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A Hairy Situation

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4 years 6 months ago #11775 by Cryptic
Cryptic created the topic: A Hairy Situation
A Hairy Situation

A Cprime Writing Prompt
The writer's thanks to those who worked on the movie Selma. I watched it through several times while working on this vignette and built the combat around the movie's portrayal of Bloody Sunday.

~*~

“Ouch, and that brings that fight to an end! I'm surprised the instructors went with something out of a Hannah Barbara cartoon! I see Tech-wolf scoring well for his part of the rescue, but I can't say I have high hopes for Ecto-tek's grades after that performance. Turning against your team mate like that... tisk, tisk, tisk. You would think that after all of these finals people would have learned by now that team work is what's needed.”

“I have to agree with you there El. I know the Dr Spengler wannabe from the workshop and he he needs to stop fixating on the things that got squish in the night and leave it to the professionals, which he ain't. I think also think the whole Goober posers... posse, 'scude me, needs to take some proper magic courses instead of that stuff their Admin Adviser shows them off of old Buffy and Supernatural reruns. Maybe then Ecto might have managed to not get eaten in the end by a baddie four meddling kids and their dog had no problem with.”

“If you're just joining us on WARS for Peeper's usual drek, you tuned in too late. This is Outcast Corner at the mikes, offering our view of the world. I'm Jericho and with me is Eldritch who is doing her best to get into the minds of our torturers... I mean instructors. For those of you wondering where our other partners in crime are... let's just say that you really don't wanna piss Razor the next few days, and I pity the poor schmuck that gets stuck with him for his final. Reptiles are very... touchy when they are shedding their skin. With two scaly friends I'm honestly surprised I survive some weeks when they're pulling off their old skin. As for what Diamondback is up to, she told me it was none of my business, and she'd replace wardrobe with boring clothing if I poked my nose into things.”

“For all our sake's, maybe I should make it look like you did just that. OK, let's see who is up next... Jericho, if you even think of starting an Abbot and Costello routine, so help me...”

~*~

Willow felt an elbow nudge her and she looked up from her laptop where she had a game of Scrabble with Diz going over the internet. The squirt was whomping her something bad, and she was thankful for the distraction. “They just announced your number.” her floor mate Tasha said holding up the tickets that they had received at the start of the finals week. They where sitting with a few of the other Hawthorn inmates who had walkabout privileges.

“Hmm? Oh, thanks Tasha. I got time then to finish this game with Diz. Not that I'm gonna win or anything.”

“You have your stuff then?”

“Yeah, costume is on under my uniform. Kind of like the looks of the blue tights with the black and white... Hmm, what can I make with these letters?” she asked showing those around her her tiles. Fifteen minutes later she got another elbow to the ribs, which was accompanied by Tasha's giggle.

“Now I know why you never let me see your card.”

“Oh zip it. Yours isn't any better.” Willow said as she studied the picture on her MID; You would think telekinetic control over her hair it would mean she never had bad hair days.

Yeah right.

There was at least two brushes and a comb stuck in the mess. And a teddy bear. And a broom. And an MCO power armor glove that made it look like someone was struggling to get out of the snarl. She hadn't even made a costume yet when the picture had been taken, and the MCO guy had given her that really ugly girly pink domino mask to wear for the picture... Her face flushed red as laughter over her picture filled the stands. Hadn't the student body laughed at her card enough the last time she had her combat final?

She chose to focus on the rest of her card instead.

Code Name: Rapunzel
Ratings:
Exemplar 2
PK 3d (Hair Control)
Healing 3
Mild GSD (rapid hair growth)
Techniques:
Healing Touch, The Tangler, The Brush Breaker
Weakness:
Basic Human Weaknesses, The cost of hair care products, Night terrors, Scissors
Affiliation:
Hawthorn Irregulars

“Guess I shouldn't keep them waiting.” she said with a worried smile as she signed off from the game to Diz's disappointment. Still the PK super squirt did wish her luck, and told her to go kick some buttocks (only 16 points, not counting board bonuses, Diz was slipping). As she made her way down to the Arena entrance she kept an eye on the screens for her opponent. That MID wasn't long in coming.

Code Name: Dredz
Ratings:
Devisor 4
Energizer 2 (photonic)
Techniques:
Trick shots, long shot, hand to hand combat
Weakness:
A Fine looking Sister that has it going on
Affiliation:
STAR League JR

Now that was an MID picture; Dredz looked hot, confident, and put together in his white and black uniform. Shame he only had eyes for Chaka and he likely would never consider dating a white girl stuck in the Dangerous Freak House... she shook her head, forcing away those thought and trying to get her head into the game. Glancing down at what she was wearing Willow decided that her uniform was good enough for the time being, as it was one that had seen better days. If she needed to go for the bonus costume change points she could always do a Hair Cocoon and use it as a changing room. Her hair was certainly long enough at the moment; several loose braids, held in place with a few hundred hair pins, trailed down to the floor even after being doubled up several times. Maybe just lugging all that weight around would trigger a new jump in her levels. One could only hope.

“Mask, mask... where did I put my mask?” She babbled softly to herself as Dredz joined her in the briefing room. Finding the piece of molded Kevra she used her power to lift the mass of braids that hung down her back. Fitting the mask into place a few stray strands held the light blue reinforced fabric in place as Willow smoothed it under her chin and pulled her ears out of their holes before sealing it up along her spine. It was modeled after the mask Medusa of the Inhumans wore so it left her nose and lower face exposed while covering everything else. Dredz had already shed his civvies and was wearing his black and white STAR League Jr uniform with a nasty looking rifle slung over his back and a pistol of some type on his belt.

They didn't have long to wait before a small Japanese man and a stocky African American man entered the room. Willow recognized both from the classes she started taking after the Halloween Invasion; the older one was Sesnsie Ito, and the other was Gunny Bardue from the ranges. The school still hadn't hired a new pistol range instructor, so the other range masters took turns filling in.

Sensei Ito looked over the pair with a calculating grin. "Welcome to the sixties. I hope you've got your walking shoes on as that's just what you're going to do. For this combat final, you can check your holdouts at the simulator door. It's freedom summer and you are members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. You are in Selma Alabama, preparing to march to Montgomery to show your support for voting rights for all. The march is to be a peaceful one, though rumors are circulating that the White Knight has taken offense to these plans. Your goal is to divert his attentions from the rest of the marchers without resorting to violence."

Willow let out a groan and debated if she should handed over her one good hold out; an actual Herr Hair Hair Growth Ray. She'd gotten it from Herr Hair himself; Uncle Rory had retired after getting out of jail for that whole El Calvo mess. It wasn't anything harmful... but Ito-sensei had just said no holdouts. As she debated she glanced over at Dredz and her jaw dropped as she watched him removing his gear. Where did he store all that stuff?!? Some of it didn't look like it should have fit into the pockets he had pulled it out of.

Reluctantly she removed a small chrome ray gun that kind of looked like a blow drier and showed it to Bardue. He raised raised an eyebrow at it like he recognized the device before accepting it and putting it into a lock box. She had a feeling she really should have let the school know she had it in her possession...

“It's a hair care product?” she offered lamely.

“All right, you two go take your places.” Gunny ordered as he clicked the lock boxes closed and moved them out of the way.

“So are we going to work together, or are we gonna go at each other?” Willow asked softly as they walked the short distance from the briefing room and the arena entrance. “And can you not use the Ghetto Babble? I don't listen to rap so I'm not sure I'd understand all of it.”

Dredz frowned for a moment, then nodded. “Seems like we should. This pairing strike you as odd? Most of the others have been enemies, or at least part of cliques that don't play well with each other. But we've never really interacted.”

Willow shrugged. “Maybe they just ran out of enemies by the time they got to us?”

“Maybe,” Dredz replied as they split up to go to the two starting circles.

~*~

“Wow, I did not think I'd ever see the day when Dredz was ever unarmed...” Eldritch breathed as the Arena doors sealed the pair in.

There was an impression in the moment of dead air of Jericho giving Eldritch a weird-ed out look before he leaned into the mike. “Hey, I'm the one supposed to make the sight jokes. For those of you who flunked history, or are not US citizens and are unaware of the history of the American Civil Rights movement, let me fill you in a little about the scenario the Hair Pair are facing.”

A good portion of the audience zoned out for the next few minutes as Jericho laid out a brief history of the American Civil Rights movement, the major players in it, and just what Bloody Sunday was. They only came awake when the horn blared to start the match.


~*~

“Toni, Does this mean Rapunzel needs to dye her skin and hair brown so she fits in, as well as wear a mask?”

“Jade!”

“What? A blonde white girl will really stand out while they march.”

~*~

“So, Dredz, you're the Super hero in training. Do you have a plan we can use?” Rapunzel asked as they met back up in front of the mock up of Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in the milling crowd of ANTS.

“Not really.” the STAR Leaguer replied softly, keeping his Ghetto persona 'Off' as the girl, his partner he reminded himself, had requested. “The whole nonviolence thing is throwing me off my game. I'm the violence one on the Star Jr team. Well after Phoenixfire that is.”

“Oh. Um well... you fly right? Why don't you take to the air and see if you can spot the Knight and the other problem people coming? They'll likely be waiting on the other side of the bridge where they can't be seen due to the curve of the deck arc like they did in real life. Maybe if you carried me I could come in behind the troopers and maybe do something?”

Dredz nodded slowly and dug into a pocket. “After having it hammered into us in Team Tactics that we rely on Psy to much I made up these as... crap. I handed the back up coms over with the rest of my gear. As for carrying you, I'm not sure I could air lift you behind enemy lines without us being seen and shot. Maybe if you had less hair I could have managed, but you must have your own body weight in hair there. No offense. Not a bad idea though.”

“None taken. Was worth a suggestion, I wasn't sure what you can and can't do besides the gadgeteer thing. My powers are hair control an healing if you didn't see my MID.” Rapunzel replied with a shrug. “Looks like they're about to get moving, so up you go Junior Bird-man.”

“Haven't heard that one lately.” Dredz said with a laugh before he kicked himself up into the air.

~*~

“Are you planning on historically accurate for this session?” Ito asked Gunny Bardue softly as they over saw the final fro the control room.

“Hey, I told you Hartford said to give Loophole and the other two a chance to win.” Gunny replied shooting the smaller man a glance. “And this is your scenario, so it's up to you.”

Ito nodded slowly. “All right, here is what we are going to do...”

~*~

The march so far had gone smoothly, and historically accurate. As the bridge came into view Rapunzel felt a sick feeling form in the pit of her stomach. She turned to the two ANTS at the head of the crowd and said loudly. “Mr Lewis, Reverend Williams, Could we please stop at the edge of the bridge for a few minutes?”

“My dear, nothing is going to stop this march, not until...” the Reverend started to preach.

“I'm not asking to stop it completely. I just want you to take a few moments so we can see what is ahead of us and...”

“We can not hesitate. What message would it send to those arrayed against us if we stopped now?” Williams insisted.

Rapunzel let out a sigh and signaled for Dredz to join her. “What's it look like?” she asked as the crowd swept past the pair, walking along the side walk, not in the road.

“Not good. Wall of fuzz waiting to mow brothers an sisters down. And some are making like Custer and are ready to an trample them under hoof. And there are people lined up like this was a football game and they're waiting for kick off.”

“Any sign of the Knight?”

“None, and I don't like that at all.”

“When would be the worst time for him to show up?”

“Well... likely when the march is fully on the bridge. Burn through the supports, drop the whole blazing thing into the river.”

“All right, sweep under and also along the road back to make sure Knight Knight isn't sneaking up on us then get back to the front of the column. We'll try and talk to the cops...”

“They're not gonna listen. They'll just see some jumped up Ni...”

“You think they'd listen to a 'race traitor' any more then they'd listen to you? I know what happened to white sympathizers after later marches...” Rapunzel said cutting him off before he could drop the 'N Word'. “My thinking is the cops might hesitate when they see that two powered people are standing with the marchers. It's one thing to face a mob of baselines, it's a whole other thing when you're staring down people far more powerful then you, that likely kick your asses. Also I'm hoping you picked up hostage negotiation from watching your parents, as in a way that is what this is.”

“We where told not to kick ass, remember? And yes, I have picked up a few things over the years.”

“They don't know that, we just need them to hesitate for a few moments so we can try to talk this out.”

~*~

“And the huddle has broken up. Dredz is falling back and... Oh cool; a late in the game Costume change!” Jericho announced as he panned the arena's camera to get a shot of the hair ball that had formed around Rapunzel Yards of blonde hair twisted around her body hiding it from view. Seconds later the tangle pulled back revealing a skin tight light blue suit that struck him as familiar.

“Hate to sound like Peeper, but that's a really plain looking outfit; it's just light blue all over with a slightly darker blue mask, gloves and boots as accents. Still, who'd have thought she had a figure like that under the uniform?” Cait observed as she watched what Dredz was up to. “OK there are gonna be some points handed out for making sure the path back to Selma is clear. Not bad, and if I was Gunny or Ito I'd have the White Knight take out the bridge like Dredz suggested. Say Jerry, what did the Knight do historically?”

“No-one could really agree as to when the Knight showed up El. He was just sort of There once the mess started. Some think he was dressed as a trooper, others think he was in with the spectators. Some wing-nut conspiracy theorists have even floated the possibility he was in with the marchers wearing a disguise, or he was a self hating black man. But from what I have read about that White Knight, I don't agree with those theories.”


~*~

Using four of her yards long braids like Doctor Octopus's WALDO arms Rapunzel pulled herself up onto the bridge's frame work. The beams where wider them some of the surfaces she'd run along during 'Run Away' training for Survival class and she felt stable as she walked over the crowd's heads even without anchoring herself with a few strands of hair. Dredz dropped from the air next to her a moment after.

Below them she heard the Reverend Williams ask softly “Can you swim?”

“Not many pools for black men where I come from.” was John Lewis's reply.

The older man looked weary as he breathed “Yeah.”

~*~

“Toni, is it me or does that ANT walking near the front of the column look a little like a younger version of your Grandmother?”

~*~

“You do the talking.” Rapunzel said as she let her tresses spill down to the bridge deck in a golden waterfall several yards ahead of the march's front line. She prayed hard that her hair would hold up like she hoped; while she was focused her hair seemed like it was tougher to damage. It might not be bullet proof, but it was better then nothing if she could keep it in front of people. She let her hair flow like a golden stream out from where it had piled, creating a low barrier across the bridge's span.

Dredz squared his shoulder and dropped to the bridge deck. The blue helmeted troopers tensed, a few hands releasing nightsticks to drift closer to their revolvers as Dredz stepped closer to the blockade, his hands raised to show he was unarmed. “Please, there is no need for this! This is a peaceful march! You think that this will deter these people, but if you strike them down their cause shall become more powerful than you can imagine...”

The sheriff exchanged a few looks with his officers and a trooper raised a mega phone. “This is an unlawful assembly. You have two minutes to disperse. Go home, but go to your church. This march will not continue.”

Rapunzel glanced behind her looking to the march's leaders for what they wanted to do, though she knew what they where going to do; they held their ground. “May I have a word to the Major?” Williams called.

“There's is not words to be had.” the commander of the State troopers replied back.

“Major Cloud, may we speak to you.” Lewis tried. Dredz tensed as the line of troopers removed their helmets and fitted gas masks on their faces. Behind the line of now masked men the horses shifted from hoof to hoof sensing the tension in the air, and the spectators and press held their breath. Rapunzel began to weave her hair up the support beams of the bridge.

“Troopers advance!” sounded out as clubs and a few pistols where pulled free. Rapunzel caught a flicker of movement as one of the mounted officers unlimbered a bullwhip just before a gun shot rang out and the line charged the demonstrators. Dredz ever the hero stepped in front of Rapunzel, blocking her with his body as several guns went off. He felt the bullets slam into his chest, the Kevlar weave of his uniform absorbing most of the energy in the rounds, but the impacts where still enough to knock the wind out of him and he dropped to the ground trying to suck in a breath. Rapunzel watched in horror as he lay on the road; her heart stopping for several beats as the gun fire flashed her back to Halloween; she'd skipped the in cottage party to attend the one in the gym. She'd gone decked out as the symbiot Scream, and had enjoyed the looks she'd gotten for daring to wear a painted on costume. People had actually seen her as female for a change, not a freaky Thornie to stay away from. It had been fun as heck, she'd danced, she'd laughed... and then she'd dropped from the sonic. Her control over her hair had slipped and those around her had gotten a taste of why she was assigned to Hawthorn. Her hair had lashed out, strangling, whipping, tangling. When the sonics where disabled and the gunmen moved in, she'd fallen back to help with the healing, to sacred to fight. But she'd watched Jericho and the other students acting to defend their less combat oriented classmates. And she'd felt shame for cowering. She didn't like that feeling at all. She'd sworn she wouldn't let herself feel that way again.

Dull Thoomp! Thoomp!s filled the air as tear gas canisters where launched from the back of the police line. Part of her reacted on instinct born from the Dodge Ball from Hell test and braids lashed out deflecting the canisters into the river below. The rest of her hair did a cross between a cat poofing out it's fur and a cobra spreading it's hood to create a shimmering wall catching the advancing troopers, and causing the horses to shy away.

Shaking the visions of the past from her mind Rapunzel took a deep breath and bellowed “BACK!!! OFF THE BRIDGE!!!” as a few braids shot out of the tangle to trip the rushing troopers. To her way of thinking they had fired the first shots, this was self defense and a bit of a gray area as yards of hair hanging down and under foot could be called passive resistance. A few troopers and posse members drew knives from their belts, or pockets, or boots and began to hack at her tresses, but the PK field around the strands resisted the steel blades for the time being.

Three of the troopers aimed guns at her yelling profanity and other forms of nasty verb-age that questioned her sanity, loyalty to her skin color, and her sexuality as they pulled the triggers. She felt bones and skin give way, her right arm going limp as her shoulder shattered, followed by a blow to the knee that dropped her from her perch.

She hung several feet above the bridge deck, limp, like some grotesque puppet. Her hair loosened it's hold on the metal of the bridge and Rapunzel was lowered slowly to the ground. With their main impediment eliminated troopers, on foot and mounted, stepped over her pron form and fell on the marching column like wolves on lambs.

~*~

“Christ.” Eldritch breathed into the mike as the trooper-ANTS fell on the marchers. The Artificer didn't even realize her descriptions of the events where almost as exact repetition of those given by the corespondent who had been on scene that day. The troopers had chosen to ignore the 'spandex' wearers for the moment and where focusing on the civilians. The mounted troops where riding people down, one whipping people into submission as he rode past. Tear gas wafted over the bridge like a gauzy veil obscuring some of the goings on, revealing horrific glimpses of the damage man could do to his brother.

~*~

As Rapunzel lay crumpled a warm golden glow began to radiate from her tresses. First it drove away the pain in both her broken body. Once they where both numbed it began sealing up the rendered flesh and knitting together broken bones. She could feel that some would need to be re-broken and reset so they'd be straight. She forced herself to her feet and stumbled over to where Dredz lay with several troopers where restraining and beating him. She lashed out, snagging gas masks so the troopers could get a taste of their own medicine. Her glow fell on the downed the marchers who who began to stir, the computer controlling them calculating that they had been healed.

~*~

“Hmm, she's only rated as a Healer 3?” Gunny asked checking Willow's file. “I think when we're done here someone may need to go back in for testing.” he brought up a close up replay of the girl's powers worked on her own body. “Look at how fast those bullet wounds closed; well under a minute. And the number of people she's healing...”

“It could possibly be that her heightened state is merely the result of adrenalin over load.” Ito pointed out as he dug into a bag of pork rinds. “Like how Razorback's re-gen goes into high gear when he is in a Rager state.”

“Wouldn't be the first Healer we've had that needs a life or death situation to see their full potential. We'll have to see if she keeps working at this level after the danger is over. Pass me the water pitcher, and remind me later to ask around about her actions on Halloween, please.” he paused mulling something. “And how long her hair was when she was tested the first time.”

Ito nodded as he passed the beverage over. “Indeed. I know she chose to start taking Basic Martial Arts after that event.” he raised an eyebrow at Bardue's last comment. “Interesting theory. Let's test it. Does it say what the rating for that PK field against heat and fire is?”

~*~

Dredz shook his head, tasting blood in his mouth as he felt slim, warm hands and snake like strands pulling him to his feet. He felt pretty damn good despite having just been nearly beaten to death. He added to his mental to do list a note to add more padding or something to his costume. Maybe even build a full on REACT type set up like he had seen Cait Bardue lugging around when he visited the ranges to test new weapons or ammo.

“Dredz, come on, focus!” he head Rapunzel shout into his ear as something slapped his cheek.

“Nerrr, less noise shorty.” he growled as he got his feet fully under him. Blinking the STAR Leaguer realized the girl was glowing. And her costume was ripped showing a bit of skin that was covered in someone's blood.

“I want you to get the worst injured back to the church. Try and not make their injuries any worse. I'll try and... do something.” she finished lamely as she looked over the carnage. “Keep an eye out for the Knight. The scenario hasn't ended yet.”

~*~

“I'm just not sure if Dredz is holding back to let Rapunzel shine, or if he's just off his game today.” Cait said as she leaned back in her chair to check on how the tape binding Peepers was holding up.

“Could be he's still feeling it from the Star League crash scenario. I've had the... pleasure of running sims against Wonder-cute, and Jade alone and I know what that trouncing feels like. Or it could be the setting. I think I'd be off my game too if I was in the middle of that.” Joe admitted as he ran a hand through his own dredz. He had been through something similar when Sandra had manifested and fled to his basement, and this was bringing back some nasty memories. He made a mental note to stop by the pastor who's sermons had caused his friend to become a naga and test the 'Dung Bombs' he'd worked up based on Doc's CO2 grenade design. Maybe fill them with 50 pounds of Razor's leavings mixed with some rotten meat...

Shaking that pleasant thought from his mind he refocused on the here and now as Eldritch asked. “Think the Programmers are trying to send the likes of H1 and the Goodkinds a message, trying to force feed them the parallels between African American Civil Rights and Mutant Civil Rights?”

“Oh I'm sure they are, but I doubt the people who make the policy watch these matches. Just their security goons so they have an idea on what to expect when we come for them. They might have a piece of the gambling action though.”

“Not sure if they're getting their money's worth with this one. Looks like between them Rapunzel and Dredz have those who can't walk rounded up, and it looks like the cops are content to let them go. So where is the White Knight?”


~*~

Rapunzel's stomach dropped as a column of smoke began to rise from the block the demoralized marchers where headed. The block the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church sat on. Where there was smoke there was fire. And in this scenario where there was fire there was likely...

“Boys, get ever gun you can!” a middle aged man begged, his eyes wide and wild, drawing Rapunzel's attention away from her musing. “We need to retaliate, we can't let this...”

The man died in a fiery pillar as a figure wearing a blending of the Klan's white robes and mid-evil plate armor with a masked pointed cowl and carrying a sword of fire swept over the block. Even though his face was hid all could sense his sneer of disgust.

“SHIT!!! It's the White Knight!” Lewis swore as he staggered under the weight of the barely conscious woman that had some resemblance to the Chandler daughter on campus as they made for the recessed doorway of a shop. Dredz took to the air, nearly striking the Knight with his charge, hoping to get the fanatic to chase him. The young man's hair crisped as he skimmed the Knight's rippling heat aura.

~*~

“Hi Mom, it's Ashley. The gang says thanks a bunch to whichever of you got us a Crash. Don't expect any cool parent's day gifts this year. But that's not why I'm calling. Are we related to some guy called the White Knight from back in the sixties are we? Why am I asking? Cause it's combat finals and they're using him in one and the whole flaming sword/fire generation/flight thing is kind of our family's bit. What do you mean you'll have to check?”

~*~

Gunny eyed the White Knight's attack frowning. “You used Phoenixfire's moves as a base for Knight?”

The little Japanese man nodded as he got up to pour himself a cup of tea to wash down his pork rinds. “I did, as I didn't think your adopted daughter would appreciate me using Backdraft as a base for our bad guy. I did leave out Phoenixfire's strength but left her fighting skills. I figured giving our simulation more skill then the real Knight of the era showed would be a better test for them rather then someone who can barely throw a punch and relies to much on his powers.”

~*~

“Get hoses hooked up to those hydrants! Get water on the church and if you see the Knight coming for you; blast him!” Rapunzel yelled as she ran forward and used her hair to boost herself up to the first step of her run. Ito wanted them to draw the White Knight away from the remains of the march while doing it peacefully. The only idea she had as to do that was to try and replicate the run Mr Anderson had shown them in Survival class when the late Eric Mahren had been chased by Wilson.

“DREDZ!! TAG, TIGHTY-WHITEY'S IT!” she yelled before she used some of her hair like Batman's Bat-line to snag a high point and send her arcing into space. She also shot out a second 'line' wrapping it around the Knight's wrist, yanking him off balance as her swing pulled him. As her hair began to burn she released her grip on the armored flier's wrist and pulled herself to the roof of a new building.

She ducked behind the low parapet wall that ran along the edge of the building's roof as Tighty sent several fireballs her way. She risked a peek over the edge to see if her partner had understood her shout, and from the way he was buzzing Tighty Whitey it looked like Dredz had. Mostly. Either Dredz hadn't understood she wanted him to move away from the civilians, or Tighty wasn't cooperating.

“Guess I need to make him cooperate.” She muttered to herself before wrapping some of her hair around her body like golden armor. Once she was relatively sure she was covered she stood. “Hey asshole! Takes a big man to prove he's 'superior' to people won't fight back. I think you just go after them cause they're the only ones you can hurt! Bet you also troll gay bars looking for a little...” She let out an 'eep!' as a fireball slammed into her chest, sending up a puff of burnt hair stink, but not burning all the way through her 'armor'.

Coughing she took off running, calling over her shoulder. “Oh I'm sorry, I just realized you must settle for trolling the fields for LIVE STOCK as no human will have you!”

More fire slammed into the roof around her.

“Yup, got his attention.” she said to herself as she dove over the side into an alley.

~*~

Cait shook her head slowly as she watched Rapunzel Spidergirl-ed her way down the alley and then across the street to another roof top. “Girl needs to work on her insults.”

“Give her a break, not everyone is born with our level of talent for the put down. I give her a B- for effort. C for creativity, as I think she rethought the bar crack to not come across as racist herself. And Tighty Whitey and Knight Knight are just to obvious.”

“Some sick part of me kind of hopes Rapunzel or Dredz pants the putz.”

“Didn't realize there was a part of you that wasn't sick and twisted Eldritch.”

“Oh you've only ever seen the warm and fuzzy me...” That earned more then a few gulps and worried looks in the stands as most of the student body had had the misfortune to tangle with the stone like young woman. She glanced over at Jericho who was frowning and seeming to be doing some kind of formula on a pad of paper.

“Wha-cha-do-in?”

“Something's funny about the amount of hair Rapunzel has...”

“She is in Hawthorn because it grows rapidly. And reacts to her night terrors.”

“Not as fast as we're seeing. I think no one thought to check to see if she could grow her hair at will, or warp it's length or something. Look here are my figures...”

“Jericho, just upload it to the school servers and let those who care, like the testing wonks, look at the data in their own time. Don't kill our ratings by broadcasting it.”


~*~

Rapunzel was feeling pretty good as she sprinted across roof tops, hopping, diving, and dodging things like heating and cooling units, patio furniture, and the occasional clothes line along with the White Knight's gouts of flame. She was wincing internally at the fact several buildings behind her where now burning, but she was glad she had lead the vigilante away from the marchers and the church and back to the river while Dredz went to ground to kludge together some kind of restraint device to use against the Knight. She desperately wondered what was taking the timer so long to run out though as she scanned the sky for the Knight who she had lost track of.

She barely had time to register the impact of the Knight against her back as he barreled into her, aura igniting her tresses as he drove her from her perch on the Edmund Pettus Bridge's structure and into the river. Water boiled around the pair as the Knight drove them down and pressed her into the mud of the riverbed. Rapunzel's panicked gasp sucked water into her lungs and her primal reaction to 'Oh Shit! I'm Drowning!' kicked in and she began to thrash and fight to get back to the surface. But the Knight held her in place in-spite her thrashing and the the blows he was taking from her hair. Two thin trickles of air bubbles rose from the sides of his helmet suggesting that he had his own air supply, which a small part of Rapunzel's mind thought made sense due to his fire aura super heating the air around him. If he breathed the super hot air his lunges would have been crisped.

Her struggle grew weaker as her body drained what oxygen was in her blood, and her chest burned with the need to just take one small breath... Without conscious thought Rapunzel tightly twisted locks of her hair together into a thin spikes which glowed a deep near black purple. Blood bloomed into the water as the spines slipped past the vigilante's body armor plates and deep into his flesh. The computer controlling the ANT reacted to this new input, and then triggered in the simulated Knight convulsions and and eruption of hear and fire that flash boiled the water and baked the mud solid...

~*~

“How is she doc?” Gunny asked as he and Ito approached the emergency room bay where Willow Harris had been whisked after Dredz had pulled her from the simulated river. The young man sat, freshly scrubbed, in one of the hard plastic chair fiddling with the retro looking devise he'd but together to late to stop the Knight from nearly killing his teammate. Ito suspected that this was the first real close call the young hero had had. The little old man hoped that this wouldn't sour Dredz on the hero path, but would temper him some, and not treat it like a game.

Dr. Tenant shook her head slowly looking wrung out from the week of finals. “I warn you every year that one of these sessions will end up killing someone, and after Hippie, I figured you would have been taking more precautions. It was a near thing with Willow. Between the Healers and medics on hand and her own abilities it was still to close to my liking. She'll be fine in a few days, but I want her to stay here for observations. Once her hair grows a few inches her healing will kick in again. You two can go in.”

Ito nodded as he took point in entering the room. He saw a bald bedraggled looking girl who lay curled in the hospital bed. “Miss Harris.”

“Mm? Oh... hey... you're here with my grade right?” Willow asked blinking sleepily.

“That is part of it, yes. We wish to review what you did well and what you need to work on as well.” the little martial arts instructor replied as he walked over to her side and picked up her chart.

“First off, we wanted to ask how you got the Herr Hair zap gun.” Gunny stated as he loomed over the girl. “And why you didn't inform the range instructors or security you had it.”

“Um... well mostly I didn't mention it cause I didn't want labeled a Bad Seed if it got out that Herr Hair is my uncle.” Willow said as she ran the hand which didn't have wires and tubes stuck to it over her head which Bardue was surprised to see was already showing a golden peach fuzz. “And no offense, but I don't really trust security to keep a secret like that. To many of the Fixers and other Big Names on Campus have ins some how.”

Ito raised an eyebrow at that. “How do you know this?”

“Thornies hear things.” she said with a shrug.

“I see. Well I want you to register that weapon with security and get a permit for it. You will also be taking the range's small arms classes next year.”

“Already did sir, I think I got a passing grade...”

“Then take level two next year. And don't call me sir.”

“Now, on to the meat of your final.” Ito said as he set her chart back down and tucked his hands into his sleeves. “We feel you and Dredz didn't do enough at the start to ensure the marcher's safety or to persuade them to listen to your suggestions. You just let the organizers steam roll you when you asked them to stop for a few moments so you could assess conditions. However you did well escorting the march with you on point and Dredz circling. However neither of you had any plan for when you ran into trouble. What where you trying to do on the bridge with your hair?”

“I call it the spider web. I've used it a few times in Hawthorn to corral Spoof's manifestations. The bridge was just to much for me to cover the way I wanted.”

“Why couldn't you cover it the way you wanted?”

“Didn't have enough hair. The length I walked in with is about as long as I can tolerate having without resorting to using my powers to carry it.” Willow replied as she ran a hand over her stubble covered scalp. “and it is draining to constantly use my PK. Kind of surprised I woke up when you came in.”

“I see. Well it shows you are thinking of uses for your powers. You also used them well as swing lines and the like. I want you to take my Special Topics weapons course next winter. I think you would benefit from studying how to use the meteor hammer and a fighting chain.”

“Yes Sensie.”

There was a soft knock on the door and Gunny went to open it, receiving something wrapped in a hospital gown. “Speaking of your powers we want you to go in for another round of testing before school is out. We saw some discrepancies and a few things that make us think you where miss classified.” Gunny stated as he walked back over. “Now, can you tell me why you didn't use anything like this until the last moment? The White Knight ANT was skewered with over a dozen of these.”

Willow stared at the object that Gunny unwrapped; it was a foot long and looked like an over sized porcupine quill. At the base it was her normal blond hair color, but it darkened to an ugly purple-ish black. “I... don't know I could do that.”

Ito nodded. “About twenty five percent of your hair when you where brought in was like this. Practice and try to learn to do it consciously. Also when you struck at the Knight... if it had been a real mutant, you would have triggered a level 5 burn out in him.” Willow looked sick at that, and Gunny pushed a trash can closer to her bed. “Now, this brings us to our final point; your handling of the Knight.”

“I know I could have done better sir. I should have gotten him away from town faster instead of letting him set fire to half of Selma...” Willow said softly as she looked down at her hands. “I just prefer an urban environment for my evasion tactics as there's more Stuff to use.”

“Then I suggest you run here at the school more then you run over Dunwich and Berlin. I'll have a word with Cait and the rest of the Hooligans about whipping you into shape.” Gunny offered up with an almost evil grin. “Now, up until the end you did well with Sensie Ito's restriction of nonviolence. You didn't use your powers to fight the troopers even though you did used them to keep the two groups separate for as long as you could. You also 'healed' a good number of the injured.”

“However when the Knight appeared you did attack him to get his attention, and when you where in the river you used those as well as triggering a burn out,” Ito pointed to the quill. “to kill him in a rather horrific way. Now that can be seen as in self defense, as well as what I believe was an instinctive reaction, but it was anything but nonviolent resistance. We're giving you a grade of C+ for this final. We expect more from you next year.”

I am a caffeine heathen; I prefer the waters of the mountain over the juice of the bean. Keep the Dews coming and no one will be hurt.

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