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Claremont Academy, garden paths

September 16th, Monday, 10.15AM


The brief, terse letter each of the teen heroes had been given after morning classes led them there at the crossroads, to wait for a meeting with the dour Edme Dupont, one of the rotating Ethics and Superhuman Law teachers who had an uncanny gift for knowing exactly what topics to emphasize for maximum effect.


'Student,' they ran 'you and four others have been selected for the chance to perform an extracurricular exercise. I and the others faculty hope this encourages team-building spirit and your abilities to work in tandem. Assemble at the garden path juncture before 10.20AM, I will meet you there if you wish to attempt it'


Under the bright morning sun, the fog banks were quickly evaporating, but the ones still drifting over the city gave the dew-speckled lawns and crisp buildings a strangely lovely quality. The air was beginning to heat up in anticipation of the day to come.


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Tona Baudin wasn't sure what to make of an email from a teacher to assemble at a certain spot. Still, it got her out of some morning classes, and while she shouldn't be technically grateful to have a chance to ignore History and Geography -- the past of this strange world and the shape of it over the horizon were things she could never generate much interest for -- she did feel better being able to skip them for today.

So the young archer made her way to the gardens, dressed in her customary long pants with many pockets and loose Claremont jacket. She was feeling upbeat and so moved at a brisk pace, eyes moving constantly but her head and feet always pointed in the same direction. For her, that was about the same as whistling a jaunty tune would be for anyone else.

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Team building.


Two words that Elias dreaded more than anything else.  He wasn't entirely convinced it was an  excuse to have other students spy on him.  He was paranoid, but understandably so.  It didn't help that any of the Ethics teachers tended to give him longer looks than other.  Or he noticed the looks more.  Or it was just projections of his own feelings.  Maybe even literal unconscious ones.  Hard to say.  Hard to say.  Though his training with Eve had large gotten that under control.


Though it did irritate him that his nominal regime was interrupted for this, he liked schedules and structures, if just because the novelty of them hadn't worn off.  The lessons he had in his previous life were less defined.


His dour expression brightened up (for him) as he saw Tona.  They had a small bit of bonding over the camping trip last year, and could talk about survival skills with equal aplomb.  

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Sam is, of course, already there. A perk of being able to teleport. She slipped under a desk, and stepped out by a tree.

"Hey, Tona! Hey Elias!"

She steps out from behind her tree and slips closer to Tona, sporting a pleated skirt in school colors and a letter jacket. Her hair's grown out just enough for her to put them up in mostly decent pigtails.

"So, y'think this is gonna be one of those stupid seminar things, or do you think it'll be something more fun? Maybe we're staking out an arcade."

She jests, but team-building exercises rarely sit well with her. She can work well with others. It's just that others are usually trained in the, 'Charge in and punch people,' school of thought. She doesn't do well when she can't be subtle.

But Tona can keep up with her scheming, and Elias is usually good for slowing down for a plan. Question is, who are the other two?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mickey walked along at a leisurely pace, whistling to himself as he balanced on the concrete edge of one of the garden beds. He may have been running a little behind, he wasn't certain. But it made it all the easier to make sure he was in the right spot.


A few other students about hit age had gathered around in a group closer to the center of the gardens. He figured that meant he was in the right spot. He recognized a couple of them already. He was pretty sure he shared a class with the quiet one with the shaved head, and he'd seen the freckled girl plenty of times around the campus, but they'd never properly met. He didn't recognize the others, but that just meant he got a chance to make some new connections.


He sauntered up to the group and found himself a seat. "Hey! Is this where we're meeting up for the extracurricular whatchacallit?"

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  • 2 weeks later...


"Exactly." replied the crisply accented voice of Dupont as the spare man marched into view. He was dressed in his usual dark grey and cold blue suit, black hair and thick mustache bristling in the pale sun and his blue eyes narrowed. Under one arm he carred a small package supporting several sheets of paper.

Pausing as he reached the quartet he looked them over "Antoinette, Elias, Michael, Samantha...good." Nodding shortly, he retrieved the pages and began sorting through them, thin fingers darting to and fro as he went on "I had hoped to get here before your fifth member, Amanda Green, arrived. The purpose of this 'extracurricular whatchacallit' as Michael terms it is intended for her benefit. Yours as well, of course" he added with a brief glance up at the students "but hers primarily. According to her instructors she is even more socially awkward and uneasy around people than most with her sort of abilities. In the path of life we aim to prepare your for it will often be not only necessary but vital that you work with people because you must rather than because you like them or want to; early exposure to the sorts of extreme personalities, differing worldviews and philosophical stances can only help acclimate you to this idea more speedily." He handed the pages around, two blue sheets stapled together(though the students also found the tell-tale marks of Atom-grade bonding sites) and with two dense blocks of text separated by several empty lines. Taped to each front sheet was a button-sized device.

"The exercise is as follows," Dupont continued, leaning against one of the nearby trees and watching the paths like a hawk "you and Amanda will make their way to Southside and investigate a recent outbreak of bizarre thefts, which eyewitnesses claim were carried out by large robotic chessmen. Somehow." Dupont suppressed his evident desire to roll his eyes, instead shifting to lean his other shoulder against the foliage.

"After observing the thief's pattern this month-" he paused and clarified rapidly "the robots gave no sign of any sort of artificial intelligence, they acted as though following pre-programmed instructions, so we believe one mastermind is all who's behind this. Anyway, the thief strikes around this time each Monday, give or take an hour or so. if you can, either draw out the controller from hiding or follow the machines back to their lair. I am sure you will know best how to handle a machine-controller, so I won't tell you your business...except to say this: it doesn't matter how quickly or how efficiently you act on your own, but if you can work as a group to defang and defeat this threat, and do it well, it will be a concrete sign to us that you are improving in more ways than just raw skill and power."


The instructor stepped away from the tree, watching one of the other students fly unsteadily over the quad, wings scattering glittering motes as he weaved above them.

"If by some unimaginable circumstance you find yourselves losing, those little buttons will instantly transport you out of whatever peril you've been trapped in, and the beacons will let the authorities clean up after you. Yes Samantha, I know you can teleport, but we want all of you out at once."

Edited by Arichamus
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Tona squirmed at her full name, and began dreading the assignment almost immediately. Dupont was no one's favorite teacher, and he seemed about ready to talk them straight through the mission rather than let them actually do it. Thankfully, he eventually wound down -- not without dropping a cryptic maybe-threat, though. That made the archer bristle, and she folded up he paper without even reading it. "Go into town. Find robots. Break robots. Break the guy who makes robots. I can do that, yeah."

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Chew. Blow. Pop. Smack.

"So what I'm hearing is, we're so completely intolerable that putting up with us for an afternoon is considered training."

She chews her bubblegum for a bit and considers the job. It involves robots. That is bad. Robots are awful and people who make them should feel awful. Clearly, this conclusion has nothing to do with the fact that nearly all her powers don't work on robots.

Why did they pick a psychic and the next closest thing on hand for this, again? And arrows! Totally what you want for anti-roboticism. Plus whatever it is Mickey does. For now, Sam assumes it's psychokinetic control over the elemental forces of hand sanitizer. The details can come later.

"So, intel. These robots do anything fancy? Get violent? They got laser guns? Laser swords? Laser rollerskates? Anybody tested how they actually see yet? How tight's the program? They practically on a track, or can they think a bit? The more you know, and all that." If they've attacked enough to give a definite pattern, then somebody had better have done some proper scouting.

She pockets the doohickey that's probably worth more than some of the tech she risked her life to knick running with the Phantom Fox. This school has way too much cash.

Edited by Blue Rose
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Elias, for his part, arched a brow, and that was it in terms of facial reactions as he put away the little teleporter.  "I fail to see the merit of this.  Other than assembling a group of people who are not, by and large, team players.  And then ensuring that the group is at an obvious deficit against their foes."  His eyes narrowed a little bit and he shrugged.  To him it was all utilitarian, it didn't help that he didn't believe himself to be socially awkward.  Distant, and unconcerned with social niceties yes, but then it was mostly due to him not wanting to project stray emotions to people around him.


"I am aware of differing view points.  Unlike some I don't force my worldview on others."  Giving a meaningful look to Dupont, and pointedly not speaking out on the hyprocrisy that Elias found in his words.  "Fine."

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Errant's mentalist senses picked up a powerful sense of regret from the teacher. "No, Samantha, I merely considered you and the others good examples. As for your other question, the second sheet of the packet has their patterns laid out. But to summarize: pawns have short-range energy blasters, knights flash-teleport and fall on people, bishops move at great speed, castles have longer-range energy weapons, the kings..." he closed his eyes for a second in reflection "...they project an immobilization field. The queens? We haven't seen any used in these heists yet." Shifting the parcel under his arm to a more comfortable position he shrugged apologetically, a frown tugging at his largely impassive face, eyes watching the middle distance over the students' heads "I suppose the mastermind thinks they're being clever. The robots themselves aren't a threat if you don't get in their way or try to attack them, they move in pre-set tracks, the bishops clearing the way for the knights and pawns to gather up whatever they're stealing, the others covering them and their retreat. They can't deviate from those patterns either, if something new gets in the way all the robots can do is try to go through it. They can at least pick up things in the visible light spectrum, most likely a basic camera setup."


Dupont turned his gaze to the bald teen "And yes Elias, that is exactly the reason. Every student has to go up against something they aren't the best suited for at some point. For some it's a burning building, others a crashing plane or deadly robot. That shouldn't be any danger unless you make a mistake, and I trust that is unlikely." The instructor made a casual sweep of the other paths "Any more questions?"

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Tona rolled her eyes at the tactics on display. Rigid strategy could win through overwhelming numbers and firepower, but it could also be undone by surprise and subversion. And they had a telepath, an illusionist, and herself on the job. "Do we know where the 'bots are going to attack next? It's a big city, and there are a lot of banks around." Mentally she was already planning out an attack, given what was known; attack the joints and locomotive centers of the bishops and get the whole operation hung up. Get other 'bots between themselves and the kings, try to catch the enemy in their own traps.

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"Oh, great. I'm a role model. The world is doomed." Sam doesn't take the insult she'd dreamt up seriously; it was a bit of silliness to buy time to think.

"Why are we even worrying about the robots? It's the boss that's the issue. Let's just drop a tracer in with the cash, find bad guy HQ, and take him out. The robots aren't gonna be much threat once they're out the brain." They may only know how to smash through, but that doesn't mean she can't scheme. And even with robots, the old fashioned way of going unseen can work just as well.

She looks to the group, and just to bug dear Mister Dupont asks, "So who's up for ice cream after this?"

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"That would be the best choice.  Considering the capabilities of one of the robots is unknown, and we know nothing about our other classmate."  Folding his arms across his chest, as he looked to Sam.  "But if their creator can make them, it is a good chance he can jam a transponder.  Might be easier to keep visual on them until they get back to their base"


He ignore the ice cream comment, it was known that he rarely indulged in sweets, to the point that was roundly a point of teasing by others.  Like Sam, who was known for her sensitivity in all interpersonal matters.  "Still Tona can hit them with an arrow with a tracer, and maybe you get close enough to tag them with another?"  He was beyond needling Dupot, despite his urge to.

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"Ice cream is dangerous," Tona pointed out, resisting the urge to smile at Sam's purposfully goading of the teacher. Not the smartest decision, probably, but Dupont did seem to be overstating the danger. "Don't worry about tracking them. I'm here, I can stay with them." Or destroy them, as needed.

Tona wasn't sure what this exercise would actually show. Elias and Sam had abilities she didn't that much was true, but would they be useful against things that weren't alive, that didn't have minds to trick? Well at least Sam would be able to get them close to wherever the robots were sttacking, that would be useful.

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