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Park Time Job


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Saturday, August 3rd, 2019, 9:35 AM

Riverside Park, Near Hamilton Planetarium


Claude dialed back his pace, slowing down from the jog he was at to a more sedate walking speed. Ever since getting his current gig, Doc had drummed into him the importance of about getting a bead on your environment. Especially if you were going to be somewhere for any length of time. Coupled with wanting to get out of Jules' apartment for a bit Claude had chosen to take a morning run through the local park. His attire of jogging shorts and a simple white t-shirt kept him comfortably cool, while his headphones pumped out tunes to run to.


The Bostonian had to admit it was a decent park, but the rookie guardian preferred unspoiled nature than carefully tended and shaped artificial constraints of man-made natural engineering. Still, the statues were nice and the Sentry Statue was an iconic landmark, even in the future. What wasn't nice was the oddly prevalent minor temporal anomalies he had ran into during his circuit of the park. The one nearby marked the third he had found today, this one in a flower bed that was doing an excellent job of confusing the local bee population.


On their own, these minor anomalies didn't do much. They might make it feel like earlier in the day, temperature wise or slow down time so the plants matured slower. What made them truly dangerous is that they tended to move about and were attracted to each other, and when you got enough together that's when time storms started to form. Claude had once queued up temporal meteorology with the repository and it was like trying to piece together the remains of a taco warping through a tesseract: messy and disturbing.


But when caught before then like now, they were easily dispersed. Stopping in front of the flowers, he knelt down as to tie his shoe and brought out his Isochronon. A button press later, the bees were now appeased being able to find their target. Mischief managed, he thought. A wry grin graced his features at the mental turn of phrase as Claude discretely pocked the Isochronon, went through the motions of checking his laces, and then stood back up. 

Edited by Semi-Autogyro
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"It's Fulcrum!"


Soon enough, a chorus of young voices joined the first. "Fulcrum! Fulcrum! Fulcrum!"


The ruckus erupted on the western tip of the park. On this otherwise quiet morning, a mob of young children had descended on the giant heroine. They were crowding around her, peppering her with questions, and a few "flew" in orbit around the group. Amused parents and guardians began gathering at the scene.


A few moments earlier, the heroine had been leaning against a tree near the sidewalk and intently watching a shop across the street. She wasn't kitted out though. On the contrary, she looked rather dapper in dark slacks, dress shoes, a white button up, and a powder blue vest. Hanging from a branch was a canvas shopping bag. The sudden attention seemed to catch her off guard.


Quickly enough though her surprise turned to delight. A few moments after that she was in "improvised public relations mode". Which meant that she was a hovering jungle gym and answering the sorts of questions only children had the honesty to ask. Kids were hanging from her outstretched arms and one was swinging on her six-foot braid. For all the squealing attention, Fulcrum seemed to be enjoying herself, or a least had a great deal of tact.


Still though she kept an eye on the shop, a record store, across the street.

Edited by Dariusprime
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Selena had pulled herself out of bed and into a pair jeans and a tank top, tossing her costume into the bottom of her backpack and then burying it under her tablet and a couple graphic novels, the teen had slipped out of her room to go enjoy a lazy Saturday in the park.  'Gotta enjoy this weather while it lasts.  Winter up here is just miserable,' she thought to herself, enjoying a quick flight towards Riverside Park.


After finding a quiet place to set down she emerged from the group of trees not terribly far from the impromptu fan meet and greet around Fulcrum.  Not wanting to pass up the opportunity she joined the group, eventually making her way close enough to offer a hand to the giantess.  "I just wanted to take a chance to tell you that I loved Achemedia back in the day.  Your magazine had probably one of the best selections of up and coming genre fiction, not to mention the graphic novels," she practically gushed.

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By the time he had gotten to the western side of the park Claude was convinced something or someone had caused the anomalies, as the last one he found was in the remains of a stone bench with some hazard cones crossed with police tape blocking it off. Apparently, Doctor Metropolis hadn't came by yet to fix the incidental damage. Looking around he saw the roving packs of children curiously absent and interested at something at the edge of the park. 'Well, they're not looking in my direction so, no time like the present.' Claude thought as he ducked under the tape. 


He was tempted to scry the past to see what caused it, but this one could probably be figured out with a quick search on his smartphone. Claude brought out his isochronon again, nullifying the small anomaly moments later. Standing back up, he now heard the small cries of "Fulcrum! Fulcrum! Fulcrum!". Instantly he froze like a deer in the headlights, as he had slid the device back into the pocket of his shorts.  Years of working on the other side of the fence equating Fulcrums' name with same gravitas as a natural disaster: you survived it, If you were lucky. Chances were that you'd be out of house and home when Ms. Kool-Aid or any of the other juice crew she ran with raided your base of operations. 


Fighting the rising internal panic while trying to be subtle and not draw attention himself, Claude quickly stepped over the tape again and walked away like he was supposed to be there. Did I make eye contact with her earlier? Okay, calm down, take a deep breath, and get out of the park as nonchalantly as possible. 

Edited by Semi-Autogyro
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Oh, yes, Claude did make eye contact earlier. At least it felt that way. Fulcrum had glanced his general direction while chatting, and while he was a distance away, he could have shown she looked him right in the eyes. But soon enough she turned her attention back to pressing matters.


"...softball too! I grew up playing and even played in college! You don't have to my size to be good. Keep playing and have fun!" The little girl sitting in the crook of her elbow grinned.


Closing on Fulcrum took a bit of time. The kids, though easily distracted, seemed intent on her. Eventually though, enough peeled off to play Capes and Crooks or were scooped up by parents that Selena was able to make her move. Shifting the smiling little girl from elbow to shoulder, Mona shook Selena's hand firmly.


"Thank you! That means so much to me. I'm always happy to meet a fan! The whole enterprise is really a labor of love." At which point her shoulder passenger decided to wrap her arms around Fulcrum's neck and slide down her back. The choke hold didn't seem to phase Fulcrum. "A dear friend of mine recommended putting out a magazine. I still have no idea how she put together such a network of authors. What in particular interested you?"


Shaking her head, she said, "Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. Excuse me a moment please?" At which point the passengers on her left arm were swung back-and-forth before being deposited in parental arms. Once the numbers (and the volume) were diminished, she glanced toward a shop across the street and a cordoned-off area to Selena's far left. Then she turned back to Selena. "I'm Mona. What is your name?"

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"Selena, it's an honor," she answered, shaking the heroine's hand.  "I was a fan of the Weird West stuff by Vicky Knight.  Zombie outbreaks, steampunk inventors, demons, angels, cowboys, and wizards, it all added up to one heck of a setting.  The occasional fan service pages she worked in were a nice touch.  I actually just got the first omnibus edition, would you mind signing it?"


Digging the book from her bag, she thought she spied a boy about her age slip out from under crime scene tape.  A boy who's profile niggled at the back of her mind, 'Where have I seen him before?  And what was he doing behind the police tape?'

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Okay Claude you have this. Just tall, dark, and punchy with plenty of witnesses. Just keep your head down...then his phone started ringing, the ringtone busting out the familiar intro to the king of pops' Smooth Criminal. Dammit Jules, are you trying to get me killed?!  He internally face-palmed while digging his cell out of his pocket, heart going a mile a minute in his chest.


"Whaddya need, sis?" he answered as he realized the only way out of the park was past the Persian pugilist and her fans. Or look really suspicious and walk in the complete opposite direction. "Bro. Need you to pick up the groceries. I'm texting you the list," his normally happy sisters' voice began demonic edge, "and if I wake up with all my pop-tarts having mysteriously disappeared again...there will be consequences." The line went dead. 


"Oh great, just what I freakin' needed." Clause groused to no one in particular as he returned his phone to his pocket and walked toward the exit. "Not like I'll run into more of the spandex crowd buyin' groceries."  

Edited by Semi-Autogyro
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"The honor is mine. I'd be more than happy to sign it!" Fulcrum sifted through her shopping bag as she spoke. "I loved that setting too! Just between us, she may be revisiting the setting. A working title I heard was Wheelguns West. Remember the cowgirl with the six-foot revolver rifle?" She nodded as she turned back with a pen.


A business card passed to Selena for the omnibus. The card gave the contact information for the Freedom City Artists Cooperative. In return Fulcrum gladly signed the inside cover, Dear Selena, Keep the West Wild and Weird! All the best, Mona Teymourian.


"If you're interested, I can ask Vicky to sign it too. She's off doing her own thing, but we can make arrangements." All the while she'd glance toward the Suspicious Character walking nonchalantly by. Just as she was about to speak again, she stopped momentarily. This happened to coincide with Gnomon, who had just passed them, answering his phone.


She tapped the pen on the book's cover in thought. "Excuse me a moment please. Clock time," she directed to Selena.


As Claude groused, Mona looked over her shoulder, two kids still clinging to her back. "As a sister I recommend appeasement with chocolate-frosted 'tarts. With No Entry signs." Her tone was friendly, helpful even. And definitely directed at him.


There was no way she could have heard that conversation. Right?

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Selena had to fight her urge to jump for joy when Mona agreed to sign the book.  "So glad I went dead tree format instead of digital," she said quietly accepting her book back gingerly.  "I'll be honest, the borderline harem she had with her warlock girlfriend and their runebinder boyfriend always made for excellent fan service.  And if she's really going to do another series, shut up and take my Won!"

A smile split the girl's face, "I would be greatly in your debt if that could be arranged."


As Mona shifted her attention to the younger teen she looked him up and down real quick.  'Not bad to look at, an easy seven out of ten,' she thought before suddenly it clicked.  "Didn't I see you at Claremont last month?"

Edited by Azuth65
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Claude stopped at being addressed, mid grumbling rant that had to Mona's ears covered common land law, spoils of war, and possession being nine-tenths ownership. Then the boy realized with a wince that he was within arms reach of the the amazoness and the scary girl who had a regrettably good memory. Oh and the kids...who were probably just bystanders. The blood drained from his face as the teen tried to articulate a response. "واقعاً؟ من فهمیدم که شما نسخه محدود عطر و طعم دلپذیر ایرانی را توصیه می کنید." (Persian Translation: "Really? I figured you'd recommend the limited edition Persian delight flavor.") 


The words in pitch-perfect Persian fell out of the wiry teens mouth, and if it was possible he looked chagrined and angry at himself at the same time. Changry. He turned his attention back to younger woman, gaze flicking to her shirt and then back to her face. "Chantaje primero, una elección audaz." (Spanish Translation: "Blackmail first, a bold choice.") Claude face palmed at that, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.


"Me and my frickin' mouth. Sorry about dat. Okay, what can I do for you ladies on this fine morning? I'm Claude, and I'd like to stop mentally referring to you as Miss Jolly Arabian Giantess and her sidekick Cartel Extortion Scheme Gal." the last was said with a Bostonian drawl and self deprecating smile as he seemed resigned to stay in the hole he had dug for himself. Fulcrum noted that Claude had a hand in one of his pockets and Gauss could sense a odd amalgamation of metals there (including some non-terrestrial ones) as well. Still, he had recouped very well and was holding himself with the bearing of a veteran negotiator. 

Edited by Semi-Autogyro
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Mona raised an eyebrow, "شکلات باعث می شود جهان به چرخش درآید." (Persian translation: "Chocolate makes the world spin.")


Such an odd young man. At first glance a fairly typical teenager, but the more she listened the more mature he seemed. In fact far more mature than his age would suggest. The way he comported himself actually made her a touch leery, especially considering his hand was in his pocket. She'd seen his type before, and focused on him as a whole lest that smile was just a diversion. Outwardly Mona was still, looked him over skeptically, and kept her eyes glued to him.


That's when Selena's comment clicked. Mona glanced at Selena's shirt, up to her face, and over to Claude. Realization dawned. "Ah! I'm Mona. A pleasure. I think I know what is going on here."


With surprising dexterity, she plucked the two stragglers from her back. They were gently deposited with their parents, who were chatting on a nearby bench. "Great to meet you all. Unfortunately, I must be on my way. I hope you have a wonderful day! And Shawna," she added, offering a low five to the young girl, "keep practicing that swing and have fun!"


After the return high five, Mona stepped back over to the group and rubbed her hands. "Either of you thirsty? Hungry? I know a great outdoor cafe down the way. My treat." Obviously, she had an ulterior motive, but darn if she wasn't genuine.



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Selena quirked an eyebrow as Claude switched effortlessly from, she assumed, Persian to Spanish to Boston accented English.  "No, Blackmail would be something about asking questions about you to Summers," she replied in Spanish, "So, if I was going for blackmail I'd have gone with 'Would you care to share what you're doing with a pile of non-terrestrial metal in your pocket or do I ask the school's headmistress?'."


"Well, I'd have kept that one to myself," Selena muttered in English.  Slipping her book into her bag and getting it back over her shoulder she responded to Mona, "I could put down a coke."

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The young Bostonians' eyes alight with pure mischief. "Chica, sé que mi trasero se ve fuera de este mundo con estos pantalones cortos, pero podrías ser un poco menos obvio al medirme como un trozo de carne." (Spanish Translation: "Girl, I know my ass looks outta this world in these shorts, but you could be a little bit less obvious about sizing me up like a slab of beef.") He gave his fellow teen a wry grin."I'm flattered, really. But I'm not sure that 'She of the Basilisk Stare' would be interested in your personal scoring metrics," he concluded in English. 


Claude looked happy for the change in venue as he nodded affirmation to Mona. "Wicked. I can never say no to a free meal. Especially when it comes with the company of a pair of lovely ladies." The Bostonians' body language mellowed out as the banter went on, eventually taking his hand out of his pocket so they were visible to both heroines. "Lead on, MacDuff." He gestured theatrically onward. 

Edited by Semi-Autogyro
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Mona's smile turned into a grin. First, the banter in Spanish was entertaining, even if the only words she understood were chica and Summers. Credit to the Espadas for the former. Secondly, Summers. Now that was a name she knew. Last she heard Old Man Summers had finally taken a much deserved retirement. She idly wondered what the new Summers was like.


Once Claude finished speaking, Mona glanced over to Selena, her tone flat. "Boys."


Still off she strode after retrieving her bag. As she walked, slowly at that, she chatted to Selena, "Sorry to draw you into this. I'm always on the clock. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off."


As they exited the park, her attention drifted to the record shop. On cue a pair of boys, maybe 13, hurried out of the shop. If their posture wasn't suspicious enough, their clothes were much too heavy for summer. Half away across the street they made eye contact. They didn't...so much as freeze as tense up, bug eyed, and march back toward the shop while pulling out CDs and records from their clothes.


"The only people afraid, or uncomfortable, around me are those with guilty consciences."

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"Indeed," Selena replied with a nod in an equally flat tone, "Still, I've shared classes with worse."  Looking back at the boy she debated just using her powers and ripping the device from his person but it seemed just a bit gouache.  Especially with as many civilians around as there currently were.  Switching back to Spanish she said to Claude, "Ew, sweet merciful Buddha no.  Just, no.  The only thing in your pants I'm interested in is the alien metal I can sense."


The magnetokinetic was impressed, if unsurprised, at the would be shoplifters turning back to return their ill-gotten gains once spotting one of the more famous heroes in Freedom's history.  As they walked she replied quietly, "Well, you know where I finished high school so yeah, I get it.  Heck, I was in Seoul on a trip with one of my classmates, in my case checking out some colleges to appease my father, we still ended up having to 'clock in'.  Fun fact, skies over Seoul are almost scary clear compared to here."

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Claude sighed dramatically at Selena's response and was quiet until the shoplifters had be scared straight. "죄송 합니다만 나는 쇼를 위해 그것을 꺼내서 단지 당신의 호기심을 만족 시키라고 말하는 유형이 아닙니다. 게다가, 당신은 여전히 나에게 아직 당신의 이름을 말하지 않았고 나는 현재 내 반바지에있는 비밀의 진실에 대해 낯선 사람을 믿지 않을 것입니다." (Korean Translation: "Sorry, but no. I'm not the type to whip it out for show and tell just to satisfy your curiosity. Besides, you still haven't told me your name yet and I'm not about to trust a stranger about truth of the mystery that's currently in my shorts.")


He switched back to English afterwards, before addressing Mona. "I apologize if I offend you with this; but that's untrue. Don't get me wrong, it's still right for the most part. However there probably are people who see you as a living reminder of the Terminus Invasion, or ones who realize you could pretty much do whatever you want and there would be few people to stop you. Sure, yeah, I have a history that makes me wary of the cape and cowl scene." he jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the two teens who were coming back out of the store followed by the bemused proprietor. "But those schmucks are peer pressure minor league crap. Same thing would have happened with one of the boys in blue out front. Guilt is only a small portion." 

Edited by Semi-Autogyro
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Mona smirked at their banter and continued walking. To Selena's factoid, Mona looked her way, "Whatever do you mean? I'm almost frightened to ask. Oh, and congratulations surviving high school. Really."


True to her word, a small cafe trimmed with ivy and wrought iron emerged from the trees and shops bordering the park. Mona pressed onward after crossing the street. She hummed at Claude's analysis, her face looking pleased, appreciative even. "I like you."


As the group passed the first tables, Mona waved across the cafe to a thin man with dreadlocks. He smiled, waved back, and motioned to the outside area. The umbrella-topped table was in an odd spot. The outside seating area was on a corner, vaguely triangular, and this table was hemmed in on three sides by walls and bushes. The narrow area also sat a fair distance from the next nearest table. Mona pulled out chairs before circling the table. After the two settled, Mona sat down, or least appeared to, but was noticeably hovering just over the chair.


"We can talk freely here. An interesting physical phenomenon this spot. The only way to clearly hear sounds into or out of this spot is from the roof." She pointed up the three story brick building. And she was right. As soon as they passed into the small space, the sounds of clinking flatware and conversation faded into the background.


Putting her bag down, she addressed Claude, "You are correct. What are the other portions then?"

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"Thanks, it certainly had its ups and downs," she said to Mona.


Taking her seat, she hung her backpack across the back of the chair.  Taking the menu Selena took the opportunity, while looking over the options, to collect her thoughts and after a minute sighed.  "You're right.  I've been being, frankly, a bitch," Selena started, "And I owe you an apology, even if you immediately assumed my asking if I saw you at Claremont was supposed to be a blackmail attempt.  So, I'd like to try this again, my name is Selena."

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Claude barked out a quiet laugh at Selena. "Hey, no harm no foul. I'm one of those suspicious types, I get it. Nice ta meetcha." The teen spent a bit of time glancing over the menu before apparently coming to a decision. 


"Thanks a brunch, Mona." the young Bostonian shot the tall woman a boyish grin at his own wordplay. "Most people don't commit crime out of malice. It's usually a slippery slope of justification, poor decisions, or straight up bad luck and before you know it you're in the back of a paddy wagon wondering how you got there."  He took a sip from his glass of water. "Break it down into the ones who feel guilt because they know better or the other who has some sort of fear about the situation."  


Claude leaned back in his chair. "But, eh. I'm sure the both of you have questions. I'll try and answer, but there are some things I can't or won't tell you." 

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Now that the bickering pair were civil, and she had an idea of their conversation, Mona addressed Selena, "'Bitch' is really a state of mind, and should be regarded as an honorific. Even if hurled as it insult. Reclaim your inner bitch." Her smile was a big, lopsided grin.


Momentarily, the thin man approached their table. He was dressed in an apron, but otherwise could be mistaken for a customer. An order pad seemed to materialize in his hand as he stopped.


"Duncan! How are May and the kids?" came Mona's introduction.


Duncan scratched his long sideburns, looking bashful. "May's having twins in December."


"Good for you!" Mona was about to say more, but Duncan looked hurried. The morning rush was still ongoing. Even if the first wave had cleared out. "Everything on my ticket, Duncan. I'll have my usual and a double of Black Death coffee please."


Once the orders were taken, Duncan smiled and disappeared into the cafe.


Mona tapped the table, looking pensive, before glancing at Selena. Finally, she addressed Claude, "Okay, my official question is what were you doing inside the taped area? I doubt it's anything nefarious now, but I am curious."

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"Yeah, the guys behind one of my favorite abridged series said a similar thing, not sure how comfortable I am being compared to their version of Asuna but whatever," Selena said returning the grin.


When the waiter arrived she waited as he and Mona made their small talk before passing over her menu, "Can I get a coke and a BLT on wheat?"


Once the three were alone once again the magnetokinetic sat back in her chair, her mind circling back to the metal device in Claude's pocket.  'Okay, so he's not going to share many details but damn if I'm not curious where the non-earthly metal came from,' she mentally mused.

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"I'll have the turkey avocado wrap. Dressing on the side if you can, thanks." Claude said to Duncan as he passed the man the now extraneous menu. 


The young Bostonian waited until he was sure everyone else was out of earshot to answer the Persian powerhouses' query. "I was plannin' on just goin' on a run this mornin'. Then I spotted somethin' that made me have to be 'on call' as it were." He paused, seemingly to think about how to word things correctly. "I'm not a solo contractor like most of the people in our field, I have a chain of command to follow along with specific job responsibilities." He gave the pair a crooked smirk, reveling in their expressions that he was not just another jumped up punk with abilities. He loved subverting expectations. 


"Anyways, I kept on findin' these things all over the park. So I was dealin' with them on the down low, until I ran into that one by the bench." He gave a helpless shrug. "Didn't spot you until I was done. I shoulda been better about checkin' my surroundings, but I've been away from FC long enough that I got used to the minimal spandex presence when out an about." All the while he was talking he was fiddling with the extra napkin from the extra seat, glancing down from time to time to survey his progress at whatever he was doing with it. "Selena, I have some educated guesses as to what tipped you off about my tech, but it does have some exotic components that likely got your attention. Especially with me usin' it recently to counteract the things I was findin' at the park."


Claude plonked down an origami flower made from the napkin in the spare settings' empty wineglass.  "Sorry, I would tell you both more, but orders are orders." He might be able to tell Mona about his job since she was on the Freedom League Auxiliary roster at this point in time, but Selena was a relative unknown to him and he didn't want to use the repository to find that information out.

Edited by Semi-Autogyro
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Mona leaned back and raised an eyebrow as Claude spoke. Her eyes were watching him, ignoring the hand movement, and focusing on his overall body language. A spectrum of skepticism, disbelief, and curiosity crossed her features. When he finished, the paragon nodded and made a waving gesture over the table.


"Fair enough, Claude. Fair enough. I give you the benefit of the doubt." She glanced at Selena, then back. "Are these 'things' dangerous or potentially so?"


The giantess sounded all the willing to let the time traveler keep his secrets. Though judging from her expression, she was still curious. Particularly from a safety perspective.


She turned to the magnetokinetic, "What do you think, Selena?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Selena leaned back in her chair, listening to Claude's explanation to of what he was doing in the park and why he was unable, or at least extremely unwilling, to share anything more than the most cursory details.  She was also pretty impressed by the origami work, even as he seemed to be barely paying attention to what he was doing.  Idly she pulled a Canadian quarter from her pocket and rolled it across her knuckles.  "I'm willing to let it drop.  Don't get me wrong, the non-terrestrial bits of the device you're carrying are probably going to have me rummaging through the school's library until move-in day at college but if you can't say, you can't say."

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Claude laughed and took a drink from his water. "Psitanium, Daka Crystals, Eridium, Gromril, definitely the Quintessence are probably the ones' pingin' your interest. I can tell you what's in it just fine, but how I'm using it  and where they came from is the issue." the boy from Boston shrugged. "I was kinda in a pinch when I made it, so that's why it's sounds a bit made up of kitbashed parts."


"As for your question Mona, no what I was lookin' at ain't dangerous. Just oddly concentrated compared to normal, but that was probably due to side effects from whatever fight damaged that bench. They might be an issue if the conditions were right and they were left alone, but after we finish up here I'll scour the park before gettin' my sisters' groceries done."  His fingers drummed idly on the table.


Claude scooted his chair forward and looked between the pair. "I do have a question for you ladies. I've been pretty much ordered to go to Claremont by my boss. What am I exactly looking at doing there?"

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