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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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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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"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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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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