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GM 

 

May 4th, 2018, 11.55AM

 

MarsTech Park, Emerald City, Oregon, USA, Earth-Prime

 

The loudspeaker fought over the screams and howls of the crowd. Kaloke Keel, the commentator, leaned hard into every syllable as the stadium boomed with vicarious triumph. "And that's another home-run by local legend the Chef! This leaves us at the seventh with Ospreys still in the lead! Better luck next time, Mariners!"

 

The players below were already beginning to sort themselves for the late-game stretch, and the fans were starting to quiet down, some of them tapping out orders for the auto-trays to deliver. The auto-trays were one of MarsTech Park's most popular innovations, largely eliminating the need for human vendors and the unsafe food storage of other stadiums. Hot food could be ready in minutes and sent directly to your seat in the stands via a conveyor system built just behind the surface. That the food was free, compliments of Maximilian Mars, Emerald City's favorite son, was something nobody could find fault with.

 

Kaloke leaned back in his own chair, fading brown eyes sweeping over the field, still startled a little when a second's concentration on one point made the window-like display zoom in. Taking a sip of his now stone-cold coffee and glancing at the schedule, he depressed the microphone button and called out cheerfully 

 

"Now, we're doing good time and we all deserve a bit of a break, so let's get to something you've all been waiting for: First up, he's harder than steel but light as a feather, the flickering firepower of Black Diamond has no rival! By day he's an engineering student at Tokyo University, by night he's the baseball legend: Black Diamond!"

 

The Park's main doors slid open, admitting a trim young Japanese man with short, smooth hair and skin like black glass lit by some inner dancing flame. He gave a deep, swooping bow to the audience....and suddenly was on home plate, twirling a bat made of the same glassy substance as his skin, grinning cheekily. The audience roared.

 

"Now folks, I'm sorry to say Black Butterfly couldn't be here, but as we all know after some bigoted remarks by members of the Japanese National Diet she went to the kaido and beat the Prime Minister with a spiked baseball bat." Kaloke took another sip of coffee "She remains at large, and the Minister's in stable condition, so believe in miracles, folks!"

 

"Of course it bears mentioning that this segment is sponsored by some of our favorite local establishments: Oz, where dreams are born, Nguyen's, where old skills meet make new tastes, Joy's, where you can find anything or anybody and our old friends at Bethlehem Heights Psychiatric Hospital. My cousin's been there since 1998, this is the year he's returning to society so let's give a big hand for Andrew folks, a real big hand!"

 

The visiting Seattle fans were totally unprepared for the storm of whoops, screams and the thunderous applause that burst out at Kaloke's final words.

 

 "And keep that up for our guest, the numan Curveball! She has four arms, a keen eye and a killer's instincts! Come on out to the pitcher's mound, Jazzy!"

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Curveball!

 

Jazzy entered stage left and started clapping. She never really got used to this, but she could fake it by now. Deep breathing, relax, relax, relax. She gave a convincing empty smile and waved to the crowds. 

 

This was hardly a usual day, but she didn't have usual days any more. Only yesterday she was filming a commercial for Billy Bob's Bargain Baskets, and the day before she was doing a charity bungee jump as a clown. And the day before that...well, lets not think about the day before that...

 

Having four mutated arms that could throw baseballs like they were shot out of a mag-cannon had disqualified her from her sport. At least on a professional regulated official level. Oddball events like this were another matter. 

 

"Hiya everybody!" she called out. 

 

And she kept an eye out for these other guys. Black Diamond was interesting. And so very very black...

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GM

 

"HI JAZZY!" boomed the crowd with one voice. It was easy to pick out the locals, laughing and smiling, caught up in the camaraderie of being on the winning side, and the scattered outsiders sitting in uncomfortable silence. 

 

Taking the mound, Curveball heard today's manager speak through her well-worn earpiece. "Don't try to get one over the plate, Tachi's too fast for that" he said "just aim for him and throw as fast as possible". Dai Sadd's Welsh accent sometimes made him a little hard to understand in person, but somehow he'd mastered the art of being clear over electronics. The meeting last night with him and the rest of the reps for various Emerald City establishments had been by far the most surreal experience Jasmine had had in many a year. Joy's was represented by a burly, scaled man with alligator-claws eyes and savage jaws. Snake-Eyes was nice enough when you got to know him, but at first sight it was easy to see why he was head of security. Nguyen's Restaurants had the most normal-looking member of the party, a tidy woman from Singapore called Olive, who'd interrogated Jasmine like she was in the bowels of the Inquisition and whose warm hazel eyes and soft voice still haunted her. The mental hospital had sent one of its junior doctors, who mostly just sat and fidgeted uncomfortably. Though he had spoken, at length and with some heat, when it was suggested that one of Curveball's costumes for today be a straitjacket.

 

Kaloke's voice thrummed over the speakers "And now, the contest! Can Curveball get one over the plate? Or will Black Diamond's lightning-fast reflexes and unbreakable bat win the day? The fight is on, folks!"

 

A sound clip of a gong being struck resounded across the field, Black Diamond took his stance, bat high over the shoulder, a helmet growing to cover his head, both eyes on Jasmine.

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Curveball!

 

It grated; Jazzy had been an athlete, and athletes are born with a competative streak. They had to have one. She may not have been world class, but she was a pro, and you only became a pro when you had grit in your bones. She tossed the baseball from one hand to another. 

 

"Take a look at this!" she declared, full of defiance. 

 

Sure, she might not get one over. But she would sure try, no matter what she was told. Whats the worst that could happen?

 

So concluded, she pulled back her arm and let loose the ball with a lightning-whop throw. 

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GM

 

Black Diamond's eyes momentarily widened as he processed, with admirable speed, what had changed. Shifting out of the loose, casual stance he'd taken, the lean young man swung with tremendous power, his silicate skin glittering in the soft Pacific sun...at where the ball had been a mili-second before.

 

The ball slammed into the catcher's mitt like a rocket, nearly bowling over the stocky woman who had been, for understandable reasons, a little distracted as she crouched behind Black Diamond.

 

The umpire, startled out of some reverie, barked out "Strike on-! Oh...yeah, strike one!"

 

A gale of enthusiastic cheers rained down from visitors and Munchkins alike. 

 

"What a shot, folks! Looks like our glittering guest has a little more against him than he expected!" Kaloke's jovial tone was entirely unforced, though he did have to glance at the small, darkened box reserved for the sponsor supervisors, trying to divine what the mood in the high seats was. 

 

"Can Curveball continue this counterplay?!"

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Curveball

 

I sure can!

 

In most of life, Jazzy was not brimming with confidence. One would not say she was without it, either. She just swam in the normal human soup of doubt, guilt and shame that bubbled away in the soul. 

 

But when it cames to sport, well that was a different matter. NO time for doubt there. Just determination, grit, and that competative streak. 

 

"I sure can!" she yelled to the crowd and Kaloke, a big smile on her mouth. 

 

And so determined, she through the next ball as hard as she could, with an elegant spin. 

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GM

 

The crowd drew a breath. The ball spun. Black Diamond tensed.

 

And struck like black lightning.

 

The crak that resounded in the stadium was like a gunshot, sparking a booming chorus of whoops and cheers from the crowd, the half-flattened ball winging away into the stands where it became the focus for an amiable wrestling match.

 

Tachi relaxed a little, but he nodded seriously to Curveball, seeming to see her properly for the first time.

 

"And Black Diamond evens the score! Double or nothing, folks, this is the moment of truth! One last shot to determine which coast has the better arms!"

 

Diamond slipped into stance, eyes like obsidian bores.

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Curveball

 

Gosh darn it! I'm Curveball! Whose got the best arms?

 

ME!

 

"ME!" she echoed out loud to the crowd. 

 

But doubt was creeping in. Before it fungated into her muscles and nerves, she pulled back, took a quick breath and narrowed her eyes. Doubt would have to wait. This was victory or defeat, joy or shame. 

 

And once again, she threw the ball...

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GM

 

Black Diamond waited until the last possible millisecond, tensing as the baseball rocketed for the plate, crouching just a hairs-breadth to gather that much more force.

 

Suddenly, with seemingly no transitional moment, the bat of black diamond was scything the air before him, a furious roar and 

 

"Strike two! That's it!"

 

Itachi shook his head, flashing a polite smile to Curveball as the crowd above let loose the exhilaration of the moment, cheering for the four-armed mutant with unironic glee.

 

He turned to go, only to find himself face to face with the catcher. The catcher looked a lot taller than Curveball remembered, and the glove on her left arm was a lot bulkier, more metallic and robotic than it had appeared behind the plate.

 

"You failed, Tachi." she said. But the voice wasn't right, too deep and masculine. Black Diamond took a step back, his smile a little more confused, "Oh, I wouldn't say that. Curveball won, but nobody lost-"

 

"You failed, you little brat! Just like you did when you broke my arm!" The catcher threw off their heavy padding and the facemask, revealing a furious, athletic man in the white and blue of the Emerald City Ospreys, a robotic glove covering his left arm and cybernetics wiring through the right side of his face!

 

Black Diamond's crystalline skin paled, and he took and involuntary step backward "Wait...you were that pitcher last year, Randall...?"

 

"Yes! It's me, Randall Calder, here to take my revenge!" With that, the man jumped, and a hoverboard lanced out of nowhere to swoop up under his feet, carrying him aloft as his glove deposited a round grenade-like device into his organic hand.

 

"Batter up, punk!"

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Curveball

 

Jazzy was pumped from her throws. Nice Job! she told herself gleefully. 

 

But hold on! What was this? A collection of contemptable contemporaries congealing in curious canters! Or something like that. It was certainly an action packed evening, ladies and gentlemen!

 

"Ill need another!" she said to the world, grabbing one..no two...no four more baseballs. If grenades were going to be tossed around in this packed building, she might need to throw again. Aiming for somebodies head this time!

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