Blue Ball #22 "War Games"


[Earth, somewhere on the New England coastline]

Kitty was up at first light, awakening warm and snug in her own bed. She looked around her room, the tidy shelves full of favorite books and toys, the closet half-filled with favorite outfits, the shelves built into the dresser mirror holding the trophies of which she was most proud. She brushed her hair while looking at those trophies... one of them for a musical composition contest, a second-place trophy for the Jury-R-Ig engineering competition (some child genius named Tasha had won first!), and a few ribbons for sailing. Speaking of sailing... She pulled her hair back in a ponytail, pulled on her favorite weatherbeaten jeans and a light jacket, and hurried out of her room and down the spiral staircase to the lowest level of the house. She stepped onto the dock just outside the 'basement' door, then broke into a run, some of the wooden boards bouncing lightly under her feet. "Grandpa, wait!"

The old man smiled and paused, standing in a tiny sailboat, waiting for her to catch up and step aboard. Then he cast off and turned the sail, catching the morning breeze. He silently offered her his cup of morning coffee and she took a long sip before handing it back. The two remained silent for a while, just watching the sun begin to rise, watching the pinkish-red early morning color splashed across the rocky shore. A couple of smaller fish breached nearby. Further out to sea, a couple of dolphins were at play. Kitty pointed them out silently to her grandfather, and the two humans watched in amusement. The seabirds sang and the waves could be heard crashing against the shore. The sailboat bobbed gently up and down, the wind filling the sail occasionally with a Crack sound from the canvas as it was stretched tight. The spray tasted like salt and the breeze was chilly.

Kitty finally broke the silence. "The sailboat race is this year, isn't it? This summer?" She didn't have to ask which race. For her grandparents, there had always been just the one. Her grandfather sighed, sitting down, already guessing that she wasn't going to like his answer. "Sweetie... no. Not for us. My old leg is wearing out... I'll still be recovering from the surgery by then, most likely. Your grandma is getting old, you know, and the racing boat takes two. We're just.. not going to register this year."

"Not register?" Kitty frowned, worried and a bit upset. "But you've told me before that there has always been a Black in the race... since your own grandfather built the original boat... There's got to be a Black in the race this year." These things were so important to her. Traditions like these reassured her that the world was sane, that everything was alright. To toss them aside was no less than a reworking of her world. "I'm sorry, hon. I knew you wouldn't like it. But all good things... they come to an end, you know." "But not this..." she pleaded quietly. "It's too early to end... I can do it, Grandpa. I could sail that thing. I'm a Black too..." He chuckled softly and pulled her into a one-armed hug. "That boat takes two to handle. You can't fix everything, Kitty... Don't worry about it, ok? You'll be off on your ship anyways when the date comes and goes."

She nodded slowly, sighing. "Alright.. well... we'll see." The determination was already growing in her heart. She didn't know how it could happen, but she felt somehow as if the Black family craft simply had to be able to race... one more time.

Grandma had breakfast done by the time her family returned from their morning sail. She plunked down plenty of pancakes and bacon for her husband and grandchild. "The replicator never makes bacon this good," Kitty said enthusastically between bites. "This will give me shopping energy." And so it did, as she took off in the midmorning with a long list of errands and her cashcard in her pocket. Her grandmother waved to her from the window as she climbed into the family ground vehicle and headed the few miles out to town. ...

"Hello! It's me!" Kitty called out as she entered the old music store. The man who emerged from the back room was about old enough to be her father. "Kathleen?" he asked with a smile, "Hey! I've been expecting you. I sent that order of cello strings up to your ship already. It will be there by the time you get back." "I came to ask a favor," Kitty said, smiling. "I need the replicator recipe. So that I won't run out again. I know it won't be as good as the way you finish them, but at least I'll still be able to play."

He frowned a bit and shook his head. "No way. I know you wouldn't misuse it, Kathleen. But that's... I'd charge a Lot, if I ever gave that out. It's a 'secret formula'." "I know," said Kitty, pulling out a datapad. "And so is this." She handed it to him. "You can have it.. no matter what your decision is. If I wanted to run a business, I wouldn't do it with your string recipe.. I'd do it with this."

The music store owner glanced at the specifications and looked back up at her. "You're serious? This works?" "I designed it myself," she replied. "A full-scale attack on the ship, weapons impacting, shields down... and a return to warp from nearly a full stop. There wasn't a chip or a crack in the entire instrument. It was completely sound. I'm telling you, that case is excellent." He laughed as he read some of the information. "Remarkable. You know I could start making these, especially for space-faring folks, anybody afraid of seeing their instrument banged up in transit." "I hope you do," Kitty responded easily.

He smiled. "Hold on a sec," he said, wandering into the back of the shop. He emerged a moment later with a datapad of his own, which he offered to her. "I'll ask you to keep it loaded as a personal program in your own replicator," he said. "No problem!" Kitty grinned, slipping the pad into her pocket. "Thank you!" "If this instrument case design does what you say... Then thank you," he said in amusement. "Off you go now, have fun. And if you ever need a case, or more strings..." "I know where to go!" Kitty said brightly, as she exited the shop.

"Now for a new hairstyle..."


Having fun and being lazy,

Lt. j.g. Kathleen Black Chief Engineer, USS Pegasus