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The Sun Rises on Avalon

Posted on Tue Jan 24th, 2023 @ 21:09 by Oliver Bloomfield & Reagan D'Angelo & Cameron Johnston
Edited on on Wed Jan 25th, 2023 @ 19:42

Chapter: Prologue: Dawn of Avalon
Location: Train station, New Cresthill
Timeline: Friday, 25th of September
3569 words - 7.1 OF Standard Post Measure

"Ladies, gentlemen and friends beyond the binary, our service will be terminating at the next stop. Please ensure you have all personal belongings with you and that you do not leave any litter behind for some poor, overworked bus driver to clear out."

A pause in the announcement gave the bearer of the news an opportunity to glance in the rearview mirror in between navigating the turns that would eventually guide the bus to its designated parking spot.

"Also, passengers are reminded that it is okay to take twenty minutes away from work to enjoy the scenery. It is by no means mandatory to have spent the entire ride here fretting over student transfer documents as if it was in any way likely that they might accidently abscond with a child that isn't being released into their care."

Cameron's reflection grinned.

"Finally, if you would look out the window to your left, you will notice the rapid approach of the impending Apocalypse. Please ensure your windows are closed and do please mind the souls of the condemned as you exit the vehicle."

"Cam, please try not to scare any of the children away before they've even gotten to the castle this year, yeah? And I'm not fussing over them... most are returning for another year, very little needed. Sure all the unlucky ones that are ours full-time will be happy to have their friends back." Reagan was relaxing in the front seat of the bus on the opposite side from Cameron, feet kicked up on the small bit of railing that separated the stairs on to the bus from the more elevated seating.

A hand rose from the papers in her hands, roster first and foremost (ready to check each arrival efficiently and quickly), and tipped her sunglasses up to shoot him a look that said she was serious while her warm grin said otherwise. By now they both knew each other well enough to know that this might be one of their favorite days of the year. Especially for all the returning faces that saw the staff at the school as their mentors and guardians (and Cam and Rea got to be there first, making them the favorites). "Nice and easy, don't need someone upchucking on the bus like last year."

"Zero arguments here," agreed the person who'd been left to clean it up. Just one of the many times the old line of 'but it'll be quicker if you do it' had shot him in the foot. Glancing backwards at the empty seats, Cameron grinned nonetheless and was content to join his partner in crime in her enthusiasm. The school wasn't the same without the kids and, whilst some of them likes to push the boundaries, Cam normally gravitated towards the troublemakers. And the quiet ones. In his experience, it was often a very similar motivation that influenced them both.

"What time's the train getting in?," he asked next, despite having been told numerous times already. Catching the guy when his brain had slowed down long enough to absorb information it had no immediate use for was always a challenge.

To answer the ever impatient one might just be folly, so instead, Reagan got to her feet, slipped around the little railing, and jerked a thumb at the door behind her. "Soon enough that if you let me out now I should have enough time to get to the platform and hold up the big welcome sign. You have the balloons?"

Cameron released the door mechanism with a huff and promptly sprung from his seat into action.

"Do I have the balloons, she asks."

Having loped his way to the back of the bus in anticipation of the request, Cameron emerged through the doorway festooned by the colourful arrangement that threatened to engulf him. "Darling, I am the balloons." Already in full goof-mode, he strutted ahead with a flounce. "Show time!"

The September day was an uncharacteristic warm and sunny one, and it wasn't long before in the distance the contours of a train were becoming visible heading for the station. The platform was quiet but all of that was about to change when the short train arrived at the station and came to a halt. The doors creaked open with a hiss and teenagers began pouring out. Locals knew to avoid the station during this time, due to an announcement in the local paper, and the only ones making use of the station were the Avalon faculty and the arriving kids.

Reagan always had a feeling of something... off on these days, despite things usually going pretty smoothly. Had she forgotten something? Was she ready for another year keeping these kids safe while they developed in the comfort of the Institute? She found her eyes wandering toward the horizon below the sun for a moment before the train and Cameron got all of her attention again. She couldn't help but smile as the students disgorged and she switched into welcoming mode! Clipboard ready in one arm, she kept the other free for now, just incase of sudden hugs. Hopefully some of these rapscallions missed her, she definitely missed them! "Alright everyone! Welcome back for those of you who know us! For the newer ones, don't worry a bit, alright? I'm Miss DeAngelo and this is Mr. Johnston and we're going to get you safely up to the school for a hopefully exciting year for all of you! Please start gathering up with your things in a line for me while I take attendance, alright?"

In the flurry of excitement, it was hardly surprising to note that Cameron was smack bang in the midst of chaos. An expressive guy at the best of times, his best defense against the inevitability of homesickness and nervousness was an unrelenting exuberance that had already seen two balloons tied to the end of a younger student's braids. As Reagan attempted to instill calm and order, a requirement for making sure they all got on the bus with everything they'd come with, Cameron found himself at the bottom of a stacks-on that became all the more inventive in its dynamics given the nature of some of the emerging powers their young charges possessed. It took the diligence of some of the older students, those more inclined to favour D'Angelo's composure and prompted to demonstrate their loyalty to said teacher, to restore some semblance of discipline but even then, Cameron ended up shuffling to join his colleague with a student wrapped around both legs and one hanging from an outstretched arm. "I think they missed us."

The group of teenagers started to file in properly and stood waiting for Reagan to take their attendance and allow them off the platform in the direction of the bus. All seemed to go well and smoothly, a lot of chatter and banter going around the group of friends that had been away from each other all summer. It was almost as if a breeze started to pick up, but the sun was still shining brightly, stark blue skies and frigid air in the September morning.

One by one the students started to find their places on the school's coach, with no distinguishing marks. Claire had always found it preferable to keep the outside world largely unaware of their presence and the nature of their institute vague at best. There were rumours in New Cresthill, some of the residents definitely knew for sure. One or two students at the institute coming from the town, a few more having travelled through the town before landing a spot at Avalon.

When about two-thirds of the kids had filed into the bus a rumble in the skies drew the attention of everyone at the train station parking lot. Eyes pivoted skyward, looking east into the rising sun. A silhouette formed and got bigger and bigger as it got closer. Whatever it was, it was huge, and it seemed to be coming straight at them.

Reagan was all sunshine and rainbows, allowing Cameron to be infectious, especially once some of her known students melted the rest of her resolve with stories and hugs and the like (the ones young enough to not be embarrassed hugging their teacher anyway). But once that sound drew her attention, her eyes squinting in the sun to zero in, that all started to melt away, and fast. Nothing that big or fast should be anywhere near here, Cameron was the only one silly enough to fly the jet overhead to impress the kids, no... this was something else. Something bad.

"Anyone who's not on the bus, get back inside the station, quickly! Cameron!" She didn't know what she wanted him to do, but her voice carried her urgency and worry with it well enough. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, on her arms too. Part sheer fear and goosebumps, part building charge, full fight-or-flight was not far off for her while she tried to keep an eye on the thing approaching.

Something happened to Cameron when a threat was present. For all his energy and all his positivity, and the acceptance and happiness that he radiated, one of his core principals saw him designate himself as a protector and it was not a state of being that allowed for frivolity. It had been part of him all his life, before things had become more convoluted and there really had been a need to stick his neck out to ensure those he cared about weren't overtly punished for his existence. Now, surrounded by increasingly-scared children and his best friend, the hamster that ran the wheels that turned the cogs of Cam's mind, that sparked the synapses that processed information at a pace beyond the human average, shook itself up and started jogging.

"Bridge."

It was a single-word request, the gravitas behind it, along with his outstretched hand, more than enough to convey his need for a kick-start.

Reagan wasted no time clasping Cameron's hand and focusing as all her nerves started to fire on turbo. Adrenaline was flooding her system, and the arcs of electrical energy between their contacting skin seemed to mirror that rising tempo in her, more intense and pulsing faster by the second.

He turned first to the students who had heeded D'Angelo's instructions and headed back towards the station, an assortment of experience that constituted roughly a third of their group. Cameron grabbed the two smallest around the waist and zipped them to the bus, followed by several more of the new arrivals, before barking instructions to several of the senior students whose powers were known. "Baxter! You're driving! Keough, Jensen, Okoye; we're getting this bus back to the school without being intercepted." As the muscular senior, one of the oldest students in the school, settled into the driver's seat, Cameron dropped his volume and murmured, "Straight there, don't stop."

Turning, the stern mutant gathered himself for another dash, intent to board the entire group if he could manage it.

The giant metal robot landed on the ground in front of the bus with a dull thud. The rising sun shone off his purple metal armour, and even though the face was somewhat similar to a skin colour his dead eyes clearly showed it was a soulless contraption. A monotone voice droned; "Do not be alarmed. I am here to serve and protect." The accent was clearly American. It seemed to scan the different people in and around the bus, and then turned to face towards the group of teenagers rushing into the school building. "Target identified, initiate capture." The robot aimed its hand at one of the students and a metal tendril shot out to try and capture one of the new kids. It caught on one of the lightposts that just happened to be in between and the robot clumsily ripped back, uprooting the thing. "Oliver Bloomfield. Halt. Do not resist."

"Go!," Cameron shouted as he spun back, waving the door closed. Whirling, he stared at the menace blocking the path back to the station and darted his gaze back and forth between its slow analysis of the area and the huddle of students squeezing in through the station doors. "What is it?" An arm instinctively held out to usher Reagan behind him, (a move that never worked but he'd probably never be persuaded to stop trying), Cameron ran a mechanic's eye over the looming monstrosity and arrived at several conclusions that didn't leave him with a lot of optimism. "We need back-up."

"Get to Claire and the others, Dash. NOW! I'll get Oliver!" Codename drops were just as poignant now as they had been what felt like hours ago now as both of them moved through time that seemed to slow to a crawl around them. There was no stopping to think, just acting. Whatever this thing was, it was very bad. But she'd have time to think on the legal ramifications of a giant, foreign robot attempting to abduct a child later. She was under Cameron's arm and off before she could even argue with her teammate.

Could she short this thing out? Maybe. Could she get away from it if it went for her? Definitely. But Oliver... The mission was not her own survival, but protecting him, and even if she wasn't sure if she had the tools to help him, she had to try. She made a beeline for the student in question, quickly scooping him up and dashing for the train station. Maybe this thing was afraid of collateral damage more intense than a light pole, maybe not, but a building to hide in would at least buy them some time.

As always happened in moments of high stress, with the crackle of Bridge's energy super-charging every molecule in his body, Cameron found himself with the time to hesitate and calculate because the world had started to struggle keeping up with him. Within the precious seconds of amplified reaction time, he ran through several scenarios, none of which were immediate acceptance of Bridge's plea.

Can I get in there and grab him in time? Get it to follow us? Then what? Go on the run with someone's kid? Can't take him back to the school, would just drag that thing after us. No guarantee the kid would enjoy the slipstream either. Does it have defense protocols? Would it trigger pursuit if I attacked it? What is it?

Very bottom of the list of all options was leaving. His responsibility was to the children in the station, secondary to his friend who, whilst magnificent and every bit capable, couldn't very well be expected to take on a giant robot on her own. As his advantage slowly ticked down, Cameron became aware of the ice block of realisation that had already started to melt into a frozen puddle in his gut. Neither of them could take on something this size just the two of them, even if the students themselves could be rallied to assist.

They needed back-up. He'd already identified the solution.

Cursing under his breath, language that he saved just for moments like this, Cameron took one last harrowed look at his departing teammate, the pained expression in his eyes offering apology in the final split second of eye contact, and then he turned.

And took off.

Twenty minutes, about as many miles. It took him practically no time to catch up to the bus, a familiar streak that overtook and then stopped only long enough to identify itself to those watching with a thumbs up to support their continued progress. In a blink, he was gone, navigating the familiar road whilst his mind whirled with a hastily-construction action plan. Gather the others, grab Nessie, really need to work on the long-range communicators. Not that calling ahead would have negated his need to return; he was the only one licensed to fly the jet so far, after all.

Back at the station the kids were all huddled up into a corner, hoping to gain some protection from the walls. The windows darkened as the huge silhouette of the robot blocked the sunlight. Oliver had separated from the group and looked at the teacher in a bit of a panic. He had no clue what to do, or why this thing was coming after him.

"What's happening, miss?" He asked, big pale eyes looking up at Reagan, clearly frightened beyond belief. What had he done to call this upon himself. Just as he felt that maybe the robot wouldn't pursue them into the building a hand came crashing through the windowed facade. The high pitched ringing of glass hitting the stonework on the floor, crumbling of brickwork.

"Cease your resistance." The robotic bouldering voice called out into the hole it had just created. Once it had spotted Oliver again it reached inside with its arm and made a grab for the kid.

"I don't know, Oliver, but everything is going to be okay, alright? Just stay with me, we have to get it away from the others. Can you be brave for me?" She was trying her best to calm him down, despite her own coursing adrenaline. And when the hand came through the wall, her worst fears on her hasty plan came true and she was forced to adapt again.

"Go fly into the sun, tin man!" A cry more of frustration than any real threat, as Reagan saw the incoming hand and did what she could. Time to use those special genes! Wrapping her arms around Oliver again, she made to dash away from the people still in the station and head outdoors. She saw the shadow of the hand closing in, timed events with Oliver in her arms and shouted, "Oliver, close your eyes and hold your breath!"

She didn't really have much time to check and see if he complied, and so she let her powers come to life, energy crackling over the huddled forms and shifting them just as massive purple digits swung in. She sucked in a breath, held, and pushed through what should have been solid mass like it was thick air. Emerging from the other side of the hand, she released that phased state with the student still held tight, feeling the heat and ionization radiating from them both, but at least she could breathe again. A second's pause to take in cool air and she was running toward the door again as fast as she could manage. Had she even done damage to the thing's electronics? Would such a shock phase it? She didn't even have time to consider that, she just had to move and be ready to do that again. Come on, Dash, we need you.

Several miles out from the school, Cameron chaffed at the inability to push past a carefully modulated threshold, quite literally. The limitations of his powers rested more in the way they interacted with his daily reality and it wasn't particularly easy to hit top speed in denim. The road was a familiar one at least, by foot and by bike, and had become a relatively secure circuit for road-testing some of his attempts to mitigate the destruction of high-velocity friction. Beneath his clothing, the bodysuit held its own, and though this was likely yet another pair of shoes that would need replacing, he at least wasn't running barefoot yet. For the most part, the mutant had kept his struggles to himself; now that they threatened to impede his response time, Cameron found himself inclined to push beyond the casual reference he'd made to Claire simply to make her feel better.

Gritting his teeth, he pushed up the final slope and burst onto the grounds with a zipping beeline directly to where he knew Claire would be in the throes of stabilising the 'Welcome Back' sign. As he tore a line across the well-manicured lawn, Cam had no time to apologise for the disturbance, and very limited time to take in the astonished expressions of those present before he barked, "We need to get the jet back to station, now, and I need more people."

Where in most cases people would've wanted an explanation, or more information at least, Claire knew that the proverbial fecal matter had hit the air redistribution device in a bad way if Cam had shredded his clothes and shoes to get back here on foot. She didn’t question, she didn't hesitate beyond having to stabilise on the top of the wooden ladder she was balancing on. She plucked a device from her pocket, unlocked it with a swift motion of the hands and pressed down on the button that revealed itself. "I'll meet you in the hangar." It was the first response from her to Cam in the split second it had taken her to act.

After a slight delay claxons began to blare across the institute, interrupted only by a prerecorded message in Claire's most practiced received pronunciation head mistress voice. "Students. Please return to your quarters. This is not a drill. Quantum Knights, report to the hangar. This is not a drill."

 

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