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An Irregular Meeting (IC)


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6:00 PM

Claremont Academy

Bayview, Freedom City

Morgan reclined under the elm tree on the quad, looking up into the branches with a distinct expression of suspicion. The tree was watching him. He knew it. It was waiting for him to try something. Then BOOM, ankle in a branch. Oh, but he was too clever for it this time. He'd walked to the tree. Chew on that, you leafy terror!

It then occurred to him that being under a tree with which he was developing a professional rivalry might not be the smartest idea; particularly when falling branches might be in the offing.

Not for the first time, Crow wondered precisely why he'd asked his friends to meet him under this tree at this particular time. The past few days, an idea he and Wisp had had over sandwiches in a coffee house seemed more and more sensible, particularly given the murderous training they'd all been taking together. He, Brian, John, and Vicky were becoming more close-knit, in a way. A really irregular crew, but they knew each others' skills and flaws better than anyone at Claremont (except maybe Mr. Summers). And groups like the Next-Gen had been formed from stuff like that...he sighed and idly watched the midafternoon clouds float by through the leaves.

Nothing to do but wait and see.

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Vicky landed in the tree, the smoke clearing to reveal her sitting on one of the branches where it met the trunk, having attempted to anticipate her boyfriend's usual stop. She was almost disappointed when he was standing beneath the tree instead of hanging from a limb. "Hey Handsome," she called from the boughs. In another swirl of crimson and snowy smoke, she was standing next to Morgan. "So who do you think will get here next, Brian or John?"

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John looked up from the book he was reading in the library when the alarm on his watched beeped at him. Quickly silencing it, he placed the book back on the shelf and headed for the meeting that Morgan had asked him to attend. The adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson were very entertaining, he had to admit. Hopefully he would be able to finish the book soon. By the time John had arrived, Victoria and Morgan were already there. What had intrigued John the most was that Morgan had not specified what the nature of the meeting was to be about. Numerous ideas for the reasons of the meet had crossed his mind, a good majority of them dealing with the trees' penchant for ensnaring Morgans' ankle.

"Good afternoon Mister Morgan and Miss Victoria." He said as he sat down on the grass a little ways away and used the nearby decorative planter as a convenient backrest.

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Vicky waved as John made his way over, "Good afternoon John. Sorry, don't think we're going to get to play human pinata with Crow and the tree today. Though, given what Archer's been putting us through, that might be something he has up his sleeve for the next round of training."

She reached into a pocket of her jeans and pulled out a pocket notebook and tossed it to John, "Some weaponry ideas that are a little outside the norm. A couple wrist blaster designs, hardlight knives, that sort of thing. Drew the concept art myself, I figure if you can imagine it, you can make it and make it work."

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John caught the notebook easily and flipped through it, memorizing each page before returning it back to her. "The more complicated the weapon the harder it is to 'create' mentally. That is the main limitation of that particular power, but melee weapons due to their simplicity are usually within the scope of my abilities."

He created a throwing-knife that cast odd shadows as its internal luminescence matched the typical blue glow of his combat armor. With a twist of his thumb on the blade, it separated into three duplicate knives. "As you requested, a trio of hard-light knives."

He twirled one of the knifes around the fingers of his left hand as he posed his next question. "Am I correct in assuming that we are still awaiting the arrival of Mister Brian? Or will anybody else be joining us here today?"

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Crow leaned back against the tree, stroking his chin as he looked at the other two. He mused on Wisp's sharing of those pictures, and Myrmidon's quick creation of them; his friend had really come out of his shell recently, that display of his abilities was a definite sign of it. A leaf fell on the teen's nose, and he blew it off, idly watching it float to the ground.

"We're just waiting for Brian; I think he had a date or somethin'. Should be here in a few, tho', I promised pizza for afters."

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Brian was, at the moment, studying chemistry in the library. Or at least he was trying to study; Micron, Empress, and a couple other students from his grade level were a couple tables over, heads bent over textbooks and whispering intently to each other. Brian's seat, by chance or luck, was in just the perfect position to observe all the females, and it was proving to be a distraction to his academics. Eventually he stood and picked up his books, carrying them outside for a breath of fresh air. He passed John on the way, moving like he always did -- intently and with purpose. The young man wondered where his friend was going, then suddenly remembered Morgan's meeting.

The teen was a few minutes later then the psychic soldier, having stopped by his and Morgan's dorm room to drop off his books. Still, as he descended to the meeting spot wreathed in a blood-red aura, he smiled at the other four present. "Dudes! And dudette. Pizza, right!"

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Vicky nodded, "I can imagine that John, though practicing something easy doesn't improve your abilities as much as trying something hard. In the past few months, my lifting capacity has grown from half a ton to somewhere in the neighborhood of a tank because I keep upping my weight every couple weeks." She watched John's triple-knife display, "Very nice John. I still get a little rush seeing your powers at work, wondering what you'll pull out next."

"Pizza soon Brian. There's a reason Morgan asked us here," she said. After a second she asked with a playful smile, "So, what kept ya? Rae and Gir's study group make you lose track of time?"

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John nodded. "After the incident during training last month, I had indeed lost a portion of my abilities. So any extra practice can give me further insights as to the nature of my new-found powers." He recalled that day when an after a combo attack from Wisp and Crow had staggered him, he tried to heal the damage with one of his duplicates only to find himself losing consciousness. The last thing he remembered before blacking out was the feeling like his mind was on fire. He had woken up in the infirmary a week later, with Summers informing him that he had a concussion and coupled with his using his psionic abilities, resulted in the incident. Since then he had been unable to call forth duplicates like he used to, but new abilities he had never had before started to manifest themselves. He considered himself very lucky that he did not wind up permanently brain dead, as he recalled that had happened to some of the other clones when having cranial trauma.

He snapped his focus back to reality, unwilling to recall further those dark days. "If I may ask, Mister Morgan, why have you gathered all of us here?"

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Brian's aura snapped off as his feet touched the ground, but at Vick's suggestion his cheeks colored and he glanced down at his feet. "I'm... I'm gonna ask Rae out. I swear I am. It's just... You girls go around in packs! It's like that movie they showed us in Bio, with the lions and the zebra? The lions can't see the zebra when they're in a herd, it's just a solid mass. I can't talk to just Rae, it's Rae and Gir and Ronnie and whoever else is around at the time! It's intimidating, man! Doubly so when one of them is a dinosaur!"

Brian fell quiet as John started talking, staring down at his feet again for a minute before walking over and clasping the other man by the bicep. "Man, I feel like an ass. Are you okay, John? Nothing... nothing else happened because of it?"

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"Rae's expressed interest in the gamer club, not sure how serious she is about joining but she's asked about it. Maybe I can put in a good word for you that way," she replied, obviously enjoying both the chance to tease Brian and play match maker.

As he John spoke, the cheerful smile fell from her face. "John, I know I've said it before but I want to say it again. I'm sorry man," Vicky said, her head bowed as she spoke. "I'm still having trouble controlling those energy blasts that started about the time you guys come to rescue me. It's getting better but still..."

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John held up a hand to silence Miss Victoria. "I do not and will not ever hold anyone at fault or responsible for that. These things can happen in combat, whether in routine training for fighting for your very life." Lowering his hand he continued. "I do not dwell on it so neither should any of you." John looked over to Brian. "I am functional. Which is about he best answer that I can give, since I myself do not know entire ramifications yet." He stood up, "I have gained some benefits as well." He used his powers to change his attire into the attire of of the the characters from they movie they had watched recently. John stood there in a pinstripe suit, fedora, with a Thompson sub-machine gun...looking like he had walked straight out of The Untouchables. A split second later he was wearing his normal combat armor, before reverting his clothing back to normal as he sat back down. "It will be enjoyable finding out the scope of these new abilities."

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Crow nodded, then clambered to his feet. He stroked his chin again, then looked at his friends. For a brief moment, he thought of just ordering that pizza and having a night out, rather than propose what would probably cause them to fall over laughing their butts off. Then he shrugged and started talking, picking his words carefully.

"Not sure I can say anything that the others haven't already said, John; besides, I think you guys'd kick my ass if I didn't get down to buisness. Okay...you guys know we've been working together a lot...like, a real lot. We've gotten real familiar with the way each of us think, right? And we know a lot of each other's powers, the tricks we like to pull, and we've worked out a lot of tactics and strategies revolving around us being in close proximity. I...uh..."

He paused, collecting his thoughts; the teen didn't stammer, but his mouth opened and closed a couple of times. Then it just came tumbling out.

"I think we're pretty close to being on the level of the Next-Gen, guys. We're a team, capital-T-Team. Not just a bunch of kids out for patrols, but we've actually got something serious going on here. And I don't think we've really...picked up on that."

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Brian let out a deep breath and nodded at Vicky. "Thanks, Vic. I'd owe you one."

Morgan's idea of forming an official team wasn't what Brian had been expecting to hear. "A team, man? I dunno. I mean, we do work well together, and Mr. Archer's training sessions has been a real big help, but a team? Like Young Freedom or Next Gen? That's a pretty big step. I mean, don't we need to get it approved by Summers or something? I doubt he's our best friend in the world, even now." The young man walked up to Morgan's leafy nemesis and started picking at the bark. "Besides, we're still banned from patrolling, aren't we? What can we do as a team if we can't even patrol?"

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"нет проблем," she replied in easy Russian. At his blank look she translated, "No problem."

Vicky nodded, glad Morgan was getting to the point. She'd expected this for a while, given her relationship with Morgan and all. "Brian does raise a good point, though I think Headmaster Summers might let us resume patrols if we did so as a team. Probably with continued training with Mr. Archer," she said as she rested her head on her boyfriend's shoulder, her snow white hair falling across her eyes.

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John quietly listened as Morgan made the reason for this meeting known, and Brian along with Victoria voiced their thoughts as well.

"In all actuality that is why Mister summers is giving us training, Mister Brian. He is not the type of man that would train us on a whim and he has shown continued interest in our progress as individuals and as a group." John pointed at the senior dorms. "In addition Young Freedom is lost some members due to their graduating, not to mention that Next-Gen have not been active for some time. Claremont does not have a full roster at the moment."

A light wind rustled through the trees, ruffling his hair. "In any situation this is a decision that cannot be made lightly." He shot an upward glace to Brian. "In any case, in my opinion the reason that we are not allowed to go on patrol is that we as a team aren't really suited for missions of that nature." John pointed to each one in turn. "Wheelman" was directed at Wisp, "Support" at Brian, "Fixer" at crow, and the last comment was directed at himself "Pointman. We are more along the lines of a tactical fire-team rather than a squad of heroes, and I think that Mister Summers has been training us with that in mind." He looked at the others and shrugged. "Though I may be suffering from over-thinking the matter as well. At the very least we should ask Mister Summers directly."

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"I like to think of myself as the big gun," Brian said wistfully. He let the silence stretch for a minute, then fixed his friends with a wide grin. "C'mon, like I'm gonna say no? I've been dreaming about joining a team all year! Of course," he added, "I thought it would be Next Gen or even Young Freedom, not making my own." Brian glanced around and stepped close to the other three teens. "So, uh, are we going for pizza before or after we talk to Summers? 'Cause I don't want to be dreading it while we're eating, but I don't know if I'm gonna have much appetite afterwards."

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Morgan shrugged, pushing himself off the tree and walking up to his compatriots, throwing an arm over Brian's shoulders and giving a somewhat weak grin to Vicky and John.

"Well, I dunno if we're qualified for official status, but guys...I don't think we need it. At least not yet. We know what each other can do, and we work together anyway; heck, we train every day to complement one another. We aren't Next-Gen or Young Freedom, 'cause we're not...we're...I guess we're kind of the odd ones out around here. If they're the main force, we're...irregulars."

The word kind of hung in the air for a bit, and he cocked his head to the side. A somewhat wry smile creased Crow's features, and he shook his head.

"Aaaand I just got way too dramatic there, didn't I. Yeah, pizza first."

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As everyone rose to their feet Vicky stopped them, "Guys, hold up. You know Archer's been working me on this. Everyone hold hands." Once they had formed into a small circle with Morgan to her right and John to her left she closed her eyes in concentration as she called up her will. The boys' combined weight was obviously, if slightly, over her current 'no-effort' threshold so she needed a moment to concentrate. When she was ready, a large cloud of smoke replaced the four of them and seconds later they stood a little ways off from the front gate and gatehouse. Taking deep breathes as if she'd just run a mile she nodded with satisfaction. "And thus concludes my workout for today," she said with a smirk.

Reaching into her pocket she pulled out her phone and tossed it to Crow before leaning against a nearby tree, "I'll take a pepperoni, sausage, and green pepper sheet pizza."

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Brian glanced around as they reappeared, noting thankfully that they hadn't gone far. It seemed like short-distance teleports weren't much of a problem; it was the long-distance hops that upset his stomach. "If Vicky's paying for it, I'll have my own pepperoni pizza," he said, winking at the white-haired girl. "Otherwise, I'll throw in on hers and pick off the peppers."

Walking off a bit, he threw an arm around John's shoulder. "So what exactly did you mean by 'support'? I blow things up, not heal them or build structures. If this was a video game, I'd be the guy with the huge gatling gun or the rocket launcher, not running around with a medpac."

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"Oh... we weren't ordering individual pies?"

"I'm guessing but I'm thinking he meant coverfire. Or blocking incoming fire given your force field. And John, you forgot one other role I can fill, recon. Training from a CIA and a KGB agent goes a long way towards helping in that department," she said, her eyes closed while she laid back. "Though, it might not be a bad idea for one or more of us to pick up some first aid training, if not for ourselves, then for any injured civilians."

"That or see if John can make a working version of the Medi-Gun from Team Fortress Two," she added with a smile.

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John looked at his friends and said the magical words that all teenagers love to hear. "I will handle the payment. Please order what you want."

"Miss Victoria, your range has indeed increased significantly while transporting heavy loads. Congratulations."

Turning to Brian, "Support in the parlance that I am using is indeed heavy firepower. Support personnel in a squad setting usually carries the heavy and/or specialty munitions. Besides, if you think your repertoire only extends to mere destruction you are very mistaken. You have flight and and an assortment of other useful skills. In any case, the designation I gave you was intended as a general overview not pigeonholing you into a set of parameters."

"As for your concern Miss Victoria, like my interpretation of support; a wheelman covers a great many things, from entry to extraction methods, to escape and evasion. Covert ops falls within your bailiwick under my phrasing. Your concern of medical expertise is noted...I would need train for that. I would not like to try it tabula rasa and see what would occur."

John extracted himself from under Brians' arm and headed over beside Morgan. "Per your suggestion Mister Morgan, yes, we should satiate ourselves first. I would like the German thin crust pizza." John extracted his wallet as he continued, pulling out a few bills and passing them to Morgan. "I do like the idea of an irregular force. Military history is rifle with various groups that fit that description changing the tides of battle or the fortunes of a war. The name is indeed quite evocative on its own as well."

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"Thank you John," Vicky said at the blond's compliment, then pulling a small wallet from her pocket held a couple twenties up for Morgan, "However I'm not sticking you with my tab. What I'm ordering will probably cost as much as the rest of you combined."

To Morgan she added, "Let's add a dozen medium boneless buffalo wings too."

"I guess if covert ops falls into my purview, I should probably work on my control and accuracy with the energy blasts," she said, powder blue energy with ripples of black playing over and across one upturned palm.

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Brian dug his wallet out and extracted a pair of bills with all the care of an archeological dig. "I'll just take a peperoni. But if someone wants to order some cheesy bread, I'll totally help you eat it." He handed to the money to Morgan -- who was apparently the bag man for this run -- and addressed the group. "You know, I've got some first-aid training, from Scouts. I can't regrow limbs, but if Crimson Katana slices you up a bit, I can put more than a band-aid and a kiss on it."

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Morgan looked at the others, then at the pile of cash stuffed in his hands. Then a wide, positively goofy grin crossed over his face, and he started laughing. Enough so that he actually nearly fell over. Pocketing the money, he wiped a tear from his eye, trying not to break out in chuckles as he talked.

"Heh...you guys are awesome. Y'know that? Really. And for the record, Bri's totally the Heavy, John's gotta be the Engie, or maybe the Demoman after Avalon, Vicky's our Sniper, and I've gotta be the suave and dashing Spy."

He posed somewhat, miming holding himself as a gentleman of wealth and taste. Before nearly falling over laughing again.

"Thanks, guys. I'll be right back with the pizza!"

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