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Tiffany Korta

Two Duplicators and Grim too!

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Silberman’s Book’s


It wasn’t unusual to see strange people in Freedom City, to a certain extent it was expected, but there was still times and places when strangely dressed people could still surprise. Such a person was boldly walking into Silberman’s books.


She wasn’t particularly tall but tottering on heels she towered over most people in the store dressed in what costume shops would call Sex Librarian. Her hair was tied up into pig tails high of her head mostly blonde except for the tips that were the same tweed color as her jacket. She was also nonculatly chewing on bubble gum and occasionally blowing bubbles.


Showing no interest in the books around her she went straight for the counter speaking to whoever was tending the till in a broad New Jersey accent.

 

“Hi there I need to talk with you boss about something really important.â€

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Gretchen had seen a lot during her trip with her boss to Japan, both good and bad; in many ways, the experiences they shared in Sapporo changed her on a fundamental level. She could now look at her life as being in two phases: before Japan and after.

 

But some things about a person never change; they are intrinsic parts of who we are, bound into the core of our very being, and Gretchen McDaniels was no exception. She may look at the world through new eyes, but she was, and always would be, a snarky barista.

 

When the odd girl approached the counter looking like a stilt walker dipped in cotton candy, Gretchen could only blurt out, "What the hell are you wearing?" Luckily her boss was in earshot (with her freaky ears, it was hard not to be), and she came scampering over, a big bright smile smooshed into the middle of her face.

 

"Hi, I'm Lynn Epstein, owner of Silberman's Books! How can I help you?"

Edited by Heritage

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The gaudy dressed girl looked at Gretchen and for a few second it looked like she was going to make some sort of cutting remark back at her, but instead she apparently stopped herself instead just giving her a look and blowing a large bubble. She turned back to Lynn and put on a slightly strange form of charm

“Pleased to meet you. I’ve got something important to discuss with you privately. I don’t know if you’ve heard of me but I’m called Merge Trois.”

She paused for a moment to see if anyone in the shop recognized the name she was using.

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At the mention of the name, the bookstore owner opened and closed her mouth a few times. "Uh...okay, that's fine. Please, follow me into my office." As Lynn turned and started heading towards the back door, Gretchen cleared her throat and raised her eyebrows, then jerked her head towards the maybe-possibly-not-a-criminal. Lynn stopped and pursed her lips. "My assistant is reminding me she is in fact part of the team, and anything you say to me you can say in front of her; is that acceptable?"

 

Gretchen didn't wait for a response; she scampered in back to fetch Lance, who was unpacking boxes in back, to get him to cover the register. At first he seemed to be annoyed. "What, I was in the middle of something!" Then he noted the unusual young woman, and his employer's somewhat strained expression. "Oh, 'special order', I get it; no problem." 'Special orders' was the codeword Silberman's staff had come up with for superhero-y stuff now that they knew about Lynn's other life; it wasn't exactly James Bond, but it sufficed.

 

Lynn gestured toward her office door. "Shall we, Ms. Trois?" Gretchen grabbed her reporter's notebook and a pen, and made ready to follow the two metahumans inside.

Edited by Heritage

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“Sure no skin off my nose, the more the merrier.” there was a slight edge that suggested she wasn’t completely happy with the state of affairs. She sashayed into the back room giving a hip swaying view for those in the bookstore watching the whole affair.

Without asking Merge sat down on one of the chairs and put up her feet up on the desk.

“Though I retired from a life of crime I keep a few avenues open just in case . The other day I got a job offer from someone calling himself The Duke. Seems he want someone to recover an artifact called the Mirror of Al-Kazar. it took quite a bit of digging to discover that Al-Kazar was somehow related to you.” Merge gave a little arms out gesture “And that why I’m here.”

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The minute Merge uttered that title, Lynn visibly stiffened as she was about to take her seat behind her desk; without looking over at her assistant,  she muttered in a low flat voice, "Gretchen, close the door."

 

The young girl's eyes went wide as she hastened to comply. "Is that-?"

 

"The Belgian, yes." She closed her eyes as she sank into her old leather swivel chair, as though to comport herself. "And what exactly does that vile sonuvabitch want with my great-grandfather's mirror? I always suspected it might have special properties, I just never had the time to study it more carefully."

 

Gretchen paused in her note-taking, holding up her pen. "Wait, you actually have something called 'The Mirror of Al-Kazar'? That's an actual thing?"

 

The shopkeeper nodded. "Yes, I do, though I've never heard it refered to so formerly before." Then she cocked her head and glanced at her assistant.  "Boy, sounds like a quest item, don't it?"

 

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure one of my WoW characters already has that."

 

The two coworkers shared a brief grin before once again looking serious and attentive. "Please continue."

Edited by Heritage

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Another Merge appeared at the door of the office dressed identically to the first but in tweed was pink, as well as the tips of her hair.

“I hope you don’t mind...” said the first Merge “...but I let myself in.” finished the second

The second held an oversized cell in one hand and what looked like a catalogue of some kind.

“Someone doing an clearance auction of an old storage warehouse and our old Duke apparently doesn’t want to pay for a certain item.”

The second Merge walked round and put the catalogue in front of Lynn the page showed a photograph of the item in question, another mirror identical to the one held in the Bookshop. And as any mage will tell you any item identical to another would share the originals power almost by default.

It seems someone, maybe even Grampa himself had fitted a backdoor into his pocket dimension.

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Lynn shook her head and smiled when the second Merge entered, but it was almost more of a grimace; Gretchen sat up in her chair and looked a bit more alarmed, still being a bit of a neophyte to this sort of weirdness. "Okay, that's...got to be wrong."

 

When the catalog was placed in front of her, the bookstore owner visibly paled. "Oh f###." She turned to look over her shoulder at the bookcase behind her, as though expecting the madman to leap out and grab her. "Oh God, this is not good at all."

 

Gretchen got out of her chair and came around the opposite side of the desk, looking first at the picture, then the bookcase and finally her boss. "What, what is it?"

 

Lynn rubbed her temples and shook her head. "There are two laws of sympathetic magic; well actually there's probably a lot more, but there are two laws that anthropologists came up with that seem to be consistent across all cultures and myth cycles." She counted off on her fingers. "The Law of Contagion and the Law of Similarity. Contagion states that something that was once connected to something will always be connected to it, no matter how far removed. Similarity says that 'like affects like'; something that looks like something else can effect that other thing." She put her two index fingers together. "These two laws are what make voodoo dolls work, for instance. If I make a doll that looks like you, I can control you; if I then add a strand of your hair or a piece of one of your old shirts, it would be even stronger."

 

She reached out and jammed her finger at the picture of the mirror. "So if the Duke gets his hand on this mirror-"

 

Gretchen looked down at the picture, and then up to the bookcase. "Then he can use it to, what, travel through and come out through the mirror on this end?"

 

"Yep."

 

"So it's like the Vanishing Cabinet in Harry Potter."

 

"Exactly." Then Lynn frowned. "Actually, it might even be worse than that, though; many years ago, I used that mirror-" She jerked her thumb back over her shoulder. "To travel through time."

 

Gretchen's eyes went wide. "Wait, you've time travelled? To when?"

 

The changeling waved her hands, as though the issue was becoming needlessly muddled. "The early Seventies; look, what's important now is, does the Duke have this mirror?"

 

The two women turned to look at the two Merges with great concern.

Edited by Heritage

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The two Merge’s looked at each other as Lynn explained all about the mirror, looking slightly bored as the conversation carried on. When Lynn had finished Merge gave finally look and carried on.

“The contract, which you be happy to hear I didn’t accept, is to steal the mirror tonight as the auction is tomorrow. I’m guessing the short turnaround is why he wanted hired me, as I can provide almost unlimited woman-power.”

The second Merge showed the message from the Duke on her tablet phone saying much the same as she’d just explained, though in slightly more flowery language. It didn’t mention the location of the object meaning that Merge had managed to piece this together in just over a single day, not a mean feat it itself.

“So how do you want to proceed? I assume you want to protect and maybe recover the mirror.”

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Lynn looked thoughtful as she stroked her lower lip. "Ummm; well I guess there's a few different ways we can do this. Do we have any way of finding out if he got another contractor, or do we think he's gonna try this himself? He really doesn't like to get his hands dirty, so the second seems less likely." She steepled her fingers and sighed. "Okay, we can be all sneaky and go on over ourselves, try and head whoever he's contracted off at the pass. We can alert the auction house, be all right and proper, and lie in wait at the facility under cover of darkness. Or..."

 

Suddenly her petite form was surrounded by swirling mist, which dissipated to reveal a third Merge, smiling a very sly grin. “We call him back and take the offer; any preference?”

 

Gretchen shook her head and sighed. "Yeah, that will never be remotely normal."

Edited by Heritage

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If the Merge Trois were impressed by Grimalkin’s trick she didn’t show it instead seeming more concerned with other mathers.

“Damn do I look good!” the second Merge gave a supportive mum-huh. The second Merge started to worked on the phone accepting the job in hand.

“If he’s that keen we should get the details back very shortly.”
as nonchalantly almost as aside she added “What do you want to do with the money? I’ll have to take his retainer or he’ll get suspicious, it’s not a massive amount.” the second showed the amount on a tablet an amount in the low hundred thousands “There are a few charities in Lincoln that could do with an anonymous donation, but it’s you call.”

Maybe she wasn’t quite as selfish as she made herself out.

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The third Merge shrugged as she walked around, getting the feeling of her new body. “Oh, there are a few charities I like; the Our Lady of Mercy Shelter and I go way back, and my dad likes Freedom's Warriors. It's for disabled vets.” She shrugged again. “Either of those would be fine for my cut.”

 

Gretchen was wincing slightly and rubbing a temple. "Can you...not do that right now? It's seriously freaking me out."

 

Merge!Grim pouted as she sat on the edge of her desk. “Aw, I'm sorry!” Then she shifted into a copy of Gretchen herself! "Is this better? Wow, I already feel way snarkier!" She held out her arms so her sleeves pulled back, revealing her now-tattooed arms. "Check it out! I've got ink!"

 

Lynn's assistant shook her head and began heading for the door. "Alright, that's too much; I'm out of-"

 

"Wait, wait!" It was now Lynn herself who gently grabbed Gretchen's shoulders and turned her back around. "I'm...sorry. It's a shapeshifter thing; we like to mess around, is all." She looked at the younger girl with pleading eyes. "I promise I won't be you again without your permission, okay? I totally promise."

 

Gretchen rolled her eyes and returned to her seat. "Fine, if you're going to go all 'Big Eyes' on me..."

 

Then a thought struck the changeling. "Hey, maybe we should bring the new girl in on this; see how she works in the field?" She turned to one of the Merges. "How would you feel about a third?"

Edited by Heritage

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"Damn shame I thought you looked much better before." the sat Merge said, whilst the standing Merge added "Message sent it might tate take a while until..."

The tablet/cell bleeped almost straight away catching even Merge but surprise

"Well that was quick, must have some kind of response on replay. They have nothing about the security or location, just an address. It really must be a last minute thing..." For a second Merge didn't sound as confident about the whole thing like she normally did. “Either way we have a solid advantage over him, he’s not expecting all of us!”

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Lynn steepled her fingers and grinned evilly. "Ehhhhxcellent! Gretchen, summon forth the new girl! I think she's washing dishes in back!" She waved her hand dramatically, which just made her assistant roll her eyes as she unenthusiastically muttered, "Yes, master."

 

In the back of the store, books were stored on shelves up to the ceiling three walls; there was also the three section sink required by New Jersey health codes as well as Kiki's desk, where she handled her assistant manager duties. Gretchen did indeed find Sam cleaning up the afternoon dishes, mostly ceramic cups and various bar supplies, as an MP3 player played in a nearby docking station.

 

Leaning up against the wall, Gretchen studied the new girl for a while before finally speaking up, her tone as flat as usual.

 

"Hey there, Sam. So the boss lady is setting up some sort of sting operation with a crazy poodle lady who can xerox herself, and she thought you might like to stretch your legs. Interested?"

Edited by Heritage

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Sam looked up from her task, opened her mouth in puzzlement, then decided that, given their line of work, it probably didn't make much more sense in-context and closed it again. "Sure, what the hell," she said, shrugging and shutting off the water. "Just about finished here anyway." And besides, she was starting to go stir crazy from doing nothing. She was sure it was very good to be gainfully employed and have something to do with her day...but at the same time, who liked doing dishes?

She hung up the rag, dried her hands, and followed Gretchen. As they walked, she decided she probably was going to need a few more details. "So..." she searched for the most pertinent question. "What, where, and how hard?"

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Gretchen nodded and pulled her reporter's notebook out if her back pocket and flipped through it. "Yeah, okay. Merge Trois is this reformed thief with superpowers; she apparently makes copies of herself that are all controlled by the same mind, or at least that's what it looks like."

 

She paused to almost make eye contact with Sam. "Also she dresses like Katy Perry crashed a golf cart into a balloon animal warehouse." Then she continued reading.

"This sick Belgian bastard called 'the Duke' tried to hire Miss Bubblegum to steal a magic artifact linked to our boss's family; guess he doesn't know she went straight. She came to Her Oddness and asked how she wanted to handle it, and the Pointy-Eared One wants to scam the f###er, because really, even though she's technically a good guy, deep down inside she's actually an evil beeyotch."

 

She started to put the notebook away, then stopped to flip back several pages. "Oh yeah, Grimalkin fought the Duke before: he's...a rich pervy Belgian nobleman who has multiple bodies, can send his mind jumping from one to the other, who wants to live forever, and his prefered weapon is a poisoned crossbow bolt."

 

She put away her notebook just as they got to the office door and knocked. "And he's insane. Knock 'em dead!" She actually managed a slight wry smile as Lynn opened the door.

 

"Hi Sam, awesome! C'mon in, have a seat!"

Edited by Heritage

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Somewhere at the back of her mind, Sam wondered at what point in her life a room full of identical Katy Perry-looking superheroines stopped surprising her. "Hey, Ms. Epstein," she said, taking a seat. "Gretchen brought be up to speed. Sort of. We're going to go kick the s--t out of some rich megalomaniacal self-cloning Belgian jerkoff with a crossbow, right?" She looked at the various eccentrically-dressed women, tried to figure out which one to address, and arbitrarily settled on the sitting one. "And I'm guessing you're Merge Trois." Behold my deductive skills. "I'm Starlight. Sam. It sounds like you all might need a little extra firepower?"

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The two Merge's in the office seemed unconcerned with this new addition to there little conspiracy, though someone spoke just behind then.

"Thank you for the welcome. And I think I'm more of a Nicki Minaj than a Katy Perry though I have a much better sense of style."

This Merge was dressed identically to the other two except her tweed was a rich purple.

"Lets hope not but this smells all kind of funky to me, it's just all to neat."

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Lynn sat on the edge of her desk as Gretchen found an unobtrusive corner and slid down to the floor, still taking notes in her notebook; the bookstore owner was about to say something, then stopped to purse her lips. "Uh, this is actually a bit awkward, but...Sam, what do you actually do? As in, what are your powers? I mean, I know your eyes glow, but..."

 

Oh God, what if she just makes little sparkly lights? Or turns into a Guinea pig? Or is just really good at math?

 

For her part, Gretchen just smiled and looked up at Sam expectantly, clearly amused by her employer's lack of foresight.

Edited by Heritage

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Sam snorted at the other woman's worried expression. "Don't worry. Yeah, I like making my eyes glow, but that's not all I do."

She sat forward in her chair and held out a hand, fingers half curled. With a small effort of will, a bright flare of light ignited a few inches above her upturned palm, casting wild shadows around the room as the energy flickered and undulated. "I'm Starlight. Light does what I want it to. I can handle myself just fine in a fight, so you don't need to worry about that. I can also teleport quite a ways, and I could probably take one of you along at a time, if we need to get somewhere fast. And," she added as an afterthought, "if it matters, I don't need to eat, sleep, breathe, or any of that stuff. Seriously, I've been to the moon." Should set up a lawn chair there, actually.

She sat back and closed her fist, snuffing out the light. "So that's what I do. I would have told you before, but there wasn't a space for that on the application."

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Gretchen looked suitably impressed as she jotted down notes; for her part Lynn beamed and nodded her head vigorously. "Isn't it amazing how much money you save if you don't have to eat? I miss it a lot sometimes, but the savings are spectacular."

 

The shopkeeper rubbed her lower lip in deep thought. "Okay, so we need a plan; not necessarily a rock solid one, but at least a general set of guidelines that we can improvise within as the situation changes." Her eyes flicked between the several super ladies in the room, then gestured towards the various Merges. "My first thought was that I would play one of your duplicates, and I'm still tempted to go that way, but I'm not married to the idea." Then she pointed at Sam. "As for Starlight...I'm thinking you're our ace in the hole? You provide overwatch while keeping out of sight, ready to port in at the first sign of trouble. I'm just spitbalin' here."

Edited by Heritage

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Sam twitched her shoulders. "Works for me. I'm not much good at scamming people, but..." In an eyeblink, she vanished, her voice continuing to come from the spot where she was sitting. "I can keep out of sight when I need to." She reappeared. "So unless...they," she waved a hand at the assorted Merges, "have any objections, that plan's fine by me." Because careful planning is absolutely my strong suit.

She cleared her throat. "So, any idea what we might be up against, if it comes to that? Just a bunch of identical Eurotrash dudes, or does he have some extra goons on his payroll? Also, where's the deal going down? We going to Belgium?"

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“Hopefully he’s going to be nowhere near the mirror, it’s just a quick grab and run. I can be where I see so security is no problem.” the sitting Merge waved a hand lazily as she explained

“Though it’s a rush job, which makes me nervous, so I’d like you on hand in case trouble breaks out.” the Merge perched on the desk added.

“We can plan something more elaborate to catch the little bugger once we’ve recovered the goods, the mirror should flush him out into the open.” finished off the Merge in the doorway.

They all seemed to be happy with the plan they laid out, which was basically because they were literally all of one mind, but looked at the others to see they agreed with her ideas.

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Lynn looked very excited; clearly the thought of pulling a heist appealed to her. But then Gretchen got up, looking somewhat concerned.

 

"Uh, Boss Lady, I think you're forgetting something."

 

Lynn frowned as she began ticking points off on her fingers. "Multiple Merges, me in disguise, Starlight for overwatch..." Then she snapped her fingers. "Y'know what, you're right, we need floorplans and the security layout; Merge, do you have that stuff, or do we have to-"

 

Gretchen interrupted her as she pointed right at Sam in frustration. "No, we have someone with a record who we're trying to rehabilitate, remember?  And now you want her to participate in a crime...any of this registering?"

 

Lynn's jaw dropped and she said nothing for several seconds as she looked between Sam and Gretchen. "Oh...oh my God, Sam, I'm so sorry, i didn't even-" But then she stopped herself, closed her eyes and waved her hands. "Wait, wait, I mean yes, we technically are committing a crime, but it's to catch a far worse bad guy, right? That matters, doesn't it? And we can bring the mirror right back, or Lynn Epstein can buy it afterwards. No harm done!"

 

Gretchen crossed her arms tightly across her chest and just stared balefully at her boss; finally, Lynn turned to Sam.

 

"Look, it's up to you, Sam; whatever you want to do, I'm fine with it. Seriously."

 

The two young women turned to look at her, awaiting her response.

Edited by Heritage

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Sam's expression flickered slightly. It hadn't even occurred to her that what she was about to do was illegal, and she couldn't help feeling slightly moved that the other two cared enough to give her the chance to avoid participating. For a moment, she was tempted - the path to the "Life" was a slippery slope, and it had a way of sneaking up on you in the most benign of disguises.

But, it was for a good cause. Or rather, it was to get a bad guy behind bars (or at least in front of fists), which was pretty much a superhero's entire job description. And...she couldn't very well just opt out and let the others go off and face some crazy crossbow-wielding Belgian guy alone. They were certainly capable enough without her, granted, but what if something happened to them that she could have helped prevent? Like she needed any more crap on her conscience.

She made up her mind. "You don't need to worry about me," she said. "I'm with you. It's like you said, we're doing this to get the Duke. And it's not like we're razing an orphanage. We're just stealing a mirror, right? Nothing really bad." Her tone turned wry. "If this sets off a chain reaction that ends with me knocking over gas stations and breaking into pharmacies, you have my permission to kick my ass and haul me to Blackstone."

She paused for a moment, then took an intent interest in her hands as she muttered, "Also...thanks. For thinking about me."

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