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Standing on a Riverside street corner with her hands placed dramatically on her hips, Ellie Espadas turned to the eclectic group of women behind her and announced, "Alright, ladies, welcome to Meadow Street. A sensational hive of thrift and fashionability." Indeed, the line of shops behind her featured a generous quantity of second hand, vintage, handmade and fair trade clothing boutiques, several of which fell under two or more of those headings. "So, we've got two goals here," she reminded them. "First, to get Will and Trudy some actual people clothes." The dryad and goddess's limited wardrobes had become inconvenient enough that they'd quickly reached the limit of practical sharing and borrowing from the other Interceptors. "Second, we're practicing the 'secret identity' thing. Obviously Mo' is a little conspicuous, so if you get busted, we'll just say you're hanging with your girl Fulcrum on the downlow, but we're going for subtle, okay?" The young medic could perhaps be forgiven for directing the last part of her comment more to Thrude than anyone else.

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Thrude snorted derisively. "'Subtle?' Bah! 'Subtlety' is a thing for lesser beings, too weak or too cowardly to achieve their aims with direct force! :argh: And I still don't understand why the rest of you are so damned squeamish about me laundering my dress in the kitchen sink." The goddess tugged at her blue woolen frock for emphasis. "I even offered to wear a towel after that first time!" She sighed. "But I will concede that a bit of redundancy is both convenient and tactically sound, and even the sweetest honey mead will taste sour if one drinks it every night. Very well, JilELLIE. *ahem* Show me what new strides Midgard's seamstresses have made since last I walked upon my grandmother's back!"

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Mara raised an eyebrow as she listened to Thrude...talk? not even talking - announcing? - narrating - very dramatic - probably not good for blending in - try not to think too hard about the towel comment "Probably best to not reference 'Midgard'. To try blending in, I mean. Not a common term."

Really, the engineer wasn't sure what to think about a girls' day out clothes-shopping. Part of her would much rather be digging through scrapyards for metal and vacuum tubes, but there was some little piece of her buried way deep down that was kind of looking forward to adding to her admittedly small wardrobe. Like most things that made her feel like she was a teenage girl (or, at least, what she figured a teenage girl must feel like), it left her ambivalent and frowning.

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Letting out a long breath, Ellie stepped over to drape her arm over Mara's shoulders as they walked. "Thanks for coming, muñequita," she murmured quietly. "This might be a long day."

Raising her voice a little, she turned her head to address Thrude. "She's got a point. Just... try to at least downplay the goddessosity, that's all I'm asking." The Asgardian's bombastic personality was actually starting to grow on her; she had a way of making even routine tasks exciting and was surprisingly open-minded and accommodating for someone coming from a radically different culture. Willow was a bit more of a mystery to the young woman, who hadn't had much opportunity to speak with the ancient dryad. Partly because it's tough to come up with a conversation starter that isn't 'So, I hear you're having fantastic sex with my brother', she admitted inwardly. Still, since neither of the recent additions were directly familiar with the need for a civilian identity, or even the concept, it occurred to her that an explanation might be in order. "Look at it like this: most of us have friends and family without any powers, and if the bad guys we cheese off day to day knew who we were and where to find them, it'd be really, really bad. Even if you just want to be able to go out and do normal stuff now and then, it's good to be able to avoid drawing too much attention."

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"Perhaps it is wise that we bend on this, Aesir," Willow politely suggested as she unwrapped the leather thong that bound up her hair and tucked it into a pocket. The dryad then briefly combed her fingers through the waist length white hair, slightly adjusting the way it fell so that it covered up the profile of her ears.

"Misfortune would surely befall those who would be so foolish as to assault our comrades or their kith and kin," Willow added after she was finished covering up her ears, "but it would be our failure as Guardians if that were to occur in the first place. Besides this forest of steel, stone and glass is their domain. Let us follow custom."

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Fulcrum grinned at Ellie's suggestion of subtlety, and even more amused at the expected response from Thrude. The goddess really started to grow on her. Freedom Angel? Eh, bit too preachy. Thrude? Damn the torpedoes, the woman spoke her mind, and Mona appreciated that in the friend and team mate. Listening to her reply, they also shared similar philosophies on tactics. Even if Mona wasn't nearly as boisterous.

She stood in her jeans and t-shirt, looking around her old haunts, and nodded in satisfaction. "We'll find outfits suitable for someone of your stature. Trust me. This street has an amazing collection." She smiled at Willow's appreciation of their situation, and replied to Thrude, "One cannot forge a fine weapon without knowing exactly how to work the metal." Mona's analogy grew from her sculpting and left her oblivious to the connotations for Thrude. She thought drawing a connection between Thrude's gear and the day's browsing would be beneficial!

Turning to Willow, she said, "Honestly, I doubt we'll have much trouble. The locals are accustomed to seeing me, including with others, and usually respect my privacy."

Villains on the other hand...

Mona pointed to a shop midway down the street. "How about starting with The Wardrobe? They specialize in clothing for every figure."

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"She's got a point. Just... try to at least downplay the goddessosity, that's all I'm asking. Look at it like this: most of us have friends and family without any powers, and if the bad guys we cheese off day to day knew who we were and where to find them, it'd be really, really bad. Even if you just want to be able to go out and do normal stuff now and then, it's good to be able to avoid drawing too much attention."

"Forgive me, Comrade Ellie. It had not occurred to me that the brigands, swindlers, and petty tyrants who plague this fair city would be stupid enough to dare attack your families. But I too have crossed swords with foes too weak or cowardly to face me directly, instead waiting when my back was turned like some SLITHERING LITTLE WORM! *ahem* I shall endeavor to affect a more humble manner so long as my companions lack their proper heraldry."

"We'll find outfits suitable for someone of your stature. Trust me. This street has an amazing collection."

"Yes, Comrade Mona, let us hope that these seamstresses have crafted something worthy of divine stature. The humans have grown since I last walked the earth, but most of them are still closer to a dvergr than an Aesir." Thrude strided up to the double-doors of "The Wardrobe," grabbed the handles, and flung both doors open. "Shopkeeper!" She tromped inside. "Have ye any clothing in your stores worthy of the mighty-..." She glanced back over her shoulder at Ellie. "...'Trudy?'"

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Mara was caught between not wanting to be within three city blocks of 'Trudy' and the commotion she was sure to cause...and just being really, really amused. She settled on the latter, the hint of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "Might have found someone worse at dealing with people than me," she noted, trying to keep her voice low enough that Thrude couldn't overhear. It wasn't very nice, but she didn't get an opportunity to feel socially competent very often, and she wasn't going to let it pass her by. "Didn't think it was possible. She's...trying? At least?"

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"Hey, everybody likes you because of the awkward-cute," Ellie reminded her girlfriend with a brief smirk as she hurried after Trudy. "We might be able to work with this." Ducking into the shop after the melodramatic goddess, the shorter woman gave the startled cashier at the front of the store a winning smile. "She's mighty mighty, amirite? Brick... house, haha!" Getting a little closer she added more quietly, "Bear with her, she's German. You know how it is." Turning back to the statuesque blonde, she gestured to several racks of pants. "C'mon, we'll have to try some stuff on to figure out what you like the fit of."

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Laughing, Willow breezed into the store after Thrude and Jill. "Ellie," the dryad mentally corrected, looking thoughtfully at Jack's sister. Her mind wandered, briefly, down the twisting pathways of her memory to the recent meeting she had with the young medic's elder brother, a memory which always brought a smile to her face and a warm feeling in her heart. He had introduced himself as Jack then and it occurred to Willow that she didn't know his real name, not that it really mattered to her, it wouldn't change anything, but she figured she'd ask. Later.

Left to her thoughts, the coppery skinned woman moved quietly though the store, examining the various wares for sale, running her fingers across the fabrics getting a feel for their texture.

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Mona hummed to herself as she strolled into the shop. "Hi, Maggie!" she greeted the cashier. "How's Christian and little Natalie? Is she walking yet?" That seemed to snap the shopkeeper out of her stupor.

Smiling now, Mona continued, "Maggie, we're on a grand shopping adventure." One hand waved in a wide arc above her head. "We need everything from the ground up. Figured your shop was the perfect place, especially for Trudy there. She's a big girl and needs lots of extra room in the shoulders. Think you can pull it off?"

As Maggie and her assistants rushed to work, Mona joined Ellie in browsing a nearby rack and addressed Thrude and Willow, "Yeah, what styles do you two enjoy? Maybe just start with t-shirts and blue jeans first? Help find out your sizes, and jeans wear well."

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As expected, Mona quickly distracted the overly curious from the rest of the group, and if the eight foot tall heroine had some eccentric friends, well, that was hardly surprising. "Jeans are probably a good call," Ellie agreed, trying to gauge the goddess and dryad's approximate measurements as she glanced between them and the racks of clothes thoughtfully. "Should try to get a solid week's worth of outfits for each of you by the end of the day."

Seeing the more subdued of the pair keeping largely to herself, the short haired girl walked over to stand next to Willow, looking at the fabrics the ancient guardian was examining for a silent moment. Eventually, she attempted, "So, ah, been settling into the brownstone alright?"

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Mara faded into the background a bit, stepping away to poke through the racks while Thrude and Willow figured out what they wanted to wear. She did okay at dressing herself, of course, but didn't tend to spend that much time worrying about her wardrobe; she was more than happy to leave the sage advice to the experts, and could pretend to be busy while keeping an eye out for people taking too great an interest in the six-foot goddess, the eight-foot amazon, and the white-haired dryad.

....that was the plan, anyway. Before too long she was perusing the racks with interest, pulling an item or two out to be frowned at before getting shoved back with its brethren. Not that she planned to fill up her dresser with shoes and dresses or somesuch, but there were a few items here and there that might be flattering if she could find a good belt or vest....

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"I have no idea what I'm doing," Willow quietly admitted, letting her hands fall away from the clothing she quite obviously wasn't really looking at. She reached up and started to brush a strand of hair behind her ear before catching herself, blushing and clasping her hands in front of her.

"Cities, humans, these were things that I would watch but never engage with unless things were out of balance. It wasn't due to my calling, granted the forests are my home, but I truly felt there was nothing of worth in cities, or among humans." Willow looked rather embarrassed by this statement as she blushed, turning her amber eyes away from Ellie. "I thought I was happy," she continued, "and then I met Ja--your brother and have had a taste of true happiness."

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The Nordic goddess stalked between the aisles, considering each article of clothing in turn. She ran her fingers along the fabrics, squinted at them appraisingly from both far away and up close, and sniffed at them. "Verily, the people of this realm enjoy a level of prosperity not seen since the fall of Rome! For mere commoners to have a different frock or pair of breeches for every day of the week, like the kings and queens of old! Even the gods never dared to dream that the humans would make for themselves such a world!" Thrude remembered herself for a moment, glancing nervously back and forth between Jill and the store clerks. She cleared her throat. "...Or so I've heard."

"Keep your wits about you, Comrade Willow. This seemingly innocuous task is frought with peril! Our livery cannot be selected on a mere whim. We must choose vestments worthy of our station. Comfortable and functional enough not to irritate our flesh nor impede our duties, for we must remain ever vigilant! But also pleasing to the eye. The people must look to their champions with pride and awe, not embarrassment! We cannot appear as mere beggars who bundled themselves up in whatever scraps of tattered rags we could find! And in days such as these, when kings are no longer warriors born and bred, one can no longer wear the same clothes to a throne room or banquet hall that one wore under her armor on the field of battle!"

After finding a blouse and pair of jeans which seemed to pass muster, Thrude reached to her shoulders and began slipping her dress off in the middle of the aisle.

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Ellie rubbed the back of her neck self-consciously and looked away from Willow for a moment before catching herself. "Dios, I don't know why I'm making this awkward," she apologized, chagrined. "You really seem to like mi hermano which, y'know, good. Just... He's a really good guy, okay? But he's also an idiota." The young medic sawed her hands through the air in front of her emphatically, trying to convey the seriousness of her meaning. "If you can handle that, fantastic, if not-- oh, for @#$% sake..."

Hurrying over to Thrude, she reached up to clamp her hands over top of the goddess's. She couldn't have actually physically stopped the warrior princess from undressing, but Ellie was hoping their new friend wouldn't fight her on this. "Trudy, follow my logic for a second here," she pleaded under her breath. "If we got a li'l flustered over you going au naturel in the kitchen, in private, what do you think the etiquette on public shops is?" Lifting one hand, she pointed to a door toward the back of the store. "Changing rooms, see?"

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Fulcrum watched the group with a sense of amusement. This new roster could really work. Ellie's awkwardness toward Willow and exasperation toward Thrude was especially endearing. She'd always liked Eric's little sister, and reminded her of her own sister, Fatima.

"We've come a long way, Trudy. Got away from the old superstitions, somewhat, and really started looking at how the world worked. Science and technology have created a hold that's healthier, more convenient and less painful. The Industrial and Digital Ages have their benefits as well as many new problems." She whispered to Thrude, a humorous, conspiratorial tone to her voice, "Look up 'nuclear weapons' sometime."

While Thrude began her changing, and Ellie intervened for the sake of modesty, Mona gathered up an armload of tops she figured matched Thrude's tastes. She offered the bundle to the goddess, saying, "Here. Try these as well. If people are going to be squeamish about nudity, at least save yourself a trip."

If this day didn't end in a battle of some sort, she had a feeling they'd be lucky. Villains? No, no, she was worried about the first thing that annoyed Thrude too much!

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Mara glanced up from the racks as assorted conversations unfolded, quietly filing information away. Willow and Jack? - interesting - Willow seems sheltered? - not sheltered - inexperienced? - uneven - curious - Thrude grandstands - very odd - used to having to be listened to? - or just dramatic - also inexperienced - from another time? - or--

And then Thrude was taking off her clothes. Mara winced; she had a decent bit of experience trying to adjust to social etiquette herself, and the warrior woman...seemed to have a ways to go. She was entertaining, at least. Mara tried to keep a straight face as she glanced over at another customer. "Foreigners," she deadpanned. "Strangest customs and habits."

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"Of course, of course. Forgive me, Comrade Ellie. This Golden Age continues to challenge my every assumption about Life as we know it. Everyone from the senators and kings, to the serfs ploughing your fields and the merchants hawking their wares on the street corners, with a different suit of clothes for every day of the week, and their own room in which to garb themselves. Hm..."

The goddess stroked her chin thoughtfully with her spare hand, the one not buried in a pile of cotton, wool, and denim, as she wandered toward the changing room Ellie had pointed out. "Come to think of it, Viktor's brief history lesson did touch upon the squeamish mewling of the Angles and Saxons who conquered this land. Not afraid to bathe half the world in blood, but terrified of the sight of their own flesh. I wonder what they sacrificed in favor of these particular luxuries. But no matter. As they say in the South...wait, no...East, I suppose? 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.'"

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"Spoken like someone who hasn't been to Rome," Willow said with a rueful chuckle, giving her head a bit of a shake, forcing herself to not dredge up distant and humiliating memories.

"You're awfully quiet," Willow observed moving to stand near Mara examining the clothing on display. "Which, mind you, isn't a bad quality. Especially from one who seems to have the qualities of a Watcher." The dryad smiled at the blonde inventor and inclined her head in the direction of Thrude. "Do you agree with our friend there, that this is a Golden Age for humanity?"

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"Mmh," Mara commented, still looking a bit amused as Thrude made her way to rooms where she could get naked without having to show the police how weak their handcuffs really were. "Not so good with...public places, crowds, strangers. Tend to not talk, or ramble. Both pretty bad habits. Golden Age?" She tilted her head as she switched mental tracks, and frowned. "No. Too much crime, people getting hurt, resources running out. Think it's better than ages that came before it. But Golden Age for humanity? Not there yet. Not near there yet."

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"That's my little ray of sunshine," Ellie drawled, stepping over to slip an arm over Mara's shoulder with a wry smirk that turned a little more serious as she looked to Willow. "She's right though; wouldn't want to live in the dark ages or anything, but we've still got--"

The rest of her thought was cut off as the sound of a brick wall being broken into pieces came from further down the street. Outside, a group of six figures were clearly making not attempt to blend with the civilian population at all, and their 'shopping trip' looked to be more of a 'smash and grab'. Most of them were immediately familiar to the young couple: the ornately dressed alliterative arsonist in the white mask with painted mustachio was the Guy Fawkes II, entertaining himself by lobbing small cherry bombs at any citizens who didn't have the sense to run immediately. Next to him, Diehard, the Chinese martial artist in the crimson jumpsuit adorned with a black stripe up either side, practically quivered as he looked about for threats, his eyes open just a little too wide. In dark, flowing robes, Heka floated a few feet in the air closer to the middle of the street with a proud bearing, the ancient sorcerer making a haughty show of being bored with the whole affair.

The villain who had been the Fearsome Five's de facto leader when they'd fought Dragonfly and Jill O'Cure was missing and in her place a clearly inhuman albeit gorgeous young woman with emerald green skin and a brobdingnagian hairstyle circled about over the jewelry shops rooftop, idly adjusting the straps on her impractical costume. The quintet's final member waited patiently by the gaping hole in the storefront, a seemingly normal man with a striking square jaw and dusty blonde hair, wearing a cream coloured dress shirt and simple brown pants. Appearances were deceiving, however, as this was Blackfire, the thug turned android.

As he waited, a sixth villain, a broad-shouldered bald man with a nose that had obviously been broken repeatedly stepped out of the building clutching something in his hand and grinning broadly. "You were right, Johnny Boy, you were right!" he crowed, opening his palm to display a jeweled earring in his palm. "It's real daka crystal! Gen-u-ine!" He emphasized each syllable separately, as though unused to using words of that length.

"I've told you, Marco, it's Blackfire," the inconspicuously dressed robot corrected with a note of a sigh. "Speaking of which, we're really going to need a name for you, 'old chum'."

Grinning even more widely to expose the teeth of a man who'd seen more than a few fist fights over the years, Marco used his free hand to cast his trench coat aside. Bizarrely, underneath, he was wearing only a pair of bicycle shorts striped in alternating brown and orange. "I was gonna call myself Stoneface or Pavement Pete or somethin'," he admitted, tightening his grip around the crystal jewelry again, "but with this, you can call me..." As he paused for effect, the fingers of his hands changed, a transformation the passed up his arms to quickly transmute his entire body into the distinctive diamond sparkle of Dakana's most famous export. "...the Daka Man!"

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  • 2 weeks later...

As the Fearsome Five poured out of the fresh hole in the wall, Thrude unceremoniously dropped her accumulated pile of second-hand clothes to the floor. In one fluid motion, she tugged her drawstring purse open with one hand while raising her other hand into the air. Her massive battle axe Vendrvapn leapt up out of the bag, a bag far too small to have contained its meter-long ebony haft. As the axe slid into her waiting grasp, her simple dress morphed into a suit of dyed leathers. The silver jewelry adorning her pale flesh shifted and expanded into a suit of mail in the blink of an eye.

The moment Thrude's fingers closed around Vendrvapn, the windows frosted over and everyone in the store could see their own breaths. In seconds, the sky outside went dark and rain started pouring down upon the streets. Thunder boomed in the distance as sparks danced across Thrude's eyes.

The goddess spoke to the cashier, her shoulder leaning slightly in the woman's direction as her gaze remained transfixed upon the supervillain team. "Take cover, Mortal. Summon the city watch. Tell them to bring their healers and their enchanted shackles, but to hold back until we have subdued these brigands."

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Outside, the Fearsome Five were distracted from their material mimicking collaborator's transformation as the weather outside abruptly shifted, a torrential downpour coming down as though a facet had suddenly been turned on all the way, strong winds knocking the fliers about as they compensated. "Ah! Apologies, please," the airborne alien cried as the rainwater made a heavy mess of her impressive, forest green hair. "Such meteorological shifts are common to thine homeworld?"

"Dammit, Khania, you know real English," Blackfire snapped irritably, evidently less bothered by the water than the others as it ran smoothly over the lenses of his artificial eyes. "Bad enough we have to put up with Fawkes' accent..."

"Unnatural," Diehard muttered to himself, the dangerously traumatized man's eyes vibrating back and forth as he dropped into a ready stance.


The Daka Man knocked his diamond like fist together, giving off an inorganic sound. "Perfect! I gotta make my bones sometime, right Johnny?"

"Blackfire," the android corrected through gritted teeth.

"Right, right, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout," his dimmer ally agreed, nodding amiably. "Make a name! C'mon and get some!"

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"So much for being inconspicuous," Willow quipped, flashing a smile at Ellie and Mara.

Stepping away from the clothing racks, the tall woman slipped past the armed and armored Aesir and into the waiting storm. As she walked, she fished around inside the tiny brown pouch she wore at her hip and pulled from it a small seed which began to rapidly, almost violently, grow.

Hundreds of vines began to lash themselves around Willow, enveloping her form, the vines warping, shifting, melding together to transform into a hulking suit of armor.

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