“Do you really want to try to set it up again?” Library regarded July once more, as they continued down one of the many corridors of HQ.
“Yes.” July spoke through clenched teeth. “We are going to have a team set up! Especially since I went and talked about getting the league set up again! It’d be embarrassing to not!”
“Are you sure? If you are getting it set up, it means you’ll be in charge, since Trojie isn’t available. This means you’ll have to organize all the matches.”
“You’ll also need to locate the trophy.”
“You will also need to inform BM, or at least find a safe place to have the matches without causing undue damage.”
July gulped. “Can’t you do that?”
“No.” Library’s flat tone brooked no argument.
“Fine. I’ll locate the trophy, set up the match table, inform BM- maybe by way of ICEP so I don’t actually have to see their faces- and have a team.”
“Even though the occupants of very nearly every single RC we’ve gone to thus far have steadfastly refused, barring the four year old girl? Whose parents refused on her behalf after you actually tried to accept her as a team member?”
“Yes!” July stamped her foot against the Generic Surface. “I’ll kidnap and force the next person I see if I have to!”
“I’m not sure-”
Right on time, a familiar blonde in blacks and DMS patch rounded the corner. “Oh, hey you two,” Kat said, chipper. “Nice t’see you!”
“Fantastic timing!” July chippered back- there was an edge of strain to it. “Just fantastic timing!” With that, she lunged at Kat.
“...Oh gods what--” Kat left off talking in favor of stumbling backward, tripping over her own feet in the effort to get away. Unfortunately, she had been caught flat-footed, and July had the clear advantage.
Roughly five minutes later, Kat was being dragged through the corridors by her ankles with no great ceremony. July showed no real hardship from dragging the taller girl behind her.
“Where are you taking me?” Kat yelped, clawing at the floor in a vain attempt to slow her progress. The Generic Surface was frustratingly slick. “I swear to Martel-- July, I have a knife and I will use it if I can ever reach you!”
Library, at the very least, looked apologetic, though she had not intervened. Getting between two agents in a fight was, after all, unwise. “I am very sorry about this, Kat, I-”
“Kat, you good at sports at all?” July interrupted. She continued with dragging Kat along, somehow managing to do so at a steady pace.
“I was a dancer before this, you maniac.” Kat fumbled at a passing doorjamb, succeeded only in straining herself, and cursed. “Other than that, beyond skills acquired in pursuance of the Duty, not really, and Library, save me!”
Library shook her head slightly. That too was unwise, considering she slept in the same room as July.
“How good are you at hitting things with bats? In the dark? That are glowing? At people?”
“I would think accurate, given the contrast, except I was always pants at baseball on the playground and tell me you are not doing what I think you’re doing.” Kat scrabbled a bit more, fruitlessly. “Samuel? Anyone? Help?”
“AHAIRQL!” July managed to say. “Australian Indoor-Rules Quiddich! We need players, y’know.”
“Dear gods,” Kat moaned, and stopped struggling. “Of course you do. I’m not getting out of this, am I?”
“If you agree to play on my team I’ll stop dragging you around,” July said. “Which you would like, since I was planning on going down a flight of stairs.”
They were readily approaching a nearby stairwell.
“Is this extortion, blackmail, or something else equally not covered by the Flowers? Fine, fine, just stop yoinking me around!” Kat twisted around in an attempt to swat at July’s hands on her ankles, missing by several inches.
July promptly let go of Kat’s ankles.
Immediately, Kat scrambled to her feet and took several large steps away. “What now?”
“Do you know anyone else who could be convinced to join?” July immediately asked.
“I know a lady you could convince to join,” Kat said, after what was entirely too short a pause for her to have considered the suitability of the candidate. “You don’t go for Samuel though. Tech is tech is supposed to hold up, but I don’t see a need for tempting fate. Yes? Yes. Good. Let’s go see a lady about a trajectory.”
“Ooh?” July watched Kat expectantly.
“Yes.” Kat swiveled on the spot, scanning the hall. “Um... I don’t know how to find her.” She paused, thought about that for a moment. “Though that might be for the best. Hm. Well. How would you feel about a race?” Without pausing for an answer, she picked a direction and took off running.
“Wait, wha-” July blinked in surprise. “Come back here!”She started chasing Kat, swearing colorfully.
Library watched them disappear down a turn in the corridor ahead. She sighed, and began walking in the other direction.
Kat was having a bit too much fun to be bothered with where, exactly, she was going; she skidded around corners at high speed, giggling madly all the way. “C’mon, July!” she called over her shoulder, and used walls like pinball bumpers to direct herself around a sharp turn with minimal momentum loss. “Keep up!”
“Yaaragh!” was July’s fairly simple shout in response; she, however, bumped around the corners with more skill than Kat had, to the point where it allowed her to catch up a bit, but still not enough. “Library, hurry up!” She twisted her head around for a short enough time to notice that her partner was not trailing behind. “Uh, okay, then! SLOW DOWN, YOU!”
So preoccupied was Kat with staying ahead of July that she did not keep track of her surroundings, rather counting on reflex to keep her from bailing out. This worked until the environment changed dramatically, narrow uninterrupted hallway opening into a broad room of dubious parentage, featuring tables, people, and a fair assortment of things that pretended to be food.
Kat leaned to the left to dodge the first obstacle, leapt over the corner of a pulled-out bench, and landed off-balance. She flailed for support, found none, and fell heavily against the nearest person.
“Whoops sorry gotta run--” Kat tried to push herself up and away, and found that her hapless victim had caught hold of her wrist. She tugged frantically against the other Agent, but to no avail.
“And where do you think you’re going, you-- I should have known.”
Familiar voice. Uh-oh.
Kat fixed on the long fingers currently bruising her, tracked up the arm to a ratty black jacket featuring a three-eyed rubber duck on the sleeve, and finally, wincing, lifted her eyes to meet her captor’s. “Hi, Shy. Got a lady who wants your body.”
“That’s a rather suggestive way of putting it, isn’t it?” Library asked, from a table behind. She showed no signs of having exerted herself or even of having ran.
“It’s true, though, July only wants warm bodies.” Kat tried prying Shy’s fingers up, and got her own smacked for her trouble. “I never attached any qualifier to indicate bed or sex or oh my gods will you let go of me already?”
Shy let go. Kat overbalanced, and landed hard. “You’re welcome,” Shy said, flatly, and turned her attention away. “Now. Who was it wanted my body?”
“Got you!” July plowed into Kat approximately half a second later.
“Augh,” Kat complained, shrill. She didn’t even bother fighting back, choosing rather to accept her fate.
“Take it you’re July?” Shy asked, completely unconcerned.
July popped up, going from her lunged position on top of Kat to standing up and on her toes in a quick, smooth movement, exhaling deeply and spitting hair out of her mouth. “Yeah. Hi! You’re the trajectory person?”
“That’s one way to put it.” Shy reached a hand over for shaking purposes. “Name’s Shy. DBS. I like math.” Her expression suggested that this was a very concise summation.
“Any chance you’d be interested in joining our Australian indoor-rules Quiddich team? For the league?”
Shy nudged the brim of her battered ballcap a bit higher and leaned forward, her interest successfully sparked. “Glowing ball, dark hallway, big stick, yes?”
“Yes, that’s the birdy. That’s not a bird.”
“Didn’t think it was.” Shy stood, stretched briefly to her full height before relaxing into her accustomed slouch. It still put her at nearly a head taller than Kat. “Sure. Be an interesting exercise.”
“In the dark you can’t tell who’s hitting you,” Kat muttered, sullen.
July pumped her fist. “Whoo!”
“I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful addition to the team,” Library added. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Shy. I’m Calpurnia Library.”
Her partner fell over. “Wha- how’d you get here?”
“We were running!”
“HQ obeys no laws, last I checked.” Shy glanced over. “It’s probably nice t’meet you too, Cal. Don’t take it personally if I hit any of you. Except you, hectopascal.” She toed Kat. “It’s always personal with you.”
“I love how you care.” Kat scooted away and finally got up, folding her arms across her chest and looking away.
“Don’t we need two more people for this shindig?” Shy inquired, in July’s general direction.
“Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Uh, hm....”
“Big stick? Did someone say big stick?” chimed in a high-pitched voice. “I’ve got a big stick!”
There was a loud thud, of the sort that might be made by a gigantic war-mace manifesting under a table that was really too low for it. Then there was a sigh.
“Put it away, Kay,” said a second voice. “They weren’t talking to you, and-”
“How did you even know I had it out?” Agent Kayleigh said, turning to her partner in confusion. “Eyeblink. You can’t see it!”
“I can hear,” Salamander said, in the tone of one who has explained this almost as many times as he expects to have to do so again.
July whirled around towards them. “If you’re volunteering, then yes, yes I was talking to you, hi, I’m July and this is Library and that is Shy and that is Kat and if she tells you anything about being dragged around HQ she is lying and have you heard about Australian Indoor-Rules Quiddich or how there is the All-HQ Australian Indoor-Rules Quiddich League or rather was but is now being restarted for a new season and I am looking for players for-”
“July, breathe. That’s a run-on sentence,” Library said, mindfully.
“Not lying!” Kat put in, having fixed on only the part of the sentence that offended.
“Way I remember it, a team is six.” Shy looked pointedly at the three already assembled near her, then lifted her chin in a sharp gesture meant to indicate the new two. “Look. Four plus two. Simple. Done.”
July grumbled. “I would hope you’d remember a team is six because it was in all the things.” She looked intently at Kayleigh and Salamander. “So, hi! Does the mace say you are interested? Also, if you are interested, maces are against the rules so you can’t actually use the mace. Regulation bats only.”
“... it could be a regulation mace,” Kayleigh suggested, then ducked as Salamander’s hand swiped past her head. “I thought you were blind!”
“I am - look, what are we volunteering for, Kay?”
“Austrian-rules indoor quitting!” Kayleigh enthused. “It’s all about hitting people with maces in the dark - you’d be great!”
“Er. Is she deaf?” July peered at Kayleigh. “Because it’s Australian Indoor-Rules Quiddich. And it’s more about hitting a little light up ball around in the dark with a foam covered bat. But actually you’re trying to hit people. With the bat, with the light up ball. Preferably with the light up ball, since that can cause some real nice bruising since that can go faster. Winning team is the least injured group. It’s fun. Totally fun. Really. Just have to make sure you’re out of the corridor used for the game before BM finds out.”
“Same thing,” Kayleigh said dismissively. “Now, the important thing is, how many spikes does the foam bat have?”
“I don’t think that’s the important thing,” Salamander said carefully. “If we volunteer-”
“If? If? There’s no such word as if in my dictionary!”
“That’s because your dictionary is a child’s ABC book,” Salamander said wearily.
“How do you know that? You’re blind!”
“Can we stop bringing that up now?”
“But they might not have realised yet!”
“It’s not like sight offers a massive advantage, if I understand right,” Kat offered, a little warily. “With twelve people and a lot of shouting confusion and pain in a dark corridor... gods, what did I sign up for.”
“I believe it was in hopes of preventing immediate pain and injury,” Library responded.
“And it’s just a bat,” July added. ”With no spikes in. Covered with foam. To prevent fatalities. Though if you really wanted, I guess you could just butt people with the end directly. Hard to hit a ball like that, though.”
Kayleigh frowned. “Frown. You have to hit the ball?”
“...” Salamander sighed. “Okay, so apparently we’ve signed up. Do you have a copy of the rules or something?” He tipped his head at his partner. “Preferably with large crayon drawings to help certain people out. And yes, Kayleigh, I know I couldn’t see them. That wasn’t what I meant.”
July considered for a moment. “There are crayons and large sheets of drawing paper around the RC. I can probably whip something up and drop it off at yours? I’d suggest come to mine but I don’t think I’d want to risk it between her and also you’d not be able to see where ours is. Because it is a know it when you see it RC. We have a bedsheet instead of a door.” To Kayleigh, she brightly directed, “Do you like coloring things in- ow!-what did you do that for?” She scowled at Library, whose elbow was firmly against July’s ribcage.
“I like colouring things in,” Kayleigh said thoughtfully, “but the last person I tried it on didn’t appreciate it very much. Good thing she was only a badfic bit part, otherwise I’d probably be in trouble...”
“Hm.” July paused for a moment. “How do you do with extreme heat and fire? Because there is soomeone I think you would be good at meeting if you are able to deal with annoying and annoying and actually if you don’t do too good with fire anyways it’d be still a good idea to-”
“July.” Library stared at her partner, steadily. “No.”
“-okay, no meeting of the charbroiler clone and macegirl and where did you pull that out from anyhow? Anyways, hi, welcome to the team, you still haven’t introduced yourselves, and if you have any team name ideas it would be lovely because I am preeeeeeetty sure we can’t go by Floaters since we’re going interdepartmental. There was also something the Floating Hynacinth said about that but I forget what. Might have to do with morale.”
“Mace-space!” Kayleigh explained brightly. Salamander sighed.
“Hi, I’m Salamander, this is my partner Kayleigh, both Bad Slash.”
“That’s a silly team name, Sal,” Kayleigh cut in. “Maybe something more like... Team Mace!”
“And she has a thing about her mace,” Salamander added. There was a crash as said weapon was dropped onto the table. “Yeah, that mace. Just ignore it and it’ll go away.”
“Ah.” Library’s gaze flicked down to the mace for a moment, and then returned to looking at Salamander and Kayleigh. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Calpurnia Library. July and I are in Floaters.”
“I am not sure about Team Mace,” July said, crinkling her face. ”It might as well be Team Mace To The Face.”
“A little clunky, innit?” Kat asked. ”Need something classy. Well. Classy might actually be a stretch. Um. Team Unreasonable?”
“Ooh!” exclaimed Kayleigh. “Unreasonable is my middle name!”
“Sadly, it actually is,” Sal muttered. “Deed poll.”
“Hm.” July looked conflicted. “I can’t come up with any reasons against using it besides that it’s being used as someone’s middle name.”
“Favoritism,” Shy supplied. “If we name the team after only one sixth, what message does that send?”
“Oh, that’s okay, I was getting bored with the name anyway,” Kayleigh supplied. “I’m thinking maybe Unnatural next...”
“Team Buggerall,” July muttered, mostly under her breath. Salamander winced.
“I’d rather not,” he said, but didn’t elaborate.
“Oh, right, Bad Slash,” she responded. “Any other ideas right now for names? Anyone?”
Salamander avoided her gaze. Kayleigh was busy twirling her mace between her hands (and ripping up the surface of the table).
Shy took two steps closer to Kat, who responded by backing off a few more paces and making a strangled sort of disapproving noise that might once have been ‘go away.’ “No, that won’t work either,” Shy said with a frown. “I’m out, unless the lot of you like irrational numbers.”
“Irrational was my middle name three weeks ago,” Kayleigh put in, straightening up and putting the mace behind her back, where it vanished. “So, is everything settled? Only I have to go and see a man about two dogs, a horse, a rocket launcher and five hundred pounds of explosive.”
“I would hope that they aren’t intended to go altogether.” Library’s eyes narrowed, focus on Kayleigh. “Explosions might be humorous and spectacular, but involving animals is simply wretched.”
July stepped away from Library.
“As if I would ever blow up an animal!” Kayleigh protested. “The animals are for carrying the stuff. And tracking. Obviously the explosives are for the mountain, when I get to the mountain.”
“...what mountain?” Kat asked, sounding very much like she didn’t actually want to know.
“The mountain the goddess is hiding under, of course,” Kayleigh failed to explain.
Kat opened her mouth. Closed it. Finally, she simply took two larger steps in the away direction and sat down at a different table. “Just... find me when we’re up?” she asked, borderline plaintive.
“Can do,” Shy agreed, making what should have been amiable closer to ominous.
“That sounds like a good idea, I would think. It also gives July time to draw up the table for the matches. I’m sure we’ll have a name ready before we actually have our first match,” Library said.
“Happy nod! Come along, Sal,” Kayleigh said, standing up. Salamander rose with her.
“I don’t really know what I’ve gotten myself into,” he said, nodding in the direction of the table, “but I guess we’ll be meeting you again soon. Yay?” And the Slashers departed.
“Wonderful. Now. Excuse me.” Shy glanced down at her forgotten food, over at Kat, then picked her food up and moved two tables over. She settled down there, as if the interruption had been completely forgotten.
“That went well,” July said, as the two Floaters began to make their way out of the cafeteria. She sounded overly pleased with herself.
“You were being rude to someone with a mace who was very interested in putting it to use, July.”
“So?” July shrugged. “I was mostly sure she’d not actually use it on me.”
July’s only response as a widely cracked grin.
Library sighed as they walked back to their RC.