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Avenger Assembled

Happy Little Trees (IC)

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January 2017 

FLSCH Library 

 

"Okay, everybody, that looks great!" The two hour lesson was almost over, and now Mark Lucas was moving from person to person in the small group of students, checking out how well they'd matched his painting. The famous hero, looking like a model in his dark suit and gold tie, had painted a scene of the Freedom City skyline and invited his small group of students to either try and emulate him or "paint whatever's inside you!" Somehow he hadn't gotten so much as a smudge of paint on him, even his artist's smock was nearly immaculate, as he studied everyone else's work. Some of the students had emulated his painting (with varying degrees of success), others had painted cities more familiar to their homeworld or dimension, and one really had gone her own way with an image of starry nights being overrun by "Hah-hah, well, that's pretty frank," he said cheerfully. "Probably don't want to let the kids see that one."  

 

When the lesson time was over, he said "Okay, we have to give the chapel back to Karen soon, but I'll be here to answer any questions you have about your work. Nice job, everyone," he complimented as his students started packing up their work. "Next time, I think Gabriel is coming in for singing lessons. It should be fun!" 

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Off in his own corner, a certain alien host sighed to himself as he finally put down his paint brush and pushed his chair back to better inspect his painting. In all honesty, he knew he could've done a lot worse, but than again, he could've done a lot better too. He'd used a little too much blue in the skyline and the buildings looked rather slanted too. At the very least he felt he had gotten the water and the lighting right. All and all, it was definitely one of his better works. He couldn't help but be just a little envious of those around him, whom seemed to have a much easier time getting into the flow when it came to painting than he did.

 

As the professor packed up, he stood to go and head back to his apartment, hoping to spend some time catching up on a few video games....only to stop himself. Mr Lucas seemed to know what he was doing...maybe it wouldn't hurt to ask for some help. As such, he headed over and cleared his throat, "Ahem...um...Mr Lucas, sir? I was wondering if you could perhaps give me a few pointers in improving my painting skills, please?" 

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"Oh sure," said Mark, pulling up a stool and siting next to the other young man. Up close, Mark wasn't that old himself - not over twenty-five if Quantum Shift was any judge. "Okay, this is a good try," he said reassuringly. "One of the mistakes people make is they try and imitate the 'real' world when they paint - but remember, you could be taking pictures if you want to do that. Painting should reflect more than that. You know, you'd be surprised how much even beginning art can reveal about what's on your mind." Mark scratched his chin as he studied the work. "It looks like the colors and shapes are off some - I can still recognize everything, but it's all just a little different from how it looks to the eye. Are you thinking about having a different perspective on the world?" 

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Just from a glance, the shapeshifter could tell his professor didn't look much older than himself, and yet he spoke in a way that said he had wisdom well beyond his years. He let himself relax a little and sit down in his own chair and listen to his advice, "Yeah, I guess that's part of the problem. When I paint I guess I try a little too hard to focus on what's concrete instead of what's in my mind...." It was his turn to scratch his own chin, "Even beginning art can reveal what's on your mind, huh...well, I guess I do have some stuff I been thinking about..." He looked his painting over more closely and felt a brief sense of nostalgia well up inside him, "...Sir, I come from an alternate Earth and as far as I know superhumans and aliens aren't exactly a part of everyday life there..."

"If I were to go back home right now...I don't know, I guess i just feel that would cause way too much trouble...the thought of being the only person in your world with actual superpowers...a scenario like that seems great in some ways but I just get this feeling it could lead you down a very slippery slope very fast. I guess a part of me feels I can do more good here than back there, but..."

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"Ah, yes," said Mark, vaguely remembering looking at the younger man's file. He'd taken at least a glance at everyone's FLSCH file when he'd volunteered to teach the enrichment class. The idea of a world with no superpowers seemed really boring - and pretty frightening if you imagined tanks and soldiers trying to fight an invasion from the Terminus or any number of other extradimensional threats, but he wasn't about to say that to the other guy. "Right now you should concentrate on building up the life you have," he told Quantum Shift encouragingly. "Live the best life you can, learn all you can, and then when you make it home, you'll be able to do the best you can for them. I know it might not seem that way, but it is possible to have a good life even if you're not from around these parts. One of my best friends is a dimensional refugee, and she's settled down, gotten married, gotten a job - and she came from a much worse place than you did." As he spoke, he took out a design notebook and began sketching with a pencil, keeping his eye on Quantum Shift's work. "There are all kinds of crazy dimensions out there. I, uh, I've been to a few." 

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The human-turned-alien host looked up at hearing the professor talking to him. For some reason, he found himself hanging on to every word and letting what was being said sink in. "I...I suppose you have a point...I mean, growing up I had a love of comic books and superheroes...so my current situation should be a dream come true for me...I just hope I can prove myself worthy of what I been given," He tilted his head at hearing about Mark's friend, "Really? Huh, that's actually great...I guess she's a prime example of how it's not where you're from that matters, it's what you do that counts," He gave out an empty chuckle, "Now if only I could bother actually following through with that philosophy myself,"

 

The alien host leered over at what the professor was doing, "What would you say have been some of the stranger ones you been to?...For that matter, I don't think I've even asked what your powers are, have I?"

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"A lot of dimensions that don't have superheroes have fiction about them. My dad used to say," and there was hardly a twitch in his voice, "that the psychic bleedthrough of superheroes penetrates even to the furthest reaches of the multiverse." He hmmed, then said, "Well, uh, my powers are magic, and they're kind of like being a genie, except I do the wishing. Like this, see," he snapped his fingers and produced, as if from nothing, a miniature pie. "Here, do you like pecan?" he asked, handing the pie over. "I can do a lot of stuff with my powers, so I mostly do charitable stuff through the United Nations. I can't make anything too complicated, but I can make different kinds of food, and building materials, that kind of thing. Tomorrow I'm going to Zambia and help out with a drought they had. Working for groups like UNISON can be pretty handy - they even paid for me to go to college when I started there as an intern. You're a bodymorpher, right?" he asked.

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"Wait, a genie?" Needless to say, this caught the young man's attention, "As in, you can just snap your fingers and cause whatever to ha-" Before he could even finish that question, the professor caused an actual pecan pie to materialize from what seemed like thin air. The sight of this was enough shock to make him fall silent. When Edge offered the pie, the shapeshifter looked at it for several seconds like he was worried it would explode if he took it...finally, he realized just how stupid that sounded and graciously took the pie, "Thanks...I had a rather light lunch so this will tide me over till supper..." The pie was still warm so he knew for a fact it was real.

 

He listened to the rest of the professor's explanation and nodded in acknowledgment, "Even being able to do just that can give you a crazy amount of power, indeed..." The fact that Edge was able to make the pie with hardly any effort showed that such a feat didn't even scratch the surface of what he could potentially do, "It's good to see it being used responsibly..." He blinked and looked up at hearing himself become the topic of conversation, "Oh me? Morpher? Yeah, I guess the name I got was a pretty big hint, huh?" He chuckled at this before looking around to make sure no one was nearby before lifting up his hand and letting his index finger morph into a small serrated black knife which he then used to cut a piece of the pie. 

 

That same finger than turned into a fork-like appendage which he then used to pick up said piece and eat it. It was melt in your mouth delicious, "As you can tell, my body's been changed by that virus...what I have now changes based on my will..." He held up his hand as it formed into a blue-silver claw-like appendage before becoming a spiked mace then changing back, "Think Venom or better yet Alex Mercer for an idea of what I am now," He let that thought sink into the professor's head before shrugging, "So far, I think I've only scratched the surface of what I can do now, but I like to think even what I got so far has let me help a lot of people." He managed a small smile at this.

Edited by GamerXZ

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"You know," said Mark sociably, "most people you talk to probably aren't going to know who Venom or Alex Mercer are. I just know them because I spend a lot of time at comic book shops," he confessed. "You might want to tell people that you have shapeshifting powers like Miss Grue or Pseudo - that's a reference more people in this dimension will understand. Just be careful talking about shapeshifting powers," he went on, "there are still a lot of people who have stupid prejudices about Grue because of all the invasions. You've got a couple of Grue living here, I think - shapeshifting aliens who can read minds, red skin when they're not using their powers?" He hmmed. "Shapeshifters can do pretty well for themselves, whether they're doing hero work or working in the private sector. It's okay if you want to go that way, by the way - not everyone's cut out to be a superhero. What else can you do with your shapeshifting?"

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The young man stopped himself right as he was about to dig into another bite of pie at hearing the professor mention a certain name,"...Grue?" He frowned while looking downwards, "Strange....I feel like I know that name from somewhere..." He closed his eyes as he thought back. Grue, Grue...it was almost as if the answer was right there, just out of his reach...that ship he had been trapped on...it was the key somehow...yet his memories of that place were still muddy at best. 

 

He was once more brought out of his mental wandering by Edge's voice, "Huh? Me?" This was the part that would likely end up being a tad embarrassing. He looked down at the pie and took a bite out of it before getting up to set it on a table and stretching his legs, "Well...to say I can...do a lot...would be an understatement..." One more look around to make sure nobody was nearby...and his whole body then took on an inky blue and grey substance which caused him to collapse into a puddle...that quickly reformed into a humanoid creature made from the goop. A pair of blue orbs lit up in its "head" as if acting like eyes before looking over at Edge, "Relax, it's still me in here," It spoke before beginning to morph its limbs into various appendages and weapons, spikes sprouting along its spine, and various other transformations. 


At one point, an entire section of his blob-like form turned into a serpent-like creature before reverting back, "You'd be surprised how easy it is to get back stuff people drop down sewer drains when you are literally a walking pile of primordial goop," Despite his appearance, there was quite a bit of humor in his voice, "That and, you know, doing construction work, baking cakes...sometimes I work at a hospital as a giant teddy bear for sick kids, or a one-man puppet show...that kind of thing...and as far as I can tell the only limits on all this is my imagination." 

 

The creature glanced down at its mass before tilting its "head" at Edge, "Question, you got any ideas where my brain goes?" He sounded genuinely curious.

 

Edited by GamerXZ

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"Oh, I'm not the right guy to ask about brains!" said Edge, grinning at a private joke. He'd watched, impressed, studying Quantum Shift with an artist's eye as the latter went through his various transformations. "I know some shapeshifters have an, ah, what do you call it - distributed anatomy, where all their organs and stuff are spread out through their bodies, so they can shift themselves around and not die. Is that how it works for you?" He knew that Quantum Shift wouldn't be out here in FSCH without having been thoroughly checked by League doctors. "Do you mind if I sketch you while we talk?" he asked, picking up pencil and taking out his pocket notebook as he went. 

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The creature tilted its "head" in curiosity yet again at this new information. "Distributed anatomy...?" He stared down at his body...or the gelatinous mess he had for one, "...That would explain quite a bit but...I don't really know..." The creature's head lowered a little, "However, I do recall when the virus was injecting into my veins...it was...well, let's just say that if rubber had feelings...I would now know how it feels when someone pulls it in a million directions..." Despite his appearance, a sigh could be heard, "I'm sorry for the lack of detail. I think whatever happened on that ship messed with my head in more ways than one,"

 

Wanting any excuse to get away from this topic, he seemed to brighten up at hearing Edge's offer, "Huh? Oh no, I don't mind. Go ahead," The man's body shifted again into what looked like a large dog-like creature with a bunch of tendrils around its neck in the shape of a lion's mane and maybe a few too many teeth. "So, sir, mind telling me how you first discovered your powers?"

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"I was fourteen, just finishing middle school, and I wanted to have powers so badly I could taste it." Mark smiled a little. "My dad was...attached to the old Freedom League, the one in the 60s and 70s, so I grew up hearing about superheroes and how wonderful they were, and about how he hoped I'd get powers too so I could get a costume and a code-name. My powers first popped up when I was doing telekinesis tests, actually - they figured out I could make dice and coins land how they wanted so they thought I had to be moving them with my mind. But it didn't really work that way, it was just...luck." Mark shrugged. "I took the name Edge because I made 100 coins land that way when we were flipping them. My mom still thinks it sounds too dangerous, like I'm gonna develop knife powers. My other powers came along as I practiced with the luck more." He was sketching as he talked, focusing in on Quantum Shift with pencil over his pad. 

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"Luck, huh.." Shift morphed back into a more humanoid shape as he pondered over what he was hearing. In some ways, it reminded him of himself, of looking up to people who seemed larger than life and could accomplish impossible feats with little effort. He had always hoped that one of them would swoop in some day and save him from his problems...but none ever came. Banishing those dark thoughts, he turned back to his professor, "And then you discovered you were basically a probability manipulator. The kind of person whose power is only one level...below...warping...reality...itself..." He trailed off as it finally hit him just what kind of power the man before him was carrying around. It was at that moment he decided he would avoid ever making this fella angry. 

 

The goo-like substance that made up his body morphed again to resemble something with a great many eyes and tentacles yet somehow managed to still speak to him, "I apologize if this gets a little too personal...but I guess you eventually learned heroism isn't all fun and games." It was more of a gentle statement than a question.

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"That's pretty dark for someone who can be anything he wants," commented Mark dryly. "Maybe you can't fix everything in your life, or everything for everyone, but you've still got a lot of power." He thought of his friends like Wander, and all they'd suffered through, and pressed on anyway. "Life isn't fun and games, but that's just part of growing up. The question becomes, what are you going to let yourself be?" He shook his head. "I don't mean shapeshifting. Your life is what it is, you are who you are. Are you a character in someone else's story? Or are you going to go out and live it?" 

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"...Wow, that was kinda dark, sorry about that," The creature acknowledged as he decided to liven things up a bit by resuming a more humanoid form and taking a seat again, "I get a little caught up in the past when I start going off on my tangents. It's really something I need to work on. I do want to be the writer of my own story but it can be kinda tricky at times...then again, I suppose nothing in life worth doing is ever meant to be easy," At this, he actually managed a little chuckle before getting an idea, "Hey, mind showing me what you got drawn so far? Actually, any suggestions for what you might like to see? Cute and cuddly or big and scary?" 

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Mark showed Quantum Shift his picture - it was primarily a sketch of the young man he'd met when he'd first entered, looking back out of the page and smiling, but surrounded by a faint cloud of half-sketched faces and shapes that matched some of what he'd already seen from the shapeshifter. It was a bit like seeing the real man through the layers of possibility around him. "Show me how you want people to see you," he suggested, pencil hovering over the sketchbook as he studied the shapeshifter.

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The young man blinked in surprise as he looked over the drawing. He took a deep breath and let his form settle back down into its original human shape. He flexed his hands and closed his eyes, thinking back to the family he had back home. Of how he had been told no matter what happened, he would always be loved regardless of what he looked like. "...There's not really a straight answer you can give to something like that," Despite what he said, his voice carried more certainty than it normally did, "I mean, everybody has their own expectations of what they want to see from someone else...and to be honest, I remember my Mom telling me multiple times that no matter how hard you try, you can't please everyone in life...so it's important to focus on what You can do,"

He held up his hand and clenched it tightly, "This power is a part of me now...so I hope the more I understand about it, the closer I'll get to understanding where I really fit in now."

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"You don't have to please me," said Mark with a faint shrug. "I'm just here for another twenty minutes anyway. And there's nothing you could show me that would shock me," he added reassuringly. "I've been around the block a few times." He kept drawing anyway, though, not trying to push the younger man into revealing something he didn't want to show. "My mom's an artist too. I don't know if you read Andi comics, with the girl and the two boys who crush on her in River Falls, New Jersey? That's her." He smiled. "She's been drawing and illustrating all the Andi digests since I was a kid. When I was in high school, she kept sneaking my friends into stories under other names."

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