Worf Plays Some Football

From Exiles, Star Trek: The Next Generation #14, by Howard Weinstein; Pocket Books: New York, 1990, pp. 11-13

Arms stretched to the limit, fingers straining, Lieutenant Worf reached high and snared his prey as it hurtled past. He clutched it to his chest. Even stark naked, a Klingon could still strike fear into any foe. Clad in protective armor, as he was now, Worf believed himself to be an ambulatory fortress. Unconquerable.

Like any good warrior, he'd prepared by briefing himself on his opponents' likely strategies, which seemed almost childish in their direct simplicity. He had no doubts he could stand his ground, and he knew there would be fewer than a dozen of them. He'd faced greater odds in past skirmishes.

But they came at him too quickly to be counted, their faces hidden inside helmets. Their feet pounded the sod as they charged at a dead run. With a Klingon battle snarl, he braced for the onslaught of the enemy phalanx. He was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Few adversaries could make that claim. This would always be the Klingon advantage.

They slammed into him with stunning force, his eyes wide with surprise. He recovered quickly, summoning all his strength and instinct with no time for thought. His warrior's blood boiled as he lashed out. But they overwhelmed him, too many against one. He fell back on the field, the battle over.. the lone warrior vanquished in a matter of moments.

"Worf! Worf! Are you okay?" It was Geordi La Forge shouting, his voice racing closer from somewhere outside the pile of bodies pinning Worf to the ground. One body at a time, the weight lifted and Worf saw Geordi's concerned face peering through an opening in the heap.

"Of course," the Klingon rumbled. Another foe lying across his chest got up and Worf peeled himself off the turf. Commander Will Riker offered him a hand. The Enterprise security chief waved it off with disdain and rose to his feet, still clutching the oblong prize in the crook of his arm. "An invigorating experience."

Geordi and Riker, both wearing colorful helmets and padded uniforms similar to Worf's, stood there shaking their heads.

"Nice catch," Geordi said, "but you're supposed to run."

Worf's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why?"

"So you don't end up at the bottom of a pile," said Riker helpfully, stifling a smirk. He'd learned from assorted experiences that it was best not to smirk at a Klingon, especially a frustrated one.

"To avoid the defense," Geordi added.

Worf looked from one to the other, trying to grasp another of what seemed to be an endless supply of inexplicable human quirks. "If I avoid the enemy, where is the challenge?" Riker and La Forge traded a quick glance of exasperation. Geordi took the football from Worf and began to reiterate the idea behind the ancient sport, but Worf stopped him with a sullen glare. "I believed I would better understand humans and their approach to combat if I experienced their more violent pastimes, but there are too many arcane rules and limits in this activity.

"Maybe you're right," Riker concluded. "Computer, cancel program." The computer obliged, and the football stadium and opposing players promptly vanished, leaving only the bare holodeck and its familiar yellow-on-black grid.

"You've got something in mind, Commander?" asked Geordi.

"I do," Riker said with a sly twinkle. Worf, I think you need something more gladiatorial, more primitive, more like organized mayhem."

The Klingon's eyes gleamed with anticipation. "I was not aware there were any human games with those characteristics."

"Oh, there's one. I used to play it myself," said Riker. He looked at Geordi, who had caught the first officer's drift.

"What is it called?" asked Worf.

Riker and La Forge both answered at once: "Rugby!"