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Avenger Assembled

Calamari On The Menu (IC)

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That drew a shrug from Erin. "I don't really think about it," she admitted. "Some of my teammates really like the limelight and are good there. I'm happy to leave the press encounters to them whenever I can. And Psyche does a great job of flying the banner for the teen superheroines, along with everything else she wants to stand for. I'm happy to just do my work. And the villains really don't care how you're shaped when you're giving them a beatdown, so I don't really think it's any harder or easier. Is it different for adults?"

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Half an hour later, Erin had finished her pie and was onto the really good, Seattle-style coffee that Joan had made. She hadn't had to say more than a few words. "And so it is really difficult. Between the barely-supers like Bombshell, who think they need to earn the respect of men by dressing up for them, and the ladies who make a big show of their whitebread lifestyles so they don't have to deal with the catcalls in their own way, it's not easy. Even the ones I don't like at least have the freedom to make their own choices, though, so I have to respect that. Even if they do make things tougher for the rest of us, particularly with all the super-fetishists out there." Lois had cleared away from the table by now, as had Charlie: evidently they'd heard this kind of thing from her before. "I'm sorry," she said, "am I being too blunt? I know you're just a kid, but you've seen some of the weirder crap out there. And then they have the gall to hide behind freedom of the press."

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It took Erin a second to realize that Joan had wound down and was actually looking for input again. She'd gone into civics class mode and glazed over a little, but she figured she'd gotten the gist of what the older hero was so incensed about. "I've seen some of the weird stuff," she agreed. "Some of my classmates look it up, they think it's really funny. I don't know why it bothers people though. It's not like it means anything, or hurts anybody. It's just somebody writing a story." She took a sip of her coffee. "If that's the worst thing that happens to anybody in their career, they're doing pretty well."

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"I've had worse," said Joan, frowning a little. "But you're right. God knows worse things could happen to me, or any other hero." She laughed a little, and added, "Hell, you saw me going through some of that the other day. I'm just glad your friend Alex was there. I tried contacting her for tonight," she added, "but apparently she's at a business meeting." She hmmed, then added, "So, long as we're telling war stories, did I hear you say something about getting sucked into other dimensions? I met the male version of myself once, but I've mostly done globe-hopping not dimension-hopping."

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Erin scratched her head. "I come from another dimension," she admitted, "so Prime is dimension hopping for me, technically. It's a very familiar sort of place though, so it usually doesn't feel too weird." That much was pretty much common knowledge for anyone connected to the super community, so she figured she might as well share it. "I've been to several other dimensions though, off to Erde and to a world full of little furry Fraggle creatures, and a world that was forever trapped in 1955 or so. It's always kind of weird, and nice to get back here. Haven't met any male versions of myself though."

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"It was quite an experience," said Joan. "He was a hero too, and seemed like a good man, though a little too opinionated for my tastes," she added. When Erin didn't elaborate about her home dimension, Joan chose not to pry too closely. It took quite a personal effort. "One of my old teammates was Hachiman, the Japanese god of war, so occasionally we'd pay a visit to the court of Ameratsu. That was always an adventure, even if I usually had to hang around the back with the weaker heroes. Not because I'm a woman," she added, "but I was on the junior team there. It sounds like you kids are having higher-powered adventures than we did." She sighed, just a little. "Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I'd had my accident when I was younger and been a teenage hero. When I was your age, I spent most of my time on the track. I actually made it to the Olympics in Sydney." She sighed, shaking her head, and added, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't monopolize the conversation. Did your parents come with you from your home dimension, then?"

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Erin hesitated just a moment, just long enough for a reporter's ear to catch it. "No, it was just me," she said. "But my family, the one from this dimension, really does live in Seattle. That wasn't like lying or anything. Do you still run?" she asked. "Some of my classmates were training for the Olympics before they got powers, in gymnastics, but now they can't compete anymore. They still do gymnastics and stuff though. It's useful in a fight."

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"I can't exactly put on my sweatsuit and go for a run these days," said Joan, a wry smile on her face. "Like I said, these things don't go away, and believe me, you can tell they're there. Getting in-costume is about the only way I have to work out when I'm outside these doors." She studied Erin, balancing her maternal instincts with a reporter's hunger for knowledge. "I still follow Olympic sports fairly regularly, are your classmates anyone I'd know?" she asked. "I was about a foot too tall and fifty pounds too heavy for gymnastics, of course."

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"I dunno, their code names are Sage and Proteus, and I think they'd probably be after your time," Erin said with a shrug. "I don't know them very well, they're both new. I don't think Sage ever actually went, anyway, and she's French, so she wouldn't have been on the same team anyhow. Can't you go out to where the League exercises, or out in the country if you want to run?" she asked. "Or even work something out with Claremont, there are indoor and outdoor tracks there. You'd probably have to promise not to do any reporting or anything, but the headmaster might let you use the facilities."

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"I could do that," said Joan thoughtfully. She was already planning ahead. Find Erin's friends, secure an interview using their common Olympic past, and find out a little more about the mysterious girl who was her savior. "Claremont has such a good reputation, and they were so helpful when I contacted them through channels." She hmmed. "Maybe I could return this visit at your place sometime in the future, and you could show me around?" Yes, and introduce me to your friends, she thought, so I can get just a little closer to the mystery. Her tentacles were twitching.

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Erin leaned back in her chair a little bit, nervously setting her coffee aside. Something about the way Joan was looking at her made her think she didn't just want a tour of the campus, but Erin wasn't quite sure what the older heroine was looking for. She didn't think she'd given enough away to make a good story, after all, she was hardly the only dimensionally displaced heroine. And she really hoped Fusion wasn't looking for an empowered and enlightened sidekick for her feminist hero crusade or something like that. Listening to one lecture was okay as payment for a nice meal, but it wasn't something she planned to make a habit of. "I guess that would be okay," she said a little uncertainly.

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Joan had grace enough to feel bad, and skill enough to pull back when the girl's discomfort became obvious. "Well, we can talk about that another time. I don't want you to feel weird showing an old lady off to your friends." She was a little too cynical, though, to think she wouldn't be covering up the secret if there wasn't some meat on this story. She smiled and said, "Listen, Erin, dinner or not, I still owe you a favor. It's not every day I meet someone from the West Coast and they save my arms in the process. Anytime you need anything, just give me a call and I'll see what I can do."

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"Thanks, I will," Erin said, relaxing fractionally when Joan didn't push. "But it really is like I told Lois, you did all the work there. Any hero coming along would've done what I did to pull you out and clean up the scene. If anyone did the work, it's Alex. Fixing people up takes a lot out of her, but she'd never say no. And I'm glad things turned out okay, and that your arms are going to be all right again. That was a bad injury."

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"The worst I've ever had," agreed Joan, looking down at her arms. "To be honest, if I'd been alone, I'd probably have run as fast as I could back onto shore after the first big couple of hits. But there were civilians on that beach, and children, and people in peril in the water. They had to know they weren't alone. I'm just glad I wasn't alone either." She smiled, then got up to walk Erin to the door. "I like your truck, by the way. Isn't that last year's model? You're doing pretty well for a high school kid." She smiled still, not wanting to make the girl uncomfortable. "We haven't bought a car since coming back to the States, so we do all our commuting via bus."

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"It was a present from a friend," Erin admitted. "He knew I didn't have a way to get around normally, so he sort of maneuvered me into accepting it. It was sneaky of him, but he had the best of intentions, you know? And it's really nice to have transportation so I'm not bouncing around everywhere I need to go. I figure if I take good care of it, it should last a long time." Indeed, the truck looked absolutely pristine, like it had just been washed and polished. It was something of an incongruity to the girl herself, who wore clothes that were rather less than pristine, for all they'd just been washed as well. "Anyway, thanks a lot for having me over. It was really good."

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"It was nice having you here," said Joan. "Come back anytime!" She watched as Erin drove away, then rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "If I don't see you first, that is," she added sotto voice. She had a mystery on her hands in the person of her friend the superpowered Seattle girl, and she was going to do all she could to solve it. Not because I don't like you, Erin, but because I do. She could do it subtly, too, and make sure Wander never knew she'd been there at all. It wouldn't be secret if it wasn't important. And if my friend has a problem...well, I owe it to her to help. When she told Charlie about it that night in bed, he wasn't at all thrilled by the idea. But he didn't have a reporter's nose for the truth. Or an octopus' long reach.

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"It was nice having you here," said Joan. "Come back anytime!" She watched as Erin drove away, then rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "If I don't see you first, that is," she added sotto voice. She had a mystery on her hands in the person of her friend the superpowered Seattle girl, and she was going to do all she could to solve it. Not because I don't like you, Erin, but because I do. She could do it subtly, too, and make sure Wander never knew she'd been there at all. It wouldn't be secret if it wasn't important. And if my friend has a problem...well, I owe it to her to help. When she told Charlie about it that night in bed, he wasn't at all thrilled by the idea. But he didn't have a reporter's nose for the truth. Or an octopus' long reach.

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