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Location: Team Swap Ceremony - P.R.C.U. Campus
First Class #2.49 : Rumbling

Mention(s) and Interaction(s): Haleigh @Kuro
Previously: Cat's out of the Bag

"You certain you want to do this? I'm not going to claim to know you. Hell, you can brush me off as unsolicited advice. But, just for a second, I want you to pause and look back at what you're leaving behind. I'm sure tensions are running high after what happened. People feel hurt. Depressed. Angry. That kind of feeling doesn't easily go away. It needs time to heal; certainly more time than a week. Trust me, I know how it goes more than most. By all means, if you still want to switch, then switch. But to me, it looks like Blackjack still gives a shit about you. You even have some of them on the verge of tears at the thought of you leaving them behind for another team."

"Don't worry about me, I heard the rules," She said in a sickeningly sweet tone to the transfer student offering up unsought opinions. "I know what I'm doing."

"She can think for herself, y'know. Keep your two cents out of our business and make your choice already."

Rory kept his fists clenched in his pockets, looking down at the ground and refusing to make eye contact with the three who stepped forward in the line. There they were, all fighting again. Fighting to leave, and to be independent. Some stranger was trying to stop things more than any of them were. A part of Rory hated himself for letting a stranger voice a desire for the others to stay. Another part hated that he wanted to supersede their decisions. His right hand had clenched itself around the crumpled eulogy, as he hadn’t bothered to change since the funeral. He remained silent, though. Inigo and Makenna were defending Trace to the end. And here he was, in some ways rooting against the three and hoping they would come back.

"Enough, Iñigo." Haleigh snapped in an assertive, commanding tone. "Drop the act. You know she's saying what we're all thinking."

Summoning all the courage she had, Haleigh stood up and pushed away the wheelchair. Although Tad had assured her back then that the inhibitor he had given Haleigh would allow her to walk as long as she wore it, she didn't quite trust him at the time. But this was different. She couldn't keep allowing things to hold her back; she needed to face things head-on.

Seemingly terrified, cautious steps soon turned into a full walk as Haleigh approached the center of the triangle where the four had stood amongst each other.

"Maybe I was... a little too harsh earlier. I'm sorry. I've been stressed out since the incident. We all have been. But she has a point. Blackjack needs each other more than ever. We need unity more than ever. I know some of us have had... differences in opinion, to say the least, but I don't want to see us fall apart like this. I know it'll probably be difficult, and honestly I'm probably making a fool out of myself here because you've likely already made up your minds, but please reconsider. If not for me, then for everyone else. We can work things out. I'm sure of it."

Haleigh held out her hand, hoping at least one of them would take her offer. She made an attempt, time would only tell if the three would leave her feeling spurned once more.

Rory’s eyes locked on Haleigh, as his mind circled back to the conversation around the fire. This literal step held with it more intent than any word she could mutter now. But the message and the meaning crept in and ate away at him instantaneously. His eyes turned to the cameras for a brief moment, trying to shove down the anxiety of being in such a public space without the comfort of having a playbook to follow. This whole situation had gotten out of hand. But Rory sighed, and scooted over to fill some empty space in their formation to get closer to the cluster of action. As he spoke, he kept his voice low while matching Haleigh’s assertive tone. That ever present awkward smile had faded. His eyes locked on Haleigh. "Stop this, Haleigh.”

Rory’s eyes turned to Makenna, Inigo, and Trace. His brow furrowed as he frowned. He was unable to mask the sadness plastered on his face. ”We’ve made our choice. They’ve made theirs. We haven’t really felt like a team from the beginning. Calliope was the first to really say it… and Cass…” The name haunted him a little, and felt like clay in his mouth. He had to swallow hard to clear it from his throat. ”He… he said at the fire that there isn’t a right or wrong decision, whether to stay or leave. I think he is… was right. Not the whole thing with, like, watering grass. But none of us chose to be on this team before now. Now we get to choose.”

The pit in Rory’s stomach grew larger. He let loose the words that had been building up in his chest, gnawing at his innards. One fist clenched at the paper in his pocket, as his other hand reached up to place a hand on Haleigh’s shoulder as he stood behind her. ”I’m with Blackjack until the end, despite you and Luce trying to paint me and them as enemies. And Luce couldn’t even be bothered to come here.” Rory felt his anger rise at that last sentiment, as if he had just finally realized it. He took a small breath to reset, speaking calmly again. ”I agree Blackjack needs to stay united, but they’re not Blackjack anymore. The choice has been made. They have to live with it, seems unfair to try and guilt them back after you pushed them away. Besides, if they do come back… then what? I’ve been on a lot of teams, and you never compete well if you don’t trust the people at your side. And you never trust the guys who are forced to be there. Blackjack never felt like a team when we were forced to be. I say we make the most of what we have, Haleigh, and move on… I say we let them go, ok?”

His hand gave Haleigh's shoulder a soft squeeze. He wasn't sure if he did the right thing. Maybe he did the worst thing he could have. But his eyes turned to his three former teammates, and he gave them a solemn nod. He was out of words. Hopefully they understood. Hyperion was wrong about him. He didn't give a damn about his own comfort. All he cared about in this moment was theirs.

Even if they were leaving him alone.

- -|◄ FIRST---
Cole grunted as he laced up his freshly polished boots. He had barely noticed the child who was standing at the door of the mud room, baseball gloves and baseball in hand. It was hard to remember how old Rory was then… perhaps because this scene had played out so many different ways over and over to the point it felt like a ritual. When Cole finally looked up, his stern expression barely changed. There was never a look of remorse. Just that blank, serious stare. Cole stood up, grabbed his duffel bag off the floor, and just shook his head. ”Maybe another time, kid.” Cole turned to open the door, a bright white light on the other side obscuring the outdoors. Rory sighed, letting the glove and ball fall to the ground. He would go back to his mother to complain, only to hear about how respected and necessary his dad’s work was. To make a better future, Cole had to make sacrifices.

Rory was just one of those sacrifices.

Location: Team Swap Ceremony - P.R.C.U. Campus
First Class #2.24 : Cat's out of the Bag

Mention(s) and Interaction(s): None
Previously: Empty Words

Rory groggily opened his eyes with a start, hands raised in fists as he tried to scan the room with blurred vision. It took him a moment to even process what had woken him up, finally acknowledging the buzzing generic alarm coming from his phone. He had set one to make sure he didn’t miss the ceremony. He cleared the sleepy tears from his eyes before focusing on the time. Of course, he was running late. Rory stuffed his phone in his pocket and began sprinting out the door to his room in the intake house, stumbling from taking too sharp of turns at a full sprint here and there. He was able to make it in record time, catching up to his team at the last moment as Jonas was finishing his speech. A brief glimpse at his teammate’s faces indicated Dr. Lehrer’s words were not encouraging. That was only going to make his job harder.

Then, of course, next was the Team Swap. Rory looked at the empty spots where his teammates would be standing. Cass would have been in the back, if he had to guess. He didn’t seem to be the type to draw attention or be at the center of attention. But… maybe he was? Rory didn’t know a damn thing about him, at the end of the day. None of them really did, it seemed. The only one who might have was Banjo, and he was still in the ICU as far as Rory knew. There wouldn’t be some inspiring speech today to rouse the troops, or wild outburst of antics to break the tension... just silence as the faculty continued explaining their ceremony.

Rory accepted the envelope as they were getting passed around. He took a quick read of his offers, nodding along to the options. After everything that had shaken down, the choice was obvious: the same house his father had been in when he was a student here. His father had been chosen for his motivation. Rory would settle for being chosen for loyalty. At the end of the day, gentleness and optimism were traits Rory had in abundance. He needed a competitive house if he was going to push himself properly. For their sakes. For Cass.

The counting roused Rory from his envelope. He turned to look down the line at his teammates. There was motivation and determination in the eyes of some, especially in Haleigh and Trevor. He gave them a soft smile. But as he turned his gaze to Trace, it was clear they were avoiding eye contact. Small knots twisted in his stomach. They wouldn't… they couldn't. Unless…

They spit on the ground. “Bloody fuckin’ Americans fixin’ all their problems with violence.” They released Rory’s arm. “It’s a sad fuckin’ day when I agree with Makenna and Rory here. But here I am.” They paused. “No, fuck you all, I’m not here. Not anymore. Not with the lot of you.”

Trace had already said their goodbyes, in their own way. His eyes briefly darted to the others. Trevor and Haleigh looked rooted. They didn't seem to notice. Why couldn't anyone else see it? Rory's heart rate rocketed up as Trace stepped forward. He felt his left hand reach forward just slightly yet again, as if to catch them. But his hand just held there in front of him, before weakly falling back to his side. Neither of the armbands held were for Team Blackjack.

Anywhere but here. Anyone but us. Everyone except us.

Rory's eyes turned back to what remained of his team. He didn't even clock the two transferring to Blackjack. His eyes turned to the others. His eyes lingered on Inigo and Makenna. The former had managed to pick a fight the first time they had met, and the latter had chosen to insult those who wished vengeance for Cass. He looked back at Trace, arm raised defiantly. Might as well have given them the finger, and told them to bang their mother's dogs or some other funny euphemism they could draw from their arsenal. They had done it often enough before. Trace had hardly been nice to any of them, except perhaps Katja. This was the most tame Trace's rejection of them had been, so far. But that just left a single question bouncing around his empty head.

Of all the people… why did this hurt so much?

- -|◄ FIRST---
Location: Somewhere - P.R.C.U. Campus
The Homecoming Trials #2.24 : Empty Words

Mention(s) and Interaction(s): Haleigh @Kuro, Luce @Roman, Trace @psych0pomp, Inigo @Mao Mao, Makenna @Tackytaff
Previously: No Sleep

Rory kept his hands planted in his pocket, fist balled around his crumpled eulogy. One by one, his teammates gathered. There was a somewhat even split in opinion on the next move, though the voices for vengeance were loudest. Haleigh had addressed him directly. Words caught in his throat. He wanted to defend himself… or agree. He wasn’t sure. His hand squeezed tighter around the empty words he refused to speak. The letters were shaky and cut deep into the notebook paper. They too called for action and justice. They were a self-serving rallying cry, the kind of speech a team captain would give at half-time. They were words that came from a deep-seated sorrow that rendered cuts across his bleeding heart.

They were just empty words meant for his benefit, not Cass’. They wouldn’t have helped his family. His sister was a few years younger than Mary.

He wasn’t going to let her, or Will even, bury another Tyler because he let himself go with the tide.

Rory shook his head at Haleigh’s words, muttering out a soft ”No” in refutation of her conclusion. He almost didn’t notice that Trace had grabbed onto his arm. He froze up for a moment at the realization, before letting himself relax slightly. It was a positive sign, if nothing else. He gave small nods of appreciation to Inigo and Makenna as they approached. He couldn’t quite find any words to say to anyone though. He was far too exhausted to think clearly, or put together any semblance of a speech. Most surprising of all was Luce, who had seemed so uncertain and fearful the night everything broke down. But now, she seemed like a completely different person. He wasn’t sure what was more unnerving: the arrogant voice that kept him up at night, or the incendiary rage that burned like oil in Luce’s throat. He understood the feelings… but he couldn’t find himself agreeing with the conclusion. Killing Hyperion… it was too easy. Too simple. Hyperion needed to be stopped, but something in Rory’s gut felt weary of the choice of words and goal. It was something to mull over, but he wasn’t fond of Luce’s ultimatum.

Trace let go of his arm… and spited him one last time before walking away. He felt his heart sink, his hand catching in his pocket as he tried to reach out for a moment. He stopped himself. Trace clearly insisted on being alone… but right now didn’t feel like the time to push the issue. He’d catch up with them later. Rory gave a weak, weary smile to Inigo and Makenna. ”I think everyone needs time to grieve in their own way… I’ll see you guys at the ceremony. I’ll be at the Intake House until then if you need me.” With that, Rory made his way back towards the dorms.

It was time he got some rest.

He needed to be at his best for his team.

Or what was going to be left of it.

- -|◄ FIRST---
"Ohhhhhh shit." Banjo thought to himself. Time froze for Banjo as his mind spun trying to figure out how to handle this fresh clusterfuck.

"Let's not panic... he just said it himself. He doesn't use it. He's not going to fool around and do anything stupid anytime soon. This is easy. You find him later, away from anyone else. No need to cause anyone any kind of panic, and you explain to him the 'rules' you came up with. The 'rules' for using it safely and not endangering anyone or... the world. I mean he can follow a simple set of rules, right?"

Banjo offered Rory a simple thumbs up and a strained smile, in support of Rory's willingness to share with the group, as he sat in more abject terror than he'd been in for quite some time.

He was pretty sure abject terror was generally an absolute for most people, and not a sliding scale. But Banjo did not grow up as most people.

Rory was the next one to open up about themselves. He seemed slightly nervous talking to the group, a feeling that Katja could very much relate with. The thought of having family in PRCU, even if they were in the collegiate, seemed nice to her. And from the way he spoke of them, Rory seemed to draw some semblance of strength at the thought of them being close by. Him mentioning he was experienced in wrestling almost made her eyes spark with joy. Finally someone who also practiced a martial art… Even if it was a completely different discipline from her own. His power seemed interesting too, the possible applications of which seemed endless to Katja. Barely able to contain her excitement at having met a fellow martial arts practitioner though, she spoke up to him after taking one last bite from her kebab, her mouth half full. ”It’s awesome you’re into martial arts too! I’m very much into kickboxing but have been interested in getting into MMA. Maybe you can teach me some moves?”

Rory’s eyes settled on Banjo for a moment, clocking a moment of… discomfort? Fear? It was hard to say… but the look on his face matched the feeling Rory had in his gut whenever he thought about what he could do. Though… quite frankly, Rory’s imagination probably wasn’t as vivid. Given the powers shared around the campfire as only a starting point, it is terrifying being around someone who can do anything given the right circumstances. But before Rory could spiral too far, his cheeks grew a little red as Katja spoke. The contrast between the reactions was jarring, but it was a welcome change. He flashed a small smile and a nod in response. ”I never really tried either… But I’d be happy to teach what I know. Maybe you could teach me some kickboxing in return?”

Things began to wind themselves down as the fire grew weak. The tents were much nicer than he expected, and Rory settled in for bed rather quickly as he stripped down to just his shorts. He spent a few minutes with his phone light looking through his notes on his team again. He needed to know what they all did… but as sleep crept over him, he welcomed the sweet embrace of sleep.

It was nice.

Maybe things were going to be ok.

Location: Dr. Morse's Office / The Funeral - P.R.C.U. Campus
The Homecoming Trials #2.07 : No Sleep

Mention(s) and Interaction(s): Banjo @Hound55, Katja @Zoldyck, Haleigh @Kuro, Trace @psych0pomp
Previously: Is this Kumbayah?

2 Days after “the incident”

”You aren’t sleeping?” Dr. Morse’s question was phrased more as a statement. Rory looked down at the ground, refusing to make eye contact. His leg was shaking like it always did.

”No. I can’t.”

”Can’t, or won’t?”

Rory grit his teeth as he leaned back in his chair. He was having trouble keeping his eyes open. Dr. Morse leaned forward in her own chair, setting the notebook and pencil on an ornate side table. ”You need to be honest with me. I can’t help you if-”

”Help? Help what?” Rory’s leg was shaking so violently at this point that he shot up out of his chair, quickly pacing back and forth along the length of the room. He didn’t make eye contact, as his eyes were nearly closed at this point. By his movements, he looked wide awake… but his face betrayed his sleep deprivation. ”Cass needed help, and we couldn’t do a single fucking thing. I… I…” The words were thick in his throat, caught somewhere in his windpipe and threatening to choke him.

”You couldn’t save him… None of us could.” Dr. Morse closed her eyes, relying on her powers this time. Rory noticed her wince, before trying to mask the disgust. She took a couple breaths as she opened her eyes. Dr. Morse didn’t look at Rory as she grabbed her notebook again to write down a couple notes. ”What you’re experiencing is something called Survivor’s Guilt, in response to a severe traumatic event. It’s… expected, after something like this.”

Rory’s pace slowed as his body began losing steam. He looked at Dr. Morse in the eyes as she motioned towards the chair opposite to her. He relented and sat down, elbows on his knees and head in his hands as he rubbed his eyes. ”I haven’t seen it in years.”

Dr. Morse closed her eyes again, before having to stifle a chuckle. ”I’m not talking about TV. You just survived a near death encounter… and someone you knew died in that encounter. I don’t have to read your mind to know you’re wondering why it wasn’t you.”

Rory didn’t respond.

Dr. Morse stood up, moving over to a set of cabinets and opening the first drawer, sorting through the folders for a moment before finding a small two-pocket folder with some handouts. She walked back to her seat, setting the folder to the side for a moment. ”We’re going to go over some exerci-... routines you can put in place to begin the process of dealing with the guilt and grief. But before we do that… I want you to understand that you aren’t the only one going through this, Rory.”

Rory gave a small nod.


”I… uhh… I didn’t really get to know him that well…”

Rory stood in front of the gathered crowd, hands gripping on to the podium like it was a life raft. He had been to enough of these that he should be comfortable. Three funerals in three years… it was beginning to feel like an annual tradition at this point. He had volunteered without much thought. But now that he had to look at Cassander’s family… it became clear how little Rory knew his teammate. He was dressed up nicer than he ever had in his life. No one knew how many times he had to re-tie the red neck tie and fix his hat in the mirror before the funeral. Rory’s appearance was the only thing he could control here. Rory cleared his throat, removing his hands from the podium to grab his notes and shove them into his pants pocket.

His cheeks were dry. He had run out of tears six months ago.

That thought killed Rory.

”He was funny. He was smart. He… he understood what it means to be here. I don’t know if he wanted to be here, or if he wanted to be part of our team… I think I would have been lucky to have gotten to know him. He seemed kind… strong. When push came to shove… he acted. He would have been a good H.I.T. agent…” Rory’s eyes turned to his teammates in the crowd. ”We… we’ve just got to make him proud.”

Rory kept his eulogy quick, opting not to focus on the body before he settled back in with the others. He still looked, for lack of a better word, sick. It was clear he still wasn’t sleeping well. He could barely keep his eyes open through the rest of the ceremony. He almost hadn’t noticed when everyone began filing away, back towards the Minotaurs. Rory was practically frozen stiff staring out at the horizon where the body had drifted. He finally turned and followed the crowd, moving at a somewhat brisk pace. He tuned out most of the conversations and murmurs around him, before a small sentence crept through the noise.

"I'm going to kill him."

Rory snapped his head in the direction of Haleigh and Trace.

"Cass. Banjo. Jim. Tad. He's going to pay for everything."

“Innit what Hyperion would want? Get angry? So, he can spout more stupidity about bein’ superior while we flop around like fish? Nah, I’m good. I ain’ bathin’ in blood for Cass. You can, though. You got the power to.” They held the hibiscus out to Haleigh. “Aren’t you more interested to find out why us? Why Tad? How did they know we were goin’ to be out in the middle of nowhere? This place has its secrets, too, and I’m not happy playin’ that they’re innocent in this, either.”

Rory strolled over in their direction, lifting his hands to readjust his coat absent-mindedly. ”Trace is right.” Those words felt weird coming out of his mouth. Rory didn’t make eye contact with the two of them, and kept his voice down to avoid drawing too much attention their way. ”For now, at least. Cass tried, and I can’t do another funeral. I… I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Asking why. It doesn’t make any sense to me… but that’s not new.” Rory paused for a moment, out of habit. Negative self talk wasn’t going to help right now. ”I think we all deserve answers. No matter what it takes.”

- -|◄ FIRST---
No worries here, mate. Happy to just move forward.

Nathaniel's eyes very quickly scanned over his opponent, the peasant who managed to get by on dirty tricks. Nathaniel held his sword aloft, in front of his face, broad side facing his opponent. He gave a bow in this position, pressing his forehead along the broad-side of the training sword. He had everything to prove, and yet this match had been decided already. Nathaniel waited for his opponent's bow to meet his own, rising as his opponent rose. Nathaniel's motion of readiness was a stark contrast to Julian's: Nate simply lifted his other hand to meet the grip of his sword, and turned the blade outward to face his opponent. Julian's stance was shoddy, jerkily moving about their sword arm as if they were unfamiliar with the weapon's balance. This duel had already been decided.

It was no surprise Nathaniel's eyes drifted to another one of the battles, between two nobles Nathaniel had conversed moments ago. The more empathetic one seemed to go on a quick offensive, but the display was almost difficult to watch. It was like a tide crashing into a cliff, an avalanche of attacks that were expertly parried, blocked, or sidestepped. The opponent was impressive, the kind of person Nathaniel could only have wished to duel, to show off their own talents. But instead, Nathaniel was stuck with someone untrained. His eyes turned back to Julian, and they were filled with the intensity of an individual with a singular purpose: win.

"You are a mockery to this training ceremony. Let's be done with this."

Nathaniel lowered his stance, rolling back onto the balls of his feet for a moment. His body rocked back for a moment, before he leaned himself forward and took off into a quick sprint towards Julian. His sword remained held over his shoulder and behind his back, allowing his upper body to rotate slightly in between steps to keep himself balanced. He closed the gap with Julian quickly, training sword lifted high in the air as Nathaniel was just entering striking distance. Nathaniel's movements were swift, and his grip and aim true.

Weak grip, stance unbalanced... Two strikes to disarm, and the match is over. This is easy... maybe too easy.

But the die had been cast. As an unsettling feeling creeped up the back of Nathaniel's spine, he had already made his opening move. He didn't anticipate this had been a trap.
"With all due respect, you know very little about the situation so maybe just focus on your football throwing and let the grown-ups have a discourse," she said to Rory. "As for you," she addressed Iñigo, "I came over here offering help and you didn't even acknowledge me, let alone how rude you treated Banjo, who also only offered help. A simple 'no we have it' would have sufficed, but as you clearly didn't even know about the lever I'll wait for a 'thank you Banjo' instead. We're supposed to be a team and bonding and stuff and I'll be the first to admit I cringed at that aspect, but at least I am trying. Banjo was trying too, and you essentially spat in his face."

Calliope took a beat to calm down before she went on, acknowledging Rory now, "Sorry, Rory, about my grown-up comment. You meant well."

”You meant what you said.” Rory turned his gaze to Calliope for a moment, unable to mask the sadness in his eyes, before just turning away from everyone and walking out of the clearing for a moment. He could feel the emotion welling up in the chest and clawing at his throat. First sadness, then self-loathing. He was an adult now, there was no excuse for getting this worked up just because he was talked down to. Looked down on. Again. Just like it always happened. Because he was stupid. He was an idiot, and a burden. No one wanted him there, they had been very clear. He was a bad judge of character, he was a child. A big dumb child. Maybe now was just the best time to walk away…

It took a second for Rory to realize his phone was vibrating in his pocket as he had lowered himself down into a crouch behind a tree, his hands clenched so tight the fingernails had drawn a bit of blood in his palms. He quickly brushed them against his shorts, before reaching into his pocket to grab his phone. A small series of texts were the only notifications.

>You made me a promise, Rory.<

>You’re not a quitter.<

Rory shook his head in disbelief, sliding the phone back in his pocket. He cleared his throat with a cough, rubbed his eyes to make sure there were no tears, and waltzed back into camp. William always knew what to say at just the right time. It was hard to tell if it was him being empathetic, or just making the most of his hype gene. Quite frankly, Rory didn’t care. He was right, like always. It was too early to give up now.

Location: Camp Blackjack, Southern Plateau - P.R.C.U. Campus
The Homecoming Trials #1.90 : Is this Kumbayah?

Interaction(s): Team Blackjack
Previously: Introduction to Conflict Management

"So, what are everyone's thoughts on this team swap? I'll be the first to admit I had considered that possibility back at the campus. Now, I don't know. Hard to say if I think this team will flop or not on day 1. We didn't get off on the right foot, so maybe we can try to fix that now? I'm Calliope. My power is ice manipulation." She opened the floor to others.

Rory took a seat around the fire, opting for a spot away from Calliope as he happily munched on a fire grilled beef. As soon as the conversation turned to a discussion of abilities, Rory quickly scrambled to grab the pencil from his wristband. He flipped open the pad, and scrambled to write down Calliope’s power, as described. Calliope - Ice Manipulation. Bully.

"Everyone wants the chance to make a good first impression. There's an appeal to the swap in that alone. But it's not a simple reset," Cass paused.

"The adage of 'the grass is green where you water it' applies. We can stay on Blackjack, make the best of our situation and enjoy our time at Pacific Royal."

The smoke of the fire suddenly blew in his face causing Cass to cough before continuing.

"Or we give up on Blackjack and move to Eclipse or Firebird, either continuing with the same attitude or making the best of a new situation. There's no wrong answer and there's no right answer. It's Schrödinger's cat, whether it's alive or dead is dependent on your outlook." He had been talking too long, it was probably the most any of them had heard him speak.

Cass sheepishly rubbed the back of his head before holding a palm out. The familial sparks emitted from his hand before swirling together to become a small, glowing orb.

"According to Professor Roth and Dr. Lehrer, they call it volatile force manipulation." Cass mused before tossing it skyward, the orb exploding into fireworks.

"I'm not great at controlling it as I'm sure most of you have seen."

Rory paused, moving his head to eat the skewer being held in his left hand. He eyed up Cassander, who had spoken up. He was surprisingly well spoken, for someone who Rory hadn’t really heard say anything at all until now. He didn’t quite know what an adage was, or who Shrodinger was… but the gist was clear enough. And he was right. As much as deep down, Rory wanted to jump ship and hope for the best… there was no guarantee. If the teaching advisor was any indication, Team Eclipse wasn’t going to be any better. But as soon as Cass showed off his powers, Rory quickly wrote down his notes. It took him a second, as Rory’s teammate hadn’t said his name… but Rory matched the picture. Cassander - Volatile Force Manipulation = Fireworks.

Banjo spoke up. "Uhh... My names Banjo." He turned to look at Rory. "I uhh... know the official school documentation says 'Andrew Olyphant'. That's not my name. Only name I've ever known is Banjo. But they needed two names on the paperwork, and, well... yeah."

Oh, this is just going swimmingly, dickhead. Sack up. Before you put these jokers to asleep.

"Anyway... I've kind of always viewed my powers as 'something I can do' more than 'who I am', so maybe we can all bounce around and throw in something about ourselves as we go. Y'know, something a bit more substantial than 'I like Pez'. There's twelve of us here, maybe someone else here'll have it in common and we might actually see each other as people or somethin', or whatever."

"So, yeah. I'm Banjo, and I metaboli--" He turned and looked at Rory and Trevor and considered his audience. "I uhh-- eat sunlight and warmth, and my body takes it and makes me stronger, faster, helps me think a bit clearer, basically all 'round a bit better." He turned and looked at Sparky McGee, never flinching for a moment, staring at him in the face - straight down the barrel. "--And I've never known my parents. I grew up in orphanages and care facilities and bounced around schools for the vast majority of my life. In fact, I bounced around so much, I'm not exactly sure WHERE in Australia I'm from, or... I guess... my parents were from, because I've been pretty much all over. Or whatever. So who's got next?"

Well... let's see how that goes down.

Rory, almost immediately after Banjo spoke up, crossed out “Andrew” on his note card and replaced it with “Banjo.” He remained blissfully unaware of the subtext behind the correction. Banjo seemed to be in better spirits, or at least a bit more cooperative. The fun fact suggestion was a great idea, in Rory’s opinion. He listened intently, and scribbled down a few brief notes. Banjo - Eats sunlight. Stronger / Faster. Rory paused in his notes, looking up at Banjo. The thought of being able to think clearer, without all the distractions and urges muddling his brain, filled him with a sharp pain of jealousy. But as he focused in, he felt it wash away. The first heartbreaking story kept Rory distracted for a moment. He didn’t have any words of comfort to offer. He had just lost his parents… it was a different kind of pain than never knowing them. He finished out his notes briefly. Thinks better.

Waiting for Haleigh to take her spot around the campfire and looking if Banjo was done with his introduction, she took one last bite out of her steak before speaking up.

”Well, guess it’s my turn. I’m Katja, but you can call me Kat if you want.” giving an apathetic shrug at the idea. ”My ability is density manipulation which means I can alter my own body mass and toughness. Basically I can turn myself into a human wrecking ball. Or punching bag, so if anyone needs a sparring partner who you want to try your abilities on, I’m your meisie She punctuated that statement with a humorless chuckle before looking at Banjo.

Rory quickly wrote down his notes on Katja. Katja - Density Manipulation = Wrecking ball or punching bag. He wasn’t quite sure what that meant… or how he would feel with a teammate turning into construction equipment in the middle of practice. Though he wouldn’t mind volunteering to be her sparring partner.

”Guess I’ll follow your example and explain a bit more about myself. As most of you have probably picked up on by my accent, I’m not from this side of the Atlantic, not originally anyway.” Katja paused for a moment as she looked up to the sky and took a deep breath before continuing. ”I was born and raised in Bloemfontein. Now, that name might not say a whole lot to most of you, but a little over a decade ago there was a large anti-hype massacre over there. The munnies got to my parents and well…” She bit down hard on her lips, casting her eyes down for a few seconds before looking back at the people around the campfire with an awkwardly forced smile on her lips. ”I’m sorry for ruining the mood, just felt like the best moment to open up.”

”Anyway...” she took a shaky deep breath to regain her composure, hiding away her pain back into that deep corner before looking at Banjo with that same forced smile on her face. ”You euhm, going to finish that?” Katja said, pointing her thumb to the untouched plate belonging to the Aussie.

Rory’s heart dropped. He wasn’t the smartest bulb in the store, but even he could piece together what Katja was trying to say. His parents had always mentioned the things happening abroad, and the hate people showed towards Hypes. Rory had experienced a bit first-hand, but learned from a young age to keep that hidden. But he knew he had no idea what Katja had experienced. No one deserved that. Rory’s dad has always said it was better H.I.T. stopped Hype criminals before others burnt all Hypes at the stake as witches. Katja knew what that meant more than he did.

“Bloody, ‘ell,” Trace grumbled. “I’m Trace Whitlock. They and them for the lot of you that didn’t get the memo. I’m from Sutton London. My dad is British Military, my mum is dead, and I was scouted for a professional football league before all this happened. And by football—RORY—I mean your fuckin’ soccer. Except better and with less bullshit.” They shrugged. “As much as my power goes. It’s easier to show you."

They pulled the back of their shirt up, which caused the front to ride up as well. Their torso was finely muscled, though far from the definition of Katja’s, and as pale as the rest of them. Their deep blue veins were obvious underneath. At first, it would be hard to tell what was happening in the light of the campfire, but it became apparent that a long limb started to form underneath the back of their shirt. At the end was a hand with fingers. The arm extended longer than a normal one should, lengthening out six feet in front of them. It was as pale as their flesh but didn’t seem to be made of skin. It looked to be denser and made of marble. While it bent in the middle, as if it had an elbow, there was nothing natural about it. The hand splayed its fingers and dove into the fire. It picked up some smoldering coals and held them there as if just holding a handful of rocks. It crushed them into a cloud of fine dust—easily—before dropping them back into the pit. The arm then crumbled away, landing on the ground like chalk before bubbling up as if someone doused it in vinegar before disappearing entirely. “That’s it. And I can produce six of those things.” They could do more with it, but they didn’t care to elaborate. Surprises might be fun in the future. Not to mention, they were already braced for whatever shit Banjo was about to spew.

Rory quickly scribbled down a couple notes for Trace. Trace - *They Them* - Pro Foot Soccer player. He didn’t quite understand why Trace didn’t just call it Soccer… but I guess the British changed the name when they started playing the sport. Rory looked up to see Trace starting to pull up their shirt, and instinctively averted his gaze to the fire between them all. Of course, the fire was bright and started to hurt his vision, so he blinked rapidly a few times and looked back towards Trace… only to see the long limb reaching into the fire he was just staring at. His mind kind of went blank, having to take a moment to reboot and comprehend what he had just seen. He eventually just scribbled down Grow 6 creepy arms.

"Hi everyone! My name's Trevor and I'm a H.E.A.T. program volunteer. My ability is..." He trailed off as he racked his brain for a good explanation. "It's easier to show than tell."

He reached down and placed his hand flat on the ground. In the next instant the skin of his arm started to disappear. Not into thin air and disappearing, it moved into the ground under his hand. But moving was also not quite the right word. His flesh was disappearing and reappearing in the dirt in a rough outline of his hand, then his wrist, and the better part of his forearm that filled in over a few seconds. At the same time, a mixture of dirt, rocks, and grass replaced the limb now half buried in the ground. He flexed his new fingers a few times as small bits of dirt fell back to the ground before taking a firm hold of his original arm and giving a firm tug to free it from the dirt. The arm dangled limply in his grasp as he gave it a good shake to dislodge any dirt stuck to it. He didn't seem to mind as drops of blood welled up near the lump of bone sticking out the top, but he was careful to hold it hand side down.

"I can move other stuff around too. It doesn't have to be part of me either. More importantly I'm with Calliope, cool name by the way. We should stick together."
By pure chance he happened to glance at Trace with all those arms behind her and gears turned in his head. Trevor looked down at his own disembodied hand and had to suppress a chuckle before he even started. This would be perfect, he just knew it. A joke would make her feel better after he spat with Banjo. Even at a distance it was obvious he was struggling not to laugh at his own joke as he tilted the severed limb in her direction.

"You seem like you got things handled but just ask and I'll be happy to lend you a hand."

Rory was very quiet as he watched Trevor use his power. If he was honest, he didn’t quite understand what he had just seen. I guess Trevor could replace his hand with dirt and rocks. It was a bit strange, and a bit gross. Rory didn’t even want to think about using that power. But he did agree with Trevor on sticking together. Most everyone seemed to be a bit more amicable. And Rory did give an audible laugh at Trevor’s joke. It was very clever, if not a bit gross. He quickly scribbled down a note on Trevor. Trevor - Rock Hand, DO NOT BORROW.

“Makenna, She began her introduction, shining smile at the ready as it came her turn. “Full merit scholarship Yale undergrad, treasurer of the Yale Daily News, and recipient of the Goldfarb Community Service award.” She paused for a moment, wanting so much it could have ended there. “Not that’s what any of you really wanted to hear about me.” She continued, still smiling as she folded her hands together, looking over the group.

“Four delta esoteric expulsive; vocal projection and mimicry. I can sound like whatever or whoever you want,” Her head tilted as she innocently lifted her eyes to the darkening sky above. “Or just a real screamer if it’s called for.”

With a final flash of white teeth, she looked expectantly to her left to continue the chain.

Rory felt a little awkward and embarrassed as Makenna spoke. She seemed bright and chipper, but Makenna’s little resume was incredibly impressive. She was clearly very smart, and Rory knew he was not going to be able to keep up with her. It would only be a matter of time before she would think of him as an idiot like Calliope. He jotted down his notes. Makenna - Smart - Voice Projection and Mimicry - Sound like anyone or Scream. Looking at Makenna’s entry, he wasn’t entirely sure what use that would be in training.

"I suppose I should probably explain some things. Hi, the name's Haleigh, though obviously some of you already know that. I'm from Vancouver—it's not that far from here, actually. About a day's worth of driving by car. Anyway, my dad is a Mountie. You know, the guys in red, one of the stereotypes when one thinks of Canada. Mom, well..."

Haleigh paused momentarily, before deciding to skip over that point. It was a topic she wasn't willing to go into.

"The Cascades were his stomping grounds, so he frequently brought me on his trips. To hike. Camp. Just anything to do with the outdoors. I guess he rubbed off on me in the end since I became an outdoors blogger and spent time out there solo before... well, the incident. I don't like to talk about it, personally. It's difficult to when one day you're... 'normal', and then the next you've buried yourself alive and become the reason people could've died back home. When your neighbors decide you needed to die over something out of your control."

She looked down at her legs, before taking a deep breath. They needed to know.

"Some of you are probably wondering about the wheelchair, I figure. Honestly, I hate it. I would much rather prefer to walk. But I can't. Not without people getting hurt. It's something that's been hanging over my head ever since I developed this stupid ability. I could sink this island with a stroll. Destroy the school with a jog."

Haleigh grimaced, clearly fighting back her emotions.

"I don't want to be the reason why more people get hurt, so I guess that's why I'm here. Tad's helped me with this inhibitor thing of his, but..."

Rory nodded as Haleigh spoke. It was nice to see a fellow Canadian on the team… though, quite frankly, he part of him was a little scared. The way Haleigh spoke about her powers, the more it sounded like a curse. He couldn’t imagine not being able to run around without destroying everything. He gave a sympathetic nod in her direction as he spoke, not writing anything down until she had finished speaking. Haleigh - Outdoor Blogger - Sinks things by walking, DO NOT USE.

Banjo spoke up next, and Rory took the opportunity to devour what was left of his skewer before it went fully cold. His impression of Banjo kept changing: he was hard to pin down or understand. But he was kind and compassionate. While Banjo was speaking to Haleigh, the talk of “being scared of what you’re capable of” resonated hard with Rory. Rory’s father was harsh and strict with him once he learned what Rory’s power was. The number of times he heard some variation of “you can never let your guard down and use it like an idiot” was so high that it outnumbered the times he had said “I love you.” That thought weighed Rory down for a moment.

Noticing the brief silence, Rory looked up to see a few eyes gaze in his direction. He hadn’t spoken up yet, and was only now slightly embarrassed about the playbook. He quickly slammed it closed, his leg shaking nervously as he took a breath. He looked up towards Trevor for some semblance of reassurance, before speaking to the group at large. ”Banjo’s right. Not all of us can control what we do. They let us work on that here, safely.” He turned his gaze to Haleigh, trying to offer a bit of a soft smile. His mother had always mentioned how useful her time at P.R.C.U. was in controlling her powers. Maybe it would help Haleigh too.

Rory placed his hands on his knees, willing his leg to stop shaking for a moment. It wasn’t very cooperative, sort of vibrating slightly still despite Rory’s efforts. He looked over to Calliope for a moment, his gaze turning cold for a moment as he did, before looking towards the others and letting his smile return. ”My name is Rory Tyler… My parents went here years ago. I live… lived in Ottawa. I’ve got a brother and a sister, they’re both twins here in the Collegiate program. I guess my fun fact is that I was a pretty good wrestler in high school…” Rory felt a little nervous at this point. He knew he was stalling from having to explain what his power was. He just flashed a smile, trying to make a good impression for those that didn’t already think less of him.

Rory flipped open the playbook and turned it to the last page, which was just a cut-out note in his Aunt’s handwriting with the name of his power. He read the note, and nodded. ”My power is Power Mimicry. I can borrow a power from someone I’m near for a short time… it’s why I’ve been writing notes down in this.” Rory held up his wrist, showing off the wristband and pocket playbook. ”I… I don’t really use it, honestly. Any time I do, I get really sick after.” Rory kept his nervous smile up, looking around to the others. ”So yeah… that’s me. Who’s next?”

- -|◄ FIRST---

Location: Camp Blackjack, Southern Plateau - P.R.C.U. Campus
The Homecoming Trials #1.57 : Introduction to Conflict Management

Interaction(s): Trace @psych0pomp, Banjo @Hound55
Previously: Glad I Had a Second Ball

“What the hell? Who the hell is that? And we’re all okay with them taking her?”

Trace’s outburst settled on Rory as he had set his bag down next to Trevor’s tent. He looked over in the direction of Inigo and Haleigh, who were being approached by Calliope and Banjo. Certainly offering a helping hand, now that Banjo had destroyed one of the four footballs tucked inside the military-style duffle Rory had packed. He knew it was smart to come prepared for something like that. Will was always the one who thought ahead like that. But unlike Will, Rory couldn’t quite get that bad taste out of his mouth. Trace was rude, certainly, but seemed to show genuine concern and confusion. If they were all going to get along, who better than Rory to try and smooth things over.

Rory gave a polite nod to Trevor, holding up a single finger to indicate he needed a moment. He took a quick jog over towards Trace and Katja, his eyes nervously darting between the two. Knots twisted in Rory’s stomach at the thought of getting yet another tongue lashing for just existing from the angry enby vampire… but maybe this would help smooth things over. Hell, maybe Aunt Lily was right: everyone was probably just as nervous about all this as he was. Clarification certainly couldn’t hurt, right? Rory didn’t even hesitate by the time he got within a few feet of Trace and Katja, interjecting himself into their conversation headlong. ”That’s Inigo.” Rory paused a moment, realizing he hadn’t actually thought about what he was going to say… and pausing just made it even weirder. Rory just quickly continued, speaking about as fast as he could. ”With Haleigh. I think they got here a little late, missed the opening ceremony. Seems like a good person. So I wasn’t concerned with them trying to bunk with Haleigh. I wasn’t trying to ignore you or anything, you just-”

"Oh, and 'Tourist'? Fuck off. Sure I've been here five bloody minutes, but if you've been in this country any longer than me, I'd be bloody stunned." Rory turned his head quickly to see Banjo storming away from Inigo after pointing and yelling. This was getting quite out of hand. Rory’s entire train of thought came to a screeching halt. Someone needed to rein things back in.

Rory turned back to Trace and Katja, giving them an awkward smile and wave before just quickly jogging after Banjo. He called out, ”Hey, Bro!” In that instant, Rory panicked. He looked down at his wristband playbook, opening it for a moment as his mind grew too loud. There was too much happening to remember what that guy’s name was. He recognized the picture by the cocky grin, and quickly scanned the first name listed. Andrew… Andrew. Andy. Got it. Without so much as waiting for an acknowledgement, Rory continued, ”Look man, we need to be trying to get along here. If you need to walk things off, walk it off… but you can’t be talking to people that way, Andy. We’re a team, like it or not… so let’s just try to get along.” Rory pushed to jog a little faster to finish closing the gap, and accentuated his point by reaching out to grab Banjo’s shoulder in an effort to stop him for a moment and come to a sense of understanding.

This couldn’t possibly go wrong. Maybe Dr. Lehrer was right… maybe this team did need Rory.

- -|◄ FIRST---
Rory's foot tapped against the ground softly, the wooden chair he was in creaking incessantly with the constant motion. His eyes failed to meet the good doctor in front of him, as Jonas sat with a small smile plastered on his lips and watched. Rory stared at everything else he could. He knew what was sitting in front of Dr. Lehrer was perhaps one of the most disappointing transcripts he'd seen in a while. Rory wasn't disruptive enough or dumb enough to be kicked from schools, or fail out of being able to compete on various sports teams. But PRCU wasn't exactly known for its football team, and Rory wasn't going to be able to use his extracurricular physical performances as a selling point here. After what felt like seconds, but could have been minutes, Rory's eyes finally met those of Dr. Jonas Lehrer.

"I am sorry for your loss, Mr. Tyler. I know you've heard that a lot in the past year, but I feel it is still important that it be said." Jonas both forearms on his desk, clasping his hands together as he leaned in. The shaking in Rory's leg stopped for a moment as his focus fell entirely to Dr. Lehrer. "You know, I interviewed the two of them when they were accepted here. They were dedicated to their life's works, as I am. I had a tremendous respect for them both, and I do not believe English has a word that could encompass the tragedy of what has been lost with them gone."

Rory's eyes diverted from Dr. Lehrer, turning to a small clock on the wall. The leg shaking began again as Rory stifled the various thoughts and feelings that welled in his chest and threatened to crawl up his throat and out of his lips. "Uhh... yeah... Yes, I mean. Thank you, sir."

Jonas turned his gaze down to the file in front of him, skimming through some of the papers. He stopped after only a few seconds, looking back up to Rory. "What do you want?"

Rory nodded, smiling politely and centering himself before answering confidentiality. "I want to become an agent of HIT, just like my father, sir. I really want to ser-"

"No no... I see you have enlisted in the HEAT program right here. I can tell what your plans are. I'm asking what you want, Mr. Tyler. What is your goal? What motivates you?"

The shaking stopped for a moment, before intensifying. Rory felt like he had been suckerpunched in the gut. He wasn't sure how to vocalize it... or even understand why he was here, truly. I don't know wasn't going to be satisfactory. Rory scrambled for a moment, before blurting out. "Family." Dr. Lehrer smiled softly, clearly a little amused. Rory looked over to the clock on the wall, a strange wave of confidence washing over him as he continued. "I want to stay close to the remaining family I have... My grades aren't as good as theirs, I know that. But I'm willing to give everything to keep 'em safe."

Dr. Lehrer nodded, folding up the folder in front of him and sliding out a single sheet of paper filled with names and pictures. Across the top of the paper was a simple title: Team 21: Blackjack. "I appreciate that dedication... and ask that you extend that to your new team while you are here."

Location: Camp Blackjack, Southern Plateau - P.R.C.U. Campus
The Homecoming Trials #1.47 : Glad I Had a Second Ball

Interaction(s): Trevor @Jarl Coolgruuf
Previously: A Bad Hand

In moments, the campsite was alive with energy… and distractions. Rory followed Trevor as he began setting up a tent, trying to get a good handle for how to set one up to begin with. He kept eyeing the others as they were setting up their tents, raising an eyebrow at the realization of just how lavish they were: they were a far cry from the small things he used to set up in his backyard as a kid. Trevor was entrenched in figuring out how to work the tent, so Rory’s eyes drifted to the rest of his teammates. The group was pairing themselves up rather quickly. Rory wasn’t that big on putting himself out there. So, he figured he’d warm up the social muscles… and there was no better way than with a quick game of catch. He fetched a football out from his backpack, throwing it up in the air to sort of accentuate his point about spending some time as a group... and keep his hands occupied. He looked between those who hadn't yet partnered up. Of those remaining, Trevor seemed like the best option, as he seemed like the only one who could even stand to be around Rory. Though, there was always…

”Heya broer! You euhm, got a tentmate yet?”

Rory’s eyes were locked on the tall woman, back turned towards him as she had approached Cassander. His heart sunk slightly, a small whirlpool of undeserved jealousy knotting his stomach before washing away. Rory understood, Cass had a pretty look about him… the brooding was less appealing, though. Not that Rory had much room to complain on that front. Regardless, he was so lost in thought he hadn’t noticed the ball sail back down and bounce in the direction of Banjo and Calliope. He didn’t even realize what he had been doing until a small change in light quickly got his attention. Banjo’s transformation was terrifying. Rory took a half-step back as his teammate was surrounded by a shining aura of energy. Quite frankly, Rory couldn’t piece together by any stretch of the imagination what that could possibly mean. Luckily, Banjo demonstrated an application, at least, by launching Rory’s football into the stratosphere.

“Oye, you two.” They then pointed to the wheelchair bound girl. “One of you needs to go ovah and team up with her. The other one can stay behind and be my partnah. I don’t care which one it is, just leave your shared braincell with the one that’s stayin’ with me. Okay?”

Rory’s blood ran cold instinctively as Trace spoke, a byproduct of his conditioning at this point. Everyone seemed to have a critique about what he was doing and how he was doing it. At least Trace was obvious about it, even if he could barely understand what they were saying. He wasn’t quite sure how he and Trevor were sharing some sort of mind prison, but it had to be some kind of saying from overseas. Unless Rory was in the mind prison now… and if he was, how would he even know he was in it? That was the plot from that one movie with the John Wick guy, Rory was pretty sure. Stop it, Rory. Focus. Rory’s eyes turned back to Trace, and it took him a second to comprehend their request. As soon as he opened his mouth to respond, looking towards Haleigh, a football plopped down to the ground from on high. Rory slowly walked over towards the football, that was covered with fastly melting ice. There was a permanent dent in one end, and a tear in the seam. It was still somewhat functional, but clearly damaged. Another thing to fix and replace, as if Rory wasn’t capable enough to damage his own items on his own.

He leaned over and picked up his football, sighing as he messed with the fraying seems and dent. He looked up to see Katja walking away from Cass, a small bit of dejection noticeable there. But before Rory could act, Inigo and Katja had made their moves. Inigo extended an offer to Haleigh, and Katja chose Trace. They had practically made the decision for Rory at this point... and Trevor had set up his own tent. Rory awkwardly shoved the broken football into his duffel bag, his hand grazing against something fuzzy in the bag. He reached in and pulled out a small playbook wristband he had used back in high school. He looked around at the others gathered and flipped up the first set of cards. Within each plastic sleeve were the small campus ID photos of his teammates, along with their names. Next to the pictures were several small lines for Rory to write notes with a small pencil stored in a small velcro pouch. The whole setup was Will’s idea from ages ago, an easy way to study Spanish terms while going for a morning jog. Maybe, just maybe, this could help him keep everyone’s powers straight.

With the future playbook strapped to his wrist, Rory sauntered over towards Trevor and admired the fancy tent. They were nicer accommodations than he was expecting. "You mind if I crash with you? Looks like everyone else has paired up." Rory plopped the duffel bag on the ground next to Trevor’s tent, unzipping it briefly to pull out a second football. ”Name’s Rory… You’re Trevor, right? Wanna toss this around and get to know what everyone can do?”

- -|◄ FIRST---
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