Hardball - Prologue

“…and you could smell the burning flesh it all the way up into the gods. It was an exciting end to a long and hard fought season of cyber tennis. The prodidgy “Bionic” Billy Jepson knocked out in the final by the artificial intelligence MindZ3. The cleaning droids are mopping up the blood and a representative from Mitsuhama Computing Technologies is about to collected the Babbage cup. MCT has dominated the sport for years now and..”


“… DOWN with a mighty hydraulic tackle from José “The Vice” Bernstein. Thats just got to put the game into extra time now. Oh wait, No, HE’S DETACHED HIS LEGS! Stanislav Zohl has detached his legs and is now CRAWLING with the fusion sphere. Ten Yards! Five Yards! Its almost critical! one more and YES!! Yes! He is down and he is SAFE! The crowd are going INSANE out here in Delhi. The Bosons are out of the playoffs and into the…”


The apathetic Ivan flicked through the sports channels back at the chop shop. Pope was watching passively as he disassembled the final of pieces of his assault rifle and laid them down with the others on a synthetic cotton sheet.

“Stick the Gravball Network on man” Pope called out as he set about cleaning the components.

Ivan gave a short grunt of agreement. His left eyelid twitched a little as he sent the command to the Sensovision.


The Gravball network channel was split in two sides. On one side there a calm but slightly puzzled looking anchor man. On the other half there was a shot of a battered looking doorway. It was surrounded by ravenous photographers and jostling sports reporters in suits with microphones. One grey suited reporter, a woman with short hair was in the foreground, fiddling with an aural implant behind her left earlobe. Around the edge of the screen was a myriad of numbers and arrows. Along the bottom a scrolling marquee read:


The suited reporter finished tinkering with her implant leaving a ruffled patch of hair.

“Debbie? Debbie can you hear us?” the anchor man inquired.
“OK? Are we good?” Debbie said to someone off screen, then faced the camera “Right…good! We are standing here right outside the team exit at the Yamato Sushi Stadium home of the Pasadena Oakers who were just handed a crushing defeat by the New Angeles Clouds. The captain Victoria Oxendine led her team through 90 minutes of jaw dropping gravball and they are about to emerge from this very door and board their bus back across town.”
“The news feeds are hyped this victory” Asked the anchor “What does this mean for the Clouds”
“Well John, if the Clouds go on to beat the Oakers in the second match or at least win on aggregate they are going through to the national playoffs. Nobody ever expected them to play at this level, given that they were almost facing relegation last year.“
“What is with this sudden burst of talent, why have the Clouds been on the tips of everyone’s tongues recently?”
“Theres a lot of speculation but it has generally been put down to the signing of Oxendine from the Pittsburg Jacks last season. The team was strong with a lot of raw talent, but her top plays and zero tolerance to sloppy attitudes has tightened them right up. The Jacks were sorry to see her go for sur…”

That moment, the battered doors swung inwards, sucking in a clump of reporters. Slightly obscured by the vid cams held aloft by reporters was the hulking head and shoulders of of Victoria. She stormed triumphantly out the doorway still wearing her blue and yellow gravball armor. Victoria was of clearly of native american descent with long brown hair clumped together by either sweat or post shower dampness. She stormed forwards and made her trademark “Boomin’ Guns” gesture high in the air with her fingers. The reporters went wild at this, and a whole firework display of camera flashes went off, she strode on through the crowd of reporters followed by her cheering team mates.

Diane the reporter had a lot of practice here. She weaved through the other agents administering the occasional strategic elbow. She dodged a pap drone which careened in to get a closeup and shoved her microphone up at the star’s face. Skipping along side her was not easy, but she managed to keep pace.

“Debbie Pottle! GBN news! You have taken this team through to near stardom, what’s your winning formula?” Shouted Debbie
“The best damn plays in the league!” She declared confidently, tapping at her head “Got em all up here!”
“What about the next match, how do you feel? The Clouds are so big now you even have board members of Solmine, Weyland and the Gravball Conference itself coming to watch”
“They went down good tonight and we’ll whup em’ again tomorrow” she stated “There’s no such thing as pressure baby!”
“How about these allegations that you’ve approached by match fixing agents”
“WHAT are you trying to say! I’m not crooked! ” She said, leveling her intense eyes at Debbie.

Debbie was caught off guard by this and mistimed her step. She lost her balance and was consumed by the crowd of other reporters baying for Victoria’s attention. The captain of the team kept on towards the blue and yellow team bus assailed by more streams of questions.

“Diane, are you still with us?” Asked the anchor “Diane?”
“John, i’m still here” she said extracting herself from the crowd with her cameraman. “There you have it! Oxendine, 27, star of the NA Clouds. Confident, Determined and Intense”

Back in the chop shop the GBN feed ground onwards, Ivan gave a surprised look towards Pope.

“Wait a minute” He said “Thats the lady from the motel!”



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