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The Painted Desert, Arizona

October 3rd, 2019

14:00 PM

 

Survival class, that was what the guest teacher had called it. If you were going to be a hero, then you could end up out in the middle of nowhere, and you needed to know what you could do to survive. The fliers on Blue Squad might have argued that they could just fly away, but the Doctor Alexander Macedon had not accepted any objections, and a day later, Blue Squad had found themselves in the Painted Desert in Arizona. They had all been given proper gear stuffed into heavy backpacks, and now they had been dropped off near the Rainbow Visitor Center by the van that had picked them up at the airport.

 

Doctor Alexander Macedon looked like a man in the early 70'es. His skin was tanned by the sun, and seemed slightly leathery, from years of being out in the harsh sun. His thinning hair were grey, almost bordering on white, as was his scraggy, unkempt beard. He wore a black eyepatch over his left eye, with a pair of horn rimmed glasses over both eyes. A cowboy hat on his head, he wore a beige dress shirt, with the few buttons closests to his neck open, revealing his grey chest hair. He had rolled the sleeves up, with an brown bomber jacket stuffed into his backpack. He wore dark grey fatigue pants and a pair of heavy dark boots. Something about him made him seem even older, and one the way here, he had made it more than clear that he didn't want to do this or have anything to do with a bunch of super powered kids, but he owed someone a favor.

 

Standing by the side of the road in front of the teens, Macedon held up a map, making sure they could all see it. "Listen up, kids. This map is our only clue to where we're goin'. We're gonna be crossing through the Painted Desert here, and we're gonna survive off the rations you've brought and what we can find, but make sure you don't do anything to harm the nature around here. No smashing rocks with any of your fancy gadgets or powers or anything like that. We're gonna go off road, and gonna end up at the Painted Desert Visitor Center, with some stops on the way. It's gonna take a while, so save on those rations." He made a short pause and lowered the map. "Now, who's up first for learning how to read and follow a map? Yer all gonna get yer turn."

Edited by RocketLord

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Adam wasn't bothered by the weight of his gear. Nor was he bothered by the heat, or the man. He looked like he had a very interesting story. Adam's inquisitiveness was overridden by his politeness. He wanted to know who this man was and how he got to this point, but he kept his mouth shut. He was looking forward to an opportunity to see this beautiful locale up close, to study it. 

 

"I would like to be first, if no one else volunteers, sir." Adam said, a tad too eagerly. He winced at his own enthusiasm. 

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Ashley Smith was not a happy woman. She'd never been entirely pleased with the fact that she and Judy were the only girls on the Blue Squad - though at least it made their bunking down together a little easier. Except that Judy doesn't sleep anymore unless you make her! While she liked the outdoors, her interest in it was primarily as a tourist - not as someone taking the kind of orienteering and outdoor survival training she'd passed at Claremont and then almost immediately forgotten. It didn't help that her charge was at once largely invulnerable to the hazards of the outdoors - and very much vulnerable to them, even more than an unpowered girl would be. Ashley was in the rear of the group, scanning behind them with binoculars to make sure they weren't ambushed. 

 

For her part, Judy Smith looked downright content. Like her sister, she was dressed in practical clothing - scuffed blue jeans and a T-shirt, her long hair behind her in a neat ponytail, sunglasses protecting her eyes from the glare. But she looked otherwise composed - she wasn't sweating or uncomfortable in the heat the way Ashley was, and hadn't even been encouraged to drink water by their guide, who was evidently all too aware of her powers. She did fiddle with the big, bulky bracelet she wore around her wrist a few times, the black band a bit of fashion she didn't typically wear around Claremont, and looked...expectant? It was hard to say of what, though she had murmured, "It's so quiet..." a few times after their arrival here. 

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Forever Boy

 

Pan whistled as he admired the view and the colors of everything! The Painted Desert! The name made a lot of sense, yes! He was wearing a green t-shirt with a white pattern of intertwined birds all over it, and a pair of dark green, slightly loose pants. He had, for once, put on an actual pair of boots instead of just sneakers or loafers, and a white cap, as well as a pair of sunglasses that was currently hanging from the hole near the neck of his t-shirt. He was wearing the large backpack that the good doctor had ordered him to pack, holding onto one of the straps with his left hand while he held the other up above his eyes, right in front of the cap. "This is brilliant!" he stated, once his whistle was over. He simply loved the view.

 

Unlike Adam, Pan had taken an immediate dislike to the the irate old man. He probably had stories, true, but he was old, and he seemed so annoyed at even having to deal with the students. But at least they had a nice view of everything here! 

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Benny was a lifelong city boy, that was why he was here, covering deficiencies.  Or something like that.  The big kid wore a big pack, durable trail pants, hiking shows, and a long sleeve button up, with a canteen at his belt and a sweater around his waist, and a baseball cap on his head.  He didn't mind the Doc.  That was like Mickey, or the Padre.


So he was immediately in sync with the guy, and he was prepped, as best he could be.  He moved a bit away from them, rising to the nearest, if small crest so he could get a look.  "I'll talk my turn Dr. Macedon.  I'm a city kid, so I'll probably mess up," Benny said it without a hint of angst, he was eager too, without a hint of self-awareness.  This sure is prettier than the Fens, he thought to himself.

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GM

 

Professor Macedon eyed Pan for his outburst. "Quiet down, kid. Try to enjoy the silence a bit." His gaze wandered to Ashley and Judy, but he didn't say anything as he looked at the two girls, though he frowned as his eyes moved over Judy, and he muttered something under his breath.

 

He turned to Adam and Benny, and waved them closer. "Alright, since the two of you seem to be the smart ones here, gather up and have a look. We'll start off with the two of you in charge, then." He produced a small compass from around his neck and held it out towards Benny with one hand, while holding the map out to Adam with the other. Once they had accepted them, he would continue. "Compass. Map. It's simple. Use the compass to make sure we're headin' in the right direction, use the map to try and spot any landmarks to make sure we're on the right track. Work together, lead the way."[/color] The map had several hand drawn crosses showing their intended route amongst the landmarks and the road. Professor Macedon leaned closer, reaching in over Adam and pointing with finger on the first mark. "You two see this? Start off straight North, there's a Mesa a few miles from here that's our first stop."

 

Putting both hands on his back, he stretched and stood up straight, before calling out to the rest of the group. "We got a headin'! The rest of ya brats, follow along, and no flying!"

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For her part, Judy seemed to be in fine fettle as they went. "Hey everybody!" she said cheerfully, "Ah know what would be fun, let's sing a marchin' song!" And sure enough she did, only pausing occasionally for breath as they went: 

 

"She'll be coming round the mountain
She'll be coming around the mountain when she comes!
She'll be coming around the mountain
coming around the mountain
coming around the mountain when she comes!" 

 

She had quite the singing voice, and was willing to put her back into the song. 

 

For her part, Ashley sighed and pulled out a set of binoculars as they went. "You spotting anything up there?" 

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Benny looked at them, and the professor, his brows knitting together as he took the map and the compass, and he looked back, frowning.  "I am a city kid, uh, sir, but sure..."  He looked up at Adam as he moved a bit holding the things, frowning a little as he moved past the sisters, though he stopped, and looked at Ashley, scowling in that way one does as they were trying to sort things out, "Ya happen ta see a mesa?"

And he looked over his shoulder at Adam, "Ya any better with maps?"  A slight grin on his face as he looked up at the bigger kid.

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Forever Boy

 

Pan glared in the old man's direction, but he felt silent, instead moving on closer to the Smith siblings, just to put some distance between them. No, he was quite sure that he did not like the old man at all, and he wasn't even allowed to fly! Honestly, how could everyone stand just walking around all the time? Sure, it was useful at times, he didn't mind, but look at all this! They would get where they needed to go so much faster if they just flew! 

 

Well, the ones here that could fly, at least.

 

At Judy's singing, Pan let out a laugh and looked over towards the professor. "What a brilliant idea, Judy!" And then, he of course joined in on the singing. His voice, if not made for singing like Judy's, was at least suited for it, quickly falling in as he learned the words. If Macedon wanted some peace and quiet, then of course he wouldn't get it.

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GM

 

Professor Macedon looked over at Judy, then his eyes fell on Pan when they started singing. He opened his mouth like he was about to say something, then closed it again and grumbled something that sounded a lot like damn kids, before turning his attention back to Benny and Adam. He pointed down at the map, pointing out some smaller hills on the map, then raising his hand and pointing out into the desert. "You see those? That's the hills there. Should be good enough to help you with a heading."

 

As it just so happened, Ashley could indeed see a mesa if she looked North, based on the directions that Macedon pointed out by the maps. It was a fair distance away, probably some hours march to get there before dark. Of course, she could see something else, too. A sand storm seemed to be moving in from the West, heading in their direction.

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"Hey, aren't we gonna intercept that if we keep moving north?" said Ashley, actually talking respectfully to an adult expert in a field she didn't share. She really had not done well in her field survival classes, and even that had been several years earlier. 

 

Delighted to have a singing companion for once, Judy kept at it. 

 

"Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life-" 

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GM

 

Macedon looked up from the map, away from Adam and Benny, and moved over to Ashley. He reached up to tilt his hat slightly, shielding his eyes better from the light of the sun, and stared ahead. "Maybe." He didn't look too please. "Entire area was s'posed to be clear. Figures the weather man was wrong." He shook his head. "Nice find, Miss Smith." Their ride was of course long gone, so now it was just them out here.

 

Shaking his head again, he took some quick steps to get back to Adam and Benny again, while shouting for Ashley, Judy and Pan. "Everyone huddle up! You too, Pixie Boy." If anyone didn't feel like coming over, he would move to physically grab them and drag them close to go around the map. "Alright, change of plans. See this spot here?" He pointed down at the map, about halfway to the mesa that had been their original destination. "There's supposed to be a shelter there. That's our new goal for today, or however long this storm lasts. We move together, so no flying ahead, no running and getting tired when you're halfway there, but we march. No one wants to get caught in a storm like that." Standing up, he pointed North, in the direction they had been supposed to go the entire time, at least. "Mr. d'Amato, Mr. Lanchester: Lead the way."

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Despite his lack of experience, Adam was able to correlate his real life location with their position on the map. After a few seconds of glancing around, he motioned with confidence in the correct direction. 

 

"This way, I believe." He said. He looked at the man, hoping for some sort of affirmative. He was confident, but he knew better than to assume he was an expert. Always defer to experts, unless you have information they lack, of course. He wanted to enjoy this excursion, but he felt like he was the only one that would.

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GM

 

Macedon gave Adam an approving nod, and pointed ahead. "Lead the way, then." Beyond the nod, he didn't give any indication if Adam was right or not, but he didn't try to stop him, either.

 

As the group continued towards the shelter, the sandstorm was slowly growing closer. They started to feel the winds ripping at their clothing, loose sand starting to whirl around them, pushing them, threatening to topple them. The winds grew in strength, but thanks to Adam's navigation, they were able to find the shelter just as the sandstorm reached them. 

 

Or at least, where the shelter had been supposed to be.

 

Instead, what they found were a giant dark mesa, towering into the sky. It was kind of amazing that they hadn't been able to see it from further away, that they only seemed to realize its size as they stood at its feet. They found no shelter, and yet, there was a cave.

 

Macedon cursed under his breath. "You did good, kid," he said, directed at Adam. "Shelter was supposed to be here, but guess the mesa had other plans." There was a cave before them. It was dark inside, but it was shelter, at least. "Everyone inside. Stick close. Nobody go wanderin' off." 

 

He stood his ground and waited until all the students were inside before following into the darkness.

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Legatus

 

XVIII had been more or less quiet all day - he hadn't seen the point of coming here, at first. Though he was aware of the heat of the sun beating down on the group, it was not really something that bothered him. He'd realized that he didn't need to eat on a regular basis months ago, and now that there was a scarcity of water, he'd begun to suspect that he could go without drinking for a very long time, too. Nevertheless, there was probably a point to doing this, even if it was totally obscured to him. So he remained silent, watching and trying to learn as much as he could.

 

As the wind picked up, Felix took some time to carefully position himself such that the less stable members of the team were downwind of him, blocking it as effectively as he could. The sudden arrival of the mesa surprised him, but what really surprised him was Macedon's reaction - that adults could be taken by surprise like this wasn't exactly new to him, but it did make him wonder whether this had been a good idea... If all else fails, we can fly people out of here. Hopefully, at any rate.

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"There's something up there," said Judy, the tone in her voice making Ashley swivel her red-helmeted head back at her. "Something inside the cave." She focused her eyes on it, orbs radiating like a cat's eyes against a bright light. "It's in the tunnel, like some kind of weird...sandstorm thing. Ah've never seen anything like it, but it's definitely not normal." She rubbed the radio transmitter on her wrist nervously. 

 

"Well...forget that, then," said Watchdog, her gun coming out. "We can't just go into a dark cave with a hostile.

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Forever Boy

 

"Do you hear that?" Pan asked the others, while he stared into the darkness. He could swear it was something. A voice. Someone calling for help. "There is someone in there!" he announced, pointing into the darkness that Judy had just told them had some kind of weird sandstorm thing inside it. Anyone else with any kind of enhanced hearing would be able to hear the same thing, the voice of a little girl calling out for help, stopping and sniffling, then continuing.

 

Pan looked around at the others for a moment. Monster or no, whatever it was that Judy could see, it didn't really matter at all to him! There was a child in there, in the big unknown, and she needed help! 

 

"Sorry, my friends!" He at least acknowledged what he was about to do was probably foolish, but he did it anyway, throwing himself off the ground and flying into the darkness with a golden trail of Pixie Dust flowing behind him.

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GM

 

"Keep the gun down," Macedon said, motioning with his hand to Ashley, but without telling her to put it away. The sandstorm was still raging outside, sand starting to fly into the cave. The ones at the edge of the cave could feel the wind by now.  He seemed to be thinking of what to do, but all of that was obviously ruined when Pan made his move.

 

He just stared, his one eye open as the golden trail disappeared into the darkness of the cave, then turned to the students. "Great. Flyboy do stuff like that often?" He put his backpack down in front of himself and dug into it, soon producing a revolver and a flashlight, taking it in his hand and holding it up before fastening his backpack again. "Everyone stick together, got it? We not no idea what these caves are like, and I don't care how fast you kids are, I'm not gonna lose anyone else. Use whatever you got, make some light, be on guard for whatever it is that Miss Smith is seeing. Lanchester, you take point. Everyone watch each other's back."

 

The faint trail of Pan's pixie dust remained behind, ready to be followed...

 

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Adam had no problem taking point. He was well aware that he was a whole lot less vulnerable than most. He wondered if the sandstorm would even truly bother him, or if he could shrug it's effects off without issue. Either way, he was quite willing to take the lead.

 

"No problem." He said, stepping forward. "I have to warn you, my sense of sight only picks up things in the visible spectrum."

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Legatus

 

XVIII frowned as Pan frolicked off into the cavern, shaking his head slightly as a mild (and somewhat familiar) anxiety began to eat at him. Separation from the pack, the clan, the gens, was dangerous. To have people vanish and never reappear was a nightmare he often experienced. After a moment, he realized that his fingernails were biting into his palms, and he consciously unclenched his fists.

 

Taking a deep breath, he looked at his roommate, his brows wrinkling. While he knew Adam was as tough as him, he also had friends, a girlfriend. They would be hurt if he was injured. "I should go first, Adam. I'm able to fly, if there's any pits or whatever." The only reason he hadn't leapt in after Pan was because Macedon had explicitly told them to stick together.

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Benny wasn't too perturbed by the events till now, he sat back, and let things happen.  He wasn't really good He sighed softly, "Youse guys stick together, sorry I'mma disappoint ya teach, but I can't let someone just go off on their own. Even if he is probably chasing some sorta spirit bear thing that sounds like a helpless traveler to lure in prey."  He sounded appropriately contrite, weary, and already resolved to his action , before he just lunged forward, into a steady run, after the pixie dust.  "HEY PAN SLOW DOWN! I HATE FIGHTIN' SOUL SUCKIN' DEMON BEARS IN CAVES!" 

 

He sprang, hitting a wall, and ricocheting off of it at a perfect angle to chase after Pan, grousing to himself along the way, "Swear ta gahd, if this is second to the right and straight on to the morning I am feedin' Pan to a tickin' croc..."

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"Shouldn't we?" asked Ashley as their friends disappeared into the darkness ahead. 

 

"No!" said Watchdog firmly as she and Daystar stepped into the mouth of the cave. "Do your thing," she suggested. 

 

"Well...all right," said Daystar. "Ah don't normally like doing this," she said to their teacher, "but Ah guess this is an emergency." She concentrated for a moment and began to glow, shining like she'd swallowed a star, casting a shimmering yellow glow around the cave entrance. "Is this helping?

 

 

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GM

 

As the Forever Boy and Rebound raced through the caves, one chasing a cry for help, the other his fellow student, the caves seemed almost never-ending. Twisting, turning, shifting, Pan had to slow down to follow the ins and outs of the cave. Left, right, up, down. If there had been more than one path, they would surely have lost their way long ago. And then, light. Shining, blinding light as Forever Boy stumbled out of the cave, flying straight into the foliage and being forced to slow down. Rebound and the Forever Boy were no longer in a cave, but stood on a hill, overlooking a villain under siege. Artillery fire bombarded the European-looking village, soldiers and tanks could be seen in the streets, planes flying overhead. None of the machines they could see seemed to be especially modern or new. Even to Benny's time, they seemed out of date, like something that would have been used during the second world war.

 

The other group would be able to move unhindered through the maze ahead of them. With Daystar lighting the way, their trek somehow seemed shorter, even as they moved slower than Pan's flight let him. Like the rest, they met little resistance, and in fact, they somehow managed to exit the cave only moments after the others.

 

As the exited the cave and saw the sight before them, Macedon cursed again, throwing his hat to the ground. "Dammit. I should've known." He turned, and the cave behind them had disappeared. If any had not yet exited the cave at that point, it had simply closed behind them. Grumbling to himself, he bent into his knees and picked up his hat again. "I don't suppose any of you kids have ever heard about the Magic Mesa?"

Edited by RocketLord

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Ashley's eye twitched behind her helmet. "JUDY GET DOWN!" She threw herself on Daystar, pulling her flat and keeping the crest of the hill between them and the battle below. What she wanted to do was get up and beat Macedon with his tonfas until he stopped moving, but that wouldn't solve the problem. From cover, she took out a pair of binoculars and pressed it to her helmet's well-shielded eyeholes, trying to get a feel for the scene below. 

 

"Ohmigosh!" whispered Judy, having sensibly doused her glow for the moment. "We have to do something!" she said. 

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Forever Boy

 

Pan hovered, glowing Pixie Dust around his body, his mouth agape at the sight before him. He had seen battles, he had seen war, but nothing quite like this. Not like these machines trampling through the village, destroying buildings with a single shot, or the rapid flight of the planes raining death from above. 

 

He could still hear the voice, a young child crying out for help. Unlike Judy, he didn't think to douse his light. "We have to help them." he responded to Judy, and stated to anyone else from the group that would hear him. 

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