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Third Floor's the Charm


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Kord Dormitories, Third Floor

Claremont Academy, Freedom City, New Jersey

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

 

As was typically the case on move-in day at Claremont Academy, the hallway on the third floor of the Kord Dormitories was a rather chaotic scene. Parents and students made their way along the hallway, usually with boxes, suitcases or duffle bags in hand. But one pair moved through the slightly crowded hallway with casual easy, neither laden down with any large bags or boxes.

 

In the lead was Veronica Danger, who was dressed in her typical attire, a tight T-shirt (red today) over which she wore a thin lien Khaki short sleeve shirt that was left unbuttoned, black cargo shorts and a pair of well worn-in hiking boots with thick socks. The attractive teenager did not even have a backpack as she walked along, reluctantly listening to the figure trailing behind her. Veronica's long brunette hair was braided into a ponytail which went down to her waist, a much longer length than it had been just a few a few months ago at the end of the last school year when it had only gone down to her shoulders.

 

Following behind the teenage Danger was a young woman in her mid-to-late twenties, dressed in finely tailored business attire and wearing a pair of round glasses. For those returning students, Veronica and Janus' personal assistant Prudence was a familiar sight, regularly shadowing Danger cousins. As was more often the case, Prudence had a small tablet in one hand which she was studying as she followed Veronica. "I have managed to keep your schedule clear for the rest of the day, but tomorrow morning you have brunch at Danger Manor."

 

"Thank you Prudence." Veronica responded with her slight French accent and the slightest roll of her eyes. She then came to a stop in front of her room, looking at the door for a brief moment. It was going to feel a bit odd not rooming with her cousin as she had over the last two years.

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Lulu Beaumont only had a few suitcases to carry, which meant they were floating stacked together about two feet off the ground. She was frilly golden top and a green pleated skirt that went down just past her knees. Open toed sandals, a small white purse and a pair of sunglasses perched on top of her head completed her outfit. Spotting her friend, she called out and waved to her, a big grin on her face.

 

"Hey, Veronica and Prudence! Y'all just gettin' in?"

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Veronica Danger

 

Veronica turned to the sound of her friend's voice, a wide smile coming to her face at the sight of the Southern teen. "Hi Louise!" She said in greeting, her slight French accent deepening as it always did when she pronounced Lulu's full name. "Yes, just arrived. You as well?"  She asked, noting the suitcases floating along behind the redheaded teen.

 

"Good to see you again Miss Beaumont." Prudence replied with a small nod as she briefly looked up from her tablet before going back to studying Veronica's calendar for the next week on the screen.

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Lulu's door creaked open, the darkened room inside lit by what was clearly a Jacob's ladder and several small red lamps that cast the darkness into eerie shadows.  

 

Slowly, a tortoise crawled its way into the hallway, its green and gold metallic body shining in the overhead lights. It moved with a faintly audible whirr of motion as it approached Lulu, Veronica, and Prudence - then began to play music from somewhere in the realms of electronica, its volume, power, and clarity seeming to far exceed a device no bigger than a box turtle. Eira Katastroff Natt och Dag followed shortly after it, her slim body wrapped in a baggy white lab coat over black boots, then looked up at the others with a smirk. She made a slight gesture at the turtle, which quieted. "Lulu. Veronica." She looked at the Danger heir and the Danger heir's adult nursemaid and her smirk widened before she turned back to Lulu, her face serious as she said, "I hope you still want the window side.

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Natalia came down the hallway in short boots, well-fitted black slacks, and a dark golden top whose bottom didn't quite reach her belt; she had a mid-length jacket, too, but that was slung over one shoulder. It was still too warm for jackets. It wasn't a complete outfit without one. Fashion was suffering.

 

Her other hand held a suitcase, which she put down long enough to brush long black hair away from her sunglasses. "....well, aren't we colorful," she said, glancing at everyone in turn. "We'll only need a blonde to complete the set. ....I sincerely hope that thing is off when people are trying to sleep," she added, gesturing one finger at the tortoise. "Or when people are studying. Or relaxing. Or anywhere in the building, really, if it's going to stay in one piece."

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Veronica

 

If Eira had been expecting some sort of rise out of Veronica with her inflection and widened smirk there was no noticeable trace of one. Unlike many of the other students the robotic teen had turned her spite on last year, if there was one thing the teenage Danger had in abundance it was self confidence. What the Swedish teenager might think of her was not important.

 

"Good to see you Eira." Veronica replied with a friendly tone and a slight smile. She had just been about to make her way to see if Danica was already in the room they would be sharing when a new student approached, commenting on the volume of Eira's music, among other things.

 

"Whether Eira's music was too loud or not, making a veiled threat to her things is not a good first look." The teenage Danger stated in a rather flat tone as she looked at the younger student. "How about we start fresh. I am Veronica Danger, welcome to Claremont." She stated, using the magic in one of the gems on her amulet (which was under her T-shirt, to give a boost to her diplomacy.

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"Oh, ah ceded any control over that that side of the room to you a long time ago; there shall be no border disputes our last year. Let peace reign in our time..." Her weird, improvised speech trailed off as she took in the new girl. "Well, aren't you just full of sunshine! Lulu Beaumont, pleased to-" She began to offer her hand, but then a look from Natalia made her think better of it, and stuck both hands in her back pockets. "Well, you know the drill; welcome to Claremont."

Edited by Heritage
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"A better or worse look than not giving a warning at all?" Nocturne ventured, but she'd lost the high ground and she knew it. Veronica was socially dangerous and Lulu was friendly and the loud girl was....loud, and this was not a dynamic she wanted to stick her neck too far into so early. "Still, that's....fair enough. Please accept my apologies," she said, flashing a winning smile, "maybe the long travel has made me cranky."

 

An extended car ride with her mother had made her cranky.

 

She let the smile drop without undercutting its sincerity too much. "Thank you both. From what I've heard of this school, it should be an interesting year."

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No one had been looking at Eira while Veronica's powers were active, a situation she took advantage of to declare loudly "Oh no!"

 

When everyone looked at her, her eyeballs were out! Bluish orbs hanging on the end of glowing fiber optic cables hanging somewhere over her cheeks, leaving behind empty sockets that showed blue-tinted metal underneath. "I rolled my eyes so hard-" With a snap, she pulled them back into place and glared at Veronica. "-they fell out!

 

Ostentatiously ignoring the Danger heir, she turned to Nocturne and said, "Eira Katastroff Natt och Dag. Do not threaten machines in front of one - it is a microaggression.She smirked at the term, seeming more amused than annoyed at Natalia, and went on talking to Lulu. "I left something on your bed," she offered, "I 3-D printed the quartz crystal from the University of Pennsylvania's Chinese Rotunda, then inserted programmable nanofibers. It has the processing power of an Apple Mac Pro and full access to wifi." 

 

She raised her hand over the turtle, which leaped upwards into her grip as if drawn by invisible wires. "This is for someone else.

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As if summoned, the elevator doors at the end of the hall dinged and slid open to reveal a tortoise on a Segway. Or rather, a tortoise girl on a Segway, a rather improbable combination of petite human with skin tanned a dusky green and a massive black and gold tortoise shell covered in bold geometric designs. She was accompanied by two adults, similar in features but without the tortoise overtones, and no luggage at all for any of them. "I love back to school!" Danica crowed as she pushed her handlebars forward and sped down the hall. "Lulu, Eira! Hi!" She stopped a couple of feet short of actually plowing into anyone, her moves speaking of long practice. "Hey Veronica," she said, just a shade more diffident. "I hear we're roommates this year. I wanted to ask... does your assistant sleep in the room too? I mean, like, do we need an extra bed?" 

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Veronica Danger

 

Veronica gave Natalia a small smile as the younger teen apologized to the group. "Travel can do that sometimes." The teenage Danger replied to the other teen’s offered excuse.

 

Turning to Eira as the other teen demanded everyone’s attention, Veronica gave a small laugh. "Probably one of your better ones Eira." The teen offered, still completely nonplussed by the Swedish teen's hostility.

 

Veronica had just been about to continue on to her room when her new roommate arrived, causing the teenage Danger to remain where she was, though she turned to face Danica. “Hey Danica.” She began, only to chuckle at Danica's question about Prudence."No, no worries there. Prudence only comes around to bother me in person from time to time." The teenage Danger responded as she glanced back over towards Prudence, who had glanced up from her tablet with a slightly bemused look on her face.

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Natalia had been sorely tempted to insist that there was nothing micro about her aggressions, but that felt like taking bait and she was at least pretending to be...nice? Nice didn't feel like the right word. Tolerably above the drama. That would do, especially if she could find more ways to direct microaggressions Eira's way.

 

It was telling that she found the absurdity of a turtle-person on a Segway to be reassuring. It was suitably strange to counter the way the here-to-fore normality of them all had been betraying her image of a super-school. ".....well," she said, studying Danica for a moment, "I certainly like the colors. The Segway's a bold choice, but as machines go at least it's quiet. If you don't mind the asking, is that a natural shell pattern or did you design it?"

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With a smirk that showed perfect white teeth behind blue-painted lips on her pale face, Eira introduced herself to Danica's parents with a firm albeit slightly clammy handshake. "Dr. Munson, Mr. Holmes, it is a pleasure." Her eyes unfocused for half a moment before she offered, "Baby Cecil looks advanced in his pictures."

 

She then leaned back against the wall, the robot turtle under her arm the brightest colors on her outfit. Turning back to Lulu, she offered, "I know you do not actually use crystal balls, but it can be decoration for your lair - or you could gift it to Adam." Her grin widened. "You do not even have to tell him that is you who has the remote control for it."

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"Don't be gross, Eira," Lulu said with a sigh. 'But thank you for the crystal computer thing; it's about time ah started livin' up to my sobriquet." Then she indicated one of her suitcases with a nod. "Ah may have one or two 'welcome back' gifts for you lyin' around."

 

At the sight of Danica, Lulu couldn't help but smile; it was basically impossible not to love the turtle girl. "Hey, Danica. These your folks? Sir, ma'am, it's a pleasure. You're raisin' a damn fine young lady here."

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"Oh good," Danica said to Veronica. "I mean I like you, Prudence," she hastened to add, "but it might be a little hard to get used to having a three person, even if I sleep in my shell. But I'm sure it'll be nice to have you visit!" She turned to Natalia and positively beamed. "It's natural," she assured the new girl, craning around a bit to give the shell a pat. "It's very similar to the pattern on an Indian Star Tortoise, if you put that pattern on a shell ten times the size. When I was little I went through a few different shell variations, but this is the one that seemed to stick. And I know the Segway's kind of last-decade, but it's a mobility aid that helps me get around." Indeed, there was a little blue and white handicapped placard mounted to the front bar. "I'm Danica," she added. "I'm a junior this year, finally!" 

 

"Thank you," Danica's mom said to Eira with friendly formality, "he's doing very well. We don't get too much opportunity to watch the early development of rare tortoises, so it's been a real treat." Danica's parents looked surprisingly young compared to most parents of high schoolers, and shockingly young to anybody who knew how old Danica actually was, but they both carried themselves with a certain gravitas that spoke of more years than their bodies showed. "And you must be Eira?" she guessed. "Danica says you're a good teammate to have in an investigation." 

 

"Thank you," Danica's dad told Lulu with a smile. "Danica loves it here at Claremont, it's so nice that she's made so many friends here." 

 

"Yep!" Danica told Lulu, "This is my mom and dad, they live in parent housing so they're not very far away, but they don't come on campus a lot so I can learn to be independent. But of course they're helping me move in! Has anything big and weird happened yet?" 

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Eira made a dismissive but not unfriendly sound, the sort that meant she was dismissing Lulu's reservations without rejecting the promised present. "Actually," said Eira confidentially, "it has been deadly dull." She yawned for effect with a glance as she looked around, then handed her present off to Danica. "This is my design," she said grandly as the robot turtle began playing an old song that was actually older than Danica!  "It has a full terabyte of memory, and you can use it to access any terrestrial station if you are tired of the library. It also has many audiobooks, and some streaming stations." She added as she put her hands behind her back, "I even added a small dimensional buffer, so it will work inside your shell. Danica has a fine shell," she told her parents. "And is a good friend.

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"Ah rode a dragon," Lulu offered cheerfully. "He's a sophomore, down on the first floor." She pointed downward quite unnecessarily. "Had a real fun conversation with Adam after that, because it got a little bit weird, actually." Suddenly feeling very exposed in front of Danica's parents, she turned to the new girl as a distraction. "Ah'm sorry, ah didn't catch your name earlier; what was it again?"

 

She could hide her pink cheeks with an illusion, but Eira would still see them, which sort of defeated the whole point...

Edited by Heritage
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"Natalia," said Natalia, introducing herself to Lulu and Danica both. She didn't offer a last name, apparently assuming she had the best or only claim to the name she'd given already.

 

She paused, then, some ill-defined emotion flickering across her face. "I'm hardly going to tell you what you can and cannot do downstairs, but possibly don't announce to the world that you've been riding sophomores. Even if...especially if...it gets a bit weird." She popped an eyebrow, and one corner of her mouth looked suspiciously like it was trying to smile. She didn't have the face of someone who smiled. She had the face of someone who had smiled, once, and all the witnesses had gone missing. "I realize I'm new, but I think the administration would frown on that." 

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One of the doors down the hall banged open and Tori burst out, chasing pel mel after a small fox. "Give that back, Tango. That's MY breakfast." The fox darted between the legs of the ladies gathered about on the floor. For a moment, it seemed like Tori might just crash into the knot of girls but her tattoos flashed as behind her flared the ghostly animus of a fox. The redhead was suddenly much more quick and nimble as she slid through the other teenagers and scooped up the misbehaving fox in her arms. "Give it. Giiiiiive, Tango. It's not going to be good on your tummy, you idiot."

 

Sitting on the floor, the keening fox kit in her arms, Tori was very disheveled and wearing loose comfy shorts and a tanktop. It was not move in clothes as she'd been here all summer. She had her legs akimbo and the fox tucked under one arm as she tried to wrestle her blueberry bagel back from his determined jaws. It was at that point that Tori realized the move in crowd was all filling the halls. "Oh. Uh. Hello."

Edited by alderwitch
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"Oh my god!" Danica literally squealed with delight when she saw the little robot, even before Eira began reeling off the specs. "It's so cute!" she exclaimed, hugging the thing to her chest and beaming. "Oh Eira, I love it!" She laughed when it played its song, along with her mom who clearly caught the reference even if Danica herself did not. "Thank you so much!" Ducking into her shell for a moment, she emerged with a USB stick, presenting it to Eira. "Here," she said, "this is about ten thousand hours of zoo camera footage, from all over our home zoo and also Freedom City Zoo. I thought it might be, you know, relaxing or interesting to you when you don't have a lot of other stuff to process. I sometimes just like watching the live cams, even though I can only watch one at a time." 

 

Danica broke off as the furry interloper and its pursuer plunged through the little knot of students. She grabbed the handlebar of her Segway tightly, then relaxed when the girl made it through with nobody getting knocked around. "Is that a real fox?" she asked with great interest. "Do foxes eat bagels?"

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Eira cocked her head, staring at the USB stick, then declared "Oh! Oh, yes, I can read this. Thank you, this will be very interesting." she said, her tone much the same as if she'd been presented with an interesting puzzle to solve. "I do enjoy the spider-cameras, but you need more orb weavers that can..." Then came the crashing and the foxes, and Eira drew back suddenly, her face briefly wrinkling with unaccustomed emotion as she looked at the cheerfully playing animals and their owner.  "I..." Her left hand, the one not holding the USB stick, clenched into a fist for a moment as she cocked her head and made distinct eye contact with one of the foxes, a look of distinct trepedation on her face. 

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Lulu laughed at Natalia's bemused expression. "Well yeah, that's why ah'm tryin' to nip it in the bud! Ah made sure to tell Adam right away, so at the very least he didn't hear it secondhand." 

 

Once the tiny fox kit made it's appearance, Lulu was right down on her knees, smiling like an idiot. "Oh look at you! Ain't you just precious!" She looked up at the Holmes. "Do y'all work at the zoo here in Freedom, or are you in from out of town?"

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Foxes in a dorm sounded like a disaster waiting to happen; they were adorable enough, but she'd bet they were more trouble than they were worth. She watched Tori handle the animal with, admittedly, impressive deftness, wondering what poor soul would have to dorm with Doctor Dolittle.

 

She slid her eyes off the crowd and scene and did some quick math on the door numbering.

 

Oh.

 

Oh no.

 

"....hello," she said, terse and resigned and showing too many teeth. "Your fox is very cute but I hope you can keep it on your side of the room. Or at least keep it from shedding all over everything I own."

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