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Avenger Assembled

(Un)familiar Faces

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Bayview was a lovely neighborhood in the summertime, and the gorgeous rolling hills that sited the Claremont Academy was situated right in one of the most beautiful parts of the region. As the van carrying the three teenage superhumans headed up the drive to campus, the rolling hills they drove over on the way gave them occasional glimpses of the beautiful 19th century style campus. The big double gates were set in a big portico-style gate tower overrun by ivy made tired by the summer's heat, and the arriving students could just make out the burnished plaque that bore the school's name and motto on the outside wall. “The Claremont Academy for the Gifted, Scientia Potentia Est."

Waiting for them at the security booth just inside the front gate was a a friendly-faced woman of middle age, wearing a sensible linen suit and a smile. "Hey folks!" she said after knocking on the window to get it rolled down. "I'm Mrs. Stephanie Harcourt, head science teacher around here. There's a snap faculty meeting been called, and what with the summer session and such that leaves just me and my science project to show you around the place for right now. Go on up and park in family parking," she said, pointing into the big lot that the gate opened up to. "I'll meet you up there..." As the van moved to pull up, she looked around and called in a teacher voice, "Hey, Mr. Koyama! What did I say about showing off?"

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Alex glanced up at the roof, curiously as she noticed the faint sound of... something. After a sweeping glance detected nothing she caught her lip between her teeth and almost hesitantly reached out with her thoughts to detect what was going on. Just her luck this would be some sort of ethics test that she would promptly fail. She made certain to keep her touch as light as possible as she really didn't need more that just the surface of what... whoever... was thinking.

When all she found was anticipatory glee about showing off skills, she relaxed and reached out to grab at Mike's sleeve. The last thing he needed on his first day was a repeat of the 'incident', so she said loud enough for Erin to hear as well, "I think we may be about to be treated to our first high school prank. There's no threat from it though."

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Erin had been woolgathering as the car traveled, but head came up fast at those words, swiveling side to side on her neck as she looked around. "What kind of prank?" she asked, folding her arms tightly across her chest. She did not like being surprised, even when there was no obvious threat. The last thing she wanted was to make a bad impression on the first day.

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Mike was thouroughly lost in his own thoughts when he felt the small tug on his arm. He shook his head in vague confusion at Alex's words. "Wha huh," he quieried as the fog began to lift from his mind.

As Erin inquired about the prank it fully dawned on him what had been said. "Wait, yea, what kinda prank?" he asked as he glanced around frowning at the passing foilage and buildings the splendor of the campus largly lost in his sudden confused paranoia.

He tensed slightly and prepared himself for the unexpected sitting closer to his full height than he had since the drive began as he looked for some kind of threat.

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The van pulled to a stop as Mrs. Harcourt walked up alongside it, still calling with increasing irritation for Mr. Koyama. No sooner had the van stopped and Mike and Alex's mom turned off the engine than Mr. Koyama showed himself by leaping off the roof of the van! The invisible figure on the roof shifted neatly back to visibility as he landed next to Mike's window, a cheerful smile on his face. The young Asian man was handsome and cheerful, an insouciant look on his partially-goggled face as he executed a perfect little somersault on landing. "Welcome to the Claremont Academy!" he said cheerfully with just a slight Japanese accent. "I'm your assistant tour guide!"

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Alex gave a little gesture that seemed to say 'that sort of prank' as she let herself out of the car door, giving their tour guide a sunny smile that didn't seem to be the least discomfited. Or surprised.

"Hello, I'm Alex. Alex Albright. It's a pleasure to meet you." She rattled off politely and extended one slim hand as the other clutched her jacket and backpack almost nervously.

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Erin walked around the van and retrieved her duffel from the trunk before coming around to meet the tour guides. Instead of introducing herself, she stared at the young man for several long, uncomfortable moments, her face blank. "Are you Shinnosuke Koyama?" she asked finally, with little inflection in her voice. Her arms were still tight to her chest, making her look uncomfortable and odd.

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Mike merely glared at the young prankster and slowly began opening his door. Oh boy hazing he thought. He stepped out of the car once Koyama moved away from the door and stretched breifly to his full height before dropping into his standard slouch and extended a grudging hand to the young man to avoid alex's inevitable lecture should he be rude on thier first day. "Mike Harris." He stated simply.

Formalities taken care of he pulled his own back pack from the trunk and turning to Mrs. Harcourt asked in a respectful tone, "Should we unpack now? Or is the tour first?"

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"Yes," said the young man, cocking his head as he looked Erin over. Erin certainly recognized that face from the news, Patient Zero had been famous back before everything had gone away. "Have we met before?" Alex's mom was a bit surprised at the invisible teenager who'd evidently been riding her car, but she was evidently used to superpowered shenaniganry around the house.

For her part, Mrs. Harcourt didn't seem at all pleased at her student. "Mr. Koyama, what have I told you about sneaking around in that nano-suit of yours?" she asked the young man. "If you're going to do it, don't get caught! It does nothing for your reputation or mine if you can't sneak around successfully in that thing. And it's rude." She beamed at the kids. "Anyway, let's not let this spoil the moment." Addressing Mike, she said, "Well, that's up to you. I know Erin here has had a long trip, and the rest of you probably don't want to lug your bags around all over campus. Would you rather leave your bags in your rooms, or go touring now?"

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Alex turned her attention to the teacher, catching her lower lip once more between her teeth in an obvious nervous tick, "Uhm. Dropping our bags off would be great, I'm sure. If it's okay with everyone else?"

She glanced back for clarification then wrinkled her nose at Mike. She didn't touch his thoughts on their psi-link but she might as well have as she gave him a warning look about his attitude. When she swung her attention back to the teacher, she fidgeted again for a moment before the questions started spilling out of her eagerly, "Do we need to take any sort of questionare on roommates? How do we pick classes? Do you already have our records? I'm sure you do. When does summer school start?"

Alex fell into step, her bags clutched a little awkwardly but her attention was rapt on the teacher.

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"It's fine with me," Erin replied, clutching the strap of her bag a little tighter as she released her death grip on her own torso. She kept a very wary eye on Koyama , but devoted some of her attention to the rest of the grounds as well, getting an idea of where everything was and how it was all laid out. "Are people free to just walk around on campus, or is it restricted?" she asked.

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Mike just nodded his silent assent and gathered the rest of the bags from the car before taking half of Alex's in the other hand. With the bags gathered he looked to Koyama and forced a smile and spoke "Lead on." He spared a glace after that to Alex to smugly give her the 'see I can play nice' look.

"I'm sure they can answer all of your questions Alex," he said with genuine amusement at his friends eagerness "But one at a time might help the rest of us keep up."

Though already burdened with the majority of the contents of the station wagons storage bay he turned a questioning glance to Erin "Need a hand with that?"

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"Oh, we keep a close eye on the perimeter, of course, not to mention the campus proper, but the campus itself is generally free to our students and faculty." Ms. Harcourt led the way for the kids and parent, keeping up a steady monologue as she walked and talk. Her 'assistant' seemed a bit subdued at the reaction to his prank, following along looking much more sedate. The Main Quad she led everyone through was an open air courtyard surrounded on all four sides by school buildings. A circle of grass was stamped in the middle of the yard; at its heart was a statue of a happy Dr. Charles Claremont. There were a few kids sitting around underneath the shade of trees and resting on benches, enjoying the warmth of the day, one of whom called a friendly greeting Toyama's way.

"This is our founder, Dr. Charles Claremont," said Harcourt brightly, "we still draw much of our inspiration for him, even though of course the special philosophy of the school started after Headmaster Summers helped pay for renovations after the Terminus Invasion." She shook her head, sobering a little. "That was back when we were Thomas Aquinas. I wasn't on staff then, but I lived in the neighborhood." She looked at the three students. "Now, I know you all are taking placement tests to see what grades you place into, right?" She nodded at that, confirming her own words. "With some extra training during the summer, so you can stick close to your grade level. Now, you're all in the Edward John Carter dorm in the summer," she went on, leading the way as they walked through a shotgun hallway past the Leonard Fox Auditorium, their shoes echoing on the stone floor underneath.

"It's our coed dorm, so it makes the most sense for our summer students to live there." There were kids playing Frisbee in the grassy area they reached next, one of them occasionally reaching up with a long, long arm of at least thirty feet to catch the Frisbee when it flew especially high overhead. When he caught sight of the group, the stretchy boy stretched his neck across the field to say hello.

"Hey Mrs. Harcourt! Hey new people," said the young man with an East Indian accent, the collar of his school jacket just visible on a neck he'd stretched out a good forty feet long. "I am Charles Kumble, but everyone calls me Eel-Skin. Welcome to Claremont!"

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Alex let out a laugh that, to Mike at least, would betray her lingering nerves. She gave a little wave of 'hello' to the new face - literally! - and introduced herself quickly.

"Thank you. I'm Alex. So we can, uhm, use our powers here?" She questioned curiously. Not that most of her powers were showy but she could sure use some practice flying! She glanced at 'Eel-Skin' and then over to the group of kids playing then took an unconcious step closer to Mike and Erin, although her smile was still warm. "I bet that makes frisbee more interesting. Are there sports teams for the school?"

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"No thanks," Erin told Mike politely, looking at the pile of things he was carrying. Her duffel bag was a decent size, but she handled it like it weighed nothing. "I can help you carry some of that, if you want to have one arm free," she offered. Whichever way the carrying settled out, she followed the others across the campus, staying very alert to the new situation. Her eyes got a little wide as she took in the superpowered antics on the playing field, but it seemed less like fear and more like something she'd simply never seen in person before. "Ah, hello," she said uncertainly to the stretchy boy's head.

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Mike shrugged in response and followed the others into the quad. When ever he caught himself gawking at the open use of powers he quickly stifled it with a sullen frown. As the boy stretched across the yard towards them he masked his surprise about as well as he had with the other displays which is to say he didn't but made it clear he was trying too.

"Isn't it kinda risky?" Mike asked "I mean if people notice that the school is full of... people with powers, won't they be frightened?" He glanced around nervously before adding "And I mean some powers can be dangerous what if someone gets hurt?" Mike glanced to Alex for reassurance clearly upset by this prospect.

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"That's one advantage of our large campus," said Mrs. Harcourt as Eel-Skin snapped his head back to join his friends. "You don't have to ashamed of what you are here, or worry about what people will think. We empower our students," she said with a smile. "Even those who don't have formal powers as such." By way of demonstrating, she borrowed Alex's mother's cell phone as they walked through the grassy park around the nearly empty Rita Kord dormitory to the Edward John Carter Dorm. Harcourt's fingers flew as she talked, snapping open and rearranging the phone's internal workings with the grace of an artist.

"We do put some restrictions on use of powers off-campus, of course. We have students here whose identities need to be protected, for their own good and the good of the world at large. So off-campus, you'll want to maintain your secret identity, and if you do choose to work towards being a superhero, we'll encourage you to wear a mask. It's just safer that way, for you and for your family."

She handed the reassembled phone back to Alex's mother as they reached the door. "You can press 665 to remote start your van, if necessary. 444 to access a high-speed internet connection...and 923 for the taser. Now, let's see, I think we have Mr. Harris on the first floor, that's in the Norsefire suite, and Ms. White and Ms. Albright on the second floor? I've assigned the two of you as roommates for the summer," she added, "I thought that was the smartest way of dealing with things. Is that all right?"

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Alex took another step closer to Mike, resting a calming hand on his arm. She didn't speak aloud, choosing to send her thoughts along their private link. That's why they have all these adults here, Mike. To make sure everyone is safe. Don't worry. Everything'll be just fine. I promise.

It took her a moment to catch up to the conversation thread but when she did, Alex gave Erin a shy smile, "I'd like that a lot, if its alright with Erin. I don't snore or anything, honest."

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Erin looked at Alex, then back at their guide. "Um, sure, that sounds fine," she agreed. "It's just that I was wondering, I only sleep every few days. Are there places that I can go when I don't want to disturb someone sleeping? Like maybe places with computers that I can study at? I don't have one, and I wouldn't want to bother Alex with the light, anyway."

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Mike visibly calmed after the brief touch though he still eyed the displays of power with some discomfit. He tuned back into the conversation in time to hear about the rooms and looking to the girls almost cheerily, for Mike, said "See roommate fears allayed." He sent to alex in his usual almost mental yell "I certainly hope so its just been awhile since we've been around other kids and they don't look that supervised."

Tuneing back out of the convorsation as he does so and following the group in a vague fog as the guids point out landmarks along the way.

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"You're not the only student in that situation," said Mrs. Harcourt reassuringly to Erin. "We have a regular series of activities called Nite-Owl-Nights for our non-sleeping students. And of course places like the library are open 24 hours, if you get the special key from Ms. Vervain." The wooden doors of the Jon Carter dorms were thick and heavy, looking almost like they belonged on an old-fashioned hotel rather than a boarding school for high school aged kids. The inside of the building continued that blend of dorm and hotel; Inside the buildings, the half-paneled maple and cherry wood walls were adorned with student-made paintings, signups for various activities, and the like, while the rustic maple floors were polished nearly bright enough to show the kids' faces. The etched windows, big, squashy-looking brown leather couches with brass trim, and brass and copper fittings made the big front lounge look old-fashioned, at least until one processed the big-screen TV, rack of video games, and other electronic toys were neatly stacked.

"We're not usually this neat," Mrs. Harcourt confessed ruefully, "but Mr. Foulks and Mr. Gardener have been exemplary cleaning things up for the summer session." The very bored African-American student sitting behind the front desk looked up as they arrived and waved hello, the similarly uninvolved Koyama walking over to say hello. They paused in the lobby for a few moments while Mrs. Harcourt answered a question from Alex's mom, confirming that while boys and girls shared floors, the most communal space they shared were the bathrooms in-between. "We generally have a very mature student body," said Harcourt with a wry smile, "but they are teenagers. In addition to faculty, we take advantage of volunteerism from our more mature students like Mr. Brown over there to help keep things running smoothly."

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Alex pulled her hand back from Mike's arm to blatantly gawk at the surroundings. She obviously continued to listen as her expressive face brightened at the discussion of the library. She wandered away from the teacher as her mother asked the typical mother letting her only baby go to school sort of questions to examine the posters and sign up sheets curiously. She filed away the information available, before strolling over towards the electronics, her backpack still clutched against her chest like a talisman.

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Erin looked around as well, but it wasn't until Alex broke off from the group to go look at the electronic goodies that she seemed to find the courage to do so as well. "I always wanted one of these things," she said softly, picking up a Nintendo DS and turning it over in her hands. "They look so cool. But they were too expensive when they came out." She grinned at Alex. "Maybe it won't be so easy to concentrate on catching up in school after all." Setting it back on the shelf, she turned to look at the tour guide. "When do we start school?" she asked.

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Mike casually took in the decor with almost practiced disintrest, his eyes lingering a few moments longer on the assorted electronics. After all no matter how maladjusted he was still a teenage boy and the lure of video games and what not was a powerful one.

As Alex and Erin drifted off he leaned against a nearby wall and cooly observed the room from the fringe, rolling his eyes at Mrs. Albrights motherly concens. "Don't worry Mrs. Albright I'll be sure to call if Alex starts going to far out of control." he joked.

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"Normally we offer fewer classes in the summer," said Mrs. Harcourt to Erin, "but of course we'll be doing things a little differently this year with so many summer students coming in. We want to make sure you're all placed in the grade level that best suits your intellectual and emotional needs, so this summer you'll be working one on one and in small groups with our teachers so we can get you up to speed and get a feel for your needs. Once that's all done, at the end of summer you'll each take placement tests so we can get you authorized in your state." She smiled.

"Would you all like to come up and see your rooms? I believe Mr. Harris has the closest room, just down those double doors that way. Mr. Harris, your RA is away on a, ah, field trip right now, but Mr. Thorsen asked me to give you his compliments and invite you to come in and meet with him anytime. He's one of our newer students, but a natural leader all the same." When everyone was on board with that idea, she kept walking, leading the kids and parents through a set of double doors down into a corridor that looked a bit like a hotel room. Most of the doors were closed with much of the student body absent, but a few were open against the summer heat and with their occupants in place. Bustling quickly past those, Mrs. Harcourt opened the door to reveal Mike's room.

The double-bedded room looked a little sad and empty with no one living in it, but the sun was bright and cheerful coming in the windows, and the room itself was certainly spacious. The beds were bunked neatly in one corner, while two identical desks stood on either side of the room. There was only one phone jack in the room, but two high-speed Internet hookups were next to both desks. "If you need help purchasing a laptop, the school can see that you're provided with one at very low cost. In your case, Ms. White, that might be something you'll want to do as part of a work-study program."

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