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alderwitch

Mall Rats

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Alex bounced down from the bus step, landing on her sneakered feet with a light thump. Clutched in one hand she held her neatly written shopping list in one hand as she looked up at the Millenia Mall with a bright smile on her face. Without bothering to look around as she knew her shopping partner would be lagging behind, she called back to him, "Come on, Mike. If we've planned it out correctly, we should be able to get everything on the list and stil have time for a movie."

By 'we've planned', she of course met 'I've planned'. Alex was a compulsive listmaker. Why she made them and insisted on checking it off, when she could perfectly recall the items in her mind the world might never know. Personally, Alex found the process soothing. The tiny dynamo strode through the doors of the mall and automatically turned right, heading for the first store on her annotated list.

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Mike clumped down the stairs of the city bus squinting into the to bright sun as he followed his bossy friend on her errands of the day. She of course had made him a list as well which lie crumpled in his pocket, as Alex vanished into the mall he lengthend his stride to catch up and fished the list form his pocket to see where she was heading.

Once he cought up with his companion Mike retorted "Theres nothing good playing anyway, and we don't even know what kinda classes we're gonna have how did you even make this?" He gestures at the lengthy scroll she had presented to him when she arrived at his house earlier that day.

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Alex turned, already at a display of backpacks and had one in each hand as she tilted her head back up to be able to look him in the eyes. It was fortunate that he was in high-sulk mode already in her estimation as she got a crick in her neck when he stood up straight. She lifted one shoulder in an off hand shrug.

"It really wasn't that difficult to make a deduction or two. Based off the notes from our last 'school', I feel I have a good estimation of our current strengths and weaknesses. Between that and what I do know of available curriculum - I used the college and a few local high schools for basis, and extrapolated - I came up with what I feel is a reasonable list of neccesary supplies." She paused and sighed, "It is possible that I have over-estimated our needs but it's better to be prepared. Besides, school supplies are fun!"

She shook the backpack - the one with large pink applique flowers - at him for emphasis.

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Mike visibly shuddered at the pastel monstrosity she presented. "Uhmm ok so what your saying is you guessed? Fine by me I mean after all," He grabbed a black backpack with many extranous pockets zipers and buckles and held it up with a mocking smile "School supplies are fun." He finished in a rediculous falsetto imitation of his friend.

He slung the pack over one shoulder and drifted down the aisle picking at the proffered goods and frowning at the preponderance of Hello Kitty memrobilia in Alexs chosen store.

"What kind of store is this anyway?" He asked under his breath drawing a startled look from a diminutive employee stacking some kind of nightmarish postmodern lunch box display.

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She finished her selection, far more complete than her companion as she checked the straps for comfort, the pockets for size and critically eyed the color selection before she chose something with a bold graphic design. Slinging her selection over her shoulder, she began the same critical assessment of the selection of notebooks, pens and other neccesary items.

"Its a botique. Its both new and popular with the twelve to eighteen crowd. Due to the popularity, its all overpriced but its one of those things that kids judge other kids on without realizing it. Or meaning to. I thought it would be better if we, you know, blended. Right?"

She looked up at him with wide eyes, a handful of notebooks clutched to her chest, none of which had either a unicorn or a kitten on them unlike all her prior favored trapper-keeper collection. Alex frowned at him and added, "I looked into it. Although its mostly for girls. As far as I can ascertain, you should cut off some t-shirt slogan and affix it to your backpack with saftey pins. I couldn't find anything about what boys are using for supplies in school. I'm sorry."

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Mike just laughed and shook his head almost as if in disbelief. Truethfully however he wasn't in the least bit surprised she had done research, it was just like Alex to research how to blend and not realize the fact that such research was needed pretty much guarenteed they wouldn't.

"Blend?" he said incredulously "We haven't been in a normal school since ..." he trailed off and looked away frowning through a curtain of hair. Mike took a deep breath and continued with a new tact "Alex we don't know anyone there and frankly we don't even know how students interact in a place like that, this, whatever." He paused to glance around and make sure their little discussion wasn't drawing too much attention before continuing. "Trying to be something other than what we are suits neither of us I don't even have any t-shirts with logos to cut off."

He spoke quietly but earnestly. "Best case scenario the other misfits at the school accept us before we make too big of fools out of ourselves. And I really question if I would want to fit in with pople who think those," He gestured at the revamped display of 'classic' lunchboxes "are the height of cool."

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She frowned at him and protested, "But I like 'Scooby Doo'. It's not as if I'm trying to be something else. Simply limiting the scope of my choices to an acceptable range. It's what most teens do, I imagine I've just put in far more thought into it."

Silently agreeing to disagree with him, Alex selected her choices of pens and errata with the same furrow of concentration on her brow. School supplies were fun at least and with the switch from the lab to a real highschool (sort of), it meant picking out two whole sets even if it was only for the last few weeks of the traditional school year. Alex was personally hoping they would offer summer school as well.

Taking her purchases which included one of the matching kitchy lunchbox sets despite any complaints from her cohort to the counter, Alex added to Mike with enthusiasm, "Next the bookstore!"

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Mike stared after her as she walked off shaking his head in vauge confusion and turned eying the displayed lunchboxes skepticly before selecting one for himself. thirty dolars for a faux steel construction workers lunch pail seemed downright rediculous but given the alternatives he realy saw no other choice.

He stomped up to the counter behind his friend and gazed at her baffled as she announced their next destination. How would she even know what books to get? Did bookstores even carry textbooks? he wondered to himself as they made their way across the mall. However he was this time wise enough not to ask, she had undoubtably modeled a curriculum and likely it was accurate. Really he didn't want to know exactly how far behind her studies he would be this time.

He glanced baffled at the list she had provided him and began searching through the shelves for the titles she had indicated Civics in a Super Powered Age? Where did they come up with this stuff.

Calling over the shelf to his companion mike queried "So how many more stops do we have?" He peered over the shelf at what she was looking at. "I mean I love school shopping as much as the next guy so no rush or anything." He added sarcasticaly.

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Two colorful individuals are standing at the magazine rack. Oh, they have magazines, but their shade-covered red eyes are inconspicuously glued to the two shoppers that are leaving. "Did you see those two, Rave," Rant rhetorically asks his sister. "Mhm," Rave nods. "I bet they could be some fun for a few hours," the elder brother smiles as they walk in a non-chalant manner towards the door, "Bookstore, bookstore, where is that book store?" Rave elbows him in the side for his lack of observation and points at the moving duo. "Oh right," he chuckles, "Maestro, bring that beat back!" The outburst is loud enough to echo through the halls of the mall, but nothing like he's known for. She smiles and pops one iPod earphone in her left ear and one in his right and they continue towards the bookstore.

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Alex startled a little bit, glancing over her shoulder at the sudden noise. Noticing nothing out of the ordinary for a Sunday at the mall, she glanced back up at Mike, already holding a small stack of books against her chest. She smiled faintly at the sarcasm.

"Not too many. Claremont has dorms so I had a few things on the list for that but I wasn't going to drag you clothes shopping today. I figured it would take an hour or so to find things in the bookstore, including browsing time." She held up a thick paperback, titled Freedom City, A History, and flipped it over to skim the jacket. "Supplies, then books. I think you might actually enjoy shopping for posters for your dorm if you can stir yourself out of today's ennui."

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Mike started slightly at the shout but paid little attention beyond that.

"Posters huh? That shouldn't be so bad." He drifted around the aisle glancing at the titles as he went. "So are we looking for textbooks or just some light reading." He added quotey finger around light as he looked at the size of some of the tomes on the shelf she was browsing.

He had pulled his own more limmited selection already and took some of his friends burden as she continued her browsing.

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The two colorful antagonists sit innocently on a bench outside the bookstore. With their ultra-fine sense of hearing, they stalk their prey. "Aight, here we go, Schoolly D," Rant addresses his sister. "Paper, rock, scissors. Loser takes first crack at em. Ready? Countdown from three... threetwoone!" he shouts as both throw down their answers. Rant comes down with paper, while Rave brings the rock.

"Ha!" Rant's overexuberant exclamation fills the hall again, drawing another quick burst of attention before Rave covers his mouth. It's a busy shopping day, and no one seems to notice the loud teen. "So, Ice-T," he teases his sister, "let's see what you got."

A wicked grin crosses Rave's face as she pulls a sucker out of a knee-deep pocket, tugging off the wrapper as she leans back on the bench. Suddenly, a mall cop literally materializes in front of the two. Rant nods approvingly. "This could be interesting," he muses. Rave, her mouth full of sucker, "mmm"s agreement as she concentrates on the illusion, sending the cop walking into the store.

Under Rave's control, the illusory cop makes his rounds around the store, seeming to watch only Mike and Alex. He stays a safe distance away from them, but enough to make his presence known. Outside, Rant sits on edge, "Why ain't you doin anything with em?!"

Rave leans her head over towards him with an eyeroll. "OK, you know what you're doin," he sighs anxiously.

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Mike was treated to an eyeroll over the edge of the book Alex was skimming, "I think there's a fallacy in your dichotomy of 'school books' and 'everything else'."

She snapped the book shut, tucking it under one arm to gesture lightly with both hands, "What you mean is there's interesting books, and boring books. I think you'll find most of these boring but I tried to chose ones that I thought might be more engaging, like Centurion, A Hero Among Heros."

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Mike continued to follow Alex in her browsing keeping his beleaugered sighs to a minimum. He flipped open the proffered book skimmed it shifting the others under his arm to free his hand.

"While certianly an interesting read I don't really see how it applies." He murmered almost to himself.

As they made their way through the store Mike remained blissfully unaware of the 'cop' eyeing them. He continued to take books from Alex as she browsed, looking every part the boyfriend of burden.

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Alex made a tsking noise at him, this time not bothering to look up from the thick tome she'd buried her nose in, "How can we be heros without understanding the lives of previous heros, their struggles, etcetera. Even if it does happen to be a rather emotionally biased biopic."

It was less rhetorical question and more the opening salvo to a rather dry lecture, no doubt. Alex would have a brilliant future for her as some dusty librarian if she wasn't currently trying to chart out a future working with missing children. It was even-odds if she'd actually ever make it out of academia during her college years. Finally, sorting out all of the books Alex wanted, she began the tedious task of paring it down to 'cannot live without'. She flicked hazel eyes, warm with a friendly smile, back up to Mike finally as she meticulously replaced the rejects on their proper place on the shelves.

"It's your turn to pick the movie. I will even do you the favor of warning you ahead of time that if you pass, there's a romantic comedy that I actually want to see."

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Mike knew better than to get Alex started on her 'higher purpose' lecture. He had heard it to many times and really didn't want to start up the I didn't ask for this and I don't want it argument again.

Instead he decided to tease his friend to distract her from the oncoming lecture.

"Like a date movie?" He inquired with a smirk "I mean then I'd have to put the moves on to keep up my rep, ya know?" He asked rhetorically "And then things would get all weird afterwards. Nope I think it'll have to be Terminator Salvation for the sake of our friendship unfortunately." Mike adopted a look of faux depth and turned to Alex before adding sarcasticly "Your friendship is just to important to risk for something like that." He smiled an honest smile at his jest which given his usual teen angst was a sure sign that he was trying to break out of his normally black mood.

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Internally, Alex sighed and shook off the twinge of pain from her best friend's usual oblivious commentary. She added another mental check-mark to 'stupid things that Mike said', her ever growing list of things to make him make up for in their post-college years and forced a smile as she scooped up the books to take them to the counter, Mike firmly in tow.

"Your movie means your buying. I'm going to get a soda bigger than my head." She said cheerfully before carefully counting out the crisp bills on the counter from her horded book fund. "And those chocolate covered raisens that you hate."

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Mike followed her up to the counter blissfully unaware of his faux pas and handed his own more diminutive stack over to be rung up.

As the cashier scanned his items witht he usual glacial pace of a minumum wage employee Mike replied "You know what your problem is? Your spoiled." He waved off her impending arguement and continued, "You don't understand the value of snack food and that is should not be tainted by health food no matter how covered in waxy chocolate." He continued his diatribe against the evils of tainted snacks explaining "If you had to have raisens for every movie untill you could go without your parents you would understand that the inexorable right to indigetion inducing movie food must be exercised or you may well lose it." He nodded quite pleased with his argument and took his change formt eh thouroughly unimpressed cashier.

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The cop keeps it's distance from the two as they walk out of the store. He waits until they get a good ways away before walking up to them. "Excuse me sir and ma'am," he says wiuth faux authority, "May I have a word with you?" The kids stop to listen to the man. "Yeah, we been having reports of stolen merchandise from all of these stores," the cop tells them, "We just wondered if you've seen these two." The cop draws a picture from his pocket and presents it with a flourish. It unfolds to an 8x10 of Rant and Rave, making faces at the camera. After they get a good look at it, the cop disappears and a fading laughter is left in it's place.

"So that was your plan, Cool Moe Dee," Rant scoffs, "weak." Rave perks her eyebrow at him. "Of course I could do better," he says sullen at the percieved slight, "it's just everytime I do better we get thrown back." Rave sighs with a bit of rememberance. "Don't worry, you'll do better next time," he assures her by mussing her hair, "For now we gotta split beore they get suspicious." Rave smiles and touches her brother's nose. With a shimmer of light, they both disappear.

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Alex took a self concious step closer to Michael as the cop faded, leaving only mocking laughter. Her hazel eyes nervously searched the mall food court in the wake of the illusion. She caught her lower lip between her teeth, a telling sign of her nerves and her mental voice whispered in his thoughts, Those kids in the picture. That's Rant n' Rave. I saw them on tv one time when they got arrested. They cause lots of destruction in their wake. I sure hope they're not around!

She reached back to touch the wallet in her backpocket, making certain that was still there before she gave Mike's arm a reassuring pat, and added aloud, "We'll just have to keep our eyes open."

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As the 'cop' faded from view Mike glanced aroudn nervously, when he heard Alexs message his search became more furtive as he tried to pick out those faces from the crowd.

"Yea, we'll have to keep an eye out." He said still looking around. 'ANY IDEA WHAT THEY DO?' He thought at Alex and began movign through the crowd towards their next destination.

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Assuming her silence meant Alex wasn't entirely sure either Mike suggested that they leave and pick up posters later. There really wasn't much sense in hangin around to be duped in a more serious fashion by the villianous siblings.

It didn't take much convincing before Alex relented and the two friends headed home still wondering what the Claremont Academy held in store for them.

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