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Generating work

Posted on Mon Jan 16th, 2023 @ 9:59 by Claire Cavendish & Cameron Johnston

Chapter: Prologue: Dawn of Avalon
Location: Avalon Institute, Generator room
Timeline: Evening, Tuesday, 22nd of September, 1992
2829 words - 5.7 OF Standard Post Measure

There was a frustrated grunt that echoed through the dark cold crypt that normally was filled with heat and noise from the running generators. About fifteen minutes ago that noise had stopped, and the cold from the surrounding loch was reclaiming the room.

Claire had made her way down there to try and fix it, the machines were old and sometimes needed a little encouragement to keep chugging along. She had her sleeves rolled up and tried to make the generator purr again. When the normal steps hadn't resolved anything she gave the offending machine a swift kick as a last resort.

The sound of her heel against the old metal echoed down the stone corridor, followed by some expletives in the poshest English accent they'd ever been exclaimed in.

"Excuse me, young lady," a voice from the doorway echoed. "Does your mother know you're out after curfew?"

Arms folded across his chest, Cameron grinned as he leaned against the doorframe, not so much out of breath as just a little windswept. A visible hallmark of an execution of haste, though he normally avoided anything too grandiose inside. In a rare moment of fortuitous coincidence, he'd been in the staff lounge rather than the garages, or Nessie's hangar, when the lights had dimmed and flickered. The clear culprit hadn't been difficult to track down, but the methods of the forward response team warranted a level of jovial appreciation that only the mechanic could pull off without mockery. "And the language."

"Dear lord." Claire clutched her hand to her chest. "This piece of junk stopped working, just when I wanted to watch something." There was still other generators, more modern ones, picking up the slack for the more important systems but her television and satellite dish definitely weren't part of these core necessities. "It's been giving trouble all summer, I thought I fixed it, but this blasted thing..." She resisted the urge to kick it again, scuffing her foot across the ground in the process.

"You know, there's a permanent solution to that."

Pushing away from his perch, Cameron approached the frustrated woman and opted first to settle his hands on her shoulders, more intent as always at soothing frazzled nerves than with the nuts and bolts issues that could wait. "The old girl's going to need replacing eventually. One of a few upgrades we could stand to put on the maintenance schedule for the year," he added, offering her a pat and a peck on the forehead before he moved to address the recalcitrant generator. "It'll be her voltage regulator again. There should be a replacement in storage, been ordering one every time we need to refit it."

"You know this is not a priority. It powers what, my telly and my kettle?" Claire shook her head. She had already gone way out on a limb with throwing money at an American Classic, she didn't want to keep taking chunks out of her personal wealth. She could just go to the auditorium and set up the large tv there, but she sometimes liked the peace and quiet of her own room.

"I know you think you're not a priority," Cameron shot back quietly, having grabbed the toolkit he stashed on one of the shelves for this repeated issue in order to disconnect the generator for yet another surgical procedure. "But I would argue any piece of equipment in disrepair, regardless of its current use, is at risk of letting us down in a crisis." It didn't necessarily feel good to know how to appeal to his friend's sense of guardianship but Cameron took the upkeep of the school seriously. It housed too many things precious to him.

Claire shook her head a bit at that. A twinge in her stomach told her that he was right, but she also knew there were other priorities in the school. "It's cheaper to just fix it back up. Or, you know, give it a swift reboot from time to time." She gave a bit of a crooked smirk. "Think you can get it fixed up?"

"For you, yes." Having already disconnected the power supply as he spoke, Cameron eyeballed the head mistress over the top of his work and added, "But at least let me price out what it would cost to replace it entirely. Having to buy a new regulator every 12 months is eventually going to cost more than fixing the issue permanently."

It seemed to be a conversation they had often, around and around in circles because Cameron, despite being understanding enough of the financial practicalities, was a perfectionist when it came to this kind of thing. The Institute's power supply in particular was an intricate and highly-specialised network, designed with an inordinate amount of circuit breakers to mitigate the risk of a single student's misfire wiping out the entire grid. The hangar and associated areas under the loch ran off its own system entirely but that was sophisticated enough. Nessie alone took her fair share of the capacity, as did the security systems. This particular generator sat semi-independently, he'd set it up to limit its hijinks to frustrating Claire alone, but it could be factored back in if they ever needed it. Doing so would immediately render it a weakness in the network though, and those didn't sit well with Cameron. He preferred even his back-up plans to be water-tight.

"What were you watching anyway?," he teased, changing the subject because if there was one thing he hated more than inefficient maintenance solutions, it was arguing with his friends.

"CNN, this American news network that's starting to branch out. It's helpful to keep an eye on what's happening on the other side of the pond." Claire had always had a weak spot for the US, it had been very important in her formative years. Aside from that it always seemed to be slightly ahead in regards to what was about to come their way surrounding mutants and mutant rights. The outlook wasn't great at the moment. Most of the mutant based conversation was around how it was a growing threat to the stability, with incidents cropping up more and more frequently with young mutants unable to control their powers. "There was something on about the awful things that transpired behind the iron curtain."

"Sounds like a cheerful night in."

It wasn't that Cam stuck his head in the sand when it came to the trouble and strife that existed in the world. In his own, quiet way he absorbed the information pertaining to their situation and tried to navigate the political agenda side of things, with limited success it had to be said. His priority for compassion first was too black and white to understand why others ranked suffering higher, or at least developed an unflinching capacity to ignore it. There did come a point, however, where impatience got the better of him and his frustration at the intolerance and fear-mongering left the tactile man feeling useless. Cameron fixed things with his hands and, whilst that involved an element of using his head, so much of it came from the direct insistence of his heart. There came a time where he had to turn the station over, or put the newspaper aside, and go outside and do something productive.

He glanced up from what he was doing.

"I know that look." Cam steadied his gaze to watch her whilst he wiped a hand against his thigh. "It's going to be a big year." On so many fronts, but more specifically closer to home, they were about to embark upon something that felt, at times, as if they were making it up as they went.

"It's always a big year, Cam." Claire gave a half hearted smirk. He was right though, there was a change in the air and it definitely felt like this year was going to be different. And she couldn't quite shake the feeling that it wasn't going to be necessarily a good thing. "But you're right. It's probably our biggest yet. We're picking up momentum and it's only a matter of time before we attract attention." She felt a shiver go down her spine and that feeling creep inward where she just wanted to disappear at the mention of attention to her and the school she had built. Had she'd been younger she would've definitely started to fade in the poorly lit basement. "And with attention comes the wrong kind of attention. I just..." the woman took in a deep breath. "I don't know if we're ready. If I am."

"Only one way to find out." The grin was unmistakable, though curbed by a gentle fondness that didn't seek to diminish her concern. Cam couldn't do much about the oncoming storm, at least couldn't see a way that he could personally affect its arrival, but he could brace for it and refuse to be washed away like forgotten filth. With a strain, he got the final bolt to move and set aside the wrench to cross to the storage closet in search of their replacement part. "The way I see it, Claire-bear," he continued, throwing a pet name into the mix to soften the tension just a little, "we're running out of places to hide. Even those of us particularly good at it." He dipped his head towards her as he hefted the new regulator out of its hidey hole. "Were it just about us, maybe there's cracks big enough to disappear into, but it's not. Never has been."

Lowering the piece of equipment to the floor, Cameron fell pensive for a moment as he worked loose the damaged part in preparation for the transfer. "There's a lot I can't do yet," he admitted. It was actually rare to get the man talking about his powers, especially any difficulties they posed him. "And I'll probably need to find a way to deal with that before this is over because it's definitely going to take all of us." The broken regulator dropped to the floor with a thus. "But I will tell you one thing for certain," he added optimistically, reestablishing eye contact with a smile. "You're the only one I'd want calling the shots."

Blood flushed to her cheeks, darkening them. Something barely visible in the light and due to the purple hue of her skin. "Let's just hope it'll just be decisions on staples and pencils for a long while." She kept a close eye on the work Cam was doing and always found it impressive how he could make broken electrical appliances unbroken. "as for things you cannot do, I won't even dignify that with a response." She looked at the slightly dented generator panel that he had set aside, slightly ashamed of the fact that she had lost her cool like that. It had always been the highest priority for her family to remain composed, stiff upper lip and all that.

"It's just the way of things," came the quiet response, Cam's attention once again returned to his work. "There's speeds I can't hit without shredding my clothes to pieces. Not the best look," he bobbed his head to the side, "if you're hoping to try your hand at saving the world from itself." He heaved the replacement regulator into place and set to work connecting it. "The visor needs work, I need my own portable Bridge because there's some places up ahead I'd rather not have to drag her into just to kickstart my sorry arse. My grocery bill is ridiculous." These weren't complaints, it was simply an attempt to point out that none of them were perfect. "And there are no easy fixes to any of those things."

He glanced up at her again.

"Not going to stop me trying."

Claire appreciated the response putting things into a bit more of a perspective. "First time I transported, my clothes didn't come along. I was never so happy I could turn invisible." It was just a memory that cropped up at his mention of shredding his clothes. "Not that that was relevant to anything you just said, other than to say that with the right help I'm sure we can overcome all of these hurdles." It had taken her a lot of trial and error but she'd been able to extend her powers of teleportation to at least include the stuff she was wearing, and small objects she was carrying. "The right help is right here. We're all here for you." She then shrugged; "If all else fails we could just strap you to a car battery. Clamp those gator things right down on your nipples."

Cam snorted. "Now you just sound like her. I'm surrounded by unhelpful women." There was far too much affection in his tone for the lamentation to stick, however, though it did eventually cast his mind in the direction of a change in subject. "How long do you think I have before you've tarnished the new blood with your wickedness?" Reaching for the spanner once again, Cam winked. "Hunter seems a sensible type, surely she'd see you coming a mile too." With affected dignity, he added, "I might actually enjoy a little fair treatment around here for once."

"Tarnish? How very dare you." Claire put on a mock accent to emphasise the rather posh intonation that she naturally had. "You bring this upon yourself, good sir." She put a hand on his shoulder and gave a slight squeeze to reassure him that she truly meant it she was there for him to sort out whatever he needed to have sorted. "How long would I have to replace this machine?" She had gone back to her normal accent.

"The regulators have been lasting between 8-12 months. If I check up on her a little more often, we may be able to stretch that slightly further." Cam leaned sideways to stare pointedly at the pronounced dent in the generator's outer casing. "Assuming she doesn't succumb to the ramifications of failing to meet expectations, that is."

"I'll have you know that was just a small unforeseen side effect of the topical application of percussion engineering." Claire bit the inside of her cheek a bit at the comment, wondering if she had remembered the excuse a friend of her always used when hitting the TV when it jittered. "I had already tried everything else I could think of." What she didn't tell, but what was clearly implied, was that the list of everything she could think of started and ended with unplugging and replacing the device and hitting the on switch with increasing amounts of vigor. "We'll budget for a replacement next semester. I promise." She relented.

Slotting back the panel, tapping it lightly with his fist to fit it back into place as a slight yet well-meaning mockery of her problem-solving capabilities, Cameron rose to his feet, dusted his hands against his pants and crossed to drop the customary kiss onto the top of the petite woman's head. His mother's Italian influence may have been to blame for her children's penchant for physical affection though it was just as likely that Cameron had slightly more to be inhibited about, if he was going to go down that road at all, than who he chose to embrace. "You give the best hugs" had been instilled into him since he was young. There were worse things to base a personality on.

"You're allowed to ask for help," he reminded her. "Maybe I should install some proximity alarms, give me time to intervene before the two of you have another lover's tiff."

"That won't be necessary." Claire seemed to relax a bit now that she heard the machine slowly rumble back to life again. She slowly started to back out into the corridor, allowing Cameron some room to gather his tools and come with her back upstairs. "Thank you." It was for much more than just fixing this thing, and she hoped Cameron would know that.

A nod, and the flip of a playful salute, was as much as Cameron was prepared to acknowledge the unnecessary sentiment. After all, if they started tallying up who had done what for whom, they'd be at it a while. Packing away the last of the equipment, which would remain behind because he couldn't see a time soon where it wasn't likely to be required, he took a parting check of the generator's voltage read out and patted it affectionately before following Claire out.

"Just remember," he called out as they parted ways, "next time you want to take up percussion, try maracas." Walking backwards for a few paces, he grinned and gave his hips a shimmy. "Might come in useful next open mic night."

He didn't run inside very often. Sometimes, he made an exception.


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