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EternalPhoenix

Empty Vessel, Loudest Sounds

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Naomi stepped out the cab. Spectacle’s contact here at Claremont had paid for the cab from the airport, so she didn’t have to pay the cabbie. It was the middle of Saturday, so she fully expected no one to be around. Maybe the office had someone? She shouldered her backpack and started pulling her wheeled suitcase. She hadn’t brought tons of stuff. As a proper teenager, everything was on her smartphone and laptop. The former was on her hip and the latter was in her backpack. She passed through the front gate and glanced around. Vacant, of course. Wasn’t there a mall nearby, or something? Some of the others here were superheroes, so maybe there were on patrol? She shivered a little. She should’ve though today’s outfit through a little better. A halter top, bolero jacket, and short pleated skirt were good for California, but Jersey was a bit cooler. The leggings she donned in the airport and her super cute knee high boots were probably helping, but it was still nippy. This was why she’s brought so few clothes, compared to the closet that was virtually exploding at home. Different climates demand different wardrobes. Well, that and airlines charge so much for checked bags. There was such a thing as taking advantage of a decent person’s generosity, even if they were richer than Bill Gates. Not that she knew they were, necessarily, but the point remained.

 

Well, this clearly wasn’t the place to start, so she stepped back out the main gate and followed the fence around until she found an opening and the gardens. She could feel people, distantly. Must be in the dorms or something.  And there’s a nice helpful sign. Administration building. Yes. Halfway to the goal. Now, if only they had someone who knew sign language. Because the pen and paper thing was getting really, really old. Her phone vibrated on her his. A text? From Spectacle’s burner? And she had to text her parents, too. She put her backpack down next to her suitcase and got to work. Her parents would be simple enough, but her little brother would have about as many questions as Spectacle, if not for the same reasons. She’d be taking selfies just to satisfy both of their curiosities. Not that that was a problem.

Edited by EternalPhoenix

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Hannah was taking in the autumn air, enjoying the brisk weather for a few minutes before heading back inside. She was wearing a generously sized blue hoodie and a pair of blue jeans.  When she spotted Naomi, she instantly recognized her for what she was; new people. The girl was probably lost, or at least confused. Hannah sighed slightly, and decided she would do the only fair thing; go over and help. 

"Hi." She said, walking up to Naomi. "New here? Need help?" She said with a slight smile. She felt better at Claremont than she had at home. Being normal here was being a bit weird, but that was okay. 

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Naomi felt the other girl walk up. Even felt her speak and understood the words. But there was no way she could fake being a hearing and speaking person without it being complicated later. She breathed in and out in something much like a sigh. She pointed at her ears and signed. <Sorry, I’m deaf.>

 

At the other girl’s blank expression, Naomi sighed again. She turned and unzipped her backpack’s outer pouch. Out came a cheap black Bic and a small notepad.  She did not write, but flipped the cover open and displayed it. [I am deaf and can’t talk.] It was a pain in the butt, but here we went again. She flipped to the second page. [I can read lips, so face me when you talk.] What the notepad was for should be glaringly obvious.

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Hannah nodded, and thought for a moment. Then she had an idea. She placed her hands at chest height near her shoulders and a swirling mass of colors, it coalesced, shaped itself into varying shapes before turning into letters. It wasn't too difficult, the constructs were completely hollow and mostly weak.  It changed, and after a moment, it said. <Ok> then, <will this help communication?> She grumbled, wishing she could give the other girl the ability, or at least something easier than a notepad. 

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Naomi’s eyes just about popped out of her head in surprise. She knew people at this school had powers, but she’d never met anyone else with them besides Spectacle. And his weren’t particularly flashy. This was something entirely different. She signed without thinking. <Whoa, how do you do that?>

 

Then she caught herself and wrote on the empty third page something a bit calmer. [As long as I can see it, we’re good. Since my ears are just decoration and all.] She showed it to the other girl. After several seconds, she took it back and wrote a little more. [My name’s Naomi. What’s yours?]

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Hannah kind of understood what she was trying to say, even if she couldn't understand sign language. <Dunno how it works> She said, shrugging. <Name's Hannah. Nice to meet you.> She gave a little wave. She looked around. <Administration?> She said with another construct. She was going to try to limit it to yes/no questions, simple things that could give simple responses. The best option, to avoid forcing Naomi to constantly write in her notebook. Easier for both of them.

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The sound of a skateboard moving slowly on pavement pierced the silence. A quick turn to look would see Jimmy, brow furrowed in concentration, pushing the skateboard along a few feet at a time, then trying to balance on it and inevitably having to put a leg down to keep from falling off. The cycle repeated a few times before he reached the girls.

The short black boy blinked at them. Neither of their mouth-holes had been flapping, as far as he could tell. One of the had a notebook in hand. Maybe they were looking at drawings? His mouth-hole started flapping once that thought occurred to him. "Oh hey, are you guys looking at drawings? Can I see?" He gave them both a cheerful, hopeful smile.

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Naomi nodded. Administration was where she needed to go. Unfortunately, focusing on the conversation with Hannah meant she wasn’t paying attention to other things. She did absentmindedly note that a short boy had walked up to them, but she simply had no idea what he’d said or if he’d actually spoken. Voices weren’t that different from the background vibrations of city life, after all. She flipped back to the first page and showed to the new boy. [I’m deaf and can’t talk.] What the notepad was for should again be glaringly obvious. She did not attempt sign language, having given up hope of anyone knowing it here.

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Sakurako walked by, wearing a comfortable gray sweater and a long skirt, it was odd that she wasn't wearing her old school uniforms, but she was starting to adjust finally to life at Claremont, and catching on to the fashion of her peers. That and seeing what University students wear at HIT was an important indicator for the socially awkward, but brainy genius.

Then a challenge was presented. A new student. One who was similar to another she had encountered prior. Except it seemed her inability to hear or speak was a greater boundary, although she could sense when others talked. Sakurako pulled out her tablet moving some icons around as she walked up to everyone.

"Give me a moment... I think I can make a ASL to Speech translator. ASL's a visual language, so I can adapt this facial recognition program to ID her hand positions."

She smiled to the newcomer. "Hi. I should have something to make things easier for everyone here in a moment, takes moving around some program modules on this tablet and load up a image dictionary of ASL signs. I'm starting ASL classes this week, might be handy."

Knowing Sakurako, this would take just a moment...

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"Oh. OH." Whoops. Misstep. Well, technically, he'd been correct. They were looking at drawings, just...word-drawings. "Oh, uh, whoops, my bad. I'm uh...sorry?" Why was he apologizing? Should he be apologizing? In the moments of confusion, Jimmy's mind locked up and he couldn't answer his own questions. "Can you...uh...read...uh...lips?" A few random strings of words in his mind came out as a cogent question. Then, moments later, he realized that, if she couldn't, then she wouldn't know what he'd said. He practically wanted to slap himself.

The arrival of Sakurako to rescue him was most definitely welcome, and he let her talk and use her working brain to figure out a workaround.

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Naomi regarded the smaller boy for a moment. This always happened with strangers. One of them was guaranteed to think assuming she wasn’t disabled was somehow offensive. It wasn’t like she was wearing a flashing neon sign or anything. Asking how it happened? Repeatedly forgetting about it? That was offensive. But she digressed. She smiled, hoping to put him at ease, and showed him the second page. [I can read lips, so face me when you talk.] She pointed at the words in front of the comma with her pen.

 

She then looked at the pink haired newcomer, flipping to the back of the first page. It too, had something prewritten on it. [Could you repeat that, please?] It was totally a lie, she’d felt her speak and paid just enough attention to get the gist of what the pink haired girl had said. Naomi didn’t like lying, but she had a secret identity to keep.

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"Oh, sorry..." Endeavor said, realizing she might have gotten too technical. "Simply put, I'm teaching my tablet to recognize sign language and translate for everyone."

She grinned. "It's like face recognition, but for hand signs." She said, swiping a few more icons into position. "Might have a few errors early on as it recognizes your hands, but it will catch up."

Looking at the program come together, she hooks up a small web camera to a port on the tablet, clipping it on the pocket of her sweater vest. "This does have a voice that is rather artificial, so that's one thing that needs adjustment."

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