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Electra

Learning Curve

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Monday, June 1

11:00pm

Stesha was ready. Well, she was almost certain she was ready. The little knot of butterflies in her stomach suggested that she might not be quite ready, but she ignored them. She'd moved to Freedom City so that she could become a superhero, and she'd been piddling around long enough. Today had been a day full of mundanity, planning weddings, putting together corsages for a half-dozen proms, paying the rent and balancing her checkbook. It was time to move beyond all that and start doing something extraordinary.

She didn't really have a costume, and wasn't sure she wanted one. She definitely wouldn't look good in the spandex that other heroes tended to wear. Even though she didn't really need to eat anymore, she still did it fairly often as a recreational activity, and was displeased at the way it showed up on her hips and her bottom. So instead of the spandex, she settled on purple leggings and her favorite sweatshirt, a dark green one with a big pink daisy on the front. She thought she probably looked more like a Care Bear than Captain Thunder, but it would do. She wasn't out to let anyone see her, after all! And with the hood up, it covered her green hair, the only really remarkable part of her appearance at all. She packed up her bag, checking to make sure she had her keys, her water bottle, all the seeds she wanted, and her cell phone, set to vibrate. Her mom had the superpower to call at absolutely the most inconvenient times.

Prepared and attired, Stesha took a deep breath. "I am a superhero," she said aloud. "I am working to make the world a better place. My name is Fleur de Joie, and I am really extraordinary." With those affirmations in mind, she wrapped her fingers around the trunk of her dwarf weeping willow, and in a moment, had disappeared from her cozy apartment. When she popped out, seconds later, she was halfway across the city, standing on the edge of a park in the west end. "Okay," she whispered to herself. "Okay."

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Despite her bold words, it took a minute for her to pry her fingers from the trunk of the tree she'd been hanging onto. It looked a little droopy, so she gave it a little boost, then the trees around it as well. Their branches straightened as they grew taller, new leaves rustling as they unfurled from nothing in mere moments. Buoyed by the reminder of what she wanted to do, she planted some flowers in rings around the trees, then moved on, satisfied that that one small patch of nature was more beautiful now.

She traced a winding path through the park, keeping out of the way of people, and leaving a trail of flowers behind her. The seeds she'd chosen for this jaunt were the hardy perennial variety, and by keeping them close to the trunks of the trees, she figured they'd be safe from the lawnmower. Digging through the seeds in her bag with the skill of practice augmented by intuition, she mixed up the heights and colors, creating a pleasantly varied look that really brightened up the otherwise sparse landscaping. It stopped looking like a half-hearted effort at a municipal green space, and more like a fairy garden. She was very pleased. In fact, she got so caught up in what she was doing, that she almost didn't notice the policeman coming till he was all but on top of her. She hit the ground with a soft thud, hiding in the shadows until he'd passed by, then dusted herself off and kept going. She'd come too far to stop with the job half-done!

When she'd made her way around the park and wound up back at the front, she decided to do something special for the entryway. Concentrating hard, she extended a hand and held it over the ground on one side of the broad sidewalk. In just a moment, dirt began to rise up, swirling like a minature tornado that thickened and widened and darkened, rather than growing larger. After a few moments, the clayish earth separated itself to the outside of the scrum, patting itself down and hardening into a red terra cotta pot, while the rest of the dirt settled inside it. Stesha pushed a dozen seeds into the soil and grew them all, filling the air with the scent of green leaves and flowers as the empty pot was suddenly filled with the color and scent of a summer meadow. She wished she could see it in the daytime, but she didn't want to be caught. Pleased with the look, she repeated it on the other side of the sidewalk, so that the park's entrance was flanked with big pots of flowers. It looked great, if she did say so herself. Turning herself all the way around once to take in her work, she headed onward, looking for more to do.

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She stuck with the street she was already on, skulking through the shadows and keeping an eye out for trouble. As she went, she perked up windowboxes and tamed gardens, sending runners of ivy running along old banisters and through porch rails, and perking up the dying grass in the median strip. Some of the houses and apartment buildings had no flowers at all though, not so much as a planter on the porch. She decided to fix that. Even though it meant the added risk of stepping up onto porches where she might be seen, Stesha was starting to feel a little more super as the evening went on. There was no one around, after all, this late on a Monday, not in a residential neighborhood. She darted up onto porches, every other porch or every two, pausing just long enough to create a pot full of flowers, then dropped back into the darkness to sneak onward.

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Nobody said being a superhero was easy, but this was the pits. Literally. The slime covered her from head to toe. She was glad no one was awake at this time of night to ask questions. Not to mention that the driver's seat was covered in it. This would take forever to get out.

Stepping out of the vehicle, she fumbled for her keys finally reaching the one for the door. She quickly walked toward her home. but someone was already there. A burglar? This was something she did not need.

She quickly walked towards the intruder and quiet as she could while soaked to the bone in the gunk. Still advancing to the porch, she let out a warning, "Whoever you are, I've had a tough night already. You don't want trouble over a few petty things."

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Stesha, who had been busy curling a trail of ivy artistically off the side of the pot she'd just made, squeaked in alarm at being spotted. Jerking her head up, she saw some kind of slimy...thing shambling at her out of the darkness. Not even stopping to think, she dived off the side of the porch without looking to see what was beyond it, and wound up scraping her hands rather painfully on the concrete apron around the house. There were no plants here, nothing she could grab hold of to make her escape! She rolled to her back and peered upwards, hoping against hope that whatever it was would go away.

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Whoever it was, was the worst thief in the world. Moira walked towards the non-intruder, trying not to make any sudden movements.

"Now, see here, I'm in a good mood," Moira grinned, "I'm going to give you the benefit of a doubt and one good explanation to explain why I should let you go and not turn you into the police." She sat down in front of the would be planter with a wet squish.

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Stesha pushed herself to a sitting position, wincing at the pain in her hands, for all the skin hadn't broken. "How about 'I wasn't doing anything wrong?'" she offered. "I was just, um, doing deliveries. Plant deliveries." She nodded up at the planter on the porch. "From a secret admirer." She certainly didn't look very threatening now, with a rip in one knee of her purple leggings and her hood draped nearly over one eye. "You scared me. Why are you all slimy?"

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Moira ran her hand through her hair, knowing it wouldn't get the excess out like the first few hundred times. "Plant deliveries, huh," she snickered, "at midnight. A secret admirerer? Well that narrows it down. As for why I'm slimed, well, let's just say monsters aren't made of kitten giggles."

Moira smiles, "Listen, I know you're lying, but something tells me you weren't trying to rob the place. You're too sweet for that. How about you come in and clean up" She paused, "Well after I clean up." She frowned that the new dress she had bought not a week ago was garbage.

Picking herself up, she walked toward the door, "Nice, a planter. My roommate has been wanting to get one of those."

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Stesha hesitated, but the idea of monsters had caught and held her attention. She got up off the ground and followed the slimy woman, brushing herself off as she went. "Monsters? You saw monsters? Did you fight with them?" She hesitated a little before actually stepping inside, but she was a hero now, and not constrained by small rules like not going into the homes of strange people. If worst came to worst, she could grow something to let her escape. "What kind of monster has slime like that?"

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"Well, it's a funny story actually," Moira said opening the door and flipping on the lights. "Welcome to my home."

The living room is immaculately clean. The whole room is set in an oriental jade. Everything either is or accentuates the color. A hardwood floor with a Aersian silk rug brings attention to the rich plush furniture that stands pushed against the wall. What really stands out is the little bonsai trees arranged in a garden type array in the middle of the room.

"If you wait here and don't try to rob me blind, I can tell you the whole story when I get through cleaning up," she said with a wink and a smile. In good faith, she walked away from her guest and down a hall.

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Stesha sat down with her hands folded on her lap for approximately fifteen seconds, then got up to explore the room. She checked out the bonsai tree first, making sure it would provide a suitable avenue of escape if such became necessary. It was a very nice house, and much cleaner than hers would ever be in this lifetime, but she couldn't say she cared for the muted colors. Like that really mattered, in this bizarre situation! She had no urge to steal anything, but the idea of running out the door and into the night was rather tempting. In the end, though, curiosity won out, and she spent the time while the stranger was cleaning up standing in front of the hallway mirror, freshening up the flowers in her hair with judicious applications of energy. She couldn't do much for her pants, which were pretty much a loss.

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Moira wanted to soak all this mess away, but she didn't have time. After a few minutes in the shower, she was clean enough to present to her company. Picking a bathrobe, she slipped it on and made her way out of the bathroom and then to the bedroom.

Stephanie was sound asleep. Good, Moira thought, I owe you a few bath sponges after that. Now I need to borrow a sleeping shirt. She made her way over to the dresser and plucked out a black FORCE Ops jersey and matching panties. They still make these, Moira questioned herself retorically as she disrobed and slipped on the items. This thing must have been made for Bruiser himself, she relmarked at the size of the shirt. She would have stayed longer, but company awaited.

Briskly walking back to the living room, Moira found that her guest was still there. "Sorry for the wait," Moira smiled, "I guess I should start by introducing myself. My name is Moira. And you are?"

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Stesha turned from the mirror to face her host. "S... I mean, I'm Fleur de Joie," she said with a bit of false bravado, remembering that she was a superhero right now. Maybe it hadn't turned out quite the way she thought it would, but that didn't change her need for a secret identity. "And I really wasn't intending to steal anything. I'm beautifying the city, and this neighborhood happened to be first on my list. What sorts of monsters were you fighting?" she asked with renewed curiosity.

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"Welcome to my humble abode, Fleur," Moira smiled at her guest as she eyed the flowers in her hair. She didn't know what type they were, but they sure looked good on her. The spell of fresh flowers was going to her head. It usually smelled like old paper where she lived. This was a welcome scent.

"It's a bit late to start beautifying the city, don't you think? Oh, and don't worry about the stealing comment," she laughed lightly. Walking towards the flowery girl, she kept her arms crossed, restaining herself to not touch the flowers and keep an eye on the girl. "You don't have look of a criminal, Then again I've seen some weird looking criminals."

Curiousity got the better of her and she slowly reached out to touch Stesha's hair, "Is this real," she pondered aloud. Quickly pulling her hand back into a relaxed crossed arms postion, she blushed and took a step back, "Forgive me. I guess I should answer your question. In fact, why don't we go into the kitchen and have a seat. There's cheesecake in the fridge."

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Stesha's eyes widened a little when Moira reached out to touch her hair, but it didn't really look like her host was angling for a fight right now. The daisies were definitely real, petals soft and slightly cool under Moira's fingers. "The flowers are real," Stesha confirmed a moment later, "and the hair color is natural" she added, not entirely sure which was meant. She followed her erstwhile host into the kitchen, interested in the monsters and very torn about the cheesecake. Was it superheroic to eat cheesecake in a stranger's house? Would it be rude to say no? And what if it looked like really good cheesecake? In the end, she just sat down at the table. "And if I beautify the city at night," she said, responding belatedly to the comment from earlier, "then everyone wakes up to a nice surprise."

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Moira nodded at the explanation of why Fleur did her job at night instead of the day while she took a strawberry chocolate cheescake out of the refrigerator. "Well, that would make you one of those unique heroes you hear about in The Daily Word," she said walking over to the small table and placing the cake in the middle of it, "like that guy with the hair that's supposedly reformed and is eyeing one of the Atom girls." Walking over to the cabinets, she got some plates and silverware and quickly walked back over to the table. She set a plate and fork in front of Fleur. "Sometimes I wish I had one of those unique powers," she said sitting down, "but all I can do is hit really hard and take really hard hits."

"Oh, that's right," Moira said with a laugh as she lifted one of the precut pieces of cheesecake off of the cakeholder and on to her plate, "you wanted to know why I was covered in goo." Sinking her fork into the cake she sighs dreamily, "Well, it all started out with dinner and a movie. Me and Elena, a close friend, had planned this for a while. We went and saw Star Trek." She pointed her fork at her guest, "It's a good movie, you should see it." Putting the fork in her mouth, she savored the cheesecake for a second, "Oh yeah, that's good." Digging in for another bite, she continued, "Afterwards we went to a small jazz club in Midtown. So comfortable there. This would be the perfect time to settle down. Yeah, that was ruined due two four large guys that looked like wolves. They started trashing the place Luckily we were there to stop them. We chased them all the way down toan abandoned factory. Those things were attacking left and right. I barely could keep up with them. Elena has telekinetic power so it wasn't me running as us flying. Anyway, it ended in an abandoned factory. They couldn't hurt me and for some reason I couldn't hurt them. It finally ended when Elena pushed some heavy drums of... whatever I was covered in. She had to take them to get help. They were squished pretty bad. I didn't even get to say good night to her." She looked down and sighed this time with a tinge of sadness. She looked up with a half-hearted smile, "And now you know."

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Stesha listened, wide-eyed, to Moira's narrative, absently digging into the cheesecake without really thinking about it. "This is really good," she blurted out when Moira paused. "I mean, the story is amazing, but the cheesecake... where did you get it?" This whole situation just kept getting more surreal, sitting in a strange house in the middle of the night, eating cheesecake with a superpowered woman who was undeniably supermodel-gorgeous when she wasn't covered head to toe in slime. It seemed like the best thing to do was just roll with it. "So they just attacked you in public? How did you manage to fight them? I mean, don't you have a secret identity?"

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Moira listened to Fleur as she ate a second bite of the cheesecake. "Well, I don't really have a secret identity, but Elena does. I have a codename, she has a full costume. Both get you into places around these parts." She looked at her guest with a smile, "I'm assuming Fleur de Joie isn't you real name."

"As for they attacked there," Moira shrugged, "beats me. We were in the right place at the right time. Random bits of insanity happen in this city. We're here to protect it."

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"Well, no," Stesha admitted, "but if my employer found out I was moonlighting, I'd be in big trouble. To say nothing of if my parents heard. I'm not, y'know, the monster-fighting type anyway. Unless maybe it was a monster with terrible hay fever." She laughed and took another bite. "But I came to Freedom City because it's full of heroes. I just didn't think I'd meet one on my first night out."

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"So, you're new," Moira nodded, impressed, "welcome to the life of a superhero. I, myself, have only really been at it for about four months." She smiled, "I hope this works out for you. In fact," she paused and got up, "give me a second."

Quickly walking out of the kitchen and into the living room, Moira picked up her hand bag. Puzzled, she noticed that the tracks of goo she made were gone with no harm to the floor.

Moira walked back into the kitchen and sat back down. Opening the handbag, she pulled out a business card for Morley's and a pen. Writing down a number, she explained, "If you're ever in trouble or need a hand with anything, call me." She handed her the card, "So, is this the final stop for the night or are you gonna keep on going?"

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Stesha took the card and tucked it into her knapsack, which was also covered with screen-printed daisies. "Thanks," she said sincerely. "And I don't know... what time is it?" She pulled out her phone and checked the time, then slid it back into its pocket. "I probably don't have too much time before people who go to work early will be up and around, but I was thinking about maybe getting to one more park. I don't really sleep anymore, but I've got to shower and do the dishes and stuff before work. Um, here." She dug around a little more and pulled out a pad of sticky notes and a pen, writing down her cell phone number. "I don't know if I could ever be very much use, but, um, maybe in case of a plant emergency." She passed the note to Moira.

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"Thank you," Moira said taking sticky note and putting it in her handbag. "I was wondering since you only had, like, one more park to do, we could hangout and talk for a little bit. Get to see what each other can do?" She snickered, "Well, what you can do. Hopefully nothing needs my expertise."

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"Um, sure, if you want to," Stesha said, putting the last bite of cheesecake in her mouth. She hadn't intended to eat the entire piece, but it had been really good. She looked at Moira's outfit. "I can wait while you get changed?" she suggested, a bit diffidently. Far be it from her to dictate what a superhero wore to work, but Moira's pajama look might draw more attention than would be convenient.

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"Oh yeah," Moira laughed heartily, "wouldn't wanna be seen in a FORCE Ops jersey this late at night. You wait here or in the living room, whichever is more comfortable for you." She winked, "Make yourself at home."

Moira exited the kitchen and quickly but softly made her way back to the bedroom. Apparently not quiet enough. Stephanie stirred as Moira was about to change clothes. "How was your date," she asked groggily picking her head and dropped it back down, "And where are you off to this late?"

"Interesting," Moira whispered while quickly stripping off the jersey and putting on a black a-shirt, "I never knew wolfmen hated jazz." After pulling on a pair of form-fitting jeans, she leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek, "Don't worry. I'll be back with breakfast in the morning. Now get some sleep."

Moira made her way back to the front, to find her guest.

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When Moira got back to the living room, she found Fleur studying the bonsai tree, which was looking perkier for the attention. Fleur straightened, tugging her hood back up over her green hair, which seemed to be the extent of her costume. "Here, we can take a shortcut... I think," she offered. She extended a hand to Moira, closing her fingers tightly around the other hero's fingers when Moira took it. With her free hand, she reached out for the tree, touching as many of the leaves at once as she could.

Instantaneously, Moira felt a sensation she'd never experienced before. It was a little bit like being vacuumed up by a tree, then spat through a telephone network of vines. All she could see was green, all she could smell was the overwhelming aroma of newly-mown grass. The whole thing lasted barely a second, and suddenly they were out, standing in the middle of a dark and empty park space. Fleur, who looked very pleased with herself, now had her hand on the bark of a spindly maple tree. "I wasn't sure that would work," she admitted. "I've never tried it with a passenger before."

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