“I... I don’t know.” Cadmar replied. “I doubt they’ll get bored either... Don’t worry, we’ll just find a room with some garlic in it and lock the door.”
“What was that, Maria?” Miah said aloud, faux curiously. “I think they said we should buy some lockpicks.”
“I heard someone asking for another broken leg. Weird, that...”
Cadmar frowned, rolling her eyes and casually stretching her arms back, making a rude gesture behind her. “Ungh... What I wouldn’t give for SOMETHING that would get them to go away.”
The phrase ‘ask and ye shall receive’ could very well pertain to this situation, though ‘desperation only attracts vultures’ would be much more accurate. A poster drew Cadmar and Cali’s attention, which in turn caught Maria and Miah’s interest.
The poster was memorable, although more so in a ‘what in the world am I looking at’ way rather than for its aesthetic qualities. The bulk of the poster was dominated by a pastiche of the pointing Uncle Sam illustration, with Sam himself replaced by a woman with long red hair, sunglasses, and a DMS flash patch. She was still wearing the Uncle Sam top hat, however. There was a toothy grin on her face and a battered, blood-stained baseball bat in her non-pointing hand.
I WANT YOU, the text underneath the picture screamed, FOR TEAM BOTB. Details on where to go were placed at the bottom of the poster in a much more restrained font.
Cadmar leaned closer to the bottom of the poster and squinted, reading the address. “... Hunh. Not sure what the heck this is all about, but it looks like an acceptable escape. Let’s go check it out!” She grabbed a tighter hold on Cali’s hand and began running off, smiling.
“H-hey!” Cali shouted in surprise, almost stumbling as he tried to stay on his feet behind Cadmar.
Maria sighed and shook her head. “I COULD catch them... But I think we’ve bugged them enough for today.”
Miah smirked. “I doubt she’ll get Cali to actually sign up for this,” she said, indicating the poster.
Maria looked at it warily. “I dunno, seems right up Cadmar’s alley. She’ll probably try to get him in somehow...”
* * *
Doc continued reading as the door burst open, but had to stop when a large sheet of paper was dropped over his head. The letters I WANT YOU were all he could see.
“Trying to tell me something, Vania?”
The poster was ripped away, and Vania unfurled it to show Doc the entire thing. “It’s a game! I remember hearing about it way back when. It looks like it’s starting up again!”
Doc rolled to the edge of the bunk bed to look and immediately saw the blood-stained bat being held by the woman in the poster. “Game as in sport, or game as in... Fight Club?”
Doc stared at her. “I don’t think that sounds like my kind of thing.”
Vania reached between the Console and bookshelf and fished out her baseball bat. “That is because you are complacent and afraid of adventure. I, on the other hand, do not back down from a fight or a fun day.”
She strode back to the door, tossing the poster back over Doc’s eyes as she left the RC.
* * *
The directions on the recruitment poster led to Response Center 64, which was tucked away in the Video Game wing of the Department of Mary Sues. Several of the Agent Sam posters had been pasted up around the open door, making a rather unnerving wallpaper.
Cadmar rubbed her chin. “Reminds me of a bunch of wanted signs around the local Scum’N’Villiany joint. “
Mark squinted at the posters. “Why did you bring me here again?”
“Because we don’t do enough stuff together, as good partners should.”
Cali fiddled with his vest. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Cadmar grinned. “Nope! Not at all!” With that, she opened the door, and linked her arms with both of her companions, pulling them in with her.
The response center was, for the most part, typical of a DMS agent pair. Every piece of furniture had a battered and worn look to it, apart from the big-screen television dominating one entire wall. The walls were hung with battle-scarred trophies from scuffles with Sues and Stus. A few stray weapons had been stuffed into out of the way cubbyholes. A mini-Tank and a mini-Colossus peered at the new arrivals from a vantage point atop a high shelf.
What made this particular RC stand out was the stack of equipment roughly arranged in the center of the room. It appeared to be mostly baseball bats along with a motley collection of protective gear. ‘Motley’ was a very accurate term in this case; there were chunks of plate mail, modern kevlar vests, and American football helmets amongst other bits and pieces.
Vania turned to the door as the trio of agents entered. “Hey, there! More new faces!”
Cadmar grinned again and pulled Cali and Mark the rest of the way into the RC. “Hi! I’m Cadmar!” she said, shaking Vania’s hand. “This is Mark--” Mark did not offer his hand-- “and Cali!” She gave Cali a nudge and a ‘go on’ smile, which she maintained until he reluctantly shook hands with Vania.
“Great to meet you!” Vania replied. “I’m Vania and this--” she gestured to the stack of equipment, “-- is Rachel.”
Mark arched one curious eyebrow as he leaned over to examine the heap. “So...” he said. “So you got partnered with a row of trashy sports equipment?”
A fist suddenly shot out of the top of the pile, causing all three of the new arrivals to leap backwards. It was shortly followed by an arm, then a whole agent. She looked to be in her late teens, with her hair done up in twin ponytails. She was wearing a pink-and-black tee shirt bearing the DMS flash patch along with a pair of tie-dye jeans and sandals.
“Hi there!” she exclaimed, as if there was nothing odd about her method of arrival. “I’m Rachel Calendar! It’s so awesome to meet you all! This whole thing is going to be so fricking cool!” She turned slightly in order to hand a baseball bat to Vania. “Here. I think this one might be more to your liking. It’s got a good weight balance to it.”
Vania looked between the new bat and her regular one. She shrugged and leaned the old bat against the rack. “I guess using a video game weapon might be a bit cheap in a contest like this, anyway.” She gave her new bat a few test swings facing the wall.
Rachel turned her attention back to the three newcomers. “So you’re looking to join Team Best of the Best, am I right?”
“You bet we are!” Cadmar exclaimed. She was hopping from foot to foot on the spot with excitement, sporting a big grin.
Cali placed a restraining hand on her shoulder. “Uh, before we do anything, we should probably know what exactly we’re signing up for,” he said. “The poster was a bit light on what exactly is going on.”
Vania snickered as she gave her new bat another swing. “You didn’t even know what this was about, and you came anyway?”
“Trust me, I’ve been wondering about that myself for some time now,” Cali replied in a tone that made most deserts seem like hot tubs, which made Cadmar roll her eyes.
“No problem!” Rachel chirped. “I can explain everything!” She looked back at the pile of equipment - which, thanks to her dynamic entrance, was much less imposing than it had been before - and began attempting to put it back together. “We’re participating in the All-HQ Australian Indoor-Rules Quiddich League. Teams of six agents each will be pitted against each other for fame, glory, and I’m almost pretty sure there’s a trophy too.”
“How does one play?” Mark asked, picking up a bat tentatively. “Are we expected to provide our own flying broomsticks?”
“Oh, it’s nothing like that! It’s actually pretty simple. Two teams go into a darkened hallway with bats and a ball that lights up. Then, they beat each other up. Last team standing wins!” Rachel turned away from the pile and gave everyone a huge, shiny-toothed grin.
The three agents stared owlishly at the girl for a few silent moment. “That,” Cadmar eventually said. “Sounds. Freakin’ AWESOME!” She began hopping up and down even more forcefully than before, grinning like a loon. Mark raised one hand to his face and shook his head, while Cali gulped.
“I know, right?!” Rachel exclaimed.
“Yeah, getting my teeth knocked out by other agents sounds like a much better time then being stalked,” Cali replied. “I can hardly wait.”
“If you can’t take a few bruises in the name of fun,” said a new voice from behind them, “then you are definitely in the wrong line of work.”
Everyone turned around. The woman from the poster was standing in the response center doorway, only sans bloody bat and star-spangled topper. She was holding a six-pack of energy drinks and two bags of chips.
Rachel squeezed past the other agents. “Hey boss! I was just explaining to Cadmar - that’s her with the shark teeth - and Mark - that’s him with the scarf - and Cali - that’s him with--”
“I think I can figure it out, rookie, thanks.” She handed Rachel the snacks before eyeing the new arrivals. “I’m Laura Dukes, Captain of Team BOTB, and I expect to see a little discipline from you all, am I clear?”
Vania stood at attention, bat tucked under her arm, and gave a salute. “Aye-aye, captain!”
Cadmar, Cali, and Mark exchanged a quick glance. “Is she for real?” Cali whispered.
“I dunno, but I like her!” Cadmar replied.
Suddenly Laura’s face was only a few inches away from Cali’s nose. “Oh, I’m for real!” she barked, causing the other agent to flinch away. “I’m the realest thing you will ever know! I am a lead weight on the rubber sheet of reality!”
“She is Darkwiiiiing Duck!”
Laura looked around at the grinning Rachel. “Go put those in the kitchenette, smart-mouth. And get my helmet while you’re there!”
“Okay!” Rachel skipped around the agents and the heap of gear back towards the rear of the RC.
Laura straightened up, a stern look on her face. “You three want to join this team?”
Cadmar came to attention and snapped off a salute before Mark and Cali could raise their own protests. “Hell yeah!” she exclaimed.
“I can’t HEAR YOU!”
The redhead turned towards Mark and Cali. “And what about you two? Are you both willing to put your butts on the line and knock some heads, all in the name of being kick ass?”
Cali opened his mouth, but paused at the sight of Cadmar standing behind Laura. She was clasping her hands together and mouthing the word ‘please’ over and over again.
“Hell yeah,” he sighed, causing Cadmar to smile at him.
“Don’t worry! I’ll make sure you won’t regret it!”
Seeing the last sane man give in, Mark’s shoulders slumped. There was no pointing in causing a fuss without any support. “I suppose so.”
“I can’t HEAR YOU!” Laura bellowed.
“I SUPPOSE SO!”
“Good enough.” She patted Mark on the shoulder in a friendly manner. “Chin up, Mack. It’s gonna be a blast. Just you wait and see.”
Mark gave Laura a despairing look. “My name is Mark...”
“Oh. Sorry about that.”
“Heads up, boss!” Rachel called from the back of the RC. A steel World War II helmet with three silver stars on the front arched over the mound of equipment. Laura caught it and placed it on her head.
“Okay then!” the redhead exclaimed. She grinned just like her poster likeness. “Grab a bat, some pads, and snacks! We’ve got a lot of training to go through.”