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Avenger Assembled

Don't Interrogate a Fairy (IC)

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It was some days after the new kids at Claremont ventured out to Avalon that they all got a message via email, telephone, or whatever means were best suitable for reaching them. "Meet me in my office on Wednesday at 11. Summers." It was a clear early summer day when they got the message, the grass green and lush on the well-tended lawn, the trees bursting with leaves and looking ripe for climbing. It was a great day to be a kid...of course, in the wake of their journey to rescue Wisp, how many of them could call themselves kids now? Except for the adults they still had to listen to, anyway, and theirs were the opinions that actually mattered. When they arrived at the Summers Administration Building, they found that the door was open and all was quiet. The outer office was for the moment empty, with the door to Summer's private office standing ajar.

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Crow had seen some pretty spookity things back in Boston, and his dad had told him about a heckuva lot more as bedtime stories (Patrick Crowe did have a somewhat warped sense of "cool stories", but what could you expect from a former historian and hero?). Unfortunately, a few of those stories had featured prominently an individual called "The Raven", an occasional comrade of Red Hand's from back in the hero days, and one of the scariest heroes (even retired!) in the entire dang city.

And now he'd actually ordered them to come to his office, several days after they'd accidentally missed one of the last classes of the year. When he didn't call them the same day, Morgan had felt a tinge of relief. Over the next few days, he'd tentatively believed they might have been let off the hook; or at least Summers hadn't noticed. Now, though...

"We're doomed."

He said it to the others in a somewhat maudlin tone outside of the Administration building, staring through the open door with the distinct expression of wishing the earth would open up and just swallow him. Unfortunately, the earth wasn't feeling very kind that day.

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Brian was learning some distinctly non-scholastic lessons in his time at Claremont. Like, the good cop-bad cop routine still worked; given the prisoner's dilemma, criminals would still rat each other out; and the best way to deal with the tension before a fight was with a joke. Not that he intended to fight Duncan Summers (in fact he intended to stand in the corner and ay yessir and no, sir at all the right points) but this wait had the same slow, thick tension as the wait before a fight. So he walked up behind his friend and threw his arm around Morgan's shoulders. "Look on the bright side," he said. "Worst thing Summers can do is strip us, skin us, and hang us by the gate as a warning to others. At least we won't be expelled or anything."

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Vicky took slow, deep breaths as she walked with her boyfriend as well as Brian and John towards the administration building. She wasn't as worried as the others, given she had the excuse of being kidnapped for missing the deadline on her sequential art project, still, she didn't like the idea of being called into the Headmaster's office. "So, you think he's got a pack of Reavers on hand?"

As they entered the building to find his door open Vicky muttered under breath, "Well, that's not ominous or creepy or anything..."

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Brian's cheery mood drained away as the trio walked through the administration building, meeting not a soul. Before long the normally-chatty teen was withdrawn into himself, peering into the corners in the vain hope of seeing another living creature. He paused before the open door to Summers' office, unwilling to take the final step over the threshold. "Morgan, buddy," he whispered, "I'm gonna tell him it was all your idea."

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Morgan snorted at Glowstar's comment, staring at the door intently. Worst he could do is expel them. Worst he could do is expel them. Worst his dad could do if he got expelled...bugger. The teen shoved his hands into the pockets of his pea coat and hunched his shoulders, walking by Brian and through the door.

"Headmaster, it was all my idea."

The good news is, it is! So they'll probably be let off the hook. The bad news is...it is. Well, hope he doesn't lower the boom too badly.

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Summers' office was a spartan place, but the features it did have were elegant. The room was dominated by a large desk of a material that looked more like obsidian or onyx than any wood, its pitch-black surface gleaming under the glare of the overhead fluorescent lights. A window overlooked the broad and pleasant lawn of the Academy, an outside world that seemed like nothing more than a distant dream from here. Pictures of former headmasters lined one wall, an elegantly framed elevation of the school hung opposite. Four chairs had been brought in and placed in front of the desk, hard-backed and uncushioned, they looked about as inviting as they were supposed to.

Behind the desk, not in the stereotypical leather wingback, but in an efficient black ergonomic desk chair, sat the man himself. Duncan Summers watched the students from hawklike eyes under hooded brows, the lines of age in his face only serving to make him look more formidable somehow. His face betrayed no expression whatsoever. On top of the gleaming desk, there was only one item, a closed copy of the student handbook that each new student had received at orientation, the one that contained all the rules they'd agreed to abide by.

Summers listened to Morgan's outburst impassively, then looked at the three students head-on. "If you would," he said gravely, "explain the thought processes that brought you here today."

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Vicky followed her boyfriend into the Headmaster's office, her hands behind her back. The worst he can do is expel us... Which would send me back to Chicago, where I had been suspended due to jerks. Okay, let's try and not screw this up, she thought to herself. Before she could even utter a word Morgan blurted out what she assumed he hoped would deflect blame from her and their friends.

"Actually, it was mine. I, um, stepped out on a short patrol because I couldn't sleep. On my way back, Brannagh snuck up on me and carted me off to faerie before I knew what was happening. Next thing I remember is standing before what looked like my old my old school's auditorium, giving a speech and 'Overshadow' breaking in."

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Brian followed the other two teenagers into Summers' office, keeping his mouth shut and trying to step softly. He kept his hands behind his back, fidgeting with his fingers as Victoria talked. When she finished her story, he cleared his throat and stepped forward. "Um, I don't know who Brannagh is and I don't know a lot of fairies. Cro-- Morgan woke me up one day and told me that Vic -- that Victoria had been kidnapped." The young man was already sweating under Summers' hard gaze. "He was hatting up to go rescue her, so I got dressed and followed him. Um, on the other side I knocked out a swordswoman, then guarded the portal back home." He scowled suddenly and glared at the floor, gesturing vaguely in the air. It seemed that his anger at the events had pushed through his fear of the headmaster. "Then I got sucker-punched by this fairy sorceress and she froze me in a block of ice. When they got back, Morgan and Victoria took her out pretty fast while John cut me out. Then we all came back here." He stumbled to a halt and looked up at Summers again. "Um. Yeah. That's what happened."

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Morgan felt a rather odd feeling. Like an ice bucket had been dumped down his spine; it felt somewhat akin to when his dad had busted him sneaking home and finally found out about his attempts at becoming a hero back home. The cat was out of the bag, the chickens had come home to roost, he was capital-B Busted. He took a deep breath, and spoke slowly, carefully picking his words;

"It's...a few weeks back, I was on a patrol; and I got suckered by a fae Lady into thinking that a pair of spirits had shown up thanks to my mother's boasting to take me down. It turned out that the two of them were a couple, a fire and earth spirit, who had come to Freedom City to find a safe place to stay. I...the husband, Ignatio, told me about this vicious Lady who had caused them to flee, and this Autumn Child Branagh, a kid kidnapped and trained by her as a troubleshooter, was going to be after them, and..."

He explained the subsequent race to find Ignatio's wife, as well as Iggy's kidnapping and the brief tussle with Branagh. The words fairly tumbled out, actually; once he started telling the story, he couldn't really stop himself. Of course, he omitted the fact that he'd gotten a bit reckless and jumped Ignatio first (he didn't think the Headmaster needed to know he'd been tricked so thoroughly), but other than that he spilled the whole story.

"Branagh and the Lady...I guess they kind of had it in for me after that. It's my fault she got taken, and if I'd had any sense I'd probably have kept the others out of danger in the first place. But I didn't, we went in, we took Vickie back, and nearly got killed anyway getting past that Lady; if we hadn't cheated we probably would have. And now she's probably determined to get back at all of us."

Morgan bowed his head, thoroughly abashed, and spoke the last sentence very quietly, expecting the Headmaster to lower the boom as soon as he finished talking.

"It was a crazy, and reckless thing to do...but we did it anyway. And I'd probably do it again if a friend was in danger. It's my fault, Headmaster, don't punish them for it."

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Silence hung in the air for a few moments after Morgan's lengthy explanation. "I am aware of what happened," Summers said coolly, his manner indicating that he was already quite familiar with the details of their antics, perhaps as soon as they'd transpired. "I'm far more interested in the thought process that led any of you to take the actions that you did."

He tapped one long finger on the student handbook, regarding the trio levelly. "This school has rules, rules that you agreed to abide by when you became students here. These rules are not arbitrary, nor are they intended as a challenge for you to prove yourselves against. They are for your protection. Leaving campus for a solo patrol," he began, fixing his attention on Wisp, "without so much as informing anyone where you were going, was foolish in the extreme. This is not Chicago, and superpowers will not protect you, as you found out."

His attention went to Morgan next. "You learned that someone you care about was placed in deadly danger because of your prior rash actions," he summed up pithily. "At that point, you had access to all of the resources of Claremont, the faculty, the more senior students, myself. Through those channels, you could have had assistance and counsel from any number of experienced heroes to handle a life and death situation. Instead, you did exactly as Brannagh hoped you would. You took the situation as an insult to your pride and rushed in yourself, endangering not only yourself but Victoria, Brian and John as well. You left an open dimensional portal behind you. It is sheer luck that the consequences were not far more severe."

Finally, he looked at Brian. "Your loyalty to your friends is commendable," he began, though it didn't sound like much of a commendation, "but your methods are not. You saw that Morgan was in emotional disarray and perhaps not thinking clearly. Instead of providing a clear head and sound advice, you followed along with his plans, and in the process contributed to the worsening of the situation. Loyalty does not mean sacrificing your own intellect," he said crisply.

Summers looked at each student again, meeting their eyes. "Your actions here have consequences. Luckily those consequences were not fatal, this time. What do you each feel would be the most appropriate discipline for me to assign to all of you?"

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Vicky felts her blood run cold and her stomach do rather uncomfortable flops. Steeling herself she met the headmaster's eyes, "I screwed up and will face the consequences. Though, I don't recall what the guidelines would be in the book. Lacking that memory, I will abide by any ruling you hand down on the matter."

I hope I haven't just signed my death warrant... Maybe he'll go easy on us and only make us write [/i'I will not sneak out for solo patrols/invasions to faerie' on a blackboard several hundred times, she thought to herself, trying to keep her thoughts off her face.

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Morgan's response was actually rather thoughtful. He crossed his arms, and placed his chin in his hand, tilting his head to the side as he pondered the headmaster's question. It wasn't the first time he'd heard those particular words, and it likely wouldn't be the last; and he'd learned that considering your response was generally a smart thing to do. He pondered detention or clapping erasers, but truth be told, they didn't seem appropriate given the magnitude of their screw-up. He heard Wisp's response and concurred with it mentally, there wasn't anything to do right now but face the music, no avoiding punishment on this one...his head jerked up as an inspiration hit him, and he blurted one word out without thinking.

"Training."

The teen caught himself, looking somewhat abashed, but forged onwards; he'd already run through the worst-case scenario several dozen times in his head, and he felt fairly numb to it. What happened, happened; might as well go for broke.

"Not just training like my morning runs or exercises, but real training. Backbreaking work, until the muscles and the mind scream. Work to the bone, until we beg for mercy, then pile more work on. Drill out that recklessness we showed there, and put proper discipline in. Work on teamwork and our abilities...all three of us have skills and abilities we're going to be using as heroes, we've already used them as heroes, right? Ensure that we can't pull a stunt like that again by making sure we have the skills and knowledge not to pull a stunt like that again."

Morgan Crowe shrugged at that point, waiting for Summers to either nod or give them that spine-chilling stare. Yeah, definitley beyond the point of knee-shaking panic and terror. Well, it might come back if he kept staring like that, but he'd already started talking...

"Since we're going to be punished, it might as well be practical and constructive. Frankly, I think it'd be impossible to stop us from trying to be heroes anyway."

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Brian fought down a smile as he caught the numerous 'we's' in Morgan's speech. It seemed that his friend was all too willing to extend his own punishment to the group. Still, he was doing better than Brian himself; he stared at his feet, trying to think up an appropriate punishment for someone with more loyalty than sense. Wait, loyalty? He looked up at Summers and spoke up. "Sir, are you saying that it's a bad thing that I stood next to my friends? Because I really don't think that's something that I want to change."

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Summers steepled his fingers and addressed Brian first. "Loyalty is an excellent quality that will serve you well. Blind loyalty, on the other hand, the sort that asks no questions and makes no judgments, does no service to you or to your friends. Loyalty alone cannot substitute for an analytical mind tempered by loyalty, one that assesses a situation and makes good judgments even when your friends are not."

"Very well then," he said to the threesome, flattening his hands on the glossy desk. "After the dinner hour tonight, you are all to report to Mr. Archer in the gymnasium for training. You will report to him again at six tomorrow morning, and again in the evening. On Saturday, you will report at 7am and train for as long as he chooses. You will continue with this schedule, in addition to your other classwork, until he and I are satisfied that you can be trusted to go out on the streets without getting yourselves or anyone else killed. Until that time," he added firmly, "there is to be no unauthorized patrolling, do I make myself clear? And if your enemies show themselves again, Mister Crowe, I expect you to inform your RA or the staff."

He gave them all a piercing look, the sort that would turn blood to ice water in the veins of criminals and students alike. "You may have the makings of heroes," he told them. "You managed to pull a difficult situation back from the brink. But if I see you back in my office for anything but a commendation, you may be looking for your hero training elsewhere." Obviously comfortable that they understood, he leaned back in his chair. "You may go."

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"Thank you Headmaster," Vicky said and lead the exit from his office.

Once outside, she relaxed visibly. "Now that wasn't so bad. Though if the workout schedule you suggested is as bad as you just described, Morgan, I think he'll be fairly annoyed at me when I go through a week's worth of the school's pantry..."

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Crow was out of that office like a shot the second Vickie stepped out, hot on her heels. He did manage to stammer out a thanks to Summers on his way out, however; and only caught the tail end of her comment. His heart was beating very quickly indeed, as the implications of this new training schedule hit his imagination. For a brief period, he was tempted to grin and do a little dance, and that was then swiftly followed by a distinct sense of horror; his dad had mentioned the grueling standards Summers had set for himself way back when, and it wouldn't surprise him if he'd impose the same on them. Morgan let his shoulders sag a bit, but avoided commenting on that fact to his friends; he was used to murderous training, best they enjoy their little bit of freedom before they learned about that the hard way.

"Forget eating after the workout, right now I think I could go through the entire school's food stock..."

Yep, they're gonna kill me.

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Brian followed the other two teens out of Summers office, keeping quiet until he was quite sure that they were beyond the headmaster's hearing. Only then did he let his shoulders slouch and sway to the side, bumping into Crowe and pushing him into a wall not-so-lightly. "Great man," he said, scowling. "Extra training, all day on Saturdays. Dude, I was working my way up to just writing a paper!" In fact the idea of researching a paper on White Rose and White Thorn had just occurred to him, but with the arrogance of youth and hindsight he was sure it would've worked.

He walked a few more steps, scrubbing one hand through his short hair before he turned back to Morgan. "You're doing laundry after all these training sessions," he said, pointing a warning finger. "For, like, the entire semester, man."

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