Prompt: A football player is the high school standout. All the teachers love him and he never gets in trouble, but none know his dark secret: membership in the mafia.
The big game was in its final quarter. It wasn’t the final game of the season, and the crowd was only half the size it would be if their team had the same record as last year, but it was the big game for Hans Allred. It was the grand finale of his collusion with the Allred crime family.
His grandfather Berria was in the stands, watching with his arms crossed, an orange foam finger crushed under his elbow. Surprisingly, his false enthusiasm had lasted through the first half, but now his true face was leaking out. There was too much at stake for what he would surely called, later that evening, ‘ninny-brained cheering’.
Hans threw a perfect spiral and his teammate caught it. It didn’t matter if they won or lost, not anymore, but the throw had to be perfect. Berria would spot any wobbling and think he did it on purpose. The man, no-nonsense from the day he was born and spanked, wouldn’t never have entrusted this task to a teenager if he had any other choice.
The security at even the college games had become insane. No personnel or equipment went in or out of the stadiums without two bodyguards and a chemical-sniffing dog-shaped robot. One of those stupid mechanical hounds had gotten Berria put away for two years: 2355 to 2357. The game had barely changed in the last couple hundred years, but the money had concentrated. Now that all gambling could be legally filtered through the less-strict moon bases, everyone usually put something on even friendly games at the park.
“I need back into the big leagues,” Berria had told his grandson six months ago during a Thanksgiving visit. It was supervised by his parole officer, but the officer was a robot and Berria had used some of his last funds to buy a nice little virus that recorded over anything criminal he said around the machine. It stood there dumbly, wheels chewing on the autumn leaves of Hans’s backyard, beeping like an idiot trying to do a bird call while the two of them spoke.
“Leagues is baseball Gramps,” Hans said with a smile. He was nearly twice the man’s size, all muscle, ears, and forehead, but he remembered the switch from a decade ago. His grandfather always stood perfectly straight, making Hans and his sister think he was hiding the switch up the back of his shirt.
“Don’t joke with me boy,” he growled. Hans wanted to call out to his parents, they were just on the other side of the yard, arguing over a smoky grill and a blackened yam. They thought Berria was on the straight and narrow now; there was no way they wanted him getting involved. “You’re thinking about a lot. Your friends, your teachers, your grades, but your future is in that ball, in more ways than one.”
Back on the field, the Hogeyville Hognoses were up by six. Their school had recently purchased ten mechanical mascots to assist the one guy in the suit who used to be trombone in the marching band. The felt-covered orange snakes slithered around in the bleachers, occasionally rising up like flagpoles, opening their mouths, and blasting the fight song. Their fuzzy bloated leader was on the sidelines, flashing his giant plastic fangs and riling up the crowd.
“Watch where you’re going!” the kid in the hognosed snake suit had blurted when he ran into Hans in the locker room just before the game started. He carried his false head under one arm; Hans was reflected in its slit-pupiled, green, glassy eye, physique exaggerated as he repeatedly performed a series of odd-looking squats. “What kind of exercise it that?”
“It’s for the legs,” he lied without looking up. He certainly did look strange, bent over with a football held between his legs, as if it was an egg he’d just laid.
“You’re always the last one out,” the mascot complained. “You’re gonna delay the game one of these days.”
“I’ll just say I tripped on a snake then,” Hans growled, rising to his full height. The mascot scurried away, leaving him to feel guilty, to regret ever picking up that ball. His grades were perfect. His friends didn’t even call him a teacher’s pet, because he always had plenty of time for them as well. The game was just supposed to be for a scholarship. A brain only got you about a third of the way through if you didn’t want any debt. For the rest you needed a heck of an arm.
Hans caught the ball, and the audience erupted into cheers. The mascot snakes sprung into the air, coiled up like plucked hairs. His teammates were all around him in seconds, playfully butting heads and hoisting him off the ground. They’d just trounced the Diver’s Edge Dinosaurs for the second time that year. Their blue fuzzy stegosaurus would be leaving with his foam-finger-spiked tail between his legs.
People poured out of the bleachers and descended upon him. One man stayed behind, removing the merchandise he’d used as a disguise, and holding up his hands. Berria demanded his ball back with a stern glare. Just a victorious grandson, tossing a new family heirloom to the patriarch. Even on his back, fingers shuffling across his spine and the backs of his legs, Hans still threw a perfect spiral.
Berria fumbled. His grandson couldn’t help but chuckle as the old man chased the tumbling thing down the bleachers. The smile faded, because, really, it was no laughing matter. The ball felt perfectly normal, but stitched inside was a biometrics-tracking device that had been there for Hans’s last ten games.
The use of biometrics data was banned in professional football, as now it could be used to make steroids that tricked any body into acting like any other body. If number thirty-six threw perfectly, then everyone on the team could be number thirty-six. Pills and powders could be slipped to rival teams, making them fall apart on the field. It was all possible with the right data, from the right arms and legs, from games very close to the real thing.
That night Berria was miles away, having his computer man hook the ball up and extract the data. Stroking his mustache and chuckling, he patted himself on the back, as he finally didn’t regret having children. Numbers filled up the screen, and the old man saw dollar signs. He might even get to fix the matches himself, control his own team of strong men on chemical puppet strings.
“This is no good; it’s all garbage,” the computer man said, chewing on a pen cap.
“What?” Berria barked. “I watched him throw and run flawlessly. The data’s in there.”
“It might be,” the computer man shot back, “but this an algorithm. It works organically, combining all the motions and forces it encounters when it’s switched on. It gives you an average, that way any mistakes are scrubbed out.”
“Your grandkid’s average activity wasn’t a touchdown. It was this.” He hit a key, which put a humanoid wire-frame on the screen. It bent over and slapped its own rigid bottom. “Looks your grandson is telling you to kiss his ass.” The man chuckled. “He must have told you this a hundred thousand times to make the average look like this.”
Berria’s face went red as borscht. Hans was the last one out of the lockers every game, always doing his ‘stretches’. Berria screamed so loud that it woke half the neighborhood. He punched his hacked parole officer until it fell over, which was itself a felony.
He ripped the fixed football out of its moorings and threw it with all his might. It landed close by.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by yummirocks during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!