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Just Like Fire (IC, open)


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On the same night that hearts were won, lost, and pranks pulled in the Doom Room, ethics professor Gale al-Salaf is running a meeting for students not interested in prom night - they have managed to secure the services of a famous (albeit mysterious) guest speaker who will be addressing the students by remote. Gale is a fairly recent hire at Claremont, slim and a snappy dresser, with short-cropped dark hair and a tendency to fashionable dress, who starts every semester with a reminder that their pronouns are they and their. They're the subject of all sorts of interesting rumors, though luckily only the more immature kids speculate about something as boring as biology. Their lessons are typically diverse, with talks spread across time, space, and even dimensions - and today they're focused on the job as the kids come in. "Hello, friends! Come in, come in! There is popcorn afoot, herbed and cheesed, and I have secured most of the campus supply of Kool-Aid..." 


If the guest speaker doesn't work out, there are promises of a DVD of Planet Earth's new season on the big-screen 3-D tv. Professor al-Salaf loves environmental shows. 

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Several days prior:

 

He had been seeing the posters since he arrived. The student body was talking about it in huddles in the hall. Prom.

It was just supposed to be a little bit of fun, no real harm was being done. Too bad the teacher that caught him changing the posters didn’t think it was funny. He had been made to change them all back and then told he had to attend some after class get together. For character building.

 

Prom night:

 

Leon slipped quietly from his room, he could hear other students in their rooms and down the halls. He gave a snort and shoved his hands into his pockets. Slipping down the hall he stepped out into the courtyard.

He could see a few students already heading across the yard, the Doom Room their destination. Leon though was heading instead towards the classrooms. Finding the designated room was easy enough and he stood in front of it for a minute before sighing and grabbing the door handle.

 

19 hours ago, Avenger Assembled said:

"Hello, friends! Come in, come in! There is popcorn afoot, herbed and cheesed, and I have secured most of the campus supply of Kool-Aid..."

 

“Wow, this guy is way too happy.” Leon thought as he gave Professor al-Salaf a short wave in greeting. “Hi.”

Without saying anything else yet he walked over to table of snacks and helped himself to some of the popcorn as an excuse to not say anything else.

Edited by Spacefurry
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Professor al-Salaf kept on chattering as more students arrived - this being their usual way when in large groups unless it was time for student discussion. There was perhaps a larger crowd than people might have expected, but not every Claremont student was interested in dating, and anyway most younger students weren't even invited to prom. One in particular had other duties in mind.

 

"Hihihi!" Leon didn't know the preschool-aged kid who rocketed into the room just behind a light-haired first-year girl, but the kid seemed interested in saying hello to everyone as what must have been his sister chased after him before rolling her eyes and saying apologetically, "I'm sorry, Professor al-Salaf, but my parents got called away on a time crisis, and my brother is in California, and there's nobody to sit my little brother at home, and I really didn't want to miss this!" 

 

The little boy stopped next to Leon and gave him an ingenous look, eyes big and light hair thick and curly in that style that comes when little boys are too small to sit still for the barber. He was oddly dapper for someone so little, and looked almost as if he'd been put in his Easter suit for the occasion. "Popcorn?" he asked hopefully as Professor al-Salaf assured her that her brother could stay - they did have some supplies for small children somewhere in the back. 

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Benny showed up, dressed light, a button up short sleeve white shirt tucked into khakis, and a red bow tie.  His concession was battered sneakers, that given how active he was had seen better days. His blocky form moving in smoothly to the room.

He was bored, honestly. and while he didn't feel right going to the dance this seemed fine.  Might meet people.  There was food.  He caught a bit from the teacher, and he nodded, the temporally displaced student was expected to have issues given when he was from, bit of he ever did, he never made mention.  Of course, if he ever had cross words about anyone he seemed to never really say it either.

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“Ah, hi?” Leon said, looking down at the preschooler now invading his personal space.

 

21 hours ago, Avenger Assembled said:

"Hihihi!" Leon didn't know the preschool-aged kid who rocketed into the room just behind a light-haired first-year girl, but the kid seemed interested in saying hello to everyone as what must have been his sister chased after him before rolling her eyes and saying apologetically, "I'm sorry, Professor al-Salaf, but my parents got called away on a time crisis, and my brother is in California, and there's nobody to sit my little brother at home, and I really didn't want to miss this!" 

 

The little boy stopped next to Leon and gave him an ingenous look, eyes big and light hair thick and curly in that style that comes when little boys are too small to sit still for the barber. He was oddly dapper for someone so little, and looked almost as if he'd been put in his Easter suit for the occasion. "Popcorn?" he asked hopefully as Professor al-Salaf assured her that her brother could stay - they did have some supplies for small children somewhere in the back. 

 

Leon blinked and looked around to make sure no one was watching. Grabbing a couple of napkins, he shaped them into a paper bowl and scooped up some of the popcorn into it. With a quick glance around he handed the now popcorn laden bow to the child in hopes it would leave him alone. “Here.” Grabbing a cup of Kool-aid he made a second napkin bowl of popcorn for himself.

 

As he moved away from the snack table, he noticed another student had entered. He wasn’t sure what it was about the kid that seemed off, maybe it was the bowtie. Who wore a bowtie nowadays?

 

Edited by Spacefurry
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Shortly before the event was about to start, Danica rolled in on her Segway, blue jeans and a school sweatshirt just slightly visible beyond the bounds of her black and gold shell. "Hey guys!" she called cheerfully as she parked her scooter. "Hi Professor! Are you going to tell us who the guest speaker is, or are we going to have to guess?" She paused and took in the room, not seeing anybody she knew well, but not too put off by that. "Hey," she said to Benny, the student nearest her. "I'm Danica! I'm not sure I've met you before." 

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"Thank you!" said the cherubic little guy as he immediately began digging into the popcorn. "I like popcorn!" He plopped down on a seat in the front row, his little legs not quite reaching the floor, and watched his older sister with a fascinated expression on his round rosy face. 

 

"Oh," said Gale grandly, "this is not actually _my_ story to tell! Ms. Cline, while I set up the equipment," they said, pointing back to the livescreen behind them, "if you would like to take it away?" 

 

"Okay, okay," said Ms. Cline, moving to stand in front of the class. "Hi, Danica," she said with a distracted smile for her older brother's friend before she said in a voice that suddenly commanded attention from the group - as if they could hear it in their heads. 

 

"Hi there!" She paused, smiled, and spoke normally. Well, almost normally - this was obviously a memorized speech. "In ethics class, we like to talk about people who have abused their superpowers for gain! Well, would you like to talk to one of the most _notorious_ super-criminals of her day, a woman so terrifying that she fought the Centurion, so fast she outran Johnny Rocket, and so beautiful she won the heart of alien princes from beyond time? Feast your eyes on..." She gestured to the screen, which was still blank. 

 

"Ah, sorry!" said Gale, not quite looking up from where they were typing away at a keyboard. "I almost have it! Accursed Zoom, it is a sore trial to me..." 

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Artificer

 

Heroditus knew of the prom, but even if he wasn't a sophomore he would have had little interest in going.  He wasn't much for dancing, he found some Surfacer music grating, and he'd heard that the annual event tended to draw lots of chaos and high emotions.  So his plan for that late April evening was to just stay in his room and focus on studying for his final exams, taking a few breaks here and there to read some books he'd checked out from the library for a personal project.

 

But then his roommate, Benny, had left, mentioning some alternate event.  He initially waved his roommate off, glad for the privacy, but curiosity got the better of him, so he checked the campus announcements and saw what this event was about.  Ah, I have heard of this Professor Gale al-Salaf.  A most interesting person.  Perhaps this could be a nice diversion.  I just pray the guest speaker part goes better than the last one I had attended.

 

And so, Claremont's latest Atlantean student arrived at the Not!Prom event, a few moments after his squadmate Danica.  He wore gladiator-style sandals that laced up to his mid-calf, dark blue short breeches that ended just at the knee, and a dark gold short-sleeved tunic, cinched together by a light brown belt and bandolier which were covered in pockets of various sizes, and a waterskin.  Propped on his forehead were his goggles (left lens purple, right lens green), and his long black (actually very very dark green) hair tied back in a loose ponytail. He smiled and waved at Danica and Benny, and bowed slightly to Professor al-Salaf. "Greetings, everyone. So, what is on the agenda for this evening?"

 

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"Hiii!" A small Surfacer boy, perhaps five years old, waved vigorously at Heroditus. "Your hair is green! Ha-ha!" He laughed and laughed at that, then stuffed a big handful of popcorn in his mouth. 

 

After Professor al-Salaf greeted Heroditus with a little wave, the first-year student up front, somewhat awkwardly now that no one seemed to be responding to her appeal, said, "...well, just wait till you see this! The amazing, the terrible, the now-fully-reformed Anna Marie Cline, aka the Clock Queen!" This time, the display actually did come on - revealing the face of a woman who looked to be in her late fifties, blonde hair carefully arranged around her head, a blue sky behind her. 

 

"-kids!" she was declaring, "nice to see ya!" Anna was charismatic enough even if her name escaped that of any students not particularly interested in history. "Did we get this gizmo workin' okay?" Her voice had a distinct, almost old-fashioned accent; more like Betty Boop than anything else. It was old-line Freedom. 

 

"Hi Gamma Anna!" The little guy in the front row waved and a distinct expression of  - unease crossed Anna's face at the sight of the happy preschooler.

 

'Sorry, Nana, I couldn't get a sitter," said Holly apologetically.

 

Seeming to refocus herself, Anna went into a speech to the students about her background - what seemed to be an elaborate, increasingly implausible story about how she'd turned to crime at a young age on account of the limited opportunities available for young working-class ladies like herself, then had turned to bigger and bigger heists "once I became a single mother who had to support herself, and next thing you know, there I was, fighting the Freedom League! That's what you kids gotta remember, you gotta make good choices, or you'll be tryin' to feed your kid while living in the same house as a bunch of talking gorillas, it's terrible. Any of you kids got any questions so far? I got a million stories." 

 

As she spoke, Professor al-Salaf got a text on their phone - and, alarmed, stepped outside of the room to take it. 

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Posted (edited)

Leon sat back and watched as a few more students wondered in, including a girl on a Segway. When Danica took the front of the classroom and started to address the gathering Leon paused, a handful of popcorn halfway to his mouth. At the mention of ethics, and ‘abusing’ powers he rolled his eyes and continued to eat.

He couldn’t help but chuckle at the technical difficulties the teacher seemed to be having. When a black, no green… really dark green, haired boy entered Leon chuckled again at his outfit.

With the video chat working finally, Leon couldn’t help but think this might be an entertaining night after all given the banter. He was polite and kept quite as Ms. Cline spoke.

 

1 hour ago, Avenger Assembled said:

"Any of you kids got any questions so far? I got a million stories."

 

Leon couldn't resist and raised a hand.

“Ya, I have one. Why’d you give up? Why’d you let them cow-tail you? Sounds like you were making bank.”

 

Edited by Spacefurry
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"A wiseguy, eh?" Anna grinned at Leon. 

 

"I...abandoned my life of crime because it was a self-destructive way to live and fundamentally unproductive, see?" Anna said awkwardly. "They say crime doesn't pay, kids, and they're right. I must have had fifty, a hundred million dollars flow through my hands at one point or another, and that's just the graft from bein' in the League, not to mention what I personally stole from people and then gave back. When they put me away back in '81, what did I have? Nothing, on account of how I'd spent it all or gotten it all seized when they caught me."

 

She sighed dramatically, then glanced off-camera at something for a moment, eyes narrowing, before looking back at the kids. 

 

"Sorry, lotta squirrels around here." 

 

"Tell them about the time you fought the woolly mammoth, Nana!" offered Holly, who had parked herself next to her brother and was dividing her attention between the preschooler and the screen. 

 

That turned out to be a long and implausible-sounding anecdote about how "back in 1964" she had traveled back in time to fight the King of the Woolly Mammoths "and get my hands on his ivory stash! Unfortunately it turned out that was the grave of his honored ancestors and boy was he mad!" She laughed. "Not too fast though! Hey, any of you kids got speed powers? Like a new...Jenni Rocket or Velocity or something?" 

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Benny rolled his eyes at the question posed and he was settling in his seat, fidgeting, because he was a fidgeter.  When the natural inclination was to bounce off walls, really was anything else expected? Now he responded to the story, because the 60s era shenigans that kid edged on his simmering exuberence. "Oh, oh, is it like that time I fought those Nazi T-rexes!" He beamed bright, as somewhere in her tale he had spun his chair around to lean against the back, gripping tightly at it, almost vibrating in his seat.

"I dunno 'bout that, I'm quick, but 'am more like Hepcat."

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Danica had spent most of the talk surreptitiously texting and trying not to be disappointed that it wasn't Jane Goodall, but she did look up for the question and answer portion of the talk. "I have opposite--speed powers," she offered. "I'm extra slow, but it's very hard for anybody else to move me either! Is it true that you once traveled back in time to steal the Crown Jewels of Lichtenstein and then brought them to the future to replace the replica on display in the national museum to win a bet?" 

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"Hah!" said Anna, brightening at the question. "I did that, yeah, back in '68! And you know what, maybe the diamond I won from Set turned out to have a giant snake in it, but that was just the kind of thing you had to take into account when dealing with the Destroyer back in the day." She grinned. "You know, some people who will rename nameless said that was a 'stupid waste of my God-given powers' that 'could have torn the universe apart', but they were crazy, I sure as hell didn't get my powers from no Supreme Being, that's for sure. Kid, you made my day just now." She considered Danica's other comment visibly, adding, "Slow powers, huh, that's...that's quite a thing, sweetie." She took the opportunity to pivot and say "I knew Hepcat! You don't look like some kind of beatnik, though, so I dunno - is there some new one running around these days-" 

 

Suddenly, Professor al-Salaf entered and said in a serious voice, "Your pardon, Ms. Cline. Are there any sophomore or junior students present?" Seniors interested in not going to prom usually weren't the sort to sit and watch a distance learning lecture. "I need to speak with you in the hallway. There has been a small, minor incident at prom, and the school could use your services." 

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Posted (edited)
On 5/2/2020 at 11:08 PM, Avenger Assembled said:

"A wiseguy, eh?" Anna grinned at Leon.

 

Leon grinned back and chuckled. Shaking his head as she went on again about turning over a new leaf and all that.

 

On 5/5/2020 at 11:45 PM, TheAbsurdist said:

"Oh, oh, is it like that time I fought those Nazi T-rexes!"

 

Leon was about b.s. on Benny's claim when Danica spoke up.

"Slow powers? That's a thing?" He thought with some disbelief, but after a moment shrugged to himself. "Why not."

 

On 5/6/2020 at 10:22 PM, Avenger Assembled said:

Suddenly, Professor al-Salaf entered and said in a serious voice, "Your pardon, Ms. Cline. Are there any sophomore or junior students present?" Seniors interested in not going to prom usually weren't the sort to sit and watch a distance learning lecture. "I need to speak with you in the hallway. There has been a small, minor incident at prom, and the school could use your services." 

 

This caught his attention and Leon sat up straighter. "Now this sounds like it could be fun." An even wider grin on his face as he nearly hopped out of his chair, popcorn discarded. Making a beeline towards the classroom door he wished he had more paper with him.
 

In the hall with this arms crossed, Leon tried to reign in his grin. He tried to look serious, but unconcerned as he waited for Prof. al-Salaf to tell them what was happening. A tapping heel though, might give away his excitement.

Edited by Spacefurry
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Artificer

 

Heroditus listened to the exchanges between their guest speaker and the others with some interest, though said nothing himself.  So she is some sort of reformed supervillain -- a recurring theme? -- and that is her daughter, and the little one is her grandson.

 

He glanced over at Leon, the first to speak out, ah, another unfamiliar face.  Hrm, seems to be a bit rough.  Perhaps students like that is the reason they bring in reformed criminals for these guest lectures.

 

Then he saw his roommate, Benny, and smiled a bit.  I do not think I have ever seen him this excited or energetic, outside of a sparring ring.  This Anna seems to be of the same era he is, and so could be a touchstone of sorts.  That is nice.

 

He was about to ask a follow-up to Danica's question (did you ever go back to Atlantis, before The Sinking?), but al-Saraf's words shifted his focus.   He approached the Professor (narrowly avoiding Leon), raising a hand as he went, "I am a sophomore.  What has happened?"

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Benny exploded up, going from his seated position to his feet planted on the back of the chair in a deep squat before he leaped off of it, and barrel through the air and to the door.  Those big mitts grabbing at the doorframe, and he swung out of the room, propelling himself into the far wall, his back hitting it, and he ricocheted onto it, his sneaker clad feet with a little squeak from the rubber sole. Managing to do that without a hint of his bulk brushing against anyone.

He might have been itching for something, anything. But then, he was more app to put a firecrack in a trashcan then do a dance. It could be worse, it cold be those PSA videos he had to watch growing up on the projector. Though he was beaming in preparation. "I dunno what I am chief, but ain't a senior, so I am ready to jeat.

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"This should be exciting, we heard all kinds of Claremont prom stories when I was at Nicholson," Danica commented as she slowly left her chair and got back on her scooter. "These past couple of years have been frankly disappointing in terms of prom drama. Prom-a?" She followed the others out into the hallway, pausing just long enough to swipe one more soda off the snack table. "What's the situation?" 

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"We have lost communication with the prom crew," said the professor, sounding concerned but not particularly alarmed - the way one does when an expected crisis comes? It's hard to tell with al-Salaaf, especially now. "And the doors appear to be jammed. As you know the Doom Room has the ability to counter most superpowers from the inside, but not so much from the outside, hmm? Perhaps you would care to execute a jailbreak for your friends and comrades? And, ah, my fellow faculty members, of course. My own abilities to do things like pry open doors and bend steel are unfortunately lacking."

 

al-Salaaf glanced back at the room behind them and said, "I think Clock Queen's tales will keep the younger students distracted for a while..." 

 

 

Outside, there didn't seem to be any cause for alarm on-campus - lights were on and the buildings secure, though most students were by now either bunking down or at the party proper. They did have a brief encounter with a disconsolate-looking Sun Dragon and Dio, who reported nothing of interest happening at the prom before their departure - the latter pair heading off to make sure the alarm was sounded if the Claremont students couldn't handle it themselves. 

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Leon was on the verge of a Cheshire cat grin as he followed the professor. "I was right, this does sound like it's gonna be fun, more fun then listening to some has-been. Definitely gonna need more paper."

He remembered from the printout map of the school grounds he received in his new student packet that the Doom Room was under the Admin building. Should be plenty of paper he can call on there. Meanwhile, as they crossed the school grounds Leon continued to resist the urge to run ahead.

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"Isn't Eira in there?" Danica asked as she followed the group. "I mean, I sort of thought that she was only playing along with the Doom Room scenarios, since she's like, all cyberneticky. Wouldn't she be able to get a message out even if there's a malfunction?" She cocked her head in thought. "What about Mr Archer?" she added. "He's got to be the Doom Room expert by now, since he's the one who's been using it for training for years and years. What does he say?" It was likely that Danica wouldn't be able to do much to solve a Doom Room malfunction unless it happened to respond to removing its cartridge and blowing on it, but one never did know when an indestructible person would come in handy. 

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Artificer

 

"Eira may have been knocked out," Heroditus offered, "either by the Doom Room, or by whoever is behind this.  It would be a sound strategy, taking out the ones most likely to counter whatever is being done to the Doom Room.  Or worse, she may have been subsumed as well, and we may have to fight off her and the Room."

 

If anyone was unnerved by his comments, he did not notice.  He did try putting some warmth into his voice -- he did consider Eira an ally, if not quite a friend, and he knew others in the DR would be in danger -- but that Atlantean coldness never completely left his voice.  His attention was on a flat crystal pane set into a leathery frame, about the size of an ebook reader, and scrolling through holographic images of the school.  "I should have some maps and blueprints of the school here, if so I may be able to find an alternate way inside.  A ventilation shaft or the like."

 

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The group reached the classroom building lobby where the Doom Room elevator was currently located, the hanging paper streamers and cut-out Great Gatsby images declaring "This way to prom!" now a grim reminder of what exactly might be happening below. Using Professor al-Salaaf's faculty password (which turned out to be "ilovemother"), Artificer was able to find that the elevator down to the Doom Room level was not listed as being blocked or otherwise obstructed - but of course if a computer hacker was in the system, they might well be hiding some tampering from him. There was a manual set of firestairs that could get them down there on the other side of the lobby, but it would take more time - and there were no computers at all in that stairway, so who knew what might be waiting for them. 

 

Meanwhile, Danica was able to call the gym teacher she'd heard plenty about but actually had only one first-year gym class with - the retired, still-partially-disabled Alan Archer. He peered at her on the video call and said, "Doom Room troubles?" Behind him she could make out half a wall of athletic trophy cases; the other half pictures of his family. "If nobody's hacking the system from the inside, it _could_ be an internal malfunction. When's the last time the new guy purged the system, do you know?" 

 

Meanwhile, all this was perhaps a little new to Leon - until he heard a printer going in a nearby, now-empty departmental office. Checking he could see and feel the paper moving inside, but couldn't open the locked door (al-Salaaf did not have the key) - he could see the large-print message INSIDE DOOM RUM and a longer message below, but couldn't actually read the rest of it until he got his hands on the paper. 

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Leon glanced around the lobby with impatient indifference as Heroditus and Prof. al-Salaaf examined the elevator. Danica was on the phone with one of the teachers Leon was fairly sure he hadn't run into yet when something caught his attention. He heard the faint hum of a printer warming up, a second later he heard and sensed the paper moving through the  machine. He felt the change in the paper as went from fresh blank sheets to something new, a message. Through the window in the door he read the words as the printer feed the paper out. "Hmm..."

Looking down at the lock on the door he reached up without looking and pulled down one of the streamers. With a flick of his wrist the paper twisted and stiffed into a thin rod. Sliding the paper rod into the lock Leon fiddles with the lock for a few moments, reshaping the paper little by little until the lock clicked and the door opened. Looking back over his shoulder he give a short whistle to get the professor's attention. Then with a nod of his head at the door he pushes it open. "Hey teach, think you might wanna see this."  He says casually and walks into the office and over to the printer.

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The paper turned out to say: 

 

10044133

INSIDE DOOM RUM 

 

trapped by hostile maskin. no skadtor. suggest manual action against dörrar or ventilator shaft. bring energi other than electricity 

10044133

 

There were many wingdings and other signs of computer 'noise' on the page - and a distinct injection of Swedish into the English. 

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