Hayley looked over her shoulder, clutching a cloaking sphere. She was running through the back streets of Sydney away from the Chifley Tower. She dodged trashcans, jumped dumpsters and sidestepped pedestrians. She sprinted into an empty alley and hid in the shadows. She saw the Cleavers walk into the alley. There were three of them. It was only thanks to her sheer speed that she was here and not in shackles. She knew this alley like the back of her hand. She silently stepped up onto the loose brick in the wall behind her. With out a sound, she stood on the dumpster next to her. She ran off and jumped, and ran up the wall whistling all the while. When she reached the top of the building she looked down and laughed at the Cleavers. Hayley twisted the cloaking sphere on. As the bubble encased her she sang with joy. Without a care in the world she flipped across the top of Sydney. She was headed for Lavender Bay. She jumped off a building rolled just as the cloaking sphere clicked off. She walked casually across the Harbour Bridge. She stopped halfway across and looked over the edge. She checked the area around her. There was no one there. She grabbed the railing and vaulted over the edge. She gripped the underside of the bridge with her left hand and pulled on the harness she had installed with her right. She clicked the harness on and slid towards North Sydney.
She dropped off the bottom of the Harbour Bridge and got a ferry to Lavender Bay. She hopped off the ferry and strolled down the beach. She then ran up one of the rock ledges and lay down and waited for her employer to arrive. Soon enough she saw shadows gather and Conner Sickle stepped out. Connor Sickle had black hair, black skin and absolutely no muscle whatsoever. He was tall and skinny. However the item he channelled his magic into made him quite scary. A sickle. Unfortunately the effect created by the sickle died as soon as he spoke with that nasal voice of his.
‘Do you have it?’ He asked, in earnest. Hayley took the cloaking sphere out of her leather jacket and held it.
‘My payment?’ She said lazily. He reached into his pocket and waved it.
‘Got it. Now give me that.’ He said. Haley shook her head.
‘Doesn’t work like that, buster. Give me the cash.’ Conner frowned and gave her the money. She counted it and smiled.
‘It’s been nice doing business with you sir.’ She said bowing. She twisted the cloaking sphere and flipped into the tree behind her. She grinned. She may have done some bad stuff, but she didn’t work with necromancers. She dropped back to the ground and threw a rock in the trees. She then ran in the other direction laughing. What a sucker. She was heading back to the Sanctuary for a ‘special meeting’. Of course, she would be giving them their toy back. For a price. She stopped next to her motorbike, a Suzuki Hayabusa. She swung her leg over the seat. She had gotten her licence long before any of her friends, because she chose a bike over a car. She revved and drove away.
Twenty minutes later Hayley parked in the very bottom floor of the Chifley Tower. This place gave her the creeps. It made you feel like all of Sydney could be flattened and you would never know. She walked to the staircase and pressed one of the bricks. A second set of stairs opened. She walked down them and saw Skulduggery Pleasant waiting. She pulled out her Mark 23 in a flash and had it trained on Skulduggery.
‘Hello Hayley. How long has it been?’ Skulduggery said cheerfully. Hayley scowled.
‘Seven months. How have you been?’ She clicked the safety off. Skulduggery waved his hand and the gun flew out of Hayley’s grip.
‘Fine now that there isn’t a gun pointed at me. And you?’ Skulduggery said.
‘Great. I’m on the list if you were wondering.’ Skulduggery stepped out of her way. She picked up her gun and hurried past Skulduggery. She sat in the lobby, wondering why he had come back to Australia. Hopefully not to settle old scores. She shuddered. Eventually Hayley got called into the Hall of the Elders.
‘Elder Opine, Elder Utter and Grand Mage Astute have arrived. Please wait inside.’ The Administrator said in her hideously nasal voice. Hayley smiled and walked in.
‘Welcome Hayley. I believe you have something that belongs to us.’ Astute said. Astute had cropped grey hair and only smiled when Hayley was around. Hayley was the only person who fooled with him.
‘Sorry Burritt, I need to pay the rent don’t I?’ She said sweetly. Utter shook her head.
‘Skirmish, you know the rules. You must address us by our titles.’ Utter scolded. Utter was short and blonde. And unpleasant, from Hayley’s point of view.
‘Fine. Sorry Grand Mage Burritt Astute, I need to pay the rent don’t I?’ She glared at Utter.
‘Better Elder Arianna Utter?’ She spat out. Arianna did not like Hayley. Hayley did not like Arianna. Hayley reckoned that Arianna focused on the fact that Hayley stole from the Sanctuary on a regular basis rather than the fact that Hayley always stole the thing back and returned it to the Sanctuary within a week. Hayley was a freelance, and that’s all Utter ever saw. But she wasn’t just a freelance. She was well-behaved one. Hayley thought Arianna was smart, but not clever. She missed the big things and went on first impressions. Hayley remembered how they had met. Hayley had been running out of the Sanctuary and had run into her. In retrospect it was not her best intro.
‘Here it is, I used it twice, but it should still be fine.’ Hayley said, tossing the cloaking sphere at Opine. He caught it, fumbled and eventually got it still.
‘This is a very important piece of equipment Skirmish. Do not throw it around willy-nilly.’ Opine snarled. Gosh, he didn’t like her either. Maybe it was because she insisted on calling him Elder Jerry. She also knew that he couldn’t catch.
‘I wasn’t throwing it willy-nilly. I threw it at you. That’s hardly willy-nilly.’ She grinned. Burritt smiled as well.
‘Thank you for returning it so quickly. I take it you didn’t need to steal it back.’ Burritt said. Hayley nodded.
‘I don’t work for necromancers. I got the money and came back.’
‘So you stiffed him?’
‘Basically. Why are we having this meeting anyway? Normally I just return it.’
Burritt frowned. That was an astoundingly bad sign.
‘You want me to do what?’ Hayley cried. Utter and Opine were smiling.
‘We want you to steal from the necromancer temple, and bring the item here.’ Astute said. Hayley shook her head.
‘That’s not what I’m worried about. You want me to become a Sanctuary theft agent?’
They all nodded. She paced. She stopped.
‘Sanctuary approved everything? No offence, but where’s the fun?’
‘What about the stealing bit? That’s the fun for you. So please steal this item.’ Burritt said. Hayley sighed.
‘Who am I stealing from?’ She asked. Opine checked a file.
‘Oh no.’ Hayley groaned.
‘I just stiffed him. If he sees me, I’m dead.’ Burritt grimaced, Utter smiled and Opine winced. They explained what Hayley was supposed to do, and she wasn’t going to do a thing of it. Burritt knew this, but Utter and Opine were none the wiser. Hayley thanked them and walked out of the Sanctuary meeting Skulduggery again. This time his gun was out first.
‘Please don’t point that at me. I’m not in the greatest of moods right now.’
‘What’s wrong?’ He asked, putting the gun away.
‘They want me to work for the Sanctuary. I’m doing a job for them now.’
‘Why is that a bad thing? I work for the Sanctuary, it’s fun, I get to punch people and they don’t get to punch me.’
‘But I just stole from this guy. If he sees me, I’m finished.’ She grumbled.
‘Want me to help? I’m supposed to be on vacation, but this sounds like fun. Who are you stealing from?’
‘Connor Sickle. Necromancer. I just took cash from him without giving him the item he payed for. Bad news all round.’ She looked at him. He nodded.
‘Well, what are we waiting for?’ As he walked towards the exit.
Hayley thought as she drove towards the cemetery. The plan was that she would infiltrate the temple, find the item and leave. Simple right? Wrong. The problem was what they wanted to be stolen. They wanted Connor’s sickle. That would undoubtedly make him angry. What’s the point in being Connor Sickle without a Sickle? She revved down the street with Skulduggery’s Bentley next to her. Occasionally he wound down the window and they chatted.
‘So you know where the cemetery is?’ Skulduggery asked.
‘Yeah, I’ve been there.’ She swerved into a driveway and Skulduggery followed, hot on her tail. She slowed down and drove to what looked like a very old public toilet. She parked , got off and beckoned for Skulduggery to hurry up. He opened the Bentley door and snapped a twig on the ground as he stepped out. Hayley scowled back and put a finger to her lips. He nodded and floated over. Hayley’s eyes widened. That was new. She then pulled the cloaking sphere out of her jacket and twisted it on.
‘Since when could you fly?’ She asked.
‘When did you get that?’
‘The Cloaking Sphere?’ She grinned, ‘I was meant to be returning it to the Sanctuary when I was assigned to this job. I’d already returned it, but I took it again.’
‘Very well. Where’s the cemetery?’ He asked.
‘Look around.’ She replied. Skulduggery looked around and saw gravestones in the undergrowth. The walked through the cemetery being perfectly quiet even though the Cloaking Sphere was protecting them. Hayley walked up to the crypt at the edge of the graveyard. She then took a key out of her pocket.
‘What’s that?’ Skulduggery asked.
‘I can see that. It appears to be a key to the crypt. How did you get it?’
‘I stole it.’
‘Connor Sickle. I saw him earlier today. I thought a key to the Necromancer Temple would be useful.’ She mumbled as she unlocked the door. There was a necromancer standing in front of the door. Hayley froze. Skulduggery tapped her shoulder.
‘Cloaking Sphere.’ He said pointing at the ball.
‘How long do we have?’ She asked. He looked at the Sphere and held up two gloved fingers. Not sure whether it was minutes or seconds she quickly hide against the wall. She saw that she was correct to hide as Skulduggery floated above the door.
‘Who’s there? This door didn’t open by itself. Show yourselves!’ The necromancer shouted, walking outside and looking around. Skulduggery landed inside the Temple without a sound. Hayley walked into the room on the ceiling. She walked above him into the main hall. She hopped onto the ground next to Skulduggery and they nodded to each other, pulled their handguns out and walked against opposite walls. Skulduggery peeked around the corner and nodded to Hayley. She padded across the hall and plastered herself to the new wall. Skulduggery walked into the corridor and walked into a room. He beckoned her in.
They walked back out of the room wearing black robes. They walked around looking carefully at each of the necromancers that they passed until Hayley elbowed Skulduggery and turned around.
‘Are you sure that’s him?’ He whispered.
‘Positive.’ They walked behind him and followed him into a room. He turned around.
‘What are you doing in here?’ He asked irritably. Hayley took her hood off.
‘You?! What are you doing here?’ He asked, his face turning red. Skulduggery took his hood off. Hayley held out the Cloaking Sphere. Connor grabbed for it. Hayley took it back.
‘Trade.’ She said. Sickle looked at both of them.
‘What are we trading?’
‘This is the problem. You aren’t going to trade. We already know that, so it’s a matter of skipping to the bit where we hit you.’ Skulduggery said. Connor paled.
‘What do you want to trade?’ He whimpered.
‘The Cloaking Sphere, for your sickle.’ Hayley said. Connor looked at her.
‘What? Why do you want my sickle?’
‘I don’t want it. But I need to take it.’
‘Fine. Take it.’ Connor said, shoving the sickle forward. Hayley and Skulduggery stepped back instinctively.
‘What’s wrong? You asked for it, I’m going to give it to you.’ He said. They stared at him.
‘Why are you giving to us without a fight?’ Hayley asked warily.
‘Because I need the Cloaking Sphere.’ Hayley looked at the Cloaking Sphere and punched Connor’s nose as hard as she could. He stumbled back, blood streaming from his nose.
‘What was that for?!’ He exclaimed.
‘Because I need the Cloaking Sphere.’
‘Then why did you offer it to me?!’ He exclaimed. Hayley shrugged.
‘I dunno. It seemed like a good idea at the time.’ Hayley said. Connor scowled.
‘Well, my nose hurts. Please don’t hit me again. You can take my sickle and the Cloaking Sphere if I can have my money back.’ He mumbled. Hayley grinned and took the sickle out of his hand.
‘Lets go.’ She said to Skulduggery.
‘This went nicely. Good-bye Mr Sickle. I hope to never meet you again.’ Skulduggery said cheerily. They walked out the room into a group of rather angry looking necromancers.
‘Oh.’ Hayley said.
‘Ah.’ Skulduggery murmured.
‘We’ll just be leaving now.’ Hayley smiled. The necromancers laughed. She sighed and jumped, snaking both of her legs out and kicking to of the necromancers. Skulduggery snapped his palms outwards and the necromancers were thrown backwards.
‘As I said, we’ll just be leaving now.’ Hayley said again. She turned and sprinted towards the exit Skulduggery at her side. They ran out into the darkness. Hayley flipped onto her bike and revved it. She watched Skulduggery dive into the Bentley and turn it on. As they drove away Hayley frowned. That had been far easier than anticipated.
‘You got it?’ Opine said, clearly annoyed about something. Hayley ignored him and handed the sickle to Burritt. Burritt smiled and beckoned Hayley closer.
She leaned in.
‘Yes Burritt?’ She asked.
‘Hayley, I need you to leave.’ He said. She frowned.
‘Why?’ She whispered. He flicked his eyes at the ceiling and she nodded.
‘Yes Grand Mage. I’ll get right onto it.’ She said loudly. She turned and walked out, grabbing Skulduggery on the way.
‘We are going up.’ She said to him firmly. Skulduggery cocked his head, but didn’t argue.
The walked outside the Chifley Tower and Hayley got out the Cloaking Sphere again. That thing was really handy. She twisted it and watched the bubble expand around Skulduggery and herself.
‘Ready?’ She asked him.
‘What exactly are we doing anyway?’
‘Burritt told me to meet him on the roof.’
‘This roof?’ He said pointing up.
‘What other roof?’ She laughed and started running up the side of the Chifley Tower. Skulduggery whistled and flew up after her. Skulduggery landed as Hayley reached the top. There was a silhouette on the rooftop. Hayley nodded to Skulduggery and pulled out her gun. Skulduggery did the same.
‘Who is it?’ The silhouette called.
‘Skulduggery Pleasant and Hayley Skirmish. Who are you?’ Skulduggery called.
‘Yes it is.’ Hayley replied.
‘Names are not the concern of dead people Miss Skirmish.’
‘I’m not dead.’ Hayley scowled.
‘Yes you are.’
‘Nope, I’m still kicking.’ She said sensing a trap. She ducked and flipped backwards. There was someone waiting.
‘Damn. She jumped. Where’d you go you little b-‘
‘Now that isn’t very nice language is it?’ She smiled. This was the fun bit. She jumped in front of him again, turning in mid-air so that she landed acing him. She then grabbed his head and brought her knee up to meet his chin. He yelled and stumbled backwards. Hayley quickly darted behind him and kept him from falling off the building. She then whacked the back of his head with the butt of the gun. She smiled as his head hit the ground with a satisfying crack. She looked up and saw Skulduggery throwing flame at his two assailants. Wait… Two? Hayley attempted to flip but someone grabbed her ankle and brought her back down to the floor. She tried to raise her arms to protect her head but only succeeded in hitting her elbows against the ground and her head against it harder. She saw stars and felt her self being held upside down. She opened her eyes and felt sick. She looked down at the ground and quickly figured out that she was being held over the edge of the building. This was bad. She gripped the mans wrist with her feet, twisted and heard the mans wrist crack. He yelped and dropped her. She swore and felt another hand around her ankle. She looked up and saw a gloved hand pulling her up.
‘Thanks.’ Hayley breathed. Skulduggery pulled her onto the roof, and grabbed his gun off the ground. Hayley did the same and they both shoot at each of the men. They fell to the ground and stayed there.
‘That’s the last off them. Time to go.’ Skulduggery called.
‘Then what are we waiting for?’ Skulduggery grabbed her waist and they flew away from the Chifley Tower.
Hayley leaned against the railing on the Harbour Bridge and thought. Why had Burritt sent her up there? They were friends weren’t they? She didn’t know anymore. Skulduggery appeared next to her with a boy who had stupid hair.
‘Are you coming Hayley?’ Skulduggery asked. She looked over her shoulder and nodded. They teleported and immediately got showered in rain. Hayley sighed. Ireland. This was certainly going to be interesting.
So, that was the story I wrote to go with the character competition at the end of last year. Um, I look at it and...
Ugh. The plot... Wasn't too terrible, I suppose. But it wasn't good. Like, highly improbable occurrences.
And anyway, Derek wrote Hayley much better than I did.