundred – was still cheering. Genghis Khan, his leather robe shredded from Lincoln ’s axe, his bronze helmet soaked with synthetic blood, was walking to his weapon’s rack. That was fine, because that was what the program wanted him to do. But Lincoln stood in the middle of the brown astroturf, his axe dangling at his side. The black three-piece suit clinging to his thin frame had been reduced to tatters, but somehow he had managed to keep his top hat squarely on his head. Part of his beard had been sliced off and that side of his face was a bloody mess. He should have been moving to get his own weapon, but instead he was staring into the stands.

In fact, Sandra realized with a chill, he was looking directly at her.

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Congestion © 2005 Andrew Burt

The timekeeper for the 2032 IDITEROC alternately sneered at Gunther Staatz and squinted at his official International Distance Intensive Transportation Efficiency Race Of Champions score clock. “Mr. Staatz, you may go on my mark.” The auditor from Smith Waterhouse stood by, stone faced, watching the countdown approach eight A.M. This was it. The final leg of the race. Gunther could almost taste the prize money: One hundred million US dollars for the winner. Zero for the loser. After two years of planning, Gunther wasn’t going to be the loser. He’d clawed his way through nine sometimes controversial elimination rounds during the last month, ousting five hundred and eleven opponents. His last, unmet, unseen (and soon to be losing) opponent had surpassed another five hundred eleven. The money was his for sure; Gunther would see to that.

 

"I'll zee you gentlemen after I burn ziss asshole to collect my deci billion," he said. They didn't have to like him, they just had to give him his money.

 

"Go!"

 

Gunther planted his feet cautiously crossing the icy parking lot from the hotel lobby, the air freezing the mucous in his nostrils. In Anchorage he ran; in Malibu he ran; everywhere he had run; but with a biting seventeen below zero Fahrenheit, unusual even in Frisco , Colorado – elevation 9,097 feet – Gunther walked with great deliberation, lest a foolish slip snatch certain victory from his hands.

A light dusting of snow covered the car; fortunately it seemed too cold to snow heavily. Gunther instinctively hit the de icer button on the remote as he walked, saving the precious time needed to manually brush off the windshields. Ah, technology; his ace in the hole.

The ice shields slid down, dumping small piles of fine snow, but they moved slower than they ought to have.

“Damn! Should have started it first to recharge the battery,” he cursed into the frigid air. No matter. What’s done is done. Relax.Don’t panic. Gunther calmed himself, and turned the key. The engine gave a pathetic urrr urrr urrr. Fumbling for the battery's remote control unit in the glove box, Gunther noted the meter was seriously in the red, covering the 'D' of 'Dead.' Nonetheless, the battery was designed for this: He pressed the 'super charge' button. Urrr urrrr rrrrrr rrrrrrr. 

Now Gunther panicked.

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