"A Brighter Flame"
Written by: Erin Weinstock
Novelization version by: Anthony B.
I don't hold any of the copyrights in this story, and this story was made without profit.
On the television screen, in large font, read the words "The 500th Olympic Games 2519 Summer Event." In the background was a massive space station that could be seen with a planet behind it, although it was some distance away. The station looked like it could have been the size of a small city.
"Welcome back to the 500th Olympic Games 2519 Summer Event!" the television announcer said enthusiastically.
The broadcast now cut to a different scene. It was a stadium event, with a 26th Century version of a Caber Toss. A man was holding a metal caber covered in black spots, with a few blinking lights built into it. Above him, hovering a good 25 feet in the air, was a ball-nest of other cabers, which were slowly spinning around. The man that was holding the caber was walking around, judging his next action, which was where to throw his caber in the caber nest.
"We're on the first elimination round of the Caber Toss," the television announcer continued. "This is Fred Snapper of planet Earth in his first Olympic game tournament! He's positioning himself for the throw; he's checking density, he's checking the rotation angle..." The announcer stopped, as Fred hurled the caber up into the next, and all at once, the lights on the other cabers sprang to life. "Did he make it, did he make it?" The next stopped spinning, and a bolt of what looked like lightning slammed down on Fred, who collapsed on the floor at the strike. "He didn't make it! What a shame people, you know the magnetic grips need to be aligned at just the right angle for that to work."
The broadcast then continued, only now it cut to a game of "Glav-Ball". This was a futuristic game of polo, only instead of horses, wave-rider like hovercrafts were being used to work with the ball, and gravity was used in the point system: if the ball fell down, the lower it fell, the more points lost to the opposing team. Points could be regained, however, by scoring a goal. The teams that were playing represented Sanopp and Mastic; the Mastic being the home planet of the Masrex. They had white long hair, pastel colored skin, the eyes had the same glassy pearl-blue look to them as a Saurian's, and twig-like projections where the eyebrows should be, with light-green, leaf-like rounded tips. As the game continued, a Saurian scored a goal after the ball took a long drop.
"We're on the third Glav-Ball game of the day, and already it looks like this competition will be a treat to watch at this year's games!" the announcer said. "Sanopp with an early lead! This hasn't happened in decades!"
The broadcast continued again, only now it cut to an Astrosled. Out in space, viewers watched a disorganized troop of Cheetah-Bolt ships zip and zag about, all moving for some unseen place in the distance.
"Now on to the second Astrosled Race of the games! Earth, Avapos One, Noyas, Miahgo, Lember, and the first time to the games, Zacaw! People, I know you folks at home can't see this like our brave athletes do! So to give you a treat, Earth's representative Kate Gussy has agreed to let us see first hand what we're missing!"
The only thing that the camera showed was the Cheetah-Bolt's interior, which was a cockpit's large front window that took up most of the canopy. Before a wavering force field appeared, a stream of red lights that zipped across the bottom of the windshield, a snap alerted the pilot that danger was near. The red dots continued to zip across the bottom of the windshield, as another wavering force field appeared a few feet away from the ship, taking up the whole of the camera's view. The camera then cut back, so that the viewers could have a better look at the scene. Kate tightly gripped the ship's steering rod to jerk the ship's nose up.
"Hello, Ms. Gussy of Earth!" the announcer said.
"Now is not the best time to be talking to me," Kate warned.
The lights zipped across the bottom again another force field appeared, only this time, it was at an angle that forces Kate to move the ship to the right.
"You agree to this, remember?" the announcer reminded her. "You want the whole watching galaxy to see Earth's best Astrosled racer in action?"
The lights zipped, and yet another force field appeared to be reaching up from beneath the ship, stretching forward beyond it.
"Please not questions, I need to concentrate on this," Kate said as she turned the ship to avoid a collision.
The lights zipped, and a new force field appeared to her left, forcing her to move the ship left, having to be slick about it since another Cheetah-Bolt was near where she was moving to.
"One question, or you'll be breaking your contract with the game committee. You are being covered live right now," the announcer said.
"Just one," she conceded.
"One will do for now. I can see you're in mortal danger from where I'm sitting," he observed.
Kate turned her head towards the camera. "Now, while there aren't any..." However, Kate was cut off in mid-sentence, due to another force field appearing before the ship without warning, causing a wall of wavering light closing in to the closer view of the camera.
Inside the hanger bay at the Mt. Olympus Station, a bulky-white spaceship with a large red cross taking up most of one side of the ship was landed, a good sized Phasoft-door residing in the cross's lower half. By the hands of a team of doctors and nurses, Kate was being taken out on a stretcher, looking like she has certainly seen better days. A crowd surrounded them with spectators and a few competing sports teams not at work for their metals.
"We need room," the doctor who was at the foot of Kate's stretcher ordered. "Move out of the way, people!"
Kate, with second-degree burns, looked around as she was being moved out of the Hanger Bay. Human and alien alike were showing concern for her.
However, a couple of Humdos looked at her with contempt; one was wearing a sports suit like Kate's, and the other was a mechanic's.
Kate, with a look of concern in her own eyes, figured out what had just happened as she was finally carried off.
Dozens of spaceships that have firmly docked their loading and unloading doors into the space station of Hotel Section of the Team Earth of the Mt. Olympus Station.
"Out with it, Buck," Hawk said. "I want to know why you brought me along."
Buck looked up from the vast space of the Shuttle Park, up through the exterior of a hotel with no balconies or sliding windows.
"She misses you, Hawk," Buck said.
"You just want me to baby-sit her," Hawk complained.
Buck and Hawk's suite was built like a studio apartment, only to note that the design was a giant circle. The rooms were open, except for the bathroom, spawn off to all sides of it, but where it faced the window. A wooden square of floor was built into its center. Buck and Hawk were standing close to this square.
"True," Buck agreed. "Plus, Ge-Ja will be with you this time. Plus, I might need back up. It will be fun."
Hawk ran a few fingers back through his head feathers. "She sees me as a plaything."
"She's a toddler; she sees everything as a plaything. Besides, she was missing her doll when you came along," Buck said.
"Fuzzy little aliens, why am I always the one," Hawk said to himself.
"Ha, there are more aliens here than you can shake a stick at. Not all of them are as troublesome as you believe."
"The last time you talked me into contact, they took over my body," he argued.
"Mine too, but that's never stopped you from being friends with a Saurian," Buck said.
At this, Kate came through the Phasoft-door entrance, looking as though she was almost healed.
"Thank you for making it here, Buck," she said, before turning to Buck's companion. "Hawk."
"Where are these Humdos you think might be behind what happened?" Buck asked.
"They're on the first floor of the hotel's section for team Miahgo," Kate answered.
"I don't understand this," Hawk began. "Just due to a glare, you think they're to blame?"
"I don't think they like the fact De-Pas is my mechanic," Kate explained.
"Due to a talk I had with a Humdos once, the only I've ever met, in fact, I know the two species, with good reason, aren't on the best of terms with each other. These two don't have to interact with him, right? So it shouldn't really concern them," Hawk said.
"I could be wrong about them, but they were the only ones that didn't seem too happy about me being alive after the crash," Kate said, gesturing as she spoke. "It could be because they're a rival team. It could be what I've already voiced concern over."
"I'll do everything in my power to get to the bottom of this, Kate," Buck promised.
"A sport where death can occur at the slightest miss of a movement. Ms. Gussy, I see the whole thing as a harmful, pointless venture," Hawk said.
Kate looked taken aback a bit by what Hawk has just said. "Besides being a fighter pilot for the Directorate, flying Cheetah-Bolts in Astrosled races are my life."
Inside De-Pas and his family's suite, Hawk was standing by a comfortable looking cushioned chair, staring at Beu-Pas, who was wearing a sundress. Beu-Pas was holding a wooden-looking toy that looked like a Z-87. She was walking as best as her little legs could carry her towards the chair, and towards Hawk.
"A' Kate's fun, it's fun," Beu-Pas said. She then put the toy ship in her mouth, and held it in her teeth. She climbed onto the chair.
"Do you remember me?" Hawk asked.
Beu-Pas settled herself on the chair, and for a beat, tried to smile, still holding the toy. Before removing it from her mouth, she smiled, and looked at Hawk. "Birdie!"
Hawk watched Beu-Pas back away a little from the chair. "You remember what 'birdie' doesn't like you to do, Ms. Beu-Pas?" Hawk asked with a bit of fear in his voice.
"No feathers," Beu-Pas answered.
"Don't pull on them," Hawk ordered.
Ge-Ja walked into the scene with Nuisance lying down on one of her shoulders, its face-eye light at just a speck in size; it was sleeping.
"Pull on what, Hawk?" Beu-Pas's mother asked.
Hawk turned to Ge-Ja, his tone with a bit of urgency. "Your daughter likes my feathers."
"She's little, I'm sure she'll grow out of that," Ge-Ja said.
"I can only hope," Hawk said, looking at the baby.
Beu-Pas held her toy ship up high in the air. "I wanna show him A' Kate's fun! Tea Birdie!"
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that Ms. Gussy flies a ship that resembles that in flight," Hawk said.
"You don't have kids, do you Hawk?" Ge-Ja asked.
"No, and that's not the point," Hawk said. "Gussy may be a Defense Directorate pilot, but the child should be aware her teaching employs the use of the wrong thing."
On the ceiling, unbeknownst to Hawk and the others, a robot tarantula with a large black camera lens covering its back and a fine strand of thread "cable" coming from it rear was coming towards them. It was high up on the wall.
"If you ever have a child, I'll worry," Ge-Ja said.
A Masrex and an Alarr were sitting on the floor of the Guest Vault, watching a floating monitor that kept changing its view back and forth between two locations. One location showed De-Pas from above inspecting Kate's destroyed Cheetah-Bolt and the other location showed from above at a side angle: Hawk, Ge-Ja, Nuisance, and Beu-Pas. Both aliens were wearing a single ear-bud and were jotting down notes on thin tablet computers. The room they were in appeared to be a vault like one would find in a bank, only the little locked cubbies weren't opened with keys. They were opened with the contact of their operator's DNA. The spider-camera's line was connecting to the base projecting the monitor; there were two lines.
"How many do you think we'll be seeing at the games in four years?" the Alarr asked, sounding revolted.
"The investigators or Candos?" the Masrex asked.
The Alarr looked to the Masrex. "I'm not the one who messed up here!"
Unnoticed to the two aliens, Buck came up behind them. "Neither of us did, but both shouldn't be here in the first place!" the Masrex said.
Buck began to crouch down to them. "They should have rigged the Human's ship sensors to fail long before the broadcast," the Alarr sighed.
Buck touched the shoulders of both aliens at once. This action lured their attention on to him. "Oh, don't stop talking on my account. Please, continue," he said.
"We were doing nothing; the Human is making all up!" the Masrex said. He, along the with the rest, was in the hallway just outside the auto jet hanger.
"Don't Auto us, PLEASE!" the Alarr pleaded.
Before describing what the place there in looked like, it would be wise to explain what an "Auto-Jet" was. An Auto-Jet was a small spacecraft big enough for two adult people at the maximum. They contained no food or water due to once its intended occupants are put in, a knockout gas was vented into the passenger chamber, making its guest or guests sleep during the duration of their trip in it. These crafts were towards their destination by controls located outside the ship on its door hatch. Whatever unexpected thing came along during the craft's journey were taken care of by a navigational artificial intelligence computer. The main purpose these ships were put to was transport to off-station or off-world holding cells or jails at places like the Defense Directorate, polices stations, or so on, to that effect.
The room wasn't very large, and it looked like it was built to do its purpose and nothing else, due to it being somewhat good lengthwise, but not much widthwise. Buck was here, along with a security staff member wearing a uniform that not only told what she did, but a sewn-in badge that told she was also involved with the Games taking place. The Alarr and Masrex were here too, in handcuffs.
"You were caught spying on our guests while an investigation was being conducted in regards to their safety," the security woman said.
The Alarr tried to fight the force field that was holding his hands in place, while the Masrex stood. One could tell from the look on the Masrex's face that wheels were turning in his head.
The Masrex calmly turned to the Alarr that was still fighting the handcuffs. "We're needed for our team; our team can't win a medal without us, or even stay qualified.
"How is that supposed to help us?!" the Alarr asked.
The security staff women didn't take to this plea at all, and began tapping instructions into the keypad guidance control of an Auto-Jet. "Then your team will just have to forfeit. I'm sorry, but there are laws against what you did."
"Oh, but..." the Masrex pleaded, "But our team can't forfeit. We've trained too long to quite now. What if someone replaced one of us? The team can still play if it's missing only one member. Maybe someone you might see as trustworthy. Someone close to you here could replace one of us?"
The security staff woman turned to Buck. "Do you know how to play baseball?"
"What man, woman, or child from my era doesn't?" he asked.
The security staff woman whipped out a device called a Transmission Bud. It looked like two pennies connected together by a thick but flexible inch in length piece of plastic. In a sense, it looked like a tiny phone. She put it up to one ear.
"What's your name?" She asked him.
"Buck Rogers," Buck said, confused.
"Hello Herald?" the security woman said into the transmission bud. "I'm having our two troublemakers shipped off now to detention base Kovaz. A man named Buck Rogers will be replacing one on their team to keep them qualified."
She snapped the two penny shapes together on the Transmission Bud, ending the phone call.
"Hey, I never said I wanted to play baseball!" Buck protested.
"Too late; you're on the team," the security woman said.
Buck and the security staff woman were trying to force the Alarr into the Auto-Jet the woman just programmed. The Alarr, however, was acting like a stubborn child, not wanting to get inside the craft. The Masrex was already inside the Auto_Jet.
"You had no right to do that!" Buck said to the woman.
"It won't be for Earth, true, but you need to fill in the gap this..." the security woman then gave a hard push on the Alarr's back, which Buck quickly did as well. The Alarr gave a rough grunt, and tried to reinforce his grip on the doorframe. "...Stubborn, law-breaking SOB has made!"
Finally Buck and the security woman pushed the Alarr through the ship's hatch, and shut the door before the alien could fight his way out.
The close walls of the Auto-Jet's single room were blank and cushioned, like something one would see in an isolation room for a mentally ill person at a hospital. Right across from the ship's cabin hatch were two single, unimpressive looking seats that were built into the wall. The Masrex was seated comfortably, watching the Alarr who entered here a moment ago. The Alarr gave a little hit to the door.
"That was a dumb move, it didn't help us," the Alarr said, not looking at the Masrex, before turning to his companion in anger. "It got us here! Making that human from Earth's Defense Directorate replace one of us on the team serves no purpose at all!"
The Masrex held up his hands. "On the contrary, my friend. It keeps him busy."
At this, the sleeping gas started to vent into the cabin. Both aliens took notice of this.
"I'd rather this Human Rogers be out of the way, and not kept busy."
"You might want to sit down," the Masrex suggested. Both of them began to show signs of weariness, and the Alarr took the empty seat. "It serves us better, serves the Games better, if Rogers is kept busy with the ball game instead of the one we were caught in play."
Both aliens then slumped over as the gas took its full effect on them, and they fell asleep.
Ge-Ja, Beu-Pas holding Nuisance, and Hawk were at the bottom of the baseball stadium at the Olympic games, beginning an ascent in the bleachers towards their spot. However, De-Pas didn't look very interested.
"You guys find a good spot, I'll join you later," he said.
"This is about Buck, isn't it?" Hawk probed.
"Kate didn't ask him to come here to play some silly old relic of a sports game. I need to know if he's still with us," De-Pas said.
"He's a man of his word," Ge-Ja assured him. "I'm sure he's still working at finding out who rigged Kate's Cheetah."
Hawk stepped towards De-Pas. "I haven't known him as long as you have, but I agree with you. This is very out of character for him."
Inside the dugout, Buck pulled a bat out of a large plastic bin, which was full of them, and began to examine it. The bat more resembled a thin Cricket stick than a baseball bat he remembered. Around Buck, the rest of the dugout had pitch-black walls with multicolor lights in the ceiling. Multiple scoreboards lined the front and back walls. Ten teammates, all Alarrs, sat on the bench, talking to each other, eager for their turn to bat. De-Pas, followed by Hawk entered the area.
"Hey, get out! No visitors!" a ball player said to the duo.
Buck turned his attention towards the Bat, to face his friends. "It's okay, they're with me."
"I can't believe you're here!" De-Pas said.
"I told you already, this wasn't my idea," Buck said.
"Then leave here, unless..." Hawk paused, grinning. "You feel you can't handle the job."
"Hey!" Buck responded.
"He has a point. You did actually ask Hawk to come as back up," De-Pas said.
"Things may not be going as planned, OK, but that doesn't mean I haven't made progress," Buck said.
De-Pas leaned towards Buck. "You caught those creeps who were spying on my family and me, and then...?
"He met the rest of the team," a second ball player said.
De-Pas turned to him. "Now what's that supposed to mean?"
Before he could answer, the coach's voice penetrated the dugout. "Rogers, you're at bat, get out!"
Buck gave one final, inquisitive look at his bat, and then looked to De-Pas and Hawk. "I'll explain later," he said. He then moved out of the dugout, up through a Phasoft-door to it's far left.
Buck walked onto the playing field as he was going to bat, kicking his bat while taking in the sight of the stadium he was in. The ground wasn't glass, it was a touch computer screen noting every movement made upon it. Everywhere one stepped, colored rings branched out from the spot in a rainbow pattern. None of the opposing teams have catcher's mitts on. Instead, they had a glove with a flat surface that once more had a video display on it, only at the moment, it was only showing a flat green, nothing else. At the pitcher's mound is a podium with a pulsing mega-sized light at the front.
Buck took the stance at the home base, and was ready to play ball. As he got into position, however, some of his opposing team members, and even some on his own team, laugh at him. Buck was still standing the same spot, but lowered his bat, showing he wasn't ready to hit the ball yet.
"You want me to bunt?" he asked.
The coach moved over to Buck. "It's sonic, Rogers. You can't hit the pulse with your bat high in the air like that. Thought you knew how to play this game."
"I can learn again," Buck said, a bit aggressively.
"What have I done?" the coach asked himself as he walked away.
"This is gonna be easy," the pitcher said to himself.
Buck now held out his bat, looking like he wanted to hit a bunt with it. He also looked very unsure about the whole thing.
"You're not going to hit it hard that way," the coach said.
Buck gave the coach a look that said 'try me,' then returned his attention to the pitcher. The pitcher's hand movements, unseen behind the podium, work the controls to send out a sonic ball. As this took place, the light on the podium strobed at a rapid speed. The unseen sonic ball is thrown as the light dwindled down to a speck. This whole way of playing baseball, being new to Buck, kept him in his set stance as the ball breezed right pass him and into the Umpire's mitt-shield.
"Ball one!" the umpire yelled.
Buck gave the umpire a curious look, before returning his gaze towards the pitcher's mound. Now Buck held his bat like he was ready to hit the sonic ball with a little more force than was needed to bunt. The pitcher worked the podium's controls again. The light on the podium once more strobed at a rapid speed. The unseen sonic ball was thrown as the light dwindled down to the size of a softball. Buck, making a good guess, swung the bat, and hit the unseen object. A streak of white quickly zoomed out on to the field, moving out past the pitcher towards moving in between second and third base. Buck looked back to the umpire, not having noticed the zipping white streak.
"You're making it to easy for us, you know that?" the umpire said.
"Run Rogers!" the coach yelled. "First, second base now!"
Buck looked confusedly towards the coach, before returning his attention to the field and finally he noticed the white streak, now on its way into the outfield. Buck took off for first base.
A player in the outfield caught the unseen sonic ball on his mitt-shield, with the mitt-shield turning red. He was ready to his treat his mitt-shield like a tennis racket to throw the sonic ball to the second base man when he took notice of De-Pas's family and Hawk sitting in the bleachers. He grinned, and threw the sonic ball quickly their way with the mitt-shield turning yellow, then green.
The bleachers by Ge-Ja and Hawk took a deep "bang!" of an impact, the two, led by Ge-Ja had motioned for Hawk to move right before the hit as she understood the ballplayer's motion.
Buck slowed just before reaching second base; he's looking towards the bleachers where the strike against his friends had just took place.
"You're out!" the umpire yelled, which caused Buck to glare at him. Not you Rogers!"
The opposing player, with anger in his step, quickly walked off the field. Buck looked towards his friends in the bleachers, to see De-Pas glaring at Buck.
After the game ended, the normal team players were leaving the field. Buck was at the tail end of the line of players, but the coach stopped Buck in his tracks with a tug at his shirt's back collar.
"What?" Buck asked flatly.
"I don't want you on this team," the coach said. "You said you could play, but I've never seen worse."
"Well, I don't want to play, but it benefits us both, doesn't it?" Buck said.
"Well, that's a mystery to me, but if you don't learn how to play this right by the next game, I'm sure I could find a half a dozen people in this station who could and would feel more honored to do so," the coach said.
The coach then walked past Buck to leave the dugout, as Buck stared at him coldly. Buck then stood in thought, all alone, in the semidarkness.
Back inside Buck and Hawk's suite, Hawk was sitting down, and was working with a twenty-sixth century version of the laptop computer, as Buck came into the room. Nuisance was watching the computer screen with Hawk, looking, in its own way, just as interested in the machine's activity.
Hawk noticed that Buck was coming into the room, and looked up. "You have some nerve, you know that?'
"Save it," Buck answered.
Mevat, one of the players on the team Buck was landed in, ran in the room after his teammate. "I think I've only noticed a few," he reported.
"What is your teammate doing here?" Hawk asked.
"Remember, I said I'd explain later?" Buck said sternly.
"It shouldn't be talked about openly. Kate, De-Pas, Ge-Ja, Beu-Pas. They might get hurt faster, otherwise," Buck said.
"Explain," Hawk ordered.
Mevat looked at Buck. "Can I?"
"Go," Buck allowed.
Mevat began to walk up to Hawk. "It's not just the Humdos; I'd say it's a tenth of the competing alien races that don't want Gussy here with a Candos. They've never been in the Games before. They're being taken as a bad sign by some, and..."
"What purpose does your game serve in it?" Hawk interrupted.
"I was getting to that," Mevat explained. "Some of us on the team know things."
At hearing this, Hawk turned his attention to Buck.
"Sadly, and frankly, some of them are willing to hurt Kate or De-Pas's family to get them out of the game," Buck clarified. "But with good faith, some of them want Kate and De-Pas's family to continue being at the Games."
Hawk, in his noble, silent manner, took in what he was just told with a note of self-shame in his eyes. "Is something wrong?" Buck asked his companion.
"I thought you had lied about your position on this," Hawk said softly but with a good degree of force. "I should have known to think better of my moral judgment."
Mevat put a hand on Hawk. "We all make mistakes from time to time, but now is not the time to be making new ones. Would you like to help Buck and I try to make a plan of action to stop the haters?"
Hawk composed himself, and regained his normal air. "That's part of the reason I'm here. What is your name?"
"Mevat. What's the other reason you're here?"
"I'd rather not go into that," Hawk said.
At that, Buck let out a short, sharp laugh, which resulted in Hawk glaring at him. "She likes you. You're Big Bird," Buck said to Hawk, smiling.
"He's setting you up with some girl?" Mevat said, confused.
"I'd rather not go into that," Hawk said firmly.
A couple of Alarrs and four Wertoo were on a catwalk high above the main stadium of the station. The Main Stadium was where events like the opening ceremonies and closing ceremonies took place, along with the rewarding of medals to the winning athletes. It almost looked like a modern day Olympic stadium. It even had a large, flaming torch that rose high up into the air, at the center. Although this torch didn't have a normal flame, it was shooting coloring throughout itself, and all the colors of the Olympic rings danced about its ever-changing shape. The Wertoo on the catwalk, their eyes far spread apart, nearly on the sides of the face, and skin like puffed sacks that held their eyes. The nose was little more than holes high up on the forehead, and the mouth was nearly between the eyes. Their hair was slicked back, and it came out shortly after the end of the nose. Looking down at the scene before them, they had a few tools with strange purposes of their use. The two Alarrs were from Buck's baseball team.
"Then let's get to business," Mevat said. "We're spying on the ones we're worried about; this will prevent further bad events from happening, like how Gussy's ship was rigged."
"You're spying on them, like how the two Buck caught were?" Hawk asked.
One of the Wertoo pointed down towards a spot near the torch. "No," Mevat explained. "Not that way. We have people on the inside doing this."
The first Wertoo turned to his comrades, and grabbed a hand-sized tool, talking like he was explaining something.
"Why don't your people on the inside just stop them?" Hawk questioned.
The Wertoo now pointed the tool towards the point he pointed to earlier, near the flame.
"How often do you meet Alarrs wanting a fight?" Mevat argued.
"You're the first I've ever met."
"Really?" Mevat said with interest.
A second Wertoo picked up another tool, and talked, looking back and forth from the tool to the first Wertoo.
"It's where we came in, Hawk. We're going to stop these foul plans from being carried out," Buck affirmed.
"Why didn't Earth's Defense Directorate send more of you people here? It is important," Buck said.
The group was now at another space Shuttle Park. It looked like the area where the ships were docked outside the Hotel Section for Team Earth. An alien ship was moving out from the station very slowly, before reaching a safe distance as to not touch the others still in place. It moved down, past ships docked; other ships were moving in towards the station, and ones moving away from the ship pay it no mind.
"This isn't what the Defense Directorate thinks of as a priority mission," Buck explained.
"Well, two are better than one in any case," Mevat said.
The alien ship began to move down towards the ground.
"What you were saying just as you entered here?" Hawk asked.
"That? That was the fact I've only noticed a few questionable characters myself. The rest of the ones sided with us on the team are more knowledgeable over this matter," Mevat said.
The alien ship was now reaching down to the station's underbelly. It looked like a very inactive spot; the only movement that could be seen was of others hips moving to and from the station high above and in the distance. Another ship awaited the alien ship, directly below the center of the underbelly. This other ship had a menacing quality to it's look.
"De-Pas, and I can't blame him, doesn't want to leave the station. I tried to tell him earlier him being here could lead to this. Well, what at first was just a suspicion? It means too much to him. Understanding him or not, he's one of the most stubborn people I know. Huh, hey Hawk, that must be one more reason why I thought to bring..." Buck said.
"CAN you two?" Mevat asked, interrupting Buck.
"I'm sure we can. You said it was only a tenth, right?" Hawk wanted confirmed.
"Right," Mavet confirmed.
The two ships in the underbelly turned and backed into each other for connection.
"We've handled worse, Mevat," Buck said. "These guys shouldn't be an issue."
The alien ships, the ones that had connected, had a crew of an Alarr and a Jatra. The Jatra looked like an evolved, strange, alien ant, with glassy looking skin, nearly shell like, which was deep reddish black. Two long antennas came out both sides at the top of the head. He also had small black eyes, a set of mandibles with a vertical mouth in between containing jagged teeth, and normal-sized set of arms, with a low set hanging with a miss-formed, inhuman look. Coming from the other ship, three Saurians were holding objects all the same that took up their arms completely. While the object was foreign to the planet, it was obvious that they were bombs.
"I fear for De-Pas and his family," Hawk said at the corner, though neither him nor his companions knew the exchange going on. "This event might not be the last time people try to hurt them. They need to have their worth proven."
"Huh?" Mevat asked.
"Have their 'worth proven'? Hawk, De-Pas is Kate's mechanic. He's good. What much more can be proven?" Buck asked.
"He isn't the one people are watching. At least the one people are watching with good intent," Hawk clarified. "People need to see him as not a bad sign."
The Jatra went over to the Saurians, and looked over the bombs with a determined feel to his movement. Of course, his face had no recognizable expressions. The Jatra then backed up a little, and with one of its lower arms, pulls some short silver rods out of a pocket: money.
"Maybe. No, wait. Buck, you can't even play Baseball, and you had to explain it to him," Mevat said.
"Why did you bring that up?" Hawk asked.
"He could play a sport. He could win, that would show he's not a bad sign. My team does need another replacement player," Mevat stated. "But I feel..."
The Jatra handed money to a Saurian after another Saurian had gently set the bomb on the floor. The Jatra put the money into the hand of one of its larger arms.
"Please don't remind me," Buck pleaded.
"Does he know, actually know, any other sports?" Mevat asked.
"Does it have to be a sport?" Hawk asked. "One can prove themselves in other noticeable ways."
"Knowing De-Pas, that might just be a bad idea, Hawk," Buck reminded him.
The Saurian who set down the bomb smiled, and talked in silence to his fellow Saurian shipmates.
"What about all the time he's spent with Ms. Gussy? Has she taught him anything about what she does?" Hawk suggested.
"I bet my bottom dollar she has," Buck answered.
The Saurians set the bombs down on the floor of the alien ship, which contained the Jatra and the Alarr.
"Being that in the open, we could still be dealing with a problem here," Mevat responded.
"Maybe not," Buck argued. "I have an idea."
"Involving what?" Hawk asked.
"I need to call the Defense Directorate for a favor," Buck said, as he looked to Hawk and Mevat. He then quickly walked away from the group, while Hawk and Mevat watched him leave, with a look of wonder on their faces, trying to guess just what Buck might be up to.
If the launch zone wasn't being used to start and end a sporting event, most people would only see this place as a flight hanger. But only Cheetah-Bolt class ships were in the hanger. Plus, closely packed launch tubes came out of opposite walls. The bleachers moved all around, and up the walls to a good height. In a place like this, people could safely watch the ships take off for their tubes at the start of a race, as if watching horses do the same in their own right. Giant screens floated high above where the races have prepped their ships. The purpose of these screens was to show the races when they were in progress. Buck was standing on the sidelines, away from the ships that were ready to launch, and their lots. Leaning against the short wall that separated the spectators from the athletes, which an amused look on his face, pulled out a Transmission Bud from his pocket.
Buck opened the device for use, and put it against the side of his head. "Are you ready, De-Pas?" Buck listened to his reply. "The one with us on the team, Hawk and I, we took care of it. No glav-bolt forced fire or bombs." Buck moved the Transmission Bud away from his ear as "De-Pas" walked up to him, wearing an image-changing device.
"You'll be fine," Buck finished, before pinching shut the Transmission Bud. "And how about you?" Buck asked the impostor De-Pas.
Impostor De-Pas gestured that he was unsure how he feels about things. From someone, somewhere unseen above, a guy shouted "Boo!" and hit De-Pas with a crushed soda can.
The Impostor looked like he was thinking for a moment about how to react, then bares his teeth, looking at Buck.
"This will work, trust me," Buck promised.
Kate now entered the area, smiling and waving to the crowd, and heading for a brand new Cheetah-Bolt. She, too, was wearing an image-cloaking device. The other five pilots then entered the area and headed for their Cheetah-Bolts, all aliens.
"Good luck," said one of the pilots to impostor Kate. "I'd hate to see what happened in your last race happen again."
Impostor Kate gave the pilot a broad grin, closing her eyes, mouthed something impolite. Then, reopening her eyes, enters her Cheetah-Bolt. The rest of the pilots did the same.
Buck looked to the impostor De-Pas. "You taught him well, right?"
On a television screen, a montage could be seen with scenes from impostor Kate's race. While in these scenes, words flashed at the top of the screen reading "Universal Broadcast, and at the lower screen, at the bottom, non-flashing letters read "Special effect added of force fields for your viewing".
In scene one, Kate's ship was being followed by three others, but Kate zipped out forward from being in between a set of two force fields. One was coming from above, and one was coming from below. The ship did not have much room to move between them.
In scene two, a larger than life force field acted as a wall on the right side of the screen. Kate's ship was in the lead, moving forward with four ships that trailed behind it. Suddenly, a new force field smashed into view in front of the camera, and with a quick reflex, Kate's ship and its followers turned as to not hit the new field, and zipped past the camera.
In scene three, Kate's ship was followed by two others, running just over a force field as another field to the right slides over towards the ships.
In scene four, Kate's ship looked like it could collide with the camera. The five other ships were far off in the distance, a couple of them trying to navigate through force fields Kate's ship has long left.
Back at the launch zone, impostor Kate and the five other pilots were by their ships; one of the pilots was just climbing out of hers. Cheering from the crowd could be heard in the background.
"That was quite a race, folks," the announcers voice boomed through unseen speakers. "I think there's no doubt who won, but let's hear it from our judging council."
"Vonbron, three; Culx, five; Reedity, one; Glanch Two, six; Iona, four; Earth, ten!" the first computer said.
"Vonbron, two; Culx, six; Reedity, one point two; Glanch Two, five; Iona, three; Earth, ten!" the second computer said.
"Vonbron, two; Culx, four; Reedity, one; Glanch Two, five point five; Iona, four, Earth, ten!" the third computer said.
"Vonbron, one; Culx, five; Reedity, two; Glanch Two, six; Iona, four; Earth, ten!" the fourth computer said.
"Vonbron, one; Culx, four; Reedity, one point two; Glanch Two, five; Iona, three; Earth, ten!" the last computer said.
All the pilots looked between themselves with congratulatory looks, while Kate looked very proud of herself.
"Culx gets the bronze medal, Glanch Two takes home the silver medal, and Earth takes gold!" the announcer stated.
Suddenly, a crowd of reporters surrounded the pilots, but the majority centered on Kate. They all began to talk in rapid speed.
"Ms. Gussy, it appears this race didn't concern you at all after the mishap you suffered in your last one. How were you able to bounce back so fast?"
"Ms. Gussy, how does it feel to take home Earth's first gold medal in the Astrosled race?
"Gussy, ware the rumors true your ship was sabotaged before the last race?'
Kate turned to reporter three, though the voice was that of De-Pas's. "Unfortunately it is, but measures have been taken to make sure that never happens again."
At this, impostor Kate stared fiddling with the watch-like device. All the reporter could do in response was stumble in sounds showing him unsure of what to say.
De-Pas's image then replaces Kate's. The people's faces around De-Pas react in shock
"Thank you for the gold!" De-Pas said simply.
The purpose of the stadium field was for football. Only Buck and Hawk were on the field, and no one was in the bleachers. Buck was kicking a soccer ball around, and heading for Hawk near the other end of the field. Hawk was only standing.
"Come on Hawk, take it from me! Score the goal!" Buck said.
"I still see this all as pointless. Why are you asking me to do this?" Hawk asked.
"Everybody loves sports," Buck explained.
"I don't have anything to prove," Hawk declared.
Buck gave the ball a swift kick towards Hawk. "Really?"
Hawk gave the ball a hard kick that send the soccer ball high into the air, shooting it across the stadium and past the goal line on the far end. Buck, who watched Hawk, smiled broadly at what Hawk just did.
"I don't have anything to prove," Hawk said grinning.
Return to Earth