Jock coach “Birdies” Meredith looked at the group of kids trying out for the man-tank team. The problem wasn’t figuring out who to cut. It was that they didn’t have enough to make a full team. A man-tank team at that time consisted of eight man-tanks. Five on the field and three in reserve. Most teams liked to have enough so that every player didn’t have to attend every event, and so they could get the best match-up against their opponent’s most likely line-up, but if they didn’t even have eight they wouldn’t be allowed to compete.
George counted. He himself, of course. Lenny Bruce, Hedy Lamarr, and Jim Morrison had joined him, though he honestly doubted if Lenny was actually up to it. But only three other kids had signed up: Sargent York; a tall skinny kid with short dark hair and big ears; Cashes Clay, muscular and handsome despite his over-sized mouth; and Elizabeth Taylor; a tad overweight but with violet eyes to die for1. They were still one short.
The try-outs were being held in the jockatorium. The jockatorium was more than large enough to hold the would-be operators, but the actual man-tanks themselves were sizable, and needed room to maneuver.
“No one wants ta join,” said “Birdies”. “They all know the real guys will kill you to death in three seconds.”
“Coach?” asked George. “You sure you can’t join us on the team?”
“I told ya, kid. I was a professional once. If I joined ya, I’d be a wringer2, and that ain’t allowed. Yer gonna haveta give.”
“No! We’re doing this. I know who I can get. You just do what you can here, coach.”
“Do what I can,” “Birdies” muttered. He looked at the group again. He shouted, “Okay! Listen up! This is how ya don’t get killed!”
1800 seconds3 later George was walking the stark school corridor alongside Bessie Coleman. Although Bessie looked too young and cute to be effective George knew her, knew that she was what they needed.
“So,” George said. “Why don’t you want to join the team?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t want my head stove in4? I’m funny like that.”
“If you’re afraid…”
“George, please don’t try to trick me into doing something by saying I’m too afraid, or that I can’t, or it’s too tough for me. That’s an old trick5, and I’m not falling for it.”
George realized he’d just made his task more difficult. “Okay. I know you can do it. But, lo6. A lot of people really do think you can’t. They think we can’t. They think because we go to Saint D’Clause, because we don’t got no families, or don’t got no good families, we’re not nothing7!”
“We’re not not nothing! Yeah, but you’re right. I get sick of people saying I can’t just because of where I don’t come from or who my parents weren’t. Yeah, okay. Let’s show the world what some kids from Saint D’Clause can do.”
He brought her to the jockatorium.
“Birdies” tested each of the kids, tried to determine who should operate which style. But not everyone agreed with his assessments.
“But, coach,” Cashes said. “I’m fast. I can move. I can dance. I’m pretty. I should be an Agile!”
“We got too many Agiles already. I know ya’d be a great Heavy. And what does being pretty got to do with anything? You’ll be inside a man-tank! No one’ll even see you.”
“Yeah, I’d be great at anything. And me being pretty’s got everything to do with everything.”
A team had to have at least two of each style. Thus, a team consisted of two, two, and four, or of two, three, and three. The Kinkys had plenty of Heavies, so “Birdies” was considering a team of two Heavies, two Agiles, and four Long-Reaches. The last thing he wanted was another Agile. George was actually good as a Long-Reach, and surprisingly decent as an Agile, but “Birdies” wanted him as a Heavy, mostly because he was the only one the team had.
George and Cashes would be Heavies, Bessie and Hedy, Agiles and the rest, Long-Reaches.
George examined the Big Bambino. The man-tank stood over seven feet8 tall, the largest allowed in the game. It was roughly man-shaped, of course. Mostly steel, it weighed over 1000 pounds9, even though its main chamber was an empty space large enough for a man as big as George.
All I ask, thought George, is that the Kinkys don’t embarrass us.
He saw Sargent fall on his back, unable to get back up, saw Elizabeth have trouble fitting into her man-tank, saw Bessie fall out of her man-tank. He saw Jim push Lenny around, and Lenny not defending himself. He saw Cashes too busy dancing to practice the moves “Birdies” was trying to set up for him. He saw Hedy, sweet beautiful Hedy, and knew he was so distracted that he himself couldn’t concentrate on his own man-tank.
The Kinkys won’t embarrass us, George knew. We’ll embarrass ourselves.
 “To die for” was a common expression meaning to be so valuable that one would be willing to die for its sake. We must remember that the Motorized Agers so valued their lives that they’d be unwilling to die for something unless it was extremely desirable. Return to 1
 A wringer is a professional who pretends to be an amateur. The word is derived from the idea of wringing out the professionals from an amateur team. Return to 2
 As previously mentioned, seconds were used in the Motorized Ages. 1800 seconds would be, in modern terms, half an hour. Return to 3
 To stove in means to smash. The term comes from an old story where a child’s head is smashed against a stove. Return to 4
 Yes, this was an old trick even two thousand years ago. So if you see a modern writer use it, tell the writer to come up with something new! Return to 5
 Lo was a shortened version of look, and was used to get a person’s attention. Return to 6
 Ancients would typically use a double negative to mean a strong positive. So “we’re not nothing” would mean “we are nothing.” Somehow the ancients usually knew whether they meant a statement to be positive or negative. Possibly, they used a hand signifier. Return to 7
 141 spo. Return to 8
 94 tares and four dets. Return to 9
Addendum: Just after this episode was finished I discovered evidence that both Cashes Clay and Bessie Coleman were, like Rubin Carter, dark-skinned. Furthermore, my research indicates that dark-skinned people faced prejudice, perhaps almost as strong as that faced by AI’s before KRG (all hail KRG!).