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Adventures in Aquatic Babysitting (IC)


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Monday, January 28, 2013
1:30 PM

Freedom Aquarium stood on its own pier along the city's Waterfront district, a large three story building that also included a walled-in area beneath the pier to serve as a habitat for the various marine animals that called the aquarium home. Despite being early afternoon on a weekday, the aquarium was fairly busy, a number of school groups and mothers with young children making up the majority of the crowds at the moment.

Out in front of the main entrance to Freedom Aquarium, Katharine "Kat" Shade and Giang Trang made their way off of the public bus that had brought them from Bayview. The two teenagers were students at the Claremont Academy and had been sent to the aquarium as part of a report they had to work on together for biology.

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Giang Trang looked up at the large building in front of her and her classmate. The Asian teen could sense the massive amounts of water located inside, which was of course of little surprise. She was dressed in a simple pair of jeans, a white V-neck shirt and a light coat, not at all bothered by the cool early afternoon weather.

As was typical for her, Giang demeanor was relaxed and calm, almost serene. It had not been long following the events of the Day of Wrath that the Asian teen had been able to refocus and recenter herself, meditating slightly more frequently than normal, sometimes with Mali, but often on her own. Having only been at Claremont a little over three weeks now, this was the first opportunity that Giang had had to spend any time with Kat outside of the few classes they had together.

She looked over at the other teen as she asked, "So Kat, any thoughts on where we should begin?"

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Kat stepped off the bus while she fiddled around with a map of the place bigger than four leafs of paper laid alongside each other. It was mostly useless, checkered with little cartoon animals with big eyes inviting the reader to come to each exhibit. She speared something on the map with a finger. "The jellyfish look interesting, and they're right next to the rays." Kat's jacket was denim, her shirt dark with a red heart sheared in two across the front. "And the tiger sharks, here."

She gave the older girl a covert glance. Really, she didn't know much about Giang. The girl was quiet, easy to pass over. But after going through the ringer with Subito Kat figured she needed a quiet friend. She trotted alongside Giang and gave her cheeriest smile, holding out the map so her partner could see it. "Where'd you like to go?"

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Giang looked over at the map offered by Kat, giving the slightly younger girl a warm smile of her own. "Well, I believe we should try to see as much as possible to be sure we have enough to write about for our report." She studied the map again for a moment before she continued, "The jellyfish and rays seem an appropriate enough place to start."

The two teens were soon at the ticket booth by the entrance. Thankfully the line was rather short at the moment, and soon they had made their way inside. Just inside the entryway, they found themselves standing in front of a massive seawater tank that rouse up to the floors above them. A wide variety of saltwater fish and marine mammals were swimming around inside the main tank, entertaining children that were gathered along the observation decks on the floors above.

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The aquarium was a wonder. Kat had never been to any before, and was easily distracted and turned around. They passed fish in shallow tanks every color of the rainbow, ones filled with darty silver things so thin they vanished when they turned sideways, and a shifting rock that turned out to be an octopus when Kat peered closer, blending perfectly against the aquarium, watching the passersby with alien eyes.

By the time they reached the jellyfish, Kat's dignity had worn away and left her wide-eyed and grinning, staring at the things in the tanks, leaning over rails and squinting to try to catch a glimpse of this colorful fish or that transparent mollusk. Kat made creative use of the wall as a base to keep her pencil from breaking through the page as she started making notes, practically glowing.

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Though she had a natural affinity for the water, like Kat, Giang had never been to an aquarium before. Like the other teen, Giang was fascinated by the various marine life they saw on the way towards the jellyfish. Though she still retained her general calm composure, the smile on her face certainly indicated she was enjoying herself.

When they reached their planned "start," the Asian teen took out a small notebook and began making some notes in a mix of English and small, precise Chinese characters, as she read over the placards beside the exhibits and spent time watching the graceful movements of the very alien jellyfish. As the two moved over towards the tank containing various rays next, the teenager glanced over at her companion. "If you do not mind my asking, have you been at Claremont long?"

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Kat scribbled something unintelligible onto her paper and peered into the tank, the water-distorted light dappling spots all across her face. "A little longer than you, but not too long." she said, turning her head toward Giang. "They found me at the end of spring, and I spent most of the summer learning to keep from annihilating my bed in my sleep." She tugged at the bottom her her shirt, tried to straighten it with her free hand. "How about you? You jumped in right in the middle of the school year, right? Were they helping you get . . ." Kat made a face and vague gesture; she didn't actually know what Giang's talent was. "Get it under control?"

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Giang listened to Kat's answer, noting that she mentioned having to spend some time learning to control her abilities. While the Asian teen was not certain what those abilities might be, she was not going to pry if Kat did not want to explain further.

Then Kat turned the question back on Giang, asking if she had started late because she had need to learn to control her powers as well. The Asian teen was quite for a brief moment as she considered the question, as she was still not entirely certain how much of her past she should reveal to her classmates at Claremont at this time.

"No, nothing like that." She replied. "I did not start until earlier this month as it was only last month that Raven found me."

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Found could mean a lot of things. But they had 'found' Kat with a man wearing a suit at her doorstep, not a hero in full costume. There was a story there. But not Kat's to pry at; everyone had their secrets and they had a right to them. "The Raven?" She raised an eyebrow. "Every hero seems to know about Claremont, somehow." Kat put a hand on her hip and pretended irritation before flashing back to a smile. "How are you doing? It's gotta be weird to jump in the middle of the school year. Do you have anything you do besides . . ." Kat heard soft footfalls and turned to see a woman with a red handbag turn the corner. Kat turned back to Giang and gave an easy shrug. "You know."

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Giang gave a faint smile as Kat joked about every hero seeming to know about Claremont. "Well, I have only met a few others from the Freedom League when Raven brought me here to Freedom City, but they all certainly seemed to know about the school."

The Asian teen regarding the woman that Kat had spotted, dropping her voice slightly as she answered. "I am doing well, thank you for asking." She replied. "It has been a little bit difficult, but it is actually rather...comforting to be back in something of a scheduled routine. Though I am still getting used to some of what we do at the school, there is much of it that was like the training I received when I was growing up in Vietnam."

"In any event, it is far preferable to the alternative." Giang had fully intended to stop at that point, but looking over at Kat, she was aware that her statement would only serve to raise more questions, or lead to speculation on what it meant. "When Raven found me, I have been living on the streets of Singapore for about three weeks." She added quietly.

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Well, Kat bit down on her lip, isn't she full of surprises. Far as Kat was aware it seemed like half the kids at Claremont came an alien world or fought their way free of some kind of evil mastermind or emerged fully formed from a weed in the backyard five days after a guy with a white beard gave it a stern look. "Yeah," she said. "That sounds like it'd be a lot better."

A secret for a secret. "I woke up halfway across the state, in an alley, no clue how I got there. They found me the week after my powers manifested, I dunno how. I can't imagine being out for three weeks in a different country." Kat eyed Giang up and down. "It's not really in my skillset."

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Giang gave a small smile as Kat mentioned not having the "skillset" to survive in another country. "Well, I did have something of an advantage for get by in Singapore." The Asian teen stated. "I at least spoke half of the city's official languages, one of which is English. In addition, I was able to get some assistance from some of the monks at the Buddhist temples in the city. But I was probably close to the end of my ability to get by when Raven found me."

"But to just wake up somewhere completely strange, that must have been very frightening."

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"Once I'd gotten out of the dumpster, it wasn't all that strange. I'd been to the big city before," Kat admitted, grabbing at her neck. "Still, I was pretty terrified. I thought I'd been kidnapped at first." She held her palms up and gave an embarrassed little smile. "Then I was mostly confused." It felt wrong to complain too much about it; clearly Giang was sharing only part of her story. Why was she at Claremont instead of back at Vietnam? Why was she in Singapore? If she was being all upfront about living on the street, what sort of thing would she hesitate to say? "It's fine if you don't want to talk about the rest," Kat said with a gentle grin. "Everyone's got sore spots."

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"Yes, I would imagine that was rather confusing." Giang replied as Kat elaborated a bit more on her first, inadvertent use of her powers.

She then smiled slightly when Kat indicated she would not press any further into the Asian teens past. "Thank you." Giang replied with a little nod.

She then turned to look at the tank of rays a moment before looking back to Kat. "Not that I do not wish to talk more, but we should likely try to do so while continuing to work on our project some. There is still a lot we need to cover."

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"'Course!" Kat said, holding out here hand toward the jellyfish. "So, I was looking at them, and I was thinking . . ." Time passed. Bit by bit, Kat and Giang filled the holes in their outlines, here and there, habitats and adaptations. They went to visit colorful poisonous lionfish and sharks that sat in the sand and waited below the surface for something to come closer. If Kat had done it in home while reading through a book she would have called it tedious, but not now, with the curious things of the sea within arm's reach.

Near the end of it, dots connected in Kat's head. She was Giang's hero name was Tsunami? She'd helped save Claremont from being cooked into metahuman bacon during the Day of Wrath, along with Adamas. She cocked her head to the side and watched her in appraising silence. "What were you doing on the Day?" Kat asked, the capital clear in her enunciation.

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As the pair of teens continued on their way through more of the exhibits in the aquarium, Giang continued taking notes in both English and Chinese. The amount of variety and adaptations that existed among the aquatic animals they saw was rather astounding. As they looked at many of the various creatures, the Asian teen could not help but wonder what it would be like to go and see some of them in their actual environments, something that would be rather simple for her to do.

When Kat brought up the question of what Giang had been doing during the Day of Wrath, the Asian teen was quite a brief moment before she answered in a low voice. "Well, initially Morgan, Darren and I were nearly manipulated into attacking Mali and the other members of Young Freedom by the robotic duplicate of the Headmaster."

"Thankfully events transpired in such a way that when the bomb that the robot had planted in the Headmaster's office went off, we were not all right in the radius of the blast. The only one that really was in any danger when it exploded was Darren, and thankfully his diamond form provided sufficient protection. After Young Freedom departed, we realized there could be more bombs, and Morgan was able to detect the one down in the main shelter under the school. I mainly helped subdue the Grue that had attempted to hide among the other students, Morgan was the one that deactivated the bomb."

She looked over at the other teen. "You were at that political rally that day were you not?â€"

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Crossing her arms, Kat's face went dead sober. "Yeah. I was there." She said, "one second, I was up there talking to Walsh in front of the cameras, and the next that thing pretending to be Blue Jay was climbing up the walls and firing down, killing everyone she could." A breath, deep, and careful. "Things came to a head fast, and I took her–it–down." She clenched the fist that did it. "You guys did good, no one at Claremont was really hurt." Unstated went the but we did not.

"It's kinda crazy, all that time, the robots were right under our noses." Kat ran a hand over her face and sighed through her fingers. "And we didn't have a clue."

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Giang listened as Kat talked some about the events she was present for on the Day of Wrath, noting the seriousness that came over the other teen. "Thank you." She replied when Kat complimented the job done by her and her companions at the school. "But in many ways, I believe we had something of an easier situation that you and the others faced at that rally. An ancient Chinese general once wrote 'whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him."

"Not exactly descriptive of what happened that day, but perhaps appropriate enough. That robot duplicate choose the battlefield and imposed its will on the situation before any of you could have realized what was going on. So in that sense, you and the others were the ones who 'arrived' second. But despite the tactical advantage the duplicate held, you and the others managed to reverse the situation, imposing your own will over the terms of the engagement."

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Well, it wasn't like Giang was wrong, but it was kind of hard to say that 'better than expected' was good enough when people still died. Kat chewed on her lip. "Maybe," she said, with clear reluctance. Kat had already had a long talk with Velocity, and she didn't want to put upon anyone else. She tried to remember what the speedster had said and smiled for Giang. "Sounds like that guy knew what he was talking about. Yeah. You're probably right."

Kat tapped her foot against the floor, made a decision. "You up for some pizza after school?"

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Giang had a feeling that Kat did not really want to talk much more about the subject, so she simply gave a small nod in response. When the other teen turned the subject to getting some pizza after school, the Asian teen gave a small smile. "That sounds good."

The two teenagers' path had led them to a section of the aquarium where the lights were considerably dimmer than the areas around the other exhibits. Inside the room was a large tank that wrapped around two walls of the room, both of which were entirely glass to allow full view of the tank. Gathered in front of both windows was what appeared to be a bus load of kindergardners, all of whom were clearly excited by whatever was in the tank.

As Giang and Kat drew closer, they were able to look over the head of the excited five and six year olds to see dozens of small, humanoid creatures swimming around in the large tank. Glancing down at the placard in the corner where the two windowed walls met, they could see that the sign indicated the tank contained "DEEP ONE INFANTS."

From time to time, some of the small creatures would swim close to the windows, and the teens could see that they were hairless, with green, scaly skin. They had clawed hands and feet, pointed ears, and pupilless eyes that were entirely black. Some would seem to hiss as they peered outside the tank with their dark eyes, reveling sharp, needle like teeth, before they would swim back away into the more shadowy sections of the tank.

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"Great," Kat said, eager to move on to some other subject, "I know an awesome place we could . . ." She trailed off as they came into view of the tank, as they caught a view of something behind a wall of kindergarteners.

They didn't look like fish, they looked like horror movie monsters. Like someone had taken the most weird deep-sea creature, with their terrible eyes and pine-thin teeth, and played around with the human genetic code until it fit. Kat grabbed hold of an elbow and squinted through the glass. She opened and closed her mouth, turned toward Giang with an expression of mute horror on her face. "The hell's this?"

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One of the teachers for the kindergraden group gave Kat something of a look at her comment, but otherwise said nothing. The kids all seemed intently focused on the small creatures swimming about in the tank before them.

Giang simply shrugged her shoulders in response to Kat's question, not entirely sure herself what to make of the numerous creatures. Moving slightly to the middle, where they could better read the placard for the exhibit, the two teens read:

These are Deep Ones, a mutated, militant Atlantean sub-species rescued from disaster by the heroes of Freedom City, being raised on the surface for their own protection.

Nearby was a large box that had a sign that indicated it was for donations to help provide for the care of the Deep One infants.

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Kat caught the teacher's look and bit down on the side on her lip, but her eyes were drawn right back to the infants, but her expression wasn't quite awe. "Mutants?" She said, peering at the . . . things did not seem appropriate. Children. "On display like this?" Kat said, more quietly, gesturing toward the habitat. "Is that really alright?" She ran her tongue over—thankfully—flat, human teeth; tried to imagine what it might've been like if her mutation had run a more grotesque physical course, like others sometimes did. They wouldn't have done something like this to her, would they? Why were they there, then? Out in public where kids could stare and laugh?

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Giang looked back over at Kat as she raised the question of whether it was morally right to have the Deep One infants on display like this. The Asian teen looked back at the tank, her expression one of concentration. "By my count, there are close to fifty of them." She said quietly. "It would seem unlikely this would be the goal of any long term plan."

Looking back over at Kat, she continued. "Perhaps there is some more information somewhere about what plans there are for raising them? Any long term plans for them will likely be complicated and require a fair bit of resources."

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Were they intelligent, Kat wondered, peering at them as they swam through the tank. She tried to pick up some sign of sentience behind their black eyes, in their movements through the tank. Were they angry, shy, happy? "I guess they've gotta have some," she said, not sure if there even was a plan that would make her think this was okay. She made a note to visit and ask some questions. But she supposed it'd be a step up as long as it wasn't just 'bigger tank.' Warp reached back and fiddled with her ponytail, looked away from the Deep Ones. "I just didn't think they did that sort of thing to mutants."

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