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It seemed there was still some measure of justice in the world, despite all evidence to the contrary in the life of one Raina Sanderson recently of Claremont Academy.  

 

Winterfold was THE underground sensation of the decade, at the least of the moment and really that mattered far more in the cutthroat world of high school.  The exclusive concert experience was renowned equally for it's rumored a-list guest list as much as it was for it's unique and secretive musical stylings.  In a world where every up and coming band flooded the streaming sites with samples, concert footage, and behind the scenes not so exclusives, Winterfold was an enigma, allowing no recordings, publishing only rare stills of energized crowds in packed small venue or pop up concert halls.  Top celebutantes would hint at having seen a show, breathlessly describing the scene in vibrant glowing praise before obliquely adding ,"Or so the rumors go." a small nod to the secretive groups mystique.

 

So the fact that Raina had just won an exclusive invitation for herself and a few friends was to say the least good fortune.  And better than that, none of those snobs from Next-Gen had gotten anywhere near it despite best efforts of fame, wealth, or 'harmless' exploitation of powers.  This was social gold for any teen.  With the concert venue in riverside and her own access only revealed the day of the event she had scant time to gather her friends and soon they found themselves before the doors of the small riverside dancehall with the other elite guests.  The doorman checked her against a small delightfully vintage printed list and swung the door open slowly granting them entry to a vestibule where another fit young man stood waiting to collect any and all electronic devices before they'd be granted entry.

 

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Raina had no trouble surrendering her phone, though Merlin had been upset enough about that restriction to boycott the show entirely. She also suspected that he'd planted a tracking device somewhere on her in case she wound up lost and phoneless, but hadn't been able to prove it. He was a lot more paranoid than she was about the exclusive invitations. Sure, she wondered if it might all be some kind of scam or setup, but every scrap of research they'd done suggested the invitations were legit and the concert was just a concert, albeit an incredibly exclusive one. The short notice had barely given her time to assemble an appropriate outfit, though at least her makeup was extremely on point thanks to Fred's gifts and her own talents. 

 

"All right everybody," she murmured to her posse, "act cool, act like you absolutely belong here and nobody in the entire room is better than you. And absolutely do not embarrass me." Smiling broadly, she stepped forward into the venue. 

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"Be like you don't know we're there." Riley lingered for a moment, hands in his pockets. It was hard coming out here unarmed, especially in the company of his friends, but normal teenage boys didn't go armed to dance parties and he really wanted to be normal for Robin tonight. So outside of what he'd slipped into the generous pockets of his pants, he was all normal today. He wore a plaid shirt under a black vest with matching black tie, comfortable jeans and even a brand-new black fedora. It wasn't as good as Midnight's fedora - but it was a nice fedora all the same. "You look great, baby," he said with a wink at Robin, offering her his arm as they headed inside the club. They're not going to lock us down here and eat us. 

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Riley wasn't the only one putting in the effort to be 'normal' tonight. It felt strange, having her tight curls free from twists, braids or a scarf. Her dark curls almost seemed shorter as they were free to spring up in a cloud around her shoulders. The sandals were new-to-her, a recent score from the school's lost and found, but the dress had been actually bought with scraped together cash, brightly printed and new-new. Every so often she found her fingertips straying to rub the fabric absently, unused to the texture against her skin. She gave Riley a small smile, not quite nervous but perhaps a little unsettled about being out of her element. This, really, was very much not her world.

 

"Relax, Raina," she offered with a side long smile for the tall blonde, her voice turning teasing, "This thing is so secretive that its not like there will be gossip if we are somehow un-cool."

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"I don't think I can reasonably promise any of that," Winifred mused aloud as she filed in behind Robin. Prim elocution and proper posture substituted reasonably well for self-assurance but she'd never been to a musical performance of this sort and fear of committing some faux pas competed with simmering excited. She shared Riley's apprehension about a crowded, enclosed space albeit for very different reasons but after listening to so many recordings with Matthew she was thrilled at the opportunity to take in a live show.

 

Her friends' excitement wasn't lost on her, either. Raina had been practically aglow with the feeling of once again being the one with the exclusive connection but when Robin of all people had mentioned procuring a new outfit for the evening it had crystallized for her roommate that this was the sort of activity modern young people were meant to be able to enjoy, a normalcy frequently denied to her her small circle. Resolving to hold up her end of the proceedings she'd layered a pair of high-waisted shorts over dark leggings and a dark blouse, along with a taupe cardigan that hung open and an ochre knitted scarf. It was a touch conservative for what she understood to be a party more than what she thought of as a concert, as was her makeup but she was confident that it remained fashionable and normal.

 

She glanced over her shoulder at the rest of the group, trying to keep an eye one everyone so that she could take her etiquette cues accordingly. "Ah, I realized I've asked already but the selling point here is that we're not meant to know what to expect?"

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Cathy couldn't help but be as excited as the other at this night out, maybe a little more as her trips out in Freedom City were always an experience. Even better she was getting to go with her girlfriend, it was like a really special date with the extra benefits of friends close, but obviously not to close when the time came.

 

"You know me I'm always chill!" she smiled at her little icy pun

 

Though she wouldn't say it Cathy knew that a night like this was important to Raina so had made an extra effort to look good tonight ditching her normal jumpers in favour of a flowery blouse over a t-shirt, though for now, she wore her normal parka over the top of it all. Layers were the theme all the way down with a skirt over a pair of leggings, topped, or bottomed off with her comfortable Doc Martins. She'd spent ages putting it all together as was pretty pleased with the effect, even if she missed her normal jumper.

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Phaedra, for her part, was also rather excited but if she understood the rules right she wasn't supposed to show it.  At least not too much, to do otherwise would appear to be 'uncool' or something to that effect.  The half-breed only partially understood the rules to teenage life on Prime, though Raina and Cathy had come a long way in explaining them.  In their own unique ways.

 

Her lips quirked up into a smile at her girlfriend's pun, and she gave her a kiss on the cheek as they made their way into the venue.  The redhead took some time to dress up like the others, though her choice of lace choker and top, with leather pants and jacket was a little on the severe--and goth--side.

 

"We'll behave, Raina," Phaedra demurred.

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Corinne was the odd one out.  Hannah had given her the pass, as Raina had not invited her directly.  So she wasn't ostensibly part of their clique, though her experience with them had been, on the whole, mostly neutral.  Did you count Riley, she felt that generally one did not count ones interaction with the violent guy.

 

And while she was a step behind her element normally... this?  This was something she was used to.  Parties.  Clubs.  Events.  She was her father's daughter, without realizing it, on that note.  Al-Misri's didn't show up, they arrived.  Even if she didn't rock the surname.  Years of dance, and exposure to roughly this sort of stuff, and a couple stints of modelling (enough to know it would her out of her mind, but taught her how to pose for the portfolio pictures she'd need), and she was more than ready to be here.  Standing with that perfect posture, like more like a  caryatid than person.

 

She missed the warning.  Not that she needed it.  Though her presence would be felt soon enough as she managed to sidle up behind them.  Dressed in some sort of rocker couture, all artfully ripped jeans, a red and blue flannel around her waist, a Cheap Trick t-shirt that had met the business end of scissors, and hung off shoulders.  Her lips curled a little bit into a smile, as she offered up her phone, not particularly worried, yet.  She had yet to have the numerous experiences to inform her that something like this could go catastrophically pear shaped.

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Their phones, if they had brought one, were carefully stowed in individual cases labeled with their names and a ticket number for retrieval.  Then they were given wristbands, red to indicate they were under drinking age, and the door swung wide to welcome them into the venue itself.  The large room had an open central dance floor where already the early arrivals had gathered to sway absently to the Decemberists cover band that had won the dubious honor of being the opening act.  Not much point in an opening act that you couldn't publicize, record, film, or otherwise exploit but perhaps worth it if the rumors of just how high powered the exclusive guests here were turned out to be true.

 

Arrayed around the dance floor were sparse and spartan standing tables where small clumps already gathered to excitedly discuss the upcoming show while downing a little social lubricant to ensure they were ready for the 'Experience'.  The bar was lightly staffed but full featured and above the main floor a mezzanine area of darkened tables left room for more intimate conversation accessible from stairs at each side of the room.  Any paying attention to such things would note more well dressed high grade security on the employee access and fire doors.  

 

The group had time to mingle, try to scam drinks despite the bracelets, or stake out a table to act as 'home base' if they desired but soon the lights began to dim and the cover band wrapped up their set as a broad shouldered dignified man stepped out on stage to awkwardly lean into the mic, "Thank you to 'The Novemberists', they were great weren't they."  he congratulated as the cover band left the stage.  "And now what you've all been waiting for."  He announced, "Put your hands together for Winterfold!"  

 

The band emerged a motley group of reasonably attractive in a sullen teen kind of way young men took to the stage instruments in hand.  There was a scattering of applause and a few whoops.  One group not far from the student's apparently hadn't gotten the memo about how uncool liking things was and burst into raucous almost manic applause at the command.  The PA whined for a moment as the sound system switched to the bands mics and instrument leaving a faint ringing in the ears for all the more authentic an underground experience.

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Sitting next to Robin, their arms entangled and bodies pressed together, Riley tensed slightly at the squeal but otherwise was relaxing much more than he'd expected. He'd been steeling himself to walk into a wall of noise and fast-moving bodies, but the relative quiet before the music was really nice. Close spaces and darkness were actually pretty comfortable places for him, it was how he'd spent most of his childhood down in the depths of the bunkers of his homeworld. "Still wonder 'bout the name," he commented skeptically to Robin, not wanting to sound too impressed. The only thing he was really impressed by was how freaking gorgeous she was dressed up and happy. "Gonna dance with you, though." 

 

"You sure they're not friends a'yours?" he called to Cathy with a laugh. He'd taken coffee for his drink from behind the bar, espresso covered in whipped cream that left it several shades lighter than his skin. 

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Doing her best to minimize the potential for catastrophic embarrassment Winifred picked up a bottle of water from the bar rather than trying to order anything more complicated and had gotten back to their booth before the others. Consequently she found herself wedged between the conglomerate entity that was Robin and Riley on one side and Raina on the other as they packed more bodies into the curved seating than it was probably meant to accommodate.

 

Studiously ignoring whatever the couple were doing with their feet under the table meant turning to face the blonde instead. "So, ah, is it a dancing sort of music, then?" she asked, stumbling a little over the wording. She wasn't exactly expecting a waltz but she'd come across enough EDM and house music in her broad sampling of modern fare to understand that certain styles were definitely meant for moving. She eyed the open space in front of the stage apprehensively. "Would it be difficult to learn the steps, do you think?"

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"Not yet, not to start with," Raina advised Fred. She'd acquired some amber-colored concoction in a martini glass but was barely sipping it as she took in the scene. Her concern seemed to be more with the audience than the band, trying to spot anybody famous she might recognize or anybody who looked especially important. "Let them get through a few songs first, warm up the crowd a little more. The cover band was pretty lame so they'll have to work for it, but word of mouth says they can deliver. Just sit back and enjoy." She suited actions to words, leaning back a little in her chair and turning to watch the band. 

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"I'd like that," Robin agreed with a slow, sidelong smile; the undertones of her words somewhat buried by the music and sounds of the venue. Her grin sharpened into bemusement at Raina's instruction, amused as always at the way that Raina treated social interactions like a finely honed weapon. Robin would never deny that it was effective, but it was never her weapon of choice. She turned a little though to reply to Fred, "Its not so hard, you can be pretty safe bouncing from one foot to the other in time with the beat. You don't have to be awesome or anything, just enjoy yourself."

 

Of course, to be entirely fair, Robin had a level of physicality that made most things she attempted that relied on grace and dexterity simpler than they might otherwise be for someone less... supernaturally gifted. "Or if you have a partner, you just sorta hold them and sway. There's not precise steps like what you're used to so most people will make things up as they go along."

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Corinne shifted a bit, from foot to foot, feeling a bit uncomfortable, it made her fidgety, made her want to retreat to the dance floor.  There was a tacit okay that she could come along, but...  Well, she was probably worrying over it a bit too much.  She didn't really know them that well.  she knew, there was an awkward bonding moment with Fred, a bit of antipathy with Riley (though it was more on her part than his), and just sort of there with the rest.

 

She recognized the need to get out, and not just lock herself up in her routine.

 

Now, now she was just a little uncomfortable.  So she suppressed the urge to just retreat, and she got something to drink, and she followed the rest.  She worried at the bracelet on her wrist, and moved to settle on an unoccupied seat, she'd add to Winifred, however, "No one is really going to pay attention once it gets going, you can just sort of slide in and just move."  She didn't want to contradict Raina, but they weren't the center of attention, and the only place someone would probably take notice was here on the sides, where the lighting was better..  Where you could, y'know, see things.

 

Opening the bottle, she glanced to everyone else, and then back to the dance floor.  Wondering what the main band would be doing, especially if that was their opener.

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Cathy was probably just as lost as Fred was there wasn't anything like this on her home island or even the towns like Lerwich and Stromness. Even television didn't prepare her for actually being here, she just knew how to bluff it better. The one thing she was disappointed not to experience was the hot sweatiness you'd get from so many people in a small place, in fact, she was feeling rather cold, as usual, and missed her jumper right about now. Luckily she had a girlfriend she could snuggle up against for warmth.

 

"Well, I for one just plan to enjoy the music, though you welcome to go dance if you wish."

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As the band began its set the lights dimmed and people began shuffling toward the dance floor though ever so slightly lacking in the animated revelry one might expect, of course the night was yet young.  The music was skillfully performed if a bit mechanical in the performance.  A hollow sort of sound without the overwrought emotion the by the numbers songwriting would usually have poured into it.  As hte lead singer segues into the the second song he calls out a sonorous, "Let's get this party started, on your feet and dance!"  at his command the few attendees who had not made it to the dance floor yet stood and moved to the floor almost in unison.  

 

Though there was little inspiring about hte songs themselves the suggestion did stir a certain desire to follow in their footsteps.

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Riley really wanted to get up and dance with Robin. He'd gone to a lot of work for this night, picking out the right outfit and practicing his groove. Robin was freaking gorgeous - and she'd put in a lot of work for tonight too. They all had. So when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, he didn't speak out at first, but he did stare around the room with a sudden tension that Robin could feel where his leg pressed against hers and where his arm went around her shoulder. When he saw the staff at the exits, closing the doors and standing guard by them, he felt the tension in his spine ratchet up harder all over again, the same feeling he got when a stick cracked somewhere behind him in a dark wood. I don't want to ruin it, though! He looked at Robin, then at the others and said, speaking to pitch his voice over the sound of the music. "Do you hear that? Are you seeing this?" 

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Whatever psychic whammy that the band was putting out bounced hard enough off of Robin's inherited defenses from her mother that the teen vigilante didn't even notice the attempt. However, she absolutely caught sight of the odd way the staff were attending to the doors. She groaned softly, her shoulders briefly falling, "Maybe its just, uh, to keep out anyone trying to leak the performance?" She muttered back at Riley, well aware that she tended to assume the worst of people's actions when they started to act shifty. A lifetime dealing with the worst of the Fens did that to a person's sense of self preservation. 

 

"I heard it, I see it," Robin agreed with clear reluctance, one hand smoothing over the dress along her thigh almost protectively. People were always more important than clothes but Robin was going to be deeply unhappy if she had spent money only to have it ruined by some sort of shake down. "I don't suppose its normal?"

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Phaedra had settled in next to Cathy, prepared to spend much of the night in her close company.  That was the extent of her ambition that evening, content to sit on the periphery and just watch how people do people.

 

But now she wanted to dance.

 

The half-demon seldom questioned her impulses.  She put a great deal of effort into controlling them at times, but the idea of questioning why she was feeling or acting in a certain way was against her nature.  She simply was, and did.  And now she was leading her girlfriend, who also wanted to dance Phae noticed, to the dance floor.

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It was not something Corinne would given a second thought.  She wanted to dance already.  She liked to do it, even when it was just bouncing along to a beat.  It meant less talking, which she wouldn't mind.  She had come to dance.  A club was not a place to have an in depth conversations about one's social relationships.  What with the music.

 

So she had no really thought to what was happening, at least from her case. Even as she saw security move about, and eventually go to the doors.  By then she was in the thick of it.  Bouncing, swaying, and moving to the beat in the beat.  She was in the thick of the crowd, the best place as far as she was concerned to get into the music.  Even if it wasn't unremarkable, she just assumed that she fell to the upward limit of awkward before her ignoble retreat to the equivalent of her 'blankie.'

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Winifred watched Phaedra lead Cathy away from their booth, then as Corinne wasted little time peeling away from the rest of the group to head to the dance floor. The alchemist worried on her bottom lip for a moment before catching herself and straightening her back reflexively. Better to sit back and watch for the time being, she reasoned, rather than almost certainly making a fool of herself. Besides, still boxed in between Robin and Raina there was no graceful way to slip out. Unless Smith pulls Robin out to the dance floor as well, she supposed. Which would leave her sitting alone with imperious blonde, which was fine and a perfectly normal situation and she really needed to come up with a plan of action before that happened.

 

She looked to Riley to gauge the timeframe she was working with an immediately saw the agitation written across his face. Robin had tensed up in much the same way and if the two of them sensed some danger that was more than good enough for her. Scanning the room she too spotted the security team's odd behaviour with a frown. She hadn't brought any of her flasks or equipment with her, not even her cane and she immediately felt terribly exposed. "Hypothetically, you wouldn't have prepared a strategy for a quick exit, would you?" she asked Raina, voice just loud enough to be heard over the music.

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"I prefer to improvise in the moment," Raina murmured back, scanning the room with eyes that were just a little bit worried. A minor psychic compulsion to dance wasn't so bad in her book, nothing she hadn't seen done at parties when she was younger. Once Fred mentioned the exits, though, she noticed the increased staff activity too.  "We maybe don't know everything there is to know about these concerts. You're not feeling like something bad is going to happen with, you know, right?" she asked Fred. "Because we should probably see what's going to happen before we start making a scene and blow our cover." 

 

She rose, smiling widely and fakely at all three of her companions. "So we should probably get dancing." Hips swaying, she melted into the crowd, heading towards Phae and Cathy. 

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Cathy generally had a good sense when trouble was about, and something right now seemed a little off, but any inkling of such quickly evaporated when Phae offered a hand to go dance.

 

She wasn't the most capable of dancers moving a little clumsy as she started, but as she got into the rhythm of the song she just let go and began to really get into her dance. And a tiny bit of her kept telling herself that something wasn't quite right, but she was having far too much fun for it to worry about it too much.

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"...all right, yeah." It took Riley a moment or two to process what Raina was saying - and to give her a hard stare to make sure she wasn't being affected by...whatever was happening just then. "All right, it's a party, so we party." He gave Robin a hard, toothy smile. "Just a buncha stupid teens out who don't know any better, right?" He took her hand and rose to his feet. "Let's show 'em how we dance, baby." 

 

Out on the floor, Riley was an untried dancer but in fantastic shape for all of that - he mostly stuck close to Robin as they moved through the crowd together, careful to not quite match the rhythm of the music. He'd read A Wrinkle In Time when he was a  kid - it never hurt to be careful. "You see anything?" he whispered in Robin's ear, his arms around her.

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The band played on the music performed with technical brilliance but without even the slightest passion.  It was difficult to see how this could be described so often as an 'experience' if not for hte cloying mental command still ringing dimly in the ears of those who resisted the sirens call.  Those who did not felt the scene grow hazy and indistinct in their memory the events of the moment replaced by a odd melange of positive recollection without being able to say what they enjoyed about the moment or even truly feeling pleasure.  The crowd of the entranced dancers slowly lurched into synchronicity as the band flowed from one song to the next their movements no more graceful than the swaying of moments before but in perfect ordered rows and columns.

 

A few staff members slowly drifted in amongst the crowd as if joining the dance but maneuvered to specific individuals as if targeting them for something though what was not entirely clear nor was how exactly they picked their targets it seemed they didn't even communicate.  Those still in command of their faculties could see the crowd was falling deeper under the sway of whatever force was controlling them, their friends and classmates included.

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