They Think it's All Over: Part Six
“What experience do you have?” Beastbanks asked from behind the makeshift desk.
The rainbow Ogrin shuffled slightly in the mud in front of him, “None really, sir, just the odd kick about in the street with the local kids.”
“But you feel you have talent?” the zombie Kacheek pressed.
“Not really, sir,” the Ogrin admitted. “I only came along today because Mr. Jennings told me to.”
Beastbanks shot a sideways glance at Jennings, who was sat next to him.
“Oh he did, did he?”
Jennings smiled. “If you can scout for potential talent, Mr. Beastbanks, then so can I.”
Beastbanks narrowed his eyes slightly, before turning back to the front with a sceptical look.
“Alright... Wayne Hardtack, was it? Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Beastbanks nodded to Mr. Black, who was stood nearby with an inflatable Yooyu substitute. Just as he had done for the countless other hopefuls before, the Grarrl launched the ball with some force towards the Ogrin, with a deliberately difficult curve.
Wayne leapt in the air, effortlessly catching the ball, even without a Yooyuball sling. This seemed to gain the attention of Beastbanks, who had been staring into space.
“Good catch,” he said, sitting up straighter. “Right, now, if you’d like to shoot from where you’re standing.”
Beastbanks gestured to the homemade goal that had been set up on the far wall of the construction yard. Though Beastbanks did not say, it had been specifically measured to be the equivalent of shooting from the half way line.
Wayne merely nodded obediently, throwing the ball between his arms before finally slamming it with his palm as he spun. The ball was sent flying across the yard, and sailed directly into the goal.
Beastbanks shared an amused smirk with Jennings.
“Right,” the Kacheek said. “Now I’d like you to run from where you are to the wall, and back, as quickly as possible.”
He took out a small pocket watch and added, “Go.”
Wayne shot off towards the wall. When he returned, Beastbanks pressed the stop button and smiled happily.
“That’ll do nicely,” he said, mostly to himself. “I think we’ve got ourselves a keeper, Jennings.”
Jennings frowned. “A goalkeeper?”
It was Beastbanks’s turn to frown. “No, as in someone we should keep – he’ll be a forward.”
Jennings nodded and smiled. “Mr. Hardtack, congratulations.”
The Ogrin brightened. “I’ve done well?”
“Exceptionally,” Jennings replied. “You are to be our star forward – poster boy for the slums.”
“Oh,” Wayne replied, slightly missing the importance of the job he had been offered. “Good.”
As Mr. Black led Wayne out, Beastbanks turned to Jennings.
“He’s quick,” the Kacheek said. “And accurate as well. Just what we need. Harry will clear the way and he’ll follow behind with the Yooyu, pop out at the last minute, and send the Yooyu home. What we need now is another defender with a good arm, someone who can get the Yooyu up to Wayne quickly.”
“I’m sure, out of the entire population of the city, we will be able to find someone,” Jennings replied confidently.
It was several hours of applicants later when such a person finally appeared.
“My name is Biggsby Claremont,” the royal Eyrie stated, as if the name should ring a bell. “Star bowler on Viscount Hatterly’s cricket team in the Hills.”
“I know him well,” Jennings lied, being only vaguely acquainted with the Viscount.
“Normally, of course, Yooyuball would not interest me in the slightest,” Biggsby added. “But Mother is keen that I broaden my sporting horizons – and seems to be under the impression that the Altador Cup would be the perfect time for her to socialise abroad.”
Jennings smiled but said nothing. Beastbanks resisted turning up his nose at the young Eyrie who all but bled money.
“You said star bowler,” Beastbanks said. “You have a strong arm?”
“If one cares for such coarse descriptions,” Biggsby replied.
“One does,” Beastbanks replied flatly. “Mr. Black here is going to throw you the ball; I want you to get it as far down the opposite end of this yard as you can.”
Biggsby nodded as if it was a trial he was far beyond, but obliged politely all the same. Beastbanks was surprised by the distance the fake Yooyu covered.
“Very good,” Beastbanks admitted, having hoped that the Eyrie would have come up short. “Mr. Black, if you could head down to the other end, we’d like you to pass it to him.”
The Grarrl nodded, and once he was in position, Biggsby delivered a perfect pass that covered most of the length of a Yooyuball field.
Beastbanks and Jennings exchanged a glance.
“Very good, Mr. Claremont,” Jennings announced. “If your colleagues on the cricket team can spare you, we would be delighted to offer you the position of defender on the Neopia Central team.”
“Mother shall be pleased,” Biggsby replied. “Though of course I shall require adequate lodgings should this team ever reach Altador. I have heard alarming rumours about the quality of rooms given to other teams; they appear to be quite substandard.”
“I can assure you, if the world has not ended by then, it will be only the finest for our team,” Jennings told him pleasantly.
“Excuse me?” a voice from the yard’s entrance called.
A white Xweetok was heading across to them, getting a lot of glares from the hopefuls she had cut in front of.
“Are you Biggsby Claremont?” she asked as she approached.
“Yes,” Biggsby said curtly, taking in the Xweetok’s simple clothes and deciding she was not worthy of further conversation.
“Master Shin sent me, sir,” she explained. “Your trousers have been mended.”
She held out the mended white trousers, bowing towards the Eyrie. Biggsby took them and examined them critically.
“Hmm, the Viscount was not mistaken about the quality of your Master’s work,” he considered. “These are most satisfactory, tell your Master that he may expect more of my custom in the future.”
The Xweetok smiled and bowed once more, before turning to leave. Voices from the yard’s entrance reached the ears of Mr. Jennings.
“Here! She’s pushed in! And she’s getting an interview! She’s stealing our jobs! Good for nothing immigrant!”
A tin can was in the air before the complaint ended, sailing straight for the Xweetok’s head. The girl reacted with reflexes that most would be unable to muster, catching the can in the air before it hit her face.
She didn’t reply to those who had thrown it, simply dropping the can and continuing on her way.
Jennings meanwhile exchanged a brief but significant glance with Beastbanks.
“Thank you, that will be all, Mr. Claremont,” Jennings said quickly, before calling after the girl.
“Excuse me!?” he shouted. “May we talk to you for a moment?”
The girl nodded obediently, walking back to the table but noticeably ignoring the Krawk’s gaze.
“That was quite a catch, girl,” Beastbanks said. “What’s your name?”
“Hoshi, sir,” the Xweetok answered politely. “Daughter of Master Shin, a skilled tailor in Little Shenkuu.”
“You are his apprentice?” Jennings asked.
Hoshi nodded, again avoiding looking at Jennings.
“We have a need for a goalkeeper on the team we are putting together, Hoshi,” Jennings added. “With reflexes like yours, we could use you.”
“Thank you,” Hoshi said, looking at Jennings for the briefest of moments. “But I must decline.”
She bowed and left.
Jennings raised an eyebrow. “That was unexpected.”
“She’d be perfect,” Beastbanks said. “Small, perhaps, but quick.”
“Then we shall get her.” Jennings smiled.
The rest of the tryouts were less than impressive, and as the sun began to set Beastbanks left the yard to return to his Docklands home. Jennings and Black remained, awaiting their next guest.
He arrived just after sunset, shuffling slightly – more out of nervousness than the curse which affected his body.
“Mr. Oldnose,” Jennings greeted the zombie Meerca. “I’m glad you could meet us, I understand your schedule is quite busy.”
“Remodelling Area 26 is taking longer than I thought it would, sir,” Oldnose admitted.
He was Thaddeus Oldnose, the head architect of Jennings Industries, and the man responsible for the construction of the Jennings tower.
“Well, I should like for you to put that particular project on hold for now,” Jennings instructed. “The world may be ending soon, so it can wait. I would like you to focus on something else.”
“And what is that, sir?” Oldnose asked.
“We are in need of a Yooyuball Stadium, Mr. Oldnose,” Jennings explained. “Nothing fancy, as we need a speedy completion, as I’m sure you understand. Just enough to do the job and seat a reasonable amount of spectators.”
Oldnose nodded. “I think I can do that, sir. I assume you want it completing by the time the... bomb goes off?”
“Yes, indeed, the sooner the better. The Altador Team is due to play our boys on the morning of the due date, as it were.”
“We may need to make savings on materials to get it done in time, sir,” Oldnose admitted. “Temporary structures would be easier to erect.”
Jennings nodded. “That will be satisfactory. If we survive the day, we can replace it with something better. If we do not survive the day, well, it should hardly matter what the stadium is built of, as it will have been atomised.”
“Do you have a site in mind, sir?” Oldnose asked.
Jennings smiled, “Why yes, I do as a matter of fact. You’re standing in it.”
Oldnose turned on the spot, taking in the construction yard they were standing in.
“The dimensions should be within acceptable ranges,” Jennings added.
That wasn’t all, either. Jennings had deliberately picked the spot; it was directly in the shadow of his tower, making him an imposing presence on the Yooyuball field. He hoped the sight would perturb any visitors from Altador.
“Yes, yes, I think I can do it, sir.” Oldnose nodded. “I shall get to work first thing in the morning, sir.”
“Thank you, Mr. Oldnose,” Jennings replied. “That will be all.”
The Meerca left Jennings and Black alone.
“Will there be anything else tonight, sir?” Black asked.
“No, Mr. Black,” Jennings considered. “Nothing tonight. But we shall have an early start tomorrow morning. We will need to pay a visit to Little Shenkuu.”
To be continued...