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Avenger Assembled

Making Schemes

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There turned out to be very little fallout from Erin and Hope walking away from the ISSS. Erin saw the kids she had left behind enjoying themselves with a game of super-powered tug-of-war the next day, and it seemed as though her questions in therapy with Dr. Marquez turned a bit more to the subject of working in groups for a couple of sessions after that. But she faced no punishment for walking away from a volunteer organization meeting, and it seemed as though no one was going to mention it until a couple of days later.

She was eating lunch in the cafeteria when she heard a familiar voice coming up in front of her across the nearly empty table where she sat. "Hey, Erin. Can I sit with you?" Looking up, Erin easily recognized the petite dynamo that was Hope Rogers, aka Agent H.

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"Uh, sure, go ahead." Erin straightened up her place at the table, tucking away wrappers and pulling her soda closer to her, a mostly symbolic gesture to make room, given that there was plenty of room. She wasn't quite sure what to make of Hope, but at least the other girl's presence at the school meant that she wasn't the only one having trouble fitting in. Part of her wanted to ask what it was like coming to a world that was so different while leaving family and friends in danger, but mostly she wasn't sure she wanted to know. Erin knew she wouldn't have been able to leave if she'd had any chance to help her family. What did it take to leave them behind?

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Hope sat down opposite Erin and began to eat, digging into her fried chicken and mashed potatoes with obvious relish. After a few moments for both girls to get their bearings, the dimension-hopping former Resistance fighter began speaking again. "I shouldn't be such a pig," she confided to Erin as she nodded to her food, "but I just can't turn down a chance to eat something good like this after how I spent the last couple of years. Being able to go without food doesn't mean it stops tasting good."

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Erin nodded agreement, looking at her own meal of fresh fruit and cold-cut sandwiches with fresh-baked brownies and cold milk. "You only really appreciate having as much fresh food as you want after you spend awhile without. Even cafeteria food is a lot better than I remember it ever being." She cracked a small smile. "Maybe that's just because this is a classy place."

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Hope smiled back. "This is much better than the food I got at my old school, that's for sure," she said, "so it's hard not to appreciate it." She sighed a little, looking back at the others and muttered softly. "Sometimes I look at these kids and I just want to...I don't know, stand on the table and yell at them. I've seen them argue with the lunch ladies, tell them that their food is qu...is crap." Though sixteen herself, and small enough to look younger, Hope evidently had no problem talking about other high school students as kids. "They don't know how good they have it."

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"That's God's honest truth," Erin said with feeling. "I mean, you don't want to say anything because everyone will look at you like you're nuts, but if they just took five seconds to look around and see everything they had to be grateful for... I mean for pity's sakes, they're superheroes, living in the richest country in the world, with freedom and opportunity that other people can't even dream of. Can't they just... just shut up for five seconds about their tiny little ridiculous problems?" She shook her head. "But I know that if I were them, lived like them, I'd be exactly the same way."

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"I guess you never know what someone's really like until you see them in a crisis," said Hope with a small shrug. "Personally, I think some of them are just wastes," she confided quietly. "You know Daisy Gibbons? She wants to use her powers to be a super-model. And Beaudrie acts like a superhero, but he just wants to be patted on the head and take credit for what the less popular kids do. I don't think they'd be any better even if you pushed them. But some of them, I think you're right," she added. "Dauntless and Relentless, they're pretty cool. But they know what it's like to fight for what really matters."

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