It's A Long Way

By Nathan Gray

First Published in Issue 18 of Voices/ Future Tense (Dec 2012)

It's a long way down.

That said, it's an even longer way up. It's about this time I started to wonder what kind of stupid shit I'd gotten myself into. Then, once again, I remembered the reasons why.

I was a legend. I had it all. "Sign my ball, Aamid", they'd say. "We love you, Aamid!"

Whenever I approached the plate the crowd erupted in chants of Aamid Thune. Kickball legend. And proud of it. It was the last of the baseline sports left in the world. And I was the greatest.

"We need to talk," my DNI buzzed one miserable day. For myself and folks like me buzzing is all a DNI ever did. No intelligence amplification, no augmented reality, no net access; just calls. Calls like this one. It was the coach and on that day it was between seasons.

"I'm not busy," I said. "Go ahead". Actually, I was chopping wood. No real reason. It's good exercise, and I enjoy it.

"Okay," he started. Even his transmitted thoughts seemed nervous. "Times are changing, Thune. You know this right?"

"Time is always changing. It affects all planets, people and things. In reference to what do you open with such a cryptic statement?" Long gone are the days of the grunting, unintelligent jock. Kickball was a strategists game.

"The planet, dammit!" He had a foul temper. Makes a good coach. "The people. The reasons our forefathers settled, millenia ago. You, me, the team. We're all part of a minority now. And we have to accept the change. You said time changes all planets, people and things."

"And…?" I inquired.

"And they're changing the game. Attendance is down, ratings are down, we need to start competing with the other sports."

"Changing?" I was furious. I knew what this meant, but still had to confirm my suspicion. "What about those that love the game? The way it is! We have nothing to gain from attendance and ratings. We do it for the love of the SPORT. The FANS!"

"The fans are as rare as you and me!" He fired back. "I don't like it either, so don't get shitty at me, son! I'll kick you sorry arse back to the Inner Sphere! This comes from the top," calming down now. "If you love the sport the way it is, you'll have to play at a public oval. The stadiums are booked out next season by the new league."

"Let me guess," I sighed. "Augmenting permitted?"

"I think you knew all along."

"That's bullshit."

"You're a good team. That's why the sponsors are falling over themselves to work on you. You especially, son."

I thought about this for a moment. I couldn't upgrade. Some people don't take it seriously, but I did, and still do.

That's why our forefathers came here, for a place of their own. We had faith our transapients would take care of us, and allow us healthy, happy and carefree days. We would die earlier than even near-baselines and we did not mind. But time changes all planets, people and things.

"Oh, I'll join the league. But I won't upgrade. And I'll show them all how this sport is played!" After all, I was the best.

And I got my arse kicked. And that's why I'm here, in this fucking tree. I guess it's more of a beanstalk. For one who was so proud of his biology, I never studied the subject abroad. Still, I can't wait to thwart the metaphorical giant that waits atop.

Fifty meters in the air, two kilometers to go. A decoration on the diamondoid support tower of a shellworld named Sapphire. A long trip, but a short sleep, away from home. "Not even this tree is baseline." I murmured to myself, slightly amused.

I don't know if I'm trying to prove something to myself, the folks back home, or the entire galaxy. I guess I'll work out that if I get to the top. If? I should have said; when. Sometimes your life boils down to one achievement. If I make it, it will be an achievement not just for me, but for baselines everywhere.

And I will make it too…

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