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Pre-Apocalyptic Tour


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Claremont Academy

February 5th, 2021

Afternoon

 

Coach Armstrong was pacing around in front of a tree at Claremont, looking at his watch. Elena was already there. She had been at Claremont for a few days now, getting papers and everything in order for staying ever since her rather explosive arrival.

 

"Damn kid was supposed to be here by now..."

 

Elena could stay at Claremont for now. If they hadn't been able to figure out a way to get her home by the next semester, she could join the school by then. Even if she was certainly experienced, she didn't know much about this world. She was hardly the first interdimensionally or chronologically challenged student at Claremont, and she would probably not be the last. So the school had chosen a student to show her around Claremont, give her the big tour of everything.

 

And he was late.

 

"Listen, I need to go, got an appointment I can't miss, just... wait right here, and he'll show up. Or go find some other teacher if he's not here in 15 minutes, alright?" Shaking his head and muttering something about a dumb kid, Armstrong marched off, leaving Elena alone by the tree.

Edited by RocketLord
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5 minutes ago, RocketLord said:

"Listen, I need to go, got an appointment I can't miss, just... wait right here, and he'll show up. Or go find some other teacher if he's not here in 15 minutes, alright?" Shaking his head and muttering something about a dumb kid, Armstrong marched off, leaving Elena alone by the tree.

 

Elena wasn't really listening to Coach Armstrong. In fact, the past few days had gone by like a very surreal dream. She sat by the tree, legs crossed comfortably. I can't believe this place, she said to herself for what felt like the hundredth time. People were happy. They weren't just surviving, they were living. And the food! The food. It was all too much to take in all at once, so she was glad she had a guide with her today. Well, whenever he decided to show up. That was okay. This was fine for now!

 

"Of course, Coach Armstrong. I can take care of myself," she said with a smile. She pulled her long hair back into a simple ponytail, and closed her eyes, simply enjoying the moment. The hand-me-down clothes they found in her size were incredibly comfortable - and she wore a simple T-shirt with blue jeans, preferring these over more feminine outfits. It was simple, comfortable, and practical. 

 

She heard a few things about Charlie, or Nevermore as he chose to go by. He had no superpowers at all, just superior training and a few gadgets at his disposal. She was inclined towards respect - people in her clan were revered for their skills, and she was certainly no different. It would be a very different experience to not just have allies, but...friends. Friends. That word still tastes strange in my mouth. I guess Stella and I were friends, but it was more than that. Our lives were in each other's hands. A blood bond. Sisters at arms. But a friend? She looked out over the quad, saw people playing soccer or throwing a frisbee around, laughing, having fun. I can make friends. Starting today. 

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Nevermore II

 

"Sheesh, thought he'd never leave."

 

The voice came from above, up in the tree. A teen around Elena's age, with short red hair. He was quite good looking, something about the grin plastered over his lips as he stood and balanced on one of the branches. He wore a pair of jeans with holes at the knees, a red t-shirt with a speech bubble with a big exclamation mark and a rather well-worn and used denim jacket over it. 

 

He leapt from the branch, performing a spinning side-flip in mid-air on the way down and landed in front of Elena with a bow and a grin.

 

"Hey, I'm Charlie. I guess I'm supposed to give you the grand tour."

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"Hi. I'm Elena, but you may call me El. Or Outrider, if you wish." She stuck out her hand, and smiled widely, uncomfortably. I'm definitely messing this up. Just relax around new friends. 

 

She visibly relaxed, sighing aloud. "Or just El. So where are we going today? I've seen some of the school campus. It's...nice. Can't say I've been to anything quite like it." Suppose that isn't entirely true...just didn't recognize it so...green! This campus was already a ruin by the time I drove by it. It's good to see it whole, and brimming with life. "It's good to be here. Perhaps we can go to the gym today? You appear to be quite strong, and I would appreciate someone that could keep up with me." 

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Nevermore II

 

Charlie accepted the hand, grinning as he shook it. "Good to meet you, El." 

 

He scratched his chin. "Eh, probably could, but I got a better idea. You've been stuck at campus since you got here, right?"

 

Charlie looked around, to make sure that Armstrong was really gone, then leaned in and whispered conspiratorially "Luke told me you're from some post-apocalypse where Omega's destroyed everything, so how about I show you the city instead?"

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Outrider 

 

She nodded slowly. "Yes, I've been here since my arrival." She shook his hand back, and held the contact for a lot longer than was necessary, staring him dead in the eye. I hope this is correct. Firm handshake, maintain eye contact... 

 

El finally let the handshake go, and she grinned. "I was hoping you would say that. There's so much out there, and I've only just scratched the surface. This world has so many wonders. Though I understand this is commonplace to you, try to understand that my life so far has been living from one day to the next. Things just seem..." She searched for the right word, taking the time to pull her hair back into a loose bun. "Umm. Happier? Like, the world is a good place?"

 

She checked around the corner to make sure Coach Armstrong wasn't watching them too. "Yeah, let's get out of here. Where will we go first? Unfortunately, Painkiller will need more time to be repaired, otherwise I would take you on a 'joy-ride' instead," El said, emphasizing each word. 

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Nevermore II

 

Alright. Holding hand and eye contact maybe a bit too long, but cool. Its cool. Charlie was sure that El was just getting used to things here.

 

"Oh, I get it, I get it. Post-apocalpytic fiction's pretty hot, so I can imagine what it might be like to some degree. This entire place must seem like some wonderland." A quick look around, and a nod with his head. "Joyride?" His lips split into a wide grin. "C'mon." He pulled a backpack up that he had stashed by the tree, tugging it over just one shoulder before starting to move.

 

He led El through the campus, until they reached one of the walls by a tree. Looking around a bit, he reached into the backpack and pulled out a metallic gauntlet. Charlie put it on, tapped something on it a few times, then motioned towards the wall. "Alarms and cameras are off for a about a minute. Think you can make it over, or do you need a hand?" While he spoke, he aimed the gauntlet up and fired a line that embedded itself in the wall.

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Outrider

 

Charlie didn't seem so bad. At least he was offering to show her around. She would never admit this to him, or anyone for that matter, but she was somewhat overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Freedom City. Not scared, certainly, just overwhelmed. It would take some time to get used to it, but once she was able to get back to her world, the better. Maybe they'd let her clan come back to this world with her! No need to get ahead of yourself, El. This is a temporary stay, at best. May as well enjoy it. 

 

She walked alongside Charlie, closing her eyes from time to time to enjoy the breeze not tainted with nuclear fallout. This is really nice. As they reached the wall, she saw him attach a curious metal gauntlet to his hand. I'll have to ask him about that. She blinked when he said the cameras and alarms were off. "Really? Just like that? Must say, that's some impressive tech." 

 

El was even more impressed when he quickly rappelled over the wall. Now I really want one. That would have made my life so much easier! She grinned when he asked if she needed help climbing the wall. "No, I can do this. Fancy tech is nice, but unnecessary." She took off at a run, then hopped up the tree, rapidly scaling it with a speed that didn't match her bulk. She hopped off the tree, landing in a crouch on the top of the wall, and jumped off to the other side, landing with a neat roll. "But, if you need to use the tech, then more power to you." 

Edited by Lone_Star
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Nevermore II

 

"Eh, not really that easy... but I know how to cheat this system." Yeah. It helped that it had been made by the first Raven and improved by the second, and he was training with the third. Charlie knew more than a few backdoors that had been installed just in case, and besides... it made things like this much easier. Not that he could really tell anyone here that. Headmistress Summers' old identity was a secret, after all.

 

Charlie whistled slightly when El scaled the wall and vaulted over it, landing easily on the other side. He clicked a button on the gauntlet, then jumped.

 

Reaching out with both hands, Charlie grabbed a branch on a tree placed on the other side of the walls, using it to spin around. He let go on the upswing, sending him spinning back towards the wall. Charlie planted both feet on it and pushed off, landing on his hands in front of El, quickly pushing off and landing on both feet.

 

"Was that supposed to be a challenge?" he grinned back at her, before pointing ahead, where a high tech bike came driving their way down the road, stopping in front of them. "You wanted a joyride?"

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Outrider

 

"Well, still. It goes to show that you're quite good at what you do. I would enjoy looking over your tech sometime." She watched him descend from the tree, and nodded in approval. "So you're not entirely reliant on your tech, it seems. Well done. Someday we should put your skills to the test - an obstacle course!" Just like my father had. We had to train on that damn "thing every day, but it saved us more times than I can count. "I am skilled in what you would call 'parkour', to use your parlance."

 

El stopped dead in her tracks. Be cool. Pick up your jaw, El. "Hmm. It's alright. But I bet my Painkiller could leave your bike in the dust. I was chosen as Outrider for a reason, you know. But I'll let you take me around on your scooter."

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Nevermore II

 

Charlie suppressed a laugh, the sound coming out as a bit of a snort instead. "Ha... right. I should introduce you to the Raven at some point. Obstacle courses are the least of the things he's put me through before he let me put on the cape in the first place."

 

Crossing his arms, he couldn't keep the laugh away this time. "Sure, if you want it to be a competition, but this is a city. Not always easy to get a car through the streets."

 

Moving to the back, he opened a compartment and pulled out a pair of helmets, tossing one to El. "Better put this on, don't need anyone catching us, right?"

 

He continued while putting on his own helmet. "So, where do you want to go? Downtown? Liberty or Riverside Park with the heroes statues? Or Millenium Mall, maybe? Kinda doubt they got anyting like those places where you're from."

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El caught the helmet and put it on. "Who is Raven - another superhero? The name sounds very familiar. I've read books about Freedom City's heroes, but some of the information was incomplete. It would be good to meet Raven, if that's possible. This is all still so strange to me - almost like traveling back in time. Well, I guess it would be, technically." 

 

She considered his point about the city. It was so much easier to drive without all the...people. There were laws before, about speeding in the city. Yes, there definitely were. "Fair point, Charlie. I suppose there is time for a race another day. But consider it an open challenge, for whenever you're ready. Not sure how you would feel losing to me. It's okay if you get upset - I won't tell." 

 

So many choices! But there's one place I've always wanted to see... "I want to go to the mall," she said, immediately, almost cutting him off mid-sentence. "Most definitely the mall."

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Nevermore II

 

Who's the Raven? Yeah, alright, El really wasn't from around here, was she?

 

"Ha, you got a lot to learn about this world," Charlie answered, with a slight laugh to his voice, while he put on his own helmet and moved to the bike, putting on. He patted the space behind him. "C'mon, hold on to me or behind, up to you."

 

Once El was on, he started the bike. It was incredibly silent, barely making any noise as he drove through the streets, waving in and out between cars.

 

"Ah, don't worry about it. We'll find some good space to have a race some day, then I promise I won't tell anyone if you cry a bit when I leave you in the dust." His tone was obviously joking and playful. 

 

After driving a bit, he started his explanation.

 

"So, the Raven. Well, he's kind of a big deal. The first Raven was one of the founding members of the Freedom League, and well, yeah. Kind of a big deal. There's been a few, they're all awesome. Can't really tell too much, but the current Raven's been teaching me how to do all this. He's kind of serious, though. Doesn't really socialize all that much."

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She sat behind him, and initially grabbed the bar behind her, but tentatively moved to put her arms around his waist. "If you're sure that's alright."

 

As he took off, she smiled widely. Now this was something she was familiar with! She whooped aloud as he ducked between cars, moving with expert speed. She watched his hands as he expertly shifted the gears as just the right moment. He was clearly a skilled driver as well. "You're on!" He may have a chance at beating me in a race, but I'll never tell!

 

She listened as he spoke about the Raven. The name sounded very familiar, perhaps a book she had read long ago. "I've heard of Raven. Ah, so the current iteration is your mentor? I can understand - I was taught by a rather harsh taskmaster as well. The only other gene-altered...I mean, superhuman in my clan. He was the Outrider before me. The only one that really understood what my sister and I were going through. I barely knew him as a person, but it cannot be denied that his training is the reason I'm still alive today."

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Nevermore II

 

Feeling her arms around him was surprising, but alright, Charlie did offer, and he was going fast. Bit faster than he normally would out of costume, but hey, if El wanted to see what he could do, then he was game.

 

"Well, I... kinda made the Raven teach me. Kept going until he finally relented and agreed to teach me how to do what he does, just so I wouldn't end up in trouble I couldn't get out of." Charlie shifted his weight to the side, making a sharp right turn. 

 

"Sorry, I really can't talk that much about him. Guy's not what I'd call harsh, but he got rules, and he got them for a good reason." He paused briefly, making it across a crossing a second before the light turned red. "Never learned anything about your mentor? I mean, you gotta have learned something if he taught you what to do, right?"

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Outrider

 

Her arms around Charlie felt...nice. Comforting in a strange way. Though she had ridden on the back of many a motorcycle, it was for protection, not amusement. She realized she had never taken a drive just for fun. Hmm.

 

"What kind of trouble were you in that you had to learn such skills to escape? You obviously have much talent, and many tools to augment them. I can understand the need for a well-made tool. My hammer has been at my side since, well. Forever, I guess. Since I found it in the aftermath of a great battle at a young age."

 

She nodded at his words, though he couldn't see her. "My mentor was the same way. Every morning, from dawn to dusk, he trained us in the use of our abilities. I believe...he was not a particularly harsh man. He simply had to instruct us without mercy, because there would be none in the wasteland. Does that make sense? I believe the term in your time would be a 'drill sergeant'. We were trained hard so that we would be able to react in difficult circumstances. To be honest, we never even saw his face."

 

El paused, and thought back to her childhood, what little of it there was. Practicing grueling power drills, testing her strength, bringing her body and mind to the very limit. All under the tutelage of her Instructor, clad in the iron mask of his station. Just as she had her place as a fledgling Outrider, so he had his place as the previous one, to teach the next generation how to survive. "Umm. May we talk about something else?"

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Nevermore II

 

Another turn, another barely missed red light. Alek would be pissed if he discovered this later on, but honestly? Charlie was good with it. El's arms around him, and her little challenges before, he felt like showing off a bit.

 

"Sure, don't worry. I don't wanna dredge up any bad memories or anything like that." They were almost there now, great. "I was only in the trouble I put myself in." Alright, that might have sounded wrong, but eh, this was something where Charlie had no issue being honest. "The Ravens have always been my heroes. I wanted to be like them. Solve mysteries, stop bad guys, keep people safe." A final turn, and El could see the Millenium Mall before them now, in all its glory. "Turns out I'm pretty good at it."

 

And finally, he came to a stop outside the mall. 

 

"And here's the Millenium Mall! What do you think?"

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Only in the trouble he put himself in. That's...vague, but okay. I suppose I've been pretty vague, too. "Well, you are in Claremont after all. When you're young, it helps to have a mentor, or someone to look up to. If you're lucky, they're the same person." Not in my case, but that was okay, too.

 

El dismounted the bike, and took off her helmet, her blonde hair sweeping off her shoulders. She mussed her hair up, trying to get it into a loose ponytail, but quickly gave up. She let it fall where it may. I don't think Charlie minds if my hair is messy. Now, what's this about Millenium - oh!

 

She had been here before, but not recognized it as such. The sign had long crumbled when her and Stella had taken shelter here before. It was not like this. A veritable mecca of shopping, people pouring in and out, mysterious bags in their hands. This must be shopping. Exchange of goods for paper money. So strange!  Her face lit up like a Christmas tree, unabashed joy spreading across it in an instant. "Let's go to the food court first!"

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Nevermore II

 

"Ha! I had a feeling you'd say that!" Hey, El had enjoyed the food at Claremont, and that was good. She had probably never ever seen anything like this before. "C'mon, its this way." 

 

Charlie led El through the mall. He hadn't spent nearly as much time there as most other teens, but hey, it was fine. He still knew his way around the place. Along the way, he pointed out a number of shops, just to get El excited about things. "Lots of places with clothes around here, you can find pretty much any style you'd like. There's sports stores, some game stores, a few beauty places, a super market if you just wanna get your groceries, there's movies... Its all pretty cool, right?"

 

At the food court, he threw his hand out, showing off the variety of shops. "So, what do you wanna get?"

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Sure enough, El was spellbound. She had a vague idea of what these places were for, and had seen them decades beyond their last customer, but to see it in its prime - was truly awesome. This was the culmination of the world of plenty she now lived in! She walked alongside Charlie, occasionally stopping to look in a window. She practically had her face shoved up against the glass. "Sorry, I - this is a lot to take in. There's so much to see!" Her eye was practicularly drawn to clothing stores, and she looked at the wonderfully dressed mannequins with awe. Can people actually wear these clothes?

 

As they arrived, the smells of delicious foods hit her like a truck. So much! Where should we eat? Or more, where should we start? Her stomach grumbled loudly - way louder than she ever thought it capable of doing. She was momentarily paralyzed with indecision. She had never had choice for what she ate before. She walked ahead of Charlie, wanting to look at and smell everything. She took samples from every restaurant offering them - sometimes more than one! Finally, she made a decision: "Pizza?" 

 

 

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Nevermore II

 

Honestly, it was kind of amazing watching El's reaction to, well, everything. There were a lot of people around, even during the afternoon, and there were a lot to take in, but her curiosity about everything was just something else. 

 

"Don't worry, we'll take everything at your pace. You need a break, we'll take a break, alright?" 

 

Once at the food court, Charlie couldn't help himself from snickering as El moved from place to place, taking every sample she could, studying everything before finally deciding.

 

"Pizza's great. I love pizza." He motioned with his head towards a place called Freedom Pizza, just one of a few pizza places at the food court. "C'mon, Freedom Pizza's the best. Just, y'know, read what's on each I guess? There's lots of different pizzas. And you can get pineapple on it if you want, just, people are weird about that for some reason. Some people think its weird for some reason." Charlie shrugged. "People get worked up over the weirdest things, y'know."

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El immediately got in line for Freedom Pizza. "I think it would be best to try everything, all at once. Just to ensure that there is a sampling of all possible ingredients, you know." It was unclear whether she was being serious or facetious. She ordered two giant supreme slices with everything, and she shook parmesan cheese over the top. "This smells amazing. Do the people of your world eat like this all the time?" 

 

Though she worried about asking too many questions, she felt comfortable with Charlie. He was obviously someone who lived by his skills, not to mention a very good driver. There were more things she had in common with the people of Freedom City than she thought, and there was so much to do and see. It was a little overwhelming! 

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Nevermore II

 

"I'm... not really sure there's room for everything at once," Charlie mentioned, after following El into the line. He looked into his wallet. He had the cash, so, alright. Could go that. Alek probably wouldn't appreciate it if he used the emergency credit card he'd given him to pay for all the pizzas. "... 'sides I'm not really sure I could afford that..." 

 

Alright, he didn't want to rain on her parade or anything, but the stipend from the Summers' estate didn't cover everything.

 

"So, uh, how about you pick out a few slices you want to try instead? I got you covered."

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"Oh, uh." Money! That's right, almost forgot about that. He cannot be expected to pay for all this food. But it all looks so good... "Of course, Charlie. Maybe a slice of supreme, and, let's see - Hawaiian. That's the one with pineapples and ham, right? Yes, that will be sufficient. May I get a soda as well?" Her face fell for a moment.You shouldn't ask too much of people. The nature of money is that people expect you to pay them back. Perhaps I can help him with something for compensation?

 

"Perhaps sometime I can perform maintenance on your bike It's quite a machine, but if you ever needed someone to change your oil or tune it up, I would be more than happy to help. Basically have learned about cars and bikes since I was born. It's instinctive by now."

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Nevermore II

 

"Sure, grab what you like." Yeah, he had enough for that. And a few slices for himself. "Gotta watch out for that Hawaiin, by the way. Gets people up in arms." 

 

Picking out a few slices and a drink for himself, Charlie moved to pay, before handing El her pizza and soda. 

 

"We can look if you want to, but don't feel like you have to do. Don't worry, I got this. Dunno how it is where you're from, but I'm good with helping a friend out without needing anything in return."

 

He motioned with his head to the side, and led her to a table, quickly slipping into a seat and waiting for El to follow and take the first bite.

 

"So? What do you think?"

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