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Avenger Assembled

(Open) American Woman (IC)

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October 2018 

 

It had all gone wrong during chili night at the cafeteria. Ashley had warned Jaycee not to try anything, but walking past the doors, memories of home had drawn the girl in. And despite Ashley's best efforts, she wasn't actually the boss of Jaycee Cahill. So the girl had eaten, bites of chili verde, chili con carne, Cincinnati chili (even if the latter had made Judy make a disgusted face) and a few more bites of things Ashley hadn't immediately recognized. Judy had had a good time socializing with her friends, even if she'd rolled her eyes a bit at the cliched country-western music playing on the cafeteria sound system, and so maybe that was worth what had happened when her body had started digesting the food - and belatedly remembered that it was powered by radio waves, not by carbohydrates. They were in the first floor hall bathroom - they hadn't quite made it all the way upstairs - and Ashley was standing outside the stall when she heard Jaycee say, a little weakly, "Ashley, Ah'm...ah'm gonna be here a little while. Can you go back to the library and get mah book? Ah think I left it in the study room..." 


Normally Ashley didn't go fetch things for Judy - but after the vomiting, and the crying, she wanted to do something to put a little smile on the girl's face. "Be right back. Stay in the bathroom, and hit the button if you need me. Five minutes." She laid her hand against the cool metal of the stall door, then turned and headed quickly outside. Of course, the one problem with public bathrooms was that they didn't have locks on the outside... 

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It wasn't more than a minute later when the outer door to the bathroom creaked open again and soft, slow footsteps pattered in. The new arrival was singing softly under her breath, obviously not aware she wasn't alone in the bathroom. "Hold it now and watch the hoodwink, as I make you stop think,  you think you're looking at apple-man! Summon fish to the dish- hello?" she asked suddenly, pausing outside the closed stall door. "Sorry, didn't know somebody was in here." She hesitated a second longer, maybe smelling vomit, or sensing distress, or having a precognitive episode, so many possibilities in a school like this! "Um, are you okay in there?" 

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"Oh, uh, hey...Ah'm okay," said Judy, though she didn't sound okay at all to Danica's ears, her voice shaky from the effects of crying or puking - or both. She could see the lower portion of the other girl sitting down inside the stall nearest the wall, denim jeans and scuffed boots that looked like ones Danica had seen when she was a kid. "Ah, um, get the pukes sometimes, that's all..." She sniffed loudly, and said, "Could you, um, get me a paper towel? There's no more paper in here and Ah need to blow mah dose..." She wasn't entirely sure who was out there, but she really didn't want to walk out there and puke all over the floor again. Where the Hell did her body keep that stuff? 

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"Oh, yeah,  sure!" Danica quickly manifested her shell, which hit the floor with a soft thud as she disappeared inside it. A moment later she was back with a full-size box of Kleenex and a little bottle of water.  She passed both of them carefully under the door, moving cautiously to avoid running into anything in the narrow room. "Is that you, Judy? It's Danica," she added belatedly, as though the enormous shell hadn't given her away. "Do you need the nurse? There's one on call even at night, in case anybody gets sick." 

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"Oh, um, hi Danica," said Judy, whose accent seemed slightly thicker today. She blew her nose noisily and messily, taking what shelter she could in the privacy of the stall. "No, Ah've been to see her about this before. she'd just give me a nice talk about how mah body's going through a lot of changes, and Ah shouldn't push myself by doing things Ah'm not supposed to." There was rather more sarcasm in Judy's voice than Danica had typically heard, too. Danica hadn't asked where Ashley was - and Judy realized she rather liked that. "Is that your shell?" she asked. "Ah've never actually seen that before. It's very pretty..." She sniffled again, hating herself for it. 

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"Oh, yeah," Danica said, automatically glancing down at the little that must be visible under the door. "I don't usually wear it around in the buildings because I bump into things, but I keep all my stuff there! Did you develop an allergy?" she asked sympathetically, crouching to rest on the tripod of her feet and shell.  "That happened to my roommate before she went  into the chrysalis, all she could eat was milkweed and she said it tasted super-terrible. The doctor thinks she'll grow out of it when she finishes pupating though!" she added, obviously hoping to cheer Judy with this news. "Sometimes powers do weird things. I couldn't go to  class for like half of last year because of-" She unconsciously dropped her voice a little. "Puberty.

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Judy snorted, something that sounded uncomfortable, then said, "Ah started _that_ two years ago, right in the middle of, um, um, running from the Grue." Come to think of it, was that what Danica had been talking about? She _really_ didn't want to ask the tortoise girl questions about her menstruation right now. Not really in the mood for the usual lie (what she'd been talking about had actually been in church in Los Angeles during the last days of her father's campaign, what had previously been the most mortifying moment of her life), she made an effort to stand up, never mind the woozy feeling in her head, then decided to stay down just a little longer. "It's not really an allergy," she went on, resting her head against the cool metal of the door. "My body, uh, absorbs radio waves, and other kinds of radiation - and Ah get sick if Ah can't get them. Right after it first happened, Ah realized I wasn't getting hungry or thirsty anymore, and that was actually pretty neat. Except as time went on, and mah body kept changing, well...now Ah usually can't eat or drink _anything_. The doctors say my stomach and digestive system are, um, changing, and that in another year or so Ah may not even have them at all." 

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"Oh, that sucks," Danica said sympathetically. "Not having to eat food is cool, but not being able to eat it is a drag. But maybe when your body finishes recalibrating, you'll be able to taste the radiation and stuff? One of my teachers told me that humans can taste stuff because it helps us know what's good for us and what isn't. So maybe you'll start to like the kinds of radiation that are good for you, or learn to, like, mix different kinds together in a recipe?" She rummaged around a little more in her shell. "I think I might have a toothbrush in here if you want one." 

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"That sounds good," said Judy. "You're so nice, Danica," she added, distinctly pronouncing nice like 'nahce.' Cautiously, this time she did get to her feet and out of the stall - looking distinctly paler than her usual shade of tan. She rinsed and spat at the sink, then asked (more to keep her thoughts off her own problems) "Can Ah ask you something personal?" When Danica agreed, Judy said, "Ah know...ah know people don't like talking about their identities, or what they're like on the inside, and stuff, but..." She turned her head slightly and looked at Danica while she brushed. "Did you have, like, tortoise, um, puberty?" 

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"Well, not exactly," Danica admitted, producing a toothbrush in a cellophane wrapper and handing it to Judy. "Tortoises don't  reach sexual maturity until relatively late. Some of them can be in their fourth or fifth decade before they're ready to lay eggs, you know? They don't know when I'll start, but I'm only thirty-two, so I've got lots of time." She smiled a little, shrugged. "This was more like... well, the doctor called it magical puberty. I've had my powers since I was born, but they tend to  evolve some as I grow older. Last year they grew a lot and it took awhile for me to control them.  I kept falling into my shell, or being green all over when I didn't want  to be, and a couple times I actually turned into a tortoise and had to figure out how to change back. It was kind of crazy!" 

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Judy stared at Danica, her eyes going wide, and put a hand over her mouth. "What-what do you mean you're thirty-two years old?" 

 

Ashley opened the door and for a brief, almost imperceptible moment, considered closing it and walking away, perhaps to ride her motorcycle out of the country or into the sea, before duty reasserted itself. "I got your book," she growled as she made a beeline towards the two girls, "but it looks like you're already on your feet, soldier." She didn't lay Watchdog on too thick around Danica - largely because the tortoise totem was the sort of student she wanted Judy hanging around with. 

 

Judy was still looking at Danica, her cheeks flushed. 

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Danica smiled distractedly at Ashley, but just shrugged at Judy. "Some of my powers manifested basically immediately, and one of them was  that I age at half the speed of regular humans. I was born in 1986,  after my mom was pregnant for a year and a half." She cracked a more genuine smile. "And if you think I don't hear  about that every time we have an argument, you definitely don't know my mom,"  she quipped. "But it's like... everything about me ages at half speed. I'm not a grownup in a little kid body or something like that. I'm just... my years are longer, you know?  Everybody else is just faster at everything."

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"Oh, okay." Judy took a breath, then another. "Ah'm sorry, Danica, Ah didn't mean to embarrass you just now," she said apologetically, her voice a little shaky, "but all, um, this is just a little new to me. Ah'm still used to thinking about, you know, people who aren't like us." 

 

"Not nearly so many supers where we're from," said Ashley, which was true in and of itself. She was glad to see Jaycee up and around, and especially talking to another student. She said 'like us' - not 'like you.' That was good to hear too. 

 

"So how much do you remember about all that stuff?" Judy asked Danica, sounding more fascinated than alarmed now. "You're not in slow motion, so you must think as fast as anybody else..." 

 

"

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"It's okay," Danica told her, "I'm not embarrassed about it or anything, it's mostly that I got used to hiding it before my parents sent me to Nicholson. I don't  say anything about it a lot of the time. I guess I remember a lot of the nineties, but it's fuzzy because I was pretty little. Things are a lot clearer in the two-thousands and 2010s." She grinned a little, shrugged. "Think about how well you remember being five or so, and that's about how well I remember 1996 and 1997. Lots of cartoons, the music my parents liked, a few important life events." 

 

With three people in the little bathroom, there was definitely no room for Danica's shell. She let it dematerialize so she could perch on the edge of the counter. "It's mostly a matter of brain development, emotional maturity, stuff like that more than how much algebra I can learn in one year. I've already gotten most of the classes I'll need to graduate, but I'm not actually ready, you know? Just like how my mom put her foot down and wouldn't let me drive in 2002 when I was four foot nothing and still thought my rock collection would be worth millions someday." She laughed. "But it's better now that it used to be. Mr. Eldritch said that by the time I'm thirty-six or so, the differences from year to year won't be so dramatic and I'll start having friends who don't outgrow me, which is going to be awesome!" 

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"Wow," said Judy, marveling a little at Danica's tale. "That is the craziest thing Ah've ever heard. You must have so many interesting stories!" 

 

Ashley tensed as she suddenly wondered if anyone had told this sweet, sheltered girl (which was clearly what she was, age or no) that Adrian Eldrich was dead and had been so for quite some time. Better ask about that later - and ask other people. "That's good," she said, her tone considerably softer than Ashley usually used with the Claremont students. "But now that she's up and around, I need to get Judy back to our room." They'd talk about the eating habits that had led to this afternoon's unfortunate events later - perhaps that was the running theme for the day. 

 

"Oh, Ah'll be fine," said Judy, "but, um, yeah, going back to bed does sound nice. Ah gotta fix my hair, and my makeup first, though," she said, taking advantage of the free space Danica had opened up to tend to herself in the nearby reflection. "You know, Danica, Ah heard there was a girl who graduated from here last year who has a special line of makeup for people with superpowers. Maybe we could order something from her." 


"We'd have to check it out first," said Ashley, gently but firmly with her sister. "You know the rules." Ashley and Judy bantered a little about how _Danica_ didn't have to follow the rules, so she could order anything she wanted to test it out.

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"I don't wear much makeup yet," Danica admitted, "but it might be fun! I wouldn't be good to test on though," she added, "because my skin is pretty much impervious to damage, even without my shell. I can't even get shots!" She was obviously cheerful about this fact. "My mom says they tried to do it when I was a newborn, blood tests and stuff, and they broke the syringes on my feet! It''s okay because I don't get human sicknesses, but I also wouldn't be able to tell you if the makeup is good or not. Maybe some of the teachers would know, if she was working on it while she was in school. Will you guys be around later?" 

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"Judy needs to rest," Ashley started to say, but Judy piped up with, "Ah'll be around before lights out, ah just need to rest and turn on the radio." She smiled at Ashley, then at Danica, a confident smile that didn't quite match the beauty queen grin Danica had seen the girl flash at other people on campus. "Maybe we can, um, build a jigsaw puzzle or something." she said, blushing slightly as she fingered the cross she wore around her neck for a moment. She'd been about to suggest Mario Kart before she remembered people who didn't like jokes about themselves here. 

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"Sounds like fun! I hope you feel better soon!" Danica's smile was bright and genuine for both girls as they headed out of the bathroom, leaving her to do what she'd come in for in the first place. As Ashley and Judy walked back into the hallway they found the Segway sitting next to the door, waiting for her to come back. That was pretty typical, Danica rarely took her transportation into normal-sized rooms and usually left it outside the door and out of the way. 

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And so it was that the evening found the three of them working on a big 1000 piece puzzle showing Fleur de Joie and the rest of the Freedom League Aux, right in the middle of the first floor common room. Judy was looking a little tired still from the hasty end to her evening meal (which she was pretty sure everyone had seen, as mortifying as that was to consider) but game for a game. "...ah thought dragons were bad when ah was a kid, but I guess between Leroy and Gaian Knight, there has to be some good ones out there. Ah don't really know much about strange creatures, but Ah guess some are good people." 

 

"Some," allowed Ashley, fitting another piece of Fleur's long green hair into place and thinking irrelevantly of being Copycat and watching Fleur from behind her goggles. "You can't be too careful with some people.

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Astrid walked into the common room more bored than she thought humanly possible. She had been walking the around the campus for about a half-and-a-hour now and the experience was the perfect example of an exercise in frustration. There was nothing to do here! Most of the other students were sleeping or hanging out in their rooms by Astrid's estimate and it had turned much of the campus into a ghost town devoid of anyone she could talk too. It took Astrid more patience and caution then she knew she had to stop herself from simply fly over Claremont's walls or teleport the Hel out of there with Porrklubba to enter the city and find something interesting to do. Hitting up a club or bar in the Theater District would have been her first choice. She had heard that Freedom City had a pretty good music scene and nightlife and Astrid saw as a golden opportunity to not only have fun but also get in good with the city's local movers and shakers in the music biz. 

 

But no. She had to suffer some absurd curfew. Astrid signed. She knew she was being whiny but she couldn't help it. She felt like she was in a cage and it made her feel a bit stir crazy. That's why she came down to the common room after her pointless stroll. She thought the place would have been abandoned like everywhere else and hoped that she'd be able to play a few riffs of her guitar in silence there. But as Astrid looked up and saw that Ashley, Judy and another girl she'd seen on campus a couple times (Danny, Danielle, Danica?) were already there she made a quiet blessing to Hamingja and the Allfather and decided that playing music all on her ownwas not how she was going to spend her evening.

 

"Hey," she hailed loudly. "What are you guys doing? Solving some puzzle?" Puzzle solving wasn't exactly Astrid's favorite hobby but at this point she'd do anything if it involved actually talking to someone. "Can I join you lot?"

Edited by Cubismo

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"Sure!" Danica called with a cheerful wave of her hand to invite the new arrival over. She'd changed into soft blue pajama pants and a tank top and was enjoying the unshelled life for the moment as she sorted a handful of puzzle pieces. "We found this thousand piece Freedom League puzzle and are just hoping it's not missing any pieces. If you find any night sky pieces just shove them to the side, we're doing that last." She'd already accumulated a small patch of starry sky pieces, undifferentiated but for shape. It looked like it would be a real pain to figure out their positions. "I don't think I've met you yet. I'm Danica! What team are you assigned to?" 

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"Hi Astrid," said Judy, smiling broadly at the other girl. She'd taken a while to warm up to the loud jock, but she wasn't so bad once you got to know her - even if she did have a crazy story about where she came from. But that was none of her business; after all, her story about how she'd gotten to Claremont was pretty crazy too - and that was whether or not you believed the lies or not.  

 

"Yeah, we've gotten pretty far, but there are still lots of pieces!" Judy had made tentative progress on her part of the puzzle, assembling parts of Fleur de Joie and the flower she'd rode in on. For her part, Ashley was doing a little better, gradually putting together the crowd of civilians watching the League show off their powers. She looked up at Astrid, grunted, and then went back to her work. Judy looked at Astrid, realized that she didn't know if the other girl had seen her embarrassing exit earlier that evening, then decided she didn't need to think about that until she knew she had to. 

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"Steikje! Judy totally just spoiled my introduction," Astrid said, feigning sincerity as she walked towards the trio. "I was going to start my intro by talking about my tragic backstory before finally telling you my name at the very end for dramatic effect. It was going to be awesome but now its ruined forever." She shot Judy a fake scowl and shuck her head for added effect. "Oh well. Guess your just going to have to miss out. Anyways the name's Astrid like you heard, but people back home used to call me Thursday." Astrid shrugged. "You call me either or if you want."

 

She took a seat beside the three girls, getting herself comfortable before quickly scanning the mostly finished puzzle for matching pieces. She didn't really know much about America's superheros besides the major ones and so a couple of the heroes displayed in the puzzle name's and powers were lost on her. She had to admit she wasn't terribly interested in learning about them either, much preferring to get to know the people around her right now. 

 

"I'm on the Orange Team... Danica? That's your name, right?  Sorry if I got it wrong. I've seen you couple times here and there but never got to talk you. Until anyway."

 

She turned to Ashley then. The demigoddess had no clue what climbed up her raev and died but Ashley always seemed have a scowl on her face while her sister seemed pretty cool. It was kind of annoying, not least of all because it reminded Astrid of herself and no one liked seeing their less than stellar traits thrown back at them. "Hey Ashley," she greeted, trying hard not to sound caustic and failing. "You having a rough night or is this puzzle a harder than I thought?"

Edited by Cubismo

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A few minutes after Astrid came into the common room, Micah Roebuck wandered in, with a lumpy duffel bag over his shoulder, a rather beefy plastic tool case in one hand, a slimmer case in the other, and towels over both shoulders. He walked around and past the girls, lost in thought and nodding his head to music from his earbuds until he made it to one of the sturdy tables along one side of the room. 

 

He got all the way through to setting both items in his hands down before he froze for several moments. Then, he turned around slowly, one hand reaching into a pocket (likely to pause his music), the other to pull out his earbuds and let them hang from his neck. He glanced at the girls present before clearing his throat.

 

"Um. Hi. Sorry. I can...uh...go somewhere else?"

 

He seemed very unsure of himself right now.

 

"I...I mean, I can stay, too. I just figured...the shop's kind of crowded right now. And this isn't going to be too messy, and it's delicate work."

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There was a burst of power, like erupting making complex lattices twisting, until Zenith stepped out out of it her feet never quite touching the ground, as she was wearing her shifting dress, black and gold moving as if living across the 'material' of the thing.  Her long limbs covered in geometric gold mirrors, that trailed up, across her shoulders, and over her neck as her hair moved like she was underwater around her head.  Rocking from foot to foot, her hands gripping at the headphones she had on as she danced.  If Corinne was precise, poised, then Zenith was tumultuous like a wildfire.

 

She seemed dimly aware of them, instead moving around the periphery entranced by what she was listening to.  Driven as she was, it was easy for Zenith to just fall in with an activity and lose focus on anything outside of it.

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