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As this was the first birthday that Alex had more than one friend as well as being the last real teen-birthday, she'd been given a stack of invitations to hand out to 'all her new friends'. So, over the course of the week, she had dutifully passed the invitations on to the classmates she thought might be interested which was mostly the members of Young Freedom.

Without real variation, each invitation had been handed out with, "If you're busy or anything, its really no big deal. We're probably just going to watch movies and stuff like that, I think. It's really low key."

Then she'd spent the week arguing with her mom, ("No clowns, please!" "My baby's all grown up!" "Mom!")

But each invitation invited the teens to a nice house in Hanover with a big yard and a pool for a summer sweet-sixteen party for their resident psychic.

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At Mrs. Albrights request Mike had dutifully shown up early to help with set up, and to keep Alex distracted from snooping out what her mom had put together. He really was doing much better with the former than the later however so the various streamers and decorations were hung in record time while Alex was able to ensure her mother hadn't snuck in a clown of some kind.

Once the set up was finished he waited with Alex for their friends and classmates to arrive, he knew Mark was on the way and it was a safe bet Erin would be as well Chris had been cryptic which basically meant he would be there but might show up in costume and give Mrs. Albright fits.

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Mark timed things just right, luckily pulling up just as the preparations for the party came to an end. Parking his parents' red Ford station wagon neatly on the sidewalk outside Alex's house, he bounded out with a cheerful smile on his face and a big wrapped present in his arms. He'd dressed up a bit for the party, donning an handsome buttoned-up shirt and slacks that happened to be specially engineered to be machine-washable. Nothing but class for his friend's big day. He knocked on the door, politely waiting to be admitted.

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Mike called out "I'll get it." He wanted to make sure he could give warning if some one did show up in costume.

Mike Swung the door open and seeing Mark on the stoop turned and motioned him inside gestureing roughly to the table with a few gifts on it already. He leaned in and quietly asked Mark "Hey you know what Chris' plan is? Mrs. Albright is a bit touchy about the hero thing." He seemed to think it was clear without saying why Chris would be a concern in this regard.

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"I'm sure it'll all work out," said Mark easily, clapping his buddy Mike on the back. He set his box on the table, his own blending in perfectly with the other wrapped presents. "So, looks like some party, huh?" he said with a grin, looking around the highly decorated room and house. "Man, I didn't get half this for my sixteenth. But I guess it's different for girls. Where's the star of the show?"

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Alex showed up as if on cue, "Oh, thank you! You didn't have to bring anything, but thank you."

She was dressed up more than usual wearing a nice skirt and blouse. Of course, the spagetti-strap top was in a vibrant blue and the skirt was almost rust in color and she'd traded the sneakers in for sandals, still with no heel. The comfortable living room was streamer-bedecked and it wasn't difficult to figure out who'd picked the colors but it looked cheerfully explosive in color.

"I think we're safe on the clown front. I double-checked. And recruited my dad."

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Edge was very impressed at the keen figure Alex cut in her colorful skirt and blouse, and wasn't shy about showing it. "Wow! Look at you, Alex! You look great." He stepped up and gave her a quick hug, smiling down at her as he stepped back. "And so does this place. You guys must have been working for hours." He looked around the place, quite happy to be there. "So is it just the three of us so far? Are your folks sticking around?"

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Mike glanced around, "Nah it wasn't too bad getting it all set up." he said with a shrug. He stood by awkwardly as Mark hugged Alex not entirely certain if that was appropriate.

"Yea you're the first to show, I figure the others'll be along soon enough." As he spoke Mike glanced upwards nervously expecting the Pitchoos arrival maybe James would show first and cause enough distraction with the mustang to keep things calm if Chris did show up in the Pitchoo. He knew how upset Alexs mom had been over the incedent at the Baseball game and wasn't sure how well the truce would hold if it was too keenly thrown in her face.

Mike was a little confused by the question about her parents it was her birthday party why would they leave?

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"Thanks! You look nice too,"Alex blushed at the compliments, but returned the hug with a friendly warmth and gave him a bright smile as she laughed, "If my dad can convince my mom to go out to the dinner reservations they have. She's having empty nest issues. Only child."

She offered the last appolgetically with a chuckle and caught Mike's confused look. 'It's not really normal to hang around for your daughter's sweet sixteen with a bunch of other kids.'Cramps their style' and all that. She filled in for him with an ease long borne of practice.

"It should still be a low key thing. We've got a pool and some movies my folks rented.'

Mrs. Albright bustled in and introduced herself to the new arrival with a happy smile. She looked like an older Alex although her hair was blonde rather than Alex's red and she was very toned under her sundress. Beyond the normal house-wife pilates, she moved with a grace born of hard-earned fitness. Rebecca Albright gave Mark a bright smile, "Thanks for coming. This is a big day for us."

Alex rolled her eyes but smiled indulgently at her mother with an obvious fondness.

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"It's so nice to meet you, Ms. Albright!" said Mark, still smiling as he gave Alex's mom a firm handshake. Man, Alex has good genes. It was a good thing he trusted his friend not to go psychically wandering. "I'm Mark Lucas, I go to school with your daughter. It's a real pleasure to meet you and see your lovely home. I'm just lucky to have the chance to be here with Alex on her big day. She's very special to me and everyone else at Claremont."

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Mike was wondering how exactly havign the adults there woudl cramp anyones style but eventually gave up. If he didn't know Mark as well as he had come to he would say he was trying to 'play' Mrs. Albright. As it was however he new Mark actually talked like that.

He was wondering if anyone else was gonna show up. It'd be kinda sad if Mark was th only one to show most likely Erin had take the opportunity to ride in James car however so if they were running late it was probably due to that. Chris and Eddie well there was really no telling with those two.

He shrugged putting the thoughts out of his head and suggested "Why don't we head out back till the others show up."

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Chris walked along the street, carrier bag swinging from one hand. He'd donned black Airwalk skate shoes and baggy jeans, along with a white t-shirt with "BOOSH!" written on it in large purple letters. While he'd been taken aside and asked not to turn up in his ship or costume or something, he still wore a pair of round black goggle-like sunglasses and a trilby with a green 'G' badge pinned to it.

"Ah, this would seem to be it!" he said, arriving at the door and wandering up the path. He rung on the doorbell and stood nonchalantly while he waited for someone to answer.

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Alex opened the door and gave Chris a big grin, "I'm so glad you could make it. C'mon in. This is my mom, Rebecca Albright. Mom, this is Chris."

Alex's mom, of course, was charmed by Mark but she gave him a thoughtful look, "Mark Lucas did you say? Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Mark. Both you and Chris."

She glanced over at her daughter and lifted a brow, "You're making a lot of boy friends, I see."

"Mom!" Alex protested, her cheeks turning pink.

"I'm just teasing. Help yourself to snacks, kids." Mrs. Albright gave her daughter's shoulders a gentle squeeze.

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The red muscle car hugged the corner, not quite squealing, before slowing down to a more sedate speed as they approached. It wasn't that James cared if he was late. He just liked racing the car along. He pulled the car up and parked on the side of the road.

"Only a few minutes late. Not too bad," he said to Erin as he shut the car off. He hopped out, snagged his present from the backseat. Once Erin was out and ready, he walked with her to the door. They walk up right behind Chris as he walked into the house. "Hold the door, two more coming in!"

"Happy birthday Alex," James said with a wry smile. He gave her a warm hug. Mild flirting was fine, but the girl already had some admirers and he had little desire to get in the middle of that. "Old enough to get into real trouble now!" He turned to the older woman. "Just kidding Mrs. Albright. I'm James Prophet, a recent addition at the school. Alex's is pretty cool. You made one heck of a daughter." He turned back to Alex. "So where would you like your loot," he asked with a grin.

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Erin smoothed out her hair as she walked to the door, still smiling a little from the ride in James' exciting car. She'd been in a subdued mood, even for her, since the baseball game had gone awry, but today was a party and she was determined to enjoy herself. In her hand, she carried a small parcel, wrapped in the Sunday comics and secured with duct tape. She held it down by her leg as though hoping no one would notice it. "Hey Alex," she said as she walked in. "Happy birthday. Thanks for inviting us to your party."

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DING DONG! Eddie rang the doorbell after touching down outside the house. He had a few more bags on his person than he usually did. He was wearing a pair of cargo pants, and a Daft Punk T-Shirt

"Hey! Sorry I'm late!" He blurted as someone opened the door for him. "I was busy making your present!" He leaned in to give Alex a quick hug, awkward only because of all the bags he was carrying.

He opened one of the pouches on his cargo pants, and pulled out a CD in a case. "I burned you a CD of all the songs I thought you might like. I know it's not much, There is only about 500 songs on there." He said sheepishly.

Eddie plunked some of his bags down out of the way where there was room before finagling himself around in the cramped entrance hallway to greet Alex's mom. "Hi Mrs. Albright!" Eddie beamed at her. "I'm Eddie. It's a pleasure to meet you!"

"Oh yea, Alex, I brought some of my more portable DJ stuff if you want me to set that up later, I'll be happy to do a show for you guys." Eddie pointed to his pile of bags. "I didn't know if you wanted me to or not, you know...So I just brought it in case. I figure it's better than a clown would be." He shrugged sheepishly.

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Alex hugged each of the three new arrivals in quick succession. She gave Erin a smile, "I'm the one who's lucky to have you all here."

She accepted the cd from him with a grin, "'Only' 500? No, thank you, that's awesome. You're welcome to set up out back by the pool. There's plenty of space and there's snacks and bar-b-que. Some music would be awesome."

Alex's mom was quick to greet all the kids, her smile growing wider. She faded into the background after taking the measure of her daughter's new friends with her eyes suspiciously bright. It was a rare moment of normalcy in the Albright household, one that Rebecca Albright had never actually thought she'd see, and it did a great deal to settle her mind about the entire Claremont situation.

Alex, however, was happy to give the brief tour. The colorful streamers continued through the tv room and to the outside where there was a pool and balloons tied off in cheerful bunches. There was enough food to feed an army, or at least half a dozen teenagers. "We have extra suits n' stuff too in the pool house."

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"Okay! I'll get right on it," Eddie said, hefting his bags once more. "But on one condition: You are going to learn to dance tonight. You're sixteen now, and you have to learn." He pointed a stern finger at her, jokingly serious. He smiled a friendly smile, "And don't worry, I can teach you everything you need to know. That is if someone else doesn't do it first." His gaze quickly, and almost unnoticably flickered between Mike and Mark.

"Hey James, you want to help me set up? And could someone grab that bag there? Thanks." Eddie trotted off towards the back happily doing what he was born to do.

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Mike was well used to hauling the hevier bags for folks it kinda came as second nature so as they driffet towards teh back he shouldered the bag for Eddie and followed the group out to the well manicured back yard.

Mike was more accustomed to the traditional Albright birthday of boardgames with alexs grandparents but lots seemed to change with a 16th birthday party he guessed. When they arrived he handed off the bag and headed for the refuge of the snack table before some one decided he needed to learn to dance which he knew could only end in tears. As he began to dig in he said to Alex "Your mom really outdid herself on the snacks." then continued to pack away food like really only a superpowered Teenage boy could.

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Erin gravitated towards the snack table as well, setting her parcel down on the gift table before going to avail herself of food that hadn't been prepared by the health-conscious cooks in the cafeteria. She grazed lightly, more to get the taste of things than from real hunger, and keep a close eye on everything going on. She had a good idea of where all the people and exits were, so it was all right to relax a little. "Alex has a nice house," she commented to Mike.

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As Eddie was finishing setting up his speaker set in the back yard he slipped a CD into the drive... He had decided to bring speakers and things after hearing that Alex had a pool. He wasn't sure how his own acoustics would actually work under water, and he didn't want to get his iPod's anywhere near the stuff.

The speakers started up as the CD began to play. Soon after the first test was over, the secondbegan to play.

"Alright! I think my stuff is all ready to go! Any requests you want me to work into my list, Birthday Girl?"

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James nodded as he followed Alex along the 5 cent tour, dropping his gift off along the way. "Excellent. Your parents seem pretty cool. Must have been nice growing up here, huh?" He actually envied her a great deal. Small family. Who cared. She seemed pretty lucky as far as he was concerned. Sure, he might be rich and grew up with luxury. It was nothing compared to being accepted and having loving parents. He'd adapted though.

He grinned. "So, what did you want for your birthday? Hoping for anything in particular," he asked as they wrapped up the tour and headed back for the food.

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"I wouldn't dream of messing with your set, Eddie," Alex laughed and demured with a shake of her head, "Just do your magic."

She trailed along after James giving him a small smile, "I loved growing up here. I was really lucky. Mom wanted a big family but there were problems. Between that and then getting put in a government program to study my powers for the last decade or so, today means a lot to her. Honestly, just having everyone here's the best part of the day for me."

She flashed a sunny smile, "Plus, there's boardgames to play later. Usually there's just me and Mike which makes for a tough Monopoly game."

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Mark looked around for a little bit, glad to see his friends having such a good time at Alex's party. With the action not yet in full swing, Mark took a moment to seek out Alex's mother out by the pool. He put himself to work by her side, helping catch a very large bug that had unfortunately dropped into the pool and died there, then turning the filter back. "By the way," Mark murmured politely to Ms. Albright, "I just wanted to say that I've always admired your work. When I mentioned I was coming here on the phone, my father remembered the first Flightpath very well. He said you were one of the good ones, back in the bad old days." He gave her a small smile. "It must have taken a lot of courage to do that much good in such a bad time. And then go on to raise someone like Alex."

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She pursed her lips for a moment, unsure how to respond before she smiled almost reluctantly, "I remember your father. I met him when I was younger. Had the worst crush on him at the time."

She looked off for a moment accross the lawn, seeing a very different time and place and a very different life before she shook herself out of the mood, "We needed heroes, then, but the cost was so terribly high. I still wonder if it was all worth it. At least those dark days are behind us. If only it hadn't been such a high price to wake up from it all."

Mrs. Albright sighed and gave Mark a maternal pat on the shoulder, "Tell your father I said hello, Mark. I'm glad he's done well for himself."

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