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The Rooftops of Dubai, sunset.


It was still hot, the metal of the scaffolding was warm, the bright orange reflective paint of the unfinished portion of the  But what was more worrying was the swarm of Katanarchists.  The why of them being here was currently not the thought that Benjamin d'Amato (a.k.a the bouncing pugilist hero Rebound!) was worried about.  It was more that they were here and fighting him, that was the pressing concern.

And punching, kicking, stabbing, ninja starring (Is that even a word? -ed) were also pretty important.  This wasn't what he was used to.  A street scuffle, or a place where he could make like a pinball and ping about, but this was limited space with guys and dolls who were a cut above (I see what you did there. -ed) in a precarious position that hemmed him firmly outside of his comfort zone.  Heck, this high up and he wasn't sure he couldn't be cleaned up except by paper towels.

They were working towards the crane at the top of this thing, and he was trying to stop them.  Already worn down from however long this had been going, he worked himself after them.  "Don't s'pose youse guys wanna call it quits and just give in?"  He ducked his head sharply behind one of the metal poles as a shuriken struck against it, "Okay, okay, good talk.  Well whateva youse doin' I gotta stop ya so..."  And with that he changed his grip and swung around bringing his feet against a pole, and bracing against it before he leaped up towards the crane, and the Katanarchists.

It was in the middle of the trajectory that he noticed one of the Katanarchists as doing something, and at the moment he would have made contact there was violence and brightness, and he found himself sailing backwards, flung by the force.








Claremont Academy, Combat Simulator Room, February 9th.

1PM, ish.

Rebound tried to course correct, his mind already working out the angle of his movement, and he completed the flip as he hit the wall, and grunted with the force of it, but he bounced right off.  His control was such that he fell forward, and the twenty feet down from the wall, to land in a smooth crouch.  He panted, his uniformed dusted up, his domino mask a little torn, and his lip was busted up.

As per usual he was on a multi hour training scenario, though this was him trying to pick up the tactics, the world he was thrust in now.  Kids were the same, ish. Maybe.  But the combat scenarios had a lot things for him to look into and sort through.  His natural instinct was simply to go another time, in a different scenario that the computer was randomly generated..

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White Lioness

Oh I’m sorry I didn’t expect anyone to be here today...”


Having a free period, and no trips back home, Àjàṣorò had decided to spend some time down in the combat simulators. Even though she didn’t need to thanks to the spirit within she still like to keep in practice, after all one day she might have to manage without the gifts of the White Lioness.


Planning for a workout she had bunched her hair into two messy braids and thrown on comfortable workout clothes she’d picked up on her last trip to Nairobi.


I can come back later if you don’t want the company?”

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"Oh, is this to be another mixed session?," a bright voice called out.  Heroditus had just rounded the corner, with a small duffel bag slung across one shoulder.  He extended a hand to Àjàṣorò, "hello, I do not believe we have met.  I am Heroditus Fabricus Stylianos, of Atlantis."  He wore gladiator-style sandals laced up to mid-calf, red knee-length breeches, and a blue short-sleeved tunic, plus his usual belt and bandolier of pouches filled with components.


He turned and called out to the one already in the combat simulator, "Roommate Ben!  I thought this was going to be a boys-only sparring session!"  He turned back to Àjàṣorò and quickly added, "uh, not that I mind practicing with girls, that is.  I have seen some very skilled girl fighters!"

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A floor panel popped up, followed by a tall young man whose cheerful scarred face and sleeveless golden tunic were streaked with dirt and grease.


"Aha!" he said, looking about the Doom Room in wonderment, eyes brighter gold than his clothes, "So this is where Deimeter sent me! Oh, hello my friends!" Seeing the others, Leroy Ransome-Conte hoisted himself out of the floor, setting the panel back in place with great care. 


Coming up to the other students the Dragon Prince of Earth-2 bowed first to Àjàṣorò, then to the others, his hair all tangled and filthy from his earlier confinement. "Was there a skirmish in the offing? I can scarcely be called a fighter, but if a side needs balancing I am your man!"


Behind him, the green dragn who was his nominally constant companion tumbled out of an angry, thornbush-like portal, skidding across the floor into a jumbled heap next to the human children.


"Ouch," said Dio, "prince, can't we just apologize? It was her book, wasn't it?"


"Not yet." Leroy pursed his full lips. "This shall be her spur and guide to a greater consciousness. We all have our paths to power, my dragon. The fury of Laura Dral sharpens her, as a blade upon the grinding wheel. Our paths we must find as well."


He turned on his heel, all smiles again, "Will we be practicing our underwater dueling, good Hero?" Leroy asked the Atlantean.

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Heroditus gave a slight bow to Leroy as soon as he saw him.  "My understanding, Prince Ransome-Conte, is that this combat training session was to focus on grapples and other close-in maneuvers.  And special emphasis was made to me that this would not be 'in the Greco-Roman style' -- the Surfacer style most like the Atlantean forms with which I am familiar -- and so clothing," he patted his duffel bag, "would not be optional."  He glanced over at Àjàṣorò and made a few click-pops in Atlantean, "ah, I suppose that would be most prudent, in such mixed company."


Rebound had learned after their first night sharing a room that Atlanteans often slept naked, and -- since cold did not bother them, and their environment had few major shifts -- had less taboos against nudity than Surfacers.  Out of respect for Surfacer customs (and Freedom City's indecency laws), he had agreed to wear more than he was accustomed to, and had placed a modesty screen over the pressurized water-filled tube he slept in.


"As for underwater combat training," he glanced over at Benny, then back to Leroy, "I have requested such, on numerous occasions, but have yet to find any who seem both able and willing to engage in such drills.  Perhaps you and I might devise something?"


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White Lioness

Àjàṣorò couldn’t help but be amused by the natural conversation between the young men, it was kind of sweet and she couldn’t help but feel a little pang of envy at the companionship. Not that she’d admit it as she acted like the she was completely fine with everything.


It’s been a long week and I might have gotten the details wrong of when I check for the room. If you wish I will leave you all to your sparing, I can always go work out in the gym.”


She turned as if she was going to leave but at the door she turned her head to look at the boys.


Cause I could probably kick all your asses, clothed or otherwise. You might have me on the underwater side, I’ll give you that.”

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(*Editor's note: What, did Benny forget?)

Benny blinked. That was today? What day is it... Then came the frown, before he started to remove the letterman's jacket he wore, wearing a white t-shirt under that, the sleeves rolled up in the greaser style, and then he tossed the jacket to the side.  Rubbing his hands over his ruddy featured face from his previous exertions, he wondered idly if his classmates had a 'Benny is kinda tired' sense that tripped.

"It's a co-ed school, right?  Ain't no reason ta say no ta someone."  He looked at the rest flatly, resting his hands on his hips, adopting unconsciously a stereotypical pose.  "Jus' kinda loss track'a'time, was... learnin' things."  He was an eloquent one, and even he winced at that, then just let it lay there, because it wasn't something he was joshin' about.

"I mean sure, sure we can do undawata, thas fine, I ain't even really fought in that, so's... yanno."

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"I entirely agree, Hero," Leroy smiled, "we should have little trouble devising a multi-environment course. I only know some of the basics of butcher boxing, but hopefully it will make me better than a punching bag! Àjàsoró! If you would remain, we would greatly benefit from your expertise!"


"Good Ben, all of us are meant to find our authentic selves here. Following your ase in pursuit of emotional and mental strength speaks well of you. However, I agree that an unaltered human should remain outside the water. Even if here the Seethe is toothless."


He clapped his hands, eyes shining over a perfect smile "However! That should not bar us from a little warm-up. Good Ben, would you lead us for a time? Unless Àjàsoró would, of course."


Leroy's golden tunic flew through the air, draping over the ribbed fan running down Dio's leathery back. Under it the Dragon Prince wore a loose grey t-shirt and athletic shorts. Kicking off his sandals, he stretched experimentally. Pausing while his head was upside down, he asked politely "By the way, Hero, I saw you talking with that woman in the garden. Is she a student?"

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"I have little doubt of that, miss," he replied to Àjàṣorò as she turned, noticing how much more athletic and toned she looked than him, "at least, if you and I were to engage in melee.  And yes, I think that even underwater you would come out the victor, for my talents lay elsewhere.  Which is why I am here, training.  However," he gestured towards Benny and Leroy, "I believe either of these gentlemen could prove more worthy opponents for you."


"And I believe," he turned to Benny, "that I could rig up something that would help you -- any anyone else who needed it -- in working safely underwater."  He began rummaging through his pockets, "yes, I should be able to temporarily copy over my ability to breathe underwater to you all."


"Though, if I recall correctly," he nodded towards Leroy, "neither you nor your companion need to breathe at all, yes?"  He went back to his components, then added off-handedly, "hrm?  Oh, that was Giang Trang.  A former student, who had been roommates with another Atlantean who had attended this school.  They still keep in touch, and Headmistress Summers thought she could serve as a mentor to me."

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White Lioness

Àjàṣorò smiled at the gentle banter of the group, obviously some of them knew each other. She’d generally got on well with most of her squad, on was her brother after all, but it wasn’t clicking quite as well.


Maybe we should start with a little light sparring, rather than jumping straight to the underwater combat practice.”


She put down her bag near the door and walked more towards the centre shaking her limbs to loosen up ready for a fight.


Shall we pair up and do a little hand to hand? Or would you rather use weapons I’m pretty open on this one to be honest.”

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As usual his classmates found him several hours into these things, and it made him chuckle. "Uh... I think there is breathin' masks stuff."  Then he shrugged those expansive shoulders.  He didn't seem upset, but there was a response to Aja's words, he lifted a brow, and looked at her.  Benny was workman like, there wasn't really a sense of ego, even when he showed up other students with hand to hand stuff.  Though, he admitted he didn't know entirely what everyone brought to the table at this school, despite everyone wanting to hand out their powers on their business cards.

"If we sparin' we ain't tryin'a beat each other." He said it simply, but he shrugged again, "We can if youse guys want, but I don't think the teaches'd be too happy."  He sank down into a crouch, low like a coiled spring, and he pressed his fingers onto the ground.

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"A victory can be over many things, good Ben." Leroy imitated the other boy's movements, his long, lithe arms and legs compressing into bars of black iron. "As the law of blades tells us, worth comes from overcoming threats to existence. That is as much our preferred emotional and mental states as they are our physical. Though fewer blows are struck, the slaves of this and other lands live in constant defeat, and those who rule them in freedom are the victors in a struggle they keep hidden from the vanquished."


Still smiling, Leroy paused to pin up and secure his hair, the swathes of black curls compressing into a hard knot at the back of his head. That done, he looked expectantly at Àjàsoró. 



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"Some dry-sparring is fine by me," Heroditus replied, setting his duffel bag down in one corner.  He hooked a thumb into his bandolier and began to remove it, paused, then stopped and let it fall back to place.  "Might as well learn to fight with all this on me, yes?"  He took a long drink from his waterskin, rolled his neck and shoulders a few times, then nodded to himself.


He returned to the group and stood before Benny, and bowed slightly to him.  He then crouched to a low and wide grappler's pose, shifting slightly from side to side.  "If you are thinking of 'going easy' on me, Trainer-Benny, please, do not -- I am completely healed from the injuries incurred during our last training session."


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"Our friend Hero is very enduring, yes! Sometimes I envy you...well, I envy everyone, at some point or another, but you most frequently! What is natural and obvious to me is cumbersome and oppressive to you. Breathing itself is mostly an affectation by now, a way to feel less distanced from the world around me. To have it so meaningfully impact your life, where you go and what you do, seems so wonderful." Leroy smiled admiringly.


Swiveling around in place to have a better view of the spar, he inclined his head again to Àjàsoró. "I fall most splendidly." he said, apropos of nothing.

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"Nah, youse guys ain't gettin' it. I'm gamer'n'game."  And his scuffed, bruised, and slightly bloodied face split into a grin.  "I ain't a strong swimmer, but I gotta get better. An' like I's says, start with the baby steps or youse are eating sucker punches for breakfact lunch and dinner."  That grin still there.


"An' later we can do some three card monty for some cash.  But I guess we can just go with grapplin', and such... but, yanno what, whatever Aja, or Hero wants."  He lifted his arms and draped his forearms across his knees, he tilted her his head as he looked at the rest of them.

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White Lioness

Best to start with the easy stuff before we going for all the bells and whistles, just so we don’t pull something important. Once we’re all warmed up we can go full in.”


Àjàṣorò took a stance ready to begin sparring, looking pretty relaxed as this was something she’d done before many times. She was curious how anyone here would fight, having not fought alongside any of them before. In fact she’d be running solo for most of the year, not even having much chance to fight even alongside her brother.


Shall we start with simply trying to hit each other, before going for holds and falls?”

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"Touch sparrin'. it ain't a sprint, after all. If ya wanna learn more throws an' such we can... what' the padre call it? Rollin'? Yanno Jiujitsu sparring. That an' wrasslin' will work more in the water. We just need pads. I don't want youse knocking me out A... À? Aya?" He was stumbling over name, and he made face showing clearly his accent was the big block in his way. "Ah, I'll work on that, if that's okay?" He winced a little bit, surveying the rest. 

"Now, how we gonna pair this up?" He rested his fists on his hips, unconsciously doing the classic superhero pose, as he pursed his lips. He hadn't really dealt with Leroy or Aja this way, so he was kinda keen to give 'em a go, he did help with Herod a lot, though he did his best to pace himself down to his roomie's stamina and skill.  Especially since Benny had a tireless workhouse ethic that was at odds with everyone else's 'get good now!' mentality. Though given he had done hours in the sim, he was already a little tired.

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Leroy was busily engaged tying his outer tunic around his left arm, the cloth bundled  tight and corded around his knuckles.


"To confess, I was taught how to fight with the expectation that I would grow up at least several hundred or thousand metres taller than I have so far." Leroy's mouth quirked in an apologetic, rueful smile. "Good Ben, you and Hero are familiar with each other, what say you spar while Àjàsorò treats with myself? You will be light and nimble enough on your feet to dodge me anyway," he said cheerfully, "and should I make an error, then it will not be disastrous!"


With a last tug, the improvised boxing glove snug and secure, the Dragon Prince jumped lightly to his feet. 


Adopting a tight, low stance with his right arm rigidly upright, palm out towards his partner, the left loose and crooked by his side, Leroy beckoned the Lioness to make the first move.

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  • 2 weeks later...



Heroditus did a double-take at Leroy, opened his mouth and was about to ask something...


What?  Is he saying he expects to become some manner of Gigantes?  How?  Why?  Is it something to do with Dio?  Or the... the Phoros inside him?


... but soon closed it and shook his head.  "I have many questions, Prince, but they must wait until later."


He turned his attention back to Benny, "I agree with Àjàṣorò, we can focus on strikes for now, to limber ourselves, then proceed to grapples."  He resumed his low & wide grappler's pose, then moved his arms in closer and raised them in front of his chest, fists up -- a pose Benny had seen in many a young boxer.

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White Lioness

Àjàṣorò ready to go stuck a pose ready to start sparring, she always enjoyed a chance to test herself against others. She’s not seen the others fight so she wasn’t sure what type of opponent she would face and how her dexterous fighting style would coupe. What was it they say about an untested thing…


Well they let’s get to this? Let’s start with the basics, see if you can hit me, nothing to solid to start with let’s stick to open palm methods.”


To illustrate her point, she showed her empty palms, before bringing them up again in a defensive pose.

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Benny rolled his shoulders to limber up, then he sighed as he looked at them, muttering to himself for a moment before he barked a laugh and rocked on his feet.  Bouncing a bit with little jumps that wouldn't be abnormal outside of someone of his build he looked at them, "I am limbered up. Let's go then."

He moved in towards Heroditus, in his semi-squared up stance, immediately going into a Dempsey roll, steps precise, his shoulders and head changing level sharply as he advanced. Making him a very, very hard target to get a bead on, as he seemed to instinctively know the range, and he moved just outside of it. Though he didn't clench his fists, as he intended, at least, to do the touch sparring, then he duck low and to his left to smack his hand at the taller guy's abdomen without any impact, stepping past him, and pivoting on it, and bringing his other hand around to smack at Herod's back.

Benny put no heft behind his blows. He was going to keep up what he said he wanted to do.

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  • 2 weeks later...



Benny may as well have been sparring with a boxing dummy crossed with one of those flailing arm balloon guys he'd seen at some car dealerships.  Heroditus was a quick study, sure, and it was clear to Benny that his roommate was trying to mirror him.  But knowing how to move and actually being able to move in the required manner were two very different things.  The young Atlantean choked up almost as much as he overextended, and his footwork was so sloppy it was painful to see.  He kept at it, though -- he was determined, if nothing else -- but that determination only kept his body going for so long.  Soon he had raised his hands in surrender and was fumbling for his waterskin.


"I think... I think I lasted... lasted longer that time..."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Benny wasn't gentle in his pace, as he cut angles and switched levels as a breakneck speed. However the whole time he was encouraging as this happened, wanting to make sure that Herod was getting praise with all of this. He didn't make contact enough to hurt him, but there was a point, because despite everything, there was a near palpable tremor in Benny like he still wasn't at his highest gear. Which was true.

He wasn't going to embarrass Herod, but he wasn't showing the same fundamental approach he had been trying to drill before, he was going for the logical extension of these things, and then ended it on that, cutting, chasing, and darting in and out of the pocket.

When Herod was done, he wiped at his forehead, and he grinned at him, clapping his roommate on his shoulder.  "You're doing better, but unless youse really got the jets... Er, athletic, then ya wanna made sure that base is solid, push off the rear foot, and bring your hips behind your hand."

And he hopped away standing in profile to show what he was talking about in slow motion.


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