The Morning Gift
by Bertil Falk
The express porter did not stop at any station between Earth and Mars and Lois Copybright spent the passage playing space cards with one of the coaches. It was the first time that the Cocamo Lions would play at the new football field of the Martian Steroids. Lois had seen a 3D snapshot of the field and knew that the grass was yellowish white. She did not like it, but that is how it was.
They were already on Mars, her friend, the Reverend Greenback and Zoë Hopeful and Zoë’s “father” as Zoë called her midhusband James Hopeful, himself an android, who had been instrumental when Zoë was shaped at the android ward. And they had been able to obtain tickets for the game.
“Do you feel ready for your first interplanetary touchdown?” the coach maintained rather than asked and Lois knew that he was counting on her.
“I think the Martian Steroids have many android players,” she said instead of replying.
“Fifty-fifty. Just like us. I understand that Reverend Greenback is already over there on Mars to officiate at the wedding?”
“He is,” she said.
“And Zoë is happy?”
“Very much so.”
“But why on earth on Mars?”
“The Martian marriage laws are more liberal when it comes to androids. You should know. The marriage will take place immediately after the match at the Second Lutheran Android Church.”
Lois smiled at her coach. She knew that he was an unmarried android.
“Tell me. Why is their field light yellow? Lack of chlorophyll on Mars?” she changed the subject.
“What does that mean?”
“The grass is artificial, and since grass on Mars more often lacks chlorophyll than has it, they chose the whitish yellow color.”
Eight hours later, after landing at the Interplanetary Space Port, they could see and hear on the big screen in the changing-room how the football bugs already had begun screaming their heads off in expectation of the game.
The colonizers would love to see the club from Earth lose the game. Captain Lois Copybright knew what was expected of her. Her place was supposed to be in the opponents’ end zone. To get there, it was a long way to run if the opposing team permitted her to get that far.
There must have been at least 80,000 people in the grandstands of the enormous stadium where the gravitational pull was held at the same level as that of the domed Ford Field stadium of the Detroit Lions.
Ford Field had been taken as a standard model for the standard-level in force everywhere in the universe where football was played. Even the air pressure inside the stadium was standardized in a similar way. Lois knew that somewhere on the platforms, Rev. Greenback, Zoë, and James Hopeful would follow the game. They were keeping their fingers crossed for her.
When the two captains moved to the center of the field, where the referee was ready to toss the traditional coin, Lois Copybright found to her surprise that Margaret Fearful was the captain of the opposing team. Lois had had no idea that Margaret was with the Steroids on Mars. There was no love lost between them and Lois realized that this would be a much worse task than she had thought. Margaret would do anything to beat whatever team Lois was on.
The drumming of the team bands drowned the cheers. The naked male cheerleaders waved and whirled and turned their organs like propellers. There were great expectations in the compressed artificial air. The two best female teams in the solar system would meet in the newest of stadiums.
To Lois, accustomed to the green fields of home, the pale yellow grass was strangely irritating. For a second she thought that after coming home to Earth she would ask the coaches to change the rules to prohibit yellow fields... No, that would not be psychological... Make a rule that all fields had to be green. That was better... But right now more important things were in progress...
“So, we meet again,” Margaret Fearful said with a wry smile and shoved out her hand. Lois took it and nodded. The last time they had met on Earth, a man Margaret was in love with had a crush on Lois, who did not approve of him. Margaret had not known that and there had been an explosive showdown, when Margaret told Lois that she hated her and always had hated her and always would hate her. And now...
The coin, once used when the Baltimore Ravens met the Jacksonville Jaguars in the good old days of the Earthly NFL, balanced on the thumbnail of the referee, and in the old-fashioned way of deciding who would kick, the coin was flipped and spun in the air.
“Heads,” the referee said.
And the game was on. It surged back and forth across the 50-yard line, which, since the disputed change-over to the decimal system should be called the 45- or 46-meter line, but nobody cared for that newfangledness, neither the spectators nor the players and especially not the commentators. It was like a pint o’ Guiness, for a pint o’ Guinness will always be a pint o’ Guiness, no matter how many litres of Guiness pub-goers consume.
Lois’s team was forced back to the 10-yard line, when all of a sudden Lois saw the ball coming through the air straight at her. She intercepted the pass with both hands. She rushed to the right and, just before she reached the sideline, she stopped dead for a fraction of a second; and then she was on the move again, now rushing forward at the same time as she moved to the left. She narrowly avoided an opponent.
Lois was on the run across the 40-yard line and saw that her teammates were taking care of the opponents in front of her. She nevertheless made another turn to the right and rushed diagonally a few yards. She was hit on her left side by an opponent, and she put the ball under her left arm and passed the 50-yard line.
As always, it was touch and go, and she crossed the Steroids’ 40-yard line, and the screams of the crowd were like a haze of cotton in her ears. And there was Margaret Fearful coming down on her at the speed of light. Lois would not be able to avoid a collision unless... and in fear of losing the ball she once again grasped it in both hands.
She did not know exactly how, but she read Margaret’s movements and foresaw that the lady would go for her legs. Lois jumped. It was the highest leap she ever had done in a game, and it did its duty. She felt more than saw Margaret’s miscalculation cause her to dive like a torpedo under her, falling forward headlong, plowing a track in the pale yellow grass with the bars of her headgear. And then Lois reached — she could not believe it! — the 20-yard line.
She felt the studs of her shoes churning the yellow field. And now the safety man! The 10-yard line! Once more, Lois put the ball under her left arm and in a raw rush of a speeding footballer she stiff-armed her opponent with her right hand. Touchdown!
Of course it was a nasty game, for football is a nasty game, but this became nastier than ever. Margaret and her teammates no longer cared who would win the game. They all concentrated on killing Lois. She knew it! She felt it! All over her black and blue beaten body! And...
When she woke up, Rev. Greenback, Zoë Hopeful and James Hopeful were there. Margaret had deliberately knocked Lois unconscious. And the Steroids had lost.
“You’re a heroine,” said Zoë. “I take your victory as a wedding gift.”
But Lois thought that she had not done anything for the sake of Zoë. She had done it for her team.
The wedding was a quiet affair. Lois could but smile when she saw how happy Zoë looked as her father led her towards the altar of the Second Lutheran Android Church on Mars.
And afterwards, when Lois changed her black and blue beaten arms and legs for more convenient extremities, she had also changed her mind as to the victory.
“You were right,” she said, as she stroked her wife’s peach-like cheek in their bed. “My victory today is my morning gift to you, my love.”
Copyright © 2009 by Bertil Falk