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This story was inspired and sponsored by [livejournal.com profile] nevacaruso!  Happy Servathon!

The Superpowered Craft Fair


It was a crisp, cool autumn day, cold enough that Marge was wearing a sweater despite the heat of the coffee.  Her and James were manning the stall for the Superpowered Craft Fair, a yearly celebration in Homescross.

“You get all sorts here,” James explained as they poured coffee. “Superheroes, supervillains, video game folks, demigods… heck, you’ll probably catch Coyote, he’s judged the pie contest for years…”

But Marge wasn’t thinking about Coyote.  Since becoming his favorite barista, no one from her book of origin had given her trouble, but she didn’t want to be dependent on his favor forever; the Moon Goddess had taught her that.  Her moonbeams weren’t that powerful; the fair could be a good way to network and check out her options.

At first, Marge was perversely disappointed in the fair.  It seemed so… ordinary.

The coffee stand was sandwiched between a kettle-corn seller and another hawking roast corn and funnel cake.  The kettle-corn man was a paunchy, rosy-cheeked man who turned out to be a retired berserker.  Most of the visitors were in ordinary clothes—or what passed for such in Homescross.  No superhero costumes or battle dress.  Plenty of children and families, and the rides were things like Ferris Wheels and merry-go-rounds.

Then she noticed that the carousel horses breathed steam and smoke, and the Ferris Wheel went unusually fast.

After a few hours, the initial surge of crowds have died down, and James offered to hold the stall on his own a while.

“Go check out the fair,” he said. “I’ve already seen it, but you should look around!”

The more Marge explored, the more interesting things got.  There was a pet contest; she saw a three-headed dog, a miniature hydra, and a man with a chicken on his head.  There were fire breathing pig races.

And there, in a couple of tents, were the crafts contests, divided by category: Art (oil/acrylic, watercolor, other), Food (baking, canning, produce, homemade wine), Photography, and the opaquely named Hobby.

The Photography tent was boring, mostly glorified vanity shots of heroes and protagonists in action.  The Food tents were better, filled with pies, produce, and fresh-baked bread.  Unfortunately, Coyote wasn’t there, and Marge moved on.

The Hobby tent was by far the best, stuffed with inventions, weapons, armor craft, and a shocking number of carved wooden ducks.  Marge rushed forward eagerly, but her excitement was doused the moment she saw the prices.  She could never afford this on a barista’s salary.  The only thing even close to her price range was the plainest, quietest wooden duck. (A mallard, which hadn’t won any awards.)

Well, what did she expect?  These were handmade.  At least the duck was cute.

“Do you like it?”

Marge jumped.  Next to her was an ominous figure in a trench coat.  She hadn’t seen or heard anyone come in.

“Yes.  It’s… it’s very nice.  Very cute,” she said, and hurried off before the stranger could ask her something else.

She took the stand back from James, feeling let down.  When he asked if she could hold things on her own so he could stretch his legs, she agreed.

Things started going wrong the moment he left.  Customers started arguing with her over prices; others started complaining that James had left at all, even for half an hour.  Marge maintained her customer service politeness until one customer threw his coffee in her face for not having enough foam.  Thank god it was iced, or she could’ve been burned.

“That’s enough!” Marge snapped, and pitched her moonbeams into his belly.  When he doubled over, she figured that’d be the end of it, but then he whipped out a Tesla cannon, which kicks up with a whine.

“You dare question the palate of IQ?” He bellowed.

Marge didn’t see any regulars in the crowd who might stick up for her, or any of the fair security.  She gathered more moonbeams in her fist and readied herself for a fight.

Suddenly, the creeper in the trench coat was at IQ’s side.  Where had he come from?  In his gloved hands, he was holding a wooden duck.

“Apologize to the barista,” he said.

IQ opened his mouth to shout… and then he saw the duck.  His face underwent a metamorphosis to an obsequious smile. “But I’d never— please understand— the young lady, she—”

The stranger petted the duck with one hand. “Apologize.  To.  The barista.”

“Pleaseexcusemybehaviorit’sbeenabaddaymywifeleftme—”

“I get it, I get it,” Marge said. “You took it out on the personnel.  Take your cannon and go.”

“Gone!” And he was.

Now the creeper was behind the counter with her, offering a hankie.  Marge jumped and reflexively blasted him with the moonbeams still in her hand.  Nothing happened.

“Sorry,” the creeper said. “I get that a lot.”

Marge hesitated, then accepted the hankie to wipe the coffee off her face. “Sorry.”

The creeper shrugged, then offered Marge the wooden duck.  It was the mallard she was looking at earlier.

“Here,” he said. “I made it.”

“Look, it’s a very nice duck, but—”

“It absorbs attacks.  All of them.”

Marge paused. “Really?”

“Well, within reason.  I haven’t tested nukes or gods on them yet.  But other than that…”

“How much?”

The stranger just shoved it into her hands awkwardly. “You liked it.  It’s yours.”

And then he was gone.

When James came back, he found Marge testing the duck with her moonbeams.  Thus far, the duck was unaffected.

“Oh my gosh,” James said, rushing over. “Is that a Lucky Duck?”

“What?”

James had already picked it up and turned it over. “Oh my god, it is.  How did you get this?  The Lucky Duck is this total hermit, nobody ever sees him, old joke is he’s dead—”

“Whoa, whoa, the Lucky Duck?  That creeper in the overcoat?  He just… saw me around, and he stopped a customer from blasting me, and—”

“And let me guess, the customer about fell all over themselves apologizing?”

“Pretty much.”

“Marge, the Lucky Duck is this hero from the old days.  His powers are to be able to do whatever the situation needs most.  That’s why he’s a hermit; that kind of pressure nearly broke him, back in the seventies.  And he gave you a duck.”

Marge blinked. “I guess I really needed it.”

“Yeah, I guess you did.” Now James’s enthusiasm seemed to be waning.  After a second, she realized why.

“Oh god, that’s not good, is it?”

But James didn’t say anything, and they spent the rest of the fair selling coffee in quiet anxiety.

Date: 2014-09-17 01:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nevacaruso.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for this! I love Margaret and James. :)

Date: 2014-09-23 08:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
I enjoy writing them! Seriously, all my meta gets satisfied with this!

--Rogan

Date: 2014-09-23 05:21 pm (UTC)

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