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Registration Day: 2 Fang 2 Furious (OPEN)

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Her brow did not drop, and without a smile she looked as severe and unwelcoming as could be.  "Ahm, 'kay.  I'm lost a bit here..."  Then looking to Nicole, "Oh, you're fashion forward.  Well, like, alright."  She wrinkled her nose, artfully, with poise and grace.

 

"Conrad, my last name is Conrad.  But, I think that isn't going to help you.  I have my step-dad's last name.  My father's is al-Misri."  She said it matter of factly as she was kind of avoiding looking at what was happening around them, and back at Huang challengingly.  "I mean, I don't have anything like this at home, but I am from LA, so it's all special effects right?  I've already been stabbed in the city, because of that idiot bird."  Yeah, she was still sore over Jann.

 

Besides, she thought, there was a good chance they were gonna see her alter-ego.  And that weight was greater than...

 

"Holy sh-"  Corinne got out as the scene shifted, and her eyes widened.

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"It's time to fight for Freedom!" called Jayaman. Raising his hands, he shouted his magic word to the sky and transformed into his heroic form - Garuda was a massive eagle-man with a foot of height and a hundred pounds of muscle on Jay, with a great flaming sword in his hand. "Ho!" He spread his great wings and took to the sky, buffeting the heroes on the ground for a moment before he reached 'cruising' altitude. Qualia was just behind him, rising into the sky on a pillar of psionic power before she swooped towards the giant monster crawling up the great triple towers of the Pyramid Plaza. Through a combination of carefully placed holograms and some optical illusions, they soon seemed to be 'up in the air', hundreds of feet above the ground as they engaged the Archvil thing with flaming sword and mental powers. 

 

For his part, Citizen knew how this one went - he sat back in his seat and watched the new students expectantly, wondering what they were going to do. He didn't know some of them, but he did know Salvo and a few others - were they going to figure this one out?

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"That's certainly what they would want you to think."  Huang answered Nicole with a shrug, "And maybe it is."  he admitted unfazed by the creature it seemed, though curious about it certainly.  Smirking he shook his head at Corrinne, "Well you might be half right."  he joked lightly as Jayaman triggered his transformation.

 

Huang threw up an arm to shield his eyes from the wind and dust of Garuda's ascent, "Who says that?"  he scoffed as the the eagleman and psychic began their assault on the creature scaling the building.  He peered for a moment at the scene as it unfolded and shook his head, murmuring about racists and bigger threats as he drew forth arcane power into his hands raising his hand in an ancient mudra as he chanted slowly in old slavonic, "поглед отвъд погледа."  as he summoned power to cast his senses out into realms arcane and profane.  As the spell completed he cast about trying to track the energies that might be controlling the creature or worse yet, what it was running from.

 

 

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"Language," Nicole chided lightly before Jayaman leapt into the air, transformed into an eagle-man, and Qualia right behind him. She watched with a pout hidden behind a helmet as winds buffeted those on the ground. Leaping headfirst into the fray wouldn't be a bother, so long as they did it with everything they could know. But they left without even a word about her concern, and that was what irked her the most. She stamped her boot in frustration and sighed. "Fine. Let's just fight the thing."

 

Huang had cast a spell which looked for magical energies, far as her sensors could tell. Nicole on her part engaged her thrusters, accelerating to top speed in seconds before stopping high above the scene. She was provided with a bird's eye view from her vantage point and the octopus-squid-monster and Archetech plazas both could almost fit within her hands. Perfect.

 

She activated her radar, various objects of interest lighting up in her HUD in bright purple silhouettes. At the same, she raised her arms and began to heat up her autocannons. Her face lit up with a rictus grin. Hands cupped her chin in concentration. Enemies. Simulations. A fight. An exercise. Wanton destruction and calculated moves. They were all this, and she-

 

Father started coughing violently, loud and annoying enough to break her concentration.

 

She did not give him the satisfaction.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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The battle between the teen heroes and the Archevil thing may have been simulated - but it felt real for all of that. It belched blasts of smoke and flame at them as they came at it, swirling multicolored explosions that were of no earthly hue or odor, and whipped great tentacles at them thick as tree trunks. When struck by sword or armor blast, it howled as gobbets of ichorous black blood went gushing down its sides and onto the buildings it was climbing. Blinking numerous black eyes at them, its fanged maws seemed to be opening and closing with some new, terrible purpose. Perhaps the resolution was no better than being inside the latest VR rig with added sensory input from smell and taste, but it was certainly impressive for all of that. 

 

Down below, Huang found that a larger and larger crowd was gathering underneath the battle. The Freedom City natives and visitors alike, excited to see a major superhero battle happening just above their heads, were taking pictures and film, some people even posing in such a way that the overhead melee seemed to be  photobombing their little group. The fight, spectacular that it was, was attracting an ever-growing simulated crowd, with even cars on the street stopping for tourist purposes. As far as his senses could tell, there wasn't much 'to' this creature - a mindless thing from another realm, roaming around this dimension maddened by rage at its displacement and the alien three dimensions around them.

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Corinne frowned, not approaching.  It wasn't real.  That was the problem for her.  She was a child of artifice and graft, her parents sold themselves on it.  Her real father having been hidden by it.  It was hard to take this situation seriously.  Even if it felt real.  It wasn't.  Right?

 

Still the prospect of the people... She had a hard time being bad in a video game if the option is presented to her, this was no exception.  Really.  Even as she held back, she was growing visibly upset.  "This.. this isn't..."  Shifting from foot to foot, and then she glanced to Citizen.  "This is a problem.  What are we supposed to figure out... what..."  Her anger showed up immediately.  What the hell was wrong with these people...?  Her face setting hard into an imperious expression of both disdain and anger as the distortion effect of her power roiled about her like a badly artifacted digital image.

 

Zenith didn't care about the particulars, just that when mad Corinne reached down into herself, and pulled on her power, into her.  And riotous was the incandescent hair, like the change that it signaled.  She didn't liked to be tested.

 

Still she pulled at the world around them, or the un-world around them, and reshaped and made a barrier over the tourists and the watchers and the photo people.  It was stone and metal and blocked their view.  Her form shimmered and was there under it, shaping more, molding the thing she made, adding to it, making it bigger.  Intent on interceding between the growing throngs of people and the creature.

 

She snarled at the crowd now, "You idiots, leave!  Don't you have any sense!?"

 

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Letting out a slight sigh Huang looked around at the growing crowds dismally.  "Only in Freedom."  he mused quietly.  It was getting increasingly difficult to be the dark loner with everyone just running willy nilly about doing their own thing of that much he was certain.  Less certain was how to get a large number of people moving without it being a panicked stampede.  "That'll hold him you think?"  he asked Zenith curiously as he started digging in a pocket, "I mean just in case I'm sure harvey birdman and mentoc the mind taker up there have it under control."  he smirked sarcastically and shook his head, "You keep these people safe, I think I know how to take care of our new friend."

 

Pulling a large red sidewalk chalk from his pocket he smiled, "Thank you JJ,"  Huang noted as he flipped it in his hand, "Let's see if this really is lucky."  Dropping to the ground he began sketching out the intricate spiraling runes and sigils of a banishing circle, "Let's get you home big guy."

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"Not here," said her dad. He pointed one manicured finger to the ground below, and Nicole followed it to a teenage mage tracing spirals on the ground with chalk. She recognized it even in its half-formed state, complex and somewhat different from how she would have done it yet unmistakable in its universal use. "There."

 

Nicole gave one last look at the monster climbing the towers, Jayaman and Qualia barely anything but tiny figurines in comparison to the alien bulk. Her stomach rebelled as she retracted her cannons, hating it but knowing her dad was right. And tearing her gaze away, she entered into a steep dive, thrusters blazing gouts of flame and superheated air in her wake. She slowed her descent at the last second and stumbled into a clumsy landing beside Huang, catching her balance before she could trample over the banishing circle.

 

It was almost finished now. She watched and waited, wondering if it would work.

 

She glanced at Corinne, her clothing and bearing changed, and something about the transformation was amusing to Nicole. Giddy laughter filled her stomach, rising up, but with an effort of will, she squashes it underfoot and refocuses.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Eventually it all came together, as smoothly as if they'd all planned it out for years. The great Archevil monster fell from the Pyramid Plaza, bleeding from the wounds inflicted by Garuda and Qualia, straight towards the plaza below that Ouroborous, Zenith, and Salvo had all helped clear of gawkers and tourists. As the monster got close enough to trigger the banishing circle (said triggering helped by the black, oozing blood cascading from it) the circle flared to a brilliant, iridescent light that was maybe a bit more like Hollywood magic than actual magic - and suddenly monster, skyscrapers, and all were gone as the simulations in the Doom Room vanished to four walls of still-glowing electronics. 

 

"I might have known you'd hide down below when there was work to be done," Garuda hissed at Ouroborous, not quite audible at the level of where Citizen was sitting. "Can't you even be a-a man in training, much less out in the field?" 

 

"Jay, don't start a fight," said Qualia, patting his arm affectionately. "We have guests. They'll figure out who's a real hero here soon enough." 

 

"Hey, that was good!" said Citizen from up in the teacher's platform, sounding impressed. "You kept the monster distracted rather than letting it break into the towers, you dispersed the tourists so they didn't get crushed by the monster, and you came up with, er, a solution that got rid of the creature." He could forgive Salvo and Ouroborous for falling back on the focusing rituals that they used to channel their extra-dimensional psychic energies; a little nonsense was more than acceptable if it got the job done. "We did a simulation like that back when I was on Young Freedom," he reminisced. "Those were fun times. Man, I got in trouble for hacking the system. Not because I'd hacked," he admitted, "but because I did it twice. So are you ready for lunch, or do you want to go again?" 

 

 

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Now, Corinne would have held back, avoided the confrontation.

 

Corinne would have. Zenith however...

 

Zenith was mad.  There was no preamble for this, throw the kids into the fire and see who didn't burn?  She snarled, and she was suddenly in Jayaman's face.  Like a big, radiant pitbull.  Her hands at her sides, fingers splayed and curled in a claw like fashion.  "What the hell hero!?"  That last word dripped with enough caustic venom that it was splattering to the ground around them, and making it sizzle.   "You want to do a pissing contest?  No.  No.  You don't get to!  Neither of you get to f### the rest of us over because you've a stupid fight going."  She roped Huang, Mr. I'm-So-Cool-I-Wear-My-Sunglasses-At-Night as she half turned to make sure she was hitting both.

Zenith had no chill.  Negative chill.  She was at a chill deficit.  That was where she lived.

 

"And going to save and disperse the people, are you saying I am a coward?  That Nicole is a coward?  You preening, thoughtless, feathers for brain...!  Nnn-aaaaargh!"  Her hands clenching into fist as distortion around her picked up, before she turned on her feet and threw an arm out towards the structure she had made and rent it apart with the gesture, breaking it into notmatter and pulling it into herself.

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Huang gave a small satisfied nod as the 'spell' ran it's course banishing the approximation of eldritch horror.   Pocketing his chalk he turned to face the verbal onslaught of Garuda with a simple nod, "Well done chums."  he replied with false earnest.  Sliding his gaze to Qualia, "Oh honey, didn't you just hear he's looking for a real man."  he simply tsked and shook his head whispering, "Besides just between you and me you could do better."  

 

He weathered Zeniths outburst with only a small shrug not dropping his too cool for school demeanor for a moment, "Contest implies a level of competition that just isn't there."  he mused with a smirk as she banished the barrier, "That's a good cover for the bystanders though,"  he praised honestly, "When they took off like that I thought I'd do all the heavy lifting but I hardly had anything left to do."  He nodded to Nicole, "I imagine this one would have managed the banishment just fine if it came down to it."

 

Finally looking up at Citizen he called out, "You gotta step up the mind games you want to replace Archer."

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"This one's a better mage than you'll ever be," Nicole bit out.

 

She stood opposite Corinne, her arms waving around as if to ward away insults, but still almost a marked contrast against the volatile teen. Nicole had no clue what was going on between Jayaman and Huang, and she didn't care. The magic kid was an asshole who loved the sound of his own voice too much, and so Nicole faced Huang even if she addressed the whole group, speakers turned to the max. "Everyone just shut your mouths! No one cares what you're saying so just shut up!"

 

Something stirred inside her inner sanctum and she watched as her minded match the world outside, turning the walls a dark, pulsing red. Beating, restless. Her armored form was still as a statue, but she began to pace agitated inside her interface, wringing her hands in frustration. She wanted to punch something, shove it against a wall, double over laughing. Instead, her armor's engine purred in anticipation, panels sliding open and clicking in multitude, thrusters buzzing, and weapon systems whirring to life.

 

She punched an armored finger at Corinne. "Calm down!"

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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"Hey hey hey!" 

 

Citizen flew down from his perch and interposed himself in between the high school kids, remembering the good old days on Young Freedom and missing them with gusto. He didn't remember anything like this happening when he and Koshiro and Kimber had...hmm. 

 

"Save it for the actual bad guys," he said firmly, scanning the group with his sensors and eyes both. He didn't look ready for a fight so much as an imposition, something he'd already done. "Claremont students have beaten the Terminus, beaten the Curator, and they've saved the world more times than I can count. There's a time and a place for healthy competition - not whatever is happening here." 

 

Finding that he could detect Ouroborous by radar if nothing else, Citizen added to the dhampir - "I know things have been, uh, weird here. What did they tell you about what happened to Mr. Archer?" 

 

"Somebody kidnapped him and put a cybernetic control in his neck," said Qualia, quieted but not stifled by Citizen's presence as she kept glaring at Huang and Corinne. "If Next-Gen hadn't shown up when they did, he could have killed the students he was working with. They were lucky to get away alive." 

 

 

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Zenith made a dismissive wanking gesture.  And she was nominally, maybe, kind of sort of Next Gen.  Well, Corinne was.  Zenith's reaction was less enthused by the situation.  "Yeah, sure Robert Picardo, whatever."  She was looking right at Nicole, however.  "I'd recommend, maybe, telling Dollface over there that it isn't wise or in the spirit of team building to be pointing f###ing guns at me."  She really didn't push hard on the response, she glared at Nicole...

 

And then it dropped.  What happened to Archer. Zenith blinked, and her focus shifted to Qualia and then Citizen.  Hard to tell with no discernible eyeball, but the weight of her stare was a thing.  On she could make readily be true than it not.

 

"Wait... wait, what?  So first, you sick bastards just drop something like this without telling us?  Or did my file say 'No, she does this every day and twice on weekends?'  The hell 'hero'."  More sarcasm dripped as she looked right at the stand in teacher.  "And the people we're supposed to trust with our well being are mind controlled... Jesus, how does this Mickey Mouse operation keep it's accreditation?"

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Huang's eyes flashed blood red as the excitable mechanomagi challenged his skills and charged up her suits more militant aspects, "I pray we never have cause to find out the truth of that."  he replied through clenched teeth before pointedly turning to Jayamon and Qualia as he released a slow breath and forced his tone and body language once more to it's former languid carelessness.

 

Taking a few steps back Huang had been planning to leave on that note with the growing disquiet in the group making it increasingly difficult to play off the cool disinterest with which he tried to face the world of Claremont.  Citizens arrival put an end to that with the more direct questioning and the self aggrandizing boasts of the Next Gen.

 

"Given who he decided to try out his new and improved psy-ops on I'd say the only one in danger was Archer himself."  he countered with a small shrug.  More directly he replied to Citizen, "You went here you know Archer has a certain flair for the traumatic if he thinks it'll push some kid before real lives are on the line."  the Dhampirs affect was more flat than usual with his forced calm, "He stepped it up, possibly due to a device possibly not."  he stared down the Next Gen, "Powers that be don't see fit to say more than the stress of his position and old injuries have led him to retire."

 

Smiling slightly at Zenith Huang shook his head, "Well, You think they want all this,"  he gestured across the highly agitated group of superpowered teens with super powered attitude, "in public schools?"  

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"I--" Nicole began hotly before she cut her sentence off with a shake of her head. The tension in her evaporated through the steam vents and she planted her boots firmly on the ground, stalling her mechanisms into sleep. Her blood cooled as she looked from Huang to Corinne though her eyes still narrowed at the simmering conflict. Instead of readying for a fight, the two were now bickering against each other and Mr. Tulink.

 

Nicole closed her eyes behind her visor. She was still giddy but it was fading together with the promise of a fight, but she still had to speak up.

 

"They were wrong to trust him," she said with forced calm. "But that's why we're trying to make up for it. I didn't go here or to Archeville to work for madmen and both of you wouldn't too. But what you're saying isn't helping."

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When he was sure the high school kids weren't going to kill each other, Citizen took them upstairs for lunch - Garuda and Qualia departing from the small group to go to a Next-Gen practice meeting. A little out of his depth, Sharl was fully prepared to let the students do their thing, but after the near-fight that had broken out, he wanted to make sure he was leaving his charge in good hands. "You should have seen this place during the Day of Wrath," he commented as they headed out onto the relative peace and quiet of the quad. It was sunny here, and bright - more so than he was used to either in Emerald City or in his upload. "Mr. Summers was replaced by a Curator drone, so was a sophomore named Quickstep - it was a big frelling mess. But we got through it," he offered, "and so did the rest of the city. What you have to understand is that Freedom City sits on the center of a major dimensional axis and about four different hyperspace loops. Between the dimensional invasions and the astronomical threats, it's a wonder the city isn't invaded _more_ often - especially with all the dimensional creatures roaming around." 

 

Once everyone had taken their food from one of the outdoor 'food carts' (really just part of the cafeteria line moved outdoors for the good weather), there was plenty of space to find on the quad - whether the benches not taken by students taking their lunch out of doors, or just the grass, or under the trees. Citizen didn't really bother. "Believe it or  not, this really is about the safest place you can be." 

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"Of course, I'm the one unhelpful.  Right..."  Zenith trailed off at that, clearly wanting to say more, not for the effort of sniping, but her expression as she looked at Citizen was one of someone who had lost trust.  Even if the glowing apertures for eyes made some of her expression unreadable for a lack of nominal human analogy.  This wasn't in the brochure, her folks may not have been told about this.

 

Corinne didn't last until they made it out of the training sequence before she transitioned back to herself in a burst of white, digitized, fractal light.  It made her stagger, and rush to the nearest garbage can, which she was bent into, in a lurch, and she emptied to contents of her stomach.  Coming down from her powers, and the tension, fear, and all of it just hit her right in the gut.  She rejoined them, as herself, and after rinsing out her mouth with some water.

 

She didn't have much to add, she believed in redemption arcs, the child of movies that she was.  It was becoming abundantly clear that some people saw the work in stark monochrome, rather than a gradient scale.  Or the impressionism she tended to view things as.

 

Though, after the transition it was clear that her and her other form were vastly different, at least in overt mannerisms.

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Nicole was standing there. Waiting, hands on her hips, as Corrine returned to the group back to normal.

 

"Your powers alter your mannerisms. Perhaps the changes go as deep as your character," Nicole notes, her visor retracted to show her face frowning in thought. "Assuming from the cosmetic and not-so cosmetic effects your other half exhibited, I'd guess the changes stem from a reordering of your brain."

 

She shakes her head. The implications were interesting; transmutation of two beings sharing one body. The ritualization required to even begin to separate the two, and where to store the one and the other?  Into an artificial being? Nicole would have asked Corrine's opinion, but Nicole knew from experience such thought experiments made others uncomfortable and was considered a faux pas. A shame, considering the insights one could gleam from honest, open discussion.

 

Nicole quirked her eyebrows at Citizen's comment.

 

"Because of the threat of violent retaliation. But there isn't any better way, is there?"

 

Even if there was, she was not sure people would care to look for one and even if they had it within their palms, go the lengths to introduce the new paradigm. It was a simple but unfortunate characteristic; to be boxed into situations inherently opposed to find the best way forward, instead of just what will do at the moment.

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Huang pulled a pair of dark wrap around sunglasses from deep in a pocket as they emerged into the sunlight and placed them over his eyes wincing despite the protection.  He took his food and offered a bite to Corinne as she rejoined the group, "Chili Cheese fry?"  Huang offered because he was a damn gentleman and also not used to anything like normal food.  Still holding the processed cheesefood drowned mess out for others to sample he nodded to Citizens explanation, "Also at least one major temporal inflection point too."  he trailed off murmuring about being grounded before he could find others.

 

He eventually retracted his food whether anyone took him up on the offer or not, "For most students the goal is integration, control, all that."  he offered his own opinion, "But some of us are gonna mix it up."  he stated the obvious with a look around the group, "And I dunno if you noticed from our little dry run down there we're not always necessarily ready for the full repercussions of that."  Because in an actual invasion scenario of course they'd have to move on to the next threat not have a pissing contest till team mom drug them off for snacks.

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Corinne was still in her altered outfit, her hood pulled up and holding a water, though looking a little wan, even anemic, as she returned.  She looked at the fries, frowning a little, before she started to daintily take some. "Thank you."

 

"Not quite.  Maybe.  I don't know.  It's me.  Probably."  She didn't know these people, and they were probing, and she recalled everything from when she was Zenith, or was upset enough to be Zenith.  It was blurry, ill-defined.  She hated it.  It made her sick, shaken, and just...

 

She didn't like the press from Nicole.

 

An analytical that made Corinne feel like not a person, she suppressed a shudder, and got herself a lemon-lime soda, and her own mound of chili cheese fries, because she had moved from peckish selecting of foods to devastation unseen since Verdun on that food. 

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"Oh, man, don't get me started on time-travel. Back when all those temporal gateways opened up a few years ago, Miss Americana was trapped over a century in the past for at least a year. She doesn't like to talk about it." For his part, Citizen wasn't a person at all - but he was beginning to relax and think that things were going to turn out all right for Zenith. "Things will turn out all right," he told them with the confident surety of a recent graduate. "When I was here, my best friends were a paper controller, a sentient post-mortem psionic imprint, and a shapeshifter. The mix now is a little more fractured than it usually is - but you'll be fine." When the students were all eating his lunch, Sharl rose to his feet - reminding himself with some reluctance that this wasn't his place anymore. "If you guys will excuse me, I need to fly back to Emerald City tonight. If you need anything, Zenith, just call me or Miss A. Nice meeting all of you," he offered as he lifted off into the air before rocketing away with the faint, soothing hum of magnetic power. 

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"Well there goes Mr. Tulink..."

Holding the sandwich she was eating for lunch, Nicole followed Sharl's flight with her eyes. She could almost see the flight patterns around him; trajectory back to Emerald City. It would take several hours to cross to the West Coast with his present flight capability, but armor was more comfortable than couch on airplanes. Ergonomic design was an almost forgotten factor for most people who didn't have to wear mechanized limbs to be able to walk.

 

She took a bite from her sandwich and turned to look at her fellow students. She furrowed her brow at Huang. He was right, though thinking back as to why was like ripping a bandage off a fresh wound. Maybe she was wrong to react that way, they all were, but... she only had control over herself.

 

"I'm sorry," she said, forcing her words out. "For before. We shouldn't have fought, but you two were acting like assholes and so was I. So maybe we're all assholes?"

Nicole closed her eyes, unused to this, and her visor came down. Thrusters engaged and she lifted from the ground. Her father clapping sarcastically.

 

"We have homeroom in 15," Nicole said to Corrine. They were the same batch, even if Corinne didn't know that. Nicole had seen the list of students before the school year had started and now that list was committed to memory.

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Firing off a snappy salute at the rapidly retreating form of Citizen, "Off to save astro city so soon megaman?"  he murmured and swung to look back to his classmates, schoolmates, peers?  "Well how do you define it?"  he asked openly more to know how she'd like it addressed than out of any attempt at prying.  Huang looked at Nicole with a brow raised, "I was being an irreverent and charming bad boy thank you very much."  he countered with a grin and shook his head, "Homeroom you think we're here to learn?"  Spoken like a man who knew he was perhaps damned to ten years or more of high school.

 

As she lifted off he sighed and shrugged, "Did what I could."  he lamented to Corriene like his anemic attempts at being a bad influence were a favor of some kind.

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Corinne had retreated back into herself, and was devouring her own chili cheese fries and soda.  She managed a mumbled sort of farewell to Citizen, as she avoided looking at people for the moment.  Eventually her jaw set, her eyes staring off into space.  "Noted."  Her jaw set pugnacious, as she finished her fries.  Annoyance burbled again, and it just begged for her to reach out and grab it. 

 

It would be so easy.

 

"Honestly, I was thinking of just going to hide in my room for an hour, or, like, five."  She wasn't a goody two shoes, herself.  A middling student, at best.  She pushed her empty food container away, a bit more forcefully than she really would have wanted, her hand plunging into the table, as her power warped it around her, leaving it as a big deformation of it, twisting it all into a crystalline sort of... stuff.

 

"... Crap."

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