Mirror Ball

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"It's a beautiful day for baseball here on Lafa II!" exclaimed the announcer on the widescreen, "I'm Ted Trinneer and alongside me, as always, is Color Commentator Jeff Blalock. Jeff, let's start by talking about today's conditions."

"Sure thing, Ted. We're on the second-largest planet in the system, which is referred to as Lafa II. It's twenty degrees Celsius with the wind coming out of the West at approximately twenty-four kilometers per hour. The temporary bleachers have been set up close to a rise that the natives call Point Abic but the Empress has renamed it Mount Arashi. For anyone who's been living under a rock for the past decade and a half or so, Arashi is the third-born, and will turn eighteen in a few months."

"Yes, that's right. Arashi is the financial wizard in the Empress's family. For anyone who has placed bets on today's game, you know it's all going to Arashi, but it'll be collected by Takeo. Now, let's talk about the lineup for the Ganymede Hunters."

Lili watched from the game room on the Defiant, between serving and cleaning up. She and the rest of the galley crew didn't have anything like hot dogs to serve, but there was plenty of synthbeer, plus more vegetable paste tube squeezings pressed together with slices of olowa. These had been deep-fried in elekai fat as a reasonable approximation of potato chips.

Chips fell all over the floor, and synthbeer spilled nearly constantly, so they were kept busy and she mainly heard, rather than saw, anything.

"And now it's time for the salute to the Empress. All rise," Ted announced.

They even rose in the game room, although no one on the field could see them.

Lili saw Doug standing at the front of his unit, straight and tall, at attention. He yelled something, probably 'Ten hut!' or the like, and they turned as one. They aimed up, shot twice, and marched off the field.

The camera shot then shifted to the Empress, in a box behind home plate, sitting with Aidan. She smiled her approval and it was time to begin.

"And now let's meet the starting lineup for the Conquistadors!" yelled Jeff, "Since almost everyone's got the same last name, you'll see the first names on the back of their uniforms. Pitching for the left side is Coach Chip Masterson. Pitching for the right side is Takeo – you might know him as Lefty," Lefty waved and doffed his cap, "Takara's defending at first. Shortstop is DR," There were some discreet boos, "Second base is defended by Empy, who designed the uniforms," she blew a kiss to her fans; "First-born Jun is at third base. Fourth base is defended by Kira – excuse me, Kirin. Left-side catcher is Charlie," Charlie was a blond boy who Lili hadn't seen before, clearly unrelated to the Empress's family and not one of the Four, "And right-side catcher is Joss!" The two catchers took off their masks and waved, then put their masks back on.

There were huge cheers for Joss. She couldn't help being a bit proud herself. He looked exactly like Doug must have looked at that age, a few months shy of twenty.

"First up for the Hunters are center fielder Jimmy Scott and right-side pitcher Alan Foster. Here are the windups ...."


On the ground, Doug watched warily. He had his snipers positioned, and watched from the back. It would be so easy, he said to himself. He had a charged phase rifle and a clear line of sight to the back of the Empress's head. But he also knew he'd never get out of the bleachers area alive. He cared enough about his own self-preservation to hold back, but figured if someone took a shot at her he wasn't about to conduct himself in any sort of a heroic manner.

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