"We have a Quidditch league?" asked an agent with a potted cactus on his flash patch.
"What does 'Australian Indoors Rules' mean?" asked a blonde woman from Floaters.
"Where the hell did this message board come from?" demanded a member of Maintenance.
"Oh, sweet Eru," commented a nurse wearing a green armband. "Not again."
Behind them all, a short man with a topknot and blindness-inducing taste in clothing stood on his tiptoes, trying to see what the fuss was about.
"Excuse me," he said in a high, childlike voice. "If I could just... Can I please... Did you drop... Nevermind."
He wriggled his way through the crowd, squeezing between people and, once, ducking through the legs of an especially tall individual. When he finally reached the message board at the front of the group he found a flyer advertising the All Headquarters Australian Indoor Rules Quiddich League.
I've always wanted to play Quidditch, I think, and I might have been to Australia that one time. Or was it Austria? Austin? He stared off into space as his internal monologue ran its course. When, eventually, he noticed the flyer again he exclaimed, "I should start a team!" He pulled a notepad out of one of his many pockets and a red pen out of his topknot. Supplies in hand, he turned to run off and find some teammates.
Decima was trying to relax in her RC. She'd been having a rough time of it, lately. Right now she just wanted to lose herself in a book and forget about therapy, idiot civilians, and prudes. Well... maybe not the prude. He was kind of fun to mess with.
She selected the first volume of The Deathgate Cycle from the shelf above her console and sat down on her bunk. Rockheart, the mini-Aragog, was replacing the strings on his guitar-shaped web, plucking each one to make sure it had the correct pitch. Everything seemed to be going well for-
Decima chided herself as she went to the door. She should have known better than to try and relax. At least this time they knocked, instead of barging in when she was just out of her shower.
She opened the door. In the corridor outside of her RC was, what appeared to be, a child in a garish outfit of clashing colors. He had a smile on his face and a notepad in his hand.
"Hi," he said. "I'm Earwig Slugthrower and I wanted to know if you would be interested in joining my Something Something Australian Quidditch thing!"
Decima was taken aback by the onslaught of chipperness. She was fairly certain that was a warning sign around here. She snapped to attention when she heard mention of Quidditch. "Did you say Quidditch? Do you play?"
"No! But I'm making a team so I can play! You should sign up."
"You know what, little guy? I never got to play, either. The Quidditch pitch wasn't used for any actual Quidditch in the fic I came from. So, I'm in. How many do we have so far?"
"Counting you..." he consulted his notepad. "One!"
"One? Aren't you playing, too?"
It took Earwig a moment to process the question. "I am! That's two! Now we just need four more."
"Six players? Quidditch has seven positions." She shrugged. "Must be an Australian variant." Decima tried to think of who might be interested in team sports. Mirrad didn't seem the type, and it might be weird playing on a team with her therapist. She had no idea where Phobos had gotten off to. Then she had an idea. "Come with me," she said. "I know a guy."
It was Decima's turn to knock on a door. She was not quite as enthusiastic about it as Earwig had been. She didn't want to scare away a potential teammate. The door slid open to reveal the blue centaur thing that Decima had met in the hallway that one time.
<Hello. Can I help you?> Agent Ilraen asked in their heads.
"Hello," said Decima. "Is the Prude available?"
<I am going to assume you are looking for Nume. He's combing his hair at the moment. If you would like to come in and wait, I'm sure he will not be long.>
"Awesome," said Decima as she entered the RC. "Also, you might want to watch out for my friend here." She indicated Earwig, who had entered behind her and was now holding one of the tools that had been on Ilraen's workbench.
<I will thank you to return that, please. It is carefully calibrated for work on CADs.>
"What, this?" asked Earwig, looking at the tool. "You must have dropped it. You should really be more careful. This is a carefully calibered thingummy, after all." He placed the tool back on the bench.
<Yes, I am aware.> He turned back to Decima. <Have we met? I seem to recall seeing you before.>
"Yeah, we met outside a closet once. I was on your partner."
Realization dawned on Ilraen's face. <You're his... is friend the right word?>
"It most certainly is not," said a masculine voice from the back of the RC. Nume had finally emerged from the bathroom, every hair firmly in its place. "We were temporary partners and that was all."
"Aw, Nume. How can you say that after all we've been through?" asked Decima, her voice full of feigned hurt. "I can see you still haven't taken the stick out of your ass. You know, I could help with that."
Nume wasn't having any of this. "Why are you even here? I don't want anything to do with Bad Slash."
"Oh! I can answer that one!" exclaimed Earwig while he waved the flyer above his head. "We came to ask you to join our Quidditch team!"
Nume took a moment to process what the Kender had said. "Do I look like the kind of person who thinks getting himself killed for arbitrary points is a good idea?"
Earwig thought about it. "Yes?"
Nume snatched the flyer from Earwig's hand to stop him from waving it around any more. "Well, I'm not. You can look somewhere else for idiots to join your team." He handed the flyer to Ilraen, who was closer to the trash can.
Ilraen looked down at the piece of paper in his hand. He had heard of Australian Indoor Rules Quiddich. <I'll join your team.>
"Like hell you will," said Nume.
<With all due respect, Nume, I do not require your permission. This will be a perfect opportunity to train my reflexes and learn to keep cool under pressure. It will be good for me.>
"You know what? Fine. Just don't come crying to me when you put out an eye-stalk." He turned to Decima and Earwig. "And you two..."
Earwig had found some fresh popcorn in one of his pockets and they were happily munching away while they watched the drama unfold. When Nume looked at them Decima froze with a handful of popcorn halfway to her mouth. Earwig continued eating.
"Get out of my response center."
Decima stuffed the rest of the popcorn in her mouth and dragged Earwig out the door. Ilraen followed them.
<If we still need more players, I believe that Agents Barid and Brightbeard in Response Center 1986 would be interested. They are exactly the type that we would want for a sport like this.> He handed the flyer back to Earwig. <I will be there when it is time for the game to start. I have some preparations to make before then.>
"Thanks, Ilraen," said Decima. "Tell Nume to give me a call if he ever wants to have any more adventures with a hot redhead."
Ilraen looked confused. <Someday, I will have to ask you what your relationship with Nume actually is.>
RC 1986 was more crowded than usual. Brightbeard was teaching a large, green man the basics of smelting at his small forge, while Barid entertained a small creature on his rush strewn side of the RC.
"So I says, dat ain't no Elekk," said the Troll. He waited a breath before delivering the punchline. "Dat's da Rogue!" He burst out laughing.
Durotar, a mini from the Warcraft universe, chuckled and shook his head. "I swear, whoever thought a Tauren would make a good Rogue was smoking something. Now, I'm sorry to say this, but I think Kur'nak and I should be headed back to Postal. We have some work to do."
"Dat's too bad, mon. We like havin' da big green guy around."
"Aye, we do." interrupted Brightbeard. The lesson had ended for the day and he was now cleaning up the supplies. "Kur'nak will make a fine blacksmith one day, if he keeps working hard."
"I'm learnin' smeltin', papa," said the Orc, with a grin. He carried one of the first bars he had smelted. It was misshapen, but he was still very proud.
"That's great, big guy," replied the mini. "You can come back real soon and learn some more, but right now we need to get going, okay?"
"Yup! Bye Brightbeard. Bye Barid. We'll see ya later."
When Durotar and Kur'nak opened the door to leave, they came face to face with Decima and Earwig. Earwig's hand was poised to start knocking.
"Oh, hello there," began the Kender. "We were in the neighborhood and thought we'd stop in to see our old friends Barid and Brightbeard. You wouldn't happen to be them, would you?"
"No," replied the mini. "They are inside."
"Thanks! Oh, also, would you be interested in joining our Austrian Headquarters Quidditch team? We need more players."
"What's this about a team?" asked Brightbeard, who had overheard the conversation.
"We need three more players for our Indoor Headquarters Austin Rules team," replied the Kender. He held out the flyer for them to see.
"I dinnae see any reason not tae join. I could use the exercise. Barid, are ye up fer it?"
"I'm bored," replied the Troll, from his hammock. "Let's do dis."
"We just need one more!" exclaimed the Kender. He turned to Kur'nak. "How about you?"
"I wanna play, papa. Can I?" begged the Orc.
"I guess so," said the mini. "As long as you listen to Brightbeard and behave yourself."
"Yay!" exclaimed the green giant.