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angrydurf

Battle of the Sexes IC

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Between the holidays and their assorted adventures much of the time Young Freedom usually devoted to training had fallen by the wayside. At least that was the explanation Psyche had given when suggesting Edge arrange for this session.

Thus Wander, Psyche, Phalanx and Edge found themselves completing the warm-up routines in the Caldwell Manors own Simulated Tactics and Advanced Training System.

Having completed his warm ups and solo exercises Phalanx hovered near the entrance to the S.T.A.T.S. room watching as the others completed their own simulations.

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Wander wrapped up her warm-up session shortly after Phalanx and joined him near the door, twirling her bat back down to its compact size. She was limbered up but not even breathing hard yet, ready for the real exercises to begin. It was certainly a more interesting way to pass the time than with homework or solo practice. "Any idea what the scenario is going to be?" she asked, looking up at her floating teammate.

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"Beats me!" said Mark cheerfully, having spent his training session practicing with the throwing disks he'd added to his equipment a little while earlier. No one else on Young Freedom could really understand how he threw what were effectively poker chips with any kind of accuracy or damage, but he always seemed to find the weak spot, at least in softer targets. "I sort of did some random selection. All I know is it's team-based. That's why I'm wearing my colors. Hey Mike, wanna be on my team?"

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Alex was the last to wrap up her warm-ups. She was by far and away the least physically athletic person here, especially as she didn't use her flight to cheat because if you were going to cheat, there was no point. She might as well blow up the training dummies with her brain and call it done then. She floated down next to Phalanx a little breathlessly and apologized. "Sorry about that. I'm done now. What's that about teams? You mean, smaller than the four of us?"

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Phalanx shot Wander a knowing glance, "I think he just hit random team battle." he said with a shrug.

He nodded and grinned at Edge. "That depends, do they get time to plan?" he asked with a chuckle as he drifted closer to his more spontaneous teammate. "What the heck why not."

As Psyche finished up her routine the room switched to its blank state awaiting the next program being started.

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"Okay," said Edge cheerfully, raising his voice to get the room's attention. "Computer! Run Program: The Edge of Reason!" The air around them began to ripple as a new program began to settle in, the walls moving around with the finest holographic technology the 1970s could muster. As they did so, he winked at Phalanx and added, "Don't worry, I never use any of those boring strategy programs. This is about Action!"

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"When do we ever get time to plan in these things?" Erin asked wryly as the room began to shift and change around them. She took out her bat once more, opening it as she scanned for what they were going to be dropped into. "Guess you and I are a team then," she told Alex, "for whatever we're doing. Guess it's not strategy, though." She took a couple of steps in Alex's direction, keeping an eye on the guys as well as the environment.

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"Okay," Alex agreed amiabally, still floating where she'd been when Mark activated the control panel. "Its fine, though. We all know I'm best at planning stuff. I'd rather have to work in suboptimal conditions as I think that pushes my abilities faster. I'll get better at thinking on my feet that way."

She grinned and Erin felt Alex's presence brushing against her thoughts. 'Thought I'd pop open communication while we're waiting. We'll lose contact when I have to focus on other things but this way they can't hear us.'

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Mike leaned it to whisper to Mark, "So what did you program in?" But before he could get a response the program began.

The specialized holographic array buzzed to life and the landscape built up around them rapidly. "Initiating Scenario Renegades and Rogues. Edge protocols engaged. Scenario initialization in three seconds ... Two seconds .. one second ..."

With that the scenario completed its initialization and began. The teammates found themselves in the midst of liberty park. The lack of the Terminus Memorial a stark reminder of just how out of date the simulators files still were, or perhaps more indication of Edge's penchant for historical battles.

The park was filled with a haunting melody overlaid with the mocking words of the Master of Musical Mayhem himself Maestro.

"HAHAHA," He laughed mockingly, "Your fellows have fallen under my spell and now your DOOM is upon you." Each team could clearly see the blank hypnotic stare of their opposites under the thrall of the Maestro. "MINIONS!" He called out from wherever he hid, "DESTROY THEM!"

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Erin acted first, snapping into action the second the supervillain's words rang out. You handle Phalanx, try to keep him out of the sky. I'll work on Edge. The practice Erin had been putting in on the agility course really showed as Wander turned a quick series of flips, bat still in hand, and came up right in front of Edge.

Before he could so much as blink, her bat was out, connecting solidly with his midriff. Or would have, anyway, if that side of the bat hadn't chosen that moment to spontaneously collapse back into the handle, doing no more than grazing Mark across the chest. Startled, Erin shook it back into position, giving it and Mark both a suspicious look.

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Edges luck would only hold out so long (in theory at least). So Phalanx launched himself at Wander trying to restrain her from being able to hurt Mark. He only hoped Edge could keep Psyche out of their heads long enough for them to take care of their 'Mind controlled' Teammates.

Once he had a firm grip he attempted to slam Wander to the ground and keep her further from Mark just in case.

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Mark repressed a brief surge of empathy with Wander. Game or not, seeing Phalanx slam his friends around brought back unpleasant memories of Mike's anger. But with Wander evidently in hand, Mark decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. He concentrated on Psyche, who Mark knew was the biggest threat right now. He drew on the mental training she herself had taught him, reaching down to the very core of his inner nature to find something to protect both himself and Mike. "C'mon c'mon c'mon..."

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Whatever Edge drug out of himself, Psyche recoiled sharply and her lips parted on a cry of sharp and acute pain as she flung her hands up to protect her head ineffectually. Genuine distress reverberated down her connection with Phalanx along with actual panic and the hastily constructed shields Mark had errected around their minds shuddered under the completely instinctive blast that she lashed out with in response. Running on pure flight response when that attack did nothing other than startle her opponents, Psyche shifted gears and vanished to everyone's senses completely.

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As he heard and felt Alex cry out Phalanx unceremoniously dropped Wander and took several steps toward where she had vanished. He concentrated for a moment and let out a sigh of relief, "She's alright Edge just startled her." He explained and took up a defensive stance facing Wander once more. Training was one thing, but he wasn't about to lose sight of the fact that these were still his friends.

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Erin's legs folded under her as Mike dropped her, putting her down hard on the pebbled path. She rubbed a hand across the back of her head and came away with bloody fingers, even as the wound healed itself up. Looking dazed, she craned her neck to look around the simulated scenery for her vanished teammate. "Where did she go? Is she okay?"

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Hand over his mouth, Mark looked appalled. He'd never actually badly hurt one of his friends before; that was one of the wonderful things about the ways his powers were supposed to work. "Oh God, what did I do? All I did was try and shove her mind before she got us," he said, looking apologetically at Mike before saying out loud. "You can come out, Alex! I'm really sorry!"

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Alex reappeared looking very apologetic exactly where she'd vanished, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm fine. We can keep going. I didn't know that you could do that, Mark. All of a sudden things got all slow and foggy and that's never happened before. It was hard to think and it scared me. I didn't even know a non psychic could do anything like that. It's fading and everything. I over-reacted and I'm so very sorry."

She was visabally flustered in a way that none of them had seen before in a training session. Alex walked over to check on Erin's head wound while she continued to rapidly talk, "I lashed out at you with all my strength without even knowing if that shield would hold and I feel just terrible."

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Erin waved Alex off, climbing to her feet amidst the rubble of the formerly neat path. "I'm okay, just a bump," she assured Alex, taking advantage of the momentary lull to look at her bat and try to figure out what had gone wrong with it. "Are you sure you want to keep going? We can do a different simulation or something." There didn't seem to be anything wrong with the bat, so that probably meant it was just an Edge thing.

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Mike followed Alex over to Erin, wincing slightly as he saw the damage their scuffle had caused. "Yea it kinda seems like the dramas gone out of this one. And frankly I think either team could find a better way of dealing with that scenario than duking it out if it ever came up in reality."

He laid a comforting hand on Alexs shoulder givign it a gentle sqeeze, 'You really doing ok?' he inquired in his thoughts.

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Still feeling bad, Edge kept a close eye on Alex just to make sure she was okay. He was confident Erin was fine; not out of any lack of concern for his fellow classmate, given her resilient nature and fast healing, but because she seemed to be bearing up under the stress of his surprise maneuver much better than the usually-unflappable Alex was. "Well, as long as you're okay," he said doubtfully, "I guess we can keep going in a new scenario. I've got a more modern one, it may be less...confusing."

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"Yes, I'm really, really okay," Alex said firmly, sounding a little more like her usual self. She reached up to cover Mike's hand on her shoulder and her expression softened, "Really, really. I'm so sorry for worrying people. I should be more prepared for Mark surprising me and its good that he did. Otherwise it could have happened in the field. That's why we do this training stuff, right?"

She squeezed Mike's hand and affirmed privately for him, 'More embarassed than anything now. I'm a-okay.'

Alex nodded at Mark and added aloud, "Sure, lets run your scenario then."

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This time, a dingy Freedom City back alley rippled into view around the teenagers, the dirt, grime, and decaying look of the brickwork putting them a couple of decades back, before the O'Connor administration's "Clean Skies" initiative did so much for the city's environment. Looking around, though, they saw not only had the surroundings changed, their costumes had changed too! Mark was dressed in a tacky Nehru jacket and slacks instantly recognizable to people familiar with his father, while Mike was dressed in a slightly anachronistic copy of Captain Thunder's uniform.

(Mark, of course, would never put anyone in the Centurion's uniform without asking them first.)

The girls, meanwhile, were in familiar colors; Alex was dressed in a snappy copy of the uniform Alexander Rhodes had worn as the Scarab, while Erin was dressed up in the black and grey uniform of the original Raven! Everyone still had all their gear, they'd just taken something of a costume switch. "Okay," said Mark, "it's a classic set-up! Our heroes have just met each other and so naturally we're going to have a fight to test each other out. Any questions?"

"

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Phalanx shifted nervously. He didn't like the idea of facing off against one another, especially after the last bout. But edge seemed to think that they needed to be able to handle each other apparently so it was unlikely they would get out of training with out at least some sparring.

"So like Teams or free for all this time around?" he inquired uncertainly. Privately to Alex he asked, 'Is this a good idea?'

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"Well if we've all just met, it sounds like a free for all?" Alex said tenatively, glancing down at her mentor's old costume. She twisted at the waist to try and get a look at the backside while she answered Mike, 'It is clearly a good idea because last time ended poorly. That means its working on our gaps in our training.'

That could have been an answer straight from Archer (and probably was). Giving up on checking out the part of the costume she couldn't see, Alex added, "Although, if this is an actual event out of the archives, 'Scarab' and 'Raven' worked together before the League's founding, and Mark's dad worked with just about everyone, but certainly the Centurion. Its one of Mark's scenario's so it is his rules."

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Erin had little stomach for another fight against her teammates, especially after the quick, hard drubbing she'd taken before. Even with her body's rapid recovery time, the smash into the pavement left a vague headache behind. Obviously the Terminus energy that had swamped Mike and Alex on Halloween had given Mike more of a boost than Erin had realized. And Mark was Mark, which meant some of the scenery was more than likely going to fall on her before the fight was over. Still, she wasn't about to back down or back out, and even if it hurt, well, it would get better.

Her bat was still strapped to her belt, among a large assortment of apparently empty pouches and pockets on the odd costume, so she took it out and opened it up, giving it one last check. "How do we know when we're done?" she asked.

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