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angrydurf

House Call

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It wasn't common that there was a problem Ace Danger wasn't able to take care of himself, even less common that he knew no one who could help. Thus far his extensive network of contacts had failed him however. Yet it seemed luck was on his side as he hung up after his call to young Taylor Chun, otherwise known as Phantom, who had at least been able to suggest an option in dealing with his very special plant problem.

Ace called the exclusive midtown shop and with a light voice inquired, "I'm trying to reach a florist by the name of Stesha, she came highly recomended to me." He spoke with the voice of a man well accustomed to not having to ask twice and the North Bay prefix certainly tended to open doors regardless.

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He had to spend a moment on hold, notable prefix or no, but the woman that picked up on the other end was polite and friendly. "Flowers by Design, this is Stesha Madison, how can I help you?"

On the other end of the phone, Stesha pulled a memo pad from under the counter with one hand while juggling the phone with another and keeping an eye on the roses she was dyeing. They were at a very tricky stage right now, and could easily go from a lovely pale blue to a bright electric blue if not tended. But Janet had insisted that this was not a caller to take a message from.

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Ace sounded not at all impatient as he replied, "Ah, excelent I'm glad you're available madame." He paused for a moment to consider his next words, "A good friend of mine, Ms. Taylor Chun suggested you to me, said your Magic with flowers." He layed a delicate emphasis upon the word magic as he spoke.

"I know with your talents you must be busy," He spoke with a confident grace, "But if possible I'd love to have you swing by when you're available, I can of course compenste you for your trouble." Despite the oddity of the request he made it seem quite reasonable and there was a certain intrigueing air of mystery to what exactly he needed.

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"Taylor gave you my name?" Stesha repeated, surprised. She set down the pencil she'd picked up. Between that clue and the emphasis on "magic," she suspected that this wasn't going to be a consultation that went on the books. "Well, I might be able to help you," she said cautiously. "Could you tell me your name, please?" Picking up the pencil again, almost unconsciously, she started twiddling it in her fingers.

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Ace spoke clearly and without reservation, "Certainly Madame, Ace Danger." He left the barest pause for the name to sink in, not out of any real hubris but beacause he was accustomed to a degree of surprise at its revelation.

"I can pick you up if you like or if you preffer you can come to 4 1/2 Vintners court, North Bay. I can give more specific directions if you like and you can reache me at ###-####, and thank you." His tone clearly showed he had no doubt that she would be able and willing to come.

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The name had Stesha goggling a bit, fumbling the pencil as she jotted the address and phone number on a scrap of paper. "That won't be a problem," she told him politely. What else did you tell someone like that, anyway? "If it's urgent, I can stop out there this evening about seven, if that's all right?"

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"That would be excelent, I'll see you then, and thank you again I recognize its an unusual request." Ace was ever polite in such matters, the product of a bygone age. He added "Good Day to you." Before hanging up.

When Stesha arrived at Vintners court she could clearly make out the numbers on the grand gates of the manors of four and five Vintners court betwixt them however was nothing but a beautiful view of rolling dunes heading down to the shore and a rather simple no tresspassing sign.

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This was Stesha's second trip in a month to the exclusive North Side, and she felt every bit as out of place now as she had last time. She drove her little gray sedan along the road between the giant houses, admiring the gardens and the view of the bay. When she passed four, she kept a careful lookout, sure that her stop was coming up. When she reached five, though, she began to get nervous. She flipped a U-turn and went back to four, but found nothing different, and no indication of a second house.

For lack of a better idea, she pulled over next to the No Tresspassing sign and got out of her car to walk closer to the dunes. Maybe there was something on the other side? She sighed, hoping she hadn't been made a fool of by some prankster. It had seemed possible that afternoon that Ace Danger would call her for a visit, but now it was starting to seem a little silly.

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As Stesha approached the sign she bagan to feel and odd sense that this couldn't possibly be right, after all there was a clear view from here to the shoreline and certainly no structure of any kind. She was about to turn around when in the blink of an eye, literally, there was a handsome man in his mid-twenties leaning casually against the sign. He was dressed in what apeared to be a well tailored suit minus the coat with a low slung fedora casting a shadow across his eyes. As she took note of him he stood to his full height and with a few quick steps approached.

"You must be Stesha, a real pleasure to make your aquaintance madame." He said with a bow, doffing his hat as he took her hand and lightly brushed his lips across her knuckle a mischevious glint in his eye. Straitening he introduced himself, "Captain Ace Danger, thank you for coming on such short notice."

He glanced to her car with a smile, "We should get that off the street the nieghborhood is full of snobs that'll call in the police for any little thing." He said and then leaning in close whispered something in an odd language into her ear.

The next time Stesha glanced towards the formerly empty lot she saw a well maintained garden and picturesque drive leading up to a large colonial style manor house. Ace gestured to the car, "If you don't mind its a dreadful long walk." He said with a gentle laugh.

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Stesha blinked a few times, startled, but she was starting to get used to seeing weirder and weirder things in her everyday life. It was what she'd come to Freedom City for, after all. "Oh, sure, no problem," she said, wondering instantly how long it had been since she last shoveled all the wrappers and pop cans and gardening magazines out of the car. Surely it wasn't too bad, she hardly drove anymore... "It's a little messy," she said preemptively, leading the way over to the car.

She tossed the books she had on the front seat into the back and took a bit more care with the package of electric blue roses, and decided the handful of wrappers would just have to wait. As soon as he joined her in the car, she drove down the newly-visible lane and stopped in front of the house. "Is there somewhere special I should park?"

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Ace seemed utterly unpreterbed by the clutter and as he slid into the passenger seat complemented her work, "The roses are lovely, you are quite talented."

He hopped spryly out of the car as it rolled to a stop and told Stesha with a smile, "Its fine right there, but if you preffer we can move it into the garage." He gestured to the converted carriage house off to the left of the main drive. He waited patiently with a small smile on his face for her to decide which she prefferd.

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"If it's all right, I'll leave it here," she told him, parking the car and climbing out. She forbore to mention that the odd-colored roses were his fault, thanks to her preoccupation with his call. At least her next-door neighbor got a kick out of her occasional dyeing mistakes. Joining him in front of the house, she guessed, "So I imagine you have some kind of issue with a plant I might be able to help with?"

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"Quite alright," Ace said with a smile, "and indeed I do have a bit of a plant conundrum."

He strode up the stairs to the imposing main door and turned to Stesha as he opened the door, "After you milady." He said with a sweeping gesture.

The door opened into a large foyer tastefully decorated an eclectic mix of artifacts from around the world, African masks and Tibetan statuary interlaced with itricately woven baskets and renasance paintings. The largest peice was a full portrait of the Jungle Patrol including the young Ace Danger at the famed Johnny Dangers side on some pristine savanna.

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"I'll do whatever I can for you," Stesha told him. "Are you a friend of Taylor's?" She paused for a moment just inside the door, looking around at the decor. It was like stepping into a really interesting museum, and she'd have loved nothing more than a chance to look around at all the strange and fascinating memorabilia on display. But that wasn't why she was here, she reminded herself, and quickly got moving again.

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Ace closed the door behind them and strode across the long room with a gesture to the accumulated treasures, "The rewards of a misspent youth." the famed adventurer explained with a small laugh.

He stepped into the long hall beyond the foyer, "Right this way," He said with a glance back to Stesha, 'Cute in a girl-next-door kind of way. But buisness before pleasure.' He thought to himself.

He flashed Stesha Winning smile as he spoke, "Yes Tayor and I have worked together upon a couple occasions." He kept to a sedate pace so that Stesha had plenty of time to take in the paintings and other decorations festooning the walls as they continued down the hall. "I called upon her expertise and she suggested that you may be able to help. I have a rare plant in my collection that is somewhat ailling." He further explained.

As they progressed down the hall Stesha could peek into the nieghboring rooms each in the style of another far off place. The manor had a rather eclectic design over all but somehow managed to all fit together. Oddly however there seemed to be no staff despite the emaculate conditions of the various rooms.

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Stesha's interest was piqued by the mention of a rare plant. That was even more interesting than the wealth of souvenirs. "What sort of plant?" she asked, quickening her pace a little. "Do you know what it's called, or where it comes from?" It might just be an endangered ornamental species, which would certainly be interesting enough, but she was starting to expect something just a little bit more exotic from the man with the invisible mansion.

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Ace grinned at her clear intrest, "Perhaps we'll head straight to the atrium then and continue the rest of the tour later." he said with a chuckle.

"I am unfortunately not at liberty to reveal where I aquired it but I do know its name, its a Mankana." He said with a quick smile and a wink to Stesha.

He continued to explain, "An old associate of mine gave it to me as a gift in return for a favor I did him awhile back." Given the man speaking awhile could be months or decades of course. "He left me very complete instructions on its needs," Ace glanced back and assured Stesha, "and I have followed them to the letter, but it is looking strained."

Ace led her through a sunny conservatory off the hall and to a glass paned door with a complex readout of enviromental information. He cracked the door and there was a whoosh of warm moist air. Ace gestured for her to enter the small airlock and followed her in shutting the door behind them and indicating for her to open the oposite door.

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Both Stesha's eyebrows went up at that. "A mankana? Really?" She took a glance at the panel on the door, just to see what conditions it was being kept in, but most of her attention was on her host and his unusual claim. "Most of the people I've worked with are skeptical that it even exists, but you know what they say, more things in heaven and earth. Have you seen any of its powers in action?" She eagerly opened the door, looking back at him and waiting for him to follow.

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To Steshas best guess this first room was not where the Mankana was likely kept. This area seemed devoted to several very rare varieties of orchid and other rare tropical plants. She could make out other connected growing areas likely for other enviroments.

Ace seemed quite pleased with her enthusiasm, "Oh it certainly exists," He said with a laugh, "its powers are part of hte reason I called upon you rather than taking it to some university."

He strolled quickly through the large growing area and used a broom to push aside an odd thorny vine like nothing she's seen before that twitched and seemed to grasp at the broom handle revealing a more secure plexiglass door with inset keypad and some kind of biometric scanner.

Ace gestured to the vine, "Its a vile little thing but keeps anyone from looking too closely at this corner." He said with a smile nodding at the odd plant."

He quickly wnet through the neccisary security measures and stepped in beckoning Stesha.

"Most experts are more interested in how it does what it does and woudl just want to analyze it, personally I think the powers are only partialy linked to the plant itself the real power is in the process of refineing it." Ace explained as the waited for this second air lock to normalize before he opened the door to reveal another growing chamber.

This chamber was cooler and dryer than the last and had but one resident a somewhat wilted looking low bush in the center of the room. It was not particularly impressive to look at but even at first glance it was clear that it wasn't quite like any other plant she'd encountered. There was an expansive enviromental control system ocupying one corner of the room as well as a desk piled high with notes and diagrams.

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She would've liked a chance to get a better look at the aggressive vine guarding the door, but first things had to come first. "It does look like you're having some trouble," she said as she walked into the room, giving the plant a sympathetic look. "How long has it been like this? Was there any change that seemed to bring it on?" She glanced to him for permission, then went and knelt down beside the plant to give it a closer look. "Poor thing. Do you know how old it is?"

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Ace waved her forward to do as she needed, "Its been less than a week since I started to notice some signifigant droop." He replied as he pulled up a chair to watch her work.

He drummed his fingers thoughtfully on his thigh for a moment, "Hmmmm no, no change from the normal routine." he said plaintively.

He let out a nervous laugh, "and unfortunately I know niether the plants expected lifespan nor how long this one has been around. I've had it for nearly twenty years now and this is the first problem I've noted."

Ace indicated the desk, "All the records I have on it are right over there, I keep meaning to get them digitized but who has the time."

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Generally Stesha preferred her mother's approach to gardening, getting her hands down into the dirt and seeing what was going on, but her scientific training had her rising to at least take a look at the notes. "Most ornamental bushes can live quite a long time," she told him as she went over to the stack. "It can be hard to tell if no one's keeping track, but there are certainly rose bushes documented to be over 200 years old. And this one certainly looks like it's being kept in optimal conditions."

She picked up the pile of papers and gave him a polite smile. Ace Danger, as befit his reputation, was almost intimidatingly handsome, but she was sort of starting to get used to that. By and large, superheroes were a very good-looking bunch of people. Despite the fact that he certainly looked like a playboy (or maybe a model) his old reputation and his old-fashioned nice manners made her feel more at ease than she might have with a man who was actually her own age. Surely international playboys didn't need to hit on women they called in for household consultations. The idea itself was enough to make her grin. "If I can just have a minute to get a feel for all this, I might be able to get a better idea of what needs to be done."

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Ace stood and offered his chair so she could examine the documents in comfort, "Please, of course however much time you need."

He dropped into an easy slouch leaning against the wall as she examined the documents provided he seemed not at al impatient, watching with mild curiosity and an infectuous grin as she read.

Nearly half of the information was related to the sustainable harvest of various elements of the Mankana plant as well as procedure for processing harvested material. However there seemed to be a rather extesive if more aged study of the plant and its needs written in a neat if somewhat faded hand. There were detailed diagrams and information on life cycle. Unlike most bushes of its nature it seemed the Mankana reproduced by runners striking out from the main root, though there was no notation of how long a single plant might survive.

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Stesha spent a little more time than she probably needed to with the notes, fascinated by the methods of processing and harvesting, as well as the promised results. She'd heard stories of the Mankana before, but it all seemed so fantastical... Not that she had much room to talk, given how she'd come by her own powers! The Mankana was supposed to have all sorts of supernatural powers, even immortality. Could that be how her host still looked 25, even though he'd been a hero when her grandfather was a boy? If so, it was no wonder he was concerned for the well-being of the rare plant.

Eventually she realized how much time she was taking with the notes. "Sorry," she apologized, "it's all just fascinating. You're certainly right about the impulse to research a one of a kind plant like this." She rose and walked back over to the plant again. "It certainly seems like you're doing everything right in here. Good temperature, good humidity, the soil tests and light levels look just fine." She herself could almost settle down right next to the plant for a little nap, thanks to the elaborate system of lamps and mirrors providing the sunlight, but that would hardly be professional. "I can't tell what's wrong just by looking, but hopefully a quick examination will let it tell me what's wrong." Resting her fingers on the droopy leaves like she was about to perform a Vulcan Mind Meld, Stesha closed her eyes and tried to think like a plant, like this plant, particularly.

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Ace just smiled and told her, "Don't worry about it I cleared the evening for our meeting, I'm in no hurry."

As Stesha focused she began to sync in with the plant she was at first nearly overwhelmed as sensation she couldn't really describe flowed over her, one thing was clear this plant was ancient. It was hard to say if this particular plant or if it was some analog to anscestoral memory but the weight of years flowed forth from the plant in a fashion.

Once she was able to begin to sort and process the information more susinctly she could feel a certain tiredness from the plant and a vague questioning attitude almost as if it was curious about her.

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