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Altair It was the first period when ms. Sasha Nein, the guindance counselor stopped Merope before she got to class. "Hello, Merope. Do you have a moment? We have a favor to ask of you."

Merope "Oh, sure Ms. Nein, what is it?"

Altair "We have a new kid today," she says, adjusting her glasses, "Altair de Castello Bianco. You know the White Industries, all around town? The people sponsoring the exchange programs? They're his family. It's... unusual to have someone this late into the year, you know, and I'm worried with him being too lost. So we need someone we can count on to show him around the school."

Altair "Mr. Johnstone said he'd want to do it himself, but." She frowns. "That's why we're placing it on your care. You'll have the first two periods free, if you accept, I'll inform your teachers."

Merope nods. "I can do that, Ms. Nein. I'll have to hand in my essay for Mrs. Peters first..."

Altair "Oh, right." She nods. "He'll be waiting for you by his locker. It's by Antares'. Just... be careful, alright?" She adjusts the glasses again, cursing herself for saying that under her breath, "And thank you, Merope. Be sure to show him some welcome, it's hard to come to school so late in the day."

Merope Having dropped off her essay and made her excuses, Merope saunters down the corridoor in a thoughtful mood. Turning a corner, she spots who she presumes to be Altair. "Hi there!"

Merope extends a hand. Her smile is bright, tight and a little forced.

Altair gazes at her hand, his own well-secured on the pockets of his expensive jacket. And they remained there. "Hi."

Merope puts the hand away without missing a beat. "My name's Merope, I've been asked to help show you around. Altair, isn't it?"

Altair "Hmmm Hmmm?. So you're the poor bastard they roped into it." He chuckles, "My sympathies. So, what incredibly exciting place are you going to take me first? The classroom with the amazing stained-yellow salt or the amazing office room where teachers were caught having sex last year?"

Merope "Rumor mill reached you already, huh?" She relaxes into a more natural smile. "Well, what would you like to see first?"

Altair smiles in return, making a sweeping gesture along the hall "I'm at your mercy, Mero."

Merope "So it would seem. Follow me then."

Merope turns smartly on a heel and walks off, looking behind afetr a few steps to flash him a reassuring smile.

Altair follows, hands still in his pockets. "Though, 'good places to skip class.' rank quite high."

Merope "Do you even have classes? We only have a few weeks left to go before the end of the year..."

Altair "Oh, I have quite a few." He recites them, almost all the same as hers'. "But they don't count. I'm only supposed to take SAT's and be a good boy here. It's only a hideout, really. Hell, and I skipped class back when it actually COUNTED for something."

Merope "Sounds like you got a licence to party, then." Merope says, smiling but without much enthusiasm.

Altair "And I already found someone to party with." He smiles to her. "And in an empty house to boot."

Merope They exit the building into the Quad, a rectangular outdooor area with steps, benches, a few trees a basketball hoop, even a small sculpture with a plaque. The buildings of the school seem to be mostly arranged around it.

Merope "Getting around's pretty simple. Most buildings have a letter, then the room number has the first digit as the floor and the second digit as how far along the corridoor it is. So, like, room B1.12 is over there on the first floor." She points.

Altair nods, filing it with disinterest in a mental cabinet. "And here's where everyone gathers at lunchtime?"

Merope "Sports hall is over there, cafeteria's in building A, sports fields are over that way, library's behind that building. Lunchtime depends on whether you're doign cafeteria or you brang your own, I guess. Here's good if you fancy some air."

Altair pulls out a pack of cigarettes, places on in his lips and lights it up with a fancy gold-and-black lighter. "Yeah." He says as the smoke trails from his lips, "I love me some clean, fresh air."

Merope Merope watches him pull out the cigarette and purses her lips delicately. "No skin off my nose what you do with your lungs, but be careful not to let the teachers catch you with that." She sits down.

Merope "Mind you, what with all the arson and assault going on they may have their hands full."

Altair offers her, "You don't? And I'm always careful. It's not like it'll hurt me too much to get expelled, anyway." He puts a foot on the bench as she sits down, looking at her, "Yeah, I heard. But that's the norm around here, isn't it? At least there aren't any kids shooting their classmates and themselves yet."

Merope "Around here? You mean like, America around here?"

Altair nods. "That's what we always see, yeah. Angst and guns. Bad combo."

Merope "What do dumb frustrated kids with a martyr complex do in Italy, then?"

Altair "Drink themselves out of stupid ideas. Alcohol is the miracle drug, really."

Merope "We drink here too. That technology reached the New World."

Altair "Not enough COMMITMENT to alcohol." He laughs. "Honestly, though? It's just plain different. People, I mean. More parties, more open. And, you know, us europeans, we are SUPPOSED to be the stiff ones, and you the wild ones. You're getting reality all over my outdated stereotypes."

Merope "I never heard Italians were stiff. At least not in the sense you mean."

Altair laughs! "Oh, good. I must have gotten our foreigner-reputations mixed up."

Altair "And you," He grins, "Definetly heard the truth, then."

Merope "I can't imagine what I heard was the truth, or you'd have difficulty walking." She stands. "So is there anything you actually wanted to see?"

Altair "Well, right now I'm seeing what I wanted to see..."

Merope Merope snorts at the line. "Some of it was true, then." She stretches, and then stares more intently at him. "You should know I have a boyfriend. I'm saying this now because I'd hate for you to use all your A grade material."

Altair "Oh, don't worry; I'm not the jealous type."

Merope Things brings another smile. "The girls are going to love you, Altair."

Merope "Until the novelty wears off, anyway."

Merope She stares out over the quad.

Altair "Well," He smiles at her, "Then it's not so different from home, after all."

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