Jump to content
Avenger Assembled

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Recommended Posts

Early September 

Common Room, Boy's Floor 

Riley sat alone in the common room, shoulders hunched, sharpening his hatchet. The jacket he wore was one size too big, a bulky, heavy outdoors jacket that had been a gift from his other self before leaving 'home' for Claremont. It was a nice enough jacket - it was certainly like nothing he'd ever worn back in his real home. Nothing this nice would have gone unpatched in fifteen years since the end of the world. The other boys were doing boy things; playing video games, watching television, and talking to each other. Riley, with keen ears and keen eyes, was intimately aware of every whisper of his name; every glance his way. Everyone on their floor had heard the yelling when Lubis had caught him in the bathroom - and they'd smelled the stink bomb afterwards, and seen the RAs coming back and forth and separating the two boys. Lucky I didn't make him eat that arrow. Divine avatar or not, he was pretty sure 'Garuda' wasn't tougher than impervium. Crossbow, and the duffel bag containing all his Earthly possessions, were at his feet under the table. He had only one companion there. 

"You ever thought about going double-headed?" Riley had the idea that John Smith had been one of the more elite students at Claremont in years past. In his early twenties, the crimefighter was still active traveling between dimensions, but in Freedom City mostly occupied himself with his duties as a combat instructor and RA at the Claremont Academy. He was the one who'd gotten Riley and Tyler Lupis separated, and made sure Mr. Hawke and his wife had put Riley up for the night in the faculty apartments across the campus, while Lupis had bunked with Smith himself - after some calisthenics. Garuda wasn't there right now, but Riley could see his buddy Gomera off brooding in a corner about how hard it was to be rich and well-fed every night. 

"Nah," said Riley shortly as he hefted the hatchet. "Not just for throwing, 'Sfor working, too." He pointed to the flat, weathered rear of the blade. "Use this for hammering and stuff." 

"Makes sense," agreed Smith before looking up as the common room door opened again. "Hey. There's the guy I was telling you about."  

Share this post


Link to post

Matthew looked like he'd seen better days - but then, he usually did. He had the disinterested glower of a teenager who really just didn't want to deal with people right now, and wanted to make sure they knew it, too. His shoulders were hunched, hands in his jean pockets, and with the flannel shirt slung under one arm (torn, maybe?) he was left with a worn tank-top and some old shoes to advertise the thinness of his wallet.

The attitude was enough to give him some space, anyway. Or maybe that was the dog: a hip-height pile of fur and muscle, muzzle a little too square to be a wolf but too large and scruffy to be a proper domestic breed, pitch black and showing more interest in the other students than its owner was. No leash, no collar (though who'd know under all that fur), but it seemed content enough to tag along at its minder's heel.

It noticed John and Riley first, cocking its head at them, and some unseen signal prompted Matt to turn his head their way too. His raven hair had fallen to frame his face, but at that angle it couldn't quite hide the bags under his eyes...or the still-healing bruise gracing one cheekbone. He looked at them, looking at him, before screwing up his face into something like a frown. "....what."

Share this post


Link to post

Riley went noticeably stock-still at the sight of the dog, cocking his head and locking his gaze with the unknown beast. He'd been around dogs all his life - not the little toy animals that had died with the humanity that had cared for them, but big working dogs like German Shepards and mastiffs, or small, clever hunters like terriers and foxhounds. And wolves, of course. Lots of wolves. There was something odd about these animals..."Riley, this is Matt Rivera. He's in the same situation you are," John was saying. "Matt, this is Riley Quinn." 

"Really." said Riley, looking up at the tall, skinny guy without bothering to rise from his seat. Geez, I thought people from Earth-Prime were supposed to be jolly. He had to admit, he and Rivera certainly were dressed alike. Rivera was dressed roughly for a Claremont kid, matching Riley's clothes - the obviously borrowed jacket, the faded flannel shirt, the much-patched jeans, which looked more like they belonged on a street kid than a Claremont student. "So, what," he asked skeptically, "you from the dimension of dogs?" 

Edited by Avenger Assembled

Share this post


Link to post

Matt didn't reply for a moment, taking deliberate time to look from Riley, to his dog, back to Riley, and finally over to Riley's things before returning to the conversation. "....sure," he replied, apparently not quite certain what to make of what he was seeing. The dog sat down, and if it wasn't just a dog one would swear that it looked amused. "Yeah, sure. I'm from the dog dimension. Why not, right? But hey, way I figure it...."

He pulled his free arm's hand out of his pocket, pointing pointedly at the hatchet. "....gotta be better'n Oz. You keep the oil can in that bag, Tin Man, or what?"

Share this post


Link to post

"This? This is just for survival." Riley took the hatchet and put it back in the belt holster he'd left on the table in front of him. "This is what I use for real action." He reached under the table and took out his crossbow, gently setting it down on the table while he stood up to fasten the holster on his belt again. He was a fair amount shorter than Rivera; but he was well-used to that sort of thing. He looked down at the dog again, fixing a suspicious look at the animal, before making eye contact with Matt again. "I remember you and your pack from the museum. That old guy really didn't like 'em, huh?" He grinned humorlessly, showing more sympathy with Matt than the curator who'd been so unhappy about the 'service dogs'. "Looks like somebody else didn't like your face," he commented. "You all right?" He certainly knew all about getting into fights, even if it hadn't actually turned to blows the other day. 

Edited by Avenger Assembled

Share this post


Link to post

"You live in a school," Matt pointed out, rather dubiously, looking at Riley like he wasn't sure the boy was entirely sane. "Not a lot even in the city that you need an axe for. ....or a crossbow, I guess," he added, frowning at it. "Little bit dangerous, don't you think? Might as well run around with a gun - it'd do you better and you'd blend in with the gangs."

He rolled his eyes - at the gun or later comments, it wasn't clear. "Two dogs isn't a 'pack'. The old guy can shove it. So can anyone else who doesn't like 'em - including the idiot who gave me this. And yeah, I'm fine. Better'n him." He reached up to touch it, frowning. "He kicked my dog. Taught him not to, but I'm down a roommate --"

He froze as the puzzle piece clicked into place, and deflated a bit. "....which is where you come in, I'm betting, after the stink bomb. Great."

Share this post


Link to post

"Guy didn't like that I have girl parts," said Riley challengingly, meeting Matt's gaze without flinching as he stared up at the other teen. "He's lucky all he got was the stink bomb." He shot a glare around the common room at that, catching several of the boys there looking at him, before deliberately looking away. "Guns are too hard to fix. You need machine parts, you need tools, you need stuff that's better spent on other things." He put his hand on the bow. "Like making a weapon that'll take down somebody who's bulletproof." He added with a hard smirk Matt's way, "You think a gun is all I need to blend in with the gangs, huh? You really gonna go that way with me? Here I was about to say anybody kicks a man's dog deserves a punch in the face, and good for you." 

Share this post


Link to post

"Girl...?"

Matt clearly wasn't sure what to do with that, but his surprise and minor consternation were thankfully interrupted when his dog had a short coughing fit. "....yeah. Okay, so, 'roomie', ground rules: there's some stuff that I probably don't need to know, 'cos it's not my business and I don't care. Okay? And maintenance isn't really the point," he added, glad for something else to talk about. "This isn't The Walking Dead or whatever. I dunno where the hell you're from but in this city 'taking down someone bulletproof' with....ugh. No, y'know what, never mind. I don't care."

He shoved his hand back into his pocket, trying - and failing - to not look at the attention the pair was getting. "Don't care. Fine, roommates, whatever. The dog-kicker already packed his stuff up, so I'm guessing we get my room. C'mon, I'll show you the way."

Edited by Fox

Share this post


Link to post

Riley kept his head down and his hood up as they headed back to Matt's room, no, their room. Once there, he tossed his bag on the stripped bed against one wall, then carefully set his uncocked crossbow alongside it. "OK, coupla ground rules." He looked over his shoulder at Matt and spoke in a tight, serious tone. "Don't try and sneak up on me. Didn't grow up like the other kids. Don't like it." He unsnapped the hatchet from his belt and set it on the bed too. "No monster movies. None of that kind of crap. I'm probably gonna be in and out a lot. You or the dogs like squirrel?" he asked suddenly. "There's hardly any deer, even in Wharton, but I could probably get a whole bracea squirrel and cook 'em up on a roof somewhere." 

Share this post


Link to post

Matt gave his new roommate and odd look as he followed him in, tossing his torn flannel shirt onto the bed...and onto the other dog from the museum pair, which opened a sleepy eye, huffed, and lazily swiped at it.

"I'm in and out myself," he agreed, sitting on the edge of his bed. The first hound jumped up to join the second, both of them nudging him for a scritching he was happy to provide. "If you're jumpy or get nightmares or whatever I can at least warn you 'bout movies. And, uh, no thanks on the squirrel. I eat, y'know, food. And they'd probably rather hunt it themselves if they're in the mood, I guess. Squirrel wouldn't go a long way with them anyway."

"Speakin' of which," he added, the barest glimmer of mischief in one eye. "You heard the man - no sneaking up."

He put two fingers into his mouth and issued a sharp whistle - no less than two more dogs padded in through the doorway, and a third shuffled out from under the bed. The lot of them arranged themselves around their master, and whether on the bed or on the floor five pairs of eyes turned to look at Riley with animal curiosity. "This is a pack, Tin Man. And these're the ground rules: don't touch my dogs without permission. Don't touch my stuff, either - not much of it, but don't mess with it."

Edited by Fox

Share this post


Link to post

The arrival of the dogs made Riley's back go up - not in fear or disgust the way Matt had seen from some people, but with a watchful wariness that would have looked out of place on most of the other boys in the dorm. Riley cocked his head and locked eyes with the pack for a moment - but just a moment. He knew that if you stared into a dog's eyes, all you were really doing was asking it to throw down with you. "Yeah, okay. Same goes for my stuff...You magic?" he asked quietly, taking a seat on his own mattress. "I don't care what your story is, Dog-boy," he added a moment later, a little too quickly. "But that one wasn't there when we came in," he said with certain knowledge, pointing to the one who'd been under the bed, "and there weren't any dogs out there," he pointed outside, "when we were walkin'." 

Share this post


Link to post

A frown flickered across Matt's face for a moment; he was clearly disappointed his trick had fallen flat, but he recovered quickly enough. "Sure, magic," he admitted, sounding a little impressed (and trying to hide it). "Dogs from the dog dimension, remember?"

"I don't make 'em, though," he added, leaning down to rub one behind the ears. The dog closed its eyes and craned its head up, tail thumping softly against the floor. "I just bring 'em here. They look out for me, and I look out f-"

The young man's head jerked to the side, staring blankly out the small dorm window as if a voice nobody else could hear had called his name. Or, at least, a voice no person could hear: Riley's sharp senses and trained attention to detail could note that some of the dogs had turned an ear the same way, though they seemed rather disinterested. "....and I look out for them," he finally concluded, turning his attention back, voice a little more flat than it had been. "They're all I've got."

Edited by Fox

Share this post


Link to post

Riley fell silent for a moment, listening to his roommate's words - and watching his dogs. He still didn't really understand the obviously strange creatures -forget the weird powers, what kind of weird dog turned down squirrel, anyway? But they seemed like alert, protective animals despite all that - so he was he to judge? "They look pretty great. There were times back home we could have used somebody like you - like them." He fell silent again, wondering if his roommate was going to probe that particular opening, before changing the subject. "So is it just me, or does it seem like there's a lot of really hot girls in our class?" he asked, a grin growing on his face. "Cause that's pretty tight! I don't think I've ever had so many girls who wanted to get their hands on my crossbow," he said, patting the weapon affectionately. "There's gotta be somebody out there who appreciates a dude who knows how to take care of animals, chicks dig that stuff." 

Share this post


Link to post

"...haven't really met too many people so far," Matt admitted, leaning back; one of his dogs made a huffing noise, but laid down to become a makeshift headrest without any real complaint. "Been gone a lot, plus the thing with the dog-kicker. Got some good detention from that."

His pillow huffed again, and he chuckled, reaching up to indulge the creature with an ear rub. "Probably should, I guess. I've seen some of 'em around - hope you're right about the dogs. They weird some people out, but if chicks dig 'em then it's gonna be a good year."

Share this post


Link to post

"Crossbows too! Man, my first day here, the ladies were going crazy for this bad boy." He patted his weapon. "Asked me about making it, about what I had in it, all the good stuff. I guess all they see around here are people with powers, not somebody who has to make it the hard way. Uh, no offense or anything," he added quickly, not knowing how his obviously superpowered associate would take those words. "I just...I don't know a lot of people with superpowers where I'm from, so bein' here at hero high, bein' around people with powers, is kindanew. Bowman got me into Claremont, but he's the only superhero I've ever met." As he talked, he set his bow aside and dropped to the floor, where through pushups he continued his conversation with his new roommate. "How 'bout you? There a lot of superheroes where you come from?" 

Share this post


Link to post

"Well, I'm from here," Matt answered, flatly. One of the dogs snorted, and he reached over to rub its head. "So yeah, kinda, they're all over. Grew up around the Fens, though - that's, uh."

He raised a hand to gesture in their direction before realizing he didn't actually know what direction the Fens were in without a window or a landmark, and that rendered the hand-waving a little vague and futile. It dropped back down to plop on one of his companions' muzzles, teasing its nose. Said nose snorted, its owner amused but apparently tolerant. "It's over west of here, I guess. Not a great part of the city, so I haven't known many hero-types. Met a couple, I think, but never, y'know, knew 'em."

The dog pretended to bite his hand, making a tired playful noise as Matt lazily pretended to try to pull free. "Careful about talk 'bout 'the hard way'. Not a lot of people talk about how they got what they got, but a lot of 'em we do know aren't pretty. For everyone who wakes up spitting fire on his eighteenth there's some guy who got his soul torn apart and put back together wrong by fairies or a girl who lost some limbs chewed up and made her own replacements. Probably not gonna make a lotta friends tellin' the guy who had to die to get powers that it was 'the easy way', y'know? Even the fire-spitter's gonna think you're bein' rude to stir something up."

Edited by Fox

Share this post


Link to post

"Yeah, I guess that's fair," admitted Riley. People on Earth-Prime certainly had it a hell of a lot better than they had on his homeworld - but that didn't mean they all lived like kings. "My bad. Only, uh, regular hero I've met is Bowman. He's the one who actually got me to come here." He grinned sharply. "Most of the time you need more than a homemade crossbow to come to hero high, but I guess this was my lucky day." He looked over at Matt and patted the bed, idly curious to see how well the other boy's dogs responded to other people. "So, uh, first time I ever had a room with one guy who wasn't a big jerk," he admitted. "What do you like to do? What's your thing?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Matt was still lying back looking at the ceiling, but he raised one hand again to point at an old guitar propped up against the foot of his bed. The instrument had very clearly seen better days: its black-varnished surfaced was scuffed and part of the neck was chipped, and it would have looked like something straight out of a thrift shop if it didn't have new strings and what looked like a few patched or replaced parts.

"Guitar."

He turned the hand to point around him, apparently aware of where each member of his little pack was without having to look at them.

"Dogs."

One of the latter cocked its head at Riley's bed-patting, but it didn't do more than lean its head forward and sniff - followed by an immediate snort, as if trying to clear that air from its nostrils. "Don't take it personally," Matt noted, still not watching. "They're...I dunno. Particular. Even I don't get what they like and don't like sometimes."

He poked the offending dog with one foot, and it turned its head to snort at him, too. "So what do you do, Tin Man, when you aren't fantasizing about killing people?"

Share this post


Link to post

"I actually don't do that," replied Riley evenly. "Place I live in has about fifteen kay people, and about half the time we're all crammed into about two square miles - with a war on the outside. You think about killing people enough in there, eventually you do it and they have to put you outside." He shook his head. "Read books - tech manuals and old fiction stuff. Build stuff, make stuff, brew stuff. Yamakasi, think you call it parkour here. Wanna get up on the Pyramid Plaza here and run a zipline one of these days, but I'd prolly just get caught. They watch us like crazy." Rolling to his feet, he began unpacking his bag, claiming the room as he set out a single framed picture of an older woman and someone who might have been Riley's twin brother, then a few survival supplies from his pockets. "What do you like to do when they're not watchin'?" 

Share this post


Link to post

"Explore, mostly," Matt supplied, swinging his feet up onto his bed. He'd already kicked off his worn-out shoes, which one of his companions was nudging with its nose as if trying to figure out whether or not it'd make a good toy. It opened its mouth to give one an experimental bite....

"Fang, leave it."

The dog decided that maybe it wasn't a toy, grumped, and jumped up onto the bed to sit next to its master.

"Dogs and I like to go wandering, poke around the city where we aren't supposed to. Go for runs, maybe, work off some stress, keep in shape. I do odd jobs for pocket money, sometimes; grunt work, running punks out of the junk yard, whatever." He ruffled Fang's hair, earning a satisfied sigh. "Dogs like to visit graveyards and the like. We try to get out there once or twice a week."

Share this post


Link to post

"Hm." Riley seemed to make a decision at Matt's words, which had won a real smile from him as he listened to his roomate's secret life. "You wanna go out tonight? Security's good- s'not perfect." When his bag was unpacked, a small scattering of personal possessions across desk and endtable, he rolled it up and slid it under his bed. "I know my own Freedom better'n anybody, but this one's way different. Sneakin' around's fun, too." He turned and shot a quick grin at Matt. "I've gone hunting with dogs, but never any like yours. You sure they don't like meat? Liberty Park's got some good squirrel even now, and there's parts the cops and tourists usually don't go." 

Share this post


Link to post

"....yeah, sure." Matt was pretty sure that decision was going to get him killed, but he'd made worse. "Not a bad way to learn about the new roommate, I guess? This place is a school, not a prison, anyway: they don't try all that hard to keep us here, looks like."

He wrinkled his nose at the mention of meat acquisition, turning his head to glance sidelong at Riley. "....dude, no." One of the dogs snorted, and he rolled his eyes. "Okay, yes, they like meat sometimes, but a tree rat's not gonna be enough for them and you don't go killin' stuff in a city park, what's wrong with you, man. If you've really gotta go hunting head out into the forest or something. You start shooting  harmless rodents inside the city and people're gonna think you're crazy. People might be right."

Share this post


Link to post

"Hold up," said Riley, giving Matt a baffled look. "Are you...are you some kind of vegan?" He asked the question about the bizarre lifestyle with the same bafflement as he was asking whether Matt was actually from a planet orbiting the star - it wasn't mockery, really, just a complete lack of understanding. "Listen, you don't have to eat any meat if you don't want to, and I won't even hunt around you if you don't want. Not like I'm killing dogs or somebody's Nobody's gonna notice a few dead animals," he said, "not if I'm doing it patiently. People around here live so well they hardly pay attention half the time. Hell, two-thirds of the time is more like it." He was stripping off his boots now, undoing the heavy laces and sliding off the leather, then unrolling thick, heavy outdoor socks. "And you shouldn't go calling people crazy." 

Share this post


Link to post

Matt didn't say anything for a moment, one hand resting on his face and the other still on Fang's head, which prompted that head to tilt over and eye its master questioningly.

"....no, man," he finally said, dragging the hand down his face until it flopped onto his chest. "No. I'm not...look. I like meat. Sometime, you and me, we'll go get a burger at a little place I know at the edge of the Fens - cheap, looks like crap, but they use some sorta great spice on the patty, and....rrgh."

He rolled onto his side, eyeing his roommate with obvious concern. The dog, having apparently come to terms with the end of its head-scratching, turned to look as well. "You get meat by buying it, man. Ain't expensive as long as you aren't getting prime rib or whatever. If you've really gotta hunt, you go get a license or poach some deer or something. Nobody on two legs hunts squirrels for meat. Nobody hunts squirrels for meat in the city because that's the kind of thing you do when you're a crazy person. Even when you're homeless you can go to a soup kitchen or go diving in dumpsters."

Edited by Fox

Share this post


Link to post

"Yeah, well, I don't have any money," said Riley with a shrug. "Peyton gave me about 2000 dollars, I think, but what am I gonna do with that? So when I want something they don't have on the school menu, I have to go get it for myself. 'Sides, it's more fun to handle things on your own. What if that shop closed down, or that soup kitchen burnt up, or those dumpsters got scavenged before you got there?" he asked Matt seriously, hoping he could pry a little independent spirit out of what was already a pretty independent-sounding guy. "Cops here don't know anything about getting around in a city. Even if they knew I was there, what are they gonna do? And what super's gonna care about hunting in the city?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...