The Omega-7 and The Bench of Shame
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Despite all the strange, dangerous, and downright ridiculous things that Omega-7 dealt with on a near daily basis, hearing the words "team building exercise" out of Able's mouth had to be one of the weirdest occurrences yet. And they had fought a hoard of octopus headed zombies just the other week, and subdued a dangerous cult of 'spidertaurs' (centaurs but with spiders) the week before (a messy job). And even in comparison to those events, it seemed terribly strange.

That was until they all found themselves standing across from him in one of the site's gym halls with foam balls, the weapon of choice for this battle, scattered across the ground. No-one was sure of the motive for teaching Able how to play, but it was unanimously agreed that it was probably something to do with Dr Bright. But Able wasn't telling.

Able's idea of a team building exercise, simply put, was this: the whole of Omega-7 vs him in an (almost) no holds barred dodgeball match. And no-one was stopping until someone opposing him finally got a hit in on him. It was bound to be chaotic. The only rule was no aiming for the groin (something something honour ect). (And you had to sit off to the side, on the colloquially named bench of shame, once you were hit. Poor A-A was spending most of his time there.)

Able -despite only being told the rules approximately three hours ago, according to his own words- had learned exceedingly quickly and turned out to have some lethal accuracy when it came to throwing balls that nearly matched his accuracy in throwing weapons, though one could argue that a foam ball did count as a weapon in his hands. After all, if a nerf sword had counted, surely a dodgeball would too. The bruises were inevitable, and there would be many of them. Training the day after was going to be hellish.

Round one barely even lasted a minute.

Yaakov got hit square in the forehead in round three, and was knocked out for several seconds before Bayou helped him up and he joined A-A on the bench of shame. It was about then that Omega-7 realised that with enough speed and the right angle, one of these foam balls could easily spell serious injury. Or maybe even death, with enough force behind it.

A-A actually lasted a little over ten seconds in round four, and then was promptly hit in the left side with some considerable force when he excitedly turned to Lucas, commenting "Hey, I'm actually not doing too bad!". Able yelled at him for not paying attention as he hung his head and returned to his rightful place on the bench. In that same round Julian's hiccups, which had been persisting since halfway through the previous round, were cured by an extremely forceful hit to the chest which also left him winded for several minutes.

Round six involved Iris making an extremely undignified sound after tripping up on a ball aimed at her feet and landing on her ass, which it later turned out had resulted in a bruised coccyx, and Lucas using Vaughn as a human shield after shouting "Every man for himself!". Vaughn did get put out with a ball to the leg toward the end, but not before sidestepping a ball aimed for him and letting it hit Lucas, who muttered something about 'betrayal' and 'treachery' as he walked off the play area.

Round 14 put Julian on the bench for the forseeable future; A ball hit her hand and bent it back at a awful angle, accompanied by a noise that she would rather not have heard.

Able only called for a brief break after twenty rounds, in every one of which he absolutely decimated the rest of Omega-7. While everyone sat on the bench, tired, panting, and thoroughly battered, he stood in front of them. He hadn't even broken a sweat.

"You're all missing the point of this exercise." he growled, unimpressed, "You are meant to work together. Communicate!"

"With all due respect…" Bayou looked up from tiredly studying the floor, "Dodgeball isn't really a great team game. It's like Monopoly. It practically breeds hatred."

Vaughn chose that moment to give Lucas a very pointed look.

"Well you'll have to come up with a strategy. Together. We aren't stopping until you people defeat me at least once! Understand?"

A chorus of tired "okay"s and "yes, sir"s followed. Able squinted critically at them for quite some time, and a feeling of nervousness crept up on all of them under the close scrutiny. It was like a uniform inspection before school photos by a notoriously strict teacher; thoroughly uncomfortable.

"You have three minutes." he said finally.

"Only three?" A-A exclaimed.

"Think of something. In a real battle you wouldn't even have that long!"

Able crossed his arms over his chest and walked to the opposite side of the room, leaning against the far wall and silently counting the seconds.

Vaughn sighed, "This is useless. How the hell are we supposed to beat that?"

"He's not our commander for no reason, that's for sure." Yaakov took a swig from his water bottle and sat back, determined to get the most rest out of the two minutes as possible.

"So…" A-A said, cautiously optimistic in the fact that maybe not all hope was lost, "Does anyone actually have a plan?"


"Not a thing."


A-A's cautious optimism was fading embarrassingly quickly, almost as quickly as their remaining time. A couple of seconds of awkward silence followed, until it was broken.

"Actually," Iris piped up, "I might have an idea… Everyone huddle in, I only have time to say this once."

"Your time is up!" Able barked across the room as he strode back to his side of the court and tossed a ball in Omega-7's direction, breaking up the squad's huddle, "For your own sakes, I hope you've come up with something."

The team looked at each other and nodded. Suddenly it all seemed a lot more serious; with any luck this would be a real chance to impress. However, if they screwed this up, they'd look anything but competent. Also, Able now seemed more pissed off than usual, meaning the chance of injury was now significantly higher.

A-A was the first out: no surprise there. He got a ball square in the chest, but seemed oddly happy about taking his seat on the bench. The rest were lasting well; Able even yelled some praise at Nicole after a particularly impressive dodge, and was so focused on the game that he barely registered the flash of light to his right side, assuming it was nothing but the sun glinting through the window. He aimed a ball at Iris, only to find it blocked by Yaakov's arm, putting him out instead. And after he'd been doing so well, too. That self sacrificing attitude would do him no good in the field.

He barely noticed the tiny white shape that slid across the floor.

He did notice how most of the team had moved to one side of the room. A foolish move on their part, and he couldn't help but shake his head. They were making themselves a bigger target! With his attention on the valuable lesson about spacing he was about to give his team, he was delayed in noticing the ball rolling behind him. When he turned his head, it was gone from where it should have been-

And just a second later, he felt it hit his back.

He whipped around, confused. There had been no one at his flank, so how in the hell had he been hit from behind? And then, his eyes landed on his team who were cheering and crowding Iris, who was laughing and holding a slip of paper in her hand. No, not a slip of paper. A photograph.

All at once it all fell into place; A-A's upbeat attitude when he was put out, the flash to his right, the thing that slid across the floor. Able realised that he had lost. He strode over and took a seat on the bench of shame as Iris was hoisted up onto Vaughn's shoulders. All it took was a loud cough into his fist to have the team's attention back on him. He could tell from the look on their faces they thought he would chew them out for cheating, but he would do no such thing. After all, the only real rule he had laid down was no aiming for the groin.

Well, that and the rule that said once you were beaten, you were to sit on the bench of shame.

"You have all done well." he announced, "That was a truly unique strategy. Who was it that spawned it?"

Iris shyly waved from atop Vaughn's shoulder's.

Able nodded approvingly, "You have bested me yet again, girl. Looks truly are deceiving." he stood with a bow, "You have all bested me."

The celebratory cheers returned. Iris punched the air, and near lost her balance on her perch after a particularly good high five from Bayou. Able laughed and headed for the door. He should have known better than to look down on his team in such a way. After all, they were his chosen elite.

"Your victory calls for celebration!" he proclaimed with a sharp toothed grin, "Come, to the cafeteria!"

"Um, Commander? Julian's wrist is broken."

"…Alright, to the infirmary! And then the cafeteria!"

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