PB Christmas Story
Chapter Three – A Whole New World
Our group of pickleballers, along with Yuj and Santa, left the insterstell station and walked down a street of the alien town we had arrive at. It was not at all what I had expected!….I thought it would be very ultra modern, with flying cars and soaring skyscrapers. Instead,… it was delightfully old fashioned. I asked Yuj if all the cities on Zweegh were like the quaint town of Alaifrume that we were wandering around.
”Yeah,” he said, ”life’s better when you keep things simple.”
We walked along a sidewalk window shopping at the shops along the towns main avenue, and then crossed the street to go to our main destination, …the Village Mall. Yuj had arranged with the merchants to have a big chair set up there so kids could meet Santa. The Zweeghians knew all about Earth culture from watching our movies, and Saint Nicholas was a popular character here.
Santa sat there for the next hour and the Zweeghian kids lined up to sit on his knee. I made the mistake of handing a candy cane to the first tot when he was leaving. He took a little lick of the candy cane, made a face, and let out a loud cry of ‘Ma-aaaw’!! I heard a sound of hurried footfalls, and the tykes’s mother grabbed her child and gave me a withering glance. Mama Zweegh then tasted the candy cane and made the same disgusted expression her kid had made. When she ascertained the problem, she apologized for giving me the snake eye. She explained that out treat tasted a lot like the nectar of their local Carfuzi plants, a carnivorous shrub that their children are warned never to approach, and certainly,…never, ever to taste!
We hadn’t brought any other sweets with us, but, when we took out and shared our lunches, we got some better responses from the little ones. Jan had brought some packages of granola bars that she broke up and handed out…that went over well. Pam had brought a big baggie filled with cut up veggies that the Zee kids liked. Surprisingly, their favourite was broccoli!
We had also brought a bunch of bananas. The kids were lukewarm to the inside parts, but they went absolute bananas (if you’ll excuse the pun) over the peels! They tore the skins in strips and ate them like our kids eat spaghetti! The other big hit was something I personally like,…peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
The Zee kids had fun with all of us, but Santa was their favourite friend. He had brought them a small number of simple toys. Both the boys and girls were thrilled about the novelty of dolls with human faces. Balsa airplanes, on the other hand, were a flop. They had better ones, beautifully hand painted and made out of some kind of native wood. Something that fascinated all different ages, including some of the adults, were yo-yos…They had never seen them before.
We were showing the crowd how to use them when we got a surprise….Elvis, Jean, McDeep, and a lady stranger walked up and joined the crowd! The kids were forgotten for a moment as we greeted our friends. I asked Jean how they got here and she introduced me to her new friend.
”This is Commander T’ron,” Jean said. ”She piloted us here from Las Vegas on her star ship. We met her at Star Trek convention.” T’ron held up a trophy she had won there.
”I like to go to those Earth conventions,” T’ron said. ”I’m a Vulcan, so I usually win the prize for the best costume at those Star Trek affairs.”….I wasn’t surprised by that, because T’ron looked like a pointy-eared female version of Spock!
We all played with the kids for awhile longer, then Elvis sang them a few songs. After the little concert, Yujoil told everyone we had to leave. The kids came up and gave us head butts (the traditional Zweeghian farewell).
We left the mall, and were just about at the interstell station when we heard an explosion from inside the building! We rushed in to survey the scene…luckily no one was badly injured. The Zweegh transport operator, however, gave us some bad news.
”Someone,” he said grimly, ”has sabotaged our device…it will be weeks before it is repaired and I can get you back to Earth!”
Commander T’ron, who was still accompanying us, could tell we were distressed by the news, and offered to take us home on her star ship. We were relieved, and happily took her up on her suggestion. We had to get Santa back to Earth in time for Christmas!
Thus, dear readers, you can see how we came to be aboard a space ship on a journey back to our home planet. T’ron was glad to have us pickleballers aboard. Since phaser weapons had been banned, she showed us how to use the space debris defense system. Each of us was given a special device, similar in shape to our pickleball paddles, that controlled a mechanical arms and larger paddles on the outside of the ship. At our assigned positions on the ships bridge we could see on view screens any objects potentially threatening the ship, and, use our paddles inside the ship to move the arms and paddles on the outside of the ship. We practised using our paddles on a simulated meteor shower, and our crew was soon able to become proficient in deflecting objects away from the ship. After our training, T’ron suggested we all take naps on the reclining chairs in the ship’s lounge. She wanted us fresh for the critical parts of our journey,….the leaps at faster than light speed!
We slept while T’ron piloted us away from the gravitational influence of the planet Zweegh’s planetary system. It was after 2 a.m. Earth time when heard, on the ship’s intercom, the order to report to the bridge. T’ron was busy doing the navigational computations for our trip home when we took our positions on the bridge. Each of the picklers had a monitor in front of them. With all of us ready to defend the ship, T’ron engaged the hyper drive, and we made our first jump without any mishap. Santa, meanwhile, was feeling agitated. He was sitting near me watching the main v-screen and fidgeting. I went over and asked him if he was okay.
”I don’t like flying in airplanes,” he said to me, ”and, in my opinion, these star planes aren’t any better…I prefer my sleigh and reindeer to all these new fangled contraptions!”
I felt bad for him, but T’ron assured him that it wouldn’t be much longer until he was back on Earth. I went back to my monitor, and T’ron efficiently recomputed our relativity position and pushed the control that engaged the hyper drive. After that, everything was going smoothly. T’ron was readying us for the last leg of our journey and then,..well,..if you’ve read this story from the beginning, you already know what happened next…the Klingons attacked us! Fortunately we were at our monitors quickly and used our skill to prevent anything from striking the ship.
Chapter Four – Fear of Falling
With the pickler crew defending the ship we deflected the first attack without incident.
T’ron yelled at us, ”I just need a few more minutes to reset our course and we’ll be safe..the Klingons won’t catch us once we’re in the hyper bubble!”
Sandy called out, ”I don’t see their ship anymore…it’s not on my screen. What about you Rob?”
”Nothing,” he said, ”all I see is stars…Call out people if you see them on your monitors.”
Bev, Jan, Leslie, Neil, and all of us PBers stared at our screens…nobody reported seeing a thing.
”T’ron.” said Wayne urgently, ”do you know where their ship could be?”
”Anywhere, people,” she replied,…”they could be cloaked….If one of you sees them, raise your voice and push the red button on the end of your paddle. Everyone else’s screen will change to your view point. The Klingons will probably fire a barrage at our bridge…it’s critical that you deflect the attack!”
Wayne was the defender standing closest to my position. ”Doug,” he asked me, ”did T’ron ever tell you what happens if they hit the bridge while we are entering the hyper bubble?”
”No,” I answered in a strained voice, ”but I’m assuming it wouldn’t be good…I’m thinking we might get knocked off course.”
Wayne was quiet for a moment. ”Lost in space,” he said finally.
Just then, a ghostly image appeared on my screen. ”I may be getting something,” I shouted!
At that second I saw a ball. My monitors 3-D effect made it appear to be coming at my face! I deflected it at the last moment, but had little time to react before a pepper volley of projectiles were flying at me! Wayne could see my predicament and reached over and hit my red button. Almost immediately he used his own paddle to deflect a shoelace shot, and Gwen, on my right, used her backhand to deflect a hard shot right back towards the Klingon ship. The huge ball hit them near the stern and altered their course..They were coming right at us!
”T’ron,” I screamed, ”they’re going to hit us!”
”Course set,” she screamed back, ”engaging hyper-drive!”
I saw the spectre of their war bird fill my screen, then I was thrown to my feet….I heard the wail of our ships warning system and I was jostled back and forth for, what seemed a lifetime, until our ship came to an abrupt landing with a loud thump! My knee was sore, but I managed to get to my feet and look around the bridge.
Wayne’s limbs looked twisted in unnatural directions, but when Jane and Neil went over and helped him up, he flexed his joints and said..”Nothing’s broken.”
Elvis hustled over to a prostate Jan. He knelt beside her, took her hand, and helped her to a sitting position. ”You alright mama,” he asked. She looked at him and nodded.
”I am now,” she said with a grin.
Pam came over with her medical bag, took out some kind of high tech scanning device, and checked us all over…Mostly scrapes and bruises, but she did put a butterfly bandage on Santa’s cut pinky. He seemed grateful of the attention.
”How’s that,” she asked?
”Better,” he said with a smile.
Pamela gave him a warm hug and Santa said, ”It’s a good thing Mrs. Claus isn’t here,…she’d be jealous.” They laughed…it was good to hear his ho, ho, ho again.
By this time, we were all on our feet and over the shock of our crash. Leslie approached T’ron and pointed to the blank v-screen. ”Is it working,” she asked our commander?
T’ron shook her head. ”I don’t think so,” she said…”We might have to go to the E deck to see where we landed. Do you want to join me?”
Leslie nodded and looked back at our expectant faces. ”I think we all want to join you,” she said.
T’ron smiled slightly. ”Alright,” she said to all of us, ”follow me,…let’s get out of here,…but bring your paddles.”
”Hold it T’ron,” someone said.
It was Bev. She came up and the Commander turned towards her. ”What are you telling us,” Bev asked her? ”Why do we need our paddles?”
T’ron looked grim. ”Don’t be alarmed people, but I must warn you…when we made that last jump, it’s possible that the Klingon ship was in our hyper space,..and if that’s the case..”
Bev interrupted her. ”Are you telling me those damn freaks might be out there waiting for us?”
T’ron hesitated before she answered. ”Maybe,” she said finally, ”just be alert and do as I say. They may be freaks, but they do have honour. I don’t think they would break the treaty and use lethal weapons.”
Bev held up her paddle. ”I might have to break the treaty T’ron,” she said, ”if those turkeys try anything.” Bev waved her paddle like a sword…We all laughed nervously but went back and grabbed our paddles.
Then we followed T’ron down to the lower deck. We arrived at a bevy of controls for the exit ramp. T’ron faced us.
“Okay people,” she said, ”when I lower the ramp no one is to do or say anything unless instructed. If anyone is down there let me do the talking….Is that understood?
We exchanged glances, and then murmured yes to our leader.
Eddie raised his paddle. ”I hate to be a pessimist T’ron, he said, ”but suppose those weirdos are out there,..you know, uh,..with a ray gun, or fazer, or some kind of zapper thing?”
We were all quiet…Our leader hadn’t answered.
Sue piped up. ”Eddie’s right isn’t he Commander? They could be out there waiting to kill us.”
T’ron was quiet for a moment before speaking. ”Do as I tell you,” she said at last…”That’s all I’m going to say….just follow my orders.”
She turned to the controls and manipulated a series of buttons and switches. Nothing happened for a moment. Then she pushed up a large lever and the ramp slowly moved down to the ground. It was hard to see much..It was nightime, and the light from the ship only illuminated a small area. Some of us came forward to the top of the ramp,….but it was too dark to see,… too dark to know, …. were we back on Earth?
……..coming soon,….Chapter Five.