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North Bay was very nice, Danica decided as she putted along the edge of the immaculately-paved road past the huge houses, but she definitely wouldn't want to live there. The houses were beautiful and the big old trees and sprawling gardens were probably super nice when the weather was warm, but everything was awfully spread out. Also there were no bus stops because it was a rich area, and there were very few sidewalks, because same. She'd had to find the nearest bus stop and then go on two wheels for nearly a mile to the actual place. Trying to keep her balky old borrowed scooter out of the slushy puddles at the edge of the road and also not get hit by cars was a little bit challenging. At least there wasn't much traffic! She was relieved to finally reach the address and turn down the long driveway. 

 

The driveway was pretty cool, lined with tall old trees whose branches arched high overhead and probably made a ceiling when the leaves were on them. It was also immaculately paved, without a pothole or a smidgen of gravel anywhere to be seen. It was also-also a bit of a wind tunnel, making Danica tuck her face a little further down into the scarf she'd wrapped around her neck, over the hood and knit hat she was also wearing. Between that and her sweater and two pairs of pants and puffy coat and mittens, she barely felt underdressed even without her shell on. Still cold, though. Freedom City was always so cold in winter! The Segway did not like the cold, either. It was in much poorer condition than her lost one had been, and was making sad rattling Segway-noises.

 

At the end of the driveway she found a huge old handsome house, even bigger and handsomer than most of the ones she'd ridden past. Attached was a garage that looked like it could fit at least four cars and probably more, with its own little door out front. Ellie had said Mr. Hunter worked out of his garage most of the time, so she headed that way. Carefully dismounting from the Segway of Sadness, she adjusted the straps of her backpack and rang the buzzer by the door. 

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The door burst open the moment she pressed the buzzer, as though someone had thrown it back from within but the statuesque woman who greeted Danica stood several paces back from the doorway. "Well met!" she boomed enthusiastically. Well over six feet tall with a powerfully muscular build, handsome features and fiery red hair done up in a messy bun, she wore a stately black chauffeur's uniform and cap which would have had to have been custom tailored and held a tablet and stylus that looked comically small in her grip. "You must be the unshakable Ms. Danica Holmes! Come! Enter and be welcome, young adamant!" She beckoned with her empty hand, tilting her head slightly. "Your mighty terrapin mail is more cunningly subtle than I had expected."

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Danica startled momentarily when the door burst open, but quickly recovered. "Hi!" she chirped, taking in the big woman in all her mightiness. This definitely had to be some kind of superhero, she decided. She'd met a lot of superheroes, and the woman definitely had the vibe. Accepting the invitation, she made her way slowly into the garage, relaxing immediately when the place turned out to be heated. It felt so good! 

 

"I'm in disguise!" she explained to the lady. "I know Mr. Hunter does work for superheroes, but I thought it would be rude to draw people's attention to his house! This house is awesome, it looks like it could be on a TV show or something, and... wow!" Her attention was caught by the garage itself, huge and spotless and full of really neat vehicles in different stages of repair. Most of them seemed like old classic cars, but it was entirely possible that one might be a superhero's ride, in for a tuneup or new turborockets or something like that.  "This place should be a TV show!" she decided. "But yeah, see?" She shrugged off her backpack, letting it drop away into nowhere as her shell came up to cover her, coat and all. "Ta-da!" 

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"Oh ho! Clever!" the towering woman congratulated as Danica's shell appeared, taking a few steps around the girl to get a cleared look. "I like you already! You may call me Redbird, Ms. Danica Holmes!" As she gave her a once over something about her movements sparked curiosity in Redbird, her expression becoming intensely focused "Hm. Fast-twitch muscle fiber rating at... Oh! Oh." Redbird's free hand went to cover her mouth and she nearly dropped her tablet in shock. "That cannot be right.The mender perilous explained the cause for your visit but... Hrn." Somehow straightening her back to an even greater hight she nodded solemnly. "You labour under a great and unjust yoke, young adamant. On my oath we shall ease that burden as befits the rights of all free beings!" The volume of her voice unconsciously increased steadily as she went into her proclamation, echoing throughout the garage.

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"I... what?" Danica asked, baffled. She could tell that something had bothered Redbird a lot, but it wasn't exactly clear what that was. The way she talked made it a little harder to figure out too, like she was a character from She-Ra: Princess of Power. "I just... my friend told me that this was a good place to come if I wanted to get a car made so I could actually drive it?" she offered. "And so that I could fit in it even with my shell on, and it could carry my scooter?" She gestured vaguely to the door beyond which the Segway was parked. She had no idea who or what a mender perilous was, and it didn't really seem the right time to ask. 

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"Aye! Drive you shall!" Redbird agreed heartily, clenching her fist close to her chest an appearing greatly inspired by Danica's bravery.

 

The door on the far side of the garage opened and a dark haired man stepped inside from the main building. He would have been impressively tall next to nearly anyone other than Redbird and had a leaner but still noticeably athletic frame under a set of deep navy coveralls, unzipped far enough to show a plain white shirt beneath. Sharp cheekbones and tinted glasses with oval lenses lent him something of an intimidating aura, which only increased when he greeted the visiting student in a soft, nearly inflectionless voice. "Ah. Must be Danica."

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"Hi, Mr. Hunter!" Danica greeted him cheerfully, setting aside the brief moment of confusion. Redbird seemed to like the idea of helping make her a car, so that had to be a good sign. She studied the engineer and wondered if maybe she should've brought some of her girl friends with her. Given the way they liked to talk about teachers and upperclassmen at school she thought they would definitely appreciate Mr. Hunter's looks, and that was always funny to observe. He had a nice voice, really calm and cool.

 

"Yep, I'm Danica! Jill o' Cure told me that you are the best at making custom cars for people with, um, kind of supernatural needs!" The garage was big enough that she considered going back for her Segway, but there was no way she was going to drag its slushy wheels all over the pristine floor, even if it weren't making sad noises. Instead she started making her way across the garage at a good clip for her, which would've been a slow walk for most people. "I haven't been able to learn to drive yet because I haven't got very good reflexes, but we thought maybe there was some kind of driver assist, or something?" 

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Mr. Hunter made a soft sound of confirmation in the back of his throat as he walked over to Danica. He tilted his head slightly toward Redbird and quirked on eyebrow upward in silent question. "Her fast-twitch... cruelly restrained...!" The statuesque woman looked away, stoically refusing to cry.

 

"Mmh. Magic." He turned around and motioned for Danica to follow him over to a small sort of kitchenette in one corner of the garage, indicating a coat rack along the way and noticeably taking a slow enough pace that she had no difficulty matching it. Taking a seat one of a few stools set around a small table built into the wall the dark haired man rested a hand on his chin thoughtfully. "Dr. Espadas seemed very impressed by you. Strong recommendation. Help me understand your circumstance."

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Because the garage was nice and warm, Danica took off her shell long enough to shed hat, scarf, coat, mittens, and the gloves she'd worn under the mittens before reshelling and climbing onto the stool. "Well," she began, "I do have magic powers; they're related to me being the living avatar of a tortoise god." Trying to forestall the usual next question, she added "It didn't have a name, because tortoises don't think of themselves like that, I guess, but since I'm its human incarnation, I do!" She made a face. "I mean, obviously I have a name, that's probably kind of irrelevant." She set her elbows on the table and put her chin on her fists, obviously trying to think of what facts might constitute her circumstances. "Let's see... I'm thirty-five years old, but because I age at half-speed, it's more like being maybe seventeenish. My mom was pregnant for eighteen months!" she added brightly. "Um, because I age slowly, I don't get to do things as soon as other kids, so this is my fifth year at Claremont. And I'm kind of slow," she added, sneaking a glance at Redbird in case that was enough to set the warrior off again. 

 

When no outburst was immediately forthcoming, she expanded on the topic. "There's nothing physically wrong with me and I can do things, I just do them all a lot slower than most people. I can talk and think normally, but my reflexes are basically terrible," she explained cheerfully. "Almost nothing can hurt me, so driving would be totally safe for me, but I don't want to cause accidents that hurt other people! Plus I've got this," she added, tapping the front plate of her shell with her knuckles. "I don't have to wear it all the time, but I like it! It doesn't fit very well in cars. Oh, and I have a mobility scooter that is too heavy for me to lift in and out of a car very easily by myself." She cocked her head and raised her eyebrows hopefully, checking in to see if she'd given the engineer enough to work with. 

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Mr. Hunter listened to everything Danica said with rapt attention, inclining his head slightly any time it seemed like she might be waiting for confirmation before continuing. Once she was finished he gave a slightly deeper nod. "Names can be important. If you see her, please avoid mentioning eighteen month pregnancy to my wife."

 

"Silver Tree's bark," Redbird swore under her breath, hands going to her midriff in reflexive sympathy.

 

The taciturn mechanic gave the taller woman a glance before turning back to Danica. "Speed... culturally significant to Redbird. Doesn't make you 'wrong'." The high schooler hadn't really seemed to need that reassurance and it was given casually but it seemed important to him to leave no room for misunderstanding. "Shell, scooter, easily accommodated. Hnn. Eye movements?" He raised two fingers in front of his tinted glasses and moved them right and left to illustrate.

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Danica followed his fingers with her eyes obediently. That part of her, at least, seemed to move at a fairly normal speed. "I can see and hear and talk pretty regularly," she confirmed. "The Master Mage and some doctors did tests when I was little and said that I think and can use magic at normal speed, too. But it takes, like, two seconds for my knee to pop up when you use the little hammer thing." She laughed, obviously more amused than distressed by that result. "Most of the time it's okay; I mean, I always get where I'm going eventually! But going places without a car is hard, and always calling my folks for a ride gets less and less cool every year. Plus if I want to do hero stuff, I have to be able to get places!" 

 

She craned her neck over to look at Redbird. Her neck, it seemed, was at least somewhat more flexible than a normal human's, and also maybe... longer? More extendible? It wasn't too glaring, but it did look a little bit strange. "I'm sorry if I made you sad by talking about being slow," she apologized. "I'm sure you're very fast!" 

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The tall redheaded woman gave a small start then assumed a po-faced expression. "The one who should apologize is myself, young adamant! What I foolishly mistook for stoic resignation is clearly an inner-peace borne of great wisdom. That I placed my own expectations upon you was unworthy of me." She bowed deeply from the waist.

 

Mr. Hunter cleared his throat softly, the corner of his mouth twitching almost imperceptibly. "Driver assist tracking eye moment certainly possible. Rear and side cameras for view without movement, collision detection. Size determined by accommodating scooter would leave space for additional seating or equipment."

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Danica did her best to return the bow, but had to stop before getting too far lest her shell overbalance her and tip her off the stool. "That's okay," she assured Redbird. "I really appreciate you wanting to help me!" 

 

She returned her attention back to Mr. Hunter. "That all sounds great!" she enthused. "If I had a car with a computer and some cameras that would help me avoid running into anybody, I'm sure I could handle normal navigation and stuff. My parents have always worried about things like, what if someone steps out in front of my car, or what if there's ice on the road and I go skidding? Even if I could yell for the car to stop and have it stop instead of pushing the brake pedal, I think that would be faster! And extra room for seats and stuff would be radical!" 

 

Twisting on her stool, Danica looked over towards the garage door. "I left my scooter outside so it wouldn't mess up your floor because I rode it from the bus stop and it got really slushy, but it's a basic Segway people-mover for now until it blows up or I get a new one from the people at the Lab, whichever comes first. It weighs like 75 pounds so I can lift it when I have to, but not very high." 

 

 

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Making a small murmuring sound to acknowledge that he'd understood her, Mr. Hunter moved to one of the workbenches and retrieved a tablet and stylus. He jotted down a few notes in the top corner of the document he opened then began sketching out some loose lines to get a sense of space requirements. "Additional storage and equipment add weight. Expect to encounter extreme conditions, active opposition. Reasonable to focus on durability, traversing difficult terrain rather than exceptional speed." He looked back up to Danica to gauge her reaction. "Shell can be larger, yes? Maximum size? Worth knowing if it could hypothetically envelop vehicle."

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"Um, yeah, it can, actually!" Danica poofed her shell away and slid off the stool, walking over to an empty place in the garage. She scrunched her face and concentrated. A new shell appeared around her, this one oriented with the black and gold dome pointing up. It was easily large enough to encompass an average minivan. "I can keep the front plate off when the shell is this way," she explained, her voice echoing from inside the shell, "so it's kind of like a tent, but I don't think I could drive very well like this. But I never have to worry about finding a garage!" she added cheerfully, walking out through the shell's front arch. "It can get a little bigger than this, I think, it seems to grow some every year. I just don't use the really big size very much because it's not as strong as when it's right on me." 

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"Aha! A one woman shield wall, tremendous!" Redbird crowed in approval. It didn't seem to take much to guide the bombastic woman back to her default enthusiasm, it seemed.

 

Mr. Hunter noted the size of the shell impassively, jotting down a few more notes, including some napkin math for the height and arc of its front opening based on Danica's own height. "Utility in limiting vehicle's size to fit in enlarged shell, then. Metahuman combat can be... taxing on equipment." Redbird made a sound from the back of her throat at that, somewhere between a scoff and a chortle. "Reduced visibility is a concern but sometimes you just need a battering ram." He didn't seem overly concerned about recommending she drive into things intentionally.

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Danica's eyes got very big at that idea. "You mean I could throw a shell over the car and just, like, crash it into something to break it?" she asked, her voice a little awed. "That would be epic..." She walked back over to where Mr. Hunter was working, hoping to get a look at what he was drawing. "Maybe the car could have radar or sonar or something, or like a periscope so I could see out of it if I put the shell on it. That way I could see what I wanted to run into!" The idea of sudden destructive potential in her vehicle seemed to please the young heroine greatly. "I guess cars that shoot out grappling hooks and oil slicks are probably not a thing in the real world, right?" she asked, sounding a bit hopeful. 

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  • 1 month later...

Mr. Hunter made a small gesture without looking up from what he was sketching that might have been interpreted as dismissive or simply encouraging further iterating on her ideas. "Harpoon and winch, reasonable. Too heavy overall to lift itself but anchoring a fleeing vehicle, halting a fall, hnh." By contrast the hand holding the stylus was moving rapidly across the tablet, seamlessly switching from the minute movements of note taking to broad stokes outlining shapes. "Slick poor choice in city. Danger to bystanders." He paused abruptly and looked up, raising one eyebrow almost imperceptibly. "Submersible? Thematic."

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Oh, yes," Danica agreed, softly but with great feeling. "I mean, most tortoises don't swim at all but that's okay, I still want it to go underwater. And if you can put a winch on it, can it have a tow package? I guess you'd have to soup up the engine a little, I know most minivans can't haul much, but it might be useful! And thematic," she added with a grin, "I carry my house with me. Or whatever else needs pulling." She was bouncing up and down on her heels a bit now, slowly but with clear excitement. "Where would you put it together? Do you do the work here? All your cars here are amazing."

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