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Avenger Assembled

The Visit (IC)

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New students got faculty and students together to greet them when they arrived at the school, but potential faculty was something else entirely. When the taxi from Hanover left Dr. Estelle de Haviland off at the front gates of the Claremont Academy, Dr. de Haviland was greeted at the door by the headmaster of the academy himself. "Hello, Dr. de Haviland. Welcome to Claremont Academy." The old man's grip was firm as he shook Estelle's hand, his hair grey but his back straight and eyes perfectly alert. "Let me offer you a belated welcome back to Freedom City." He was friendly, but it looked like he was making an effort.

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"Hello, Dr. de Haviland. Welcome to Claremont Academy."

"Let me offer you a belated welcome back to Freedom City."

"Thank you, Duncan." Estelle's handshake is firm as well, though of course no match for the resolute Mr. Summers. As always, she'd picked her clothes for the day with great care, a simple gray suit with knee-length skirt; her hair is neatly braided straight down her back, its most convenient (and conservative) configuration.

"I hope I'm not putting you out in any way; I'm sure there's a great deal of work that needs to be done before the fall term."

Her pale blue eyes scan the gate of the school; she's pleasantly reminded of her dear sweet Harvard, and the thought of textbooks, ruled paper and eager young faces gives her a little tingle.

I could make a difference here; I could help.

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"This summer has been unusually active," Summers admitted as he led the way inside the campus, walking past the plaque that read "Scientia Potentia Est," the Latin motto of the Claremont Academy for the Gifted. It was a bright, sunny day, the grounds full of students happily playing and enjoying themselves. Estelle caught sight of several superpowers in use, ranging from a happy, flying boy zooming overhead to an East Indian boy who reached up some thirty feet (by extending his arm) to catch a badly-thrown football. It was an idyllic scene, if you were into that sort of thing. He asked Estelle some surprisingly detailed questions about her work as they went, showing a keen interest in her scientific investigations. "So with all that done," he asked her as they reached the Jasmine Summers Administration Building, "what led you to shift your interests to secondary teaching?"

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Despite herself, Estelle is flattered that Summers know her work so well, though as she ponders it perhaps it's more of a background check? Certainly a man in his position must think first and foremost for his student's security and safety.

"So with all that done," he asked her as they reached the Jasmine Summers Administration Building, "what led you to shift your interests to secondary teaching?"

The beautiful blond takes her time in responding to his question, her chin lightly resting on her steepled fingers; her words are very carefully chosen.

"The unfortunate reality is that the world of academic research can be just as shallow and fame-driven as Hollywood; it's not who you are but who you know. Name recognition, jockeying for position, ridiculous disputes over payment, it's all the same."

She holds her hands behind her back, closes her eyes and sighs deeply.

"Since my transformation, it seems...no one cares about the work anymore. I receive more garbage mail disguised as research proposals than my PO box can hold; all you need to do is read the first paragraph, and it's clear they have no idea what my areas of expertise are or even a passing familiarity with my work. They just want to share some lab time with the celebrity chemist, or worse, play out an elaborate fantasy in which I take off my glasses, my hair cascades out of my bun and we end up in the sack."

Estelle shakes her head and laughs mirthlessly.

"It's everything I had to overcome in Harvard all over again, and I just don't have the stomach for it anymore."

She sighs again, a look of forlorn resignation on her face.

"But I will not be thrust into a role; if I chose not to throw cars at giant mole men from beneath the Earth's crust, then I must contribute to society in another way. I am comfortable in an academic environment, and have done a great deal of student teaching and acted as a student peer advisor. And I recently received my state accreditation for secondary school teaching, a course of study I pursued solely to teach at your school."

The chemist stops in her tracks and smiles.

"I don't need the money; I know you'd have to pay me something for legal reasons, but that would probably just go to charity or to start some sort of college fund. That being said, I come extremely cheap for a woman with my credentials. And if you'll have me, I would protect each and every one of your students with my dying breath, because to me what you're doing here is just short of sacred: you're teaching young men and women with powers out of myth and legend ethics, and I want very much to be a part of that."

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Summers seemed to approve of Estelle's philosophy, but it was difficult to tell. Dr. de Haviland could already tell that Duncan Summers was not going to be a particularly demonstrative boss, even if he might be a supportive one. Once inside the administration building, Gossamer met with Summers' second-in-command Martha Dugan, and soon was put to work signing the usual disclosure forms and employment filings that were a necessary part of working in the teaching sector in the state of New Jersey. The school had many powers, but avoiding state licensure was evidently not one of them. This particular school had some unique forms, though, like asking Estelle about her own metahuman makeup and offering an extremely extensive list of non-disclosure forms and liability waivers. You didn't see a lot of "Consent To Mental Scan" forms outside certain black ops military organizations, and of course the Post Office.

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Estelle faced the various trials cheerfully, even though after a while she began to experience a certain amount of bureaucratic fatigue; she was most intrigued by the "Consent To Mental Scan" forms. She holds one up and points at the relevant clause with her pen.

"So I assume this means my mind will be probed by a telepath of some sort? Is this more of a a surface scan or really thorough going over? I can assure you I've nothing to hide, but it does seem to be a bit alarming."

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"It's for the security of our students," said Ms. Dugan, her face and voice that of a calm professional. "My own daughter is a student here, Dr. de Haviland, so I'm sure you understand that I and the other administrators want to make sure that our students can be protected. This is Freedom City and we have many metahuman students. The risk of superhuman terrorism here is very high, and we don't want to take any chances."

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"It's for the security of our students," said Ms. Dugan, her face and voice that of a calm professional. "My own daughter is a student here, Dr. de Haviland, so I'm sure you understand that I and the other administrators want to make sure that our students can be protected. This is Freedom City and we have many metahuman students. The risk of superhuman terrorism here is very high, and we don't want to take any chances."

Estelle merely shrugs.

"Fair enough."

At last, she is done with all the paperwork; setting her pen aside, she looks up expectantly at Ms. Dugan.

"So, what's next?"

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"Now we take our tour," sad Ms. Dugan pleasantly, the assistant principal having assumed control of their meeting with the departure of Mr. Summers to complete some office business. "I believe you asked to see the science labs first?" she asked as she led the lovely Dr. de Haviland downstairs and out onto the lawn again. "One of our students has volunteered to come with you today as part of her training, so she'll be coming with us on the tour...ah, there she is now!"

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Erin had left the gym at a dust-devil raising flat run to be almost on time for her teacher tour, but she wasn't at all winded as she skidded to a stop in front of the administration building. She was still in her blue and gold Claremont uniform since she'd just come from training, but Ms. Dugan had said that would be all right. Erin wasn't much of a one for conducting tours, but she knew her way around the place, and going on the new-teacher tour meant missing an entire algebra tutoring session. It was totally worth it. "Hi," she said, offering her hand to the unfamiliar person. "I'm Erin White, I'm going to help with your tour today," she said in her best friendly voice. It wasn't great, but it was an effort.

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"Hi," she said, offering her hand to the unfamiliar person. "I'm Erin White, I'm going to help with your tour today," she said in her best friendly voice. It wasn't great, but it was an effort.

Estelle grins warmly as she extends a hand to the young lady; the stately blonde is wearing a crisp gray suit and a single golden braid as thick as her arm falls down her back to brush her ankles. She speaks with a distinctly upper crust Long Island accent.

"Hello Erin, I'm Dr Estelle de Havilland; looks like I should be teaching chemistry here soon."

How odd; Erin's hand seemed surprisingly soft for a girl with such a strong grip, but it wasn't like Estelle's own hand spoke of any sort of hardship, and she could lift six tons, though of course she used a different sort of appendage.

Suddenly Estelle throws a mischievous look over her shoulder. "Is Ms. Dugan gone? It's a beautiful day and I desperately need to unwind."

Seeing that her future boss in no longer present, she sighs deeply and allows the braid to unfurl into a massive shimmering cloud that tumbles and twists in the gentle summer breeze. She closes her eyes and basks in the freedom for a moment.

"Ah, that's heaven!"

Estelle shakes her head clear and grins.

"Mmm, that's so much better! Alright, let's visit your favorite part of the school first."

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Erin startled visibly at the sudden movement, jumping backwards and starting a defensive position before she realized that the cloud was not hostile or harmful. She kept a close eye on it nonetheless, as though waiting for something to reach out and grab her. "Um... I don't really have a favorite building, but you'll probably want to see the classrooms and labs and stuff. There's no classes yet, it's all for tutoring and self-study right now. Okay?" She started off at a brisk walk towards the classrooms.

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"Um... I don't really have a favorite building, but you'll probably want to see the classrooms and labs and stuff. There's no classes yet, it's all for tutoring and self-study right now. Okay?"

"Yes, that will be fine..." :(

Estelle feels horrible; like an idiot, she foolishly though that a school for gifted youngsters would be the perfect place to 'let loose', but these students are still people, and no one expects anyone's hair to suddenly explode. Eyes cast downward, she walks quietly behind her guide, the menacing golden cloud demurely folding back into its very proper braid.

In addition, the poor girl's reaction spoke volumes; had Erin been the victim of abuse prior to coming to Claremont? Of course one hears horror stories of children and adolescents being bullied by parents and classmates; was Erin such a child? Where her special gifts somehow the cause or or even the result of such violence? Her stomach twists at the thought. She wants to apologize to the young woman, but is afraid to call attention to her reaction lest it embarrass her or stir up painful memories.

"How long have you been a student here, Erin? If you don't mind me asking, of course."

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"A couple months," Erin told her, "I came in at the beginning of summer session at the end of May, because I had to get tutoring. It's easy to learn to find your way around, though." Upon further observation, Erin seemed to move and react less like an abuse survivor and more like a soldier back from a long tour. She walked lightly on the balls of her feet with her head and eyes moving constantly, and even when she looked back to speak with the teacher, she had some part of her attention diverted to watchfulness. She couldn't be more than sixteen or seventeen though, too young for even a superhuman to deploy anywhere in the developed world.

The thing with the hair had startled Erin, but she was recovering more quickly from that sort of thing these days. And at least she'd dropped back instead of trying to hit it, which would've been her original first response. Dr. Marquez would be so pleased, Erin thought ruefully. And having some random student attacking her hair was not exactly the right way to welcome a new teacher to the school. After a moment's thought,she managed to come up with a tour-guide suitable topic of conversation. "They said you're a science teacher, right? What courses are you going to be teaching?"

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A former gang member? A refugee? A child soldier in some distant land?

Ultimately Estelle decides to stop trying to figure Erin out; whatever made her that way more than likely made her cautious in other ways, too. If she ever wants to bring it up on her own, it will have to be her choice.

"They said you're a science teacher, right? What courses are you going to be teaching?"

The blonde scientist chuckles as she brushes her hair back over her ear, a somewhat outdated gesture she can't seem to shake.

"Well, I'm qualified to teach chemistry and biology, but I'm fluent in French and Russian, too. To be honest, I'm willing to give almost anything a shot."

After a few moments of walking in silence, she frowns.

"Do you...like it here, Erin? Is the environment appealing to you?"

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Erin shrugged, then nodded. "It's okay," she said with some ambivalence. "It's not easy, but they're putting me up, giving me classes and training, all that stuff. I like the other students pretty well. And the campus is pretty." With that ringing endorsement, she led the way into the main classroom building, labeled the "Dr. Charles Claremont Building" Inside, it looked surprisingly like any small high school, a long, broad tile corridor lined with classrooms and lockers on each side. It lacked the industrial solvent smell of the average public high school, but otherwise, it was very close. Because it was still summer, only about half the corridor lights were on, but some of the classroom doors were open, and there was plenty of ambient light from the windows at the ends of the halls.

"There's tutoring in here in the summer," Erin said again as she led the way down the hall, her footsteps echoing even in tennis shoes. "But classes don't start for another two weeks, and the regular students are just starting to come back. The labs are all up on the third floor, in case anyone blows the roof off," she added artlessly, leading the way up a flight of rubber-treaded stairs.

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But classes don't start for another two weeks, and the regular students are just starting to come back. The labs are all up on the third floor, in case anyone blows the roof off,"

Estelle nods, not listening to the words so much as how Erin says them; something about the tone of her voice just makes her feel so very sad.

'Heartsick'; that's the word.

The labs are very impressive, almost comparable to the ones she used back at Harvard; clearly Summers and his staff spared no expense. It would be a pleasure to teach in these facilities.

"If you don't mind, Erin, I'd like to see both the student and teacher living areas; that's where all the really import things happen at school, right?"

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"Sure," Erin said. "I don't know where the teachers live, I guess maybe some of them live on campus. But there's a student dorm where we all live, I can show you that." She led the way back down the stairs and out of the building, school replaced once again by summer as they emerged into the August afternoon. More students were around the grounds now, heading to the cafeteria or out to the field for sports. Erin nodded once to a familiar face as they passed. "Hey Eddie."

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"Oh hey, Erin." Eddie said, adjusting the volume on his iPod so he could hear her. "I was just about to go have a stroll around campus. What's up? And who's your friend?" Eddie began studying the blond girl that Erin had in tow. She was older, though not that much older. She seemed like she was too old to be a student. Past college age anyway. Eddie was puzzled since he didn't remember Erin ever talking about family or friends aside from their own tight knit group.

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Erin stopped in order to make introductions, though she'd rather have just plowed her way through the rest of the campus tour. "This is Dr. Haviland, she's new here and she's going to teach chemistry or biology this fall," she told Eddie. "This is Eddie, he goes to school here too," she told Estelle. "We're on a training team together, so we do group workouts on the weekend and stuff."

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"Oh you're teaching! Now it makes sense. You seemed a little old to be a student." Eddie held out his hand for a shake in greeting. His trademark smile was spread all over his face. "Now that you mention classes, I haven't even looked at my schedule yet. Maybe I'll look into one of your classes. I don't much like Bio, but Chem seems kinda cool."

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Estelle politely ignored the 'too old' comment, as she was sure no slight was intended, and firmly returned the enthusiastic boy's handshake.

"Now that you mention classes, I haven't even looked at my schedule yet. Maybe I'll look into one of your classes. I don't much like Bio, but Chem seems kinda cool."

She grins at his comment.

"Nice to meet you, Eddie. Yes, chemistry is indeed cool, at least I hope it is when I teach it, as is biology if you give it chance. Biology helps makes us what we are, including those of use with enhanced capabilities.

She turns to Erin and smiles hopefully.

"I'm going to do the same thing I did before, Erin, just to give you fair warning this time. Now, Eddie, I want you to watch closely, and try and think how biology let's me do this-"

Suddenly her shimmering hair unfurls, extending outwards like a massive pair of wings two hundred feet across; each individual strand gleams like gold in the sunlight.

"Now admittedly, this isn't normal behavior for protein filaments, but even the most mundane strand of human hair is as strong as a copper wire of the same diameter. Normal dry hair can stretch one-fifth its length before breaking, and wet hair over twice that."

As she speaks, her hair shifts through a number of shapes and configurations, each one surprisingly detailed: a five-masted galleon, a horse and buggy, even a fair representation of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Each construction is about twenty feet high by forty across, almost like parade floats. At last, Estelle's amazing locks collapse inward, shedding excessive length as they once again fold and twist into her usual thick braid. She sighs as her display comes to a close.

"Yes, I've been practicing that bit, on the off-chance I'm invited back on Craig Ferguson."

The new teacher shakes her head in slight embarrassment before giving Eddie two thumbs up.

"So, in conclusion, biology also cool." ;)

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Erin stepped back and watched the display of... hairobics, she guessed, with her mouth slightly agape. She'd seen some unusual powers on display in her months at the school, but nothing quite as bizarre as this. But it certainly was eye-catching. She was quiet for a minute after the display ended, trying to think of something to say. "I guess nobody would forget that lesson," she finally managed, scratching her head. "Um... the dorm is this way."

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"Woh..." Was all Eddie could really muster.

He was content to follow the tour as Erin led the new teacher around campus. He figured a girl that could do that much with her hair had to have something else in store. And, hey, if he was lucky, maybe she had a few friends! He thought about asking her if she frequented Freedom City's club scene, but but he actually was afraid if that was being too forward. After all, if she was going to be his teacher next semester, he wanted to stay on good terms with her.

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"I guess nobody would forget that lesson," she finally managed, scratching her head. "Um... the dorm is this way."

Estelle smiled as she followed Erin.

"Actually, I hope I don't give in to temptation during class and showoff, but I'm sure I will from time to time; fetching labware from across the room with the merest thought does tend to make one a bit lazy."

She looks between the two students and frowns thoughtfully.

"You know, if you two are busy, or have things to do, I'm sure I could wander around the grounds for a bit on my own; I don't want to put you out."

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