Summer. The most wonderful time of the year, when students were rid of school work and free of all responsibility. It was a time to celebrate, either having an elaborate plan for the entire holiday or just being stupid with friends. Pool parties in the sun, endless gaming sessions every day and never, ever had to be confined in a boring area where one had to study.
Summer was simply glorious.
But apparently not glorious enough for Hana Song’s parents.
So what? She failed one history test. One! That didn’t mean she deserved to be stuffed into a random forest somewhere, cut off from friends and civilisation!!! Well, in truth, she hadn’t done any research about the place, yet, but what else should Hana be expecting? It would be packed with eggheads. If not, then bugs and no cell service!
…Okay, so maybe it wasn’t just one test. Maybe Hana skipped a month worth of homework too so she could enter this kickass StarCraft tournament. The first prize was worth being yelled at and grounded at the time. Never in her wildest dreams would Hana imagine her parents sending her to a summer camp though! Had they any regard for her extensive plans?!
At least her friends were being supportive. Even though they had already been notified as soon as Hana herself knew, she still appreciated the reactions in the group chat. From solemn salutes to outraged rants, even the teasing eased Hana somewhat. They were trying, and she soon found herself distracted by silly conversations. At least it made the car ride more bearable, especially with her mom’s stiff back and her dad’s uncharacteristic silence. Considering the explosive fights the family got into for the last couple of weeks, it was pretty self-explanatory. Hana was sure neither party was proud of what they said, but that didn’t curb her anger at all.
Camp Overwatch didn’t come into view until afternoon. The name caught Hana’s attention immediately, as it didn’t have the same hippie vibe she had mentally associated it with. The second, eyebrow-raising detail would be the gate. Uneven, dark stones stacked up together, looming over visitors in a medieval-themed construct, torches and all. Quite impressive, if not a bit cliché. Still, it was in the middle of nowhere, and Hana was more concerned about her waning signal than watching the greenery passing outside the window.
Gravel crunched under slowing tires, announcing Hana’s impending doom. Sullenly, she threw on her backpack and hauled her suitcase off, not waiting for her parents. If she was going to go out today, then she would go out with her head held high, thank you very much!
Her bravado didn’t last long.
Amidst the circle of trees, two canvas tents sat at each other’s opposite. There was a lodge across the sparse wooden bridge by the river, and a primitive watchtower stood next to it. A generous patch of land was fenced off, empty except for a pile of logs. There was a hiking trail leading up to the mountains, but other than that, there was nothing worthy of note.
There was no power generator, no campus for them to sleep in.
Oh fuck, what if they didn’t have a functioning plumbing system?!?!?!
A loud, commanding voice snapped her out of the miserable thoughts. Towering above the group was probably the most attractive camp leader Hana had ever seen. Not that she had seen a lot, but still...Curiosity perked, she joined the others loitering about. In contrary to the supposed theme of the camp, this guy was wearing black sleeveless T-shirt and fatigues, topped with a beat-up beanie. His beard was trimmed in a way that made it look both unkempt and styled, and the afternoon light made his scars shine, standing out against his dark skin.
“Alright! Gather up!”
They shuffled closer, not in any particular order. There wasn’t many around, Hana noticed. Twenty, including herself and not the hovering parents, at most. The camp leader did a head count, checked his tablet (A tablet! Maybe they had electricity after all!!!) and nodded at a woman standing behind him.
Damn, did this camp only hire supermodels?
The lady was an exceptional beauty, with long, fluttering black tresses that seemed to go on forever. She was lean and angular, a sharp contrast against the man’s rolling slabs of muscles, and had a perpetual, knowing quirk to her lips.
The camp leader’s chatters with the parents only further soured Hana’s mood. Stubbornly, she didn’t turn around, not even when everyone else said their goodbyes, not even when her dad came over to give her a squeeze on the shoulder, or when her mom tried to make her look at them. Deep down, Hana knew she was being childish, and her fists balled up so tightly around her backpack straps they popped.
It was a terrible feeling, and it sucked.
She might have made mistakes, but this was extreme of them, keeping her away in such a stupidly isolated place for months. It was unfair, and Hana refused to give in, even when her dad sighed and mom shook her head.
“You’ll like it here, you’ll see.” Mom said, lacking her usual firmness, “Bye, honey. Remember to call when you can.”
Stone dropped down her guts, but she was too stubborn to respond, even when they walked away.
Thankfully, the camp leader’s voice rang out once more, saving her from sinking further into a grave of negativity.
“Hello and welcome to Camp Overwatch. My name is Gabriel and I’m your camp leader. This is Ana, your other camp leader.” The lady did a two finger salute, making a tall girl standing beside Hana chuckle, “For those of you that have been here before, welcome back. And the newbies…well. We hope you’ll survive.”
Gabriel gave a sharp leer overhead, making some the kids eye each other worriedly. The girl next to Hana, however, tried hard to stifle a giggle, while a boy (long-haired with incredibly fair complexion) beside her rolled his eyes. Hana’s interest perked a bit further.
“Anyhow, I’m going to go over camp rules, because you little stinkers aren’t out here to read, and I ain’t gonna make ya.” Somebody whopped loudly in their little crowd, “Thought so. Right. Some of this might sound off, but you’ll understand better once we go through camp’s programme. Rule number one: You cannot and will not steal personal belongings. They are off-limit. Rule number two: Accidents happen. That isn’t to say you should be a wimp about it or going out of your way to injure somebody else.”
By now, Hana’s eyebrows almost touched her hairline. What kind of camp had they sent her to?
Gabriel was just getting the third rule out (no asking for outside help under any circumstance unless it was an absolute emergency) when a sparkling clean, blue Fiesta pulled up near them. Instead of pausing to wait, Gabriel barrelled on as if nothing happened, though there was a faint smirk quirking up his lips.
Intrigued, Hana turned, expecting another kid to join their bunch.
Would this place ever run out of hot, young adults? Because the driver could have stepped straight out of a magazine cover and Hana wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. Glimmering golden hair, eyes bluer than the sky and that bod. Yum! A camo duffle bag slung over his broad shoulder, and the blond dreamboat strode purposefully towards the group, clearing his throat.
To Hana’s surprise, Gabriel blatantly ignored the newcomer, though his smirk did widen. This seemed to immediately annoy the blonde, but he stood a respectful distance away instead of forcing his way over, foot tapping impatiently.
This was getting interesting…
“We are going to split you into two teams.” Gabriel continued, “These two teams are going to represent two opposing kingdoms, going to war. This “war” is a series of competitions and activities. The winner of each activity will be awarded a point for their kingdom. Whichever team earns the most points within camp duration will win this “war”. Points are awarded or taken away based on the size of your hoards, how well you managed among yourselves, how many battles you win, and how clever your tactics are. As you can see.”
He pointed with both hands, each at one of the canvas tents, “We have two separate sides of camp. These two sides can be built and redecorated accordingly to your team’s taste and defence. You may find basic equipment and supplies in those tents and in the ranch back there.”
“There will be further supplies provided, such as food and tools, but you will had to go through challenges to acquire these. The “kingdoms” may also forage from the forest and mountains. Under supervision, of course. They will also be converted to points by the end of camp.”
“You are encouraged to build forts, walls and traps around your side of the camp, as the opposing team is allowed to pilfer from your hoards and attack your side.”
A few stink eyes were already been thrown around. The rules made much more sense now. With how competitive this theme was, there would undoubtedly some minor injuries and accidents.
“Of course, it’s not a war without epic battles, so we will definitely have battle game right here.”
The kids cheered loudly. Hana found herself hollering with them, grinning from ear-to-ear and her earlier resentment forgotten. This was going to actually be fun! And Gabriel wasn’t even done yet.
“Your camp leaders, I and Ana, will be acting as supervisors to the “throne”. For each kingdom, your king or queen will be voted among yourselves. They will be your leader, who has the final say. However, throughout camp’s duration, if said king or queen is seen unfit to “rule” anymore, the kingdom can overthrow and assume a new leader.”
“In the last week of camp, starting on July 20th, a series of competition will take place. This includes a jousting tournament, armour crafting, poetry weaving, archery tournament, and etcetera. Think mini Renaissance fair, if you may. During this last week, there will be a copious amount of points given out, so even if you did terrible throughout the two months, your kingdom would still have a chance to catch up.”
“And, of course, there’s no winning if there isn’t a prize. The winner of the two kingdoms may decide whichever prize they desire, from both the losing kingdom and the camp itself. This is, of course, restricted by budget and common sense.”
Gabriel grinned at the kids, “Any question?”
By now, everyone was practically buzzing with excitement and anticipation. Well, except for one.
“Mr. Reyes, I need a word with you.”
Apparently, Blonde Guy had decided that he had enough of Gabriel ignoring him. Blue eyes were both challenging and defensive when the camp leader threw him a teasing smirk.
“Now, now, Jack. I asked for questions, not commands. But if that’s how you like it, I’m sure I can arrange something in the office. After I’ve dealt with the kids, of course.”
Hana’s eyebrows shot up once again, and she couldn’t help but let the giggles escape. Unfazed by the taunt, Jack narrowed his eyes.
“You know full well that it is because of the kids that I am here.”
Gabriel gave him a shrug, both nonchalant and ignorant, “If this is about that one complaint, then I don’t have time for it.”
“Actually, there are three now. Which forces us to take actions.” Jack produced folder from his jacket, waving it at Gabriel’s face, “There has been complaints from parents about injuries, and that the camp’s methods are not safe for the children. Thus I am-…”
“Oh. Wow.” Gabriel cut in, his stare dragged from the folder to Jack’s face, unimpressed, “A whole three complaints. I’m shivering in my boots. Should I be packing my things? Close down the camp?”
Jack bristled, but he was, at least, tried to stay polite, “Nobody is closing down your camp, Gabriel! At least not yet. Which is why I’m here, if you’d just let me finish.”
“There is nothing to finish.” A sharp edge rolled under the lazy drawls of Gabriel’s voice, signalling the end of his patience, “From what I’ve seen, you’re the only one at the office to bring up this stupidity. I’m flattered, really, but I ain’t gonna change anything here just because some whiny kids couldn’t stand a few scrapes.”
“A few scrapes-!” Jack was at the brink of shouting at Gabriel, but managed to catch himself, even when his glare was blazing, “Sprained ankles and broken fingers aren’t scrapes!”
“Uh, hello?” There was a sneer in Gabriel’s voice now. He made a grand, mocking gesture, “We’re out in the woods. They go hiking, foraging and competing. Among other activities. All of which listed on the programme. With the risks. That the parents had to sign. Ain’t my fault neither you nor they can’t read.”
This time, Jack forwent all manners, hissing, “Maybe if you weren’t being such a jerk about it then there wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place!”
“The only problem here is you! Again, you have been the only one that’s been giving me crap! If you have that big of an issue, then go talk to your superior. I’m sure he can find something useful for you to do.”
The forgotten file crumpled in his fist, the inspector snapped at Gabriel, “Too bad! Reinhardt has assigned me here to investigate and prevent further accidents from happening! I. Am. Staying!”
For the first time, it seemed like Gabriel was at loss of what to say, and looked like he was going to punch Jack in the face. Everyone was gawking at the two of them, eyes following the two back and forth as if watching a tennis match.
“You-!” Gabriel started, fists curled dangerously.
“Alright. Settle down, boys!”
Thankfully, Ana stepped in between them before the two men came to blows. She was exasperated, like she was having to deal with two screaming toddles instead of two grown-ass adults.
“How about this, since Jack’s already here, instead of me managing one side of the camp as usual, we’ll get him to. That way, Jack can both supervise our activity and come up with possible ideas to make this place run better.”
Oh, this wasn’t just interesting anymore, this was way more entertaining than anything Hana could have been doing at home right now. Not only had the camp flown pass her poor expectation by half the planet, but this juicy, juicy drama was just to die for.
Jack recoiled, eyes wide, “What?! Ana, that’s absurd! I’ve never run a camp before, it’d be much more dangerous than it already is! I’m only supposed to be taking notes and giving advice!”
Obligatorily, the kids turned to Gabriel, expecting the man to explode at this suggestion. However, the camp leader was wearing a thoughtful expression that soon turned sly. Jack took an instinctive step back.
“What? Scared now?” Gabriel smirked, his dark eyes gleamed devilishly, “So much for Mister Jack I-know-how-to-run-this-place-better Morrison.”
Jack went a little purple, “You’re being juvenile!”
Palms up, Gabriel gave him the cheekiest, smuggest shrug Hana had ever seen in her life, “Hey, I’m not the one barging in on someone else’s business and insisting that I know better.”
Sighing, and giving Gabriel a disapproving scowl, Ana then turned to Jack with an encouraging smile, “You’re going to be stuck here for two months anyway. The way I see it, both of you want to prove the other wrong, and this, other than just an activity, is also a competition. What better way to settle it? Besides, I’m going to be right here to help you.”
Darting his stare between Ana and Gabriel, Jack was trapped. Desperately, he smoothed out his file, looking lost. And Hana was sure the kids weren’t helping with their excited chatter either, telling Jack to just go with it.
“It’ll be fun!” A boy, not much older than Hana, with bright green hair grinned at Jack, whilst another kid in a cowboy hat nodded enthusiastically.
“It’s like y’all be havin’ your own competition!”
“You gotta show ‘im what you’ve got!” Hana chimed in, getting bolder as well. Though, secretly, she kinda wanted to be assigned to Gabriel. Even though he was kinda rude, the guy seemed to know how to have fun.
The tips of Jack’s ears were turning red and, for a moment there, he was the definition of a lost puppy, looking at the faces around him helplessly. But his eyes hardened the second they met Gabriel’s, arrogant and challenging.
The camp leader gave Jack a shark-like grin, “Perfect.”
Jack regretted his decision almost immediately. Why was he so foolishly goaded into this situation???
At first, everything was alright. They split the kids into two groups of ten, picked randomly, under Jack and Gabriel’s charges. It only took a few minutes to get through with their names, and Jack dutifully noted them all down. There was Hana, the petite Korean girl with a fiery attitude. Cheery Lena with her oversized shades. Lucio with his beloved skates and a grin brighter than the sun. Bright-eyed Efi and her quick laughter. Freckled and gentle Emily. Aloof and proper Hanzo. Mild-mannered but firm Angela. Fareeha, commanding and decisive just like her mother Ana. Shy, soft-spoken and polite Mei. But what surprised him the most was Brigitte, his boss’ niece.
Jack couldn’t believe Reinhardt would let her attend this camp, especially with the feedback they had gotten. Perhaps the man didn’t know? Maybe Jack should give him a call whenever he could. Maybe this was just a confusion.
Jack Morrison quickly learned that this was the least of his problem.
Reyes’ team consisted of ten other kids, Satya, Mako, Zarya, Gerard, Liao, Amelie, Sombra, Jesse, Genji and Jamison. All of them seemed unruly and…unique at first glance. Jack had been sure Reyes would have a hard time rounding them up and getting them to behave.
He didn’t expect them to fall in line before Gabriel like little soldiers, young faces scrunched up in utter concentration, and agreed upon a leader within fifteen minutes: Satya. As soon as her name was announced, the prim, crisp girl led her team back to their side of the camp and, without a beat, started assigning roles for everyone else. The kids fell into their duties, efficiently even though there were more than a few complaints from Jamison.
They play to win, Jack realised, and as he scrambled to gather his thoughts, loud arguments from his team snapped the blond back to the task at hand.
“Why should you be the leader?” Hana gave Hanzo a one-over, arms crossed and eyebrow raised. The boy obviously took offense to this, lifting his chin up haughtily and peering down at her over his nose.
“Because I’ve been here for many years and obviously know what to do? Unlike you, newb.”
“Excuse you! Nobody calls me a newb!” Hana stomped her feet, glaring, “But I don’t think you’d know better. This is a camp, not a beauty pageant, princess!”
Hanzo looked like he was ready to murder Hana at the spot, when Brigitte thankfully interfered,”Hanzo’s been here every year for the last five years, he knows what he’s talking about.” A pause, then, “But to be fair, Hanz, the last time you led, we lost, pitifully.”
“I told you to stop calling me that!!”
“Why can’t I be the leader then? I’ve been here before and everybody likes me.” Lena flashed them a winning grin.
Fareeha rolled her eyes, “But that’s just it, Lena. You’re nice to everyone, even when they are the enemy. That isn’t exactly the greatest thing.”
“Guys! Calm down!” Angela’s attempt to stop the argument fell on deaf ears. She threw her hands in the air, exasperated, “Why does it have to be like this every single year???”
Wide-eyed, Mei asked, amidst all the bickering, “It is?”
“Yeah. It’s usually even worse when Satya and Hanzo are on the same team.”
Jack felt a headache coming. Taking a deep breath, he tried to gather their attention by clapping loudly. It worked, as most of the kids looked his way, but Hana and Hanzo were still too busy shouting at each other’s face to care. Frowning, Jack separated the two by the shoulder.
“Now, now, there is no need for fighting. I’m sure we can settle this fair and square.”
“I am not the one who’s been acting like an uncivilised beast.” Hanzo seethed. Hana bristled.
“Who are you calling-“
“Enough.” Ana’s firm voice cut in, effectively ended anything else anyone could have said. Hands on her hips, the camp leader stared the kids down, “You are not going to win by yelling and calling names. Look at them.” Gestured towards Gabriel’s side, “While you are busy fighting, they have already been building.”
Even though they were just snapping at each other, both Hana and Hanzo wore almost the same expression as they followed Ana’s pointing finger. It was comical how they both visibly deflated, before determination set in their eyes.
Jack gave Ana a grateful nod, “Alright, let’s get this started, shall we?”
It wasn’t too bad when they had all agreed that they wanted to beat the other team more than yelling at each other, though Hana and Hanzo came pretty close a couple more times as they discussed who should be their leader. In the end, it was Angela who nobody could find anything to whine about.
Satya’s team split into four smaller groups, each building a tent surrounding the main structure. They had also drawn a perimeter around their camp to build barricade later. Meanwhile, Angela had her team expand the initial tent. She planned to have them build a makeshift wall and barricade surrounding the place after the centre was done. After all roles were sorted out and agreed upon, thanks to Angela, the work moved along smoothly.
Jack, being the good man he was, wanted to lend a hand. However, he suddenly remembered something and almost blushed to death when his corgi, stubby and full of pent-up energy, fell face-first out of his car when he went to let her out. Undeterred, Corgnelius bounced up on her chubby feet, and wagged her butt in all her doggy excitement upon being set free. This prompted a whole cooing and petting session from Jack’s team. Corgni, shameless little thing, soaked up the attention like a sponge, pink tongue lolling out happily.
“There isn’t anyone that could look after her while I’m gone, so I decided to take her with me.” Jack explained to an amused Ana, still pink around the edges.
He completely missed the stare Gabriel was throwing at his direction.
With that bit of delight out of the way, it was time for the next event of the day.
While renovating their tents, the kids soon found clues hidden within the pile of supplies. To maintain the integrity of the game, the camp leaders, Jack included, had to go to the watch tower.
“Normally, we are allowed to give them extra clues when they are stuck, but since you weren’t briefed, we’d lay that off for now.” Ana explained, showing Jack camp’s layouts and where they had hidden the hoards.
“Has there ever been any team who didn’t get any of the hoards?” Worried, Jack skimmed through the three positions, each cleverly concealed within the mountain’s foot.
“Only happened once. We specifically placed the hoards so that each team would at least be able to grab one for themselves.” Ana tapped on the touch screen, enlarging each area to show Jack, “Two hoards are always placed so each respective team has the upper hand in getting there first. The third one is always somewhere in the middle. Each is marked by a flag, and upon collection, will be brought to the camp leader so the supplies will be distributed. Of course, being the first treasure hunt, it is easy enough to ensure everyone has enough supplies. Even if they fail, there is plenty of food at the lodge. Do you really think I’d let my kids starve?”
Bashful under Ana’s sternness, Jack rubbed the back of his head, chuckling, “Of course not. But you know, I am here to ask questions.”
It was a lame response, but Jack was nervous. Not only he worried about the kids’ safety, roaming around the place unchecked (well, not entirely, since the leaders could oversee them from here), but also he was worried about how his team fared. Jack hoped they wouldn’t get into any more trouble.
Plus, Gabriel’s odd quietness peeved Jack just a little.
Of all his years working as a Health and Safety inspector, Jack had never seen anyone quite like Gabriel. The man’s methods were unorthodox to say the least, and while even Jack couldn’t deny that Gabriel did care about the kids in his own way, it was Gabriel’s attitudes that irked Jack. Reyes was cocky, had little regards of regulations and rules, and he knew exactly how to get under everyone’s skin.
The blonde had no idea why, but ever since they first met, Gabriel went out of his ways to rile Jack up. They didn’t cross paths often, but every time they did, Jack’s impression of Gabriel worsened. Jack had no idea how anyone could stand the guy, certainly not level-headed Ana. Mouthy and arrogant, Gabriel Reyes acted like he owned the world, and Jack felt sympathy towards Ana, having to deal with the man’s bullshit.
Of course, his stupid dog had to disagree. While Jack was busy with his inner monologue, Corgni decided to get all chummy with Reyes. Tongue-lolling and butt-wagging, she circled the camp leader, vying for his attention at every turn.
“Did you say something?”
He threw a sheepish grin at Ana’s quirked eyebrow, “I mean, the trails. Yes, the trails, do you place any obstacle or anything on the trails?” Smooth.
“No, we don’t do that here.” Ana’s tone was slightly sceptical, “But the kids are allowed to.”
That broke Jack out of his flustering, “What???”
“It’s nothing extreme, of course, but the kids are allowed to put traps along the trails to slow the enemy team.”
“But that’s dangerous!”
“Oh please, you act like our kids are a bunch of rampaging, murderous gremlins.” Finally, Gabriel looked away from the binoculars, drawling sarcastically, “The worst they do is tripping someone over.”
“Tripping over in a mountainous terrain can result in many serious injuries!” Jack glared.
“They can just easily slip and break their neck walking around on the streets. With your logic, they should all be swaddled up in fluffy blankets and stowed away in a padded room somewhere.”
Jack was aghast with the description, but Gabriel cut in before he could form a retort, “Aren’t you supposed to be watching the kids instead of entertaining me?”
Not for the first time, he really wanted to punch that smug smirk off of Reyes’ face. Ultimately, Jack decided against it and glared through his own pair of binoculars.
Before he left his team, they had decided to have Mei, Lena and Lucio going after the treasures. On Gabriel’s side, the treasure hunters were Sombra, Genji and Amelie.
Jack’s team split up into two, with Lena and Lucio rushed off while Mei hiked towards a different direction. A quick look at the map told him that the two athletic kids were heading for the middle point, while Mei was going to the one closest to their camp. Solid strategy. That way, they would have a chance to attain two hoards and, worst case scenario, secure one.
Unlike them, Genji, Amelie and Sombra all split off to three different directions. They wanted all three, Jack realised, though he was surprised to see Genji, the quickest, heading towards the closest one to their side of camp. Still, it was a smart strategy and sure enough, within fifteen minutes, Genji had already plucked the flag triumphantly.
The competition got a bit intense then, and Jack found himself inwardly cheering for his team. Despite her lithe form, Amelie was fearsome, sprinting through the trees and vaulting herself around at a blurring speed. She was not as fast as either Lucio or Lena, but damn was she agile. Judging by the distance between the competitors and the hoard, it was difficult to tell who would be reach it first.
Jack couldn’t help it. He let out a small whoop when Lena skidded and snatched the flag right out of Amelie’s grasp. Ignoring Gabriel’s shit-eating grin, Jack turned to Ana, “Has there been any situation where they got into a scuffle over the flag?”
“There has been and probably will happen again, but that’s why we are here. That counts as a rule violation and points will be deducted heavily if they do so.”
Reassured, Jack got back to the game. Mei was nearing the final flag, a dozen feet away at most. However, Sombra was nowhere in sight, and that worried Jack a little. Mei was so close, it would be a matter of seconds before…
Suddenly, she stopped, frantically looking around. At this distance, it didn’t look like there was something wrong. Jack’s stomach dropped. Mei must have seen, or heard, something that he couldn’t. Judging by the way she was acting, she was terrified.
That one moment of hesitation was all Sombra needed. A streak of purple zipped pass Mei, snatching the flag up before the stunned girl. The way Mei’s lips trembled had Jack stomping his feet.
“That isn’t fair! Mei was there first!”
Gabriel was amused at Jack’s accusing finger, “Yeah, but she didn’t grab the flag first, did she? All is fair.”
Unable to spit out something coherent and not a salty insult, Jack turned on his heels, ignoring Ana’s loud announcement over the megaphone, “Corgni! We’re out of here!”
His exit would have been a lot stronger without his dog’s bouncing steps and jingling collar. That and Gabriel’s snorting.
Upon returning, Jack’s righteous fury evaporated. Even though nobody was vocal about it, they were dejected. Obviously, Mei was the most downtrodden, her glasses foggy and her lips raw from biting back the tears. Angela was by her side, whispering quiet reassurances, but that seemed to do little good.
“Come now, cheer up guys. It’s only one point less and it’s only the first day. There are plenty of chances to earn it back!” Jack put on his sunniest smile, hoping to pull them pass this early defeat.
“Yeah, well, we could have had it if she wasn’t so slow.”
He scowled, but didn’t retort. Everyone else went a little quieter, uneasy of Angela’s harsh tone. The lithe girl was always light and airy, pleasant like a summer breeze, so her anger was somewhat scary. Composing herself, Angela sighed.
“Sombra has always been a bit of a bully.” She ignored Lena’s snort, “She used a sound file to scare Mei. That was bad planning on my part. I should have known they would have her skulking around.”
“Well, pointing fingers and sulking isn’t going to help us win.” Fareeha said, and Jack could see Ana’s sternness reflecting in her, “Jack’s right, this is nothing. We can easily win back, if only we’d just stop being dicks about it.”
“Fareeha!” Jack exclaimed, scandalised, “Language!”
She blinked up at him, a faint blush dusting the peaks of her cheekbones. The camp went silent and, almost at the same time, burst out laughing. It was contagious, and Jack found himself a lot less miffed.
Night fell when the tent was erected. To try and lighten the mood further, Jack taught them how to build the most badass campfire ever, roaring and dancing at the centre of their circle. Between the smores, smoking hot dogs and the kids tossing random twigs into the fire, the afternoon’s misadventure almost didn’t exist. It hit Jack with a wave of nostalgia, and he smiled, remembering himself and faces not much younger than these.
“So…I take that your first day here isn’t as bad as you thought?”
He blinked at Lena, who had inched over with a grin that made her freckles bunched up adorably. A chuckle drew out of Jack, and he patted her head, “No, not really.”
Lena beams got brighter. There was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, and for a second there, Jack thought she was going to say something cheeky, but the pixie thirteen-year-old opted to ask instead.
“Where did you learn to do all the camping stuff?”
“I used to live on a farm. And I was a Boy Scout when I was a kid.”
Fareeha, crouching by Corgni and giving her the most glorious belly rub, to look up and give Jack something akin to a leer, “So that’s why Uncle Gabi calls you boy scout.”
“I…think it’s just a form of name-calling. You know, when someone gives another person names just to be mean.” Jack frowned, trying not to fume.
Fareeha and Lena exchanged a glance. This turn of conversation had also drawn his entire team’s attention. It made Jack feel…awkward.
“You know, boys only give people names when they liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike somebody.” Lena sang, earning a few giggles from the girls.
Jack’s eyebrows shot up, “I don’t know what gives you that silly idea. He and I are not kindergarteners. Plus I assure you, Mr. Reyes doesn’t have a high opinion about myself, considering how much of a…nuisance I have been to him, as he has adequately let me know.”
The camp went into a scrutinising silence. Calmly, Hanzo placed down his tea thermos (seriously, what fourteen-year-old drank tea??) and spoke with an imperial flick of his chin, “You sounded awfully defensive there, Mr. Morrison.”
“Alright, what is this all about? What are you trying to get at?”
“Ignore them, Jack.” Angela said coolly, “They simply assume things because Gabe’s been mentioning you a lot.”
Pinching the bridge of his nose amidst the fits of giggles and slightly thrown off by Angela’s remark, Jack sighed, “So do you kids and your parents all know Gabriel personally?”
He should have guessed, that would probably the only way the camp leader could swindle people to sign their kids up in here. Completely ignoring the fact that the entire concept was kinda fun.
“Obviously Fareeha knows Gabe, since her mom works with him and all.” Lena blew a raspberry at him, grinning, “Me, Emily, Angie,” Ignoring Angela’s distasteful noise, “The Shimada bros, Amelie, Sombra, Jesse and Brigitte come here every year! We chat with Gabe all the time!”
Jack’s head turned over so quickly it popped, “You come here every year???”
Brigitte winked, “Every year since I was eight. Uncle Rein and Uncle Gabe go way back. Do you know Uncle Rein helped Uncle Gabe set this whole place up??? I wasn’t allowed to go on the first year, but I went on the second!”
“That’s because you weren’t old enough.”
Brigitted stuck her tongue out at a flexing Fareeha, “Only because I got chicken pox that year!”
“My uncle Torbjorn wants to send his kids here next year too.” Angela chimed in.
Emily wrinkled her nose, “Doesn’t he have like seven kids or something? Gabe and Ana never take more than twenty per year. And I’m not giving up my spot.”
“Why doesn’t he take more than twenty?” Jack quirked up an eyebrow. The conversation was moving too fast for him to stomach the fact that yes, not only Reinhardt knew Emily was going here, but he also had a hand in building this place. It made the decision to send Jack to camp Overwatch the more baffling, but he would file all those thoughts away in order to keeping up with the kids’ chirping.
“Safety reasons, duh.” Fareeha rolled her eyes like it was the most obvious thing in the world, “Can’t have some unattended idiots run off and get lost.”
Jack’s “language” was lost under Lena’s loud protest, “Hey! That was ONE time!!!”
Before the argument could get heated, and before Jack could ask about that incident, Hana butted in, “So you guy come here every year? Isn’t it the same thing over and over?”
“Well, yeah and no.” Emily took a sip of her hot chocolate, “I mean, we do competition every year, but the theme varies. Last year it was sci-fi, and Gabe set up this wicked laser tag ring for us. Got split into four teams last time, and we had Gabe and Ana as information brokers.”
She went on to describe how they got to play a more strategic rather than physical game last time, as the teams earned points by solving riddles, some even hidden amidst the enemy team’s fort, trying to trick each other by messing up clues, taking pieces of a puzzle away and keeping the “information brokers” from snooping and selling out their plans. Hana was completely enamoured by the end, and Mei too, from the looks of it.
“Any chance finding out the theme beforehand?” The bubbly Korean bounced on her butt.
“It’s usually listed on the website a few months before summer. It’s pretty cool, because when the theme is announced, the people who signed up can vote on a few activities.” Fareeha puffed up with an air of importance, “The battle thing this year was my idea.”
Hanzo snorted behind his thermos. Fareeha gave him a long stare, “Oh please, don’t act like you don’t like the chance of shooting Genji up the butt.”
He glared at her, mumbling, “How uncouth.” But didn’t deny it. Amari Jr. flashed him a victorious grin.
“I thought this was lame at first.” Hana admitted, and flailed when Lena gasped at her, “I mean, I’m sorry! But the idea of being sent off to a camp when you could be doing all the other cool stuff with your friends sucks. But first day, and I’m sold! This is badass! I’d totally come back next year!”
Sighing at all the cheering, Jack gave up trying to fix their language. If he was honest with himself, their exuberance and carefree joy brought a warmth to his chest. There was no denying that the kids loved Gabriel, and they loved camp Overwatch as a whole, safe or not.
The more he pondered, the more it didn’t make sense. Why did Reinhardt send Jack here if the man himself didn’t have any problem with the camp being run the way it did? And if Reinhardt did somehow have a problem, why did he still let his favourite niece coming here?
Lost in his musing, Jack didn’t notice it at first when Efi, tiny with huge, expectant eyes, tugged at his elbow.
“You’re not going to close down the camp, are you?”
Jack melted before the pleading, innocent stare. And was that a flicker of guilt he felt? “No…No. Of course not. I’m just here to help make things better.”
It earned him a wide, tooth-gaped grin and a squeezing hug.
The moment was shattered however, when a shout came out from their tent. Jack, and half of the others, scrambled inside to find a shocked Lucio, the canvas wall at the back untied and a chunk of their canned food hoard missing. Hanzo immediately set to investigate the opening.
“I don’t think we need your poking around to know who did this.” Angela’s eyes narrowed into slits. Behind the blonde, Fareeha crackled her knuckles.
“Oh, it is on.”