The sounds of boisterous children fill the seating area of the school bus. Many of the little souls talk over each other, excited to expect the outcomes of their first day of arrival. Their apparel is nothing more than fern-green, buttoned, short-sleeved shirts, complete with same-colored shorts, which are fastened with a red buckle. Red neckerchiefs hang from their necks in a neck-tie style. Lastly, on top of their heads, caps, being the color of their uniforms, cover their heads to complete the outfits, suggesting they are part of a scout troop. Among the seated youngsters is a light-grey robot with screens on its arms and antennae jutting out from the cap. The eyes glow with the color depending on the mood. Next to the robot is a dark-grey dragon with blue eyes and yellow horns, male in body build. His paws, tail end, and the inside of his wings are tan, contrasting with his fur.
The robot turns its head to the grey creature sitting beside. “Are you nervous, Firework?” he asks with a boyish voice.
The dragon turns to him quickly. “Hm? Oh, yes. Firework nervous…”
“Hey, don’t worry.” The robot’s hand finds itself on the back of the dragon’s. “Everything will be all right. I’ll be with you for the entire time.” The robot smiles.
The dragon gives a slight smile. “Thank you, Echo…” While Firework feels his metal friend’s hand rub against his back as a means of comfort, the entire vehicle slows to a halt and lets out a loud hiss to indicate the ceasing of the engine, even though the motor still purrs. The children peer out of the window to see the wooden cabins and bricked structures of a compound. The only tall figure on the bus stands from the driver’s seat and orders everyone off. One at a time, the little people stand from their seats and collect into the aisle before funneling out from their transport and lining the outside in a single-file.
As the children stand in front of the bus, a figure appears from the huge, two-story cabin from right in front of them. The silhouette becomes larger, and larger, coming close to the youngsters and then appearing more clearly as it’s only six feet from them. The figure is revealed to be a buck with antlers springing from the top of an olive-green scoutmaster’s hat. His flat, semi-muscular body is hidden by the same outfit the little people wear. “Hello, Scouts!” he greets the kids in a rather brash voice. “Welcome to Divine Pines Camp. I am Scoutmaster Buck Hides. It is a pleasure to have you all here for the summer. Now, let’s see who we’ve got here.” He looks down at his clipboard, reading off the names of the new recruits in front of him. Echo and Firework show him a smile when he utters their names before continuing down the list. “All right, Campers! Looks like that’s everyone. Before we begin, I would like to point out a couple of things.” The children take little interest of his rambling of the rules, as well as the brief history of the camp itself. It takes him ten minutes to relay this information. “Okay, now that you all are well aware, it’s time to show you around! Follow me, and our tour shall begin!” The scoutmaster takes away more time from the young campers, touring the entire facility and its staff while explaining each building’s function and what the kids will be doing in each. These buildings consist of the scoutmaster’s lodge, which was seen upon entry, the small cabin dwellings where the campers will be staying in, the mess hall and kitchen, and the camp’s medical infirmary for the sick and injured. Once he’s shown the entire compound, he has the children gather around by the center. “All right,” he begins. “Now that you’re all familiar with the camp, let us begin breaking the ice and getting to know each other better, shall we?” He goes around to each of the kids, letting them talk about their names, interests, and about themselves.
When it comes the robot’s turn, his eyes glow with green as a smile settles on his face. “Hello! I am Echo, artificial intelligence! I love to make friends and teach others knowledge they haven’t known about.” The younglings stare at him, thinking from the way he looks is unearthly. “I can do a lot of things, such as play music and videos, scan anomalies, and work as a computer.” He catches some of the children snickering, changing to orange with curiosity. “What’s so funny?”
The dragon is next to share. “Um, my name Firework. Firework is dragon, love to fly. Firework love colorful rockets in sky.” The children laugh, finding his squeaky speech funny as he talks.
“All right,” Buck interrupts. “I’m sure we’re all surprised to learn new things from our newest campers. Now, since we’re strapped for time, you will be assigned into groups. The ones in your group will be the ones you share a cabin with and will be in activities together. You are to respect your group members. There is absolute zero-tolerance for bullying. Understood?” The children nod. “Good. Let’s get started.” He begins to separate the youngsters into different groups. Echo and Firework, managing to avoid being split apart, get paired with a few children they don’t recognized. After being placed into their group, they are given the number “4” for their cabin and group number. “Once you all get settled into your cabins, meet back here in about thirty-minutes for the first activity.” The kids all part to their assigned cabin. Echo and Firework follow their group closely.
Entering the small dwelling, the children spread out to claim their spots on the bunkbeds aligned in columns. The robot and dragon take a bunkbed in the center of the column between two other bunks. The two try to strike up a friendly conversation to their new cabinmates, however, the other children ignore them and proceed back to setting up their spots.
“Echo,” Firework whispers. “Firework not like this… Firework uncomfortable with other kids…”
“Don’t fret, Firework,” Echo tells him. “Perhaps they’re just shy and don’t wish to talk with us right now. Just give it time and they’ll come around.” Their cabin mates leave through the door, leaving them alone. “We’ve just got to try and make friends… Let’s just get back to the scoutmaster, shall we?” He leads the dragon out of the cabin, leaving the bag with the tiny animal on the bunk.
After the two regroup with the other kids, the scoutmaster begins again. “All right, Kids. Let us head to the sporting center for our first activity.” He leads the children to a set of courts and fields, each for different sports. Buck brings the children inside a large gymnasium with colored foam balls laying around. “We will start the day with a team-building exercise; dodgeball. I want the even-numbered cabin groups be paired together, and the odd-numbered ones paired, too. I’m sure you kids are all familiar with the game of dodgeball, but in case you aren’t, let me explain.” The scoutmaster goes on to discuss the rules of the game and the penalties for the wrongdoings. “Okay, now that you know, let’s play!” The children split into their assigned groups and head to their designated areas. With the loud shriek of a whistle, the youngsters rush to grab the balls and the game begins!
Echo and Firework struggle with every effort to dodge the colored-spheres being thrown at them. Some of the balls within their reaches get picked up by other children, giving them nothing to throw at the opposing team. When the two get hold of some armaments, however, they only seem to miss within inches of their targets. The game gets faster for the robot and dragon as they try and keep up with dodging. The kids watch them as they twirl and step around as if dancing around. Some snicker and point as they stumble and rock all over. Their little “dances” eventually find them closer to each other until they collide and crash onto the floor, becoming dazed once hitting into one another. All of the children laugh at them, finding their little moment funny as they remain lying on the wooden floor. Echo and Firework see the children pointing and laughing, calling them the “dodgeball ballerinas”, making them crumple their mouths and turn their blushing faces away.
“All right, Kids,” Buck says. “That’s enough. We’re going to set up for another round of dodgeball.” He looks down at the dragon and robot as they help themselves up. “Are you two okay?” They both respond with a mix of answers; saying they sustained no injury physically, yet feel scratched mentally. “Listen, I know it can be rough the first day, but there’s no reason to be down. The other kids are just not very used to new campers such as you two. Just give it some time and they will warm up to you. Okay?”
“Yes, Scoutmaster,” they both say in unison.
“Good. Now, go have some fun and don’t worry about what anyone thinks.” The robot and dragon nod before heading off to join the others.