Capes 6-II

No Capes.

I got off the train close to the city center, near the tip of the wedge that was the business district. The train lines were set out in a series of concentric rings, with lines connecting them going down the center of each of the slices that formed the city of New Chicago. I’d taken the line up to the smallest ring, then gone a few stops around. Second-hand clothing stores had seemed to be the best place to start, and I’d dragged Sabi along to this one once, so I thought I’d start there. I still hadn’t seen my friend, or heard from her, but I’d rung her parents, and they said that she was okay, but a little walled-in right now. Apparently, her agoraphobia had kicked in between us going our separate ways and the Incident, and she’d had to go home. This had happened before, and I knew that the best thing I could do was give her her space until she felt better.

The storefront was small, and a bit dingy, which someone had attempted to cover up by draping it in as much Christmas regalia as was physically possible. It… hadn’t really worked.

The bell dinged as I pushed the door open, the blast of warm air rushing over me in a satisfying wave. Thankfully, the store seemed to be empty, a middle-aged women reading a book behind the counter. She looked up at the bell, and I gave an awkward half-smile and nod. Apparently satisfied that I wasn't a criminal or lowlife, she returned to her reading with a grunt.

I pulled off my jacket and hat, letting my hair free from its damp enclosure. I’d intentionally dressed down for this trip, using one of my dad’s old beanies and my half-brother’s worn ski jacket

The store itself felt... appropriate, I suppose, a decor that matched its intent. It was a bit dingy and beaten-up, the clothes stored on old racks and cheap steel shelving. But, it was clean, and the bright light filtering through the glass gave it a pleasant, almost rustic look.

“So are we going to talk about what happened?”

I grabbed a basket from the pile next to the door, and began browsing.  Costume, costume, costume. I hadn't really given much thought to it, honestly. I just wanted something that would conceal my identity, and hopefully look cool. Of course, it would be ideal if it also offered protection, but I'd done a little research, and Steelsilk was definitely out of the question. The only ways to purchase it were through licensed stores, which require proof of identity and keep a record of all who purchase, or online, which was simply not an option for me. So unless I wanted to explain to my dad why I'd bought industrial grade body armor, I'd have to go without, at least initially.

“Hey! Don’t ignore me! This isn’t something you can just brush off.”

As I browsed, fingers brushing through fabrics of all sorts, something caught my eye. A lavender scarf lay on one of the shelves, folded sloppy and loose. I picked it up, running it through my fingers. The fabric was surprisingly soft; it might have even been silk, not that I knew anything about fabric. Still, whatever it was, I wanted it. I held it up in front of the light, and as it shimmered, an image began to form in my mind.

“We’ve read the same books; I know you know repression isn’t a way to-”

You can either help me shop, or shut up the heck up, I snapped internally.

A quick search revealed a thick, long-sleeved white shirt in my size, and I took that and the scarf up to the counter. The clerk didn't even look up from her book as she scanned the items, and I paid with cash and left. I didn't want to buy everything from the same place, as it might be a little suspicious, which is why I ventured back out into the cold and headed towards the large mall that lined one side of the Tower Plaza.

Once I'd made it inside, my nose blue from the cold, I headed towards a shoe shop on the opposite side of the main area, past the fountain that sat in the middle, illuminated by the sun filtering through the skylights above.

There, I found a pair of comfortable running boots, which I also bought with cash. The housewares section of a department store yielded a face mask and two cans of spray paint, one white and one lavender, the same shade as the scarf. The outdoorsman store yielded a pair of thick, loose cargo pants with plenty of pockets, and after a little searching, I found a small carpentry store tucked into a little nook on the third floor that sold me a pair of durable gloves and a thick roll of duct tape.

Finally, I found myself standing in an upmarket ski shop, looking at goggles, the kind of place I’d probably have gone if I’d ever been skiing in my life. I found a pair that I liked the look of, and I was inspecting them when a voice cut through my stream of thought.

I looked up to find a pretty sales assistant looking at me questioningly, a bright smile on her face. She was about my age, maybe a year or two older, with long dark hair and a slim nose.  Her name badge had "Chloe" written on it, and I tried to focus on that instead of… her.

"Uh, sorry, but could you, um, repeat that? I was a little," I waved my hands around, "uh, spaced-out."

"Sure," she said. "I just wanted to know if there was anything I can help you with."

"Err, no. I mean, no. I mean yes!" I replied, flustered. "Arghh. Sorry."

She gave a small chuckle. "That's okay. What do you need?"

I held up the goggles I'd been looking at. They were unusual in appearance; instead of having a border with padding around the eyes, they stretched out further, curving so that the padded edge looked like it would sit on the side of the head. "Why different do- I mean, what's about these spec- I mean, how do these are differ-" I gave up, blushing furiously.

"What's different about these ones, you mean?" she asked with a smile. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. She took them and spun them around, displaying the curve. "They're designed for dangerous skiing: they're durable, very glare-resistant, and offer as much peripheral vision as possible compared to ordinary goggles."

"Oh," I stammered, "that's not... I mean, I don't dangerous..." I trailed off again. "I just thought they looked cool," I finished lamely.

She laughed softly. "Hey, I'm not judging. I think they look awesome."

"I, ah, do like the peripheral vision thing, though. I, uh, think the biggest danger to me while skiing is… myself."

That got a laugh, high and sweet. "And you'd probably never have to worry about damaging it."

"Y-yeah." They were good points, although I wasn't thinking about it in the context of skiing. Damage-resistant and non-vision-obstructing seemed like good things to have when superheroing. "I take I'll think it," I said, not even bothering to try and correct myself at that point. "But... does it, uhm, come in other colors?"

Five minutes later, I walked out the door of the store, the proud, extremely embarrassed owner of 1 (one) brand new pair of white ski goggles with purple-tinted lenses.

"Oh come on. That was just… wow. You were all over the place.”

Shut up.

“See, that's the kind of situation that I'm for, and you don't even think about me?"

Shut. Up.

"Look, I'm just saying, what's the point of having me around if you're not going to ah crap no no no, ignore that, it's very important that I stay."

And why is that?

“Well, for one, we haven't gotten anything to cover our head.”

...okay, fine, you can stay. I was right, though; with what I'd gathered so far, my head, and more importantly in this weather, ears, were still going to be uncovered. I needed...

"A cloak. We should totally get a cloak. It'll look really cool."

I considered the idea. It would cover my head and ears, and help conceal me better. Plus, it probably would look pretty cool.

Okay, a cloak it is. I wonder if there's a costume shop around here somewhere...