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Texan BBQ


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Sept 1st, Redhill


It was a moderate sized southern town that bathed in sunshine. It could feel too hot mid summer, but the blaze had cooled a little and the friendly Texan town was now enjoying great weather. 


It was not a remarkable town, except for its annual Barbeque championships, where the finest chefs of the South congregated to explore new flavours, meats, and flames. Do not be mislead - this was world class cuisine despite its narrow remit. And it was not even as narrow as one might imagine. The cooking blended in from around the world. Indonesian, Nepalese, and Thia flavours and recipes permeated the event, and every possible variation and twist on the theme was not only allowed, but encouraged. 


And of course, Queenie was there. Being hounded by Mr Vernon Salt, a man of immense girth and considerable sweat, who fancied himself the second best BBQ chef in Texas. And wanted to be the first. "Please, give me a pointer!" "Just a little hint!" "Show me how to do it!" and other refrains bubbled from his bubbly lips.


This was pointed out by Ms. Samantha Pepper, agent of W.E.S.T, to Gossamer. 


"Thanks for coming, Ma'am" she said to Gossamer. "I know it was all a bit of a rush and you didn't get fully briefed" she started. "Doctor North requested your presence and probably gave you half the picture..." she added, almost apolegetically. 


Sam Pepper was a tall blond woman with clear blue eyes and a functional business suit. Her pretty face had a badly broken nose and her voice had a nasal quality. Texan, through and through, but educated, too. 


"World Exoctic Science Taskforce. Brand new. Logistical Nightmare. No official authority here" she explained. "But we have had some unusual chemical readings here. Nothing hazardous. Odd organic chemicals. We haven't had a chance to analyse properly, but the potential is there for self-replicating molecules. Grey Goo Scenario..."

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Maybelle McQueen was just having a good day. She wasn’t a barbeque specialist, but she could outdo most here, and they knew it. The best part was the guy following her around. Yes, she was better at Texas style barbecue than he was. That said, she was a South Carolina girl. There wasn’t a chance in hell she’d give up any of her secrets to one of those heretics. “Tell you what, sunshine.” She offered up a plate of pulled pork sandwiches. “Tell me what’s in the sauce I used and I’ll give you a bottle of it.” A tempting offer, as chemical analysis would give away much of the sauce’s secrets. However…this wouldn’t help him at all, as she’d bought the sauce from the supermarket in Freedom City. The real secret was the spice blend she’d cooked the pork in before adding the sauce. Though she’d timed the addition perfectly so that the difference between it and the spices being in the sauce could only be detected by a fellow master chef. If they were good enough, anyway.

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"What? Er....sure..." said Vernon Salt, taken aback at the mere fact that the worlds greatest chef had spoken more than two words to him!


He was expecting a mix of expletive and "off". In that order. 


Half expecting his mouth to explode, quite ignorant of the ruse, he put a piece of offered food into his mouth. 


"mmm...yes...ah...er....cinammon jam?" he ventured, completely clueless. "No...no....I mean....wooster sauce?" he ventured, arguably closer to the mark but completely wrong. In fact, so flummoxed he was by even talking to Queenie that he could barely remember to breathe, let alone focus on nuance of taste and scent. 


"Ohhh! I don't know I don't know? Its delicious though! Please! PLEASE! WHATS YOUR SECRET?" he said, starting to sob. "Is it Peruvian Salt? Japaense Mango? PLEASE!" he babbled. "ILL DO ANYTHING!"

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Since becoming 'enhanced', Dr. Estelle de Havilland had more or less accepted the fact her normal life, or as normal as it could be growing up in one of the world's wealthiest families, was a thing of the past. She was used to standing out in the crowd, and she shouldered it with relative ease and good humor.


So here she was, tall, blonde and striking in her sleek blue and white 'action suit', computerized armband on her left forearm and sporting a photographer's vest for it's many pockets. Her amazing golden hair was formed into a sort of parasol about three feet across to shield her from the intense Texas sun, and it dipped and bobbed as she looked about. When she spoke, it was in a perfect Mid-Atlantic accent, the product of far too many years of prep school and elocution lessons.


"Do we have any samples yet? Can it be sampled? If it truly are dealing with some sort of self-replicating nsnomachines, we may need to use some sort of force field technology to hold it, and I doubt we've got anything like that in the van."

Edited by Heritage
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"Sort of" replied Pepper. "Trace amounts, and biodegradable. The chemicals are unreliable, unpredictable. Inflammable..."


She paused. 


"Yeah...I set fire to the laboratory we used" she said, meekly. "I tell you what, if these chemicals ever get stabilised and mass produced, we solve the worlds fuel problems" she said. "But frankly I doubt it. Nobody wants their car blowing up..."


She looked around a bit suspiciously. "But be mindful of that. This could attract the wrong kind of attention..."


"I don't think they are nano-machines. Not really. Just self replicating chemicals, like RNA, that use organic molecules to feed into a quasi-valent helix loop" she said, more confident in her field. She gave a breif explanation of her theory which, too Gossamer sounded reasonable but unpolished. 


"Anyway, I got us these..."


She produced too hand held sensors. 


"W.E.S.T. Field sensors" she explained, giving a little explanation. "They can pick up any abnormalities in the EM Range, and can even do a basic field analysis of chemicals. Not enough to understand what we are dealing with. But they can at least test a sample to see if there is something unusual..."

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“My secret?” Maybelle’s eyes glittered. “You really want to know?” She put the plateful of sandwiches back on a table. The pulled pork sandwiches were only one of a dozen different barbecue items at her (rather large) booth. They were cooked in different ways, with different sauces. They displayed her wide expertise with cooking in general, not just barbecue. She hadn’t made literally all of it today, of course. But a significant portion was fresh cooked. Her pursuer would have to live with disappointment. There was no one secret spice blend or cooking technique that made her as good as she was. “I could tell you, but you won’t like it.” She was emphasizing her Southern accent now, drawling the words out. She leaned in conspiratorially and whispered. “I’m a total cooking nerd. And I experiment aaaaaaaaaaall the time.” She leaned back with a laugh. “It ain’t any one thing, sunshine. It’s a hundred different things.” She pointed at a depleted (thanks to hungry patrons) stack of ribs. “Mongolian technique there, but the spice rub I modified from an old Spanish cookbook I have. The sauce recipe was from Georgia the country before I tweaked it a bit to fit.” She pointed out a bowl that was once full of well sauced ground beef, but was now almost empty. The pile of tortillas next to the bowl were also well depleted. “Obvious Mexican influence, but the sauce is taken from a Sicilian I knew in culinary school. He never finished it, but I did. There’s this place in Koror, Palau-that’s in Oceania in the Pacific-that has some of the best roast pork I’ve ever had. That chef told me his spice mix, and I thought it would complete my old classmate’s sauce perfectly. I was right. This stuff is great.”


Maybelle, in full food nerd mode (flushed, eyes shining, etcetera), stepped over to an portable grill on which two fish steaks were cooling. “Now this is really exciting. There’s this Japanese tuna grilling technique I always wanted to try out, see? And there’s this French sauce that goes great with most fish, but not tuna.” Her hands were working, moving a tuna steak to a paper plate and slicing a piece with a silvery knife that hadn’t been there a moment ago. “I thought, okay, I know how bring out the best in tuna, I can tweak this sauce to fit. Now, let’s see.” Her fork had also not been there a moment ago, and the knife seemed to have returned from whence it came. She savored thoughtfully. “Eh…not a success, but not a failure either. As I thought, the sauce is too finely balanced. Any changes make it lose what makes it special.” She looked irritated. “Boo. Boooooo.” Her eyes refocused on Vernon Salt. “I’m sorry, where was I? Oh, right.” She set the paper plate aside. “My secret, sunshine, is letting endless curiosity fill me with knowledge and experimenting until I get it right. And love, of course. Anyone who doesn’t love to cook will always make a worse meal than someone who does.” She grinned. “Today’s non success is making me wonder how this sauce would taste soaked in breadcrumbs. I do believe I’ll make grilled crabcakes.” She put the remaining tuna steak on the paper plate and handed it to Vernon. “You won’t need a knife. It’s good and tender.” She stepped into her food prep area and started hunting for ingredients. Maybelle McQueen was as much artist as scientist in the kitchen, and there was a fierce joy about her as she worked. There was also a clear hunger to know, in a way that anyone could recognize but few could truly understand. She rode the line between practiced knowledge and wild creativity, and it was a hell of a thing to watch.

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Estelle winced and nodded. "Of course, my mistake. Nanomachines are such a bogeyman that we so-called 'heroes' have a tendancy to see them everywhere." She took the sensor and tested its heft; it appeared to be a sturdy piece of equipment. 


"Right, then. 'Lead on, MacDuff.'" 


The chemist motioned for the agent to lead the way. As they continued to walk, Gossamer indicated the town in general with a wave of her hand. "The timing of all this is unfortunate; have any extra precautions been taken due to the large amounts of visitors currently in Redhill? We could be looking at a potential Legionnaire's scenario," referring to the famous 1976 outbreak of L. pneumophila

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Vernon Salt, for his part, was keen to learn as well. He wiped his sweaty brow with his sweaty hand and tried to lap up every picosecond of demonstration. He was bold enough, on odd occassion, to ask question. As it turned out, he wasnt a bad chef at all. Limited in scope, perhaps, but no ignoramus. 


After all, he was the second best BBQ chef in the whole of Texas!


Sam Pepper, for her part trotted Gossamer over to a requisitioned truck crammed packed with rather disorganised and compact laboratory equipment. 


"Best we could do at short notice" she said, a little ashamed. "We are kind of new..."


It was sub-optimal, at best. But it would do in a pinch. Better than nothing. 


"The fact that this is a packed environment has certainly not helped our concern" she agreed, in reference to the Legionnaire's. "Im sure you appreciate WEST do not like big crowds around dangerous science...."


She pushed aside a microscope and shuffled some papers to help tidy the place. It wasn't of much help. 


"Its an explosive situation. Like, literraly explosive. If these chemicals are infact such high energy combustibles, could be an issue. We have put the FIre service on standby. North* has, in his normal way, managed to avoid too many questions about the threat. He has a gift, that man"


She pointed at a couple of fire extinguishers. "In the mean time, just be aware we have these...." she said, unhappy. They were not much. But as with the equipment, better than nothing. 


*Doctor Norris North is director of W.E.S.T

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Watching Maybelle McQueen was watching a master at work. It was not like watching a master at work. It was literally watching a master in the prime of her talents display her mastery. There was probably a better chef somewhere on the planet, but Vernon Salt (in all likelihood) had never seen them. It wasn’t just that, though. She was teaching Salt as she went. She had graduated at the top of her class from culinary school, and some things a body just couldn’t pick from practice. So, periodically while the crabcakes grilled, the world’s finest chef handed out (for free!) some skilled instruction in the culinary arts. For Salt, and anyone else who had a general question. Maybelle didn’t mind at all. As long as everybody got along and had some fun, she’d share some of what she’d learned in school.  Her personal techniques, well, they weren’t available. That said, there was plenty of public domain knowledge and skills that she was surprised folks here lacked. And before god and everybody, her crab cakes turned out amazing. “I do believe this’d pass muster in Baltimore.” She was grinning like a fool. “Try some, everybody. It’s good eatin’.”

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There was eatin', and it must be said, the eatin' was good. The worlds finest chef got a hearty round of applause, and many a stomach was bloated. It seemed that she was pleasing everyone. 


But not quite!


For onto the stage stomped Mr. Fernando Figg. A giant of man, with a giant beard. Tattoos wound their way over bulging veins. He was blessed with plenty of muscle and plenty of fat, slabbed liberally on a broad big boned frame that was well over six foot. 


Big Figg they called him. 


And he was, apparently, the number one BBQ man of Texas. 


"Whats this, Pepper? Cheatin' again? You gettin' help? Nobody gonna help you. I'll kick their damn ass!"


Lamentably, Big Figg's excellent skills on the BBQ were marred by his brute personality. 

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Maybelle McQueen wasn’t just a good chef. She was also a professional superhero, and as such, always put herself between jerks and their targets. Heck, she did that before she got the Ring (she didn’t take it off anymore, honestly).  She didn’t bother putting her forcefield up, as this guy probably couldn’t hit her, anyway. But she still stepped in his way and looked all the way up at him. She wasn’t even bothered by him. Murderous space pirates were much scarier than this apparent meathead. “Now, now, sunshine. I’m not helping him with his barbecue. Just improving his basic skills a bit. I’ll even teach you, if you like. But if you want to make it a competition,” She smiled winningly. “I’d be happy to take you down a peg or three.”

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"YOU? teach ME? HUAW HUAW HUAW HUAW HUAW!" faux-laughed Big Figg. "Let me tell you, Figg takes lessons from nobody!" he said. 


It was unclear if he recognised the worlds greatest chef as the chef who was the greatest in the world. But he did have an evasion coming up. 


"I ain't havin' no competition but the Barbeque one. Whaddya think this is? The Great British Bake off with Mel and Sue...not that...I...ah...not that I watch that off course..." he added, looking rather ashamed for a moment. 


"This here is Barbeque Land! And I'm going to win like never before!" he said, confidently. 


He threw some food down on the nearest grill and pulled out his secret blend of herbs and spices and...well...stuff. 


"You up for a BARBEQUE OFF?" he challenged Maybelle?

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Maybelle held up one finger. “One moment, please.” She went into a storage bin at her booth. She took out and put on an white apron Then, she extracted an unlabeled glass bottle of sauce. Lastly, she took out a battered chef’s hat. She put it on her head and turned around, revealing what the apron said on the front. In big, bold burgundy letters it proclaimed her the MCQUEEN OF BBQ. She grinned wide. “Now I’m ready. Let’s throw down, punk.”  She whipped out, from a cooler, a slab of mutton. It bore the marks of having been marinated in spices. “West Texas style.” She placed it on a wood (mequite, if anyone asked) grill, and pulled out (from another cooler) a metal bowl full of sliced and sauced pork. “East Texas style. Did this earlier.” She placed it on a nearby counter top, and at last unleashed a raw slab of beef ribs (this would be cooler number three, for those keeping track at home) on a second, larger wood grill (various woods, the specific combination of which Maybelle would probably take to her grave). Distance and an electric fan angled direct between the two prevented any contamination between grills. The beef ribs had been rubbed down with spices, as well, but different ones. Mostly salt and black pepper, but there were hints of something else as well. “Central Texas style.”


Maybelle had not stopped grinning. “I’m a fair woman. I’ll let you pick which style I kick your butt with.” With that, there was nothing else to be said. There was cooking to be done, and the world’s finest chef had plenty of practice keeping an eye on multiple dishes. She ran a bustling restaurant, after all.

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"You got styles. But I got STYLE" replied Big Figg. But was a speck of doubt splintering over his confident exterior?


Yes. Yes it was. 


Still, he could not back down right now. He cracked his knuckles and got to work. "I dont do North, South, East or West" he said, arrogantly. "I take a bit from everywhere. Hell, I'll even take a bit from Germany if it works. And that's saying something. You ever tasted German cooking?" he laughed, too various chortles from this person and that in the audience. 


"I got flavours that will explode on your tongue like a scud missile. And flow over your mouth like Cleapoatra's mile bath" he said, boast after boast. 


Vexatiously, they were not entirely without cause. Big Figg was not half the chef Maybelle was, but this was his speciality. What he lacked in breadth of skill, he made up for in depth. 


The contest had begun!

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Why had Maybelle whipped out the prepared meats? Well, she’d noticed Figg had done the same. No need to fall behind. She was a bit concerned that he’d set his meat and then himself on fire, but eh. It was a barbecue festival. There were fire extinguishers everywhere. And failing that she had the Ring. East Texas was long done. Central Texas only needed a wary eye. It was West Texas that was her showcase. Before the meat was even hot she pulled a silvery brush from nowhere and spread some sauce from her bottle over the mutton. She used a light, barely there touch. The mesquite wood was a touch smoky, but that was the point. The other wood grill was producing a clear, consistent flame. It was managing the wood that took up her time on that side. The temperature had to be just right, and with a variety of woods it took careful balancing to get it right. Periodically she’d drift back over to the mutton and lightly brush more sauce over it.


Time went by, and at last she judged the mutton and beef ribs done. Wood grills couldn’t be simply shut off, but she covered them up. She had platters ready for both sets of meat. From a storage container, she produced sandwich rolls. “Maybe it’s cheatin’ a bit, but I baked these yesterday. Plain bread, I promise. They’re for East Texas style, so y’all can have some sandwiches.” She also produced small bowls, which she filled with her sauce. “Central Texas style, if anyone wants to dip or something.” And of course, there were paper plates. With everything set up so folks could serve themselves, Maybelle drifted over to where Figg had finished up. She got herself a serving, and took a bite. The man had skills, she couldn’t lie. But… “Eh. I mean, it’s good. It’s really good. But I can also tell you’ve never had formal culinary training. These two spices-“ She named them. “Always conflict with each other. You can do some interesting things with that, but not in barbecue. And your flames were a little too hot. Didn’t quite get full heat to the bones before the skin started charring.” She took another bite, thinking. “Basically…A plus for the idea, B minus on execution. I like it and I’d eat it again” She grinned. “But mine’s better.”


Between the two booths, various attendees had been putting the truth to her words. With her previous work, she’d arguably been holding back. But for the competition? Grown men were crying tears of joy, murmuring through full mouths about how they didn’t know barbecue could be this good. A woman was loudly proclaiming her new love for mutton. And so on, and so forth. “Go on, Figg. Give it a go. I told you, pick whichever one you like. Or even all three. I promise you won’t be disappointed."

Edited by EternalPhoenix
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Figg tried all three. 






"Filth...oh hell!" he tried to complete his trio of proclamations. But he couldn't help it. The food was that good. 


"Alright! Alright! I got to give it to ya, this is damn good!" he said, shovelling more food in his mouth. 


There really was no denying it. As good as his own meats had been, Maybelle had outshone him, and the crowd declared her the winner by applause. 


"I guess that makes you the best BBQ chef of Texas!" said Vernon Pepper, trying to ccream off the glory by osmosis. Figg just grunted, not best pleased, but quite aware the crown had fallen. 




There was a mighty pillar of fire and smoke that exploded from the grill he had left some of his food on. It must have been two dozen feet high. Screams and shrieks filled the air. THere were more than a couple of light burns from those nearby. Both Figg and Salt were thrown back from the erruption, and as Maybelle caught the tail end of it, she sore Figgs hair on fire...


And nearby...


Sam Pepper and Gossamer both saw and heard the explosion. In credit to Sam, she was reacting in an instant, picking up one of the fire extinguichers and a WEST scanner. "Come on! That's our call!" she said to Gossamer, a smile on her face as she anticipated some ACTION!

Edited by Supercape
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“Texas?” Maybelle laughed. “I’m the best in the-“ Then Figg’s grill basically exploded. She dodged a surge of flames, but the concussion swatted her to the ground. She wasn’t injured, but it didn’t feel good either. There was a moment of sheer panic before she found her battered chef’s hat. It was a treasured heirloom and she thanked God it wasn’t damaged. She carefully put it back in its armored case in her storage area. Chucking her apron aside, she grabbed Figg and poured the rest of her sauce over his head to snuff the flames. “Get out of here!” She yelled at both Figg and Salt, and shoved them for good measure. What the hell had just happened? Answers could wait. First step, put the fire out. Her forcefield flicked on and she flew over the remains of Figg’s grill. Fire needed oxygen, so she simply slapped a cylindrical dome of silvery energy over the tower of flames (all the way to the ground) and waited for it to burn itself out. There should be emergency crews standing by at a festival like this one, and after the fire was out she lend them whatever help they needed.

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Gossamer felt the shockwave all the way down to her boots, and then felt a sudden wave of nausea in the pit of her stomach. "Oh god, it's happening!" Her hair unfurled from a parasol into a golden cloud that hovered around her, one tendril reaching out to grab a first aid kit as she followed hot on the heels of Agent Pepper, still toting her scanner. Estelle then formed her hair into sort of soft cow catcher to part the crowd before, bellowing as loudly as she could to give people a chance to get out of the way.


"Look out, look out, science team coming through!"

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The crowds parted like butter spread thinly on a hot anvil. Such was the effect of explosions. 


There were several people singed, and some badly. Sam Pepper started applying some first aid; part of WEST field training. The call to emergency services had already been made, and thanks to WEST's pre-warning, were not far out. Fortunately, Gossamer could see even with her basic first aid training that nobody had, fortunately been seriously hurt. The nearest person was Big Figg, who was patting out fires on his body through gritted teeth. He was made of strong stuff, Big Figg. 


"Wow! What the hell was that?" said Vernon Salt, actually taking a moment to relish in Big Figg's calamity. For the explosion had originated from his collection of spices, herbs, and various accondimants. 


"Whatever it was, its dangerous..." muttered Sam Pepper loudly and redundantly. 

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Queenie had the fire out, and here came the science/rescue teams. Good. She landed softly, marched right up to Big Figg, and glared (all the way) up at him. “There’s flammable sauces, and then there’s explosive ones. Where did you get it? I want to file a complaint with the manufacturer.” She glared harder. “Don’t tell me it was all you, because then you’re on the hook for all the injuries and property damage. That’s a lot of jail time, Figg.”

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"I can't reveal my sauces!"








After the tumbleweed had rolled past, Figg had second thoughts about his predicament. 


"Look, I didn't know it was explosive, right? I mean, it worked when I tried it before! Maybe a little fiery, but it cooked like a charm!" he explained. "I got it from this punk. He said he wanted to see if it worked ok as a cooking fuel. He had a nasty old attitude on him though. Damn him, using me as his guinea pig!" he cursed, giving an massive spit onto the singed grass. 


"He should be around here, somewhere. Can't miss him. Orange mohecan and orange sunglasses. Looks like a damn idiot if you ask me...."

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Luckily there were no truly serious injuries amongst the crowd, though it looked like this Mr. Figg might have more serious burns. Even more fortunate was the presence of Maybelle McQueen, who appeared to have single-handedly extinguished the blaze. As soon as she finished checking the last of the injured, she approached the world famous chef, shielding her eyes with her hand.


"Thank goodness you were here, Ms. McQueen! That fire was no match for your force creations." She offered a firm handshake. "I'm Dr. Estelle de Havilland, and this is Agent Sam Pepper. How do you do."


At the mention of Figg's shifty supplier, Estelle frowned. "Well, let's have a quick look 'round, shall we?" She drove several strands of hair deep into the ground, and then hoisted herself up into the air with the rest, some fifty feet above the crowd to get a better vantage point.

Edited by Heritage
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Queenie shook Estelle hand. “I use Queenie when I’m doing the hero thing, sunshine.” She smiled apologetically. “Helps keep things separate, at least in my head.” She turned the smile on Agent Pepper too. “Sorry about all this.  I saw he had something flammable but I didn’t think it would, well, explode.” She shrugged. “Yeah, let’s find this guy. You take that side, and I’ll take this one?”  She flew up, back to back with Estelle. The sunglasses could be ditched, but a Mohawk was hard to hide. Especially an orange one.

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From a vantage point, a orange mohecan was not hard to find. 


There it was! Placed on top of shiny head which was, in turn placed on a punks body, full of leather and tattoos and suspicious looking bags of suspicious looking equipment. 


Getting into a gas guzzling monster truck with huge tires, with a smile on his face, accompanied by a couple of less descript but equally smug henchmen thugs....

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There were no flies on Queenie. She pointed out the truck immediately. “There he is. Looking very self satisfied.” She was in front of the monster truck so fast to normal human eyes (as she was just under the speed of sound) she’d have appeared like magic. She floated high enough to be seen through the windshield. Her arms were folded and she had a stern look on her face. “Okay, folks. Let’s, for once, have a nice quiet surrender. You go to jail, and I don’t have to blast anyone into next Tuesday.”

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