“When Man goes to the stars, he’ll bring a ball with him.”
Hit the court, tee off, and play ball in these five short stories about future sports.
• Going into the baseball season’s final game, he could be the first player in a century to hit .400. Thanks to his genetically engineered eyes.
• The basketball coach needs to turn underachieving stars into a winning team. The franchise’s new owner, a big pharma tycoon, gives him a new invention in “team chemistry.”
• In the twilight of his career, the powercrosse star signs with the perennial power for his last best shot at a championship. But jetting after the ball in zero gee, will he pay the price of winning at all costs?
• His bitter rival challenges him to a golf match. The stakes? A holy relic. The course location? On the Moon.
• The ultimate flying disc team on an alien planet faces one challenge. Win or go “home.” To an Earth the young team has never seen. Will an unexpected coach help them, or ruin their chances?
Pull on your jersey, strap on your jet pack, and join our team on a road trip across the wide galaxy of sports. Because even on the Moon or under alien suns, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.
Sample of “Galactic Olympics: Five Science Fiction Sports Stories”
The Ultimate Wager
Under low, roiling clouds, the electric bus from New Madison crept down the streets of the alien city.
Near the front of the bus, holding onto a ceiling strap, Connor Little peered through the crowd. The Hspa Nki, seven feet tall with bluish-gray skin, walked on two backward legs. Thin glide membranes, translucent and veined, joined the two triple-jointed arms on each side. A light breeze rustled the dense patterns of beads, indicators of rank and role, tied to their tail quills. Their voices struck the bus like a downpour on a metal roof. From the din, Connor’s comm implant could only extract the words vacuum breathers.
Never mind the planet’s natives. Where were the explorers from Earth?
There had to be other humans nearby. A week ago, a ship had descended past the high plateau the human colonists called New Madison, toward this alien city in their planet’s lowlands. An Exploration Consortium ship, it had to be. The descending ship must have seen the buildings, farms, and fabs of New Madison.
The crowd thickened. The bus lurched forward a few yards at a time.
No explorers from Earth showed amidst the Hspa Nki.
On an open field beyond a thinner part of the crowd, Hspa Nki threw flying discs made of some thin, pliable material regurgitated by one of the native bugs. The Hspa Nki were left-handed. Their backhand throws wobbled, but their forehand throws zipped and they plucked passes from the air.
Connor wavered on his feet. These Hspa Nki had failed to be picked for the aliens’ ultimate flying disc team.
Explorers from Earth can’t help you. You have to win this game on your own.
He rubbed his neck and shook out his free arm. The Hspa Nki had first seen a flying disc a week before, when they’d come up to the plateau to suddenly demand a retroactive land tax. Just because they had taken to throwing and catching the disc didn’t mean they grasped ultimate’s tactics—offensive stacks, defensive formations and marking, and more. The people of New Madison had played ultimate for thirty years, ever since Bascom Hall’s crash on this planet turned them from explorers to colonists.
A Hspa Nki drifted past the bus on spread glide membranes. Lucas, one of the New Madison all-stars, frowned. “Coach, if they can glide like that…”
Connor raised his voice to carry to all the players on the bus. “I insisted to Nednennik, the Hspa Nki’s representative, that their players be forbidden from gliding to get open or catch a disc. Or catching with more than two hands. Nednennik agreed.”
Lucas eased back in his seat, and the other players relaxed. Good, stay loose, ready to play.
Connor wished he could. Lose, and the New Madison colonists would be expelled from this planet; sent back to an Earth he and the other older colonists wouldn’t recognize, and the younger ones, including all the players, had never known.
The bus’ air conditioning labored as they approached a gap in a long, tall, knobby structure. Even after they went through the gap and parked in a cavernous garage, the air in the bus cloaked Connor like a steamy bathroom. Then they stepped out and the effect intensified. The air seemed almost chewy.
He inhaled. Chewy, but oxygen rich.
Outside the bus, a Hspa Nki lifted and spread its quills. Its haws blinked over its eyes.
Connor turned his palms up. “Honored host, I am Connor Little, son of….” He rattled off the names of his parents, still alive up on the New Madison plateau, and his grandparents, last seen before he left Earth as a teenager.
The Hspa Nki replied with a long list of ancestors, indicating low rank. “Honored guests, your fellows wait in the preparation chamber.” It stretched all four arms toward a rounded doorway.
Connor’s whole body quivered, like filings exposed to a magnet. Did the Hspa Nki mean—? “Fellows?”
“Yes.” It held its arms in place. “They wait.”
On unsteady feet, Connor led the team toward the rounded doorway. Lights inside pulled him closer, but part of him resisted. People from Earth, but why hadn’t they come up the plateau to New Madison?
He went into the preparation chamber.
Flexible lighting panels, obviously human-made, clung to the regurgitated-brick ceiling. The panels illuminated two men.
“We’ve found our lost colleagues from the crash of Bascom Hall!” one said. He had thick black eyebrows curling down at the ends. Tall, with ropy limbs, he strode forward. Something about him seemed familiar. “I’m Vijay Rambard.”
The room around Connor shrank away from his vision. Autumn evenings, the 3D in his parents’ house on Earth. “I watched you when I was a kid. That championship series, against Denver, ’72…” Connor’s face warmed. A championship series Rambard’s team lost.
A wince flickered over Rambard’s face. “Always glad to meet a fan. But though I’m proud of my ultimate career, I’ve been a xenodiplomat with the Exploration Consortium for twenty years.” He gestured at the other man. “This is Ernst Gonçalves. One of the Consortium’s benefactors.” A sour tone crept into his voice.
Benefactor? Some rich man salving his greedy conscience with donations to the Exploration Consortium. Connor’s face tightened.
Gonçalves’ head, neck, and shoulders flowed together, and his stomach lapped his belt. “You must tell me all about your colony,” Gonçalves said around labored breaths. “Surviving a massive hyperjump malfunction, the loss of your ansible and emergency beacon, and a crash landing on an alien planet. Earth’s audiences will clamor for your story.”
“And you’ll take fifteen percent?” Connor asked.
Gonçalves’ face soured. “Mr. Little—”
“They aren’t here to sell 3D rights.” Rambard’s tone sliced through the air. “Not everything is about making money.”
Gonçalves peered at Rambard through droopy eyes. “I don’t need you to tell me that.”
Rambard rolled his eyes. “You amassed five billion dollars—”
To Connor, Gonçalves said, “We’ll discuss your story later. We have much else to discuss now.”
Connor’s comm implant flashed a fifteen-minute warning across his vision. “And not much time.” He turned to the players. “Change clothes and get ready. Now!”
The players took their duffel bags to cubbies along the far wall. They