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Chicken Soup for the Soul
"Sorry...Never heard of it, actually. Guess it's a little too old for me, huh?" Markham said with a slight shrug. "But I don't mind. About the whole business thing. My interest isn't just a hobby, after all. I'm planning on going full out...Not sure if I want to be a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist, but both options are pretty appealing. It's a matter of doing tests or giving out drugs, I suppose. Haha, I bet it sounds kind of boring, huh?"

Markham smiled, inwardly surprised at his own words. He never really was much of a talker and he didn't even speak with this team members in the Debate Club this much. It was kind of surprising that a group consisting of a...silent magazine reading kid, a rigid and structured sounding Japanese girl, and jewelry girl would be enough to coax him out of his shell. 'It must be the environment. With all these people, who wouldn't want to join in on the fun? Well...besides Trent, I guess.'

"I don't usually meet people who express interest in what I like though. It's a little surprising. I don't think you should get me started though...I kind of go overboard once I get started." He said, shaking his head ruefully. He cast a look at Sapphire, who seemed to be a little nervous. He wasn't sure whether or not he should ask her to join in the conversation...after all, he was busy talking to Eiko but she wouldn't mind, would she?

"Hey Sapphire, what's up with you?"

Viva La Chemistry!
"Sure." Melissa said with a small smile, taking the phenolphthalein indicator. After a couple of drops inside the base, the colorless liquid turned a beautiful light red. Titrations were pretty boring for chemistry, but at least you got to see colors change while you were doing it. It was better than nothing, she supposed. Placing the flask in the center of the table, she looked over the lab instructions to see if there were any other things they needed to do before beginning the titration process.

'Base, check. Indicator, check. Acid, check. Buret, check. All done, then.'

She flipped her notebook to a fresh page and neatly labeled the volume of base added and added a column for amount of acid that would be added. She looked up to see that Madeleine had finished setting up the buret and she nodded to herself, placing her pencil down. "So, shall we begin? We can alternate trials, I guess...I'll do the first one, you do the second, and I'll do the third. And then we should be done. Sound good to you, Madeleine?"

Chicken Soup for the Soul
"I guess." Markham shrugged. "You have to take the good with the bad."

He finished his last bite of salad and dropped his fork on the tray, wondering if he should leave now that he was finished. There was still time in the lunch period though and he had found at least one person who seemed moderately interested in psychology. He didn't have anything else planned for the day anyway, so sticking around in the cafeteria was as good an idea as anything else. Stifling a brief yawn, he looked over at the newcomer, a girl named Sapphire McLeod. They had been in a couple of the same classes in the past and although they never really talked, he remembered what she looked like.

She asked if she could join them and Eiko answered first, graciously inviting her to sit with them. Markham just nodded before turning his attention back to Eiko. "So what do you study that works so well with psychology?"

Violating the Rules of Ethics
"I'm home, dad!" Markham said as he opened the door to his single-story house cradled in the suburbs of St. Paul. Silence answered him and he paused, wondering if there was something wrong. He closed the door silently behind him and slowly crept towards the living room, hearing the fuzzy background sounds coming from a muted TV. He saw his father sitting in one of the reclining chairs, a frown on his mustached face and a newspaper lying on his lap. Displayed proudly in giant, bold Times New Roman text was the headline:

Terrorist Danya Still Out at Large

His father, Hugh Connor, looked up at his entrance and the frown disappeared for a moment. "Ah, Mark. I'm sorry, I didn't hear you. I was busy thinking about some things."

"Survival of the Fittest again, dad?" Markham dropped his backpack onto the carpeted floor and took a seat on their leather sofa. He cast a glance at the muted TV, seeing that the local news was talking about how the latest military attempt to find Danya had failed. The ticker at the bottom was busy looping statistics on Version 3 of the so-called 'game'.

"I guess you're tired of me brooding about it, huh? It's an interesting case, though." Hugh said with a small, rueful smile. He reached for the remote and pressed the mute button. The reporter's voice immediately blared through the speakers and Markham winced a little at the sudden noise.

"While there already have been four games of Survival of the Fittest, authorities believe that Danya will continue his terrorist activities. Despite the game's grisly nature, it has proved to be popular throughout the American populace, drawing over millions of watchers every time it is broadcast. In the upcoming elections, every candidate has promised that they would be the one to captured Danya, but whether or not that becomes true will have to be seen."

Hugh switched the TV off, shaking his head. "Danya will never be caught...I wouldn't be surprised if some multinational corporation was funding him behind the scenes. That little 'game' of his has spawned so many money-making opportunities. Charms to make sure your children don't get kidnapped by him, T-shirts, biographies of the dead contestants...The commercialism of SotF has gotten out of hand."

"I suppose, but do you really think someone would condone the deaths of hundreds of kids just for profit?" Markham asked. "Everyone knows that he has to be stopped."

"Everyone knows or at least say they know. But they don't care...I'm fairly certain most people say that Danya needs to be stopped because they know it's the socially acceptable thing to do. They don't care about the kids in that TV because they don't know them. Markham, you remember when I was talking about the Monkeysphere, correct?"

"You mean how there's a limit to the amount of people you can sympathize and care about?" Markham said, blinking. He personally had thought the whole concept was quite interesting.

"Something like that, yes. To most of the people watching, the kids that die are nothing more than that. Kids that die. It's one-hundred percent real. All of it. It isn't scripted, those aren't fake weapons or bullets, and that's real blood. But the...distance that they have from us makes it so that we simply don't care. It could be a movie. In fact, I'm sure some people still consider it nothing more than a very realistic movie." Hugh rubbed at his chin. "I have to give Danya credit and my respect. He is a very smart man for being able to pull this off."

"But Danya's a killer!"

"I said I respected him. I don't approve of what he's doing. But in a sense, he has established one of the greatest psychology experiments of all mankind, somehow similar to that of the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment. He has taken perfectly normal children, placed them in an unfamiliar environment, and told them one thing. To kill their fellow student. It's as simple as that. And at the end of his experiment, only one stands supreme above the corpses of his peers."

"I guess but..." Markham trailed off, trying to find some way to refute or argue against his father's point. "They're being forced to kill each other because of those collars!"

"Yes, but think about it for a moment. Survival of the Fittest thrives due to its viewership. If it was about something else...let's say an educational show on how genes work, no one would watch it. It was about kids standing around doing nothing, no one would watch it. But Survival of the Fittest is about kids killing each other in brutal ways. If all that suddenly stopped, no one would watch it."

"These are teenagers under stress. I should know that it's hard to think rationally when placed under an extreme amount of stress." Markham replied.

"True, true. Which brings me to my last point. God forbid that this ever happen, but I want you to remember this, Markham. If, for some reason, you find yourself participating in Survival of the Fittest, do not panic. Think things through calmly and rationally. Don't get emotional." Hugh leaned forward in his seat, looking at his son with a stern gaze in his eyes. "Remember your notes. Avoid the unstable ones and make a party that will act as a well-oiled machine that has only one purpose: to destroy Danya. Do you understand? I only say this because it's obvious that Danya is too lucky and popular to get caught. He has the uncanny ability to strike when you least expect or want it."

Markham nodded, adjusting his glasses to mask the uneasiness he felt inside. "I'm almost about to graduate though...Doesn't Danya only kidnap high school students?"

"Almost is not enough." His father leaned back into his chair, sighing. "Just be aware, Markham, and remember. A psychologist cannot get involved with his subjects. And likewise, if you find yourself in the game, do not get too involved. Just try to survive and remember what I've told you and what you've learned."

"R-Right Dad." Markham said, not liking how the conversation had turned one bit. "I have a test tomorrow, so I should go study now..."

"Right...Sorry for bringing this up so suddenly." Hugh sighed again, rubbing at his face. "With the new flood of SotF talk, I can't help but worry."

"I understand." Markham replied with a small smile before picking up his backpack. He gave his father a small nod before walking off to his room and closing the door behind with. With a tired sigh, he tossed his backpack on his chair and went to slump on his bed, looking up at the ceiling with a frown. 'Am I really in danger? ...No point in stressing about it, though. Living in fear of a unlikely event is no way to live.'

The Questions Game
Question: What would your idea boyfriend/girlfriend be like?

Melissa Li: Huh? Boyfriend? I haven't really had the chance to think about that...I'm not really sure. Someone kind and nice, I guess...He'd have to like classical music, though. I'd like it if he was smart too. He doesn't have to be a genius or anything, but above average at least. Preferably not a jock either...I don't really like sports. A little spontaneity would be nice too. I hope I'm not asking for too much.

Violetta "Jane" Lindsberg: Already got mine!

Markham Connor: Hmm...Everyone says that it's what's inside that matters, but it's what's on the outside that makes you want to take a look in the first place, right? I'd like it if my girlfriend was pretty...I like that girl next door look. The wallflower looking ones...they look a lot more appealing than the girls that lather their makeup on or something. Personality-wise, I think I'd prefer the quiet intellectual. Great minds think alike.

Question: What is your most prized possession?

Melissa Li: That's easy. My piano. I have a lot of memories associated with it. Most of them are good.

Violetta "Jane" Lindsberg: I dunno. I can't really call any of my possessions 'prized' cause chances are I'll lose 'em sometime in my life. If I had to choose one though, it'd have to be my horror movie collection. Pretty lame, I know.

Markham Connor: A copy of my father's graduate thesis. Did you know that my dad and mom first met when he was submitting it for review? It's like a match made in heaven for psychology geeks.

If you had to live in a foreign country for a year, what country would it be?

Chicken Soup for the Soul
'Markham-san? Never been called that before.' He blinked a couple of times at the honorific and reminded himself to note it in his book later. It wouldn't do to jot it down right now. Eiko and Trent might think he was weird...well, weirder than they already thought. He quickly ate a bit of salad as he tried to think of a suitable reply that wasn't too boring, but nothing really was coming to mind. It really wasn't his fault he considered most other subjects besides psychology boring. He didn't want to stall anymore, though, and he replied with a "Pretty good."

'Smooth. Bring it up a notch. At least add some more information.' He thought to himself as he ate another forkful of salad. "I'm having trouble getting in the mood for studying, to be honest. I mean, I can understand why we need to learn how to find the standard deviation of a sample group or the intricacies of force, but it's not going to effect me much in the future, so why bother? I'm just lucky I'm taking a psychology course or else I'd be really bored."

He laughed awkwardly, taking off his glasses and beginning to clean them with his shirt. "If you can't tell, I'm a huge psychology buff. I love knowing what makes the mind tick, you know?"

Nichol Lee Shi
(Redid with some edits. If that isn't enough, tell me.)

Name: Nichol Lee Shi
Gender: Male
Age: 19
Grade: 12th
School: Bayview Secondary School
Hobbies and Interests: Anime, manga, video games, music, skating

Appearance: Nichol is a tall for an Asian person, standing at five feet and eleven inches. He has scruffy and oily black hair, several pimples and freckles on his skin, and a pair of thick glasses lie perched on his nose. His face is rounded and you can see little dimple lines beginning to form and his skin is just slightly pale due to the amount of time he spends inside.

Nichol has no sense of fashion and doesn't bother trying to figure out what's in and what's not. He's usually found wearing a logoless plain T-shirt and a pair of jeans or pleated pants. During his free time on campus, you can find him in the library surfing the internet, rollerblading around the school's gymnasium or the outdoor track, playing games on a PSP or DS, or goofing off with his friends.

Biography: Apparently, when Nichol's mom had her first ultrasound to determine his gender, something went wrong because they thought he was a girl at first. His parents (who were delighted and planned on naming their brand new baby girl Nicole) got prepared to welcome their new child of the fairer sex and received quite a surprise when it turned out that their new daughter was actually a son. To their credit, they reacted well to the news but they had gotten so attached to the name Nicole that they decided to call their son that but just a little...manned up. So he was given the alternate name of Nichol, shortened to Nick.

While he was mocked throughout childhood for his name, he bore his lumps with good humor and his parents listened to his concerns and complaints. It was because of this constant support from his parents that he grew to be a fairly well adjusted person who didn't hold a grudge against people who made fun of him. He didn't excel at schoolwork, but he was no slacker either and scored above average repeatedly through his classes.

His run into anime and Japanese culture came from a computer lab, where he had found a folder full of various anime pictures. Curious as to their source, he followed the picture trail and soon dived into the world of anime and manga. Within a year, he was a devoted fan and had a miniature collection of graphic novels and anime DVDs stocked in his room.

He considers anime and games to be his escape from the dull confines of reality. He knows that they're two completely different worlds, but he loves watching and learning about other people's fantasies and how they come out on paper and on television. Oddly enough, it was a manga that got him into the only sport that he really enjoyed, skating.

The manga, Air Gear, made him interested into rollerblading and he soon bought a pair so that he could speed down the streets. He grew to love the sensation of weaving in and out of the crowds and doing various little tricks while zooming across the pavement. Evolving from this came the desire to try ice skating (along with a healthy interest in watching hockey). At the moment, he's simply trying to increase his speed and balance since he much prefers moving fast than doing anything really fancy.

When he entered high school, he immediately signed up for the school's anime club and made himself the most vocal member. Easily excited by what some would consider mundane things, he injected a spark of life in the lackluster club and worked as an assistant for its leaders by lending them various series's that he thought were good.

He has integrated himself well in high school society and is an all-around nice guy. An extroverted person, he enjoys chatting with new people and making friends with them. He is cheerful and optimistic and although the jocks and cheerleaders might find cause to pick on him due to his hobbies, he doesn't particularly care about that anymore.

Advantages: He's a friendly person so he doesn't have many enemies and at least his legs are muscled so he could probably run for a while. He's also tall, so that could intimidate people.

Disadvantages: Even though he roller skates, overall he isn't athletic and has particularly dismal upper body strength. He might also adopt a "hero" persona similar to one from the anime he watches and would personally put himself in danger in order to save someone he cared about.

Viva La Chemistry!
Melissa was busy doodling in her notebook as she waited for someone to come to her table, having already drawn some weird monster thing that looked like a horrific combination of triangles and circles. She looked up when she heard someone walking closer, expecting one of the people in the class who didn't exactly know what he/she was doing and thus would dump all the work on her. She knew it was pessimistic and quite unfair to everyone in the class to think that, but unfortunately that's usually what happened. To her surprise, though, it was Madeleine Smith that stepped up to the table.

The artist was a good student and her grade reflected it, putting her in the upper tier of the class. During experiments, however, Madeleine was the one who waited until all the set groups had finished and then just tagged along with whoever needed another person. She looked quite uneasy and examined her directions, opening her mouth once to say "Riveting" before starting with the experiment.

A little surprised by her speed, Melissa quickly started cleaning the buret that would be used in the titration portion of the experiment. As she washed the delicate instrument, she wondered if she should attempt conversation. It might put the other girl at ease, but that probably wouldn't happen. Remembering that time in the library where she utterly failed at trying to talk to the girl (just thinking about the whole incident left a bad taste in her mouth), she decided that it probably would be best if they worked in silence.

"Can you fill this with the acid while I set up the pH meter?" She asked, handing the buret to Madeleine. 'I hope that asking for things doesn't freak her out or else this is going to be a strange lab...'

Chicken Soup for the Soul
"Mmmmm." Markham let the conversation drop off right then, going back to his food. He had already done his social obligation of offering conversation and if that guy, Trent, didn't want to talk, it wasn't any of his business. If his father was here, he would tell him to keep pressing on and make sure the other boy that he was a friend and not an enemy or something like that. But his father wasn't here and Markham was quite content to return to his meal. In fact, he was just about done. 'Maybe I'll have enough time to hit the library and look up some research...'

"Perhaps you should try bringing your own food to school, even after it sits in your bento for a few hours, it's still better than cafeteria food."

Markham looked up to see that Japanese girl talking to him or he supposed she was talking to him. There didn't seem to be anyone else around or it could be that he was just blind. She was eating seaweed and rice, a combination he personally found boring and atrocious. Rice, whenever he did eat it, always went with some sort of grilled meat and vegetable. 'But then again I'm not Asian...'

"My name's Eiko Haraguchi, by the way. Nice to meet you."

"Uh...nice to meet you too." Markham bowed his head slightly in her direction. He wasn't sure if she was just being polite or something, but he decided he might as well see whether or not being social would pay off. "If you didn't hear it already, my name's Markham Connor."

'Man, she's studying during lunch? Well...I guess that makes sense. Finals are coming up anyway, but this isn't really the environment...'

Sexual Orientation is a GO
Straight and a dude, thank ye.

Grave of a Guardian
'France...This is France! I can't believe I'm here! The fun "Visit countries and study abroad!" stuff was supposed to be for college kids, yet here I am in my senior year, visiting France. And France isn't even my home country!' She still remembered the shocked expressions when she told her parents that Cyrille had invited her to France. She had been surprised herself, but felt honored to be able to meet the man that Cyrille kept mentioning as one of the guiding stars in her life. After the initial moment of surprise had worn off, however, both of her parents had agreed to let her go without much of a fuss (another big surprise) and her brother (who was visiting from graduate school) made the nice comment of "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" He earned a kick from under the table for that one.

Rude comments aside, her family had some great advice for her (#1 being "Don't offend anyone."). She kept their wishes in her hearts and her father's digital camera in her bag as she looked outside the car's windows in amazement. For someone who lived all her life in the speck of America called St. Paul, Minnesota, seeing another country was like a dream come true. She turned to Cyrille with an eager look on her face, ready to ask what kinds of fun activities there were in her hometown, when she saw the somber look on her girlfriend's face. Her train of thought immediately got derailed and she remembered the main reason she was here.

'Oh crap, how did I forget?! I was here to visit her grandfather's grave. Stupid, stupid, stupid!' Violetta sat back in her seat, folding her hands together. Even though she wanted to take pictures and ask questions so much, she restrained herself since it seemed like that Cyrille was busy reminiscing. They arrived at the graveyard after a couple of moments, Violetta awkwardly following Cyrille.

She realized that she didn't actually have anything to say to honor the old man and she wasn't sure if she could come up with something. The whole reverent feel of the place was really throwing her off. She waited as Cyrille said something in French to the gravestone, wishing she could understand what was being said.

"Grandpa this is Violetta... You the one I talk to you about all the time?"

Violetta winced a little. She was getting a lot better at her English, but sometimes things just popped out of you. She stepped up next to Violetta with a small smile and a little wave. "Hey...Um...I'm Violetta. Violetta Lindsberg...um, I hope you're happy wherever you are..."

She cleared her throat and ran her hands through her dyed-pink hair. "Your granddaughter has been like...I don't know...like everything to me, really. You did a great job raising her...she talks about you all the time. Hah...I really don't know what to say. It's an honor meeting you, I know that...But really. Cyrille is doing fine and um...as her girlfriend, I'll do my best to keep watching over her for you."

She looked to Cyrille and gently took one of her hands and squeezed it. She just hoped she didn't make a fool of herself.

Viva La Chemistry!
Melissa tapped her pencil against her notebook in boredom, watching as Mr. Shikata talked about the latest experiment that they would be doing in class. The last topic they had covered were simple acid and base reactions and acids in general, so it came as no surprise to find out that today, they would be working with the great and wonderful world of proton donating and proton accepting. To be fair, it DID sound like a fun lab. It was a basic and a cut-and-dry follow the directions lab and it involved acid and using that acid on things (that weren't people). She briefly wondered why she couldn't get herself to feel interested in it though.

The whole day had been one big blaaaaah to her, even more than usual. Last night she had collapsed in bed at midnight after finishing her studies and woke up at seven o'clock in the morning. She had a terse conversation with her father over a breakfast sandwich and bid both her parents farewell as she went to the bus stop. She had gotten to school on time and on her first step inside the building, that's when it happened. 'Why am I still doing this?'

That single thought had haunted her through the whole day, her fake smile plastered to her lips as she continued to take notes about subjects she no longer cared about. She had skipped lunch again, having spent time in a secluded area of the library where she could get a little peace and quiet. Even her beloved music couldn't get her out of the spiraling depression she was beginning to find herself in.

An irritated shaking of papers broke out of her moping and she looked up to see the student in front of her shaking a sheaf of papers in front of her face impatiently. With an embarrassed blush and quick "Sorry", she took one of the sheets and handed the rest to the person behind her. 'Oh, the instructions sheet.'

"Anyway, split into groups and go to your lab stations!" Mr. Shikata said with a clap of his hands. "I'll be right here if you have any questions."

Melissa got up from her seat and walked to the nearest counter where all the equipment had been prepared. Placing her things on the matte-black surface, she sighed a little and looked outside the window. She wondered who'd be joining her today for this lovely run of chemical mystery. Hopefully someone who knew what he or she was doing. 'Remember Melissa...keep doing your best and things will get better...that's how it has always been. The greatest honor is to do one's duty to her parents.'

Chicken Soup for the Soul
Markham was busy looking through his little black book and lazily munching on a roll when someone interrupted his quiet peace by sitting down opposite him, placing down a tray that only contained a bowl of soup. He lowered his book to look at the newcomer, briefly wondering why he didn't just go to one of the many empty tables nearby. Giggling and laughing girls nearby clued him in one what could have been one of the reasons and with a little sigh, he decided to make some conversation. Humans were meant to be social creatures after all, no matter how much one didn't want to be.

"Soup's bad today." Markham mumbles, his voice a little soft. 'Great start, Markham. All you need to do now is say how lousy the cafeteria food is and you'll become the hit of the school!'

He cleared his throat and began eating his yogurt, saving the salad for last. It supposedly wasn't good for the stomach, but at this point he wanted to taste something that had a taste besides salty. "So..."

He stalled, trying to think of a line of discussion that would actually be interesting to people. Personally, he thought psychoanalysis was a perfectly interesting thing to talk about even if he thought the discipline was ridiculous. But then not many people would probably like to discuss things about dreams and subconscious and the people who actually DID know about psychoanalysis and Freud usually knew about the "EVERYTHING IS SEX!" part and not much else. It didn't make for particularly enlightening or pleasing conversation.

"So how're your classes?" Markham offered. 'Even better, genius! Perhaps the next question you can ask is whether or not he likes breathing! You're becoming a natural at this.'

He wondered if the other boy would even answer him. He didn't look particularly...active or interested in anything Markham had to say. It didn't matter, though. He'd just have to blaze on through. In a way, this was just another social experiment...kind of. At least it'd net him some new notes, since he didn't recall seeing him that much during school. "So uh...my name's Markham Connor. What's yours?"

'Better actually let him answer first.' Markham thought to himself after a brief glimpse around the cafetorium, where he spotted another girl staring at him. A little freaked out, he cast another look in her direction and recognized her as...something Haraguchi. He knew she was Japanese, but that's all that really came up to mind. Well, as long as all she did was stare, he didn't mind. Maybe she was fantasizing about him.

A small grin appeared on his face. 'Now who's the one with Freud on the mind?'

Chicken Soup for the Soul
((Markham Connor continued FROM THE PAST a.k.a. Debate Exposes Doubt))

Markham waited in the cafeteria line, looking at the school's offerings with some measure of distaste. It wasn't that Bayview High didn't do its utmost to give the children a healthy and balanced meal for lunch, but would it have hurt them to make the meal actually look appetizing? He was probably just being too picky. He grabbed what looked to be chicken soup, a small Caesar salad, a couple of bread rolls, and topped off his meal with a cup of strawberry yogurt. Healthy and completely boring and probably tasteless as well. He wondered how you could mess up soup as he left the lunch line, ignoring the tired and irritated tone in the lunch lady's voice when she told him to have a good meal.

Luckily for him, it was still early in the lunch period and he found a nice, empty table that he could claim for himself. It was in a nice spot too, one where he could observe the other students. There were some of the jocks, roughhousing and joking with each other as they made a general mess. Next to them (obviously) sat a few cheerleaders, doing whatever cheerleaders do and establishing their dominance as the top of the high school student food chain. He personally didn't care for either group, but made sure he stayed out of their way.

As he sipped on his chicken soup 'Man that's a lot of salt.', his mind drifted off to his mother. Currently researching native tribes in Africa, she had sent him a small package a couple of days back. Inside were a couple of souvenirs (his favorite had been the small wooden carving of a gorilla) along with some preliminary notes on her findings. He always loved reading this and he was glad to see that she was doing quite well with her research. Compared to that, school life here in Bayview was almost mind-numbing.

Placing the soup away, he sighed and brought out his little black notebook. One day he would be able to conduct research experiments of his own. One day.

Debate Exposes Doubt
Markham listened to the other speeches half-heartedly, too distracted by recurring thoughts about how lousy his own speech was to give anyone else his full attention. Samya had done exactly what he had expected and easily came up with a strong rebuttal to his argument and even managed to rub his own argument in his face. He knew it was just a debate and this was all impersonal, but that didn't mean he couldn't feel a little twinge of pain in his heart after that one. It was a bad start for his team, at least...it looked like the Pro side would have a lot of more momentum now.

Ilario was up next and no matter how much he disliked the other debater, he recognized Ilario's skill and respected it. Even if Ilario was a ridiculous name. Strangely enough, the argument he present wasn't...great. In fact, if Markham had been a more judgmental man, he would have classified the argument as downright lousy and ridiculous. Then again, his own argument wasn't that much better, so there really was no room to criticize.

Vincent was up next and Markham immediately tuned the kid out. He doubted he would ever care for what Vincent had to say and even if they were in the same club, that didn't mean he had to listen. Markham decided to think about random and nonsensical things while pretending to listen, snapping out of it the moment Vincent left and Irina went up to the stand. He watched her performance closely, but wouldn't allow himself to make a judgment on it. He already knew how unbiased he was, so instead he just allowed him to enjoy hearing Irina's voice. Truly, the bad things helped you enjoy the good things that much more.

Max was up next and his speech, however long (he could hear Abigail clearing her throat), was another good one. It was depressing how much better the Pro side seemed to be doing compared to the Con side. He really had chosen the wrong side to argue on for this topic. Maybe he should have put more thought into it.

Wrapping up the Con side was Roland, who decided to tackle the evolutionary route and explained the phenomenon with science. Markham always did enjoy explaining things with cold hard logic and factual proof than personal experience. He decided that Roland's argument was probably the best out of the Con side and waited for Harold to finish up the debate so that he could escape and go home to copy his notes and consult his books.

After Harold's closing argument, Markham released a sigh and leaned back on his chair, waiting for Abigail to announce the results. Unsurprisingly, she labeled the Pro side as the winners and declared that all of the club members were free to do whatever they wanted now. Markham stood and gathered his things, not wanting to be the first one out of the room. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea and milled around the room for a minute or two before Abigail went up to Ilario and asked him something right before hurrying to Samya's side.

'None of my business.' He thought to himself. With a sigh, he just decided to leave and go home. It was better than standing around looking like an idiot. He briefly considered asking Irina if she would want to go to Prom with him, but immediately brushed it off as a stupid idea. With a bow to the assembled students, he said, "Nice debate, everyone."

With that, he left the room. 'What a lousy debate...Well, it was only one thing. Not all of them can be winners, I guess.'

((Markham Connor continued in the FUTURE with Chicken Soup for the Soul))