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"I've definitely been keeping busy.  Have spent more time out of Freedom than in it since then. Got my MBA while avoiding being KIA.  Got engaged.  Temporarily took in a time displaced teenager.  Got a couple of new scars and tears.  All the big adult milestones."  Erick then looked between the self-proclaimed, not that Erick could think of any other proclamations that would be more fitting to describe the creature, dragon and Indira.  Seeing the dragon bend down with it's toothless maw and all was an amusing sight in so far as it drove back to Erick's mind just how tall many of the attendees were.  


Hey now. Your glass will at least look like wine.  Erick sheepishly responded to his betrothed.  

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Zhenshchina-voin

It is a shame we can’t send her to spend time among my people, or even those weird Welsh warriors the Ministry can never seen to find.”

 

She had never visited the place but had heard good things about this academy, it’s probably why the Ministry never tried to found on of there own.

 

I wish I had something like that when I entered man worlds, some much was confusing to young eyes. But then it was during wartime.” she thought for a moment before adding “We should go visit to make sure it is up to our standards, we do counts as her family to a point. And I want to make sure my little sister will fit in well, and a little bit of curiosity about this place.”

 

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Horrorshow

 

"Oh, uh," he stammered to Indira, looking suitably chastised.  "Right, yeah, be more discrete.  Ix-nay on the ue-Gray.  Got it.  And, uh," he extended a hand to her awkwardly, "it's nice to meet another of Daphne's friends."

 

Get it together, Dayv.  You'll never be an infiltration specialist if you keep blabbing like that!

 

"Oh, you were a student at Claremont, too?"  He looked to Mali, then back to Indira, "same year?"

 

Then Erick was there, chatting with Indira and Mali, and mentioning previous conflicts.  "Whoa, you all faced the Meta-Grue!  When was this?  How did it go down?  I've heard a lot about him, but never gotten the chance to talk with someone who's actually faced- oh!"

 

He took a few steps to the side to let Dio by, and gave the dragon a quick scritch behind the ears as he passed.  He could not help but chuckle a bit at Dio's question to Indira, "oh, sure, appearances matter a lot here.  Clothing, makeup, hairstyle -- appearances leave an impression, and first impressions are often the most powerful!"

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"Woof! Woof!" The group on the roof heard the deep, resonant barking first, followed by an exclamation of "No! You naughty dogs!

 

And then from out of the stairs to the lower level there came tumbling the hounds! There were some half-dozen of them, each about the size and general shape of a German Shepard, with the general physical presence of a dog but a very different look. Each one was black, black as night itself, and trailing behind them came a cloud of what looked like soot but on closer inspection was shadow itself. Their eyes glowed red like fiery coals, and their breath was cold like an Arctic wind. Which everyone soon had acquaintance with, as these were very friendly dogs! Barking and woofing cheerfully, they quickly gamboled their way through the party, sniffing and pawing at anyone who looked familiar (or had tasty looking snacks), woofing suspiciously at the unfamiliar creatures that were about. One even took the opportunity to grab a pool toy and dive directly into the water with it, leaving a trail of quickly-dissipating shadow behind it as it went. 


Their owner followed it just behind. Tarva was tall and muscular, nearly a match for Zhenshchina-voin in height, with night-black hair and eyes and a vague suggestion of a black outline around her body, as if she'd been outlined in black ink before coming up the stairs. She was dressed in black that was dark against her pale skin, a tightly-clinging sweater that covered everything while showing much, and a long black skirt with a single slit up one leg that showed off an impressively well-developed left leg, the only color she wore a glimmering pentagram around her neck.  "Hounds!" she called to the dogs, who responded by woofing cheerfully at her and then going back to whatever they were doing. Tarva put her hands on her hips and growled. "Argh!

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Lulu was...struggling a little bit. Normally she had no problem keeping an entire city's thoughts at bay, but this was no ordinary party; there were several very powerful and downright alien minds present, and she was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. She smiled sweetly at her friends and the new faces. "Ah'm sorry, ah just need a little sit down; please, carry on." She made her way over to a nearby lounge chair, and laid back in it with an arm over eyes.

 

- Ooh, this is a lot to take on right now, - she sent to Dee. - Old friends, teenage hormones and nostalghia; lots of stuff being stirred up at this party! It's a bit like being drunk. -

 

She took a few deep breaths to clear her mind, which really helped, but was then brought back to the real by the baying and clatter of feet. Lulu sat bolt upright. "Puppers! Come here, puppers!" She leaned forward eagerly and gestured towards them, in the hopes of getting some puppy kisses.

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Dio started at the sound of barking and turned around, the colossal green reptile twisting its great neck like a spring to observe the new arrivals. One of them, taking a break from sniffing curiously at the shadow cast by Erick, looked up and gave a short, eager bark, thrilled at all the wonderful new sights and smells!

 

At once Dio's eyes turned black as the iris expanded, the frill ridge running down his back standing at full height, and his scales popped out and away from his skin as if on hinges, giving him a spiked, fearsome appearance! Sweeping his great wings overhead, the dragon screeched, tongue jutting from his mouth, lips pulled back far enough to leak black blood, tail lashing up and down in a frenzy!

 

With that, Dio tensed, sprang and flew, a shoutéd spell opening a portal that carried him out of the room in a rush of displaced air!

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------

 

"You have my word on it, Dee. Thank you once again, for making such a gamble on behalf of a lovelorn fool."  A sleeve of black crystal spread up Leroy's arm, which he reached out to delicately stroke her face. Even on the other side, Judy could feel the cool, smooth rock on her hot skin. "I love you as well, and everything that is part of you. Be well, my love."

 

When Bluebird had closed the transmission, the slender boy bowed to them. "You have my thanks as well, loyal and patient intelligence. Is it strange to you, to see us at our follies?" He turned sharply at the distant shriek and flapping of wings, rolling his eyes at the thump of the portal closing. Turning back to the Furion AI he said, smiling, "It seems we must get back to the party. After you, please."

 

Deep in thought, he followed Bluebird back into the pool room. Idly scratching one of the shadow hounds behind the ear as it bounced by.

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The dogs were delighted by a friendly face, and soon Lulu had two competing for her attention. They were decidedly odd-looking beasts - red-eyed and shedding an infernal sort of darkness, but full of canine friendliness as they whined and woofed at her, one jumping up to lick her face with gusto, the other sniffing with the great authority of a dog looking for treats. If its breath was colder than any natural dog and its fur closer to a wolf's than a domestic animal, it was no less soft and warm, albeit with something of the comforting warmth of the grave about it. 

 

The one in the pool saw Eira and gave a happy woof as it loudly paddled over, and with an indulgent sigh Eira bent down and picked the animal up by the scruff, one-handed. to deposit it between her and Pan. "Stupid beast," she said, but the smile on her face belied her tone. "Why are you so stupid?" The dog woofed and licked her face in reply, rolling over to show a round belly as dark as sin itself. 

 

Two of the dogs gathered where Dio had disappeared, woofing and whimpering, like a dog who has seen a cat disappear into a tree but doesn't quite know how he did it. One of them wandered off after a few seconds, the other curled up right where the portal had been, waiting like a dog looking for its beloved master. 

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Synapse

 

I know it can be difficult in large groups with such strong emotions present. Dee responded to Lulu with a sympathetic tone to her mental voice. Find your focus, you are a fortress amidst this chaos, you do not need to let it in if you do not wish to.

 

But even as the Englishwoman continued her mental conversation with Lulu, she continued the normal one with Klara. "Well, we can try to swing a trip while we are here. If nothing else we are getting a look at some of its students." Dee commented as she gestured as some of the teens gathered around the pool.

 

It was then that pack of shadow dogs broke into the party, scattering about to check out everything and everyone of possible interest that was gathered there. As one of the dogs came over to her and started to try to greet her, Dee did her best to keep it from rearing up, petting it behind its ears. "Whoa, down boy." She said as she glanced up at the sound of its mistress' voice.

 

The Englishwoman's eyes narrowed slightly as she looked at the towering figure that appeared, and her perfect memory recalled Freedom League and Ministry reports on the individual. Tarva, a former Annihilist that currently lived here in the castle and was in a relationship with Ghost Girl. A wielder of shadow magic, and quite a powerful one given she had moved the entire building they were all currently standing in out of this dimension during the most recent Terminus invasion.

 

But even as she tensed slightly, Dee let herself relax somewhat. Certainly Tarva had a questionable past, but she had been accepted and lived here with a number of experience heroes.

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Octoman

 

"Whoa." Ben's jaw dropped open when he beheld the goth goddess walking down the stairs. His eyes grew to twice their normal size. A heart-shaped chunk of the flesh on his chest, like one would make with a cookie-cutter, started rising and falling rhythmically, stretching his skin when it rose, as if there was a piston underneath. He mouthed, and thought, but didn't say out loud, MILFTASTIC.

 

Then he saw the hellhouds, and the spell was broken. "DOGGOS!" His tentacles slipped free and lashed out to pet and scratch the nearest one in a dozen places at once while he ran to close the distance with the rest of his body, adding his actual hands to the mix as soon as he could. "Sorry, left my treats in my other Speedo."

 

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Zhenshcina-voin

When my little ones went to school I make a fuss of going around and asking all the questions, and mine went to regular school. I think it only fair to do the same for our little sestra.”

 

The sudden arrival of Tarva was a shock but she held her reaction, they were at a party after all, instead she lent down and skritched the nearest dog behind the ear – she had always been good with animals.

 

These are magnificent dogs, may I ask what breed they are? We had a few Tibetan Mastiffs back home, they were amazing beasts themselves.”

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"You know how excited they get when we have people over, liquorice whip," Kimber reminded Tarva with a stifled giggle, floating over to her partner. She stretched out horizontally in the air so that her knees could bend loosely around one of the shadow priestess' hips while an arm draped over her muscular shoulders. "Some things make it hard for them to control themselves," she added sotto voce. She leaned in and met Tarva's black-painted lips in a kiss that was strictly speaking chaste but lasted a good moment longer than was arguably appropriate in front of company. "C'mon, I'll introduce you around and try to round them up."

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"You're so sweet when you're the cool aunt. I'd like to scoop you up and eat you with cream," whispered Tarva, promising things with her eyes as she slipped her arm around Kimber's back to join the others. On close inspection, it was hard to get a read on Tarva as she moved among the champions of Earth-Prime - she seemed to be showing a different face to everyone as she went. 

 

"They're my own special breed," she told Zhenshcina-voin seriously, "beasts bred for the wild hunt - and for play." She watched the dog Eira was giving belly rubs to start to whine and lick the robot girl's face. "I like to say they're my children," she added. "Beautiful beasts, every one. When they're not naughty little rascals!"  One whined pitifully, casting up huge red eyes like sad coals from the pits of Hell. 

 

She didn't flirt with Ben, not really - after all, he was just a boy and she was very clearly an adult woman. But she did give him a smile and took his hand in hers with a look of liquid warmth in her eyes. She brought a dog with her, a big fellow that breathed out something that smelled like the nothing at the end of the universe but looked a little bit like coal dust, and was happy to nuzzle and lick Ben's face. "Aren't you a charmer!" she told Octo-Man warmly, "you know, it takes a very special kind of young man to have that kind of a relationship with a shadow hound." 

 

She was not quite silent in her head when she greeted Lulu, not the way Eira was, but there was clearly something between the two of them that suggested an impressive degree of self-control. 

 

She was all professional for Synapse, though she did shoot a distinct, piercing gaze up and down the other woman's body that might have hesitated around her midsection - or was that anything but a quick glance? "Charmed, I'm sure. I'm always delighted when my home can offer shelter to the champions of Earth-Prime.

 

When she reached Eira and Pan, she cast a look between the two and said, "Hello! I don't think I've heard about _you_.

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"Well, well, well!" Pan rubbed his hands together as Eira brought up the dog and petted it, quickly falling down on a knee and reaching out to scratch the shadow puppy's belly with great enthusiasm. "Now, what manner of adorable sin against nature are you, hmm? Are you a good little monster, are you?" In the middle of all the petting, he somehow found the will power to look away from the dark little puppy, looking up at Eira. "Now, why did you keep these adorable beasts a secret?" His grin and eyes lingered on Eira for a moment before returning to the puppy.

 

He was brought out of the puppy-induced state when Tarva greeted him and Eira. Pan looked up and froze the slightest of moments, as he took her in. "Maybe, maybe not. It tends to be a bit difficult to decide whether one have or have not. All depends on the books you have read, I suppose." Pan stood up, leaving the puppy behind with some reluctance, though he still smiled his usual grin at Tarva. "Hello, I am Pan the Forever Boy. I suppose you are one of Eira's aunts?" 

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Soliton

 

Mia was starting to feel a little bit closed in, with all these people. She had never been a 'crowds' person. She was like her dad, in that regard. She liked people, liked socializing with them, but too many of them stressed her out and interacting with a lot of people made her very, very tired. Pulling her inhaler from its pocket space, she took a puff. Then, she decided to make a decision that was stressful in its own right.

 

"Hey, so," she said, out loud in the hopes it might actually reach over the dozens of conversations. "I am actually kind of freaking out right now. This is a lot of people, and I dunno if I can deal with that right now, so I am gonna... Like, I am gonna go be somewhere else. Can teleport, so I don't need a ride or anyone to freak out. Uh, thanks for having me, but this was definitely a mistake on my part."

 

Stepping backwards, Mia suddenly disappeared in a flash of sparkling light as she headed for anywhere-but-there. She knew her friends might worry about her, but she'd have her phone with her so they could check in on her if they were really worried. She'd be fine.

 

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"Oh, you are Eira's friend!" said Tarva warmly. "I'm so happy to meet you." She smiled at Eira and murmured, "You're certainly doing well for yourself.

 

"Things are not like that," said Eira firmly, blushing in her cheeks and across the parts of her chest exposed by her suit. She really did have a very pale complexion. She patted the dog's belly, smiling at Pan. "These are the only dogs I like," she said, "so I visit them when I can. Even if they are great stupid beasts, yes!" She scratched behind a black ear, earning her happy kicks from the dog she and Pan were petting. She looked up as Mia disappeared - but then down at the dog and Pan. "I am glad you like them." 

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Wraith

 

Indira didn't so much as twitch when the dogs were set loose, glancing sideways with the expression of someone who was Used To It. She liked the shadow hounds, when they were more hound than shadow. She'd have tried to take them hunting if she wasn't sure it would end very, very poorly.

 

She'd bent down to pet one of the spectral canines, partway into responding to Dio, when he...vanished? She looked on, bemused, hair waving in the dragon's exit wind before deciding that it probably wasn't her business. "That does sounds busy," she said, turning back to Erick, dog released to its mischief. "I do hope that the scars and tears are unrelated to the engagement and adoption."

 

"As for Meta-Grue fights, it was...I think, in a word, complicated?" She made a non-committal gesture with one hand. "Things often are. The Meta-Grue was not so much villain as victim, and we did not have the pleasure of fighting him at his best." She paused, adding, "....at the end of it, he said he liked me. A sign of respect, I think. I am still not sure what to think of it."

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"I suppose Eira is doing well." He paused briefly, before continuing. "She did manage to become part of the schools new AV club and do morning announcements." Whether Pan didn't understand what Tarva meant or just played along, well, that was anyone's guess.

 

He crouched down by the dog again, happily resuming petting the dog's belly. "What manner of strange little beasts are they, then?" He raised his hand, a bit of shadow following him from the dog's belly, before he resumed the scratching. "I do not believe I have ever seen any critter quite like this."

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Erick watched a shadow canine stare at his shadow from behind with his spatial awareness.  Not going so far as to drop to a knee as his attention followed the large woman who had corralled the dogs here as she made her way to two of his teammates.  Thinking nothing of it he focused on the flashy entrance.  Well she beat our entrance, maybe Jim should've brought the boom box after all.   All the while he listened intently to Indira and watching the dragon leave.

"No the the scars and tears came from...I believe you refereed to it as hunting.  A whole lot of hunting.  As for Meta-Grue.  I think she summed it up quite nicely.  One wrong move and we would've been in a bad way.  But, he wasn't really the one we were after that night. And if we're honest, we're not the ones he was after either."  Erick responded to Indira and the excitable one questioning them.  "''Course that's how it goes."

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Was not her entrance alone, it was assisted. Was Dee's wry mental response to Erick. Besides, I prefer to save my big entrances for times when there are paparazzi around to memorialize them.

 

When Tarva made her way over to where Dee and Klara were, the Englishwoman gave the former Annihilist a thin smile. "A pleasure." She replied simply before Tarva moved on to greet the next person.

 

"I think I am going to get some water and maybe take a seat." Dee stated to Klara, who was still petting one of the shadow hounds, before starting over to where Joseph and Adhira were standing near the refreshments.

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Octoman

 

Quote

Tarva brought a dog with her, a big fellow that breathed out something that smelled like the nothing at the end of the universe but looked a little bit like coal dust, and was happy to nuzzle and lick Ben's face. "Aren't you a charmer!" she told Octo-Man warmly, "you know, it takes a very special kind of young man to have that kind of a relationship with a shadow hound."

 

Tarva had distracted Ben from everything else, and then her dogs had distracted him from Tarva, but Tarva reclaimed Ben's attention with just a few words. He stammered and blushed. "Oh, uh, I, um, uh, thanks! I, uh, just like dogs, and I guess they like me? I mean, these ones are super-freaky, but, like, so am I, so maybe, y'know..."

 

Quote

"Hey, so, I am actually kind of freaking out right now. This is a lot of people, and I dunno if I can deal with that right now, so I am gonna... Like, I am gonna go be somewhere else. Can teleport, so I don't need a ride or anyone to freak out. Uh, thanks for having me, but this was definitely a mistake on my part." Stepping backwards, Mia suddenly disappeared in a flash of sparkling light as she headed for anywhere-but-there.

 

"Wha-Hey Mia WAI-Aw MAN." Ben looked up and reached out toward Mia but she was already gone before he could finish his sentence. "'Scuse me one sec." He held up a finger, then flexed to open up the flesh-pocket on his hip where his phone was stashed. He punched in a quick text message to Mia. Hey, you OK? I know it's a kinda heavy scene with all these A-list types, and Eira bein' EXTRA diva-mode. I can duck into an empty room if you wanna BAMF back here and grab me. But, like, if you wanna be alone right now, that's cool too.

 

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