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March 17, 2019 
Claremont Academy 
 

It was St. Patrick's Day, so naturally Judy had dressed for it; a green dress with white flowers that went below her knee, and a nervous, almost hesitant smile as she made her way to join her World Religions study group in the library. She greeted Danica, Pan Ayjay, hugging her book to herself before she said, "Um, Ashley said she can't make it today, so it's just us." She looked around at her study buddies and commented, "...so, Ah was thinking, that since we already know about Buddhism and stuff, and this is just review anyway, we could mostly just...you know, maybe do other stuff?" she asked hopefully. Judy struggled in some classes, and occasionally turned a bright, mortified red when particular subjects came up, but she'd always done quite well in World Religions. 

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Pan knew nothing about this St. Patrick's day, or who this saint even was, but as it just so happened, he liked green, and he had been wearing a green t-shirt with a pair of white birds wings on his back on this very day, so Pan would not end up getting pinched after all! The lack of pinching was certainly a plus, as far as he was concerned!

 

He was sitting in mid-air in the library, his jean clad legs folded up under him as he balanced his book on the tip of his finger, seeming far from interested in actually reading it. This world's religions sounded so odd to him, as he had made the study group know on at least a few occassions. It was not that they had multiple different religions all over or anything like that. There was a few different beliefs back on Neverworld, and he had shared some (like the people that believed that the turtle islands were gods), but still, a lot of Earth's religions just seemed so strange to him. Especially how everyone was fighting between them.

 

So, Pan was more than happy with Judy's idea! Anything was better than actually doing schoolwork, after all! He floated by her, shifting to lying on the side in mid-air, his head resting on his hand. "I am always happy to do stuff other than studying! Did you have anything in mind?"

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White Lioness

Àjàṣorò understood the idea of St Patrick's day but hadn’t felt the need to dress in anything but her usual riots of bright colours, it was a most confusing thing. Still she made it through the hustle and bustle of the students relatively unharmed, making her way towards the library. She entered the library just as the conversation was starting, but thanks to her heritage has excellent hearing.

 

“What do you have in mind for today?” she asked in her “American” voice, it was always fascinating to see what the real locals like to do.

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"This is boring," Danica agreed, flipping her book shut. "I've already done the comparative religion unit twice." She'd celebrated the holiday by braiding a little crown of some early wood sorrel she'd found, the shamrock-like leaves looking very seasonal indeed in her dark hair. The rest of the handful of leaves she'd brought as a snack, popping one occasionally into her mouth with every sign of relish. "We could hop the wall and take the train downtown, go to the mall and see a movie," she suggested. "A real mall-mall, not a strip mall. They're great for hanging out in, I've seen so many movies about it." 

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"Well, um..." Judy twirled a finger in her long hair, then admitted, "Ah don't really know enough about Freedom City to know what's good." She thought hard about her escort - everyone was under orders to stay out of sight and stay discreet, especially after the incident at the strip mall earlier in the year. "If Ah just follow you guys to the mall, that'll...probably be okay," she said. "We just can't get in trouble," she said firmly as everybody packed up. Ashley might get fired! She wasn't actually sure if that was true, but it was something she worried about. "If we sneak out and get in trouble, Ah will never hear the end of it, and Ashley will be in mah back pocket forever." She tried to follow Danica out of the library and across campus, figuring the more experienced student knew the way, but of course that was no easy feat until the tortoise-girl got on her Segway outside . She found herself glancing around as they went, as if expecting Ashley, the headmistress, or who knew what else, to jump out of the bushes. 

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Honestly, Pan had not expected Judy to be the one to suggest they skip out on classwork, but he was not complaining in the least! And a mall? He had yet to visit one of those, but they had been in so many of the movies that he had seen!

 

"The mall it is, then! A fine destination for playing hooky!" While said with Pan's usual fanfare, he did keep his voice down, at least. No reason to announce to just everyone what they were planning on doing, after all. Quieter, he added: "Did I say that right?" But sneaking out without getting in trouble? Now that just sounded dull, did it not? Of course, the trick would be to get in trouble without getting caught.

 

"Judy, Judy, Judy," he sang in a sing-song voice, as he followed her and Danica. He held up and apple in his hand, which promptly vanished. "How will they ever catch us, if they can't see us? Or is it against the rules of playing hooky if no one can see us?" 

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Judy's eyes widened for a moment, and she said, "That's...a  good idea! Ah'll meet y'all outside," she offered, "Ah just need to use the bathroom first." And with that, she made a quick retreat to the ladies room where she said a little prayer, told herself she wasn't going to do anything bad, and then sent a text to her support team. 

 

GTG for a few minutes. Will come out in usual spot. Be back sooner. 

 

With her text done and the codeword part of it to assure them she was safe and well, she headed outside to join her friends. 

 

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White Lioness

Àjàṣorò had been raised to follow tradition and follow the rules, but she figured she’d done enough of that and deserved a day off. Besides her grades were good and she was well ahead in her studies, and she couldn’t resist a chance to experience a true American icon like a mall.

 

“If the wall proves difficult to scale, I believe there are gaps in the perimeter that we could perhaps get through?”

 

She’d not scouted it out herself but with her good hearing, she tended to overhear quite a lot.

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"Being invisible is a great idea!" Danica assured Pan with blithe good cheer. "Spontaneous hooky using powers is totally acceptable as long as you're not hurting anybody or causing serious property damage." She looked up at the wall, then at her companions. "So in that spirit, if somebody can help me and my machine here over the wall, that would be awesome. I've got an Uber picking us up in ten minutes, but unfortunately this bad boy can't scale walls." She gave her Segway an affectionate pat. "Otherwise, we'll see if we can sneak out the back gate while they've got it unlocked for the garbage trucks." 

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Her eyes wide, Judy fluttered her hands over her stomach for a moment. "Let's-let's do the back gate, but we've gotta be invisible when we get there," she told Pan firmly. "Ah cannot be seen sneaking out of this school." Despite her words, she was excited, and looked it as they made their way across campus. Distracted as she was, it was easy to let herself listen, and she kept a running tab on security systems as they went. "No alarms anywhere," she offered quietly as they made their way past classroom buildings, "nobody's scrambling anything..." They knew by now that the radio signals that crisscrossed campus, and for that matter all of Freedom City, were music to the radio-bound teenager's ears. "Ah think we're doing it!" she offered excitedly as they got to the back gate, which sure enough was open as the garbage crew bandied words jovially with some of the campus groundskeeping staff. "C'mon, Pan!" she said excitedly, her eyes shining. "Make it happen so we can get out of here!" 

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White Lioness

With her natural speed and grace, Àjàṣorò had already snuck around the corner to check the route ahead, so quietly that none of the others had probably even noticed she’d had gone. Until she popped her head around the back gate.

 

“The route ahead is clear to the car. Once clear of these people obviously!” she spoke in a loud whisper “I will make sure they are distracted if necessary, though I suggest we hurry!”

 

She popped her head back around and took a position where she could safely keep an eye on the trash men.

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"But non-serious property damage is allowed, then? Just so I am clear on what is and is not allowed," Pan responded to Danica with a wink, while he played around with some Pixie Dust in his hand, the glowing dust swirling around his hand, dancing between his fingers, as Judy returned.

 

"Consider it done!" His reply to Judy was quick and bright, the Pixie Dust disappearing from his hand. Weaving an image of them not being there around them, or rather, an image of them returning to the nearest building, which would then disappear, while leaving everyone around them seeing just nothing. He had to make sure to cover their tracks, of course. Better to have it seem like they had gone somewhere than them just disappearing. "Just stick close to me, and no one can see or hear you." It was one of his favorite tricks, he had to admit. 

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A few minutes went by and they were free of the school, past the city parks near the Claremont campus that helped shield the campus from prying eyes, and walking the streets of Bayview without any escorts at all. For all that the expedition had been Judy's idea, she hung back a little as the unlikely group headed down the sidewalk, sending a quick text before firmly shoving her phone in her pocket after turning off the ringer. She smiled at everyone, first her big beauty queen smile, then a bit softer as she added, "Ah've never even been on a train, much less gone to a mall by mahself before," she said as they made their way into the Uber, a red station wagon driven by a youngish-looking guy in a flannel shirt with sunglasses.

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"We can take the train some other time," Danica promised, buckling herself into the back seat while the driver stored her Segway in the back. "It's fun, I take it to get home on weekends sometimes, but the trains don't run as often at night. We're better off getting a ride this time, and my parents gave me an Uber gift card for exactly this sort of thing." She bounced cheerfully in her seat and pulled out her phone to look at the movie times. "Man, there's a bunch of stuff showing tonight. I remember when I was little, we had like three movies at a time at the movie theater." 

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White Lioness

Once they’d gotten near the car Àjàṣorò once again appeared with the other teens, falling into step with them perfectly. It was really quite exciting to be able to experience a real American day out, playing hooky as it was called.

 

She quickly checked her phone just in case she missed something important and seeing not she switched it to silence. Today wouldn't be spoiled by anything getting in the way from this point on.

 

“I look forward to what we decide to see today!”

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Once safely away from the school, Pan dropped the illusion. It would be bothersome to get into the car if the driver could not see them, would it not? Looking over the red station wagon, Pan was not entirely impressed. Flying, now that would be great, but of course, if he was seen flying across the town while supposedly being in a studio session with Judy, then it could be trailed back to her, could it not? And he did promise to do his best that she would not get caught.

 

"This is great!" he mentioned, as he moved in next to Danica. He really had to get one of those phones, did he not? So much useful information right in your hand! "I have only seen movies on televisions so far, but Micah told me about the big screens! What do you all want to watch?" His excitement of course showed in his voice.

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Judy looked over Danica's shoulder and considered her options. She knew she didn't want to see the movies about Captain Wonder or Halogen, because the last thing she wanted to see a movie about superheroes. She was fairly sure her friends wouldn't be interested in seeing the Christian movie...and when she really thought about it, in her heart of hearts, she had to admit she'd seen plenty of movies like that on her own. Mama is probably going to play that for us when I go back for summer anyway, she thought - and suddenly realized how much she wasn't looking forward to that. Shaking her head, she pushed herself back into the conversation. 

 

This was supposed to be a normal outing, where she didn't feel like everyone was looking at her for once. She wondered for a moment if anyone wanted to see the Stephen King movie, but she'd never actually seen a rated-R movie and wasn't going to be the first one to suggest it. "Let's go see Five Feet Apart," she said, "it's supposed to be real good, and Cole Sprouse is really cute!"  

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"Nooooooo!" Danica insisted, sounding scandalized. "I was talking to some of the other girls about that one and it was like if The Fault in Our Stars and Love Story had a sad angst-baby. Let's see something fun, like How to Train Your Dragon or Wonder Park!" She considered the other two passengers in the car. "You guys probably haven't had a chance to see the first two dragon movies, so maybe you'd get lost in the third one, but I hear Wonder Park is good. Do you guys like popcorn? Movie popcorn is the best. It's so buttery it makes your hands slippery. And you can get candy too, and big drinks. Food at the movie theater is expensive, but if you don't have any money we can share," she offered magnanimously. 

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Pan had to agree with Danica. "A sad angst baby do sound rather unappealing, but I am open to anything!" He looked over Danica shoulder at her phone and the pictures that scrolled past. Dragons or a park of wonders? Both sounded interesting, but to be honest, he was fine with either. "Honestly, I am fine with seeing either, or something else! Dragons and parks of wonders sounds great!" It was his first time at a movie theater, of course, so he trusted that the others would know what to pick.

 

His attention was almost immediately diverted at the mention of movie food and drinks. "I have some money, but not that much, so if anyone wants to share, then I am in!" He should remember to ask what was good and what wasn't once they got in.

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White Lioness

Àjàṣorò was excited to discover the fullness of the American experience, as she explored back at her home in Dakana. She’d spotted a Nigerian movies she’d love to watch, but the American films would be just as interesting.

 

“I’m not sure why but my family gives me a very generous allowance, I’d be happy to treat you all to the cinema. Maybe even something to eat afterward, if we’re not full of that excellent Cinema Popcorn!”

 

She hoped she’d that her offer would come off as too keen, she just wanted to share her luck with her friends.

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"Well, all right, that movie did look pretty funny." Judy had to admit the cartoon didn't sound too bad - and since Danica had suggested it, she didn't have to feel like a sheltered little kid. "We should do something exciting after the movie, though." Once they were inside the theater, she took a look at the ample snack section, then glanced behind her automatically. Blinking a few times, she stepped past the crowd gathering for the matinee showings, and offered, "Ah'm gonna go play in the arcade," she said nervously, "Ah'll just meet you guys inside the theater." 

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"Thanks, Aja, that's rad!" Danica agreed enthusiastically.  She used her phone to pay and tip the driver when they arrived, then climbed onto her Segway so she could keep up with the others as they went into the theater. "We can get your ticket for you and meet you at the ticket-taker guy, if you want." Even if Judy would rather play games, Danica delighted in showing her friends the wide variety of candies and treats available. "...and there's gummy bears, which are sweet, and gummy worms, they're super sour, and Junior Mints are squishy mint with chocolate around them, and Skittles are Skittles, plus they have nachos with the fake cheese like in the cafeteria, and the really, really big soda pop..." 

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Judy stepped away into the arcade, where once she was out of sight of her friends, she immediately took out her phone - and was confronted with the horrifying sight of a red, blinking battery on the front. "Ah, you stupid thing!" she hissed. Why didn't I bring my battery? She had her emergency transponder, of course, but if she used that to send a signal, she'd never hear the end of it. She looked around for a moment, then stepped into the shadows between two machines. Closing her eyes, she reached out, concentrated, and began muttering to herself. "Gotta hit the right frequency, gotta hit the right frequency...there!" Tuning out the noise in her head as best she could, she rubbed her temples while muttering, "Everything is okay," she communicated, "everything is fine. I will talk to you after the movie...

When she was done, she stepped out, her head aching, and wished she could drink a glass of water without puking it up afterwards. With a little sigh, she slumped down by the air hockey table and fished around for the cord in her pocket. Maybe she could get a little charge on her phone while she was waiting for her friends to buy snacks. Behind her, a lanky young man with short-cut hair had gone from idly scanning the room to staring at the weird muttering girl. He considered things for a moment, then took out his phone to send a text. I THINK I SAW A GIRL WHO NEEDS HELP. 

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Keith LaMarr squinted down at the hefty brick of plastic in his palm and frowned. The aging high school teacher's eyesight was thankfully sharp as ever but the last decade or so of cellphone trends hadn't been designed with a man of his size in mind, let alone one with superdense musculature. Wafer thin slabs of glass and aluminum were completely out of the question and the more rugged alternatives featured foldout keyboards with buttons apparently sized for infants so far as he could tell. All of which was fine by him; the phone in his hand had numbers, a microphone and a speaker because it was a damn phone and if anyone still knew how to make a damn phone call it wouldn't have been a problem.

 

The third time he accidentally pressed the '7' too many times and skipped past the 'S' he made a low rumbling noise that rattled the empty coffee cups on his desk. Finally he jabbed the little green receiver button and brought the phone up to his ear. "If it'd been text 1-800-JUSTICE we wouldn't have gotten a single fool thing done. Who's in trouble?"

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"Oh hey Mr. LaMarr," Kendrick was nineteen and a sophomore at Freedom City College these days, but he still spoke in the soft tenor voice Keith was familiar with. "I'm over at the theater on Dawson Street, and I just saw a girl acting really weird." There was the sound of him ducking away where the crowd in the arcade couldn't quite make him out. "She was talking to herself, and then she started really talking to herself, y'know? Like somebody was actually listening, and she was telling them everything was going to be okay, and she looked like she was freaking out bad while she was doing it. I looked real close and I didn't see an earpiece or anything; in fact she was freaking out before it all happened because her phone was busted. I was just thinking, like you said, if you see something, say something, right? I think she's maybe got superpowers or something, or maybe she's been kidnapped...I don't know." 

 

-

 

Behind the counter, the concession stand worker (who looked to be about as old as most of the students) gave them a salesperson's smile. "What'll it be?" 

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