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Disco Inferno (IC)


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Giang considered what Darren said about the bomb. "Well, then we likely know that whomever sent this duplicate of the Headmaster, it was not the Headmaster himself. Perhaps the very point of the bomb was to try to kill as many of Young Freedom as possible?"

When Crow finally rose back his feet, the Asian teen focused back on him, listening as he explained what he had learned. She frowned as she considered the implications, and was already in action as he gave them both fresh orders. She was still holding the stairs made of water in place that she and Crow had climbed up to the ruined office. With but a thought, the teen reshaped the water into a slide.

"Let us go then." She said simply, running ahead of Crow to jump over the ruined wall and sliding back down to ground level. Landing on her feet, she then started off towards the gym building, looking about for any threats.

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Crow forced himself into a calmer frame of mind, surprisingly managing to keep pace with Tsunami's slide as he booked along. The angered mind was cudgeled into submission under that brute force, then - and he turned it to contingencies. What did they know, what was likely to happen, what if things went horribly, horribly wrong.

"Tsunami, keep that water on hand. I say 'tough luck', hammer indicated target with everything you have. I mean everything. Adamas, crowd control; same codeword - if whatever's down there is active, contain it and separate it from the students. Big walls of diamonds. Surround them, box them in, divide and conquer. But do not let any of those students be hurt. Period end."

Battle plan set. Now for if things went wrong.

"If Archer doesn't evacuate now, tell him that we're inbound hot with evidence, and to watch for anything suspicious in there now. Guard exits and entrances, double whatever prep's there and get any battle-experienced students ready. Don't say any more than 'evidence' over the comms - don't know who's listening in. If he still doesn't listen, break comms. We'll improvise on the way down."

If he doesn't listen after all that, bets he's an infiltrator? No indicators in the resonance. No signs of chromedomes. Even odds no...and why am I even talking to you? Clear off!

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Registration and reaction time: .3 seconds. Archer would have been proud.

"Lockdown, NOW!"

The figure right in front of Edge immediately ducked backwards in a roll; slight left angle letting his battered shoulder hitting first. Grit the teeth. Keep going. Elapsed time, .9 seconds. Unacceptable. Too slow. He forced his legs downwards and got the toes of his boots onto the earth first, pushing upwards in tune with his momentum. In the same time that happened, four knives were between his fingers and crackling with electricity, looking for all the world like a bird's claws...well, with lightning between them. Elapsed time, 1.2 seconds. Better. Much better.

And in 1.3 seconds flat, Edge found himself with eight very sharp and very warm points aimed towards him, the crackling of the electricity being a distinct indicator of where those points precisely were. And very clipped tones along with them.

"Nice try. Don't move. Adamas, Tsunami - codeword, nail him. You, proof of life. Now."

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Giang had been running alongside Crow as they made their way towards the gym. At the sudden appearance of the brightly dressed figure in front of them, the Asian teen reacted as she had been trained. With a graceful, almost flowing motion, the teen changed her momentum to one side, executing a perfect side ariel as she did.

Finishing the flip, Giang landed lightly on her feet, assuming a high back stance, her left foot in font. Both hands were open palm, her left extended in front of her, her right across her chest. The teen still had the thin mantle of water swirling around her in an almost mesmerizing pattern. Hearing Crow give one of the code words he had previously set, the Asian teen focused on the figure before her, prepared to launch a blast of water if he proved to be a threat.

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Darren looked over his shoulder at the man who'd simply appeared behind them. Before he had time to open his mouth, Morgan rounded on the stranger, weapons drawn and looking quite threatening. Giang, too, did her own little acrobatics. For his part, Darren turned in the air on his crystal platform, looking quite lazy by comparison, and held up a hand in a little wave to Edge.

"Yeah, yeah, if he does something funny, I'll put him in a box. I got it, Crow." He flashed a smile. "We're dealing with a bit of an emergency situation right now, so, like, please forgive me if either of these guys jump the gun a bit. Or a lot. Kind of a new arrangement." Darren tapped a finger against his lip. "A bomb went off when Young Freedom came back to talk to the Headmaster, who, like, seems to have been robo-doppelgangered or something. We're kind of, like, en route to stop another potential detonation." He shrugged, palms to the sky. "And I'm like eighty percent sure Crow is going to be mad about me talking to you at all, so if you can hurry up and stand down we can get back to, like, being super heroes that'd be A-plus."

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"Oh my god, they got Summers?" Edge put his hand over his mouth, his eyes going wide with shock. The knives, the electricity, the fancy maneuvering, they might have been on another planet. "That's awful. God, just think how long he must have had access to everything here, doing who knows what..." He shook his head, bringing himself back under control: being around high school kids was no time to panic. "Listen, you stopped the Summers robot? That's great. There are robots all over the city, someone in almost every team. I don't know why they would go after Young Freedom..." He hmmed. "All right, my team's all tied up dealing with the crisis, but I'm here for you now. Where are the bombs?" He said, looking around at the trio of young heroes. "As for whether I'm a robot, you guys are the ones with the drawn weapons and the powers. Look, I don't like to talk like this," he said seriously, looking right at Crow, "because it's bragging, and it's arrogant, and it's not manners, but we're in the middle of a crisis, and I just watched a robot double of my second best friend break a guy's neck and then burst into flames right in front of her boyfriend, and it was really awful. Crow, I remember you, I remember all the hero data you were gathering. You know what I am. You know what I can do. If I were one of those crazy murdering robots, with the kind of power I have, what do you think would be happening here right now?" He looked at them all and added, "Am I right, or am I right? Let's go."

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"We'd be dead." was the cold reply.

But as we are not dead, and I haven't seen proof of life, and I just saw the man I've held up as an icon and example for the bulk of my childhood and teenage life try to kill several of his students and then be killed himself, been tricked into trying to halt Young Freedom with enough equipment to tackle an army, been near a bomb blast and took a concussion (thank the Morrigan that's gone), thought one of my crew had ended up killed in action by said plasma bomb blast, had to make a snap decision that could easily bite me in the ass if I made the wrong one, and just had to use the skull of said infiltrator as a scrying tool, you might forgive me for being a bit damn jumpy.

It was a mark of something in Crow that he didn't actually say all that out loud. Mathair na trocaire, he wanted to - but bitching right now would do absolute jack squat to help the situation. And frankly, given that he now got a clear view of Mark's face, it was a zero-sum game. If it was the real Mark, it was a god-send straight from on high to answer their prayers, gift-wrapped with a bacon-wrapped bow. If it wasn't the real Mark, then...

Well, the term doomed was too sissy to describe it. Screwed to the wall and roasted alive might have been more accurate. Ye gods he was morbid right now.

Crow tweaked his fingers. The knives vanished. He retained his low stance for a moment before standing upright - and looked Mark Lucas dead in the eye. Mortal addressing physical god. Yeah. Good luck with that.

"Trust. Broken twice. Giving it again. Please don't betray us." Didn't say what would happen if he did. Didn't need to. Never needed to. He just pulled his coat around him again and stalked by, aiming in the same direction as before. "Ad. Tsu. Stand down. Traps this way. Edge, get Archer on the horn and back up Adamas - need those bunkers evacuated ASAP."

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Darren crossed his arms over his chest, looked from Edge to Morgan and then back again. He bit his crystalline tongue while Morgan gave his own terse reply, then opened his mouth to speak. "We've all had a bad day, like, I almost died not even five minutes ago, but I really don't care who you are or what kind of power you've got, the whole 'I could kill you if I wanted to' proof is some mighty weak sauce if that's what you want to lead with. You're right, it's so arrogant even I'm a little ashamed of you. And forgive us a bit of reasonable caution after a freaking terror attack." Darren puffed out his chest and felt a bit of angry flush that thankfully didn't show up on his faceted skin.

"But we also really don't have time for this, so, like, if Crow thinks it's fine, then whatever, it is. Let's go stop some more bombs already." He huffed, not so much a curtailing of his anger, but rather an agreement to shelve it for a later date. Darren spun on his crystal board and started flying for the gym, still grumbling as he pulled away from the group.

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Giang was silent as Adamas began explaining what had transpired so far, including their suspicions that there may be more explosive devices waiting to go off near the evacuation shelters. The responses from the mysterious newcomer appeared to be genuine, but then the Headmaster had appeared to be real as well, at least until he had drawn that weapon on the members of Young Freedom. The man seemed to know Crow, who appeared to know him in return.

As Crow indicated he was willing to trust the newcomer, the Asian teen stood up from her martial arts ready stance. Where things not so possibly dire, she would normally have offered some form of apology and a more formal greeting. But right now, they were possibly very short on time, so proper etiquette would need to wait. Turing on heel, the teen stared off alongside Crow once more.

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Ugh. Was I that insecure in high school? Mark pinched the bridge of his nose and remembered his mother's teachings about being polite, his father's about being a team player, and Midnight's telling him about focusing on a crisis. Still, they're here, they saw the bad stuff, and they're not running away. That's something, at least. The rest of it can wait until people aren't in danger. With a nod, he was on, and it was as if the conversation had never happened. "Right then, let's go." He led the way over to the gymnasium, and was about to reach the door when Adamas' communicator finally went off again.

"I don't know who you are, son," said Archer's voice when Darren raised it to his ear, the gym teacher's voice full of righteous indignation and heroic valor, "but I've got some of the finest young men and women in the world backing my play. So if you and your goon squad up there want to come down here and start trouble, well, we're going to finish it."

"Oh, jeez, not this fighting each other at the whims of the bad guys crap _again_," said Mark, scooping the phone right out of Darren's hand."Hey! Hey, it's all right, sir, it's Mark Lucas. I popped over from the League after we took down our robot." He winced at the words before going on, "These guys are legit human teenagers, trust me. They think they've detected a bomb down in the-"

"Edge!" yelled Archer, "Get out of there! The real Darren Stelzer is down here with-oh my-!" There was a brief sound of a scuffle over the comm system, and suddenly the ground shook beneath their feet as something red, roaring, and toothy erupted its way right through the soil like a giant mole breaking the surface! Down below they could see the shelter, its roof torn off and rocks beginning to fall down inside on the students within, as the creature broke free and began bolting away down the grass.

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"Oh come on, robots can't do that!" yelled Mark, waving in frustration at the giant monster before quickly turning back to the hero team. All right, you've been in ridiculous spaces before, you can do this...He knew Crow from the year they'd shared at Claremont, he'd seen Tsunami in action, and what's his face, the diamond guy...okay! "All right, people, move fast! Adamas, shore up the walls of the shelter, keep it from collapsing down any further! That bunker's deep, we don't need to be digging people out while we're trying to stop that thing!" Think think, Trevor would do this so much better... "Tsunami, you're with me, we'll try and slow that thing down! Bayview's already got a disaster going on, they don't need a twenty foot red gorilla in the middle of it!" And sure enough, the giant monster was beginning to look distinctly like a giant red anthropoidal gorilla, albeit with weirdly smooth features and no hair. "And Crow, you're a detective!" He met the boy's eyes straight on and said, "Find the bomb! Let's move!"

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Tsunami came to a sudden halt as the ground began shaking beneath their feet and then some large red mole looking creature broke through the surface from the underground bunker. She watched in surprise as the creature then started to shift so it looked like a giant red gorilla, and started moving towards the edge of campus.

Edge quickly took charge, providing words of encouragement and directions for each of the teens. Nodding, she took a step forward, feet slightly further than shoulder width apart as she brought both her hands up in front of her.

Seemingly from nowhere, a jet of water shot forth, twisting and coiling as it streaked across the grounds before slamming into the back of the large red gorilla. With a concussive force greater than a high pressure water cannon, the blast sent the creature sprawling onto the ground, at least for the moment.

"If that gets loose I may not be able to keep up." She stated simply, her hands still outstretched, ready to launch another attack.

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"Oh, of course I'm the one with the evil robot duplicate. Like, really, why should I expect anything different?"

Adamas fumed as he flew over to the hole the monster had burst out of. He held out his hands and light fully enveloped them, glowing in pale spheres. With a thought, crystal started to erupt from the walls of the shelter. The diamond crawled across the edges of the exposed room and then bridged into a canopy, a second roof to protect the students from falling rubble. He sealed the shelter back up, but continued to grumble.

"There better be a course on identifying doppelgangers after this is over."

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"Adamas, less bitching more shoring!"

Wow. Crow had actually raised his voice. Granted, he'd been running on frayed nerves since they started, but that was really a sign of something. He'd leapt backwards when the ape came through the ground, knives in hand and ready to fly when he'd heard Mark's voice over the chaos.

Losing it, brother? Going stir? Chaos is a wonderful thing when it's on your side - not so much when your enemy taps it. Why not give him a taste instead? SHUT UP!

To others, it might've been surprising either way that he reacted to Edge's orders in the space of a heartbeat; he'd been in charge to begin with, but in his mind he kept replaying his screw-ups. If a real veteran wanted to take command now, then he was all for it - less odds of someone dying from his mistakes. Damnit. Focus. Find the bomb. Stare at how badly you hosed things later. Work now.

Crow hit the ground at a sprint - reaching for the wind walk rune and finding...nothing. Burnout. Damnit. Double-damnit, that was all he needed! Chalk flew from his pocket to his hands - he had a plan for if this happened, but it was still a stop-gap. He checked himself, and turned towards the hole; aiming for it while scrawling on the backplates. Quick-change here, link there, ready there...

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"All right, Crow, I have no idea what kind of bombs those are," called Edge with the confidence of a man with perfect faith in his allies, "but if you let me know where they are or try and defuse them first, we can either send them into space or turn them into walkie-talkies!" He had the kind of authority that correctly displayed that he'd done both over the years. "Adamas, you're doing great, but we're going to need you over here to contain this thing. Rampaging monsters in the heart of South Freedom are the last thing we need when we've already had enough rampages of our own! Try and put walls around it, something that won't make it panic and bolt through one of the buildings!" He'd seen that happen enough in training to know it was only too possible. For his part, Darren could see his teachers and fellow students down in the shelter, but the adults were busy tending to his injured peers. "Tsunami, see if you can put a lasso of water around the thing and try and trip it! It hasn't hit us yet, so right now we don't hit it until we figure out exactly what's going on. Be ready to put it out if it goes up like the others did!" he added.

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Tsunami had her hands in front of her, prepared to attack the creature again should it turn to attack them. But when Edge provided new instructions on trying to subdue it unless it attacked them first, the Asian teen nodded as she stood up from her lower stance, lowering one hand as she left one up and aimed in the general direction of the unusual creature. With a simple thought, she caused a thin sheet of water to cover the ground around the creature, extending out forty feet in all directions.

"That should hopefully keep it from tying to move anywhere else." She stated.

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"Hold on, finishing up."

Darren gave his handiwork a quick once over mostly to catch his breath. He hovered away from the shelter and towards Giang to give the girl a bit of back up. Darren pointed a hand at the monster and considered simply trying to snap a hamster ball around it or maybe tie its feet together, but Edge wanted walls, so Edge was going to get walls. He concentrated on a spot ahead of the monster, at the far border of Giang's water circle, and then the crystal began to burst forth out of nowhere. The diamond marked off the edge of the pool, about a twenty-five foot section.

"Does anyone on campus speak alien gorilla?"

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"If only." was the dry response over the commlink. Crow had finished scrawling on the glove and vaulted into the hole; they could hear the noises of surprised students over the 'link, along with a barked, then clipped reply from the be-coated teen in question. "STOP. It's Crow, I'm on your side, giant robot upstairs, bomb in the room, skip the arguing. Get behind cover, make cover, just do it now and do it fast." The tone was flat, brooking no argument. Anyone who started to argue, though the others couldn't see it, was met with a Glare. Capital required.

There was the sounds of movement, and then a murmured stream of Old Gaelic; judging by the tone he was speaking in, likely swear words. He clearly wasn't a happy camper - with the sound of rummaging, rubble, and shifting metal. Followed by a somewhat louder one. "Nine hells. The bomb's right by the shelter door. It goes off, they'd have been trapped in here - no way out. Move it, it'll probably explode...mathair na trocaire." Bad way to die. Especially when a lot of these kids were people he knew. The list of crimes on the bastard who did this was just getting longer.

As is what we can do to him when we catch him. Revenge is sweet, isn't it Morgan? Just shut up.

There was a moment of rustling again, then another clipped few words over the link. "Tell Edge to switch to our channel - zero one three three seven. Keep the creature locked down and busy. Wait for my signal. Then get clear of that thing fast."

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"Luckily, I'm already on that-" said Edge over the comm signal a moment before the giant red gorilla-thing landed a devastating punch against the crystal barrier that trapped it, making Darren's hard-built diamond structure crack and bow outward like ice hit with a sledgehammer. Having recognized diamonds, Mark gasped in momentary surprise - either that kid's powers weren't as impressive as they looked, or they were in more trouble than he'd thought. "Okay, well, let's back Crow's play here and get this thing taken down! You guys know your role, you can handle this. We're going to beat this thing, save the day, and..." He blinked, staring at the monster again, and shook his head. "You know, _none_ of the other robots did this. Any ideas, people?"

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"Luckily we are not particularly close to it at the moment." Tsunami replied to Crow's comment about getting clear from the creature once they contained it. Once again the Asian teen felt a feeling of confidence come over her as the older hero indicated what needed to be done and that they would be able to do their parts.

Focusing back on the creature and the damage it had caused to Adamas' barrier, the teenager decided it was time to change tactics and try to help the other teen in keeping the creature contained. The hand that was extended, keeping in place the thin layer of water that had failed to trip up the creature then pulled back, closing slightly as she did so. The water around the creature then flowed towards it, quickly forming a solid sphere around it, helping to further contain it.

"Hopefully that will help hold it until Crow arrives."

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"Thanks for the save, Tsunami. This jerk is trying to, like, make me look bad!" Darren huffed and floated up over the gorilla monster, which was then doubly trapped. He swerved in the air on his diamond disc and pointed a finger down at the beast. A second coating of crystal appeared in a shell around Tsunami's own sphere of water. As the crystals grew, he continued. "None of the other robots did what, exactly? Have a panic attack and, like, get put in time out by a couple of elementalists? That's cause it probably isn't even a robot or something, duh."

Darren waved his hand down towards the shelter. "Now, can I go, like, crystalize my robot counterpart? I'd really like to get that out of the way before he goes off and, you know, kills half the student body."

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"That is your counterpart, Adamas. Just turned a whole lot prettier."

Wow, that voice was dry. Like almost dry enough to spontaneously evaporate the water currently surrounding the monster; in what Morgan (not Crow) would likely have referred to as the 'hamsterball of doom'. Though admittedly a giant ball of water with diamond coating was pretty much overkill when it came to your average need for restraints.

Given the size of the thing, though - and the fact that it was cracking diamond on each punch? Crow chose to err on the side of that overkill. A chalk circle, surrounded by runes and scrawled incantations, found itself surrounding the plasma bomb on the wall; and as he placed his palms beside it, felt a snapping sensation from the backs of his hands. Power flowed through the ferrous runes on the backplates, a cool black energy that coalesced into a shell around that explosive. Another bubble.

Ooh, a neat trick. But can you stick it without my help? Just watch me.

He expanded it. Contracted it. Sweat was beading on his forehead as he kept looking between it and the huge thermal figure standing overhead - through multiple layers of dirt and rock. This'd be a helluva trick if he could pull it off...just had to...focus...there! There was a hiss of raw Power and the runes on his backplates burst into full flame, a hole appearing right below the bomb, staring down at a great red mechanical skull. He grinned. And dome around it suddenly contracted - a violent strike directly to it's outer shell.

There was a beep. Two beeps.


Then Crow stared directly into the sun. And the monster above suddenly felt a searing heat erupt from above it, raw flame and plasma erupting through that hole, hitting that cool water and turning it broiling within the space of a heartbeat! Plasma and painfully hot water turned that hamsterball into one giant trap - just as the monster had tried to fix for the Claremonters below!

Oooh, cold, Crow. And with a touch of poetic irony. I like it! ...your approval fills me with shame.

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The plasma eruptions cascaded into the box of diamond and water, flash-frying the monster right in the face! It gave an agonized shriek as green-white fire washed over its body for an instant, then suddenly seemed to collapse in on itself. "I surrender! I surrender!" howled the giant red gorilla as it formed itself up and down into Darren's familiar shape, albeit a version of Darren with what looked like first and maybe second degree burns on his face. Holding up his hands, the former rampaging brute said, "Just let me go! I'm not the problem here!"

For his part, Edge walked up to the twin barriers still holding the fake Darren in place, suspicion growing on his masked face. "Wait a minute..." He glanced at the other Darren, then back at the one inside, before saying, "You're not a robot. None of the other robots acted like this." He ticked off points on his fingers. "You're a shapeshifter who can make himself really big, you made yourself red with no face when you were trying to escape, you were in Claremont of all places..." Behind them the other students, and the teachers, were coming out of the shelter, but they were letting the UNISON hero and his young allies deal with the crisis. "You're a Grue!"

"No...maybe," said the fake Darren, still tenderly poking at his face. "Look, c'mon, I wasn't hurting anybody. I thought this would be the one safe place in this stupid city when everything started blowing up. How was I supposed to know the ," Mark translated the alien word for the others, "was going to attack this place too? You people have too many enemies!"

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Darren opened his mouth for a retort to Morgan, but then there was another explosion and the attempt at witticism was aborted. He raised his arms to attempt to shield himself from the blast, but between the water and the layers of crystal, it seemed contained. Darren relaxed, a little, as Edge started in on his explanation. With a look over his shoulder, he saw that students were starting to emerge from the shelter, and he watched them right up until he heard the word Grue. Darren spun in the air, almost losing his balance in the process, and flew over to the captive wearing his face.

"Grue? Grue? You had me thinking you were a crazy murderbot, but you're really just an alien spy? That's so much better!" Darren set his jaw and glared down at his mirror image. He wanted to be angrier, but the idea of beating up himself didn't quite sit right, particularly now that it wasn't just a lifeless automaton. Instead, he pointed a finger at the Grue. "You...you are lucky." Darren turned his head to look at Edge. "Who is the Computer God and is he leaving bombs and robots all over the place?"

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Tsunami shielded her eyes from the explosion that Crow triggered, before she focused back on the captive creature as it began crying out that it was surrendering. She maintained the sphere of solid water around the creature as it shapeshifted to resemble Darren. Edge began talking with it, identifying it as a Grue.

The real Darren naturally went over to yell at the alien that had taken his appearance. While he tried questioning it, the Asian teen looked over towards Edge and Crow. "If the Grue was just seeking a place to hide, then we still do not know who planted the bomb. Unless it was the fake headmaster, there could still be another robot."

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