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By Nicole Walsh
Ex-Grand-Master Feldon Flop paused to check his credential badge was the right way up, leaned forward and squinted into the tiny, blurry screen.
“Is that Bogroy Bolly?”
“Yes,” the young mage, on the other side of the screens, agreed. He was wringing his hands. Well, Flop assumed the gesture was hand-wringing. A splatter of red obscured the bottom half of the screen.
“From…” Flop floundered, checking papers. “Gable Towers?”
“Second-in-command, Night Shift?”
“Ah.” Bolly studied something at his feet. “Yes.”
Flop’s thin lips pressed thinner. He did not like young mages. These days it was all gyms and designer robes and fancy boots and single word answers.
“Our seer tells us you may be having some trouble over there.”
“Trouble?” Bolly cast a vague look about. Directly behind him, a woman paused to shriek and tear at her hair. There was something in her hair, gnawing through her skull.
“Ah, nope,” Bolly wavered. “Everything’s fine.”
“Looks a bit noisy. All that running about.”
Bolly turned to check the scene behind him. Civilians ran one way. Partially dressed and shabbily-armed mercs ran the other. Grey, dog-like apes bolted in both directions, gleefully lashing poisonous frog-like tongues.
“It’s a Friday night,” Bolly winced. “Gets a bit hectic.”
“That man looks like he’s being eaten.”
“Oh, ah,” Bolly moved his body to block the camera. “He’s just playing.”
Bolly winced as a plasma gun discharged directly behind him. He fingered his ear as the furious red-faced merc behind him shouted: “got that eff-er!”
“Bolly,” Flop huffed, disgusted. “If you’re having a situation…”
Behind Bolly, something spider-like danced along the roof of the lobby, dodging spells and plasma shots. It screeched, sounding like nails down a chalkboard.
“Bolly, this will be the third Hell-Breach in as many weeks.”
“Hell-Breach? What Hell-Breach?” Bolly gestured urgently. Someone in the background grabbed a pair of boots and dragged a body out of camera view. The legs trailed long ribbons of organs and gore above the hips, leaving a messy streak across the tiles.
Flop let out a long-suffering sigh.
“Bolly, my team is scrambled and ready to go.”
“No need.” Bolly edged to his left nervously.
“Heroes for Hire are the best of the best, Bolly. We can be there in seconds.”
Gore splashed Bolly like a bucket of jam. He stood firm.
“We have this under control.”
“Perhaps you’d like us to pop by and do a quick risk assessment?”
“We…” Bolly edged back from the other side. “Can’t afford an assessment, sir. Let alone an intervention.”
“Overdue bills pale in comparison to violent death,” Flop soothed.
“We really can’t…” Bolly flinched and leapt forward as something crashed down behind him. Spiked spider-like legs thrashed violently, skewing a female merc in the belly. Bolly waved his hand furiously: “get it… back. Back!”
The horror behind him, complete with limp impaled soldier, scooted inch by inch out of camera view. Flop waited patiently.
“Is that a hand on the floor behind you, Bolly?”
“Hmmm?” Bolly asked, vaguely.
“Bolly, it’s quite obvious you’re having a spot of trouble there.”
“It’s all under control.”
“Let us help, Bolly. We can have fully-qualified Heroes there in seconds.”
“It’s dead,” Bolly winced.
“We’re happy to help.”
“We can’t afford your help!” Bolly hissed.
Something grey slammed into Bolly from the side. He vanished from view. Gut curdling screams started up. A fancy boot and bare skinny leg kicked violently into the air from the bottom left of the screen. A short-haired female merc in combat fatigues stepped in, face scrunched in disgust. She fired downward twice and the screaming stopped. She fired a third time and the munching and slurping ceased.
“Er, hello?” Flop leaned forward, tapping his screen.
The woman leaned in, squinting at the logo:
“Heroes for Hire?”
The woman’s face scrunched in a frown.
“Thought we were in the shit with you?”
“Ah, no.” Flop fumbled paperwork. “On-going, productive relationship. Are you, er, Midge Bensen, third in command of Night Shift?”
The female checked the floor around her.
“Let’s call me that.”
“Bolly was filling me in on the trouble you’re having there.”
‘Midge’ scanned the area thoughtfully.
“Looks under control, sir.”
“Ah, yes, well.” Flop fumbled papers. “Let me talk you through our new ancillary service, Bio-Hazard-Cleaning-For-Hire.”
“Ah.” She scratched the back of her head with the butt of her pistol, wincing. “Sure.”
“We have a fantastic introductory deal…”