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February 2020 

St. Thomas Chapel basement

 

"Thanks again for chaperoning us!" said Judy cheerfully, addressing Father Guimont with the familiarity of the student who probably worked with him more closely than anyone else. "This is gonna be a great night." Enthusiasm for "Ben-Hur Night" had not been what she'd hoped, even in youth group, but that was okay. _Yes we can watch movies that aren't about Jesus even though we're Christians, Karen_ she thought back, briefly distracting herself with the argument from last week, _but not when we're in church!_ But there was no reason to worry. She and Leroy were going to enjoy themselves, Ashley had settled into her usual spot in a corner of the basement, and..."Ashley, you're not going to read through the movie, are you?" 

 

"No," said Ashley, stuffing the Lor-English dictionary back in her jacket pocket. "Trust me, my eyes will be where they need to be." She was the only one in the room not in costume - well, she was in her Watchdog gear, anyway. One thing  had turned to another and they were all wearing her best costumer's attempts at togas. If Mia could dress up for her movie, it only made sense they dress up for theirs! 

 

Father Guimont, an older man getting well into middle age, had conscripted Leroy to help him get the big screen TV programmed and hooked up to his new sound system. "Just plug that in there, and oop, I think he needs to get that in," 

 

Judy had joined them while they worked. "It's gonna be great!" she said with a wink Leroy's way. "I think Micah must be picking her up right now..." The double-date had been her idea - as for that matter had been Micah 'bringing' Mia to movie night at all.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Micah still felt a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing. The rather blatant setup by Judy was one thing. Being in close proximity to Leroy for so long and having to endure him and Judy being more casually affectionate was another level. But at the moment he stood in front of the door, Micah heavily pondered his decision in wardrobe

 

His arms and torso felt fine, but his legs and feet were freezing. He glanced at Mia, smiling a bit despite the shiver.

 

"Remind me to never question the emergency warming measures taken by those who regularly wear skirts, dresses, and similar garments. Ever again."

 

He stepped forward and opened the door, smiling as he gestured for her to head in.

 

"After you!"

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Mia smirked at Micah. "If you need any stockings, just lemme know, I can conjure up a pair. Any time," she said.

 

Micah seemed nice enough, a good guy, but she wished she was hanging out with him on different terms. The whole set-up was a little off-putting, but she knew Judy's heart was in the right place. It always was. Still, though, the idea of sitting through a three hour movie - while entirely sober! - was a fairly daunting proposition.

 

Mia knew it wasn't accurate, but she was just wearing a toga, one with some purple on it, the kind senators wore, because why not, really? How many historians were there going to be to tell her girls couldn't wear a toga? Most of the girls were probably wearing them too.

 

Heading on in, she waved at Judy. "Yo," she said. "We are here and ready to watch."

 

She nodded at the father as well.

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Everything went well, at least at first. Judy cuddled up to Leroy on the couch as much as propriety allowed; her leg against his leg and her hand in his, her head on his shoulder as the movie started. There wasn't quite enough room on their couch for both couples, but Judy figured Micah and Mia would be more comfortable without a lot of company. They're such a cute couple, especially in those robes! I hope they do get together. Mia was a good friend and Micah was a good boy; they deserved each other. Judy knew that her friends would probably want to talk as the movie went (and she was eager to share her own knowledge of the material), so she'd turned on the subtitles to go with the film so nobody would miss anything if they talked quietly. But for the moment she was content to enjoy the moment. In the dark, she smiled up at Leroy before turning back to the film. "It's a shame what happened to Mr. Heston, he was such a good actor!" 

 

For her part, hanging around in the back, Ashley kept half an eye on the kids and half an eye on the movie, which really was very long and she had already seen. Twice. 

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Micah had settled down to watch the movie; he'd not seen this one, but he had watched the old Ten Commandments movie a couple of times. There were certainly...imperfections...with said film, but it was still an excellent piece of movie-making. Ben-Hur was looking to be cut from the same cloth. His gaze flipped to Judy at her comment, before his eyes lost focus just a bit.

 

"Alzheimer's is...my grandfather, my father's father, had it. He tried to pass me all the lessons he could before it just...took him from us. Even though he was sitting in front of us. No one should have that."

 

He sighed and tried to lighten the mood.

 

"This movie was during Peak Heston, though!"

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"A curious and singular time" agreed Leroy, a god in black and gold. Whether by accident or design, he'd dressed in the tunic and sandals worn by the film's villain, Masala. In place of the Roman eagle, however, a wolf's head snarled defiance while the beads were replaced with golden fangs. Unusually, the only jewelry he wore was the silver ring on his right hand, without even something to restrain his hair. Snuggled against Judy, the tall boy was unusually tense, frequently ignoring the action for long stretches to stare intently at the wiring. Occasionally, Judy heard him murmur "Please persist" during the noisier segments.

 

"There were no heroes in this time, aside from that ancestor of Dr. Daedalus." he remarked suddenly. "Is it known why?" He indicated the Romans marching in procession "The school records I have studied claim they worshiped ordinary men as gods, whom others raised to power and fostered learning and capability. A superhuman could have accomplished wonders in this era. Even in yours, much-advanced as you are, they change the fates of nations."

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Mia grimaced at the discussion about Charlton Heston. He was not very well-regarded in her house, for obvious reasons, but the discussion turning to Alzheimers made her think of her own grandparents. Her paternal grandfather, while not anywhere near full-blown Alzheimers, had started forgetting things and she worried about him. She fidgeted in the chair she had generated for herself, folding her arms.

 

"Yeah, Alzheimer's is pretty rough..." she murmured.

 

Her eyes occasionally drifted over to Ashley. They hadn't made up yet, and Mia was still mad at her for the deception, but she had been thinking over the break and she began to reason herself into understanding Ashley's position. While the lies hurt, she did feel bad for how aggressive she had been that night and wondered if it was time to try and reconcile.

 

"Ash," she whispered. "Hey Ash."

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Sensitive to her boyfriend's needs, Judy put her hands on the back of Leroy's neck and began firmly massaging it, squeezing at the places where she knew tension built up. Her hands were very warm, she knew, and Leroy usually liked that about her. "Oh Ah don't know," she said easily, "some of the stories from Greek and Roman legend are based on the truth, so they were sort of like heroes. And you've got the Apostles and the first evangelists, doing justice by dark to save a world that feared and hated them. That's kind of like being a superhero." She smiled at Leroy, her eyes shining in the dark like a cat's.

 

Her arms folded where she leaned against a pillar, Ashley shot a questioning look down at Mia.

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Mia slowly stood up and walked over, trying to be as undisruptive as possible. Shifting her weight from leg to leg, she took a second to gather herself as she tried to figure out exactly what she was going to say to Ashley now that she finally had the chance.

 

"Uh... Look. About... Before the break," she said as quietly as possible. "I'm sorry. I know you're in a tough spot and you really didn't need me yelling at you like you did. I'm still kind of hurt but... I shouldn't have yelled at you, or called you a bad person. You're not, you're just... Yeah. Y'know what I mean."

 

She had trouble meeting Ashley in the eyes, guilt hanging heavy over her. She didn't know what she was doing, exactly, or if this was the best time for it, but she had to say it or it would drive her completely bonkers.

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Ash shot a glance at Micah, who for the moment still seemed occupied by the movie, or maybe by the way Judy was running her fingers through Leroy's hair, and who would have no reason to know why Mia was apologizing to her. "That's...fine," she said after a moment. "You were mad, you had a right to be mad." She looked Mia in the eye and said in a soft whisper, "Don't feel like you have to apologize when somebody hurts you and you feel bad about it, okay?" She put her hand on the girl's shoulder and said, "But thank. I'm glad you're okay."

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"I mean, there weren't a lot of, like, superhero-heroes right around this time, no. There'd been a few hero-types with potentially some powers running around sort of before and after. At least, in Europe and the Middle East. Do we know about further East, in China and Japan and Korea and so on? And isn't Dakana at least that old? The whole White Lion thing is as old as Dakana, and they're pretty super-hero-y."

 

He shifted a bit in his chair, glancing for a moment toward Mia, but recognizing something was happening.

 

"And...I mean, who's to say there weren't super-types scattered around the Americas? We just don't have the same records. Lot more oral traditions. All things considered, you sometimes think it's a miracle the stuff we know these days survived."

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Mia's eyes misted over for a moment, and she felt a lump in her throat, but she nodded and forced herself to regain composure. God, I'm such a dork, she thought to herself. "Thanks, Ash. You're right, and I'm glad you understand. I still think you're pretty cool," she said softly, before looking over at the screen. "Alright, I gotta watch the movie or Judy's gonna get annoyed."

 

With that, she moved back to her chair, sitting and watching the film relatively quietly. She half-listened to the conversation going on between her supposed date and Judy, and realized she wasn't doing a very good job of deflecting the whole relationship problem that Judy had been trying to avoid. She thought about mentioning how she thought a lot of religious figures might have just been normal who got powers somehow, but that seemed like a bad choice in a church, so she stopped herself.  Instead, she tried to rephrase.

 

"I mean, we have all sorts of legends about people who could do some crazy stuff. I think like, uh... Superheroes is a very new concept that like... requires certain modern stuff to exist. I feel like a lot of cultural champions like Achilles would have been considered superheroes if they were alive today, you know?"

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The tall boy frowned for a moment, bending so Judy wouldn't have to reach so far. At last he replied "Well said. I see my error, heroism comes as often after the fighting is done, or before it begins. On most worlds, people write and think little of times of peace. When rich soil is torn and scorched, billowing to the sky, they see what it is they lost. For example," Leroy indicated the screen, nestling against Judy, some of the tension leaving him, "the people of this coastal region, Ith-Idj-" he paused, workng his mouth a little, before finally giving up and ploughing on "-Ezarl, they were often conquered, without a tie of faith hinging on the received history of the region this quiet time of subjugation might have no stories at all."

 

"So much of what is done by supers is to preserve a...a semblance of calm and stability. Does it matter to anyone alive that Midnight defeated the Blackbirds? No. But the people they robbed and terrorized cared very much. Tectonic, Halogen, the Bouncing Beatnik, those who fell or vanished did good in their lives, though they are invisible to history." Crossing one leg over the other, Leroy sighed as the fatal rooftop pottery was thrown down, shattering the uneasy peace.

 

Resting his head against Judy's shoulder, the Dragon Prince watched the nsuing chaos. "In this world, it seems like the finest deeds are the ones most easily forgotten. Back home, while the Army of Light has pride of place, even those who simply walk the streets and chase away loneliness in others are honoured and remembered."

Edited by Ari
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"Your name will no longer be Jacob," Judy said with that far-away look she got when quoting Scripture, "but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome." She smiled, nodding at the surety of the words. 

 

Ashley wanted to interject that it probably mattered to Midnight, his wife, and the people they'd saved from the Blackbirds, but that was hardly something Watchdog would say under the circumstances, so instead she leaned against the wall and watched the kids watch the movie. 

 

"There must have been fewer back then," Judy commented quietly. "A lot of bad things happened in the past." She leaned comfortably against Leroy, enjoying his closeness even if she did wish he'd take her hints and cut his hair back. "Sometimes you have to do good in secret," she said with a small shrug and a quick glance Ashley's way, "because doing it where people can see would do everything. Besides," she went on, "people do pay attention to what superheroes do. Remember when the Freedom League got that parade in New York, or when Lady Liberty and the, uh, President stood up there together?" She blinked and tugged on Leroy's shoulder. "Come here." When he did, she kissed him quickly on the lips, earning not so much as an Ahem from the chaperone priest. 

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Micah pointed at Mia and smiled when she brought up Achilles.

 

"Yeah, him! Achilles! That's an example of what I meant. He couldn't bench-press a mountain and shoot lasers from his eyes. Maybe he had magic, maybe it was genetic. But he was clearly not just average. Odysseus was like Raven, yeah? All smarts and tools and stuff."

 

He looked back toward the TV just as Judy leaned over and kissed Leroy. Mia was close enough, and Ashley observant enough, they could see that Micah's eyes tightened, just a little. Nothing more than that, but clearly there was something going on in his head.

 

"The Ghigau, or at least some of them, might have been the same way. I think it's maybe true that, for the most part, the...flashy...powers are more modern. Most stuff we read about from the old days is people that are really tough, strong, great fighters, that kind of thing. Maybe some shiny swords or something. At least until you get out to India and China, that area. Some of those get pretty wild."

 

He looked thoughtful for a few moments.

 

"I mean, they're only 'invisible' because we let them be, though, yeah? Isn't it on us to share those kinds of stories? Tell people about these heroes?"

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After all their practice, Leroy had much improved since his and Judy's first, clumsy kiss at the school dance a lifetime ago. As they parted, she saw a light in his eyes that wasn't reflected from hers. "Yes. A wonderful first step. The righteous are barricaded from power by violence, so one who need not fear them has few limits. Perhaps someday you and I will also stand before a teeming throng, Dee, at the dawn of a kinder age." He stroked her cheek tenderly, smiling like that time had already come.

 

"That is a perfect example, Micah." he added, turning that smile to his schoolmate, "We have all read the writings of Dr. Atom, how the entry of Centurion from another world flooded this one with exotic forms of radiation from countless dimensions, tying this to them and loosening the grip of conventional physics. So you have the divide between Emily Swift and the first Lady Liberty. However, that only answers one side to this question. The key problem is solving for Atlantis."

 

Sitting up a little, one arm set free to gesticulate, Leroy went on, golden eyes brighter than ever. "According to what they claim, the Atlanteans practice the manipulation of interdimensional forces known as magic. The Sinking is even posited to be partly the result of transporting beings from outside this dimension to our own, and the Deep One guest speaker Ackwareea In-His-Mouth indicated very strongly that such beings exist and have had profound effects upon our planet. What then, is the novelty of the Centurion breaching the unseen walls and introducing this universe to the laws of others? Over a hundred millennia after that was a fact of life? Even in the adventures of the Dangers they record standing portals to worlds beyond, artefacts of origins celestial and sorcerous. There is more to this, but we lack to the pieces to complete the picture!"

 

He sighed, slumping back a little in his seat. "I do beg your pardons, it is a subject of great fascination to me. I will pipe down." he said, having the good grace to smile sheepishly.

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Mia could not help but notice the amount of PDA that was going on here, and she was starting to feel a little self-conscious. Shifting, she folding her right leg over her left, and looked at the screen. The discussion was also starting to go above her head a bit, so she was wondering where, exactly, she could fit herself back into the conversation and her wonderings came up with nothing. 

 

Leaning back in her chair, she found her eyes glazing over at the movie. She wondered why she had agreed to watch something so long, but she supposed she owed Judy for showing her Rocky Horror. Still couldn't believe she didn't like it. How could anyone not like Rocky Horror? It was crazy. Her eyes drifted down to her toga. She went to pick off some lint. Where'd she even get it? She looked around. Was the room dusty? Kinda. She noticed that some of the wall had a bit of damage. How'd that get there? Were people having brawls down in the church basement?

 

Heh heh. Jesus fight Club.

 

She was pulled out of her musing by the sound of a creaking beneath her. She looked down, and as soon as she did, the plastic of her chair disintegrated beneath her into little pebbly bits. She hit the ground, legs flying up into the air as she went sprawling.

 

"OH CRAP," she cried as she went down, before laying there and looking up at the ceiling silently for a moment. "...Now I was pretty sure I had the formula for chair plastic down pretty well," she said, mostly to make light of things. 

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"Oh no!" Judy jumped up and away from Leroy, hurrying to Mia's side. "Are you okay?" 

 

"It was just a little bump," said Ashley, reaching down to help Mia up. "Did you do that deliberately?" she asked, giving the younger girl a baffled look. 

 

"No, it just wore out," said Judy. "And you a Roman empress!" she said cheerfully, elbowing Mia lightly in the side. "Hey, let's go fix our makeup," she said, putting her arm in Mia's. "Be right back, everybody." With a deep sigh, Ashley followed the girls as the movie kept playing behind them - Messala's exile of Judah ben-Hur. 

 

 

Inside the bathroom, Judy was all smiles as she opened her purse. "So! How's it going?" she asked Mia with a wink. 

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When Leroy started to wax poetic about Atlantis and the deeper parts of inter-dimensional energies, Micah's eyes glazed over a bit. He looked toward Mia and started to roll his eyes with a light-hearted smirk...and then her chair fell apart.

 

He'd started moving faster than any mortal by the time Mia was halfway to the ground. If not for his own chair tangling his legs enough that he ended up nearly bowling over the couch, Micah might have been able to catch Mia. As it was, he ended up leaning over one side of the couch even as Judy, Leroy, and Ashley raced to the aid of his date. By the time he was standing, Micah's face was flush with embarrassment. And before he had a chance to ask Mia if she was okay, all of the ladies swept out of the room. 

 

Leaving Micah in the room. With Leroy. By themselves. Micah glanced back at the TV, then at Leroy. He repeated this for a few moments.

 

"So. Atlantis, huh?"

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Mia let herself be lead into the bathroom, rubbing at her poor behind the whole way. Once she was pulled inside, Judy was already opening up with the questions. She blanched, and brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

 

"Ah, it's going fine," Mia said. "I thought I was past the whole 'objects I made disintegrating on me' thing but turns out I can still make myself look like an idiot if I do a rush job. Who knew? Totally wiped out there."

 

"You and Leroy look like you're enjoying yourself," Mia remarked. "And the conversation on old supers was pretty interesting."

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Judy blushed and looked away, making a study of her face in the bathroom mirror as she opened her purse. "Well, Ah mean, we were...canoodling some," she admitted, 'but we don't get a lot of chances to do that together. It was just, you know, on the lips..." 

 

Ashley, watching from where she leaned against the wall, said softly, "I don't think she was criticizing you, Judy." 

 

"Well." Judy looked back at Mia and smiled. "How about you and Micah?" she whispered, handing Mia some supplies. "How are things going? Did he treat you nice, picking you up?" 

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Leroy looked solemnly at the Thunderbird. "Micah, you are cruel. You would have me forsake my sworn word?" He laughed, taking the edge off the words, "I must ask your pardon, you looked so serious! But no, I will keep my pledge."

 

As Judah Ben-Hur was led across the desert in chains, the elegant boy indicated the screen with a flick of his ringéd finger, "Your bloodkin, the Cherokee, are yet more remarkable. Atlantis saw a world of masters and slaves, yet such thinking was practically unknown among your ancestors. The myth of an outsider not being a person was carried here on the ships of Hell."

 

"But that is of little weight here and now. What of Mia?" Leroy smiled at the other boy, "she is wondrous, with few equals. I count it an incredible honour for you to be chosen by her. Someone so gentle and caring as yourself is, of course, of great value. I am sure you will find love together, as Judy and I shall."

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Oh, damnit.

 

Mia sighed. She had kind of hoped that Judy would forget about the entire purpose of this, but this was Judy Cahill. Woah. That was a weird thought. Strange to think of her by that name. But no, it seemed as though she was trapped. She could just let Judy down easily, let her know that she wasn't really compatible with Micah. But then she thought about Judy's sad face, and the quivering lip, and Mia started to feel herself panicking a little bit.

 

"Uh, look, Judy... Micah's great, but like... I mean, he's just not what I'm into and like, I'm kind of focused on other people right now, like Eira and that whole..." she paused, and immediately realized what she just did and how it sounded. Her face turned bright red, and her eyes widened. 

 

"UH. WHAT I MEAN IS, No. That's not. I didn't mean it like. Ugh." She pinched her brow. She knew what was coming, immediately. "It's just, Micah, you know? Not for me. That's all."

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"You-" Judy blinked a few times. Eira was on the list of students she was supposed to stay away from as much as possible - between the effects of Judy's powers on machines and the way Eira's abilities as a robot girl might let her learn the Secret, it was just a bad idea all around. From what she'd seen, the Swedish exchange student didn't seem like anybody she'd want to know - brash and full of herself, dressing like who knew what and acting like whatever she wanted. But Mia was her friend, and she was going to support her, whatever that meant. I'm just not going to ask. 

 

"Well okay," she said seriously as she brushed her hair, "but you've got to let Micah down easy. He's a very sweet boy, and Ah don't think he's had a lot of experience with, you know, girls. Ah had to work pretty hard to get him to work up the nerve to ask you out in the first place." She smiled at Mia and added. "You look great, though, really. A real Roman princess." 

 

On the other side of the bathroom, Ashley took a step towards the door, trying to catch what was actually happening out there. 

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Micah's gaze stayed on Leroy now. He gave the other boy a rather flat expression. He chose not to rise to the potential bait about "sworn word". But then Leroy started talking about Micah's heritage. His ancestors

 

"While I appreciate the attempt to somehow put my ancestors on a pedestal, what, exactly, are your sources? Because right now you're sounding like a movie-maker who wants to have the Wise Native impart Folk Wisdom to the White Hero."

Perhaps his tone was bitter, but he'd run into that sort of thing all too many times before. But before he could get any steam going, Leroy brought up Mia. Micah shifted his stance a bit, now all awkward teenage boy. 

 

"I...chosen? Look, Leroy, we're here watching a movie. Mia and I talked about this after the initial...invite. Mia's nice but we don't really know each other. We're just hanging out tonight, okay? I'm not putting a ring on her when I barely know her or something."

 

The unspoken words hung in the air. 

 

"Not everyone gets a fancy fairy tale romance. Some of us just have to muddle on through life."

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