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Quinn

Tinder, Meet Open Flame (IC) (Open)

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Library

Claremont Academy

Freedom City

United States of America

 

What was this unfamiliar sensation?

 

Oh. Yes. Regret. That was it.

 

Jake lay across two chairs in a back corner of the academy library -  a stick of black licorice sticking up out of his mouth like a flagpole; lightly shaking as it was chewed. He was dressed in his usual fashion - tooled leather boots, blue jeans, sleeveless shirt, wide-brimmed hat, metal limiter harness. Around him lay the detritus of study, more specifically, a ten-page essay on the significance of early adoption of capes in heroic fashion. Well, more like one page, at the moment. If you were being generous. And counted two words at the top as a 'page'. And counted your name as two words.

 

The fact that it was due tomorrow, in turn, may have been contributing to the unfamiliar sensation.

 

Jake chewed on the licorice (still tasted like drek, damnit), staring at the ceiling tiles.

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Selena floated into the library, literally because actually walking after training with Alex and Jann was just a few shades short of agonizing.  She was getting better at least, today she had actually blocked about one in five of Feathers' staff strikes but it was always that sixth that got her.  Sighing she gave the doorknob a gentle nudge to turn and open.

 

Passing several other students, each working on their own projects and about half were flaunting their own powers she looked for an empty table to set up shop at.  When that plan failed, she checked again for the least crowded one where she spotted the young man chewing on licorice in the back.  Floating over, her toes just inches from the ground she set her bag in an empty chair across from him.  "Mind if I work here?  It's kind of crowded in here today."

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The licorice stick twitched, as Jack bent his head backwards off the chair. Looking at a pair of floating feet. Then further upwards, at her face.

 

Huh. Familiar face. She was...Rail? Mass Driver? Something sci-fi...oh, yeah! The one he'd seen in that mess at the Kick Off Dance. He gave a monosyllabic grunt, lifting his head back onto the chair - lifting a hand up to wave towards the seat opposite. A few seconds later, he even added a qualifier.

 

"...sure. Don't mess with my papers."

 

Charming, ain't he.

Edited by Quinn

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Selena eyed his papers, mostly a pile of crumpled up notebook pages and a fresh page with only his name.  Resisting her first urge to go for an utterly caustic reply, either in Korean or Spanish, she just shrugged and said, "I'll do my best."

 

With another display of magnetic prowess, she pulled out a chair for herself and scooted in to the table.  As she dug into her bag to pull out her own books and pens she asked, "If you don't mind me asking, what are you working on?  Maybe we can help each other."  And, worst case, I've got a pair of earbuds in the bag, she thought to herself, wondering if maybe she should have just set up on the roof..

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On the one hand, his knee-jerk response was to tell her to pike off and take a flying leap, either one, in either order.

 

On the other hand, be a fine thing to open up the year with a halfassed piece of homework. Jake may be a delinquent, but he wasn't a dropout, damnit.

 

He grimaced, and propped himself up on his elbows. "Miss Hana's Public Relations 101, fashion curriculum paper. Ten pages on the introduction of capes early on." A slight grumble by the end. "Never liked capes. Too prone to lighting on fire if you don't watch them."

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"Ah, yeah, that paper was a pain in the culo.  I think I spent an entire weekend on that one," she mused, tapping a pen against the table a absently.  "And you're right, they can if you're not careful but they can certainly be useful.  Hiding body language, retaining body heat when patrolling on a cold night, plus when it catches the breeze just right it just looks badass."

 

After a minute she added, "That last one will probably need some reworking and expanding for Miss Hana, 'Capes are badass' didn't seem like something she'd accept in the paper.  Might be worth the time to check deeper into the history of capes and cloaks in general."

"I could loan you the notes I gathered on the subject but I'm in the pro-capes side of the argument so I don't know how useful they'd be to you."

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"At this point I'll take what I can get." He replied, dryly.

 

He seemed to...uncurl a little bit. Like a porcupine sticking out it's nose from the spiky ball, inspecting the approaching human finger. Sniff-sniff. Or in Jake's case, talk-talk. He unfolded himself from the chairs, sitting upright - putting pen to paper and starting to note down a few of her mentions; the body language and heat points. Still, for a moment, he seemed to shift awkwardly - in his mind, that dry comment had left a bit too open a space...

 

Slight cough, and he managed to mutter a; "...wouldn't be surprised if it was a wave of Centurion imitations, though."

Edited by Quinn

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"I'm absolutely positive he's what got the trend going, I spent a couple paragraphs on that actually.  He was the man who set the stage for superhumans to step onto the world's stage after all."

 

Selena opened her own textbook, a science volume specifically focused on magnetism, and started taking careful notes.  After some comments Sakurako had made before classes started the magnetokinetic had dived headlong into her physical science classes.

 

Without looking up from her notebook she asked, "So, what's with the licorice?  And how did you get Mister Howell to not yell at you for bringing food in here?  I've gotten the death glare just for finishing a bottle of water on my way in."

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"Oh, I just love licorice." He replied, sarcastically - chewing with particular venom on the black stick of evil. "Can't get enough of it. Always have to have a stick handy. Can't imagine anything else I'd rather smo-chew on."

 

Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Yeah, no subtext there, right? Still, the second question brought him up a bit short - he even spent a few minutes pondering that. Eventually, the firestarter shrugged - jaw shifting the now half-length stick over to the other side of his mouth.

 

"And I 'unno. Maybe he thinks it's a pen."

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"Careful Tex," she said with a playful smirk, "If you drip much more sarcasm on the floor they might make you get a mop."

 

Several more minutes passed between the two as they worked on their respective papers in the near silence of the library.  Finally she clicked her pen's end to retract the tip before setting it down and, looking her table-mate in the eye, flatly stated, "You don't like it here, do you."  Definitely not a question, a simple observation from his tone of voice, his procrastination of a ten page paper, and his defeated posture when she had arrived.  After a pause she added, "I get it, I wasn't thrilled when I got here either.  If you need a sympathetic ear, when you're ready, I'd be willing to listen."

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"..." He gave her a bit of an unreadable look, then sighed and let his head hit the table.

 

"...I'm not thrilled to be anywhere, lady." replied a bit of a muffled voice, before Jake managed to lift his head up again; the front of his licorice stick bent upwards. He eyed it for a moment like it had betrayed him - then reached up and straightened it. Another few moments, before he added another qualifier - leaning his arms on the table. "Still. Doubt I'd like anywhere other than here better anyway. I am least anti-thrilled here. Go Claremont - rah, rah, rah."

 

Dry enough to cause nearby plants to imitate the Mojave. He mimed waving a tiny flag, before settling back with a slight grouse. "Anyway - don't get your nose out of joint."

Edited by Quinn

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"Like I said, I get it.  One day I'm at the beach with some friends, nearly get hit by an out of control car, my powers emerge and I almost kill the driver when they reflexively flip the thing, about a week later I'm here and not happy about it.  At first I just wanted to get a handle on my powers and get on the first plane back to Puerto Rico."

 

Folding her arms on the table Selena continued, "Then I started talking and interacting with some of the other people here.  I'm not going to try and sell you any sort of fairy tail 'happily ever after' bullcrap but I can tell you this, some friends to hang out and blow off steam with have been a life saver."

 

"And for the record, my nose is far from out of joint.  I'm just noting and trying to offer some help.  If you hate what you're doing, you're going to live half your life in twice the time."

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The term half-life ran through his head, followed by the image of a nuclear bomb going off.

 

Yeah. He wasn't all that optimistic these days.

 

Jake didn't let out a sigh, but he did lift his hat high enough to run his hand through short black hair - grimacing. Girl was talking no end of sense, but it wasn't anything he hadn't heard before, and generally logged away as unapplicable given his circumstance. Still, she did have...an approachable demeanor. Didn't make him want to spill his guts, but it made talking about some things a bit less like pulling teeth. Hell, could be because she was another teen, and one who wasn't immediately trying to pants him or pull a Carrie on him.

 

"Yeah, but you didn't burn down a motel." He pointed out. "And 'friends' don't tend to stick around me long. I'm...prickly."

 

And burny. And screamy. And entropy. Shut up brain.

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"No, I didn't.  I'm not going to ask you to talk about it either, it's clearly a sore subject for you."  Selena picked her pen back up and tore a sheet of paper out of her notebook, writing her room and phone number on it.  "I'm not trying to force you into anything here but I can offer to be a sympathetic ear.  If nothing else, come to the Doom Room with Alex, Jann, and I sometime.  Blow off some steam by beating the holy hell out of some robots.  Or Nazi super-soldiers.  Or Grue.  I think they have some Omegadrone holograms in the databanks too."

 

Seeing the way his eye twitched when she mentioned Omegadrones she knew she had just poked the metaphorical bear.

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If she had been a ganger, reporter, thug, or other sort of individual who'd been doing badness, and said that? He freely admitted he was still having trouble controlling his temper. Honestly, Jake didn't even know why he bothered hiding it - he might as well shout from the rooftops he was a Terminus Baby. Every time someone mentioned Omegadrones, the Terminus, Entropy, all that fun stuff; either he just twitched or his face gave it away.

 

Either way, he looked away from her and leaned against the back of the chair. The situation called for profanity, and he used some - under his breath, at least. Finally, he managed to suck in a breath, and let his shoulders un-clench. Even...heh. Even managed a bit of a wry smile.

 

"...so what gave it away? My sparkling personality?"

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"Gave what away?" Selena asked, genuinely confused by the subject change.  "I was just listing some common choices for faceless monks to fight in the combat simulator, you made a face like I uttered the name of the guy who ran over your dog...," she trailed off.

 

Stupid, insensitive pendajo, she thought to herself as she slapped her palm to her face.  "Okay, so you're one of the, what's the term?  T-Born?  Do you think it matters to anyone here where your powers come from as opposed to what you do with them?"

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"Nothing I haven't heard from the therapist, hon'." He drawled, before leaning his head back and sighing. "Still, tell that to the masses, the survivors of the Invasions, and oh, yeah, Centurion."

 

That last name was bit off hard, real hard. T-babies could carry a lot of baggage with 'em, from that alone. Not that he could have done anything about it, mind, but it was remarkably good for feeding the angst. "Just...this ain't an inspirational movie, darlin'. Don't try and start a grand speech about powers an' meaning yet." Sigh.

 

"'sides, should be glad you didn't know. Means that whole promise 'bout a fresh start here might not be bull." Grimace. Jake leaned on the table. "...sorry. For bein' so pissy. It's sorta my natural state of bein' these days."

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Sighing inwardly, a lot of things clicked into place for her.  Centurion might not have spent much time helping Puerto Rico specifically but he had saved the world countless times, until the last time.  T-Babies were, from what she knew, fairly rare outside of Freedom City and all but unheard of on the island.  From what she had heard from family of friends who had moved North to New York and New Jersey, even twenty-three years later those powered by Terminus Energy were not always treated well.

 

Finishing the final page of her homework and not wanting to push him any further she nodded, "It's alright, I wasn't exactly helping things either.  Look, if you want, I can head out and you can drop those notes off by my room when you're done."

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"..." A grimace, and a sigh. "...no. No, y'all mean well. M'just...prickly. And s'not like you coulda known, anyway." He let his head hit the desk again, bending the front of his hat. A few moments of silence, before she saw his shoulders shake; and some kind of uncontrollable muffled chuckles wafted out from under said hat!

 

"...'sides...heh...heh...ain't even told me where your room is!"

 

The situation was just so silly he couldn't help but snigger. When he sat up, she could see a crooked smile across his whole face, and his hand coming up to cover his eyes. "...ah, man, I really did bollix making my first Claremont acquaintance, hoy?"

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