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Claremont, Freedom City
September 2, 2019

11:00 AM

 

Mia sighed to herself as they ascended the stairs up to her new dorm. Most kids got something like a game console for their birthdays, instead she got the gift of boarding school. Which, in her opinion (which she respected very much), was rather stupid when both parents were still living in the city but somehow both her mom and dad had agreed that it would be “good for her” to live away from home. How, exactly, it would be good for her escaped her at the moment, but she was sure her parents could come up with some post-hoc justification.

 

Her grandfather, Ahmed Mustafic, huffed and puffed behind her, carrying several boxes as he climbed the stairs. He was shorter than average, only standing 5’07”, with black hair and a thick broom like mustache. Considering how much darker he was than her, the only real sign that they were related, in her opinion, was their shared grey eyes. She turned to him, frowning.

 

“You know, babo, you didn’t have to do this. I could have just teleported,” she said. “I have like… a dimensional storage thing, too.”

 

Ahmed waved his free hand. “Nonsense!” he said, the faint traces of a Bosniak accent still clinging on despite decades in the USA. “I wanted to be here for you for your first day, sweetbean. At least to see you off, yes?”

 

Mia sighed, and smiled. “I love you, babo.”

 

“Good!” Ahmed responded. “That’s all I need.”

 

They continued their climb until they made it to the third floor. They passed through the halls until they finally made it to room 302. Mia set down her guitar case and the box she was carrying, and knocked on the door.

 

“Anyone home? I’m… This is the room I was assigned to. I’m here with my granddad, he’s helping me move in.”

 

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"Come in, it's open!" came the quick reply from inside. The door swung open easily, revealing a very normal-looking dorm room. There were two beds, each half-lofted so that a dresser could be shoved underneath them, and two desks side by side against the wall with the window. The opposite wall had two small closets. One of each of these features was clean and bare, obviously waiting for Mia. The other desk had a laptop, a shelf full of books and a cheerful clutter of school supplies, while the other bed had... a giant turtle? 

 

"Hi!" said the figure on the bed, awkwardly sitting up. She was a girl on closer inspection, around Mia's own age and on the short side of normal, but she had faintly greenish skin and a giant shell covering her body from shoulders to upper thighs. It was a striking thing, black with zigzag slashes of bright yellow through it, and it looked too organic to be some kind of toy or fashion statement. "I'm Danica! The RA said you'd be coming today! Did you have a good trip? Do you need help with your stuff?" 

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Ahmed blinked at Danica, then looked over to Mia, who was entirely nonchalant. The teenage girl smiled. “Good to meet you, Danica. I’m Mia Mustafic-Markov, and this is my grand-dad, Ahmed Mustafic. I'm good, though, don't need to trouble yourself.” Mia herself wasn’t as striking as Danica, but she did stand out. Standing 6’01” and incredibly skinny, Mia was dressed in a long Wednesday 13 t-shirt that drooped down to her mid-thighs, along with a pair of black leggings that were starting to go thread-bare and a pair of fading black and white high-tops. Her pale skin was dappled with freckles.

 

Ahmed waved. “Uh, hello. Just here to help,” he said. “You want me to move stuff inside?”

 

Mia picked up her stuff, and started moving it inside. “I’m probably good, honestly. I can handle stuff myself.”

 

Ahmed nodded, and then blinked. He dipped into his right pocket and fished out an inhaler. “I saw you left this in the car! You almost forgot it.”

 

Mia immediately turned red. “Babo!” Mia cried, snatching the inhaler and stuffing it into one of her bags. “Didn’t need’ta do that so publicly…” she said.

 

Ahmed stared. “I don’t… I don’t think anyone here is going to judge you for asthma

Edited by Shofet

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"We are mostly pretty non-judgy," Danica agreed. "Lots of people have stuff they need a little help dealing with." She gestured behind the door to where a Segway decorated with purple and green ribbons was standing ready for use. A small blue handicap placard was mounted to the front center. "I use that to get around because I can't walk at normal person speed and I don't want to miss all my classes. Plenty of the other kids have issues too, but telling you about them would be kind of rude before you've even met them. Have you met anybody?" she asked immediately, interrupting her own thought. "I know you weren't here for orientation, right?" 

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Mia rubbed the back of her neck. “Haven’t met anyone yet, no… Just ah… My mom got into this thing where she had to fight like, one of her old super-team buddies and like my weird half-sister I didn’t know I had and that just sort of threw everything outta whack.” She shrugged. “I woulda moved in yesterday but it was my birthday, so I got one extra day of freedom,” she said.

 

“Alright,” Ahmed announced, forcing an entry into the conversation. “I am going to have to go. Grigori is going to be annoyed if I am not back to help with the deli.” He walked over, and pulled Mia into a bear-hug, before kissing her on the cheek and messing up her hair. “I expect a call tonight on how your first day went.”

 

Mia blushed, and nodded. “Alright, babo…” She watched him go, and then looked to Danica again. “So… Yeah. Wasn’t here for orientation because of mom stuff.”

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"It was your birthday?" Danica obviously picked this tidbit as the most important part of everything Mia had disclosed. "Happy birthday!" She grinned. "You're lucky, my parents have never let me stay home from school on my birthday. Are you okay with the way the room is set up?" she asked, shifting topics abruptly once more. "I just left it the way we had it last year, but if you want to do something different we can. I just can't really do a top bunk thing." She tapped her shell with cheerful resignation, her fingernails making a sharp tak-tak sound. "Have you got your class schedule yet?" 

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“Yeah, my mom brought me out and got me a t--” she blinked as the thought changed. “Uh, yeah, I don’t really have a problem with the room, never been on a top bunk bef--” she paused, and then stuck her tongue in her cheek. “No, I haven’t got it yet. Woke up late today, so I was kinda in a rush.”

 

She looked Danica over for a moment. “…Just, uh, lemme know where I need to go and I can teleport down and pick it up.”

 

She put a little extra emphasis on the whole “teleport” thing. It was the first time she really got to brag about it, and hey, maybe it would impress this girl. Sure, this was a super school but what was as cool as being able to teleport anywhere you wanted on Earth? Even using it for mundane stuff had to win her some brownie points, right?

 

“Or, you know, could make my own,” she said, before the air around her sparkled and shimmered, most intensely around her hand, before the light faded and a tiny wooden Danica statue sat in the palm of her hand.

 

“Eh? Eh?”

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"Ooh, it's pretty!" Danica obligingly applauded the little show, grinning as she reached out to get a better look at the statue without moving from the bed. Teleportation was a fairly common power, though it would be mean to say that to Mia, but creative powers were fun and exciting. "How do you do it?" she asked. "I mean, do you know where your powers come from?" She gestured to the laptop on the desk. "I think they should have a schedule for you in your email, you can use my computer if you don't have one, or you can go to the lab downstairs. There''s a printer down there too, if you want a paper copy, but there'll probably be one in your welcome packet anyway."

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Mia handed over the statue. “That’s permanent, by the way. Like it’s here forever. It’s a real thing.”

 

When she was asked about her powers, a big smile spread over her face. “So, I’m basically exuding this like… Field of energy, right? All the time. And uh, so like I can rearrange particles and like protons and neutrons to create whatever I want. With simpler stuff like really basic atoms like hydrogen it’s more like a matter of using them as the building blocks to create whatever I want. As long it doesn’t have a soul, I guess. Can’t create living things. I’ve tried but it’s never pretty. And I can also do stuff like invert the charge of an atom to create anti-matter but that would create a huge explosion and I’d probably go to jail. Get expelled at least.”

 

Then, her thoughts turned to the school schedule. “No, I got a laptop in my bag and…” she went to look for her pockets, when she remembered she didn’t have them. She slapped her forehead, and then there were a few sparkles as she seemingly stuck her hand into the ether and pulled out a beat-up looking smart-phone.

 

“I got email on my phone,” she said. “Oh, yeah, and I have like this… other dimension I store stuff in.”

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"That's cool, I have one of those too!" Danica enthused. "It's in my shell, and it's actually my bedroom, and I can invite other people in if I want, but sometimes I just like to go in there to be alone. Plus it means I don't have to carry a backpack around, which is good because it would be really difficult to get one over top the shell." The description of Mia's powers had pretty much gone over Danica's head, but it sounded like science instead of magic or theology, so it was pretty unlikely that there would be any weird interactions with her own abilities.  She turned over the little statue in her hands. "You're really good at this," she observed. "It looks like me and everything. Can I keep it?"

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Mia blew a raspberry. “Of course you can keep it! Would be real weird if I kept a statue of my roomie just for myself. Consider it a… ‘Sorry, you gotta put up with me for two years!’ gift,” she said with a grin.

 

She set her guitar down on her bed, and started to unpack her bags. She set a cheap looking lap-top on her desk, along with a metal water bottle and a few books in a neat stack. She flipped her laptop open, and then punched in a PIN to show a desktop with an anime wallpaper that consisted of a bunch of effete looking boys all lounging around on a step and posing. Mia blinked, and then waved around her mouse, causing the wallpaper to change to a picture of Sarajevo.

 

“So,” she said, pretending that the first wallpaper wasn’t even a thing. “What are the other girls on this floor like? They’re not the worst, are they? Because I don’t have time for any drama stuff,” she said.

 

She was lying, of course. She was often the cause of drama stuff.

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"All the girls here are really nice," Danica assured her, leaning over and setting the statue on her edge of the windowsill. "I mean, Ashley can be hard to deal with sometimes, but you have to cut her some slack because she comes from one of those alternate dimensions where everything is terrible and destroyed, so she spends all her time being hypervigilant and taking care of her younger sister. And Judy, the sister, she's kind of naive and sheltered, but she's super nice. Plus I think Ashley was supposed to graduate last year but she didn't have enough credits, with the whole everything being destroyed thing." Danica shrugged, her entire shell shifting a little with the motion. "So she's got reasons to be pissed off at the world, I guess. And there's some new girls I don't really know yet, but they seem okay, and you'll like Lulu and Monica and all them." 

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Mia waved her hand in a inoffensively dismissive way. “Eh, I get it. We all got baggage,” she said, referring to Ashley. She looked around conspiratorially, and then lowered her voice. “Don’t tell anyone, but my mom used to be a supervillain called Revolt.” She lowered her voice even more. “She punched Lady Liberty in the face in the 90s.”

 

She didn’t actually look all that bothered by it. In fact, Mia almost looked a little bit proud. Then, her face shifted. “But seriously. Don’t tell anyone. Only telling you because you’re my roommate and I feel like it’ll come out at some point because I’m gonna be calling my mom a lot. I don’t wanna deal with the problems people thinking they know me or my mom because of something that happened like a bajillion years ago.”

 

She felt she was taking a risk in telling anyone, but on the other hand, maybe it could earn her some cool cred? Everyone liked someone with a secret, especially an edgy one like this one. Maybe the edgy rebel aura from her mom would rub off on her.

 

Probably should have gotten to know Danica better before telling her this, but like she said. It was going to come out eventually, right?

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"Oh yeah, I remember her," Danica said after a moment's thought. "She was around when I was really little, I think they did a comic book or a coloring book or something with her team fighting the Freedom League. I was really into superheroes when I was little," she admitted with a cheerful lack of shame. "That was way before I got sent to superhero school, even. So is your mom a good guy now? Does she have a different code name and a super-secret identity? Don't worry, I'm not going to tell anybody," she added hastily. "Your secret is safe with me. Hey, do you know Fast Forward and Hologram?"

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Mia stopped for a moment, and considered what Danica just said to her. How could she have been around when her mom was active? Then, she remembered she was at a meta-human school, and there were probably a whole bunch of answers. Time travel. Alternate dimensions. She could even have been cryogenically frozen! There were a lot of possibilities. Now only to find a way to ask which one.

 

“Yeah, my mom’s Corona now. Total good guy. And uh… I don’t know Hologram and Fast-Forward personally, but my mom… She’s on a first name basis with them! They’re friends. Even fought bad guys together. Like that half-sister I mentioned,” she said.

 

“I’m gonna meet’em eventually, probably,” she said. She rubbed the back of her neck. “So… Uh… How were you around when my mom was a villain? You from another dimension or a time traveller or… what? I’m sorry if I’m being rude. Not trying to be rude.”

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"No, it's okay," Danica assured her, though she looked a little uncomfortable for the first time in the conversation. "I'm just a lot older than I look. I got my powers because I was a gift to my parents from an elemental tortoise spirit who wanted to manifest in the physical world. So I have a cool shell, and I'm really hard to hurt, and a couple other things, but I also age twice as slowly as normal kids. I was born in 1986, but my body is only like sixteen and a half right now." She shrugged, the motion rolling her shell up and down on her shoulders. "This is my second sophomore year, they have me do all my classes twice because it's less weird that way than if I keep being little while everybody else grows up." 

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Mia didn't know what the proper response was to that. She didn't think any less of Danica for it, but Mia definitely knew that she did not want to spend any more time as a teenager than she already was.

 

"Huh," she said. "Bet your grades're pretty good, then. Mine... Aren't. I mean historically. I don't have any grades yet. Here. Can't see the future either."

 

She stopped to consider her last statement.

 

"Although... Maybe someday," she said, puzzling it over. 

 

Turning her attention back to Danica, she smiled. "Hey, maybe you can introduce me to some of our floormates. Might like me more if you're the one doing the talking. You seem like the sorta person people like easy," she said. "That, and you know. You already know them."

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As it happened, there were already people on the way to see Danica - as they found out not long after stepping out into the hallway together. "Hey Danica!" said Judy cheerfully, giving her friend a big hug that showed she was just as warm as a heated rock, as usual. "Ah made something for you - who's your friend?" She handed Danica a hat with a familiar coloration - with its green face and black and gold shell, the crocheted tortoise hat wasn't a bad match for Danica's own coloration. Judy was about five six and pretty, with big dark eyes and long black hair, and a gold cross around her neck that looked pretty against her tan skin. She wore a shiny dark ring on her finger, a story that Danica had heard all about already. 

 

Behind Judy, a stocky, dark-haired girl scowled at Mia with a face that looked like it had seen a whole lot for eighteen. Crossing her arms over her chest, she studied the new girl skeptically over the top of her dark sunglasses. 

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"Judy!" Danica returned the hug just as enthusiastically, then pulled on the tortoise hat. "I love it, it's perfect!" The overall effect was ridiculously cute as Danica turned to introduce her new roommate. "Guys, this is Mia, my new roommate! She just got here, but she's going to get her class schedule and all her books so she doesn't fall behind any. She's a teleporter, and she can make things! Mia, this is Judy and her sister Ashley. I was telling you about them. Judy learned how to crochet this summer and she's been making all kinds of cool stuff." 

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Mia smiled awkwardly at the two, waving. She could see that she was probably going to be the tallest girl this semester. Why couldn’t there be any really tall girls? Oh, well, she supposed this Ashley girl was kinda tall. Not really. Mia still had like, half a foot on her. And she was giving her the stink-eye. Couldn’t have that.

 

Mia squared herself up a bit, undoing the general slouch she did and standing at her full height. She clearly didn’t have the physique this girl was rocking, but she learned a long time ago that it was more about projecting confidence than actually looking domineering. She smiled at Ashley, locking eye-contact for a moment, then looked down at her shirt. “Do I have something on me?” she asked. She performatively ran her hand over her shirt, ‘looking’ for stains.

 

It was a statement, really, a subtle one. 'I ain't scared'a you.'

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Ashley pushed up her sunglasses. "I don't see anything," she said blandly. 

 

"Oh, you," said Judy, just a trifle nervously. "Nice to meet you!" She gave Mia a quick hug too; hot enough to the touch that she had to be more than a hundred degrees. "But yeah, Ah wanted to make crochet hats for everybody we know, and you were the first person  that came to mind." 

 

"Four solid days on that thing," said Ashley with an affectionate nod towards her sister's work. 

 

"Oh Ah've got the time these days," said Judy, twisting her finger in her hair for a moment. "So what kind of things do you make, Mia?" 

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“Oh, well that’s goo--oof!” Mia said as she was embraced by Judy. Mia blushed slightly, and rubbed the back of her neck. Dang, she said. Either girl’s running a fever or… I dunno what. Still, she didn’t think to comment on it. She was trying to make something of a good impression and she figured that she had already put things on edge by ‘standing up’ to Ashley. Didn’t need to make anything more awkward.

 

The question shook her out of her thoughts. “Oh, what I make? All sorts of stuff. If I have a good idea of the atomic structure, I can probably make it for you,” she said, and then, to demonstrate, stepped back and the sparkles started once again, weaving her fingers and focusing intensely. When she was done, there were two large teddy bears. One had yellow fur, and the name “JUDY” scrawled across the belly, while the other was cotton candy pink, and under a rainbow, had the name “ASHLEY” in the middle.

 

“I can also transform things, dissolve things and… Well, that’s it. If you have a request, I can probably make it. Uhhhh, except, uh… Can’t make precious metals. Well, I can, but it’s apparently really easy to tell when gold’s been made by someone because it’s got too few impurities and I don’t want the Feds to kick my ribs in. Also food’s kinda weird. Haven’t mastered flavours yet, so I can make what looks like a steak but tastes like… poop,” she said as she handed over the teddy bears. “There, you guys can keep those. They’re real, like they’ll stick around forever.”

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"Good call. Feds'll lock your ass up if you start counterfeiting with your powers - believe me." Ashley looked down at the bear she held and hmphed, putting it under one arm. "That's cute. Thanks." 

 

"Aw, isn't he sweet!" Judy hugged the bear and grinned at Mia. "This is real nice! You must be a real talented artist even without your powers. Are you gonna do any pictures for the musical?" Ashley assumed a face that distinctly spoke the words 'here we go' as her sister went on, "Ah heard Claremont's gonna put on a musical this year, and Ah was thinking of trying out. Ah used to sing all the time back home but Ah hardly ever get the chance here since we don't really have what you'd call a competitive chorus." 

 

"Probably means the musical won't be that great, either," commented Ashley. 

 

"Oh it will be fun!" said Judy brightly. "Don't be a spoilsport. Ashley's gonna be in it too," she confided, "but in a supporting role." 

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Mia stared at Ashley for a moment, confused. “That’s… that’s what I said…” She didn’t know what this girl’s deal was. Well, she did, Danica told her, but man was she coming off as… Mia, don’t make enemies on your first day. That’d be weird, she thought to herself. And besides, she had to be understanding. She’d probably be grumpy in a post-apocalyptic hellscape too. Then again, she was in Jersey…

 

Then, the mention of music came up. Mia’s face suddenly lit up, and she moved over to grab her guitar case. “I’m actually a musician myself! I learnt from my mom. I heard they were doing Into the Woods, so I thought I might try and audition for playing the Witch,” she said, looking down at the case. “I’m more of a drummer, but couldn’t really bring my whole kit with me.”

 

She paused, then an idea hit her head. “And hey! You do music, I do music, we could jam some time. Like I can play a bunch of stuff. I like to do stuff like uh… The Cramps… Struts… Ghost… Uh… AJJ… The Mountain Goats.”

 

She freed her guitar from the case, and held it in her hands. It was a slightly battered looking acoustic, covered in little stickers. Some of them were pink skulls, others more political. Scratched into the wood panelling was the words “if I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.” Mia smiled at them. “It’s my mom’s old guitar. Gave it to me when I was 12,”

 

She started to strum. “Can also do stuff like Jim Croce and uh…” Suddenly, she stopped and looked back. “Hey, Danica, you do music at all?”

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"I can whistle!" Danica said cheerfully, demonstrating with a well-executed rendition of 'Pop Goes the Weasel.' "It's hard to move fast enough to do much with other instruments, though, and I'm not much of a singer. The problem with musicals is that everybody has to move fast all the time to get where they need to be and do all the stuff. But I said I'd draw up the designs for the playbill and do the typefaces and stuff." She shrugged. "I'm mostly waiting for the Extradimensional Birdwatchers Club meetings to start up again." 

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