The Floaters camp were downcast. At their final team meeting for the season, a very subdued Library had shown up.

'...and so, I don't think we'll be playing the final,' she finished.

'So ... there are two Julys now?' asked Titus, looking a tad frightened.

'No,' said Library longsufferingly. 'July has run off, and her avatar, who is a different person, is sitting in my response centre tidying things. And I really ought to get back. I hope you can find some replacements.'

'So do I,' said Murtagh. 'Good thing this sport has caught on; I think we have some volunteers waiting in the wings.'

Titus consulted a piece of paper. 'You're right. Agents ... Sara Knight and Trip Tiptree are both interested in joining.'

'Well they've both been offered the chance of a lifetime, starting right now,' said Murtagh. 'Go and get them, and we'll get started.'

'Why do I have to-' Titus shut up. Murtagh was reaching for a Magnum. 'Okay, I'm off.' 
Half an hour later, the team reconvened back in Murtagh and Titus's RC. Trip Tiptree was a blue-haired Agent, short (although calling him that had left Titus with an impressive burn), and Sara was brown-haired and sensible-looking. After briefly explaining the rules ('You run around in the dark hitting a light-up ball with a bat. Least injured team wins.'), Murtagh decided they would have a practice match, and turned the lights off.



BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeep ... ep... *fizzle*

Murtagh turned the lights back on. The console was smoking, its screen smashed into a thousand pieces.

'You'll have to learn as you go. Meet us here tomorrow - Narrative Laws ought to ensure that we all turn up at the same time. Now get out; I have to call Techno-Dann and get this thing fixed.'
Meanwhile, in Trojie and Pads' RC, a similar council of war was being held between Trojie, Pads, Lux and Gypsy.

'So, no July, no Library,' said Pads, puffing away at a dogend like a drowning man at a scuba tank full of air.

'Two newbie-players are taking their place,' confirmed Trojie.

'Iiinteresting. So, who's gonna play this time round?'

'Same as last time,' said Gypsy. 'Cray's still having trouble with the stab wound in her leg; I'll make her sit out again.' The redheaded agent's expression suggested that Cray would find herself tied to a chair if she did not behave.

'Alright then, we'll all meet outside here tomorrow.'
'This place is a serious ricochet hazard,' said Gypsy critically, exploring the length of corridor that was the grand arena for today. 'Too many doorways.'

'They're all empty; these RCs were invaded by macroviruses. That's why we're here; no-one else is brave enough to come down here,' said Trojie impatiently, swinging a bat. 'Where are those Floaters?'

'Brave enough or stupid enough,' muttered Pads, throwing down and stamping out the remains of her last pre-game fag. 'You're sure there aren't any viruses left?'

'I'm sure.'

Before any further arguing could start, the Floaters traipsed round a corner, Sara looking a little wary, Trip looking irritated, and Titus looking ... scorched.

'Murtagh let you at the matches?' Pads asked.

Titus muttered something about fire magic as he gave her a look.

'So, everyone's here?' Trojie looked at her fellow players. Herself, Pads, Gypsy, Lux, Murtagh, Titus, Trip, and Sara. Everyone was there.  'Good. Now let's-'

There was a clattering noise from the other end of the corridor.

'Hang on a mo!'

Everyone turned to look, to see a small metal cart pushed towards them by someone wearing a paper bag on their head.

'What the hell?' Titus goggled.

'Oh good, you haven't started yet.'

'Who the hell are you?'

'Gilty Cin, from PPC Radio. I told Trojie I'd try and come watch the final match when we did that interview a while back.'

'Glad you came, Gilty,' Trojie said.

'But how're you going to watch the match? They kind of take place in the dark,' Sara wondered.

Gilty pulled a pair of goggles out from the below the cart. 'Night vision goggles.'

'Huh.  Say, can I bor-' Titus was prevented from finishing his question with a hard tap from Gypsy's bat.

'No cheating.'

'Okay, guys, gals and miscellaneous, let's go!' Trojie flicked the lights off as Gilty fixed the goggles round her head, over the paper bag.



'A hit, a very palpable hit'


There was a flash of orange light.

'That wasn't the ball-'

'Ow! Owowow! HOT!'

'Trip, did you set someone on fire?'

'Okay, using magic or any weapons except the bats is forbidden. Floaters team, did you not explain that to your new members?' Trojie's tone was not forgiving.

'It may have slipped our minds,' said Murtagh innocently.

'Hmph. Trip; no more magic. That goes for you too, Sara. I dunno if you've got powers or what, but bats only, alright?'

'Fine.' That sounded like Trip.

'Fine by me,' said Sara, who didn't like the idea of being on the receiving end of a fireball any more than the Bad Slashers did.

In the background, Gypsy could hear a sort of constant mumbling. She listened closer.

'...and now Agent Titus reaches forward, excellent form, good extension of those limbs, and he hits the ball towards Agent Trojanhorse, who turns as she sees the flare of the ball, good reflexes, she connects, the ball ricochets towards Agent Sara, although poor followthrough from Trojie has led to the ball having a little extra spin on it there, that's going to affect its direction and force ...' Gypsy only woke up to the fact that the commentary was going a little slower than the action when Murtagh cannoned into her in an attempt to hit the ball after Sara had smacked it. The veteran elbowed Murtagh in what she hoped, vindictively, was a good squishy vulnerable place, and smacked the ball to where her night vision suggested there was someone blonde; probably Lux.




'Watch out then!'


'Gerroff me, Lux!'

'Hmm, cuddly...'



'Sorry, was aiming for her.'

'Sure you were!'



'...and Trojie has the ball again, and sends it off towards Agent Trip...'


'...who unfortunately for his right shoulder, timed it wrong. Agent Paddlebrains has got the ball now, and unlike her Floater counterparts seems to...'


'...have a better grasp on the idea of timing.'

'We can hear you, you-' THWACK! '-ow!'


'Ack, you just ran into me, Titus!'

'Sorry, Sa-'


'...and that appears to be another minor injury for the Floaters- OW! WHO HIT THAT?'

'Sorry, Gilty.'

The Radio host picked up the ball and threw it back into play.








'Fracking hell!'

'...and Sara appears to have a nosebleed, she's on her knees trying to stem the bleeding, and here comes Titus, he's leaping gracefully like a gazelle towards the ball... oh no, he's down! Sara straightened up at entirely the wrong moment, and ...'


'Pads leaps, and misses, but comes down on Titus' knee-'


'... and she's up and moving again, but he's down for the count ...'


'The commentary is getting really a-'  THWACK! 'Augh!' There was a thunk.

'And that was Agent Murtagh, down for the count with a well aimed hit from Gypsy!'



'And for the past several minutes, the infamous Agent Luxury has been out of- ack! Nevermind, found her, Lux, maybe you should go back and join the- eek!'

'But you're so mysteriou-'

'LUX! Get back over here! We have a game to win!'



'Whew. That's better. And Lux is back in the game, making the chance for the Floaters to win even less likely-' THWACK! '-You can stop hitting the ball at me!'

The ball was flung once more back to the players.


'Agent Trip is still fighting manfully, with help from the now quite dazed-looking Agent Sara, but Agent Titus appears to be unable to walk and Agent Murtagh is still unconscious, probably going to be a trip-hazard actually, and Agent Gypsy takes the ball ...'




'And that's Sara out as well...'

'I'll get you all!' Trip snarled.





'Ooooooh... *snore*'

'Was that Trip?'

'I dunno, I hit someone low down, but it sounded like a cracked bone...'

'Any Floaters still able to hear me?' came Trojie's voice, tentatively.

'I can hear you, but I can't move,' said Titus. 'I've been out for fifteen minutes.'

'Anyone else?'

'Yes, I'll take a red one, please, and plenty of mustard!'

'I think Sara might have taken quite a <i>big</i> blow to the head ...'

'Alright, lights on, I think,' said Trojie, fumbling at the wall.

The lights went on.

Murtagh was sprawled in the middle of the floor, face down, and looked like he'd been trampled a few times, but was apparently fast asleep and even snoring a little. Titus, with a wan smile on his face, had dragged himself into one of the doorways and propped himself there, nursing a knee the size of a party balloon. Sara was with him, giggling and rocking herself back and forth. And Trip was curled up in a little ball, also snoring. There was a considerable quantity of blood drying on his face.

By contrast, the Bad Slashers were merely a tapestry of quickly coloring bruises.

In the end it was an x-ray finish (with help from Medical)with the Bad Slashers winning by three fractured skulls and a broken knee to two twisted ankles and some minor abrasions.

It was with considerable pride in her Agents that the Queen Anne's Lace handed them the hideous Urple Bat Trophy in the prize ceremony that evening, and after the victory hobble by all teams around the Cafeteria, the Wilver Crutch Award for playing on in the face of injury and certain defeat went to the Floaters.