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Avenger Assembled

Take A Break (IC)

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Spring 2018 

Outside Chris and Liz's Apartment 

 

Ashley remembered Chris - pretty and athletic, with a quick wit and a ready smile that had made him the subject of a whole lot of crushes. Maybe sixteen-year-old Ashley George, who'd spent her teen years behind heavy acne and thick glasses, had been one of those crushes. But ten years ago could be a long time, and she wasn't the same person she'd been back then. "And you're sure he won't mind us just dropping by like this?" With her hair up, folder under her arm, dressed in a dark suit, she didn't look like a teenager - something she'd have to take advantage of as long as she could. 

 

"I am fairly confident Christopher knows that you could find him easily enough," said Callie Summers as she knocked on the door. They'd managed to stay civil enough on the drive over here, probably because neither of them had said a word to each other once they were both in the car. "And you should." 

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Callie had only managed to rap on the door once before finding it opening almost immediately. Before them stood a man in his mid-twenties, very casually dressed in blue jeans, a green t-shirt and a navy-and-dark-green plaid shirt worn open over the ensemble. He was gnawing thoughtfully on a pencil. He looked the two of them up and down, a little warily. "You know, you don't actually have to drive a black car, Ms Summers," he commented. 

 

He looked at them thoughtfully. "Well, I suppose I've an inkling what this is about. I hear stuff." He backed away, letting the two women into the apartment. It was small, and quite messy, with just a small battered couch facing a nice plasma screen, and a playpen was tucked into one corner of the room. A small but neat kitchenette took up one side of the room, the view out the kitchen window looking out over the park. An observant eye would notice toddler-sized hand and foot prints smudging one corner of the ceiling, and also that the texts scattered over the coffee table were all highly complicated scientific journals and psychology texts. "You want a drink? I've got orange juice, Yoo-Hoo, milk..." He wandered over to the fridge and opened it. "Wine which may have been open about two weeks."

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Ashley shot Callie a look - the latter carefully not meeting her eyes. "No thank you, but Ms. George may want one." Walking with a slight, too-familiar limp, Callie made her way to the couch and gracefully took her seat, the springs squeaking slightly under her body weight. "I like what you've done with the place," she commented, "it feels like home. As for my car, it's a company model. What can I tell you?" She smiled slightly. 

 

"No, thank you." Ashley, for her part, didn't look relaxed at all - she leaned against the wall and scanned the apartment with a professional eye. "So I suppose you told him already," she commented tersely. 

 

"Christopher and Alek communicate occasionally. I trust his ability to keep it in the family." 

 

"All right. As long as _no one_ else knows," said Ashley frankly, giving a significant look around the apartment that included both the absent Liz and Chris's daughter. "This isn't like somebody's secret identity." 

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Chris paused before pointing at a spot on the wall to the left of Ashley's head. "I think you caught the two safes but there's a couple of swords concealed behind you," he pointed out helpfully. He shut the fridge door and leaned on the edge of the kitchen counter, hands on the top of it, stance open. "But like I said. An inkling. Just some inkle. I'd appreciate whatever this is straight."

 

He looked straight at Ashley genially, not bothering with the whole mysterious not meeting people's gazes and being enigmatic thing. "Besides, I think this is meant to be reassuring. I mean, we're in my home. Not in the secret cave full of cars and guns, or the other base full of superhumans." It was only then his voice became a little pointed. "assume Ms Summers checked this was one of the days Cassie goes to daycare at her mom's work, which isn't useful information to you because I can barely walk through the security in that place." He shrugged. "Quid pro quo. I know your stuff, you learn some of mine."

Edited by Ecalsneerg

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"All right...fine," said Ashley. This was not the Chris she remembered at all. "As you know, I left behind costumed work eight years ago when I graduated from Claremont and went to college. However, circumstances have recently changed. For the next two years, I'm going to be operating in Freedom City as the vigilante code-named Watchdog. It won't be anything connected to you or your family's operation; but Callie and I felt that a superhero backup for my mission was necessary." The look she gave Raven at that was eloquent, as was Callie's. Go on. "Watchdog will have a false cover identity, allowing me to act as an undercover agent at Claremont Academy for the duration." 

 

"I know you and your family are concerned about another Patriot, Christopher," Callie assured Geckoman, "but that won't be Ashley's role at Claremont." 

 

"Do you follow politics, Chris?" 

 

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Chris raised an eyebrow. "You're going undercover and you having finished college... this is all a bit 90210, isn't it?" He turned away briefly, locating a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. He picked up a red apple, lightly tossing it up into the air before catching it and taking a bite. He ambled over to the opposite side of the couch from where Callie was sitting and leaned on the arm rest. He loudly crunched on another chunk of apple. 

 

"I follow politics insofar as it overlaps with my work. I try to avoid it, though. Superhumans and government? Terrible mix." Chris shrugged and ate an apple. "I know there's a thing with a mule and a rhino. Or is it a goat and an elephant?"

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Now that's the Chris I remember. 

 

"That's what some people say," she said, shooting a look Callie's way before going on. "I'm sure you heard of the incident in March when terrorists from the Foundry deployed an EMP device against the White House before being foiled by the Secret Service." She smiled thinly at that, folding her hands in front of her as she spoke. "I heard CNN called it 'Robot Rumpus'? In any event, the general public is not aware, and Ms. Summers tells me most of Freedom's superheroes are unaware, that this was a cover story created by the White House Press Office and promoted by friends of the President in the press. The truth is that the electromagnetic event was triggered by the activation of xeno-metagenes. Xeno-metagenes in a member of the First Family."

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Chris took another loud bite of the apple. He glanced back and forth between Callie and Ashley. "So one of the President's children is a meta. And thus..." He traced his fingers along an imaginary diagram in front of him. "They need education in their powers. But also need their usual security detail. Which means you going back to Claremont as security. Which means obviously the Secret Service know you're on assignment there."

 

He hooked his feet on the arm of the couch and stretched out, tapping his head on the floor a couple of times before pulling himself back up to a sitting position. "So I suppose my real concern is everyone else's security. You don't work for our pro-super incumbent. You work for the Secret Service. What if the next President decides wait, no, we're a threat. Isn't this playing with fire a bit?" Geckoman pointed finger guns at Callie. "What've you set up to stop that?" He was assuming it was a given, not an if, that some arrangement was in place. 

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"I've suspected for several years that elements of the United States government were aware of our school's unique nature, albeit not in a position to act on that knowledge." They all knew how that worked sometimes; law enforcement officials possessing information about heroes but not following up on it had probably been happening since the days of the first Liberty League. "I don't think this is as big a change as you think. And as you say, the current President is not going to act against an institution protecting his daughter's safety. We have ways of ensuring that later administrations will be equally generous." 

 

"...I'm just going to pretend I didn't hear that," said Ashley, rubbing her temples. "It's not up to me to decide what the government does, but it's possible the information won't be passed on to the next administration. And even if it is, the US government isn't going to take on the metahuman community on a whim. They might as well declare the Freedom League has to leave our international borders, or set up a meta-draft." She didn't have to explain what a stupid idea either of those things would be. 

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Chris pointed finger guns at Ashley. "Where's the superpowers exemption in the regular ole draft?" he pointed out with a wry smile. "You'd just need to know which males just leaving high school have superpowers to selectively issue, wouldn't'cha?" He slid off the couch, pacing restlessly back and forth, seeming unable to sit still in his seat. 

 

He finally turned back to the pair. "So, you said superhuman backup. What exactly does that mean? Because, I mean, even if we hadn't had this conversation, you know I'd come running if you asked. Probably bring the 'Ceptors too if it was bad enough. Heck, you could do the same of most of the student body, and I imagine half of them will twig to something being up."

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"Ashley and I would prefer that this situation stays inside the family - our family. You, Alek, myself, and her." Ashley colored slightly at that, but her face stayed calm. After all, she'd been trained by the Raven. "Naturally you'd call in your allies in the event of a real crisis, but this is a situation that needs to be handled with discretion." 

 

"If you'd ever tried to talk yourself into a government job as a known metahuman, you'd know a meta-draft is not on anyone's agenda," Ashley finally said. "You'd have to overturn eighty years of precedent and discard the feelings of the most powerful beings on the planet." She wondered if Chris was in touch still with his old high school team; the unstoppable powerhouse with depression, the walking god who'd cruised his way though the hearts of half the girls in the junior class, and the rest. 

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"Hmm." Chris looked pensive, biting into the apple and chewing obnoxiously loudly as he thought over it. "I'm skeptical, but I see the argument." He looked at the two sincerely, hands spread wide. "Look, I can keep it fairly quiet, but I can't make promises on people figuring it out. Alex will find out. I'm sure of it."

 

He leaned back against the wall beside the TV, having lapped the room a few times. "Plus I suppose there's some insurance in it protecting us from the current administration. What's the kid like, anyway?" He took another bite of the apple and kept talking with his mouth full. "She freaked out by all this? Can't have been an easy one for her."

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Callie looked at Ashley, who looked away for a moment, obviously considering what was and what wasn't appropriate to say. "I've only been working with the First Family for a few weeks, so I haven't had the opportunity to get to know her well. I can tell you she's had a sheltered life despite all the media attention. Her father's been the most important man in whatever town she lived in since she was in kindergarten, and has been a national politician since she was in elementary school. Growing up with bodyguards and having to behave for the media will change anyone - particularly when one's home life tends to be insular. I think the First Lady would have preferred to homeschool the girls through the Salvation Army the way she was, but the President preferred that they be educated privately."

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