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White Lioness

Back home Àjàṣorò would never had been allowed to go out on her own to a place like this, so it was a totally new experience. Honestly she was a little lost about how to handle a situation like this so was more than happy to follow Danica’s instruction.

 

“This much grander than the little cinema I’m used to, it’s quite exciting really!”

 

It was technically true the cinema at the palace had nothing like this lobby...

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"So many colors!" Pan was ecstatic. There were so much to choose from. He had never seen anything like this, so many different things to choose from everywhere. Nothing back home was quite like it. He knew candy, he had tried much here, but nothing to this excess! And Aja offered to pay, too? Amazing! He had barely even noticed that Judy had gone somewhere else with everything that was on display here now.

 

He followed Danica's directions, quickly starting to scoop up candy as she pointed it out. He wanted to try it all. "This is amazing! Thank you!" His lips spread into a huge grin directed at Aja, before he returned to the scooping. Oh, and the popcorn. They had to remember the popcorn!

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"Let's see..." Danica grinned at the clerk, more than pleased by her friends' excitement. Movies were a lot more fun with people who were enjoying themselves! "Let's get an extra-large bucket of popcorn, with butter and salt, an order of churros, a large root beer, all these candies," she pointed at the impressive pile on the counter. "What do you guys want to drink? You'll need something cause the popcorn makes you thirsty. Plus with the extra large bucket, we can get a refill if we want! Just don't pass the bucket to Judy," she reminded them, dropping her voice confidentially. "She can't eat it and I don't want her to feel bad." 

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The teens got there in plenty of time for the show, even if they looked to be a little younger than the target audience. Judy joined them after a delay just long enough to be noticeable, looking surprised for a moment when she came across them in their seats. "Ah've never sat on the aisle seat before," she commented as she took her position there, occasionally turning to look backwards with the paranoia that must have come from both her difficult upbringing and life with her overprotective sister. "But Ah think everything is going to be okay now." She beamed. 

 

At the second phone call, sometime later, Kendrick sounded a little abashed. "Hey, Mr. LaMarr, yeah, it's me. The girl went inside and everything...yeah, but before she got up and left, this guy stops by! Real funny-looking, like what's a guy in a suit doing walking into a place like this? He tried to get her to come with him, but she said she told him she was fine and to go away. She didn't look scared, but it just...didn't look right. No, I don't think either of them were paying attention to me. Nobody notices the guy in the Arcade Mouse suit. He...sonofa-" There was a moment's pause, and then. "Guy came back and he went right into the theater! There's no reason some grown man in a suit without any kids would be going to see Wonder Park." 

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LaMarr considered Kendrick to be a levelheaded enough young man to have been out the door after the first text message but he picked up his pace after the follow-up call. There were a few competing narratives floating around about what had happened with that group of students from Claremont Academy and the Murder League at the end of 2017 but it had been enough to stir up fears of abduction in the metahuman community that hadn't completely settled down. He'd been around when kids with powers and no support system seemed to drop off the face of the Earth any time you turned around. Besides, he trusted a creep in a suit about as far as... well, as far as someone else could thrown them.

 

He arrived at the theatre in a mustard coloured sweater vest over a tailored aubergine shirt and gave the youth in the mascot costume a reassuring clap on the shoulder before striding up to the ticket booth. "How you doing? Keith LaMarr." he nodded to the employee behind the desk before leaning forward very slightly, conscious of his own imposing silhouette. "I'm told a joker in a suit followed a bunch of high school kids into a cartoon show a little bit ago and I'm betting that didn't sit any better with you than it did with me. Not here to start any drama on your shift but I'd like to keep an eye on that, just in case. Cool?"

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Judy did her best to enjoy herself during Wonder Park, but it really was a movie aimed at kids closer to her younger sister's age, or younger, than her. Still, her friends were having fun and that was nice - and the excitement of being there without Ashley's immediate supervision made the experience fun in its own right. She knew her plainclothes detail was lurking around in both the theater and the building nearby thanks to the signals she'd sent them from the lobby, even if at this point she thought it was a little silly to keep the mundane agents so close at hand. I don't think anything could hurt me with Pan and Danica right here. There was even the question of her own abilities, something that was still something she had trouble wrapping her mind around. 

 

 

"We can, uh, send in an usher if you'd prefer, sir..." Larry, the young theater manager (if thirty-something was young, which it was these days, evidently) was the sort of Freedom City native who knew how to pay attention to a superhero. As he waited in the lobby, Keith LaMarr was being watched. This was by no means a new thing for Wail, who between one thing and another had gotten attention in public since puberty. But this was decidedly different; there was the feeling that he wasn't the object of focus so much as an object of attention. But in a lobby full of young couples going into romantic comedies, teenagers and families catching the latest super-flick, and all the rest, who was to say who was watching? 

 

 

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Pan of course agreed heartily with Danica. These sweet drinks were like nothing back home, and even after spending so long on Earth, he had still not tired of them. A large drink, which was quickly emptied and refilled, even before they entered the theater. It was a coke, and he had come to enjoy it very much since he got here. He was almost blown away as they entered the large room that would show their movie. The screen was huge! Even bigger than he had expected, from what he had been told of this place! And he let his wonder and awe be known to the others of course, whistling and pointing out the screen with a huge grin. 

 

The movie was unlike anything he had seen before. Parks like that, he had never even been to one. Pa6n understood the rules of staying quiet during the movie, of course, but he couldn't help but ask the others if such parks were common. He had seen commercials, but never really thought much about it until now. Maybe he should make a point out of going to one of those some time? 

 

At any case, Pan was having fun, and he was not shy about it.

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Danica settled happily into her seat and munched her way steadily through the popcorn and candy as the previews ended and the movie began. It wasn't an opening weekend and the film was lightly attended, so she had no compunctions about leaning in and whispering explanations to Pan from time to time about various confusing parts of the movie, and to Aja if it looked like she needed it. Judy seemed to have a pretty good grasp on American pop culture, even if she didn't seem quite as into the movie as her friends. Danica made a mental note to ask Judy what she wanted to do next, and maybe they could find something else fun for a girl who couldn't enjoy movie or mall food at all. 

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LaMarr parted his lips to begin answering the understandably nervous manager but paused. He'd taken plenty of private security and investigation jobs over the decades and that meant more stakeouts than he could count. He knew the difference between someone sizing him up because they were a fool looking for a fight and someone sizing him up because they were a professional fool looking for a fight. He straightened and glanced over his right shoulder at a woman sitting in the lobby wearing a never-been-worn tracksui, looking directly at him and speaking quickly into her phone, who was suddenly much more interested in the movie posters on the walls he began to turn around.

 

Back out through the glass doors of the theatre a man in navy blue overalls leaned against a nondescript white van with a more conspicuous antenna mounted on the roof. Also on his phone, also looking directly at LaMarr. To his credit this one didn't visibly react as the high school teacher lowered his sunglasses enough to make direct eye contact across the lobby and into the parking lot, he simply tossed his cigarette on the pavement, ground it out with the toe of his boot and headed to the back of the van to open the door and climb inside. Presumably he figured the distance was far enough that LaMarr wouldn't recognize the outline of someone else sitting in the back of the van was bulked out by body armour before the doors closed behind him.

 

"That's a good call, Larry," he agreed without turning back around. "Maybe you got somebody seasoned who could keep an eye, huh? Excuse me a minute." He began striding purposefully back outside, catching Kendrick's attention and gesturing with his chin for the teen to move further away from the theatre's entrance. Long strides eating up the distance he pounded a fist three times against the side of the van, hard enough to make a racket but not hard enough to dent the paneling. "Nobody ever talk to you about littering? They got ashtrays right over there."

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White Lioness

It turned out that the cinema was even better than the movies suggested and whilst they had a private cinema back home the atmosphere was nothing like what she was now experiencing. And the place wasn’t even full, she’d have to try and attend during an actually opening weekend. The only think she wasn’t quite sure about was the popcorn, but she was giving it a good time hoping to develop a taste for the stuff. She would definitely be doing this again in the near future.

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Inside the theater, Judy found herself laughing by the end of the film. Maybe it was for kids, but she was still halfway a kid - and cartoons were funny! Maybe she couldn't watch the movies the way she had in the past, but that didn't mean things were bad now. I should bring Leroy next time; make Ashley sit behind us. She shifted in her seat as the movie went to credits, wondering if they were supposed to stay for a preview for the next movie after the end - when suddenly she tensed. Oh no... She glanced behind them automatically - how long had that usher been in there watching them? And what was wrong with Terry? Ashley's backup agent, the guy who had used to be part of her mom's detachment, he was sitting there with his phone pressed to his ear, eyes on his principal but also wide with a growing shock. And no wonder! "You guys," she said, "how'd you like the movie?" she asked, in no evident hurry to get up. 

 

-

 

There was the faint sound of commotion, and then dead silence inside the van for seconds that ticked on, before the tinted front passenger window rolled down. It was Overalls inside, meeting Keith's gaze with wide eyes and the manner of a man talking to an articulate but angry bear - and Keith had literally seen that happen. "Hey man, sorry about the...the littering." He opened the door, carefully, and closed it behind him. In his hands were a small handbroom and dustpan. "Just gonna clean that up, and we're good, right?" Trusting that the superhero wasn't going to punch him in the back, the guy in overalls knelt down by the litter from his cigarette and started sweeping it up. 

 

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"Amazing! Are theme parks truly like that? I must visit one some day!" Yes, yes! It had been very exciting! That huge screen! Pan never knew they came so big! And oh, the food! Oh the food! If Pan ever managed to return to Neverworld, he simply had to bring so much food with him! "And I had no idea they even made screens this big!" He was standing now, gesticulating wildly towards the huge screen before them. He was almost floating. Pixie Dust glowed from his feet, leaving a slight trail under him as he moved in front of his seat for a moment, before disappearing. He had to remember to stay grounded. No flying, not when out and about like this. If not for himself, then for the others, at least. 

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"Well, Wonderpark was imaginary," Danica reminded him, "but there are amusement parks around, and they're fun! We'll go to Ocean Point when it gets warmer out, that's a water park so it's like an amusment park but instead of rollercoasters there are huge slides with water sluicing down them and you start at the top and slide down really fast on an inner tube. Plus there's roller coaster parks not too far away, maybe we can get somebody to take us for a weekend!"

 

She put a quick hand on Pan's arm to make sure he stayed grounded, but seemed satisfied that he was remembering the need to remain subtle if they wanted to play hooky successfully. "But if you like this size screen, wait till we show you IMAX! Twice as big, and curved, so it's almost like you're inside. You'll love it!" She craned her neck around Pan to look at the other girls. "How did you guys like it? You okay, Judy?"

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"Ah was just a little worried about, uh, things," said Judy, smiling nervously at Danica. Unexpectedly, out of gratitude more than anything else. she reached out and touched the other girl on the hand, as usual her skin notably warmer than the human average.Pan nearly rising out of his seat had nearly given her a little tiny heart attack along with the news she was getting from outside, but there was no reason to worry about that. She had thought things through. If her friends realized what was happening, then the secret would be out and that would be awful - if her friends realized there was trouble and it was her fault, they would either pester her forever or worse, just wouldn't want to hang out with her anymore. And that would be awful, especially now that Corinne was about to graduate. "Did you like it, Ayjay?" she asked curiously. "Ah know it probably wasn't like movies where you're from!" 

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LaMarr watched the man in the overalls impassively for several beats. It seemed polite to at least give him a chance to put his cards on the table. When it became clear that wasn't going to happen the veteran hero sighed heavily. "At least you have your custodial skills to fall back on when this whole 'creeping on children from a white van full of armed turkeys' gig doesn't pan out." Crouching slightly he hooked one hand under the van's rear bumper before lifting it up to shoulder height, holding the vehicle at a forty-five degree angle. "You got a Plan B here or are we gonna find out how good your pals are at handstands?"

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Pan grinned widely at Judy. "There are no need to worry!" No Pixie Dust in here, and he had promised that they would not be discovered, so he kept to made sure to stay grounded when Danica reminded him with the quick touch. Yes, yes, stay grounded. He winked at Danica in response. Take flight some other time. Anyway, Judy. "No one will catch us, as we promised." He looked around at the people leaving around them. "SO! What is one supposed to do after seeing the movie?"

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By now the theater had mostly emptied out, outside of a few people who were taking their sweet time in exiting. Inside her head, Judy was thinking fast, listening to radio broadcasts outside. She was in no hurry to get up. "Well, we could head into the mall and do a little shopping while we're out." There was the mall food court, but that particular wonder was a place she was never going to be able to visit in this life. "Ah think Ah owe you a visit to Claire's, Danica!" she said with a nervous laugh, rising to her feet. 

 

Outside there was quite a commotion when Wail lifted the van - he could hear the sound of falling equipment and bodies, as well as some vigorous cursing. Cigarette Overalls was on his feet by the time Wail had lifted the van, and for a moment the look on his face betrayed not anger, not fear, but a look of deep fatigue - the world-weary look of a man who wanted to be anywhere else. "All right, you got us!" he said, raising his hands. "I'm not gonna try and shoot Wail, who is bulletproof and super-strong, that'd be goddamned ridiculous. Just set them down and we'll turn ourselves in!" 
 

"There was an old mall near the town where Ah grew up," commented Judy, talking quickly and twirling at her hair as she went, following just behind Danica. "But it was all closed by the time Ah could visit it, so it was just this old place where teenagers went to smoke and do their skateboards. This is much nicer!" 

 

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"When I was little, I thought the mall was the raddest place in the world," Danica admitted cheerfully, seeming happy to follow Judy's instructions as they left the theater. Her Segway hummed cheerfully up the aisle, running over bits of popcorn as she went. "All the cool kids hung out there and had Orange Julius and got Glamour Shots." She sighed wistfully. "At least Orange Julius is still around." She looked over at Aja and Pan. "I guess probably no real malls where you guys are from, either." Her eyes rounded a little. "I wonder if this one has a Spencer's," she mused. "We could probably go in there, since there aren't any adults with us." 

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Pan did his best to keep his attention on the stories that Danica and Judy were sharing. It was not that it was boring. Truly, it wasn't, but there was just so much going on with the credits still rolling on the big screen, people around them and everything like that. It was quite exciting, to say the least. His attention was not drawn around for a lack of interest. Besides, the names of the stores and drinks and what not were not really something he was able to grasp in any way. Still, he paid enough attention to respond when Danica directed a question to him, making an exaggerated shrug and a smile in response. "Yes, there were quite the lack of malls during my childhood, I am afraid. I suppose I will have to make up for lost time, so lead the way!"

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White Lioness

Àjàṣorò had enjoyed herself, it wasn’t like the epic movies that they made back home but it was a pleasant experience. Maybe she should pick up a copy for the common room when it came out, so the others could enjoy it as well.

It was an enjoyable experience, we should try and do this more regularly. Though if we do it might have to get a proper pass to leave the grounds.”


A little truancy was fine, but too much would be bad, there were limits to these kinds of things.

 

There’s apparently this little boutique that does amazing stuff at low prices, we should go check it out. You might have to entertain yourself for a bit though Pan, I doubt the fashions will be to your tastes!”

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When the teens left the mall to find the Claremont van waiting for them, and Ms. Collier the English teacher with a judgmental look on her face waiting for them, Judy was all smiles. Everything was going okay, and even if her detail had to get bailed out of jail again, she'd had a fun time out with her friends without her sister's escort. "Hi, Mrs. Collier!" she exclaimed brightly as she headed for the van. "Sorry we forgot to sign out, but there was a really good sale!" She held up the bags she was carrying, one in each hand, Pan having gallantly agreed to shoulder most of the rest. "You know how it is." 

 

"Inside, you four," said Collier, giving the teens a sharp look. "We'll talk about this when we get back to campus. I'm honestly a little surprised to see some of you out here," she said, giving Danica and Àjàṣorò searching looks as everyone climbed inside, stopping only to give Danica a hand with her Segway. 

 

"It was mah idea," said Judy firmly, cheeks paling at the thought of her friends in trouble. "Not anybody else's. That Wail fella didn't need to call any of you up about it either!" It was the first time anybody inside the mall had mentioned the 70s sonic powerhouse.

 

 

Outside, Keith had about finished giving his statement to the STAR Squad officer on scene when he realized he wasn't alone. "Thanks for your timely call, LaMarr," commented Callie Summers, who had been a child in Wail's glory days which put her in her mid-fifties now if he remembered right. She looked up at Keith and asked, "When you're done?" making a gesture to a discreet spot nearby, on the far side of a discreet-looking brown sedan - not the white van currently being fitted for a tow.  

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LaMarr stared long and hard at the capitulating mercenaries and the STAR Squad presence before letting out a long, irritated breath through his nose and following after Summers. The sedan didn't do much to conceal him from view but he turned as far away from the scene as he could while keeping it in his peripheral vision. "Those turkeys aren't even seeing the inside of a holding cell, are they? They were more embarrassed than they were worried about getting locked up."

 

He folded his arms across his broad chest. LaMarr didn't know Summers very well but he'd known more than enough principals in his day and he knew all about the wheeling and dealing for funding and prestige that went with the job. "Whatever the play is here one of my kids almost got caught in the middle of it. Wouldn't mind an explanation."

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"Claremont has a variety of students from unusual backgrounds, which is naturally going to attract unusual amounts of attention," replied Summers. She looked up at LaMarr, once they were in the shadow of the brown van. "I appreciate your discretion, as a professional educator - and a Freedom City resident." She looked at LaMarr, then said, "This year several heads of state have sent their children to our school, and so naturally security has been....unusually high." 

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White Lioness

On spying LeMar Àjàṣorò had a little twinkle in her eye, there weren’t many heroes that she hero worshiped, but it was probably one of the few that she did. A little excited she turned to the other teens.

 

“Do any of you know who that is? I’ll tell you that Wail! My father told me tales of how my grandfather fought alongside him a few times back in the ‘70’s!”

 

As well as that she’d read as much as she could find on the internet, he was probably one of those that had made her decided to try and become a superhero.

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Pan had grinned at Collier from behind the stack of bags he was carrying for Judy. "But hopefully not too surprised about all of us." Despite not being the instigator for once, as Judy quickly, and proudly, it seemed, shouldered that burden, there were no reason let her take it all on her own.

 

His attention quickly turned to Aja, and her excitement. Wail? What a funny name for a hero, but maybe these 70'es were a different time. Aja's excitement was infectious, and Pan quickly leaned over to her. "You should go tell him! Come now!" He was grinning widely, from ear to ear. Of course, he wanted to see Aja meet someone she was getting this excited about, but it would also be interesting to see what Summers or any of the others here would do, if Aja acted on his suggestion.

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