June 6, 2016 by Lyn
I’ve had a knack from way back
At breaking the rules once I learn the games
Jamian couldn’t help being excited and nervous as they headed into the Hall for the Cy’ree Challenge; if nothing else, the emotions of cy’Linden were contagious. Even Ty and Magnolia, who were generally rather blasé in public, had a bit of extra spring in their step.
They separated into cy’ree groups in the Hall; he saw Kailani heading to one corner with Taro while Conrad headed to the middle with Vlad, and the way Shahin and Emrys didn’t let go of each other’s hands until the very last moment.
And then they were all settled, Jamian sandwiched between Ty and Mags, and Regine and her assistant were striding up onto the stage.
“Welcome, students,” Regine declared, and the hall fell silent as all eyes turned to her commanding presence.
“I would like to clarify the rules of the Challenge one final time before we commence, so that there is no confusion. The scoring system is simple – your team will receive fifty points for a correct answer, and be penalized twenty points for an incorrect answer. Wait to be acknowledged by the moderator after buzzing in. After being acknowledged, you have seven seconds to provide the answer.”
Jamian listened. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to not listen; there was a pull there that was more than Regine’s charm. Of course, he probably wouldn’t have a chance to worry about the rules…
“Now then, the structure of a match. Each match will consist of three rounds, with different categories of questions available. At the beginning of each round, the categories will be read off, and each team may adjust their active players for the round. You have one minute to do so. The moderator will then select questions to open the round until a correct answer is provided. After such time, the last person to correctly answer a question selects the next category. Each round lasts fifteen minutes. The round will stop exactly at that mark, and any question or answer in progress will be discarded without effect.”
Jamian boggled a little bit, suddenly glad he probably wouldn’t be called up. He wondered if there was even a category he’d be good for; the meetings had involved very little studying and a lot of trying to not be molested by Ivette…
“You may buzz in at any time during the reading of a question. The moderator will cease reading immediately when anyone buzzes in, and the answer must be provided without hearing the remainder of the question. If a primary question is answered incorrectly, the question will be repeated in full, but only the opposing team is eligible to buzz in. Each team may only attempt each primary question once. In either event, if no one buzzes in for seven seconds after a question is finished, the question is discarded.”
Okay, that made sense. No jumping the buzzer. Could people use powers? He didn’t know if anyone had mind-reading, but wouldn’t that be useful?
“When a primary question is answered correctly, the answerer may opt for a bonus question. This will be a more difficult question along a similar theme to the primary question. Only the person who answered the primary question may answer the bonus question, but they must do so, and will be penalized for failure.”
Eep. Even though he knew “penalized” meant “points off,” with the nature of his cy’ree, Jamian was very glad he wouldn’t be called on.
“At the end of the third round of a match, the scores will be tallied and a winner declared. In the event of a tie, the third round questions will be resumed, starting with a new question, until the tie is broken.
“This is a double-elimination tournament. Matches will continue until only two teams remain; these teams will go on the prize trip, and while on the trip, a final match or matches will determine the overall winner between the two of them. There may be a secondary prize for the eventual first place winner. As we have thirteen teams, the tournament structure is not quite symmetrical, and there are occasional byes in the proceedings. This may give some teams a slight advantage. The seeding of teams was completed randomly so as to avoid favoritism.”
Next to Jamian, Magnolia coughed very faintly. She wasn’t the only one, either; Agatha was smirking, exuding a self-confident amusement stronger than anything she usually gave off.
“A final word – cheating is strictly prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, electronic tampering, mind and emotion reading and influence, and any and all use of magic. Proctors will be monitoring the contest and punishments will be harsh, beginning with but not limited to the disqualification of offending players and/or teams.”
Well, that answered that. Jamian gulped. Around here “harsh punishment” could be… yeah. He didn’t want to think about it.
“The initial matches are now posted on the back doors. Find your match and proceed to the appropriate classroom. Good luck.”
And then they were all moving. He let himself be carried along by the crowd, finding himself sticking close to Ty.
The lineup was now posted on the doors, as promised, on giant sheets of paper. Let’s see, their first match was… cy’Luca. The largest other team. After that… the winner of that match would get a bye and proceed to the third set. Randomly? Right.
Well, he pondered philosophically, while the cy’Luca he’d met had seemed nice, they hadn’t seemed really all that studious. Of course, a treacherous voice in the back of his head whispered, neither had cy’Linden.
There was nothing for it but to go and find out. The match was in Professor Solomon’s classroom; he headed that way, with the rest of the cy’ree and, indeed, the rest of the school, although the herd thinned as each group turned for their own rooms.
The two biggest cy’rees in the school almost made a crowd in the classroom; Jamian stuck even closer to Ty. There was Conrad, and Vlad, joking like nothing was going on, Tolly, his shoulders hunched in an attempt to make himself look less gigantic, and Alexander, who didn’t seem to care about his height. They looked – and felt – as if they had a faint, habitual disdain for cy’Linden as a whole; Jamian hastily, remembering Regine’s lecture, focused on turning his empathy off.
Solomon himself was here as their moderator, which Jamian supposed shouldn’t have been a surprise. Agatha, Ty, Magnolia, and Ardell stepped up for the first round; Jamian sat with the rest of the cy’ree to watch.
Like with the first time he’d watched cy’Linden really buckle down to the studying, it was educational to watch the two cy’rees go at it. It wasn’t an even competition – he wasn’t sure a physical fight in the halls would be, either; Luke’s Students were all very strong physically – but it was a fair fight. He was gratified to find he wasn’t the only one benched for the whole time, either; Joff sat next to him, watching with casual interest, and, on cy’Luca, Mark and Richard ended up benched as well.
There was one tense moment in the second round, when his team delivered several wrong answers in succession and the cy’Lucas closed much of the gap. One of the categories was Physics, and with Tolly, Finn, Smitty, and Vlad packing the opposing bench, it heavily favored them as they selected it repeatedly.
“The standard unit of capacitance is named for what English physicist?” Solomon read from his cards. Several hands went for the buzzers at the easy question, but it was Magnolia who was called as first.
“Michael Faraday,” she answered promptly.
“Correct. Bonus? “ Solomon asked, eyeing her.
“Very well. In Faraday’s first recorded experiment, he stacked seven halfpence pieces, seven sheets of zinc, and six pieces of paper moistened with salt water. What had he constructed?”
She thought about it for a second, but then answered, “A voltaic pile.”
“Correct,” Solomon nodded. “Your selection.”
“Biology,” she purred. Mags could make science sound dirty, Jamian noted uncomfortably, wishing he could lean against Ty. That had turned the tide for them, and cy’Linden kept the topics away from Math and Physics for the rest of the challenge. It was interesting to watch, to see the partiers really looking, for a few minutes, studious, but it was kind of distant, too, and Jamian found himself a bit glad when they won and they could just hang out for a bit.
The bye round gave them a chance to hang out in the Dining Hall, and Jamian a chance to lean his head against Ty’s shoulder and relax.
Ty ruffled his hair. “Hey, we did pretty good, huh? Maybe this won’t be as hard as we all made it out to be.”
That made Jamian smile. “It’s just because it’s you guys, and you’re all pretty smart.” Horrible at people-relations, possibly evil in a couple cases, but really smart.
“Yeah, I guess we are,” he grinned. “I took a peek at the scoreboards on the way in – looks like next we’re gonna be up against whoever wins of Drake and the Misfits. Easy-peasy.”
“Um. You do know Kailani’s in the Misfits, right?”
“Yeah, and she’s smart, sure, but she’s one person. Besides, she’s a Fifth Cohort. She just doesn’t have the experience some of us do.”
“Okay,” Jamian said; arguing with Ty was generally useless. Privately, though, he wasn’t at all sure that would matter, if Kai really put her mind to it.