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Avenger Assembled

All The Good Girls Go To Hell (IC)

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February 2020 

Art Class 

A Day Before The Eagle Flies Alone

 

The argument with the teacher had not quite been loud but it had certainly been heard across the class. Eira Katastroff had let her know in tones of offended dignity that forced collaboration was a patently failed pedagogical technique that did not actively promote learning. But when faced with a threat to the headmistress's office if she didn't follow instructions, Eira had backed down, just in time to find herself sitting opposite the leader of Orange Squad, who by the grim logic of an odd-numbered class had found herself without a partner at a critical moment. 

 

The assignment was to "create a representation of each other" - and as Eira glared at Mia, her arms folded across her chest, her blue hair a striking contrast against her button-down white dress shirt, she was certainly a striking picture. The teacher was on the other side of the room and the studio space was big, and the two of them had privacy if they were willing to talk quietly. 

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Mia frowned, quirking her mouth to the side. Was this some dark providence that had brought them together? Or was Mia simply rolling constant snake eyes in the great cosmic gamble? Regardless, she was stuck with Eira. She had been dreading something like this, and now it was happening. Okay, Mia, just… don’t… get yourself in trouble.

 

“Soooo, uh… I can just… Like…” she said, generating sparkles in front of her. “Like you’ve seen it.”

 

There was a stylized representation of Eira-as-done-by-Ghibli down on the table, like a collectable anime figurine. In rigid plastic, Eira was forever stuck in an acrobatic pose, glaring at something off in the distance while her left arm seemed to be transitioning into metal. She was wearing the same outfit her real form was, and had the same hairstyle except apparently being blown by wind.

 

“Ta-daaaaa,” Mia said quietly, doing little jazz hands. “Anyway, that’s my side of the project done.”

Mia herself was dressed in a sleeveless black hoodie, a black and white stripped long-sleeve shirt, a knee length skirt and opaque black tights beneath. The only splash of colour on her today was the pink hair-clip she was using to keep her bangs out of her face. 

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Eira narrowed her eyes and stared at the statue as if it was going to jump up and bite her, then glared at Mia. "The instructions were to 'experiment creatively.'" She pulled her cellphone out of her pocket and without comment cracked the case open with a smooth economy of motion in her long, bony fingers. "You may be content with a B- and a 'nice effort'," she hissed without looking up from her work, "but I am not."

 

With the phone's casing removed, she didn't hesitate before jabbing her fingertips directly into the circuitboard. A second later and something metal and snaky about the width of her pinky wriggled its way out of her sleeve and embedded itself in the guts of her phone. The lights and camera began glowing slightly, abstract images playing as she worked. 

 

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Mia stared at Eira. “…Okay, cool, yeah, no, okay. I see what you mean. Gotta… experiment creatively,” she said, glaring down at the object she had created. Well, she was planning on playing nice. She was going to try and let things smooth over so they could finally move on and try and be effective teammates. But no. This was not in the cards, because Eira wanted to continue being a huge… OOOOOOO.

 

She glared, and the object began shifting under the sparkles. Before long, the object was now shorter, her midsection far more pronounced, and her skin covered in acne. Additionally, in her hair was now a protrubing bar that said “8 kb RAM” while her eyes were crossed and drool ran from her lips.

 

“There. I think that’s worth an A, don’t you?”

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"Did you steal that idea?" hissed Eira as she glared at Mia. "It was stupid of you to tell me those things about yourself and then shit in my mouth as you have, yes?" As she spoke, the flickering lights above her phone shaped into a holographic representation of Mia, a glaring face that must have matched the one Eira could see with her own eyes. 

 

"Ms. Katastroff, please watch your language." The teacher had appeared at their elbow as if summoned. and Eira's nod seemed to be pulled from the very core of her being. "I'm sure the two of you will produce something useful if you can just work together." 

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Mia looked at Eira like the woman had just killed her dog, but she dared not say anything while the teacher was there. She was visibly restraining herself, biting her lip and glaring daggers at Eira. To stop herself from saying anything untoward, Mia grabbed her water bottle and took a long drink until she was certain nothing awful would come out of her mouth if it was unoccupied.

 

She sighed. “Sure,” she said. “Let’s just…”

 

She put her hand on top of the mocking image of Eira, and it began to dissolve into the ether in her hand. Within seconds, it had been annihilated, as sure as it had never existed. She then rubbed her hands together, and tried something different. A new set of sparkles came, and then a flat, wooden version of Eira. On one side was the human, and then the other one the robot.

 

“Duality.”

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Eira stared at Mia, uncertainty on her pale face, the holo she displayed showing first Mia's face, then the art she'd made, as her gaze flicked from one to the other. "Why are you like this?" she whispered softly. "Do you think I have forgotten what you said to me? I am not stupid."

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“What? That my mom was Revolt and that I stole stuff? Sure, I know you remember. Just don’t care Whole school knows that first thing. Or are you talking about how I told you to get over yourself? Because I’m gonna stand by that. You aren’t better than me, and I’m not gonna let you treat me like I’m not good enough just because I don’t have all the power of IBM in my skull, or because I’m not related to a hot shot space super team,” she said, arms folded.

 

“You get rid of that second thing and we’re gonna get along fine,” she said huffily. “Seriously, everyone will like you more if you don’t immediately act like they’re worthless.”

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Eira glared at Mia. "You actually do not know." The last words sizzled in the air, and the image of Mia, pointing a finger accusingly and mouthing, "...villain..." went wild and chaotic. Suddenly, it was replaced by an image of faces Mia didn't immediately recognized - a blonde woman and blonde man, both of them a little older, who bore a noticeable resemblance to Eira if she washed the dye out of her hair and took the piercings out of her face. As Mia watched, the figures pointed accusingly at 'her' before they broke up into static too. "And here I was pleased that you had the wit to say it to my face, and not whisper behind your hands as they did.

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As she watched Eira’s little display, Mia’s face faltered. Only now did what she had said back in the library come back to her, and she instantly understood what she had done wrong. She frowned, looking at what were obviously Eira’s parents, and the fight went out of Mia immediately. Looking down at the desk, she rubbed the back of her neck.

 

“Jeez, look… I’m sorry. No one should ever hafta hear that from their parents,” Mia said quietly. “I was just… I shouldn’t have said what I said. I said it because I felt like I was losing the argument and I was just so… angry that I wanted to do anything that could do damage. It was wrong to do and I… I’m really sorry. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that.”

 

She frowned at Eira. “Look, Lulu likes you so you can’t be all bad. But… I just… I can’t take it when someone acts like they’re better than me.”

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Eira jumped slightly, looking down at the holographic display with a stricken look on her face. Immediately she withdrew her hand from her work inside the phone, her dataspike sliding back under her sleeve. She didn't seem to be listening to Mia at first, her eyes unfocused as she watched some inner narrative. "A security error," she finally whispered. "Nothing more." She looked at Mia, her burning blue eyes seeming to dare her to say anything at all before she said, "I do not want to be here. That does not make me better than you.

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Mia nodded quietly. What was there to say to that? 'Yeah but it felt like you felt that?' That would be counterproductive. They had just made common ground here. So what about 'glad to hear it?' That also sounded waaay too catty. She mulled it over for a second, then just decided to commiserate.

 

"Look, I wasn't super jazzed about coming here myself, but you know what? I found a lot of friends who make it easier. You already got Lulu, I think you'll find a lot more people who are able to make this easier. I know I'm not the best example but most of the people here are really nice," she said quietly.

 

"Doesn't mean you have to be cool with it or anything, I am still not like, jumping for joy at this whole thing, but... Y'know. It's survivable."

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"I have been dead before," said Eira throatily. She looked down at her work and stabbed it with her dataspike again, the silvery cord seeming to slither its way out from her sleeve before striking like a snake. She concentrated, eyes narrowed almost to slits, and the holographic image above it returned: Mia saw herself in a dozen different guises, what in retrospect must have been every time Eira had seen her since she came to Claremont, slowly taking shape. 

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Mia’s eyes darted back and forth. What? Was this just “throw Mia a curveball” day? Answering that was just a veritable minefield. She toyed anxiously with her hair, staring off into the distance as she waited for her brain to reboot.  Was she in distress? Did Mia need to do something here? What was going to fix this situation? Then, something came to her.

 

“D… Do you need a hug?” she asked.

 

Probably shouldn't have gone with the first thing that came to mind.

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Gradually an outcropping of Mias took shape - a mushroom cloud of Solitons that circled and danced around each other, a sea of faces and bodies that spoke and walked, moved and sat, in a graceful, glowing silence as if Mia had herself been used as a building block to make a tree.

 

"...if you like," said Eira simply as she withdrew her hand from the machinery of her ersatz construction, the light of Mias below reflected in her deep blue eyes as she studied the matter controller. 

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Ohnoshesaidyes

 

Mia slowly got up from her chair, and moved over to Eira. Awkwardly, she wrapped her arms around the Swedish Supermind, and hugged her. The whole time, she was wondering why she even asked Eira, but now that she was committed to it, better to just ride it out and hope that it had some sort of positive effect on their relationship.

 

Awkwardly, she patted Eira on the back. “It’s gonna be okay,” she said quietly. “I get it. You’re not gonna be a supervillain and you’re gonna make it through this.”

 

Was that good enough? Please, let it be good enough.

Edited by Shofet

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Eira was notably cold to the touch when Mia leaned close; not actually colder than the air but no warmer than room temperature. When Eira whispered in Mia's ear, the latter learned that Eira's breath was slightly colder than the outside air. "Yes."  

 

She smiled at Mia, her teeth almost impossibly white against her blue lipstick, and then waved at the teacher. "We are finished here. Mia's statue is impressive."

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