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Beauty is more than Skin Deep [IC]


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November 27th, Mid Morning

Claremont Dormitory


After meeting with the Dean, Alexa felt more at ease.  She had a schedule as well as a room assignment, which while she loved new experiences, order was much preferable to chaos.  Of course, she was wheeling a mostly broken suitcase with the remnants of her things, courtesy of a less than mindful speedster.  The vaporized silicon components likely were ground into most of her things, but even that was just another problem to deal with.  She was here; Claremont. It was now official and she could relax just a little bit before whomever the school had assigned to her as a roommate.


She opened the door to her room and looked at the small, but orderly room.  Two single beds twined with matching desks and small shelving units dominated most of the space.  The carpet was soft and clean and the walls a pleasantly neutral color.  What was nice was the wood trim and furniture which was something that was rare in China, although it certainly was more common here from what she could tell.  Still, it added a touch of warmth to the space which was nice and made it feel more lived in even though nothing was there.  She thought briefly on waiting to see if anyone showed up before unpacking and essentially choosing a side.  However, her patience wore thin after a few seconds and she forced open the battered suitcase and began to unpack on the left side of the room.  It was a shame that washing was going to have to be done already, but that was more than outweighed by the excitement of meeting all of the very special people that seemed to go to school here.

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Lexa strolled in, effortlessly carrying her two bags on her shoulders, whistling a merry little tune. 


"Perfect!" she smiled. "My favourite super genius!"


She let her bags drop; nothing fragile there, just a lot of clothes and more than a couple of pairs of boots. All she had, really, bar a few small tanks of petrol and a bit of piping to refuel. 


She sat down on the other bed. Lexa was a little heavier than most girls; not from fat but from metal limbs. Still, the bed could take her, and it was pretty soft and squishy. 


"Honestly, this is pretty neat, huh?" she asked Zhu. "I haven't got a bean to my name plus a criminal record. This is better than I could have ever hoped for!" she smiled with huge relief. "Not to mention I got the smartest girl in class as a room mate!"

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Zhu turned as Lexa walked in, her immediate warm smile in response to Lexa's comment likely did more to convince her new roommate how happy she was than her quick response, "Lexa!  I was hoping since we registered together at the same that that we'd be room mates!"


She looked at her own small pile of clothes then to Rev's bit, the she laughed quietly, "I think we are breaking all the conventions.  Aren't we supposed to have trunks of clothes and porters to carry it while in a boarding school?"


Her question was mostly rhetorical as she put away her delicates in the top drawer in the closet and hung her few dresses.  Thankfully, there were several items in her case which had been carefully packed and had withstood the abuse which had damaged the case.  Those contraptions came out after finishing putting her clothes away all the while she was chatting with Lexa, "wait... you really have a criminal record?  Was that because of the crash?"

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Rev appreciated the flowers. She had been a tomboy, as they say. More at home with oil and engines than anything else; arguably even than people when she was at her blackest. It was good to feel the sun again, in the flowers. 


"That. And other things" said Rev, uncharacteristically coy. Ashamed. "I had a bad year when my dad died. Got in a gang, the Junkin' Donuts. We stole cars, we raced them" she said, looking out the window, sad. 


"It was fun, at times. But it was like an oily fire. It had something exciting in it, but I always knew it was misfiring, I guess. Something wrong. But..." she trailed off and put her head in her hands. 


"It was a bad time. My Dad had died and everything turned bitter, me too" she said, sour. 


She looked up. "It could have been a lot worse, right? I feel lucky I crawled out of that crash with my life. I'm not complaining about a criminal record or metal limbs, especially jet powered ones. I'm going to make the most of things. But..." she paused. "I'm scared. I'm scared I'm going to screw it up..."

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Alexa paused her unpacking unsure exactly how to respond.  Her life had been so radically different; full of structure and order with parents who had supported her the entire way.  Gangs, violence and a criminal record were nearly unfathomable to her other than what she had experienced in the streets of her new home.  Biting her lower lip she walked over to Rev's bed and sat down next too her.  "I'm really sorry about all of that... I mean, I can't really imagine what you went through.  But, if it helps, I'm glad you're here and I'm glad you're my room mate.  I think you're really cool like John Bender in Breakfast Club.  In mean, he was kind of a criminal too, but really cool like you.  Tell you what, if you can help me fit in, I'll help you make sure that you stay straight?  Deal?"


She looked over at Lexi and tried not to let pity show in her face, she was pretty sure that would not be appreciated.  So instead she tried to channel sympathy, friendship, and hope.

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"Thanks Zhu, I need that!" She said with a smile.


"I'm not going to screw this up. I feel good...positive. the black behind me, the sun ahead! I mean, I can fly! How great is that! Life is good!"


She paused.


"And you can trust me. That's for sure. No matter how bad things got with the donuts, I always looked out for my friends. I have got your back, just remeber that! She added emphatically and have the girl a hug.

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Alexa did her best not to squee in delight as Lexi hugged her.  While her family was really big on hugs, she knew that most Americans seemed to have far more personal space issues. Later, when she thought about the moment, she would realize how normal Lexi's hug had felt.  But for now, she squeezed her back and when they split, she was grinning ear to ear with her eyes more than a little misty.  Leaning  back she reached out to hold one of Lexi's hands holding it for a moment before turning it slightly, "I don't know if this is a Chinese thing or what my mom believed.  She said, it doesn't matter where you have been, just where you are going.  That kind of fits for you I think.  She also said actions were more important than memories, but that's not quite the same.  Still... I feel the same.  You've been like the most awesome person I've met so far."


She turned her hands in her own a couple of times, "they are actually really remarkable.  I mean, it's amazing that they're so well crafted.  I mean the joints and all are just beautiful!  Jets are very much a bonus, but... oh, sorry, I just appreciate good work."  She blushed as she let go of Rev' s hands and sat as her grin turned slightly embarrassed.  


Taking a breath, she plowed on, "but we should get working on the skin.  I saw how your face lit up when I was talking about that."

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"Damn yes!" replied Rev, excitedly. "I know its a bit risky, but how about, after lessons, we try and sneak into the..."


..School Chemistry lab (at the)...


It wasn't really that naughty. Just a quick job for Rev and SFX to work the lock and they were in. Just getting to know the place. Maybe they left a pencil sharpener here, or maybe they were looking for the recreational room. Or maybe a few chemicals might accidentally mix together and create some artificial skin. 


"Awesome!" said Rev with a cheeky grin. "You know, a little bit of rule bending is ok, right? Even a bit fun. As long as we don't break anything, its fine!" she declared, boldly. 


"Now, feel free to work miracles, Smarty!" she said, encouragingly, keeping half an eye out trouble...

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Most of the girls she had known in China had been at best peers and certainly wouldn't qualify for the kind of friendships that Alexa had always longed for.  There had always been the competitive aspect of school which got in the way coupled with the fact that her early experiments in nano technology often destroyed her partners toys.  However, she was wondering if her burgeoning friendship included breaking and entering.


"You're really sure that we can do this?" she whispered looking back at their ingress point, "the student guide prohibits access to facilities after hours without the express consent of the Dean.  I'm pretty sure we don't have that."


Her question was mostly rhetorical as that was the only objection she made as she snuck with Rev through the dim hallways until they found the chemistry lab.  They quietly slipped in but Zhu had to pause in the door looking at all of the advanced equipment and pristine racks of components.  Her mouth hung open as she looked around at the wonderful room.  While her nanobots could make some incredible equipment, it was always the difficulty in figuring out how to program the design and function of each machine into their collective code buffer.  She knew, without a doubt, that she could make something to help Rev.  


"It's... beautiful..."

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Rev ignored the question. She didn't want to lead Zhu down the wrong path, but on the other hand, a little nudge towards risk taking might do the girl good.


"Well, sometimes ya gotta do things even if you can't" she explained. "It's for a good cause. Don't hurt anybody. Might even be a little bit fun!" she winked. "And if we get caught, which we won't, then a little lie, don't worry about it" she said. "I'm the bad girl, remember?"


"We'll be fine. Don't worry. One day you will be a superhero, girl! I'm sure of it! A few risks to help the needy, right?"


She looked at all the chemicals and glass. 


"What do you think? Can you make me beautiful again?"

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Zhu moved from station to station listening to Lexi talk.  There was some truth in what she was saying, objectively her life had been very sheltered and had followed an incredibly prescribed path.  Stepping outside of the mandated boundaries was kind of thrilling.  Although, to be fair, that might have been from her joy at all of the fascinating pieces of equipment.  As she did, she would occasionally take a small bottle and set it on the table as she continued her short tour of the lab.


As Rev finished talking, Zhu paused and looked at her, "no, I can't.  You are already beautiful, but I can make you look more like everyone else."


With a small but glowing collection of phials and sample bottles, she began to power up the small centrifuge as well as a materials forge.  "Okay, let's see what we can do..."

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"I'm awesome" said Rev, pumping her fist. "But not beautiful. At least, I don't feel beautiful. Just odd. And awesome. I don't know what I think..." she gabbled, not understanding herself. 


"But in any case, what I really want is to walk down a mall without everyone staring at me. I don't mind attention. I just don't want it all the time!" she explained. It was not that she was bitter. More that she was keen. 


She watched Zhu work carefully. "I'm not sure I can help, but let me know if I can" she explained. One finger came up and a blue torch-flame spurted out, a couple of inches, very hot. 


"I can be a pretty cool Bunsen Burner, if you need it!"

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Zhu giggled at her comments and Bunsen finger, "okay, well... if you can keep some heat on this solution so that it stays boiling, that would be great!" 


She was glad they ad this conversation, Lexa seemed to have a pretty grounded view of reality, and even if she didn't see her own beauty, it didn't matter.  She was comfortable with who she was, which was really important.  Come to think of it, Zhu didn't feel especially beautiful either; her shape wasn't really classically female and for whatever reason her body just seemed to lag behind her age.  But like Lexa, she was comfortable, if sometimes disappointed, with who she was.


Working quickly with the slurry of materials, she kept adjusting things, occasionally asking Rev to hold, stir or heat something.  Like many inventive processes, it wasn't perfect the first time, there were at least two abject failures.  One being a pink foam monstrosity, the other close, but looking more like industrial rubber gloves when it was done.  However, it was the third process which she seemed to hold the most hope for.  Pulling a small liquid ball from a machine which she had custom designed on the spot, she held it in her hand.  The surface tension was sufficient to keep it intact with any normal bumps and pressure, even if it sloshed around in it's super ball sized package.


"Okay... we should probably give this a try.  Maybe I should step back... last time I think I got some of that pink stuff in my hair, which is probably going to take forever to get out."


She handed over the ball which amazingly displayed a small intricate Fu character, a Chinese symbol for luck, on the surface.  Stepping back she said, "you just put it on an arm and smash it hard.  Normal bumps won't do anything, but once it gets enough kinetic energy, it activates the latent trigger for the device.  It has a small cluster of nanobots in it and enough skin substance to make it work.  They have a one time program to... oh... I'm probably babbling more than I need.  Just smash it on an arm or leg."

Edited by BlazingCoconut
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"Lets go for it...!" said Rev, boldly. 


She contemplated an arm, but as Zhu had said, this could go wrong. She didn't want to go around explaining a bubbling pink arm with mushrooms on it. 


She pulled down her pants as modestly as she could, and put forth a steel leg. She wasn't a girl to hesitate, normally, but this was a challenge for her. She took a deep breath and smashed the ball on her leg. 


The contents bubbled and hissed, and quickly, like a spreading ooze, flowed onto the contours and grooves of her leg. It was quick, maybe twenty seconds, and she had a leg. Of sorts. 


"That's pretty good!" she said, admiring her leg. As the metal had formed to the shape of muscles and bones, the gel had too, and it looked like a smooth, fairly muscular leg. She gave it a stretch and extention, and it was elastic enough to follow the movement. 


"Looks great, in fact!" she decided, quite happy. "I mean, nobody would notice! Unless they had a microscope or magnifying glass" she added, pressing the gel. "It looks a little odd when you press it. And the muscles are there in shape but they don't flex quite right...but yeah...I mean..."


She punched the air with both fists. "Victory!!!!!" she yelled, and gave a double high five to Zhu. 

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Zhu returned the high five a little awkwardly, as it wasn't a gesture that she was familiar with.  Still, the smile on her face at helping Lexa was genuine and utterly thrilled with the results, "that's awesome!  You should be able to get some sensory input through them too.  Well at least as much as you normally do.  Or close to it I think.  We can probably make it easier to apply so you don't have to carry a bunch of spheres, but the principle would remain the same.  I cooked up a batch of about 100 and I have no idea how long they'll last.  We can do tests if you'd like to find out, but it should work for now."


Nodding she paused looking down at her handiwork.  She checked where the seam between what would have been metal and the new leg was.  It was close to flawless as she checked to see if there was a noticeable ridge.  Her smile suddenly died on her face as she realized that she was staring at and prodding a pantless Lexa!


"Oh!" she suddenly stammered, "I'm sorry!  I didn't mean to stare... I just wanted to see if it worked and what the seams were like and... um..."


She turned away blushing, "I mean I know we're roomies and all, but... I'm making this weird aren't I?"  With her eyes averted and her back to Lexa her embarrassment faded and she began to feel the thrill of their accomplishment.  "Sorry.  I'm going to have to get over this.  I didn't have a sister or brother and I didn't really consider everything about having a roommate.  People aren't always my forte."

Edited by BlazingCoconut
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"Huh, you are ok, Zhu. More than ok. Don't forget it. You have a big heart with that big brain of yours!" she said, tapping Zhu's cranium in a friendly way. 


"And compare to the bully in a tutu back at the breakfast, you seem to do just fine with people" she added, encouraging, although she was still smarting and disgusted. 


She took a quick look around the chemistry lab. 


"Anyway, we better clean this mess up, and get going. I don't mind taking a few risks, but, you know, lets not push it too far!" she chuckled. "And if any one asks, we were studying something. Errr....Siberian weather systems, or something. That would fly, right?"

Edited by Supercape
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