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Shofet

Getting to Know You

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Interviews. The teacher had elected to have the students interview each other. Mia didn’t really have any interviewing skills at the best of times, and her chosen partner didn’t make things any easier. There was an air of mystery around Judy, even despite her general warmth and openness. What made things worse was that the class was uneven, so Mia had been also assigned to interview the other Smith sister, Ashley. That was perhaps a bigger challenge, given the general… Reservedness with which Ashley seemed to approach the world. What was worse was that this interview constituted a fairly large portion of their grade, enough that skipping it wasn’t really a consideration.

 

In order to make things easier, Mia had offered up some information about herself first, in the hopes that it might help create a bridge between the two of them. However, she didn’t really have an idea of where to start beyond the basics.

 

“Alright,” she said, clearly unsure of herself. “I’m Mia Mustafic-Markov. I was named after Mia Zapata, from a punk band called the Gits. A big secret about me is that I have a middle name, Nadezhda, from Lenin’s wife, which my dad’s parents gave to me. I don’t use them because that’s super embarrassing. They were descended from Trotskyists who fled the Soviet Union during the 1930s,” she said. Her tone was robotic, as if reciting things from rote.

 

“My birthday is September 1st, 2003.”

 

She paused.

 

“Now you guys go, I guess.”

Edited by Shofet

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"Ah'm Judith, ah, Smith," said Judy with a glance at Ashley. "Ah was born April 1, 2002 out west, you wouldn't probably have heard of the town. Ah, uh, was named after Judith from the Bible, because my parents both, uh, were good, god-fearing folk." She shot another look at Ashley, then said, "My mother was born on a Comanche reservation, but she never got to know her birth parents because they drank real bad and so she was adopted." She flushed around the cheeks at this, then said, "My daddy was a-oh, Ah'm sorry, this isn't so easy..." 

 

"Ashley Smith," said Ashley readily, "born April 2001." She snorted and gave Mia a skeptical look. "Yeah, I'm older than the rest of you, what of it?" she asked scornfully. "I'm the older sister, always have been, and a big secret about me is," she stage-whispered to Mia, "my hair is _not_ actually pink." She'd taken recently to dying her black hair a bright shade of bubblegum pink from root to tip, a fashion change she'd been remarkably close-mouthed about. She shot a glance at Judy and went on. "If you want a big secret about her, it's that she's actually a really good singer. I think she could do it professionally." 

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Mia nodded slowly. Judy was more open, as expected. The Comanche part, she'd mentioned before. The adoption part wasn't. That was something rather interesting. But Ashley was stonewalling her. Being the usual icy type. Mia didn't dislike Ashley, but she had come to expect a certain level of obfuscation from the young woman. She was more... closed off than her sister. 

 

"I... Like the pink hair," Mia said softly, looking down at the desk. Now she had to wonder what to offer up next. She went over her options. She could go with a soft-ball, it was all she was probably going to get from Ashley, but that didn't seem right. Maybe if she offered up the right thing, she could get a break-through? It was a worth a shot. At the very least, she had come to trust Judy. The past few months had shown her that the sisters were good people. You could trust good people.

 

"My mom... Serena... Was... Uh... Okay. Back in the 1990s, there was this group, the Delinquents. She was Revolt. The supervillain. You probably have no idea who they are, or who she is. But she was a villain. But she isn't anymore. She's a good mom. She taught me how to sing and play guitar. She sent me here because I started shoplifting and she was afraid I was going to go villain."

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"Shoplifting, huh? What'd you steal?" asked Ashley with a smirk. 


"Don't be like that," said Judy, a little bashfully. "Lots of people make mistakes. Ah'm sure she, uh, didn't mean to do it." She looked at Mia curiously with her big dark eyes, obviously looking for an explanation. 

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"Uhm... Makeup, mostly. I can... make things. But mom was afraid I was going to attract enemies if I used my powers... Enemies of hers. We were poor. Still are. I just... I wanted something nice. I wanted something nice I knew I could probably make. It didn't seem fair that so many people got to have nice things, and I didn't... Everything was second hand, or hand-me downs. If I got makeup, it was usually stuff I could share, except from the occasional birthday stuff," she said glumly.

 

"Sometimes I stole clothes. Nothing big. Sweaters... Jeans... Bras... panties... Nice things. Everyone else looked so good and I was this big, tall freak... and I couldn't... I just wanted to look nice. Mom made me throw it all out. What I didn't return, anyway." Her eyes flicked up at Ashley and Judy, and she frowned deeply. 

 

"You guys should share something," her eyes darted between the two of them. She felt like she was on the back foot at the moment, and she wasn't really enjoying that at all.

Edited by Shofet

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Hm. Well, she didn't need to start interrogating the girl about her criminal history, even if it sounded like she'd never actually paid restitution out of it. Ashley remembered being poor too, and how she'd known that stealing was what shabby people did. "All right," said Ashley easily. "I have a car. It's called the Dawg, and I fixed it up myself. It's a badass street machine that can take heavy machine gun fire, outrace any car in the world, and it's even got a DVD player in the back. I get it back for good once Judy and I get to shake the dust of this place off our feet." 

 

"She used it when she fought the Raven!" said Judy cheerfully. "Have you ever seen that? Ah know it made it on the TV, where she fought the Raven and he, uh, well he won that fight, but she looked really cool doing it. Though of course Ah would not want to live the life of a criminal vigilante myself," she said, delivering what seemed to be a practiced speech. "Ah plan to go to college somewhere nice and peaceful and become a nurse." 

 

"Only broke the law 'cause I was underage," said Ashley scornfully. "Law's just a cage the Man builds to trap you, amirite?" 

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Mia nodded slowly, feeling a little bit better that at least she wasn't alone among the teen terrors. But still, she couldn't help but shake the feeling that she was somehow lower than pond scum.

 

"I never saw it, mom and dad never really watched mainstream news. Mom didn't even have cable for a lot of my life and dad... he mostly watched Game of Thrones and stuff. Grandpa sometimes watched the news but it was all in Bosnian or Serbian or whatever. But I'm sure you had a good reason," Mia said quietly. "I want to be a chemist, some day. Or a musician. I'm pretty good at the drums, the guitar... singing..."

 

She sighed, and flopped her hair over her face as she thought. "The law is... My mom says it's something that exists to preserve existing hierarchies, my grandpa says it is something that just is, and my dad says it's something I should obey or someone might kill me. I don't know how I feel about it. I don't even know why I stole, sometimes. I just did," she said softly.

 

"You think I'm a bad person?"

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"It's okay," said Judy with an automatic smile. "Ah mean, it's not worse than shooting the Raven right in the unmentionables!" 

 

That made Ashley jump a little in her seat and shoot Judy a look that was almost, but not quite, a glare. "I shot him in the _belt_, not the junk. That time, anyway." She smirked. "Not my fault the ammunition on his belt brewed up." 

 

"It was a whole thing," said Judy brightly, "and she had a couple of shiners for a while, but it was in a righteous cause." She smiled at Mia and said, "You're a good friend, Mia, and Ah know you're not a bad person. Everybody makes mistakes." She considered a moment, then said, "Um, the worst thing Ah ever did, was when Ah was baptized, but Ah don't really want to talk about that." She looked at Ashley who burst out laughing. 

 

"Sorry, mine's _not_ suitable for mixed company," she said with a snort. "No offense, Mia, but I don't want to blow your mind." 

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Mia couldn't help herself. A smile cracked, and she giggled softly. The idea of shooting the Raven in the junk was pretty amusing, all things considered. So many heroes seemed so untouchable, so the idea that she knew someone who had cracked that veneer was amusing in and of itself. She did hope, however, she never got shot like that by some teen upstarts when she was a big hero.

 

"Ah, it's fine," she said. "I... So, stealing wasn't the worst thing I ever did."

 

She looked away, and chewed her lip, but she was smiling. "Okay, so this is awful... But... Okay. I was 8. Ish. My mom and I were fighting about bedtime. She said as long as I was under her roof, I would go to sleep when she said. Uh... So... I responded with my first ever long-range teleport. I went to Dubai. I didn't really know what Dubai was, but I had heard of it and my powers are... pretty accurate. So for a few hours, I was... In another country, on another continent, until I calmed down and started to miss home."

 

"When I came back, mom was pretty relieved since she thought I had exploded. I was grounded for like 2 months though. Second worst thing was probably disintegrating all the broccoli at my grandparents' dinner because I didn't want to eat it."

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"Oh, well, that's not so bad," said Judy brightly. "That's just kid stuff. When mah older sister was a kid, she used to act out a lot - yelling and screaming, throwing things at dinner when she didn't get her way, and even when my momma spanked her, she'd just glare at her like an ornery cuss." 

 

Ashley colored slightly, shooting her sister a definite look. "Yes, well, that was a long time ago. Most people in this dimension's America don't  practice corporal punishment anyway." She hesitated a moment, then said, "So you didn't like broccoli, huh? What do you like to eat now?" 

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Mia nodded, and smiled. "Weirdly enough, like broccoli pretty fine now. My favourite food, though, is something my dad's mom makes, it's called Solyanka. It's a kosher version, but basically just everything but the kitchen sink in a soup. Sausage, pickle juice... All sorts of stuff. I don't know the recipe but I am planning on learning it at some point," she said.

 

Then she leaned in, looking at Ashley. "Okay. So I've heard you mutter something under your breath before. Du ma may or something? Is that some sort of Comanche swear word or what?"

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"It's Vietnamese," said Ashley easily. "I don't actually speak Comanche. I'd tell you what it means -  but I don't want you to run off to Dubai again." 

 

"Ah am sure Mia has heard the occasional profanity since then," teased Judy. "Momma didn't actually speak the language around us growing up. Like Ah said, she was adopted when she was three, so she never did learn to speak any of it. She always said it wouldn't be proper, given where we were living." 

 

"What about you?" asked Ashley, "You speak any Bosnian or Serbo-Croatian? There's probably good money in that when you graduate." 

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Mia raised an eyebrow at that. Vietnamese?

 

"Uh... A little bit. Not enough to be like... fluent. Apparently, I used to be better at it when I was younger since my grandpa spent so much time watching me, but I'm not even like, conversational now. It sucks, and I plan on brushing up when I can. Would like to learn Hebrew when I can, too. Not for any practical reason, really.  Just to connect with my background."

 

She leaned in. "So how do you know Vietnamese? Did Ho Chi Minh, like, conquer your version of America or something? I don't really know a lot about your home version of Earth."

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"It was a fu*cking shi*tshow," said Ashley flatly. "The heroes got soft and the Grue rolled in on them like a scythe cutting down wheat. That's why I had to be hard growing up, to make sure they didn't get us too." 


"But there are lots of Grue who are perfectly nice people," said Judy immediately, "Miss Grue is a real hero. We don't hate people just because they're Grue, we just want to be careful, the same as we're careful around lots of other kinds of people." 

 

"Sure, sure," said Ashley with a little wave. "Grue are great, just the bad ones who are bad. Anyway, I got my hands on the Dawg, grabbed Judy, came here. Tried to fight crime _my_ way, but of course the Raven had to roll in and stick his nose where it didn't belong. Doesn't understand being _hard_ on the _streets_ if you ask me.  Not that anybody _ever_ does..." She looked away, lip curled. 

 

"Soooo, what do you want to do when you graduate?" asked Judy. "Is there a college you like?" 

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Mia's eyes widened in horror. She had known their homeworld was bad, but hadn't realized it had been lost to invasion. That was terrible. She rubbed the back of her neck, trying to think of a way to bring things back from something like that. How could she have been as insensitive as that? Stupid, stupid.

 

"Uh... Yeah. Look, uh... If you guys ever want to spend the holidays with anyone, I know how hard it is to be away from family and stuff, and I could probably convince my dad to have a few extra tables at Thanksgiving... he makes the best stuffing, and he's really nice if you don't mind that he's kind of a big dork. He'd love to have guests like you guys," she said.

 

"And... uh... Well, I guess I'm just going to FCU. I don't know if my grades are gonna be good enough to go out of state, and it's not like I can afford to move, either. I hear FCU has a good chemical engineering program anyway," she said. "Maybe I could land a job as a government contractor creating cadmium for the US out of thin air."

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"No thanks. Ah used to really love Thanksgiving," said Judy reflectively. "Daddy made the best deep-fried turkey, and Momma would turn it into chili for weeks afterwards. But it's a lot harder now that Ah don't eat anymore." She smiled thinly, then said, "Time was Ah wouldn't even be able to have this conversation without freaking out about it, but it's been more than a year now and it doesn't hurt so bad anymore." 

 

"Government makes it hard to hire supers," said Ashley reflectively, putting her hand over Judy's, "but if you know people, you'd be surprised what they'll let you do. I'd think you'd be in more demand as a teleporter than anything else. Damn, can you imagine what you'd do as a spook?" She grinned. "You could probably make a million bucks a year running packages for AEGIS or summat." 

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Mia heard what Ashley said, but her focus was entirely on Judy. Immediately, a bunch of social interaction ran through her head as she tried to recall any time she had seen Judy eat. None came out. A mounting sense of horror washed up through her as she realized she had probably dredged up a lot of stuff without even thinking about it. She couldn't eat. How could Mia have not noticed? She supposed she had just assumed Judy was eating at some other time when she wasn't looking. But Judy had made those awesome cupcakes! ...Oh. And she couldn't even enjoy them. 

 

"Oh, Judy," Mia said softly. "I am... Really sorry. I... Nnf. I can't imagine... Look, if there's anything I can ever make for you, or like... Whatever? Just let me know," she said. "Like, whenever your birthday comes up, like... anything. I can make a lot."

 

She ran her hands over her thighs, then looked down at her worksheet. She hadn't taken anything down. Well. That was something of a problem, wasn't it? She looked over the questions, and quirked her mouth, sighing through her nose.

 

"What is... your fondest memory?"

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The Smiths looked at each other for a moment, obviously trying to decide who was going to take this one. "W-watching my mom work with sick people," said Judy thoughtfully. "This was back when Ah was,  oh, probably in first or second grade, before things got crazy. She was working half-time at the hospital in our town, and she actually took me to Take Your Daughter To Work Day. Ah'd always wanted to do that but Ah was too little. It was really nice, seeing that side of my mom; and that was when Ah decided Ah wanted to be a nurse like her." She sighed softly, then said, "That'll be harder now, but who knows these days." 

 

Ashley squeezed Judy's hand and said, "You're going to be a great nurse," she told her sister reassuringly, then said, "My fondest memory is gonna be the day she graduates." 

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Mia nodded slowly. That was a good memory if she had ever heard one. Now she had to offer up her own: "Okay, and uh... Mine. My fondest memory is when my dad first took me to the Ren Faire. My parents had just divorced and I had been pretty sad, so dad wanted to cheer me up. I was pretty young... He... Splurged. He had one of his friends make me a little princess dress, and he dressed up as a big knight, and uhm... We had things like smoked turkey legs and I got to listen to a guy play a lute... and it was just nice to be there with him. Especially riding on his shoulders. I never felt so big..." She sighed. "I miss that. We haven't gone to a Ren Faire in a long time. I'd like that to do that again, I think, with him."

 

She shook herself out of her reverie. "You will be a great nurse, Judy. Any patient would be really lucky to have you." She looked down at her worksheet again, looking for questions that might lead on from there. 

 

"Okay, okay... I've got it. Who is your best friend? And you're not allowed to say each other."

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"Well that's stupid," opined Ashley, "Judy _is_ my best friend. Not many people _worth_ being friends with in this dump..." 

 

"Ah don't really like to make distinctions like that," said Judy with a warm smile. "Leroy is my best friend, of course, but Lulu and Danica are my best girlfriends. And you too, Mia," she added cheerfully. "Ah like to make friends with as many different kinds of people as possible. 

 

"Who's yours?" asked Ashley. "And no fair taking one she already said." 

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Mia frowned at Ashley's sudden hostility, but she guess she had touched a nerve. The comment about not many people being worth friends made her visibly wince. She had liked Ashley, for all her gruffness. It hurt to know that she didn't feel the same way. She hadn't expected best friends, of course, but not even worth consideration? 

 

"Oh... Uh..." she said, sounding a bit taken aback. She looked off to the side, frowning. "If I can't say... Before... I came here, uh... Belle, her name was Belle. Like in Beauty and the Beast. She was my friend since kindergarten, our moms were friends. We did everything together. But when I got busted for shoplifting, her mom banned us from hanging out, but, you know. We still did. Just secretly. Then, we found out about Claremont, and she kinda took it as like... Me abandoning her to go to some fancy private school. Which I wasn't. Wasn't my choice," she said quietly.

 

"...So we're on break. But I'm sure she'll come around eventually."

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"I'm sure she will," said Judy reassuringly. "You're a good friend." She looked down at the notes in front of her and said, "What is your most special, but hidden, talent? Ashley, do you want to do this one too?" 

 

"Never lost a staring contest," replied Ashley. "Not with anybody with normal human eyes, anyway. I can prove it if you want." 

 

"Ah don't think that'll be necessary," said Judy with an affectionate smile her sister's way. "Mine is that Ah'm a really good shot. Not with mah powers or anything, but with a regular gun. Ah used to go shooting with Daddy back before things got crazy, and Ah could put my shots near the center of the target most of the time. Ah probably know more about regular guns than most of the other people here, since we had them around so much growing up."

 

"Came in handy, let me tell you," said Ashley. "But seriously, don't mess around with guns, even super-guns." 

 

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Mia nodded. "My mom taught me how to shoot, actually. She used to keep a gun, since she didn't like to use her powers, but got rid of it a long time ago. Colt revolver. I didn't really like it, and it's not like I really need it now when I can produce a kiloton blast, if I try hard enough" she said. "Guns are kinda... I don't know. It feels weird holding something you know is pretty explicitly meant to kill."

 

She leaned her head back, looking at the ceiling. "My... hidden talent is that I uh..." she sighed. "...You have to not laugh."

 

She leaned in. "I have memorized every single line from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. All of it. I can do the entire Time Warp sequence from memory. Same with Hot Patootie and Sweet Transvestite. I could show you sometime, just uh... not somewhere as public as classroom because it's super embarrassing."

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Judy blinked and stared at Mia, looking baffled - and slightly appalled. "What...what's the Rocky Horror Picture Show?" 

 

"It's a movie. Old movie," said Ashley with a little wave of her hand. "Probably not your speed, Judy." 

 

"Okay," said Judy, "and Ah know about guns, don't worry, Ah wouldn't do something crazy. Ah've been learning gun safety since Ah was a little kid. But normal people can't shoot lasers out of their hands, or put somebody in a super-sleeper hold. They gotta be able to defend themselves, especially with all the crazy monsters out there." 

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Mia stared at Judy like she had grown five heads. "You've never seen Rocky Horror?" she asked, aghast. "Oh my God. You and I, Judy. We have a movie night coming up. It is happening. Like, jeez. It is the gay movie. Well, okay, maybe not but like... everyone in that community's seen it like a million times. My whole family loves it. They still show it at theatres, and people like... dress up, and they sing along, and they do call and response stuff, and it's just great! Jeez! You gotta see it. It's... Yeah!" Mia was suddenly very animated.

 

"Like... what..."

 

She paused. "What's your favourite movie? We can make this a trade. I will show you my favourite movie, and you two can show me your favourite movies. I promise to watch it all. Come on, it'd be fun. Bonding and stuff!"

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