Notes from Laura:
This was an idea taken from a story of mine, Lo'laan, and then expanded. I sent it out to a couple lists I'm on and invited people to come up with game ideas. And this is what we got! PS, the only question that remains unanswered is "Where did Crichton get a football in the first place?" But that, like the two pairs of Calvins mystery, must remain unanswered for now. :)
John grabbed the ball and danced backwards, yelling. "Sun goes long...she's running....she's going for it..."
Aeryn stopped running and turned back to him with an exasperated look on her face. "Why exactly do you have to give commentary on everything I'm doing?"
He grinned goofily at her. "Told you...the announcer is an essential part of football. You get to do it next time." He shook his head. "At some point I'll teach you about instant replays. You'll like those. Really."
The ex-soldier propped one hand on her hip and regarded him quizzically. "You are--"
"Yeah, yeah, the 'most bizarre creature you've ever met'. Whatever. You're holding up the game."
She stalked back to him and grabbed the ball, turned around and bent over.
"Okay," he said, crouching down behind her, "44...1,640,054...163...2010 a space odyssey...now!"
Aeryn flipped the ball back to him and bolted for the opposite end of the terrace, bare feet pounding on the floor.
"Sun goes long, she's going for it, she's really working it..."
Aeryn turned around and John threw the ball. It arched high overhead, outlined for a brief moment against the stars.
Aeryn angled herself toward it, leaped up and caught it in both hands. Then both she and John took off toward the end of the terrace they'd set as the goal. Aeryn was quick but this time John was quicker. He grabbed her around the waist and slung her around, dropping them both to the floor.
"...and Crichton makes the tackle. The crowd goes wild!" He grinned down at her. "Another point for the home team."
The terrace door swung slowly open. John rolled over and sat up, breathing quickly from his exertion. "Yo, D'Argo, big guy," he said as the tall Luxan stepped through, "change your mind about playing?"
D'Argo stared down at them. "No."
"Suit yourself." John levered himself to his feet.
"Crichton..." Aeryn said slowly, accepting his hand up, "why do you get a point if you tackle me? I don't get one when I tackle you...."
His blue eyes gleamed mischievously. "Home team always gets the points for tackle. Rules of the game, darlin'."
She looked skeptically at him but shrugged.
D'Argo stepped forward. "Actually...." D'Argo found himself smiling. "Room for one more player?"
"Sure, D'Argo. Boys against girl?" Crichton glanced sideways at Aeryn to see if she registered the jibe. "Or maybe you and Aeryn can play together against me, since it seems she needs the help."
Aeryn's eyes narrowed at the human but she remained uncharacteristically silent.
Crichton rubbed his hands together. "Well, any way we look at it, one of us is going to be really outnumbered. Want to make it a free for all?"
"Every man...uh...alien....for themselves." Then he grinned. "And let's make it even more interesting...."
Aeryn and D'Argo exchanged worried glances. "More....interesting?"
"Yeah. The Terrace is way to small for three people. Let's play inside, tier to tier. First one of us to make it to the next tier gets the point. We start over at every tackle from where the ball lands; the person who gets the tackle gets the ball. Sound fair?"
"Sounds like a field strategy exercise." Aeryn shook her head. "A really bad one."
"Remember those linebackers I told you about? This is how they train."
"What tier do we start on?" D'Argo started for the door.
"Let's just start here, all right?"
The three wandered to the other end of the terrace. Aeryn glanced down at the ball. "I'm holding it, I should get to go first."
D'Argo met Crichton's eyes and shrugged agreement.
"All right then...We'll throw the ball to you and then come after you. That way you'll have a head start."
Aeryn turned around and crouched low. Crichton knelt behind her, "67, 123, 45, 6...now!"
She tossed the ball back to him and took off for the end of the terrace, ignoring Crichton's commentary on her running. She spun around near the end, leaped up and caught the ball with both hands. Aeryn pressed the control for the door and had to wait precious second while it creaked slowly open. One anxious glance back showed both Crichton and D'Argo bearing down on her full tilt.
Aeryn tucked the ball under her arm and squeezed through the door, scraping her arm and chest against the wall in her haste to get through. She turned as soon as she was through and stuck out her leg, tripping the human as he tried to barrel through after her. D'Argo, right behind him, fell on top.
Aeryn didn't wait to see more. She bolted down the long corridor, gaining speed with every step. They'd never catch her now, she thought with pride, hearing their muffled curses grow as they tried to untangle themselves. She slowed her stride, glancing back exultantly, and then sped up again. The two strong men were quicker than she'd thought. They were sprinting down the hallway, eyes determined. Damn.
She turned at random down a curvy side hallway that would shortcut her to the next tier. Crichton followed, matching her stride for stride and then, incredibly, beginning to shorten the distance between them. Aeryn shot an alarmed glance at him and ....
ran head on into D'Argo.
The impact shoved them both off their feet.
Aeryn sat stunned for a second on the floor, muttering curses, before she finally levered herself to her feet. "How the frell did you get in front of me?"
A slow grin spread across his bearded face. "I came through one of the access panels."
"You what?" She exclaimed, "Crichton, he cheated! I thought we were supposed to stick to the hallways!"
Crichton shook his head, still panting for breath. "Never said anything about not using access panels. We just have to get the ball to the next tier." He shrugged and eyed D'Argo's sword pointedly. "The only rule is no weapons. I don't feel like tackling sixty thousand inches of blade."
D'Argo unsheathed the huge blade and rested it against the wall. "I do not need this to beat either of you."
"Anyway, Aeryn, you cheated first." Crichton gave her a hard look. "I don't recall saying tripping is fair."
She sniffed. "I don't recall you saying it isn't, either, Crichton."
"I believe the ball is mine now." D'Argo reached out for it. Aeryn looked for a moment like she was going to refuse and then reluctantly let him have it.
"Hey, Aeryn," Crichton said, stepping out of her way as she stalked to the end of the corridor, "You wanna be a linebacker?"
"Well...." He explained linebacker to her as D'Argo waited impatiently with the ball. "Got it?"
"This is not a dignified position for a warrior to be in." D'Argo muttered as he bent over, holding the ball in front of him, preparing to "hike" it to Crichton, whatever the frell that meant.
"Don't worry, big guy -- on my planet, football players are the biggest and the baddest. You'd fit right in. Well, except for the tentacles. And that big-ass sword of yours, that would definitely be illegal --"
"Crichton, will you just shut up and count, or whatever?" Aeryn called from her spot down the corridor. John had told her she was now a "linebacker", and her job was to keep D'Argo from getting anywhere with the ball. Remembering what he had told her about linebackers being the human equivalent of Marauder class commandos, she was certain this was a task she could handle. She eyed D'Argo's wide, muscular shoulders as he waited for Crichton to call out the number nonsense and accept the ball. Maybe she could handle it.
"OK, 28, 42, 112, 73 and a half...now!" Crichton called out, dancing back and catching the ball D'Argo tossed his way with an "Ooof!" as it hit him dead center in the chest. He threw the ball back to the Luxan, a little harder than necessary, maybe.
D'Argo jogged backwards down the corridor, reaching up and snatching the ball neatly out of the air without a wasted motion, then turned and charged toward Aeryn.
Aeryn squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and charged back.
John, who had been doing some charging of his own, skidded to a stop just short of collision and watched, openmouthed, as the Luxan and Sebacean warriors bore down on each other.
Smaller though Aeryn might be, she hit D'Argo in the midsection with her thrust forward shoulder. As he tipped off balance, she grabbed his legs and used his forward momentum to flip him over her back. He landed face down, ball still clutched to his chest and covered by his body.
Aeryn whirled around and dropped on him, knees pinning his shoulders to the floor. Wrapping her fist into his long hair, she bent down, putting her mouth next to his ear, and said quietly, "I believe the ball is mine now."
"Never. You'll have to take it from me." D'Argo grated out between clenched teeth.
"Whoa, whoa -- time out!" John yelled. "Guys, it's just a game!" He walked over and stood next to the pair on the corridor floor. "Let's just call it even and I'll take the ball."
Aeryn eased her knees off D'Argo's shoulders, and released the hunk of hair she was yanking. D'Argo propped himself up on his elbows and glared over his shoulder at her. She grimly glared back, then stuck out her tongue at him. A wide grin crossed D'Argo's face, almost against his will, and then he burst into choked laughter as Aeryn, quick and sneaky, goosed him in the side and sprang to her feet.
D'Argo rose from the floor, ball still held in his huge hands. He and Aeryn exchanged a look. He tossed the ball to John, and said, "I believe it's your ball, Crichton. But this time, I get to be the linebacker."
"No, buddy, not this time, I changed my mind." Crichton shook his head, pushing the ball away. "I want an instant replay on that one."
"Instant replay. We're doing it over without the linebackers. You guys are seriously scary. But I believe you had the ball..."
D'Argo, grumbling under his breath, walked back down the where he'd tackled Aeryn and bent over.
He tossed the ball back at Crichton, turned and ran down the hallway.
By Andrew Docimo
As he ran from the other two bipeds, D'Argo saw a 'grate' opening, allowing a small, gray form to escape.
Ah, so that's one of them, D'Argo took note, remembering how Rygel'd bragged about being able to 'come and go as I please'. He approached the Hynerian ex-ruler, who startled when the shadow engulfed him.
"Take it!" the Luxan hissed, shoving the ball into Rygel's grubby hands. "Take it above!"
Rygel did a Hynerian version of a Human's startled blinking, then took it, and turned around.
"It's a game!" D'Argo hissed again, "Get the ball to the next tier and you get a point."
"What the yotz is in this for me?"
"Just do it! And, uh, you can have my next meal."
Rygel stroked his mustache. "Deal." He sped his throne down the hallway.
by Andrew Docimo
D'Argo then resumed running, but not so fast that it was long before the other two caught up to him. Sun jumped on his back, a move that - in all likelihood - Crichton had taught her, one way or the other.
D'Argo turned around slowly, Aeryn swinging in mid-air anyways since it wasn't slow *enough*. "I do not have it," he said, holding out his open palms.
"Whaddya mean, you don't have it??" Crichton yelled.
Aeryn released her grip on D'Argo's shoulders, dropping to the floor as gracefully as possible. "If you don't have it, then who does?"
D'Argo shrugged, giving them his best innocent look.
John's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Yeah, D'Argo. You just can't *have* the ball, then suddenly *not* have it. Or are you telling us someone simply *took* it from you?"
Insulted, D'Argo puffed his chest out and protested vehemently. Aeryn stepped in before fragile male egos - or bodies - were bruised any more than they already were. "Look, let's just find the ball, all right?" She started down a hallway, indicating they should follow.
John called for her to stop, pointing in the opposite direction. "Why not this way?"
"I would suggest we go that way," D'Argo said stubbornly, pointing at a completely different hallway. He folded his arms and glared at the human. Aeryn stomped back towards them and opened her mouth to argue. John stepped between them, holding his hands up diplomatically.
"Instead of yelling, let's try this. It's a traditional strategy on Earth for resolving conflict. We call it 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'."
"Rock, paper...Crichton!" Aeryn practically stamped her foot with impatience. "Can we just go get the ball?" Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Unless you have it..."
"Have what?" Chiana's soft voice sounded behind them. "I've been watching you fight," she smiled slyly, "over that...thing. Is it valuable?"
Aeryn and Crichton exchanged glances. "Uh, no, Chiana, not really," Crichton rubbed the back of his neck. "It's just a football. We're playing a game."
"Foot...ball?" She laughed, sidling closer. "I've never heard of it."
"Not surprised. It's not really football, exactly, though anymore," Crichton caught Aeryn's intent look and shrugged. "We've kind of changed the rules a little. Want to play?"
"Rules..." she looked reluctant, then nodded. "All right. How do I play?"
Crichton quickly ran her through the rules. "But first," he added, "we have to find where D'Argo hid the ball."
Chiana smiled to herself. "I saw that. He gave it to Toad. He's down that way." She pointed down the corridor in the opposite direction from where she'd seen Rygel. D'Argo shot her a quick look but remained silent. She laughed again. As soon as the three weren't looking, she darted down a side passage.
Chiana slipped silently through the shadows, the voices fading behind her as she quickly made her way down the hall. They had been so caught up in their petty arguing, they hadn't even noticed her. It was pure luck that she had stumbled onto their little game in the first place - and as stupid as this one sounded, she *loved* the idea of winning. No matter what it took. Having witnessed D'Argo's inventive hand-off, she knew exactly where to go to cut off Rygel, and claim the ball for herself.
Rygel came zooming around the corner. "We are going to win!" There was no one behind him or in front of him. He had thought he had got past the opposing team. A big smile came over his face. From out of nowhere he was thrown out of his chair.
"It's mine now, Rat Boy!" Chiana said with a big smile on her face.
"Hey, you heard Crichton he said there were rules!" Rygel snarled.
"Yes, I remember him saying something about that." She replied. She got up from the floor, "By the way Rygel, thanks you got the ball halfway there." She said as she took of toward the next tier.
"Hey, get back here!" he yelled, but it was too late she was beyond hearing distance.
By the time Rygel had shuffled his way back to his hover chair the rest of the gang ad come barging through the tier. They all stopped, "Rygel, where is it?" Aeryn said in a disappointed voice, she wanted to have a chance with the ball again.
"That Nebari bitch took it from me!" He pointed the way.
by Teresa Boruff
Chiana was very pleased with herself over getting the ball from Rygel. She sprinted down the corridor towards an access panel she had recently discovered. She remembered that the access tube would cut down the time needed to travel to the next tier.
Suddenly, she felt her foot connect with something on the floor. Unable to maintain her balance, she fell to the floor, dropping the ball in the process. She looked behind her to see what she had tripped over, only to see a small yellow form dart down the passage.
She quickly looked in front of her towards the dropped ball. To her surprise, she saw four DRDs 'picking up' the ball by extending their tool arms. Working in concert, they quickly gathered the ball and headed into the same access panel Chiana had been heading towards.
Chiana didn't even have time to pick herself up before the other 'players' came racing down the corridor. When they saw her on the ground, they stopped and gathered around her.
"Where is the ball, you yotz?!?" Rygel demanded.
Still in shock over the actions of the DRDs, Chiana, for once, didn't even think about misleading her fellow crew members. She raised her arm and pointed towards the access panel: "They took it," she replied.
"Who?" D'Argo angrily asked.
"The DRDs!?!" Aeryn exclaimed in disbelief.
"I'm NOT lying!" Chiana yelled at Aeryn.
"I'm sure you're not," John told Chiana in a soothing voice. He then activated his communicator. "Pilot?"
"Yes, John Crichton," the voice of Pilot responded.
"Where did the frelling DRDs take our ball?!?" D'Argo interjected before John could say anything.
"It was my understanding that in order to gain a 'point,' the ball must reach the next tier. Since Moya and I are unable to physically move the ball ourselves, we sent the DRDs to do it for us," Pilot answered in his typically calm voice.
"Wait a sec. Your saying that you and Moya have joined the game? You want to play?" John asked.
"Okay," John exclaimed in a wondering tone of voice.
Having finally gotten her control back, Chiana lifted herself off of the floor. "Well if it's true that four arms has joined the game, we better get moving. That access tube has a fork that leads directly to the next tier. In a few microts, the ship and the blue guy will be winning," she said with a sarcastic tone.
The others looked at each other in a state of shock. They quickly shook off their disbelief at the turn of events and got back into the game. John, Aeryn, and D'Argo continued to head towards an elevator - knowing, considering their size, taking the access tube would just slow them down even more. Rygel and Chiana entered the access tube, and quickly started to follow the DRDs.
"Ouch! Watch where you're going!" Chiana hissed at Rygel.
Rygel poked her again. "Why did you stop? You don't want Pilot and Moya to win, do you?"
Chiana took a few quick gasps. "This access tube splits off in two different directions! One of them wasn't here before! I swear it!"
"Moya must be cheating," Rygel grumbled from behind. "Sitting here isn't doing us any good! Just pick one!"
Squinting into the dim, amber light of the tube to her right, Chiana made her decision. "Well, frell," she spat, crawling into the left tube.
"Toad man," she hissed to Rygel, who was disappearing down another fork, "I think they went that way," she jerked her head. "Go down there and herd them back my way."
"Why would I do that?"
Chiana laughed again. "You want to win, don't you?" Her voice was soft, coquettish. "Hmm? Let's work together. I'll even give you the first point."
"I don't trust you."
"You don't have to trust me, you just have to help me win. How about it?"
Rygel nodded reluctantly and started down the corridor.
Crichton, Aeryn and D'Argo piled out of the lift, scanning the corridor for any sign of the DRDs.
"That should be the access tube the DRDs took," D'Argo said, pointing to a closed grate.
"But would the DRDs take the time to close the cover?" John wondered. "Could the little guys have faked us out?"
"Pilot could be that devious," Aeryn panted, "but they taken another tube to the maintenance bay on this tier. They could get quick access to the next tier from there."
John shook his head. "This isn't football anymore -- this is Calvinball!"
"Calvinball?" Aeryn reached back and tugged on the waistband of John's pants. "Calvin plays ball too?"
He grinned at her. "Yeah. Someday I'll tell you all about Victoria's Secret."
She blinked at him. "Victoria?"
John's grin widened. "Hoo yeah."
"Shut up!" D'Argo bent over to peer at the access panels. "I think I hear them."
Aeryn, John, and D'Argo crept along the corridor, crouched low, listening.
"Hey, Aeryn -- you don't think Pilot's going to cheat somehow, do you?" John whispered.
"Everybody else is cheating, why not Pilot?" Aeryn responded, dropping to her knees to peer through the grill of a ventilation grate, looking for the frelling DRDs and their ball.
"Psssst! Here!" D'Argo whispered hoarsely. His keen senses had detected something moving around in a ventilation shaft at the aft end of the corridor. Crichton and Aeryn hurried over, waiting behind D'Argo as he pulled the grate free and lay down on the floor, sticking his arm into the shaft. He stretched his arm as far as it would go, groping about blindly.
"Dren!" D'Argo jumped, jerked his arm back for a moment, then thrust it back in, dragging Chiana out by a handful of hair. Kicking and cursing, she scrambled away from him, narrowly missing Rygel, who was just emerging from the grate.
"You bit me!" D'Argo seethed, glaring accusingly at Chiana, who was vigorously shaking out her mop of hair and brushing off her clothing.
"Of course I bit you, you big buffoon -- you grabbed my --"
"Where is the ball?" Crichton broke in. "Did you find it?"
Sparing one last scathing glance for D'Argo, Chiana replied, "No, we didn't find the ball. If it hadn't been for the little toad, I would have been able to catch up to those little machine things, but they went down another access tunnel, one that's too small for me to go through. If he hadn't been in my way --"
"Been in your way!" Rygel spat. "You nearly trampled me, crawling over me in the tunnel! I saw parts of you your own mother wouldn't recognize!"
Chiana wheeled around and crouched down to Rygel's level. "Keep it up, old man, and I may just start throwing you around instead of the frelling ball!"
"There!" Aeryn cried, pointing to the other end of the hallway. Everyone turned to see a flash of yellow as a DRD disappeared around the bend in the corridor. En masse, they ran after it, with Rygel floundering after, cursing having left his hover chair one level down.
Rounding the corner, they spotted a pack of DRDs at the dead end of the corridor. D'Argo was the first to get there, and he dived toward them. DRDs scattered in all directions -- but the ball was nowhere in sight. D'Argo hit the bulkhead with a crash, roaring angrily, "NOW where is it?!?"
"Maybe these were decoys, and the DRDs with the ball are somewhere else on this tier." Aeryn guessed, trying not to laugh as D'Argo picked himself up and shot an injured glance at Chiana, who felt no need to hide her laughter.
"Is this what you're all looking for?" a voice behind them said.
The crew turned, and found Zhaan standing at the bend of the corridor, one hand on her hip, the other holding their ball aloft.
"How did you do that?" John asked. "Just come out of nowhere like that?"
Zhaan laughed. "I made myself not-there. Yet another of the gifts of the Delvian Seek." She tipped a wink to D'Argo, who suddenly didn't quite know where to look.
"Well, can we have the ball back, or what?" Aeryn asked.
"Only if you can catch me." Zhaan said, and disappeared around the corner, laughter floating back to them like chiming bells.
"I'd been wondering what all the noise was...." The voice seemed to drift out of nowhere, all around them.
The players stood in stunned silence for a moment, then Pilot burst out, "She's moving down the parallel corridor toward the next junction!"
Aeryn met D'Argo's eyes and growled low in her throat. "I *want* that ball. Let's get her."
The two turned as one and began a slow jog down the hallway.
Crichton looked at Chiana and Rygel and shook his head very slowly. "You guys ever get the feeling that things are *way* out of control?" He winked then. "Well, I do...and I think I like it...." He laughed. "Pilot, what's the fastest way to that junction...I want to circle around and head her off."
"There's a panel three metras to your left, Crichton. That should take you right there."
"Gotcha. Oh, and Pilot, send a few DRDs that way too, huh? Good old fashioned ambush, that's what I like." He bent to remove the panel and slid inside. "Yep. Now *this* is a football game..." his voice echoed strangely and faded into the distance.
Crichton crawled through the duct as quickly as he could. Strange, he thought, pausing to rest, the duct floor seemed to be...vibrating. He pressed one palm flat against the surface, concentrating. Not that he'd spent much time in these ducts, but... He inched forward to the next junction of ducts and peered down the other duct. Was that light down there?
The vibration grew louder, and he thought he could hear a faint buzzing.
"Holy crap, Batman!" Crichton yelled suddenly and dove forward out of the duct into the hallway. "Pilot--!" He staggered to his feet and nearly ran into Zhaan. She was humming slightly, holding the ball with a serene smile on her blue face.
"John? You wish to try for the ball?"
He stared at her, wide-eyed, and shook his head. "Uh-uh, lady. Right now, I want to get the heck out of here." He shot a panicked look back at the duct. "I think Pilot's lost it..."
Wave after wave of DRDs began spilling into the hallway behind him.
John grabbed Zhaan's arm and neatly pulled the ball away from her. "Move!" he shouted, tugging her along the corridor. "Pilot!" He yelled again. "I said a *few* DRDs."
By Andrew Docimo
"I do not understand. Is not the goal of Calvinball to win at any cost?"
"Um, yeah....hold on, how'd you find out?" Did Pilot have a subscription to the comics?
"You talk in your sleep," calmly, as if it were of no consequence. "And now, to win the game."
"There is a tube in fifteen metras down the aisleway]. It leads directly to my Chamber. Is that not sufficient to win?"
Crichton did some mental calculations...it had to be at least fifteen floors from here to there - it'd be impossible to catch up if Pilot succeeded...
He turned and looked thoughtfully at the wave of DRDs. The trick was to get to Pilot's chamber first. But he couldn't drop straight down fifteen tiers....not alone. Time for a fake out.
"Zhaan," he whispered, "Hide the ball under your robe. So Pilot can't see it."
She looked quizzically at him but complied.
"Okay, now I want you to take the elevator two tiers down and meet me there. Got it? Keep the ball hidden."
"Fine," he said loudly, stepping away from her, "You too chicken to play?"
Aeryn and D'Argo came bolting around the corner and stopped in astonishment . Crichton winked at Aeryn across the tidal wave of DRDs.
He waved one hand dismissively at her. "Zhaan's out of the game. Seems she can't handle the pressure." John kept his arm tucked up as it he still had the ball.
"I will go meditate now," the blue priestess said softly and left.
The DRDs buzzed impatiently, inching toward him. He backed up slowly, one step at a time. They followed. Crichton turned and darted down another corridor, then another, zigzagging left and right seemingly at random down the turns. He could hear the DRDs buzz behind him grow a little fainter. If he'd planned it right, he should end up right behind...
"Yo, Aeryn!" He rounded the last corner and barely avoided a collision with Aeryn and D'Argo. "Time for a huddle."
Aeryn shook her head. "Give me the ball."
"No, me." D'Argo growled.
He grinned at them. "You want it?"
Aeryn frowned. "Do I have to do this the hard way?"
"This is ridiculous, Crichton. Just give me the ball." D'Argo stepped forward menacingly.
Crichton's grin broadened. "Sorry, big guy, I don't have it either. But here's what we're going to do."
The three conferred for a moment and then, just as the DRDs rounded the corner, they tucked their arms like they were carrying the ball.
John backed up slowly again. "Pilot, my friend, you're not winning that easily."
"Crichton, it is a simple matter for me to take the ball now."
"Sure...but who has it." He gestured to Aeryn and D'Argo. "Me or them?"
On cue, the three split up and darted down different corridors, each one trying to find a different way to the tiers below.
Zhaan stepped into the elevator and waited as it slowly descended two tiers down. Safe from DRD eyes, she took the ball out from under her robe and tossed it up and down. It really was an odd shaped thing, she thought, tossing it higher.
She tossed it again, reached out to catch it and...it didn't come down. Startled, she glanced up and heard a soft Hynerian chuckle. "It's mine now, you yotz," the voice called back. Rygel, on top of the elevator? She heard the quiet whine of his throne as he levitated away, still laughing.
She lifted her wrist to her mouth. "Crichton!"
"Zhaan, I'm a little busy right now." He sounded out of breath, like he was running hard. "Pilot's definitely lost it..." He sounded amused though.
"Rygel stole the ball."
"What? He...how..." Aeryn stuttered. She also seemed out of breath. "Rygel, you better get back here right now!"
"Pilot, where's Rygel?"
A moment of silence, then, "7th tier...6th tier...5th tier...he's going straight down the elevator shaft that parallels yours, Zhaan."
D'Argo hissed. "Block it off, Pilot! Now!"
"I can't do that. He's already exited the shaft...he's...somewhere on Tier 3. Sending the DRDs that way now."
Then silence, as all the players began to run toward Rygel's tier.
John bolted into the elevator, Aeryn and D'Argo right behind him. "Pilot, can you speed this thing up?" he yelled.
"Where's Spanky now?"
"He's....just entered Tier 2."
D'Argo growled. "Can you block him off somehow, lead him into some kind of central area?"
Pilot hesitated. "I'll try. He might catch on to what I'm doing and use one of the access panels. I can not block those."
Aeryn was practically hopping up and down in her frustration. "See what happens when you cheat?" She spat at the tall Luxan. "Rygel. That's what happens."
"Chill, Aeryn," John gave her a hard look.
"I will *not* lose to his Eminence." She shook her head vehemently. "It's...it's unthinkable."
"He will gloat." D'Argo said somberly.
"He'll be insufferable," John agreed. "Pilot, can this elevator go *any* faster?"
"You are almost there," Pilot said calmly.
The doors opened and Aeryn and D'Argo bolted outside, practically tripping each other in their haste.
"You go left," Aeryn said, "I'll go right. Keep in contact...Let me know the minute you spot him." She gestured impatiently at John. "You're with me."
The three aliens began a slow jog down their separate corridors, keeping a wary eye out for the Hynerian.
D'Argo was especially unhappy--not only were they potentially losing to *Rygel* but he owed the little Hynerian a meal already. He hissed and promised himself that he could not lose to his Insufferable Majesty. It was a matter of honor.
Chiana popped her head out of a side corridor. "Psst, you," she whispered, "he's over here."
"How did you get down here so quickly?" He stopped and stared at the little Nebari woman.
She laughed. "Can't expect a girl to give away all her secrets, can you?"
He frowned at her, then nodded. "Let's go."
They walked down the side corridor. Chiana grabbed his arm at the next junction, pulling him back. "He's down there. If you can make him go down the other hallway, he should run straight into the blue woman and the other two. Got it?"
"What will you do?"
She laughed again. "I'm going to try to get the ball, same as you." She smiled slyly. "I like to win."
"You're not winning yet."
"No, Toad is. Unless you go now." She pushed him out into the corridor.
"Hello, Rygel," D'Argo said slowly. The Hynerian spun his chair around to face the Luxan, ball balanced precariously on his lap.
Rygel chuckled. "You can't catch me."
D'Argo started to run for the Hynerian, who immediately turned and fled down the other corridor. The Luxan was nearly close enough to catch him when Aeryn, Zhaan and Crichton appeared at the end of the hallway. Rygel cursed and levitated his chair higher. He was surrounded.
D'Argo extended himself in a long leap and just caught the edge of Rygel's chair, spinning it around. His Royal Hynerian Majesty dropped the ball as he flew off the chair, yelling. John darted right and caught him.
Aeryn jumped forward and scooped up the ball, smirking. "Mine now!" She shouted happily and scooted down the hallway. "You'll never catch me, Crichton..."
John closed his eyes. "Frell!" He looked down at Rygel, who was still sputtering indignantly. "Well, if we don't get that ball back, you're about the right size, Spanky." He laughed. "Spankyball!"
"Crichton! Put me down right now!" The Hynerian wiggled indignantly.
John sat him down carefully, his eyes all the while on Aeryn's happily retreating back. "Now its personal," he muttered to himself.
He took off down the corridor after her, D'Argo, Zhaan and even Rygel right behind. Aeryn might be meaner and better trained than John, but the one advantage he had over his shipmates was speed. Perhaps because he'd spent the first two months of his life on Moya running from them...
Now it was payback time. "You're not going to get away with this, Sun," he yelled.
Her laughter drifted back down the hallway.
John gritted his teeth and put on an extra burst of speed. She was *not* going to get away with it, he promised himself, she would *not* win.
Aeryn dodged his frantic grasp and sprinted left down a dead end hallway. She yelled something untranslatable and bolted down another corridor. She was approaching a main junction...she'd be able to go anywhere from there. John ran faster.
DRDs came from everywhere, darting back and forth across the hallway. Aeryn was forced to slow her momentum to avoid them. John grabbed her around the waist in a flying tackle, dropping them both to their knees. The ball went slowly bouncing away. D'Argo and Zhaan bolted around the corner, stopping dead in their tracks. Chiana appeared in another hallway, and also stopped. Rygel's hover chair slowed in mid air.
The players eyed each other, then the ball, then each other. Everyone moved at once.
D'Argo hit the ball first, then Aeryn, Crichton, Chiana and Zhaan piled on top. Rygel stayed *well* out of the way. There was another moment of silence, then somewhere something went *bang*.
The players slowly disengaged themselves one by one from the pile, rubbing various bruises or sore muscles. Crichton lifted himself from off Aeryn as soon as he felt Zhaan move away. Aeryn, muttering to herself, backed off D'Argo, who was lying face down on the floor.
"D'Argo, bud, you all right?" Crichton asked concernedly.
"Fine, but..." D'Argo raised unhappy eyes to Crichton and half lifted himself on one elbow. He reached underneath himself and pulled out the deflated ball. "I think we killed it."
Crichton whistled. "Yep. We sure did."
Rygel's ears sank lower. "No more Calvinball?"
"Well, maybe..." Zhaan smiled softly, "and maybe not. John, I believe you mentioned "Spankyball"?"
"What the...yotz to that!" Rygel turned his hover chair smartly and exited the room. "Never!"
Chiana laughed. "Spankyball. I think...I like that." Grinning slyly, she followed the little Hynerian out of the room. "Old man, wait up...."
'So," Aeryn grinned, leaning back casually, her shoulder just brushing John's, "who won?"
They all looked at each other.
"Zhaan and I did," D'Argo announced, "She took the ball in the elevator, that counts for at least--"
"Oh, in your *dreams*," John exclaimed, "First, you and Zhaan were fighting each other for the ball five microts ago--you're not a 'team'. Second, if you count time in the Elevator, then Rygel won, cause he went down 10 tiers at least in that little hover thingy of his."
"I should've had the first point," Aeryn said vindictively. "And would've gotten more if D'Argo hadn't cheated."
D'Argo's eyes narrowed. "We agreed that was not cheating, merely brilliant strategy."
"Cheater." She threw back. "Just like a Luxan--break the rules and then--"
"Whoa, whoa, hold on," John waved his hand, "this is Calvinball, not inter species war."
They all stared at him.
"Okay, so it's war. But you mean to tell me none of us kept score?"
"Oh." He thought hard. "Well, we could go to sudden death, but..." he lifted the limp ball, "we really killed the ball."
"Crichton," Pilot broke in, "perhaps we can stop at the next commerce planet and pick up several balls."
"Good idea. In the meantime," he shrugged, "game's on hold. Okay?"
Aeryn nodded. "Yes, that'll give me some time to teach you how to tackle."
He blinked. "Teach *me* how to tackle? It's my game!"
"You show mercy to your opponents." She shook her head. "You have to really *fight* for the ball if you want to play with me."
Zhaan and D'Argo exchanged significant looks. "I'm hungry," D'Argo announced suddenly. "Coming?"
Zhaan nodded. "I would like to continue meditating."
The two rose to their feet and exited the room.
Aeryn looked thoughtful, "We'll start tomorrow on your training, John."
John winced. She had that determined, stubborn, just plain muley look on her face that meant she was going to get her way no matter what. If she got her way, Calvinball would become a game of "Kill the guy with the ball". He thought about all 7 feet of heavily muscled Luxan bearing down on him. Refrigerator D'Argo. He winced again.
He rose to his feet, a little unsteadily, and gave her a hand up. She still looked determined. It was adorable, when it didn't make him fear for his own life. John slid his arm around her waist. "Hey, Aeryn," he said softly, "want to go have a victory celebration on the terrace?"
She looked up at him, confused. "Victory? But we didn't--"
"Ahh, that's just a technicality," he brushed aside her objections, "besides, its a tradition."
"All of the Calvinball players on Earth celebrate then?"
His arm tightened around her waist as they began the long walk up to the terrace. He thought briefly of the famous players--John Elway, Refrigerator Perry, John Madden, and scores of others. "Uh, not exactly like this," he smiled down at her. "Trust me."
THE END--until they get to a commerce planet, and buy another football :P