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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Boardinghouse Reach

"Oh, hey," Megan said, peering closer at the newspaper. "They identified that body they found down at the docks. It was a two-bit villain called the Merlin. He tried to mug me on my first night in the city!"

Simon stared despairingly at the shirts he had spread over his bed, then paced around in a circle, clutching his head. "Uh-huh," he said distractedly. He was wearing only a towel at his waist, and his muscled shoulders and back were damp.

Megan looked over at him and folded the newpaper. "What is up with you? Are you usually this squirrelly before a date?"

Simon said, "Uh-huh," again and held a green checked oxford shirt under his chin and stared into the mirror.

"Shall I go away while you stress?" Megan said.

"Um, what?" Simon looked at her, wild-eyed with alarm. "No! Don't go! Keep me company!"

Megan sighed and glanced at the clock. "If you don't decide what shirt to wear in the next five minutes, you'll be late meeting Suzanne."

"Auuuugh!" Simon said, throwing his hands in the air and running around the room. "Which one should I wear?" he said when he paused to grab his towel, which had come untucked.

"I think that you could wear nothing but your work apron and she'd be delighted," Megan said, smirking. "Look, she asked you on this date, so she MUST like you already. Wear what you feel most comfortable in."

"I caaaaaaaan't!" Simon said. "I feel most comfortable in flannel and jeans!"

Megan got up and inspected his closet. "Look, this is a brand new flannel. And your black jeans. There. Et voilĂ . You are dressed."

"Which underwear should I wear?" Simon asked meekly.

Megan gave him a sarcastic glower. "The gold lame briefs."

Simon covered his face. "How did you know about those?"

"Zoltan told me he'd given them to you for Christmas last year." Megan grinned and clapped him on the back. "You'll be fine. Just wear your usual tighty-whities, and get into your shirt and jeans and get out of here."

"Right." Simon looked despondently at his closet, then yanked the new flannel out and pulled his black jeans off their hanger.

"I'm gonna go out and see if Mr. Hammer is around," Megan said, turning to the door. "I'll see you as you're leaving, right?"


Megan closed the door softly. She paused a moment outside the door that led to G's apartment, listening to the silence within, then sighed and trotted downstairs. She opened the heavy wooden front door with its leaded glass and ornate Victorian trim, passed through the vestibule and outer door, and stepped out onto the porch. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a plain, 30-something, brown-haired, bespectacled white woman sitting on a bench in the gardens beside the house, tipping her cigarette ash into a concrete urn full of flowers. She nodded to Megan, who returned it. Megan then turned right, toward the carriage house.

She knocked on the yellow front door of the carriage house and, as she waited, studied the small, squared-off boxwoods planted on either side of the walkway. There were heavy, thudding footsteps inside, and the door was opened by Jack Hammer, dressed only in jeans. His surprisingly mobile eyebrows registered surprise.

"I'm sorry, are you busy?" Megan asked.

"Nope, not yet," Hammer said, managing to inflect his electronic voice with something like impatience. "What's up?"

"Zoltan told me you're a foreman with a para construction company," Megan said, opting to go straight to the point. "I really need a new job."

"Whatcha doin' now?"

"Deliveries," Megan said, "hauling thereof."

"You're the one working with Captain Zip, right?" he said.

Megan nodded.

"The grapevine grows like kudzu here on Marigold Lane," Hammer said with a tinny chuckle. "You want to move into construction?"

"I want to move into a job where the mob isn't hip-deep into my boss."

Hammer nodded slowly, then glanced over Megan's shoulder. "Whyn't you come over tomorrow, around 6 or 7, and we'll talk more, huh?"

Megan blinked, caught the sound of approaching footsteps, then nodded vigorously. "Sure! Thanks!" she said, then turned and hurried back toward the front of the house.

She passed a pretty young white man in jeans and t-shirt who looked like he came straight from the sculptor's workroom, all muscles and cheekbones and brilliant blue eyes. He gave her a bright smile.

Behind her, she heard Hammer growl, "Yer late."

The young man said, "Indeed, Mister Hammer, I do apologize. I am indeed very sorry for my delay. I was quite eager to be here with you, but my team..."

Hammer interrupted. "Get in here."

Megan heard a brief scuffling sound, then the door shut heavily. Blushing, she sped her steps around the turn of the house.

G was lounging on the grass at the feet of the woman on the bench, and both were smoking. G spotted her and waved, so Megan strolled over, glancing around for Simon.

"Hey," G said lazily. "Pull up some turf."

Megan folded down to the ground, still a little tender around the ribcage. She smiled up at the woman on the bench. "Hey."

G gestured with her cigarette. "This is Megan Amazon, who has taken up with us by moving into the parlor rooms. Megan, this is Watson Holmes, one of our third-floor residents."

Megan's eyebrows went up, and Watson leaned forward to shake her hand. "My father was a mad fan," she said with a grin. "Everyone asks. I do have a first name, but I hate it more than the other two." Watson had a firm handshake, but no evidence of superstrength. Megan guessed she was on the other side of 40, given the tiny lines around her hazel eyes and the touches of grey sprinkled through her mouse-colored hair. She was wearing gold-rimmed glasses, a t-shirt and jeans, tattered red sneakers, and a cell phone in a belt clip.

There was the usual exchange of pleasantries, then G said, "Visiting Jack?" to Megan.

"Yeah," she said.

"Can I be nosy?"

Megan shrugged. "I need a new job. My boss is mixed up with the mob, plus I think he's going to be a bastard to me when I get back. I stuck my nose in where it wasn't wanted."

"So you're looking at construction?" G said, sounding vaguely surprised.

Megan shrugged again. "I'm hauling deliveries now. Just about anything's a step up."

G said, "Well, the company Jack works for is a pretty decent place. Union, though."

"That's what Zoltan said," Megan said.

Simon emerged from the front of the house and looked around. Megan waved and he hurried over. "Do I look all right?" he said breathlessly.

Megan eyed him. He was wearing the black jeans that fit him like a glove and had put on a black t-shirt under the flannel. "You look good," she said.

"Hot date?" G asked.

Simon nodded.

Watson said, "Is she or he cute?"

G snorted. "Come on, does he date anyone who isn't?"

Simon said, "You know I don't date boys."

Megan said, "You don't?"

"No." Simon looked sheepish. "I flirt with 'em, but don't date 'em."

"Tease," Watson said, grinning.

"Hey!" Simon said, then caught sight of his wristwatch. "Augh! I'm going to be late!" He turned, sprang over a shrubbery, and sprinted for the bicycle rack.

"Good luck!" Megan said.

"We want full details!" Watson called.

Simon waved as he tore off into the street on his bike.

"She is cute," G said, inhaling from her cigarette. "She was the older woman at the party last night, I think."

Megan nodded. "Suzanne."

"Hah," Watson said. "How'd you know, G?"

"Elementary," G said, and laughed when Watson punched her in the shoulder. "He was drooling over her like a poleaxed puppy."

"Well," Watson said, stubbing out her cigarette butt, "it's nice that someone has something to do on a Saturday night."

"How 'bout you, Megan?" G said. "Hot date?"

Megan grimaced. "I've been in town 3 weeks. I don't really have a wide acquaintance. Though," she said thoughtfully, "I guess I have gone on a date. With Simon."

"Jesus," G said, "and then you moved into the same house with him? You got the lesbian indoctrination from your mom, eh?"

Watson choked as she lit a new cigarette and Megan felt her own smile go a little snarly.

G smiled grimly. "Sorry, I have a lousy sense of humor."

Megan let the snarl settle and shrugged. "No problem. A little touchy about the lesbian stereotypes."

"Even from a lesbian?" G said.

"Yep." Megan plucked a blade of grass and folded and refolded it.

There was a slightly awkward silence.

Watson nudged G with a foot.

G cleared her throat. "Well, as an apology, the least I can do is take the new woman out and show her the town. You free tomorrow?"

Megan looked up. "Well... yeah, I am. That'd be nice. All I've seen is the Trylon and Perisphere."

"Can't have that," G said, extinguishing her stub and tossing it into the urn. "Well, I'm gonna go do some work so I'll be free. I'll come by around 10 tomorrow morning, is that all right?"

"Sure," Megan said, blinking.

G got up, dusted off her jeans, smiled, and headed inside. Watson and Megan watched her go.

"She's a strange cookie," Watson said, exhaling smoke. "Want to grab some dinner up the street? Merciful Minerva isn't too much further beyond the pizza joint, and they've got an author reading tonight. Bechdel is touring for her new book."

Date: 2012-01-27 06:22 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Can I just say, I love your whole cast of characters, and the bigger the cast gets, the more certain I am of that fact. I have this strange love for Cast of Hundreds stories, with tons of intertwined little plots and you have that aplenty, which makes me happy.

Date: 2012-01-28 04:48 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
I love creating cast-of-hundreds stories. I've been doing it since I start running tabletop RPGs (I ran one campaign where I actually tracked the NPCs and plots I created on the fly, and ended up with nearly 300 NPCS with speaking, named parts), and Wonder City just seems like the kind of story that needs a rich background, y'know?

Date: 2012-01-28 11:50 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
I would *love* to participate in a campaign like that. I haven't played tabletop RPGs nearly as much as I'd like to.

"Wonder City just seems like the kind of story that needs a rich background, y'know?"

I think that's why I prefer cast of hundreds, actually. It makes the whole story seem richer, because the minor characters aren't just placeholders, but people as well. I like the idea that any minor character could, potentially, be the main character of their own story.


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