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trollthumper

Wood and Clay Will Wash Away... [IC]

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Friday, June 22nd

9:13 PM

She didn't want to say anything like, "This heroing stuff is easy." She knew that led to all sorts of horribly cliched disasters raining down upon people's heads. But Eliza had to admit, there hadn't really been much happening the past few nights.

Oh, sure, she'd only technically begun her patrols on Monday, once school was out. Before then was a lot of practice, a lot of training, and a lot of designing. She'd taken a trip to the Goodman Building just to make sure she got the right Atomwear to complete her costume - and that was after a few dozen passes of the various thrift stores in South Freedom to get the right coat. She didn't want to go out looking like Lady Liberty, but she still wanted something that looked professional while being dangerous. She had an image to cut. And she'd been cutting it all over Lincoln, taking aim at some of the usual low lifes - muggers, drug dealers, and, on Tuesday, a few thieves trying to clean out the safe of an OTB joint. One of them had pulled a gun on her, but she'd managed to throw an icicle right into its barrel. That was a hell of a thing to recall.

But so far, it was quiet. She was lurking in the mouth of a back alley - she hadn't learned to travel through water like her dad, so she had to rely a lot on alleyways and stealth, and while it was tricky to pull off, it often brought her in line with her kind of targets. The sounds of the city played out around her, especially the thudding base - there was a block party going down a ways over. Maybe she'd make her way there later, if things got quiet - ditch the mask and the coat and just chill, enjoy the festivities.

That quickly fell by the wayside as the screams rose, only to cut off as soon as they began. Eliza ran fast, tearing out of the alley way. Let's see what it is this time. Sounds big, whatever it is...

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The school year might have been finished for the year, but Keith LaMarr wasn't exactly on vacation. Between writing up lesson plans for the remedial summer school classes that would soon be under way and grading a handful of late assignments and make-up exams, he still had his sizable hands full. Getting a start on all of that work would have been easier if the window of his first floor apartment hadn't been rattling noisily with the vibrations of the nearby block party's music. Despite the continued assumptions of many, the earsplitting educator better known in some circles as Wail didn't have any enhanced hearing to go along with his super-powered shout, but it didn't take metahuman abilities to pick up on the powerful bass. Or to notice the sudden screams of fear that started and stopped abruptly over the music. Setting aside his red pen, the broadshouldered hero has out the door and rattling the pavement with his own heavy footsteps in a flash.

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Temperance managed to push against the crowd of people who'd managed to get away in the initial chaos. She'd seen her share of fleeing civilians - everyone did, growing up in Freedom - and it looked awfully thin, which certainly didn't inspire confidence. When she rounded the corner, she found out why. Most of the civilians were still there, reeling on their feet with goofy smiles plastered on their faces. Where the DJ had once been spinning - he was at the foot of the stage, giggling as if someone had told him the world's funniest joke - stood a boy with blue hair, dressed like he'd just come from a rave.

"Okay, everyone!" he said over the mic, his voice carrying over the block thanks to the speaker array. "Just stay cool. We're all going to have a good time - and some cash, if we're lucky. And if the pigs give us any trouble, we're going to give them a hell of a time. In the meanwhile --" He gestured to the crowd, where a red-haired girl in similar clothes was dancing to music only she could hear. "--let's just get into the mix and enjoy something real, all right?"

He flipped some vinyl onto the tables, and an artificial, remixed-to-infinity beat started kicking over the speakers. It died with a whine as an icicle came soaring out of the darkness, impaling one of the speakers.

"What the--?"

Temperance slinked out of the shadows - she'd hoped to have her coat billowing behind her, but there wasn't much of a breeze that night. Still, she'd certainly captured the attention of the two.

Okay. You got the entrance down. Now, just land the line. Remember... majestic... grandiose...

"These revelries have ended." She assumed a defensive stance. "Let these people go, or suffer a wrath like winter."

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"Man, why'd you have to do that?" cried the blue-haired boy. "That was a good sound system! You know how hard it is to find something like that?" He didn't wait for her answer; instead, he screamed, and the sound came at her with the force of a tidal wave. Temperance tried to brace, but the force was overwhelming, nearly knocking her to the ground. Somehow, she managed to stay on her feet.

"I imagine a fair bit rarer," she said. And I'm probably gonna need to pay for it, too. Better find out who's behind this party and crack open the piggy bank...

"But I find it strange you care more about those tunes that you do about these people. Your priorities are in need a serious readjustment." Water worked its way out of the Camelback under her coat, forming a shimmering curtain before her. With a snap of her fingers, the water freezed into hailstones the size of softballs. "Allow me to offer you some incentive." She raised her hand, and the hailstones soared towards him at great speed. He managed to duck most of them - which turned to harmless water as they went past his head, Temperance's attempt at avoiding more collateral damage - but one caught him right in the chest, sending him hunched over the turntables.

"Rant!" The red-haired girl stopped her dancing, turning on Temperance. "We just wanted to show these people a good time! Why'd you have to get involved?"

"I find my good times aren't usually enforced at gunpoint."

"Ohhh. You want a buzzkill, huh?" She opened her mouth, and something keening rolled out. Temperance knew her way around sirens, and plugged her hands over her ears. But all around her, the audience was looking at the girl like she was a demon, rooted to the ground in fear. This is gonna get real ugly real quick...

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"Now, I know it's not technically a school night," a booming voice began, cutting through the vocal powers of the villainous siblings in a way a normal person couldn't have accomplished without a megaphone, "but I'm sure you kids have better things to be doing than this." Striding onto the scene with thunderous footfalls, clad in khaki pants and a sky blue dress shirt, LaMarr wouldn't have been a very imposing figure if that shirt hadn't needed custom tailoring to accommodate his massive physique. "Now sit your fool asses DOWN!" With a word, Wail sent a shockwave crashing through the scene, knocking party goers and costume wearing metahumans alike clear off of their feet and making sure he had everyone's full attention.

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Temperance felt the words before she heard them. They managed to catch her off guard - along with everyone else. She hit the ground around the same time most of the civilians did, trying to pull herself up from the ground while trying to get a steady grip on her nerves.

"Thank you for --" She looked up, and the words died on her tongue as she saw who'd come to her aid. She couldn't pull herself up, remain completely calm, and sound cool and confident at the same time - option three was out the window, and option two was swiftly retreating.

Oh crap oh crap it's Mr. LaMarr he's going to find out who I am and then he'll tell my parents and then I'll be grounded until college aw damnit what am I gonna do

She took a deep breath, then pushed herself to her feet. "Thank you for that," she said. Rave was still down, one amongst the masses. She willed some more water out of her pack and sent it rocketing her way, aiming to freeze it around her and bind her to the ground. But the arc went overhead, and Temperance was forced to let it dribble onto a blank patch of ground. "School night or not, you would think some people could learn to let others be."

"Yeah," said Rave, pushing herself to her feet. "You're one to talk. Seeing as you didn't learn it the first time..." The keening noise washed over the crowd again, and Temperance couldn't get her hands up to her ears in time. She rarely felt the cold most days, but the sheer force of the voice sent ice water running right down her spine. My teacher's gonna see me get beaten down. This has gotta be what Hell is like for teenagers.

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The horrible sound coming from Rave washed over Wail like a watergun firing at a hydroelectric dam. The high school teacher wasn't sure if his patience was tried more by the young villainess ignoring his warning or the lackluster attempt at sonic combat. It was, after all, a field he had some experience in. Setting his jaw, the broad-shouldered hero crossed the distance between himself and Rave and unceremoniously lifted her off of the ground with a firm grip about the back of her neck. "What part of 'sit down' are you failing to wrap your brain around, child? Do not make me raise my voice with you!"

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"Leave my sister ALONE!" Rant's outburst cut across the scene like a knife - or a bulldozer, as it were. Rant wasn't the most accurate sharpshooter, so in his efforts to avoid hitting Rave, he missed Wail entirely. Unfortunately, he managed to hit the asphalt just fine, sending large chunks flying up into the air.' The shriek cut right past Temperance, and the sheer weight was enough to shake her from her stupor.

"Your devotion's touching," she said, "If only other people mattered to you as much." She was able to draw up a few spheres of ice, but she cursed herself as they let fly. She didn't have enough force behind them, and they pinged off of Rant's skin like snowballs.

"You know what?" Rave said. "Fine! If this is how you're gonna treat us, we're done playing nice!" Her eyes glowed red, and suddenly, the block was an inferno. Flames licked out everywhere, dancing off of the decorations and springing from the interiors of parked cars. The crowd began to ran in earnest, trying to get away from the fire in their minds. Temperance could feel the heat rising, smell the melting asphalt. How'd she pull something like this off? Thought she was just up for getting people tripping. Gotta be something I can --

Her eyes fell on a nearby fire hydrant. All right. Just hope I can get this thing closed when I'm done...

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Wail recoiled a half-step reflexively at the sudden flames, surprised by the apparent scope of Rave's powers. Tough though he may have been, the aging hero knew from experienced that he burned almost as easily as anyone else. "I don't care to raise a hand against children, but my patience is finite, girl," he growled before using his free hand to smack the back of her head with an open palm. It was about as gentle as he could afford to be with scores of civilians in immediate danger, certainly more restrained than using his sonic shout but it was still more than enough to knock the teenager for a loop. Immediately the flames disappeared, revealed as some sort of illusion. "Hmph. Last chance, son," he called to Rant. "You really want to protect your sister, end this foolishness."

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It appeared Rant's pride greatly outweighed his common sense. "NEVER!" The roar was loud enough to shatter glass and blow out a few speakers, sending debris to the ground. However, it managed to miss Wail entirely, instead taking out a vacated tamale stand. As the din died down, so did the phantom flames, and Temperance sighed with relief, drawing her will away from the fire hydrant on the corner. At least I'm not gonna engage in more property damage tonight.

"You," she said, "need to learn when to keep your mouth shut." Another barrage of ice flew out at the screaming thief, and one of the balls managed to catch him right in the diaphragm, sending him doubled over in pain. "If you're not catching on, I can always offer more incentive."

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Wail muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath in annoyance as the chaos continued despite giving the miscreants ample opportunity to stop. "Boy, you're just making us all look bad with that aim. You want to be planting your feet," he advised, matching his actions to his words, his boots cracking the pavement beneath them as he steadied his considerable weight. "Then you gotta breath, take you time... and SHOUT!" The cannonball of sound barreled across the abandoned party, smashing into Rant while he was still unbalanced from Temperance's volley of ice. As much as his patience had worn out, Wail was still holding back on his full power; from what he could tell, neither of the criminal siblings were any sturdier than the average person.

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The burst of sound knocked Rant right out of the DJ booth, sending him flying to the ground. It looked like it was going to take some time for him to get up, so Temperance focused her aim on Rave. "You know," she said, "I have just about had it with this whole funeral dirge act." A hailstone the size of a soccer ball formed within her hands. "Perhaps you should try singing something more upbeat, less likely to cause mass panic." The ball took flight, striking Rave right in the chest. It was hollow, meant to break on impact and do enough damage to hurt without being dangerous. But it appeared she took it better than Temperance expected, as she glared at her right through the pain.

"We were," she growled, "until you killjoys had to show up! And you want a dirge?" The second she opened her mouth wide, Temperance had her hands over her ears. This was starting to get old...

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Right next to Rave and with his hands occupied, Wail didn't have the luxury of covering his ears before the waves of palpable despair crashed into him. There were days LaMarr fight with himself just to get out of bed in the morning, and there was nothing that some slip of a girl on a power trip could do that could compare to the dull ache of an empty apartment. "Enough." Shifting his grip on the villainess, he clamped a broad hand over her mouth, cutting off the dirge like caterwauling and preventing any further use of her sonic powers.

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Rant managed to pull himself up off the ground, forcing his way to uprightness. As he did, he saw Wail wrapping his hand around Rave's mouth. He didn't speak. He just took in a gigantic breath, and Temperance knew that whatever was coming next was going to be bad for everyone involved. Before he could get anything out, she threw a torrent of water his way. So much attention was tied up in preparing for the barrage that he didn't even notice her attack. Cold water hit him, soaking him from head to toe - or it would have, if it hadn't flash-frozen the second it hit, wrapping around him all over. With extra attention paid to the mouth.

"Tell me you're going to see reason," she said.

Rant looked to her, then - as best he could - to his sister, bound and helpless. He nodded slightly.

----

Within two minutes, the STAR team had arrived in full. Rant and Rave were hauled away - true to word, they offered no further resistance. Temperance looked over the wrecked block party, shaking her head. Then her eyes fell on Wail. It had been one thing to push the feelings of uncertainty down during the fight. Now there was no keeping them back.

All right. Play it cool, play it safe... he might not recognize you...

"Thank you for the help." Temperance's voice sounded ever so much tony this time, like she was trying to audition for Downton Abbey. "It's a great honor to fight beside you."

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"Uh huh," Wail responded dryly, turning to face Temperance directly and crossing his arms across his broad chest. The young heroine was of a little better than average height, but the older man still had nearly a foot on her and the imperious gaze of an experienced educator. "Well, you've got a good bag of tricks with the water and ice and you did a good job watching out for civilians and property damage; lot of young bucks have to learn that one the hard way." He lifted one hand to stroke his grey streaked beard in thoughtful consideration. "Actual fighting skills need work, though, and you're not going to want to keep up the hoity toity voice long term," LaMarr advised bluntly. "Does explains the melodramatic and unexpectedly passionate tone of your last civics paper."

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Even with her fine control, the ice mask didn't allow much room for emoting. In construction and make, it was a lot like very cold porcelain. However, with the face Eliza was making under it, it was a wonder it didn't crack in two.

I was wrong. This is hell for teenagers.

"Thanks --" She was torn between addressing him as a colleague, or as a teacher, and instinct won out. "-- Mr. LaMarr." She looked around the wreckage of the block party; the civilians had all departed, save for a few remaining stragglers, and the damage to the infrastructure looked like it might take a while to seal up, even with Doctor Metropolis on walkabout. "Could we... get off the street?" She pointed to a donut shop that had remained unmolested during the chaos. "Not sure how I feel discussing this stuff out here."

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"Sure," Wail allowed, his voice a touch softer as he gestured for her to lead the way to the shop. "Now, I'm not expecting you to lay out your whole origin, girl; if you have things to keep a lid on, I can dig," he assured her levelly, opening the door. A tinkling bell announced their entrance but it didn't seem to particularly rouse the bored looking middle aged woman behind the counter any more than the battle outside or the unusual patrons. "But I tell you right now, if this is some meta-drug thing, I will not stand for it. I've seen grown men turning themselves into sharks and I'm not having it in my classroom."

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Temperance decided to just skip over the part about drugs turning people into sharks - if she stuck on that, she'd probably be there all night. "Trust me, it's not drugs," she said, grabbing a hot chocolate and a small donut. "I know better, especially with... well, stuff like that going about. Really, this whole thing is kind of an inheritance. And no, before you ask, my dad's not secretly Typhoon or anything like that. It's... a bit weird." She stirred her hot chocolate, though the drink seemed to be going faster than the stirrer - it appeared she was idly causing the drink to stir just by willing it. She looked down, finally noticing it, and the drink came to a rest. "Still getting used to this. Uh... you run into a lot of teen heroes on the street? Any other students, or am I the first?"

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LaMarr made a deep, guttural sound of approval as Temperance nixed the notion of designer meta-steroids. With more and more people giving themselves superhuman abilities on purpose these days, the teacher was off the opinion it was better the ask up front. The grunt he made when she mentioned the ruler of Socotra was considerably more derisive. "Hmph, Typhoon. Don't even get me started on that joker. Girl, you ever take work from a man who owns a country, do yourself a favour and get paid up front."

He ordered himself a plain coffee, and sat carefully down, still supporting most of his surprising weight with his legs. Stroking his grey streaked beard with one hand, the aging her thought back. "Well, most of the capes and tights crowd running around these days look like teenagers to me," he admitted with a small smile, "but I've met my share of folks new to the game. What with secret identities and such, most of the players my age are off the grid, so kids looking for advice turn up on my doorstep now and then."

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"I'll write that one down," said Temperance. She knew Mr. LaMarr had a long and storied past as a hero, and had even done some digging into it during the school year. Then again, she hadn't exactly read up on that particular story. "Guessing if you're the glorious leader from here until doomsday, you don't really feel the need to shell out on contract work."

She listened as Wail talked about his experience with the "cape and tight" crowd. "Any vets in particular you offered advice to?" she asked. "And, uh, what kind of advice did you offer?"

'Cause I probably could use some of that...

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LaMarr grunted contemplatively. "Maybe so. My thinking's always been that it's the principle of the thing, though. If you can't be trusted with the little things, why should anybody count on you when the big time hits?" He watched the steam rising from the untouched coffee in front of him, his eyes getting a far-away look as they focused on something years in the past. "Holds true the other way around, too. You give an inch, well. That's an inch you might not get back." Finally, he picked up the cup carefully, barely pressing with his fingers and he took a quiet sip and set it back down. "Which is the kind of advice I'd offer. Hypothetically. If somebody were asking."

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"Well, hypothetically, it sounds like pretty good advice," said Temperance. She too watched the steam from her hot chocolate, but for different reasons. She was trying to detect the flow of water within, the brief flirtation with condensation as heat dispersed the molecules throughout and drove them away from the great pool below. She shook her head - this meditation had become something of a habit, ever since she'd started using it to hone her powers. "I mean, if you've already gotten in this game, you probably know where you stand. And you gotta know why staying there's so important."

The words suddenly felt heavy on her tongue. She looked right at Wail. "You ever see it happen?" she asked softly. "Those people who... give too much?"

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LaMarr was silent for a long moment, studying Eliza's masked face, looking for signs of the expression behind it. He rolled the question around in his head for long enough for the quiet to become appreciable, deciding how to answer. "You're asking if I've seen anyone go down swinging?" he quietly clarified finally, very purposefully meeting the teenager's eyes. "Yes. I've lost friends. My best friends." He suspected it wasn't the answer the girl had been hoping for though she must have expected it and he wasn't about to lie to her. He paused, waiting to see if she wanted to hear more or leave it at that.

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Eliza nodded. "I'm sorry," she said. "Didn't mean to pick at old wounds. Just... still getting used to all of it, you know?" She looked out the window, weighing what Mr. LaMarr had just said. She figured now was probably the best time to come clean. "I haven't told my parents yet," she said. "I mean, they know I'm different, not like the other kids, but they don't know I can do... well..."

She waved her hand, and for a second, the hot chocolate in her cup rose like the tides before receding. "I know I should. Just... they think I'm normal. As normal as I can be, that is. And if they find out I'm like dad is, and I'm doing this..." She let the statement trail off. The guilt was starting to get to her. She turned her eyes back to the street, trying to clear her mind.

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"Forget it," LaMarr told her, dismissing the need for her apology. At her confession, he raised his index finger. "First off, damn near every teenager I ever met - and this is including me when I was young, if you can imagine - has spent most of their time twisted up over trying to be normal or trying not to be normal. Either way it's a fool thing, because there's no such thing." He turned his hand so that the finger was pointing at the girl across from him. "You're who and what you are. You gotta try to be the best version of that, but you lie to yourself or other people about it? You're just wasting everybody's time." The civic teacher folded his heavy hands in front of him on the table, leaning backward slightly. "I never bothered with a mask but I spent plenty of time hiding and it did me no favours."

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