The air was just breathable.
Captain Jenkins and I stood at the side of a large field, the aliens arranged in ranks around us as though at a soccer match. Not that they had jerseys. Their scales changed color, apparently at will. On our side the natives had all changed to a purple-fuscia color that rippled from dark to bright and back again as they gurgled and hissed in rhythmic ululations. The opposing side was in lime green and lemon color. Their sound was of the ocean, a low rumble that morphed into a hissing crash. Danged if I knew how they did it.
The Captain pressed a finger to his ear piece. “Keep a scan on the whole crowd. I want to know if anything seems wrong.”
I felt the sonic vibrations of the two sides. It was as though they met in my chest and churned. I asked, “Sir. What if things go wrong?”
He snorted. Not a good sign as far as I was concerned. “Then we’ll take it like men, Jordan.”
Since I was a bit behind him he didn’t see me roll my eyes. Always the drama queen, the Captain was. I didn’t really fear. The security force hovered above us in stealth mode. These aliens didn’t have a clue that they were there. But the chanting from both sides seemed intense and, to be honest, my last visit home for the local soccer team championship sounded quite a bit like this. Twelve people died in the rioting. I didn’t want to be an alien statistic.
“Jordan, keep an eye on the other side. The Most Holy told me in audience today that there might be trouble.”
“Aye, Captain.” What else could I say? The Most Holy seemed to me to be a psychopath. Last news I had was that he exterminated then burned the northwest quadrant of his land because he thought there was an earworm invasion. I wondered what story we’d have heard from the Premier on the lime green-lemon colored Teepar continent. After all of the reports, I’m thinking we should have landed in the other hemisphere.
After a long interval of confusing parades and discordant horn blowing, the teams lined up on opposite ends of the field. Each alien was astride an eight-legged beast that looked all the world to me like a cockroach. They held mallets that were curved, quite elegantly to say the least, and ended in a cupped blade.
It looked to me as though the cupped blade would hold a ball quite well. Hence, when the Grand Marshall trotted to the middle of the field on his cockroach painted in red and black, I was unprepared to see a lime green and lemon colored ball tossed onto the middle of the field.
The Grand Marshall rode up, bowed and pointed his spear at the Captain. There was some squeaking, the Captain’s translator must have handled it because I saw him go pale.
“I’m sorry,” he told the Grand Marshall. “That is outside of our mandate to refrain from interfering in other planet’s politics.”
The Grand Marshall hissed. I don’t know how that translated but the Captain turned to me. “Jordan. I have to do this. Turn on your body camera if you haven’t already done so. Record everything and get back to the ship, no matter what.”
Well that didn’t sound good. But I watched him take a cloth, purple-fusia, from the Grand Marshall and put it on. He hauled himself onto the cockroach with no elegance but once atop the beast looked as though he’d been made for the task.
I double clicked my tongue against my upper pallet to activate the recording. My Captain was being brave beyond the call of duty and as second in command, it was up to me to document every moment.
He kicked his mount in the sides and with awkward sawing, managed to get the beast to the correct side of the field. The Grand Marshall sounded what looked like a conch horn but to be honest, I was too far away to see clearly. Captain was trying to control his beast when there was a horn blast fit to blow out the ears of any creature.
The cockroaches, and really, I have no other way to describe the foul creatures, leapt forward. The Captain was nearly unseated but managed at the last second to right himself and lean forward, low over the carapace of his mount.
I saw the lime-lemon ball being batted with those hooked sticks, back and forth at the far end of the pitch. It rolled erratically. Under inflated, I thought. Captain began to maneuver his mount with some skill. He was a horseman on Earth. I suspected he was bringing to bear some of that skill though how a cockroach compared was beyond me.
The ball bounced downfield toward our side’s goal. The alien crowd made sounds like the hissing of an overheated tea kettle. The Most Holy stood up in his box as the ball crept ever nearer to his team’s goal. I worried for the Captain, involved in a game he didn’t expect to be playing in. What if the team lost? Would the Captain be blamed? I muttered quick instructions to the cloaked ship above.
At the end of the field, near the Most Holy, I watched as the ball neared. Several hard blows had sent it my way. As it rolled to a stop, the coverings came undone. The ball was the head of the opposition envoy. I gulped. The Captain rode up and with the stick, smacked the ball back into the middle of the pitch. He signed me. I spoke quickly and with a twinkle, he and I disappeared from the grounds.
On the bridge, he still wore the colors of the Most Holy. “Jordan, quarantine the planet. They’re not ready for admittance just yet.”
“Yes, sir.” I jotted notes on my epad. I wrinkled my nose. The Captain smelled of cockroach.
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