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3 mos ago
Current Ribbit.


Watch out.

The gap in the door... it's a separate reality.
The only me is me.
Are you sure the only you is you?


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"And Cut! Great job people - that's lunch!"

Gil and Gil2 came apart, releasing each other from where they'd been grappling for the scene. In a series of staggered, mirrored movements they patted each other down, smoothed out their clothes, and reset their hair, before shaking hands, complimenting each other on the success of the scene, and turning as a pair toward the food bar. A crew hand promptly arrived to retrieve the prop-gun that had been integral to the shot, and Gil2 handed it over first, before it crumbled in the crew member's grasp; they chuckled politely, and then looked to the other Gil, who passed another prop over. This one also crumbled, and the chuckle this time was slightly less polite, and then Gil ceded the actual prop. The crew hand took it away, but not without a few moment's pause and a few sharp raps against the prop to verify it was as authentic as it looked.

Around them, beyond the set, the air began to buzz with chatter as cast and crew rushed to lunch, and the locals lingering around the perimeter of the set re-started their own conversations and clamour now that shooting had paused. Crestwood Hollow had been on-location for 10 days so far, and as word got around the town after their arrival, the crowds had, at first, dramatically swelled. After a week or so the novelty had worn off, and it was now only the committed (or un-employed) fans who remained; saying this was still a disservice to the size of their impromptu audience, however, and many of the crew had expressed a surprised gratitude for how popular the show actually seemed to be, judging by the numbers still peering in from the edge after the initial groundswell had returned to their regular hum-drum.

They'd been shooting the two-parter mid-season finale, that pushed Elwood Dowd - Gil's on-screen character - into the climactic second-half of his character arc for that season, revealing the true identity of his so-far anonymous stalker and harasser: his very own evil twin, intent on reifying a combined downfall. It had bee a cold and soggy shoot so far, plagued by the characteristic rain of the titular city, and right now Gil was thankful to shed his damp jacket and replace it with a warm towel draped around his shoulders. Gil2, clad head-to-toe in black in the outfit of the evil twin, had removed his own overcoat and done the same. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the lunch bar, holding paper plates and loading them with bread rolls, fried greens, and cold cuts. Another crew-hand approached them with a polystyrene cup in each hand, vapour rising into the cool afternoon air from the hot tea within; the Gils took a cup each and thanked him in stereo, sipping the scalding liquid and savouring every burn as it cascaded down their twin throats.

Across the set there was an exclamation that burst through the general hubbub; Gil and Gil2 turned simultaneously to see what the ruckus was about, and spotted a short, young girl - wrapped in a scarf and waterproof jacket - deftly weaving her way around production crew members and ducking through umbrellas and camera lighting rigs. She was beelining toward them, her face - freckled and bespectacled and framed by lightly-curled ginger locks that fell from her voluminous barnet - set with a look of ferocious determinism that would not be swayed. She waved excitedly as Gil came into her sight-line, and Gil2 waved cheerily back, which doubled the girl’s resolve. Gil, for his part, merely subtly held off the security guard en route to intercept, who raised an eyebrow before shrugging, taking a pastry from a nearby cart to chew on, and hanging back to retrieve the fan once the interaction was handled.

G I L G A L A H A D // H A R P E R B A X T E R
G I L G A L A H A D // H A R P E R B A X T E R

Location: Southern Plateau - Dundas Island
Welcome Home #1.104: Fresh

Interaction(s): @Qia//Harper

Amma faded into the encroaching darkness as the sun set completely, and looking around Gil realised he was practically the last member of Blackjack remaining. It really was late, and with the Trials tomorrow in mind, there was nothing left to do except retire to the tent and sleep.

He stood up, subtly returning a new copy of Amma's cigarette to his hands and twirling it between his fingers as he walked. Absent-mindedly, he ran a finger over the filter, and held his hand up to inspect where the lipstick had rubbed off onto his finger, catching a glimpse of the dark stain before it crumbled away into nano-fragments. He ran the cigarette beneath his nose, inhaling the spicy, slightly-sweet aroma that was so distinctive of clove. He could get used to that smell, mingled with perfume and warm earth and metal, leaned in close to drift up on body-heat currents.

He pushed through the flap of the tent, halfway-in when he spotted Harper tucked up in her sleeping bag, and it was in this frozen moment that he remembered he'd agreed to share a tent with Harper at all.

He artfully flicked the cigarette out into the night with the hand that was still outside the tent, and pushed a broad smile onto his face.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything?" He teased, surveying the interior of the tent and spotting where his copy had tossed his bag earlier that afternoon.

Harper’s eyes lifted, a ghost of a smile gracing her lips, betraying the gravity of her contemplations. “No, you’re not interrupting,” she murmured, her voice a mere whisper in the canvas-clad expanse. “Just… pondering the unfathomable.”

As her gaze locked with Gil’s, a surge of emotions welled within her—a tumultuous blend of solace and trepidation. His presence, marked by a warm smile and the playful sparkle of blue eyes, kindled a yearning in Harper to divulge her deepest secrets. Yet, she found herself teetering on the edge of confession and silence, uncertain how to weave her tangled thoughts into coherent strands of speech. Instead, Harper’s eyes trailed his, her lips parting in silent astonishment.

“I can leave if you need to…?”

"The unfathomable!" Gil replied, faux-dramatics filling his voice as he stepped fully into the tent. "Sounds important. I'd hate to be a distraction."

They locked eyes for a long moment, and for the second time in the last half-hour Gil felt the spark of tension, uneasy but at the same time not unwelcome. He may have cut his time with Amma unduly short, but he was starting to realise he'd stepped out from the proverbial frying pan and straight into the fire.
"Oh - no, no you're fine." He replied, crossing the tent in a couple short strides and bending over to unzip the bag. He wasn't a pyjama kind of guy, and had he bunked with one of the boys he'd have likely bunked down in boxer briefs and nothing else, but for the sake of modesty and Harper's comfort, he fished out a t-shirt and clean pair of shorts. "It's getting chilly out there and you're already tucked in. Just give me a second."

He stepped outside again, changing his top and pulling off the PRCU-issue athletic trousers, replacing them with the shorts. Underwear would have to change tomorrow - a few scattered students still milled around the campsite, and he wasn't about to go tackle-out in easy view of cellphone cameras. God, imagine those tabloid spreads.

He returned to the tent and chucked his laundry into the corner by his bunk. "Good as new." He said, smiling again, before lying down. He faltered, not sure what to say, how to proceed, or even if he should. He fiddled with his phone, pulling up apps and closing them just as quickly.
"Calliope said you girls came up with some kind of combined rebel theme for the Trials tomorrow? Surely that idea wasn't prompted by anything in particular...?"

Thoughtful. As always.

Harper watched him until he disappeared beyond the tent’s threshold, and only then did she allow herself to roll onto her side. She feigned a casual tinker with her sleeping bag, a guise for her attempt to settle into comfort. A breath she hadn’t known she was holding escaped into the night, mingling with the cool air that caressed her skin, a soothing balm for the unexpected warmth flooding her neck.

The power at her fingertips beckoned—a gift, a curse, an ability that could breach the veil of privacy with ease. Yet, the moral compass within her recoiled at the thought, deeming it a transgression too grave to entertain. However, even if obscured from view, the mere whisper of temptation was a siren’s call she struggled to ignore. Eyes clenched shut, she sought refuge in the void, a respite from the lure of her own powers.

It was only his return that coaxed her eyes open, a small, heartfelt smile her silent greeting as he found his place once more. “Yeah,” she replied, her voice now a gentle murmur. “You look good.” The words slipped out, unbidden, and with them, a familiar rush of embarrassment. Her cheeks flamed, a telltale sign of her social faux pas, as she averted her gaze, once again feigning adjustment to her sleeping bag.

Why did her filters always fail her so spectacularly in his presence? It was as if his proximity sent her thoughts into disarray, leaving her tongue to navigate the chaos alone. An inward sigh marked her frustration, her mind scrambling for a semblance of recovery in the midst of a silence laden with an indefinable charge.

Relief, subtle yet potent, washed over her as Gil broke the silence. Harper found the courage to face him anew, her words flowing with a newfound resolve. “I think we were all feeling the pressure at the time, given the mess of the ceremony and our futures sort of being…in a questionable and scary spot. We felt that with everything going on, we needed to stick together more than ever. And if we could do that while having a little fun, all the better, right?” Her inquiry was genuine, her eyes searching his for a glimpse into his thoughts.

“Besides,” she continued, a playful edge to her voice, “who doesn’t love a good rebellion?”

Gil smiled, allowing Harper's slip-of-the-tongue compliment to pass without comment, though he noted the blush erupting across her face. He'd met a lot of different Harpers over the last two days - the usual authoritative disciplined Harper, the loose, flirty Harper, and now the bashful, flustered Harper. Each facet seemed as endearing as the last.

He rolled onto his side, propping his head up with an arm to look at Harper fully.
"It certainly seems opinion on the Foundation is at an early low..." he mused, thinking about his brief conversation with Amma, and her short inferences into what life under Alexandria might truly have been like. She wasn't the only transfer, of course, but she definitely came across...vitriolic about her time there. "I think everyone will appreciate a reminder that we all stand together here. And I doubt the 'rebel' theme will be lost on the Foundation, for that matter."

Conversation lulled for a moment, and in lieu of a better idea, Gil defaulted to self-aggrandizement.
"I'll admit, I was surprised you wanted to bunk with me, of everyone in the team. You're not worried about the paparazzi in the morning?" He grinned, trying to sell the joke. "Or maybe you're just looking to sell your story to the tabloids..." He rolled onto his back, spreading his hands out to simulate a magazine spread. " 'My exclusive night with Gil Galahad at PRCU!' "

Harper's initial reaction was to brush off her discomfort, laughing along with Gil's attempt to lighten the mood. However, as she gazed at his face, a sense of unease crept in, as if his playful remark carried an undertone she couldn't ignore. The joke felt a bit cringeworthy, and she couldn't help but wonder if he was implying something more. A tiny seed of self-reflection began to take root within her.

Had she ever given that kind of impression?

Her mind flicked through the moments they’d shared, searching for any hint of behaviour that might have led him to think she saw him as merely a star, an object of fascination rather than a real person. She recalled their first meeting, the small banter during training sessions, the times she'd marvelled at his charm and good looks when he wasn’t looking—a frown she didn’t quite notice formed on her lips as she delved deeper into these memories.

As another silence stretched, Harper’s gaze softened, her earlier laughter fading into a more contemplative expression. She needed to address this, to clear the air and ensure he understood her true intentions.

“Gil,” she began, her voice more earnest now, “I didn’t ask to bunk with you for any reason other than wanting to talk to you.” She paused, gathering her thoughts, an uncomfortable expression contorting her features. “I’m sorry if…I may have given the wrong impression before. I’m not a no-strings-attached person.” Her voice grew softer, more reflective. “Been there, tried that, never again.”

She glanced down, fiddling with the edge of her sleeping bag, trying to muster the courage to continue. “I wanted to spend time with you because I genuinely like being around you, not because of your fame or any tabloid story.”

The wisecrack didn't land, the joke's failure plain across her face as an awkward smile spread and faded at equal speed, before being replaced by a slight frown. She looked deeply introspective, and Gil steeled himself as the silence spooled out further and further. He'd finally overstepped, made one cheesy joke too many. Gil had just been enjoying the flirtation and looseness of it, but it was clear now from Harper's voice he'd been playing the fool with something more genuine than he'd realised, for the sake of coquettish thrills and stroking his own ego.

"Sorry, I didn't mean- I didn't want to imply..." He cleared his throat, sitting up and looking uncharacteristically solemn. "I didn't mean to insinuate this was a fling or a quickie or anything like that.. Truth is, it wouldn't be what I'm looking for either, and I'd hate to exploit a good friend in that way."

He set his phone down, removing the distraction and the degree of disconnection it afforded him, focusing solely on Harper. It was dark, but the shine of a full, clear moon filtered through, and the pale light spilled across both their features, making the pair look ethereal, gossamer-painted. "I'd love to talk. I appreciate I might have been a bit of a jackass lately...start fresh?"

He stretched his arm across the darkness, proffering a hand for Harper to shake, hoping she wouldn't notice the goosebumps running across his skin from what he told himself was the cool night air.

Harper's gaze lingered on Gil's outstretched hand, her thoughts swirling with uncertainty. His apology was unexpected, and it honestly caught her off guard. She had always been drawn to Gil's confidence, thoughtfulness, and charm, but this new side of him—the apology, the consideration of her feelings—revealed a depth she hadn't anticipated.

It was captivating to see him lower his walls and expose a vulnerability that mirrored her own, one that she only showed to a select few. And yet, it was also unsettling, forcing her to confront the possibility that the version of Gil she'd held onto might not be the full picture. Now laid bare, the complexity of his character forced her to replay the moments they'd shared again, each memory, each nuance of their interactions, painting a richer, more intricate portrait of the man before her. This was someone who could be more than just a charming face or a fleeting crush—someone who could truly understand and support her.

If she let him.

As she reached out to take his hand, Harper felt the weight of the moment pressing down on her. The warmth of his hand, the gentle pressure of his fingers, was like a gentle rain that soothed her soul, calming the doubts that had been plaguing her. He didn't see her as just a fan. She was his good friend. His friend.

Something within her stirred—a quiet voice that Harper did her best to ignore as she forced a small smile to lift her lips. She kept it contained, like a captured caterpillar, not letting it escape to become the storm of butterflies it was meant to be within her. Instead, she allowed it to form a shackle around her heart, its gentle movements a constant reminder of the potential transformation their relationship could undergo. If only she would speak.

The moon above served as a reflective mirror, casting a light that seemed to understand the quiet turmoil within her. It illuminated the contours of her face, the soft glow revealing the hope that lingered in her eyes, while the shadows hid her doubts, tucking them away into the night.

“Let’s start… fresh,” Harper finally echoed, her voice barely above a whisper, as she allowed her hands to be slowly enveloped by his own.

G I L G A L A H A D // A M M A C A H O R S
G I L G A L A H A D // A M M A C A H O R S

Location: The Southern Plateau - Dundas Island
Welcome Home #1.102: The Ship I Seek Is Passing, Passing

Interaction(s): @Rockette//Amma

Gil returned to the campfire feast alone, Calliope having quietly diverted herself to her tent; he took up his empty plate, and fetched another couple tacos, the supply dwindling but not without firmly sating everyone present. Gils 2 and 3 were long gone, no longer required once the work was complete, but with the Homecoming Trials looming across the horizon of tomorrow, he wanted to be prepped and ready to pop out clones at short-notice. To that end, he pulled a long mouthful from a bottle of Hyper-Aid, and pocketed another with the intention of an early boost the next morning. He'd rather wake up over a mug of tea - even out here, it wasn't impossible, between Lorcán's fire, Zebulun's water, and ample supply-packs from campus for teabags - but he suspected he might not be afforded proper time to sip and contemplate before being thrust into action.

Speaking of thrust, he watched Banjo carefully depart the gathering at a controlled pace before breaking into near-sprint towards his tent. Calliope had yet to reappear, and Gil didn't expect to see either of them again until the morning.

He was luckily distracted from his own spooling-out imagery by Amma sidling up, cigarette caught between inviting lips, her gaze as simultaneously inscrutable and alluring as ever. Was there a single member of the team - of the entire student body - who wasn't at once both fearful and seduced by Amma's measured, mysterious glances and careful, delicate words?

"Hey there. Got a light?"

Gil kept his mouth shut, nothing suitably suave and tantalizing coming to mind. Instead, he carefully set his plate aside, putting a hand to his pocket and coming back up with a box of matches; he slid the box open and removed a single match, and then put a single finger to the end of Amma's cigarette. With a simple, quick movement, he swished his hand elegantly, and once stilled again it now held its own cigarette, a perfect replica down to the dark lipstick stains around the filter from where it hung from Amma's mouth.

Gil struck the match, lighting Amma first before his own.

"Aren't you just the name on everybody's lips this evening?" He said after a few drags, pale smoke drifting skyward in twin trails from their shared cigarette. "But rumour aside, I think you might have the most insight on today's events of all of us."

A helpless trill of laughter pulled from her lips, punctuated by sweet smoke and the sweep of her tongue against the ridges of bone tucked against her lip. Her delicate, intentional gestures brought her opposite hand up to smooth the nail of her index finger against the pout of her lip, something akin to amusement lighting up the blue of her eyes, bidden to a unique hue by the reflection of fire alighted there.

"Yes," Amma pauses, two pulls of clove later, and says: "And I doubt it'll be the last time."

"As the rumors say: Lorcán and I left together." She flicks her thumb against the filter of her cigarette, dropping ash at her feet. "Nothing more. Nothing less." Her gaze pierces through the gloom and haze of smoke. "But you'd think I stole him away, the way they carry on. The way they look at me." Amma's lashes drop, cutting through her glare as she slides those eyes towards Gil, observing him with his copied cigarette nestled betwixt his fingers.

"Maybe I should have."

Gil takes a couple more quiet drags of his own cigarette. He's not sure how to approach this, pulled in different directions. Lorcán and Aurora felt like the guarantee, the inevitable, the pair of them slowly figuring it out in a delicate dance that dragged all of Blackjack into its event horizon. But the pair were by no means official, and certainly not exclusive. If Lorcán found himself drifting in a different direction...there might be a few hurt feelings left in the wake, but ultimately neither had made a move, and they'd both had plenty time and opportunity, and even encouragement from the rest of the team. At this point, after the events and conversations of the last couple days, Gil could only conclude they were either willfully ignorant of their feelings, or truly didn't have them at all. In either case - if you spooled it out, Gil reckoned there really wasn't anything wrong with it. If Aurora found herself upset, maybe she ought to consider quite why.

"Well, that's your prerogative. There's certainly nothing stopping you, it seems." He finished his cigarette, holding the stub up between two fingers as he let the construct fade. It paled, seeming to lose its colour, and then crumbled away in flakes, drifting away into nothing in the breeze. "If you know what you want, reach out and take it. Why not?"

She is quiet; contemplative, the incense of their shared smoke hazed before her eyes, the prick of her stare lowered, fixated to the construct of his fingers where the duplicated cigarette drops away. Figments on a breeze, remnants of her own, it is poetic in the disintegration, a more delicate surrender than her powers that thrum away around her. Amma turns her palm up, drops her smoke into the crisscross of scars laden there, puckered lines stark and thick, woven against the lines of fate that she snuffs the flamed cherry against as something wistful blooms across her face there.

Did she know what she wanted?
...What did she want?
Something whispers back, a soft scream that echos in her head--


“No, there really isn’t anything to stop me.”

“And if only it were that easy,” she utters, almost as an afterthought, coiling lines of red whisking away at her wrist and crawling up and over the structure of her hand, the ashes within her palm cradled against the silver accents of her power. “But there are roles to play here, right?”

“The sinner, the sin. The damned.” Amma’s usual tone of voice drops, a husked whisper that feathers away into almost nothing. “The beauty and the beast.”

Gil watches Amma carefully, seeing for the first time the tumult beneath her affected veneer. She seems unsure, unsteady; her eyes, usually ferocious and deliberate, are now downcast, avoidant. She pushes smoke into her hand, and Gil notices a map of tangled scars he'd not seen before. Amma's face softened, melancholy tinging her features. She looked alien compared to her usual façade, no hint of the stern, predatory Amma he was used to. Gil stopped to consider whether Amma's distance from the majority of Blackjack was by her design or theirs.

"And which do you suppose you are?" He asked in return, his own voice dropping to match Amma's whisper-soft words.

"I wouldn't have thought you would be happy dancing to someone else's tune." He said, aware he was treading into uncharted territory, and not certain how Amma might react. "It's been a year since you arrived from the Foundation - but it sounds like you're still playing the part they cast for you."

Red and silver whispers crawled across Amma's skin, and the interplay of colours against her snow-pale skin and the intense, dark tattooed artwork wove an irregular, entrancing beauty. Gil steeled his jaw and took the plunge.
"From someone used to micro-managing his every move - if you have an opportunity to redefine yourself, it's yours to seize."

"I am All," Amma rejoins, arched and splayed fingers twitching and caressing over the display of power woven through her palm, her gestures usually smooth and deliberate, burdened by something lain within. Something that swells, something that kindles away at the crystalline hue of her eyes as she snaps her gaze back to Gil, the rigid blue of his stare investigating pieces of herself thought lost and forgotten. Segments of brutality shattered concepts and pieces of self refined in jagged edges and cruel intentions, she almost laughs then, unable to deny the bare truth his words reveal.

"In some ways, I will always be what they made me. A year is not long enough to wash away all that red," her lips curl around her spoken admission, an acknowledgment of what she has always known. "The chains not so easily sundered. They'll pay for that though. They all will."

"What about you, Gil, you've been here for as long as I have. Yet, you've managed to blend in well enough. Or is that all a part of the micro-managing? Like defining yourself to a role in a film."

Amma leans in close, head tilted down, curiosity suspended on her words, and says: "What is your part to play?"

Gil took lungfuls of Amma's aroma as she leaned in, perfume mixed with earth from the woods she'd escaped to earlier that day, and an acrid, metallic hint from the swirling red about her person.
"The every-man. The deuteragonist. Carefully scripted, so as not to upset anybody. Artie feeds me lines when I need them, and otherwise I fly under the radar."

He watched a small group of students in the distance who were chattering amongst themselves, and caught one of them pointing at him. They caught him catching them, and blushes erupted before they quickly shuffled further away.
"As much as I can, anyway." He said, shaking his head. "If I'm to return to my life after all of this, I need to navigate back to it meticulously. I suppose those are some hard-to-break chains as well."

Blackjack began to shrink across the campsite, members retreating to tents to turn in for the night. Calliope and Banjo were already gone; Rory had turned in previously; and now Gil could see Haven, Lorcán, and Aurora all making their own ways to their respective bunks. Firebird were trickling away as well, though a few hung around as the sun dipped below the horizon and the campfires burned through the last of their fuel.

"It's late." He said, with a reluctant finality. He wasn't sure what they were dancing around, but he felt tense, each step assessed and delicately placed. "Thanks for the smoke," he said, holding his hand up palm-out, before turning it and another cigarette appearing in the movement. He turned it in his fingers, eyes lingering on the lipstick lingering on the filter, before letting it drop to the floor, disintegrating before it reached the ground. "Don't be a stranger. I'll see you in the morning?"

"Always stuck playing the part they cast for you, mm?"

A soft hum coils away in her throat, eyes gone distant, pin-pointing figures in the distance that turn to retire for the evening, shadowing after a certain pair before she stands with a flourish, eternal scarlet threads blooming like slick grins across her flesh.

"Yeah. Maybe."

Amma spares Gil one final glance, watching another duplicate of her cigarette fall away into nothing, distracted by the simplicity of his power, piece by piece fragmented so easily. Her lips part as if to say more, to expand upon her clipped words and peculiar inquiries, instead she merely turns and walks away with another trill of laughter to punctuate her departure.

Gil, for his part, merely watched her leave, simultaneously relieved and disappointed. He'd cut the conversation off deliberately before it'd become too close to worming its way beneath his carefully-constructed veneer; but at the same, an uncomfortable, foreign part of him wanted desperately to shed the shell and expose the raw self beneath it.

Couldn't risk it. It would be a short year, and then he'd be flying back to Los Angeles. All he had to do was stay the course.

G I L G A L A H A D // H A R P E R B A X T E R
G I L G A L A H A D // H A R P E R B A X T E R

Location: Southern Plateau - Dundas Island
Welcome Home #1.074: An Interesting Proposition

Interaction(s): @Qia//Harper

Of all the things Gil, Gil, and Gil may have expected to happen, Haven's deliberately bold and sultry come-on to Rory in reply was pretty low on the list. The three of them shook their heads in mutual disbelief, stunned at the success Rory's sheer obliviousness had conjured for him. Of course, such success unimpeded was short-lived; Mei arrived, clearly still wounded from Rory's faux pas on the beach the night before. Emotions were high from the morning announcement, and the Gils foresaw many such dramatic gestures on the horizon. At least the Trials would force them to focus on each other in a more pragmatic tactical sense, rather than the love-bug currently circling the group.

Rory tripped on Mei's silk and discarded his trousers entirely in his efforts to chase after her; Gil wondered how the oaf managed to enrapture so many women, and yet remain so incognizant of any of it.
Speaking of, his observation was interrupted as Harper appeared in eyeline. All three Gils smiled warmly at her pleasing countenance. She returned each smile in kind, and Gil was keenly aware he outnumbered Harper - it happened often in conversation - and he also noticed a degree of nervousness in Harper's manner.

Harper steadied her nerves as the collective gaze of the Gils settled on her, a trio of expectant stares that could easily unnerve.“So…”she ventured, her voice a careful blend of nonchalance and mischief,"I’m considering a play from Rory’s handbook… touché?”The smirk that played on her lips then was both a shield and a signal.“Respectfully,” she hastened to add, the smirk now blossoming into a full-fledged grin. A moment lingered, heavy with anticipation, before she delivered the punchline, “In separate cots, of course. For decency’s sake.”

Gil2 and Gil3 cleared their throats, but said nothing; both gazes shifted to Gil himself, deferring - as ever - to their original and maker. Gil maintained his smile, venturing to joke and flirt.
"That proposition got less exciting the more you said," he replied, a mischievous smirk playing across his face. "But nonetheless amicable. Do you have a tent picked out already?"
Gil2 hefted the single bag Gil had brought, and waited expectantly.

Harper’s pulse quickened as Gil’s grin persisted, his response to her playful proposition laced with a similar flirtatious spirit. His quip about the dwindling thrill brought a slight flush to her cheeks, yet she welcomed the light-hearted exchange. She noticed Gil2, poised with the bag, and gestured towards her tent nestled among others. “That’s my spot,” she said, injecting a touch of theatrics into her voice,“It’s far from a five-star suite, but it’s got its own charm.”She’d never actually experienced the luxury of a high-end hotel, and truth be told, she found a certain peace in the simplicity of tent life amidst the serene backdrop of nature, anyway.

“By the way, am I dealing with all 3 of you at once? Not that I think I can’t handle it but…doesn’t hurt to be prepared,” she teased, her tone light but with a hint of a challenge.

Gil raised an eyebrow as Harper matched his flirtatious tone. She gestured towards her - their - chosen tent, and Gil2 moved off without a word to deposit their luggage. Gil and Gil3 remained, collective curiosity thoroughly piqued. This Harper before them, flirty, audacious, wry, was some distance from the usual reserved, disciplined Harper he'd grown familiar with over the last year.
"I'm sure you could handle as much of me as I can deliver, Harper Baxter, but I'm not sure the tents could withstand it." He replied, winking gratuitously. Gil3 felt himself begin to blush, and instead coughed and turned away, searching for their work assignment for the trials as a means of distraction. "But no, we'll be one on one this evening. Have to keep something in my bag of tricks for later, you know?"

Harper’s mind raced as she started to process the flirtatious exchange, her earlier words hanging between them like a challenge thrown down in a game she hadn’t realized she was playing. Until now. She could feel the heat of a blush threatening to rise again.

Yet, she found herself leaning into the moment, the thrill of the unexpected banter with Gil giving her a rush of adrenaline.

One more. She had about one last one in her.

“Oh, I’m sure you’re full of surprises,” she retorted, her voice steady despite the butterflies in her stomach. “But just so we’re clear, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve too.”

Realizing they were teetering on the edge of a conversation that could spiral into unknown territories, Harper quickly shifted gears. She pointed towards the direction Haven had indicated earlier, her hand cutting through the tension. “Let’s not keep Tad waiting any longer for us,” she said, her tone a mix of practicality and reluctance to end their playful interaction. “After all, we wouldn’t want to be the topic of any kind of gossip now would we?”

Gil was thoroughly enjoying himself, pleasantly surprised by this side of Harper, and his mind drifted to the evening previous on the beach, wrapped up in Katja's biceps and talking about the dance. Perhaps the idea had legs after all.
2"I wouldn't worry about that." Gil2 said as he returned, having caught Harper's last few words. He rejoined the group as they began to move toward the faculty. 2"Rory's got it plenty covered. He's sharing a tent with Haven, but taking Mei to the dance. Can't wait how he's going to explain that on the big night."

Gil3 groaned in exasperation, while Gil just rubbed his temple. All tension burst, he gestured forwards, allowing Harper to take the lead as the four of them together approached Tad for their work assignments.

Harper, now caught in a crossfire of emotions, felt a headache brewing. She groaned and rubbed her temples in tandem with the Gils, the half-baked scheme made earlier making a reappearance in her thoughts. That whole debacle still needed tending, and Rory’s romantic entanglements were a puzzle she wasn’t sure she wanted to delve into along with it. As Gil gestured her forward, she stepped ahead, her mind already brewing up some possible solutions.

“The faster he tells Haven, the better, I think,” Harper finally voiced her thoughts, breaking the brief silence that had settled over them. “She knows how he can be so might understand.”

1 2 3"We can only hope." All three Gils said in unison, creating a chorus of dubious faith. Shortly ahead of them, Tad stood together with a towering man, who was looking fervently between a tablet and the various students and faculty members coming and going across the plateau.
"Tad!" Gil called, waving a hand in greeting to both men. Behind him, Gil2 and Gil3 did the same, while Harper gave them a polite nod. "Hope you're as well as you look, after this morning? Harper and we need our assignments for the Trials."

"Gil, I appreciate you asking. As much as I hate to say it, the worst I'll have to deal with is a new boss if the Foundation takes over. I've already graduated, only thing I've ever wanted to do was help other Hypes like me find a home here." Tad responded.

"I believe we have you filling in where needed. I'm a little worried about the combination of Lorcán, Rory and Amma. Why don't you check in with Rory and see if you can lend a hand there? Harper, you'll be working with Calliope and Mei to come up with the theme of this year's trial and work on programming the simulation."

Gil3 was already heading off as Gil and Gil2 flashed Tad a thumbs-up, Gil2 jogging away to catch up with himself.
"Gotcha - I figured as much for myself." Gil said, then turned to Harper. "I guess I'll see you later on - looking forward to the pillow-talk."
He gave Harper another wink before he headed off, leaving behind a flustered girl and two men with one raised eyebrow apiece.

G I L G A L A H A D // H A R P E R B A X T E R
G I L G A L A H A D // H A R P E R B A X T E R

Location: The Chimera's Lair - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.074: An Interesting Proposition

Interaction(s): @Qia//Harper

Two men in Arthurian medieval knight-y times are transporting a massive black stone box/coffin/sarcophagus/etc with the promise that its delivery will halt some massive war/all war/bring peace on earth.

Journey is waylaid by those wishing to steal the box/prevent its delivery/take credit themselves for its delivery.

Scene: one knight says they will be happy to see the back if war once their mission is over. The other knight derides them for believing their mission is what they were told it is. The box isn’t a means to stop war but to control it. War is profitable.

Scene: a blind knight approaches and asks the two knights to come with him. They fob him off and pretend it is their duty to the box that they cannot.
“as long as my eyes are upon the casket it shall not move”
“Little comfort from a blind man”
Blind knight removes his blindfold and actually takes his eyes out and places them atop the casket. The casket can’t be moved. The knights can’t move the eyes either
“They are heavy with the weight of what they have seen”

Scene: set upon by bandits, who try to open the casket, though they are warned against it as terrible things befall those who try.

Location: The Chimera's Lair - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.061: Bullet: dodged.

Interaction(s): //

The piercing alarm from his phone, buzzing away on the carpet floor, woke Gil sharply from what he was sure had been a very pleasant dream, even as the details dissipated from memory like smoke. He lay on his back, duvet tossed and thrashed and askew across his half-naked frame, taking long hard blinks as the morning sun drifted through half-closed curtains, dust motes twinkling in the beams. He drew long, deep breaths, willing himself to wake up. The phone blared and buzzed, and eventually he pulled himself up at the waist to sit on the edge of his bed, duvet slipping off completely and rumpling on the floor. He lent down to scoop up his phone and shut off the alarm, rubbing his eyes with the back of his other hand as the light from the screen forced his still-sleepy eyes to squint.

Seconds later he was up and scrambling for clothes. He'd overslept, having gotten in later than expected from the beach - despite Amma's outburst, he was determined not to end the final night of freedom before the year began in earnest end on such a soured note, and so he'd assisted in emptying out Rory's cooler with not only the dwindling members of Blackjack, but also any late-night beach-goer who'd wandered close enough.

Now, however, he was in danger of missing breakfast before the opening ceremony for the academic year, and he was well-aware that manual labour would feature heavily in the days' agenda; not only the trials themselves, but also the construction and setup of the trials, on which senior students were relied upon for their assistance, and he needed to be well-fed if he and Gils 2 & 3 were going to be of use. Speaking of...
Gil finished pulling on his uniform in a hurry, getting the bulk of it on - trousers, shirt, socks and shoes, tie - before he shimmered and a similarly-scruffy Gil stepped forth from him.

Bleary-eyed, hungry, and ever-so-slightly hungover, Gil immediately recognised this exertion as a mistake, feeling instantly woozy and stumbling backwards; his heel hit the foot of the bed and he tumbled onto the bed, hand pushed against his forehead as vision swam and nausea washed over him. Gil2, though also bleary-eyed, hungry, and ever-so-slightly hungover, remained standing, and proffered a hand to Gil when he looked up again, dragging a hand down his face. He took it, and Gil helped himself to his feet again.

As Gil2 made his way out of the dorm and toward the mess hall to collect a sizeable breakfast, Gil threw on his blazer and took a couple minutes to himself to toss a far-too-hot espresso shot (with more sugar than many would find acceptable) down his gullet, ignoring the burning in his throat to focus instead on the blossoming warmth in his belly. Steeling himself against the coming day, he took one last once-over of himself in the mirror, used a single hand to tousle his hair (still smelling of smoke from last night's bonfire) just-so, and went to follow himself down to breakfast.

Gil stood outside the main doors of the Mess Hall, quietly chatting with Rory and passing the usual good mornings to whoever walked by, awaiting Gil2 to return arms laden with pastries and fried protein. The hall was abuzz with activity, the anticipation of the semester's first proper day thrumming through the student body, freshman and senior alike. He was considerably un-prepared for the arrival of Lorcán - or, more specifically, the arrival of Lorcán's hands.

He startled as Lorcán slapped his and Rory's arses with considerable fervour, and he was sure that had Gil2 been stood here, and he collecting breakfast in the Mess Hall, his friend may have traumatized himself and several other students by catalyzing Gil's sudden disintegration into nothingness with little more than an overly-fond physical greeting. As it was, Gil turned around, craning his neck for his copy in the mess hall as he did, and smiled as best he could as the three friends greeted each other, once again, as academic peers.

“Hopefully, you dudes don’t have to sit down too soon, but man, bros, you missed out on some legen-lactose heavy’-dary swells this mornin’. I am totally going to get you both out on a board before we graduate.”
Lorcán fumbled with his belt, dropping his trousers to the ground in the process, and Gil was silently thankful that he clearly wasn't the only one struggling with this particular morning.
"If you can score me a board for a day, I'll be there, bro." Rory replied, in typical 'up-for-anything' Rory fashion, and Lorcán grinned in return, turning his gaze expectantly to Gil.
"I think I'll let another Gil give it a trial run first. Wouldn't want to damage the money-maker in an errant wave." He said, offering a hand for Lorcán to shake, greeting him warmly as other members of Blackjack began drifting in.

On cue, Gil2 pushed open the doors of the mess hall with his back, turning as he came through to reveal two well-stocked trays balanced precariously between two mug-bearing arms. Steam drifted from the rims, and Gil felt himself coming alive just from the smell of the tea within. The trays, meanwhile, held croissants, a couple chocolate pains, a handful of bacon rashers each, two hard-boiled eggs (pre-peeled), and a banana. Gil carefully helped Gil2 with the mugs and trays, and the two gorged themselves, supping down great glugs of sugary tea between bites of their respective breakfasts.

By the time Blackjack arrived at Chimera's Lair, both Gils were thoroughly sated and slaked, and felt far more prepared for the day with full stomachs and slow-boil caffeine beginning to circulate. Gil2 departed - he had no need to sit around for the speech, and would instead use the time to fulfill Gil's community contribution obligations - but Gil himself filed into the stadium alongside his teammates, fidgeting and shifting in his seat as he tried, without success, to find a comfortable position in the hard-backed plastic chairs. He paid little attention, clapping when others clapped, whooping when others whooped, and only eyed the Foundation staff momentarily until their identities were confirmed; of little consequence, or so he thought.

He stopped fidgeting and found his attention laser-focused and breath hitching as Jim dropped the bombshell on degree accreditation; wasted years and futile plans cascaded in front of his eyes, vision swimming with images of scripts being burnt and casting calls passing him by - and then Jim followed up and said,
"our degree programs in the engineering, law and medical fields,"
and he breathed a heavy sigh of relief and sunk backwards into his chair, reassured his programme had not been set askew by the sudden upset. He could feel his phone sitting heavy in his pocket - he would certainly need to discuss the implications with Artie, and there was no guarantee that invalidations wouldn't stretch further into PRCU's course offerings and dismantle the university's credibility entirely - but, for now, at least he was safe.

Not that he could say the same for many of his teammates, and their reactions spoke for themselves in this regard. Gil felt himself shrinking into his seat, not wanting to be noticed or singled-out for how he had dodged such a mighty blow. This announcement would derail a strong majority of the team, and he wouldn't blame any one of them for spiraling out; he thought back to only the night previous, the twelve of them gathered around the warm glow of the bonfire beside the ocean, spooling out their futures into the fire. Only one of them hadn't indulged in such optimism.

Gil heard her laugh, and the feeling of a full stomach was suddenly distinctly unwelcome.

Had she known?

It didn't do to dwell on it. Even if she had, what use would knowing have been? To any of them?

Gil watched each of his teammates make their exits, each bearing a weight upon them he couldn't know. There was an odd sense of remorse bubbling up within him, a survivor's guilt shouldered for people who were still very much alive. A future that had seemed so attainable and assured less than merely eighteen hours ago had been suddenly and viciously ripped away from beneath them.

He'd need to catch up with Lorcán, undoubtedly; Rory too, but the pair were away from him, and Aurora had gone after the former hurriedly - her compassion was far better suited for this sensitive moment that Gil's brand of superficial charm and 'easy-breezy' philosophy. The plateau would be better, when they could talk without looking at each other, focusing on the construction instead of connection.

As the crowd of students, no longer buzzing with anticipation but now dour and deflated, began to filter out of the stadium, Gil found himself simply washed along amidst them, sympathizing for those affected, but clinging onto the future that was still within reach.

In his pocket, his phone buzzed, and he fished it out to look at the screen. Artie was calling. Gil hung up, and slowly made his way toward the fleet of vehicles ready to ferry students across to the Southern Plateau.

The sun bore down, now high in the sky as the day moved through the morning and into midday and the afternoon proper. The Gils alighted from the Minotaur, aware they were on the second-wave and therefore in danger of being late again; still, the pair took the time to stretch out, looking reminiscent of an Olympic swimming duo as their movements inadvertently synchronised. Shaking off the last of the stiffness, Gil shimmered again, and Gil3 stepped forth; they all three figured to save time and multiply now, rather than wait to be asked. Gil lifted his bag onto his shoulder as his copies forged ahead, trekking to the campsite.

Up ahead, the trio could see a neatly-arranged ring of tents, pre-fabricated and already setup, positioned with care and forethought around the firepit. It felt communal, village-like; even the tents' openings were all organised inwards. Past the tents Gil could see a similar cluster of tents, and wondered which team they were situated near; then, in the noon sun, there was a paired glimmer of rich orange and shock-white blonde, and Gil knew it was Firebird. That pair of heads couldn't be anyone other than Alyssa and Luce, inseparable since their return from an extended gap-year after the Hyperion incident. Alyssa was a redhead and a stunner, an all-smiles socialite down to the hilt; Luce was even-tempered, measured in her reactions and words, criss-crossed with scars and in possession of a gaze equally haunted and haunting. He wondered how Firebird were handling the morning's news.

His own teammates, meanwhile, had gathered already, and were busying themselves with the important task of arranging bunking partners before the evening descended and a hard day's work would cut into their patience. There were obvious obvious pairings - namely Banjo and Calliope - but also subtle obvious pairings: Lorcán and Aurora, Rory and Haven, that sort of thing. It was like co-ed bunking was mandated. Speaking of...
"So, Barnes... you want to sleep together tonight?"

If Haven didn't choke on the water, Gil choked on the air in her stead.
2"Smooth." Gil2 said, fishing a spare water bottle of his own as the copies congregated with the original.
3"We should really go and help bail him out. One of us, at least." Replied Gil3. Gil himself simply held up a hand.
"No no. He needs to learn. Besides, it's more entertaining this way...and probably a better gauge if Haven actually reciprocates."

A B I L I T I E S, L I M I T A T I O N S, & W E A K N E S S E S
A B I L I T I E S, L I M I T A T I O N S, & W E A K N E S S E S
H Y P E R H U M A N A B I L I T Y || T B D

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus at mi mi. In imperdiet porta dolor, at fermentum nulla commodo eu. Suspendisse volutpat et ex tempor suscipit. Nullam tincidunt at nunc vel auctor. Donec venenatis, nisl nec fringilla varius, massa quam porttitor turpis, sed bibendum purus sem id risus. Nullam scelerisque lectus eget diam gravida malesuada. Maecenas consectetur est ac sollicitudin congue. Maecenas interdum erat dignissim lectus sodales, nec ultrices neque egestas. Integer convallis lacus at consequat volutpat.

L I M I T A T I O N S || T B D

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus at mi mi. In imperdiet porta dolor, at fermentum nulla commodo eu. Suspendisse volutpat et ex tempor suscipit. Nullam tincidunt at nunc vel auctor. Donec venenatis, nisl nec fringilla varius, massa quam porttitor turpis, sed bibendum purus sem id risus. Nullam scelerisque lectus eget diam gravida malesuada. Maecenas consectetur est ac sollicitudin congue. Maecenas interdum erat dignissim lectus sodales, nec ultrices neque egestas. Integer convallis lacus at consequat volutpat.

W E A K N E S S E S || T B D

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus at mi mi. In imperdiet porta dolor, at fermentum nulla commodo eu. Suspendisse volutpat et ex tempor suscipit. Nullam tincidunt at nunc vel auctor. Donec venenatis, nisl nec fringilla varius, massa quam porttitor turpis, sed bibendum purus sem id risus. Nullam scelerisque lectus eget diam gravida malesuada. Maecenas consectetur est ac sollicitudin congue. Maecenas interdum erat dignissim lectus sodales, nec ultrices neque egestas. Integer convallis lacus at consequat volutpat.

Molecular control shape-shifter
Friction control
Grafting-based biokinesis
body has developed a golden alloy that can be controlled around the body and turned into objects/weapons
animal transformation, both partial (hybrid) and full

Gas generation
Flesh-construct hive-mind

Dispersed consciousness gaia-form
Afterlife/Limbo travel
Magic-based gunslinger (a Jäger who’s survived since 1880’s?)
consciousness bound to a weapon, that dominates the wielder
dragon bound to mortal form, slowly breaking out over centuries and regaining power
Lorcán stormed off, Aurora followed him.
Calliope went to bathroom to freak out, comes back collected, stood with Banjo.
Amma had a chat with the Foundation staff, and then left for the dorms.
Rory heads out of stadium.
Harper leaves with Haven.
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