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alderwitch

The End of The World

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It was, of course, Alex's turn to pick the location, which was how the kids ended up in the library in the first place. When one's cute boyfriend shows up on a Saturday and says, "So, where did you want to spend today?" and follows that up with a far too handsome grin, very few girls at Claremont would have promptly responded with "The library!" Alex really wasn't quite like any other girl, so not only did she want to go to the library, she had no ulterior motive of necking among the stacks. No, of course she wanted to trade in a truely large stack of books for a different and equally large stack of books.

They were halfway down the stairs when Mike's somewhat desparate mental plea had come through. He'd come up with some reason - as yet unfathomable the motivation behind it - that he was bound and determined to ask Erin out. "On, like, a thing. A going out thing. With, you know, us." Alex's best guess was it had come out of some conversation that was probably all mangled with the other boys.

But, being a dutiful friend, she'd agreed and then corralled Erin to help with books. Which is how they found themselves standing in front of the courthouse one sunny morning, in the very first place.

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For his part, Mark had an academic volume devoted to Freedom City history in his hands, ready to return it to the library. He'd happily admit that he wasn't a great student, but he did know the history of his hometown off the top of his head very well. "Beautiful day, isn't it?" He smiled in a friendly way at Erin and Mike, but lit up with a big smile at the sight of Alex. "Especially with present company." He was in a good mood, as usual, happy to be out with his friends and his girlfriend on this comfortable fall day. He was thinking more and more about taking that big step and moving onto campus even after his parents came back, but he hadn't quite broached that step even to himself yet. He wasn't much for a lot of internal debate.

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Erin shifted from foot to foot, carrying Alex's hefty pile of hardback books like they weighed nothing. She wasn't exactly sure why she'd been asked to come along on this trip, with both Mark and Mike surely willing to carry her books for her, but then, she wasn't entirely sure why Mike was along, either. He'd never struck her as a big "recreational library" type. Maybe it was all part of Alex's master plan for getting Mark and Mike to be friends and getting Erin off-campus more often. It wasn't as though she had much better to do, for once. With school starting, her schedule had really slowed down. It was sort of a relief, but it was also nice to keep busy enough to not have a lot of thinking time. "Yeah, it's nice," she told Mark, for lack of anything better to say.

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Mike nodded agreement but continued to be distracted by something, if they didn't know better his friends would probably guess he was conversing with Alex over their mental link but both of them tried to avoid that amongst friends so as to not be rude.

He shifted from one foot to the other and smiled at his friends, a somewhat strained gesture on the usually sullen boys face but clearly he was trying to be on good behavior and not be a downer. "Yea its nice," He said as he took a step to the door and held it open for his friends, "As is the company." His restatement of Marks complement was not handled with the same grace but what it lacked there it made up for in earnest effort.

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Alex stared at her friends with a look that was trapped between amusement and something almost like pity. This had to score an eleven-million on a ten-point "awkward conversation" scale. She headed into the library and exchanged some friendly words with the librarians. She was a bit of a regular fixture at the library.

"Mark, wasn't there a big fight at the courthouse not that long ago?" Alex asked gently, trying to find something for the teens to converse about as she carefully handed over her books off of the stack Erin was carrying, "This whole block got all banged up, right?"

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"There was," Mark agreed. "Some super-thugs showed up to bust a guy out of prison. Cowards couldn't take the heroes who came to stop them, so they set off some bombs to cover their getaway." He shook his head. "But that was a good while ago, and they've fixed up the damage from that." He slipped an arm comfortingly around Alex's shoulders. "The library is safe and secure for civilized folks like us," he added with a grin.

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Erin resisted the temptation to roll her eyes, for all she was standing behind Mark and Alex. She handed off the last of Alex's books, then cracked her knuckles, releasing the small cramp in her fingers. "I'm going to go play with the computers," she told Alex. "We can meet up when you're ready to check out." She didn't have a library card, not having any valid ID from anywhere, but generally they didn't check too hard on the public terminals here. And while books were well and good, the internet was a lot more fun.

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Mike paused looking from the young couple to Erin and back. To most he it probably looked like he was uncertain to stick with Erin or Alex and Mark. In his own head however he was at a sudden loss of what to do, this was not going accordign to plan at all. Well Improvisation was key Chris had said, or it it least sounded like somethign Chris would say. He smiled down and Erin with a relitively convincing wink and said, "I'll join you," With a smile, "Mark can probably handle the heavy lifting."

He of course did not realize at all that it might sound like he was hinting at giving Alex and Mark alone time thinking instead he was being the epitome of smooth and flirtatious.

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Alex stiffled a little giggle, feeling vaguely guilty for her amusement at her best friend's expense. She made a mental note to tell him that he should probably not use any lines unless James had given them to him. She loved Eddie and Chris but even she knew that theirs was not always the best advice. Especially through the filter of Mike's own patina of awkward.

"So," she slipped her arm around Mark's waist and gave him a beaming grin, "What did you need to check out."

-----------------

As Erin made her way to the computers, there was a very familiar boy sitting at one of the computer banks. Of course, the last time that Erin had seen him, he and his brother had been on their way to the hospital. Sitting there, scowling at the computer, was none other than Mystic Force. Also known as Joey Wallowitz, at least according to the news blurbs that had played on tv after his capture.

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"I was going to look into a cute little volume of poetry," said Mark with a low whisper, leaning close to her ear. "The font is lovely and the binding is sturdy, and the story she tells me is very interesting..." He pecked on the cheek. "You don't think it's unhealthy to anthropomorphize books, do you? Maybe I should see a psyche-ologist." He grinned.

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Erin gave Mike an odd look for the wink, not really a facial expression she associated with him, but figured he was acting a little weird because Mark was around. Guys got weird when they were competing over a girl, and maybe he figured that emulating Mark was the way to go. "Okay," she said, heading back towards the banks of terminals behind the reference island. They'd barely cleared the reference librarian's desk when Erin jerked to a halt, jabbing Mike with an elbow hard enough that she'd have knocked the wind out of a weaker person. "Look," she muttered. "It's Nerd Boy's buddy, Alakazam or whatever," she muttered. "What do you think he's doing here?"

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The sharp elbow to the ribs served to snap Mikes attention back to the matter at hand luckily before his second guessing led to an explanation of his earlier behavior. He glanced over at the delinquent and sighed, this was not going at all as planned.

"Are they out of Jail?" He asked he had rather avoided the news casts of their exploits and the aftermath after seeing the pricetag on a replacement Freedom-tron on some talking heads show. Alex had said Dr. Metropolis had fixed it but the whole thing had left him soured on it. "I dunno what he's up to. He might just be useing the internet?" He said questioningly though he knew these sorts would have it at home so something was up. "Should I tell Alex?" he asked.

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Alex groaned before breaking up soft laughter.

"That was a terrible pun." She informed him tartly, although she was still smiling, "You do come up with some terrible puns. Do those come to you on the fly or do you have a list hidden somewhere?"

She began to poke at him playfully, as if searching for some list that he'd hidden somewhere on his person.

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"Gosh, maybe you'll have to search me," he teased back, gasping with a smile whenever she hit a sensitive spot. He wasn't so gallant as to not poke her back, grinning at her. "You gonna do that, Alex? See if I'm smuggling any rare books under my shirt? You think you can take me, tough girl?"

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"Yeah, better tell her," Erin murmured, glancing around for a glimpse of Nerd-boy anywhere among the computers or the stacks. "Maybe she can give him a quick check. They got community service," she told him, looking like the words tasted bad, "so if he's not doing anything actually wrong, we have to leave him alone." Despite that sentiment, she was already up on the balls of her feet, looking ready for a fight to break out.

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"Got it." Mike siad quietly and concentrated for a moment 'Uhm Alex?' He quieried tentitively, 'That kid from the base ball game is here, and Erin is kinda spoiling for a fight.' He left unsaid his question as to why the little nutjobs weren't in jail.

He used his height to peer over what he could of the shelves and try and spot the other one.

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Alex was in the midst of laughing and dancing out of range of Mark's poking fingers - she was terribly ticklish - when Mike's call came through. She caught his hands, her eyes focusing on something else for a moment before she sobered abruptly and said, "Mike says those kids from the baseball stadium are here. He's worried there's going to be a fight."

------

His older brother, the self proclaimed sith lord, wasn't anywhere in easy sight but that was no real proof that he wasn't lurking somewhere close by. Mystic Force looked left and right furtively before he quickly pulled something out of his jacket pocket and, with some care stuck it on the back of the computer. Then he slowly stood up and gave a very phony stretch as he started to stroll out of the library. He even put his hands in his pockets and whistled to show just how casual he was as he made his way out of the building.

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Mark was on the balls of his heels fast, looking around with eyes like a hawk. At least, that was how he looked anyway. "Where are they?" he murmured to her quickly, his body taunt with excitement. "We need to get them out of here and have the fight outside where we won't damage anything." His fingers twitched as he reached down to his side, reassuring himself that he'd remembered to bring his tools along that day.

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"That's it, he did something," Erin muttered as soon as the little object was in place. "Check and make sure it's not a bomb or something. I'll make sure he doesn't get away." Without bothering to ascertain whether Mike knew what a bomb looked like, Erin was off, weaving her way between shelves and carrels, trying to keep the kid in sight without actually having to tackle him before he got outside. A fight in the library would be easier for her, but it was also more dangerous for everyone around them. Maybe he'd just come quietly, but she didn't hold out much hope for that.

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Uh oh. Mike thought as the dumb kid walked away. He was about to suggest they switch having some concerns about Erin managing to rieghn it in but she had gotton better and the only way she'd know that is if she saw it herself in the field.

He hurried to the computer and plucked the device fromt eh back quickly scanning the other terminals to see if they had anything similar installed before rushing to find Alex and Mark. 'He stuck something in the computer I grabbed it and Erin is tailing him.' he thought to alex hurredly as he sought them out. Once he found them he quickly showed Alex asking in a low rumble "Bomb?"

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Alex shook her head quickly and decisively. "Its some kind of reciever. Nothing explosive or even chemical."

She gestured for the boys to go first. "Okay, look. Why don't you guys go back up Erin. I'll hang back and see if I can keep an eye out for the older brother. I'm the only one with range, after all. We don't know what kinda stuff he's got on him."

Alex left Erin's problems with physical force unsaid. As far as off the cuff plans were, it wasn't half bad.

Outside, the boy broke into faster strides, his rapid pace taking him to the refurbished courthouse steps.

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Once outside, Erin swiftly closed the distance between them, running in smooth strides to catch up before the kid knew she was behind him. Darting up the steps, she neatly cuffed his wrists with her hands and pinned them behind his back. "Hey Joey," she said conversationally, "does your probation officer know you're hacking at the library on weekends?"

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He let a rather unmanly shriek and then narrowed his eyes, "I know you! You're one of those kids from the baseball field. Lemme go!"

Mystic Force kicked and wriggled like a worm on a hook in the arms that held him like iron bands. He added for good measure, "Big ol' bully!"

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Mike Nodded briefly with a flicker of convern that Alex might get jumped by the other one but he knew he could be here in seconds if anything did go down. He turned and headed for the street keeping pace with Mark as the emerged from the library and took in the scene on the street.

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"Kick his butt!" called Edge loudly, having run over to join the struggling duo as fast as he could. His big, heavy sunglasses provided a disguise for his face in the same way the flash goggles on his costume did; he was in disguise, though Mystic Force would be able to tell which hero he was. "Well well well, it looks like your luck's run out, buddy boy! I hope you were using that computer to email your lawyer!"

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