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Shell Game (IC)

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April 2019 

Outside the Common Room 


Leaning against the wall, the corridor mostly empty at this time of day, Watchdog's eyes were firmly hidden behind her sunglasses by the time Monica approached, a few minutes after the 'incident' out in the greenhouse. Normally she'd have let the other girl pass, but she picked up on the indications in Lady Liberty's manner that she actually wanted to talk. "Got a problem, Liberty?" she sneered. 

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As it turned out, the two sisters had absconded from the scene quite quickly after the … incident, which meant that Monica first had to figure out where they went. And her first thought had been some of the isolated spots she herself had kept in the back of her mind if there ever was any incident and she needed to get away from everybody.


But as it turned out, the answer was a lot simpler. She walked into Ashley somewhat by surprise, as she didn't really expect the sisters to have left for the common room of all places, but that just showed her how much she knew about them.


Ashley's response was … about what Monica had come to expect. So she was prepared for that much, and answered sincerely, but with a bit of a snarl herself. "If I'm supposed to be a symbol of hope and encouragement I may as well actually do my job. 'cause apparently the distraction wasn't enough."

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"Guess not," said Ashley frankly. She looked Monica up and down, and suddenly remembered being sixteen and infused with the power of a nation's self-identity - she wondered if the Spirit of Liberty would recognize her if she touched Monica. Best not to find out. "Judy wants to be alone right now, and I am cheerful as Hell," she lied. She looked down her glasses at the Latina teen, then said, "What is your job, anyway?" she asked. She made a little gesture. "All that...America, and you're just here in high school?Do you know what the US government thinks about you, kid? Do you know what they'd like to do to you if you step out of line? She kept the last two thoughts in her head - which was also why she bit back her "character's" question about visibility. Watchdog might have resented an LGBT Lady Liberty for staying out of the spotlight, but Ashley Tran the Secret Service agent couldn't fault the kid at all. 

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"Alright. I can respect that." Not entirely unexpected – Monica knew the feeling of wanting to be left alone well enough, and contrary to popular belief it wasn't an invitation for people to swoop in. Like she would've done, she realized. So much for that…


Still, this did give her an opportunity to catch Ashley, without her being super protective of Judy. And she'd already said more than she had for the entire tour prior to this, so maybe Monica could figure out something about her this way. And if Judy came out of the common room and still needed some cheering up, she'd be here still. Good enough.


"Pretty much." Ashley's training meant she could easily tell that this was an answer Monica had to give regularly. "If I want any chance at college after this, I gotta put in all the effort I can all the time. Helps me stay out of the spotlight, too. Don't need to see my face next to pundits every day. Or on imageboards, for that matter. Besides, it's Liberty, not America. Those two things don't always have to go together."


That was perhaps a bit more than she would've said normally, but from what Monica could tell, Ashley was the one person at Claremont that would mind a statement like that the least. "I'd rather not end up as some #### propaganda-piece like my dimensional doppelganger."

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"Mm." Ashley frowned at that (not by any means a new expression on Watchdog's face), but wasn't about to break cover by getting into a political argument. Wonder what you were doing trying to get in here so bad, then, she thought to herself. "I can understand that. Wait a few years, make some friends, learn some stuff, then you can start really pushing. Lot of stuff in this country that needs fixing," she allowed. "So you ran into her back during the big mashup, huh? Judy and I spent that whole day in lockdown and in triplicate. Other selves are kind of asses, though.

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Now that sounded awfully well-adjusted from Ashley. Not what Monica had expected at all. "Wait a few years?" That didn't really fit with what she'd so far assumed about Ashley. Once again, that just showed her how little she knew about her. Not that it was easy to learn anything about her in the first place.


"I never really wanted to be a symbol of all this stuff. Sure, I want change, I want things to be fairer, not to be afraid all the time, but … this is much more. Feels like every side just wants me as a plaything so they can claim to have the support of Lady Liberty. "


"Which I've been a lot more aware of since that day, yeah. Two very different versions of me, and I'm not entirely sure which of them had it worse, truth be told. It's what these powers mean, I guess. Can't be Lady Liberty without being political in some way. Can't just go in, beat up a few people and disappear again. Gotta watch your every move, no matter what. "


"At least here at Claremont it's only the classmates and not the entire world that are ready to pounce at a moment's notice. "  

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"Lady Liberty's a big gun. You need to learn how to shoot before you start waving that around." She leaned back and started ostentatiously filing her nails - by dint of snapping her wrist and extending a nail file underneath her leather jacket's sleeve. "You got it hard. Gotta figure out who you wanna be before you get out there." She smiled thinly. "Me, I have it easy. I already know I'm the baddest bitch there is. It's nice.

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Monica grimaced slightly. "At least figuring out myself and who I wanna be is something I have experience with. " she paused for a moment, thinking of where to take this next. She had come here to figure out more about the sisters, so only talking about herself was a bit counterproductive. "So, what's being the baddest bitch get you? Beyond a fancy name?"


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Oh, Jesus, kid, gray hairs? Sleepless nights? The feeling that I'm going to destroy the superheroic community because I didn't speak up when I should have? 


"Good rep - with the people that matter," growled Ashley. "Fought the Raven, didn't I?" Everybody had heard that little story. "Once Judy and I are out of here, we'll go somewhere nice and discreet where she can be safe and I can ply my trade - kicking ass." She grinned fiercely, then said,  "Bet you'd rather see Judy, huh? Let me-" She opened the door to the common room, looked inside, and said a bad word. 


There was no one in the common room, save what looked like an empty black and gold turtle shell the size of a small car, parked in the middle of the floor with the furniture around it arranged in such a way that it looked like the shell had grown up there and shoved everything out of the way. 

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Lulu was still looking for her boyfriend when she poked her head into the common room. "Oh hi, Ash! Have you seen Adam? He wasn't-" At this point the redhead noted the large shell in the middle of the room; it was very large and very pretty, but seemed at odds with the rest of the room's decor. "Well that's new! Wonder how that got in here?" It was only then that she saw Ashley's stricken expression; she could think of only one thing in tje world that could make her look like that. She rapidly crossed the room to Watchdog's side.


"What's wrong, where's Judy?"

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Micah had been on his way back to his room from the cafeteria when things got interesting. It wasn't a designated meal time, but his powers sometimes left him craving extra food. Generating the kinds of energies he did, even with the esoteric nature of his abilities, meant a large appetite. So it was no surprise by this point that he made these random trips for more food. At this moment, he was heading back to his room.


Then he heard Ashley curse. Now, this wasn't exactly a one-time thing; she didn't do it often (mostly because the Headmistress looked at her when she did), but it wasn't something he hadn't heard before. But the way she did it, and the choice of words...they reminded him of his cousin, his "big sister". Specifically, they reminded him of her when she was about to have to go wrangle with a monster tornado. So he did the only thing he could: he walked up and, taking a moment to screw his courage to the sticking place, he spoke.


"Um, Ashley, what's wrong? Can I help?"

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Adam had been reading. A lot. One thing he had to be careful of was not to bury his head in books too much. Especially considering he had Lulu around. There was plenty of time for books, girls were different. Especially Lulu. So when he walked past the room and saw his girlfriend, Micah and Ashley standing around a turtle shell, he stopped short, then blinked.


"That's a mighty big turtle shell. What happened?"


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Considering the rep Ashley wanted to go for, her name made sense. Monica had heard of the encounter with the Raven only in passing, she hadn't been sure whether or not it actually had happened. But that was – probably – the confirmation that yes, that had happened. Apparently Monica's response was satisfactory, as Ashley opened the door, somewhat unexpectedly. And then, immediately, things turned a bit sour.


It was pretty clear to Monica what had happened – Ashley didn't seem like the kind of person to lose her temper out of nowhere unless the situation called for it. She stretched her neck slightly to actually look into the common room, expecting some sort of shattered glass or something, but what she saw was a lot less concerning. Probably?


It seemed that Ashley's momentary loss of composure had inadvertedly alerted a few of the other students who were enjoying their day off.  "Well, looks like Danica's been busy…" While Monica didn't know exactly what was going on right now, she did recognize the pattern on the shell. Even after the session that they had as a team, Monica didn't really understand Danica's powers though, so she had no idea if this was something normal or not.


She moved towards the shell relatively casually, looking at the others. This didn't really feel like it'd turn into anything dangerous, after all. "So, uh, what now?"

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Ashley took a breath, then another one. When had her laser pistol appeared in her hand? She carefully hit the safety, then hung it up on her belt, behind her leather jacket. "Okay. Okay." Slowly, she circled the shell, casting mistrustful eyes on it. She dropped down on one knee and peered inside the solid black hole that was the shell's "neck", mindful of black portals to foul destinations. After some consideration, she reached into her belt and came out with a set of goggles - peering through them into the shell didn't seem to produce any results, though. When she spoke her voice was considerably more level than her usual harsh, sneering growl. "This is something you've seen Danica do before?" 

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Lulu stepped into the room, and then proceeded to walk around the circumference of the shell, stopping to reach out and gently rap it with her knuckles. "Well, that's a hell of a thing! Let me have a peek inside right quick" 


The redheaded psychic closed her eyes for several seconds, occasionaly turning her head this way and that way. She then abruptly opened her eyes. "Huh!"  She put her hands on her hips, shook her head and shrugged at Ashley.  "Well, ah don't know where Judy is, but she ain't in there; there ain't nothin' in there! It's like a, what do you call it, a void."


Finally noticing Adam's arrival, she stepped over to his side and put her arm around his waist. "Hey, darlin'. You see this?"

Edited by Heritage
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"All right. Okay." Ashley rocked back on her heels, scrubbing her hand over her eyes for a moment. "Okay, well, they can't have gone far." She took out something off her belt and pressed a few buttons on it; the device (which looked a bit like a garage door opener) made an ominous-sounding blunk noise. "So, out of range, back in time, or in another #($Ing dimension again." Rising smartly to her feet, Ashley took a moment to look at the super-teens to growl, "Well?" If she was going to either keep these from Summers or bring Summers in on it, she had to see if her erstwhile allies had any ideas. 

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Micah looked at the shell, then Ashley, then the shell, then Lulu, then the shell.


"Uh. What if...Lulu, what if you just can't sense through the shell? Like....shells protect stuff, right?"


He seemed hesitant, but was clearly trying to think through this.


"What if you just can't read her mind through the shell? Could...could one of us just stick our head in or something and see if they're in there? It's pretty big. And she just...just summons them. Have any of us actually asked her how her shells work?"

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"This is concerning." Adam said in a massive understatement. He looked over at Lulu, then the rest. "If Lulu can't sense anyone in it, either they're not there, or they're beyond her reach." He scratched his chin.


"It's entirely possible that Judy and Danica simply aren't currently in our universe. I'm not sure what this is about, but if it's a doorway of some sort, it might not be a one way door. Can Danica just enter her shell like this? If she can, I imagine she can get back out, but..."

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Everybody was using all their fancy tricks, while Monica just stood there wondering. Neither Ashley (who seemed to get ever more upset) nor Lulu managed to get any results. The others did have a point though – this was the shell that Danica was carrying around usually, after all. Probably.


Monica walked up to the shell's opening. "It is a turtle shell after all, yeah. " Once she was in front of it, she turned around to address her teammate for just a second. "Come on Micah, don't just talk, act!" Monica had caught some stuff about her teammate's issues with his powers and what they meant for him, but sometimes, a bit of pushing probably was a good idea. She hadn't learned all of her powers by just sitting in a corner crying, after all. (Although a lot of that had been involved).


She knocked on the shell with some force (it could take it, hopefully), before getting onto her knees and trying to move her head into the shell. "Hello? Anybody in there?"

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"Oh Lord, now we're just bein' silly," said Lulu with a sigh. She indicated the room with a sweep of her hand "There's no sign of struggle, Ashley the most paranoid big sister in the world was in the next room, and we have a giant Danica-colored shell smack dab in the middle of the room both she and Judy were just in." She shrugged. "More than likely, Dani used a power we don't know about because we didn't ask, and took her on a little trip." The redhead looked over to Watchdog with a flat expression. "Ah can't imagine any reason she might want to sneak out and stretch her legs."


And with that, Lulu abruptly dropped into a crouch and scuttled inside the shell.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The inside of the shell was very dark, unnaturally so, in fact. The lighting of the room outside should've allowed someone to see at least a little ways into any one of the openings, but instead it was merely a flat matte blackness that Lulu scuttled into. It would've been much more unnerving but for the fact that the moment her trailing foot cleared the edge of the shell, she saw a round wooden door, the sort that might be expected to grace a hobbit hole or other similar fairy-tale dwelling, except that it also had a porch light above it. The door was quite small, enough so that most people would be expected to crawl or at least bend over pretty far to get through. It was currently closed, but there was an equally petite doorbell set in the right-hand frame. 

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Lulu sat back on her haunches, the top of her head grazing the 'ceiling' of the shell, hands on her hips. "Huh." She didn't see any bottles labelled 'Drink Me' nearby, which was mildly disappointing. She could use her sight to see beyond the door, but that seemed rude. Plus who knew how her powers worked in another dimension?


So she acted like the polite Southern girl she was, and rang the doorbell.

Edited by Heritage
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A moment later there was a brief noise, like someone shuffling to the door and looking through the peephole, then the door swung open to reveal a shell-less Danica in t-shirt and shorts. She smiled at the visitor. "Hi Lulu!" she said cheerfully. "I didn't even know you were around today. Is my shell bothering people in the common room? I can move it." The height of the door meant that Danica was on her knees as well, but the room behind her appeared to be much larger and lit by afternoon sun, with the smell of nail polish and oranges wafting gently out. 

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Micah actually winced a bit at Monica telling him to "act instead of just speaking". He spoke, his voice barely more than a mumble. 


"Just tryin' to be polite. Don't want to barge in on a lady."


When Lulu and Monica both entered the opening, Micah gave things a few moments before he followed behind. He found himself crouched rather close to Lulu, though moving himself to one side at least. He coughed and tried not to peer into the room beyond.


"Ah, no, not quite, Danica. Just, we were wonderin' what was goin' on. Ashley was worried about her sister. Um. Are you gals...that is to say...will y'all be a while? I can, uh, come back later. Yeah. Maybe that would be less awkward."


Micah made to start shuffling back out of the strange space he found himself in. 

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Lulu rolled her eyes. "Micah is sort of understatin' things; Ashley is flippin' out and considerin' nuclear options at this point. Maybe Judy could just pop her head out in the interest of world peace?"


The smells wafting out of the 'inner shell' were intriguing, and the redhead found herself craning her neck to try to get a peek inside. "You girls doin' your nails in there?"

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