Vacation Request

Author’s note: set in Mantic Games’ Dreadball universe. Someone is stealing players’ bodies from the Hereward League’s teams before they can be revived. Play-by-play man Jason Barker, and colour commentator and retired Orx Guard Vish, get involved when injured up-and-coming Asgard Valkyries’ Striker Freya Sigurdsdottir disappears between the stadium and the hospital.

Jason was never averse to taking advantage of his broadcast partner’s appearance. It was still, he reflected with amusement, a very quick way of jumping a line. This time was no exception: the sight of the Orc and his gruff “Vish wonder if this right queue for comms terminal?” worked like a charm.

Vish was an interesting contradiction: some aspiring Dreadball promoter had decided to gene-engineer some Orx for genius-level smarts, and Vish was one of the rare cases in which this had (mostly) stuck. He’d been the Fornoth Bashers’ star Guard and on-field captain for several seasons, until the huge Teraton, Dozer, had slammed him three times in rapid succession during an exhibition game. The medics had made it clear that one more blow to the head was likely to reduce him to a mental state that would make the average member of his race look gifted: as it was, he was prone to forget the rules of grammar, pronouns and the verb ‘to be’, although Jason still wasn’t sure he didn’t sometimes do it just for effect. Either way, he still possessed a surprisingly dry sense of humour, and the tri-vid viewers around the League loved him.

Speaking of which – Jason slid into the comms booth, keyed the address that would link him to his boss, and waited.

“You sure this smart idea, Jase?” rumbled Vish from over his shoulder.

“No,” Jason admitted. “But something stinks around here, and I can’t put my finger on it.”

“It not Vish. Vish shower last week.”

“Oh, very funny, big guy.” He scratched his head. “You know, this wouldn’t have worked in a Champions League game.”

“Mmm?” Vish frowned, which did nothing to ease the nerves of the folks queuing outside the booth.

“Can’t pull this scam in one of the big stadiums with onsite revival. Too hard to switch bodies.”

The screen flickered into life, the face of Alison Watts, head of Bifrost Tri-Vid. “Jason? This is a surprise.”

“Uh. Yeah. Hi, Alison.” He winced as his usual eloquence deserted him. “I.,.. uh. We – Vish and I – need to use up some of our outstanding vacation.”

He watched as her hands moved, calling up calendars. “I’m sure that won’t be a problem. After the end of the season?”

“Uh. No. We’re still due almost all of last year’s, so – um. Now. Starting today. For at least a week.”

She blinked, “You can’t do that. Certainly not both of you. The playoffs start in three days, and I’d need time to -”

The screen dissolved in static. He swore, hit a couple of keys in frustration. “Damnit!”

“Vish sorry.” The Orc emerged from behind the console, holding a frayed cable and displaying a lot of teeth in a very disconcerting smile at the queue outside. “Technical problem. Not sure Vish can fix.”

“You did that on purpose.”

It never ceased to amaze him how the big Orc could look that innocent. “Vish trying to help. Besides, flight leaving in fifteen.”