25. TROUBLE ON GALLING 12*

Who’s nobbling the star football player?
Who’s stealing from the farm?
Galling 12 has two problems for Tony and Bea.

The Galling 12 football team comes to play a match on Dancer 61.  Their coach is worried that her star player keeps falling ill during home games. Tony and Hais go to investigate.  The team sponsor complains about theft from his farm.  Bea (reluctantly) takes Chip to investigate that.  By the time they realise the problems are linked, they have problems of their own.

Length : 30 200 words.

 

1

“TIND-GALLING! TIND-GALLING! TIND-GALLING!”

Let’s get the details out of the way. My name is Tony and I’m 13. A few months ago, my cousin and I accidentally found the secret Earth base of the Planetary Federation. Now we’re Troubleshooters for the Federation – a sky-high job, because we go to planets all over this part of the Galaxy. My cousin’s name is Bea, but I’ve always called her the Bean. She’s 11½. Like all young people from Earth, we can sense the feelings of people from other planets in the Galaxy.

We arrived on the planet Yband 4, to report to Martin, our boss. As we crossed the big waiting room, I noticed a fuss in the entrance.

“Clear the way! Clear the way!” A loud-mouthed man in a bright red and white striped tracksuit pushed us aside. We stood, amazed, as a bunch of young men passed, also wearing red and white tracksuits. In the lead was a tall young man. His nose was in the air, as if he thought he was the most important person in the Galaxy.

Following that gang were a few men in ordinary blue tracksuits. I grabbed one, who had a cheerful round face. I spoke into my wrist unit – a gadget like a watch with a computer screen. “Who’s that?”

He gave his answer into his wrist unit, and the translation came through mine. “Don’t you know who that is?”

“No, I don’t.”

“That’s the Galling 12 football team. They’re here to play the Yband 4 team this evening.”

“Who’s the poser at the front?”

“That’s Tind-Galling,” he said in a breathless voice, as if he was talking about a god. He turned to follow the others, but quickly turned back to ask me, “Are you a Federation Investigator?”

Since we were coming back from a mission, we were wearing our uniforms – like grey tracksuits with dark green chestband and cuffs.

“No,” I said. “Investigators have light green bands. We’re Troubleshooters. We’re a new team.”

“Ah!” he said. “Troubleshooters. You must be the ones I want to see. I have a job for you. Follow me.” He started to move on.

I held his sleeve. “I’m sorry. We need to ask our boss. We’re on our way to report to him now. Do you want to come with us?”

“No. I must remain with the team. Where can I find your leader?”

“His office is Room 15, in Block 7-1.”

“Room 15, Block 7-1. I hope I can escape for a few moments during our visit. Now I must go.” He called the last few words over his shoulder as he dashed away.

As we walked on, the Bean said, “He didn’t even tell us his name. Who is Tingaling?”

“Not ‘Tingaling’!” I couldn’t help laughing. “It’s ‘Tind-Galling,’ but I like ‘Tingaling’ better. Don’t let him hear you calling him that. I do know who he is. A lot of people think he’s the best footy player in the Galaxy.”

“He would certainly agree with them.”

“Yeah. I can’t remember his proper name, but he changed it to Tind-Galling. It means, ‘Spirit of the Sun.’ I’d like to see him play. I wonder if we could go to the game.”

She wrinkled her face. “I don’t fancy going to a football match. And we may have a job, if that man goes to Martin.”

“I hope his job’s not urgent. Chip and Hais would enjoy the game, and I’d like to see their graduation.”

At present, the Bean and I were the only Troubleshooters, but our friends, Chip and Hais, had finished their training, and, tomorrow morning, when they graduated, they would become Troubleshooters too.

Chip and Hais (Say ‘haste’ without the ‘-t.’) are sisters from a planet called Dancer 61. They look like Earth girls except that their skin is bright red-brown. Chip is a little younger than me, while Hais is about the same age as the Bean. They’re keen on footy: Chip was captain of the junior team on Dancer 61, and Hais was their star player.

We found them with Martin in his office. The girls hugged, and I had to endure a quick kiss from Chip. Hais pretended to be happy, but we sensed she was upset. The Bean asked, “Hais, what’s wrong?”

Hais answered, “Martin has just told me. At the graduation tomorrow, I’ll be appointed an Investigator, not a Troubleshooter.”

“You’re joking!” I said.

The Bean asked, “Why? We recommended you to be a Troubleshooter.”

Martin said, “I suspect it was Wellington’s decision.”

“I might’ve guessed,” I said. Wellington, the Chief Investigator on Yband 4, doesn’t like us, especially me. Since we wanted Hais to be a Troubleshooter, he would do his best to stop it.

The Bean asked, “Can’t we do anything about it? Martin, don’t you want Hais to be a Troubleshooter?”

“Of course I do. You know….”

The door hummed open, showing the man we met in the waiting room. “Is this the Troubleshooters’ office?” Seeing us, he said, “Ah! My name is Zez. I work for Galmster Products on Galling 12. My company sponsors the Galling 12 football team. When I told the President that I was going to Yband 4 with the team, he asked me to find help.”

He talked as if he was making a speech. When he stopped for breath, Martin asked, “Won’t you sit down?”

“No. Please don’t interrupt me. I can only spare enough time to give you the message. I was impressed with the two agents I spoke to earlier. Please send one of them to see me. Zez, at Galmster Products on Galling 12. Thank you.” He headed for the door.

“Can’t you tell us the nature of your problem?”

He stopped in the doorway. “It is theft – serious theft, and we suspect that the stolen material is leaving Galling 12.”

“Is it urgent? My agents are rather busy until tomorrow afternoon.”

He frowned, but said, “I have told you the position. I hope to see one of those agents as soon as possible. Thank you.” Then he was gone.

Martin smiled at the empty doorway, then turned to the Bean and me. “Would you two go and see him? When he finally gets round to explaining what’s bothering him, you can decide whether you can tackle it, and let me know.”

“In the meantime,” said Chip. “How are we going to make Wellington change his mind about Hais?”

Martin answered, “I’ll request a meeting, hinting that, if he doesn’t agree, I’ll go to Obsidian. There won’t be time before the graduation, but we can meet afterwards.” (Obsidian is commander of all the local agents.)

That cheered Hais, and she was even more cheerful when Martin arranged for us to go to the footiymatch that evening. We had tea together, then the Bean went to find out about Galling 12, while Chip and Hais and I headed for the stadium.

Federation headquarters is all enclosed, but the stadium has a high roof, bright blue, like a summer sky. Our seats were high in one stand, almost opposite the middle of the pitch. So high that some of the people near us had binoculars and telescopes to watch the action.

Federation football is played on a sand-covered pitch surrounded by high wooden boards. The goals are slots under the boards across each end. It’s strictly football. If anybody deliberately touches the ball with any part of the body above the knee, it’s a foul.

The Galling 12 team were called the Galmsters. They wore red and white striped shirts, white shorts, red socks and white trainers. Tingaling marched out among them with his nose in the air. In the stand opposite us, the Galmsters supporters, a big patch of red and white, yelled like maniacs.

The Yband 4 team jogged out. They were called the Administrators – the ‘Minnies’ for short – because Yband 4 has the local Federation headquarters. Their strips were like the uniforms of Administrators – grey with purple bands around the chest and cuffs. In the stand below us, a smaller bunch of maniacs, wearing grey and purple, broke into wild cheers.

Teams are eight-a-side, with two reserves. The Galmsters were all men, but the Minnies had five men an eight women. A ref, with a bell, looked down on the pitch from a platform above the side-board at the centre line.

The Galmsters tried to get the ball to Tingaling, but the Minnies had put two people to mark him. When he did collect the ball, we saw why they had him so well covered. He had complete control of that ball, juggling it around, teasing the defenders with all sorts of tricks. By half time, he had scored four, and the Galling 12 team had a 6-3 lead.

The red and white army chanted, “Tind-Galling! Tind-Galling! Tind-Galling!” He bowed to them, giving a smug smile.

At the start of the second half, one of the Galmsters tried to get the ball to Tingaling. One of the markers intercepted it and sent a long pass up the right wing, bouncing it off the side-board, round one defender, to a Minnie striker who stroked it neatly past another defender and under the slot.

“Goal!” Below us, the grey and purple bunch gave a joyful shout – and I admit I joined in.

“Tony!” Hais grabbed my arm. “Tind-Galling! Look at Tind-Galling!” The Galmsters’ star player was staggering around, holding his hands to his head. As we watched, he sank to his knees, then sprawled forward on the sand.