The PPC Sprout movement is divided into two age groups, normalised to World One humans. Children join the Buds at age four; at age eight, they progress to the Sprouts, where they remain until age twelve.
Buds and Sprouts are organised into posies, each posy being led by a Bloom. Different posies may engage in joint activities at the discretion of their Blooms. During all activities, Buds and Sprouts should wear their full uniforms unless their Bloom states otherwise.
A Bloom may have assistants, depending on the size of the posy; these assistants will be designated with flower-derived words. By tradition, the first assistant is called Blossom; any further names are at the discretion of their Bloom.
Agent Maly clapped her hands. “Come along, girls and boys!” she called. “It’s time to get started!”
The children broke off their individual conversations and came together in a ragged group. That was fine, and Maly chuckled to herself at the idea that they would ever assemble into neat, pseudo-military lines. Parade drill? In the PPC? Not in a million years!
Maly let her gaze run over the posy, and nodded in approval at what she saw. All of the children were in their uniforms, and most of them even looked to have been washed since last week. Some of them looked a little fractious - Tanfin seemed positively furious, but Maly knew he’d inherited some of his grandfather’s famous temper - but overall, they seemed ready to start the meeting.
“Good evening, Buds!” she said, beaming at them. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“Good evening, Bloom,” the children said in vague chorus, and Maly’s smile broadened.
“Let’s start the meeting by saying the Buds’ Promise, shall we?” she said, managing to sound as if they didn’t do exactly that every single week. “I think we’ll let Blossom lead us today.”
Agent Dagger glared appropriately sharp implements at her, but straightened up out of her slouch with a sigh and crossed to stand next to Maly. “Evening, Buds,” she ground out.
“Good evening, Blossom.” Maly wasn’t quite sure, but it seemed as if the children took even more pleasure out of that greeting, since Dagger clearly didn’t want to be there.
Not that that stopped her doing her job. She held up her left hand, index finger pointed at the ceiling in the universally-recognised sign for ‘I have a great idea’ - or, as it was now known, the first stage of the Buds’ Salute. The children - and Maly - followed her lead.
“I promise that I will always write my best,” Dagger began, and the children echoed her, some sounding excited, some just plain bored. Maly smiled and let the words roll over her, ready for another exciting evening.
Due to the effects of age normalisation, achievement badges are shared across Buds and Sprouts; this allows children from fast-maturing species to continue their progress despite spending less time in each group, while still providing a challenge for slow-growing Buds.
Each badge is sponsored by a department or division of the PPC, and is split into three levels - Basic, Moderate, and Advanced. At the discretion of the departmental secretary or other assigned Sprout liaison, a child holding an Advanced badge may be given a personalised Super-Advanced project to complete. SA projects are often a prelude to a child beginning training for the department in question, when they reach the appropriate age.
A badge consists of the departmental flash patch surrounded by a broad coloured ring: bronze for Basic, silver for Moderate, gold for Advanced. A Super Advanced badge consists of a gold(ish) medal showing the departmental flash patch.
“But I don’ wanna.”
Nyx Nightingale leant against the doorframe and watched her husband and son with an amused expression. Dassie was holding up the shirt which Malcolm, who seemed to be halfway to hiding under his bed, steadfastly refused to wear.
“If you don’t wear the uniform, you can’t go,” Dassie said, and Nyx could hear the despair edging into his voice, and honestly sympathised. Malcolm was normally relatively placid, but right now…
“Don’ wanna go, then,” the little boy grumped - that was the only word for it. He picked up the black waistcoat which Dassie had put down next to him and furiously flung it across the room.
“You do, though,” Dassie said. “You’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, remember?”
“Haven’t,” Malcolm retorted, “haven’t haven’t haven’t.”
Dassie winced and rubbed the bridge of his nose, then turned and frowned at Nyx. “Are you planning on helping, or just spectating?” he asked.
“I’m helping!” Nyx said, smiling brightly. “In fact, I’m solving the whole problem by myself.”
Dassie looked between her and their son, who was now trying to take his black trousers back off. “Really.”
“Really,” Nyx confirmed. She leant back to glance down the hall of their small New Caledonia house, and nodded. “Solution arriving in three, two, one…”
Tia Hyrax stepped into view, ten years old and radiating amusement. “Hey, Mally,” she said, crossing to her little brother, “what’s up?”
“Don’ wanna,” Malcolm told her, taking refuge in the simplest of statements.
“Oh,” Tia said, “I see.” She ran a finger down the front of her waistcoat, indicating the cloth circles sewn onto it. “You don’t want any badges like mine?”
“N- y- um.” Mal looked up at her, confusion warring with envy on his face.
“Or you don’t want to go and play with the other boys and girls?”
“Maybe a bit,” Malcolm admitted. “But I don’-”
“I know,” Tia said, grinning, and plucked at the shirt of her own Sprout uniform - the one she had quickly put on at Nyx’s request. “It’s that you don’t want to wear a yellow shirt, isn’t it? It’s not like it’s your favourite colour or anything…”
Malcolm stared at her, then turned to Dassie, who was holding a far smaller but otherwise identical shirt. “Daddy…” he said, putting an apology, a question, and a plea into the same word.
Dassie chuckled, and nodded at his wife. “Nicely done,” he said. “Come on, Mally - hands up.”
Basic: Take the First Aid course and demonstrate understanding of what is taught during it, by way of a practical demonstration.
Moderate: Correctly diagnose a range of common injuries and diseases, in film footage or live patients. Describe appropriate treatment for each.
Advanced: Research three of Medical’s ‘unusual patients’. Present a theory on the nature and cause of their ailments, referencing other examples, and detail the appropriate treatment. Perform a practical demonstration of the administration of the treatment in question.
Nurse Timbledim left the little girl to ‘help’ her patient - the dummy he couldn’t help thinking of as a ‘victim’ - and walked slowly towards the girl’s brother. As he went, he wished yet again that he’d had the sense to stay away from Marian McKay.
“Ah, Timbledim,” she’d said as he walked into what, technically speaking, was not her office (just as, technically speaking, she was a nurse, not a doctor). “Nice to see you, hope you’re having a nice day, I’ve got a job for you.”
Timbledim was one of those people who were fated to look as if they were peering over their spectacles at you, even if - as he did - they had perfect eyesight. “I’m a bit busy right now, Nurse McKay,” he’d replied, wondering if he could make it back out of the door before she reached him. Probably not, on consideration.
“Nonsense,” Marian had replied briskly. “Nurse Christaki will be taking over your patients, and I need someone from the Black Cross for this.”
Timbledim had blinked in bewilderment. “But I’m not in the Emergency Division.”
There had been a soft sound, and a green armband landed on Marian’s desk in front of Timbledim. He’d turned it over, and not been very surprised to see the thick black cross marked on it.
“You are now,” Marian had said bluntly. “Now - have you ever heard of the Buds?”
If I had, Timbledim mused, I would have run away right then. Instead, he had found himself shipped off to the Department of Out-of-Character Hobbits, which for reasons known only to Aslan was in charge of the Sprout movement. And that led, inevitably, to him standing over a half-elven boy holding a sheaf of photos.
“So, Tanfin,” he said, forcing cheer into his voice, “what have you diagnosed?”
Tanfin glanced up at him, extending the move so as to flick his black hair away from his face. “This one’s got a broken leg,” he said, leaving no room for argument.
Timbledim leant over to look. “It certainly looks like it,” he agreed. “So what would you do with that?”
Tanfin raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t do anything,” he pointed out. “That’s your job. You are a nurse, right?”
“Very true, very true,” Timbledim replied, feeling a little more of his sanity slip away. “What I meant to ask is, what treatment would you recommend?”
The boy met his gaze again, and Timbledim sighed inwardly. It was going to be a long evening.
Department of Implausible Crossovers
Basic: In a demonstration ‘crossover’ - such as the Miss Cam Courtyard made up to look like a story - find and identify all of the canonical elements.
Moderate: Completed the Implausible Orienteering Course - a navigation exercise/treasure hunt conducted across the Multiverse, using a specially limited Remote Activator.
Advanced: Read and report on three badfics identified by Intelligence as being Implausible Crossovers. Identify each point of implausability and explain what is wrong with it, and how - if at all - it could be resolved.
Luden pointed through the ferns at something big, unmoving, and roughly the colour of honey. “Is that a canon thing?” he asked in a ‘whisper’ that could probably have been heard on the far side of HQ.
Ether Calinson squinted, putting on his best ‘concentrating’ face. “I think,” he said slowly, “that’s a horse.”
“Oh.” Luden’s face fell, and then brightened. “But maybe it’s a canon horse.”
“Umm.” Ether considered the horse, which was nibbling on a clump of grass with no apparent concern. “I think,” he said again, “it’s not. I think it’s the horse Daddy said is called Alice.”
Luden’s eyes widened. “Alice the camel?” he asked in a hushed whisper.
“Umm. I think yes.”
“That’s so cool.” Luden stared in undisguised awe at the horse in question. “Do you think she knows Jack and Jill?”
Ether frowned. “Umm. I think the different songs probably don’t talk to each other. Like how Lord of the Rings and… and…”
“Tengwablocks!” Luden suggested, referencing one of the shows they watched in the Nursery.
“Yes. They don’t talk to each other. So I don’t think she does.”
“Oh.” Luden’s face fell again. “But is she a canon horse?”
“Umm, I think yes.” Ether placed his sheet of paper carefully on a nearby rock and, holding his crayon carefully, wrote H0rCE. By the time he had finished, Luden had already found another target.
“It that a canon thing?”
“Umm. I think that’s Malcolm.”
Department of Geographical Aberrations
Basic: Take and pass the DOGA fire safety course (AKA ‘Let’s Not Burn Down Rivendell Again’). This will include a requirement to safely burn down a specially-constructed building.
Moderate: Draw a map of a canonical location of your choice, highlighting at least ten places where geographical aberrations could occur.
Advanced: Having been dropped into a selected canon, determine your current location and navigate to another location which you will be informed of on arrival. This may constitute a multi-day excursion under supervision, but with no guidance.
Former-Agent Dafydd Illian stood in front of the silent Buds, hand behind his back, eyes scanning the posy. “Fire,” he said again. “It’s pretty dangerous.”
Ether Calinson leant over to whisper in Jasmine’s ear. “Is this going to be like Agent Morgan’s ‘Don’t be a Time Lord’ lecture again?” he asked.
Jasmine shook her head slightly. “I promise Daddy won’t just repeat ‘You don’t want to be a Time Lord’ at us for half an hour,” she muttered back. “He was practicing all last night.”
“Fire may look pretty,” Dafydd went on from the front of the small room, “as it leaps up against a midnight sky, or curls around the beams of a shattered house; it may fill you with warmth as you hold your hands up to it, basking in the glow of an abomination being set to rights; it may sound glorious, as the crackle of the flames builds into a roar which spreads to consume all your doubts, all your sorrows, all your fears.”
Standing against the wall, Bloom gave a polite cough. Dafydd glanced over at her in surprise, and it seemed to the children that a flickering spark they hadn’t even notice fled from his eyes.
“Er, right,” he said, looking back at them. “But despite all that, it’s very dangerous, and you might break things. So don’t play with it. Okay?”
Department of Out-of-Character Hobbits
Basic: Hug a hobbit! Because hobbits are adorable!
Moderate: Hug two hobbits - at the same time!
Advanced: The Advanced badge has been redacted. Agent Maly, I put you in charge of the Sprout movement on the understanding that you would take it seriously. ~The Authoritative Elanor. PS: I don’t think that’s even physically possible. ~tAE
Disclaimer: The PPC is the creation of Jay and Acacia. Agents Maly and Dagger are the creations of Luthien and Dagmar, and have been adopted by Huinesoron. The Sprout movement is the creation of Huinesoron and Kaitlyn, and is free to use in PPC writings. Alice the horse, and Nurses Timbledim and Marian McKay, are free-to-use characters. All other characters appearing are the creation and property of Huinesoron. Known Buds and Sprouts are:
Tanfin Illian (7)
Jasmine Illian (5)
Luden Dioxond (5)
Ether Calinson (5)
Malcolm Hyrax (4)
Tia Hyrax (10)