⌈ THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT: ⌋
Name: Jack Willard
Band Color: Purple
Abilities: Empathetic Emotional Manipulation. Jack’s emotions are so explosive, they are capable of altering the minds of others. Generally, it’s an innate and passive ability, only activated by extreme emotions. When his adrenaline starts going, his emotions catch like wildfire. If he’s jazzed, everyone around him will be happy, too. If he’s sad, people will be compelled to cry with him. And when he’s angry, he can start a war. That application of his powers is the most useful, which is why he eventually settled on it for his moniker. He is classified as a purple-band rather than a pink-band because he can control it…just not very well. Not yet, anyway.
Relatives: Mary Willard (mother, deceased), Andrew Willard (father, deceased)
Birthplace: Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
Bio: Jack Willared was one of the underage infantry soldiers deployed into the Hürtgen Forest in November of 1944. At fifteen (almost sixteen, he always said, though “almost” was six months), he was one of the youngest boys in the division, but not by much. Most were between seventeen and nineteen, either zealous boys that had convinced their parents to sign off, or post-high school kids that’d been drafted. From early on, his division had been problematic. The desertion rate was embarrassingly high, as was the number of self-inflicted wounds. These boys lacked the training necessary to get them through combat in wooded areas, and the Hürtgen was a deathtrap. It had tightly-packed pine trees, many as tall as one hundred feet. The cover was so thick, it blocked out all sunlight. In the Hürtgen, it was always night. Jack had been one of the gung-ho ones, a kid pumped full of patriotism. He went into the military with the strong belief that America had the best fighting forces, the best weapons, and the best supplies available for their men. He believed that America was the most modern country. He believed that there were winners and losers and nothing between—-and he sure as hell wasn’t a loser. That was systematically beaten out of him during that ugly, ugly month. They were untrained, without supplies, and with their commanding officer leading them from the protection of a camp thirty miles away.
Jack didn’t know that he wasn’t baseline human. In fact, nobody really knew that people like him existed as a population. They were few and far between, and those with powers usually went out of their way to remain under the radar. He’d always thought that he was a charismatic kind of guy, someone that people liked to be around—-a man’s man, first to throw a punch and first to start laughing at a joke. Since his powers were largely passive, he had no way of knowing that he was influencing everyone around him. It was a cycle: if he projected an emotion, people projected it back; when he felt connected with a group, he projected more. The highest and lowest spikes had been rare so far in his life, so he’d never experienced it to the level of uncanniness. Had anyone known what he was capable of, they never would have allowed him into combat with baseliners.
The forest broke the boys all on its own. It didn’t need Jack accidentally spiking the fear ravaging his allies, but he certainly added fuel to the hellfire. It got progressively worse, spiraling out of control, until they reached their breaking point. The boys broke line and retreated, ignoring the orders—-and threats, and pistols, and carbines—-of the officers. A third of them deserted. Jack wasn’t among them, stubborn as he was beneath his fear, so he wasn’t among the boys rounded up and punished. He was there during the punishment, though. He watched as one of the serial deserters was shot by an officer, a desperate attempt to scare them back into obedience. That brutal presentation had the opposite effect on Jack. It made him start seriously questioning the leadership, and what he was doing there—-what any of them were doing there.
Thanksgiving was horrific. Jack lost it during one of the bombings. Usually, the number one rule of trench combat was not to dig beneath trees. In a setting like that, the trees were the only thing that provided any kind of safety. He watched his division get torn up, barely making it to cover in time to save himself. He hugged the base of one of the pines until the shrapnel stopped raining. One of the boys in the group—-one he’d always labeled as kind of off, but had warmed up to anyway—-was in a bloody heap not far from him. He ran for him as the fire thinned, dragging him to the semi-safety under the pines. The kid didn’t look good—-Jack was no medic, but he didn’t think he was going to make it. He was babbling, incoherent with pain. He tried to give him what medical attention he could, but the kid kept telling him to leave him alone, to stop, to go away. He ignored him—-right up to the point that his bloodshot eyes started to glow and Jack was knocked off his feet. It felt like someone had sunk hooks in his skin and yanked. He briefly blacked out. When he came to, everything had cleared out. The bodies, the carnage, the blood, the enemies—-everything had disappeared. He staggered to his feet, punchdrunk and baffled, and tried to orient himself.
He walked toward the nearest town, not sure what the hell he was supposed to do. Everything was eerily still, devoid of the signs of combat. Jack made it to Spa before he ran into anyone live. It was just three Belgian kids, unexpectedly brave to be playing out with a war on, he thought. They asked him questions in Dutch and German, pointing at him animatedly. Jack’s Dutch was shaky and his German was downright crummy, but he knew a little stilted, broken French. They managed to make sense of some of what he was trying to say—-American, friend, help me—-and directed him to someone who spoke English. She was an apple-cheeked middle-aged woman, the mother of the youngest girl. She hustled Jack inside after taking one look at his uniform and bloodied hands, cautiously fielding his questions.
It was November of 1956. In the blink of an eye, Jack had been thrown forward twelve years. The war had long been over. Thankfully, the woman believed his story—-there was too much physical evidence of who he was and where he had been to dismiss him as nuts—-and told him that she would help him however she could. She was old enough to remember the slaughter that had happened during the war. To say that Jack was shellshocked was an understatement. When she told him to eat, he did; when she told him to bathe, he did; when she told him to sleep, he did; he was detached and mechanical, going through the movements. It didn’t feel real. Even when he woke up the next morning in a bed—-a real bed, with dry, warm covers—-it didn’t sink in that he had inexplicably survived. The woman told him that it would take time, that he had time, so he did as she suggested and tried to rest.
When he woke up on the third day, it was 1964. The mother that had taken him in was older. The gap-toothed little girl that had held his hand and dragged him to her home was almost a teenager. Neither seemed surprised to see him again. This time, he stayed in 1964 for almost three months. The mother’s name was Mathilde, and the daughter’s name was Roosje. They sheltered him, helping him learn Dutch and acclimate to having missed twenty years.
The third time, he was awake when he jumped again. He’d been walking Roosje from school, practicing verb forms with her as she laughed at his fumbling of consonants and vowels. When the hooks dug into him again, he was angry. He knew what was coming—-knew that he was going to be cheated again—-but he couldn’t stop it. March chill turn to June warmth, and 1964 melted into 1970. He walked the rest of the way to the Sehgers’ home alone. Roosje answered the door. She was older than him, now, but she laughed and opened the door wider when she saw him. They’d known that he would come back.
The jumps in time got smaller and smaller. Jack was like a skipping stone on a lake, slowing down from the initial push. He had three months in 1970, two in 1973, a week in 1977, six months in 1980, a day in 1983, six weeks in 1985, a month in 1986, and then one final, painful drop that pushed him as hard as the first one had. He watched Mathilde rapidly age and die. He watched Roosje grow up, get married, have two sons (one named Jack, after him), lose her husband, and gradually grow old. She died shortly after Jack finally “settled”.
By that point, he was only sixteen. As one of the “temporal displaced”, he was tested—-and to their surprise and his, they discovered that he was a purple-band poster. Jack is unsettled, scattered, and emotionally volatile. Though he is slightly older than most of the kids, he was put into the third block at the Academy—-for his sake, as well as the safety of civilians. The Maillardet Foundation is fairly low-tech, so it won’t be as difficult for him to adjust to.
Being around teenagers again is another story entirely.
Jack art by minuiko!
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