What A Wonderful Town!

You just didn't see places like this anymore. Pastel-colored houses, all the same, lined the perfectly cleaned streets. Gardens peppered every house's front lawn, filled with flowers and butterflies of all sorts and colors. A few people (dressed in equally pastel-colored clothes and with unusually wide, toothy grins) walked along the street, waving occasionally to each other and seeming going to nowhere in particular. 

All in all, it seemed almost like something out of a children's book or a doll set. Were it not for the fact that the place had only recently just appeared out of nowhere, it might have seemed perfect. Maybe even a bit too perfect.

So perfect, it had to have started drawing visitors. Hopefully, one visitor in particular...

    • Red Nova
      Red Nova

      She remembered wanting to leave St. Canard for the longest time. Even from a time when she was very young, she remembered thinking, 'There has to be something else out there.'

      Something brighter.

      She'd never done it. She never left. The city swallowed her up until that was all she knew.

      And yet somehow, she'd found herself sweeping across the city one night, leaving a trail of fire behind her, and the dark and grimy streets had paved themselves into clean sidewalks with houses lined up down the block. It looked like the suburbs, of which she had never lived in herself before. Something made her stop.

      Had she ever flown passed these streets before? In her twenty or so years worth of fragmented memories, had she ever driven through even once? It seemed to her that she hadn't. Not a place like this. Maybe such a place before had never appealed to her. With its quiet pleasantries, the sweet fragrance of flowers instead of smog or gasoline.

      Something about it had certainly appealed now though.

      As she made her way through, she could see that there were more than just houses here. This was a town. A decidedly small town, but a town none the less.

      She had flown farther than she thought!

      She walked up the center of the street, looking at each of the store signs for an indication of just where she had ended up, but nothing rang familiar.

      Where in the blazes was this?

      • Just Quackerjack
        Just Quackerjack

        "You there!" A friendly voice called. A small group of young men and women - likely teenagers - rushed up to the new face instantly, all grinning with rosy cheeks and dressed in pleasant suits and frilly dresses. 

        "Excuse me, miss!" One of the girls asked, walking up to her from the back of the crowd with seemingly none of the usual pushing and shoving expected from people their age. "I've never seen someone like- like you before!" She tilted her head to the side, ever-so-slightly robotic, high ponytail swishing. "Do you need help? Someone to show you around?"

        • Red Nova
          Red Nova

          Nova stepped back, startled from the sudden intrusive inquiry, prepared mostly to fly away upon being spotted, but there were no pitchforks or torches yet. No police. Just a bunch of kids.

          "Oh..." She looked down over her fire-resistant attire. No, she supposed someone like her didn't breeze through so often. Everything looked far too color coordinated and intact to have sported a villain of their own wreaking havoc here. "Actually, I just wanted to know where this place was on the map. How far from St. Canard are we?"

          • Just Quackerjack
            Just Quackerjack

            "St Canard?" She looked puzzled for a second, then almost with an almost bizarre reaction time, she added, "Oh, yes, of course! We're just on the outskirts, right?" She twirled her ponytail, then asked, "You've never been here before? Gee, with how wonderful it is, I'd have thought it'd be a tourist spot by now!" With that remark, all of her friends nodded in agreement.

            • Red Nova
              Red Nova

              "Tourist spot, sure." Nova frowned in thought. Maybe she had been here before. There was no telling what she had forgotten, explosions tended to rattle the brain a tad.

              Still, something seemed just downright...off. "So what are you, the welcoming committee?" These kids looked as though they hadn't seen a dangerous thing in all of their lives, and furthermore, they looked straight out of a bizarre parody of a television show set in the 50's.

               

              • Just Quackerjack
                Just Quackerjack

                "Technically, yes." The girl chirped, looking a bit unsure of why she was saying this. "We do have a mayor, though! He could probably give you a more proper welcome!" She held out a hand expectantly, looking up with big, innocent, almost shiny eyes. "He's been waiting for visitors!"

                • Red Nova
                  Red Nova

                  "Waiting?" Seemed like a strange manner of putting it. But with a town this small off of St. Canard, maybe it was no wonder it was passed up. Everyone knew the large city for its unorthodox level of strange criminal activities, and its corresponding vigilantes.

                  Guess this place was just small potatoes in comparison.

                  "I guess I have nothing better to do." Though she didn't know why she'd care. A mayor was a mayor. And once he found out where she was from and who she was, he was sure to kick her out. But maybe this little town was sitting on something that could be of use to her. Appearances weren't always what they seemed. She could attest to that.

                  • Just Quackerjack
                    Just Quackerjack

                    "Gee, okl! C'mon!" The girl grinned somehow wider than she was grinning before, grabbing the newcomers hand and rushing towards a larger building in the town's square - which oddly seemed to be actually arranged in a neat little square. Bursting through the door, she dragged her new friend along until the two of them were standing in front of a rather large and dramatic desk, complete with a little name plate that read "Mayor Jack" in curvy letters. 

                    "Mayor, mayor!" The girl chirped, pushing the newcomer forwards. "We've gotten a visitor today!" Turning, she added. "Don't be shy, say hello! He's very, very nice."

                    • Red Nova
                      Red Nova

                      Nova was practically dragged through the pristine streets, all of which were as orderly as the last. Seriously, not even a wad of chewing gum on the sidewalk!

                      "Uh. Hello?" She craned her head to get a good look at the fella seated behind the elaborate set up. "Heard you don't get many visitors here. Guess it's your lucky day?"

                      At least she hadn't blown anything up upon entry. Yet anyway.

                      • Just Quackerjack
                        Just Quackerjack

                        "We sure don't!" Another cheerful voice responded, as the dramatic pastel chair seated behind the desk spun around in an almost cliche manner. Seated on the chair, with probably the biggest smile of anyone (and that was saying something), was a duck with a floof of feathers atop his head, pulled back into a short and fluffy ponytail. He wore a suit colored one half in pastel blue, the other in pastel pink, with a spotted tie - somewhere halfway between elegant and (probably tooth-rottingly) cutesy. "I'm so glad you could make it." He smiled down at his new friend, gaze softening as if to seem more inviting. With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the girl, who skipped off cheerfully. "So, what does bring you here? Heard about our beautiful little town and couldn't resist stopping by?"

                        • Red Nova
                          Red Nova

                          The mayor was definitely a sight! Both his demeanor and actual appearance were absurdly ridiculous, but it suited the rest of the odd little town appropriately. Her incredulity was only matched by an even stranger feeling, one that seemed to dull her questioning of something strangely and sorely familiar about a smile that large and that bright.

                          She couldn't really focus on anything but that smile for a few moments, and she finally shook herself out of it.

                          "No, I've never heard of your town before, period. I don't really even remember how I found it. Must have just been an accident, really." She was quiet for a beat or two, looking around his office. "You, uh, you must not get a lot of traffic from the city! It's kinda...quiet here. From what I can tell."

                          • Just Quackerjack
                            Just Quackerjack

                            "Never?" He blinked, seemingly surprised, but still smiling. "And it is kind of weird that we don't get too many visitors - I've been waiting for a while for even just one!" He laughed a bit at that. "But now that you're here, we have to give you a proper welcome!" He hopped off of his chair, then walked around to the front of the desk and extended his hand amiably. "Mayor Jack, at your service~! Hopefully we can make you feel right at home!"

                            • Red Nova
                              Red Nova

                              Nova hesitated only briefly, eyeing the outstretched hand and warm gesture with uncertainty before finally extending her own hand, shaking his.

                              "I don't suppose you really keep tabs on St. Canard's news headliners, do you?" Of course, so far so good. He didn't seem to recognize her. This place really had managed to keep to itself.

                              Now all she had to do was find the bank here, so she could rob it. At least make it worth her while to have discovered such an untainted place, before anyone else corrupted it. Or had a proper defensive system in place here.

                              • Just Quackerjack
                                Just Quackerjack

                                Returning the handshake but still holding on to her hand afterwards, he responded.

                                "Not really, no!" He shook his head a little. "We don't really do business with that place." A slightly odd grimace crossed his face as he muttered something about "no real appreciation" under his breath, before he returned to his usual grin. "But worry not! We'll make sure you're safe and sound from all those icky folks." Then, after leaning down to gently press a kiss to the hand he'd still held on to, he winked. "Trust me, after a while here, you'll forget that dump even existed in the first place!"

                                • Red Nova
                                  Red Nova

                                  Nova's expression faltered at the unexpected gesture, her eyes growing wide, and a faint hue spreading across her cheeks. Physical contact, let alone more intimate gestures, had always been difficult and sparse throughout her life, but more so than ever after the accident. It made her stomach lurch uncomfortably, especially with the added emphasis of his kind, if not strange demeanor.

                                  She pulled her hand back with awkwardness, rubbing over it with her prosthetic carefully, as if burned, and she managed to nod, though she hadn't really been able to focus on what he'd said. "I. Uh. A map? You have a map of this place, don't you? I'd like to see it, if that's alright."

                                  • Just Quackerjack
                                    Just Quackerjack

                                    "A map?" The mayor repeated. "Why, I'm sure you don't need one - in fact, I'll take the honor of showing you around, if you'd like!" He chirped. But after a few seconds, taking a glance at her attire and battered appearance, he added; "You know, if you're planning on staying here, you should really dress a bit more nicely, don't you think? It might raise a bit of suspicion if you're dressed like that - and besides, I have all sorts of pretty clothes for newcomers to try on!~" 

                                    • Red Nova
                                      Red Nova

                                      "Staying?" She didn't know just how long she intended on being here for, surely not long enough to raise too many red flags, but the way he said suspicion made her wary. It would be a shame to have stumbled across a town that was practically a sitting duck, only to leave it now.

                                      She glanced down over herself, hefting the weight of her jetpack behind her. Just what was wrong with her appearance?!

                                      Well, with an outfit like his, comparatively, she did rather stand out in a bad sort of way here. The kind of way that would make a description to authorities more concrete. The kind of way that would probably alert none other than Doofwing Dork.

                                      "Well, I don't know if pretty is really my style, but a change of clothes would be appreciated, I suppose." Though why she didn't just forego the formalities and command respect like a true villain was beyond her. She felt kind of off.

                                      • Just Quackerjack
                                        Just Quackerjack

                                        "Yay!" He clasped his hands happily. "Ohh, this is going to be so fun! Just one moment, please!" He grinned, rushing off down the hall and disappearing.


                                         

                                        The room was dark, very dark. But as soon as the devious Quackerjack turned on the lights, a seemingly even more unsettling scene - well, unsettling to anyone but himself - greeted him. Little dollhouses lined a tiny grey-paper street, just like the ones in the town. Little dolls sat in the dollhouses, some standing on the streets, others "talking" with each other in the town square. Everything was pretty and perfect, and most importantly, the maniacal toymaker's own personal playground.

                                        "Now, let's see, where's my new dolly?~" He giggled to himself, eye twitching as he gently peeked at the doll's house that was meant to be his mayor's office. Sure enough, a little doll of his new visitor had appeared there. Satisfied with this, he let out a playful giggle, before grabbing a rack of doll clothes of all colors and sorts and placing it in the mayor's office. Were he in the room, it would have seemed like a rack of beautiful clothes had magically appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. 

                                        This was all going so very perfectly! It took everything in the duck not to burst out laughing.

                                        Adjusting his tie and trying to get back to his mayorly persona, he waved goodbye to the dolls before leaving the room once more.


                                         

                                        "My apologies!~" The mayor chirped up, walking back into the office with an almost insane look in his eyes. "The dresses should have arrived, correct?"

                                        • Red Nova
                                          Red Nova

                                          Taking a moment to look around his office, she tried to gather some sort of intel on the town itself to see when it had been established, and just where it was in Calisota. She reached across the desk to flip through some of the documents there, keeping a perked ear in case he returned.

                                          A small frown flit across her features however, as she noted that the documents didn't really seem to say anything of mayoral importance, but more importantly, the majority of what was written was in crayon.

                                          She turned back around towards the door before nearly having a heart attack, a sudden materialization of frocks in all styles and colors before her in the blink of an eye. Where had they come from?!

                                          She reached out and touched one of them- poofy and frilly things in soft hues she'd never choose for herself, and she finally turned her attention back to the mayor who'd returned, giving him a questioning gaze.

                                          "They did. But...I have no idea...how." She was embarrassed that she had been startled so easily, but the question still remained, how had they gotten here? Had he an assistant who'd wheeled them in so quietly that even she couldn't hear?

                                          "Uhm...thank you, I think, but these aren't...I mean...I'm sure they're all the rage here, from what I can tell. But don't you have any pants?" 

                                          • Just Quackerjack
                                            Just Quackerjack

                                            "Oh, well, I figured someone as pretty as you would want something equally pretty, that's all!" The mayor laughed softly - though there was a slight, unnerving edge to it. "And like I said, we don't want to arise any suspicion." Making his way over to the dresses and looking through them, he found a gentle red dress with a darker sash around the middle. "I like this one, personally. Maybe a little pearl necklace, too, don't you think? Though we could try on a few if you want - I certainly don't mind a little bit of dress-up!~"

                                            • Red Nova
                                              Red Nova

                                              What in the world! This guy was something else! He obviously enforced some kind of bizarre dress code here! It would explain the attire of the kids she'd met outside.

                                              She shook her head with a great deal of disgusted resistance. Dresses were cumbersome, not to mention so far out of her range of personal style, it wasn't even funny.

                                              But there was a time before suits and slacks, and her more villainous costumes, wasn't there? Faintly she could recall being fitted in frilly pink things, full of lace. A time when her mother was still around. It was brief, but she could recall visions of it.

                                              Before her father got a hold of her, anyway.

                                              Maybe it wasn't so much of her own personal style after all. It was all she'd ever saw around her and her father's associates. This idea of traditional masculinity wrapped up in expensive tailored three piece suits of pinstripes and dark colors. Being taken seriously. As if any display of femininity could jeopardize that. But it had been made clear to her from a very young age that her father had always wanted a son.

                                              Guess he'd just had to make do with her.

                                              "I..." Her hesitation crumbled at the invasive thoughts, and she shook her head, wondering why of all things those ideas had to barge their way in. "I'm not..." Nova glanced down over herself, feeling very self-conscious then. "I wouldn't call myself that. Pretty, I mean. I wasn't much to look at before either." She managed a sort of nervous, humorless chuckle then, "But the scars don't really help, do they?"

                                               

                                              • Just Quackerjack
                                                Just Quackerjack

                                                "Oh, doll..." The mayor almost, somewhat looked a bit taken aback at her sudden self-consciousness. Almost. He still had plans in mind, and he couldn't let actual pity get in the way of those plans.

                                                Gently approaching her and gently tilting her chin up to meet his eyes, he smiled the softest and most charming smile he could muster. "I'd wager you're one of the prettiest folks I've ever seen. And it's not like we couldn't do something about those scars, too. I have my ways." He lingered a bit, as if to tease her, and then asked; "So, would you like to try something on? I'm sure I'd love to see you all dressed up.~"

                                                • Red Nova
                                                  Red Nova

                                                  Why was she letting him touch her? Why didn't she just shoot him? Why was she still here, in this office, allowing her personal space to be invaded, allowing him to convince her of something she otherwise had no interest in.

                                                  Everything inside of her screamed for her to remove herself from this spot she'd planted herself in and just walk out those doors to that freakishly pale paradise, set the pretty houses ablaze, and be done with it.

                                                  And yet nothing budged.

                                                  Her face remained cradled in his hand, her line of vision stuck on him, and her confusion at her inner conflict only growing. The warmth in her cheeks only grew at his compliment.

                                                  None of what he said made sense though-- what could be done about something so permanent as scars? He was a mayor, not a magician!

                                                  None of this seemed to matter though, and to his innocently posed question, she found herself nodding in a dumbly agreeable way.

                                                  "I....I guess it wouldn't hurt." It was just a dress after all. A piece of clothing that could easily be removed if she didn't like it. "...Are they flame-resistant...?"

                                                   

                                                  • Just Quackerjack
                                                    Just Quackerjack

                                                    "Oh, we don't have any fires here." The mayor 'reassured' her, letting go of her chin slowly and pulling a frilly red dress off the rack. "I'll go to the other room while you get changed, all right?~" He handed her the dress and made his way down the halls once more.

                                                    • Red Nova
                                                      Red Nova

                                                      Nova looked down over the selection with further uncertainty. Now that he'd left, she was able to think somewhat coherently again, and the more she looked over the dress, the more she wanted to tear it to shreds!

                                                      What an absolute joke. As if she'd ever even entertain the idea of it.

                                                      So why was she doing this?

                                                      This was degrading.

                                                      As if changing her outside appearance would ever change what had happened.

                                                      If anything, now it was all on display. Every scar. Every ugly amount of disfigurement. A testament to all of her actions and the consequences she had faced as a result. Why would she ever want to face it all?

                                                      Because she hadn't. She simply hadn't. She had covered every inch of herself after the accident. She'd concealed her identity not just for others, but for herself. She couldn't recognize what she'd become.

                                                      The truth was there and she had refused to look at it. Without the jetpack, without the burden, without the firepower, she was exactly what she had been before that fateful day in her own warehouse. Only now, her outsides matched her corruption.

                                                      Standing there in that dress had exposed it all.

                                                      She hadn't been born to a normal family. She'd been born to the mob. She didn't have a normal upbringing. She was raised in crime and only ever knew crime. She never had any choices. Even the day of the explosive, someone else had chosen her fate for her.

                                                      And here in this moment now, she was a fool to think she could choose to change any of it now.

                                                      It was far too late.