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Danger Room, Claremont Academy

Wednesday 9/15/2015 Early Afternoon

When they were pulled from afternoon classes for a special assessment and Team Building Exercise Riley, Raina, Robin and Anibal were not precisely sure what that would entail though doubtless they each had ideas of what to expect.  Few of them however were likely to expect what they found when they reported as directed to the athletic fields where in the distance they could make out Coach archer drilling a class of freshmen in a rather expansive obstacle course.  Other than the distant coach and students there wasn't much to see other than each other for several minutes before a large man emerged from a nearby stand of trees and strode out toward them.  Upon closer inspection the students could see he seemed to be made of or coated in some kind of silvery metal and from the way his footfalls left impressions in the ground it looked like he had the heft to back it up.  Some of the more social students might have recognized him as Coach Capote, Archers younger larger assistant, while those with an interest in millennial supers might recognize him as the hulking powerhouse Dauntless who occasionally made the news though less so of late.

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Robin had dutifully reported to the athletic field after changing for gym first. She didn't have a plentiful enough supply of clothes to turn her nose up at the available school uniform. Robin spent enough of her time patching holes in her jeans as it was. Really, the school uniform's fit wasn't all that different from the gym leotards she'd worn back when gymnastics had been a big part of her life. So, after a quick change, she headed towards the field uncertain of what to expect. 

Without her baggy clothes, the lean whipcord definition of her musculature was a lot more obvious. The oversized jacket and loose jeans hid a great deal. Although she was more used to moving and fighting in her own clothes, if the uniform got trashed the school would replace it. Robin's expression was grim as she cut a path towards the coach's assistant, wrapping her hands as she walked. Her limited experiences with training sessions had thus far not been pleasant ones. Hopefully, this one would go a bit better. 

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Riley was wearing the school uniform. Well, sort of. He'd been fully prepared to make his own dye and had even started collecting the walnut hulls and coffee grounds necessary to do it, but an offhand comment to the shop teacher had gotten him access to a full kit of both natural and artificially-prepared dyes. So his Claremont uniform had brown and green where most versions had blue and yellow, offhandedly matching his green and brown poncho that he wore draped over his small, wiry body. "Hey," he said to Robin, a smile lighting his face and eyes at the sight of her. "You look nice." He reached down and lightly squeezed her hand. "Training just got a lot more interesting," he went on. He was wearing the hatchet and crossbow that were the usual additions to his ensemble on schoolgrounds, the former on his hip and the latter slung over his back. 

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Raina didn't look thrilled to be called in for training, but she did arrive on time for once, wearing the ugly Claremont training uniform and everything. She just hoped the powers that be would appreciate this stunning display of effort. She'd been unable to resist a few alterations to the uniform, using scissors and some assitance from Merlin to hack off the sleeves and substatially deepen the collar, then tied a shimmery silver scarf around her waist, creating a skirtlike effect and hiding her spell pouch.The results weren't perfect, but she felt less like a military cadet gone wrong, at least. She nodded a greeting to Robin and Riley. "So, I'm guessing training is going by alphabetical order?" she quipped. 

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Aníbal was honestly looking forward to this "team building exercise" the instructors had mentioned. It seemed like a good way to build rapport with the other students, some of whom had probably gotten to know each other better in the last week or two. He had arrived from Mexico just yesterday, and probably didn't make the best first impression. A small motorcade of luxury cars parked in front of the school, burly Hispanic men hauling luggage behind an impeccably dressed young man... Not many of the students were there to witness the scene, but those that did would almost certainly be put off. Just who was this rich kid? For today's occasion, however, Aníbal wore the school uniform. It was a conscious choice. He didn't want to show off his fancy flight suit, and all of his other sporting attire was the kind of expensive stuff that made him stand out. Sports were about team spirit, unity and equality, and a uniform signaled he was, despite everything, just one of the students.

Even in the utilitarian Claremont jumpsuit, Aníbal projected elegance and class. The uniform showed off his lean, athletic build, and the blue and gold colors looked radiant next to his bronze skin. He spotted some students had gathered already and walked up to them with an air of subdued but confident grace. His gaze fell on one of the girls, the tall blonde. Pretty, in a very American way.

"Hello", he greeted the group with a pearly smile, speaking with a crisp, smooth Hispanic accent, "I don't believe we've met before. My name is Aníbal. Here for the team building?".

His attention was divided between the three, although Riley and Robin could probably notice his eyes lingered on Raina for just a little bit longer than the others.

 

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"Well hello there," Raina replied, giving the new arrival an up and down perusal and resisting the urge to make sure she wasn't drooling a little. She gave him a brilliant smile instead. "You've come to the right place, we're Team-Building Central here. I'm Raina Sanderson, and this is Robin and Riley. It's very nice to meet you." She offered her hand. "My code name's Sparkler, because I have fire powers, along with a few other fun tricks. I imagine they'll be running us all through our paces today. What's your particular talent?" All of a sudden, Raina was feeling a lot more enthusiastic about this exercise. 

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Robin glanced up at Riley's approach, a small smile softening her features, "Hey yourself." She replied, offering one taped hand to Riley, tangling her fingertips in his since the thick wrapping around her palm blunted much of the contact she could manage with her hands. "You look pretty darn good there, too. If I ask you super nicely, will you help make one of my gym outfits less day-glo? I mean, I get that my job is generally to get punched but I don't think that means running around wearing a target necessarily."

Her attention shifted to Raina and the new guy that she'd not yet met. Raina got a smaller version of the smile she'd offered Riley as being co-conspirators had broken the ice. The new guy received a small wave and a nod of her head as Raina made the introductions. A faintly amused smile flickered across her features at Raina's introduction. Her tone was dry as she said, "Yes. Team Building is totally what's earmarked on our files."

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Coach Capote paused as the new arrivals got at least a little more familiar.  With the final student arriving he tapped his clipboard and rumbled in a deep basso tone, "What is or is not flagged in your files isn't of immediate concern ms. Chevalier, which he pronounced with none of its appropriate musicality with a rough, Chav-a-leer.  Looking over the students he smiled however jerked his head to the side as he beckoned them to follow as he stomped back towards the stand of trees from which he had emerged, "You all are in for a treat."  he added with a laugh.

Reaching the clearing he stooped to peer into a knothole like many others and a light flashed over his eye before he withdrew blinking slightly and with a quiet whoosh a section of a larger tree slid aside revealing a gleaming chrome elevator motioning them inside he followed and hit an unmarked button closing hte door and whisking them down with some speed, "Today you all are going to be tested for compatibility, teamwork, and readiness assessment." he explained with a nod, "Coach archer picked out your program personally so I'm sure it will be a fair and balanced test."  he said with confidence.

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Riley was obviously on edge in the elevator, standing with his back to the wall and eyeing the others warily. He'd climbed his share of elevator shafts in his time - but only ridden in elevators themselves once or twice. It was an unsettling experience if you were used to more open settings, especially given his experience with these as tight, narrow, rusted-out deathtraps. "Surebefine," he said, his words ramming together like bolts sliding into a crossbow's magazine, the way they typically did when he was feeling stressed. He looked around at the others, at the metal-skinned coach, then suddenly his eyes narrowed. "Wait a minute - there are tunnels under this place. Son of a-" Turning to the coach, he said "These come out anywhere? Other partsa the city?" The question seemed urgent, but he kept his cool. "Gotta map of 'em?"  

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"Raina, Robin and Riley. Pleased to meet you.", he repeated, rolling the Rs mellifluously as he pointed to each of them in turn.

Aníbal accepted the proffered handshake, gripping Raina's hand firmly but gently. His hands were soft, almost girly, the hands of someone who never did a day of honest work in their life. He listened intently as Raina explained her powers. 

"My codename is El Huracán. I can control the air", he replied to her question, There was no time for a demonstration, however, as the chat was interrupted by the arrival of their tutor. Aníbal had come to terms with his own powers, and of course, the existence of individuals with superpowers was an accepted part of life for decades, but the sight of a hulking man with skin made of liquid metal still made an impression on him. He followed along and entered the elevator with the others. While he didn't show it, he did feel slightly nervous ahead of the exercise. What did the tests entail, exactly? Would his powers work just as well underground? Now he would see if his self-taught training over the past year did any good.

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"Shev-al-yay," Robin corrected half heartedly with a soft sigh, lilting the words with a not-quite French pronunciation. French-by-way-of-Haiti. That she certainly did remember from her previous years at school, the years of teachers butchering her last name. She watched with a raised brow as the tree opened for a legitimate secret elevator. Giving a small shake of her head, she followed in to the elevator with the rest of the group. Robin took up a spot in the corner, watching with her arms folded. Riley's ambient tension she gave a concerned look to before her gaze drifted back to the others. 

"Readiness for what, exactly?" Robin wanted to know, her brows lifting, "Is this, like, the requirements for a day pass of doing what we do or is it more 'now you can go out in "normal" society and we are less worried you might explode people unintentionally'?"

She lifted her hands up to make an air quote gestures around normal, "Not that I can explode people, but you know what I mean."

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"Ready to be superheroes, of course!" Raina chirped, a barbed edge to her cheerfulness. "Claremont is a superhero factory, after all. Every year they turn out a class of brand new eighteen-year-old heroes, ready to put their lives on the line to stop property crime, vandalism and any other threat their wise mentors decide to point them at! But if they don't give us a readiness assessment, how will they know what we're good for?" She checked her spell pouch and pulled out a little pitch pipe, giving it a testing blow. "By all means," she told the coach, "assess us!" 

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The looming metallic man smiled wide and nodded, "Mostly around the campus to get to the various areas from up top."  he explained, "Though there are other routes in case of evacuation."  he explained easily but shook his head, "No maps, there was a mess a few years back when some students tried to go exploring and,"  he made a slight frown of distaste, "Your RA's know the assigned evac routes should it be necessary."  he offered with a pleased nod as the elevator rang out their arrival.

He looked back to Robin at her question and sighed slightly at Rainas response.  "Readiness for mainstreaming."  he said flatly, "The goal of our program here is to train youth in control of their powers, prepare them to carry on the life they choose after graduation without fear of their powers."  he clarifies and looks between the youths before him for a long moment, "Some choose to take up the mantle of heroism, it is true, but that is not the headmistress' ultimate goal."  he finishes with finality.

"Today."  he says louder as they reach the intended testing room and the door slides open, "We are testing you individually as well as jointly to ensure your own safety as well as that of your classmates."  He gestured into the large empty room with its myriad slate grey panels and the thin lines of hard light projectors between them.  

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Aníbal kept quiet and listened intently as the others bombarded the instructor with questions, even though he had plenty of his own. It was important to listen to people, get a feel for their personality, what made them tick, so you could converse with them without hurting their pride or getting on their nerves. He noted Riley's on-edge, almost paranoid interest in the tunnels, Robin's weary cynicism and Raina's chipper, enthusiastic, go-getter attitude, no doubt springing from her confidence in her powers. The instructor's explanation clarified some things, although the exact nature of the program at Claremont remained pretty vague. Aníbal looked pensive. The mention of kids afraid of their powers and the need to master them made him reflect uncomfortably on his own. He wasn't afraid of his powers, and he already had a pretty good grasp of them. While developing these abilities was a shock, he had relaxed into it quite nicely and accepted his powers as just another luxury afforded to him by birth. The thought of other kids being far less fortunate than he was in this department made him a little unnerved.

Soon they arrived at a large room filled with confusing high-tech machinery. This was, presumably, the place where the testing would be performed, but the drab, grey panels revealed little of the nature of the test at first glance. Would it be athletic? Combat? Obstacles? 

"Okay", Aníbal broke his silence, "What exactly will we be doing?"

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"It's a simulation room," the answer came, surprisingly, from Robin as she stepped out of the elevator into the room proper. Absently flexing her hands to work the taping, she glanced over her shoulder to the other kids, "When they don't have equipment in the gym, they can make it up down here. Archer brought me down here when I was getting re-assessed after that whole museum 'thing'."

In Robin's case, it had been more of a precaution to ensure Archer not having to replace expensive gym equipment if it was broken. "Or they can make other stuff. It's kind of neat."

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Riley did not look happy at the news that no maps were available, but he was no whiner - especially because he already knew how helpfully unhelpful people on Earth-Prime could be. If no maps were to be had, he'd just have to make them himself. Stepping out into the room, Riley listened to Robin - he had no idea what kind of technology she was talking about, so instead he changed the subject back to something he did know about. "To answer your question from before," he murmured to her, "any time, any place. I got most of the stuff on hand for any color, but we can do brown and green together and match." He grinned at her. "Not changing my last name, though."  

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Raina took out her lighter as she was looking around at the tangles of machinery, flicking it absently a few times till it lit up with a thin golden flame. "Playmate, come out and play with me, and bring your dollies three, climb up my apple tree," she sang under her breath. The fire obligingly grew taller, wider, turning into a brilliant orange globe with red and golden tips. She flicked off the lighter and tucked it away, then cupped the pretty ball of flame in her left hand. She took a couple of steps towards Anibal, standing next to him and slightly angled, just enough that anything trying to sneak up would have a harder time. "Well I'm betting it's not going to be a fun Super IMAX 3-D experience...." 

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Capote was about to answer when Robin piped up to clarify and he nodded along, "Very good Ms. Chevalier."  he replied pronouncing hte name correctly though clearly having to put effort in to do so.  He tapped a few buttons on his tablet and nodded, "I see you've gone through some basic testing with Mr Archer already."  he elaborated and looked to the other students as he continued to explain the days tasks.  

"today will be a little bit different than basic powers testing."  he stated mostly for Robins benefit but it seemed for Anibals as well, "We'll be doing two rounds of assessment today First individual followed by a group exercise."  the metal giant explained and nodded to Raina, "It seems Ms. Sanderson is ready so we'll start with her."  he suggested and motioned for Raina to step forward whilst placing himself between her and the others.

A moment later he tapped a few times on his tablet and the room vanished around them replaced by rough stone walls flickering with firelight a band of robed figures stood arms upraised around a roaring bonfire eerie chanting in forgotten tongues echoing through the chamber as they worked some sort of fel ritual.

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For a moment, Raina's breath caught in her throat as she was suddenly thrust back into memories of her old home, her old life. The details weren't exactly the same, but the smell of pungent herbs and woodsmoke, the crackling firelight playing off the walls, the soothing monotony of chanting, it was all so incredibly familiar. This was the sort of work she'd wanted to do all her life, cooperative magical casting with a coven of experienced practitioners. They made it look so easy, made it sound almost like music. Was it possible to work magic with a holographic coven? 

She stepped forward, holding up her little ball of light to guide her steps as she walked towards the casting area. "Bring me your loves, all your loves, your loves," she sang under her breath, rubbing the amulet on her necklace with two fingers. "I wanna love them too, you know..." Her spell didn't work on the most esoteric and lost of inhuman languages, but it was pretty foolproof for things that alive people were likely to speak. She wanted to know what was going on, but she didn't want to disrupt the ritual. 

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Robin bumped her shoulder against Riley's as Archer's assistant stepped in front of them and the hard light holograms activated. It was a companionable sort of bump and she offered the archer a side-long smile even as she deflected, "Whoa, I am pretty sure we're a few dates away from matching uniforms. Or at least a few super-capers," Robin replied, her voice light, "Besides, you've got a good look going with all of that and it works well for you."

Her voice dropped lower as Raina's hologram cultists started chanting. It certainly didn't sound great to Robin's utterly untrained ear. She whispered then with a small grin in return, "But that's your loss as my last name is very pretty. Do you think she's supposed to punch them? I think she's supposed to punch them."

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Robin heard Riley's quiet noise of surprise as the holograms flickered to life - but he covered as best he could, under the circumstances. This was not the kind of super-technology he'd seen much of. "Bet she toasts them," he said with confidence, "or makes them fly into the ceiling. Raina's pretty cool." He reached down and squeezed her hand, taking a chance. "Not as cool as you, though. I bet you have whatever those things are quaking in their boots even before you smack them around." Riley had learned a healthy respect for his girlfriend's upper body strength in their occasional rooftop makeout sessions. Surprised when Raina didn't move to combat herself, he fell silent, watching Raina as she sorted out the situation. 

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As Rainas spell settled over her the words the practitioners spoke became more clear.  The structure was highly ritualized as one would expect of sorcerous workings and the spoken words somewhat meaningless on their own clearly the workings of some sort of spell rather than a more spiritual recitation though the specifics would only be clear to those studied in such things.  The Chanting grew in volume as they seemed to be reaching toward completion of the ritual and the acrid stink of sulfur and ozone filled the air.  The students would feel their hair stand on end as if the air was charged with electricity (which behind the illusory walls it certainly was).  Even those untrained in the arts arcane could feel the ritual reaching its climax, the only question was if they ought be interfered with or allowed to complete the dark magics they toyed with.

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Raina's face cleared as the workings of the spell became more obvious; this was an invocation to gather power from beneath the earth. The coven must be planning some more intensive spellwork later, or they planned to channel the energy into a member who had become depleted. She'd seen rituals very much like this done before, though she had been warned to keep her magical wards up and not partake, as she was too young and unskilled to control the power should it enter her aura. "Power is power," her father had explained to her, "but you should be cognizant of where it comes from. When you use dark power, you have to know you're strong enough to master it, or it could hurt you." These folks seemed to know what they were doing, she doubted any of them would be overwhelmed by the magical energy. 

None of the casters were paying any attention to her, still lost in the working, so Raina wandered the periphery, taking a look for any clues about what they had planned for the evening. Her little fireball flickered darker red and began to smell faintly of brimstone as she lingered near the circle, so Raina fortified her mental defenses just that much more. It would be quite embarrassing to let herself be overwhelmed on her first training mission. When she neared the others, she murmured, "they're raising power for a ritual. It's a pretty common spell, I've seen it a lot. I'm trying to figure out what they're going to do with it." 

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Like Riley, Aníbal was slightly startled when the lights flickered and the holographic projectors turned on. He was more used to advanced technology, but nothing at this scale or level. It would probably be a few years, a few decades even, before anything similar was rolled out into mass production. With a nod, he wished Raina good luck and stood back, his arms crossed, observing the scene. He couldn't help smirking at the figures and their ominous chanting. It felt like a cheesy horror movie. Aníbal had little to no experience with the occult. Only one thing came close... Once, at a party, some of the spoiled rich kids from his previous high school had the brilliant idea of organising a ritual veneration of Santa Muerte for a lark, as idiotic teenagers are wont to do. He went along, treating the whole thing with a lot more respect than the other partygoers. A few of his father's bodyguards, ex-cops or worse, were devotees of the Lady of the Shadows, and she was also the patron of Mexico's queer community. While the other kids treated the rite as a joke, a mockery of lower-class superstitions, Aníbal lit a red candle with utmost earnestness, addressing a small prayer to the grim saint, if she indeed existed. Later that evening, the instigators of the mockery felt both physically and mentally unwell - although, more skeptically, it could probably be attributed to various substances ingested and simple exhaustion. Aníbal, for his part, had a lovely time with the slightly tipsy star forward of the school football team, who was more interested in him than in his tagalong girlfriend. Just a coincidence, of course. Just a coincidence.

Memories of that night came to his mind as the holographic ritual progressed, and the atmosphere in the room grew darker and more oppressive. Aníbal could smell sulfur and feel the energies of the ritual coursing around him. The air was heavy, unnatural, he could feel it. Perhaps it was simply the power of suggestion, but it worked nonetheless. He inhaled deeply and called on the folk saint for assistance, if she was capable of providing any. Whatever goofy diabolical power those hooded Hammer Horror weirdos were invoking didn't stand a chance against her.

As Raina came around and explained the situation to the other students, he cocked an eyebrow. Clearly, the program was tailor-made with her in mind, and clearly, she had experience with this sort of thing. There was more to the chatty blonde girl than met the eye. Is that where her powers come from?, he wondered. It struck him that he had no idea about the exact nature of his own powers. Genetics, or some sort of supernatural influence? He took the name of a god, but as far as he knew, said god had nothing to do with it. Not wishing to spoil the training exercise by interfering or offering unsolicited advice, he observed the spectacle, wondering what Raina's next move would be.

Edited by TheRedGuy

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Dauntless looked down at his tablet as Raina examined the periphery and seemed to make a few notes as he did so biting his bottom lip slightly in thought at the young girls approach to the scenario.  He would have charged in of course but no one had ever said he was exactly level headed.  He looked up from the tablet as the chanting reached its fever pitch and the final invocation was intoned a brow raised as he waited to see how Raina would react.

In her circuit Raina found little to indicate the final purpose of such infernal might.  In fact the closer she looked at the surroundings of the ritual the less sense it all made.  It certainly seemed suitably out of the way and the assorted material elements of the ritual were well represented.  However there was no real follow through, it grew increasingly clear that the expectation was that she would attack the chanting practitioners before the ritual completed and that power need manifest.  This was further elucidated when moments after the cult leader shuddered and was engulfed by a showy wave of faux hellfire tat absorbed into the elderly gentleman leaving only a trace of infernal fire glinting in his eyes as the simulation stuttered and froze.

Capote looked down at his tablet hit a couple buttons with a small shrug and nodded, "Ah well done, a most tactical approach."  he praised loosely, Magic was not his strong suit.  The simulation faded and he nodded to Robin, "Ms. Chevalier when you are ready."

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