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Basarin

Shakedown Flight (IC)

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For the most part, tonight downtown Freedom was quiet. No muggings in sight, no bank alarms (not yet, anyway), and nothing overly catastrophic was occurring. The only other sound separate from the regular din of the daily nightlife came from above, where the hum of what sounded like a jet engine flying overhead could be heard. If any of the passerbys cared to look up, they would have seen a blue man-sized object and white engine exhaust flying overhead at a reasonable clip relative to its size.

"Nice and quiet here too," Slipstream noted as he flew over the streets of Downtown. His voice was rendered into something sounding vaguely electronic from the silver helmet he wore, featureless save for the blue visor. "And I'm the one guy making the most noise around this part of town. Who knew?" Seeing an upcoming intersection, he willed the jetpack to slow down to a static hover. "C'mon now, just a bit slower...slower I said!" The jetpack didn't seem to want to listen, and rather than slowing down over the intersection, the engines just kept on going. "...this is going to suck," the hero grumbled as he began to approach the roof of a building. For lack of a better solution to make the jetpack actually stop, he cut the power to the engine and trusted in what little of the laws of physics he could be bothered to remember to see him safely (if not comfortably) onto the roof.

While said laws of physics did manage to land him on that roof, it was far from comfortable. With an audible THUD, Slipstream bounced twice on the roof before sliding and impacting against the fire escape helmet first. The blue light on the visor flickered visibly for a few moments as the jetpack clad hero struggled to recover from his debut as an impromptu missile. "...need...to read...instruction manual..." he grumbled as he at least managed into an upright sitting position. "At least no one saw that."

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When he regained his feet, the roof was at least a good vantage point from which to see the neighborhood. The building overlooked a number of other, smaller buildings, and a little park as well. As he watched the park, he could see that something strange was going on there, though it was hard to tell what it was. Some of the trees seemed to be growing and filling out under the light from the street lamps.The smell of flowers and growing plants was unusually strong in the air.

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Rubbing his head (helmet, anyway) as he got back to his feet, he scanned the streets below before his gaze fell upon the park, and the not-so-natural fauna growing quicker than would be normal. Adjusting his commbead, he said, "HQ, near a park in downtown. Big, giant...plant...things growing pretty quickly. Gonna check it out, over." Without waiting for a response, and purely on reflex, Slipstream punched the ignition on his jetpack and flew straight towards the park.

This time, with more concentration applied, Slipstream slowed to a gentle hovering speed above the park, wondering what the heck was going on here. That, and hoping that the quiet night was going to STAY quiet despite this.

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As he descended, Slipstream caught sight of a figure in the park, obviously the director of the weird ballet of foliage. It was a small figure wearing a green hood and cowl, with curves that suggested femininity even through a costume significantly looser than many heroes in the city wore. When he approached, she was concentrating on growing one of the young oak trees by an inch or two, one hand on its trunk, but when she heard the noise and saw the light of his approach, she melted back cautiously into the shadows of the trees.

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"...okay, I'm PRETTY sure this tree wasn't this tall just earlier," Slipstream noted openly as he looked up at it. Hovering to a short distance above the grass, he then cut the power to the engine again, sure this time that he'd land on his feet.

Not accounting the fact that he wasn't used to the weight of the engine on his back yet, while he did land on his feet, he also then promptly fell faceflat onto the grass with another "OOF!" Getting up to his feet again after a few moments, he shook his head in annoyance. "I asked for more simulation time, but do they listen? Nooooo..." Looking around, he added, "Again, hope no one saw that. Don't need to make a wrong impression on the first night out..."

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Stesha watched the approach of the rocketman with interest and a little trepidation. She knew or knew of most of the heroes in Freedom City by now, just by knowing Dark Star and Phantom and Ace, but this was a stranger. That could mean new hero, or it could mean villain. Her first concern had been that the Beekeeper might have gotten out of jail again, but this was obviously a different guy. And he was obviously new at using his equipment.

She put aside caution and stepped out of the woods as he picked himself up from a rather painful-looking faceplant. "Are you all right?" she asked with concern.

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Automatically responding to the query of concern without noticing who it was, Slipstream said, "Don't mind me, it's not like it's the fifth time I landed on my head today with this thing on." He paused and then looked up at who asked the question earlier. She might not be able to see the look on his face, but everything else indicated a posture of "whoops."

"...did I say that out loud again?" Facepalming, he faced the woman and noticed that he saw her on his approach flight. Looking at her, and then at the tree (and making the connection), he jutted a finger at it and asked, "Was that your handiwork I was seeing just earlier? Pretty sure trees just don't reach for the sky that quickly when they feel like it..."

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Stesha grinned, visible even in the shadows cast by her cowl. "That was me," she acknowledged. "I'm Fleur de Joie, and you're on my beat out here in the park." From the sound of it, she didn't mind. "It takes everybody a little while to get used to using powers," she told him, not without sympathy. "If you ask me, it's that, and not the whole anonymity thing that has most of us operating at night to start. Who are you?"

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He extended a hand to Stesha. "Slipstream, AEGIS superhero...well, in training at least. Just started gearing up for the superhero gig a week ago, but this is my first time actually out field testing this darn thing." He glared his jetpack, which seemed to openly mock him with an innocent aura of 'Who? Little me?' "I swear, this thing's going to cause me trouble one of these days."

He turned his attention back to Stesha. "So this part of town's where you set up shop?"

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"I go all over town," she told him, then gestured to the trees around him. "Parks are my areas of expertise, though I also do greenbelts, cemeteries and gardens as the occasion calls for it. I was very busy last week, getting ready for the holiday and all." Anyone who read the papers probably read at least something about the mysterious profusion of red, white and blue flowers that had decorated all of Freedom City's cemeteries over Memorial Day weekend.

"Do you mind if I work while we talk?" She reached into a pouch on her belt and produced a handful of seeds, tossing them into a struggling patch of flowers along the walk. The seeds immediately sprang up into vibrant life, even as the existing flowers perked up noticeably. "So this is your first time out, huh? I remember how that is." Fleur had a nice laugh, one that was more sympathetic than mocking. "There's a learning curve, but it gets a lot easier and less scary. How do you like working with AEGIS?"

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"Well, I've been working with 'em for a few years already," he admitted, "Just not as a hero. I was a pilot before I got this." Speaking of the jetpack, he knelt on one knee and tweaked with the settings a little bit as best as he can (not that he was an expert at it). "They're alright, though I get the feeling red tape's going to strangle me more than a villain would. But not much I can do about that." He looked up and watched Stesha work her abilities around the park. He whistled a low tone in admiration. "Niiice...Bet people love you for stuff like that."

Not seemingly having any luck with the temperamental device, he said while still fiddling around with the settings, "And I hope the learning curve doesn't turn into a cliff. If I tried fighting someone right now, I'd probably have a chance at taking him down from the guy laughing too hard at me. How long'd it take you to adjust?"

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"I had my powers for a few months before I even tried my hand at hero work," Stesha admitted cheerfully, "and then it was more months before I ever got into a fight on purpose. My powers don't exactly make me a natural at fighting most things." She laughed, working around him as she continued bringing up flowers. "But then again, hero work's not all fighting bad guys. Sometimes it's the least part of it. I think the helping people part, and making people happy, is far more rewarding than winning fights against villains. Has to be done, of course, but I don't think it's much fun. Now flying, once you get the hang of it," she added with a grin, "that's good fun. Is that a prototype you're working with, or is it pretty much one of a kind?"

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"I really couldn't tell you. We stole this thing from a villain group, but we could never figure things out about it." He shrugged and rapped a knuckle against the metallic surface. "No documentation, no gift card, no warranty...and no instruction manual. Part of the reason why we can't figure this stupid thing out." Standing up, he added, "Well, hope I get the hang of this sooner than later. God knows what sort of weirdo villain I'll run into first." He looked thoughtful for a moment as he watched flowers grow in fast forward. "...hero work without fighting, huh?"

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"Sure," Fleur told him enthusiastically, tossing another handful of seeds onto the ground. "It doesn't get in the papers as much, because it's not as flashy, but superheroes do work that doesn't involve fighting all the time. Search and rescue, disaster relief, emergency assistance, public beautification," she recited, laughing on the last one. "Though some are more important than others."

She took a few steps away, ringing a garbage can with posies. "There have to be heroes to fight the villains, but you can't punch a hurricane or a car accident. When you get the hang of that thing, you could pull people out of burning buildings, or fly out over the ocean to find a lost boat, or take supplies into a place with no working roads, all sorts of things. Even the heroes who are really good at fighting tend to like doing other things better." She plucked a yellow daisy from her own handiwork and gave it to him, flashing him a peace sign and a teasing grin.

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"Um...thanks?" Slipstream extended a gloved hand to accept the daisy from Stesha. He then shook his head. "Well, if nothing else, it's been an interesting night so far. Jetpack testing my insurance plan, running into you and watching a small forest grow..." He pocketed the flower in his breast pocket while he kept speaking, "...and now I'm getting a vague idea of what kind of life I'm getting into on top of all that. And there's probably more details out there lining up to smack me on the head." He took a deep breath and stopped. "Okay, minirant done. I'll probably look back at this down the road and laugh at myself or something."

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Dark Star flew down, at a leisurely pace for him anyway, tracking a signature he'd know from any other in the universe. Nothing was going on, no tests, no catastrophes, no emergencies. It seemed like a nice time to zip over to see her. As he slowed to a stop, hovering, his faceless head looked at her smiling on the inside; being apparent in his voice. "Hello Fleur," he said warmly. He glanced at the new jet-pack toting hero and nodded. "Greetings Sir. I'm called Dark Star," he said not expecting anyone to know who he was despite his actions in the past. "And for the record, she's right. Those who save other's lives, who keep their spirits alive and soaring, are far more important than someone who simply fights villains when they rise," he said confidently. Given his less than calming appearance, he seldom put himself in that category.

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Fleur's brilliant smile clearly said that the newcomer was someone special to her, for all he looked more like the shadow of a person than a person himself. "Dark Star, this is Slipstream, Slipstream, Dark Star. Slipstream is new to hero work, he's still learning the ins and outs of his equipment. But there's no better place in the world to do it than Freedom City, right?"

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"Whoah." Slipstream seemed to be saying that a lot tonight. He picked up that the two seemed to be something of an item, but he didn't comment about it. "And yeah, Fleur's been saying a lot about it. Sounds like a good way to go." Just hope I don't have to make a decision between that and orders down the road, he thought to himself. ...or maybe falling on my face five times with this stupid thing's making me pessimistic. Didn't you jump at the call, Ian?

Banishing those thoughts out of his head, he looked at the shadowy Dark Star and asked, "So quiet night for you too? From where I was flying around (well, trying to), there was a grand total of nothing. Not that I have an issue with that."

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Dark Star nodded, lowering himself to ground level and moving to 'stand' beside Fleur. "Pleasure to meet you. Apologies if I don't shake hands. And indeed, this is a wonderful city. A good place to learn and grow into one's skills."

He nodded at Slipstream. "I enjoy it. Doesn't happen too often. Even if this city is quiet, there's usually something else going on somewhere else. But I thought I'd zip down and say hello given the relative quiet."

He nodded at the gear. "So are you the designer or the tester, or perhaps both? Do you know it's maximum capabilities yet?"

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"Not even a little bit." Even through the voice modulator, his frustration was all too apparent. "AEGIS didn't make it, and it's not like I've got a PhD or anything; I just fly the thing. Or try to. We got it from a raid on a villain group, and I'm the one who has to try and get this up to speed." He nodded to Fleur, and pointed to an area to their right while adding sheepishly, "She just saw my last attempt to land properly with this. If her grass didn't grow over it already, I think there's still a me-sized crater a bit that way. It's like trying to play an import game that thinks you can read the manual in Japanese."

He shrugged again. "Kind of why I'm hoping the first big thing I have to go up against isn't an actual villain. Though at least I know my gun actually, y'know, works..."

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Fleur rummaged in her pocket and pulled out a little spiral notebook and pen, the kind usually used to keep shopping lists. She scribbled something on it, then tore off a page and handed it to Slipstream. "Here you go," she told him cheerfully, "this is my number. If you get in a jam, give me a call, and even if I can't help out, I'll find somebody who can. Nobody should start out alone in this business, it's too risky!"

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Slipstream took the sheet of paper. "I really appreciate it," he said. "And no offense, but I hope I don't have to take you up too soon on that offer." He pocketed it in one of the various pockets on the jumpsuit. "It's not that I don't want the help. I'm just kind of hoping to get something done on my own first...if that makes sense." As polite and humble as he might have appeared, it looked like he did have some pride to nurse.

He took two steps back before he revved his engine to life, propelling him about two feet up into the air in a hovering pattern. Thankfully, the blast didn't start any fires nearby. "So yeah. Whenever I'm out, though, I wouldn't mind running into either of you again."

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Dark Star nodded to the man. "We all make mistakes. It happens. We just learn from them. But I'm certain you'll be fine. And if you need assistance, I'm available as well. Most agencies know which frequencies I listen to when I'm in the system. I'm certain yours knows as well." He chuckled. "Everyone needs help now and again. But there is something of a confidence booster in handle a problem alone. I'm certain you'll be fine. Best of luck to you Slipstream."

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"It was nice to meet you," Fleur agreed. "Good luck!" She looked over to Dark Star. "I'm just about done here," she told him with a smile. "Wanna give me a ride home?" Stesha was more than capable of making her own way home, but flying with Dark Star was much more fun. As long as the weather was nice, anyway.

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Slipstream sketched them both a salute with his right hand. "Until the pencilpushers back at base find something for me to do, I've got a blank slate. If you need an extra body in a fight, let me know. Thanks for the chat!" With that, the engine flared to life and the hero sped off towards the skyline, his body seeming nothing more than a blue blur; being able to hit 200 miles per hour would do that.

The contrail in his wake seemed stable enough for awhile...until it started to form a vaguely disorganized spiral. As he sped towards what was probably Crash #6 of the day, he muttered angrily into the radio, "HQ, after this concussion, I'm coming back home. And SOMEONE'd better give this thing a lookover."

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