|Three Birds and a Cage|
|What: The Cuckoos and Lian Harper meet Luke Cage in New York.|
It's midday and Power Man is just about to wrap up. A crowd consisting primarily of black or brown teenagers is milling around, but then, that's always been Luke's pigeon hole. He sure doesn't mind though. Lord knows the majority has their heroes, and little boys and girls from Harlem need heroes too. Either way, he's just shaking the last few hands, smiling for pictures, and standing back as the promoters for Heroes for Hire start to pack up the outdoor tables, line ropes, etc. His secretary brings him a coffee and then moves off to yell at the man backing up their box truck. Luke is left to lean against a nearby lamppost and enjoy his coffee, for the moment.
The girls stand out most of the time and especially in a sea of kids. At nearly six feet tall, with long blonde hair, and wearing matching white dresses, they're hard to miss. That one of them is carrying a rather squeaky little girl in a bright blue princess dress, sparkly crown, tiny red cowboy boots, and a red Superman cape makes them even more noticeable.
The girls are just down here to take Lian to the library--reading is important!--but Lian noticed all the kids and insisted on checking it out. She's a bitty girl with black hair and golden skin and dark eyes and she's talking quite vigorously and gesturing expansively with a juice box.
"Is he a hero? I'm a hero. Daddy is a hero, right? I want down. Let's go over there, there he is, I want to say hi!" Lian leans hard right to steer Phoebe, who's holding her.
"All right," Sophie allows. "But just hello."
"Lian, juice box," Esme warns, avoiding a squirt of grape juice with practiced ease. "Give Essie the box, please." She holds out her hand and Lian obliges.
Initially just doing a long-range survey of the very noticeable blondes while he enjoys his coffee, enjoying the view, so to speak, Luke straightens up as they begin to approach. He pushes his sunglasses up on his head, and the smile that was relatively tired after a morning of work, is suddenly fresh again. "Morning, ladies." It's almost not-morning, at this point, but he's been saying it for hours now. It's morning until lunch, anyway, damnit! Then Luke focuses on the little girl and winks. "And who do we have here?"
"Hi, I'm Lian." The girls have been working on 'introducing yourself' with her to get ready for kindergarten. "An' I'm a hero. These are MY girls. Sophie, Esme, Phoebe." Lian is either guessing or she actually knows which is which when no one else has a chance of telling them apart. They look like the same person. Even the way they stand is identical. "They're my si-kicks. Who are you?" Psychics. Sidekicks. Either works.
The girl holding Lian laughs and kisses her cheek. "What about Daddy?"
Pfft. Daddy. Lian waves away the idea. "Daddy. Is a boy." Disqualified from the girl-hero team.
Luke Cage raises an eyebrow, and since his mind is almost literally an open book to these three, it's obvious that he's curious about who the father might be. And where he might be. And which of the three might be single. Along with a few other thoughts that he seems to be performing the equivalent of olympic mental weight lifting to keep his mind off of. Give that man a medal!
Luke extends his hand to Lian and says, "Hello, hero Lian. My name's Luke Cage. I'm a hero too." He gives her his best conspiratorial smile. "What are your superpowers, hero Lian?"
Phoebe puts her down and Lian shakes Luke's hand before sharing which of her powers she's willing to disclose. "I'm Princess Superman and I shoot things with a bow and arrow like my daddy does." She does quite a good demonstration of the draw and release technique--with sound effects. Apparently all imaginary weapons go 'pew pew!'. "I'm too little to have a gun. Or a sword." Woe, the unfairness of it all. "When I get big, I'm going to be magic like my girls." She reaches up and pats someone's thigh at random much like one would pat a horse.
The Cuckoos have skimmed Luke's mind just enough to ensure that he's not a threat to any of them. The ambient thoughts are the usual male ramblings and they share an amused giggle between them in the gestalt where no one else can hear. |"Men."| |"Indeed."| |"It's funniest when they start apologizing."| Really. It is. Hilarious.
Luke goes to one knee to be eye level with the little girl when he senses the ladies are cool with her talking to him. "Well, I'd have to agree, Lian. Guns are tricky! I don't even carry one. They're pretty dangerous." Luke has it all worked out, of course. The girl's mom is one of these inscrutable triplets, and if things went well, and there was any luck in the universe, one of them might be single. God help him if he has to get names right just yet, though. "So what's the plan for today then?" He's still on one knee, talking to her as if she really is the boss of them women behind her. "Get some lunch, stop a bank robbery, and maybe catch a movie?"
The girls laugh in unison. "Even more heroic," one of them says. "We're going to the library to practice our reading, right, Lian?" That's Sophie, for what it's worth. She strokes Lian's hair gently. "Because reading means you can teach yourself anything."
"And cookies," Lian chirps. "We always get cookies. And my girls get coffee. Coffee is yucky. Do you like coffee, Luke?" Ah, manners. Lian has many, when she wants to use them.
"As a matter of fact, I do," Luke says, holding up his paper, to-go cup. "But reading is a great thing. Better even than cookies, in my opinion." Luke smiles but still doesn't bother to get up. This meeting is with Princess Superman, after all! "I've been trying to expand the library in my home town, actually, your highness. But if you can read, then you can probably write some too, yeah? Well, I don't usually do this, but do you think I could have your autograph, Princess?" Luke produces a well worn sharpie and pad of paper from his back pocket, the ones he brought in case anyone forgot to bring his picture or comic book to the signing. He holds them out to her, smiling, his surface thoughts genuinely on making friends with this little girl. He definitely likes kids, at least. It seems like maybe most of his publicized bravado might be a bit overblown.
The girls are well-acquainted with tough guys who are rather marshmallow underneath. Not naming any names, of course.
Lian is very gracious. "Yes, you may." She takes the pen and paper, then turns to one of the girls. "Help me." Esme crouches down and holds out her hands for Lian to use as a little desk.
"Your hands are squishy," Lian complains. "Make them shiny so I can write." She hops from one foot to the other.
"Only for you," Esme says. Between one second and the next she turns into something else. Still a tall, willowy girl but now made entirely of pure diamond. Her hair blowing in the wind is strands of diamond, the sun catches on her and makes her -shine-.
So, up until now, Luke actually had NO idea he was talking to real supers. He thought he was indulging a precocious little girl, and possibly making nice with mom and her sisters. He manages to stay upright on his knee, but his mind definitely registers a red-line, readjustment moment as he desperately tries to think of a triplet woman who can turn into diamond, but comes up empty. His hesitation and moment of blankness is mostly covered though by the time it takes for Lian to write her name. "Thanks, Lian. That's really nice of you." He glances up to the other three more now, apparently interested in trading notes. Professional courtesy, and all.
"You're welcome." Lian hops from one foot to the other, than hands over the pen and paper so she can squeak at Esme. "It is my favourite, this part. My girls are the prettiest!" She grabs handfuls of diamond hair and lets them go so the wind makes them sparkle. Esme just laughs and picks Lian up, kissing her on the cheek. She's translucent, refractory, and definitely diamond, but she also moves the same and sounds almost exactly as she did before.
"We're not her mother," one of the other girls says, smiling at Luke. "Only her babysitters." "It gives us something to do between other jobs," the other sister says. |"And we're telepaths."| |"We don't hide that from others like us because it's rude."|
Oddly enough, Luke doesn't seem too put off by the telepathy. He figures he's been thinking what just about any other guy would be on, and if anything, Luke is at least cool around women, whatever his other failings. With the autograph taken care of, Luke finally regains his feet, and extends his hands to each woman in turn, although his surface thoughts are mingling on the collective first person use of the language, and just how closely these three might be tied. Mutations could cause really interesting effects after all. "Thanks for saying so," he says in response to the telepath reveal. He looks a little lost at this point, having lost the thread of his planned conversation in the face of all these revelations.
Hard reboot. "So, you three from New York?"
Poor Luke. Things were orderly. Nice day, cute kid, hot chicks. Nice day, cute kid, ...hot mutant chicks. Nice day, cute kid, ...hot mutant telepath chicks. Don't worry, Luke. They won't drop the last shoe on you. Just yet.
"No, we just stay here now and again," one of the girls says. Esme's back to being as normal looking as she gets and is playing a game with Lian that involves bending waaay down until Lian is nearly upside down and shrieking with giggles, then standing back up.
"We usually keep moving, there's so many places to go, so much to see." "New York is one of our favourites, though." When the girls talk, it's not in unison, not usually. It's as though the words just slide around between them. Whoever speaks is almost random. "We might like Vegas better." "Except it's terrible in summer."
"Oh yeah, I've heard good things about Vegas. Never been, myself." Luke says, looking from woman to woman, and grinning involuntarily at the sound of Lian shrieking. It /is/ ridiculously cute, after all. His mind is reeling, slightly, from the sliding words, but he's keeping up for the most part. The worst is that he's just not sure who to keep eye contact with, so he keeps trying to switch to whomever is speaking currently. Like watching a three-way tennis match. "Well, summer in NYC isn't always a picnic either. At least in Vegas I heard it's a dry heat. That's gotta be better than this." He shrugs and grins.
"We don't mind." Of course, if one doesn't wear much, one doesn't mind. "Vegas gets boring, too." "People's minds are more interesting in New York." They are being super good and not poking around in Luke's brain. Really. He is subjected to a moment of intense scrutiny as the girls take his measure. |"He could be useful."| |"If we wanted to hit someone."| |"Yes, that might be helpful."| Sometimes they don't want to give up their telepathy in order to clobber things.
"You must have a business card, Mr. Cage," one of them says. It'll save them from having to look for him telepathically and possibly stumble upon things they shouldn't see. That's annoying when it happens. "We might have a use for you in future." Esme stops dipping Lian and swings the little girl onto her hip to give Luke a sly look. "You do look useful." That... sounds like an actual compliment. Possibly flirtation.
Now Luke is in his element. Flirting with women his definitely one of his secondary powers. Flirting with three telepaths at the same time is a little trickier, but he's Luke Cage. He was /born/ for this. Ok, not really, but a man can dream. In triplicate. "Yeah, of course. My office is off of Times Square. Heroes for Hire." He smiles, and produces what looks like a silver cigarette case, but when opened reveals a short stack of business cards. The card declares him to be Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, along with his office number and address. On the back of one though, he uses his sharpie to write another number.
Handing the card over, handwritten side up, he says, "That's my cell, but don't pass it around, ok? It's for personal, or emergency contact." He smiles, and winks. It's like he's taken Cheesy, and amped it up so well it went around the horn back to cool again. "And uh, yeah. I can be useful to have around in a pinch. Mainly just good with my hands, but I can be a team player. I also keep an ear to the ground, and pick up a lot from the streets, if you ever need something special." As if they couldn't just mind-meld someone into giving them what they want, but he has no idea the scope of what he's dealing with. Of course.
"Thank you." "This is very convenient." "We'll definitely see you again." The girls give him a wave and Lian does as well. "It was lovely to meet you."
"Is Luke coming to our house?" Lian wants to know.
"Oh, maybe not -your- house," Esme says to her. "But we don't live there all the time."
Luke waves as well, trying not to dwell on the 'going to someone's house' idea. "It was nice to meet you, Lian, and your sidekicks too." He offers a broad smile for everyone as they head off, and watches them go for a bit before shaking his head. What a day.