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olopi

[IC] Early Birds

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Saturday, October 8th , 2016

Aaron Cage Gymnasium, Claremont Academy, Bayview

6:38 AM

 

 

It was an early Saturday morning, the sun had not yet ascended over the horizon, the ocean east of Freedom City. It was a quiet Saturday morning too, with most of Claremont Academy’s students still asleep, some only recently having returned from nightly trips to various places, with various goals. Other places around the city were much the same. People slumbered, only few were up on a Saturday morning, and of the ones that were, hardly anyone did it voluntarily.

 

However, like always, there were exceptions. In this case, the exception was Jann Fa-Re, also known as Bird of Arms, who had a strict morning exercise routine. And things like “weekends” or “days off” were not part of that routine. His weekend routine was different, granted, as the gym was empty during mornings. And that meant he could train there without any interference, which was something he appreciated. Plus, waking up his roommate was not something he was fond of.

 

Another such exception was Aníbal Miramontes, also known as El Huracán, a student of Claremont Academy too. He had  just been wandering past the entrance to the gym, as he noticed something happening inside. Another student, who had started this year, and was mostly noticeable for the fact he had wings, was currently going through the obstacle course inside the gym, using a variety of acrobatics, but not his wings, to proceed onwards.

Edited by olopi

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Aníbal had landed in Freedom City the day before, and was still shaking off the jet lag. He woke up at 4 AM, tossed and turned trying to get back to sleep until 5 AM, then finally muttered a string of Mexican profanities and dragged himself out of bed, deciding to put on his tracksuit and go for a morning jog. School had already started a month earlier, but he had just arrived after spending six weeks getting examined, tested and retested at an expensive private clinic in Switzerland. It was overkill, but his father had deep pockets and didn't enjoy taking risks he couldn't calculate. Whatever the cause of Aníbal's powers, it was one of those incalculable risks. The doctors confirmed his condition was stable, his health was excellent and his powers were completely under his control. A month of classes had gone by, but he was confident he'd catch up quickly. Nothing important happened in the first month, right? Right now, he had the whole weekend free, and had to fill it up somehow. 

 

He made his way through the school grounds at a brisk pace. It was still dark outside, and very few people were out this early. Should have stayed in bed, he thought, but in truth he was enjoying himself. He paused and took a deep breath of the chilly morning air. What would he do over the weekend? Catching up with Raina was a must. He'd sent her e-mails and a postcard from Bern, but he really missed seeing her in person. Maybe patrolling the city as El Huracán. Other than that, he had no idea. 

 

He continued on, jogging past the gym when he noticed the lights were on inside. Someone else was up early, maybe one of the people he knew. It wouldn't have surprised him if it was Riley. Intrigued, he entered the gym and observed the person inside. A year ago, the sight would probably have been surprising, but he'd seen enough weird stuff over one year in Freedom City to make a boy with bird wings seem unremarkable. The boy was new - he hadn't seen him before, in any case. The new kid wasn't using his peculiar talent, though, preferring to tackle the obstacle course with acrobatic skill alone. Maybe he was practicing in case he lost use of his wings, or maybe they were just for show and didn't actually work. He moved closer cautiously, not wanting to break the other early bird's concentration.

 

"Good morning!", he said at an opportune moment and flashed the bird boy a practiced, friendly smile. 

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Jann had just pushed himself off of a short balance beam, doing a full flip in mid-air. From there, he turned to the side, gripping one of the parallel bards below him, and moving his feet and wings into a stable position, where he was essentially doing a handstand. He paused, holding up his body with seemingly little effort, and turned his head towards the entrance, and the new arrival.

 

His expression was as neutral as ever, not showing any particular emotion. His short black hair on closer look it actually was feathers, remained close to his head, gravity weaker than the feathers’ natural strength. The same applied to the plain white sleeveless shirt Jann was wearing, tucked into his sweatpants.

 

Jann waited for just a moment, before responding. He spoke with a heavy accent, one Anibal could not quite pin down. His cadence was slow too, he probably had to think about what he was saying, clearly only having learned English recently.

 

“Hello. Also doing morning exercise?”

Edited by olopi

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The new kid spoke, and spoke English to boot, albeit with a heavy, very peculiar accent that offered no clue as to his origins. Aníbal stepped closer to the obstacle course and unzipped the top of his tracksuit, revealing a black t-shirt with a discretely placed Miramontes Tequila logo. He threw the top over a nearby exercise machine. 

 

"Didn't plan on it, but might as well.", he replied cheerily, "It's good to start the day with a workout." The air in the room moved unnaturally, and in a few moments he was levitating on the currents about three feet above ground. The winds propelled him forward and he perched himself atop one of the beams in the obstacle course, not far from the other boy. He smiled and extended a hand in greeting.

 

"I don't believe we've met before. Aníbal Herrera, also known as El Huracán.", he intoned slowly enough to hopefully cross the language barrier, "Don't worry if you can't pronounce it, a lot of the Americans here have the same trouble."

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Jann’s lifted his right hand, taking some time to balance himself on just his left, moving his legs into a better position. Then, once he was more or less stable (a bit of trembling in his arm proving that he could not hold this position for too long), he too extended his hand, with a firm grip. Jann spoke, more upbeat and friendly this time, his facial expression had changed slightly too, it was not entirely neutral this time.

 

“I’m Jann Fa-Re, or Bird of Arms, as some say. “

 

Jann put his hand back onto the beam, before pushing himself off upwards, flapping his wings once and turning around mid-air, landing on the bar again, but this time, standing on it, balancing to either side a bit, before once more resting in a stable position. There, he continued to speak.

 

“Spanish, correct? El Huracán. Selena has been teaching me some Spanish. “

 

“So, you also fly? You use the winds, correct? Or is it a trick?”

Edited by olopi

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"Jann Fa-Re.", Aníbal repeated, committing the unusual name to memory. It sounded vaguely Asian, but not from any culture he knew. "Pleased to meet you, Jann."

 

The wings, as it turned out, were indeed not just for show. He gave an appreciative nod as Jann pulled off his mid-air flip and gracefully landed on his feet. His new avian acquaintance could manoeuver impressively well even in a confined space such as the gym. He was probably a sight to behold in the skies. It was a nice coincidence that they shared an ability, Aníbal thought, even though it came from drastically different causes. Perhaps the two of them could team up in the future. Trouble in Freedom City was just as easily found in the air as it was on the ground.

 

"Yes. Mexican, to be precise.", he remarked, "That's nice. Spanish is a beautiful language. Maybe I can help you out as well." Jann's pronunciation was solid enough for a beginner. Selena. There was another name he hadn't heard before. Another Hispanic student at Claremont, probably a new arrival. He smiled, pleased with the idea of having someone else to talk to in his native tongue. The smile turned to a grin as Jann inquired about his powers.

 

"Yeah. It's not a trick.", he replied, "I can control the air. Move things, fly around, blast people. What about you? Were you, um, born with those, or... If you'd rather not talk, it's fine. Just, you know. We've all got our... thing, here, so don't be shy."

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Jann continued to balance on the beam, occasionally stretching out his arms slightly to balance himself, all the while keeping eye contact, and continuing to talk. He looked slightly confused at Aníbal’s question, before realizing what he meant just a moment afterwards. To further show this, he spread out his wings, which showed that they were bigger than they looked, taking up a fair bit of space behind Jann.

 

“These? They are natural. All of my people have them, they are part of our nature. “

 

He held up his right hand, lifting it up to about the height of his face, and then turning it slightly. On closer inspection, Aníbal could notice that the joints of Jann’s fingers were more bulky and toned. Meanwhile, his nails were pointier, even though they were cut short there was a point, probably enough to poke a small hole.

 

“You refer to my people as “Avians” down here, from what I know.”

Edited by olopi

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Avians. Well, he was one letter off on the accent. Jann's reply was intriguing. Apparently he was part of a whole species of birdlike people. Aníbal knew nothing of them or their culture, but was determined to learn as much as the newcomer was willing to share. They didn't reveal their existence to the general public - "Avian" was probably a government designation or something - and they probably had good reason not to. Still, he knew how to keep a secret - everyone in Claremont did - and they seemed to be getting along well so far.

 

"Avians. I haven't heard of them before. Though I suppose your people don't really concern themselves with our affairs too much, do they?", Aníbal mused. "I don't know where my powers come from. They came out about two years ago. Guess that's one advantage you have over most of the people here. You grew up with yours, and you were surrounded by other people who are just like you."

 

Aníbal took to the air again and landed on a flat surface further ahead of Jann's position, freeing up a path for the avian's acrobatic advance. 

 

"I mean, I've gotten used to it by now, but a lot of the other kids are still working through their own problems, adjusting to everything. Sometimes their powers aren't exactly a blessing, too, or they have other troubles. I've had it easy.", he continued, "Then again, I suppose it can't be easy to adjust to life in a whole new culture. Must be hard to live apart from your people. So... How are you finding Claremont so far? Made friends? You mentioned this Selina girl..."

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As Aníbal took to the air again, Jann quickly looked towards the next surface, making sure there was enough space, before starting to move along the bars, at first taking a few slow steps, before speeding up, following it with a jump. He landed on the next object of the course, a wide pommel horse, without any grips. Jann landed into a roll, rolling about halfway, before suddenly clutching the surface, slowing him down into a handstand once more. From there, he simply let his body drop back down, moving him onto his feet. He looked over to Aníbal, and then replied once more.

 

“It is … interesting. There are things I like, and things I dislike. Your food is interesting. “Stores” are something I like too. But there are many limits. Many things I cannot do. And the Star Gods do not watch down on me here. “

 

“Friends? Yes. Many. Selina, Saku, Alex, Jake, and others. Have done some things, including training. Competitions also are a good way to meet new friends. Have done many of them too. Have had some complications with people too. No problem, can handle them."

 

"What about you? Have not seen you before, but you are not new, correct?”

Edited by olopi

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The avian boy continued his exercise, mastering more of the obstacle course with practiced ease. Aníbal idly wondered if he could pull off the same feat, and concluded it was unlikely. He had done some light acrobatic training, just in case he ever found himself bereft of his abilities, but nothing of this calibre. Jann replied to his questions in halting but correct English. The way he pronounced "stores", as if they were some unusual novelty, amused Aníbal, but he was careful not to show it. The school put limitations on all its pupils, and learning how to skirt those limitations the right way was something of a hidden curriculum. As the people in charge never tired of pointing out, Claremont wasn't a boot camp for heroes but a school for kids with special requirements in their education. Jann probably had to keep a low profile, being a member of another species. Who were the Star Gods, though, and why did they not watch over him here? That was a question probably best left for later.

 

Jann rattled off a list of names, only one of which sounded vaguely familiar. They were probably the 2016 crop of Claremonters. All in all, it seemed like he had made the transition without too many problems. "Good... You're doing fine, then.", Aníbal remarked.

 

He nodded as Jann asked a question of his own. "Correct. I've been at Claremont for a year now. My father pulled some strings to have me transfered here after my abilities surfaced.", he replied, "Just arrived yesterday, missed the first month. Had to go to Europe to run some tests."

 

Once again, the winds carried him upwards. "So... Have you been outside of Claremont much? Seen the city? Gotten into trouble?".

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Jann stretched his arms, before bringing his hands together and cracking his knuckles. Afterwards, he let them hang off to the side of his body again, continuing to speak all the while. When Aníbal brought up the rest of Freedom, Jann raised the corners of his mouth slightly, no longer looking neutral, but actually rather friendly.

 

“Have gone out often. Usually to purchase things to eat and drink. I cannot hunt here, but I have learned where the best quality is offered. It is not the same, but it is very good. I also enjoy the sweet beverages, they are a thing we do not have apart from those made of fruit. “

 

“Seen parts of the city. Had people guide me. Guardians, I believe you call it, but also one for a group of travelers. That time, there also was trouble, yes. An attack. I fought, and it was fine. Have not been in trouble outside the school. There was an attack not too long ago, it did not end very well however.”

 

“But, have also gone around the city alone before. Learned to know it, learn where various places are. There is enough space to properly fly there, but not here. “

 

 

Edited by olopi

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"An attack? By whom?", Anibal perked up when Jann mentioned an attack had occurred during his absence from Claremont. It seemed he had missed something important after all. Whoever was responsible didn't seem to do any serious damage to either persons or property. He hadn't noticed anything different about Claremont when he arrived, though to be fair he wasn't really paying attention. Jann certainly didn't seem too phased by it.

 

"Looks like I missed the fun.", he commented wryly. Nevertheless, the people responsible would surely try again in the future, and next time he'd be there to meet them head on.

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Jann took a few steps forward, looking at the rest of the course. He seemingly judged it for just a second, before turning back around towards Aníbal. Jann’s voice sounded rather netural once more, but his expression was still a friendly one. He exhaled, then replied, at the same time running forwards and jumping towards the next obstacle.

 “Do not know. You will have to ask the Headmistress, I am only aware of them being our age. They have powers. And were organized. Some of them good when it comes to combat. Multiple attacks, organized ones. “

 

He landed gracefully, stopping himself almost on the spot. Once he’d lost his speed, he went onwards, speeding up again. It looked strange, as he’d seemingly worked against his goal at first, but Jann’s controlled movements showed that it had most likely been intentional.

 

“Have heard rumours there will be no Halloween Party because of the attacks. Would be disappointing. Have been thinking about organizing something ourselves. Invite friends, and go somewhere. “

 

Jann continued to run, towards a spring board, turning around mid-way, but continuing to run, moving backwards. He tilted his head upwards, towards Aníbal. “Interested? Need to figure out some things.” By now, Jann had reached the springboard. He pushed himself off and turned in mid-air, using his wings to turn around, before landing on the next obstacle, looking away from Aníbal again. A single motion turned the Avian Acrobat back around, and he looked quite pleased. “Should be possible. “

Edited by olopi

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Aníbal's expression turned pensive as Jann described the attackers. Was there another school for kids with abilities? Whoever they were, they sounded like a serious threat, and something told him the Headmistress or anyone else on the school's staff wouldn't be too thrilled about divulging any more details than strictly necessary. Perhaps they'd strike again? It wouldn't hurt to keep one's guard up, for now at least. The avian continued his progress, and Aníbal decided to let any speculations rest for now.

 

When Jann mentioned the possibility that the Halloween party would be canceled due to the attack, Aníbal thought back to last year's party at Huang's place, which had gone horribly awry even without the intervention of supervillains. Hopefully this year would turn out different. No toilet hooch this time..., he firmly decided. Riley and Fred would have to use their prodigious talents on something more palatable. Whatever the official school policy, he decided it would be cowardice to let a bunch of scumbags with superpowers cow them into submission. Jann seemed to be on the same page.

 

"Sure thing. We can't let these people scare us. after all.", Aníbal replied, "What do you have in mind?".

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“Have been looking at things. Have found a room not too far away, can … rent ? … it. Just have to call home for the money needed. Not much, but more than I have on hand. Equipment is there, can get whatever else we need, have a plan for that. “

 

Jann sat down, simply crossing over his legs and lowering his body. He leaned back, his arms pushing down on the platform. He looked quite relaxed like this, having gone from a tense and ready body to a casual stance in just a moment’s notice.

 

“As for the party? Don’t know, really. Have never really been to one. Last one, we were planning on going later, but then the attack was executed. We don’t have them back home really. Had a thing once, but it was…” Jann suddenly paused, maybe having said something he shouldn’t quite have. He continued after a short pause, sounding the same but speaking a bit slower again. “… adults. Have seen some movies, so I have some understanding. Lights, drinks, music, right? Lights are there, and music will not be a problem. Drinks are at the store. Should not require much, then. Nothing is missing, correct? Just invitations and purchasing things.”

Edited by olopi

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He had almost forgotten just how weird his new acquaintance actually was, and just how foreign the ways of his people indeed were. Hearing Jann haltingly describe his vague idea of a "party", referring to it as if it were some weird alien custom, was an uncanny experience, and reminded him the avian was indeed different than the usual Claremont kid. Still, it seemed that a fondness for entertainment was something that crossed the boundaries of culture and species, and Jann seemed determined to hold a party for Halloween, even if he was a bit hazy on the details. Aníbal listened to him explain his plans, nodding along as he listed the things he had and the things he still needed to get. 

 

"Mmm... You don't have to call home for money. My family is very wealthy. They give me a big monthly allowance, and I don't really have a lot to spend it on.", Aníbal informed Jann with a confident smile, "I can pay for the place you found, and the drinks, and any equipment too, no problem."

 

"As for the party... Uhh, see, Halloween is like a special... It's an American thing. People dress up, wear costumes, you know? It's supposed to be scary, though usually it's not really scary, just an excuse to party.", he added, speaking slowly, unsure of how much the avian understood, "So, yeah. Drinks, lights, music. And some Halloween decorations, you know, you can buy those in stores too. How... How do your people have fun? I mean, besides flying? Maybe you can show us a little of your culture".

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“Ah, yes, you paying for it would also work, if you are fine with it. Will make things easier, probably. I think we will not need much when it comes to equipment, some furniture perhaps. “

 

Jann listened to Aníbal’s description of a Halloween party, the Avian did not seem like he’d really considered that aspect of the party before. He then spoke, sounding as if he’d just realized something.

“Oh, so that is why I have seen things like those at the stores. Somebody that looked similar to the decorations used to train with me back home. I was surprised to see the … decorations you call them, correct? At a store, I had not expected it. I do remember reading something about Halloween and movies however, I am sure I can get some ideas from there. So, you say decorations? What are you thinking? I can probably supply some things directly, and we can purchase others. I think I once read something about suits of armor being … scary? I have a few in my room, and could also arm them with a halberd and a sword and some other things. “

 

“How do you accomplish something that is supposed to be scary, but not actually scary? That sounds strange, as if you did only do it halfway. “

 

Jann paused a bit, probably thinking about something, then continued to answer Aníbal’s second question.

“Entertainment? Personally, I train lots. I spend most of my time training. There is also hunting, which we do not only for food, but also for sport and challenge. I have not done any while I was here, the only place I have seen animals at is the parks, and they aren’t big enough to hunt. Do you know any other places I could hunt at? There is also catching fish, which is more difficult to do. I’ve been to the river before, but did not manage to spot any that time. “

 

“Other things depend on the person. We too have literature, and some sports and other competitions. And music is something we do too, have a little experience in it too. Some games too, including “chess”, you call it. Not my thing, I prefer the more physically demanding ones. Some others do other things. The prince…“ Here Jann sounded a bit unsure, which was not something that really fit to his general way of speaking, or his appearance”… sometimes tells of his journeys, which often is interesting, even if the Elders and the Queen do not approve completely.”

 

Edited by olopi

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