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JackgarPrime

Through the Grapevine (IC)

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In the chill of winter, most people were already very bundled up, with all manner of coats, hoods, and probably lots and lots of long johns. But not everyone was so bundled up you can barely see them. Out in back of an office building, standing beside a couple of trees, a blonde-haired man in a bomber jacket, but with no head covering whatsoever. A single person walks by, looking at him a bit strangely for having fairly little in the way of protection, but they just pass him off as either crazy or ridiculously well-adjusted to the elements. Or maybe with some kind of extremely quality heated underwear!

Lance leans casually against one of the several trees, and speaks into what seems to be air, but is actually a receiver built into him.

"Yup, I'm at the meeting point. Come pick me up when you're ready."

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Rather than receiving a response through the phone, the oak tree he was standing next to suddenly grew a massive acorn, the size of a human being. It popped open to reveal a woman who was far more suitably dressed for the elements than he was. Fleur de Joie wore her trademark green tunic and pants and brown cowl and utility belt, but she'd also added winter gear for the occasion. Her sunny yelllow stocking cap covered her green hair and was pulled down almost to her domino mask, and was matched by gloves and puffy mittens.

"Hello!" she said cheerfully, after a moment to get her bearings and spot him. "You must be Victory. It's so nice to meet you!"

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Lance wasn't sure how long he was supposed to wait. Was this going to be an instant sort of thing, or does it take awhile, or what? But it turns out his question would be answered in short order...and not quite in a way he was expecting. As a gigantic acorn suddenly sprouts above him, Lance goes wide-eyed and moves away a bit. Was it going to fall? Instead, what it does is...a bit strange than that. And a bit, Lance would say a lot.

When Fleur appeared in full, Lance had to take a moment to get his bearings, blinking in surprise at that rather unusual entrance. Once he takes a couple seconds for the confusion to wear off, Lance shakes his head out, and puts a smile on, although his eyes look up at the tree every few seconds.

"Errr, Hello to you,too. I am indeed Victory. Or Lance, if you prefer. With an entrance like that, you must be Fleur."

He puts his gloved right hand out, one of the few things that actually needs some covering in this weather.

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"It's harder to open flowers in this cold weather," Fleur explained with a smile, "much easier to coax the trees into other expressions." She shook his hand with her mittened one. "It's hard to believe it's only December. Was it this cold this time last year?" She shivered theatrically. "Well, let's not stand in the cold longer than we have to. I've got a big pot of soup and a loaf of fresh sourdough bread waiting for us. Are you ready?"

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Out of his own curiosity, Lance pulls up a quick weather pattern comparison for December the previous year, and reads it off a display in his arm, since his helmet is off. He has to roll the jacket's sleeve back a bit, exposing more of his metal arm.

"Hmmm...December's average temperature's a couple degrees colder this year so far than last year. Certainly seems it."

Lance gets a big grin on his face at the mention of soup and bread, as the display clicks off and the sleeve is rolled back to normal..

"That sounds fantastic. I never get homemade food anymore. I don't have time or space to cook, and commissary food isn't particularly good. It's filling, but little more than that."

Victory looks at the tree again, and rubs his chin.

"So...we're going through this tree or something?"

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"No, we'll go this way." Fleur reached into her belt and pulled out a seed, tossing it to the ground. A marigold sprouted, one of the hardiest of the perennials, and began to bloom and grow. And grow, and grow, and grow. When the flower was the size of a door, it tilted forward to face them. Taking Victory's hand, she stepped foward, into and through the flower. Lance could feel the brush of petals against his face, then for a moment the whole world was full of green and the scent of fresh-cut grass. It was also a lot warmer.

A second later, they stepped out, into what looked like a cozy little cottage built of of plants. The walls were leaves, green leaves studded here and there with fall foliage, and the roof was the same way. The floor was lush green grass, dotted here and there with area rugs, and the windows looked like some sort of organic crystal with green leaf shades. The furniture was more normal, a kitchen table and chairs, a little kitchenette in the corner, and a living room grouping gathered around a space heater that was keeping the whole place cozy. The air smelled of flowers (or perhaps that was just Fleur) and vegetable barley soup.

"This is my place," Fleur told him with a smile, gesturing around. "Go ahead and toss your coat anywhere." She was practicing what she preached, tugging off hat, mittens, scarf and even her cowl as she warmed up.

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The sudden growth catches Victory off-guard once again. This is a very unusual set of powers, he thinks, and some very interesting ways she implements them. Before he got the chance to ask questions about it, he found himself being led by the hand, and, before he could tell what was going on, he was inside a very colorful...let's say house? He isn't quite sure what to make of it. But the smell of the flowers was quite soothing, and after he got the chance to get used to the surroundings, he felt quite comfortable. Smiling again, he removes his jacket, wearing a short-sleeved white shirt underneath. It shows much of his metal arm, making him quite a stark contrast to the plants they were surrounded by.

"Wow...this is...I don't even know where to begin."

He does a quick analysis with his eyes, although he finds his signals aren't working at normal capacity. Likely the travel through is interfering with his contact to the AEGIS network. He's surprised he's getting anything at all, actually. They likely built the systems in stronger with his most recent tune-up. No two-way, though. Not surprising, considering what the hell he just walked through.

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"It's not big, but it's big enough for relaxing and having lunch with friends, and who really needs more space than that?" Fleur crossed the room to the kitchenette, where the soup was keeping warm on a hot plate. She gave it a stir, sniffing it. "This is ready, I think," she told him. "Go ahead and have a seat while I dish this up. Do you prefer milk, cola, tea, or apple juice?" Sure, perhaps this was a professional getting-to-know-you meeting, but all that could wait till food was served. She was starving!

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Unfortunately, I do., he thinks to himself. He needs quite a lot of space, but he doesn't say it out loud. He doesn't often get to be in a close, warm place like this. He usually slept on base, which was cold, hard metal. He's used to it, though. And the people there are generally quite nice, so it does get its own home feel. But not the way this place does, that's for sure.

Lance looks around for a seat, and tests a chair before he uses it. It seems like it'll support his weight, so he carefully lowers himself down.

"Milk is fine. Thank you."

He had to admit, this wasn't anything like any of his other meetings....

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The chair creaked ominously when Lance sat down, but it was sturdily built and did no more than complain. Fleur came to the table a few moments later with mugs of vegetable-laden soup in crockery mugs, tall glasses of milk, and a loaf of warm sourdough bread with butter and marmalade. Once all the food was set out, she sat down as well and began eating enthusiastically. "So tell me about what this project you're doing is, trying to meet people," she encouraged between bites.

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It took some fidgeting to get comfortable, but Lance manages the best he can. After he sits, he rests his metal arm on the nearby table, and the hand begins to open and close in rhythm. That little nervous habit of his again,it seems. Although whether it's actually nerves or just something the machine does by itself isn't clear.

It seems to stop when he sees the food come in, and the scent drifts over to his nose. Aaaah, homemade food. Lance's face grew a smile, as he nodded while taking his food.

"Aaaah, thank you. It smells so good. But you really didn't have to go through all this."

Not that he was going to refuse! He takes a whiff of the soup, then a sip of his milk as he waits for it to cool a bit.

"Well, my superiors think it'd be good if I went and got to know as many of the city's heroes as I can. Make contacts. In case someone ever needs a hand, or I could use one myself, it'd widen the net of people available. Plus, people aren't all trusting of the government. I want the hero community to know that, at the very least, they can trust me."

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"That's a worthy ambition," Fleur decided thoughtfully. "I think that most of us trust the government to do the right thing and have our backs in a crisis situation, but many of us wouldn't like the government digging too deeply into our personal lives. There's just talk that goes around, you understand? With the people who are afraid of Terminus Babies and other boogeymen like that, some politicians start throwing around ideas about hero licenses and mandatory government teams. We all know it's nonsense, but at the same time, it feels wiser to keep things on the QT."

She smiled and took a sip of her milk. "But you're a hero like us," she added, "and you're right about heroes needing to back each other up. There are plenty of dangers in this world that one hero can't handle on his or her own. I make it a point to meet as many heroes as I can, so that I can put people in touch with the folks they need to meet. It's very useful!" She paused for a moment, buttered her bread. "And don't worry about me going to any trouble for lunch. I've been on a cooking kick lately, and my fiance doesn't eat. It's nice to have someone to feed!"

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As Fleur spoke, Victory tried his soup out. Just right. Although, it might just be that he's harder to burn? He's not entirely sure which. Probably the former. Smacking his lips after the first taste, he smiles as he answers. "Yes, well, I'd like to convince even the skeptics that we mean well. I don't know about the other government organizations, and certainly can't speak for them, but we at AEGIS want nothing but to keep the people safe."

Taking another taste, Lance nods as he finishes the sip. "Yes, that was my hope. I had heard that you're the best person to talk to for someone who's trying to get to know the hero community. And I heard that from both the Freedom League and Doktor Archeville, so there's a good example right there!"

When she speaks about her fiance, Lance gives himself a little slap on the forehead. "Of course! I had forgotten all about that! Your fiance's Dark Star, right? We met recently. He spoke very highly of you. Nice guy, but seems a bit out there. Not crazy or anything. Just...on another level, I guess is the way to put it. I guess that's what happens when you travel the universe like he does, huh? I could tell he was devoted, though. But hey, if he doesn't eat, I'm always up for a bite!"

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"I'll keep that in mind," Fleur told him with a soft laugh. "I'll send some of this soup home with you, if you like. I think it turned out pretty well, for a new recipe. It's amazing how a recipe can turn out so differently than you expect, no matter how certain you are about the ingredients you start with. I think that may be the concern about the government as well. All those agencies want the same end result, the safety of the public, but there are many cooks with just as many different recipes for achieving that. I'm glad that you and AEGIS want to work with the other heroes. If you've already spoken to Doctor Archeville, you're well on your way to connecting with all the heroes in Freedom City."

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"I've spoken to him twice, actually. The first time, there was a big meeting of all manner of the brainy types. I was brought in as a sample of what AEGIS had created. I guess I was there to impress people or something. Officially, I was there as security, but I think I was more of a conversation piece. The second time, though, he helped me put on a fireworks show. It was quite fun, I must say."

Victory takes down more of the suit, and tries a taste of the bread.

"Mmmm,delicious."

Taking a sip of his milk, Victory taps his fingers lightly on the table. "Well,I wish I could say that everyone was working for the public good. A couple months ago, I had to fight a politician and a bunch of now-former AEGIS agents who ran out of the organization after stealing some of our power suits. And to rob a bank, of all the petty things. It was not fun."

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"Mmm, that does sound like an unfortunate encounter," Fleur agreed, "but there are a few bad apples in every bushel. It's good that you were able to take care of the problem before anything bad happened." She dipped a corner of her bread into her soup. "Now do you do hero work and publicity as your sole job duties, or do you work at AEGIS in another capacity and do the hero work in addition to that? There aren't too many full-time heroes outside the Freedom League."

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Victory ate more of his soup while listening to Fleur, finishing it all with a satisfied sigh, and used some of his bread to sop up the last remnants. Victory's face, however, wasn't as happy as his stomach.

"Well, there was a woman who got hit by a piece of debris during the encounter. I got her out to an ambulance quickly, but it still could've gone badly." He took another sip of his milk, and sighed again.

"Anyway, most of the time I'm doing the hero thing during my whole hours. It does get quiet a lot of the time, but I'd rather my job was quiet than busy, considering its nature. Although sometimes they put me on special missions. Extraction, the occasional recon, things like that. And sometimes they have me train new pilots of both the jets and the MAX and Super-MAX armors, as far as valid tactics when you're essentially a tank with fists and feet. And, of course, they have to keep me doing regular stress and performance tests on my own equipment."

"But that's enough about me. With the company you keep, I'm sure you have some fascinating stories. I'd love to hear any you'd be willing to share."

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Stesha laughed, thinking about that for a moment. "Well, I suppose I could tell you about my giant firebreathing bees," she suggested. "I don't know if you've heard of the Beekeeper, but he's a legacy villain who's been hanging around Freedom City for the past couple of years. Right after I started working, he decided that a plant controller was just the right match for a man who likes bees, and he decided he wanted me to be his queen. I'm not really in to insane psychopathic types, so I politely declined, and then less politely declined, until eventually he got thrown into Blackstone for his less-than-gracious responses to disappointment." Her voice was dry, but a smile still played around the corners of her mouth.

"In any case one of the Beekeeper's pet project was breeding giant bees. And not giant in the way you might be thinking, six inches or a foot long," she added. "The average length of these bees is about fifty, fifty-five feet long. And some of them can breathe fire, for reasons that are still not entirely clear." Fleur shrugged. "When the Beekeeper went to prison, the bees were left out in the cold, some of them literally. They didn't have anywhere to go, so I brought them here. Some other heroes have been helping me fix things up for them, and now they have a nice place to live where they're not bothered or bothering anyone. It's a happy ending to a sad, strange story."

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"That sounds....altogether extremely unpleasant, I gotta say. But I'm assuming he's still good and locked up, and from the sounds of a guy like that, he probably doesn't fare too well in prison."

Lance does seem to find the name vaguely familiar. Likely from the long list of superpowered criminals he's looked over dozens of times. There are just so many you can't remember the details on all of them, though.

"So...would I be able to get a look at these bees? Or are they still fairly hostile?

Even as a super hero, fifty-foot fire breathing bees are still an unusual sight.

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"Oh no, they're perfectly friendly these days. Now that they've realized that no one here is a threat to them, and in fact most of the people I've brought to see them have been actively helpful, they're no danger to people," Fleur assured him breezily. "Well, unless you get in the way of where one is trying to set down, I suppose. They're less active now that the weather is cold. I had Gaian Knight help me set up a hive for them that would be big enough so that all of them could be inside at once, and thick-walled enough to keep out the winter. Let me see if any are even out today."

She closed her eyes and touched the tips of her fingers to the potted hydragea bushlet sitting on the table. For a moment she was still, seeming to concentrate on something Lance couldn't see. "A few of them are out," she told him. "I guess it must be sunny enough. We can go see them after lunch, if you'd like."

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Lance stayed quiet as Fleur did...something with the plant on the table. Some sort of communication or surveillance, he'd guess. He wasn't sure if she'd even be able to hear him or not when she's doing....whatever you would call it. So he stayed quiet and finished up his bread and milk, licking his lips.

When she finished apparently checking on them, Lance nodded. "That would be fine with me! I just wouldn't want to bother them if they're not.....well...do bees get 'moods'? I don't really know that much about how hive minds work and all that."

Lance stood up, the chair creaking at the weight being removed, and stacked his plate, bowl, and glass. He looked around a moment, a bit confused. "Umm.....where do I put these?"

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"Oh, just set them on the counter there and I'll get to them later," Fleur told him, gesturing to the kitchenette as she finished her soup. It was obvious that she hadn't made the soup here, other than the single pot on the electric warmer, there were no cooking implements to be seen. She joined him after a moment, opening a big tulip from the pot on the counter before shoving all the dirty dishes into it. "There we go, all cleaned up," she told him breezily. "Let's go see the bees. We might need lights."

Without bothering to explain her statement, she picked up a battery-operated lantern from the corner and set it on the table as she put all her winter gear back on, a layer at a time. She had to struggle a bit with the cowl, doing buttons that seemed just a bit too tight. When all her warm gear was back on, she looked to see if he was ready to go.

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Lance shrugged and did as she said. As he watched her take up the plates and put them in...well...a plant, he was beginning to wonder if that's how she does everything else, cleaning-wise. Summon up a plant, put dirty object in said plant. A weird thought, but somehow he wouldn't be too surprised at this point if that was even how she did her laundry. Must be convenient, though.

"Lights? Is going to be dark, or is there something about the bees that you'd need...Ah, nevermind." He cut himself off and shook his head. He'd know when he got there. Reaching over to the chair he was sitting in, he took his jacket back up, putting his arm through one sleeve, then casually swinging the other into it. He didn't even bother zipping it up. He mostly just wore it because he liked the way he looked in it. That, and to keep his metal bits from being seen by everyone on the street. He'd get way too many looks.

"Alright. Ready when you are."

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Fleur touched his hand and suddenly they were teleporting again, with the same green-grass effect as before. They came out on the edge of a meadow that was still surprisingly green under a dusting of snow, and populated with giant flowers the size of houses. Turning, Lance could see that they were also next to a massive mud sculpture, the size of a city block and as tall in places as downtown Freedom City. Tunnels that trucks could drive into were dotted here and there up and down the sides. They stood by the largest entrance, which was large enough that two semi-trucks could drive abreast, carrying two more semis on top. "Welcome to Beedom City," Fleur said with a chuckle. "Anyone home?" she called into that vast dark cavern.

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As that strange feeling of teleporting through flowers (which, quite franky, is something he'd never be able to describe when asked by his debriefing team) hit, Lance braced himself. He wasn't quite sure what to expect when he hit the other side. A place made for gigantic fire breathing bees? He guessed it'd be like a hive, but somehow that didn't sound quite right, either. And what it actually was turned out to be even more surreal. By quite a lot.

Lance's eyes went wide at the sight of a whole city of flowers. If it were any other time, calling a place "Beedom City" would've elicited a groan and an eyeroll. But yet, there was no other way to describe this.

"....wow...."

That was really all he could say as his eyes looked over the entire city, before finally settles on the tower. Quirking his brow, Lance switched his sight to infravision, trying to get a glimpse inside.

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