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GM

 

3PM, August 28th, 2020

Silberman's Northwest, Emerald City

 

Silberman's Northwest was a nice place, even if it was very different from the original Silberman's back in Freedom City. Gretchen McDaniels, otherwise known as the Shrike, was, of course, retired. She had left Freedom for Emerald to get out of the hero life, but some times, you just couldn't.

 

She had met Robin Lynne Langley on a few occasions. She had become a regular at Silberman's Northwest, and about a year before, she and Gretchen had shared an adventure into a magic book that was some knock off of the Wizard of Oz. They had managed to escape, and they had kicked ass and taken names, but even as they learned each others secret identities, Robin had respected Gretchen's choice to not be a hero anymore.

 

Of course, things were different now, and Emerald needed all the heroes they could get...

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Justice

 

Robin stood outside Silberman's, dressed in a pair of jeans and a light blue t-shirt with an image of the Centurion on it. Her hair was loose, while she adjusted her glasses slightly. Why was this so weird? She'd been to Silberman's so many times, she and Gretchen were on fairly friendly terms, so why was today so difficult?

 

Maybe because she was going to ask for help. Their team had gotten together, they'd done some great stuff, they even got an Ultio Suit to look into, but for some reason, but she needed help here, and, well, Gretchen seemed to have what she needed.

 

So, Robin took a deep breath and stepped inside. Alright, she could do this.

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Back to school was a busy time, even at a used bookstore; Silberman's NW had a decent collection of used textbooks, and certainly offered better prices than the ECU bookstore. Despite herself, Gretchen felt pangs of nostalgia around this time of year; things were so much easier when she was back in FreeSa. Sex, drugs and Call of Duty with a side of studying and working on class projects. Nowadays she staring down 30 as she still somehow toiled in retail. Then she smiled; at least she got to sleep with a beautiful faerie princess before it all went to s###.

 

Right now, Gretch was doing the manager thing, checking prices with a scanning gun; she wore one of her ten pairs of Doc Martens, black jeans, a Banana Splits T-shirt and a sleeveless green flannel shirt, and her usual disdainful expression behind her black plastic framed glasses.

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Justice

 

Gretchen looked busy. Like, way too busy. She probably shouldn't interrupt, right? This was Gretchen's job, her own store and everything, she was busy, yes, no need to interrupt. Robin paused, looking for a second. No, she really should do it. She had to do it, right? No second guessing, she really had to stop doing that all the time. She wasn't just some awkward teen, she wasn't just some newbie hero anymore. She could do this.

 

"Uh, hey Gretchen. Busy?"

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Gretchen looked up from her work and spoke in her usual deadpan. "Incredibly. Your timing couldn't be worse. I have to scan every item in this because my new hire Keitha appears to lack the most basic computer skills. What's up?" It was always hard to read the sarcastic musician, but there seemed to be a glimmer of interest and maybe the ghost of a smile on her lips. At the very least, she seemed to be listening as she resumed her scanning.

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Justice

 

"Y'know, I could probably fix up a machine that could do all that for you... I mean, not right now, but, eventually, if you wanted or something or..." Alright, alright, that wasn't why she was there. No, not at all. She was there on business. At least par business, right?

 

"So, umm... I know you're retired and everything, but I put up this whole thing on HeroHouse and CapesList, and I got a bunch of heroes together and, uh... I had kinda hoped you'd show..." She trailed off a bit.

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"Yep. I'm definitely retired," said Gretch with a short nod of her head, still scanning away. "I also definitely do not have a police scanner, or read all the city papers or do independent research here at the store. And I absolutely don't leave anonymous tips on the ECPD Crimestoppers Hotline based on said research." Again that hint of a smile. "So there is no way I want to hear anymore about this project of yours."

 

The bookseller paused to look down at her scanner.

 

"I have to put this back in my office. You can follow along if you like."

Edited by Heritage
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Justice

 

Robin paused a bit. She didn't really know what to say at first. It was all so specific, all the things that Gretchen weren't doing aaaaand... oh. Yeah. Alright. She got it. She definitely got it. At least she thought she got it.

 

"Yeah, yeah, alright, I'll come along. Need help carrying anything or something?"

 

Could just as well help out a bit, right?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Once they were off the floor, Gretchen led Robin to her office, a small room very much in the musician's style. The room was organized, with various clearly-labled bins for office supplies, a state-of-the-art laptop and printer/scanner, and a small desk lamp. A black cat with a witch's hat on the desk and a few tabloid sized concert posters on the walls were the extent of the decoration.


Gretchen sat behind her desk and instantly started typing, barely acknowledged the chair across from her with a nod. "Who else is in the distinguished cadre of heroes."

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Justice

 

"Got some big names," Robin began, barely able to contain her excitement. "Emerald Spider was there, Protectron's moved to EC and he's in, and Metanaut showed up. Kanunu, Salvo and Waverider, I'm pretty sure they're all from Freedom City, so maybe you've met them? I dunno if you've heard of Venomax? He's kinda creepy, but effective. A couple of new people, too. One's spooky, calls herself Santa Muerte. The others a kind of robot I guess? He calls himself Visionary."

 

She looked around before she wanted to continue.

 

"Can... anyone listen in here? Are you sure that nothing's bugged?"

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There was a brief pause, and Gretchen briefly stopped typing. "I have no idea who any of those people are." She then resumed typing for a few seconds before she abruptly stopped and raised her hand. "Wait! Waverider." She turned to face Robin directly. "Dark skin, dark hair. Deaf and mute with vibrational powers, right?" The normally sarcastic Gretchen spoke in an uncharacteristically small voice as her eyes went a bit out of focus. "I know her."

 

She then shuddered before she going back to her typing like nothing happened, though her fingers were moving much faster now. "I'm in. You don't have to pitch anymore, just sign me up. This room is secure."

Edited by Heritage
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Justice

 

"Really? Not even Emerald Spider and Protectron? I mean, ES is a pretty big deal here, she pretty much the first modern super hero in Emerald, and I think Protectron was pretty big back in Freedom?" She had heard of him, at least. "But yeah, that Waverider. She's pretty cool. We went up against the White Rabbit together."

 

She paused when Gretchen mentioned that the room was secure and that she was in, and... alright. Right, that was great, right? But... she still had to break the bad news, didn't she? She fell silent, slowly reaching for her upper left arm with her right hand, idly rubbing it.

 

"That's great, really, but... there's some bad news too." This really wasn't easy to do. "You see, umm... part of the reason I got everything together? Well, you've seen those people running around in Ultio Suits and playing MarsTech's hero game?" She paused again. She really had to get better at this. "He, uh... kind of stole some at least some of the tech in those suits from me, and... He's figured out my secret identity and I'm pretty sure that he's actually a bad guy."

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Gretchen stopped her typing to stare at Robin in mock-horror, showing more expression than she'd ever seen on her face before. "You're telling me that a super-rich, middle-aged white guy who's also a tech genius with a mysterious past is secretly bad? I refuse to believe it!" She then returned to her typing with a hint of a smile on her face.

 

"All those a-holes steal. Jobs, Gates, Mars. They're all pieces of s###. Nothing to be embarrassed about. If anything, it puts you in a special club." For a moment, Gretch actually offered the younger heroine a genuine, albeit brief smile. "Your stuff was good enough to steal."

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Justice

 

Robin shook her head.

 

"I guess I just hoped he'd be different. He seemed different. But yeah, secret ID's known by a bad guy that's used my tech to outfit what's basically a bunch of super thugs that go around fighting whoever Mars tells them to. Yeah, my tech being good enough to steal makes that seem to much better." She leaned forward over a table, burying her head in her arms. 

 

Peeking up at Gretchen, she let out sigh before standing up straight.

 

"Kind of brings me to the point: Have you ever heard about Ultra Girl? She showed up a whle ago, the Ultio Suits doesn't seem like they're fans, so I wanted to look into her. You wanna come?"

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  • 3 weeks later...

"I've seen a few things about her online. Very Goody Two-Shoes, like Miracle Girl back home." Gretchen frowned slightly and adjusted her glasses. "I don't know why I said that. Reflex, I guess. By all accounts, Miracle Girl's the real deal."

 

She finished up whatever she was typing, and then turned her full attention to Robin, arms folded across her chest. "I'll help you out, under one condition. That you stop blaming yourself for things that are out of your control. Mars stole the tech from you to use for his own ends. You are not responsible for what he's done with your tech. Understand?"

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Justice

 

Robin couldn't keep a small laugh down.

 

"Not that easy, sorry. Feeling bad about thing's outside my control is kinda my super power. But I'll try, alright?" 

 

The laugh turned into a stern smile, one that was very unlike Robin. "Don't worry. I'm working on figuring things out, and once I got enough proof, I'll kick Mars' ass. I'm working on a little something that should give me an edge."

 

The stern smile quickly faded, before she stood up straight again, back to her usual self. "So, uh, when do you wanna go? I got my bike ready outside."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Gretchen's face was unreadable for several seconds as she cocked her head to one side, her dark blue eyes piercing in their intensity. And then she blinked. "Well, then." She closed her laptop with a click, stepped out from behind her desk and motioned for Robin to lead the way.

 

"After you."

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GM

 

Ultra Girl was a hero. She was bright, she was all smiles, and yet, her encounter with the Dreamer and MarsTech's Ultio Suits had painted a target on her back. So far, it didn't seem like they really knew anything about her, aside from the fact that she had been branded a troublemaker... and was apparently worth a lot of points.

 

While Robin had been busy recruiting Gretchen, the Ultio users had been busy tracking down Ultra Girl across the city...

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Ultra Girl 

 

Courtney was flying high above Emerald City in her Ultra Girl costume when a strange feeling came over her. She had just finished up guiding a family of hopelessly lost tourists make their way to Jadetown, and before that she had helped a young girl in Bethlehem Heights find her missing dog. Besides a brief mix-up with a very repentant after-the-fact mugger, her patrol had been pretty quiet. Even so, the still heroine felt apprehensive, which was an altogether unusual emotion for her.  

 

And wouldn't it be? No matter how hard Courtney tried to ignore it, she was an android. Artificial intelligences like her didn't get scopaesthesia, at least not in the same way that 'real' humans did. All the same, she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. 

 

Though the more logical part of her positronic brain calculated that she was acting irrationally, whatever passed as humanity in her mechanical mind felt compelled to do a search even while she was skybound. With that in mind, Courtney turned on her electro-sensors and tried to see if anyone was spying on her.

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GM

 

Irrational or not, Ultra Girl was right. She was not alone. She could pick out multiple radio signals below. She had seen them before, it seemed to be the communication system that the Ultio Suits were using. All courtesy of MarsTech, of course.

 

They were moving into position, circling around her far below. Either they were just tracking her, or they were trying to trap her. Something was going on, at the very least.

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Justice

 

The Lawrider tore through the streets. Robin at the front, weaving back and forth between the cars, Gretchen behind her. She was wearing a dark red helmet, and had offered a navy blue one to Gretchen.

 

"I've been hacking into MarsTech's TroubAlert system," she explained, while speeding between two cars only narrowly avoiding them. "It sounds like Ultra Girl's worth a lot of points, so there's a bunch of them that's planning to take her out. The system make her out to be some kind of raid boss or something like that, so they've been tracking her for a while."

 

She turned sharply around a corner.

 

"She's close to Jadetown at the moment. We should get there in a moment."

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"Just drop me off at an alley I can change in, and I'll be good to go," Gretchen said from inside the offered helmet. She was peering around with her glasses, which usually flared up to show her incoming danger. Though she wasn't in costume, at least most of her powers offered some degree of subtlety if they were surprise.

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