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Electra

Midnight Express (IC)

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Late April tended towards chilly in Freedom City, but it got its occasional nice evening, and this was one of them. Dry and clear with temperatures in the sixties even after the sun set, it was a good night to be outside, if you weren't interested in sleeping. Erin decided to take advantage of the weather for some outdoor training. She was sick of the Doom Room, and even more sick of her homework. She could patrol the city like some of the other students did, but the thought made her a little nervous. She'd gotten a lot of practice at city heroism, but only in situations where she could definitely tell who the bad guys were. She wasn't sure she was ready to try and make decisions like that on the fly with sufficient accuracy.

So it was back out to the agility course she went. She was getting pretty good at it now, leaping and flipping over the bars and around the barriers, vaulting the metal sawhorses like she was holding her own private Olympic games. It was satisfying to hone her skills, but even this was getting sort of boring too. Still, it wasn't as though there were anything to do inside at this hour of night.

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Trevor sauntered through the campus, unintentionally blending into the night's shadows in his darkly coloured clothes. His ever-present fedora rested easily on his head and the thumb of one hand hooked into the belt loop of his jeans while the other held a steaming paper cup. Drawn by the sound of creaking metal and rattling chains, the lanky youth soon found himself approaching Claremont's agility course. Seeing Erin making short work of the equipment, he made a point of clearing his throat before getting too close. He'd realized in his short time at Claremont that the light footsteps his grandfather's training had instilled in him could be disconcerting to his classmates.

"Wondered if you were up," he greeted serenely, taking a final sip before setting his cup down on one of the sawhorses. A few quick hops and a midair flip brought him to perch easily atop a set of parallel bars where he could more easily speak to auburn haired girl. In some settings his impromptu display of acrobatics might have been needlessly showy, but he'd found that among Claremont's student body such skills were fairly common.

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Erin gladly broke off her routine, flipping up to sit on the bars opposite Trevor. "Too nice a night for sleeping," she told him with a smile, pushing her hair back into place behind the fabric headband she wore to work. "I was starting to wonder if anyone else was still up at this hour. It's been pretty quiet around here, what with James working all night and Chris... well, doing his thing." She wasn't quite sure what to make of Chris' decision to hang up his costume, but she didn't think she had a lot of room to critique other peoples' bizarre ways of dealing with their problems. "You getting settled in all right?"

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Nice smile, the relentlessly observant part of Trevor's brain noted, while the rest of his mind clapped a metaphorical hand over the small voice's mouth in reflexive embarrassment. Outwardly, his expression remained passive as he nodded slightly. "Mmm. Still getting used to things," he admitted. He indicated the training equipment with a shrug. "Didn't know this was here. Used to... getting out more a night, too." Trevor was still trying to get a feel for what the students were officially and unofficially allowed to do when it came to pursuing certain extracurriculars. One's involving masks and notable quantities of violence.

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"I don't think people use this stuff much in the winter," Erin replied, swinging one leg as she lounged on the narrow bar as though it were a chair. Trevor was much more approachable when he wasn't wearing his weird mask, she noted idly. And he was pretty cute, too. What was it with all the guys around here, anyway? "Even if the cold doesn't bother you, once you start sweating, your hands stick to the bars and it's a pain in the butt to try and get anything done. I only came out here so I'd have practice doing it if I needed to swing off a fire escape or something. Even then, I eventually started wearing gloves."

She held up her hands, displaying the gold-colored gloves that matched her uniform sleeves. "I bet more people start using stuff once the weather gets nice. I dunno, this is my first spring here." She was quiet for a moment, looking over towards the lights of downtown. "So did you go out patrolling, before you came here?"

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The corner of of Trevor's mouth twitched. "My grandfather had a set up like this I used," he said looking idly up at the night sky before giving Erin a glance tinged with wry deadpan. "Not all of us can shrug off blows from giant aliens." Gripping the parallel bars with both hands, he smoothly raised his legs and torso into the air with the ease of a long practiced motion. "Been getting rusty lately."

Spurned on by an uncharacteristic twinge of showmanship, the lean young dropped suddenly down from his perch, swinging from the bars with one arm toward a set of still rings. Flipping though the air, he snagged the rings as he passed, bringing his arms down to vault into the air and hook his legs around the equipment's framework. Letting himself drop upside down, he straightened his knees and fell head first for the ground. A midair somersault brought him right side up and a lazy spin around a nearby pole deposited him lightly next to his still warm coffee. Picking it up from the sawhorse, he took a long sip.

"That's how Summers found out about me," Trevor explained, looking back up at Erin, hiding any effects of exertion he might have been feeling. "Started heading into the city at night a few months back. 'Leave no trace' part needs work; The Raven tracked me down, told me to come here. Powers training." He shrugged lightly. "Grandad though it was a good idea."

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Erin nodded approvingly. "Nicely done." Part of her wanted to emulate the routine and show off what months of dedicated training had done for her agility on the course, but it seemed rude. He had never used this equipment before, and he was brand new. He was pretty good, and he'd get better. He was definitely better than most of her teammates, who tended to ignore agility in favor of power. She dropped from the bars as well, doing a couple of cool-down stretches to end the workout. "I think that sort of thing happens with a lot of second or third generation heroes," she told him, "they get picked up by the school after they've gotten some training already from their families. It's a good place to learn. Do you still go out?"

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"Hear that about schools," Trevor agreed lightly, pointedly busying himself with finishing his coffee rather than watching Erin stretch. "Unspoken understanding was that I'd wait for Summers' approval," he continued, pausing for a moment before producing a set of keys from his pocket. "Not as patient as I seem." Tossing them up and down in his free hand, he tipped his fedora forward slightly, the hat miraculously having stayed on his head throughout his aerial excursion. "Still up for a workout?" he asked nonchalantly.

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Erin considered the offer for a split second. Summers wouldn't like it if he found out, but she didn't particularly care at the moment. She'd spent the last ten months doing just about everything she could to follow the rules here. Everybody else got to do something fun every once in awhile, right? Going out on patrol with someone who'd done it before wasn't much of a dereliction, and a nighttime ride through the city with the new guy on a fast motorcycle sounded like a heck of a lot more fun than yet another trip through one of Archer's torture routines. "I think I can scrape up the energy," she said with a grin. "Can I catch a lift?"

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Trevor leaned forward slightly from the waist, an expressive enough gesture from the reticent teen that it had to be intentionally exaggerated. "Naturally." Straightening, he tossed his empty cup into a nearby garbage can. "Just have to change into my work clothes. Meet me at the gate?" He kept his tone neutral, but the young man was acutely aware that he was talking much more than usual, practically rambling by comparison. He just hoped he could avoid walking head first into one of the social faux pas he was frustratingly prone to among people his own age.

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"Sounds good." Erin made a quick stop back at her own room, both to pick up her bat and make sure Alex was sound asleep. Not that Erin expected her roommate would tell on her or anything, but Alex did have the sometimes depressing habit of making people around her act more mature. Erin wasn't in much of a mood for that at the moment. After a moment's thought, she skinned out of her sweaty uniform and into a clean one, too. It was only polite not to be gross when you were going to be in close contact with somebody. Erin had never actually ridden a motorcycle before, but she was excited to try. In just a few minutes, she was leaping off the dorm roof and touching down by the front gate. Faster than walking!

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When Erin arrived, Trevor was leaning against the Night Cycle in his full costume. Next to the bike the new Midnight's reasons for altering his grandfather's uniform were clear; the long coat would have been dangerously impractical when riding a motorcycle. Even so, the lanky youth seemed larger now, despite the tighter fitting jacket. Perhaps it was simply a matter of posture or the way the matte black clothes blended into the shadows, but Midnight seemed to occupy a space greater than his physical form.

Spotting his colleague for the evening, Midnight tucked his hat into a saddle bag and withdrew a pair of helmets, lobbing one to Erin. Quickly donning his own and mounting the Night Cycle, he revved the engine experimentally, savouring the sound of the well tuned machinery. Although it retained its retro appearance, he'd all but rebuilt the bike in its entirety by hand. He gestured for Erin to get on with a tilt of his head.

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Erin chuckled as she caught the helmet, but put it on anyway. The helmet would break long before her head suffered any damage in an accident, she was sure, but part of being a hero was being a role model. It probably wouldn't do for heroes to be riding around without helmets. Suitably protected, she swung a leg over the saddle of the bike and climbed on behind Trevor. "I've never done this!" she called over the sound of the engine. "What's the best way to sit?"

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Midnight paused for a long moment at the question. "Just... hold on," he answered finally, indicating his own waist, thankful that his air filter masked the tone in his voice. "Where to? Lady's choice," the cyclist offered. How about a drive-in, so you can stretch while you pretend to yawn, Hunter? he berated himself. Relative inexperience might not have been enough to keep him from patrolling, but it was a good reason to be very careful. It certainly wasn't befitting of his inherited codename to be so easily distracted.

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Erin put her arms around his waist and held on, careful not to squeeze too hard and risk cracking his ribs. "Um, well, the Fens are supposed to be full of crime, right?" she suggested, practically talking into his ear if it weren't for the helmet. "We could go there, see if anything is cooking. Or we could get out on the bypass, and see how fast this thing goes, then maybe fight crime." Balancing on the motorcycle didn't seem too tricky, and it was, honestly, a lot more of a novelty than fighting crime. It was a little odd to be pressed up so close against Trevor's back, but she decided to ignore that for now and think about it later if necessary.

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"Done." The Night Cycle roared to life, tires squealing as the bike abruptly accelerated. Shooting out of the Claremont Campus, it turned on a dime to rocket down the road into the heart of Freedom City, leaving a speed limit sign rattling in its dust as the speedometer jumped up into the triple digits. In the middle of the night, the streets were all but empty, and the black motorcycle maneuvered around its fellow vehicles like dark mercury pouring past smooth pebbles. The corners of Midnight's mouth turned up beneath his mask and helmet as he leaned forward and gunned the acceleration again.

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Erin laughed delightedly as the motorcycle raced near-silently through the dark streets, holding on to Trevor for dear life as buildings blurred around them. "This is great!" she yelled in his ear, the wind whipping the words away almost as soon as she said them. "I can't believe it's so quiet! It's better than flying!" Erin was envious of flying, it was true, but flying lacked the whipcord turns and the breathless danger of weaving through mundane traffic. She herself could run faster than most cars, but this was entirely different than that, too.

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Beneath his mask, Trevor's grin actually bared his teeth. "Flying?" he asked as the Pramas Bridge grew larger before them. "Can do that."

Leaning to one side and hauling up on the handlebars, Midnight sent the front of the Night Cycle rearing up and sliding to the right, coming down on the bridge's suspension cable. The bike sped up the steep incline, navigating the intertwined cables like a tightrope. Rather that slowing as they reached the apex of the bridge, he poured on the speed, sending them soaring though the air far above the South River. A weightless moment later, the bike's rear wheel connected lightly on the downward cable, riding with the front of the motorcycle sticking up in the air before landing solidly at the end of the bridge and tearing into Riverside.

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"Oh my god..." Only iron self control kept Erin from cracking a couple of Trevor's ribs as they raced up the cable and perched for a dizzying second on the pinnacle of the bridge, with all of Freedom City spread around and beneath them in a panorama that was incredibly beautiful and incredibly dangerous all at once. Her breath caught in her throat as they raced down the thin metal filament like lighting going to ground, letting it out with a whoosh as the wheels touched road again. She had gone to the top of the Pramas Bridge before, but never on wheels at well over a hundred miles an hour. Her heart pounded with the adrenaline rush as she pressed up against Trevor's back and looked over his shoulder. "That was... oh my god!" she said again, laughing. Erin didn't really remember the last time she'd had fun like this, just a plain and simple good time.

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Nice smile, nicer laugh, the small voice amended, and with the wind whipping by and Erin leaning over his shoulder the rest of his mind was inclined to agree for once. Turning left after the bridge, he hopped the bike nimbly over a couple of low barriers to drive along the very edge of the river, slowing down to glide all but silently, the Night Cycle reflecting dimly in the dark waters.

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Erin relaxed and loosened the very firm hold she had on him as the ride became calmer. "This is really cool," she said, speaking normally now as she looked out over the dark water. "And you drive like nothing I've ever seen. Did you build this, or was it part of the equipment your grandpa passed down to you?" It obviously wasn't anything that you were going to buy off the showroom floor at even the best dealership.

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"Both," Trevor explained, keeping his eyes on the edge of the docks in front of them. "Outside is the original Night Cycle. Falling apart when I found it. Replaced everything, rebuilt it by hand." The black clad youth paused for a moment, and when he continued much of the manner of his civilian identity had crept into his voice. "You build something yourself, see where everything goes, how it all fits together... you know exactly what it can do. How hard you can push it, when you have to be gentle." There was a hesitancy in his tone that suggested he was trying to convey a feeling which surpassed his ability to describe it in words.

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"And you know there's nothing else quite like it in the world," Erin agreed. She was quiet for a moment as they raced along, the motorcycle barely louder than a ten-speed bike, then suddenly chuckled. "I'd love to see the look on some criminals face when you somehow sneak up behind him on a full size motorcycle going flat-out. He'd have to be thinking it was some kind of really, really bad dream."

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"The mist is better," Trevor smiled under his mask. "They see it coming, stand still for a second, then try to wave it away." Taking his hand off of the bike, he guided it with his knees while miming panicked flailing. "Gets to their face, sometimes they scream. One fainted." As his sentences became more terse, his manner slipped back into that of Midnight, and his gloves creaked faintly as he firmly gripped the handlebars again. It wasn't the way he squared his shoulders that made him seem somehow larger; it was the implied weight he carried on them.

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"Well sure, maybe the mist is more effective," Erin joked, "but the motorcycle is way more cinematic. How much did you have to practice before you could drive like that?" The lights of Freedom City shone wavering reflections in the water they drove past, casting the path along the shore into a soft late-night twilight. There were surprisingly few people around, so that it almost seemed they were alone in the city. Oddly, it didn't make Erin feel nearly as uneasy as it usually would have.

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