Entertaining the Mercurians

A science fiction story in Ticonderoga by Gary Bloom

Characters: Silas Deane

Silas Deane sat in his office working quietly. Music played softly in the background. Various soldiers from a cadre of ten cycled through a duty roster to guard the Captain's door. The joke among them was how Deane loved the music of the ancients. He stopped to listen to the current tune for a moment and smiled. "One Last Thrill" might be from the early twenty-first century, but it was still excellent music.

He looked up and noticed a grin on the lips of the young guard. The Captain wasn't all that much older than the guard. He shook his head.

"You know what I miss?"

"Uh," the guard turned around to face the head of the Mercurian military, "what's that sir?"

"I miss sports." He sighed, laying his hands on the desk. "It's been a while since I've seen any sports. Back on Earth, back before the incident, I was a big fan of lacrosse and basketball. The perfect confluence of athletic grace and physical barbarism."

"Uh, I've never thought of it like that before sir." The soldier shrugged. "I'm a fan, too, but not like that."

"When you spend as much time away from reality as I had the pleasure of doing, you learn a different appreciation."

The guard nodded thoughtfully. His eyes took on a distant cast for a moment.

"Sir," he offered, "you run Mercury these days, don't you? So why not start a league here on Ticonderoga?"

"Start a league here?" Deane laughed enough to take his hands away from his work. Rubbing his hands across his eyes, he asked, "Where would we do that? The space is fairly limited around here."

"We have a whole planet!"

"Sure we do, but we have limited resources to work with right now. There's so much to do just yet. We're building right now, and there are too many necessities. I can't waste resources on filling my entertainment needs. Maybe in a few years."

"You know, I've only served in one deployment before coming here, Captain, but my instructors didn't seem to mind taking advantage of their power."

Silas shook his head. He wasn't so much angry to hear it as he was disappointed. Putting his head back down, he got back to work. The next song came on his play list.

"Sir," the guard asked after a few minutes, "what do you do for entertainment? Since you don't have your sports anymore, I mean."

"Ah, well," he took his hands from the keyboard, "I read when I've got time. Colonel Jackson allows me a small package of request material on every soldier transport. There are also a handful of movies that I like on our streaming servers now." He was about to return to his work, but figured he should know more about his men. "What do you do?"

"Well, Da San is pretty big these days. I've gotten into that a bit."

"Da San?"

"It's a card game. Came over with the Ares Elite. From what they said, it's really big over on Mars. Not so much on Earth, but it's been racing around Mercury. Not that there's that many of us around here."

"Interesting." Silas would need to look into this more. How the popularity escaped was curious. He really was working too much. "So you've played a lot?"

"Not too much sir, but yeah, I've even won a few hands."

"Alright, well," he smiled, "teach me."

The guard was stricken. His eyes went wide. The leader of the Mercurian military, and de facto head of the planet's habitable cities, wanted him to teach Da San. He wasn't certain what to do. Certain lines couldn't be crossed.

"Well," he said hesitantly, "we actually need three people. It's a three person game, Captain."

"That's not a problem." Silas stood up, stretching out a back that ached from too much time in the chair. "Your shift ends soon enough. Stick around when your replacement shows up. After a few hands, maybe we'll try playing for money."