With the Venusian surface on lockdown, Colony Nine was abuzz with activity.
Barney walked into the kitchen common area, which was full of surface miners on recreation time. He did not envy the kitchen staff and their having to provide enough food for everyone. He scanned the room to find his team mates, but was unable to pick them out from amongst the sea of faces. A familiar voice sounded from behind him.
“Barney! Heads up!”
He spun on his heel, and saw a pill-shaped ball spinning directly at his head. He caught the ball just before it impacted with his nose. He held the ball in place for a second, and saw someone with straight blonde hair approaching him.
“Good work, Barney. If only our rugby union team had reflexes like that.”
Barney lowered the ball, and saw Diedric Barnato’s smiling face. He returned a playful glare, and passed the rugby ball back to its owner.
“It’s why the Wallabies always beat the Springboks, Dee.”
Diedric gave a good-natured laugh. “You wish, buddy. We’ve still had more wins historically.”
His brother, Arnoldus, approached from behind and slapped his brother over the back of the head. “What are you playing at, throwing the ball around in a packed kitchen area?’
Diedric gave a nonchalant shrug. “I was just making sure Barney was still on his game.”
“Well, you can go do that out on the playing fields. We’re in here to eat.” Arnoldus moved his gaze to Barney. “How did your team go on the surface?”
Barney shrugged his shoulders. “Claudio got sent on an initial scouting of Mertseger Mons, since we did not have a concrete timeline on when the sulphur dioxide clouds were going to lock us on the surface.”
“Find anything good?”
“A few items of interest, but nothing we’ll be able to investigate until the sulphur dioxide levels thin out enough for us to get back down there.”
“But that won’t be any time soon, will it? You and your team are Earth-bound soon, like us?”
Barney nodded. “We will be, once the orbital docking station advises that the distance between Venus and Earth is at its shortest.”
A handful of voices called out Barney’s name from behind him. He turned to see his team mates approaching. Carolina wore her figure-hugging Argentinian soccer jersey, accompanied by Juan in his red-and-yellow Spanish soccer jersey. As usual, the pair had their soccer ball in tow. Behind them, Woody and Kumar wore their gridiron jerseys. Woody wore the crimson and cream jersey of Oklahoma University, while Kumar wore the orange and black of Oklahoma State. Woody was pointing a gridiron ball at Kumar, using it as a prop to enforce the point in their argument.
“You can argue all you want, Kumar. You just have to look at the historical stats. My Sooners are so far ahead, your Cowboys would need a 100-year winning streak just to catch up.”
Kumar’s eyes were fiery. “And you think the Cowboys having just won their twentieth straight derby, overtaking your team’s nineteen-year streak, means nothing?”
“If the gap wasn’t still so unbelievably wide, maybe it would matter. OSU has wrestling, and OU has football. It’s a fact of life, so get over it.”
Carolina rolled her eyes at the argument. “It’s a football game only the United States plays, so it’s insignificant.”
Juan nodded, spinning the soccer ball in his right hand. “Exactly right. That’s why we have the ‘World Game’.”
Woody and Kumar forgot their argument for a moment, turning to face off their sport’s detractors. Woody pointed the pigskin at the soccer-loving pair. “It’s the ‘World Game’ because anyone can kick a round ball. Gridiron actually requires talent, and the players have to be strong. Watch a soccer game; they trip on a blade of grass then act like they’re trying to win Academy Awards. It’s appalling.”
Arnoldus burst into laughter. “American Football players are strong? That’s why the big girl’s blouses wear five layers of armour and helmets. Rugby Union is the true sport; harder hitting than gridiron, and we don’t need to wear more armour than medieval knights.” Diedric joined in the laughter at his brother’s words.
Barney nodded. “I agree with the Barnato Boys that Union is the game with the toughest guys. But you have half a team of muscle heads in the forwards, while the backs are pretty boys who run fast. However, one game trumps all of yours.”
All the arguers looked to him in surprise.
“Aussie Rules football trumps them all. The ladies seem to think they are all ruggedly handsome, they hit as hard as the rugby players, don’t wear body armour, and don’t use a spherical ball. It’s the best of all worlds.”
All seven people began to enforce their own arguments, to the point that no one could hear each other. The scene started to draw notice, until Claudio interjected himself.
“All right, you lot. What are you all arguing about?”
Barney spoke up. “We all have a different opinion on the best form of football.”
The team manager rolled his eyes. “Aren’t we having this argument every second rotation?”
“Yes, because the others are too pig-headed to admit Aussie Rules football is the best.” The arguing started to flare up again.
Claudio raised his voice to be heard over the bickering. “All right, all of you. How about you quit arguing like a bunch of spoiled kids, and we find a way to settle the argument?”
The arguers all turned to face the Swissman. Juan spoke up. “And how do you propose we do that?”
Claudio thought for a moment, and then a smile crossed his face. “I know a way everyone can get their chance to prove their football code has superiority. Everyone to the training fields.”
– X –