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TheAbsurdist

A to Z (Everything Changes, Except When it Doesn't)

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August 6th, Claremont Campus.

Afternoon-ish, and the day after.

 

Yesterday had been innocuous enough.  Until Bombastic had picked a fight with Corinne over her 'cold shouldering.'  Well, it wasn't a fight.  She had not been overly aggressive, but he had asked for it.  Fortunately while out of sight from the Next Gen, as she was still summer schooling it.  But...

 

Zenith had to spend time in the containment units, until she was... calm.  As Corinne she was... upset. Though she avoided Bombastic, so she wouldn't change in a fit of pique.  She buried herself in stuff, practicing with drumming, some schoolwork.  Then, finally just the gym.  Dancing and gymnastics.  It was like meditation for her.  A place to go, something to submerge herself in.

 

Which she did, in a manner that could be considered ferociously, until she was sweaty, and a bit tired, and going through additional stretched, if not to cool down, but rather to ready herself for round two.  Dressed in just a pair of shorts, and an athletic top, with toe shoes, and her hands and fingers taped up for her to do what she felt was needed.

Corinne was in the splits pose, her torso twisted and stretched out along, her hands gripping at the sole, with her face pressed her knee.  

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Gizmo   

A city girl at heart, Winifred Wei hadn't really made a habit of sitting at the bases of trees before arriving at the Academy but about half of the friends she'd made at the school were prone to perching in branches and nearly the entire other half would lean nonchalantly against anything sufficiently perpendicular to the ground. Besides, sitting with her book at the tables closer to the main building meant pretending not to notice when other students shifted seats to avoid sitting too close to her or worse dealing with someone feeling compelled to start up a conversation with her. No, sitting neatly cross-legged under the shade of the old oak with a novel in hand was certainly the best option for letting some of the day's stresses ebb from the knot in her shoulder. Peace and quiet.

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Once she was done, she'd leave, changing shoes, and putting them up in a messenger backpack, before she took off for a run.  Something with thudding, heavy beats, on her playlist as she moved towards the dorms, to retire for the day, or eat, or something like that.  After hitting the track, and she kept going until her legs were screaming for her to stop.
 

Corinne was still wearing the work out clothes, liking the heat and the sun down on her, even if it didn't feel like California.  So as things moved on, she would eventually come across Winifred.  Who she knew of, and had been identified with a bit of a warning.  Though, considering that she had pulled a move similar to what the girl did...  Well she might knew something.  She moved towards her, without any stealth, and pulling the earbuds out before stopping short of her.

 

"HI... I'm..."  And there was some panting, her chest and stomach heaving a bit as she leaned forward putting her hands on her knees, about ten feet from the other girl, a little askance about her.  But then, surely Fred heard about her freakout, right?  Probably.  After a moment of collecting her breath she straightened and pressed her hands to the small of her own back.  "I'm Corinne... can... can we talk?"  One arm rose to drag the back of her hand over her flushed face to wipe away sweat.

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Winifred looked up from her paperback with an air of annoyance then blinked, watching the runner straighten up. The girl was even taller than Raina which seemed both unlikely and bit unfair. She recognized her vaguely as a recent addition to the Academy's student body but she didn't honestly pay that much attention. The workout clothing brought to mind something Robin had said about an encounter in the gymnasium but whether that had been about a 'Corinne' or some similar name escaped her. 

 

"About...?" she asked neutrally, head tilted slightly to one side. Usually when a random classmate initiated a conversation with her they didn't bother to ask for permission, which she supposed was a point in Corinne's favour.

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Corinne breathed in deeply, and there was a moment where she could catch her breath and her poise.  "I... we kind of share a... thing."  She was being delicate, probably a bit too overly coy, and she realized it, scowling, in a manner that was artful.

 

"Wait... f*** this isn't going how I wanted it."  She dropped down smoothly, yet sharply into a crossed legged position, eliminating her looming the other girl, as she looked at her.  "Okay, like, let me... Dammit.  I change to, okay?  I guess that's about as easy as I can explain it... and, I don't have control, or enough control... or something.  And you're the only one I can talk to, but I don't know if I can..."  There was a tremor of fear, or something similar in her smooth voice, as the words were thick in her throat, stumbling, lurching over her tongue like a drunk trying to walk a straight line, and she looked away.

 

It wasn't aimed at Fred, and she struggled a bit, flailing, as she shrugged expansively, expressively, showing off her apparent helplessness.  "I don't know... I don't know at all.  It's been like... five months, and I am not ready for this... I scare me...  I, like, got mad a boy for being stupid, and I like... grew big, and I threw him... and..."  she trailed off as her breathing went a bit ragged... 

 

"I don't know who else to talk to... but, I can't burden you, you have your own stuff but, I need help..."  She looked back to her with her brilliant blue eyes shimmering a bit, as she bit her lip and then ducked her head.

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Gizmo   

Winifred's expression went through a rapid series of changes as Corinne spoke, starting with a mixture of alarm and indignation at the girl's suggestive first attempt then changing to wary distaste at the outburst of profanity. Realization dawned as the blonde clarified that she too had an uncontrolled metamorphosis of some kind. When she admitted that she was afraid of herself Winifred's mouth curled down in a concerned frown while her brow lowered.

 

Eventually she cleared her throat loudly to forestall the stumbling self-recriminations. "Sit," she demanded with the sort of firmness that failed to have any affect whatsoever on Matthew's hounds, pointing to the base of the tree beside her. "It would hardly do for you to bring on another attack over fears of asking for simple assistance, hm?" She didn't think she could honestly pull off the warm empathy and overflowing concern with which Cathy would have responded and so aimed for something closer to Raina's reassuring confidence. "Why don't you tell me a little more about it, dear."

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Corinne would sit down, shucking off her messenger one-strap backpack as she looked at the ground, uncertainty radiating off of her.  "I wont... probably."  She frowned, as she rubbed her hands together.  "I... don't know.  I am supposed to... test soon.  I just, like... change if I get upset,  My powers go all crazy, and s###."

 

She seemed to calm a bit more, though she was still coming down.  "I... should be fine,"  Though there was an unsaid 'for now' to her words.  "I can change things around me.  Everything... I guess?  Physical things.  Sometimes I change myself... when I am upset, or angry... or I can get distracted and just caught up in things..."  She dug her fingers into ground, and pulled at it, because she needed to fidget right now.  "I got told about you, warned off... but, there isn't anyone else here who I can talk to... the counselors give platitudes and everyone tells me I don't have to be a hero, but they cluck their tongues at me when I say i just want to dance!"  Her voice chanced at the end of the word, becoming a cacophonous chorus, then she stopped, and she closed her eyes, and pressed her hands to her face, rubbing at her features as this happened.

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Gizmo   

"There does seem to be something of a cultural expectation toward those with arguably more 'useful' extra-human abilities, yes," Winifred agreed calmly, tactfully ignoring both the brief outburst and the part about Corinne being warned away from her. There was nothing terribly novel about having a poor reputation. "The arts program here is woefully under-prioritized, wouldn't you say? Don't misunderstand, I'm a girl who tends to favour practical application but alchemy requires a certain holistic approach. The renaissance masters would have a thing or two to say, I've no doubt." She continued to speak breezily while keeping an eye on the blonde, waiting for her to take her hands away from her face when she was ready. "Dance seems a capital idea for keeping oneself centred and in control. I've taken up a musical instrument, myself."

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There was a moment when she looked at her, and she frowned larger than before.  "I am in a dance academy, I want to go to Juilliard after I finish here... If I can get into it... I've been studying since... like, I was six.  It's not like there are great music or art teachers either.  I couldn't bring my drum kit here."

 

She moved her hands up over her short hair as she looked away, not making eye contact, as she frowned the whole while.  "I mean... I am not heartless, I can help people... but this all... like less than six months for me... and my powers opened up with me trying to attack my mother with my powers in a fight... and here I am exiled and...  Yeah...  There isn't anyone else but you to talk to, or at least can understand."  She looked back to her, as she shifted in her leggings, and pulled her knees up towards herself, so she cant rest her face on them.

"And I am just, like, pouring things on you... and that isn't really helping."

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"I'll assume this 'Juilliard' is a prestigious institution?" Winifred half-asked, trying to keep up with the tumble of words coming in halting bunches from the distressed girl. With a long, quiet sigh she set her paperback aside, resigned that she wasn't likely to get back to the creased romance novel any time soon. "If it's any consolation, Corinne, acquiring my 'powers' involved a rather catastrophic error in judgement on my part followed by an equally hasty attempt at a solution." There was something in her crisp annunciation that suggested she was being somehow euphemistic; she wasn't about to discuss what the original aim of that desperate 'solution' had been. 

 

"I then spent the following century and a half as a statue with what could charitably be described as a 'disturbing' aesthetic and was transported at some point during that time across the Atlantic to an entirely different country. Consequently my own parents, along with everyone I had previously known, are long since dead and I have been forced to rely upon the charity of strangers in an unfamiliar place and time." Her voice grew increasingly tight as she continued, turning away from Corinne to turn an unfocused stare off into the distance. "So. It would, I think, be fair to say that I understand something of exile and leaving things behind. I have found though, however improbably, that talking about all of it does indeed help. It doesn't resolve any of it, per se but it does help."

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Corinne just... sort of deflated.  "Oh."  And then the wheels were cut out from under her in regards to her own plight and she shut up.  Well, sh** rich girl, don't you feel like an idiot?  She gulped, and frowned as she looked away.  "I am sorry to have, like, bothered you with my little problems, then."  She rocked forward and she pushed up to her feet with practiced ease, before she bent forward to pick up her bag, swinging her other leg back as she did so.

 

After all, her parents were alive... and all she really was going to suffer was the loss of a dream.  Not a world.  It was hard to find one's own problems as significant in the face of that.

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"Sit," Winifred demanded again, more sharply this time, indicating with her index finger for the other girl to remain where she was. "It's not a competition, Corinne. I apologize for implying otherwise." Sighing, she rubbed her temples for a moment while trying to come up with a different angle of attack. "I've been told I'm not a particularly soft touch. Reassurance is not my strong suit."

 

She steepled her fingers in her lap and mulled over her words for a moment before trying again. "Perhaps approach it this way. You have a condition and consequently people are going to treat you differently than you might like. I shall assume the boy with whom you were cross was not seriously injured or else you wouldn't be out and about now but given the danger presented you'll have to accept that they are not entirely wrong to do so. It becomes, then, a question of management." She spread her hands and raised an eyebrow. "I can't claim any special knowledge of the field but surely you would not be the first dancer to succeed despite a chronic malady? I say with some experience than a sufficiently motivated young lady can adapt to very nearly any new circumstance."

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Corinne's jaw set at the command, her nostrils flaring.  A fit of rebellious pique showing.  "I never said it was."  She stopped herself, from continuing, her mouth opening and then snapping closed, as she was all straight backed, and ridiculously good posture while she looked down at Winifred.

 

For her, she just didn't want to thrust her own burden on Winifred, she felt guilty that she was whining and winging about her own piffle set of problems.  That wasn't going to go away.  And Winifred was objectively bad in the role that Corinne was asking her to fulfill.  Slowly she eased herself back down, cross legged as she looked at her, "This..."  She drew in a deep breath, as she looked away.  "If it's a handicap, why would I want it?"

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"By all means, if you have a way to discard your extra-human abilities, have at it," Winifred drawled dryly, waving a hand through the air in a sardonic flourish. "Heaven knows I haven't stopped looking for my own cure. One expects that if you had one, however, you wouldn't be speaking with me in the first place." Her tone wasn't unkind but it was clear that the alchemist had little patience for wishing away a problem rather than working toward a solution. "So again I say: management. That may take the form of medication or recognizing the signs of an oncoming episode and removing yourself from a fraught situation. It may mean mental exercises or exhausting yourself past your body's physical ability to 'transform'. Conveniently you are at an institution which purports to have no peer where it comes to determining the most effective method. Stiff upper lip, hm?"

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"Control, right?  I get that.  I've got a decade learning that."  She made a face, her irritation showing still, though if it was aimed at Winifred, then that much was unclear.

 

"If I medicate, then there is no reason for me to be here.  All the vaunted lessons mean nothing, and this is a waste, and I should just head back to LA, and away from you mad people, get a shrink and dose myself until I can't do this."  Her jaw set again, before she frowned, responding to the sardonic twist as if it was sarcasm.  "Maybe you explaining your place makes me feel bad for being upset? I am a dumb rich girl who probably wont get to be ballerina, because of some twist of genetics."  Corinne let out a sigh and she reached up to press her hands to her temples.  "This isn't  metaphor for goddamned mental illness."

 

"Or it is, and I can't see it."  She pulled her hands away, and they glowed/dripped with white liquid fire that never made it to the ground.  "I can see my power, I can touch it.  I like it. I like what I can do, even as it scares me.  When it eats up my control, or when I feel my fists ball into fists unbidden... I like it.  I can change things, and it's changing me."

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Gizmo   

Winifred closed her eyes and let out a long breath through her nose, keeping her expression carefully neutral while silently reciting the elements. She probably should have been more interested in whatever was going on in the blonde's hands but engineering eye shadow to work with Cathy and Raina's respective powers had gone a long way toward normalizing such displays for her. "Corinne. You're talking about something in your biology affecting your brain chemistry, yes? That's not a metaphor for mental illness, it is literally the very definition of mental illness. Frankly I don't appreciate being called 'mad' nor your attitude toward medication as a component of management but I appreciate that you're not at your best just now." The smaller teenager was audibly grinding her teeth by the end of the sentence and took a moment to roll a knot out of her shoulders before opening her eyes.

 

"Perhaps I'm getting ahead of things. I assumed you wished to speak with me for advice. If you're not at that point yet and simply need to vent your frustrations at a cruel and unfair universe, that is perfectly understandable and I can empathize." She turned her head to look Corinne directly in the eyes and it was difficult to miss how carefully she was controlling her breathing. "I might suggest, however, that there are better people to shout and swear at."

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For Corinne, she had grown accustomed to no one really reacting to her displays of power.  For them it was a Tuesday (well... a Sunday), for her holy s***!   Her attention was distracted for a moment as she regarded her hands and what was happening.  "... yeah yeah... just call me Rockbiter."

 

She drew in a sharp breath, and she tore her eyes away from her hands, stuffing the power away.  "It sure feels like what the Cheshire Cat said.  But, I wasn't meaning you're mad, it just..."  She stopped searching for the word for the words that felt right, "... feels like this is all mad, and all of you tell me this is normal, and it's not for me."  Frowning still, as she looked away, "And if medication solves this, than what I am doing here?..."  She trailed off again, as she looked at Winifred, and slowly she stood, as the earlier physical exertion was locking at joints.

 

"There probably are.  You're right."

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"Well. 'Normal' is a terribly mutable thing," Winifred pointed out, taking conspicuously deep breaths as she walked herself back from the precipice of genuine anger. "People flying through the air under their own power hardly strikes me a 'normal' but one must pick and choose the battles she fights." Taking immediately photographs with a device the size of a small notepad then sharing them invisibly through the aether did not strike her as particularly normal  eother but she suspected that wasn't what Corinne was referencing.

 

"I do very much doubt there is any pill they might prescribe to do away with the question altogether," she continued with a sympathetic glance. "Speaking as the daughter of an apothecary, anyone with a cure-all is likely... Americans call it 'selling snake oil', I believe, though only because your oil contained no extract of snake whatsoever!" That was probably more information about the marketing of medicine than Corinne wanted but it had been a bit of a sore subject around the Wei household growing up. "Regardless, even performing trials to gauge the efficacy of anything you might take will take time. I apologize for being blunt but a speedy return to the life you knew seems unlikely."

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Corinne had hoped for something softer, but she didn't get that, it upset her more, or at least in a different direction.  She shrugged a little bit, though, before responding, "I just watched The Poisoner's Handbook, that's all I know.  I mean, I can talk about Tchaikovsky, or Monet, or the framing and scene construction in Hitchcock's movies.  But the history of modern medicine isn't exactly..."  The wind, at this point, had gone out of her sails. 

 

Not that she had expectations going in, she followed an impulse, a whim.  It just so happened to end poorly.  "Yeah."  She agreed to Winifred's assertion.

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"I didn't understand any of those references," Winifred noted with a small shrug. It was difficult to tell when someone was talking about something current or lumping in names from the previous two hundred years and missing the mark on the years she had actually experienced. It certainly all blended into an incomprehensible mess from her perspective.

 

Still, she couldn't help but look at Corinne deflating and feel that she was failing fundamentally at what might have been a critical time for the other girl. "Hrm. Well, in the meantime... You mentioned a 'drum kit', yes? That would be one of the big, pedal operated drums surrounded by smaller ones on stands?" She tried to describe the arrangement she'd seen with her hands, unsure how clear she was being. "I do know of a local shop that sells used musical equipment at a reasonable price, if that might help you feel more at home?" She attempted a reassuring smile that likely looked a bit forced.

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Corinne blinked, and shrugged a little bit, "Well, the first is the one that you might care about...The Poisoner's Handbook, it's a documentary, from a book of the same name, that examines cases and lives of New York City's chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler, between 1919 and 1936, and the establishment of forensic chemistry and toxicology."  Lifting a hand and holding her palm up as a way to 'hold up her statement,' as she spoke about it.

 

She frowned, "Tchaikovsky is a Russian composer of the romantic period, a good number of ballets are set to his music.  He is considered one of the greats.  I like his stuff.  Manet is a painter, one of the guys considered important in the transition from realism to impressionism.  And, Hitchcock is one of the greatest directors of film ever.  I say Kurosawa is better, but still, Hitchcock composed his shots so amazingly, you can almost forgive him for being a jerk..."  Another blink, and she realized she had been rambling, of course she was used to people her age bracket not getting any of the references, and she looked a little chagrined."

 

"Erm... I have a roommate, so space, and not being mean to here is why I didn't get one.  I have a pad, and a djembe.  And some stuff for dancing..."  She pursed her lips, and narrowed her eyes as she looked away, as if running through her inventory in her head.

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Winifred sat through the rush of not entirely solicited information with the impeccably neutral expression of someone with a lot of experience both being talked at from before her petrification and hearing long strings of largely incomprehensible information since being revived. "I see." She at least made a mental note of the book's title. Toxicology wasn't her speciality so she expected she still had quite a bit of catching up to do on the subject. "It is rather a large campus, I have to assume a practice space could be found. Or created, really. With all the accommodations and countermeasures in place I have to assume a little soundproofing would be a simple enough thing." She one shoulder to ease some of the strain from sitting on the uneven ground. "I practice the bass guitar with a friend in his dormitory room. Our respective roommates are an item as it happens so scheduling hasn't proven much of an issue."

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There was a beat, and then Corinne made a face, ducking her head.  "Sorry."  She said that with a note of pained chagrin, "I... yeah.  That was pedantic."  She reached up and raked her fingers through her hair as she looked off to the side, drawing in a deep breath.  "I mean, thank you for the suggestion, I just am okay at drums, have to know how to keep..."  And then she pressed her closed hand against her face, biting at the heel of her palm as she stared off.  Then she realized she still had the tape around her wrist and hands, and she frowned, starting to unwrap the stuff.

 

"I was just looking... for something.  I don't know.  Some sort of shared experience.  But that'd be too easy.  I suppose.  I mean..."  And she started to laugh then, her eyes closed, her body shaking with mirth, that softened her urgent need for finally finding connection, it sounded a little manic.  She pressed her forearm to the tree trunk.  "Oh... oh god!"  And she kept laughing, shaking with it.  

 

"I am sorry, but I just realized how it sounds now..."  Fighting the urge to make a reference, as the desperate need for a commonality had her coming to a girl out of time, and venting on her, and...  Her free hand pressed to her side, as she was sucking in lungfuls of air as she kept laughing.  Pulling back, her head back she was shaking.  "Sorry, sorry," she held up a hand, some of the athletic tape hanging off of her knuckles.  "I have a hand drum I could play with you guys, until I got a kit, or even a marching snare... Just..."  She was still chuckling, waving her hand, "Just, sorry.   I am being silly, I need food."

 

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