Triple Strike

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Part One

It looked like another ordinary Sunday to Jami. No school, no match, nothing. Then William called in. "Hi, Jami. Heard the news?" He sounded pretty depressed. "What's happened?" "Justin fired us." "WHAT?!" "Yeah, he didn't want anyone to know he was cutting our salaries and adding it to his. And as if that weren't enough, Callie and Judge have been fired too. Of course, Hope and Todd were begging to come back." Jami couldn't believe what she was hearing. William was practically the best player in the league! To get rid of him was just plain stupid. Then again, everyone knew Justin was a dumb blonde. "So...what'll you do?" Well, the three of us have talked about it, and realize that except for me, this is a racist remark. We've decided to go on strike." On strike. The words clamored in her head like the Big Ben at midnight.

An hour later, the Twisters walked into the trio's league meeting. O'Malley, Brin, and the Tycoons had not been informed. "Okay, said William as they took their seats, "now that everyone's here, we can begin. Let me start by saying that I don't like the idea of going on strike. None of us do. But there doesn't seem to be any alternative." "We could always get an amateur to create a new team," said Ryan, realizing his mistake as everyone glared at him. Everyone, that is, except Newton. "Hmmmmm...that might actually be a good idea. You'd be back in the league, and then you'd regain the right to complain." "Who made up that stupid exit rule, anyway?" said a very angry-looking Riles. Of course, everyone knew. "Justin." "I could never be part of another team," said Judge. "I was born in the asteroids, raised in the asteroids, I am part of the asteroids - and the Rockheads." "And as we all know, Judge doesn't budge once he's made up his mind," said Callie, teary-eyed. "Any other bright ideas?" No one had any. "Well then, a strike it is." She wiped her eyes. Without all that water there and a newfound confidence, she looked very intimidating. "It's decided, then," William said. "We go on strike. And we'd like the help of our teammates and opponents alike. Who's with us?" Everyone raised a hand in affirmation of their help. "Then let's do this!"

Part Two

Back at the Twisters' team dormitory, Jami sat at a table, working on picket signs. Thoughts were flowing endlessly through her head. Why was she doing this? To impress her colleagues? To help them? And why were humans such incredible idiots? But in spite of herself, she kept on going. The strike would take place tomorrow, and she was understandably worried about the outcome. As she finished off the last sign, she started trying to think of last-minute alternatives. She thought of everything from complaining to a court of law, to just quitting the sport and letting the rest of them take whatever path they chose. But nothing seemed to work. And so, she did the last thing she ever thought she would do in her entire life. She went to talk to her brother about it.

Ted was busy at the computer, making notices on every Arena Blast website he could get to. The team had figured out earlier what each would do. Sarge, unsurpringly, was getting emergency gas masks and pad armor. "Hi, Jami," he said without looking. He had a way of knowing people by their gait. "Hi, Ted." Jami flopped onto the bed. "Do you mind? I've gotta sleep there tonight, and I don't want to wake up with cooties." "Why do you always act on humor when you're nervous?" "Is that all you came in here for?" "Of course not. It's everyone that I'm worried about; me the most, of course. Ted,...why am I doing this? I'ts totally unnatural for me." Ted really had to think about this one."Well...maybe...maybe it's......maybe you're losing your spunk." Right away he knew it was a bad answer, and instinctively ducked at Jami's infamous Jawbreaker Fist. "OkayokayI'msorry! All right...well...OH! You know what it is? It's Dad." "Oh, yeah. He's running for Senator." There couldn't be anything worse than causing their dad's towering reputation to fall. Suddenly, Jami was wide awake. She couldn't do this, not while her father's big chance at life was at stake. But she couldn't let down her friends, either. It was perfectly natural for her to do something like this! But she knew the big decision would take her all night. "Thanks, Ted. I'll be leaving now."

Besides the amateur competitions, the strike had to be the biggest thing in WNA history. Other teams had called on fans for help, making the picket line at least twice as big. Police stood along the line, alert for anyone causing trouble. William, Callie, and Judge were front-center. Directly behind them stood three Twisters. "Where the heck is Jami?!" Ryan whispered."She should have been the first one here!" The decision for Ted hadn't been hard. His dad was pretty much negligent of his existence, even despite his win at the Championships last year. Jami, on the other hand, was more connected with Dad then she was with herself. Then, an all-too-familiar gold hoverlimo pulled in front of the picket line. Justin. "Will, what're you doin'!" "Standing up for my basic rights as a human." "Well, boo hoo hoo, 'cause I'm ain't compensatin' for you!" "Fine by me," came the cutoff as three flashy purple cycles came into the scene. When Brin removed her helmet and gloves, it could be plainly seen she had a black eye, and a sprained wrist from the hit that gave her that eye. She slowly walked up to the line, right up to Callie. Knowing Brin, this was very tough for her to do. "Callie...,"she began."I don't deny that yesterday was the stupidest thing I'd done to date. But...but...oh, will you just forgive me already?" It didn't seem to be a problem: Callie instantly hugged Brin, and the picket line started to dissipate as Callie's support left in satisfaction.

That afternoon, O'Malley came by for apology to Riles, if you could call it an apology. Justin got fed up and left around 8 PM. And as the picket line finally vanished, it was clear to the Twisters that Jami hadn't shown up at all. "Where was she all that time?" Sarge said as they walked to the pizza parlor for dinner."She could have twisted Justin into a pretzel with words!" That's when Chad Weaver arrived. Chad was the reporter at every game, and always had a smile on his face. But tonight, his faced was distorted by stress. "Wait! Wait up!" They stopped, expecting to be forced into an interview. But turning around, they knew this wasn't the case. It took a moment for Chad to catch his breath."I've got bad news." "How bad?" "Very bad. Jami was coming to the picket this morning when the elevator went off-line and fell 15 stories. She's in a coma."

Part Three

Ted looked through the window into the hospital room which his sister was now in. He wondered how something like this could have happened to a person like his sister. He'd never really cried about anything before, so he headed for the restrooms to puke instead. Ryan looked in. His mom was a mechanic, so he knew a lot about the new elevators. They had backup systems; why didn't they kick in? Was it possible this wasn't an accident at all? Sarge looked in. All her attention had been focused on Jami for the past two hours. She herself was suspicious; after all, it was rare to be the only person in an elevator. But truth be told, she didn't really care. All she wanted was for her best friend to wake up.

William walked into the hospital. He had heard the news half an hour before. And, with a little equipment from his years in Police Academy, he had some news for the Twisters. "Jami Armstrong?" he asked the receptionist. "ER, room 5." "Thanks."

"Will! How'd you find out?" Ryan said. "Word travels quickly - even in a world of over six and a half billion people." "Came just to see her, huh?" "Not exactly. I have news." "What kind?" asked Ted as he walked in. He seemed unsurprised at William's presence. "Bad." "How bad?" "Very bad." "Worse than this?" "Makes it worse." He paused to collect his breath. "What happened was no ordinary systems failure. The electromagnets were cut off at the wire." Ted started turning pink. "What could cut through a cable with a half-inch of deflectanide protecting it?" "A very powerful laser saw - that can be built only in space." Ted was now starting to redden. "And who would use such a device?" "Asteroid miners."

Police walked into Arena Blast HQ, William and Twisters at their heels. They had decided to give the Rockheads a buzz. O'Malley came down to the lobby. "All right, O'Malley," said the lead officer, "let's talk." "'Bout what?" "Are you aware there was an elevator accident here this morning?" "Nope." "Do you know the only thing that can cut through elevator power?" "What?" "A heavy-duty laser saw used only by asteroid miners!" "But none of us brought one here, not except...oh, no." "What?" "Not except Judge. Ya think we fired him 'cuz of his color? He was goin' crazy! We brought 'im back 'cuz we were 'fraid he might do somethin' real bad. But looks like we were a little late." "Where is he?" O'Malley looked down, then back up. "On vacation - place unknown."

Part Four

One month later, Jami got a call from William. It was a short coma; the backups kicked back in at about the third floor. "Good news, Jami. We've got Judge!" "Great," said Jami. "Is there any bad news? I ask merely for information." "Well, I was hoping you wouldn't ask...But oh, well...The bad news: we don't know which one's the real Judge."

Jami soon arrived at the police station. She knew Judge surprisingly well; you can admit a lot to your adversaries after a barfight. She saw William in the lobby. "Where are they?" she asked. "They're being interrogated right now. They could probably use some help."

"Okay, I'll ask this again: why did you try to kill her?" said the officer. "I DIDN"T!" replied both detainees at the same time. Then the buzzer to the door went off. "Who is it?" "Jami Armstrong. I was hoping I could be of assistance." "You're sure you want to be near these guys?" "I don't have a problem with it. Do you?" "...S'pose not." He unlocked the door, and Jami entered. She could see that whoever the twin was had done a real good job. One looked exactly like the other, wearing the same jut-out jaw expression on their faces and even the same clothes. "Okay, let's get started,"she said. "Why did you try to kill me?" "For the thousandth time, I didn't! It was him!" "Who let you bring a laser saw on this planet?" "The government." "How'd you come to join the Rockheads?" "Community service." "Where were you at the time of the elevator crash?" "In the dorm." "What's your favorite food?" "T-bone steak." "What odd pattern is on your left index fingerprint?" "Perfect circle." He's real good, thought Jami. But I know I've got him. "Water?" she said, putting out two cups. "You guys must have sore throats talking so much." They each picked up the cup in front of them. Got him! "This one's the fake!" she said, pointing at the one on the right. "He's the one who cut off that shaft." "What?!...How would you know that?" stuttered the officer. "Judge is left-handed. I know that from his first punch in that barfight. This one picked up the cup with his right hand. And now that we know you're not Judge," she said, now looking at the twin, "we're going to find out who you really are." She went around to his back and pulled apart the scalp of his disguise as Sarge had taught her. Then the hair...and the forehead...and the face. The face of Larry Parkins, a terrorist the FBI had been searching for for years. Jami helped up the real Judge, and headed for the door.

The newspaper the next day read, "Parkins Parked For Good." The Rockheads and Twisters were still at the pizza place, and had actually become good colleagues. "One thing I don't understand," said Ryan. "If Parkins took the place of Judge...well, where was Judge?" "He had decided to retire after last tourney," said Riles. "We figured he'd be back, but he only decided to do that after a couple of months. He knew nothing about his replacement." He looked at his watch. "Geez, have we really been here that long? We need to turn in." "Yeah, guess you're right," said Ted. "Exhibitions start in a few days - we don't want to throw ourselves off." And so they said their goodbyes and left. They would be facing each other in the first exhibition game. But Jami was ready for anything. It would have been hard not to be.