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April 25th, 10:00 a.m.

West End, Sid's Cafe

 

After a few more messages sent back and forth, a meeting time and place had been set for Sid's Cafe. It had everything the heroes could want, ranging from coffee and baked goods to cider and salads, but most importantly, it had a small, second floor dining room that they could reserve. With four walls, a closed door, and creaking stairs leading up, it provided ample privacy to discuss their business while also satisfying the desire of some for a public meeting place.

 

Arriving at Sid's gives a warm welcome in the form of tempting aromas. Judging from the crowd of people in the bottom floor happily chatting as they sip their coffee, brunch seems to be a busy time for Sid. Thankfully for those who order food, the staff behind the counter keep the line moving quickly and efficiently. The decor is precisely what one would expect from a highly modern cafe. None of the tables are of the same design, nor are the chairs. The only common thread between them is that they are wooden. The restaurant has a purple wallpaper decorated with fleur-de-lis, although hardly any remain visible under the mass of pictures and various idiosyncratic junk mounted on the walls.

 

Regardless of one's tastes towards the design choices, the second floor proves adequate for the heroes' devices, sequestered away from the customers downstairs. The table in the middle of the roof is large enough to accommodate eight, although on one side it has a long, purple sofa instead of chairs. Along the walls of the room are three more tables, all designed to seat two people. Along one wall and leading out onto a veranda are a pair of french doors letting in the majority of the room's light. Judging from the hum of muffled conversation from below, it is apparent that the walls are thick enough to keep a quiet conversation within the room.

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Normally, Terrifica would be missing work for this. She was a university professor, after all. Fortunately, the Hanover Institute of Technology (not to be confused with the Massachusetts one, where she was gainfully employed) was forever asking for her to guest lecture for this class, or consult on that experiment. It was a simple matter to have a colleague cover her classes and go into Freedom for a day. She’d have to go by HIT later in the day, but that should also be a simple matter.

 

She had arrived from outside, on the veranda. She’d climbed up with her grapple gun. It had felt…wrong…to just stroll into a café in full costume. She had been sitting quietly in a corner chair (furthest from the door to the ground floor) for well over an hour now. She wasn’t bored. She had plenty of things to think about. She had no intention of controlling the meeting. She was, of course, wearing her longcoat. Feeling a bit parched, she produced a thermos of herbal tea from one of its big pockets. She poured some into the lid, sipped quietly, and waited. The Chameleonic Projector (removed from her utility belt after replacing the grapple gun) hid her from normal light, after all. The only one who’d notice her there was Miracle Girl. And Terrifica did love a good entrance. Something about costumed detective work demanded a flair for the theatric.

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Replica was standing on the roof of Sid's Cafe, ready too make her landing on the second floor. Simply walking into the cafe in costume was to much of a risk to the security of the meeting, by her assessment. Sure, she knew it was statistically improbable that any of the coffee-goers would be aggressively nosy about what she was doing here. This was Freedom City after all, and its citizens knew the protocol when it came to respecting superhero privacy. Still, chances were that someone would have been bold enough to try to sneak a picture of her on their phone, and Replica preferred not to have to use her powers to rummage through someone's device just so she could delete a couple pics. Other people's privacy was just as important as her own after all.

 

Clearing the scenario from her head, Replica made a short jump off the roof to the veranda below. She made her way past the doors and decided to make herself at home at the center table once she scanned the room and realized that no else had made it to the meeting yet. 

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Miss Grue

Floating invisibly above the cafe was the giant egg-shaped craft that was Baby, the craft that had bought Daphne almost five parsecs to Earth. Baby was content to hover with only Mother Unit, nervously, waiting for Daphne to return.

 

Their erstwhile owner arrived in a rather dramatic manner phasing through the roof. She also had a massive grin on her face and was giving a little wave, that spoiled the impressive entrance.

 

"Hello there I'm Miss Grue! Glad to meet you in the flesh!" having grown up among Simulated Intelligences she didn't make any distinctions or judgements.

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Replica greeted the alien in kind. "Likewise, Miss Grue. My handle was Lifelike in the chatroom, but I usually go by Replica in case you were wondering." 

 

While she still considered herself "awkward" when it came to social interactions she thought that one more than efficient. 

 

 

 

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Temperance arrived in some simple, light clothes for the late spring. The heavier parts of her costume were in the bag, her navy blue Doc Martens were covered under her pant legs, and a bottle of water from which she could craft her mask. She stopped at the counter, picking up a cappuccino and a slice of tuxedo cake before doubling back to the table. 

 

"Glad to see you again," she said, looking to Miss Grue. She turned to the others. "As for you, I don't think we've met yet. I went by NiceIceQueen on the Discord group. My name is Temperance. I've been trying to listen to the spirits for insight into this situation. I've got contacts out looking for more intel; hopefully, they'll be able to drop me a line soon." 

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Casey was overthinking this; she spent a ridiculous ten minutes trying on different wigs, makeup and outfits trying to come up with some sort of new persona for 'Cookie', from 'art school chick' to 'genki girl' and everything in between. But in the end, she decided Cookie was just Casey Blankenship, and she prayed to God and the universe that her secret identity stayed intact.

 

So it was plain old Casey who walked into Sid's Cafe; the major change from her normal everyday wear was the lack of any FCU or Pi logos on her rather generic sweats. Dressed down with her hair up, glasses on and a lack of any sort of golden glow, she looked pretty normal as she got in line to place her order. A quick x-ray scan of the second floor indicated that pretty much everyone was already there, but most didn't have anything to drink, so the Girl Scout thoughtfully ordered a pot of coffee, several danishes and a breakfast sandwich (the last one was for her), and borrowed a tray to bring everything upstairs.

 

"Hey!" Her super-strength allowed her to hold the heavily-laden tray with one hand as she waved, a radient smile on her lips. "Cookie here! Got us some coffee and snacks, plus cups and sugar and cream and stuff." Placing the tray on the middle table, she reached into the hemp bag over her shoulder, and then there was a blur of motion and a rush of wind that ruffled a few of the paper napkins, and just like that Casey had switched to her heroic persona. "I'm also Miracle Girl. Nice to meet you all!" Then she turned to Daphne and smiled. "Except you; I know you!" She gave Miss Grue a quick hug before fixing herself a cup of coffee and tearing into her bacon, egg and cheese bagelwich.

Edited by Heritage

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Everyone was here, which was good. There was little chance Miracle Girl had missed her, even if everyone else was unable to see her. This was also good. She deactivated the Chameleonic Projector, and sipped her tea, crossing one leg over the other. “LittleMissTerrific here, though most of you would know me better as Terrifica.” She slipped the small gadget back into her utility belt. She remembered when Miss Americana had gone berserk as a result of possession by the ghost of Lady Liberty’s past self, and there'd been an adventure or two she had shared with Miss Grue as well. “Meeting up is lovely, but let’s not forget we have a job to do.”

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"Of course, Terrifica." 

 

That was unexpected. She didn't flinch, which was one of the perks of being an android, but she did wonder whether Terrifica had been here the whole time watching? Replica's mind immediately wanted to analyze the cloaking technology she possessed. Was it made out of some kind of exotic meta-material? How did it nullify the EM spectrum? Perhaps it used concentrated plasma to distort broad-waves? She had to put those thoughts aside. She tended to get to easily distracted when new unknown technology was around and didn't want to get caught in inquiry loop endlessly pondering a single subject. 

 

She rose from the center table and addressed her fellow heroines. "For those unaware. I'm Replica. You might know me as Lifelike on the chatroom. Perhaps we should initiate the meeting by sharing any more information we found about these bikers? I admit that I found very little relevant information on them besides that they aren't terribly notorious in Freedom City's underworld."

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April 25th, 10:17 a.m.

West End, Sid's Cafe

 

With the entire group assembled and pleasantries just exchanged, the knock on the door from Detective Fantoni is extremely timely. He pushes open the door a crack and announces his arrival again before entering, clearly giving anyone who wishes a chance to put on a mask.

 

The detective is dressed smartly in a cream-colored suit and a red tie. While the clothes themselves are impeccable, the man himself seems ragged, with unkempt, dirty-blond hair, 5 o'clock stubble, and bags under the eyes. He does his best to give a warm smile nevertheless.

 

"Good to see you all here. I'm Detective Fantoni. I'm surprised at the amount of interest this string of robberies has garnered. I know a couple of you already... Terrifica." He gives a nod. "Regardless, I'm not here to step on toes. I truly appreciate the help."

 

After introductions conclude, the detective steps up to the table and tosses a folder onto it. "Down to business, I've got bad news and worse news. The bad news is they struck again. Granted, that means there is a fresh scene to examine, but still..." Fantoni flips open the folder and slides out a couple of pictures. One shows the storefront of a place called The Galerie, while the rest are pictures of the damage inside, smashed display cases, splintered wood, and... a frightful bloodstain on the sidewalk out front. "The worse news is that they've just put a cop in the hospital.

 

Fantoni leans onto the table and lets out a sigh before continuing. "Officer Curtis Reagan, 21. Graduated from the academy less than two months ago. The poor kid wanders up as part of his beat, notices the robbery taking place, and tries to intervene. To the kid's credit, most rookies would either panic and freeze or pull out their service weapon and open fire. This kid at least has the good sense to call it in, then grab his taser rather than risk shooting a civilian fleeing the store. From what little Officer Reagan was able to tell us before he passed out, he tagged one of the robbers, which did nothing except piss the guy off. Next thing Reagan knows, he's got claws buried in his chest, teeth around his throat, and he's being thrown into the side of the building, two stories up." The detective shakes his head.

 

"They don't teach you about that in the academy. Reagan collides with a second-floor window, tumbles down onto the pavement. Backup and EMTs arrive minutes later, and the kid is taken to the hospital. No one else was injured, but Reagan is in critical condition with... well, I'll spare you the details. Lots of broken bones and cuts, plenty of internal damage. He's in critical condition now, and it's a flip of the coin on whether he'll make it.

 

The detective stands up and looks around the room, taking in reactions and faces, before finding himself a chair to sit in. "So, these robbers were low priority before, just because they didn't hurt anyone outside of a couple bruises. Now they're on the top of ever district's most wanted for touching a cop. I'm afraid the next time they're sighted by a cop, it's going to be a shooting gallery. Not only will the robbers get killed, but we're running the risk of some gung-ho, wannabe Clint Eastwood in uniform tagging a few civilians in the process of getting revenge. We're on a time crunch. Now, I've got to get back to the office and try and sort this out before some rookie with something to prove stumbles into these guys. Hopefully you guys can capture the robbers before that happens. Any questions?"

Edited by NotAHoneyBadger

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Casey breathed in sharply through her teeth; Fantoni was of course right about the poor mauled cop and how it would affect the police. She had a great deal of respect for the FCPD, but like all police forces, they could be clannish and strike out when one of their own was attacked. And God forbid Reagan died...

 

"Okay, we need to figure out where theyre going to strike next," said the blonde heroine as she slowly rolled her coffee mug between her palms. "So far, they've only targeted jewelry stores in the West End, right? Have they ever hit the same store twice? If not, we come up with a list of any other stores in the neighborhood they haven't hit, and put eyes on them. Cops and capes at each location maintaining radio contact with each other." She shrugged. "Unless someone smarter than me can see a pattern to predict the next target."

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