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April is the Cruellest Month

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Bonham walked into the meeting room, shuffling a thick stack of papers. "Right-o. Now that you're all here, let's start our briefing. Our monthly challenge is—"

"CHALLENGES ARE EXPENSIVE!"

Bonham closed his eyes briefly. "James. We've been doing this every single month since 2019. And every single bloody month you've said that challenges are expensive. How is it even possible for a challenge to be expensive?  Our job is basically challenges. It's a challenging job. That entails challenging tasks." Bonham narrowed his eyes. "Such as staff management."

Rudy raised a hand and piped up. "Actually. These prompt challenges are kinda expensive. We work to get the job done, but those fans don't pay us."

"NATO doesn't pay us half the time, either. Or at least, the Boss refuses payment." Bonham made air quotes, and gave a fairly good imitation of Dorian's drawl. " 'This way Klaus owes us a favour, and one day I'll be able to cash it'."

"HA! BUT HE NEVER CASHES IT. Not that 'it'. Another 'it'." James covered his face with his hands. "So many 'it', so little cashing."

Jones pushed James back into his seat. "Rudy's wrong, James. The fans pay us."

"He's not wrong. But it doesn't count, because they're paying in kind. In writing. Or in audio and video, even." Bonham shuddered.

"IT'S WORSE! It's so much worse I have to put it in the 'debit' row twice." James hiccupped. "They should pay us for issuing the challenge, and for what they do with it. Dearly."

"There, there." Bonham handed James a glass of water from the tray on the meeting table. "Look, this challenge is different. It's better. You'll like it."

"LIKING IS EXPENSIVE."

"James. I'm officially ignoring you, and starting the briefing over. Properly this time." Bonham banged his papers on the table. "Our challenge is 'works in progress'."

Jones arched an eyebrow. "But their works are in progress half the time. The challenge is open-ended, so they start stuff and never finish it."

"Exactly. This challenge is giving them a second chance. They can dust off their works in progress and finish them." Bonham waved a sheet of paper. "And there's a twist. This month, we're teaming up with—"

"NOOO! Not the machine maniac!"

"Not with him! If you let me finish my sentences, you'd suffer much less—"

"SUFFERING IS GOOD!"

Rudy raised a hand again. "Bonham, you said you were ignoring him?"

"Yes. You're right. Thank you. Now, as I was saying: this month we're teaming up with the Rogue Gallery. To be precise, the Crack the WIP! gang."

"I thought the Boss had grown tired of whips?" Asked Davies.

"WHIPS ARE EXPENSIVE! BUT WHIPS ARE GOOD BECAUSE SUFFERING IS GOOD!"

"It's not 'whip' with an H. It's WIP. W, I, P. Work in progress."

"I'd never heard of them."

Bonham made an expansive gesture. "Fandom's being mainstreamed. It's become huge. Nobody can know everything there is."

"So, back to our challenge." Prompted Jones.

"Yes. We're issuing the same challenge as the Crack the WIP! gang. And we have a deadline. Their deadline. Which is 1 April."

"APRIL IS THE CRUELLEST MONTH!"

The whole Eroica gang stared at James. Who fidgeted and went red. "T.S. Eliot worked in a bank. He was an accountant."

"I'm ignoring you really hard. Even if you managed to surprise us. Again."

Taylor waved his hand. "But this is February. And we issue monthly challenges. The next challenge should be in March, not April."

Bonham nodded. "Correct. But as I said, this challenge is different for two reasons: First, we issue an actual, two-month deadline; second, people can submit their work both to the group.io mailing list collection and to the Crack the WIP! one."

"Ergo, we kill two birds with a stone." Said Jones.

Walters leaned over to Taylor and chucked. "And since it's whips, it can be two dead doves."

James stood up again, eyes wide. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, then rasped. "Value for money."  And started drooling.

"Rudy? Get the eyedrops. His pupils have gone dollar-shaped again. Bloody nuisance."