The Jester’s Arms was a pub in Mudford. To be more specific, it was the closest pub to the Panicked Production studios, and so was a favourite watering hole of the staff there. Naturally, this led to one Nicole “Nicki” Stevens declaring it to be her ‘local’, despite it being on the wrong end of her crosstown commute. It was certainly better than the run-down hovel she knew as The Dancing Dog. It was a Friday evening, and she found herself drowning her sorrows with half a pint of slightly overpriced but rather decent ale.
It wasn’t just the close proximity to her work that Nicki liked about the Jester’s. It was one of the cleaner pubs in the city, which she found both ironic and pleasing. The Dog looked like it had never seen a duster within the last decade, by comparison. Being in one of the nicer parts of town also meant that the Jester’s was relatively arsehole-free, with a friendly ambience and relaxed atmosphere.
Of course, as noted before, it wasn’t just Nicki who worked at Panicked and drank at the Jester’s. That same Friday evening, Suzanna “Suzi” Mia Harrison entered too, ordered a pint of a certain beer which sponsored a certain web-based gameshow involving a gunge tank and sat at the same table as Nicki. “Hi Nickles,” she smiled.
“Hi Suzi. What are you up to?”
“A lot. The boss offered me a chance to either do a second series of Slop Drop, or to try something else.”
Nicki tried to feel happy for her friend and mentor, but could only manage a rather fractured smile. “That’s good! Not going to lie, I’m a bit jealous though. So, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t feel up for another series of Slop Drop. I want to try something a bit more… physical.”
Suzi nodded and took a sip of her drink. “Yeah. That new GYOB’s going down a storm, with loads of people going on it. However, it has one massive flaw in its format.”
“Knowing you, it’s that it’s presented by a middle-aged guy rather than a cutie who you’d just love to see in the gunk?” smirked Nicki.
“Hey, that middle-aged guy is Dave Benson-motherfucking-Phillips! Have some respect!”
The redhead just giggled to herself. “Then if it’s not the host, then I suppose that it’s that the gungees have to be nominated by a kid.”
“Bingo. I was thinking we could do a physical game show with messy traps and penalties and the like.”
“And by we you mean…?”
Suzi grabbed Nicki’s hands and looked into her eyes. “Nicki, do you want to present a show with me?”
The Goo Your Own Way presenter’s face turned almost as red as her hair. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather work with someone more popular?”
“Nope! You’re perfect for the format I have in mind. My on-stage persona is the kooky, funny girl who ends up getting as messy as her guests. You meanwhile are a cold, domineering and always-clean lady,” Suzi explained. “Think about it. You could be the one who tells the contestants the rules and quizzes them, while I demonstrate the games and forfeits.”
“Sounds a bit Run the Risk to me,” Nicki thought aloud, drinking some of her half. “Will I ever get messy?”
The brunette shrugged her shoulders. “Not in a regular episode, but maybe eventually.”
She could feel her skin crawling on the inside, but Nicki had a rather unreadable poker face. She felt rather blessed to have avoided getting gunged directly so far in her career, and even moreso to have had minimal second-hand mess. The truth was, as much as she loved getting other people messy, she had a bit of a phobia of being made into a public spectacle. “That’s good then.”
“I agree,” smiled Suzi, for very different reasons. “You’re the figurehead of the entire show. If you get messy too often, it stops being special.”
“You’d know all about that!”
“Damn right!” laughed the Slop Drop host, before switching topics. “So, let’s talk about the rules. We should have three teams, all pairs. Five games, and after the second and fourth we eliminate whoever’s got the least points. For the final game…” Suzi then leaned in close to Nicki’s ear and whispered something.
“That’s just sadistic!” Nicki laughed loudly. “I like that twist though. So, have you discussed it with Ivy?”
Suzi nodded. “I just needed to see if you were interested in collaborating. I’ve already passed the information onto her and Rivet.”
The ginger woman took a large swig of her drink, downing most of it in one go. She then looked at the table, thoughtfully. It all seemed too good to be true. She was going to have a chance to host alongside Suzi and really show their differences, while taking centre-stage. The possibility of getting gunged also scared her, but it had been a risk that she’d been forced to take before. Besides, the whole point of doing these hosting jobs was to try and conquer her fear of humiliation. Perhaps it was the ale, but she cracked a little smile and looked up to Suzi. “I’m in. So, are we gunging celebrities or the public?
“We’ve got two episodes planned at the moment. One of each.”
Nicki nodded understandingly. “I look forward to it. So, you and Emily…”
Just a little prelude to a story series