Saturday, May 03, 2008

Even more fiction (but the last for a while)

This is the oldest story in my recently re-discovered short story file. The first draft dates from 1983 and was typewritten (remember them?). This version was about the tenth draft and was published under Murphy's and my Bigger Betty imprint for the UK Comic Art Convention in 1996.

Sporting Circles

The robotic referee bleeped loudly and the two teams kicked off. The Sertenn striker, Klaa, chipped the ball away to his right and onto the foot of the winger called Taarf. The ball, a Bibullian ovo­pod, wasn't at all pleased and sank its shark‑like teeth into one of Taarf's six spindly thighs. Taarf yelled in pain and the small crowd roared their appreciation. Having a violent and dangerous living organism as the ball was one of the things that made nasvytter such a popular and illegal sport. Three hundred assorted extra‑terrestrials had travelled the length and breadth of the Galaxy to be here today. They had paid a small fortune to watch the un-televised, and uncensored, carnage.

As Taarf lay screaming, his opposite number in the Oo'Tri'Kk team wrenched the ovopod from his leg and bunted it clear of the Sertenn team. It was picked up by the Oo'Tri'Kk striker, M'Garg, who dribbled it skilfully past the Sertenn defence and struck. The ball sailed between the arms of the Sertenn goalie and struck the back of the net. The ball squealed as it hit the steel mesh and the Oo'Tri'Kk fans grunted and howled in delight.

"Geblarks!" cursed Taarf.
The Sertenn medic rushed on to the circular pitch and squirted anaesthetic foam into the wound. The Sertenn coach joined him.
"You okay to go on, son?" he asked.
"Yeah ... I'm okay. That ball is vicious!"
"I understand the Oo'Tri'Kk starved it for a week before the game", said the medic, "Unfortunately, that's what the public wants ... blood and plenty of it. The Oo'Tri'Kk aren't daft. They knew that we'd be caught off guard by a ball capable of inflicting this much damage. I've heard that the Mizari have been trying to breed a ball with a venomous bite."
"Snorf! That's all we need! As if this game wasn't dangerous enough!"
“Don’t whinge. That’s why you get paid so well.”

The referee floated to the centre of the pitch on silent anti‑grav motors and indicated the end of injury time as two wranglers released the ball from the net. A Sertenn player kicked the howling creature far across the pitch and into the Oo'Tri'Kk penal­ty area where a mid-fielder took possession. He got twelve yards into the opponent's half before he was brought down by Klaa, who broke the Oo'Tri'Kk player's neck with a crunching tackle. Klaa turned the ball and headed back towards the Oo'Tri'Kk goal. The goalkeeper, a twelve‑armed Me­groyot, prepared himself for the strike. Klaa struck with a swift third left foot and the ball flew at the goal. There was a flurry of tentacle‑like arms and the ball glanced off the goalie's head, taking a clump of hairy scalp with it in its sharp teeth. The goalie screamed, it was one goal each and the referee bleeped for half‑time.

The ball meanwhile, had had enough of being kicked around and bounced away from the wranglers. As it rampaged through the terrified spectators, Klaa, Taarf and the other seven members of the Sertenn team discussed tactics over a steaming cup of liquefied beetles.
"Good effort. Not bad at all", said the Coach, "But in the second half I want to see a bit more work on their defence. I want to see some limbs broken. I want to see you kick that ball into submission. This game is vital!"

Second half.

A mis‑kick by M'garg gave the Sertenn team possession of the ball and their second goal. The substitute Oo'Tri'Kk goalkeeper was young, inexperienced and hadn't yet grown the correct number of arms needed for him to be a first class player. The usual goalie was currently lying in the hospital ship, along with thirty percent of the crowd, having his terrible wounds dressed.

The Oo'Tri'Kk goalie threw the ball out to M'garg who then passed to H'Rell and then onto K'Paq, the striker. K'Paq was eventually stopped in his tracks by the ball, which bit his foot off. A pause for injury time while K'Paq was fitted with a prosthetic foot and the match was on again.

The ball was better behaved for the remainder of the game; it was tired and had been kicked half to death by K'Paq and his new metal foot. Plus, it was full, having snacked on a family from Banderselve. K'Paq was sent off and a substitute brought on. But even fresh players couldn't rally the Oo'Tri'Kk team to fight on. The insectoid Sertenns easily ran rings around their clumsy reptilian adversaries.

The final bleep came. Sertenns - Two goals, four dead, two injured. Oo’Tri’Kk – One goal, one dead, seven injured.

The game over, the team starships lifted off into a dark and starry night, leaving a single ship behind to eradicate all trace of their having been there. That was the way the illegal sport of nasvytter was played; select a site, play, clear up and run, until a new site was found for the next game. No point leaving clues for the police to find. Hit and Run was the name of the game.
The match groundsman, a cat‑like Warrangi, lit a cigarette and cast his eyes over the nasvytter pitch. Three large circles had been cut into the cornfield joined by lines and smaller circles; the pitch, the stands and the star‑ship landing site. His apprentice waddled up to him. She looked like a strawberry with a beak.

"Do you want me to spray the Kwik‑Gro on the pitch now, Guv?"
"Nah. Don't bother", said the Warrangi, "There's no point making extra work for ourselves. Now, if we were on an advanced world, I'd make the effort. But here? No point. Not with these creatures.”
“Why not?” asked the apprentice.
“Very sceptical species these humans”, said the old Warrangi. “They’ll come up with any old excuse to avoid the truth. Student pranks. Freak weather conditions. Ball lightning, whatever that is. A few of the cleverer thinkers might put two and two together ... but no-one will take them seriously. Anyway, it's not like they can chase after us or anything. Hell, they've only recently got to their own moon. Put the crop‑spray­er away and let's grab a beer."

At the time this was written, crop circles were still a pretty new phenomenon (as far as we knew) and speculation about their origin - most of it bizarre or over-the-top - was rife.

Story and shite-awful picture - Copyright (c) Steve Colgan

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