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September 21, 2018

11:14 AM

Southside, Freedom City

 

"And right over there's the ArcheTech Disaster Aid Southside HQ!" Nicole waved an arm grandly at the squat, old building that sat at the corner of two avenues. It was rendered in a red-bricked style, as if it were from another century, though that image was marred somewhat by the the graffiti spray painted on its walls. Most of it were painted over but what Ajasoro could make out hinted at small-time gang signs, rude messages railing against the authorities, and cussing aimed at those '****ing aliens'. Buildings all along the area were in similar straits, faded in color and lacking in life. Down the street, only one store remained open amid all the shutter-closed stores, a mom-and-pop pharmacy where a man was smoking a cigarette beside the doorway.

 

With a screech of tires on asphalt and its doors still open, the bus Nicole and Ajasoro had taken sped away as if it was eager to get to its next stop in record time. The two girls were the only souls in the bus stop, and it was nearing noon, a time that for all purposes should have brought busy streets and crowds, though they could only hear those city sounds in the distance.

 

It could have been another world for all that they were alone.

 

They were only at the outskirts of the Southside, where the west of Lincoln blended into eastern Southside and also where the effects of the Terminus invasion had lingered, even after the physical damage had been long rebuilt.

 

"Not the greatest." Nicole's face fell with the admission as she began to drive across the street's pedestrian lane on her wheelchair. She wore a sunny yellow blouse, dark blue pants, and a pair of off-white rubber shoes. "Even with Doctor Metropolis fixing this area back to its pre-invasion state, the people living here still haven't been able to pick themselves up. Guess there isn't an economy-heal superpower yet."

 

She chuckled at the thought. "Ever been somewhere here before?" With her vague wording she could have been referring to the local area, the city, or even a figurative dump of a place like they were in.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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White Lioness

Àjàṣorò, or Sara as she was outside of Claremont, was meant to be a native of the East Coast so she'd made sure to spend some time in Freedom City before coming to the place officially. It had been a shock to see how different the people here lived compared to Dakana, where it was far from perfect but everyone had at least a decent standard of living. It didn't put her off though she was determined to understand more about why thing were the way they were and maybe one day her people could try and help out with the knowledge they had gained.

 

"My people sent aid to the city and I travelled with them to help where I could." as well as handing out aid she also helped out as White Lioness, it amused her that some of the superhero board were talking about her as an urban legend.

 

She was dressed quite plained compared to normal bright colours, a simple long blue dress with a pair of practical sneakers. She could if needed to deploy her costume in a few moments, though she was more than capable of fighting like this.

 

"It would be quite a shock to anyone what happened here." she remembered the struggles she had herself on that day "But people are resilient and this place will recover. It is up to us to ensure that things get better for them!"

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"Yeah, I remember that." Nicole nodded and gave Sara a sardonic smile. It was a story worth every buck in the bucket. The most technologically advanced nation on Earth sending a whole contingent of its disaster relief workers to alleviate the pains Freedom City had just received. The Dakanans were gleaming in their robes, transports floating with anti-grav engines as numerous as rubber tires were on American cars. "And so did anyone who turned on the TV even once. You were there, doing what heroes are supposed to do."

 

They reached the pavement and Nicole suddenly stopped and turned so her wheelchair to face Sara. The young engineer-mage fidgeted in her seat, uncomfortable. "You know, I appreciate what you did then, really." Her eyes were weary behind her glasses as she looked up at Sara. "I wasn't there. After the invasion ended I mean. I was holed up in my apartment until everything was more or less okay, but they never really were."

 

She shook her head and looked around her. Though a man poked his head out the doorway, looking straight at the two girls clearly waiting for them, she ignored him and continued as if this were her first time confessing. "I fought then but I wasn't there after. It's a rush, fighting in Bellios," she said, referring to her armor. "You feel so powerful compared to what I am without it. But when the fighting's done and you leave and what does that say about you?"

 

"Maybe I didn't meet you personally then," she wrung her hands over her well-worn thermos of coffee. "But you were there, bringing people to their feet again, so fresh and beaten but not down. You saw the best in people, and maybe that's why you're so happy. All I saw was the war."

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White Lioness

"Freedom might have been the worse attacked but it wasn't the only city that the Terminus invaded. Dakana had to drive off a wave of Omega Drones after the treasures of the Sacred Mountain." even though she thought it stupid and old fashion she wouldn't reveal the secret of the beast they guarded


"As the White Lioness I personally stopped them from establishing a permanent portal powered by the Singing Hills, a tale that I will not tell for anyone." she sighed "I'm not trying to score points on who suffered the most, many suffered and will alas continue to stuffer for a while longer. But humans are resilient and will strive to make things better, and I believe that you will be one of those people!"

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"You mean Daka crystals as the treasures," Nicole blurted out before she could stop herself, then realizing her mistake she gave a very unladylike snort and drove forward.

 

She wasn't mocking Sara, not deliberately anyway, but the princess had a way of making things sound easy. Dakana stopped this and she stopped that and all that. Maybe they had it easy with being the most powerful country on Earth, pound for pound, but sometimes too easy meant there was a catch if one looked closer. "You keep it on saying that, the resilience of people. I dunno, I just feel crappy after leaving everyone once the excitement was over."

 

"But you're very... optimistic." Nicole decided on a compliment instead of all the other adjectives floating in her mind.

 

***

 

They went up the ramp and there was the man waiting for them on the top. He was balding on the top of his head, a man nearing middle-aged, but he still looked solidly-built, even wearing a jacket over a plain shirt and jeans. As they reached the glass doors that served as the entrance, he pushed the doors open, nodding to Nicole then Ajasoro as they entered.

 

If Ajasoro was expecting a high-end, state-of-the-art facility complete with the bustle of scientists huddled in corners or over blackboards, the hum and whir of machinery, and papers strewn everywhere then she would have been sorely disappointed. Instead what waited for her was a completely mundane looking floor renovated to serve as a cafeteria-cum-soup kitchen. White, plastic tables were laid out in rows starting near the entrance all the way to the other side of the room where the counter of food was, and beyond that was presumably the kitchen. The walls were painted a cheery yellow with placards of inspiring quotes and pictures.

 

Like the streets outside, only a few people were present. A family of four eating at one of the tables. One serving woman, wearing a hairnet and apron, was busy on her phone while she manned the counter. A man wearing shabby clothes and smelling strongly of tobacco brushed past them and exited the building carrying a small box of supplies between his hands. There were a few others, mostly what seemed like ArcheTech employees in blue-collar clothes moving around the cafeteria and further into the building, or having their lunch.

 

However, Nicole's brows furrowed and she turned back to the guard. "Hey, Hank, why's everything so empty?"

 

The guard, apparently named Hank, shrugged and after a moment said tersely, "Supplies came in last night. Was emptied out. We're restocking now."

 

"Huh. And I didn't get a message? Nevermind."

 

"Guess we aren't doing the soup kitchen anymore." Nicole's shoulders seemed to slump a little, but then perked right back up. "But how does a tour sound like? I was planning on showing you around but I guess we could just do that. Nothing they wouldn't show an intern here anyway so you're probably good too."

 

She waved a hand at the cafeteria they were in. "So here's the cafeteria and what most everyone sees when they come in looking for a pick-me up. A lot of people think bleeding-tech and powers when they hear ArcheTech but what they don't know is that those are really expensive and sometimes it's just more practical to ship normal goods and food by trucks to a soup kitchen."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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White Lion

Whilst far from perfect her homeland had none of the problems that needed a place like this, ideally, each Clan looked, after all, it's people and there were safeguards in place for those that fell through the crack. But as she had to remember that Dakana was much smaller than the country that she was now inhabiting.

 

She paused for a moment in thought, there were many pitfalls in navigating the social dynamics of a place she almost, but not quite understood.


"If there was a need I could make a few calls and have supplies here within the hour" she whispered in Nicole's ear "If that isn't some sort of social faux pas, either way, a tour would be most acceptable.”

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"Within the hour?" Nicole said, eyebrows raised in surprise. "And how are they getting here or are they already in the city? I don't think Dakana has an embassy yet, do they?"

 

Nicole stopped after they passed the white double doors that separated the cafeteria from the rest of the building. They were in an empty hallway and she had forgotten to tour the princess through the cafeteria. 

 

Nicole looked up at Sara then quickly averted her eyes to stare at a wall, yellow plastered and plain. "It's not a faux pas, not really, but we already have all the food we need. Give it a day and I bet we would have restocked our stores again."

 

"It's--" Nicole fiddled with her fingers and bit her lips, clearly uncomfortable, but she seemed to decide on something and she brought her eyes back at Sara, resolute. "Look, we need more than just food and perishables. We could get those at any factory. We need what you have and what makes you so great and powerful and so free from the problems the rest of the world has."

 

It was a tumble, halting and awkward like a teenager unused to stirring the hearts of others but impassioned nonetheless. Her hands gripped the air as she struggled to find the words. "I brought not just to 'hang out' but to show you something more and to change your mind, and maybe I'm sorry I had to lie to you but I'm definitely not for my reasons."

 

"Because we need whatever you have that let's you transport supplies from wherever your secret American base is to here in under an hour."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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White Lioness

"We have a small embassy here in Freedom City, we're still learning to reach out to the rest of the world."

 

She was a little caught out by the plea, she was proud of her home for there achievement but she was still aware that it was far from perfect. Their technology had blunted most of the attacks from the invaders but there was still much that needed to be rebuilt. But nowhere had been hit quite like Freedom City.


"I can have a few volunteers down here pretty quickly, but they'll probably rely on mundane methods of transport." few would deny a request from the symbol of their nation "But maybe we could do something to help with the root problems? Is there not anything we can do to get the local inhabitants to get involved?"

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Nicole's shoulders slumped and she lightly thumped her forehead. Of course they had an embassy here! She should have done her homework instead of rushing this like there was no tomorrow. She looked back up, a little embarrassed at that goof. "No yeah, help would be great. I don't think I'm the girl to say so though. I could bring it up to Sai, the head here, and she'll probably say yes anyway."

 

Her wheelchair began to move forward as she ducked her head, hoping she had made up with Sara. "It's not that these guys can't be involved. It's just, the root problems are things that you can't just snap your fingers and hope they go away. You saw how it was outside, everything's fine. The infrastructure's there, the cars and the buildings, but there isn't life anymore. People just need something to get through today, you know?"

 

She sighed as she pushed they passed another doorway, going deeper into the building. They saw stacks of papers on desks, desktops, and whiteboards. This was more an office now than when they had first stepped inside.

 

"ArcheTech isn't the best at relief. We specialize in bleeding-edge tech and super-powers, but we try? Maybe I'm not giving you enough credit. You try. Dakana tries. But what if it isn't enough now? We tried but what happens when people need something more than trying?" Nicole shook her head and let the questions hang in the air. They were directed at Sara just as much to herself.

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White Lioness

Smiling reassuringly at her friend, well she hoped they were friends after everything, she softly spoke trying to explain how she believed things worked.

 

"The real strength of the Dakani people isn't our technology or even the Daka crystals, it the strength of our bonds as a people."

 

She'd knew her fellow student would be sceptical so she decided to tell the tale that her mother used to tell

 

"Long ago there came a terrible monster to the lands of our people each clan sent out a mighty warrior but the monster was too powerful and each was defeated. They a more wily, wiser warrior, tradition says it was the White Lion, pointed out that together they were much stronger. And together they defeated the monster and the nation of Dakana was formed."

 

She shrugged a little feeling a little self-conscious before cutting to the chase.

 

"It won't be easy but this community needs to heal itself, and to do that it needs symbols to inspire. That's what you can do inspire others to help themselves."

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"Heh."

 

Nicole scoffed and closed her eyes, smiling faintly. After a few moments of silence, she looked up at Sara.

 

"Guess you really are a fit for your thing. You make it work with the stories and the ideals," Nicole said, then shook her head.

 

"I get your point. It's the people that matter at the end and you and me can help in that, not just as symbols but in really doing something. I'm here, doing my part as Nicole, and... not the other person." She was clearly referring to her superhero alter-ego. "But you-- you can give the greatest help, even without any of the masks you wear, I think."

 

They stopped by a door to an office, glass walls letting them see an Asian woman inside dealing with paperwork. She was too busy to notice Sara and Nicole standing outside her room. A sign hung from the door telling Sara it was a Saito Karisse A. Graham inside.

 

"But think where I'm coming from. I'm an engineer at heart and no matter how much cooperation or people you have, sometimes you need a pulley to lift something heavy. People and tools, wouldn't it be nice to have both instead of just one?"

 

She looked at Sai inside the office. "Just wait here for a bit. I'll talk to her," and Nicole turned the knob and went inside, leaving Sara outside with her thoughts. 

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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