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In some ways, going to Claremont Academy was like going to any high school. There was plenty of academic work, meals in the cafeteria, sports, dances, all the same drudgery and fun that any teenager could expect from their education. In other ways, though, it was very different. Not all students, for instance, got signed up to do after-school study with members of the Freedom League!

 

Patrol with the Freedom League was something of a pilot program this year. The Claremont students got to experience patrolling the city with experienced heroes who could offer tips and answer questions, and the League members got to serve their community and build ties with the school. It seemed destined to be a winning combination.

 

At least, Stesha certainly hoped it was going to be. Fleur de Joie had been a vocal proponent of the program, and she was eager enough to see it succeed that she volunteered to take the first patrol shift. When she'd gotten the profiles of the students she'd be working with, well, it had been easy to decide who she'd ask to work with her. Tiamat seemed a natural fit, and it would probably be very entertaining to watch her interacting with the kids. 

 

Claremont patrols started fairly early, around 9pm, so at 8:45 Stesha was waiting outside the school gymnasium, wearing her costume and browsing through the League's text-tip line to see if anything might be brewing tonight. "Well, here we go," she murmured to Tiamat while they waited for the students. "Ready to teach the next generation?" 

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Muirne smiled as she quietly pulled her armour over her bodysuit. She got to go on a patrol with members of the Freedom League, got to see another hero team in action! She'd worked with Vanguard, but now she could have a second actual hero team to compare to. A pair of examples to apply next time Luke or Charlie dragged her out to hunt demons or something. Smiling she attached her father's knife and spearhead to her belt. The stave of her staff was held in hand, but she wasn't going to get told off for having a spear in school this time.

 

She knew she was running early, but regardless she quickly made her way to the gym. Everything she'd read talked about how being early is a good way to make a first impression and so far the concept had been proven true. As such she'd apply it to this. Besides, she'd been waiting for a while after being unable to focus on anything else and if she stayed in the room much longer she was going to explode.

 

She strode to the pair that would be leading the patrol as quickly as she could without running. She gave a small bow to the pair before straightening with a blush as she remembered that was probably more old fashioned and formal than she was aiming for. "Good evening. I look forward to working with the two of you."

That probably wasn't better, she realized.

Edited by Kaede Kimura
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"I wouldn't have expected to be chosen first," Tiamat quietly admitted. "It was...intriguing. Perhaps we'll be able to put something worthwhile in their heads."

 

Tiamat, even in human guise, was tall - very tall - and cheerfully loomed over Muirne for a moment after the girl has introduced herself. Tiamat's grin had too many teeth, and too many of the teeth were sharp. They did not get less sharp as she leaned over, mace swinging forward on her hip like a pendulum. "Perhaps first we will teach them to relax."

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Fleur gave the student a friendly smile and a nod in response to the greeting. She was wearing her typical costume/work outfit of brown trousers, green blouse, and a belt with many pockets, all topped with a sturdy brown cowl that came up short in front like a jacket. Her long green hair was plaited and pinned close to her head and crowned with a garland of sunny yellow dandelions. "Good evening," she said in return. "You must be Shadowborne, it's lovely to meet you! I'm Fleur, and this is Tiamat." She tucked her phone away in a belt holster. "We've got a few moments, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your powers? " 

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Muirne looked up at Tiamat, who she now noticed was over a foot taller than her. She wasn't going to say it, but looming over someone with a million teeth in your smile is not the best way to get someone to relax. Still, despite her rising nervousness she stood her ground. She didn't want to offend, and maybe Tiamat wasn't used to being around people as short as Muirne was and so wasn't aware of the way she was looming. Muirne hoped that was the case.

 

Licking her lips nervously, she shifted her hand on the spear shaft away from the 'ready to stab' position they'd fallen into and cleared her throat. "I'm Shadowborne, yes. It is nice to meet you Síþwíf1 Fleur, Síþwíf Tiamat." The bowing continued even as Muirne kicked herself for it. "I have a link to a dimension called the Shattenwelt, and can draw energy from it. It lets me see in the dark without light, enter the Shattenwelt directly and draw the power out for a transformation into a uh, alternate form. I recently learned that I can do other things, but it's difficult and I'm not the best at it yet."

 

1 A Noblewoman or Lady

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A freaking patrol with the actual Freedom League! That was awesome. Plus, Tiamat was an actual dragon. He wasn’t going to miss this for anything, for sure.

 

Admittedly, though he wasn’t exactly on time. It was not like he had waited until the last second to get ready… of course… he would never do that… he was a teenage boy after all. Yep… Plus, well, his room at Claremont wasn’t exactly the tidiest and in its chaos finding all the pieces of his school uniform, that was going to act as his costume for now, hadn’t been the easiest, especially while in a hurry.

 

He was a little short on breath when he finally got to the meeting place, having jogged all the way from his dorm. That however didn’t prevent him from saluting everyone with a wide smile on his lips.

 

Hello. Sorry I’m late.” He waved, closing the distance between him and Muirne, planning to salute his girlfriend with a  kiss (sure there were freaking Freedom League heroes around, but a boy definitely had his priorities straight) “Hey…

 

L- ehem Nightscale reporting.” He introduced himself with a playful grin and offered both Fleur and Tiamat a confident handshake. "It's a freakin' honor to meet you.

 

And you… you must be the first actual dragon I have ever met Miss… I have like… so many questions.” He smiled.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Fleur raised her eyebrows in amusement at Nightscale's choice of greeting for his fellow student, but gave him a smile and shook his hand. "It's very nice to meet you too," she replied. "Now I think you probably know that this is our first excursion as part of the collaboration between the Freedom League and Claremont. We're going to do our best to show you the basics of safe city patrolling, and you should definitely feel free to ask questions or make suggestions." Fleur de Joie was the sort of person with a very good speaking presence, friendly, warm and professional. "We'll be taking a route around Bayview for part of the evening, but I'd also like to check out a couple of tips that have been called in to the Freedom League hotline. If anything major turns up, Tiamat and I will handle things, but otherwise you'll be working with us to handle anything that we come across. Do either of you have any questions?" She glanced at Tiamat as well, to see if her colleague had anything to add. 

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"I probably have answers for people who have earned them," grinned Tiamat (albeit with a much more human set of teeth), though she didn't get a chance to elaborate - Fleur's speech took precedent, and rightly so.

 

"This patrol isn't an excuse to punch above your weight class," she added, serious-faced. "You're just starting out, and there's no shame in that. Even I had to start somewhere." She paused for a moment on that one, turning her gaze upward for a moment as she scratched her jaw. "....I started out as a fire-breathing wyrm the size of a small bear, I guess, but you know what we mean. If you get hurt, we cancel the patrol to get you out immediately. If you die, we have to do a lot of paperwork. So don't do that."

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Muirne gave Luke a glare at his choice of greeting in front of the heroes, but it had no real heat to it. She supressed a sigh of relief as Tiamat suddenly had much fewer teeth and was glad to see Luke find someone he could ask questions to about being a dragon. She wasn't too sure about Tiamat's speeches though, although it could be the whole 'good cop, bad cop' thing she'd heard about? Or was it a joke? Regardless, Fleur had asked about questions. "If one of you dies are L- Nightscale and I going to have to do a lot of paperwork?" She asked in an attempt at a joke. More seriously she continued. "If there is a threat that you believe we should not fight, should we focus on getting civilians clear, or stand by to offer support against potential weaker enemies?"

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The young man was perhaps a bit disappointed when Tiamat denied the possibility of telling him more about their species, for now at least. "Fair enough." He shook his head. It will happen in time (besides pestering an actual dragon too much wasn't perhaps the smartest of ideas anyway). 

 

Luke smirked playfully at Muirne's glare, replying with a silent 'sorry' although his expression suggested that he was anything but... He nodded when the two veteran heroes introduced their activities for the evening, admittedly though, he was mostly focused on the awesomeness of going on patrol with them anyway.

 

"I know the feeling." He chuckled at Tiamat's words, although having lived most of his youth as a human, their start had probably been pretty different all things considered. In fact, Luke didn't really remember much of the time before his parents ran off with him.

 

"Will do our best not to." He grinned again as Muirne and Tiamat were trading 'jokes'  about their survival.

 

"Do you... well do you usually meet troubles while on patrol?" It would be lame after all to actually go out with the Freedom League and then have nothing 'fun' happening wouldn't it?  

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Fleur laughed at Muirne's comment about dying. "I'm not sure what sort of paperwork the school would want you doing, but you'd probably be on the hook to bury me in a sunny spot so I could regenerate, and that wouldn't be fun for anybody. Luckily, that sort of threat isn't on the table for anybody tonight. You never know exactly what you're going to find on a patrol," she added in Luke's direction, "but there are usually warning signs you notice if things are going to get sticky. I know you all get training on evaluating situations in your classes, and that's great. It's honestly at least as important as any of your combat training. The last thing you want to do is go unprepared into a situation and wind up becoming a distraction, or worse, a victim who needs rescuing." 

 

Opening a pouch on her belt, Fleur removed a couple of tiny seeds and tossed them on the ground. They sprouted immediately, making long vines that arched up without needing a trellis, and soon created a living doorway. "Like I mentioned, tonight we're going to run down a few tips that came in on the Freedom League's public line. While we're doing that, we'll practice initial size-up and hopefully give you a feel for how things happen on a patrol. It may end up being very boring," she admitted with a smile, "but to be honest, that's how it happens a lot when you do it for real. You learn to appreciate quiet nights when you can get them." She double-checked her phone quickly. "For this one, we're heading for Memorial Park. Somebody called the line about forty-five minutes ago to say they heard 'animals fighting, but like, really big animals. Big like horses.'" So that could be a lot of things. Let's head there now and we'll check it out." She gestured everyone to the portal she'd made, which now glowed with soft green light. 

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"If there's a problem bad enough that you shouldn't fight, we'll let you know," Tiamat confirmed. She took a moment, as Fleur created her portal, to sniff the air and make a pleased noise deep in her throat before continuing. "But Fleur de Joie's right, it isn't usually interesting, or as exciting as it sounds. 'Big like horses' could be big monsters, or a couple drunk fools trying to knock each other out, or two small dogs that are very very loud. Tips aren't always accurate, and witnesses are often wrong."

 

She grinned again, eyeing the others as she walked backwards through the portal. "There's only one way to find out for sure," she challenged, and then she was gone.

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Muirne smiled with maybe a bit to much pride as Fleur laughed at her joke. She didn't used to make many jokes due to her poor grasp of English but she'd actually made someone laugh.

 

She sobered quickly to listen to the pair of heroes talk, nodding in agreement to their points. The plant portal took her by surprise, but she'd gotten fairly used to the weirdness that came with being around superheroes. Her boyfriend was a dragon after all. Regardless, she stepped through the portal after a minimum of hesitation.

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"Yeah, besides, it's not our first rodeo either right." Luke commented with a cocky smirk. "But you're the boss here, if you tell us to stay back we will." Well... Maybe... Then again, those were experienced heroes on a routine call, so yeah, what's the worst that could happen? Then again, he had been under attack from monsters from another dimension when trying to get an hamburger.

 

"That's cool." He smiled, looking at the floral gateway. "So you can like, go wherever you want with this?God I sound like my 'bro with all the questions. Then again, it was not like he was going to be on patrol with freakin' Fleur de Joie everyday.

 

Anyway. No more time to waste. He took a deep breath and stepped into the gateway himself.

 

 

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As each hero passed through the gateway, they were momentarily bathed in soft green light and the scent of growing things. The portal opened into a dark and well-groomed outdoor space not too different from the one they'd left, except this one was near a sign reading "Freedom City Veterans' Memorial Park." In early March  the park was rather brown and sparse, a few daffodil spikes starting to push up around the base of the sign.

 

"Hmm," Fleur mused as she stepped through, letting the portal close behind her. "It's been too long since I spruced up the plants in this park. I'll have to stop by again later. My portals can take me anywhere on Earth, any Earth," she explained to Nightscale. "I'm pretty useless in space, I'm afraid," she admitted with a laugh. It was cut off when a loud crashing noise came from nearby, like someone was smashing garbage cans with a hammer. "All right," she told the students, "time to get a look at what we're dealing with. Try not to draw attention to yourselves if you can, assess the situation first and we'll make a plan." 

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"Space is terrible, and nobody should go there," said Tiamat, quietly, standing where she could see the kids, and Fleur, without going too far from any of them. She always preferred to be properly-sized for these kinds of things, but that might defeat the purpose of teaching the students reconnaissance.... "No plants for you, no rocks for the knight, and worst of all they don't make space suits in my size."

 

She harumphed, dismissing the though of the empty void to cross her arms and watching. "So, not-your-first-rodeos - show us how it's done."

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Muirne had to admit that Fleur's teleportation was far more pleasant than her own imitation of it, but that was probably to be expected given the differences in their powers. She looked at Fleur quizzically before asking, "Do your powers work on other planets or are they limited to Earth?" She'd heard that there was life out there on planets like Earth, and had heard people even talk about making planets inside the solar system habitable. Could Fleur do something similar? Regardless she was getting side-tracked.

 

She tensed as the loud crash sounded through the night. She drew the spearhead from her belt and affixed it to it's stave, but stayed put until Tiamat told them to go forward. Quickly she turned to Luke and tried her best to channel Charlie when it came to giving commands, "I'm better at sneaking so I'll go ahead to investigate, you stay back to give support. Make sure to stay within earshot." She waited a moment for confirmation before turning and quietly approaching the alleyway.

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Muirne headed further into the park, towards the noise. She quickly found what was a nice little gazebo and playground area, emphasis on the "was." The monkey bars appeared to have been squashed flat as though some massive foot stomped them down, while the swingset was off its legs entirely and fetched up against a fence that had bowed out from the force of its impact. One bench appeared to have had a baseball bat taken to it, with several large dents but nothing worse. The other bench was a pile of ashes, with the smell of woodsmoke still drifting on the breeze. The gazebo was the strangest sight: it looked as though it had taken some kind of terrible energy blast that vaporized part of it, then left the remainder of it rotting at the burnt edges, like a necrotic wound. It looked almost like the damage from an Omegadrone's power pike, but how could that be, here and now? None of this damage could be very old, or Doctor Metropolis would've fixed it like always.

 

On the far end of the park, across a wide expanse of surprisingly unscathed soccer field, a shadowy figure stood near a trio of garbage cans as the cans seemed to rip themselves out of the ground and go rolling away. 

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Apparently, they didn’t need to wait for much before finding out the source of the disturbance. Unlikely to be just some random beasts fighting, beside he didn’t get a scent matching any big animal in the air. There was something else though, smoke and rot. That could not be a good sign. “I don’t think it’s the little ponies duking it out down there…

 

He nodded, listening to Muirne as she formulated a plan. “Yeah sur- Hey what do you mean by, better at sneaking?” He shook his head and chuckled playfully, yeah, himself the young man has always been pretty proud about how light he was on feet, but admittedly since joining the school he hadn’t exactly managed to give an astounding demonstration of his talents. Yeah…

 

Ok fair enough, just be careful ok. There is something wrong in the air.

 

Staying somewhat at a distance, in order not to pinpoint Shadowborne’s position in case of any mishap, one eye always on her, just in case, the young man circled around the playground, surveying the devastation from afar. What the hell was going on? Besides, why? After all trashing a place like that didn’t exactly sound super-villain material to him… Looked more like someone was making experiment with their powers.

 

He waited for a moment when Muirne was looking in his direction, before mimicking without sound. Let me check this out. 

 

Hey. I don’t think that’s how you are meant to do recycling you know?” He stepped in sight and addressed the shadowy figure, trying to appear not threatening, but still ready in case the stranger turned against him.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Tiamat had never once been accused of stealth - not once, not ever, and she certainly wasn't going to start now. With the teenage hero stepping out into the open she did much of the same, very un-subtly placing herself just off to his side. Not close enough to step on his spotlight - she wanted to see how they did, after all! - but just close enough to put herself between the students and trouble if need be.

 

She also didn't make much attempt to not be intimidating. She'd always enjoyed "bad cop", and stood with her arms crossed and her eyes glowing, saying nothing in words and plenty in six feet of well-muscled warrior-hero.

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The shadowy figure looked up as Nightscale approached. Even in the dim light from distant streetlamps it was a strange creature to look at, its features seeming to shift subtly from moment to moment. One second it was a human male with pale skin, one moment an olive skinned female, then suddenly a Deep One for a second, another human, then suddenly the smooth metal visor of an Omegadrone, changing on and on without pause. The mouth, though, remained mostly the same, wide and smiling, showing many pointed teeth. "Ah, dragons," it crooned, its voice barely more than a sibilant hiss through those teeth. "How entertaining. The unwanted cub, tossed from the nest and stolen by humans for a pet, and the monster who clipped her own wings when she started to fear her teeth. This world of prey must chafe like a steel collar." 

 

Both of them could feel a sudden push against their minds, like a hand trying to reach in and rummage through a drawer. For Nightscale, it was though he managed to shut the drawer barely in time, though he could still feel something unwholesome and slimy tugging at the handle. For Tiamat, that hand managed to sneak inside, quick as a blink, and began pulling. For a moment, her whole mind was full of old things she tried not to think about too much, scenes of carnage she had caused, sentient beings dead or maimed for her amusement or convenience. Worst of all was the sense of enjoyment, and the way that for just a moment, it was hard to tell if it was the creature's emotion or her own. 

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Fleur had begun the exercise by standing back and letting the students take point, but she'd been keeping a close eye on things through the trees and the grass. She didn't like what she saw. So far this baddie seemed to be confining itself to property damage, but that could change quickly, and she honestly had no real idea of what it could do. There were so many different types of damage on display here, that either it had unseen allies or it could do things she'd never seen a villain do before. Either alternative was not good. She hated having to intervene so quickly, but it was better than letting the kids get in over their heads on the first night. The fact that the odd-looking creature had some kind of insider information on them only made things more hazardous. 

 

A quick teleport took her across the park, swallowed quickly by one dandelion and coughed up by another, just in front of Nightscale. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave," she told the creature firmly. "This park belongs to the people of Freedom City and you can't destroy it for fun." 

 

If anything, that shark-toothed smile only got wider. "Ah, and the lonely goddess," it purred. "Beloved but never loved, remembered only when she is useful. Is it so virtuous to content yourself with scraps?"

 

Fleur paled, her hands clenching into fists. She could feel the creature pressing against her mind, but better villains had tried that before. "That's none of your business," she said coldly. "Will you leave peacefully?" 

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Muirne watched the figure for a moment, contemplating what to do when Like sauntered up without a care in the world. When had he even gotten ahead of her? With a cocky comment and Tiamat revealing herself at a distance Muirne tensed, expecting a fight or chase to occur when the figure started talking as she watched it flicker between appearances. Her fist clenched around her spear as it insulted them and then Fleur. What should she do? She didn't want to spoil Fleur's attempt at peacefully resolving the situation so she wasn't sure if she should stay hidden just in case it spotted her but at the same time revealing herself would mean that it it decided to be aggressive then there would be no surprises on their side.

 

Muirne frowned in thought before settling in a course of action. It would be best to maintain some advantage even if she showed herself. As such she circled around behind the creature, ready to leap to action at a moments notice.

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Hey. No… they.. They didn’t.” Yeah, he hadn’t been tossed out of the nest. Right? Truth was though, he had no way of really knowing. The young man had always wondered about the nature of his birth parents, after all he knew nothing about them. Except  that they weren’t humans of course. And that they weren't with him when he was born. What if there was a hint of truth in the monster's words?

 

How the hell would you know anyway?” Yeah right, that thing was just trying to get under his skin. Still…

 

And I’m no one's freakin’ pet. They are my family.” He objected, shortly thereafter, clenching his fists. 

 

The young man winced when he felt the monster’s mind tugging at him, he felt, well vulnerable, all of his secrets, fears all the most private thoughts exposed, if just for a split second. No way. He was not gonna let that monster dig into his head, he couldn’t let it know more about his family, nor of Muirne that was still in hiding nearby. It felt like a titanic effort to shut the door, but at least it seemed like he had succeeded. For now. God that thing was strong.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Tiamat ground her teeth hard enough to be heard, hands curled into fists as she glared at...whatever this thing was. "Stay out of my head," she growled. Screams, and why shouldn't there be, why shouldn't she be, the taste of....

 

Tiamat burst into fire, immolating all at once in a blaze that grew and grew and grew and when it finally died, it had burnt away all the artifice, all the feigned humanity. "Do not go seeking monsters," she rumbled - all crimson scales and claws and teeth, t-rex-sized and more, staring down at the ever-changing thing with hostile contempt. "You might find them."

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