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Avenger Assembled

October Nights (IC)

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Mid-October 2012

Arranging a double-date for Papercut, Crimson Tiger, Temperance, and Citizen was no easy process, especially since Sharl had secured his date with the lovely hydrokinetic without benefit of seeing her face under her mask or learning her real name. But with the forthcoming mission to Erde on his mind and a recent argument with Miss A still burning hot in his memory, the chance to get away with some friends for what teenagers were actually supposed to do (here or in Tronik) seemed like a lot of fun. After some consideration, he'd found something that could function as both date and patrol for the quartet of teen heroes. The Hollingshead was one of the few remaining drive-in theaters near the Freedom City area, a sturdy old place with scrub woods on one side and several good-sized office parks on the other. They could patrol the neighborhood, they could watch the movie, take in the freakish amount of space that Freedom City had to offer, and maybe enjoy each other's company.

Having left a message with the number Temperance had left for him after they'd agreed to their date, Citizen waited on a nearby rooftop for the others to arrive, a big old-fashioned radio sitting on the tiles next to him. The Hollingshead was closing its season with a run of scary movies for Halloween, in this case a deliberately mismatched double-feature: the recent Dead Snow with its zombie Nazis in Scandanavia, and then Invaders from Space, an old 50s sci-fi movie that used real stock footage of the first Grue attack from the 1940s. This was Sharl's very first time at a 2-D theater, even across the road from one, and he certainly hoped would be memorable.

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The Hollingshead was not quite a regular hangout for Eliza. She preferred the theaters closer to the core of Freedom, the ones that she could just drop in on by hopping on the train. But there was a mystique to coming out to Lonely Point, she had to admit. Her dad had brought her out here more than a few times when she was in elementary school, especially after he'd told her about who he was. The day was spent with a picnic lunch, walking along the quiet places of the shore and watching as her dad conversed with the stray undines who touched upon the firmament. And the night was spent watching movies at the drive-in, sitting on a blanket and munching burgers while specters of cinema danced on a screen stories high.

She arrived with her mask, her armor, and a cooler the size of a Samsonite briefcase. "Was planning on tucking it away until the patrol's done," she said. "Don't worry, it'll stay cool." She walked up to Citizen. "So. Where do we want to start?"

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"Oh, you brought food?" Sharl sounded momentarily nervous, and rightly so. They hadn't quite gotten as far as discussing power origins, which meant she had no way of knowing the problems that solid food and drink might bring. Not problems, he reminded himself. Just don't make a mess! If Gina doesn't like it, you can bet a girl like her won't either. "That's great!" he said, smoothly recovering. "Papercut and Crimson Tiger will be along soon. I was thinking after that, we could split up; you and I go around one side of the theater, those two go around the other, and then meet back up here. If we don't see any supervillains trying to rob the place, we can sit down and enjoy ourselves," he said with a smile, the light from the theater reflected in his mirrorshades. "Sound good?"

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Temperance briefly looked at the cooler in her hand, wondering if Citizen might be one of those kids who was allergic to everything but air. But given how easily he seemed to pave it over, she stood cool in the knowledge that she likely wouldn't be driving her date into anaphylactic shock. "Sounds like a plan," she said. "See you back here. If I make it back first, I'll save you a seat."

She slid down the fire escape - for all her talk of trying to create some form of ice transport, she'd yet to find a way to maintain concentration over the ice and manipulate it at the same time, especially in the last of the summer heat. Perhaps when winter came, she'd have time for further experimentation. Until then, she handled the beat the same way she did in Lincoln - foot traffic and clinging to the shadows.

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Citizen opted to wait around for the others while Temperance did her side of the patrolling, though as soon as she was gone he realized the problem with that. Aw, crap, Koshiro and Mali will think I made her up! His friend had certainly seemed a little surprised to learn that he'd gotten a date with a girl, come to think of it. Lacking the ability to leave a note, though, there wasn't much he could do. I guess I should probably talk with Temperance about how I'm a holographic construct being projected by what looks like my wristwatch, but's a conversation for another time... At least he was out of that stupid Goodman Building basement, he reminded himself. For tonight, anyway. He took to the air and left the cooler behind, letting his friends to find what they'd left behind. If there are any crooks there, I will beat the crap out of them...

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Even as Citizen and Temperance checked the security on their sides of the building, a shadowy form swept overhead in complete silence, banking wide to circle around the rooftop a few times. Koshiro typically used white paper for his planes, the better to coordinate with his team, but for tonight's jaunt his paper airplane was dark gray and metallic, almost like an impossibly agile ultralight. It was more subtle, and it looked cooler, both of which were important considerations. As they flew, he sat crosslegged in the center crease of the plane, controlling it effortlessly as he looked back at his companion.

"Looks like they haven't shown up yet," he told Mali with a grin. "We could always ditch them, see where the wind takes us." He was obviously kidding, but there was enough teasing dare in his tone that it was clear he was game if she was.

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Mali grinned and, for a moment, seemed to consider the offer. "Nah, wouldn't be nice. Besides, it'll be fun." She gazed around, still apparently giddy from the flight. This was so much cooler than her car, and rivaled riding her bike. She'd already decided that, at some point, she'd offer to take Koshiro riding with her.

She wondered, briefly, if Sharl and his date had already been there. It was certainly possible, perhaps they'd arrived and went to do something? She decided that she'd be patient. "Might as well wait a bit for them to show up."

Koshiro's powers were certainly interesting, if nothing else. She admired the versatility and skill that had to be involved in such a power set. She wondered what all he could do with it, and looked down at her hands momentarily. She wondered, not for the first time, why they'd invite a girl like her on the team. Sure, she could fight, but, was that good enough?

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This neighborhood wasn't exactly a familiar beat, but it was still much of the same - apartment buildings gathered around the drive-in, with the occasional cottage home interspersed between them for variety. Temperance got a hold of it quickly, sticking to the shadows and keeping an eye out for suspicious activity. If there was any, it was staying hidden behind doors. No one in the back alleys was dealing in darker trades; the only person she ran into was a homeless man picking through one of the theater's dumpsters. She handed him a pack of cookies she'd be secreting in her pea coat, as well as the number for a local shelter, before heading back for the roof.

"It all seems clear," she said to Citizen after she finished scaling the fire escape. "No dealers, no gang bangers, no hostile spirits seeking to warp all reason and subjugate mankind." She sat on the lip of the roof, her legs dangling out into space. "Is this a regular haunt of yours?"

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"Not really," Citizen confessed as he looked past the buildings behind them to the scrub and half-built developments beyond the theater. "This kind of open space makes me nervous, especially with all the plants and animals that I know are out there. It's so...alien." He turned to Temperance with a half-smile, floating down to sit on the edge of the roof with her. "I know for Freedom City, this is just the edge of town, but for me, this is like having Mars just down the street." With an alien girl at his side and that ever-shocking black sky full of stars overhead, for a moment it was a lot like the fantasies Sharl had had as a young teenager. Taking a chance, he put his hand on hers and said, "Company's pretty nice, though," he said with a wider grin. "Hey, think we should head back? The others have to be here by now, and we can tell them we've done the dirty work for them."

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Temperance was familiar with strange outlooks. After all, she spent her days talking to spirits, to creatures that could hear color and speak radio and read the emotional tenor of a 1962 Buick Skylark. Her father had often talked about the currents and tides as if they were fellow employees. But all those beings usually had a familiarity with the world, as they were serving as a part of it. To hear Citizen talk about how alien Freedom - and Earth - seemed by its very nature drove home just how strange the whole experience might be.

"Everyone has their borders," she said. "You'd be surprised how alien some Freedomites find the rest of the world. Hell, how alien I do. My dad talks about how everything is connected, but that's his world. I'm a part of it, but I know I'm not of it." She paused. "And someone this turned into being about me. But... well, this is our world. And our world has things like Antarctica. All Antarctica has for civilization is New Freedom and a few bases on the icy wastes, and some people would tell you they're about equal in warmth. And after that... you have lakes that have been under ice for millions of years, with lifeforms no one's ever seen. There's a glacier that spits out iron every so often, so that it looks like the land's crying blood. It's here - right here, in the big scheme of things, and we don't even know what it is."

She looked Sharl in the eyes. "I'm just saying you're not alone," she said. "Everyone's got their borders. Everyone's got their 'over there.' And sometimes, it's not as bad as it looks. Sometimes your eyes adjust, and it's pretty beautiful." A second passed as she considered whether that was way too overblown, and looked out to the distance. "And yeah, we should probably go meet 'em. Who knows what they'd get up to without us."

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Normally Citizen found that kind of talk superstitious twaddle, but something about the way Temperance said it made him want to believe it. He shivered a a little, thinking about things much warmer than Earth's Antarctica and how it compared to the Nightside back home. "...yeah, yeah, let's see what they're doing," he said, blushing a little and smiling as he took to the air again. Careful, Sharl, you don't want her thinking you're overeager... He stuck very close to Temperance on the way back to the rooftop where they'd started, and sure enough he found both Papercut and Crimson Tiger there waiting for them. "Hey guys," he said, trying to play it cool, "We took care of patrolling. Looks like the only thing interesting that's going to happen tonight is going to be the four of us up on the roof. Papercut, Crimson Tiger, this is my friend Temperance. Temperance, this is Papercut and Crimson Tiger. We're teammates."

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Koshiro seemed just a touch disappointed at the decision not to go soaring off into the sky, but his grin was still broad as he banked the plane into a daringly steep descent that pushed the both of them a little bit closer together. "Your wish is my command." The plane landed without so much as a bump and folded itself down flat. "Looks like they're just getting here anyway." Climbing to his feet, he extended an unnecessary hand to help Mali up and strolled over to meet the other couple.

At Citizen's introduction, he gave Temperance a nod of greeting and wondered if they were seriously going to be using their code names all night long. That seemed like it would make romance awkward at best. There weren't a lot of really romantic ways to say "Crimson Tiger," and shortening it to CT would do weird things to his brain after a year of training with Corbin. He'd figure out some way to work around it. "You got a radio that can pick up the sound from the movie?" he asked Sharl.

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Mali nodded politely and smiled. "Nice to meet you." She said. Part of her wished that she could have just taken off, seeing the sights of Freedom City from the air, but, that wouldn't have been nice. Besides, she figured that things would be fun anyway.

She kind of stepped back mentally when she heard the word 'teammates'. She supposed it was true, but she had limited experience on the actual team. It would take time to get the whole 'team' thing situated in her head, she supposed.

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Temperance's eyes first lighted on the gigantic paper airplane resting on the roof, obviously built for manned flight. She'd seen photos of the same plane over the skies of Freedom in the paper, usually after some minor crisis. These guys were still teens, like her, but they had a lot more experience - and a fair bit more training, she assumed. "Pleased to meet you as well," she said, trying to keep the mystique up. "A radio's already been secured. It should be able to provide adequate sound for the four of us. There's also a cooler for sandwiches and soda; if anyone wants popcorn, I could always make a run down."

Mind you, taking the fire escape doesn't exactly have the flash of a paper airplane. Note to self: really work on that 'ice sled' idea...

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"I, uh, I guess I should admit that I can't eat," Sharl suddenly confessed to Temperance as he sat down next to the radio, idly fiddling with it to make sure it was tuned to the jazz station that came on before the movies. "I mean I can, just not out here." He demonstrated by reaching into the cooler without opening it, his hand passing right through the surface of the lid before he pulled it back again. "I'm not really here, you see," he said with a little shrug. "I'm in here." He tapped the little black plastic bud on his shoulder. "I can make myself solid, but I'm not made of the same stuff as you guys. What you see is a hologram." He coughed, and added nervously, riding one awkward moment with another, "I'm Sharl, by the way. I just...I guess we should get all that out!"

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Temperance studied Sharl, trying to control her face when the hand went right into the cooler. That would explain the little display at the nightclub, she thought, and how he got into the TVs so easily. Thought he was just someone who could jump him; didn't realize it was the other way around. Then again... every relationship's got its thing. Look at Mom and Dad. Guess I should've figured the "things"'d be a bit more exotic in this line.

She reached up to her mask, her fingers working into the ice. It split down the middle with a muted crack, and came away in two pieces. The face of a young black woman looked out towards Sharl. "Eliza. Glad we can get that all out there."

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The couples wound up sitting on the edge of the building, one pair on either side of the cooler, as the movie started. With the radio cranked up well enough that everyone could hear it, Sharl copied what he'd seen in Earth movies about how to sit at a drive-in, pulling over the cheap blanket he'd bought the other day (and had Eliza bring along in her cooler) and setting it on both their laps. He focused on the movie as it came on, and naturally as well on the cute girl next to him. "So you go to a lot of drive-ins?" he asked Eliza curiously, letting Koshiro and Mali get their business on (whatever that might turn out to be tonight) without any interference from him. "I mean, I know these are dying in a lot of places as people stick to watching things in their homes." That actually made more sense to Sharl, but there was no denying the sheer exotic novelty of the experience. Or Eliza, for that matter.

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As the movie started, Koshiro folded up a paper loveseat that was sturdier than it looked, and considerably more comfortable than sitting on the chilly rooftop. "You want one?" he asked Sharl and Eliza casually, even as he waited for Mali to settle in. The movie didn't seem too interesting to him, but that was okay. He'd rather concentrate on other things anyway, and chances were good that, given the way Freedom City seemed to operate, something freakish would happen before the third reel and they wouldn't see the whole thing anyhow. "You comfortable?" he asked Mali, sitting down himself on the slightly crinkly cushions.

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Mali smiled and nodded "Yeah, I am..." She said after settling into the paper seat. She sounded surprised, but realized she shouldn't be, Koshiro seemed to be quite talented with his powers, after all. She tried her best to relax, but it was clear that she was worried that something might happen.

"If I seem a bit nervous, it's because of this crazy city. It's like a giant monster might pop out of the movie screen or something, you know?" She laughed. Being a super hero meant a lot of cool things, but it also meant never truly being off duty, not completely. There was always a chance that Mali would have to gear herself up for a fight. Most days she didn't care, but she was on an honest to goodness date, and she crossed her fingers and hoped that nothing would interfere.

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"I've been to a few," Eliza said, "this one, and one down in Georgia back when I was 9. It's never really been a regular occurrence for my family, but it's one of those things my dad's fascinated by." Her dad hadn't exactly had many chances to walk the soil before he'd fallen for her mother - among the other things that fascinated her dad were the Internet, the Freedom monorail system, and cinnamon buns. "It's a shame everyone views them as relics nowadays, but it's kinda the way the dice fell. Only so long they can stay open during the year in a climate like this. Then came things like home video, and IMAX for people who wanted to get the big screen but indoors. Still... always gonna be some appeal in a place like this."

She didn't respond to Mali's mention about a giant monster; she knew there was tempting fate, and waving a red flag in front of it while doing a tap dance. Just in case, she cast her gaze over the theater, trying to see what kind of spirits might have been dwelling "backstage."

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Sharl hadn't gotten much in the way of helpful tips from Gina when it came to dating Earth girls, so instead he relaxed and watched the movie for a while, thinking about worlds gone away and closer than you might think. There was something vaguely unsettling about the images on screen to his eyes, the eerie 2-D pictures like ghosts in a world already cast ghostly by his holographic nature. Ever since D-Gray's resurrection, it was hard not to see human entertainment and wondering what new image would spring to an all-new, very real life. Maybe all this is just another computer program. When he thought about _that_, he couldn't think of a single reason not to yawn a little, stretching his arms high, and let one arm come down across Temperance's shoulders. "Nice movie," he complimented as he turned to look at her.

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Temperance, meanwhile, tried to lose herself in the movie, at least for a little while. Some of the movies she'd gone to see had drawn shows bigger than the actual films. Spirits of adventure, romance, joy and fear would be drawn to the pulse of the crowd; some would stage their own little recreations, like a Rocky Horror Picture Show cast, while others would war with each other to feed on the resonance riding up from the audience. It could enhance the whole experience, but it could also serve as one hell of a distraction. Tonight, however, she could focus solely on the movie, as all the other sprits were elsewhere. And she could focus on Sharl's arm falling on her shoulders.

Huh. Boy is bold.

"Yeah," she said. "The whole experience really works."

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As the movie played, Koshiro grabbed drinks and snacks from the supplies and brought them over to the couch, putting a companionable arm around Mali's shoulders as he sat. "If you think about it right," he pointed out, "most nights in Freedom City pass by in a boring way, with nothing much happening. It's just that the nights when things do get crazy are more memorable. So if we want it to seem more balanced, we just have to do more memorable things on nights when we're not under attack." He tilted his bag of popcorn in Mali's direction, offering to share, while silently considering the size of her shoulders and triceps under his arm. He might need to start hitting up the gym a little more faithfully.

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Mali leaned into Koshiro a bit and sighed, as if relaxing. He was right, of course, it was a great night for a movie. She was glad that Koshiro didn't seem put off by her muscles, or that she was likely stronger than him. He seemed to see her as a cute girl, which, in her mind, made things a lot easier, and a lot more pleasant.

"Heroing is rewarding...and exciting, but there's no point in living an otherwise boring life." She took some popcorn and popped it in her mouth, munching quietly.

For one of her very first dates ever, things were turning out fine.

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Once the guys made their move, the evening settled into a particularly raucous version of movie night in the dorms back at Claremont. After all, up on the roof, there was no one to look at them funny if they cheered loudly for the hero, or booed the bad guys. Or, for that matter, jumped in surprise at a particularly startling monster's appearance. "That is a very large tree," said Sharl with just a trace of a teenage boy's defensiveness as the plant golem on screen loomed over the plucky protagonists. "It would surprise anybody..." Despite temptation, he didn't touch any of the snacks they'd brought: they looked really good, and he didn't want to disappoint Temperance, but the last thing he wanted to do was lose his solidity when he was around a pretty girl after he'd eaten lots of food. At least she doesn't just think I'm a jerk for not eating it, he thought. She really was very distracting, and in a very pleasant way.

Reminding himself that humans didn't appreciate comments about their various phenotypes, he waited for the end of the first movie to offer. "You're looking really pretty, by the way. The darkness here really brings out your eyes." And it was dark, at least if you were from a society where it never really was night. "I can watch the food if anyone needs a bio break," he offered to the others as the credits began to roll. "That mini-mart up the street probably has shorter lines than the bathroom at the theater."

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