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The Bear Necessities (IC)


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December 3rd, 2012

3:45 pm

Freedom City Library, Main Branch

Marcus was, first and foremost, a mage.

He certainly didn't fit the typical idea of a magic-user. After all, most of his endeavors had usually involved activating the rune permanently affixed to his back and then wrecking things. He was still learning and studying, however, and even though his other talents were far more draining, it didn't mean that he hadn't been practicing. To that end, his math and science scores were steadily improving from what they had been during his first year at Claremont--and now he'd been asked to tutor another student.

Books in hand, Marcus waited at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the library doors, sniffling occasionally and glancing up at the overcast skies. Kinda wish I'd brought an umbrella... ah well. A little rain never killed anybody.

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Kat was, all things considered, not a terrible student.

At least that was what she told herself when she tried to avoid looking at the wall of letters that added up to her GPA. Her remedial chemistry grade was getting dangerous. Back in her apartment, it was five minutes before she was to meet her tutor, and Kat was in no hurry. An inky black-red flash engulfed her hand, and it held a new different book each time. Remedial Chemistry, Algebra 1000, A Metahuman History . . . Basic stuff.

For a while Kat had tried to explain she didn't need tutoring, and for the first few months they'd believed her. Then they let it slide since she was focusing on bringing her 'gifts' to heel. Then they played dirty; 'no Doom Room until you find a tutor.' She had grumbled some, but it was hard to argue with the lines of letters that kept sneaking into her grades.

She plucked a bit of looseleaf and two pencils out of the air before shoving everything off the table into a little black bag. She draped it over a shoulder and checked her phone for the time. Two minutes left.

Fifteen seconds and three wary jumps later Kat was walking out of an alley two buildings down from the library, standing on her tip-toes, trying to get a better look at the kids in front. She found recognized her tutor and gave a wave, I’m here.

“Marcus, right?†Kat flashed him a smile and stuck out her hand before he could answer. She was not tall, but next to him she looked like a middle school student, at most. If that fazed her she showed no sign. “I’m Kat.â€

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Marcus was a really difficult guy to miss--big guy in a hockey jersey. He wasn't so worried about her being late; punctuality wasn't exactly something Marcus himself was good at, hence why he'd showed up twenty minutes early. He knew nothing about who he was meeting, either, besides her name and a basic rundown of the things she could do--a teleporter named Kat. It seemed innocuous enough, and he immediately knew that there were more details than he was being given. That was fine though... At this point, he expected it. If anything, it made these encounters a lot more interesting.

He was more or less lost in his own thoughts when Kat showed up--right in his face with a hand extended. Marcus blinked, surprised, then flashed a slightly embarrassed smile at being caught unaware, shaking her hand in return. "Yep, that's me. Nice to meet ya, Kat."

A single moment of assessment told him that she wasn't of the magical sort. "I guess we should go inside, hm? What exactly are you having trouble with?"

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he seemed okay, as far as Kat could tell. A little quiet. Kinda absent-minded. She released his hand and hid her embarrassment behind a huff. "Sciences, mostly," she surrendered, following alongside Marcus inside the library. As far as Kat knew, everyone attending Claremont was some flavor of freak. She wondered what kind Marcus was. Maybe some super-science type, if he was going around tutoring people? "Chemistry's been kicking my ass." Kat crossed her arms behind her back and made a face. "They want us to learn the whole table!"

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"Chemistry's not SO bad... the periodic table's pretty easy if you study."

Marcus smirked as they walked through the library. He'd found an unoccupied and relatively out of the way table close to a window. He set his bag down on the floor, then pulled a chair out for Kat before seating himself. "I'm no genius, mind you," he replied, "but I've had to refine my own study habits too, so I can sympathize."

He reached for his bag and rummaged through it, pulling out three books before finally finding his own chemistry book. One of his books didn't look like a school book; it didn't even have a title. Just a green and gold-trimmed leatherbound book with a bronze lock keeping it closed. Marcus barely seemed to even notice it was there as he flipped through to the back of the chemistry book to the periodic table.

"You're probably not gonna get it all in one go... so let's start with the elements you do know, and we can go from there."

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She lowered her shoulders and shot Marcus a wonderfully sullen expression before the mask cracked open into a half-smile. Kat pulled her own book out and dropped it on the table and fell back into her chair, all but lounging back in it. "Uh, Hydrogen, Carbon, Oxygen, Aluminium, Iron . . . ?" As her mind scrabbled, looking for answers, her eyes wandered, searching for a distraction, in agreement that whichever found something first would decide what to do.

Her eyes caught something before her head did. That book wasn't like anything Kat had ever seen before, and her gazed locked on it. It was an old tome, with the sort of lock that you might put on your diary if it said where you hid the bodies. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table. "What's that?"

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"Ah, so all the easy ones." Marcus smiled encouragingly. A start was a start, after all, and he fished a pencil out of his pocket, marking those elements with an X. "I guess we can start from this end. It's actually not so bad once you break it down into sections, like the alkali metals. Starting with lithium, since helium is a gas and not a metal, and down to... ...huh?"

Marcus followed her eyes to the stack of books. Immediately he knew which one she was talking about. He looked at Kat sternly and, plain as he could possibly be, answered her question. "It's a spellbook. You... really are easily distracted, aren't you?" A single eyebrow rose; he didn't seem annoyed or anything, focused more on the task of tutoring than getting into whatever was in that book.

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Ah, that flavor of freak. "Teachers say that, sometimes; I like 'curious' more." Kat held her hands up in a mollifying gesture. "I've never seen a spellbook before. Magic isn't really my thing." Before she came to Freedom, Kat had been certain that the stories about how much supernatural was packed into one place had been exaggeration. A few days of walking the halls in Claremont had told her otherwise, until now she hadn't really mingled with magicians.

So she found magic more interesting that chemistry. Criminal, right? Kat reluctantly let her eyes fall to the table. "L I is lithium right?" She tapped its place on the table with a finger and hmmed.

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Marcus had to admit to a certain degree of curiosity as to what her 'thing' was. He smiled as she admitted that magic wasn't her specialty and nodded. "Yeah, I know. I could tell. I've got a sensitive nose." Had he been in bear form, Marcus would have probably been able to tell what she'd eaten for lunch, too.

"As for the book... I need it to study. Same as any other subject. Like chemistry." It was the truth; his particular style of magic relied heavily on knowing how elements interacted with one another. What he did was extremely basic compared to some of the things in his mother's old spellbook; most of it still went over his head. He knew enough, however, for his training to become more physical than mental. He knew the theory, but he was still working on training his body to endure the strain. It might have been easier for most, but the Beast Rune was actually making it harder.

He moved his hand to cove the entire first column. Errant thoughts aside, Marcus, at least, was committed to the task at hand. "So what's the symbol for... potassium?"

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Nose? He had a magic nose?! She blinked the surprise out of her eyes and swallowed the question before it could get out. She could understand reticence in those things better than most. It was one thing to be a mutant; they were a dime a dozen in Claremont, really. But when the conversation turned to things more specific things got a bit . . . uncomfortable. "It's . . ." She scrunched her brows together.

". . . P T." Her voice lilted up at the last second, almost making it a question.

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Marcus had to stifle a laugh at her answer. "Ah... no. That's not even close." He pulled his hand back, pointing out the 'K' on the table.

This was going nowhere, at least, not in the manner than Marcus would have liked. he did, however, have another idea. "I'll make you a deal. You HAVE to memorize the alkali metals and the noble gases. In exchange... I'll tell you everything you want to know about my magic. Deal?" Marcus was a noble guy and all, but he wasn't above bribery. That and it seemed to be the most reliable way to motivate Kat. He was far less reserved about talking about what he could do now that he understood how his magical birthright actually worked.

In the mean time, the rain seemed to pick up noticeably. A deep, resonating rumble of thunder rolled overhead, and the sky seemed to open up on the poor souls below, drenching anyone without the good sense to have brought an umbrella.

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Kat made a disgusted sound and ran a hand over her eyes. "Who decided that? There's not even a K in it!" She fell back into her chair with a huff and studied the ceiling with half-closed eyes.

She perked up at the mention of a deal and sat a little straighter, looked Marcus in the eye. Her face was sober, but her eyes were smiling. "Deal," she said, propping open her book and found Akali metals. It was almost an interrogation. Why're they called Akali? Why are hydrogen and helium excluded? Kat speared points in her book with each question, holding it so Marcus to see what she was pointing at. Why do they matter? What's that? What's a mole?

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"It's Latin. There's plenty of elements that have Latin abbreviations. "

As the 'lesson' continued, Marcus realized why Kat was so difficult to teach. She had to know EVERYTHING. Right then and there. There was no middle ground with this girl. Two years ago, he might've just gone bear, flipped over the table, and said to hell with it; now the Beast Rune seemed to be treating her persistence like a challenge in its own right. Still, after having been tutored by Etain and Professor Quill for Latin, he found himself able to answer much of her curiosity with solid information.

Still, just recalling it all was mentally taxing, and neither Kat nor the rain seemed to be letting up any. He looked at his phone--an hour had gone by already. "I think that's enough for today. Don't forget, I expect you to have both memorized by our next tutoring session." Marcus yawned, looking out the window. "I was gonna suggest getting something to eat but this rain is just miserable..."

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Studying was draining, and not in the way that made her body ache for a good long sleep, like a long day in the gym, but it was good in its way. Marcus kept the aimless frustration of questions not answered at bay for long enough for Kat to get tired instead of bored, but it was clear that he had a better aptitude for this than she did. As time went on, things just started . . . slipping through. By the time the hour was up, Kat felt burned out.

She stood up tall and stretched out a bit, trying to force an hour's stillness out of her muscles . . . And buy herself time to think. Offer or not? He had given up an hour for her . . . and hadn't said anything about magic yet. She needed time to drill him. "I could get us there fast, though I don't want them to see me jump in, so that'd still be half a minute in the rain . . ." Somehow she doubted that he'd want to try out the . . . cuisine of a city called Normal. "Maybe Chicago instead." She tilted her head to the side, like a quizzical owl. "Is it raining in Chicago?"

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"Chicago... what? Wait, no." Was she actually suggesting going THAT far just to get out of the rain? He hated getting wet--he was worse than a cat in that regard--but he didn't want her poofing around the globe. Especially not on his behalf. He had to assume that she was still prohibited from using her abilities publically. He was too, for the most part, but for entirely different reasons. The Beast Rune had a habit of setting off a primal fear instinct in people even when he wasn't trying...

"There's this little pizza place like a block away from here. I can deal with getting a little wet... or we can just try to wait it out. In the mean time, ask me whatever you want. Besides... I'm from Chicago. Not interested in going back..."

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Kat shrugged. A jaunt across the country was more than in her ballpark. She turned toward the window and let hand rest against the glass, watching the rain fall. "If you think it'll clear up, that'd work better. It'd be hard to spot anyone that might see me in this rain, and I don't know that place."

Not feeling up to sitting again quite yet, Kat let her back rest against the end of a bookshelf. "I don't really get magic," Kat said, scratching at the back of her neck. "Everyone seems to use it for something different. I met a girl who said she could jump into dreams, and another who was all calling fire and ice from the sky. It's all different. What's it really?"

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You went right for the hardest question you could ask, didn't you?

"I guess... it depends on who you're talking to. We all have a different way of interacting with the magical world. For instance... I'm better at 'natural' magic. Whether it's just me being stronger or tougher than most, or being able to manipulate primal elements like fire, water, that sort of thing. What works for me, though, isn't necessarily what works for Crow. I don't know if you've met him yet. Both of us use runes to channel our magic, but his are a lot more complex and versatile than mine."

Marcus paused for a moment, wondering if he'd lost Kat in the explanation. He tried to keep it simple, despite the complicated nature of the question. "My power in particular comes from a single runic symbol. I was born with it, but it happened to trigger two years ago. I'm capable of more, which is why I study, but the Beast Rune takes up a lot of energy, making any other magic a little bit draining."

He stood up, stretching a little bit. He started to put his books back into his bag when a huge crack of thunder actually rattled the windows. The sonic jolt seemed to set off several car alarms outside, as well, and Marcus looked more than a little unnerved by the sudden sound. His eyes were on the window, where several blocks down, a plume of smoke could be seen rising from the street. "...what on earth..."

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Kat tilted her head to the side and frowned. "I don't think I know Crow."

She was opening her mouth to ask what the Beast Rune was when the thunder hit. It wasn't a distant, rumbling thunder but a loud, roaring one that Kat could feel in the empty space of her lungs. "The hell?" Kat blinked at it for a long moment before she started shoving her books back into her bag. She pulled out her hair-tie, threw it in and held the bag over one shoulder, peering for any watchers in the stacks. There weren't any.

Reaching into the place between places, she put everything on her in there and drew out her costume in the same breath. It was like inky-red mist had come out of nowhere, and when it'd gone Warp was wearing her full her full red-and-black uniform, hands on her hips, smiling. "Up for a little heroism?"

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That.. wasn't magic. Huh.

There was an odd sense of familiarity for a moment, but he couldn't quite place it as he blinked at Kat's powers at work. He was more fascinated than anything though, and as she spoke, he wondered if it was wise to actually go where the trouble was. Then again... that never stopped him before, even if he thought doing so now might have been setting a bad example.

"...you're not gonna let me say 'no', are you?" He reached into his bag and pulled out his mask. It looked something like a brown fur-lined cowl with almost lupine ears. Certain no one was watching, he slipped it over his head; as he did, his blue and gold Claremont uniform seemed to superimpose itself over his existing clothes. Marcus was almost unrecognizable; even his facial features seemed different, and his teeth actually seemed a bit larger and sharper--especially the canines and incisors.

"Right then. I guess study time is officially over."

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Warp rolled her eyes. "Like you would've said no. This is way more fun than chemistry." As Marcus slipped on his disguise, Warp couldn't help but marvel at the way everything changed. Was that magic too? Anyway, this wasn't a good time to ask. Maybe later? She stepped forward and grabbed hold of Marcus's wrist. "This might feel a little weird." Warp's voice was distracted, and Marcus felt himself tugged sideways along with her into a horrible, hungry, red—

And then they were outside quicker than a blink, the rain falling on their heads. Warp peered, trying to make out the source of the disturbance for herself.

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Was that...

Marcus was surprisingly well-versed in traveling across dimensions. He wasn't sure if that's what that was though. It reminded him of the dream dimension in some of its less friendly parts. Before he could dwell on it further, he was being rained on. Still keeping his current form, he gritted his teeth as he tried to reorient himself, turning around before spotting the direction in which the smoke was still rising, despite the rain. There were still people scattering from the scene, and the street was largely blocked off by cars, some of them still with passengers inside.

Further up the block, there was another blast. Warp could see it as a lightning bolt streaked from a vaguely humanoid figure moving further away, blowing through a storefront window.

"What the heck is that?" Marcus started to run forward, partially to get a closer look, but more to reach the passengers in the cars.

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It was hard to make out exactly what was going on, except that there was a traffic jam and someone had decided to go ahead and do the criminal thing. With lightning. Somehow it never occurred to Freedom's villains to be a little more subtle. Warp was grinning until she saw the bystanders in their cars.

With a thought she was standing outside one of the cars by the window. Warp rapped her knuckles against the glass and brushed some wet hair from in front of her face. "You okay?"

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"Y-yeah..." The woman in the small car Warp reached first seemed more or less okay; her airbag and seatbelt spared her from any real injury. She quickly looked into her back seat and seemed relieved that the two teenagers were unharmed as well. The pile-up, however, had wedged both doors on the two-door sedan shut with other vehicles preventing them from opening. Not for lack of trying, however; when she realized that she and her children were stuck, she started to panic a little, shoving hard against the door in complete futility.

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Marcus's first concern was the civilians in the cars. As Warp focused on one, he moved a little bit ahead of her, focusing on two cars that had run into each other. The driver was stuck, trapped on all sides by one vehicle or another. After looking inside to make sure he was at least conscious, Marcus tapped on the window to get his attention. "Hold on, I've got you!"

With one hand on each car, and his back turned to Warp, he put a hand on each car. On his right shoulder blade, the Beast Rune flared to life, burning red through his uniform, and he slowly but surely separated the two enough for the man to open his door and get out.

Marcus looked up at the blast as it shot into the sky, and his expression grew grim. The wandering figure was getting further away, but its destruction was leaving more than just a physical trail. He could smell this one.

"Magic. Of all the..." Marcus hopped onto and over the hood of the next car, quickly scanning them for citizens that needed a hand. He didn't want to lose whoever that was... but he wasn't about to bail on them either. He looked back at Warp. "Everything okay over there?"

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"Hey, hey!" Kat raised up her hands and showed the mother a smile. "Take it easy. I can get you." She looked up and watched the lightning caller running; she needed to get this done fast, or they'd get away. She could teleport one person with her usually, but that was the limit. She didn't have the time . . . Atomize the door?

. . . Nah. Warp pointed to the two teenagers in the backseat. "Scoot away from the middle. And please, try not to freak out?" She breathed in and concentrated. The air between the seats opened like a wound, bleeding red mist at the edges. Through the middle they could see a bookcase, as if through a dirty glass. She gave Marcus a thumbs up without looking. "This'll take you to the library, it's dry and warm and you can use their phone if yours aren't working."

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