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Electra

Strength to Strength (IC)

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Erin was usually very good at keeping to a schedule. She had to be, it wasn't as though she'd been given or allowed herself a lot of free time in the past year. When she wasn't in class she was training, when she wasn't training she was in therapy, when she wasn't in therapy she was doing homework, when she wasn't doing homework she was working with her teammates. But sometimes her schedule inevitably slipped off the rails, usually when someone tried to schedule an extra meeting in on her. That was why she was running late today, and still in her slightly-singed uniform as she raced for the headmaster's office.

It wasn't as though she wanted to be going to this meeting anyway, she thought rebelliously. She'd tried this mentorship thing once before and it hadn't worked out. She'd done everything Thunderstanding had told her to, and been dropped with little explanation anyway. Why did she have to go through the whole thing again? It wasn't as though she didn't do enough training already. Brushing her hair flat and trying to wipe the scowl off her face, she walked into the headmaster's office.

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"So as long as you keep her away from-ah, here she is now!" Duncan actually smiled at Erin, the adult, professional smile he used in social situations. "Come in, Ms. White, come in. Erin White, this is Mona Teymourian. She's one of the heroes in our mentoring program, and she's expressed an interest in working with you. Ms. Teymourian, Erin is one of our best students. I think you'll both have a great deal to learn from each other."

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Mona nodded at Mr. Summer's many special directives, but privately still wondered how she was wrangled into this situation. All she wanted to do was visit Claremont and see what it was all about. Before she knew it, Mr. Summers had her signed up for his mentoring program. Not that she minded really, but all of it seemed so sudden. She wondered if this young woman was whom she thought.

Thus she stood there, a sort of relaxed attention, when Erin entered, at which she did a true double take. Blinking a few times, she composed herself, offered her a handshake and smiled professionally as well, "A pleasure to meet you, Ms. White. May I call you Erin?"

Oh yeah, this program was going to be an interesting one. Like juggling nuclear warheads.

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Erin couldn't help blinking as she entered the room and saw who her new mentor was going to be. She remembered, vaguely, seeing this woman at the fights, but she'd been sitting down then. Wow. She was really big. Erin was used to being one of the taller girls at Claremont, but standing next to Mona I-Cant-Pronounce-Your-Last-Name made her feel like a little kid. Still, she took the offered hand and shook it firmly, because what else was she supposed to do? "Sure, or Wander's okay," she replied to the question, still rather guarded. "They usually want us to use our code names when we're working." She glanced back at Summers for corroboration.

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"We do prefer that our students use codenames when in the field," Summers confirmed, "to protect the privacy of their families. What I was saying when Wander came in, Fulcrum, is that I'd prefer you do as much of your work one-on-one with Wander as possible. Wander already has extensive experience in team situations: what's going to work best for her is seeing an adult with training in the use of her strength in action." He studied them both for a moment, then added, "Why don't you start by telling each other a little something about yourselves? Be as open as you like," he added significantly.

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"I understand," she replied, "Believe me, if I could maintain a secret identity, I would."

After a moment of awkward silence, Fulcrum got the ball rolling, "Well, lets see. I'm a Freedom City native, West End specifically. My powers developed, oh, about four years go now, although they have been traced back to the Terminus Invasion. I do the whole Centurion-giant-robots-rampaging-monster style of hero work. I doubt we'll be bored. Oh yeah, I have an indulgent love of coffee and bad art movies." The latter she added for a touch of brevity.

"I take it one of the reasons we've been paired up is because of similar powers?" she asked, addressing the question as much to Mr. Summers as Wander.

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Erin gave Summers a look as though to inquire whether she really had to, then grudgingly disclosed some information. "I was born in Seattle in another universe. There's another one of me on Prime, but she hasn't got any powers. I came to Claremont for training and to finish high school. My main power is hitting things, and some jumping. I work with Young Freedom, and I like cars." She looked again to Summers to see if she could get away with that much.

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Summers raised an eyebrow at Erin before adding, "In addition to being strong enough to lift our school jet over her head, Wander is the most skilled combatant at our school," he added for her. "As well as one of the most experienced. It's a difficult responsibility to work with such a veteran student, Fulcrum, but I've been assured that you have much to teach her. Why don't the two of you take some time to spar together and get better acquainted?"

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Fulcrum nodded. The revelations of inter-dimensional immigration didn't so much as make her bat an eye. Best to start with more general stuff. Perhaps more information would be revealed once, and if, trust was established.

Still something about the whole situation didn't sit well with her, and she carefully watched Erin's interactions with Mr. Summers. Obviously she didn't want to share anything, and the icing sounded like she certainly didn't want to be here. Yes, things were going to be interesting. Maybe a little enlightenment was in order.

At Mr. Summer's suggestion, Fulcrum turned to Wander and asked neutrally, "You have no interest doing this, do you?" Switching back to Mr. Summers, she asked sternly, crossing her arms, "Is this mentoring program voluntary?"

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"I did a mentoring program already, when I got here," Erin told Mona, craning her neck to look the tall, tall woman in the eye. "It lasted like a month, because I accidentally set her on her ass the first time we sparred. How about we say I'm not planning on getting attached." Her tone was more abrupt than she was with about anyone except Mr. Archer, but it was hard not to let the resentment seep through. Just because she didn't have any adult role models at home, or a home outside the school really, didn't mean she needed to be fobbed off on some stranger for training in things she probably already knew. You didn't get a real mentor because someone in an office assigned you one. She looked towards Summers again, figuring that at least if she got another detention, she was in the right place to serve it.

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Summers raised an eyebrow. "If Wander is unsatisfactory to you, Fulcrum, perhaps you should consider channeling your pedagogical desires more productively. As for Wander, she's here of her own free will, just as much as you are. I would encourage both of you to carefully consider why you're here, and what advantages you can gain from a productive relationship."

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Fulcrum banged her fist on the edge of his desk with force just shy of splitting the wood, barring a knot. The items atop it rattled. Despite the attention getter, her face was professionally neutral. "Don't play games with me, Summers. She isn't and neither am I. I was fast talked into this thing, and you knew my word is my honor." She quirked an eyebrow, "While I thank you for the tour of the campus, I don't appreciate being used."

Leaning on the edge of the desk, she shook her head in disappointment, "So why don't you drop the cheap facade and tell us the real reason we're here today." It was not a question.

Duncan Summers was no fool, but neither was Fulcrum. You didn't run a school for metas and try to act the fool or know little of meta psychology. Not to mention the other...opinions...she had received concerning Mr. Summers. And she couldn't forget what Wander did to Dead Head. No, she was going to get to the bottom of this little conspiracy.

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Erin jumped at the sudden movement and noise, looking towards Fulcrum with new interest. Even if she thought this mentorship thing was likely a waste of time, it wasn't everyone who was willing to stand up to Summers, and without the crazy banshee nuttiness that people like Chris tended to bring to bear. And since Summers was normally a plain-spoken type, yet his previous explanation had been totally nonsensical, she thought Fulcrum was probably right, too. She looked to the headmaster to see what he would say.

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Summers didn't so much as blink when Fulcrum struck his desk, though that eyebrow did creep up a little higher. "Wander is a very powerful young woman who is in the process of learning to control her temper. Since my desk is," he reached out and tested the spot where Fulcrum had struck it, "still intact, evidently you're the right hero for the job. What Wander really needs is someone who will supervise and guide her in real-world situations where our teachers cannot take her and her fellow students would not be able to help her cope. As it stands, her self-control may prevent her from being the hero she could otherwise become.” Summers gave Wander a meaningful look. “And while it's true that the first mentoring assignment didn't work out, I believe this one has a great deal of promise.”

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Returning to her full height, Fulcrum tapped her chin and considered Mr. Summer's reply. While her face looked skeptical, a slightly satisfied smile did creep up the corner of her mouth. She certainly didn't miss the look exchanged between headmaster and student. Not a good sign as far as Fulcrum was concerned. Powering through was her only option. At least it was viable, and heck, maybe she really could do some good for Wander.

"Very well, Mr. Summers, I accept the assignment. Transparency in my associations is something, as you've no doubted noticed, to which I aspire," she began diplomatically, before turning to Wander. "Alright, Erin, speak now or forever hold your peace. Will you at least give this program a fair try?"

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Erin pursed her lips and looked from one adult to the other. She wasn't entirely sure, but it seemed there was a warning hidden in Summers' words. She hadn't been officially reprimanded after the incident with Dead Head, but her training and headshrinking regimen had been stepped up once again. Another slip like that, and she wasn't sure what would happen. She might get taken out of the field entirely, and she didn't think she'd be able to stand that. Even if this mentoring thing did nothing for her, playing along seemed like a wise choice. "Yes, I'll do my best," she promised, not quite looking at either one of them.

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"I'll let the two of you get better acquainted," said Summers, a sociable smile back on his face. "Though preferably somewhere else, as I need to meet with another student in fifteen minutes." As girl and woman left, he gave Mona just the ghost of a wink, enough for her to see he'd seen what relationship she was setting up between herself, the challenging student, and the authority figure, and he liked it.

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Fulcrum patted Wander on the back as they left the office. Taking off at a slow pace, she slowly made her way out of the building. The place was still very new to her, but she made her way.

Once outside in the fresh air, she finally spoke, voice upbeat, "That went well." Smiling, she looked around the campus and added, "He is a tough nut to crack."

Wander still didn't seem very eager, as far as Fulcrum could tell. Turning to her, she asked, "What is school like here? If you weren't with me, what would you be doing about now?"

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Wander looked around, then drew herself up and seemed to start at least making an effort. "I just got done with a training session," she told Fulcrum, gesturing to the blue and gold uniform she wore. "We don't have to wear these things all day, usually." She checked her watch, a cheap plastic thing that looked like it might have come out of a gumball machine, and whose face was already cracked. "Now is my homework block till three, then I have counseling, support group, and dinner, then an hour free time, then another training session. But it's summer, so after that I'm done for the night. Do you really party and drink beer all weekend at the Interceptors HQ?" she asked with what seemed like honest curiosity.

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"Sounds like you have a very busy schedule. Summers must run a tight...huh?" Wander may have asked the question with honest curiosity, but Fulcrum had just as honest a surprised and confused look on her face. The question must have come completely out of left field to blow her mind like that.

Blinking back into composure, she cleared her throat and answered plainly, "I'm new to the team, but as far as I know, the only one that even drinks beer on a regular basis is Colt. You know, the whole cowboy thing. I've never even heard of them partying. They're usually too busy, especially Jack. He works himself to exhaustion and then some. Where did you hear that 411?" she asked, not accusingly, but with as much curiosity.

Mentally she made a note to get with the team concerning reputations and rumors. Dealing with your own rep was one thing, but being on a team brought a whole new complexity into the picture.

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"A guy named Dynamo," Wander told her. "He came here to take some classes or get some training or something, and started talking about how he wouldn't want to go here, because we have rules and schedules and curfews. He said that at the Interceptors, he could just sit around and drink beer with people instead. I kind of figured he meant like a frat house or something, you know? A lot of the Interceptors I've met..." She trailed off, realizing there was no way to say the words without being insulting of people who were probably her new mentor's friends. "I mean, I guess I don't know any of them that well."

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Fulcrum shrugged, "Go ahead, speak your mind. No skin off my teeth. The Interceptors you've met...?" Now she looked genuinely curious, but not in an annoyed or antagonistic way.

"I think what Dynamo meant," she otherwise began, "Is that your life, particularly the hero side, sounds rather regimented. The Interceptors are fairly flexible as long as everyone owns up to their responsibilities and does their assigned duties. As you can imagine, following a schedule would probably drive hyperactive batty."

She took off again, this time at a slow, but more oriented stroll. "Then you should meet them. Maybe get to know them better. I know you've met Jack, but that was under some stressful conditions. He has a seriously strict code concerning his friends being hurt. Doesn't excuse him. I'm just saying." Turning to her conspiratorially, she added, "You should hear him tell jokes. Most stand up comedians can't touch Jack of All Blades. I mean, who else would run around with that moniker?"

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"I don't know," Erin replied, sounding fairly dubious. Listening to the angry swordsman tell jokes was far from the top of her list of things she'd like to spend time doing, right down there with spending her day off in a small car with Mr. Archer. "Maybe he inherited it from somebody. Maybe he doesn't get that it's kind of an insult to himself." She shrugged. Since they were walking anyway, she started pointing out what the various buildings were. "Over there's the dorm, and there's the gym, and the caf is over there. Lot of the students are gone for the summer now, so it's pretty quiet. How often do you train?"

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Now for the training question she was prepared. "Five or six times a week. We usually schedule for the mornings, but I prefer mid afternoon or evening sessions myself. Several of us prefer working nights, so mornings can be really rough." In a way, Fulcrum seemed a bit wistful as Wander pointed out the various campus landmarks. Once a few highlights were out of the way, she replied, "Seems like a pretty nice school. Do you like it here?"

"How often do you train?" she asked back, "Must be a lot to lay out your last mentor, or are you just that good?" You'd think she'd say the latter with a touch of humor, but actually she was fairly neutral, if curious.

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"I train four hours on school days and eight or ten on most weekends," Erin replied, walking with lengthened strides to keep up with her tall companion. "Solo training, anyway, or supervised solo. Young Freedom trains together for at least three hours twice a week, and then I usually meet a couple of times a week with classmates to train in smaller groups. "A lot of the training is because I laid out my last mentor, or at least it comes from the same reason."

She reached down to her belt and unholstered the silver stick she carried there, no longer than her palm. With a practiced spin, she opened it out into a five-foot-long baton with rounded ends and a matte finish. "And this too. They gave it to me to blunt my strike, so I don't hit things any harder than I mean to. It's shock absorbent, you know, some kind of super-science thing. When I first got here, I couldn't not hit things as hard as I could. But that's getting better." She collapsed the baton just as easily. "Are you going to have me come do training with you?"

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