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Cyroa

Just Another Class Trip (IC)

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Given it was a summer class, it was far from required but it certainly helped give those students in attendance a leg up. Not to mention it was certainly not a class you’d find in any educational institution outside of Claremont. Xeno-linguistics, Xeno-diplomacy, astrophysics as well as a little smattering of other sciences were the focus of the class. Despite what some might consider the topic to be, the class was anything but boring. Nor was it exceptionally hard though it often went a little over the scheduled time.

Dark Star was, and this was not entirely unusual given his busy schedule, a few minutes late for class. He floated down through the ceiling. “Good afternoon class. My apologies for my tardiness. There was a small earthquake in China.†He looked around, making sure everyone was present and telekinetically marking off his attendance sheet. “Now, today’s lesson will be a mix of topics. Please bring your notebook and something to write with.â€

He nodded to himself before continuing. “We’re going to a lovely little world just on the other side of the core. In fact we’ll be visiting this particular planet each class over the next week or so. The local geology is quite interesting. Rhysium is an extremely rare mineral that many species use in construction of starship weapons and armor. It doesn’t exist on Earth outside of the odd asteroid. On this world, it exists in abundance. If the planet wasn’t so far out of the way and hard to detect it would certainly have been a mined long before now. We’re going to study it in its natural environment.â€

“Now, the indigenous people will not be able to understand a word you’re saying. Part of today’s assignment, in addition to the mineral studies will be in Xeno-linguistics and diplomacy. The people are essentially non-violent. You will take some steps in basic communication attempts, learning to convey basic concepts. Learning to communicate without common ground is an enlightening experience.â€

He gestured, opening a wormhole. “Any questions or is everyone ready?â€

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Trevor triple checked his utility belt before fastening the buckles of his jacket, exhaling deeply as he prepared. It was still a little hard to believe that such a class was available; superhumans and city wide battles were one thing, but the lanky youth was still trying to wrap him mind around the prospect of visiting an alien world and interacting with the lifeforms there. He hadn't hesitated to sign up for the optional program, but now that they were about to leave, Trevor had to admit that he was feeling a little nervous. It wasn't a feeling to which he was accustomed, and he didn't think he cared for it at all.

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Erin paid attention to the lecture with half an ear, busy checking her supplies one more time. These class trips weren't supposed to be at all hazardous, but she'd heard that before. Any trip off planet or out of the universe was another chance to get lost, stranded, displaced, or attacked, and it didn't do to forget that. Most of the room in her bag was taken up with her first aid kit, and the rest was full of protein bars she'd squirreled away from the kitchen and bottled water. She didn't know much of anything about most of the people coming along on this trip, and it was never smart to assume that somebody was coming along who could keep everyone alive in a pinch.

Trevor was coming along though, and she was glad of that. He was good in a fight, and, well, she liked spending time with him. Erin wasn't going to try and analyze things more than that. She slung her bag over her shoulder and walked over to him. "So, ready for your first extraplanetary field trip?" she asked.

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Dark Star nodded, making sure the small class was all set. He gestured and a large wormhole opened up, right there in the classroom, wide enough for two people to step through together. "Step lively now. We wouldn't want to dally and create a barometric anomaly here."

Through the portal, a scene was clearly visible. It looked a lot like Earth really except the plants were significantly and brighter green in color. The students stepped through into clean air with a heavy earthen smell. They were standing atop a small bluff, a vibrantly green and healthy forest behind them. The trees were massive, like the Sequoya trees of California perhaps. Strange chirping sounds, animal calls and other noise could be faintly heard from the forest. Below them and off in the distance, the forest shorter, thinner, before thickening up into even larger and more massive trees than what was behind them. Both in the 'plains' (ie thin giant woods) and the forest beyond, vague shapes could be seen moving though not details could be made out at this range without some special accommodations.

Dark Star waited until everyone was through before closing the portal. "Take a few minutes and look around." He knew better than to expect kids to focus on work when there was a plethora of fascinating things all around them. "We'll begin the lesson in a few minutes once you've had a chance to satisfy your interests."

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"Hrrn..." Trevor grunted uncertainly as he rechecked the seals between his gloves and jacket sleeves. "Wishing I'd had more time to test the suit's emergency life support." Fastening his featureless mask over his his face, the young man took a last deep breath of Earth's air before stepping through Dark Star's portal.

Even through the filter in his mask, the air on the alien world smelled fresh and vibrant. Hesitantly, Trevor lifted his fedora slightly and let the black fabric with its built in goggles fall to hang down around his neck as he looked about in fascination. "Astounding..." he breathed softly, turning back around to look for Erin.

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Erin was through the portal right after him, taking a few moments to assess the tactical situation before letting herself enjoy the amazement of being on a totally different world. They were in a wide open space with little cover until the edge of the forest, but she couldn't detect anything that might be about to attack, so they were probably okay. "Wow," she agreed, finally succumbing to the allure of the new planet. "There's so many plants here. I kinda thought we'd be going someplace like the surface of the moon." She took a few hesitant steps to test the gravity, then started walking around and looking at the local flora.

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Dark Star let everyone relax and wander around for a little. Trevor and Erin were easily the more generally capable of the class but everyone here was on equal footing being their first visit to a new world. The over-sized fauna was everywhere. Occasionally movement could be seen in the forest. Small forest creatures, resembling some kind of lizard-monkey cross swung into view to stare curiously out of the group. Soon enough the 3 foot creatures faded back into the treetops to continue their daily life. Dual winged 'birds' the size of large dogs flitted through the sky as if they were humming birds.

Eventually the sight seeing part was over for now and Dark Star gathered the class together for a short lesson on the differences of the alien ecology and geology and how balanced and connected this world was. The indigenous people lived in harmony with the world rather than using the world and its resources. Afterwards, the class walked down the hill towards those some people in the distance. Those 'people' were actually quite large; as the class got closer it became apparent how large. Standing on average almost 12 feet tall when hunched over, they looked remarkably like giant green sloths with an extra helping of long fur. They blinked in curiosity as the class approached but continued to move about the small village, built right in the trees. They generally moved slowly and steadily, seeming to be in no rush. Though from some of the leaping that was seen, it was obvious they could move far and fast if they wished. Smaller 'children' could also be seen moving about. About the same height as the humans, these furry fellows were far more agile and active; leaping and jumping between distances with little concern it seemed.

Their village were huts built a good 300' up from the forest floor, right into the branches. However, there were no walkways or bridges that connected the trees. The native people used the multitude of vines or simply hopped onto nearby branches. For those that needed a lift, Dark Star levitated them high up onto a central platform. A kind of 'town square' in the center of a group of huts. For those that wished to climb, he had no objections.

Finally, when everyone was gathered up top, he drew there attention back. "Now, theses are the Mai'yoa. Very nice people. A very kind and patient people. I want you to take the last half hour of class and do your best to learn about them and try to communicate with them. I am not going to give you any more help than that. After the this, we'll meet back together and discuss what worked best and what did not. One thing though. I must ask those who are not competent with or capable of high movements and agility to stay away from the edge. For your own safety. If you are however, please feel free to move about the village as he learn."

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As much as Trevor was still a city boy at heart, the natural beauty of the verdant planet resonated with him, as did the calm, deliberate manner of its inhabitants. Moving about the treetop village with Erin, he tipped his fedora back from his forehead thoughtfully. The laconic young man generally wasn't the first choice for striking up a conversation, but he reflected that his soft spoken nature might actually be an asset among the relaxed Mai'yoa. He looked over at the auburn haired girl. "So, how do you think this is supposed to work?"

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Erin shrugged. She was having a pretty good time just climbing around the natives' arboreal habitat. It was like a giant collection of tree-houses, a tree-town, and she was hardly worried about the idea of falling. "I have no idea." she told Trevor, watching as a few Mai'yoa swung by on a family vine. "I don't even know how they talk to each other. Maybe if we watch them for awhile, we'll at least figure that part out."

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Trevor considered for a moment, placing an idle curiosity as to whether any brewable beans might be growing among the planet's lush vegetation to the back of his mind as he concentrated on the matter at hand. "They don't seem terribly surprised by our presence," he remarked, "or at least they don't view us as any threat." The black clad youth shrugged mildly. "Shall we introduce ourselves?"

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"You can try," Erin replied, swinging up into a higher branch and watching the family as they continued on to one of the nearby houses. "I don't know if they have mouths like ours, or if they can talk, though. I suspect Dark Star wouldn't have brought us here to teach us a lesson if there wasn't some kind of trick to communicating with them besides just talking at them. But we need to start somewhere, I guess. I don't think it could hurt anything, it's not like they seem hostile."

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"Right." Kicking off from his treetop perch without preamble, Trevor vaulted himself through the foliage until he landed softly on another organic outcropping. Moving slowly but confidently, he approached one of the larger Mai'yoa with his hands held at his side palms out in what he hoped was a universal sign on peaceful intention. Tapping his own chest, without thinking he stated, "Midnight." It occurred to him that that really was how he thought of himself these days, and wasn't particularly concerned by the realization. On the contrary, the dark haired teen felt a subtle surge of satisfaction.

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The large being looked down at Trevor curiously as he approached. It blinked large eyes at him and stared. At his name, the creature blinked once more and clicked the claws of one hand together in a series of clicks and clacks, some kind of pattern evident. It took a moment for Trevor to realize there was something else though. An odd scent wafted through the air briefly. He couldn't be positive, but he was smart and clever enough to know that scent had something to do with their communication. Erin however noted something in the pattern of the sounds. It was a progression of some kind. Of course she wasn't she what each pattern and set meant, but she was pretty sure there was one.

It was about that time, they both notice an odd thrumming sound, vibrating enough for them to physically feel it along their skin. The effect on the large being in front of Trevor was even more obvious as it ruffled it's green fur. It turned from Trevor and looked upwards into the leafy rooftops but made no other motions.

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Erin looked up as well, trying to get a bead on what was causing the thrumming. "I don't know that we're going to have much luck communicating with them unless you've got a perfume sampler in your belt somewhere," she murmured to Trevor. "I think they've got some sort of combined language going. No idea how to replicate it, though." She shaded her eyes against the sun and leapt up one level of branches to get a better look at the sky.

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"Actually..." Trevor deftly removed a trio of miniaturized devices from his belt and began slotting the modular components together. "For detecting poisonous gasses," he said, indicating the first, which had a small tube protruding from it. "Coupled with a listening device and some custom rosetta stone code..." The black clad teen added a small parabolic dish and what looked like an advance palm pilot to the first gadget, and switched the conglomerate on. "What's up there?" he asked Erin; with any luck the Mai'yoa before him would now be able to understand the question as well.

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Trevor's quick fiddling was rather ingenious. And while it was far from perfect, it certainly got the job done well enough to get the point across. He flipped the little switch, activating the combination of gadgets. That's faint thrumming was suddenly articulated through the device's little speakers.

...tion. First. Net. Grounded. Arrival. Flight. Imminent. Attention. Second. Net. Active. Arrival. Imminent... After that, it seemed to repeat it self. The large creature glanced back at Trevor and his little device curiously for a moment before clicking its claws again. Trevor's little speaker flared to life in response: 'Go now. Hide. No safe.' With that the large creature flexed it's legs and launched itself a good 60 feet to the doorway of a hut and moved inside.

Even as it jumped, Dark Star arrived before them. "Erin, Trevor. There's a problem. I need you to gather the other students and keep them safe. The Star Kahn has apparently gathered more forces and is here, liking planning on taking what doesn't belong to him," he said shaking his head sadly. "I need to deal with his fleet in orbit. I'll be back shortly. This shouldn't take long but I'm leaving the students' safety in your hands. Take care of them please." Without waiting for a reply, he rocketed upwards and was gone in a blink.

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Trevor clicked his tongue lightly as Dark Star rocketed up into the planet's sky. "Typical." Turning back to his cobbled together translator, the young man drew upon the limited sample of Mai'yoa vocabulary to broadcast a brief message. 'No. Hide. Protect. Invader. Khan. Fear. Us.' Dismantling the modular components, he returned them to his belt before swinging with gymnastic ease up to crouch on the branch beside Erin. Fastening the mask of Midnight to his face once more, he looked up into the sky through ruby lenses before gazing back down to the students spread throughout the treetop village. "Headcount and list of assets. Now," he demanded, his voice cold but clear through the gas filter. The tactical part of his mind moved to the fore as he tallied the group's collective powers and skills, devising a strategy.

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"Not a lot," Erin replied, unfazed by Trevor's sudden inclination to take command. She wasn't much of a leader type herself. "We didn't exactly bring a lot of power on this trip, so everyone's abilities are going to be fairly minor. Let's see, I think we've got a geokinetic, a weather controller, a matter transformer, a size changer and flyer... um, an illusionist, I think, and a catgirl. We may be best off finding someplace to hide them all and facing down anything that comes through the line ourselves."

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A small smile pulled at the corner of Trevor's mouth beneath his mask. "That's sweet, but you do remember my power is making smoke, right?" he replied softly to Erin. In a deadpan the auburn haired girl had learned from experience was meant to be wry, he added, "Not everyone can be a veritable demi-goddess."

Looking back down at the other students, he resumed his more gravelly voice, the sound easily cutting across the distance. "Squall, cloud cover. Halo, want this village to look like just more forest. Geode, see about some fortifications." Counting heads, his ruby lensed eyes narrowed. "Feline, find Kid Alchemy. Pixie, back her up." The black clad youth's tone left no room for dissent or delay. He turned to Wander once more. "They'll be fliers if they get through. Thoughts?"

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"The treetops," Wander said immediately. "They'll be coming from the sky if any get through. Everybody knows that Dark Star's uberpowerful, but something could still get by him. If we get up high enough that we're still screened by the trees but can see up, it's a tactical advantage. And if you've got anything with range, that'll help." She began climbing till she was out of range of the others, then turned and looked back to Trevor. "And hey, your power might be only to make smoke, but you can fight with the best of them. Most of them down there couldn't find their ass with both hands and a map. Power's not really what counts, it's being good at what you do."

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Squall looked like she was about to protest being told what to do but aborted her protest before it left her mouth as she considered Midknight's scary disposition. A look of intense concentration came over her face. A moment later, the clear day became a mostly cloud, but still sunny day. At least over the little village. The 'cloud cover' didn't extend that far nor was it that good. Likewise, Geode wasn't as helpful as expected. He looked around, flummoxed. "But, but...we're in a tree! There's no stone or dirt up here!" However, despite not being able to use his powers, he still began to look around in vain, trying to find materials to make rudimentary barricades like instructed. Halo seemed eager to please. "Right!" He turned and gestured, causing one whole hut to vanish and be replaced by a large group of bushes. He immediately began glowing like a dim light bulb. "Whew," he said, seeming a little winded at such a large (30' across) illusion. Feline and Pixie had the least problems, the pair taking off like a shot without word or complaint!

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Midnight watched the efforts of the other students and heroically resisted the urge to rub to bridge of his nose and groan aloud. "Good," he told them before they could hurt themselves. "Hide under Halo's illusion. Ace in the hole, yes?" Letting out a long breath he turned back to Wander and began following her advice, moving higher up in the massive tree's branches. "Point taken," he admitted, chagrined as he pulled a handful of small, matte black orbs with silver pins from his jacket.

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"They're just kids," Erin pointed out with a shrug, "none of them have trained like we have. They probably don't even want to be superheroes." She chose a branch near the top of the trees, just deep enough to give her some cover while letting her see out. "Most of the people who come to Claremont are like that, they have powers they aren't really developing, but they want the education, and to feel special because they're hanging around with other metahumans. That's what makes you special, you haven't really got a big flashy power, but you want to be a hero and you've worked your ass off for it. I don't see anything coming down at us yet," she reported, switching gears without a blink.

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Trevor made a token effort to convince himself that the sudden warmth under his black mask at the offhanded compliment was just from the heat of the alien world's bountiful flora. Because a shadowy avenger of the night doesn't blush. Obviously. The gas filter beneath his ruby lenses transformed an awkward clearing of his throat into a flat grunt. "Stay sharp. Doubt luck will hold out."

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The others complied with Midnight's 'suggestion' to one degree or another. It was obvious that some certainly didn't think much of the idea but they were too intimidated to not follow through. For now. (Squall wanted to protest and Halo was eager to help. Geode was the only one who seemed perfectly happy with the concept.) The lot of them quickly moved through the illusion though, fading from sight. The other 3 students were still no where in sight however...

Farther above, Erin and Trevor looked for signs of trouble coming from above. But neither of the ever alert teens missed the faint metallic ringing that moved up and down the register briefly. Looking down below them, neither could miss dozens of being appearing in swirls of light. There were spread out all over the village platforms (it was hard to tell but some might have been on the ground as well) and none were human. Most were humanoid at least, despite their 'alienness'. All were armed however and looked rather disreputable. The immediately moved about, talking in strange tongues, searching for something.

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