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Swinging on a Star


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The Danger! mobile slid into traffic not long after Frost had called his old friend about the newcomer the league had recently completed debriefing.  Weaving effortlessly through traffic the famed car roared to a stop in a spot reserved for league members, Ace not for the first time shook his head at the absurd sign, when was the last time anyone but Frost actually drove and he borrowed a League car from the motor pool.  He hopped out of the open top of the convertible and strode up to the stammering security guard with a wink as he took the mans hand palming a generous tip as he did so, "Now you keep a good eye on her for me son."  he bade and with a snappy salute jogged up the steps to the main entrance flashing a smile to a familiar face behind the security checkpoint, "Charlie!  how're the kids?"  he asked as he made directly for the bypass waiting expectantly for the senior security officer he'd gotten the entry level job for almost a lifetime ago.


He flirted briefly with the receptionist as he waited for the elevator and rode casually up to the floor they'd indicated the newcomer awaited.  Frost having been called off for some business she was currently overseen by some staffers as Ace arrived taking in the scene in the small waiting area with a raised brow before stepping forward, "Greetings and Salutations."  the immortal greeted warmly, "Ace Danger at your service, Dmitri suggested you might be in need of a guide?"  he smiled wide.  Yes this was going to be an interesting task indeed.

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A few of the staff members were watching the woman in the waiting room with the same fascination that she was following the fish in the aquarium. Her white hair floated around her face, and her slender back was to Ace as she pressed her gloved hands to the glass of the aquarium. Her nose was almost pressed against the glass.


"But WHY do you keep the fish in a habitat in your building? Is it just to watch them swim? They are brightly colored. You have so very many creatures on this world... how do you even come up with names for all of them?" Her nose was all but pressed to the glass until Ace spoke and she turned with a bright smile on her features. Ace was one of the few people who might catch the resemblance to the dryads that the Preservers had made. None of the humans that Andromeda had encountered had any knowledge of those protectors but she really had tried to make a form that would show that she meant no harm to the humans or their planet. She offered Ace a bright smile. 


"I made 'a scene' when I arrived but not a GOOD scene. There are differences. It wasn't like a wedding but more like a car accident," Andromeda recited, "And I do not want to make BAD scenes. I just want to see the planet and all of the people and all of the THINGS. You have so very many things." Andromeda offered as she turned around and splayed her hands to her sides, the gesture wide, "Do you do the palm pressing of greeting? The hand shake? It is important that I ask before touching. Touching without asking is rude."

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Ace raised a brow at the pointed ears and fine boned features, it was a familiar form if not an exacting duplicate.  He flashed her the dashing Danger smile and extended his hand, "I'm happy to if you are miss."  he replied warmly, "I have been known to make at least four different palm presses of greeting sometimes in sequence as well as arm clasps, fist taps, and more."  he shrugged slightly as he deftly turned the shake into a brush of his lips to her knuckles.  "We, you will find, have many and varied forms of greeting."  the immortal straightened and walked with her to the tank.  "We humans have a bad habit of grabbing pretty things and putting them on display but these at least are well cared for an likely notice no difference beyond more plentiful food."


Turning to the attendants he raised looked curiously from one to another, "Is there more you all need from the lady or shall we be going?"  Ace inquired patiently.  He assumed whatever arrangements needed made Dmitri had attended to before calling him in but it never hurt to check after all.  When nothing was forthcoming ne nodded smartly and offered the fallen star his arm, "Well we'll have to ensure whatever scene we make next is of the good kind then won't we?"  he paused and looked down to her, "What do you prefer to be called?"  he glanced over her form, "I assume from the chosen body you prefer the feminine but have you chosen a name for yourself?"

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"I didn't choose my name, well, not REALLY. I go by the ones that your astronomers picked; Andromeda. Although it technically covers more than a few of my nearby fellows, they won't mind at all. They don't really pay much attention to your corner of space but I do. I think it's fascinating." Andromeda offered cheerfully. "In your newspapers, they called me the star child but that's not EXACTLY accurate. I'm not the child of a star, certainly, and I'm not a child at all; most definitely. I haven't been a juvenile for ever so long but then most of the story wasn't the MOST accurate. I mean, I didn't fall at all, not really. Well, not until I hit the atmosphere and even that was, well, aimed!"


She tucked her hand through the offered arm, offering a cheerful smile as she added, "What do I call you? Are you to be my keeper? I don't really need one but I know I'm not a prisoner but wandering around alone seems to make everyone nervous. I really, REALLY wouldn't hurt anyone. That would be wrong and cruel and callous and I try to be none of those things. I really didn't even fall, its just I was travelling very, very fast and it was a little hard to be close to this city but also not hit anything or anyone. There's so much life here, you see, that its difficult to find a place to impact without causing trouble. I couldn't even see how full the park was until I was through the atmosphere, you know, because it's a lot to try and do all at once, build a body and land and not hit anyone on the way down. It takes effort! I keep telling everyone that it wasn't an accident but I think that they may have some doubts which, I mean, I suppose I understand. I am ever so new to THIS form but I was careful.

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Leading the embodied star out of hte room once given leave Ace paused in front of the elevator down and turned to face Andromeda.  He frowned slightly in concern, "We like to put names on lots of things and to be honest are not terribly good at it just ask my great niece Skyler." he explained succinctly with a wry grin.  "But more seriously you have a delightful opportunity to define yourself so don't assume you have to use the name we came up with."  It was a rare moment of solemnity from the carefree adventurer.


"For myself I go by Ace, named for a dear friend of my fathers."  he offered as the elevator toned and he stuck out an arm to wave her in.  "And to be honest I'm not entirely certain what the intention was."  he waved back at the room where she'd been left waiting, "And care even less."  Ace added conspiratorialy thumbing the button for the lobby.  "I see my role as more guide than anything."  he offered with a shrug, "You'll find that people tend to overreact to alot of things they don't understand unfortunately."

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"I like Andromeda. I was very flattered when I was given it. Not all of us get names and it really doesn't occur to us to name ourselves. I've been thinking of myself as Andromeda for ages. Well, not AGES, you haven't known about me all that long in the span of existence but it was nice to be noticed!" Andromeda offered with a cheerful smile that was equal parts pride in her name and reassurance. Once again, she patted his arm lightly, "And I don't mind. I know that I'm not human, not really, though it's an interesting condition. I didn't want to start by lying. I mean, I can make this form look more... uhm, human? That's not quite the right word but it'll have to do. But as soon as I open mouth, I know that I sound very alien. I couldn't hear really, not at that distance, just watch and observe. I caught radio sometimes when you started to make those but I know that it's bound to seem a little off so it seems like its best to make that clear right up front and this is easier than wearing a sign that says 'new to humanity', don't you think?"


She let out a little breath of relief as they left the confines of the League building. Andromeda dropped his arm to spread her arms wide and turn her face up towards the sun. "It's SO blue. There's SO MUCH blue. Do you find that overwhelming?" She asked, face tipped up towards the sky. "I mean, I understand WHY. The light breaks apart in your atmosphere and scatters all the blue waves about first so its reflecting on millions and millions and millions of particles but its one thing to KNOW it and another to SEE it. I can't wait to see the sun set over the horizon. I didn't want to miss my first sunset."

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Ace nodded following along as she explained her feelings on the name and form and held the door as they exited the building.  "Well I must say the name suits."  he replied with a vague smile as he looked up with a smile at her wonder.  "Most don't look up enough to even notice really."  the ageless adventurer replied to her question and offered a small shrug, "Personally I enjoy the shades and shifts.  He filed away her desire to see the setting sun for the moment and led her down to the danger mobile top down and awaiting his return with the uncertain Freedom Hall guard still watching it.


Holding the door for Andromeda he offered the guard a snappy salute fo dismissal and once she was seated hopped in on his own side taking a long moment to buckle his seatbelt slowly that she'd be able to catch how it was done without him having to explain it.  "Another indignity of our fragility."  he joked lightly as explanation and eased the powerful automobile out of the lot and into traffic.  "You still have some time till sunset what else would you like to try?"  he asked gamely.

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"Everything. All the things!" Andromeda said, watching his movements before copying them carefully. Once she'd buckled herself into the car, she ran her fingertips over the leather and metal of the car - not the first person to touch the Danger!Mobile with wide-eyed wonder but she moved onto the sunglasses on the console with the same degree of fascination. While Ace talked, she opened up the glasses and lifted them up to her eyes, looking through the darkened lenses and then over them before repeating the gesture. "I want to see the oceans and the mountains and the woods and the cities. All of it!"


She set the glasses on the tip of her nose, looking over at Ace a little cross eyed as she tried to watch his face over the sunglasses lenses, "I thought that it was amazing when you all figured out how to make fire but, oh my goodness, then you just exploded! Not just in numbers but in all the things you make. There's so very many THINGS and not just things you need for food or shelter but just... making things to have made them! Do you know how rare that is? It's a gift and I've been wanting to see all of it for ever so long. And now I'm here! I had to wait and wait and WAIT until my heart stopped burning and it was time to end and begin again. Ages and ages."

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Humming a few notes Ace murmured under his breath, 'Shining, shimmering splendid...'  he wove in and out of traffic with effortless ease born of more practice than most were granted in a lifetime.  "Well then I think I have just the place."  he replied and hit the accelerator hard enough to to press them into their seats as he whipped the car around a corner to head southward down tenth towards the Pramas bridge.  If the thought occurred to him that the Freedom League docents would not usually open with so populus a locale as the Boardwalk it didn't show.  Besides if they knew what they were doing they wouldn't have needed a specialist.


He named off the wider streets as they zipped past them, noting easy landmarks visible from above to orient by and what might lay in one direction or another.  "Riverside and some of the better views of bay down that way."  he noted pointing, "and the other will take you up to wading way and Pyramid Plaza, can't miss it, ol Rhodes had a distinct style."  They hit the bridge at speed  and the Danger!-mobile roared as they zipped past cars making their way to bayview or the airport.  "The descriptively named South River."  he offered with a grin paying little enough attention to the road to elicit a couple honks and have likely frightened less engaged passengers, "This is the Pramas Bridge, Mona Glen is upstream where Route 6 crosses the river."  he offered yet another landmark.


After swinging onto Adams and slowing to a more sedate pace with less open road to play on he pointed out the general direction of Bayview and Southside and turned up to meander along the rivers south bank until the coasters and other rides could be spotted rising above the surrounding buildings.  This time he parked in his own reserved spot, being a Danger had it's perks, being one that had saved the park before puberty had a few extra.  "and finally our destination, the south river boardwalk, home of the most useless things we've yet to build."  he offered with a wide smile as he vaulted out of the car and offered his hand.

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"Oh, wow!" Andromeda murmured as she took in the blinking lights and overwhelming sounds of the boardwalk mid summer afternoon. When Ace opened her door - as he was the sort of gentleman to do exactly that and Andromeda wasn't entirely certain on how to go about opening it from the inside anyway - she stepped out a few steps, her head going back to take it in. She opened her mouth, trying to come up with the first of her many, many questions, before she snapped it closed again and then floated up from the parking lot to hover near the Ferris wheel. The floating mystery-woman drew a few concerned looks but nothing all that out of the ordinary for Freedom City, especially if Ace Danger was right there!


Andromeda drifted to follow the wheel around one full rotation before she floated back down to where Ace had been patiently waiting. With her toes still not touching the ground, Andromeda waved her hands around in wide circles, "But... why? You don't go anywhere. Is it fun to go up and then down? It's so slow though! Can we try it?"

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Ace watched the newcomers fascination with a quiet glee.  I a life like Ace Dangers one saw quite a bit.  It was novel and endearing to meet someone that met experiences with wonder.  A sentiment he in many ways shared.  Clearly he'd made a good choice in where to show her many of the assorted things that the world of men had wrought.  As she touched down he smiled lightly and nodded along with her questions.  "Well when it was first invented just the novelty of a machine of such size was exciting."  he explained succinctly, "In time since it's lost some popularity but remains fondly remembered for nostalgia and it's speed is an advantage for the young and elderly who might not be physically or emotionally prepared for hte thrills and chills of a coaster."  he gestured at the screaming cartloads of humans hurdling along the track of 'The Centurion'.


He led her in probably earning few gaping stares than had she not been accompanied by the worlds possibly most famous adventurer.  In Freedom seeing a Danger escorting an otherworldly beauty was perhaps not commonplace but at the least not alarming, something to snap a surreptitious picture of and continue an affect of the cool and jaded Freedomite.  He paid the entry fee and led her down the walk, "We certainly can though there is quite a few other things to see as well."  he pointed out the occasional carnival game or fairground staple food stand to gauge interest.  "Do you need to eat?"  he inquired as it was not entirely clear how accurately she had modeled her form to the mortals around her.

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Andromeda shook her head, her attention briefly diverted from watching the carnival booths and the children playing at them with equal fascination. 


"I don't need to, but I can! That was a bit tricky to figure out, honestly. My heart makes all of the energy I need," she touched her fingertips over her breastbone although Ace got the impression that it was less the flesh and blood muscle and more something ephemeral; a fount of cosmic energy that she was speaking of. "I rest, though! I have rest and wake cycles like you and I can eat. I've had iced tea and ice cream! I like them both. Sweet is a good taste and cold is funny on the tongue..."


Andromeda broke off, her attention turning at the cry of distress from a young child who'd tipped over his cone too far and lost ice cream. Concern flickered across her features as she took a moment to work  her way through the nuances of the situation and the reason for the upset. Understanding flickered across her fineboned features and with a slight gesture, she restored the ice cream in question with a flick of power before her attention turned back to Ace. "Where should we start?"

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Ace smirked slightly as the frazzled and confused mother of the child looked down at the abortive tantrum and glanced around with brief uncertainty before continuing on her way grateful not to have a scene.  "We can walk the length and give a try to whatever catches your fancy."  Ace suggested as ambled aimlessly down the walk.  "Ah you're not wrong sweet is a delight but can be much more with a hint of spice."  he grinned and came to a pause before one of the stands holding up two fingers to order.  "You my dear are in for a treat the Vasquez family here has made the best churros in Freedom for three generations."  He glanced over at the teen behind the counter catching the family resemblance, "Ahem, make that four, you must be Carlos."


The vendor nodded as he handed over the fried dough, "Yes sir Mr. Danger." he replied with a smile, "Helping out for the summer."  he elaborated as he took the bill Ace slid across the the counter and dropped it in the till.  "Carlos here has a scholarship to FCU in the fall."  Ace explained with a small nod artfully not mentioning the endowment responsible for this largess.  "Still accounting?"  he asked with a shake of his head, "all that number crunching I wish you luck."  the famed Danger lamented with feigned distaste.


"Yes sir,"  Carlos replied as Ace handed off one of the sweet treats to Andromeda.  "Math doesn't need luck that's what makes it great."  the teen teased back before moving on to the next customer as Ace and Andromeda stepped away.  "So anything catch your eye?"  he suggested as they walked and sampled the salty sweet confections crispy on the outside soft and moist in the center.

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  • 9 months later...

Immediately, Andromeda pointed towards the coaster whipping screaming boardwalk patrons around. 


"That. I want to try the one that makes people scream. They are scared but also not-scared. I don't understand it but I want to," Andromeda offered immediately with wide, interested eyes. Absently, she tested a bite of the churro as she watched the Centurion's track with rapt attention. That, briefly, drew her gaze back down to the new treat. "I like this too. I like the warmth. It's pleasant. How do you rank them? You said it was the best, but how is that known? Are their contests? Or is it more of a personal sampling? It seems like that would be a subjective statement."



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"The Centurion it is."  Ace answered with a smile and began picking their way toward the gate to the storied coaster.  He didn't bother explaining the effects of adrenaline triggered by the g-forces in the loops and twists of the ride.  She was new, ish, not a fool after all.  She craved experience and that was something Ace could understand.


He thoughtfully chewed his own churro and shrugged, "There are contests, and reviewers."  he admitted with a shrug, "And these have ranked well in those estimations."  he noted quickly to not disparage that which he had talked up so recently.  "But it is a subjective judgement regardless."  he agreed readily with her hypothesis.  "Contests and reviews tend to focus on the more quantifiable portions of the experience, dough flavor and consistency, the cook, crispy out soft within, the balance of sweet and spice in the coating and just enough oil to be moist without greasy."  he explained as they waited in line completely unphased by the occasional stare the pair earned even in Freedom people like Andromeda did draw attention.


"But there are ephemeral factors as well."  he was pleased to elaborate, "The Churro shack is an institution on this boardwalk.  I remember getting treats there when Carlos great grandfather opened it."  he reminisced fondly.  "People have been coming with family for generations to try it so it has memories beyond just the flavor and the texture, and the scent alone can take one back to the first one you tried or first you shared with someone."  he said with a smile down at the curious stellar being at his side.

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Andromeda had no issue with any staring as she was watching the humans moving around her with the same rapt attention as they gave the floating alien. Every so often, she would forget to connect back with earth, as if her attempt at mimicking their gravity was forgotten in favor of wide-eyed wonder. She hummed her agreement softly as Ace expounded on the value of memory. It drew her attention from people watching back to his face for a moment to consider his words. 


"Yes! Exactly that. Memory. Human experience. The lens that you view the universe from is unique to you. That's exactly why I'm here. I have to be a 'me' to have that sort of experience. Stars burn and live and die but our lives are bound by the universe's constants. Gravity, mass, force... physics and mathematics but those are universal. Any star, comet, speck of space-rock exists for those constants and, generally, for those constants alone. It's an existence but it isn't life. I want to live!" Andromeda spoke with excitement, her hands gesturing widely and trailed faintly by light as if the star-heart within her vibrated with pure conviction. "You have an experience that is uniquely yours and that is such a miracle."


Her enthusiasm drew a few more stares, although her words likely didn't exactly make sense to the random people in line on either side. When they reached the front of the line, Andromeda gave the ticket taker a warm smile. "I love your planet. It's very special."


"Uh, thank you?" The teenager managed in response before giving Ace a slightly helpless look. 

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Ace smiled despite himself at her wide eyed wonder at even the mundane procedures of the day.  "I suppose we do at that."  the old adventurer agreed softly.  


He flashed the winning Danger smile to the youth at the ticket stand and flashed his pass to gain them entry, "She's not wrong my boy don't forget it."  he offered with a wink and tucking an arm to Andromeda's waist led her through the turnstile to board the coaster.


He led Andromeda to the front managing to get them seats in the first car if not the very front.  He helped the stellar being fasten herself in less for her own safety than for other passengers and the sensibilities of those below that would doubtless be mortified if she even safely was flung from the ride.  Ratcheting his own restraints into place once she was settled he gave Andromeda a quick nod, "Here we go, you've gone faster I'm sure but not quite like this."  he joked easily and screwed his signature hat down on his brow lest it be blown free.  

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"Not anymore and it isn't the same, anyhow. This body experiences speeds differently. I want to go see space again with new eyes but not yet. There's so much here and it took me so very long to get here. I have time," Andromeda said simply and that was likely true. Whatever forces powered her seemed unlikely to constrain themselves to a mortal lifespan. Her hands fluttered before resting on the coaster bar as the ride started. She continued to look around, taking in the riders who started to put their hands up. Hesitantly, Andromeda copied them, although - much as Ace surmised - the mild forces of the roller coaster didn't seem to even jostle Andromeda in her seat. Quizzically, she put her hands down and turned to look at Ace as the ride slowed to a stop. 


"I think I did it wrong," she said simply as she could clearly grasp that the shrieks and whoops and hollering were full of a joy that she didn't entirely grasp. "Do I need to put my arms up higher? May we wait in line so that I can try again?"


Roller coasters didn't have the same sort of thrill when one kept the g-forces playing on their body neutral automatically. 

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For his own part Ace spent most of the ride with one hand holding his trademark hat to his head as they whipped around the corners and dips of the speeding coasters track.  His focus was on his companion noticing not only that the wind barely touched her but so to the force of inertia as they were flung up and around the twists and turns of the track.


"I may regret that Churro before the end of the day but certainly as many times as it takes."  he agreed and led her back around and into line.  He was quiet a moment, pensive, "You say this body experiances speed differently, perhaps not differently enough?"  he suggested trying ot hint that the inertial forces were part of the thrill.  "Perhaps rather than emulating the others you just relax and experiance the ride."  he shrugged not really wanting to test what her powers might do if she felt the ride needed to be 'enhanced'.  

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