Straight Down the Middle, by Ted Conti
“Keep your lower arms in Kothor and don’t move your feet.”
The Galarian was having a hard time with the idea of only using one-third of his available arms.
“It’s important to keep your head down.” The instructor was standing off to the side. “You have to keep looking at the ball until it is struck. Now when you bring your arms up, don’t forget to bend slightly at the 1st 3rd and 5th branches. This will maintain the illusion of the human arm.”
Kothor was now turning his head. “No, use your secondary set of eyes. It will look more natural under the holosuit.”
“Look more natural? Have you ever seen anything more un-natural?” Kothor was not used to being dictated to.
“I understand your frustration. However, it is imperative that you follow these rules otherwise you will not look human.”
“Humans don’t look human playing this game,” the Chief Executive Officer of the galaxy’s fourth largest special time receptive quin-dicular thrust engine manufacturer ranted. “I don’t want to go on this trip. I don’t see any reason why I have to engage with this pathetic species anyway. They’ll never make it.” He had stepped off the mat and was now waving all six arms.
“This is all my wife’s idea. She decided that it would be good for the children to see how other beings live and good for the company. Show the galaxy how sympathetic we are to the lesser life forms. I don’t have time for this, I’ve got a company to run!”
“I understand your frustration, now please come back to the mat.” Kothor huffed through his side ventricles and reset his position by stomping his feet into place.
“Let’s try it with the suit energized,” the instructor reached behind his student and turned a knob.
The holosuit was a new invention in the galaxy and still a work in progress. With some practice and minor adjustments users were having success in actually being able to interact with human beings directly. Before the holosuit visitors to earth had to rely on any number of tour companies that operated quasi-pan-dimensional hover buses. These units provided large groups of visitors with a bird’s eye view of Earth’s highest life form. The hover buses generally floated at an altitude of 20-30 meters above the terrain and were hidden from view through the use of cloaking devices and fractal light telekinesis. Visitors complained they felt like they were going to a zoo, rather than enjoying a cultural experience.
For Kothor, the trip represented a business opportunity. Mankind was on the move again into space. After a decade of in-fighting between various nationalist based space programs and several regional conflicts the inhabitants were looking again to the stars in a combined effort to support peace. This meant that Kothor would have an opportunity to expand market share. The holosuit would allow him to make direct contact with Earth’s leading aerospace industrialists without them suspecting he was not human.
After a minute, Kothor was no longer Galarian on the outside. Standing in front of the instructor was a six-foot three-inch human male.
“Now Kothor, don’t forget to bend slightly at the fourth branch of both legs. Do not release the third or fifth and turn just slightly at your seconds. Head down, slight bend with your arms. Now keep your front eye on the ball.”
Kothor raised the golf club above his human head; his mid arms sprang from the human abdomen momentarily as he worked to maintain balance. He took a moment to collect himself and concentrate before continuing his swing. The club came down with the head of the driver slamming into the ground and behind the ball, breaking from the force of impact. Kothar continued his follow thru as he lost his balanced, stepped with his left leg to keep from falling. The step forward in concert with his follow thru caused the Ragalian to release his mid joints on what would have been his right human leg. To the human eye it looked like he was bending his thigh and lower leg. He further attempted to compensate by changing the position of his left leg. Instead of impacting the floor it came down on top of the driver head causing further distress to his center of gravity. A grunt and Kothar released his remaining arms to keep from falling. The moved failed and the pull of gravity brought him crashing down. Lying on the floor was a human man with two pairs of Galarian arms extending from his rib cage and hips. The legs were human with additional joints in the thighs, lower legs, and feet; he now looked like a child’s twisty toy.
“Well sir, I would have to say that was a failure.” He was trying not to laugh and embarrass his pupil.
Kothar rolled over onto the human stomach. Using all his arms he sprang up and onto his feet. Working to fit back into the holosuit he then reached for another driver. “Let’s try this again.” He took another golf ball from the bucket and placed it on the tee.
“Kothar, take a moment and watch the image of the human golfing again. Take your time and study it.” The instructor waved his hand and a three-dimensional image appeared where Kothar had just made his attempt. The moving image was pure golf perfection. The instructor replayed the image several times pointing out key factors that he believed would impact the success of the new golfer.
The image disappeared and Kothar took his place on the hitting surface. Working to maintain his position while keeping his body parts within the suit he settled into his stance. A waggle of the club head, duplicating the human image perfectly, he brought the club head behind the golf ball. A deep breath as he began the back swing, stopping momentarily at the top as his left mid arm poked from the holosuit, a slight hip adjustment followed by his hands, and he brought the club down with a precision strike. A perfect duplication of the human image he had watched minutes before. The ball disappeared into a vacuum of space off the port side of the hulking galaxy cruise liner.
Applause from on-lookers startled Kothar as he admired his shot. The variety of on-lookers brought him back to his reality. The holosuit human gave a polite wave to the crowd before reaching for and teeing up another ball. Within minutes he had mastered the swing without exposing any non-human body parts.
“Now Kothar, it will be important to remember that Earth’s gravity is half that of your home world so you will have keep from swinging so hard. It may be wise to practice a bit before playing with actual humans.” The instructor took the driver from his pupil and handed him a 5-iron. “We’ll need to work on your short game now.”
After ninety-minutes and then time on the putting game Kothar had enough.
“You mean to tell me that humans actually spend time, energy and money in perfecting this idiotic game and then use it to measure themselves against one another for business.”
“Think of it as a lesser form of the Bortch game of Kass-awaer.” The instructor had turned off the holosuit. Kothar the Human dissolved into Kothar the Galarian.
“I know this game. I had a vice president in my engineering division from Bortch. He insisted on playing it when he first came to the company. He got tired of having to regrow his limbs. It took him a few games before realizing he could not beat an opponent with six arms with out losing one or both of his own.”
“I have you booked for you tee-time the day after we arrive. This will be an excellent opportunity for you to practice before you meet with your business people. I have ported the specifics to your implant. You will be golfing under the name Chevy Blazer.”
Ted Conti, Jr. continues to reside from 8 to 4 Monday through Friday in the insurance industry. He has a new job and is helping people better understand the claims process. He just hopes someone can explain it to him someday. In between phone calls, e-mails, and preparing spreadsheets and reports, Ted’s mind wanders out into the cosmos looking for stories to tell. He tells those stories with the help of a nifty laptop, a copy of Scrivener, lots of Rush, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Tool, Porcupine Tree and other loud music. He knows though, that he is nothing with his family, dogs, cats, and beer fridge.
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Tags: aliens, business, golf, ted conti, travel