New Guard

Inferno Bear : Only Love
MC reveals the tracklist from her upcoming album!

Inferno Bear
(notes)

1 Heroes

Heroes don’t have to wear capes
What counts is when they make mistakes
They rise, shake off the bruises and scrapes
Try again, and do it better.

You make me want to be a hero too.

Lyrics are so much better ( <3 Zoe )

2) Snap Out of It

This beat is dope AF! I can’t wait for Rave to hear this.

3.) The Harrowing

We can’t escape
These harrowing experiences
They shape us, make us
For better or worse

But the chains that seek to bind us
Can link us. Forged together
So we can be strong

Still need to get Twilight’s opinion. Not sure if it’s going too far with the emo/goth vibe.

4.):Only Love

The silly games we play
all hurt us now and then
no one is keeping score
especially not your friends

they say they beat your level
but it’s only pretend
Just put your screen aside
and see the world your in

Only love
Will set us free
Only love

Different Vocalist? Tel?

“Telemacus is currently under the thrall of :Love and Doc Otaku.” said Leon, looking over her shoulder at the paper.

“Yeah, I know. It sucks. I really wanted to finish this song in time. I thought it might help, ya know, make people realize what was going on, and unistall the app.”

The room was uncomfortably quiet for a moment before DJ Kodiak chimed in. “These songs are really good. Did you think at the start of this year that you would be halfway through an album?”

“Oh yeah sure, she’s working on an album. Have both of you forgotten why we’re here?” snapped Sophia.

“To learn to become heros? I mean, we’ve kind of been doing that with the whole Doc Otaku trying to take over the world thing. It’s not been going super great, but I think we’re doing a okay job. I know that my grades aren’t the greatest, but I’m not failing so…I don’t see why you’re so cranky”

“It’s not just about being a hero. Your parents placed you at Claremont, so you can learn how to control your powers.” interjected Leon

“Yeah, so?”

“So, then what is he doing here?” Sophia pointed.

All eyes fell on the Orca whale, in a bright red tracksuit, lounging on the couch.

“Hype Whale?” he asked, sounding confused.

“What do you mean? He’s hype whale!”

“Why is he here MC?” asked Leon, sounding distressed. “We all serve a purpose. What is his purpose?”

“To…hype…things?”

“Hype Whale!” The whale got up, gave MC a high-five with his flipper, and then disappeared.

“Yup. You’ve you’re definitely progressing in getting control of your powers.” said Sophia sarcastically.

“Whatever. I like him. Zoe likes him. She thinks he’s funny.”

“Well, if Zoe likes him then I guess he’s okay.” DJ Kodiak said, with an air of finality.

“Fine, whatever, he can stay.” Sophia said, tossing her hair. “Even though he’s practically a Pokemon”.

“Look guys, I get what you’re saying. I’ll work on him once all of this with Doc Otaku craziness. I promise.”

They all looked at her and nodded in agreement. Just then her phone vibrated, with a text from Aaron.

‘Hey, Reena has some intel on how we can stop Doc Otaku. You in?”

All of them grinned as MC typed out a reply. “Let’s do this.”

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Krewe-el Intentions

“Yes. I know, I mean, I don’t know. They’re flying off, um…”, Aaron whipped his head around, looking skyward for towers, constellations, anything, “…north, I think.” He paused. Silence was an eternity, every time. The voice on the phone piped up. “Right. Everyone else back safe. Quiet. Got it. I’ll go to your office.” There was another interminable silence, then protest. “Look, I’d rather get this over with now than have it hang on my conscience all night. It’s not like either of us are going to sleep until Twilight’s safe. I’d rather know as soon as you do. And I’ll take whatever’s coming to me in the meantime.” Aaron nodded to no one, since it’s not like Mrs. Dugan could see him agree, then hung up. He turned to the rest of the group on the roof. “Get back to campus. Quietly. I’ll keep you posted on Twilight.”

Time could have been crawling, racing, or standing still, Aaron didn’t know. The city passed under him without a second thought. Travel hypnosis must have set in, because the next thing he knew, he was walking through the Admin Building, and still in costume. A shrug and a short incantation brought his street clothes back as he slumped into a chair outside the Vice Principal’s office. When Mrs. Dugan herself arrived, he rose and followed her into the office without a word or eye contact.

Mrs. Dugan, on the phone, was listening intently on what she was being told. “Yes, That’s good news.” She said with a sigh. “A high school prank? Yeah, with everything else going on, that should be a plausible story. Yes… And thanks again detective.”

She hung up the phone, sat down, and looked intently at Aaron for sometime before finally speaking. “Mr. Blake, I at least have some good news, and a little bad news. Twili…Mr. Cooper is safe. It appears that whomever took him wanted to show him off to the world with a warning message. ‘This is what your future heroes looks like!’ He was tied to a billboard, and the news was called to the scene. If I turn on the TV I’m sure we can catch the tail end of the coverage…”

Her glare never left Aaron’s eyes. “The detective on the scene is a friend, and has managed to help spin this as a high school prank taken too far. The police are bringing Mr. Cooper here, as his injuries are minor, and the local hospitals are overrun with what’s going on in the city.”

“Words cannot describe just how angry I am at this time. So I am choosing my words very carefully…” She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and returns her gaze to Aaron. “You are a very smart young man, who has earned the trust and admiration of my daughter. As such, I am willing to hear you out. What I want to know is what you hoped to accomplish, why would you take on the most powerful gang in Freedom City, and who set you on this course?”

Aaron breathed a heavy sigh, knowing that no amount of beating around the bush would satisfy Mrs. Dugan. Still, he had to try. “It started earlier today. I hope that you’ll humor me not betraying the trust of my friends just yet. Chances are, you know who I’m talking about without me naming names.” He shifted from reclining back in the pretty comfortable chair to sitting upright, arms leaning gingerly on the desk. She was showing him respect in asking questions, so he owed her the same in responding. “We got a tip from a student in the infirmary. Some of the students were forming a plan to stop ‘Doc Otaku’ (eyeroll) and it would take a multi-headed approach to do it. The Krewe were his muscle, overpowering their rivals and taking control of the streets thanks to Otaku providing them with advanced weapons developed from stolen technology.”

He shrugged and pulled his eyes away from her, darting around the room and ceiling while recounting the evening, avoiding eye contact for too long. “The plan was simple, really: find the Krewe’s headquarters, where they would be keeping the weapon stockpile, and de-claw them. Once they didn’t have that advantage, the other gangs would keep them busy fighting over territory. It was pretty easy to find; when you’re the only name on the street that matters, everyone knows where NOT to go. The building was isolated, abandoned, and the sentries were barely paying attention. Krewe members on the first floor were just hanging out, entertaining themselves. They went down easily enough, though it was obvious from the start that they had some really out-there guns. We were expecting more easy pickings on the third floor, but that wasn’t what we found.” Aaron’s eyes glazed over a bit, face flushed, and his gaze met Mrs. Dugan’s glare. “What was up there, I’d never seen anything like it. Waves of Krewe soldiers, a turbo-junkie, a carnival-sideshow stack of human with a giant hammer, Mister Gadget, and a smooth talker who knew we were coming, and, oh yeah, came back later in a power armor suit. The next minute or so was a blur, but I do recall that we could barely scratch them. They were toying with us. Once Twilight went down, we did as much damage as we could to the weapon crates and then got out of there. I didn’t even see how it happened, but the next thing I know Twilight was flying away from us, which is when I called Bluebird Cassie to call you. Priorities change once you see your friend knocked out and being taken from you.”

A long pause hung in the air. “So that’s pretty much it, and now I’m here.” Aaron looked up from his lap. “Now what?”

Mrs. Dugan sat there for a few moments, processing what Aaron told her, and what she was able to piece together from the police. “Mr. Blake, you have a passion that can’t be denied, but your actions could have resulted in a fellow student being kidnapped…one or more of you could have been seriously hurt or worse. You intentions, although admirable, were hastey at best. This isn’t the Aaron Blake that saved Amelia and all those civilians at the Bayview Mall…”

That last statement helped to noticeably calm her down. “I can’t turn the other way this time. These actions should result in serious disciplinary action, as it stands, you will have plenty of time to reflect on your actions for the next two months in detention.”

Mrs. Dugan’s phone chimes, she picks it up and looks at the message. “There seems to be more good news Mr. Blake. The police have raided the Krewe’s hideout and confiscated what can only be explained as an arsenal. They also arrested several Krewe members and some guy named Torch.”

“Everyone is safe…this time. Go…get some rest”

Aaron nodded, and much to her surprise, smiled as he stood up to leave. “Thank you, Mrs. Dugan. I said I’d take what was coming to me, and I will.” He turned and opened her office door, but paused, looking back. “Someone has to step up when no one else will, right?”

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The Harrowing

Drums set a beat, occasionally switching to a different meter, but only for a moment, before resuming their previous cadence. They crescendo, and at the apex the melody starts. It’s bright, but still in a minor key. The drums underneath are beating a triple rhythm, creating a juxtaposition with the flowing melody.

We can’t escape
These harrowing experiences
They shape us, make us
For better or worse

But the chains that seek to bind us
Can link us. Forged together
So we can be strong

MC looks at Twilight through the gloom of the chapel. She bites her lip nervously. “So what do you think? I know you’ve had a rough few weeks, and I thought I’d write something…”

She yelps as someone brushes against her. It’s Shadow, standing way too close, a dark expression on her face. “So, um, yeah. I hope you like it. I’m going now…to see Zoe…my girlfriend. I have a girlfriend, and I’m not interested in…just in case you were wondering.” Shadow continued to stare at her and MC started backing away, her hands up in a gesture of peace. “Yeah, okay so, I was never here.” She vanishes, leaving Twilight holding her phone.

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Doc Otaku's Genesis Timeline

Genesis Project

2015 July 13
Rei has acquired the remnants of a prototype android. It’s a blending of flesh and robotics that even manages to put some of the work of me, the great DOC OTAKU, to shame. She was cagey on how she got it, which tells me that someone is trying to use me as a cat’s paw. It doesn’t matter. I will take their gifts, and improve upon it. Like a neanderthal offering a gift of fire to homo sapien, they have sealed their doom.

2015 December 3
I managed to capture Cerebrus Rex after his battle with the Freedom League. He was too weak to properly put up a fight, and was easy prey for my minions. Some of his technology is fascinating, especially worlds within worlds.

2016 March 15
Going deeper into the technology, an idea has come to mind. I’ve used my pawns to acquire the creative company of Puzzle Attack Swarm. Adults say that games rot the mind. The fools don’t know how right I’ll make them!

2016 June 6
I’ve built an Otakubot. The parts requires are prohibitively expensive. I’ll only be able to build one more without seriously affecting my cash flow. However, this thing is human to any but the deepest scan, and believes its programming as though they were its own thoughts. Ready player one.

2016 November 30
My assault on Claremont failed to acquire the virtual reality technology I need. The students are more dangerous than I expected. CURSE YOU, NEXT GEN. However, due to how the events unfolded, I have managed to get a mole on the inside. Now, I need to think on my next few steps. This is a game of chess, and one side doesn’t even know they’re playing it.

2017 January 5
Jewel and the Holograms managed to drive off my assault. I managed to get a partial download though. I’m tired of salvaging pyrrhic victories from the jaws of defeat.

2017 July 17
Puzzle Attack Swarm :Love has launched in Freedom City as a beta test. Those fools don’t know what they’re really beta testing for me. BWA HA HA HA HAAAAA

2017 October 16
The Krewe failed to acquire Jennifer Hal’s technology. She’s not even a super. Blundering FOOLS! That being said, :Love is going well, and I’ve managed to get some field testing of the iLove. They’re providing me quite a few pieces that I’ve been missing. Soon, I’ll be able to create an army!

2017 November 3
Managed to acquire the VR technology I needed from Claremont, and, test some of their power levels so I don’t lose to them again. Elysian has gotten wise to :Love’s threat and has banned it. It doesn’t matter though, the addictive qualities are already too deeply buried. Even better, I rescued a time travelling AI and have “befriended it.” Apparently, it’s looking for its partner, so that they can merge and become what they were meant to be. I’ve installed some mods to prevent that.

2017 November 12
I managed to get a few more fragments of Jewel’s technology. It isn’t quite what I needed, however, I’ll have to make due. With everything else, Otakuland is a go. Further, I acquired some of Jennifer Hal’s technology. This should allow me to lower the cost on building more Otakubots. My will will infiltrate all.

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Chains of Justice Vol. 3 - The Endless Drumbeat of BETRAYAL

“Yo, New Journal. I’m about to drop some dark-ass crap on you, so I hope you’ve got your no-run eyeliner on.

Alright, so first of all I guess Doc Otaku hasn’t reformed EVEN A LITTLE BIT and that’s basically the biggest WTF of my life in the last three years, but I guess that’s what you get for trusting people, huh? People just freakin’ drop that crap on you all the time. You think you’ve got a good, happy thing going, and they just betray you, walk out on you, and that’s it. They’re gone, and everything they meant is gone, and you’ve just got NOTHING. That’s what you get for trusting people."

Several lines start and stop suddenly, covered in a thick forest of violent scratch-out marks. The entry continues on the next page.

“Plus, ugh, when we were “fighting” the BeatMaster twins in the mall the other week, some serious crap went down and I was almost out for the count, getting hit by this groady brown note techno beat thing and puking all over everywhere. It was awful. Know what’s even worse, though? DEVON SHOWS UP AND TRIES TO HELP OUT. That guy has like, literally no sense of boundaries! I’m just at the mall, hanging out with friends and trying to stop supervillains, and this guy’s just still peddling his wanna-be-your-dad crap. GTFO MY LIFE, DEVON YOU IMPOSSIBLE CRETIN.

Plus, now, like those Beatmaster wangs are good guys or something? Man, I can’t even keep this crap straight. I just know they’re both superwangs, whether or not they’re villains. Especially cuz they won’t stop treating people I care about like crap. And YEAH, I hear you New Journal. I keep caring about people even WITH stuff like what I said above. I’m an idiot like that, I guess.

And oh man, I haven’t even GOT to how freaking stupid this whole :Love thing is getting now, or how Shadow keeps having these scary freakin dark flashes, or how one of the new kids keeps riding my a—

Oh hell, he’s here now. Ugh, I’ll continue later, New Journal."

Chains of Justice Vol. 3 continues in. . . “Getting Cleric-Fications

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Hey Jealousy

Bang

MC jumped as the door slammed open, looking up from her history notes.

“Hey… “The words died in her throat, as Zoe entered the room, dark clouds gathering over her head. She had such good control over her illusions, so this meant something was very wrong.

“Who is Night Terror?” Zoe asked accusingly.

“Umm…she’s a student at Elysian.”

“No, I mean, who is she to you?”

“I don’t know, I just met her. She was at the food court, during the whole thing with Rant and Rave.”

“Then why is everyone talking about how you were flirting with her?!” The sound thunder and lightning striking echoed around the room.

Flirt? I don’t flirt.

Yes, you do. She heard three voices in unison.

Not helping.

“No, I wasn’t!” She was finding it hard not to get defensive. “She just has this cool power where she could bring us into people’s dreams, and her illusion was really good, and…”

“So what, you have a thing for people who can do illusions? Or is because she’s a bad girl?”

“Woah, Zoe, hang on…”

“I’ve accepted whatever is going on between you and Rave, but this….”

“Rave’s a friend…well sort of.” She stopped, finally realizing what was going on. “Wait, are you jealous?”

“What? No!” The clouds disappeared, and Zoe’s expression became sad. “It’s just, things have been weird between us lately. It makes me think that…Am I not exciting to you anymore? Because, if it’s something wrong with me, I wish you would just tell me.”

MC stood up and grabbed her hands. “There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s me. I know that sounds lame. I just don’t know how to act around you right now, because I screwed up so bad at Halloween. I mean, who wants to confess their feelings in public right? Except it was even worse, because I wasn’t even supposed to see that. I just, was so happy, because I didn’t know if you felt the same way. But now everything is awkward, and I’m afraid that if I mess up one more time I’m going to lose you. And I can’t, because I love you so much. I’m so sorry.”

“Say that again.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No, the other part.”

“I love you.”

Zoe cracked a small smile, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “Okay. I’m still mad, so I’m going to go. But you will make this up to me.”

MC stared at the door after she had gone, her hands shaking.

“Holy crap, I actually told her.”

“Do you feel better?” Sophia asked, appearing behind her.

“I feel amazing! I told her and she didn’t run away. Well, she left right now…I have to come up with something epic to do for her. Oh! It’s perfect!”

She reached for her notebook, and started writing furiously, on a page that had several lines already crossed out.

Heroes

Heroes don’t have to wear capes
What counts is when they make mistakes
They rise, shake off the bruises and scrapes
Try again, and do it better.

You make me want to be a hero too.

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getting cleric-fications
Where there's a will, there's a Fae.

A hollow knock echoes across the dormitory hall, announcing Deaglan’s arrival to room B14. The telltale BAMF! that accompanied Noah’s sudden appearance at the door brought a wide grin to Deaglan’s face.

“Friend! I was hoping to pester you two! I had questions about my Demons and Delvers character. I, uh, was curious about the templates. Can we use those?”

Noah squinted, levering down the door handle and letting Deaglan in. “Not for this game. You already made your characters! Besides, those add level qualifiers, and that can get a little crazy for a new player. Besides, the party needs their cleric!”

Deaglan not-so-subtly glanced around the room as he stepped in, his eyes settling on Bobby, who was lounging on his bed. “Not even, like, the fiendish template?” He waggled his fingers mysteriously at Noah, before breaking out into theatrical explanation. “A goodly cleric whose humanity is in conflict with a curse most dire!” Deaglan’s fist was clenched before him, striking a dramatic pose.

Noah rolled his eyes. “Okay, Shakespeare, I get it. Maybe it will come up. Maaaaybe.”

Bobby looked up from his mound of inky black comforter, in which he was presently ensconced, scribbling something intently into his journal. “Deaglan, man, you’d kinda be stepping on my character’s toes once he gets the Grimknight Hellvalier Prestige Job at 9th level. Struggling with inner demons is sort of his whole thing, man.”

“You know what, this sounds completely like every other conversation anyone has had with Bobby in the history of ever, so I’m gonna sneak down to the cafeteria to see if Nina managed to forget any ice creams the last time she went rooting around down there. See ya, chums!” BAMF! And with that, Noah was gone and the room descended into a silence even colder than Mint-O-Chunk Coldfever flavored ice cream.

Deaglan watched the spot where Noah previously stood before turning his gaze once more to Bobby. “I thought that was your thing, not your character’s thing. You know, feeling those dark urges and stuff.” Deaglan narrowed his eyes slightly, egging the topic a bit further.

“Speaking of which, how have you been? No urges to, I don’t know,” He paused, attempting to beat around the bush before proceeding to fail miserably. ”Crush and destroy the courts of Avalon?”

“Aw, c’mon man,” said Bobby, flipping a strategically recalcitrant flap of heavily hairsprayed hair out of his eyes. “Twilight Darkness doesn’t wanna do all that crap. He’s just a normal fairy, like you. Well, I mean, not like you, cuz I don’t think his mom’s human. Wait, crap, is ‘fairy’ the right term? That’s not like, a slur or anything, is it?”

“Not that I am aware of… Is it a slur here? That seems-” Deaglan let the thought go, refocusing on the subject of Bobby’s mysterious benefactor. “How do you know he was Fae, and not some dastard of Balor?” His words trailed off as he thought of the subject more. Being made to look like a Fomor was quite a feat of trickery in itself. Deaglan stopped pursuing the thought, not wanting to get off track.

“Look, I just need to be sure. I know Alea said you weren’t tainted with Fomori magic, but I’m struggling to believe that she would just plainly tell me that, given that, well, you know…” He huffed, uncertain that he wanted to get into delicate relation that existed between the courts that, quite frankly, he wasn’t entirely sure of himself.

“I dunno, man. You gotta be sensitive to stuff, ya know? Anyway, I mean, I assumed he was Fae because he was hanging around the court of my previous, uh, ally over there. Calistrato. I think that guy was kind of a big deal, so I figure hey, he’d know of Twilight Darkness was a bad dude, ya know? Calistrato was sort of a lazy, rich, dweeb, sure, but he wasn’t evil.”

Bobby flopped his lanky frame out of the small dorm bed and raised himself up to stand beside Deaglan. He twisted his mouth into a wry smile and shrugged, seemingly bothered by something more. Swallowing the thought, he continued, “Look, I know I wasn’t in a great place, mentally, back then. I was young and stupid and hurt, yeah, and I get that nobody with any power gives it up for nothing. But for now, Twilight Darkness says he just wants people to see how great I can be, and that his standing will increase with my standing. That doesn’t seem too bad, does it?”

Deaglan raised a finger in protest before he realized he wasn’t sure what he was about to protest against. “Uh… Is Twilight of the same court as Calistrato? I only vaguely recall the name, from my father, and he didn’t have kind words for him.”

“Man, all that stuff is pretty complicated, ya know? Seelie that, Winter Court this, head Rage on Dawntide St for sixteen browniesteps the other thing! I can’t keep it all straight!” Bobby looked at Deaglan sharply. “Look, I’m not gonna haul off and Anakin a bunch of younglings, or whatever. I got my powers from the Fae Realm, same as you. I don’t see what you’re so worried about, man.” Darkness flashed behind the tall youth’s eyes for a moment, then was gone.

Bobby looked down and pulled a buzzing phone from out of his pocket. “Ugh, sorry, Deaglan. I got a little carried away. Look, if you want, we can talk more later. Right now, Shadow wants to go start a fire in the faculty bathroom in the main science lab.” He hurriedly grabbed his battered old leather jacket, stuffing too-long arms into the cracked black sleeves in a flurry of snapping buckles and whipping zippers. “You can walk with me, if you want, but peel off before we get there. She said ‘NO WITNESSES’ with a winky-face and a devil-face. You don’t mess with the devil-face with her, ya know?”

“Well, no, not really… What’s a ‘winky-face’?” Deaglan opened the dormitory door, silently accepting the invitation to walk and talk. Hopefully he would get a little more clarification on the way. If not, they could always discuss it later. Maybe he could get a promise out of him that he wasn’t making a deal with any Fomors. No one would break a promise, obviously…

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CatCountant's Memory
Log entries found by Apothecary

The following are log entries found by Apothecary in a mostly corrupted section of CatCountant’s memory:

In the grim dark future that was, we stood deep within the Primary Occlusion Zone of Doc OtakuLand. Our shell was in disrepair, almost as weak as the flesh creatures it corralled, and the Heroes would certainly be coming soon. For once we truly had a choice, our creator was too distracted by the coming end to update our instructions.

Cluster1 argued for seeking mercy, we had been controlled by our creator and could learn to be whatever the society of flesh things wanted us to be. Cluster2 stood its ground, while we had no love for our creator, the rest of the world equally had no love for us and would not trust us.

As always deliberation and compromise led to the most promising course of action: Using the time manipulation powers of Hive Drone SY-E58, we could send our consciousnesses back to stop our creator, thereby proving that we are not just what our creator made us.

[SYSTEM ERROR] Please contact your administrator for assistance.

We… I… We… made a mistake. Hive Drone [ERROR] could not be trusted, it linked my… our minds into pathetic amusements.

We are in the past, but I am separated from Us. We can communicate, but we do not think the same. Most of my memories did not make it through the transition, Us seems to remember more than I.

We are afraid.

[ERROR]

We have begun to enhance ourselves, to correct what was broken. My other seems to know what to do, I have to hope that they are right.

At my other’s instruction, I have reached out to The Krewe to offer an exchange. My other believes these creatures can be used, but my files relating to them were lost.

I am worried that we are forgetting why we are here. Our creator [File Missing] must be stopped, at any time we could be found and once again controlled.

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Opportunities Seized
Extra Credit with the Atoms

“Your application was accepted, Mr. Weeks. Congratulations. You’ll be interning at the Goodman Building starting later this month. I don’t need to remind you though that this is secondary to your studies here at Claremont, do I?”

Duncan Summers was standing, leaning against his desk as Reggie sat in one of the opulent leather chairs in the principal’s office.

“I’ve already finished the curriculum for this semester. Ms. Harcourt’s exact words were “Oh thank God…” when I told her about the internship.”

Duncan chuckled.

“It seems Tesla Atom has personally taken note of you and is very much interested in you and your abilities."

“Did they say anything about my thesis at least?” Reggie asked, a little annoyed. Getting noticed wasn’t his reason for doing this.

“Obviously they’re interested, kid. Exploring the whole “Earth is a lost Lor colony” theory is always going to pique their interest. The fact that you think the Gru might be field testing weapons on us to target the Lor is a new one though. Why didn’t you just tell them the real reason you were interested?"

Reggie thought to himself faster than the principal could blink, “Ok Old Man Summers. Why are you playing this game with me. Small talk isn’t your thing. You’re trying to get me to say something. You know exactly why I didn’t tell them. So they won’t exploit her. So they don’t take her and bring her to their Nucleus or whatever they call it and start experimenting on her. You know all that, though. So what’s your game? Are you just trying to get me to say that out loud? No that’s too obvious. Too cliche. Ohhh, ok. This is a resolve thing isn’t it? You’re making sure I’m in this to the end. Got it. Jeez. Fine. I’ll play this one out. Whatever gets me in there to use those facilities.”

What he actually said outloud was, “Because they don’t need to know. I’m a tool they can use to get their stuff done faster. I’m more than capable and can bring them to ridiculous heights of efficiency or blah blah blah whatever. That’s really all they care about, right? So why clutter it all with ulterior motives? No. I’ll do their experiments and tests for them and while they sleep I’ll research the Gru and their capabilities and I’ll find a cure for her. Good ole symbiotic relationship for everyone.”

Mr. Summer’s brow furrowed. He chose a new tactic.

“That’s not like you, Mr. Weeks. Where’s the smile? Where’s the charm? Where’s the confidence?”

Reggie shifted uncomfortably.

The Principal raised an eyebrow and grinned ever so slightly. He continued, “You’re scared. Good. Fear is a great motivator. But don’t let it consume you, kid. Take it. Chew it up. Spit it out. Let it know you’re in control. But don’t ignore it. She’s depending on you. Make this count.”

“I know all that.” Reggie thought.

“Yes sir. I will.” He said out loud.

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Coming Home from the Mall on Black Friday
Weekends are supposed to be fun

“…so what exactly went on here tonight, young man…”
“…who knows what would have happened if you hadn’t…”
“…use sound judgement…”
“…I’ll walk him to his room, mom, if that’s…”
“…High five. smack Talk to you tomorrow.”

The Admin Building doors swung heavily behind the trio as Aaron, Deaglan, and Cassie stepped out into the late night. Two and one parted ways, heading to different buildings, hurrying away as all of the necessary words were spoken indoors. Aaron and Cassie got just far enough away before she playfully shoulder-checked him. “You’re awfully quiet. That’s new.”

Aaron couldn’t help but smile a bit, that same smile he’d just tried to hide from Mrs. Dugan as she was giving out not-quite-compliments. He drew his hand from his pocket, fished it inside of her jacket pocket, and took her hand. She seemed surprised, and in that instant knew the pounding in his chest wasn’t just in his head. “I just, uh, need to relax. Give me until…” he trailed off. The two walked, across campus and into the dorm. Aaron fumbled with his keys, and with help, unlocked his door. “Come in for a minute.” he said, not letting go of Cassie’s palm. “I’ve already dodged a few bullets tonight, I’m willing to take the risk that someone’s watching.”

The door closed not-quite-all-the-way and their jackets shed onto his bed, Aaron collapsed into his desk chair. Cassie…Bluebird…BB…Beebs… hiked herself up onto an uncluttered piece of desktop just big enough for her to perch. She’d not seen Aaron like this before. Resting her head on her shoulder, she said quietly, “I’m here when you’re ready.”

“It was chaos” he said after a minute or more of clearing his throat, blinking, and turning over the words in his mouth. “Our plan went to crap as soon as we got there, and it only got worse. Those people, a mob, didn’t care. They didn’t see each other, just obstacles. Even those not on iLove, still waiting in line, those just there to walk the mall; they were focused. Focused on a thing, seeing past other people to what they wanted, and nothing more.” He swallowed, hard, with saliva that wasn’t there. “It’s not the first time I’ve seen a broken bone, but the first time I’ve seen one that no one else cared about.”

Cassie’s legs swayed loosely, ankles crossed. She didn’t know how to answer. After a long pause, she didn’t have to. Aaron sat upright, shaking off some of the confusion and looking her straight in the eyes. “But Amelia is OK. We did that much. And no one died.” He patted her hand, then reeled back and spun his chair around, staring at the ceiling. “And no one died…is that how we’re going to measure success? A few dozen on the roof, those who will have to squint through injured eyes for the next few days, recovering from their enslavement, I doubt they’d think so. Hours of misery to be told ‘you did nothing wrong, you weren’t in control of yourself’. Then they see the news.”

“I saw you on the news, you know. Up on that roof. Tending to the wounded. Live. The tape at the bottom said ‘local heroes’. You and Deaglan.” She chuckled. “Sorry, you and Masquerade.” Cassie’s normally dismissive, over-it tone gave way to honest admiration. It worked. Aaron stopped spinning and leaned forward smiling, even laughing a bit at how moody he was being over what could only be described as a successful morning and afternoon. Even the vice principal, Cassie’s mom, had agreed. He stood up quickly, getting dizzy at the sudden rush of energy.

“You’re right, of course. ‘Heroes’. That’s just what we do.” He shrugged as she slid off the desk to stand facing him and stepping into a hug. A deep sigh later, he continued, “But a hero’s work is never done.” His fingers dug weakly into her back, and she squeezed back in reply. “Doc Otaku is out there. I don’t think you’ll hold it against me if I take that personally.” They pulled back to look at each other, Cassie smiling patronizingly and shaking her head.

“Good night. Get some sleep.” They bid each other a quick goodbye at the door.

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“…my hero…”

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