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Raveled

An Arrow into the Air (IC)

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4:56 PM

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Claremont Academy, Bayview, Freedom City

The city had been in the grip of a heat wave for a full week now, and the weather service wasn't forcasting any relief until the weekend. The dark sedan rolled up the baking, two-lane road towards the walled compound that held one of the city's most prestigious secondary schools. It slowed as it reached the walls of the academy, turning in and quickly finding a parking space. A casually dressed young man and a young woman with a tan climbed out of opposite sides of the car; the young man opened the trunk of the car and pulled out a packed duffel bag and a heavy rolling bag. He set them up next to the young woman and nodded at her. "I'll go get a teacher," he said. "Let them know you're here." With that he struck off towards the central building.

The young woman's stooped and hefted the duffel without comment, then dragged it and the luggage into the shade of a nearby tree. She looked around the campus slowly, but aside from a few students walking around (and doing their best not to stare at the new arrival) there wasn't much to see. All the windows facing the quad made her nervous, but it had been mentioned over and over again that she shouldn't attack anyone at Claremont, at least until they asked her to.

After a few minutes of standing, shifting her weight from side to side, the young woman dug a length of string from a pocket. She knotted it into a circle and draped it over both hands, pulling it taunt before beginning a complicated cat's cradle.

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Benjawan Mali, also known as the Crimson Tiger, was walking through the quad just then. She had her work-out bag slung over her shoulder. She was wearing a baggy t-shirt and shorts, and sweating. She had a water bottle in her other hand, nearly empty. Her work-out routine never changed, even in the heat. But she was smart enough to always have water on her.

When she spotted the new girl, baggage nearby, her mind immediately sprung up with the thought "New student!"

So, she walked over to her and smiled politely. "Hi, welcome." She smiled. "It's awfully hot out here, would you care for some water? I have a spare bottle in my bag..."

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The young woman appeared totally engrossed in her cat's cradle, but when Benjawan got within a few feet her head snapped up quickly and one hand... well, it tired to fall to her side. It was tied to the other one, though, so instead it just sort of dangled there for a moment. She made a face and wrapped the string so it was only around one hand. By that time, the other woman had already greeted her, so after a moment the new student nodded. "I... would like some water, yes." She had a thick French accent, but as she spoke slowly her words were still perfectly understandable. "I am called Tona. Tona Baudin." She paused and stuck out a hand to shake.

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Mali smiled politely and reached to shake the other girl's hand. "I am Mali, nice to meet you." She said, before reaching in her bag to fetch the water. It was still cool to the touch, having been stored in a bottle designed to keep temperatures.

"Here you go, it should still bee pretty cold." She handed the other girl the bottle. "With the temperature the way it is, have to stay hydrated."

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Tona took the bottle and held it up to her face, staring through the clear material. It didn't feel like glass, and it was far too light for that, anyway. It must be more of that plastic stuff the Freedom League told her about. Her people had never invented anything like that, and while the Furions has some even more wonderous materials, you expected shining silver demigods to be surrounded by wonders. But when she came here, the Freedom League had tried to fill her in on all manner of amazing machines, and she was still trying to process it all.

She noticed some condensation dripping off the bottom of the bottle and held it over her mouth, opening wide to catch the drops. Waste not, want not, after all. After that she inspected the top of the bottle. The cap didn't feel like metal, so it must be more plastic, but there were little perforations along the edge. So, taking a chance, the young girl held the bottle steady and twisted with all her strength on the top -- causing it to spin off into the grass of the quad and losing half the water as the bottle spun in her grip. She swore and started sucking water off her fingers, watching Mali carefully. "I'm... I'm sorry that I wasted so much. This is good water."

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Mali merely smiled. "I'm not sure where you're from, but I have plenty of water. I'm just sorry that I don't have any more to give you."

She didn't care about a little water. Besides, the new girl looked like she wasn't from around here, at all. "You...aren't from around here, are you?" She asked. "It's fine, I mean, I think we have some aliens, people from other countries, that sort of thing. But if you need a native to help you out with anything, don't hesitate to ask. I'm glad to help if you need it."

She flashed her smile. "If it doesn't bother you, I think I'll sit here in the shade for a bit." She said.

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Tona froze as her mind worked. Opening up about being born in and growing up in the Terminus wasn't likely to get her a good reception, not if this world had already been attacked by Omega and driven his forces off. On the other hand she couldn't very well pretend that was from Freedom City, since she knew next to nothing about this world. To buy herself some time she shook off the cat's cradle and wound the string into a ball, which she stuffed in her pocket. Finally, looking more at the water bottle than Mali, she said, "I'm from Maine." While it wasn't technically a lie, it sure didn't mention that her homeland was illuminated by the Doom Coil. Her eyes flicked up to the other woman's face as she tried to assess how her lie was taken.

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That, was a blatant lie. Nobody from Maine is going to have trouble opening a bottle of water. Still, the girl had her own reasons to keep a secret, and Mali wasn't going to press the issue. The school probably knew, and that was all that mattered. Mali would trust that they wouldn't let someone dangerous into the school.

"Okay." Mali smiled. "I've never been there before." With that, she didn't press the issue. No point in making the new girl nervous.

"If you ever need anyone to help you around, show you things. After all, I've lived in Freedom City my whole life. I could show you all the best places. Where to get the best food." She tried to think of a way to let Tona know that it was okay to admit she was an alien, or from another country, another dimension, or wherever she came from where plastic water bottles were a mystery.

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Blodeuwedd unlike some of the other student loved the tree that dominated this part of the ground and often hid up there to spend time quietly reading. She also keep a watch out for the coming and goings from the various building around, useful when you trying to hide from someone with super-senses.

So she accidently caught the arrival of the new girl and heard the conversation between her and Mali. Remembering the welcome she had received when she first arrived, which seemed like years ago, she decided to play it on and help introduce the girl to the school.

She dropped down deftly from the tree, remembering to make as noise as not to surprise the two.

“Oh, hi there are you new here?†she offered out her hand "I’m Cerys by the way.â€

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Tona perked up at the idea of a tour. Freedom City was so much bigger than any place she had ever been before, and though she knew intellectually that the Academy was unlikely to come under siege from a force of Omegadrones (the walls might hold out against ground troops like the Mechanical Men, but Omega's soldiers would fly right over them) but her instinct was still to scout out the land around her, to prepare for any sort of retreat. "I would really like to see the city, yes." She paused and added, "But I'm supposed to wait until one of the teachers comes out to get me." She thought for a moment and then opened her duffel, digging to the bottom. "Tell me, which window is where the teachers are?"

She jumped slightly as the new girl dropped to the ground. "Hello," she said cautiously. "I'm Tona."

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Striding with long, slow steps down the path from the library, a stocky, darker-skinned teen boy with a powerful build, a white shirt and blue jeans, and wearing a baseball cap with the Freedom City Heroes logo emblazoned on it was absorbed in reading the crisp pages of a thick book with the title 'Provincial Municipal Laws of Puerto Rico'. He was tracing a sentence with a thick middle finger when he heard Cerys' voice, and Tona's in quick succession. His head whipped up, and he quickly spotted the small gathering of Claremonters under the tree. Putting a bookmark in place, he jogged over, his feet thudding up the path as he approached.

Waving cheerfully at the trio he called over "Hey Cerys!" noting Benjawan he added brightly "Hey Mali!" he looking curiously at Tona, he wasn't more than casually acquainted with the martial-artist, but they had seen each other in the gym a few times and exchanged pleasantries. Leaping over and squatting down nearby the other students he offered his powerful hand with a broad grin "I'm Subito Sondo, call me whatever ya like! You said your name was Tona? That's awesome." realizing this might need explanation he added breezily "Super-hearin', I can pick stuff up from crazy far away. What powers do you have?"

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Tona's expression didn't change, but her eyes were laughing. "Superpowers? Like flying or throwing trees? No, nothing like that, but wait a moment." She resumed digging in the duffel and brought up a lot of neatly packed clothes; sharp eyes might notice that almost all the clothes were nearly brand-new, and some even had the cardboard inserts from the store still in them. At least half the girl's wardrobe looked like it had never been worn before.

She finally straightened up with a complex piece of plastic and metal in her hand, and a roll of nylon tucked under her arm. She drained the water bottle and handed the empty plastic shell to Subito. "Throw this into the air," she said. The young woman kneeled on the ground and put the nylon bundle down; with deft motions she ripped open a couple of velcro straps and rolled it open on the ground, revealing bundles of long, matte black arrows. She looked up at Subito and smiled. "As high as you can, please."

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Blodeuwedd attitude changed subtly when Subito arrived, giving a little smile that causing her face to brighten. She playfully tapped him on the arm and gave him a look.

“You should know by now that not all of use around here have powers. Don’t worry Tona I don’t have any powers either.â€

There was something about this new girl that reminded her of herself, well Cerys as least. She had this newly minted feel about her that suggested that her life had just stated when she walked into the ground. Still she wasn’t in a position to pry into another identity.

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The youth glanced at Tona in brief puzzlement before shrugging and getting to his feet with the empty water bottle. He stood still for a moment, looking lost in thought

No, you may not

Look, just for a moment! It's to hel-

It is frivolous, and you know it. You may not use my strength to toss that into the air, no matter how impressive it would look

Okay, fine

His eyes snapped open, and nodding to Tona he leaned slightly backwards, drew back his arm, and threw the bottle into the air with a snap of his thick wrist. sending the plastic thing sailing high into the air. He watched Tona with interest, wondering what she would do to hit it. Maybe she can predict the trajectory of stuff, or something He rolled his eyes at Cerys' admonishment "Oh come on, just about everyone here has powers, it's a perfectly reasonable question!" for all that he said awkwardly "Uh, sorry Tona. Shouldn't have assumed"

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Tona, didn't answer, at least not at first. She squeezed the plastic object in her hand and with a snap it unfolded into a compound bow, blackened steel pulleys set into a carbon-fibre frame that almost seemed to absorb the light. She reached down and plucked four of the arrows from the bag. She gripped three in her teeth as she stood, fitting the last to the bow-string as she stood. She took her stance almost without thought, grinning fiercely -- though with three arrows in her mouth she didn't have much choice.

She pulled the string back to her cheek and let fly, then again and again and again, the movements mechanical and precise and perfect. The arrows flew into the air, shrinking to a tiny dot, joining the shining point that was the water bottle. It seemed to jerk suddenly in the air, a sharp pull to one side as it reached its apex, and then fell to the ground. It finally hit the ground again and the students could see that it was pierced by all four arrows, each nearly ninety degrees around from each other. Tona nodded once, sharply, and looked Subito straight in the eye. "No powers," she said definitely, curling her the hand she had used to draw the string back into a tight fist. "Just that good."

It would take someone with a lot of self-control to tear themselves away from the spectacle of the bottle and notice the blood welling up from her fist.

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Mali grinned from ear to ear, impressed at the new student's accuracy. Still, while she was hardly an expert on archery, she realized that she hadn't used a glove to fire the arrow. That must have hurt.

"Wow, very cool!" She smiled. "I can see why you're here. And your bow! It's amazing" She observed her bow, a piece of carefully constructed machinery. Gorgeous in form and function, Mali had a definite appreciation for the bow.

Tactically, however, Mali thought that having someone skilled with a bow would be a great back-up in a fight. Firing arrows from a range while she closed distance. Of course, that was assuming the new girl didn't cut her hand up by using her bow wrong.

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Subito gave a long, low whistle as he watched the display of skill, eyes tracking the descending object as it plummeted to the ground pierced with its cargo. Clapping enthusiastically he bowed slightly at Tona's confident words, remarking as he gave a parting surevey of the bottle "'Just that good' is right! I think Bowman and Quarrel have a little competition! They'd bett-" he happened to glance at her clenched fist and see the blood oozing out of it. The smile vanished and he looked at her sharply "You okay, Tona? If it's bad, Nurse Joy could patch you up in no time. I could fly you to her office if you want" he offered earnestly, looking at her hand again and wincing in sympathy "Wish I could heal it myself, but I haven't learned to do that yet, I'm sorry"

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Tona squeezed her fist tighter, causing more blood to flow, and stuck her hand behind her back so that none of the other teens could see it. "It's fine," she said. "Just a papercut." She frowned and looked at the bow, with its nearly invisible string. "They said the bowstring was... silk from a spider? Something like that. Something to fine it could cut through a steak if you pulled it hard enough, but strong enough to suspend a car from it." The cars she had seen were big enough, certainly, but they moved so fast! Certainly they couldn't weigh that much, could they?

"Antoinette!" Tona's head jerked up as her proper name floated over the quad. The young man who had driven her here, some clerk who worked with the Freedom League, was walking down the steps of the central building. He was holding a manilla folder in one hand as he jogged over. "Okay, got you set up in a dorm and a class schedule. It's mostly assessment stuff, real school doesn't start until August." He glanced at the pierced water bottle. "Some target practice with your fellow students, Antoinette?"

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“I’ve had a little practice with the Welsh Longbow myself. So I know how much they hurt if you handle them wrong. Taid always let’s people mishandle the bow the once, tended to discourage them from doing so again.â€

She rummaged in her backpack and bought out a small first aid kit that she had been building up.

“Here at least bandage it up, it’ll keep us happy at least.â€

She listened as the man explained about her arrangements at Claremonts.

“Maybe you’ll end up sharing with me? My current roomie is moving in with someone else for next term. I’m surprised that she even noticed that I was there to be honest. We can show you around the campus if you want. I’m still fairly new myself, but this big lug here.†She indicated Subito “Knows the place inside and out.â€

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""Inside and out"'s kind of a stretch, Cerys'" laughed the young paragon as he waved politely to the man who seemed to be shepherding Tona. "Hello sir," he said cheerfully to him "yeah, just showing us what she can do. She's pretty awesome" he stated with utter gravity "I do know the layout of this place,"he added to Tona, adjusting his hat brim to block out the Sun's rays "if you want a guide, I'll be happy to show you around." Turning to Crimson Tiger he asked eagerly "You in, Mali?"

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Tona flexed her bandaged fingers, staring at the plastic wraps with interest. So this is a 'band-aid,' she thought to herself. It kept itself tight to the wound, it was small and easy to apply -- it was a small wonder, in fact. She brought her head up and listened to the clerk. "Yes. Well, they asked what I could do." Tona squeezed the grip of the bow again and it collapsed again, and after retrieving the arrows she rolled up the bag once more, fastening the straps and sliding it on her back. The clothes went back into the duffel and she hefted it over her other shoulder. Lastly, she grabbed the rolling luggage. The small girl looked comically overburdened with all the bags, but the muscles in her arms were clearly defined and impossible to miss, and if the weight bothered her she didn't say anything. She simply nodded to the clerk.

The group made their way across the campus to the dorm building. At the steps the clerk stopped and handed Tona to folder. "All the information is in there," he said. "If you need anything, you have the number for the League, but maybe try the school's faculty, first." She nodded, privately resolving to both the faculty as little as possible. She came here to show how could survive anything, serve anywhere!

She opened the folder with one hand, scanning the pages. "It says," she announced, "that I'm in room 314." She looked up at the building, uneasy. In her experience tall structures just invited attacks, so the idea of sleeping in one, as opposed to underground or in a natural formation, didn't sit well with her. Nonetheless, she swallowed her unease and climbed up a step. "Anyone know where that one is?"

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Blobeuwedd didn’t often use the doors to the dorm, when she could she tended to scale the walls to her room. It was good practice and a small part of her had enjoyed freaking her roommate out by just appearing in the room. So it took a little while to remember what her room number was.

“Wait 314, that my room. Wow it looks like we roommates after all.†Despite herself she gave a little smile.

“Do you want to store you stuff first before we give you the grand tour? It’s not much to see I tend to keep the place rather Spartan.â€

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Tona hitched the duffel on her back and nodded. "It would be nice to get some of this off my back," she replied dryly. She was used to carrying loads long distances, but she usually didn't carry all of her material possessions for any length of time. And it would make it easier to investigate the school anyway, especially if there were any lines of retreat to check on or lines of sight to confirm.

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“This won’t take long if you all want to wait a minute.â€

It was difficult to tell that the room was lived in at all; it was spotlessly clean with everything tidied away. Even the only personal touches in the room a collection of magazines, mostly fashion, lifestyle and celebrity with a smattering of Science and Technology, were neatly stacked away. The only decorative item in the room was a sword intricacy carved with Celtic figures.

“I’m a simple roommate all I ask is that you keep the window off the latch. I like to scale the wall out of practice and while I can force the lock I prefer not to. Shall we get back to the others?â€

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Tona followed Cerys up to the room, and dumped the luggage on the floor. "Leave the window open? That works for me." She stretched, glad to be rid of the weight. As she did so, she cast her eye over the other woman -- her roommate's -- side of the room. She frowned slightly at the austerity and Spartan look. It was foolish to be weighed down too much by material things, sure, but that didn't mean you had to be an automaton, either.

The young girl put the idea out of her head and instead moved to the window, opening it and glancing up and down. She kept the bag of arrows and the bow on her back as she moved around, not yet ready to abandon it. Satisfied with the set-up, she turned around and perched on the window sill. "So, want to race down?" Her eyes sparkled with mischief. "I promise not to use any arrows."

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