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Gizmo   

Claremont Academy Dormitories

April 15, 2017 

 

Winifred still wasn't used to the literal weight taken off of her shoulders be her recent haircut but after putting it off for so long there was a certain visceral satisfaction in having had the nearly waist length hair cut back to a tidy pixie cut with razor sharp lines that kept it off of her ears and neck. It had already proven to be more practical in the lab and if she were to allow herself a moment of vanity the displaced Victorian might have gone so far as to say that it combined with the collar of her slate grey dress shirt to make her neck and jawline look fantastic. A scientist had to acknowledge empirical fact after all.

 

Shifting the strap of the bag slung over her shoulder, she strode down the dormitory hallway with her shoulders squared and her chin tilted slightly upward. It had taken almost half a year of trials and tweaking but the grin threatening to break through her composure came from the feeling of a craftsperson preparing to showcase their efforts. She counted slowly backward from one hundred as she rounded the corner; she wasn't in a position to let excitement or nerves get the better of her. Reaching the door to the room shared by Clouston and Sanderson she gave it a distinctive trio of sharp raps.

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Whilst Cathy was very much in love with her girlfriend, she still preferred to have a space of her very own, even if it was one corner of a shared room. And she doubted few would put up with her condition, which was a lot better than when she started Claremont, as well as Raina. You could tell that she was in her room as the area around the room was a wee bit chilly, though not covered in a thin frost as it had when she'd first arrived.

 

Right now she was sat on her bed catching up on her homework, all her books spread out in a chaotic yet somehow organized manner that only Cathy could really understand. As normally she wore one of her standard knitted jumpers this one white with a giant eye across the middle.

 

She just happened to glance up at the door so was able to see Fred just before she knocked on the door.

 

"Looks like we have a visitor."

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Electra   

Raina was lounging on her own bed, reading Cosmopolitan and sharing choice bits of advice with either Cathy or Merlin, it was never exactly clear who. Merlin was ignoring her anyway, deep in whatever unfathomable project he was pursuing on Raina's laptop. A little fireball floated in the air above the bed, acting as a mystical space heater for that half of the room. 

 

At Cathy's words, Raina raised her head. "Come on in," she called, "if you dare." 

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Gizmo   

At that dubious invitation Winifred opened the door and stepped inside, quietly closing it behind her and setting her bag down on the desk chair to her right. "Fortunately I've been feeling daring of late," she assured the room's residents with a faint smirk while placing her hands on her hips. The pyromancer had been trying to cajole her into getting a haircut for months, presenting option after option with detailed explanations of the relative benefits or disadvantages of each meant to appeal to the scientist's sensibilities. The pixie cut had been among the most dramatic suggestions and Winifred suspected it had been brought up more to make other styles seem more palatable by comparison. Of course Sanderson had intended to be on hand to supervise when Winifred finally went through with it but the shorter girl had felt it important to exercise a little independence, having been in the present day long enough to acclimate somewhat to current fashions. At least, she hoped so.

 

Any reaction of surprise from the blonde or her roommate was simply a fringe benefit. "So? Thoughts?"

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Cathy was caught a little by surprise by the sudden change in Fred's hairstyle, something you couldn't tell with inferred, and without really thinking said the first thing that came into her head.

 

"It's, it's very short."

 

But she recovered fairly quickly as her brain caught up with her mouth.

 

"It looks really good on you though, I've been thinking about changing my hairstyle as well."

 

Her hair tending to clump into dreadlocks when she went into ice form, which she though look good, but she'd been unable to get her fine white hair to do it in her "normal" form.

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Electra   

Fred's revelation drew a startled squawk from Raina, her magazine sliding unnoticed off her bunk as she stared. "You got your hair cut!" she announced, very nearly accusingly. "Without telling me or taking me along or anything! What were you thinking?" She sat up and almost bumped her head on her own fireball before Merlin chirruped a sharp warning. Dropping to the floor, she stalked over to get a closer look. "I mean, it looks really good, but you took a big risk there! You know you don't go into a dangerous situation without recon and backup! What if they stylist had been a moron? You could've wound up bald!" 

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Gizmo   

Winifred turned in slow circle partly to show the back of her hair and partly in a token effort to hide the broad grin brought on by the positive if surprised response. "I have it on good authority that hair does in fact grow back," she countered primly, voice touched by the hum that meant she was feeling particularly pleased with herself. After months of discussing options back and forth she'd been confident enough to explain exactly what she wanted, the bemused stylist answering her battery of questions before they began. She was still happy to go along with the idea that it had been a bold, impetuous risk, however. "Frankly that reaction would have made even baldness worth it, Sanderson. I didn't realize you could make that sound." The displaced Victorian finished her spin and gave the witch an uncharacteristically cheerful smirk. "Thank you, Cathy, I think it turned out well. Not the main reason I came calling, however."

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It wasn't that Cathy didn't get fashion, they had entertainment even in the wilds of the Shetland Islands, it was just that practically tended to win out over looking fashionable. So Raina over the top reaction to Fred's potential fashion disaster made her smile, though she mostly managed to hide it behind a convenient cushion she was holding. And Fred was, rightly so, taking up all the attention right now.

 

"Aye very well indeed. So apart from trying to give Raina a heart attack why have you chosen to visit us?"

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Electra   

Raina snorted and made a show of turning her back on Fred, looking rather like a cat who'd been caught chasing a laser pointer dot. "I'm a woman of many talents, Winifred. I can make any number of sounds, not that I'm likely to." She frowned, realizing that train of thought wasn't going to go anywhere she wanted it to go, and opted to levitate elegantly back onto her bunk instead. Merlin made a noise that was definitely a stifled snicker. "So what is it that you want, anyway?" 

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Gizmo   

"I should keep a journal of these unlikely sounds as they occur, then," Winifred mused aloud, the very picture of airy propriety apart from her continued smirk. It wasn't often she got to be the one teasing someone else for a slip of the tongue. "Now, not that I need a reason to visit you dears, however..." Turning to the bag she'd set down on the desk she lifted its flap and produced a pair of wooden boxes a little bit smaller than a lunchbox. Simple plywood, they had obviously been made using the woodworking equipment from the Academy's shop classes but fit of the corners and smooth surfaces spoke to the care that had gone into them. Winifred walked forward to hand the first, stained a reddish mahogany, to Raina while the light, birch coloured box went to Cathy. The contents made them surprisingly heavy, shifting slightly as the boxes were moved about.

 

A ripple of nervous energy played over Winifred's features as she took a step back, quickly banished. "Well, go on and look. It's only the work of months, after all."

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"Of cause you've always welcome here, especially if you bring gifts!"

As she spoke Cathy took the box with something resembling reverence, gently feeling the texture of the grain. After a few moments, she slowly slid back the lid looking with some interest at the contents within the box.

"It's all very nice you obviously have talents for such things. If anything you have a future at one of those Steampunk cons. They'd eat up all this genuine Victoriana.”

She stared for a few moments at the very intricately wrapped packages that had been carefully placed inside the box.

"What am I looking at exactly?"

 

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Electra   

Raina accepted the box from her lofted perch with the aloof decorum of a queen, but wasn't quite able to hide the lively spark of interest in her eyes. "It's makeup, obviously," she told Cathy without even opening the box. "It's the stuff Fred's been working on for ages." She reflexively passed the palm of her hand over the box as though testing its temperature, but Fred manipulated the elements with science, not magic. Merlin suggested he could get out his mass spectrometer, but Raina thought that would be a bit premature. Opening the box, she began to rifle through its contents with interest. 

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Gizmo   

Inside each box, nestled in a black foam inlay where several rows of containers. There was a wildly varied array of small bottles, tubes, pots and covered dishes, some made from glass but mostly from what looked to be machined aluminium. "I asked Smith to help with the metalwork. Strictly practical, obviously presentation wasn't the priority for this batch." The precision with which the inlay had been cut and the tidy organization of the cosmetics made that a fairly transparent lie but Winifred was obviously nervous enough about their response without adding another factor to the evaluation.

 

Some of the products Raina had already seen versions of during the months of development and indeed the base, blush and lip colour in her box all appeared to take their colours from her usual style, perhaps a touch richer. In contrast the pale colours in Cathy's kit had all been chosen to suit her particular complexion. The witch hadn't been expecting to find more than one nail polish option, though and hadn't even known the alchemist was planning for highlight and lowlight colours, nor the eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara lined up in the left side of the box. The cleanser and moisturizer were less of a surprise; over the course of some of the less successful trials Winifred had been thoroughly convinced on their importance. It was, in a word, comprehensive.

 

"It's all smudge resistant, of course. I painted some of Smith's practice targets with a layer of an earlier batch of the nail polish formula and it is impressively resilient, frankly." It was taking considerably effort for her to refrain from bouncing on her heels as she explained. "Less irritation from long periods of use as well, compared to the brands you usually use, Raina. I tried to choose colours I knew you'd each actually wear but naturally that can all be altered easily enough." She looked from face to face, gauging their reactions. "There's also something of a more personal touch I'll demonstrate once you've had a chance to try some of that out."

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Ever since her change Cathy had had an uphill struggle to just find the right makeup for her skin tone. It didn't help that she lived in such an isolated location, she had the Internet but it wasn't something that was easy on a teenagers budget. The locals helped in some ways but she didn't feel she could ask for help for makeups funds, she was after all their hero. It was a little easier in Freedom City, it was full of people of various differing appearances after all, but it still wasn't easier on her budget.

 

"Oh wow this is pretty amazing stuff, thank you." despite her best efforts there was an ever so slight crack in her voice, she wasn't sure if the others realized how back a deal this really was to her.

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Electra   

Raina and Merlin both rifled through the box with great interest, putting their heads together over various formulations and colors. They'd seen much of the lineup during testing, but Fred had obviously gone all-out on the final product, including several things she'd been keeping under her hat during development. "Well, I guess there's only one way to see if it works," Raina finally announced, flipping the box shut and sliding back down off the bed. "Merlin, would you mind getting into the controls for the building? We're going to need a lot more light in the girls' bathroom." She headed out with the box under her arm, not even bothering to check whether the others would follow. 

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Gizmo   

Winifred chose to interpret the lack of immediate criticism from Raina as the highest compliment one could have reasonably expected from the pyromancer. So it was with a pleased hum under her breath that she fell into step next to Cathy as they were inevitably swept up in the assertive blonde's wake. She surreptitiously glanced at the Scotswoman's expression, having noted the slight hitch in her voice. After some internal debate she settled on saying, "I was being serious about the colour selections. There are a truly staggering number of cosmetic tutorials available via computer and I took suggestions from a handful specifically pertaining to albinism but I can hardly claim any true expertise. It would be simplicity itself to adjust the next batch, should you give the word." She was still astounded by the wealth of information and instruction available online, effectively without charge apart from the equipment needed to access it.

 

Given the varying needs of its residents the Claremont dormitories featured different layouts on different floors but the large, shared washroom was the most prevalent, catering to half of the floor while its twin sat to the other side of the central common room. Most of its length was taken up by stalls for toilets and showers while the opposite wall held a half dozen sizeable sinks set into a long countertop that afforded enough space for purses, toiletry bags and the like. Winifred didn't have a large sample size for washrooms in the present day but she'd been assured this one was thoroughly modern in a conversation that had been largely geared toward what might or might not be safe to pour down the drains without an accompanying neutralizing agent.

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With just a brief deep intake of breath, Cathy joined in with the flurry of activity that was Raina. She was probably just as excited as Raina to try the makeup as Raina just not as openly displaying it, being a little cold if you would. Her own private joke made her smile to herself.

 

"I wouldn't claim to be an expert myself, it's difficult to find the right combinations easily and cheaply. Next to nobody is making makeup for Albino skin, and definitely not on a budget."

 

She picked a mirror and began to lay out everything ready to apply the new makeups, though it was almost a shame to use these beautiful little things, she was more than prepared to allow Raina to take the spotlight, as was normal.

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Electra   

Raina began to unpack her case with expert speed and skill, fanning out her palette of colors before going to work with the makeup remover and a cotton pouf to take off what she was already wearing. "Feels pretty good," she observed aloud. "Not too astringent, but it's working anyway. Not too oily." She patted her face dry and applied a light coating of moisturizer, then began to actually play with the makeup. Merlin sat on the counter above the sink next door, offering truly unhelpful commentary about how none of this would be necessary if humans had an adequate amount of facial fur, and whether this counted as animal testing for the labeling process. Raina threatened to tape his mouth shut, but he seemed singularly undeterred. "When do you plan on going into production with this stuff?" she asked Fred as she blended the base under her jawline. 

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Gizmo   

"The moisturizer has a very mild dose of elixir mixed in," Winifred explained, crossing her arms and leaning against the counter. She watched with unconcealed interest as Raina began applying the makeup, looking for any minute signs of dissatisfaction or discomfort. "Just enough to help a touch with blemishes or small cuts. I've been considering fur, in fact." She looked up to Merlin, hoping that watching the experimentation wasn't bringing up any unpleasant memories for the liberated simian. "As well as scales and so forth. We have classmates who couldn't use conventional cosmetics even if the appropriate palettes were available. I'm told the city has a not insignificant number of residents with similarly unconventional physiology. I haven't a solution for that yet but it is on my list." One could practically hear the gears turning behind vivid green eyes that stood out a bit more with her new haircut.

 

Refocusing on the present the alchemist cleared her throat delicately. "Ah, as for this current assortment though, I suppose production depends largely on the reception today. I could easily reproduce any of it in whatever variation was demanded, though I expect I am fast approaching the limit to the Academy's willingness to provide materials without compensation." She craned her slender neck to check on Cathy's progress before turning back to the pyromancer. "Before you get too far along, I ought to demonstrate one of what we would have marketed as 'alchemical mysteries' in my day. Brush a bit of eyeshadow on the back of your hand, would you?"

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After a few second work Cathy took a moment to admire how well the foundation matched her own skin tones, without the various tricks it took to achieve normally, she had to admit that Fred had a very fine eye for the little details.

 

"I've found a few specialist for such things, but they tend to be quite expensive. Very small market and all that!"

 

As instructed she took the eye shadow she'd been given and with some attention to detail carefully drew a line on the back of her hand.

 

"Okay there we go, what do we need to do now?"

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Electra   

Raina was already busy experimenting with the eyeliner on her eyes, but she paused long enough to give Fred a look in the mirror. "The makeup is good," she told the alchemist, "but I'm a little worried about anything that's billed as an "alchemical mystery." Before I put anything else on, I really need the over-under on my hand turning into some kind of base metal when I least expect it." She took an eyeshadow from the kit, but waited to apply it until she had more explanations. Even Raina's reckless streak had its limits. Merlin whispered something into her ear, at which point she told him to go away and try to stop being the worst for just a tiny fraction of time. He rolled his eyes, a sort of informed gesture from a monkey, but scampered away towards their bedroom. 

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Gizmo   

"You fly about on a literal broom, Sanderson. One would think I might be afforded a measure of theatre in return," Winifred groused, unfolding her arms to place her hands on her hips. The jut of her lower lip might have been called a pout but the Victorian was certainly far too composed for that. With a quiet huff she explained, "I made these with each of you in mind, you'll recall. Some of the cosmetics are designed alter their pigments in response to temperature; cold for your batch, Cathy and heat for the other kit." She seemed a little annoyed to be robbed her carefully prepared surprise but it wasn't as though the witch didn't have reason to be wary of her work. They were still going to be pleased, she was sure. It was fine.

 

"I had to calibrate the threshold to be relatively extreme, of course. Didn't want it triggering during a momentary lapse in controlling one's abilities or give away that one was experiencing an emotion other than boredom or mild annoyance." She cleared her throat in a weak attempt to hide the return of a small smirk. She'd put too much work into all of it to give up on her good mood so easily. Turning her attention to Cathy she continued, "About minus twenty centigrade should do it for that eyeshadow. Raina, one of your little balls of fire held about a handspan away for a moment should do the trick." That had been considerably tougher to manage but it wouldn't do much good for her to singe her eyebrows off in the process.

 

A bit of chill rolled outward into the rest of the washroom as Cathy followed the instructions, holding the hand she'd painted with a line of pale brown up for the others to see. Almost immediately it brightened to a vivid blue that caught the light and sparkled in a manner uncannily similar to fresh snowfall in the sun. Up close a delicate crystalline pattern in a complimentary silver had formed, a snowflake-like lattice that hugged the curve of her hand.

 

Winifred let out the breath she'd been holding and resisted the urge to bounce on her toes. "I thought it might be useful 'in the field', so to speak. In costume, uniform, whichever." She looked between the roommates with increasingly obvious anxiousness. "Yes? No?"

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Since coming to Claremont Cathy had learned a much finer control of her powers than before, though there was still a few kinks to work out, as such it was an easy task to lower the temperature on just the requested arm. As she did her arm seemed to get even paler than it normally was, though not quite to the point that turned into its crystalline ice form. She then spent a few moments entranced at the vivid blue colour against her stark white skin.

 

"It's pretty amazing stuff Fred!" she thought for a few seconds before adding "Do you know if it'll stick if I go into full ice mode?"

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Electra   

"Holy 8888!" Raina's curse was half delighted squeal as she watched the transformation on Cathy's skin. "That's so cool!" Her earlier hesitation instantly forgotten, Raina drew a quick little sigil for protection on her hand in brown eyeshadow. The sigil wasn't magic in itself, not before it was charged, but it looked more sexy and mysterious than just spreading it out on her hand. A flick of her lighter had fire dancing on her fingertips as she carefully moved it close enough to trigger the makeup's effect. 

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Gizmo   

The reaction drew a smile of mixed relief and triumph that lit up Winifred's face and crinkled her eyes. While Raina retrieved her lighter the alchemist produced a notepad from her bag and pulled the pencil stub from within its spiral binding. She didn't even attempt to keep a straight face as she pantomimed jotting something down. "Unlikely sounds... documented entry... the second," she read aloud as she pretended to write.

 

Where the heat from Raina's contained fire touched the eyeshadow the brown immediately brightened to a radiant blood orange hue that subtly turned more yellow or red as the light caught it from different angles. Whereas the version in Cathy's kit had sparkled, it veritably glowed against the witch's fair skin, the flickering colours making it look uncannily like lines of actual flame painted across her hand.

 

Winifred herself seems a bit distracted by the effect herself before clearing her throat daintily and beginning to answer the Scotswoman's question. "It ought to but of course I was only able to test it on actual ice which I expect doesn't have precisely the same properties as--"

 

She was interrupted as the washroom door opened and Madison Tyler entered alongside Celeste le Faye, their own conversation stopping abruptly as they spotted the trio of girls already inside. There was a beat of silence before Madison noticed the flames on Raina's fingertips and her mouth compressed into a twisted line of irritation. "What the hell, Sanderson?!" 

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