A post-apocalyptic sports tale
My stomach was in knots. I could feel the heat rising up from my gut to my brow as I tried to hold back from vomiting. I was nervous as hell. I had never played Jet Ball before.
Not everyone could handle the changes of being in zero gravity. I’d seen many players throw up during their first game when watching them on Google Live. These thoughts did not help to ease my mind.
I still couldn’t believe I won the lottery to be able to play for my district. One of the players moved to a district with a better fleet and opened up a slot. Mine was the lucky name that was called out of all those who submitted to join the fleet.
And if our fleet wins the championship, we all receive ‘The Inoculation’ so that we can move to the surface, breathe amongst the elite, and play in the Pros.
After World War III, the air became unbreathable and everyone was forced to move underground. Big Pharma found a cure, but the cost was too great, and only the 1% could afford to buy their immunity to the new air.
Some Underworlders spend their entire lives saving up to buy the cure to live out their final days on the surface while others compete to become one of the Surface Elite. We all had dreams of seeing the sun–now only known to us by the tales of our grandparents.
And now, I had my chance. I had my opportunity.
My stomach churned. I placed a hand over my mouth holding it back. I knew I could ground myself if I just focused on something.
I went over the information in my head from the rule book that was sent to me before my arrival. Since no one could afford to build a 0G glass cylindrical bubble to play in, there was no way to practice outside of the games scheduled by the Underworld Jet Ball League. Players simply returned to their everyday jobs in between games. Players made no money in this league.
First of all, the tank. The tank was 75ft long, 65ft wide and 15ft tall
A Fleet consisted of 15 players; 2 forward units, made up of a Lead, a Left Wingman and a Right Wingman; 2 defensive units, which included your Mid Guard, Left Shield, and Right Shield; and of course, your Rear Guard to protect the net; a Back-Up Rear Guard and a Spare in case of injuries. No one wanted to be the stuck as the BURG or the Spare. If you didn’t play enough games, you didn’t qualify for the Championship rewards. I had no choice, I had to play well.
Playing the Right Shield position for the 2nd unit, I would have to make sure that no opponent or ball ever got by me. And if I managed to get the ball, I was to pass it up to one of the forwards to get a goal.
Today, they would decide whether I was good enough to be on the fleet or if I would be their Spare.
I had my helmet on, my pads, and all my protective equipment. I had my District 49 jersey on. And my trusty Jet Ball Club.
The handle was shaped like one of those Baseball bats from the games they played on AMC Netflix. The rest was shaped sort of like a club. One side was completely flat so that you could hit the ball with it, and the other side had a pocket in order to catch the ball. I guess the pocket was something akin to that of those Lacross sticks they used on CNN PepsiCo.
What else did I need to remember?
The game would start when the buzzer went off. The moment it did, the ball would be shot into the tank from the top center for the face-off as the zero-gravity would kick it. Each team had four 5-foot pillars, two at the top of the tank, and two at the bottom, to provide additional momentum, along with the sidewalls, the floor and the ceiling.
One thing was certain, I didn’t want to be caught floating around with no momentum. It would be difficult to swim over to something to push off of. That would be embarrassing.
Four 15-minute periods.
No hitting the players with our clubs and absolutely no hits to the head. That would be a 2-minute penalty. Otherwise, just about anything goes. Bitting would be a penalty–you can’t go around biting people. But I had seen some slick-ass drop kicks in past games that were legal.
It was all about momentum.
And if the team were to draw a penalty or score a goal, the opposing team’s Rear Guard would start with the ball. Faceoffs were only meant for the start of a period.
The time had come.
The team stood up and made its way down the long tunnel, to the bench. I followed suit. The coach wanted our unit in the opening formation in order to judge my skills early on, in case the needed to throw in the Spare to come back from any goals I might let in.
A sound strategy, though a little daunting when playing your first game ever. Lights flashing everywhere Cameras flying around every which way outside the tank hoping to catch the best footage possible. Audiences cheering their heads off for their favoured team and the action in general. It was a lot to take in.
I stepped into the tank when the glass opened up in front of the bench. When all 7 of our players were inside, the glass closed. I walked over to my position as the announcer was calling out the names in the opening formations.
The 10-second countdown began.
This was it.
My brow was covered in sweat.
The opening siren went off as my body was getting lighter.
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