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Still as Water (IC)

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Claremont Academy

Freedom City, New Jersey

Wednesday November 27, 2019, 11:00 AM

 

"I appreciate your willingness to mentor another student Giang." Headmistress Summers stated as she and an Asian young woman walked down the path from the administrative building for Claremont Academy towards the Roberta Isley Gardens. "I believe Heroditus could benefit from being able to talk to someone who had a similar experience as something of the outsider among the other students. Your familiarity with Atlantean culture will be an added benefit."

 

"As always, I am very happy to help Headmistress." Giang Trang replied as she walked alongside the older woman. Giang stood about five foot three, with a lithe build and moved with an easy, fluid grace. Despite the cold of the late November morning, she was not at all dressed for the cold, wearing a pair of jeans, a white T-shirt and a red windbreaker. However, the Asian young woman did not seem bothered at all by the cold. "Although I am curious why you thought of me and not Thetis or Thelia?"

 

Callie Summers gave a small chuckled as she glanced over to Giang. "Well, certainly either has had a similar experience as Heroditus. However, both are also members of the Atlantean royal family, which could make it more difficult for him to fully feel comfortable expressing concerns to them."

 

"I see." Giang replied simply with a small smile and a nod as the two continued toward where Heroditus would be waiting.

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Heroditus was sitting on a bench in the garden, under the shade of a black spruce tree.  He wore sandals, dark blue knee-length breeches, and a dark red short-sleeved tunic, cinched together with a tan belt and bandolier which contained numerous pouches; all were made of a variety of kelp.  He was gazing up at the tree's purple cones, which reminded him of certain varieties of coral.

 

A gentle breeze moved both the leaves and his long hair, obscuring his view momentarily as Giang and Headmistress Summers approached.  When he did see them, he sprang to his feet and bowed to Callie, "Headmistress Summers."  He glanced at Giang and nodded to her, then extended his right hand, "ah, and I take it you are the one who shall be mentoring me?"

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Tsunami

 

Giang regarded the young Atlantean with a small smile as she gave a small bow of her own before shaking his extended hand. "Yes, I am Giang Trang. I am very pleased to meet you."

 

The Headmistress gave a small nod to the Atlantean student before adding, "Miss Trang graduated a few years ago. While she was here at Claremont she was roommates with Princess Thelia and has visited Atlantis a number of times." She glanced between the two before focusing back on Heroditus. "So, I will leave you in her capable hands." She stated with another nod before turning to make her way back towards the administrative building.


Giang gave a small bow to Headmistress Summers before she turned to leave and then focused back on Heroditus. <"So, how have you been adjusting to life on the surface so far?"> She asked in Atlanetan.

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He bowed again to Headmistress Summers as she left, then did a double-take at Giang.  "<About as well as one might expect.  It is not my preferred environment, but I do not stumble as much as I used to when walking up here.>"  He walked in a circle around her, making an exaggerated show of wobbling.  "<And as long as I can stay adequately hydrated,>" he patted the waterskin attached to his belt, "<I can get along fine.>"

 

He knew other Atlanteans -- warrior Atlanteans -- would put on more show of bravado, claiming they could stride across the dryland as well as any Surfacer.  But he had no use for such displays.  He knew where his strengths lay, and where they did not.

 

"<I can see you have learned much of my people,>" he touched fingertips to his lips and ears, "<and I am given to understand that you shall do the same with me.  But I do not plan on being just the student here,"> he shook his head, then held both palms up, "<for I am quite willing to share what I can of Atlantis' culture and history with you.">

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Tsunami

 

Giang waited for Heroditus to finish his circle around her before fixing her gaze back on the young Atlantean with a small nod as he spoke about being able to get around on land better now. <"That should continue to improve with time."> She replied. <"There are a few exercises that could help with becoming more acclimated to the surface if you are interested.">

 

As he turned to mentioning her knowledge of his language, she gave a small nod, <"I had the good fortune of having Thelia as my roommate shortly after I arrived here. This provided me opportunities to visit Atlantis and other parts of its realm, as well as learn your language. I would be honored to learn more about your culture and history.">

 

<"As for why the Headmistress asked me to work with you, that is a bit more nuanced that simply helping you learn more about surface culture, although I am certainly happy to share what I do know in that regard."> The Asian young woman then continued. <"But perhaps more importantly, when I came to Claremont I was in a relatively similar situation to you. While I grew up on the surface, I did so on the far side of the world, in a remote village in Southeast Asia. I also had very little interaction with peers my own age until I came here.">

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Heroditus nodded, "<I had heard you were Princess Thaelia's roommate, but was not told of the extent with which she had shared our culture with you.  Which parts of Atlantis did you visit?  Was it just the primary city, or did she take you to some of the other colonies?>"  He scratched his chin, thinking for a moment of the full beard he would one day have, and being able to stroke it while in thought.  "<I myself have only been to a few of them, though do hope to visit more someday.>"

 

This one projects a calm and thoughtfulness I have not seen in most other students here.  More... Atlantean than most.  A welcome difference!  Is that her own persona, and why she was paired with Thaelia?  Or was that something she picked up from her trips to our homeland?

 

He smiled warmly at her personal revelation, "<so, we are both fingerlings far from our spawning grounds, and isolated from our peers.  Summers is quite the matchmaker, I will grant her that. So, shall we get to know one another better?>"  He pointed to the bench he'd been sitting in with one hand, and gestured towards the paths with the other, "<and would you prefer to do so while seated here, or while walking among the flora?>"

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Tsunami

 

<"I have visited the capital and some of the surrounding towns several times."> Giang began in response to Heroditus' question about what parts of Atlantis she had visited. <"We also made a trip to Crantorium during my first visit to the underwater kingdom.">

 

As the young Atlantean suggested continuing their talk at one of the benches or while walking, Giang gave a small nod and moved over to the bench, smoothly sitting down to regard Heroditus with her clam even gaze. <"The Headmistress follows after her father."> She stated in response to the teen’s comment about her skill as a matchmaker of sorts. <"He was headmaster when I was here and was the one who felt Thaelia and I would benefit from being roommates, and as was often the case was entirely correct. We may not see each other as often as we like these days, but Thaelia is still one of my closest friends, and likely knows me better than anyone.">

 

With that thought in mind, the Asian young woman focused things back on Heroditus. <"Have you found any classmates with whom you seem to share any common interests?">

 

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"<Crantorium?>"  He was obviously impressed at her visiting the noble's resort town, though he quickly subdued his expression as he sat next to her.  "<Well, of course our Princess would take you there.  Was it as decadent as the stories say?>"

 

Now that he was closer and could get a good look at her, he noticed a strange aura about her.  Thought I'd caught a glimpse of something on her while I'd walked around her, but wasn't sure if it was a trick of the sunlight.  Now I can definitely see it is within her.  But what is it?  Something to do with directing and redirecting... something... something elemental, primal... water, yes, but something else...

 

"<Apologies,>" he said after a moment of silence, shaking his head, "<I was distracted by... so you said Headmistress Summers is the daughter of the former headmaster?  Is that typical here?  I know academic institutions tend towards some degree of insularity,>" he clasped his hands together, fingers laced together, "<but an institution such as this being lead by a single family?>"

 

At the mention of roommates and classmates, he cocked his head slightly, lets his hands fall to his side, and made a few pop-click sounds, the Atlantean equivalent of non-lexical fillers.  "<Even back home, I was... never adept at dealing with people.  And my interests are very rare, even among my people; up here they are nearly unique.  Tell me,"> he leaned forward a bit, "<what do you know of Atlantean technology?>"

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Giang smiled slightly at Heroditus' question about the Atlantean resort town. <"It was certainly a place designed for luxury and relaxation, but no more so than similar destinations here on the surface. Truth be told, I much preferred visiting the areas outside of the town, the coral reefs and kelp forests. I would say that and my other visits to Atlantis led me to study Oceanography in college, such as those on the surface truly have been able to learn about the world's oceans.">

 

The Asian young woman then noticed that the Atlantean teen seemed to be studying her as he went silent for a few moments. Just as she was about to ask if he was alright, he seemed to regain focus and asked about the Summers’ family and their control over Claremont. <"Not that I have extensive experience, but it is my general understand that no, normally a single family does not have such control over an educational facility, even a private one. However, I am sure you would agree that Claremont is something of an unusual institution.">

 

When Heroditus turned to responding to her question about how he was doing in interacting with peers, Giang could sympathize with his view that he did not quite fit in, as she certainly had felt rather out of place when she had first arrived. But then the Atlantean teen asked about what she knew of Atlantean technology.

 

<"Well, I would likely say only a little. I certainly have been around and observed it."> She replied. <"As I know it is very different than what is used here on the surface, being something of a combination of actual mechanics and magic.">

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Heroditus smiled, "<I am pleased to hear that my home inspired you to study the world's oceans.  For so long Surfacers have treated them as dumping areas,>" he briefly covered his nose and shook his head, "<heedless of the damage they were causing, to the environment, to their drinking water, or to us.  The last one could be excused, due to ignorance,>" he shrugged, "<but not the first two.>"

 

He made a series of clicks -- the Atlantean equivalent of a chuckle -- at her reply to the Summers/Claremont relationship.  "<It is indeed.  Such variety here!>"  The Atlantean word for 'variety' he used carried a shaded meaning, one of slight distaste, though he kept his smile up.

 

He clapped his hands sharply and nodded, "<ah, so you understand more than most Surfacers!  Yes, our technology is comprised of what you would consider both mechanics and mysticism, though part of the problem in studying them here is that we do not consider them fully separate fields.  On the other hand,>" his smile faded to a thin straight line, "<knowledge of our skills and processes is rare even among my people, much of it lost during the Sinking, and what little interest there has been in it has been on recovering and restoring what was lost, not in developing new things.  Which leads to the crux of my difficulties: at home,"> he held up his right hand, palm down, "<I have access to the finest techno-wizards, though they are few, and constantly look back, trying to reclaim the past.  Up here,>" he held up his left hand, palm up, "<I have access to a greater range of knowledge and resources, of minds that look to the future, but they all see two paths where I see one, so I must work out,>" he brought his palms together, "<how to merge them.>"

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Tsunami

 

<:Yes, unfortunately many that live on the surface have long taken a destructive approach to interacting with the environment of our planet. Attitudes are starting to shift, but there are still many that only see nature as something to be exploited for profit."> Giang replied somewhat solemnly.

 

At Heroditus' excitement regarding her response to his question about Atlantean technology, Giang gave a small smile. <"Do not mistake recognizing the nature of your technology with true understanding of how it works."> She responded, her smile still in place.

 

But regardless, the Asian young woman listened as the teenage Atlantean explained how he found himself trapped between the views of his people and the scientific community on the surface. <"That does seem to be something of conundrum."> She responded as she paused a moment, seemingly in thought before continuing, <"I am not sure I will be able to directly help you in finding a solution, but I am certainly happy to listen when you wish to discuss the conflicts between the two views. At the very least, being in the position you are allows you to at least consider how combined what you can learn from both, where those firmly rooted in their views might not even consider such a thing.">

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Heroditus appreciated that change could be difficult, especially on a societal level, so he nodded along with Giang's words.

 

"<If you did understand how it worked, you would be doing better than most of my people!>" he replied with a chuckle-click.  "<So much knowledge was lost,"> he looked off in the distance, tone shifted down, then back up, "<but it has been my family's proud tradition to recover that, and restore Atlantis to its former glory.  Which has afforded my family some minor boons, recognition by the nobility,>" he said with disinterest, "<but I prefer the work to the accolades.>"

 

He turned back to face her, "<what of your family?  Any traditions you hope to uphold?>"

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Tsunami

 

Giang paused a brief moment as Heroditus turned the discussion from Atlantean technology and his family to asking about her's. For a time, her family had been a difficult subject for the Asian young woman, one she had been somewhat reluctant to openly share with too many of her peers at Claremont. But Giang had come to terms with the issue of her family some time ago. And while when dealing with the subject when brought up those not part of the Claremont or wider superhuman community she tended to simply respond by stating she was estranged from her family and leave it at that, that response was not one she even considered with the Atlantean teen.

 

"No, unfortunately I am not aware of any family traditions that I would want to uphold. Quite the opposite, I rejected the traditions of my father’s side of the family when I set out on the path which led me to Claremont." Giang replied, switching to English for the first time since Headmistress Summers had left. Her tone still as calm and even as it had been previously. "My father's family served as lieutenants in the criminal empire of Dr. Sin for much of the last century. But my father had grander ambitions than being in the service of Dr. Sin, despite how much power his position provided. To that end he had me raised in seclusion, trained from a young age to serve as a weapon in his bid to free himself from Dr. Sin and create his own criminal empire. I choose to reject this purpose."

 

"My mother's side is not particularly better. While I do have a young aunt who has taken on the role of hero, my maternal grandfather is Amir al-Darsha, also known to the world at Typhoon, the tyrant of Socotra. My mother is presently married to a Dakanan noble, one who's family has in the past opposed the Dakanan royal family. Although at least she has thus far shown no intention of trying to use me to help further any ambitions."

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Heroditus nodded sympathetically along with Giang's words.  He respected her ability to break free of the criminal connections her father had, and to make her own way in the world.  Family was important, yes, but the greater good to society must be considered.  And if one's family was working against society, then one must break from them, at the very least, if not directly oppose them.

 

But then she mentioned a name of a Surfacer that even he knew.  That many Atlanteans knew.  "I am familiar with that one: Typhoon has tried to usurp the throne of Atlantis on several occasions.  Always repelled, of course -- the last time using a sonic canon that one of my ancestors had created!"  There was mostly pride in that, though Giang also noted a hint of... reluctance?  Shame?  "I am relieved to hear you & your mother have broken away from him," he aid, all genuine warmth, "and should your grandfather ever try to capture or harm you," he placed his right hand over his heart, "I would do all I can to help you."

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Tsunami

 

Giang gave Heroditus a grateful smile as he discussed Typhoon's history with Atlantis and offered to provide her assistance should Typhoon ever set his sights on her. "I greatly appreciate the offer Heroditus." She replied. "Hopefully . Thus far he seems to have taken little interest in me. Whether this is a result of some prior agreement with my father, or just having enough to focus on with his children and other grandchildren, I cannot say. While I have thus far not sought out any confrontation with him, there may come a time when I have little choice but to do so. Certainly if he renews his aggression against Atlantis I will not hesitate to come to its aid."

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Heroditus smiled and nodded at Giang, "thank you," then sat silently for a few moments.  He did not seem to be focused on any one thing, instead looking about, at her, at the trees and flowers around them.  At one point he closed his eyes and leaned back a bit, feeling the gentle breeze play over his face and arms.

 

Alright, this is going well so far.  First impressions have gone well, vows of mutual assistance.  But I should find out what she's been up to, what I can learn from her.

 

After a few moments, he spoke, though he kept his eyes closed and back relaxed.  "So, what did you and Princess Thaelia get up to?  I have heard some tales of you & her -- and one other, I believe -- acting as protectors of the oceans?  What was it?  'Seafaring Heroes,' I believe."  He opened his eyes now and leaned forward a bit, turning slightly to face her, "how did that get started?  And what have you experienced while doing so?"

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Tsunami

 

Giang gave a small smile when Heroditus began asking about some of her adventures with Thaelia and others. :Well, Thaelia and I got up to a number of things, but I assume you are referring to our underwater exploits. Temperance is the other common member of the loose association we formed." The Asian young woman replied.

 

"As to how that began, it was rather by circumstance, when the three of us, along with another aquatic based hero all responded to a call for assistance from the Coast Guard just off the bay here in Freedom City. That led to an encounter with a ghost pirate and his crew, who had seized a cruise ship."

 

"After that, the three of us got involved in a number of other aquatic adventures, including dealing with some sharkmen who reside in the oceans near the island of Japan and even dealing with an alien space pirate who attacked Atlantis and released an ancient Lumerian bioweapon that has been imprisoned in the city for millennium."

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"Oh!," a light sparked in Heroditus' eyes, "I remember that last one!  Captain Kraken, and Dakuwanga!"  A childlike sense of awe and wonder, tinged with fear, crept into his voice, "I was only ten at the time, a few months shy of my eleventh birthday.  During the initial attack, my parents hid my sister & me, then they went out to see what they could do to defend the city and its people.  Theodora & I comforted each other, as panic gripped the streets."

 

He paused, perhaps remembering some particularly loud explosion from Kraken's ship's guns, but only for a moment.  "In the aftermath, our parents were quite busy -- mother tended to the wounded, and father saw to repairs to the city.  I believe he may have even worked on rebuilding and reinforcing Dakuwanga's holding pen!"

 

He wasn't entirely sure that last bit was actually true, but it sounded like something the Stylianos family would be called in to do.

 

"Do the three of you still work together?  Do you have your own base of operations?"

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Tsunami

 

Giang listened as Heroditus recalled his memories of the incident involving Captain Kraken and the Dakuwanga in Atlantis. She felt a bit of sympathy for the Atlantean teen, considering how frightening that incident must have been for someone so young.

 

"Yes, that is the one." The Asian young woman replied. "A very unfortunate incident, thankfully we were able to assist in stopping it quicker than might otherwise have been the case."

 

When Heroditus asked her about whether she kept in touch with Thaelia or Temperance, Giang gave a small shrug. "We still stay in touch, but of late we each seem rather busy with our own pursuits, so do not see as much of each other as we might like. We never really established any sort of base of operations."

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"And thankful we are for your actions that day!" he replied with a smile.  "I shudder to think what may have happened had you three not been there."

 

At her next reveal, his smile fell.  "Ah," he replied, trying to keep his tone neutral but she could sense some disappointment.  "I was hoping- well, more wondering... hrm."  He was quiet a moment, thinking carefully on how to word this next bit.  "I presume that you are familiar with," he spoke a few untranslated words of Atlantean, "or, as the Surfacers know it, the Bermuda Triangle?  There are - were - several Atlantean outposts, around and within the area, where we could study the dimensional faults and nexuses that make the area so hazardous."  He sighed, took a sip from his waterskin, "most have been destroyed over the millennia, by attacks or accidents, or simple abandonment and neglect.  But I had often hoped of finding one, intact, or of even restoring one, so that such research could continue."  A spark came back to his eyes, "and, if harnessed properly, could provide a means of rapid transportation, throughout the oceans of this world, and perhaps the oceans of other worlds!"

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Tsunami

 

Giang accepted Heroditus thanks with a smile and a small nod. Then she focused on him slightly as he shifted the conversation to talking about the Bermuda Triangle, after seeming a bit disappointed that she was not in more regular contact with Thaelia or Temperance.

 

"I certainly know of the Bermuda Triangle and recall Thaelia mentioning that there had been some lost Atlantean outposts in the region, but I do not recall about hearing of any dimensional faults or nexuses there." She responded before considering what the Atlantean teen had to say about the possible uses for the unusual phenomenon in the area. After a few moments, she responded. "That certainly sounds as if researching those faults and nexuses could be a very useful endeavor, but also possible a dangerous one, if such power fell into the wrong hands."

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"Oh, quite dangerous, yes," he nodded in vigorous agreement... and was that a mischievous glint in his eye?  "But the possible boons are well worth it, I feel."  He let out an exasperated sigh, "of course, most of my colleagues back home think otherwise.  There is a line between honoring and upholding traditions, and being bound by them, and most of them are in the latter school.  Yet," his chest puffed up a bit, "I am a Stylianos -- a Pillar of Atlantis!  My family had worked to reclaim Atlantis' lost wonders for millennia, so this would be well within my clan's sphere of interest and duty."

 

He relaxed a bit, took another sip form his waterskin.  "I am a bit surprised Princess Thaelia never mentioned those.  While I am given to understand that she is not a...," he made a few click-pops, "studious individual, I was under the impression that she had had some firsthand experiences with dimensional faults and tears, or at least had some knowledge from the divine side of her lineage."

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Tsunami

 

Giang gave a small smile when Heroditus mentioned Thaelia not being the most studious of individuals. "That is certainly one way to describe her." She replied. She gave a moment’s thought to his reasons for believing she still might have had knowledge of the possible dimensional faults in the Bermuda Triangle before she responded again, still with a small smile on her face. "It is possible she does know of them, though it might have been something she did not feel was particularly relevant to bring up at other times."

 

"It is also possible that she did not want to mention something that I might have wanted to go investigate. After some of the attempts by agents of my father and Dr. Sin to capture me during our first year here, Thaelia became somewhat protective in nature."

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Artificer

 

"Hrm, yes, that does sound probable," he agreed, nodding.  "I have heard she defends her friends as fiercely as she attacks her foes.  Still, even though the attacks from your father and grandfather have slowed," he turned to face her, "you know they are still out there, waiting.  So it may be useful to you to have a secure and secret base, one they neither know of nor could easily reach even if they did."  He shrugged, "just a suggestion, of course.  Think it over, maybe discuss it with Princess Thaelia and Temperance."

 

He took another sip from his waterskin, "so, what was it like when you were a student here?  Did you adjust well to the school?  Did you get along well with your roommate?  With your team?"

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Tsunami

 

"It does sound like a possibility to pursue." Giang replied to Heroditus’ mention of the advantages of having a secure, hidden base of operations. "I will be sure to mention the idea to Thaelia and Temperance when next I speak with them."

 

The Atlantean teen then turned to questions about her time at Claremont, which caused the Asian young woman to give a slight shrug. "From what I understand of things under Headmistress Summers, things were both similar and different when I was here. We did not have any official teams for training and study which I understand the Headmistress has introduced. Such things were much less….structured under her father, but somewhat similar groupings tended to form naturally among the students."

 

"Overall I believe I adjusted well to being here. I was already well accustomed to a strict regime of training and study provided by my father’s agents that raised me, so I had little trouble adjusting to the academic and physical course here. Perhaps the area I was most unprepared for was interacting with my new peers, but thankfully that came somewhat naturally, in no small part due to those I tended to naturally gravitate towards. I tended to work with most of the same individuals in my…..extra circular activities, generally a group of connected friends that Thaelia and I made."

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