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Avenger Assembled

I Don't Wanna Stop (IC)

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January 2020 

Claremont Cafeteria 

 

Eira sat alone at lunch, not seemingly bothered by the fact. Her plate was full of the vegan lunch specials of the day - a cup of tomato basil soup, a curry-spiced sweet potato and wild rice burger, a pesto chickpea salad on the side, and a slice of coconut yogurt cheesecake topped by a few raspberries. Those passing close to the blue-haired teen could faintly hear music as they went, the strains of some half-audible rock music playing, but she wore no headphones. She was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt with a basketball jersey over it and sweatpants, her facial piercings glinting in the light overhead as she tilted her head back to eat, the soup briefly a red stain on her blue-painted lips before she dabbed it away with a napkin. 

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Adam was better at social situations than he had been, but he had started out entirely pathetic. Still, he had a girlfriend, he had friends, and he was secure in himself. He had a D&D game, if semi-regular, and he was friends with some pretty cool people. So, when he decided that he'd go with Pan to introduce himself to the new girl (and Lulu's roommate) he was able to swallow his nerves, mostly, and just go say;

 

"Hi." He waved, as he could hear the music. "I'm Adam, you must be Eira, Lulu's roommate." 

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Eira looked up at Adam, studying him with her flat blue eyes. "Lulu's boyfriend, yes. Hello." The music died down as she took another bite of the burger, watching Adam with a curious, though not necessarily unfriendly, look on her pale face. The iceberg lettuce on the burger was a little stiff and there was an audible crunch crunch crunch as she ate. 

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So this was Eira, the new girl that was now staying with Lulu? Of course they had to go and introduce themselves, even if Adam was hesitating a bit at first, but that was Adam, after all. Now Pan, he didn't have those reservations, no, instead he had pushed Adam ahead, let him introduce himself first. Still, a rather flat reaction. They could do better than that, could they not?

 

"Hel-lo!" All smiles, a big grin, he made a quick bow before planting himself at the table in front of Eira, reaching over it with an open hand. "I am Pan, the Forever Boy! Nice to meet you, Eira! Tell me, where did that music come from just before? I guess it was you, but I see none of those music players around." Of course he had heard it, sensitive ears and all that.

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Eira looked up at Pan, her eyes seeming to briefly unfocus. "The dimensional exile. Hello." She set down her burger to shake his hand with a cold, bony grip and began cracking the knuckles on her left hand, crack crack crack. "I have internal speakers." She smirked. "I could play it much louder, but there are rules against that." She made a little gesture that seemed to encompass the cafeteria and the school all in one. She cocked her head, seeming to glance briefly at something neither of the boys could see, and suddenly the faint sound of a familiar song played briefly, quietly enough that it would have been only somewhat obnoxious at the next table over. 

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Adam chuckled. "That must come in handy. I just wanted to introduce myself. Lulu suggested I introduce myself, and I agree." He smiled politely. "I love it here. I don't feel so strange around the other students." She could probably tell that he had a lot of scarring on his arms if she cared to look closely. 

 

He was trying his best to read the situation, to determine if he should continue talking with Eira, or leave her be. Though he also wondered what exactly Pan would do, and whether he'd need to stick around to help him.

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"If you and Lulu want privacy tonight," said Eira bluntly, "I will work in the library until nine." She looked up at Adam and added, "But there are biometric sensors in the corridors, the RA in our floor is very observant, and the 'relationship responsibility' curriculum is tedious."   She rolled her eyes and snorted eloquently, then added, "I do not think it is worth it.

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Pan looked down at the cold hand, then up to Eira, as she began to play the brief snippet of a song he had heard more than few times, now. The same smile remained on his lips, while he sat back down, leaning his face on the back of his hands as he looked at her, after her little statement about privacy to Adam.

 

"I am that, and so much more. A neat little trick, to be sure." A glimmer of Pixie Dust, and another song played softly around Eira, before ceasing a moment later. "Of course, we would not want to break any rules, would we, Adam?" His tone was playful, seemed like he took no offense to Eira's little song, but was not above a response, either.

 

"So tell me then, what part is not worth it? Reading through curriculum, or the experiences?"

 

 

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"You have not said why you are strange," Eira pointed out to Adam. "As for you, it is bad trouble, yes?" Eira raised an eyebrow as she looked at both Pan and Adam. "The mandatory lectures, the messages to your parents, all the rest." She smirked, swirling the spoon in her tomato soup as the metal scraped the bottom of the bowl. "Better to get in trouble for something more interesting than that." She looked Pan up and down a speculative look in her eye, then asked, "How do you like to get into trouble?" She punctuated her question by setting down her spoon and cracking the knuckles on her right hand, crack crack crack

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Crack crack crack, said her hand. Not the first time one of her hands had made such a sound. Pan's eyes turning to her hand as it made the sound at least made him notice. He remained motionless, not really something normal for him. "So many lectures, yes. On one thing, or the other. It seems the teachers here have a never-ending list of subjects."

 

He laughed and leaned back in chair, moving his hands behind his head to support it. "Oh, I am not picky at all. Anything exciting, any adventure will do." He leaned forward again, whispering with a hint of secrecy to his own. "It is the normal that bore me." His lips were twisted into a wide grin. Human looking, sure, but maybe not quite? Like a hint of something else? "It sounds like you might have an idea for some trouble?"

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"I, um, I appreciate the offer, and that's all I'll say about that." He blushed, and then rolled up his sleeve. His arms were a crisscross of scar tissue, some of it discolored in ways that made him look stitched together.

 

"I was constructed in a lab by a scientist that wanted to use me as a replacement body. He died before he could put his mind in me, and I somehow woke up on my own. I was missing several organs and my limbs were badly deformed, so he resorted to growing clone tissue replacements and stitching them together. That's how I'm strange." 

 

His voice was even, conversational, and not at all accusatory or angry. He said it in an entirely matter-of-fact tone. He figured if Eira wasn't exactly normal, he could be comfortable explaining his 'strangeness' to her.

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"That depends," said Eira, still smirking in a way that made her pentagram earrings glitter in the overhead lights. "Can I trust you? If I am going to get into trouble, it needs to be trouble that is worth something." Her eyes darkly glinted as she studied Pan - at least until Adam provided an interesting distraction. 

 

Her eyes widened briefly when Adam made his revelation. "A bio-droid. Hm." She blinked a few times, then said, "It probably would not have worked."

 

She ticked off points on her fingers, making eye contact with Adam all the while. "Brain transplants are fundamentally flawed because the brain itself is continually aging, yes? So there is no path to immortality. There is neuronic alignment, what is sometimes called 'mind-swapping,'" she said with a snort and air quotes, "but that is fundamentally flawed because of the brain's tendency to revert to its original state given the lack of plasticity in even an adolescent brain. Your maker might have had more luck with an infant body - but the limited available neural pathways would almost certainly destroy the continuity of the original personality. So even had your maker lived, his efforts to find immortality likely would have failed."

 

She put a finger to the side of her mouth for a moment, then raised an eyebrow. "Where do you live now?" 

 

 

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"Well it wasn't a brain transplant, it was that he was planning to ask a psychic to implant his mind into my brain, somehow. I don't even know how that works. As for plasticity, well, I have that in abundance. Apparently my mind is super-absorbent when it comes to information. My creator was apparently trying to make sure he could retrain or relearn anything that got lost in the transfer."

 

"He died, though, and his notes on how he planned things to go were sparse. So I have no idea if what I'm saying is true, it's just conjecture."

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"That depends," Pan raised an eyebrow, smirking to mirror Eira's smirk, "Can I trust you?"

 

Along with Eira, he turned to Adam as he started to explain. He folded his arms over his chest, a slightly amused expression on his face as Adam explained how he came to be and Eira called him a bio-droid. "A bit harsh," he injected, but otherwise didn't interrupt Eira's musings or Adam's explanations. 

 

"He sounds like a lovely person." Pan's voice just dripped with sarcasm, while he moved over and once again pulled Adam in close, with an arm around his shoulder. "But at least he did something good by making you! And besides, we are all strange here! You fit right in!"

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"If you identify in a different way," Eira said to Adam, politeness in her voice, "please let me know. I myself identify as a machine intelligence." Turning back to Pan, she assumed a more serious demeanor. She cast her blue-eyed gaze around the room, then said, "This location is not secure. If you want to talk, come by my room tonight before curfew." Her serious demeanor gave way to another smile. "We can discuss things then.

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"Oh, I identify as a human." Adam said with a shrug and a smile. He appreciated that she was open minded about things. He hoped that Eira wasn't going to try and get Pan in trouble. After their little chat he would have to pull Pan aside and try to convince him that there are plenty of ways to have fun that don't involve risk of suspension or expulsion. He knew his friend had an exuberance and a lust for adventure, he just hoped to temper that exuberance with some caution. 

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"Will there be a secret knock on the door, too?" Pan made a few quick knocking noises on the table, spelling out HELLO in morse code. Standing up straight, he made a quick bow to Eira. "I could make this place secure from any prying eyes, but I guess I shall see you tonight, then."

 

He winked at Eira, threw an arm around Adam and pulled him along, talking along as he brought him away from Eira again. "You will join me, right? You look like you could use some fun." He nudged Adam in the side with his elbow, his grin suddenly turning sly. "Besides, I am sure that Eira's roommate would be happy to have you show up."

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That evening, not long before curfew, Pan and Adam arrived at Lulu and Eira's room for the next phase of their plan - whatever their plan actually was. Inside they found music playing, a loud symphonic metal that made it hard to hear anything else. Lulu's half of the room looked much as it had when Adam had last been here but Eira's was distinctly odd. Sparse furnishings (the bed, desk, and chairs), the windows, and even the paint in the walls overlaid with thin, regular metallic lines that glistened slightly in the overhead lights. A series of three screens that vaguely resembled computer monitors had risen straight out of the metallic desktop surface and were playing a fast-moving video of a Viking-looking band that seemed to be in time with the music. 

 

Eira had changed too - a bright green oversized T-shirt with an abstract design wrapped around her slim torso, a black high-end gaming headset (complete with microphone) on her head and two more in her hand. She handed them both off to Pan and Adam, then showed them how to turn on the system while she connected the headsets using a thin, stretchy cord that unrolled like fishing line. When the system was on, and everyone was connected, she grinned and said into her microphone. "There. Now we are shielded from, mm, prying eyes." She looked from Pan's face to Adam's and raised her pierced eyebrow. "Are you in?

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"In for what, exactly? If we're alone enough to avoid prying eyes and ears, I feel like I deserve an explanation for why you wanted us here. I won't say anything to anyone after I leave, but that doesn't mean I'll go along with it. I'm confused and curious, at best." He glanced down at Eira and folded his arms.

 

He was no fool, and he wasn't going to go along with anything if he didn't understand it, or it's risks. 

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"An operation." As she spoke, Eira began cracking the knuckles on her right hand, crack crack crack. "You know the morning announcements from the headmistress's office, yes?" She pointed at the screen on her desk, and a recording of that particular morning's announcements played in their headphones for a few beats. She smirked, studying her green-painted nails as she spoke. "I know I have only been here two weeks, but we deserve a chance to be heard, don't you think?

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"Interesting." Pan poked at the headset with his free hand, turning it around a bit, before plopping it on. "Not quite as elegant as an illusion, but serves its purpose, I suppose."

 

He looked at Adam, an amused grin on his lips at his friend's little protest. "Obviously, we do. It would be downright irresponsible to keep our voices low." Pan agreed with Eira, crossing his arms, and looking over to Adam. "It will be an adventure, a chance to learn, to leave you comfort zone! Training for the high risk infiltration missions you will one day have to go through!" He took a brief pause from his attempts to win Adam over to look over at Eira with a grin and a wink. "Obviously, I am in. Do you have plan for what you want to say? Should it be with your voice, or with someone else's?" As he spoke at the end, his voice shifted to the headmistress.

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"It does seem a little vain to put _my_ voice on, yes?" said Eira with a smirk, seeming to relax now that she had a co-conspirator in Pan. "I have several possible musical selections I thought we might play in _honor_ of the headmistress." She played a few for the boys; mostly symphonic metal of various kinds, some of it harder stuff, all of it loud statements about rebellion and overthrowing the system. "Perhaps the Eagle Flies Alone?" she asked, eyebrow raised as the song played for the boys. "If we are to be partners, I welcome your input." She smiled, showing perfectly white teeth. "If you _are_ in, that is, Adam.

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"I don't think I have anything to contribute." Adam admitted. "I'm sure you can handle this on your own. I promise I won't say anything, but I think I'm going to sit this out." It was only a bit of mischief, he knew, but he didn't have anything he could do and he really, really didn't want to get in trouble for helping.

 

Mostly he didn't want to have to deal with his parents, or Lulu. Lulu would respect his decision to walk out of the plan. It wouldn't be in character for him to do something like this. He couldn't convince Pan of anything, and he didn't know Eira well enough to try, so it was really in his best interest to walk away. Besides, the less he knew, thee less he could reveal if the headmistress broke him and made him confess. She was scary enough to succeed.

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Pan put on a bit of a pout at Adam's declining. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it, took a moment. "Well, if that is how you feel, and you would rather miss out on an adventure, then I suppose it is for the best." He held out his open hand. "Headphones, then? I trust you will not be spoiling anything, but I suppose it is better if you do not know anymore, then." There was some disappointment in his voice, but by now, Adam should know Pan enough to know that he would quickly get over that.

 

Once Adam had made his final decisions to either stay or leave, Pan would turn back to Eira. "Vain or not, putting your own voice on would make it too easy for the headmistress to pinpoint you as the culprit, as awesome as that would be. I think it would be rather amusing to hear the headmistress sing a song like this." He nodded thoughtfully, and reached forward to scroll through the selection of songs. "Do we want a message, or do we want to make noise?"

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"There is no reason we cannot do both." Eira laughed throatily, folding her legs up beneath her on the chair where she perched. She eyed Adam, her blue gaze flat and penetrating, before she shrugged and turned back to Pan. "I have songs that have messages about authority and are very noisy indeed." She demonstrated a few for Pan, though with evident consideration enough for his ears that she didn't blow them out.

 

"Hm. I like your idea! Your auditory effects, can they be recorded?" she asked seriously. "If so, we could record the headmistress singing certain material and then broadcast it, yes?" She tapped her chin with one fingernail, adding, "It would be a simple matter to ensure the file could not be duplicated. I am not in the business of creating deepfakes. 

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