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Downtown Emerald City

 

Though most of the development was done out at the MarsTech campus there was always a need to have a Downtown office, and Mars being Mars it was obviously the largest most dramatic building in the area. Three green crystals, each taller than the other, looking like they had grown from the ground to be bound in metal. Only from above was it apparent that the three together formed a giant M. It might be an architectural marvel, but it still needed the modern comforts that made working there bearable.

 

Unlike most buildings it airconditioning was all on the roof but rather discretely scattered throughout the building, and concerned about a possible chemical attack it has some cutting-edge filtration equipment, that contained some rather nasty chemicals. Many service companies bid for the lucrative contract to maintain this system but only one company won, thanks to the planning and knowledge of one skilled young engineer...

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Peri waited nervously outside the company van as she waited for the other heroes to arrive, though as far as they knew she was Emerald Spiders friend. She felt guilty to lie to them about this, but she wasn't quite ready to reveal her secret identity to anyone yet. Maybe soon but not yet.

 

The plan was pretty simple really, no one really paid the maintenance staff any attention, as long as they had passes and the suits they wore against the dangerous chemicals hid any costumes her colleagues would be wearing. And with the bulky hot suits, it hadn't taken much to swap routes, it did mean she'd have to do some of the other downtown servicing alone but that was worth it for this chance to help out.

 

Now all she had to do was wait for the others to arrive.

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The suggestion had seemed like a pretty good one, though it had meant more work for Lily. Her band could display the image of a normal looking girl, sure enough, but that normal looking girl was still Katharine Lilly Shade and she didn't have the confidence to mess with the settings. Luckily, her time in theater was on her side.

 

She hadn't really had to try to make herself up much lately, and even then there were some new problems she had to solve. The marks on her face and arms were tell-tale, even if she disguised the rest of it, which meant some more thorough body makeup than she was normally used to. But with time she managed to give her skin a passable even tone. Her eyes were kind of a lost cause, even for contacts. So she went with the nuclear option with a couple dark glasses. To keep up the actual disguise aspect, she hid her freckles and dyed her hair black. 

 

It was exhausting to try to pass as a normal person. Sooner this was done, the better. 

 

"Heeeeeey~" A voice singsonged from down the street, as Lily marched up, giving a nice big wave. "So, I don't know if this is the right place," she said, looking the strange woman in front of the van up and down. "But you seem like someone I think I'm supposed to meet? Me and two friends, for a bit of temp work?" She reached back and scratched behind her head, still smiling. "Have I got the wrong person? Cause that'd just be embarrassing."

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"What's new, shohaos!" A greasy teenager in a dirty set of coveralls, lugging a heavy toolbox, tromped up to them. His voice was a little huskier than it had been on the roof, and it was harder to tell his body type under the quasi-baggy cloth, but the grin he flashed Peri with was the same as the boy on the roof.

 

"Glad to see someone taking this seriously! I was afraid since neither of us had done something like this, you'd miss some little details, but from the looks of you two, nope. Got everything!" He glanced meaningfully up at the walls rearing above them, opening his coveralls just enough to reveal the words electronic eyes. "So, where we heading to today? Heard the  all-floors shaft is busted and-" he paused, frowning "Say, any of you seen the old-timer? He's supposed to be here by now." Leaning against the Emerald Tower, he shrugged, snorting derisively "Denkas, amirite? 'Oh, I'll be there an hour ahead of time!' And then you wait like 45 minutes to get a text saying they've got something else going on."

 

Tugging at his ponytail,  the boy eyed the other two critically, dark eyes suddenly zeroing in on Kat. "You got something on the jaw, back here." He tapped a spot on the right side of his face "Smudgey. Got some stuff in my box to clear that up, but you might need a few new layers of skin afterwards."

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Hakim wasn’t entirely sure about this entire thing. He had a bunch of concerns, and the time he’d had to think between originally agreeing to everything and it actually happening hadn’t helped. There was so much that was just bound to go wrong, and it could all go downhill pretty fast, even with the support he and Warp could offer.

 

And then there was the issue of identity. These people already knew a bit too much about him and his façade as Sha’ir, and appearing as a person using magic would not exactly better it. At the same time, there probably was not much else in the way of getting in. And there was an ever-so-small chance Mars was using some sort of magic protection.

 

In the end, he decided for a layered system. First he grabbed enough to disguise him a fair bit, including a full mask he’d worn underneath his scarf before, to further conceal his identity. It meant that there was nothing that he could be told by. Onto that, he added an additional layer, giving him the appearance of a fairly average citizen of EC, an amalgam of all the people he’d seen on the street while walking to a café that day. Over that, his uniform consisting of his enchanted scarf. And over that yet, another layer of normal human appearance, this time styled closer to Mars himself, with a few changes made so it wasn’t obvious. A cloaking spell above that to supress the magical signature somewhat, and he was good to go.

 

Wearing a casual streetwear outfit loosely based on his actual closet (or at least creating the illusion of wearing it), he showed up, not doing a lot to hide his face or otherwise protect this fake identity. “Yeah, this looks like the right place. Everything in order?”

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Peri had thrown herself off buildings and put her trust in a prototype device without a second thought, but right now she was feeling more nervous about meeting people she already knew.

 

"Hi my name is Peri Pyeng, Emerald Spider explained that you want to get inside."

 

Walking around the van she opened up the back, holding out bright orange hazmat suits.

 

"You'll need one of these and the passes will hold up as long as they don't look too hard, which they normally don't. They I can take you up to one of the service room, and you can go do what you need."

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Warp whistled. "Fancy. What's in there that's so nasty they need real, actual hazmat suits?" She grabbed at one of the suits, exploring the lengths of its cuffs, legs, waist and all the rest with her hands, trying to get a bead on its shape. How long. how wide, how thick...casually, she looked up and around across the park, up at the tower. No cameras, no people. Quietly, she waltzed behind the van. Another red-black 'flash' and then she was coming back out, already wearing the suit. "Real comfy, isn't it? It's already getting warm." She said. "But I guess that's the price you pay for safety."

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"Took you long enough, Obie," Paris muttered, slipping into his own protective suit with unthinking ease. Louder, to Peri he added "Service room on which floor? This place is all corners and most of it," he waved up at the sheer green-grey walls arcing overhead "is under vanity plates as it is."

 

Taking the security card offered him he looked curiously at the name and face below the laminated cover. Fake IDs were as common as bad sushi in the Emerald Cities, with countless small outfits providing everything you could want to walk into nearly any building on any shore side of the Pacific. The generically-brown young man staring out at him appeared, at first glance, to be just another of the countless part-Native folks wandering the Columbia Basin, but if you looked a little closer...

 

A render, looks like a composite from...yeah, traffic cams, the eyes have that grain in them, all the cheapos have that problem. Spide-E must have handed given Peri these, wouldn't be hurting for them with all the jenkos she puts away.

 

Paris couldn't help but smile a little. Emerald Spider had only been active since 2016 and she'd already become a city favorite. Still smiling, he watched the older guy get into his suit, stifling a grin at his awkwardness with the cumbersome padded K-fiber equipment. The day was looking up already.

 

"They've got this power source, I hear," he volunteered to the woman who appeared to be Warp, not looking away from Hakim's struggles "the fuel it uses gives off a real strong gas which they keep out of the actual rooms where people work with a kind of chemical shield. Rest of the place not so lucky, I heard it knocked a service guy out because too much got into his lungs. Was wearing a gas mask, too. Not to mention it can get scalding hot or freezing cold in there, depends what they're working on..."

 

 It suddenly dawned on Paris that he was staring openly. Snapping himself out of it, he turned pointedly to the door inside "Anyway, uh, up we go! Let's hope this works." 

 

It had also dawned on Paris that, if caught, he'd lose this chance forever. It didn't help that all of this had been his idea, too.

 

Today was going to be terrible.

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