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Balls Out

Posted on 04 Dec 2023 @ 18:22 by Lieutenant Daxton Tolland

766 words; about a 4 minute read

Mission: The Leo
Location: Main Engineering
Timeline: 02 MAR 2393, 12:00

Main Engineering was small but in the Leo's case, less was certainly more. All it needed was a homey touch.

Darts were fun, but Dax had left his holographic dart board behind on his last posting. Truth be told, it wasn't even his. He'd won it in a card game. Leaving it behind as a keepsake for old friends seemed the thing to do. As the head of Engineering, he felt the need for something interactive to keep people's hands busy while their minds tackled a problem or, as in his case, simply sank into its nothing-box.

Holographic emitters were fun to tinker with. Dax could just as easily build another holographic dart board. Perhaps he still might. However, his sights were set on a higher challenge. There was an old sport from early on in Pacifica's founding as a colony that remained popular to this day. Even kept its original name. Handball.

What changed, though, is that due to the lack of open fields, handball became less of a team sport on Pacifica. Pairs at most, but usually one-on-one. With space being at a premium aboard the Leo, Dax felt like it would be a wicked tradition to import into his department.

The concept was simple. Rather than knocking the holographic ball into a netted goal, the player would just have to get the ball past their opponent. All it took was two handheld emitters that could be strapped snugly to the palm and a spare sensor unit from an old tricorder to monitor hits and govern the boundary of play.

All in all, the whole thing took Dax about 10 minutes to rig up.

"If I can have your attention," Dax said as he walked out into Main Engineering, "I need everyone to gather in and get down here." He flashed a smile at his team. "I've got something to show you."

A baker's dozen of engineers, technicians, and operational support staff huddled up for what they expected to be some kind of pep talk. Instead they were met with their chief engineer in a pair of shorts and a black quarter-sleeve pullover with a contraption in either hand.

Dax followed their eyes and took in his own attire. "Oh, this isn't duty-related," he said with a chuckle. "What I got here is a little addition to Main Engineering that ought to cut down on workplace stress and make for pura-vida." Holding up his hands to showcase his gear, he said, "This here is based on a little past-time on Pacifica we call handball."

"I know handball," offered one of the ensigns. "My grandpa played it back on Earth." Looking around, the ensign said, " was in big open room."

"That's just it!" Dax beamed with excitement. "I rigged up these two holoemitters to attach to your hand like so." He flexed and waved his hand to give everyone a good look. "And then you sling the holo-ball against the wall."

With a windup and a swift toss, the holographic ball bounced off the wall and came back at him.

"The opponent's holo-emitter bounces it back," said Dax, demonstrating with his alternate hand. "First one to miss a return gives a point to his opponent. First one to ten wins the set."

"Handball sure sounds a lot like squash," said one of the more shy Operations petty officers.

Dax scrunched his brow. "Squash? Like the vegetable?"

"No, sir," replied the petty officer with a shake of her head that swayed her loose bangs. "It's a sport exactly like you describe, except there are four walls instead of one and you use a soft racket."

"So, it's nothing like I described," Dax protested. "One wall, no rackets. Just hands." He held up his right hand and made the holo-emitter dance with a wiggle of his fingers, grinning all the while.

"Yeah, no," said the first ensign. "Handball doesn't bounce anything off any walls. This is like racquetball without the rackets."

Dax's smile turned a bit strained. "Right..." he agreed, "hence...hand...ball."

Despite his explanation, everyone still looked confused.

"Tell you what," Dax said, thinking quickly. "Everyone gives it a go on their scheduled breaktime and the winner gets to pick their slot in the next rota. How's that?"

Suddenly, everyone's apprehension was dispelled even if their confusion wasn't.

"Wicked." Dax grinned once again and gave them a Shaka hand sign. "Now get back to work. This place could probably run itself but not on your watch!"


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