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The Fens, Freedom City

August 24th, 2020

9:30 AM

 

The day had started normal enough for Alice. Go to school, don't quite save the world just yet, but maybe learn a bit about how to do it eventually. Like much of the Fens, Alice's school was not a particularly nice place to spend your time. Apathetic teachers that had given up on trying to make a difference, students fighting. It was not the safe place that most of Freedom City had become. Few seemed to care about the Fens, after all. So few heroes stuck around.

 

Alice was not one of those heroes.

 

Since returning to the school after the summer, she had noticed something new. Drugs had always been a problem at the school, but these new drugs were different, and since those new dealers had appeared at the school, rumors of students getting into trouble had only grown, and they were suddenly showing signs of different super powers. Someone had to find out what was going on.

 

By this point, Alice had found two dealers: Teddy Kaplan, a normally quiet and slightly twitchy type that tended to stay in the school yard, and Billy Altman, a nerd that was usually hanging out near what passed for a computer lab. She honestly didn't know either of them well, but she would have to make a choice on who to pursue.

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Alice 'sat' on a chair as she puzzled through what was going on. How the hell had those two gotten into dealing this drug, and what was she going to do about it? She couldn't exactly confront them as Shooting Star in the school, since she was supposed to be at school too, and she wasn't going to tempt fate by being 'sick' or something the one day Shooting Star turned up. She was pretty sure the only reason no one had twigged that she was her alter-ego was residual 'poor invalid girl' reputation and the few months of power testing she'd done before her debut as the child superhero. So she either had to do this as Alice in school or as Shooting Star out of it, but she didn't know where they would be and if they heard that a superhero was looking for them they'd probably do something stupid- Or the people supplying them might. So she had to do this as Alice, but how should she go about it? She couldn't expect them to just spill the beans because she fluttered her eyelashes at them, and anything direct would probably make them clam up...

Why couldn't they just rob a convenience store so she could beat them up?

 

...

 

Could she just beat them up?

 

...

 

No, it would be too dangerous to her secret identity and she didn't want to get in trouble with the faculty. So it was going to have to be talking, but why would Alice Armstrong, ex-cripple be after a drug that gave superpowers, and how would she...?

That could work! She quickly made her way to a bathroom near the computer labs and waited 'till no one was around before mussing up her clothes and hair slightly to try match what she'd seen of the students who'd been on the drug for a little bit, and literally ran on the air to get her face to look more flushed, before heading over to where Billy was, avoiding any people on the way. Quickly she rushed towards him, grabbing him tightly by the shirt (But not too tightly, obviously) and started talking fast. "Hey Billy, you know where to get more of that drug, right? You know the one, that one that gives you powers?" Alice started to float off the ground as she vomited words, trying to make sure she wasn't overdoing the act. "Please Billy, I really need more of it, I'll do anything!"

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GM

 

Billy was sitting by a desk, a fancy laptop in front of him. Much fancier than the one he had been using before the summer, much more expensive than something anyone would expect some kid from the Fens to get his hands on. Or for a weak little nerd like Billy to keep his hands on if he brought it to school. And yet, here was Billy, typing on the computer, with no worries for who might try to take it from him.

 

He looked up at Alice, a sly smile playing over his lips. 

 

"Alice? You're looking to score?" He didn't really sound like he believed her, but he didn't sound like he didn't want to give in either. "... Wait, is that how you started walking?"

 

It wasn't a denial, at least.

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Alice was surprised at the leap in logic he'd just made, how long did he think someone could survive on drugs constantly? It had been four years since she'd gained her powers and started walking again! Still, she could roll with this! "Please don't say that so loud!" She begged before continuing adding a hint of hysteria to her voice, "Please Billy I need help, I can't go back to that and my normal supplier upped the price on me! Just tell me where you get it and I'll do anything you want!" She really hoped that the blank cheque she'd just given him wouldn't end up biting her in the ass, but if she couldn't stop this drug it was probably only a matter of time before a pyrokinetic burned the school down or something.

And if he didn't give her the information she'd have to dangle him by his ankle over the river or something.

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GM

 

"Anything?" Billy still hadn't denied that he had access to the drugs. "You really need the drugs that bad, huh?" 

 

He looked around. Even Billy wasn't about to get caught outright selling in the middle of the school like this. He wasn't stupid. He made pretty sure that nobody thought he was stupid. 

 

"Listen, I'm not about to let you just go around me. You need something, I can get you what you need. Max, Zoom, or Amazo? I got it." He looked her over, a sly grin playing over his lips. "So how about we get you fixed up a bit, then we'll talk about the fee, yeah?" He reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a small plastic bag with a bright blue powder in it, holding it up for Alice to see.

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Alice bit her lip, trying to avoid showing her annoyance at his stonewalling. She needed to go around him so she could catch the distributors and suppliers! But now she'd backed herself into a corner, if she backed down he'd clam up and get suspicious. Why didn't she just decide to beat them up, or hide her costume nearby so she could catch them before they left and shake them down or something? She was in too deep now, and had to come up with a Plan B while following through on the consequences for this. She held out her hand, eyes carefully examining the floor, "Just... don't tell anyone, okay?"

While she refused eye contact her mind raced. She'd messed up, but maybe she could find a way to twist this to her advantage? Could she take the drugs somewhere to get them tested, maybe narrow down where they were being made? But she didn't know anyone who could do that, either as Alice or as Shooting Star... Maybe she could try taking the sample to the police as Shooting Star to check them for fingerprints, say that a civilian friend brought them to her on their own initiative to bring them to her attention? Although that puts a link between Alice and Shooting Star, which is dangerous for her identity, but if she can't think of anything it is a useful Plan C. What if she just takes the sample, keeps it in orbit or something to make sure no one finds it, then just hunts down Teddy or Billy as Shooting Star to find their supplier?

All of these do sort of depend on how the remains of this deal go though, hopefully he didn't want her to take it in front of him or anything...

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GM

 

"Sure, sure. Enjoy." Billy handed over the powder. He didn't seem reluctant at all, like he had little trouble securing more product if he needed it. "Get yourself fixed up, then you can pay me back soon."

 

He watched with some interest, leaning back in the chair. "That's not just some Max you got there." His smirk was getting just a bit too wide. "That's Amazo." He put his hands behind the back of his head. "C'mon, give it a try. Its a rush." He was obviously waiting for Alice to do just that.

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Alice was wondering if she was cursed at this point. He wanted her to take it now, and she had no clue what it did. She looked down at the packet of blue powder, dread coiling in her stomach as she opened it up, glancing at Billy's smirk. Could she come up with a lie to not take it in front of him? No, that would be suspicious. Would it even effect her? She had powers after all, would it just not work? Hell, would her hyperdensity affect the dosage? And why did he want to see her take it? Was it some sort of hazing to see if she was serious or just trying to get info from him? Or was whatever he was going to ask for going to require superpowers? Neither of those options were appealing, since one would mean he was either paranoid or had caught her bluff while the other meant he wanted her to be a super criminal. But if it was a test, passing it might get her closer to the source...

Alice closed her eyes, quietly exhaling the breath she realised she hadn't been taking and opened the bag. She was probably going to regret this but at worst it was only an hour, right?

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GM

 

Billy chuckled. "You're gonna need an inhaler for Amazo." He rummaged in his pocket, before pulling out a small blue inhaler, very much like something used to treat asthma, but open at the top. He held it out to Alice. The final, ultimate test, it seemed. "Just open the top and put it in, push the button and breathe deep."

 

Alice could see that his teeth were kind of yellow, now that she looked closer and his lips split in a smile.

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Alice swallowed dryly as she followed his instructions. She had opened this can of worms, but she had to say he seemed just a bit too into this. Was there some specific reason she  Hopefully her powers would protect her from any side effects, but she couldn't really be sure. She lifted the inhaler to her lips, heart pounding in her ears. Was there some way to get out of this? She pressed down on the button and inhaled, praying internally that this didn't go terribly.

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GM

 

Strawberries. The blue powder, once inhaled, tasted like strawberries. Fresh, beautiful strawberries.

 

It was nice. It was a good feeling. She felt like she was flying, like all the weight of the world was off her shoulders. Like a good memory, a warm, fuzzy feeling. Warm, warmer. 

 

Especially her hands. Alice's hands were starting to feel really hot.

 

Why were they hot?

 

"Wicked, I haven't gotten that yet." Billy was laughing now.

 

Well, they were on fire, of course. Bright green fire, keeping her warm, yet not burning. 

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Alice's eyes widened at the surprising flavour, having not expected something so pleasant. She quietly revelled in the nice feeling, enjoying the flavour and the warmth when she started to get worried about the heat of her hands. She gasped at the sight of the flames covering her hands but it was only moments before starting to play with the fire, waving her hands in front of her, watching with fascination. Her mind flashed back to her thoughts about a pyrokinetic burning down the school and she giggled at the absurdity that there was a distinct possibility that the hypothetical pyrokinetic could be her.

...

...

Crap.

Alice had no clue what the flames would do or how to control them, and she now owed Billy a favour, which from the sounds of it he wanted immediately. She looked at him through her lashes, head positioned so that she looked like she was looking at her burning hands. She definitely couldn't risk a fight now. While she wasn't the greatest at aiming she was more than capable of not pasting someone with a punch, but adding flames that did God(s?) knows what and she couldn't risk it. For now she'd find out what he wanted.

"What did you want the fee to be?"

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GM

 

"Nobody's gonna figure out what happens to anyone you burn. Just some ashes, right?"

 

He threw a candy bar at her to demonstrate, and it immediately burned up in the bright green flames. 

 

"Perfect. You know Teddy Kaplan? He's been selling here, at the school. That's my turf. So, I want you to go and show him why that's a bad idea." He smirked and leaned back, admiring the view of Alice and the green flames for a moment. "You got about an hour, so you'd better hurry. Unless there's some other way you'd rather pay..." His smile twisted further at the last part.

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Alice cringed internally at the implication of the possible other ways to pay. No way was she doing this sleazeball any 'favours'. But the alternative... She wasn't going to kill someone, and couldn't exactly just go threaten Teddy, especially with her face exposed. How could she get out of this? She was stuck. Alice stared down at her burning hands, she wasn't going to go out and do what he wanted, but she wasn't going to sell herself to this creep. Could she get the information on suppliers out of Teddy while also following through on the fee? But still, someone might see he-

Her thoughts stuttered to a halt as the simplest solution presented itself to her. She could just threaten Billy.

 

"Nobody's gonna figure out what happens to anyone I burn, huh?" She met the boy's eyes suddenly, a grin settling across her face against her will. She puller herself to her full height, staring at Billy's face. She swayed slightly as she raised her green fiery hands. "Well that is helpful. Now Billy, first I want you to tell me where you're getting your supply." Alice waved her hand in front of Billy, her eyes distractedly following the fire. "Second, you will wait outside the gym after school. Third, we are both going to be very quiet about what happened in this room. I don't have anything against you personally, but someone asked me to do this and they'll speak to you outside the gym. I promise you'll be safe but she'll be following up to make sure you didn't lie. If you did you'll probably find yourself very quickly with the police. If not you'll get away consequence free."

Alice took a steadying breath, moving on to her least favourite part, "As to inside this room, if you lie to me or refuse to answer the laptop gets it first. Then your shoes, but my hands are pretty shaky sometimes so..." She shrugged before continuing, "Then I burn off your hair, and finally if you're still being reticent I will hurt you. I don't want to hurt you Billy, but I will. If you don't want to talk to me." She shook her head, "As a bit of positive incentive, waiting at the gym will be exciting." Alice grinned, "You'll get to meet a superhero."

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GM

 

Billy's eyes fell on Alice's hands. He was starting to sweat. He swallowed hard. "#%&¤." 

 

He was not used to not being the one in a position of power.

 

"Alright... alright..." He shook his head in defeat. "Couple of old dudes, never got their names. They get in touch with me when they got something new for me to sell... I'm just a dealer, not some big shot!" 

 

"Just... get outta here. Go get your drugs somewhere else. I'll meet with your little super hero after school, show her where it is."

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Alice's face was like stone as Billy looked crushed. She turned towards the door, carefully opening it with her elbow. Stopping, she looked over her shoulder, "I'm sorry it came to that, Billy." She said quietly, before sneaking away from the school, avoiding everyone she could. She didn't want anyone to see her with the burning hands, and needed time to cool off, literally and figuratively. She regretted the way that had gone, but within an hour she should be fine. Sneaking somewhere secluded, Alice launched herself into the air, aiming for orbit, hoping that some time in space would help her cool off. She enjoyed the freedom that came with sitting in space, not even gravity weighing on her.

 

Quickly leaving the atmosphere, she passed a satellite just a bit too close for comfort before slowing to a stop at Lagrange 1, reflecting back on her first orbital drop. Alice chuckled at the memory, at how afterwards she'd been upset at the loss of her dress more than that she'd nearly turned herself into a kinetic weapon aimed at Freedom. She was glad that she had learned her lesson as she drifted in space, looking down at the Earth. The Fens seemed so small from up here. But they were her home and she refused to let some super drugs destroy it.

"I'm coming for you. I hope you're ready."

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GM

 

Time passed quickly in space. Soon after, a little more than an hour after Alice had left Billy, her hands stopped burning. Despite the lack of any atmosphere or oxygen, they had kept burning, even in space. But now, the fire was gone.

 

She felt amazing. Like she was full of energy. Stronger than she had ever been. Like the fire that had disappeared from her hands were now burning inside her.

 

It was time to go and get ready. Billy should be waiting for Shooting Star.

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Alice changed into her Shooting Star suit while hiding behind a satellite before retrieving a piece of space junk that would burn up as it fell with her after letting her bleed off some speed. She so rarely got to do an orbital drop like this. Was it needlessly dramatic? Sure. Was it going to be fun?

Oh yes.

 

Alice grinned madly as she plummeted on her makeshift shield. Maybe one day she would get some funding and rebuild her costume to be able to survive directly and not need to clean up space junk to do this, but for now she howled with glee as the world lit up with fire around her, flames blooming and molten metal flowing around her. She focused on steering the piece of metal as she plummeted towards Freedom. Over the years she'd gotten pretty good at accurately performing reentry, and had managed to get within a few miles of her target with no steering past the initial deceleration, but to get as accurate as she wanted she needed to aim while she plummeted. She whooped as she started her final descent, the last of the shield burning away, and quickly used her flight to reduce her speed the last little bit to stop the flames. The school was in sight now, and she aimed where she told Billy to wait, killing the last of her speed just in time to save the concrete from being crushed to dust. Alice hit the ground in a three-point landing, glad for her toughness, otherwise that would be very hard on her knee. Still steaming slightly she stood up, an easy grin on her face.

"So, how about we have a little chat?"

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GM

 

Time had passed. Billy waited. He really didn't seem like he wanted to be there at all, like he just wanted to leave the first chance he got.

 

And honestly, who could blame him?

 

And then Shooting Star dropped out of the sky, landing in front of him. His mouth hang open for a second, then closed.

 

"I... I guess you're Alice's cape friend, huh?" He put up a brave front, at least.

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Alice grinned at Billy's shock. It was after all what she'd been aiming for, shock and awe and all that. For now she would try and do a mixture of identity damage control and investigation. "I'm Shooting Star, and friend is putting it a bit strongly. I keep in touch with Alice for a few reasons, and had to ask her for a favour here. I don't want these drugs on my street, powers in the wrong hands can be dangerous." She looked down at him sternly.  "I'm not going to punish you for getting involved, but you will be helping me to put a stop to this, before someone does what Alice did but without the good intentions. This is dangerous, and the last thing I want is you getting hurt because of it." Alice gave the boy a reassuring smile before continuing. "So I want your help to shut this down, alright? Anything you can do or tell me will help and I promise you that you'll be safe."

She hoped that Billy would listen to reason, wouldn't try to have honour among thieves.

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GM

 

"You'll keep me safe?" Billy's voice cracked. "You will keep me safe? That's rich. Only reason I'm here is cus Alice threatened me, and now you're talking about keeping me safe?"

 

He looked Shooting Star up and down. He didn't seem impressed. 

 

"What makes you think that I'm the one that gotta be kept safe here?"

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Alice frowned at Billy's declaration about her threatening him. It wasn't exactly false, but he was leaving out details like him telling Alice to threaten Teddy. She covered her face with her hand, sighing. "The way I see it, it was only a matter of time until someone who you'd just given super drugs to you did the same, but without the good intentions behind it. Or worse, someone who wanted to move in on your turf decided to get rid of you. Either of those options end with you either threatened or dead, with possible collateral damage." She looked him in the eye as he asked his question, eyes narrowing. She quickly darted her eyes around, spotting the thugs. "Okay Billy, I'm not dumb enough to assume those four aren't working at least with you, so I'm going to go over a few things to give you an idea of what you're messing with." She gave the boy her best winning smile, but it never reached her eyes. "The other day, I stopped an anti-tank rocket without a scratch to anything but my breastplate, and not a minute ago you watched me drop from orbit. Anything you have that can hurt me will reduce you to a fine red mist. So even with your masterfully cunning ambush, you still need protecting from your own idiocy. If they aren't working for you, you want to say so right now, so I can take you somewhere safe before this place gets shot up. Do you understand?" Alice quickly ran through what she had to do in her own head. Even if it was him behind this she had to protect him for the first few seconds to give him a chance to deny or confirm. If it wasn't him she'd grab him and remove them from the situation, if it was him she would take out the thugs first and then get the answers from him. She wasn't particularly worried that they'd be able to hurt her, but until she'd sorted out the situation she had to make sure they didn't hurt the little idiot.

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GM

 

"What the hell are you talking about?" Was Billy lying? Maybe. He took a few steps away from Shooting Star, putting his hands up. "Don't touch me!"

 

Three men, one women. All four seemed to be armed with rifles. Three red dots from laser sights appeared on Shooting Star, while a single dot appeared on Billy's chest.

 

"Don't move." The voice came from one of them, it was digitally distorted, making it difficult to determine anything. "Make one wrong move and we drop you both."

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Alice's eyes narrowed as the laser dots appeared on both her and Billy. Her guess was that Billy had told his supplier about what happened and had painted a target on himself in the process. Now she had to deal with these four without Billy getting shot. She wasn't exactly worried about being shot herself, given she hadn't lied once during her spiel, although she had to admit that the rocket very much could have hurt her. Now she had to work out how to take them out without Billy getting a fatal case of high velocity lead poisoning. She would be impressed if the bullets were anywhere near as fast as her going at full speed, but while she could accelerate to that without a problem the boy in front of her had a good chance of being liquefied if she shot off and fifty thousand miles per hour. So for now she'd have to protect him, but she could only stop one bullet at once, which means with the current number she could protect him, but how soon before they start shooting more at him seeing that she's stopping the ones going for him?

 

"Billy, I swear to God if this was because of you  you're not as bright as I thought." She couldn't keep the frustration out of her voice. There was only one thing for it, she had to get Billy out of here as fast as she could, then she could come back and flatten these goons. Alice took a steadying breath, opening her palms and planting her feet. Then she surged towards Billy.

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GM

 

"Hey! What the hell!?" With Alice moving forward at blinding speed, Billy couldn't really do anything to avoid her before she scooped him up, grabbing on to him and, well, holding without giving him much chance to get out. "Let go of me!"

 

Try as he might, Billy wasn't nearly strong enough to try and get away, even as he struggled against Shooting Star's grip.

 

Four shots fired. Three hit Alice in the back. She could feel it, but not much more than that. Whoever had sent these men hadn't anticipated just how tough she were.

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