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Avenger Assembled

The Sweet Science

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Erin, Mike, and Mercy all had spent time at the Aaron Cage Gymnasium since their arrival at Claremont, the three teens both having their own reasons to have their athletic potential evaluated in an environment without their powers. But today was different; today they'd all gotten an invitation by email from Mike "Iron Jaw" Jones, the assistant coach who ran the show while Mr. Archer was busy with the other aspects of student life.

Kids, we need a hand testing a new strength-training machine down here in the gym, and you guys are some of the toughest on campus right now! Come on down to the gym after the lunch hour tomorrow and we'll get this thing right on the chin. Boo-yah!

Yrs, Mike Jones.

They'd all met Coach Jones enough to know that he was a friendly sort of man when not on-duty, but had a certain aggro style about him that made him a better team coach than gym teacher.

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Erin wasn't sure how much she liked the assistant coach, but she wasn't going to disregard a summons from a teacher. Besides, she liked Mike well enough, though she didn't know Mercy really at all. After lunch, she took her Algebra 1/2 book down to the gym and sat on the floor with it, puzzling through some equations while she waited for whatever this test would be. She was not good at math, but she needed to get this stuff down if she wanted to be doing actual algebra in the fall with everyone else.

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Mike had not been happy to recieve the e-mail from Coach Jones, he saw this as the kind of show-boating that could only lead to trouble. In fact he had been in the process of deleting it and trying to forget it when Alex had, lets say, gently reminded him that without knowing how strong he was they couldn't be sure thathis training would be safe. None the less Mike was less than thrilled at the prospect of spending the evening testing a wieght machine and his scowl was perhaps more dour than usual even as he slogged into the gym at the alloted time.

He offered quick what he intended to be comisserating smile to Erin as he entered and slumped to the floor next to her frowning at the text book. "Algebra huh?" He asked "Not a fan myself but I slogged through, you should do fine." He continued in his traditional self depricating manner.

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Erin grinned ruefully. "I hate it like poison, but it's do it now or I won't be ready for classes in the fall. Besides, Mr. Skyler pointed out that if I don't get through algebra, I won't get to geometry and trig, stuff that I'll actually need when we do tactics classes later on. Like if you bounce into a wall, you have to be able to figure out what angle you're going to bounce off it at, or you're in trouble. Personally, I don't think my mind's ever going to work that fast, but you never know." She leaned back against the wall, keeping a finger in the book. "Some people were saying that he's really mean, but he's been nice to me so far. How about you, have you started any lessons yet?"

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Erin and Mike heard a loud bang from nearby, noise enough to know that someone was coming. Just in time, too! "Hey team!" a sudden voice boomed from the corridor, the muscular form of Coach "Iron Jaw" Jones stepping through the swinging doors of the gym with a big smile on his face. Coach Jones' beard was something of a legend in the school's community, the bushy white Santa Claus-style growth thick enough to hide whatever it was that was below his teeth. Rumor had it that he'd once taken a punch by a mind-controlled Megastar there, not to mention gotten stuck to a magnetic student some years earlier. Other rumors said he could chew through steel bars if sufficiently annoyed, which he'd done the last time his team had lost the intramural competition against Mr. Archer's team. "Glad you could make it! I know I'm a little early, but surprises help you stay on your toes in this game!"

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"Boo-yah? Really? Who types that out?" Natasha wondered out loud, staring down at her cellphone. Having finally decided to clear out her email during lunch she'd just gotten the message. 'Anything to get me out of home-ec' Tasha decides with a shrug, arriving just as Mr. Jones makes his statement.

"Well at least I'm not late" she muttered as she finished shoving the last half of her sandwich into her mouth, crumbs spilling down her shirt and onto the gym's floor. "I'm Tasha" Natasha introduces herself cheerfully with a wave, sizing up the other two 'strong' kids, though with all the food in her mouth it sounds more like 'Mm Tsh!'.

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Mike rose slowly at the coach and other students entrance sighing and mumbling under his breath "yay I love surprises."

He looked uncomfortable for a moment then turned to Tasha "Hey, I'm Mike." he said and stuck his hands in his pockets uncertain what more to say. He then slumped against the wall of the gym waiting for the coach to explain what this was all about peering sullenly out from beneath his bangs. God I hope this isn't just some game He thought to himself and his face flickeredto a frown for an brief second at the thought.

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Erin unfolded herself gracefully to her feet, setting aside her book for the moment. She sized up the strange girl for a moment, then offered a wisp of a polite smile. "I'm Erin," she said, then turned to the coach. "What do you want us to do?" she asked him. "I thought we weren't allowed to use our powers in the gym complex?"

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"Well, now, that's true," said Coach Jones cheerfully, making big gestures with his large hands, "but today, we're going to do something really different! I've been telling Alan that we can work with you kids up here if we invest in the right kind of equipment! So I talked to a...friend of mine," he winked, "and got us one of the testing machines they use in Freedom Hall for the day! If you kids do a good job with the thing, I'll be able to talk Alan into putting super-equipment right up here in our gym!" He waved his hand to the back door for emphasis, where the equipment lockers were. "So come with me, and we'll teach Daedalus' fancy new toy how to take it on the chin!" When he punched himself in the mouth, there was a definite clong! "This way!"

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Natasha starts to choke. Nothing serious, just too much food for even her big mouth to handle at once. "Nice to meet you both" she finally rasps out once she's recovered a little. "In the gym? I thought this place was trying to keep a low profile on... stuff like that?" Tasha asked the enthusiastic teacher, looking a little worried.

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Mike sighed heavily remembering his last round of strength testing and wasn't looking forward to further exploration but at least his time they wouldn't be trying to figure how he worked just how strong he was. He shrugged as he left the wall and moved to follow the coach. "So this has been cleared right?" He asked, "Is the gym even reinforced enough to take the strain? I don't want to start off my career here breaking the rules and the gym." He added hesitantly.

He glanced at the other students with a shrug "I mean I don't think any of us do."

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Erin shrugged a little, looking at the others. "It'd be nice to get some actual strength-training equipment for people who are like us," she admits. "I mean, it can't all be fighting machines down in the basement, we want to learn to do other stuff too, right? And none of the gym equipment would begin to help. We could just, you know, pick the machines up and walk around with them and not get any exercise." She looks to the coach. "It's just testing equipment, right? Not any fighting or weird stuff like that?"

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"Well, lemme show ya kids." With a broadly played conspiritorial air, he led the kids into the back room where a strange machine was set up. They found what looked like a massive gong on a square frame. It was built entirely out of what Mike recognized as impervium, one of the hardest materials known to science. And this was sheet nearly six inches thick, built to last, set in a frame of some more exotic but no doubt equally tough metal. "It's sort of half-weight-lifting, half-fight-training," said Jones jovially. "What we've got here is a frame so tough that even Captain Thunder can punch it without breaking it! What we're gonna do is use this thing to measure your punch strength, so that we know just how hard you can hit! That way, when you go down for your full powers test, they'll know how to set the equipment!" To demonstrate, he drew back his fist and landed a huge, meaty blow dead center of the massive gong. The metal didn't so much as creak against his punch. "You see! They took this thing outta one of Superior's old lairs from back in the day. But don't say I toldja!" he added with an impish grim. "You could nuke this thing and it wouldn't feel it."

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"Oh don't worry, as long it's a teacher's idea you're in the clear, broken gym or no." Natasha laughs at Mike's comment, "Trust me, I've got a lot of experience with breaking things..."

"We're just going to punch it then? Sweet. Who wants to go first?" Tasha asks, looking at her two classmates.

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Mike shrugs heavily, "Doesn't matter much to me." He says looking to his fellow students. Mike didn't een want to be there and would rather not punch the device regardless but the time for avoiding the situation was before he came down to the gym.

He grins and says "We'll all get a shot I suppose, unless one of us breaks the thing right?" He glanced at the solid device and added "And that doesn't seem too likely." despite his comentary he hangs a bit back still uncertain waiting to see if anyone actually want to go first.

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"Well, if all we have to do is hit it..." With a shrug, Erin stepped forward, up to the big metal device. "Tell me if the ceiling starts to cave in or something, okay?" Without bothering to put on gloves, she fisted her hands and held them together, delivering a two-fisted punch directly into the center of the gong.

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Wander's blow hit the gong with tremendous force, the air visibly vibrating as the gong shook with a deep, loud note far down into the bass that reverberated on and on. The gong was indeed very tough, the toughest thing she'd ever punched, but when she pulled her fists back she saw she'd put a small divot in the super-tough metal. Over the noise of the still-reverberating gong, Jones called out encouragingly, "Wow! You hit like a tank, Erin! Great job! Don't worry about the gong, impervium's a smart metal; it heals itself up! It'll be fine in the morning. C'mon, team," he encouraged the others, shouting for a moment as the gong's long, long reverberations finally settled into nothingness. "Get it right on the chin!"

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Mike waited a few moments after Erin stepped up and glanced at Tasha expectantly when she makes no move to go next he shrugs his shoulders and steps forward to the platform waiting for Ironjaw to indicate he should punch. His mind was racing but he centered himself knowing that if he didn't give it all he had they wouldn't know what he had to learn. HE balled up his fist and focused on striking the device as hard as he could.

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The gong sound as Mike struck the giant machine was noticeably more quiet and caused less ripples in the air than when Erin had hit the big impervium plate. However, it was still impressively loud and vibrate-y. When the vibrations and sound in the air had faded, restoring both visibility and audibility, Coach Jones slapped Mike on the back, stroking his bearded chin with a look of crafty delight. "That's my boy! Later, I'll tell ya all about my plans for our new all-flying football squad! We'll get jetpacks for the non-fliers, and then, we'll show those so-and-sos how a real team plays!"

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