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Avenger Assembled

Ink Blots (IC)

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Joan Collier picked her way along the sidewalk carefully, mindful of keeping her skirts in place and undisturbed by the four arms she'd carefully wrapped around her legs before starting out that day. To all but the most careful inspection, she looked like a woman who happened to favor brightly colored, heavy, ruffled dresses in the style of a previous generation. But she had her secrets, just as any good reporter did, which was one of the reasons she'd finagled this assignment from Old Fletch himself. The new media had gotten their hooks into Alexandra Albright already; it was time for the city's premiere newspaper to do the same.

She was expected, of course, and ushered into an elevator that took her high into the towering glass and steel of the AEON building. Hmm. New building, good for local business. And it's a colorful place, she conceded. Hope it's not tied into the lady herself too heavily, she thought. Too dependent on one boss, and the whole thing goes south. And then she was in the corridor, walking along with slow measured strides, and then at the front door of Alex Albright's main office for her first full-length interview with the Freedom City Ledger. It was good to be the press.

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The receptionist and personal assistant stood up to greet her. She was a woman in her late twenties to early thirties and she fixed a polite and professional smile on her face. Standing up, she glanced back at the doors and took Joan's name. "Go on in, ma'am, she's waiting for you."

She stood up to let the woman into the office proper, one of many similar offices for the senior executives on this floor. Inside, the office was a bit more personal than the outside lobby, also a bit more colorful. A large and bright rug had been rolled down over the wood floors and the white leather couch and chair in one corner had a handful of different color throw pillows scattered over them. There were bookshelves along the walls, filled with an assortment of different texts above locking file cabinets and a small mini fridge. In the center of those shelves was a flat panel t.v. that was turned off for the moment. The center of the office was taken up with a heavy wooden desk and the leather chair behind it. The computer monitor was set to the side on the desk on a swivel arm and the surface of the desk was clean of papers or files as was the entire office. In front of the desk were a few comfortable chairs.

As for Alexandra Albright, she was standing over by the large panel windows that took up one wall although she crossed over as the door opened. She was a young, almost coltish girl. A little under five and a half feet in her low heeled shoes, her bright coppery hair was clipped up off of her face with a delicate bun holder. She'd abandoned the suit jacket that went with the slacks, leaving her in a sleeveless silk shirt in a deep jewel tone with a shallow scoop neck. With no jewelry of any kind, Alex looked a good deal more like a teenager going to her first job interview rather than the majority share holder in a freshly minted billion dollar operation.

"Ms. Collier, welcome to AEON Enterprises. I'm Alexandra Albright." She said as if her face hadn't been plastered across every t.v. news network for the last few weeks. "Won't you please have a seat. May I get you anything to drink?"

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Joan smiled down at the young woman, reminding herself that Alex wasn't quite as young as she looked. Not like she's the first CEO who made me look like an Amazon. "No thank you," she said politely, carefully picking her way to one of the seats in front of the desk. "I ate on the way," she said politely. She sat down carefully, but not so carefully that Alex couldn't catch sight of some additional...movements underneath that padded dress. "You have a lovely office," she commented. "I can see designs here I recognize from the rest of the building. Did you design it all yourself?"

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Alex nodded and went to the chair behind the desk to take a seat in it, crossing her legs under the desk. Although the desk was large enough for all the space Alex needed, the chair was carefully padded both for her comfort as well as to help keep Alex from looking quite so petite. She laced her fingers on the wooden surface and smiled slightly, "Thank you. No, I had some input on the design, of course, but the building itself was designed by the same team that oversees the construction of any new AEON projects. I wish I had quite such a flair for it, but my input really was something along the lines of 'modern but not dreary' and then to look at the different swatches they put together. I did chair the board that selected the final designs. They put together the bulk of this office as well, although I was able to make things a little brighter in here. I've always gone with the brighter is better idea on color pallets."

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"Yes, my daughter would love it," said Joan with a warm reporter's smile. As she spoke, she reached into her pockets and snapped out a small yellow notebook and an old-fashioned fountain pen, her hands working with a trained notetaker's skill as she began asking questions. She started out easily enough, softballing a few mild inquiries into AEON's revenue stream and the current prospects given the poor local job market, before she asked, "What are your opinions on the Herald's recent article that metahuman corporate executives should be subjected to the same regulations as metahuman athletes or military personnel?"

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Alex fielded the questions with a calm and quiet poise, quoting the statistics without ever flicking a glance to her computer. A so-called photographic memory was no end of help running a corporation. When Joan strayed into the inevitable metahuman questions, Alex didn't bat an eyelash. She considered the question for a moment before replying in the same high and clear voice, "I rather think that's only going to drive my fellow metahumans to remain hidden. I am, unsurprisingly, against any sort of resurrection of metahuman registration acts which is the only relatively sure-fire way to make certain that you have found all the possible metahumans that might or might not be involved in a corporate structure. The large majority of those individuals are highly unlikely to have powers that can drastically influence things in any way shape or form. Despite my own choice to publicly out myself, the entire reason behind a secret identity is a very sound one and one I feel should be left to the individual to decide on keeping or not. Not a governmental entity."

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"Hmm." Alex got the feeling her reply was being considered seriously, which was more than what she'd gotten from some adult reporters who treated her, always respectfully. as a very impressive prodigy and nothing more. "How do you answer those who suggest that the entire idea of corporate metahumans is immoral? That those abilities are better served in a capacity that serves the community, private or otherwise?" There was little genuine malice in the question: Joan was asking an honest question, and looking for an honest answer.

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"I think its highly unfair to hold metahumans to a higher standard than we hold other human beings. I rather think that's a road to a Brave, New World, where we sort people by their inherent ability rather than their personal drive and desire. We no longer use the draft when going to war as a country, why would we similarly demand a select group of Americans to subsume their own goals for the good of the community. I like to think that people with special gifts will of their own morals try and put those to the best use they can. If, however, they decide to live a quiet personal life, I would hardly begrudge them the choice." Alex replied back, her words quiet but not carefully measured out for what would make a good sound bite. "I can say that of all the metahumans I've met, most of them already agonize over where they draw the line over having even a personal life. I think heaping extra guilt on top of that is a little abhorrent."

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She's very good. Practiced, but not repetitive: she's answered questions like this plenty of times. As always, she was throughly enjoying the game. "Do you know a lot of metahumans?" Joan asked innocently. "You have a Q rating higher than all but the most publicly active super-teens in Freedom City. Has the celebrity worked to introduce you to other teens in similar situations?"

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"Ms. Collier, I think you're well aware that my alter ego is on a team of other teenage meta-humans, Young Freedom," Alex said but with a small smile. She was well aware that any interview was going to prod around the matter of her more secretive and more charismatic teammates. "Of course that work does bring myself as well as my teammates into encounters with other less well known youths. However, as happy as I am to discuss my costumed antics, I cannot in good conscience speak about any of those individuals, especially the ones who remain legally minors. If they didn't call me up to complain, their parents certainly would!"

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"Believe it or not, Ms. Albright," said Joan with a perfectly honest smile, "I'm here to ask about your work, not about your costumed identity. If I were from Teen Hero, I'd have asked to meet you in costume, presumably somewhere glamorous like your rooftop restaurant." She shrugged her broad shoulders slightly. "The Ledger has been Freedom City's superhero newspaper of record since the 1940s. I like to think in this generation, we've broadened our focus somewhat. I was asking about metahumans you might have met outside your 'other' career. Particularly those who share, ah, similar experiences with yours."

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Alex's smile faded and she sighed softly, "If you are trying to delicately ask if there were other children of interest in the facility that I was in, the answer is yes. I am not the only in-utero infant that was mutated by the portals that opened in 1993. I was not alone, however, considering the reaction that my announcement spawned I would very much appreciate if you would avoid this particular line within your article. Ms. Collier, if I may be frank, I feel its very important to be up front and honest about the actions taken when we were children, however, I was in a much better position to deal with the brunt of the speculation and fear that our origins engender. I am not going to lie to you about our existence but any sort of speculation of which teens might or might not be similarly empowered as I am will open them up to the sort of protests and fear that I face."

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"Ms. Albright," said Joan, again with that great sincerity that reporters today weren't supposed to have, "you can take my word that I have no interest in exposing any other children mutated during the Terminus Invasion. My daughter is only about eight years younger than you are: if I'd been a generation older, she'd have been born at the same time and exposed to the same things as you." She nodded, then went on to say, "What I'm more concerned about is your community. What do you think about the argument that if no civic-minded leaders step forward for a minority community, that ones less inclined to work within the system are natural to follow?"

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Alex relaxed back into her chair, those too wide eyes watching Joan carefully. She laced her fingertips together again and went back to answering questions, her voice evening out again to its usual quiet tones, "I think that's the excuse of small minds, if you'll pardon the expression. My community, so to speak, suffers from the same problems that it's non-empowered contemporaries have. We have plenty of role models to follow, from the Centurion himself right on down the line of the modern Freedom League. Those of my generation are trying to find their own identities in the wake of such greats and it is most certainly intimidating. Do they make mistakes? Of course. Are those mistakes terribly visible due to the nature of the spotlight on the supers? I certainly think so. I'd like to think that my actions at least, not to mention the actions of many other empowered youth show that like the generations before us, we have our icons both good and bad. I rather think that every one could use a bit more civic-mindedness, however, that I will certainly admit to."

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"With all that said-" There was suddenly a BOOM from up above that shook the building, and Joan's eyes flicked upwards automatically as the alarm on Alex's desk sounded. "Ms. Albright!" said a voice Alex recognized as Rowena Fuller, one of the rooftop security guards. "Ms. Albright, we've got robots attacking the building! We could use some backup here!"

Joan was on her feet quickly, betraying yet again some definite movement underneath her dress. "I'll make my own way out. You have a pleasant day, Ms. Albright."

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Alex's eyes unfocused as she dropped the illusion that concealed the aura of power that usually covered her to focus her attention on whatever was happening outside. Her voice was as quiet and collected as it had been for the interview, despite the obvious emergency. She'd grown used to dealing with emergencies. "Yes, I think that's best. Marie will be happy to show you out and reschedule this. Please excuse me."

If Joan looked for it, she'd see Alex touch the buckle on her belt - a stylized YF - to have her costume replace the pantsuit and slacks. She telekinetically activated the intercom on her desk, "I'm on my way, Rowena."

Then Alex would make all haste to the roof to deal with the latest problem at hand.

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Joan got as far as the elevator before she grinned and tore away the bottom part of her dress, revealing the strong, muscular body beneath and the thickly lashing tentacles that at her command burst forth and punched through the elevator emergency exit above her head. "Time for Fusion to make an appearance!" Within seconds, she was ascending the walls of the shaft, easily climbing up the cables as flesh and steel intertwined. As she moved her costume boiled up over her body, all black armor with big, white, expressive eyes over her completely covered face. Up on the rooftop level, she swung her way out a fan belt and out onto the scene of the action!

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Up on the roof, quite a sight awaited the two costumed champions of justice. Five big, menacing humanoids stood underneath a whirling black helicopter, their shining metal bodies exposing their robotic natures even as the machine guns fixed to their robotic arms exchanged bursts off the concrete "New Jerseys"hastily erected by AEON security. In the middle of the group stood a huge figure looming some eight feet high, his body covered in armor but with a humanoid face behind his big helmet. Shouting orders to his 'men', he called "WHERE IS PSYCHE?!?"

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"Right here," her high and clear voice rang out as she floated up above her security detail. The shimmer of energy around her was visable and glowing. She frowned and gestured towards the concrete, "Stop this violence. What do you want?"

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