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Unfair Science Fair

May 22, 2012

It was a big day at Joseph Clark High School; luckily Keith LaMarr was a very big man. The largest public high school in Lincoln was today hosting the 23rd annual George Washington Carver Science Fair, a cavalcade of the best and brightest from all over South Freedom. Kids from around there didn't get a lot of opportunities, so the chance for budding young geniuses to strut their stuff in public before potential college scouts was very compelling. It helped that today the school had managed to secure a celebrity judge for the GWC Fair: the world-famous gadgeteer Miss Americana!

A lot of this was outside of Keith's area of expertise, of course, but few teachers at any high school in the area could bring a crowd of parents, students, and onlookers to heel with a look with as much ease as Mr. LaMarr the civics teacher. So he was on scene early to help with organization as Joseph Clark's kids got their displays set up and more kids began to arrive for the fair. It was a big day for everybody, with palpable excitement on the eager faces of the young scholars. Nearby was Patrick Grayson, an up-and-coming young senior whose intelligence had vaulted him several grades up, his research project having let him construct a minature gravitic generator like what Daedalus used to power his armor. The floating silver sphere was just a toy, but it bespoke good things for the kid who'd built it on his table using scraps.

Keith had had special reason to pay attention to Patrick, and that reason was there too. Patrick's grandpa was watching his son work with pride, the grey-haired older man with his shock of hair and mustache vaguely slightly resembling Don King. Peter Grayson, aka the Mauler, had been a recurring foe for 1-800-JUSTICE back in the day, but the former prizefighter had abandoned his criminal ways after marrying Patrick's gramma Rose Marie. Pete had recognized Keith, of course, but the now- bespectacled older man had been very careful to stay close by his grandson rather than wander too close to his old enemy.

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Meanwhile, across town, Glow and Citizen were flying along from the Claremont campus towards Miss Americana's laboratory; her facility one at the Lab, not the one at Archetech. It was Glow's 'ride-along day' for Miss Americana, part of her heroic training, which luckily coincided with Citizen's weekly day spent with his mentor. "You'll have a _great time_ with Miss A," Citizen was reassuring Glow, obviously looking very happy to be there. He didn't hang out with Kristen too much, but she was pretty cool, and of course Miss A was the coolest. "We're not doing much today, just some stuff around Freedom City, but she's great to hang out with. Her lab's got great gadgets, and she's just neat." He hadn't had a chance to hang out with Miss A much (as opposed to Gina) lately, and so he was looking forward to today quite a lot.

Glow had heard of Miss Americana, of course, who hadn't heard of the beautiful, all-American genius whose charitable works made her so popular? From cybernetic limbs for injured kids all the way through blasting city-controlling abominations from the depths of space, Miss Americana was all right. It made a lot of sense that a famous science hero like Miss A had a cybernetic sidekick like Citizen, for all that he hadn't talked much about where he came from.

Miss A had left the window of her laboratory open against the comfortable late spring day (since this was more a traveling day than a working day), and Glow and Citizen flew right in.

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Maybe it was the way limited resources tended to spark creativity or maybe it was just a matter of living in a city where 'impossible' was a challenge rather than a dead end, but LaMarr felt that he'd seen more than the average teacher's share of truly gifted, inventive minds over the years. There'd been that unusual business with Lamont Desmaris earlier in the year, the extent of which had come as something of a surprise, while Patrick Grayson's genius had revealed itself a little more gradually than that. Distinguishing certain fields as 'super science' had strictly speaking fallen out of favour in the education community of late but LaMarr was an old-fashioned sort in some ways and his decades of experience with the stranger side of Freedom City had left him with the gut feeling that some technologies and their underlying principles were simply in a different league from your day to day marvels.

He'd have recognized the erstwhile Mauler immediately even if he hadn't known to expect him; age withstanding a life of profession fighting inside and outside of the ring left a distinctive mark on a man. LaMarr was hardly one to deny someone the right to give up the life and find happiness with someone they loved, however, and his days of carrying grudges were for the most part behind him. "Grayson," he greeted, sauntering up to the older man in the manner only someone with more than a thousand pounds of superdense muscle could really manage and giving Patrick a small nod before turning his attention back to his grandfather. "Seems retirement suits you."

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"Hi kids," Miss Americana said affably as the pair of students flew in. "Just give me one second and I'll be with you." Even though the gorgeous paragon was dressed for a public appearance in a tailored suit of rose and periwinkle, she was as usual elbow-deep in the innards of some experiment and looking pleased to be there. Using the lasers in her fingertips as tiny spot welders, she finished fusing the circuits in the artificial leg she was building, then attached it to the body frame next to the table. At the push of a button, it bent and straightened, the foot flexing and rotating as though it were attached to a human being and having a good stretch.

"Much better," she decided with a nod, then turned to the teens. "All right, ready to go to the big science fair? Lots of young people are waiting to show off what they can do."

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Glow seemed a little subdued as she flew along next to Citizen, but nerves about meeting Miss Americana had nothing to do with it. Flight was still a relatively new skill for the teenaged telekinetic and she still felt rather more like she was simply hurling herself through the sky than actually flying. While she still chatted back and forth a little the concentration required to keep herself aloft made her quieter than she might otherwise have been.

A little relieved to have arrived she dropped lightly onto her feet near Miss Americana's workbench, then watched curiously as the well dressed heroine finished up her work. "Hi! It's really nice to meet you," she said with a smile. "I'm really looking forward to seeing the science fair. I haven't been to one before."

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Citizen's chest emblem seemed to glow just a little brighter around Miss Americana. "We're ready, Miss A," he told his mentor brightly. "I've heard Claremont sometimes has science fairs, you should ask Ms. Harcourt if she's going to run one this year or next," offered Sharl to his fellow student. "I'm not as smart as one of our real gadgeteer students, but I think I could come up with something good if the chance was there." For Miss A's benefit, and to prove he'd been paying attention to his lessons, he added, "I've emailed the school so they know we're on schedule and will be arriving shortly, and I've made sure to read over info on the school online so I'll have something to say to the students. I know Keith LaMarr will be there as part of the faculty. That's the hero Wail," he added for Glow's benefit.

He was obviously very comfortable in Miss A's lab, studying her work with some interest as they talked. "You know, if we have time, Glow might appreciate a ride in the gravcar, and so would the kids in Lincoln, I bet. They don't get to see a lot of flying cars."

he instant-messaged Miss A, ""

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Up close, Keith could see that while age had caught up with Peter as it had for most men, good luck, or maybe time spent around superpeople, had kept him from the typical tremors or other problems associated with men who'd spent their lives getting punched in the face (or having their eardrums blown out, as the case may be) by superheroes. He was old, but his back was straight for all that. "LaMarr." He'd tried to avoid a meeting, but didn't flinch from this one now that he had it. "Can't say as I'm glad to see most people from the old days. But I'm glad it's you." He offered a weather-beaten hand. "My grandbaby tells me you're the only thing keeping the old days alive for most of these children."

"Graaamps," said Patrick in what was the affectionate exasperation of many a teenage boy for a beloved authority figure, peering up from his work through his glasses. "I said Mr. LaMarr was the only teacher who ever made civics and history and stuff sound interesting." Like a lot of smart kids, Patrick didn't mesh terribly well with most of his classmates: luckily with his grades and prospects, he had a good ticket at getting an education after his high school career. "If I have to take that stuff, it might as well sound like it's about me, not just about some old white men in a textbook."

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"Yes, that's a good idea," Miss A told Sharl without missing a beat. "I've got a box full of certificates and awards to hand out, and taking the car will make that easier. Come right this way." She led the students out of the lab and through the halls, busy with scientists and researchers going about their days, winding up at a large glass-walled elevator. The trip to the roof was quick, and soon they were arriving at the top of the science pyramid, where a sort of improvised garage housed some of ArcheTech's flying machines. The gravcar itself was near the front of the enclosure, and looked for all the world like a white convertible with the top down. "Get in and buckle up," she told them as she tucked the awards in the trunk, then climbed into the driver's seat herself. A transparent plastic bubble rose over the car when she turned it on, protecting them from wind as the car lifted, hovered, then took off.

"So Glow," Miss A said, perfectly nonchalant as the car rocketed through the sky. "You have an interest in science? What field do you like most?"

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"You have to take 'that stuff'," LaMarr confirmed with an authoritative rumble undercut by a hint of a smirk pulling at the corner of his square jaw. It was difficult to challenge Patrick enough to keep him invested in most of his schoolwork, but there was something about being related by a mountain of a man who had been present with fists swinging that made history somehow more engaging for many teens. He accepted the elder Grayson's proffered hand, shaking it firmly. It was a little strange to be making the friendly gesture with an old foe but time had a way of providing perspective on rivalries that had seemed more important at the time.

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"Okay, this has to be the coolest thing I've seen in a while..." was Glow's assessment of the Grav car, as she strapped herself in and settled back to enjoy the ride. "I like science," she replied as she leaned over close to the plastic bubble to check out the view. "It's not exactly my strongest subject though. I guess physics is my favourite field. It's pretty interesting, especially when I get to learn about how I can bend some of the rules."

"Chemistry is fun when we get to blow things up too!" she chuckled. "But really I just like finding out how things work. Even if it's a little bit beyond me some of the time. I'd love to know how the gravcar works!"

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"Mr. LaMarr, I need you," said Vice-Principal Laura Jennifer, appearing at LaMarr's flank and pulling him away from his conversation with his old enemy. The former Marine had risen from the ranks of the school's perpetually embattled art department, perhaps because she'd never quite stopped seeing her work as an extension of war. "Miss Americana and her students are arriving, and I'd like you as part of the welcoming committee. You are our most famous staff member."

---

There wasn't really a point to Citizen strapping in, so instead he fixed his emitter to the dashboard as the gravcar took off. "The gravcar uses a variant of Lor technology," he told Glow, "powering a mass-nullifier off a terrestrial electric motor." Miss A could have said it better, and maybe a little more accurately, but Sharl wasn't above showing off a little for the Australian girl. "If there weren't so many restrictions on alien technology, Miss A could be making these for every car in Freedom City."

The flight to Joseph Clark was easy enough, the famously efficient and fast-thinking Freedom City air traffic control easily handling a flying car heading through the skies of Freedom City. Sharl was lost for a few moments in thoughts of home, remembering family trips in vehicles not too dissimilar from this, and only really started paying attention after Miss A had set the car down inside the school's open courtyard.

"Miss Americana, I'm so glad you could make it!" said the Vice-Principal as she greeted them with what looked like a rare smile on her lined face. "And your students as well. From students to faculty, everyone here at Joseph Clark been looking forward to your visit. This is my colleague, Keith LaMarr."

"Now, how did you want to do this? Announce yourself, or should I do that for you?"

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Miss Americana shook the vice-principle's hand warmly, and then LaMarr's as well. "I'm happy to be here," she assured them both. "I don't think there's anything more important than encouraging young people to pursue excellence and innovation in science. The science fair winner today could be my most promising new researcher in a few years." She took a step back, gesturing to the kids. "This is my student assistant, Citizen, and this is Glow. They're going to walk around with me and help hand out the awards, if that's all right with you." For all Sharl was quite fond of it, Miss Americana rarely used the term "sidekick" except in jest.

"It looks like the fair is well underway already. For the moment, I'd like to just walk through and look at the exhibits without any big announcement. Once the judging is completed, I'll be on hand to distribute the awards and certificates, of course." Miss A's smile was warm and genuine, and only deep inside and far away did Gina squirm from the never-changing sights and smells of high school, and all the unpleasant memories it carried with it. Things were very different now, and it wasn't as though anything bad would happen today. High school was quite a different thing when you were one of the popular girls.

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LaMarr shook their guest adjudicator's hand with a practiced skill for coming across as welcoming rather than intimidating despite easily engulfing the patriotic paragon's comparatively dainty fingers. "Announcement or not, the flying car might have given you away," the veteran teacher and hero rumbled with a faint trace of amusement, glancing at the fantastical device. As someone who didn't get much use out of vehicles of any sort, he wasn't one to be overly impressed by such things but he had to admit that it wasn't the sort of thing frequently parked outside the school.

He spent a little more time sizing up Miss Americana herself. Obviously she was gorgeous - he might not have been interested, but he wasn't blind - and if her public image was to be believed she was one of the great minds of the day. LaMarr knew a thing or two about public image, however, and it stuck him as interesting that someone with a successful private technologies company but without any overt government or military ties would cultivate such a wholesome, patriotic persona. Then again, maybe the girl just loves her country, he allowed internally, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth if a celebrity was willing to spend time encouraging his students.

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That a high-tech piece of equipment like a mass-nullifier was efficient enough to run off a simple electric motor was quite impressive, but Kristin really didn't have too much time to ask about it further as the gravcar descended into the courtyard.

She climbed out of the car and stood behind Miss Americana as the heroine was greeted first by the vice-principal and then LaMarr. It wasn't her school and Glow definitely wasn't a student here but it still came naturally to show deference to teachers, so when it was her turn to be introduced she shook hands with both and quietly replied "It's nice to meet you ma'am, Mister LaMarr."

Some of the science projects on display looked quite impressive from a distance, so she was quite looking forward to finding out what they did.

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The George Washington Carver Science Fair turned out to be surprisingly well-equipped given the school's Lincoln location and relative budget; schools in this area generally didn't have very much, but they knew how to spend what they had, and this was a big event. Kids from this area didn't get a lot of opportunities, so the chance for budding young geniuses to strut their stuff in public before potential college scouts was very compelling. Every exhibit, all of them watched over by nervous high-school students and generally a parent, was exceptional in one way or another: there was a tiny eighth-grade girl with a baking soda volcano who had worked out what sort of geological system would actually produce baking soda eruptions on an alien planet, a tall bespectacled boy who had laid out the _schematics_ for a home-based fission reactor without building one "obviously, heh-heh-heh", an East Indian boy who had built a respectable working copy of one of the early Mars rovers, and many others. Even Sharl was impressed at all the hard work that had gone into the displays, though he'd have been loathe to admit it: primitive technology or not, this was just the sort of dreaming that got you lectures about not disrupting the social balance back home, and these kids got to do it for rewards!

Most of the teenage boys (and a few of their fathers) and some of the girls (and their mothers) were obviously smitten with Miss Americana, the beautiful genius easily turning heads wherever she went. All the kids were especially eager to show off their work to the famous heroine, and with a few stutters and stammers, they all seemed to get through it pretty well: it was actually going to be tough to judge this crowd of hard-working students, each of whom had obviously put their heart and soul into their work. At the anti-grav table, Patrick Grayson spoke with a teenage genius' slightly terrified authority as he spoke to Miss Americana about the working model of Daedalus' original power cell he'd built. "I mean, uh, obviously, it doesn't have the kind of power that Daedalus' armor has, but on the other hand, it's a lot smaller since I didn't need to use those transistors he had in the 1960s, and it would be a lot cheaper to make if I had a factory to make all the parts in, uh, yeah." He swallowed hard, his face not ever having left Miss Americana's. "If I built a bigger one, and had square-cube negators, I could probably get it to lift really heavy stuff, more than just itself, well into the tonnage range..." Peter was watching with approval on his old man's face as his grandson held his own with a grownup genius.

Citizen and Glow were both known as heroes in their own right, of course, and both found themselves answering questions from other students and teachers with an interest in what they were doing. "I do hero work with Young Freedom," said Sharl smoothly in response to a question about his work and his studies, "but Miss Americana keeps me very busy with my schooling. There's a lot to learn about Freedom City and the world before I can be a hero on my own; but luckily I've got some really good teachers." He was careful not to get into any more detail than that, not wanting to share stories about Claremont with people who weren't already in on the secret.

Meanwhile, Glow had an interlocuter, a girl named Rosie of about fifteen with black hair and a ponytail who, when she spoke, turned out to have a definite Australian accent. "My mum is the American sales rep for Driza-Bone, so we moved up here two years ago to go to school. I'm really proud there's an Australian hero up here in Freedom City! Now everyone asks me if I know you instead of that mumbo-jumbo guy Dreamspeaker." Rosie was at the display next to Peter Grayson's, having been part of a duo of students that had done (by the standards of civilians with no particular access to Freedom League or Claremont records) a detailed analysis of extra-terrestrial animals that had appeared on Earth since first contact with the Grue in the 1940s.

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Kristin was quite amazed by the standard of the work on display. Even though most of the science talk was well out of her league she could follow enough to at least understand the basic concepts of the devices and research. And besides, it was fun to see people become instantly awkward when talking to Miss Americana.

Running into another Australian was fun too and Glow chatted at length with Rosie, about home, the awesomeness of Driza-bone coats and the impressively detailed research. "That's quite incredible! I had no idea there were that many different alien species running around. Where did you find all this stuff?" she asked as she looked through some of the various descriptions and photos.

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With no warning, suddenly the roof came crashing in as a fiery figure plunged through the glass of the big overhead skylight, sending students and parents running and screaming from the sudden shower of debris. The source of the disturbance was a striking figure in a low-cut costume that flared wide at the bottoms, the big collar, bellbottoms, and wide cuffs instantly speaking to a costume straight out of Freedom City's 1970s. Between her big gold earrings and short-cut Afro, the African-American woman inside the black and red costume certainly seemed to be doing her best to call back to that era as well, especially once she spoke.

"GRAYSON? Where are you, you jive turkey? I'm gonna lay a world of hurt on your sorry behind!" Sheathed in fire that swirled angrily around her hands, and in high-heeled boots, the woman really was like something out of a time machine.

Whatever else could be said for the former Mauler, Peter Grayson was no coward: within seconds, the old man had stepped between his grandson and the angry woman on fire. "I'm here! What the hell do you want?" Of course, he wasn't much of a diplomat, and with murder in her eyes, the pyromancer turned on him with furious intent.

"I'm going to burn you alive for what you did, foo'!"

Grayson spread his hands desperately, bafflement and fear on his face. "...I did a lot of things!"

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"You know, when I talk like that, it's a charming cultural artifact," a commanding voice boomed cutting through the panic in the gymnasium. LaMarr tossed aside a sizable piece of the ceiling he'd caught, preventing it from falling on a pair of students and their projects, then brushed smaller debris from his broad shoulder as he stepped forward unhurriedly. "But on a girl your age it's a fool affectation." The set of the teacher's jaw made it clear just how inclined he was to show understanding to anyone who so carelessly put his students in danger but he kept his anger in check with practiced resolve.

The costume he recognized as belonging to Black Flame, half of a heroine duo from back in his day. He and Javed had actually double dated with them once, back when he was still in the closet. It had honestly been a bit of a flop; unsurprising in retrospect. Donna Danson had gone on to marry a reporter she'd been sweet on, if he recalled correctly. A stand up sort, which sadly had been what got him killed in a mob hit shortly after the birth of their daughter. Both Donna and her daughter Doris had fallen off the grapevine by the time anyone tried tracking them down, but not before a suspicious and deadly fire had taken out a measure of vengeance. "You'd best have a good explanation for acting like some joker in Danson's old duds, child, or you better believe I will blow out your candle."

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Citizen backed Miss Americana's move automatically, shooting a look Glow's way as she put herself between some of the high school kids and harm's way. Try and get them out! he mouthed at Kristen, not for the first time wishing that more humans had cybernetic implants that he could contact by radio, or even better that he was in a place where he could manipulate the basic nature of reality and just talk to people silently when he needed to. _While I'm at it, why don't I wish for a sector pyrosuppressor, and maybe Earth's Moon..._

That got 'Black Flame's' attention off the civilians, at least, even if it did mean focusing the pyrokinetic directly on Wail. "I am Danson," she spat, in her anger seeming to lose the blaxploitation persona for a moment as she lasered in on Keith. "You! You're part of the reason this happened in the first place!" Fire erupted from her hands and eyes as she turned away from Grayson and focused entirely on Wail. "If you want to get fried first, sucka, that's your call!" And with that, she gathered her hands together and hurled a blast of searing red flame directly at Keith LaMarr.

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Just as the fire burst from Black Flame's hands, other hands intervened, knocking her arms up and sending the shot arcing harmlessly over the crowd and through a high window. "You may be any number of things," Miss Americana said evenly, grabbing the villain's wrists and wrenching them up behind her back. In a textbook move, she shoved Black Flame to the ground and knelt with one knee on the small of her back. "But Donna Danson wasn't a robot, so I'm pretty doggone sure you're not her. Why don't you calm down and try explaining again, without the hysterics, before I have to do any damage to this very nice piece of technology?"

She looked up for a moment, her eye's meeting Sharl's. her voice echoed inside his head.

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Seriously? People talk like that?

Glow didn't quite catch what Citizen mouthed at her but the meaning was still fairly clear - the civilians were her first priority. She gave an almost imperceptible nod to her schoolmate, then flinched as the villain unleashed a blistering gout of flame.

Oh we're actually really going to do it?

The young telekinetic reacted quickly to the danger, her face showing a little strain as she gathered her concentration and thrust her hands out towards the villainess. It wasn't an attack however - a shimmering green wall snapped into place between the developing battle and the vulnerable crowd of civilians, effectively providing insulation against any stray fiery blasts.

Glow grimaced, then turned and hopped neatly up onto a table where everyone could see her. "Everybody please stay calm," she called out. "Situation's well under control, but I need you all to move quickly towards the exits!"

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"Move towards the exits in a calm, orderly fashion," Citizen called in agreement, his calm voice and professional demeanor helping soothe the crowd as they made their way away from the supervillain fight right there in the middle of their school. "We'll do our best to save your projects, but right now you need to protect yourselves first. No, you really shouldn't be taking pictures! C'mon!" he said to one of the school's more ambitious young reporters, who reluctantly put down his camera and joined the flight of students from the room.

Turning in satisfaction, Citizen called out to the struggling Black Flame. "You'd better surrender now while you have the chance, lady! Glow and I are two trained heroes, Wail is one of the most powerful heroes in Freedom City, and Miss Americana is freaking awesome. Either you can get smacked around now, or at least keep some dignity!" If you care about that, wearing that costume!

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"He needs to be punished! They all need to be punished! I could understand if you were protecting the cops, but him?" The flaming robot twisted in Miss Americana's grasp, but didn't escape, even when the robot itself briefly erupted into red scorching flame, nearly igniting the tough skin of Miss Americana herself. "Stupid piece of trash," she spat, eyes turning red. "You think you can take away from ten years and three hundred man-hours with your stupid costumes? I'll take you all with me first, and come back for more! Deslegrate Muri Tempi et Intervalia!" Miss Americana felt the robot in her arms begin to heat up again, hotter and hotter, and this time took action: a hard yank at the base of the spine severed the radio connection between "Black Flame" and her distant pilot, the robot rapidly cooling down as it slumped bonelessly in Miss Americana's arms.

"She was a robot," said Sharl, suddenly mindful of the need not to dwell on who else there might be mechanical. "Could she have been in hibernation somewhere all this time?"

"Holy...wait, fire girl wasn't a robot back then!" said Grayson, the old man having opted not to flee with the others despite the robot's efforts to target him personally. "I know I saw her bleed a couple of times, and that one time she..." He coughed, suddenly aware of all the superheroes in the room. "But that was forty years ago now."

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"Smooth," LaMarr drawled to Grayson in his rumbling bass tone before shaking his head at the deactivated doppelganger. "It there is one thing I cannot stand, it's robot doubles. I remember one time an entire shipping container of Typhoondroids broke out and went rogue right here in the city. All thinking they were the real deal, all talking in the third damn person..." The aging hero scowled and had to resist the urge to continue grumbling about that particular misadventure, even if he had ultimately gotten paid. "Anyway. Grayson's right, Donna was flesh and blood. Had a daughter before those jackals shot her man down and they disappeared."

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Miss Americana spread the robot out on the floor, indecorously tugging on its clothes to reveal the torso as she searched for a way to pop the chassis. "Burn down the walls of time and space?" she muttered aloud. "That's a hell of a catchphrase. But I'm pretty sure this robot was no AI. Someone was piloting it and set it to self destruct. If we're lucky, and can get inside, we might get some information about who did it and where they are now." She looked up ruefully at Wail and Grayson. "As for why, well, I'm afraid that question might be outside my pay grade. Is anybody hurt?"

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With the apparently robotic Black Flame neutralized Glow let the shimmering wall fade away, but she continued to usher the remaining civilians outside. After all, who knew what other nasty surprises might be hidden away inside that lifelike frame? With everyone out of harms way the Australian telekinetic lifted herself skyward on a column of green light and brought herself to a hover.

I wonder if that thing had a driver or if it was just pre-programmed? she wondered as she made a slow 360 degree turn to survey the area, alert for any further threats. And what was it supposed to achieve? Why the goofy talk?

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Inside the robot, Miss Americana could immediately tell this was no 1970s holdover. This was a modern gynoid, only a few generations behind the Miss Americana unit itself, and of a somewhat rougher design in its interior. The fire reservoir appeared to work off an internal plasma generator rather than anything biological, though it wouldn't be safe to probe into that particular system without the use of her laboratory. The interior design really was brilliant; the off-the-shelf chips and motherboards a testimony to what looked to have been a very low starting budget. It wasn't hard to find the control systems, either; there was something familiar about the long-range infraradio capture systems built in the spine and head. Whoever had been operating this had powers very much like her own, though it didn't look like they'd directly mimicked her technology.

"Looks like everybody made it out okay," said Citizen, looking around and cocking his head as he listened to the police radio. "The police and fire department are checking for injuries outside, but it sounds like they're letting the heroes handle it," which was about right for Freedom City. "If she's a fire controller...we should use the infrared sensors for tracking?" he asked Miss A, so focused on the detective work he didn't focus on the technology Miss A was working on in the robot. "She was almost glowing when she landed, there's got to be a trail up there..."

"Sweet Jesus, that was her," said Grayson, eyes wide as he remembered back over twenty-five years, evidently putting two and two together. "Man, I remember that fire. Some of the boys were sure a cape had done it, but nobody wanted to name names." Lincoln had had its share of wrongdoers back then, Mauler included, but there had always been a certain neighborhood solidarity: they were all from the same place, when you got right down to it. "...spit, she was mad as hell last time I saw her, but that was a long time ago. She showed up at the old place, looking for where the Eye-talians were holed up. And I told her! Not much my knives could do when she was that fired up!"

Outside in the air, Glow could just make out a smoke trail leading off towards the north across the river, heading back towards Freedom City proper, though she'd have to get a lot closer to follow it more precisely...

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