HyperGolf Episode 1

Episode 1

Tee Off


       In the continent of London, Planet England of the Albion star system, a relentless drizzle drizzled down relentlessly, dampening both the quiff and the spirits of a gentleman who climbed out of his spaceship and raised a battered golfing umbrella that opened up like a tarantula with rickets.
       Baron Clyde the Thirty-Seventh closed Purple Emperor's airlock and stepped down onto the sodden lawn. He snapped his fingers and his robotic caddy alighted beside him with a pneumatic hiss and a white blast of carbon dioxide.

Randy and Golf Bag
       "Howdy, Claaahd!" bellowed an extremely tall man in a T-shirt and cap decorated with ostentatious red and blue star and stripe patterns, heading over from a parked ship with similar livery and a SpinDisc that didn't match. Some sort of animal loped exuberantly at his heels. It had a dog's head and forelegs, and a long, cylindrical body terminating in a pair of wheels and a constantly wagging tail. Several golf clubs protruded from a large furry orifice in the back of its neck.
       Clyde the British human and Randy the American human had known each other for a few years, now. Randy's cyborg golf bag happily thrust its nose into Clyde's groin, leaving a trail of drool down the right leg of his mustard-and-grey Gingham check plus-fours.
       "What balls you usin', Claaahd?" Randy held up a rather muddy golf ball between his finger and thumb, and grinned. "It's a Weston Superphotonic SE. More technology in this thing than both the original British and American ships put together."
       "Rather a shame really," said Clyde, "since it's yours and it'll most likely end up in the chromosphere of the nearest sun."
Baron Clyde the Thirty-Seventh


       Randy frowned at his ball, then wandered off into the club house behind the lawn.
       Clyde's morning had been perturbing. Randy had agreed to be his HyperGolf partner at short notice, because he'd had an argument with Duchess Connie. The argument had been started by a persona non gratis, namely a spider, in Duchess Connie's ship Red Admiral. Duchess Connie didn't like spiders and Clyde had agreed to catch it in a jam jar and throw it out the airlock, but he'd slipped and accidentally dropped it down the back of her neck, or at least that was his story and he was sticking to it. In the ensuing argument, Clyde had made some unkind comments about arachnophobics, and some derogatory remarks of the equine kind, and Connie rounded it off by telling him he was a pathetic little slug with bad taste in cravats, and now she was refusing to speak to him.
       This in itself didn't particularly bother Clyde, because Duchess Connie was lousy at HyperGolf, as indeed she was at anything that didn't involve horses or the use of firearms. The problem was that he had gone off to sulk and wasted the remainder of the morning perusing a mail order alien pet catalogue in search of a really gargantuan hirsute arachnid at a reasonable price, and had sat on his good driver and bent it.
       Clyde glared at where Connie's Red Admiral was parked, beside that pusillanimous ponce the Earl of Buxton's ship, Cabbage White, and went to the tee to look for some seats. He noticed several other people of his acquaintance in the crowd: Lady Mondegreen, the Duke of Berkshire (or as Clyde affectionately contracted his name, Berk), and somebody else in a pink ship known simply as the Princess (although this wasn't his real name).
The Tee

       Clyde set about making some careful measurements with an automatronic slide rule: Albion's stellar wind, England's sidereal period and so on and so forth, and the counterparts of the Vendark star system 6.8 light years away. When he'd finished, he fished a pulsar-regulated pocketwatch on a gold chain out of his waistcoat pocket.
       "Tarragon," he addressed it. "I need a calculation run on the mathematical formula Eclub = mc2(RG)/log tS, where S is the sidereal period of-"
       "Stop before you embarrass yourself," interrupted the watch in its tinny computerine monotone. "You're trying to make a program to put into your stupid golf club, aren't you? Well, that equation you just gave me is incorrect, and if you'd bothered to pay attention in Maths lessons when you were a boy, you'd know why. Honestly, if your father could see you now, wasting your time playing HyperGolf when you should be governing your planet, seeking a noble marriage to bring honour to the name of Pebdrake, and partaking of edifying pursuits!"
       "Tarragon, stop being a near-useless overpriced plumb-bob and just run the calculation!"
       Randy had by now emerged from the club house, and came over to the seats carrying a plate. "Is that watch of your dad's making a nuisance of itself again?"
       "Wher've you been?" said Clyde. "You eat something funny?"
       "I was washing ma balls in the sink," Randy enlightened him. Randy hadn't played in this tournament before, and didn't know anyone, except for another American Colonist called Leopard.
       "Oh, and I suppose you got that whilst you were in the bog as well." Clyde prodded distastefully at the objects on Randy's plate with a magnetic Biro, as though he was testing their reflexes. "What the blazes is that?"
       "And this is somehow inferior to that pig's dick you ate in that pub on the way in?"
       "That was black pudding."
       "This is a quarderpounder and fries."
       Clyde frowned. "It looks like a burger with anaemia to me. And chips shouldn't look like that. Those are what one uses to build electric palisade fences. Ours are fat and greasy."
       "Bit like you, then," said Randy.
       Clyde poured out some tea, and glared at golfers practising their swings nearby. He proffered the teapot to Randy, who raised his hands suddenly. "No, no more of that stuff, it's too strong."
       "You've only had four cups since this morning! You can't play if you're dehydrated, man!" Clyde poured tea into a cup and dumped it in a saucer in Randy's lap.
       Randy picked up a pencil and made a peculiar illegible squiggle on his scorecard.
       "Stop doodling!" said Clyde.
       "I'm not doodling! I'm trying to write my name. That darn tea is making my hands shake!" Randy threw his pencil down on the wet grass. "Have you got an eraser by any chance?"
       "I'm guessing you wish to borrow a rubber?" Clyde stuffed his hands into the pockets of his plus-fours and rummaged about.
       Randy made a face at him. "What makes you think that? Claaahd, what have people been sayin' about me? What do you mean, borrow, anyway? You actually expect me to give it you back when I'm finished with it?"
       "Well of course. One doesn't borrow things and then not give them back. It's damn rude. Well, I suppose some people might," He paused to glare at Duchess Connie, where she stood simpering on the opposite side of the tee beside the Earl of Buxton. She saw him looking at her, and stuck her tongue out at him. Clyde thought she looked like a whippet that was smelling something nasty.
       "When people keep using it, it does get sort of dirty and then it makes smudges, but if you rub it on a bit of paper it usually comes clean."
       "That's gross! Not only do you re-use it, but you actually share it?"
Duchess Connie of Syston and the Earl of Buxton

       "Of course. I think I lent it to my manservant last week. Then I lent that stripy one I bought when I was on holiday to the Count of Peckham." Clyde frowned. "I lent him my stapler as well, I seem to recall."
       "Look, that's enough, Claaahd. I don't want to know about your disgusting sexual shenanigans, or your sado-masochist friends and what they do with stationery. Where I come from, it's not nice to talk about things like that."
       A speck appeared against the greyness of the sky, and the noise of an engine became audible as it grew larger. As it drew nearer, the assembled golfers saw that it was in fact a flying armchair. It alighted on the grass. The armchair was heavily encumbered by a SpinShaft turbine and thrusters, and a great deal of sophisticated tracking equipment; tachyon cameras with faster-than-light shutters, monitors, salted nut dispensers, etc.
The Referee and Armchair

       "Referee's here," Randy remarked.
       "Right," said the referee, rubbing his hands together cordially, and smiling through his IR-UV bifocals. "If we're ready to begin."
       Two other people Clyde didn't know went first. The first man forgot to switch his club on, and the ball failed to leave orbit, and came down somewhere near the library. His partner's shot looked promising, but then the tachyon scanners showed it had hit the system's sewage and refuse planet, Efflume, and going there to retrieve it was not really an option.
       Then Randy's friend Leopard surprised everyone with her shot.
       It was Clyde's turn to go now. As he stood up and handed the slide rule over to Randy, the rain became horizontal. The food stains on Clyde's waistcoat started doing chromatography, and his quiff drooped in his eyes.
       Clyde composed himself, straightening his flying jacket and sluicing down the remainder of the tea. He paced onto the grassed area, and planted a tee in the centre.
       "Buxom!" he roared.
       The Earl of Buxton looked up gormlessly, standing slightly further down the incline of the grassy slope, a dressing gown over his green plus-fours and with a large pipe in his mouth and a mug of ale in his hand.
       "Gerrout the bloody way!"
       The Earl of Buxton quickly moved, while Clyde eyed the HyperGolf ball from a few different angles, his feet squeaking on the wet grass. He fished his pulsar-regulated pocketwatch out of his waistcoat, and scrutinised the forcefield-mounted octahedral compass in the centre. Then he told it to shut up, and put it back in his pocket.
       "Clydie, your balls are inferior and your club is a funny shape," Connie jeered from somewhere in the crowd behind him.
       Ignoring her, he gripped the shaft of his driver, shuffling his hands and stamping his feet, searching for a stance and position that felt balanced. He switched on his club, and made a few practise sweeps at the air. It hummed slightly. It worked by means of a repellent neg-mass driver and some kind of projectile enhancer that Clyde didn't understand.
       "You've got clearance," said the referee, glancing at the tachyon scanner output of the real-time air traffic. His chair hovered a few feet behind Clyde.
       Clyde lined up the club, feinted with it a few times, drew the club back, held the stance, focussed on the ball, checked the trajectory, and uncoiled. The club swished through the air, hit the ball with a clink, and the familiar crack-warble of the ball breaking the light barrier pounded through England's troposphere. The air flamed and rippled briefly.
       Clyde stood still, in the position his follow-through had ended, his club singing ever so slightly from the blow.
       "Past the Oort cloud," called out the referee, not looking up from his tracking screen. "It's going..." A few minutes passed. "Losing momentum. It's entering the Vendark system. It's slingshotted around Vendark. It's now approaching a gas giant in the Vendarkar system." The referee paused. "It's been captured by the gravity of a moon. Orbit is decaying... Good shot, sir!"
       Clyde swung his club smugly, and made a disdainful face at Connie before heading back to Randy, who had been standing at the side reprogramming his nine-iron.
       "Your shot, sir," said the referee.
       Randy, his hands shaking and sweating, put his teacup down on the chair where he'd been sitting, in the hope that the rain would dilute it. He suspected it might be making him hallucinate. Horrible images pervaded his mind, most of them involving Baron Clyde, lurid contraceptives, staplers, and something called a manservant which Randy thought sounded horribly dirty.
       Randy planted his tee in the ground. He made a few practice swings, but his hands were shaking from that darn tea. He shuffled his feet.
       "Stop wiggling your posterior and hit that ball!" Clyde shouted. He supposed the Baron was trying to be encouraging, but it was ruining his composure.
       His first swing missed completely, and whacked up a big divot which went into orbit. The second swing hit, but not as well as he'd wanted it to, and the ball flew skewed.
       Swish-clink-crack-warble... Randy stared at the sky. "Oh, darn," he cursed.
       "You've just cleared Efflume," said the referee, watching the long range tachyon scanner. Leaving the Oort cloud."
       Randy watched the readings on the Referee's chair monitor in hope.
       "You've hit something!" the referee exclaimed. "Some kind of UFO!"
       "What kind of UFO?" Randy despaired.
       "Well," said the referee. "It's still unidentified, and it's still flying."
       Baron Clyde's monocle fell off. He put it back on again, and squinted at the air where Randy's ball had last been seen.
       "What ghastly luck, old chap," Clyde slapped Randy on the back. Clyde lit a cigar. "You know what I think," he said. "That ship should be disqualified!"
       "I can't disqualify it!" said the referee, scratching his head in consternation. "It's not playing."
       "How very unsporting of it," said Clyde. "Well, in that case,"
       "We should sue it," Randy said automatically.
       Clyde glowered at him. "We should go and make it play, and then it can be disqualified fairly."
       "If it refuses to play?" the referee queried.
       "Then we'll sue it!" enthused Randy.
       "No," said Clyde, "Then we'll blow it up!" He gave his driver a belligerent wave, spilling his tea and causing the referee to duck.
       "That's it!" said Randy. "There's not a moment to lose!"
       Clyde swaggered off back to his ship, his golfbag jetting along after him. "And on the way we can stop at that Spaceside Chef in the Broccoli Nebula!" he shouted to Randy. "I won't make any remarks about the extortionate prices in case I get done for slander!"
       Randy called his golf bag and it ran after him, wagging its tail and drooling.
       Clyde waited just long enough to see Connie and Buxton play their shots reassuringly badly. He and Randy leapt into their ships and took off, their SpinDiscs whirling faster and faster until they reached two thousand RPM and the SpinField spatial distortions caused both ships to drop down into wormholes, off to some other part of the universe.

Clyde Pitches

 

© Sam Andebonn 2009



HyperGolf Episode 2