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City Hall, Vibora Bay. September 5th, 2019. Noon.

 

In a conference room just down the hall from the mayor's office, seven very unique individuals were gathering around a long table in comfortable chairs. Coffee and bagels had been provided by the mayor's staff, but several of the heroes of Hurricane Dorian craved more substantial fare, so a take-out menu for the Mediterranean place next door led to the room now being full of the smell of seasoned lamb and other savory delicacies. While the food did indeed smell delicious to young Taye Sullivan. So while the others were splitting up the various meats, rice and breads, she poured herself a cup of hot water and took a seat.

 

"It's indeed exciting to have the opportunity to work with you all again," she said in her clear, deep voice as she fished two clear Ziploc bags out of her coverall pockets; one appeared to hold a few pieces of rusted metal, the other several spark plugs.

 

"Of course, last night's work largely took place in the heat of the moment, with little or no planning. it will be interesting to see how we work together when we have more time to talk about things like strategy or logistics."

 

Taye gingerly took several pieces of rust out of the bag and carefully crumbled them into her hot water, which she then stirred with a plastic spoon.

 

"Perhaps we should first take the time to talk about our abilities, strengths and weaknesses before we go any further? As of right now, I am primarily limited to assuming vehicular shapes, but I hope to move beyond that by testing myself further."

 

She took a sparkplug out of her second bag, popped it in her mouth, and washed it down with a sip of rust tea, all the while looking at the others expectantly.

 

 

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Well that seems dangerous, thought Woodsman. What if one of you turns out to be a vampire, or a shapeshifter, or what if you just go crazy someday and start murdering people for fun? If you know what I am, that makes it easier for you to hunt me down and kill me. 

 

On the other hand, if they thought he was a vampire or something, they'd probably bring a lot more overwhelming force if they ever did come his way. As the conversation went on, he reached behind him and pulled out a utilitarian-looking hatchet - with its metal head and wooden shaft, it could have belonged to anybody. "Just a Woodsman," he said from behind his mask, metal going shink shink shink as he quietly sharpened the blade. 

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Persephone

 

"Goodness gracious, I'm so hungry I'd eat a dead skunk deep-fried in kerosene if they put it in front of me right now. I don't strictly 'need' to eat the traditional way anymore, mind you. I can put down roots and just absorb the nutrients I need out of the soil if I have to. But it just doesn't compare to eating a proper meal the old fashioned way." The green woman sniffed the food eagerly. "Now this brings back memories. I lived in Europe, a long time ago, heh, longer than I care to specify. Mostly in France, but I did get to visit Greece at one point. Mainly on business, but we got to stick around for a few days after. We were on Mykonos, that's one of the little islands off the coast, there's thousands of them. It had some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life. Nothing that could quite compare to Vibora, mind you, but still, absolutely stunning. Our hotel was right on the beach, and the restaurant there served a lamb dish called 'kleftiko'. They take a whole lamb shoulder and marinate it in garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, and some other spices for a whole day, all the way from one sunrise to the next. Then they bake it for five whole hours with some potatoes and vegetables, and, as a finishing touch, they kick the heat up about a hundred degrees for just a few minutes. Right as they drop the plate on your table, they sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on top. The meat is so tender it falls off the bone if you so much as stare at it for too long, and each bite is like ten pounds of flavor stuffed into a five-pound bag. I've been fixin' to try and recreate it myself for years, but I just haven't found the time."

 

"And unfortunately, I expect that trend to continue. I'm going to accept the mayor's offer. I'm going to be part of the team she's putting together. Ever since I was first blessed with these gifts of ours, I've done my best to maintain a positive relationship with the authorities and the media, and I'd like to continue to do so. I do have another life outside of all this, one I've worked very hard to build, and I'm not about to give it up. Don't get me wrong, I love helping cats down from trees and smiling for the cameras at ribbon-cuttings. But if I wanted that to be my whole life, well, I could have saved myself a lot of time and money and...other sacrifices. And I'm still keeping that life separate from this one. If my other name got out, the sky wouldn't fall, but it would make life a heap more complicated for a lot of people I care about. Now, maintaining dual identities isn't something I'm married to. At the moment, it's just more convenient than it is inconvenient. I am open to letting go of my anonymity at some point. But in the meantime, I'm certainly willing to volunteer it to the duly elected representatives of the people of our city if it means I get to work with them instead of against them the next time something like this..." She laughed and rolled her eyes. "...This 'Croczilla' comes tearing through town. But I understand if some of y'all have more to risk or more to lose by putting any of your cards on the table. I won't hold it against any of y'all who decide to stay 'unofficial' for the time being, and I'll do my best to run interference if someone else does make an issue of it." She tried not to look directly at The Woodsman.

 

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"Perhaps we should first take the time to talk about our abilities, strengths and weaknesses before we go any further?"

 

"Well, y'all have seen most of the tools in my box. Plants...they respond to me. They bend over backwards to help me out, whether that's giving me a lift or taking a bullet for me, whether I asked them to or not. It's a 'psychic' thing. I can sense them, talk to them, make them move, make them grow big and strong so they can lift and hold things for me, reshape them like clay, tinker with them down to the molecular level. I've experimented some, and so far I've managed to synthesize all sorts of new compounds. You saw some in action last night, the 'super-medicine' I patched y'all up with. I've put together some others that make people susceptible to suggestion, or that make people lethargic, sometimes even put them to sleep. 'Super-drugs', basically. Those are useful for 'de-escalation', resolving violent situations without using more violence. I can't seem to make anything that lasts long enough to be useful for mass production, though, so the applications are pretty much limited to immediate crisis management. And the same...well, it doesn't feel right to call her a 'thing', but I guess 'person' isn't technically accurate either...the same 'benevolent symbiotic organism', for those of you who passed high school biology, which gave me this power over other plants, it kind of turned me into one myself. Well, really more of a 'hybrid'. I can look and feel, well, 'normal', for lack of a better word, on the surface. My humanity is skin-deep. But underneath, I'm more vegetable than woman at this point. Which has its advantages, and its downsides. I can tell you from personal experience that you cannot, for example, kill a plant by choking her, holding her underwater, stabbing her, or shooting her in the head. It's not a picnic in the sun for her, but she won't wind up in the marble orchard either. Oh, by the way, one of those downsides is that my latte here isn't much more than a cup of nostalgia and placebo unless I add certain chemical fertilizers to the mix in order to replicate the effect that caffeine has on large mammals, a category which no longer seems to include yours truly. Which I do, and I have. And the side effect of that is that this here cup of Joe is more like a cup of pure poison as far as the rest of y'all are concerned. I try to keep an eye on my drinks, but please, do be careful. And if we ever find ourselves having cocktails together, the same rules apply. And that's enough out of me! I'm so sorry, I do go on sometimes. Nearabout talked my lipstick off."

 

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Chris had been a bit incredulous at the mayor's offer, but followed with the others to the conference room as even if he was uncomfortable with direct government oversight he did see value in such alliances.

 

He poured a coffee, heavy on the cream, ludacris on the sugar, and sunk into a chair legs curled under him and posture a bit closed off vaguely distracted and distant as they waited on the food and for everyone to settle in.  Watching mildly disturbed as the mechanical girl pour rust in her cup and chow down on spare parts and the the axe came out to be sharpened by the local survivalist the young man seemed to withdraw further though he relaxed a bit as the conversation began, particularly as Persephone extensively explained her thoughts on the whole supercop gig.

 

"Just a woodsman sure."  He replied and rolled his eyes, "And Fleur de Latte over here is just a gardener."  he looked around the table and shook his head, "I think we can do more together than by ourselves."  he agreed readily, "I'm not sold on doing it at the governments behest, we were in Weston last night for our own reasons but that's where we were needed not patrolling the burbs for looters."  he nodded to Persephone in a friendly manner and looked to the others, "I'm happy to work out ways ot get in touch and work together if you all want my help."  he seemed uncertain that would be hte case but was putting it out there, "But I'm not signing up to be super cop."

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CHEVAL

 

Marcus had of course agreed to the meeting with the other heroes. It was, after all, the least he could do. They had fought the beast together, they had all worked to save the people caught in the destruction of both storm and beast, and as far as he cared, that meant that he would answer, should they need him. While the others talked, Marcus had stocked up on plenty of food. He was a large man, and quite frankly, he was just hungry. Rice, bred, as much meat as he figured he could take without taking too much. He slowly chewed while Torque explained her powers, the Woodsman gave a rather short description of himself, Persephone told them perhaps too much, and Sagrado Corazon responded to the question on whether they would join the Mayor's idea to be official heroes or not. He ate with good manners, despite what others might expect of a man like him, carefully and slowly eating with the utensils.

 

Gently wiping his mouth, Marcus placed the utensils on the table before he joined the tension. "First of all: To those that I didn't introduce myself to yesterday: I am Marcus Dumont, or Cheval. You might have heard of me." His tone was jovial, and he was smiling. Maybe he was imagining things, but to him, it seemed that some tensions were growing between those that wanted to support the Mayor's idea for municipial defenders, and those that did not. "I agree that working for the Mayor could cause problems, but I also believe that throwing the offer away completely would be a mistake. The city government can offer resources that could be used to keep the people of this city safe, after all. I do not believe that anyone should be forced to sign up or not, but at least some of us should agree, but I see no reason why we cannot all work together, organized or not. I have little to lose in terms of a secret identity, and I have already helped the Mayor before, so I'm willing to sign up." 

 

He made a small pause and raised his right hand in front of himself, clenching it into a fist while his lips split into a wide smile. "As for what I can do, it should be obvious: I can take a hit like no one else, which makes me perfect for protecting others, and if it comes to it, my punches are strong enough to rattle even the Beast we fought together."

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Riley thought of his brother's face and safe life in college - the one he'd been so eager to make sure he didn't share with Riley. "Can't share identity. Not safe." He twirled the hatchet he held, then set it on the table in front of him so gently it didn't' so much as thunk. "Machine shapeshifter, plant controller, metal man, speedster on fire, powerhouse hunter," he said, moving from Torque through the other characters in the room before coming to Sagrado Corazon. "Catholic wizard?" he hazarded. "Cards on table." He leaned back, studying the others from behind his dark shades. He hadn't yet given much in the way of clues of his own identity, but that didn't bother him much. 

 

"Don't recognize any of you.

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Speed-Demon consumed his food with an almost comical quickness. It vanished in mere seconds.

 

"I'm in. I got no problem with helping out, but I got limitations. I'm not revealing my real name or anything. Maybe someday, but not yet and never on the public record. As for what I can do, well. I'm fast and I'm fiery. That's all there is to it. I've created a spare email address and I'm gonna make myself available to contact in other ways if I can."

 

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The Immutable Betsy Brooks

Betsy sat with her feet on the table, boots off to let her poor feet breath a little, sipping on a strong black coffee. She was listening to the other explain there powers and reasons to be official or not, it was rare that she was in a group like this so she was enjoying the moment. And the coffee, this place provided some f*** good coffee.

 

Due to my ancestry, and it not just good breeding and that as far as I go, I can detect supernatural and are generally immune to there influence. As you know this town is rife with such creatures so I act as a neutral third party. If I join this group of super friends it may effect my standing with the supernatural community, being seen to be working for the Man and all.”

 

She sipped the coffee and thought about it for a moment before adding.

 

Seems to me sweeties that the best solutions to play both side here, our fantastical three over here play the official team and get all the help that Vibora’s finest can offer. Whilst the rest of us are a reserves that can pop in as needed but stay independent.”

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Persephone

 

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"Just a Woodsman, sure."  Sagrado Corazon replied and rolled his eyes, "And Fleur de Latte over here is just a gardener."

 

"Oh, he's just being modest." The green woman smirked and playfully swatted the air. "You know how it is with these strong silent types. I think it's charming! Like Clint Eastwood with a crossbow. And Sugar Plum, I'm flattered by the comparison, joking or otherwise..." She pressed a hand to her chest. "...But believe me, I am NO Fleur de Joie. I'd have to climb on top of the Crabtree just to shine her shoes."

 

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"Don't recognize any of you."

 

Persephone laughed and leaned in. "I could say the same thing about you, Sweet Potato. I don't think any of us were making the front page of the Banner before last night. Well, except maybe our knight in shining armor here." She flashed a grin and a wink at Cheval.

 

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Seems to me sweeties that the best solutions to play both side here, our fantastical three over here play the official team and get all the help that Vibora’s finest can offer. Whilst the rest of us are a reserve that can pop in as needed but stay independent.”

 

Persephone leaned back in her chair and smiled. "So, 'officially', the mayor has three superheroes for her team of registered city defenders. But every time those three get dispatched to an incident, four more 'completely independent' heroes 'just happen' to show up, by sheer coincidence, enjoying full cooperation. I think we can sell her on that. Three is better than zero, after all, which is what she'll have if she tries to drive a wedge between us. But I doubt it would come to that. She's always seemed like the reasonable sort. Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. I was hoping we could present a more united front to the world. There's a lot to look up to here in this room, and it's easier to look up to someone when they're standing in the spotlight. But all y'all have valid reasons for going your own way, and I respect them. We'll do our best to be a bridge between you and 'The System'. Good gravy, they sure were generous with the portions. I don't know about y'all, but my bread basket's as full as a tick on a hound dog."

 

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Posted (edited)

CHEVAL

 

"Mesi ampil, Persephone." Marcus looked up from his food briefly to address her. At least one of these other heroes had recognized him, it seemed. It shouldn't matter much to him, he knew that, but he still felt a slight sting in his pride when the Woodsman had let them know that he hadn't recognized any of them. He raised his fork, pointing it at the Woodsman with a smile. "You need to lighten up, my friend. Keep your secrets if you must, but even if you don't recognize any of us, last night's battle should let you know what we are, at least." Heroes. He didn't feel the need to say the word, it seemed too grandiose for a gathering as informal as this.

 

So, it would be him, Persephone and Torque for the official team that worked for the city. He could live with that, though part of him had hoped that more would join. Ms. Brooks and Persephone laid how they would organize themselves out without much fuzz, or much that he thought he needed to comment on. He was more than happy to take the place in the spotlight so others could work off stage, if it came to that. He was not a man of secrets, anyway, which only made him feel worse about not having told the others about the state of the man's spirit yet, but he knew little of what it meant, aside from it being beyond unnatural. Perhaps Ms. Brooks would know. He made a mental note to talk to her after their little meeting, then perhaps he could share it with the others later. If they didn't think he was crazy, at least.

 

"It might be premature, but if we're trying to organize ourselves anyway, I'd be happy to provide what funding I can. A place to meet, burner phones or something else to stay in contact, paying for meals, whatever I can. Official defenders or not."

Edited by RocketLord

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Posted (edited)

It saddened Taye somewhat that there weren't more takers of the mayor's offer, but she supposed she understood; perhaps if she felt more connected to her family, she'd be more fearful for them. But her father paid a great deal for security, so she wasn't too worried about that side of her family. As for her uncle, though...

 

"I am currently residing on my uncle's property, an auto wreck yard. If possible, I'd like to take him out of harm's way by relocating." She shrugged. "I do not eat or sleep, so my needs are minimal; just a place to store my clothes and books, and access to tools and a garage for routine maintenance.'

Edited by Heritage

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Sagrado Corazon eye'd Cheval as he spoke and murmured something in Spanish under his breath blushing ever so slightly as he realized it had been out loud and hurriedly spoke up to cover hoping none of them had picked up on his words.  "I've heard the name, the stories don't do you justice."  he replied tone more relaxed than he was.  Woodsman listed off their basic abilities stumbling only slightly on his own, "Lapsed."  he answered and glanced to the others, "I,"  he paused the more astute among the heroes likely noticing a slight tic as if a faint noise had distracted him before he refocused, "I can tell people what to do and they do it."  he didn't want to go much further in depth than that.  It was loaded enough a talent without the surrounding circumstance.

 

Settling back into his seat he listened as Speed Demon, Betsy and Persephone made their pitches nodding agreement.  "I suppose it will depend on the mayors willingness to have her favorites slum it with us loose cannons."  he joked lightly.  He lapsed into a more serious tone, "Though, there are places where being government sanctioned means people won't talk to you, this might be better anyway."  

 

Chris noticeably brightened at the suggestion of financial aid and glanced to torque as she spoke up before settling back in his seat, "We probably should work out a way to contact each other if we're going to work together."  he agreed and looked to woodsman uncertainty, "Are we?"

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Oh my God, though Woodsman, appalled. They're virgins. A bunch of untrained virgins! He shifted uneasily in his seat, for a moment or two radiating the energy of a man ready to bolt from the room entirely. 

 

He thought for just a moment before he said: "Have family. Too much risk. But we need to work together. Can recommend several spots, both in swamp and elsewhere in city. Imprudent not to cooperate - as long as not personal business." He rose to his feet and walked to one corner of the conference room, where he casually removed a streetmap of the city where it hung on one wall and put it down in the central table. 

 

"Recommend San Sebastian or Easton. Former remote, latter significant recent construction. Easier to blend in." He tapped the map, then said, "Suggest we pick a face. Somebody young and pretty locals will find unthreatening. Not me. Look like psychopath." 

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The Immutable Betsy Brooks

Betsy continued to sip the coffee as the others continued to discuss options, dealing with and subverting authority was something she’d been doing since school. Still these bloody yanks had a talent for making all this more complicated.

 

With all respect sweetie this is probably a discussion we should have elsewhere, wall have f*** ears and all that!”

 

She flicked out her card into her hands, and waved it around to emphasis her next point.

 

Look I have a place and number if we want to keep in tough for now, and I know this great little Pizza place if we want to discuss an alternative headquarters for the not officials.”

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CHEVAL

 

Plans on plans. Unoffical heroes, offical heroes. What happened to just helping others? Organization was important, of course, but as with many things, Marcus was aware that it would be better left to people other than himself.

 

"I can help you with all that." Cheval offered to Torque with a smile, before turning his attention back to the others. "I agree with Miss Brooks. While I feel that we should at least try to show some faith in the mayor, others might not be as trustworthy." He flashed another bright smile to the rest of the assembled. They kept bringing up options, but made no choices. "But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can provide whatever funding might be needed for a meeting place and discreet ways of getting in touch with each other, if necessary. If you would rather not, then no harm done." Perhaps it was time to end this meeting, or at least move it elsewhere, if that was how people felt.

 

Still, he should make sure to talk to Miss Brooks before this was all over.

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Torque cocked her head to one side as she pondered the various issues being raised. "Perhaps it is best if we continue this conversation elsewhere, including discussions about a base of operations if we want it to be private. As to the choice of a 'friendly face' for our semi-informal alliance, we have a number of options, as several of us would be considered attractive by current standards. Public speaking ability and personal charisma are also important factors to consider, as well an individual's desire to maintain anonymous, as increased public exposure by its nature increases the chance of-" And here she smirked as realized the phrase she'd walked into. "Exposure."

 

Then she turned to indicate the plant controller with a wave of her hand. "Persephone would be my first choice, as she is charming, attractive and has strong visual appeal, but I certainly understand if you are reluctant to jeopardize your private life."

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"We need to make sure the mayor understands that privacy is important for some of us. I'm...fine with being on the team publicly. As long as the mayor can promise that my personal information stays off the public record and that it's protected from hackers and such. I don't have much of a life, but I'd rather not risk it, you know?"

 

He kicked back a bit. "I mean, I'm good with people, but I don't know if they'd want some smart-ass punk kid being the face of their new hero team. I'm all smiles, but I ain't respectable by most standards."

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Sagrado Corazon stared for a long moment at the weird clipped speech short dark and angsty gave and raised a brow beneath the domino mask he wore.  "Well they say self awareness is key."  he agreed and looked to the others with a small shrug, "But he's not wrong, this city is hungry for heroes and we'll need to stay in front of the media."

 

Betsy's very good point about better locales for such discussion did not fall on deaf ears and he lapsed into silence for a moment and nodded to Cheval, "A set of themed stencils and a bank of spotlights?"  he suggested eyes twinkling with mirth.  He dug a pen from a drawer and scrawled his number on a napkin offering it to the steely hero, "Though you didn't have to go through all this to get my number."  he offered with a wink.

 

He nodded agreement with Torque, "Persephone is also going to be on the mayers good side so that should help."  he pointed out and offered a backhanded, "And the big mom energy will put the the public at ease we're not all reckless kids."

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Persephone

 

'Bout TIME I let someone else get a word in edgewise. The green woman sat in silence for several minutes, examining the other superheroes intently as she listened to them speak. Once she felt like they had ample time to put their thoughts into words, she stood up and started talking again.

 

"Nobody knows better than I do how easy it is sometimes to miss the forest for the trees. It was a long night, and everything's happenin' so fast it's enough to make you dizzy. Even after a hot meal, I'm sure we all still feel like somethin' the cat drug in. So it's easy to get lost in all this talk about hideouts and burner-phones and forget that we're all on the same side here. Good grief, we're SUPERHEROES, not drug dealers! Everyone in this room, the city government, the police and first responders, even the press, we're all on the same team. We all want what's best for the people of this city. Let's try to keep that in mind. Now, I'm sure all y'all have your reasons for being so cautious. But the mayor has reasons not to trust us either, and she practically rolled out the red carpet. If she's willing to risk trusting us, then we owe her the same. No part of this is going to work without trust. We need to trust each other, we need to trust our city, and our city needs to trust us."

 

She slowly walked around the room, pausing at each person's shoulder to address them individually, but loudly enough for all to hear.

 

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"It might be premature, but if we're trying to organize ourselves anyway, I'd be happy to provide what funding I can. A place to meet, burner phones or something else to stay in contact, paying for meals, whatever I can. Official defenders or not."

 

She rested a hand on Cheval's massive shoulder. "Darlin', it's mighty generous of you to offer financial support, and I'm sure the local taxpayers would appreciate the break. But the mayor and the city council will probably have their own ideas about who pays for what, and whatever that is, we should go along with it, at least those of us on the official end of things. We need the people to feel like we're accountable to them. On the unofficial side of things, sure, some secret clubhouse and off-the-books method of contact might be prudent, just in case the worst happens, and it's a certainly a relief to hear that we'll be able to afford it, one way or the other."

 

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"I am currently residing on my uncle's property, an auto wreck yard. If possible, I'd like to take him out of harm's way by relocating. I do not eat or sleep, so my needs are minimal; just a place to store my clothes and books, and access to tools and a garage for routine maintenance."

 

When she reached Torque's chair, she made sure not to touch her. "I don't think an apartment and access to the VBPD motor pool is too much to ask for someone who's signing up to defend the city. I think we can convince the mayor likewise. For all we know, she might already be planning to offer us more substantial compensation than that. I don't know much about the cities who've piloted this program, but I have heard that, for some, 'municipal defender' is their full-time job."

 

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"I can tell people what to do and they do it."

 

Sagrado Corazon, meanwhile, got a light, affectionate shoulder touch similar to the one Cheval had received. "Now that is one special talent right there. Thank the Lord it was given to someone worthy of it."

 

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"Have family. Too much risk. But we need to work together. Can recommend several spots, both in swamp and elsewhere in city. Imprudent not to cooperate - as long as not personal business."

 

When she got close to The Woodsman's end of the room, she walked in a much wider arc, giving him plenty of space. "Strictly business, no personal problems. That's a perfectly reasonable boundary to set, and I don't think anyone here will have a problem respecting it." She laughed. "Now, me, on the other hand, y'all can feel free to come to me for help with ANYTHING, personal or otherwise. Lord knows I helped enough of my sorority sisters get the vomit outta their hair after they had one too many, so it's only fair I do the same for my teammates."

 

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"Recommend San Sebastian or Easton. Former remote, latter significant recent construction. Easier to blend in."

 

"I've been meaning to head up to the swamp sometime soon anyway. If you know the area, I wouldn't mind a guide. 'Croczilla' came down from the swamp, and I wanna see what the swamp has to say about it."

 

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With all respect sweetie this is probably a discussion we should have elsewhere, wall have f*** ears and all that!”

 

She kept her hands to herself when she reached Betsy, but she rested one hand on the table next to her, keeping it where Betsy could see it. "Honey, I think you might be assuming a much bigger budget for espionage shenanigans than any city government actually has. It's not as though the local cops have James Bond on their payroll! Personally, I can't think of a place LESS likely to have eavesdroppers than a conference room in the back of City Hall. But if y'all truly aren't comfortable with having a sensitive conversation here, then there's no reason we can't do it elsewhere."

 

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"Suggest we pick a face. Somebody young and pretty locals will find unthreatening. Not me. Look like psychopath."

 

"You're being a little hard on yourself there, Sugar. Not liking the spotlight makes you a wallflower, not a monster."

 

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"As to the choice of a 'friendly face' for our semi-informal alliance, we have a number of options, as several of us would be considered attractive by current standards. Public speaking ability and personal charisma are also important factors to consider, as well an individual's desire to maintain anonymous, as increased public exposure by its nature increases the chance of-" And here she smirked as realized the phrase she'd walked into. "Exposure." Then she turned to indicate the plant controller with a wave of her hand. "Persephone would be my first choice, as she is charming, attractive and has strong visual appeal..."

 

"Well aren't you sweet as cherry pie? Thank you. I'm truly flattered. But as you said, I hardly have a monopoly on 'visual appeal' in this group." She tried to stop herself from glancing at Cheval. She failed. The skin on her face momentarily faded to a lighter shade of green. "I'm not sure it's necessary for the official team to declare 'a leader' or 'a spokesperson', or to set up any kind of hierarchy." She laughed. "For Heaven's sake, there's only, what, three of us? We're all adults here. We know our own strengths and weaknesses, how we can each do our part when a crisis hits. I've worked in high-pressure environments before where lives were on the line. You learn real quick to know better than to take it personally when someone starts barking orders at you in the heat of the moment, because time is of the essence and stopping to say 'Pretty please with sugar on top' could cost somebody their life. I don't have an ego about all this, and I'm sure none of you do either."

 

"Some of us are clearly more comfortable in the spotlight or in front of a microphone than others, so we can each just follow our instincts. Let's keep things in perspective. All y'all had the courage, compassion, and integrity to put your own bodies between this city and a horde of the walking dead last night. I'm not worried about anyone being thoughtless enough to shove someone in front of a camera who doesn't wanna be there, or being petty enough to elbow each other out of frame. If any of us were just doing this for fame, then we would have had higher profiles before today than we did."

 

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"...But I certainly understand if you are reluctant to jeopardize your private life."

 

She sighed. "Now that...that's a deep subject." She leaned forward, resting her hands on the conference table and staring down at it for several moments to collect her thoughts. "First of all, I just wanna make it clear that, while I value my privacy, I don't value it more than the safety and well-being of this city, its people, or its heroes. I won't let y'all twist in the wind just to keep my secret. And when it comes to gifted people who put on the tights and try to do some good, I'm luckier than most. If my real name came out, it'd be mighty inconvenient for my family, and it would cause a great deal of upheaval in my professional life, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. No one would go to prison. No one would die. And a time might come when keeping the secret does me and mine more harm than good. But in the meantime, I was never the type to leave a criminal tied up and hanging from a lamp post while I mysteriously vanished into the shadows. Whenever I was involved in an incident of some kind, I always waited for the police and the reporters to show up, so I could I answer any questions they had. I never wanted anyone in this city to be afraid of me, or to feel like I thought I was above the law. That's why I'm not as 'careful' as I could be when it comes to keeping my secret." She glanced at The Woodsman. "It's not because I'm just that NAIVE, or just that DUMB. It's a CHOICE. A question of priorities. Even though I do change how I look for this side of my life, I don't wear a mask, and it's not because I just forgot to make one. Again, I have nothing against those who do wear masks. I just want the people I'm trying to help, and even the people I'm trying to convince to surrender, to see a friendly face. If that means my secret winds up coming out before I was ready for it, well, that's a risk I decided I'm willing to take. That's how I felt before last night, and I don't see that changing tomorrow."

 

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"We need to make sure the mayor understands that privacy is important for some of us. I'm...fine with being on the team publicly. As long as the mayor can promise that my personal information stays off the public record and that it's protected from hackers and such. I don't have much of a life, but I'd rather not risk it, you know?"

 

"You changed your mind?" She smiled at Speed-Demon and squeezed his upper arm. "I'm happier than a pig in mud hear that!" She leaned against the table next to him, facing the opposite direction from his chair but turning her head to face him. "I understand the privacy issue, and I agree completely. I was already planning on bringing it up the mayor when I sign on. But I'd be surprised if she isn't already on the same page. Like I said before, she's always seemed like a reasonable person. That's part of why I voted for her." The smile faded from her face and her voice shifted to a lower, more serious tone. "Remember the old saying, though. God don't give out 'certain'. City Hall isn't Fort Knox. I'm sure they'll do their best to keep our personal information secure, but their best might not be enough. Signing up for the official team means taking a risk. It's a small risk, but it's still a risk. Never roll the dice if you truly can't deal with what happens when they come up snake-eyes."

 

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"I mean, I'm good with people, but I don't know if they'd want some smart-ass punk kid being the face of their new hero team. I'm all smiles, but I ain't respectable by most standards."

 

"I think you're selling yourself short there, Sweetie. There's a lot of young people in this city who're more likely to trust and listen to someone closer to their own age. You'd give them someone to look up to. That's important. Not all of them have that."

 

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"And the big mom energy will put the the public at ease we're not all reckless kids."

 

She laughed again. "Goodness gracious, I'm only thirty! I know that makes me look like a senior citizen to most of y'all, but don't go checking me into a nursing home just yet. Besides, the older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune."

 

She sighed and stretched. "It sounds like we've plowed this furrow clean down to the bedrock and it's time to rest the mule. Everyone has Betsy's number. Betsy, why don't you go ahead and pick a time and a place where you'd feel safe to speak freely, and each of us can call you later tonight to find out the where and the when. In the meantime, I'm fixin' to head back into the mayor's office and sign on the dotted line. Then, Woodsman, if you'd be so kind, I'd like to head up to the swamp. After that, weather fittin' and the Lord permittin', I'm goin' to bed early." The very mention of sleep made her yawn. "My head feels like it hasn't touched a pillow in a month of Sundays."

 

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The Immutable Betsy Brooks

“Guess I’m the older voice of reason here then, not that I feel that way some f*** mornings. I’d tell you how I manage to look so young, but it’s not a something I recommend.”

 

She sipped her coffee, before with a shrug adding.

 

“Look as several very, very expensive school will tell you I’m not good with authority. All I really got from them was this bloody accent and knowledge of how to sneak out of many schools to find a good time. But to be honest this is a really good deal and I suggest as many of you take the deal as possible. But I’ve someone been saddled with keeping an eye out on those that the city overlooks, Occult Americans if you will. If they think I’m working to much with the authorities any goodwill will quickly evaporate. It’s probably the first time in over thirty years I’ve been able to give something back, and why I can’t quite work out why it’s a burden I’ve taken up.”

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"People have already died." It was one of Woodsman's longer full sentences. He tapped the map, nodding to Persephone, and said, "Know the place. Esso's. Biker bar. Five PM Saturday, if interested. Goes for all of you." 

 

And by the time Betsy had finished speaking, Woodsman had disappeared. 

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CHEVAL

 

Cheval chuckled slightly. Another member for the official team, then. Good! The more the merrier, after all! They all made good points, and well, deny it as she might, it seemed like Persephone was a natural speaker. She could put on some impressive speaches, at the very least, making sure to draw all of them in, or at least try to. It was impressive, but it seemed there was not much left to do at this meeting now, aside from signing the document. Miss Brooks' mention of "Occult Americans", a wording he had honestly not even considered until this moment, reminded him of something at least.

 

"About those connections, I would like a word before you leave, Miss Brooks." His tone was serious and somber for a moment, as he looked at her, before turning to the rest of the group.

 

Or at least, looking at Persephone, Torque and Speed Demon, as he stood up, putting his hands on the table and leaning over it. "I guess that settles things for now, but I have just one question left, at least for those that will decide to be municipal defenders. Unless the mayor has already decided on something, we will obviously need to decide on a team name, do we not?" His tone started serious, before rapidly switching to jovial and ending with a wide grin and a loud laugh. Of course it wasn't just theatrics or branding, as one might suspect of him. The people would need to know that they were there, and something as official as being a recognized team should at least help there.

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'I think we have discussed everything we can today," stated Torque with a nod. "Any further discussion should probably wait until we're all in a place where we feel more comfortable." When the subject of a team name came up, she frowned slightly and shrugged.  "I must admit, I hadn't given it much thought; can we be called the Defenders, or is that too obvious?"

 

The shapeshifter took a step towards the door, then stopped and turned back towards the others. "Does anyone require a lift home? I'm much more reasonable than a Uber."

Edited by Heritage

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Persephone

 

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"Know the place. Esso's. Biker bar. Five PM Saturday, if interested. Goes for all of you."

 

"I'm happy to meet you wherever you'd like to meet. But today's Thursday. I was hoping to make it up to the swamp sooner than tha-"

 

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And by the time Betsy had finished speaking, Woodsman had disappeared.

 

"...Well then." The green woman chuckled. "Bein' hopelessly citified as I am, I was hoping our resident swamp-rat might see fit to show me around the San Sebastien today, but it looks like he had other plans. Guess I'll be going without a chaperone."

 

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"Unless the mayor has already decided on something, we will obviously need to decide on a team name, do we not?"

 

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"I must admit, I hadn't given it much thought; can we be called the Defenders, or is that too obvious?"

 

"Obvious or not, I like it. Has a nice ring to it. Tells people up-front what we're about. I have a feeling that's what most people will call us anyway, so we may as well make it official."

 

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"Does anyone require a lift home? I'm much more reasonable than a Uber."

 

"That's sweet of you, thank you, but no, I'm parked nearabout to here. Now that last night's frog-choker's come and gone, I don't think I can get away with leaving my car on the street overnight again without it getting towed. Those of y'all signing up with me, I'll see you in the mayor's office in a lick. The rest of y'all, I guess I'll see you at Esso's on Saturday. Take care now."

 

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"Defenders sound good to me. A good indication of what we should aim to do for the people, at least," he said, agreeing with Torque's idea and Persephone's own comment.

 

Standing back from the table, he waved Torque's offer off with a smile. "I am thankful for the offer, but I have some business to discuss with Miss Brooks first. Perhaps another time. I will see you all on Saturday, then."

 

With that said, he moved closer to Miss Brooks. He put on his very best friendly smile as he bowed slightly. She had yet to reply to his previous question of wanting a word with her, but it might have gotten lost in the shuffle of everything else that had happened. "Miss Brooks, if you don't mind, could I have a quick word with you in private before you leave?"

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