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Raveled

Shopping Spree (IC)

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June 5th, 2011

4:56 PM

From the ground, Freedom City could be a confusing muddle of busy streets, packed sidewalks, and store fronts screaming for attention. Up near the roof line though, the city receded to a well-ordered grid of streets, even if the odd triangular block did disrupt the nice uniformity. Glowstar found the whole thing oddly calming, and he had the suddenly impulse to start whistling.

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GM

Glowstar's leisurely patrol was rudely interrupted by a ringing alarm at street level. The teen hero pulled up short in his flight, drifting slowly downwards while he watched the street through his feet. The glass door to one of the more subdued boutiques banged open and the sound of the alarm doubled. The woman who backed out of the door was wearing some garish black-and-pink skintight body-suit, with her hair dyed in streaks to match. On someone else it might've looked good, but on her it just emphasized the fact that she was living off fast food, and the dye job was too patchy to be very attractive.

One hand was busy with stuffed shopping bags, containing what looked like several dressed and at lest three pairs of shoes. The other held up in a menacing fist directed at someone or something still in the shop. As she backed further out, Glowstar saw she was riding on a metal disc of some kind that seemed to float several inches off the ground. Once she was clear of the doorway she shot up towards the sky, only to be stopped short by the glowing hero.

The burglar looked him up and down, cocking her hips out and grinning. "Well, hello there, flyboy. Didn't expect to find someone going down, while I was coming up." She punctuated the words with an exaggerated wink. "I'm Angel. Should I just call you Red, then?"

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Glowstar hung in the air and returned Angel's searching gaze. "Name's Glowstar," he said. "Nice job on the store. Not much property damage, and since the alarm went off I can only assume you left the hostages alive. Now, if you return those dresses I'm sure the cops will for just giving you a stern talking to." He gave the villainess a thin smile. "Or do I have to give Miss Hot Pockets a smack?"

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GM

Angel floated away from Glowstar so she could gesture dramatically without smacking into his field. "Tch! Heroes! You're all the same, all killjoys. Besides, I didn't even need to steal these dresses. I totally could've bought them normally, except this place didn't want to take my money 'cause me and my totally cool minions stole from them last month. I thought they'd want some of their money back, but whatever." The supercriminal suddenly seemed to remember just where she was. She reared up with one hand and swooped at the glowing hero. "I'm gonna swat you out of the sky!"

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Glowstar crossed his arms and took the blow on his forearms, directing most of the energy to the side. He could still feel the sting in his palms though, and revised his estimate of the woman's gear. She was apparently wearing a hideous powersuit of some kind, since most people couldn't even hope to get through his force field.

Shaking out his hands, the hero turned and oriented on Angel. He gathered his energy into a concentrated point near his midsection, cupping it in both hands. "You're stronger than I thought. Just means I have to hit all the harder!" The energy rushed out, many smaller energy blasts curving through the air and impacting against the criminal. She was punched straight off her disc and began falling -- quite quickly at that.

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Glowstar folded into a dive an caught Angel by the arm a scant few yards above the street. He let her weight dangle for a moment and thought about shaking her silly by that arm, but was already out so he just lowered her to the street.

The building Angel had backed out of was a glass-fronted storefront. Gold letters above the windows spelled out HUGO. The interior was all off-white, with impossibly graceful mannequins draped in what the hero was sure were fashionable dresses and suits. Or at least they had been draped in clothes; now they were mostly laying on the ground, most of them roughly dismembered. Glowstar guessed that was the villainess' work.

The hero couldn't see where anyone could be hiding, but nonetheless he stepped inside and cleared his throat. Raising his voice above the noise of the siren, he called out, "Is there anyone in here? Are you alright?"

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GM A unmarked door opened in the wall and a head poked out. It looked around quickly and retracted; the alarm shut off and a number of people stumbled out of the concealed room. The last one out was the one who had looked out when Glowstar called. It was hard to tell at first, but eventually the hero decided that he was human, just one that had shaved all the hair off his head, even his eyebrows. It was a striking look, especially when he locked eyes with Glowstar. "Were you to one that drove Angel away?"

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Glowstar broke off the gaze long enough to glance over the other civilians. They seemed rattled, but basically unharmed. Baldie was checking all of them in turn, and the hero lent his own skills at first-aid to the job. Between the two of them they finished the work twice as fast. Baldie shook Glowstar's hand gratefully. "Thank you for giving Angel a trouncing," he said. "She'll think twice before trying to strong-arm us again."

For his part, the hero shrugged and flashed a smile. "All in a day's work," he said. "Besides, I think her thoughts are more on surviving Blackstone than getting revenge."

"I don't think so," the man responded, pointing past the hero's shoulder and out to the street. Glowstar turned and saw that, indeed, Angle was nowhere to be seen.

He raced outside and looked all around, but the villainess had already disappeared. "She was playing possum," he said aloud, leaning against the storefront as the full realization hit him. "I just got played by Dark Action Girl Barbie."

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GM

While Glowstar contemplated his tactical failing the bald man bustled around the shop and came up with a pot of coffee as if by magic. He made sure everyone else had one and brought the very last mug out the hero. The young man took it with a noncommittal grunt and for a moment the pair sipped in silence together. Eventually the older man spoke up. "I know this won't sound very good," he began, "but stick with me here. That Angle lady isn't the brightest bulb in the box." Glowstar raised an eyebrow at that, but his mouth was full of coffee and he couldn't swallow fast enough to reply so the other man forged ahead. "She'll be caught by you or another hero, today or in a week. Does it really matter who does it?" He glanced rather pointedly over his shoulder and into the store itself, where the other civilians were all trying to relax.

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Glowstar swallowed the coffee and frowned into the cup. Before he could reply though, the police pulled up in squad cars and even a riot van, and soon the scene was swarming with uniformed and plains-clothes officers. The teen hero had been doing this long enough to know exactly what to tell the police, but even so he ended up repeating his story to three different officers. The civilians took even longer, some of them becoming hysterical all over again. It gave him time to reflect on the older man's words (and savor the coffee some more).

Once the police started moving away, the bald man started sending the civilians -- the store's workers, the teen finally realized -- home. He waited until the store was all but empty, and then walked up to the older man. Glowstar let his force field drop and stuck out his hand again. "Thanks. For the, uh, pep talk. Folks call me Glowstar, by the way."

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The bald man was collecting coffee cups and did a juggling act to get them all in one gathered arm. He shook the hero's hand briefly. "The name's Hugo. I own the shop. Mind helping me with the dishes?"

The hero started and jumped to the task, and the pair of them carried the mugs and cups through the hidden door, which led to a narrow staircase. The second floor of the shop was open and rather bare bones; plaster walls and stained floorboards, with hand-assembled racks holding rolls of fabrics. The only modern touch was a sleek, single unit computer against the front wall and a bulky projector connected to it by a sheaf of cables.

Glowstar couldn't keep his reaction off his face, but Hugo simply chickled at it. "Yeah. Not all my customers get to see this place, but those that do all have the same reaction. 'Oh, he's a simple artist at heart. The storefront's just a ploy to keep the public away from his secret heart!' Hugp snorted and rolled his eyes, setting the dishes in a deep double-sink and starting to fill one side with hot water. "So, I've seen a lot of those blue and yellow outfits around. Is it a new team?"

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Glowstar glanced down at himself, taking in the Claremont colors, putting off answering the question. "You... could say it's like training wheels," he said, wincing at the analogy even while he made it. "Like a training sign for those in the know. 'This person wants to be a hero, but they don't maybe have total control over things, so give them a hand if it looks like they need one.' Not that I'd need one," he added hurriedly. "But a real costume is expensive, and they give these out cheap."

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GM

Hugo gave the teen a hard once-over and nodded curtly. "Well, I can help with that." He grabbed the projector and fussed over it for a moment, then turned the lens to face the young man. "Arms to the side and spin around," the tailor said. "Slowly."

Glowstar did as he was told, barely noticing a blue light flickering over his body. The computer hummed to sudden life and soon was displaying five different views of Glowstar's body, in Clarmont's blue and gold. Hugo tapped a few buttons and suddenly the model was in the middle of the room, rotating slowly.

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The hologram wasn't perfect, of course. Bits fuzzed in and out as dust motes drifted through the projector's beam; the model wasn't steady in the air, bobbing up and down and phasing through the floor at its nadir; and there was no face. Just a bare expanse of flesh from hairline down to his jaw. Glowstar leaned in close to study the image, entranced by the detail. Even the cheeks of its not-face were dusted with something that was more than peach fuzz, but less than a real beard. I'm going to have to shave this week, he realized.

"Okay," he said, stepping back from the projection. "What is it?"

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"It was supposed to be the next great leap in fashion technology," Hugo replied, tapping at the keyboard with two fingers. "A friend of mine works at ASTRO Labs, and he volunteered me to beta test it."

"The face looks creepy," Glowstar observed.

"Yeah, I brought that up to my friend. He said there was some security issue, with some biometic stuff that I don't really understand at all." Hugo tapped a few more keys and suddenly the model was nude. Glowstar started but it was as anatomically correct as a Ken doll. A few more taps and the model was covered in a form-fitting yellow suit. Dead-center in the chest was a black starburst, which spread lines across the mdoel and joined together at the smell of its back. The whole thing was topped by a yellow cowl, and a black domino mask sat in the middle of its non-face.

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Glowstar walked around the figure again, rubbing at his face with one hand. When he spoke his words wre slow, eve hesitant. "It's very. Um." He coughed. "Loud. Does that sound right?"

Hugo blinked, then folded his arms across his chest. "It's supposed to be loud," he insisted. "You're a superhero, right? You're supposed to make an entrance!"

"I'd look like a bumblebee," the hero protested. "The villains will laugh me off the scene!"

Hugo sniffed sharply, but turned back tot he computer. "The customer is always right. I've got a couple more ideas, don't worry!"

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The holographic form shimmered and reformed as a dark red bodysuit, with eye slits, silvery gloves and a squared-off swath of silver reaching from the chest, under, and to the middle of its back. Inside the silver was a spiky ball of brighter red. "How's that look? The red looks like what you can do, the inside has a star, and the silver is a good contrast."

Brian stepped up and reached out to touch the fabric, only to have his fingers pass through the figure. He walked around it, noting the blank expanse on the back, and summoned up a touch of his power to compare the color. "The color matches nicely," he admitted, "but I can't speak if my mouth is all covered up. Can't you have my face bare?"

Hugo raised an eyebrow. "If you don't cover your face, how can you keep a secret identity?"

Brian laughed. "Unless I keep sunglasses on all the time, I never could keep a secret identity!"

"Point," Hugo allowed and he adjusted the hologram, cutting the mask back to a high-necked version. Brian gave it a good look and shook his head. "Too busy," he decided. "But I like the colors, I think the color scheme is good."

"Alright, then. How about this?"

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Huge went back to the controls and yet another costume appeared. This one was almost solid silver, from finger- and toe-tip to neck. The only break in the color was a red 'racing stripe' leading from the outside of either leg, up under the arm pit, and spreading out on the palm. "Well? How's that strike you?"

Brian stood stock-still in the middle of the room; it evidently struck him quite powerfully. "Um, it's... it's quite a... Huhn. Um, Hugo? Do you think you could... add a cape?"

Hugo peered at Brian for a long moment. The young man's demeanor had change completely, from a rather distracted mien to something more like a deer caught in car's headlights. "Sure," he said finally, and in moments the projection was sporting a red cape with silver edging that reached to its elbows. Brian stepped forward and stared at where the faceless mannequin's eyes should have been. Finally he said, "Give it a higher collar. And then... I think I'll take it."

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