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January 2020 

Claremont Academy 

 

Amid all the hubbub and bub of learning the secrets of various friends, and going on cosmic adventures with other friends, Crystal-Gazer had almost (but not quite) missed the fact that she'd technically been without a room-mate for the entire fall semester. There'd been a conversation before break about how she was going to have a new room-mate after the Christmas holiday, a girl from Sweden named Eira, but that was about all she'd heard. Now it was move-back-in day after the break, and she was set to meet her new room-mate for the first time. 


She was on her way down the hall to her room, the hallways full of students, parents, and even the occasional friend, when she overheard an argument coming from her open door - an argument that she couldn't understand. First came a man's voice, an older one. Someone not quite yelling but certainly speaking with authority, in a language that she couldn't immediately understand, a feminine voice about her own age. 

Then another voice, a woman's, as upset as the man's. It wasn't quite loud enough that people were coming to investigate but they were certainly listening.

 

Turning the corner and stepping into her room, she was confronted with two people, no - three? The first two were easy enough to understand. A man in a shirt and slacks that were too expensive to be as casual as he wanted to look, the sort of middle-aged that's beginning to turn into a paunch, a blonde mustache turning to grey on his face. The woman next to him looked much the same, her blonde hair cut short in a pageboy, jewelry on her neck and hands, looking more like a college president than anything else. At Lulu's arrival, they turned to her and smiled politely. "Hello," said the father, "you must be...Lulu?" his accent in English was distinct, but his command of the language fluent. 

 

The third occupant of the room stared at Lulu, her pale cheeks flushed from anger. She looked like a punk, hair dyed blue and face pierced, and the only piece of furniture she'd brought with her was a single valise she'd left on the vacant desk on the other side of the room. She said nothing...and thought nothing. As far as Lulu could tell, there was nothing there at all. 

 

"Aren't you going to say hello, Eira?" asked her mother. 

 

Eira rolled her eyes and fired something off that made her parents glare at her. With a sigh, she turned her attention to Lulu.


"Hello. What are you in for?" 

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Lulu ambled down the familiar hallway, waving and calling out greetings to various classmates; break had been great, as usual, but she was eager to get back to her classes. She was fairly bundled up today, as winter was finally rearing its ugly head,  wearing a dark blue parka with a faux fur trimmed hood, jeans and black snow boots. Her luggage was all strapped together and floating behind her, held aloft by her TK.

 

As she approached the doorway, she cringed slightly; she hoped this argument wasn't a taste of things to come! She poked her head in the door and smiled. "Yes, that's right; how do you do? Watch out for my luggage, it's comin' through!" The large bundle of suitcases floated effortlessly into the room towards Lulu's side...until the telepath registered the girl with no thoughts.

 

WHUMP!

 

The loud noise of the cases hitting the floor startled Lulu, which rattled her even further. She nervously ran her fingers through her hair as she attempted to regain her composure. "Ah'm...sorry! Clumsy of me! Where's mah manners, you must be Eira?" She abruptly stuck out her hand, fully expecting the new student's skin to be cold to the touch.

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Eira fixed cold blue eyes on Lulu's hand, then shook it with a grip like a wet noodle. Her fingers were long and thin, her hand a little bony in Lulu's grip, her skin about room temperature. "Charmed." She turned back to her valise and snapped open the old-fashioned lock. The case snapped open, and a remarkable thing happened. The contents seemed to unfold as Lulu watched, spreading over the surface of the desk as if some very complicated internal mechanism had been set into motion. Glowing instruments and a set of tools here, a monitor screen attached to a laptop there, as if everything she could have wanted really had been neatly compacted down into that suitcase. 

 

Her father asked her something and Eira responded in English without turning around. "Why?"

 

Eira's parents shot Lulu a look that was almost apologetic. After a moment's hesitation, her mother said, "I am Magda Katastroff, and this is my husband Bernhard. I'm so glad the school was able to find Eira a roommate this year. If you need anything," she said, handing a glossy, embossed card to Lulu, "don't hesitate to call us. We're far away, but that doesn't mean we don't care." The last was said with a look at her daughter's back. 


Eira made a dismissive noise on her side of the room as a mirrored screen rose above her desk, casting her into a mirrored triplicate. It was now clear that the contents of her valise were not just unfolding but actually spreading across her side of the room, the walls beginning to turn a distinct shade of silver. 

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Zombie. Vampire? Cyborg. Robot. Nothing. Not even a ripple.

 

It took all of Lulu's considerable willpower not to shudder at Eira's touch, but she was definitely very quick to let it go. She was relived to find both of her parent's handshakes to be warmer. "Very nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Katastroff, ah'm sure we'll be fine." She tucked the card in her back pocket, then gestured towards her small dorm fridge. "Can ah offer you anythin'? Bottled water, or a Coke...?" Her voice trailed off a bit as she watched the metal spread across the wall.

 

Ohhhh dear Lord.

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"Thank you, but we won't be staying-ach!"

 

Bernhard said something to Eira abruptly - who spat back before turning back to Lulu and making a beckoning gesture with her right hand. "Come and see." Her accent wasn't exactly thick, but it was noticeable enough - the sort of voice that sounded like it should have been talking about hot dishes or speaking on a monitor at Ikea.  The inside of her valise looked vaguely like clock gears half-submerged in liquid metal. "This is a Lor industrial fabricator. I am using it to build devices in the room I will need." She considered for a moment, then said, "It will not go on your side.

 

She stood there and watched as the silvery sheen spread over the desk and bookshelves on her side of the room, saying a few words in Swedish that didn't sound friendly, and only giving only a shrug as her parents said their goodbyes. When they left, she didn't hesitate a moment, stepping forward and driving her fist into the wall on her side with blinding speed. There was a faint crunch as the drywall broke, and she pulled her hand away with a disgusted expression on her face, the last edges of the fabricator's field spreading over and covering the hole. 

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This was all a bit much for Lulu; between her new zombie/cyborg roomie, the Borg assimilating half her dorm room, Andbthen random destructionof property, Eira was...a lot to take in. She just sat down on the edge of her bed and watched in silence as the metal continued to spread across the wall. This was her new reality.

 

At long last, she softly cleared her throat. "You're, uh, not much of a 'people person', ah take it?" As she sat there awaiting the new girl's response, the redhead's clothes began unpacking themselves, floating into the closet to slide onto waiting hangers, or drifting over to dresser drawers that silently slid open to accept them.

Edited by Heritage

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Eira balled her hands into fists for a moment, looking away from Lulu. After a moment's hesitation, she turned back to her as the spreading nano-matrix filled roughly a third of the room behind her, all of it on her side. "...I am aware that this is not easy for you." She raised the hand she'd punched the wall with, scraping the dust and fragments off her fingers absently. "I will not trouble you with talk. Perhaps I will be gone at the end of the year, if I can convince them what a...stupid idea this is." She looked down at her hand, muttered a curse, and without another word pulled the skin off the back of it. Sitting at her desk, she spread her fingers wide and began futzing around somewhere between her fingers and wrist with the fingers of her other hand. 

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Scenes of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator flashed behind Lulu's eyes; the whole franchise was very popular in her house growing up, and she had strong memories of lines quoted by her drunken brothers at full volume. How strange was it that that life now seemed more alien then her roommate casually removing her skin?

 

"Robot, cyborg or....something in between?" It came out much blunter than she intended, but at least she managed to kerp her tone even.

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Eira paused in her work, left hand's fingers pressed down into what looked like pinkish rods buried in a larger, damp-looking red mass inside her hand. She turned to give Lulu a flat, steady look. "Did you read my mind to find that out?" She turned back to her work and laid the skin back down on the back of her hand, smoothing it flat as if it had never been displaced. "You never answered my question. Why are you here?

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"It's because ah can't read your mind," Lulu admitted with a touch of embarrassment. "You, uh, you don't show up to mah psychic senses at all." The last of her clothes packed, the telepath slipped off her shoes and slipped her feet under herself. "Mah powers first manifested when ah was ten; mah family-' She squeezed her eyes shut and swallowed. "Forced me to use mah powers to...commit crimes; bank fraud, wire fraud. Ah hurt a lot of people." She chewed her lip and shrugged. "But, ah was a minor, and mah dad threatened me and mah brother. Ah went into CPS, and then a foster home. Mah mom, mah dad and two of mah brothers are facin' all kinds of jail time back home in Alabama. My brother Bobby's livin' with my aunt in Atlanta."

 

Lulu hugged her knees and rocked a bit. "So what's your story, moody robot girl?" Her tone wasn't snotty or sarcastic; she just sounded...tired.

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Eira blinked a few times. "The Beaumont trials. Yes, I have heard of this." She looked up at Lulu and said simply "I am sorry." She folded her hands in her lap and kept her gaze on the other girl. "People must have been afraid of you after that. Not knowing what you might do, or what your powers might give you." As she sat there, she began cracking the knuckles on her left hand with a slow, distinct, crack-crack-crack. "I understand. What will you do after school?

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"Yeah," she admitted with a nod. "it was like that Twilight Zone episode with the little boy who could do anything? Or that movie Village of the Damned. Folks crossin' the street, spittin' or givin' us the stink eye. Wouldn't take our money at the Dollar General." She held out her hand, and a well-worn plush unicorn floated into her grasp. "When ah was little, ah thought it was like a game, you know? That's how mah daddy explained it to me. 'You're special, kitten; you can do somethin' no one else can do!' But then as ah got older, ah started to feel what folks was feelin', you know? And folks started thinkin' 'There's somethin' wrong with this town.' Like it was cursed or somethin'. Too much bad luck."

 

She hugged the unicorn tightly, resting her chin on its head as she grinned over at Eira. "Boy, you're really good at dodgin' questions, aren'tcha! S'alright, if you don't want to talk about it." She laid back on her bed and held the plushie up towards the ceiling and began to call out a bad impression of the opening cry from The Lion King.

Edited by Heritage

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With that, Eira went back to her work. Or so it seemed, anyway. Crystal-Gazer had seen images of cyberkinetics like Miss Americana or actual androids like Citizen at work with machines and they typically used them much as humans did, typing at keyboards, looking at monitors, and the like. Eira didn't seem to bother, instead laying her hand against the silvered surface of her desk and closing her eyes. Just when it seemed she had fallen asleep, or perhaps shut herself down, she opened her eyes and said, "I...grew beyond them, and they were afraid." 

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Lulu set her plushie and rolled on her side to face Eira, resting her head in her hand. "Yeah, that'll happen. Ah don't know what it's like in Sweden, but here in America, fear and ignorance are pretty common; kind of go hand in hand. It's basically the premise of every Tim Burton movie, but it's true; if folks don't understand it, they fear it, and if they fear it, they want it to go away."

 

The telepath sat up and rubbed her eyes. "So what do you like to study? Ah'm guessin' science and math?"

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"I have a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Stockholm. I graduated last year," said Eira cooly, without turning her head from the silvered screen where it looked like she was staring blankly. She hesitated, then spoke in a softer tone. "I have not decided yet where I want my career to go, but I plan to work in cybernetics like Miss Americana." She paused again, then said softly, "You probably wanted a normal high school girl to be in your room this year. I am sorry about this.

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Lulu shrugged. "Actually, mah last roommate was made of metal, too, so it's not so bad; you definitely got the shorter end of the stick." Then she laughed and snapped her fingers. "Talk about dodgin' questions, ah never answered yours, about mah plans after school!" The redhead shrugged. "Not sure yet, really; the one thought ah've had is goin' to work for Danger International? Ah'm friends with one of the Dangers here at school." She sighed. "Ah'm not sure what ah'd do exactly, but hopefully ah'd get to travel a bunch; whole world to see out there, know what ah mean?"

 

Edited by Heritage

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"Yes, the Danger heirs. I am familiar with them." Eira turned away from her work and fixed her gaze on Lulu. "What is there to do here?" she asked. "That is not sitting in ridiculous classes."  

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Lulu shrugged. "Well, the field trips tend to be pretty good; last year, a bunch of kids went to an alternate earth to go birdwatchin', which turned out to be way less borin' than it sounds. And ah've been to space myself with another group, to this planet fully of teddy bear people." Se chewed her lips for a few seconds as she searched her mind for other cool stuff. "Oh, and we do combat simulations in the, you know, combat simulator; that's pretty cool. Some kids build weird s*** and risk killin' us all." She smiled and shrugged again. "Ah mean, it is what you make of it,  like most things in life." The redhead idly scratched her nose.

Edited by Heritage

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"I know what students do at Claremont," she replied evenly. "My...foster brother, the hero Citizen, is a graduate. I am glad they do not treat you solely as children." She looked at Lulu and clarified "What is there to do besides that? Are there...parties? What is good to know?" she asked with the baffled interest in her voice of someone discussing the behavior of fascinating aliens. 

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For a second, Lulu felt a strong surge of sympathy rise up from her gut almost all the way to her ears; this is what Eira's unconventional childhood had cost her. Would she ever feel like a 'real' girl, or would a sort of Pinocchio syndrome follow her around for the rest of her life. And how long would that even be?

 

"Uh, yeah, we have parties and dances sometimes. Ah think they sometimes have, like, talent shows when students can go up on stage and....sing or dance or do magic tricks. We also do school plays and musicals sometimes." She winced slightly. "We don't really have much in the way of sports, because, well, we can't play other schools fairly, know what ah mean? We'd have unfair advantage. And on weekends, we sometimes go to the mall and go shoppin' for clothes, maybe get a snack and see a movie." She shrugged again. "Typical American teenage stuff; nothin' too spectacular, really."

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"Hm." Eira smiled tentatively, her teeth model-white behind her darkly-painted lips. "I can do tricks." She sat back and began running her thumb over what looked like a scar across the knuckles of her right hand; one that on closer inspection had a 'twin' on the other side of her hand. "I will play music frequently. I will play it so you cannot hear it if you prefer," she said frankly. "There is something you need to see." She rose to her feet, made a gesture with her left hand, and changed. 

 

There was no other way to describe it. Clothing remained but flesh and hair seemed to fade away in a rippling surge of electricity, revealing a body that was neither feminine nor masculine, its skin a polished chrome so bright that Lulu could see herself reflected therein, its eyes white and blank as they stared at Lulu. "You will see me like this sometimes." She stood in a little pose like a model, showing the way jointed mechanical flesh moved beneath artificial skin and muscle. When she spoke without her disguise, her voice was throaty and deeper than its 'natural' sound - almost a different girl. 

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Lulu shrugged as Eira spoke of sound volume. "Ah mean, ah don't mind you playin' as long as ah'm not tryin' to sleep or somethin'. Ah usually study and do homework in the library, and on the weekends ah'm stayin' with my foster family a few times a month. We shouldn't get in each other's way too much."

 

But when Eira transformed, the telepath was much less blasé, and she whistled in appreciation. "Well now! That ain't somethin' you see everyday! Expect that's why my mental powers don't seem to work on you." She pinched her lower lip thoughtfully. "Might even be why the put us together in the first place, know what ah mean?"

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