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High Towers (IC)


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Friday, August 3rd, Millenium Mall...

Late Afternoon

The Mall was busy, full of teenagers and adults, with occassional young children being dragged in tow. It was crowded, noisy, and not a little too hot.

Jack Jackson sat, as inconspicuously as possible, in a light jacket, t shirt and jeans, a camera around his neck and a half eaten hamburger in his hand. He wasn't really that hungry. He had got a tip off, and he was excited.

This could be my big break...

Of course, he had done well for himself as a snoop and dramatic investigator. His writings on Glow, for instance, had hitched him up to the big boys. Now he just had to keep up the pace, keep dishing the dirt on the high and mighty...

He had his eyes peeled on a Sports Shop "Hank's Athletics", a little way away. He was close enough to observe it, far enough away not to arouse undue suspicion...

Hank's Athletics was an expensive shop, full of the top range gear for the top range athlete. A number of staff in identical red t shirts hung around, pouncing on anyone who entered the shop to see if they wanted any help, or might be interested in the latest over-priced but endorsed designer trainer.

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Jennifer adjusted her purse as walked through the Millennium Mall, her attention split between the shopping list she'd made for herself on her smartphone and making sure she does not bump into anyone or miss the store she's looking for.

As she moved, she felt her costume, minus the gloves, mask, and web shooters, underneath her blue jeans and oversized t-shirt. She gave herself a mental pat on the back about finally tailoring the outfit into a form fitting but non-movement restricting design.

Looking up, she spotted the store she had been looking for. As she entered and was greeted by the staffer she responded to his offer of aid with a polite declining and heading back to the equipment for mixed martial arts training.

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Kristin, also dressed in jeans and a simple t-shirt but carrying her costume in a sports bag slung over her shoulder, had already evaded the clutches of three different sales staff and made her way to the section of the store she was looking for.

Nearly an entire wall was dedicated to fight gear, and she was already holding a mouth-guard as she wandered along the aisle. She really only needed a set of gloves (on the off chance that she ever managed to actually hit one of her training partners) but that wasn't about to stop her from looking at everything else.

She halted in front of a display full of gloves and frowned, planting her hands on her hips.

"Why is it that the thing I want is always at the very top?" she complained, more talking to herself than anything.

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Jack Jackson's hamburger fell from his limp hand, still half eaten.

Without thinking, his other hand slowly scooped up his camera, resplendid with the foot long zoom lens so beloved of the papparazi, and placed it to his eye.

Well ill be damned...

He could barely believe his luck. Here he was, about to make another world - class snoop, and who should turn up?

The disaster from down under!

He couldn't spy her boyfriend anywhere. More's the pity. But this was more than he could ever have expected.

Carefully, he prowled forward, intent on getting a better angle for his shots...

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Jennifer moved through the isles, already holding a few new pairs of yoga pants and matching sports bras. She was checking for a pair of gloves to complete the ensemble when she spotted the young girl a few years younger than her standing in front of the display she needed herself. Hearing the girl speak to herself, Jen could detect an Australian accent coloring her words.

Stepping up and seeing the gloves in the color she wanted just below the top of the shelf she gave a pleasant nod, "It's a trick to get you to call over a sales representative."

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"Are you sure? I'm pretty sure it's just to annoy short people!" Kristin laughed as she glanced at the young woman who had answered her mostly rhetorical question. "And considering that I've already been accosted by about five of them in the ten minutes I've been in here I don't think they really need to use tricks like that!"

She turned to face Jennifer and smiled. "You look like you could reach, would you mind? The black and white ones second from the top." A moment later she did a bit of a double-take. "Sorry, you look sort of familiar, do I know you?"

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"Honestly? Not really but you have to admit that it makes a sad sort of sense. But your theory could be it too," Jenni said with a smile. Reaching up to grab the girl the specified gloves she commented, "Five huh? They must be able to smell fresh meat. I've been coming here for months so must of the staffers know when to take 'no' for an answer."

Handing her the gloves the young scientist smiled before quirking an eyebrow at her fellow shopper, "I could ask the same of you." Extending a hand, "My name's Jennifer, Jennifer Owens."

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"Howdy folks!" said Hank, the owner of the store. The man was an ex-body builder, with the physique to show it, like a condom stuffed with walnuts. He was middle aged now, and yes, he had a slight layer of fat over his midriff, but he had lost little of that powerful physique of his younger years, gained in all probability with some chemical assistance.

Hank had a square face, with one tooth replaced with silver, and was balding with short hair. His composure still was of that vaguely orange self tan. He was all smiles and hello's, his confidence exceeding his intellect, although it would be unfair to call the man stupid - he was running what appeared to be a very successful business.

"What can I do for you ladies.. what's your sport of preference? we got it all...hey..." he stopped, rubbing his chin and looking at Glow.

"...you look mighty familiar...do I know you?"

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"Oh right," Kristin said after a moment or two. "I must have seen a magazine or two with your face on the front! Nice to meet you. I'm Kristin...."

The Aussie turned as the store owner interrupted the conversation. Aww, not this again...

"You know, I get that a bit. I must look like someone famous or something," she replied. "But I'm definitely nobody important. I was just looking to buy some gloves and a mouth guard - going to be taking some martial arts classes."

She gestured at Jennifer with a smile. "But it's okay, this helpful lady got them down for me."

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"You know, I get that a bit. I must look like someone famous or something, but I'm definitely nobody important. I was just looking to buy some gloves and a mouth guard - going to be taking some martial arts classes."

"Hey Hey!" said Hank, flexing his biceps and giving two thumbs up. "Kung Fu lady! you are alright by me! You want anything else, you just let old Hank know, eh!" he smiled.

"What are you going to be doing? I got plenty of stuff that can give you..an edge!" he winked.

Click Click

Jack Jacksons camera went off outside the shop, photographing the two women with Hank.

"Hey hey!" said Jackson, giving Kristen a wave "I knew you would be mixed up in this! The disaster from down under strikes again!" he said, snapping away.

Hank turned to Kristen, looking anxious.

"What? You? Him?" he blubbered, before snapping his finger and pointing at Kristen.

"Yeah! I remember you! that Australian Kid, the one who causes havoc everywhere!" he pronounced.

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Kristin sighed in exasperation.

"Oh not this again! Do I look like I'm causing havoc?" she asked Hank. "I'm telling you, I haven't even caused any havoc at all today!"

Still showing her frustration she turned on Jackson, hands planted firmly on her hips. "Are you ever going to stop harassing me?" she demanded. "And what are you talking about? Mixed up in what? I'm trying to do some shopping!"

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Jackson looked nervously at Hank, who cracked his knuckles and flexed his formidable biceps.

"Errr...nothing!" he muttered, before giving a snap of his camera and backing off.

Hank stepped forward, about to set his mind to "kicking" Jacksons "Sorry Ass" as he put it, albeit with a few more expletives. However, a few paces in to his mission, he caught sight of someone.

"Listen up!" he yelled at his staff.

"Coby Towers is coming!!!"

And indeed he was. Coby Towers, only 19 years old and one of the highest payed basket ball stars in the world. Coby was a seven foot freak of speed, agility, and aim. Nobody could quite believe the skill and athleticism of somebody so inexperienced. He was, they said, like a blur. He had been tested again and again for mutant DNA, super powers, or drug misuse, but he had come up as clean as a whistle.

And now he was marching into Hank's sports star, complete with a half-fozen entourage of two body guards, a well dressed, sexy lady PA, an almost - undressed, sexy lady "friend", a loser hanger on dressed all "street", and what looked like a personal physician.

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"I guess we just became the least interesting customers in the shop," Kristin quipped drily to Jennifer. Wonder if there's any chance that someone's going to actually sell me those gloves while Towers is in the shop?

Something had her on edge though, and she chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. Jackson's a hack, but he does have a nose for trouble and he's acting like he got a tip or something. And now Coby Towers turns up? That I don't like...

"Still, I guess I can't blame them, the guy is seriously one hell of an athlete. Him walking in the door is probably worth a lot to a place like this!"

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Jennifer shrugged and smirked, "And you know, given the guy with the giant camera now mostly ignoring us, I'm strangely okay with that actually."

Jennifer gave Towers' entourage an appraising eye before saying, "I must admit his P.A. has an excellent suit." I wonder what the odds are she'd be willing to share her tailor's name? she thought to herself.

"Oh yeah. With any luck for Hank, Coby is here to do more than drop a few bucks. Maybe even to talk endorsement deal. However, we've got our gloves and a perfect distraction from the paparazzo there. I don't know about you Kristin but I'm not done in here just yet," she said with a friendly smile and the laugh of somebody just itching to push the limit on their credit card.

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Coby strode into Hank's shop like he owned the place. He signed a few autographs and flashed a cheesy smile, complete with platinum tooth.

Jackson was about to snap, when one burly security guard pushed his camera flat down.

"See this, Jackson? It's call mah FIST. I was thinking of introducing it you your FACE!" he grunted, full of fury.

Jackson gulped, and turned to leave. He was helped on his way by a swift kick to his ass, propelling him clean out of the shop.

"Pardon ladies!" smiled the security guard, bowing and smiling.

"Yo Yo!" said Coby, snapping his fingers. "To lovely ladies shouldn't be scared of by you!" he said, feigning annoyance at the guard, who retook his place. Coby bowed to the two heroines.

"You can have my autograph, ladies!" he said, signing a picture of himself and giving it to them. Only one.

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Jen had to bite her tongue, not particularly impressed with the first impression she was getting of Coby or his personal guards but being willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. "Thanks," she said to the bodyguard, "Though that might have been a little much. Last thing your boss wants is the assault suit the 'paps' like to file." Mentally shrugging as she drew a blank she looked down at the offered picture all but shoved into her hands. She had to pause for a minute to try and recall if any of the handful of bodyguards her family employed over the years had taken such blunt and flagrant action.

Glancing at her companion, she offered Kris the autograph and asked, "Would you like the picture? You seem to be a bigger sports girl than I am."

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Kristin took the picture from Jennifer and regarded it with a raised eyebrow. "Uh.. gee thanks, just what I always wanted." she said drily as she stuffed it rather carelessly into her backpack.

"Maybe we should just pay for this stuff and get out of the way?" she asked Jennifer. "Even without annoying photographers getting in the way it still got pretty crowded in here."

"The ego takes up a lot of space.." she added under her breath.

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Coby Towers kept his false smile painted on without a flinch. His bodyguard, who had just slung Jackson out, gave the two a glare.

Outside, Jackson got up, rubbing his sore behind. He looked dejectedly at his broken camera.

"I'm on to you, Towers! We all know the rumours! and I heard about Hanks Sports Emporium too!" he shouted, wrestling with his camera despite its cracked lens.

Hank gave Coby a big man-hug, the two of the all smiles. They seemed to embrace for a long time, and shuffle about a bit, before breaking.

Hank followed up with a wink at Coby.

"I got all your sports needs catered for, my friend!" he smiled. "Step into my office..." and with that he lead Towers and one of his bodyguards into the backroom whilst the rest of the crew stayed behind.

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"Huh, did you see that?" Kristin asked Jennifer with a sideways glance. "No wonder Hank was so excited to see him. Come on, let's see if we can pay for this stuff and get out of the way so that the staff can fawn over Towers properly."

She ducked past the remaining members of Coby's entourage and headed over to the counter, where she plopped down the mouth-guard and gloves she wanted to buy. "Just these please!" she said cheerfully to the cashier, then jerked a thumb in the direction of the office where Hank and Coby had disappeared.

"Do you get this kind of visit very often? It seems like it'd be a pretty big deal to have a star like that visiting the store!"

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Jen followed Kris closely so she could reply in an equally hushed voice, "See what? Sorry, that one personal bouncer of his looked like he was going to take a swing at me. I've dealt with much bigger and scarier things with my dad but it isn't fun."

Setting her stuff down behind Kristin's she pulled out her platinum card. After being rung out she slung the bag full of merchandise over one shoulder, eying the entryway where Jack had had just been shoved a few minutes previous. "I don't see your camera happy buddy, think it's safe try make a break for it?"

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Kristin's eyes scanned the part of the mall outside the shop as she picked up the bag with her new purchases.

Where did Jackson go? she wondered. He can't have gone far, he knows something about that deal that Hank and Towers just pulled. That kind of scoop has to override the cowardice surely? Damnit, I can't just leave, what if something happens?

The solution it seemed was pretty much right in front of her, and a smile spread on her face as she turned towards Jennifer. "Well I was thinking icecream," she said with a nod towards a Cold Stone ice cream store not far from the entrance to Hanks Sports Emporium. "What do you reckon?"

As she started to head in that direction she glanced at Jennifer again. "What do you mean when you say you've dealt with scarier dudes than the muscle back there? He looks kinda scary!"

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Jen stuck her wallet back into her purse and picked up her bag of workout gear, "Icecream sounds good."

Following the Aussie over to the ice cream shop the young scientist recalled one of the recent exploits with her family, "One of the downsides of some of the adventures my father and I have been on. There was this one time in Prague one robotics expert tried to claim he was a descendant of Judah Loew ben Bezalel. His master plan was to make a robot that looked just like the descriptions of the golem of myth. We were asked to verify his claims. I found his workshop, busted him, he ordered the robot to attack me. Dad rigged an electromagnetic trap that fried the bot."

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"Sounds pretty intense!" Kristin agreed as she took a seat that left her a decent view of Hanks Sports Emporium and idly picked up a menu. "Not so sure on how good that master plan was, but it sounds like it was pretty dangerous!"

Now would be a pretty good time to have Subito's ears, she thought as she continued to look past Jennifer towards the store. Wish I knew what was going on inside that office!

"Chocolate for me I reckon, what are you getting?" she asked Jennifer, doing her best not to make it too obvious that she was rather more interested in the sports store than the icecream.

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Jen shrugged, "I don't think he got much further than 'I can make a fake golem and cash in on tons of religious hype' when he cooked up the plan. But it wasn't terribly dangerous. The robot was big and could punch a hole through a brick wall but it was slow and clumsy. At the time, knowing one false move could leave me a literal smear was pretty scary but in retrospect, all I had to do was run and dodge to buy time."

Looking over the list of available goodies the girl replied, "Probably vanilla with brownie pieces, maybe some hot fudge, in a waffle cone."

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A sore and bruised Jack Jackson came limping up to the two girls, before whipping out a small cheap plastic camera - it probably had no more than 24 shots on it, but Jackson liked to have a back up.

He took a shot of the two.

"So, tell me, you little whippersnapper, what have you and your girlfriend got to do with all of this eh? Can't say I'm surprised you are mixed up with Max and Whizz and all that super powered drug stuff. But kids using it, that's low, man..." he shook his head in sadness.

Before whipping it up and taking another snap of Kristen.

"Disaster from down under in drug scandal!" he yelped in excitement, concocting an imaginary headline in his head, oblivious to the laws of slander for a few glorious moments.

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