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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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“Huh, now that’s a way of getting in. I would’ve trusted Mars to have better security, but if this is enough to get in, I’m not gonna complain. Now, what’s the actual plan once we’re inside? Do we just wanna take a peek at his stuff or do we actually want to do more?”

 

All the while, he did his best to get into the suit. Which, from his experience, was already difficult enough when one wasn’t equipped with multiple layers of illusions and thaumaturgy, each of them making it ever more difficult because they had to be adjusted. And any fast or uncontrollable movement would just cause them to weaken, which he really couldn’t use right now.

 

“Peri, do you have any plans of the building or are we going in essentially blind? I might have a way to fix the latter case, but I’m not sure how safe it is..”

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"Since we're doing this because we want to check out the top levels let's go there first. After we know what he's hiding up there we can go anywhere else with less risk." Paris checked the door, searching for any little trips or traps that would goozle them "But we shouldn't stay any longer than we have to. I've been here before and getting out after getting in is harder than you'd think."

 

But Sha'ir had a point, there wasn't much sense for why Mars didn't have stricter rules or harsher surveillance on people who were tinkering with the most vital parts of his biggest publicity stunt. Why wasn't he taking more care? Was he expecting that, after he was fitted for the new suit, Salmon would take care of that? From what the Singapore guys had said, they'd expected to get plenty enough speed for him to do that and take care of the rest of the valley area at the same time.

 

"Hey," he called over to Warp "you heard of a guy called Jack Cooper? He designed some of the security for this place. Goes to Ee-See You. Real pale guy, kinda short, always wears flannel and a big scowl?" She looked and sounded the right age to be at the U, talked kind of like some of the people he knew there, too. It was a long shot, but...

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Emerald Spider

 

"Mr Mars is concerned about a chemical attack, so he has fairly robust filtration chemicals. Which ironically involves some fairly nasty chemicals itself, so it needs regular maintenance to stop it harming his own staff. Familiarity breeds complacency and all that as long as they see one badge they won't look too hard."

 

She added with not a little modesty.

 

"I designed the maintenance cycle for the building, I should be able to find somewhere close enough to where you want to go. Have the floorplan as well if you need them."

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Warp listened as Peri went on about the building, made a face and shrugged. "I wanna be all doom and gloom and 'sure he needs them,' but I don't know how any of this works, so maybe he does need all that dangerous stuff?" Apparently you could make a bomb with the stuff in your kitchen, so who's to say? 

 

Honestly, the ID trick didn't shock her one bit. "You can do whatever you like, put all the fancy tech you want in the way, but as long as there's people the only thing you really gotta do is talk past them and act like you're supposed to be there." Warp took 'her' ID card from Peri, gave it a quick lookover before pocketing it. 

 

Lionfish's next question took Warp by surprise. "Huh," Warp tilted her head to the side, absently tapping at the back of her neck, "Iunno Goby," she said. "Sounds kinda familiar, but I don't remember where from.

Edited by Curious Key

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“Sounds like Mars, alright. “Oh, we need one thing. Let’s do it in a way that includes that thing combatting itself” It’s not inefficient, sure, beyond being a giant security hole, and probably a massive upkeep devourer. But I guess he has his reason for doing it. Not that I’d expect anybody to strike this place when the boss is constantly out giving public appearances…”

 

He took the ID, pocketing it somewhere he could easily reach it. Not the easiest with this kinda suit.

 

“Oh yeah, floorplans would be useful. Means we’ll know where we’re going, and I can visualize them if we need to. I mean, I’m ready to go in at this point unless you wanna plan more. I’m also ready to take us all out of there at a moment’s notice and for Mars to invest heavily into anti-magic barriers afterwards…”

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Ishmael shrugged it off. "No worries."

 

"I don't think that's a good idea, to just zap in all of us at once. If we take it slow we can get an idea of what we're going to see and have to get around, while if we just go into the summit we could just as easily fall right into a giant grid of invisible tripwire lasers or sensory nanoclouds or something. Besides, can't have just stuck everything worth looking into at the top, got to be something lower down for everyday use."

 

"Are we just looking for evil science, recordings of him and suspicious people, falsified tax forms? Him being a dick? I think we should stick with the first and maybe the second, that's at least easy to verify." Paris said it lightly, but he was thankful that the suit had a high collar. He'd know in a glance if he was seeing one of the city's underworld figures talking with Mars, and if there wasn't some way to prove it outside of his say so, there'd be some pretty serious questions. None of which he could afford to answer.

 

I begged out of a meeting between the Mafiya and Old Hawk's people for this...

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Emerald Spider

Pulling out the company tablet Peri pulled up the digital version of the floorplans and offered them up to Bonfire. If she had the time she would have got the actual blueprints, but unfortunately, they hadn't had the time to plan properly

 

"Tertium Tower is probably the best place to access the systems, the further from Mars the less security will be. If you want the juiciest secrets then we'd want his main office at Primis tower, but that's probably a whole new bundle of problems."

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