That Turtle Looks Familiar

August 08, 2015:

Element Woman runs into the Titans doing some community service at the Zoo.

Metropolis Zoo


NPCs: Zoo patrons



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Somethin' tells me, It's all happening at the zoo. I do believe it. I do believe it's true.

Gar Logan, aka Changeling, no longer admitting to Beast Boy, is on-call at a number of local zoological societies. Why? Well, sometimes, it's because they need to know what something is supposed to look like un-injured. Sometimes, it's so he can explain why their hyena is going bald and no longer laughing. Sometimes, it's because they want him to stand in for an animal in the petting zoo which is patently unsafe for children to be near.

That would be today. Someone had the bright idea of offering a group of four "Make a Wish" kids a visit to a zoo where they could see and touch all the animals they wanted to. And, someone else quite sensibly said, "ARE YOU NUCKING FUTS?" and then they called Gar Logan to come in. Because, kids dying of weird diseases, they're not going to get the chance to just walk up to a lion in the wild and pet it. (Especially not at the rate lions are being killed off.)

"Yay! I wanna pet the polar bear!"

"Why is he green?"

"It means he's safe to touch, Billy."

Keith O'Neil, known to the public as Vorpal, fiance to Gar (and whom he sometimes calls Beast Boy just for funsies) is standing by, and he is doing his best not to die laughing. Not because of the kids- no sick bastard would ever laugh at that. But the idea of Gar Logan as a petting zoo animal? Come on, it has to be hilarious. Granted, Keith didn't know Gar when he was an insecure teenager, a loudmouth and (in Nightwing's own words) a regular pain in the butt. Then? That would have been even funnier.

He takes a sip from his overpriced frapuccino as he watches. He's in his cheshire form, but he has cast an illusion over it so that he looks like his human form- because you don't want to distract the kids with two oddly-colored felines.

"I have to admit," he mutters to himself as he sips his drink, "… it's awfully sweet of him."


Well, she's here to pet the animals too. She had a Groupon.

She stands out. She can't really help it, and has just come in costume straight up and without reservation. She has a wristband, even. With some effort she has cast herself wholly in fairly scent-neutral materials (mostly sandstone and granite-like stuff), which has gotten a dubious little goat comfortable enough to permit her to touch its ears.

"Awwww," she says.

The goat bleats, dismayed at something, and leaps off.

Emily watches it go. Then she drifts (not literally) towards — "I didn't know lions came in that color," she says, approximately behind Vorpal.

Because it makes things even more fun, it's Superheroes day in the African Savannah exhibit, and it's "AVATAR the movie" day in Jungle Land. That means there are people in costumes, cos-play, and thanks to face-paint booths, and one booth painter who may or may not have taken a recreational dose of a psychedelic before coming to work, there are some really RANDOM face paint jobs on children and adults. Revelatory, if a bit abstract.

Lion around, again. Gar has gone into the building and transformed into a lion. He looks like Green Cecil, which … well, one of the zookeepers bursts into tears as Gar leaves the enclosure for the petting zone. He gets there in time to hear the woman who smells like the earth, talking about coloring outside the lions.

And he can't say anything because the kids think he's an ordinary animal and if he talks, they'll know he's not really a lion. His tail lashes though, as Little Susan wheels over to hug him. DAWWW. (*FLASH*) Damn flash camers, making the eyes leak.

"They don't, this one's special," Vorpal answers, turning over his shoulder to grin at the woman, "This is the rare Mint Lion. Allegedly the juvenile of the species smells like chamomile." He knows Gar can hear him. He is saying this especially because Gar can hear him, "This is his first time out in the zoo, so he's a little green…"

"Oh! Ha ha, that is /horrible,/" Emily says - though when she sees Little Susan go over to get hugged, she bites her lip and hushes up a little. That demonstration of people in costumes has made her feel significantly more relaxed, despite a lack of goatbonding. To Vorpal, she asks, "At least he's ecologically sound, right?" Getting, perhaps, into the spirit of things.

"He must be very well trained, or calm, if they're letting him visit children like this…"

Billy, who is 13 and living with progeria (he looks like a 70 year old very thin hobbit) requests to see a giant Galapagos tortoise. Gar twitches one ear at that, because, the numbers of those tortoises were very low when he was younger and it was a lot of work to pull the shape from the morphological field, but when they take "Celery" back inside and bring out "Basil the Tortoise" he's actually found it much easier to become one. Which means they're recovering. Awesome!

The tortoise nudges Billy, and manages to avoid saying "Ask Mister Owl" when the kid asks him how old he is because the Galapagos tortoises are very long-lived. The zookeeper answers, "This one's only 24, Billy."

"OH, he gets the best training, alright," Keith grins, "He does all sorts of tricks. He even does the dishes, sometimes," one red eyebrow goes up- but then he sees the galapagos turtle. "Now, those turtles can get positively huge."

Emily squints at that turtle.

He seems familiar. Folding her arms, she asks Keith, "Are you with any of them…? The children, I mean. I'm Emily, I'm just here on my own, really…" Which is probably kind of weird, but he will probably notice she appears to actually be made out of rocks. But maybe it's just a costume! A very realistic costume. (A little dust falls off Emily's shoulder as she offers a grayish hand.)

The turtle — tortoise? Whichever. He winks at Emily when she squints. Clearly and unequivocally a wink.

And then it's time for him to give James the kid with the disease they haven't figured out, a ride. He plods in a large circle, around the enclosure. Giddy-ups are not very helpful. Sprinting, he goes at only a bit faster than usual.

"AVATAR the movie" has not just actors in full body paint, but they're painting volunteers. Unfortunately the one who comes through the clearing on his way to the gate with his giggling daughters (also painted) is not really a typical Navi. They're usually not spheres in loincloths. But he gets to see the girls twice a month, and he's not going to waste visitation by NOT doing what they want when it's harmless. Except to his dignity. Yes, something's always happening at the zoo…

"I'm Keith," the redhead says, shaking Emily's hand. Rather rocky hand… but, who the hell is he to judge? Instead of the apparently smooth skin from the young man's hand, what Emily feels (if she has feelers as a rock) is… fur. "Nah, I'm here with the animals. All of them," he says quietly so the kids don't hear.

That tortoise winked at her. That isn't normal. But at this point Emily's suspicion is growing steadily straightforwards to the inevitable conclusion of -

"Ohhh." The feeling of fur on her stony hand tells her all she needs to know. Leaning in, she says with her weirdly chalk-dust-smelling breath, "Is it an illusion?"

Obviously, Gar does not exist!! It would be super implausible. Her eyes follow momentarily after the bundling Na'vi and mini Na'vis in orbit. "Oh, that movie was really under-rated…"

When Jimmy is helped off the turtle, Gar signals to the handler that he needs a break. So, a few minutes later, a ten foot tall Na'Vi … but green … comes out of a side door, wearing an air tank mask. And a loin cloth. One of the more complete ones. Not the fanservice. He makes his way to the petting zoo, and sits down to talk to the handler, and the parents of the kids, who are now being distracted by bunnies. No goats. Goats do not like sick children.

"What's wrong with Jimmy?"

"We don't know. It's some sort of fever he picked up in Africa, but it's not contagious, it just drains him and mumble mumble mumble."

"Where did you mumble mumble?"

"Mutter mutter."

"Talk to me afterwards."

The Navi waves at Keith still-handed, rippling his fingers.

Keith smirks. Lady catches on quickly, "No, they're all for real." There's an extra level of noise that surrounds Keith and El, so the kids don't hear what he has to say, "That's Changeling of the Titans over there. He's working with the Make a Wish kids- but they don't know it's him. They think the animals are for rea real, so mum's the word."

The surge of noise is, of course, another one of Keith's illusions. It dies down after he delivers the information and waves at the green Navi with a wink. Somewhat disappointed at the lack of fanservicy loincloth, but of course they're in public.

"Couldn't stand the movie m'self, honestly," he confides in her. "Proper cats aren't blue. They're purple." He gives her a sly look, "I see you're a Rock fan."

"Oh-h-h," Emily says, the extra level of noise escaping her notice.

Then to Keith, she says, "Oh I like all - Oh! Ahh, well…" She seems not to be eager to explain it. She puts a hand on her collarbone. "I can totally understand finding them a little perfect and far fetched, but when I saw it I was in high school? And the people I saw it with were all like, 'oh they're just going to come back and bomb them in a year' and I was like, that is /so depressing/! It actually sort of ruined the movie for me because it was like, oh, well, I guess none of it mattered, according to THEM… And that's true of movies in general a little, of course."

"I just thought it was a sad way to look at things," Emily concludes. She then marches towards the looming Gar'vi, beaming up towards him as she approaches.

"Hello," Gar says to Emily as she comes up. His tail twitches a bit. The last time he heard someone making that noise of rock-on-rock was when, well, Dirt Girl, the terrakinetic turncoat, was preparing to attack him and had built up a layer of rock armor. But this one isn't her. She doesn't smell like treachery underneath.

"I'm Gar. How do you do?" He offers an outsized hand. Wow. These guys really ARE big. And he's starting to feel the effort of holding this shape, because it's slightly more imaginary than dragons. Fortunately there are enough people who intensely believe in it that it's possible but … still a strain.

Keith follows Emily, "I guess. I just didn't gel with the movie at all. And nowadays I have other reasons not to like their design…" he looks up at Gar and smiles at him, "How are you holding up?"

Keith knows this takes effort from Gar, he'd offer to illusion him up… but Gar can be stubborn. He's also asking because, well, it's never easy, meeting kids who are in such bad condition. "Need anything? Coffee? Donut? Bale of hay?"

"Oh hello! I'm Emily, though of course my /code/ name is Element Woman," says Guess Who, which probably explains that dynamic little lower-case E on her top.

She returns the handshake, beaming. Then she looks at Keith with surprise. "Oh don't pick fun-" Obliviousness, it seems, is a mineral.

"Pft. I'll be fine. I need to stop being Navi, though. They can't breath this atmosphere and this tank only has a little bit more hydrogen sulfide left."

He nods towards James, who is apparently becoming exhausted again.

"I think he has sakutia."

Then he tilts his head to the side, and smiles at Emily behind the transparent mask.

"Nevermind my boyfriend, he's grumpy because nobody wants to pet the Cheshire Cat today. Anyway, I've met your, I suppose 'cousin' isn't the right word, but I've met Element Man. You seem to be doing a better job of subtle than he was."

"A pleasure to meet ya, E Dubya, I'm also known as Vorpal," Keith adds. But he frowns when the boy is revealed as having Sakutia. "… Sakutia." He looks sombre, "Do you think…?"

Emily's face gets momentarily more sober. "Oh," she says. "We're - Ah, we're not really in touch…"

After this, she seems almost relieved at the shift in subject. "Sakutia?" she asks, voice quiet.

"I'm not surprised, I haven't heard from him in ages," Gar says. "Sakutia … it's a disease carried by a very specific kind of mosquito, comes from a small country in the middle of Africa. Causes fevers, fatigue, pain, and if you survive them, then it comes back again and again. There's only one animal that survives it - a small green monkey. And me. My parents came up with a way to transfer the blood factor from the green monkey to me. There is a side effect, though. Shapeshifting."

Yeah, that's a downside? Well, it is for some people. Gar kind of likes it.

"I don't know if he has it, but if he does then I have to give him a blood transfusion."

"And a few months of tutoring on how to shapeshift… and when not to, aye?" Keith asks, raising an eyebrow. He could only imagine what Gar must have been like, once he got a hold of how to shapeshift.

"Oh! Well, that sounds like it's a pretty easy solution - I'm so glad to hear you can help him so easily!" Emily says.

It dawns on her. "… Oh, I see. Mm…"

"If he has it, and not one of the similar diseases," Gar says. "I'll be right back."

He goes into the building again through the side door and quickly shifts to human again, gasping for a moment … next time, remember not to be that realistic. Geez.

He comes out of the buildng as a little green monkey on a trainer's shoulder, and is transferred to Keith's shoulder.

"The Green Monkey looks a lot like this. I don't know if it'd give him the same shapeshifting. That could be a coincidence. Or it could be something about me. We don't know yet," the monkey says. Yes. Talking monkey. Nobody but the trainer is close enough to worry about it.

"Right… well, hopefully it's that…" because if it is Sakutia, then the kid has a chance, and that's really the best outcome. He turns his head to Emily while patting the monkey, "Gar said he met your… relatives? I'm not as well-connected in the super-world as he is. I'm kind of green."

Pause. "Well, I'm actually purple, but you know what I mean. I've only been doing this for a year."

"Oh - well, I don't think we're actually related, though I guess maybe we had… similar… things," Emily says, though she seems eager to turn her attention to the monkey. She's practically beaming at this form!

But she does get more sober. "It's a big decision… at least he has a decision, I guess. Do you think maybe they could find the antibodies in your blood? That might be safer, especially if your old fashioned normal blood types aren't compatible. Unless you're O Negative, but you seem pretty positive to me!"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure the antibodies are still active," Gar says. He starts grooming Keith's hair, because 1) instinct and 2) it's fun.

Jimmy's parents come over to where the green monkey is, and introduce themselves. "I'm James Dollon Senior, and this is my wife Magritte. You … you're Changeling, aren't you?"

"In the flesh and fur. Listen, I think your son may have a disease called Sakutia. I'm familiar with it - I survived it. So if it turns out to be a match, then I might be able to help. I have antibodies."

The two look back and forth with distress. "Our religion doesn't permit blood transfusions."

Keith bites his tongue so hard that it actually bleeds, a little. This is because the Cait Sidhe nearly jumped to the fore of his consciousness with the kind of reply that probably would not have been well-received. And, besides, he would have taken control away from the situation from Gar and potentially gone scorched earth on any potential chances at diplomacy.

So, instead, Keith turns to look at Emily and smiles at her. But it's the kind of smile that says 'engage me in conversation before I say something Really Bad.'

He owes it to Gar to keep the Cait muzzled. He also owes it to the kid.

Emily doesn't bite her lips. She does look concerned, glancing at Keith.

But then she does something even better than Keith might be hoping. To herself, she thinks: Wonder Woman wouldn't cop out here and say something boring.

"Oh, excuse me, I don't want to intrude, but — I'm not sure I'm familiar with your faith," says the extremely weird woman, looking right at James' face and beaming. "Do you have objection to vaccinations derived from animal sources? I mean on a religious basis."

please say no, please say no, Emily thinks.

"Yes, we do. We're vegetarians as well — we try not to profit from the misery of animals. But we've been forced legally to accept vaccinations," Magritte answers, "for standard diseases. We've been using herbal treatments we got from a man in Africa, but they're becoming ineffective."

Gar blinks. As a monkey, he can't very well argue with them because who believes what monkeys have to say about religion? He'll have to return to human. But first …

DOH. Well. This is going to be messy. "Were the herbs provided by a man named M'tumba?"

"Yes, that was his name."

"He's the grandson of my cousin M'bale," Gar answers. Cousin?

"Those herbs worked but only with the rest of the treatment." There has to be … hm. Ants and bees? "How about honey?"

"Honey is good. Why?"

"I know a kind of bee which secretes antidotes in its honey to immunize the next generations against things in their environment. I can do that. It'll take a week before I can have it ready."

And that's why Keith doesn't open his mouth unless the last bridges are burned and what's needed is some kind of exiting volley. He looks at Element Woman with an appreciative half-smile- her reply was smarter than anything he would have said, and it was very quick thinking. Keith still says nothing, though, because he's got to wait for the blood to subside just a bit.

Emily looks crestfallen when it comes out that they're not just against blood swapping, they're also vegetarians. Her hands fold behind her back. Briefly, she considers becoming mist - but -

"Oh! Yes, of course. Though um. Hm," she says, before asking Keith (as if he will know) "I guess in theory you could get something to grow in a bioreactor, but I don't know where you could even get started with that…" It may be occuring to her that that nice green fellow there is going to have to literally make a bunch of honey all by himself.

"Yeah. I'll bee busy for a while making it. Can you stay in Metropolis for the week?"

"Junior and I can," James Senior says. "Magritte has to get back home, her business won't let her be away too long and we've already been here for a while. But thank you so much."

"My personal assistant will be in touch with you tonight, then," Gar says. "Please don't let James know too soon. We need to have a serum match made to compare his form of the disease to mine. This might not work."

"Oh, certainly," James Senior replies. Magritte nods solemnly, trying her best not to weep in front of the strange man and the woman costumed as a rock formation. And really, crying in front of a monkey is humiliating.

Gar continues grooming. "Wish it was that simple for the others."

Only when they're not within immediate earshot, Keith says "-and that's reason four hundred and twenty two why I love you," softly to Monkeygar. He looks at Emily, "That was some very good thinking. I hadn't thought of that." Or rather, he hadn't known. There was so much science stuff he was too hazy on, it made him feel self-conscious.

"Oh!" Emily says, blinking at Keith. She beams. "Do you really think so? I just thought it might be a way to do things, you know… We had an Orthodox guy in one of my classes so -" She pauses so as to confirm they're a bit out of earshot, before lowering her voice. "I know you sometimes have to get around these things even if it's silly. Of course for him he said he could eat a bacon and cheese sandwich if he had to to save his life, they had to make insulin from pork livers for so long…"

To Gar, she says, "You should be proud of what you can do! I mean, I think so, anyway… You have to focus on the people you do help. And you've helped a lot of people today!"

"Oh, I do. But I still wish it was that simple for them," Gar says, tugging at a bit of a matt starting to form in the place where the purple Vorpal Cat's fur is rubbed a bit by part of his collar, then teasing it loose with his tiny, very sharp nails. Amazingly, no skin is harmed in this process.

"They told me inside that the kids were too tired for any more animals, so we're free to look around the zoo. Want to stop out of common eyesight so I can change?"

"We can. There's the refreshment stand on the other side. I can conjure us a convenient crowd of Na'vi." He smirks at Monkeygar and gives him a pat. The suit did bring up issues with his fur, but the other alternative- heroing around in speedos- was the kind of nightmarish image he would never, ever contemplate. So he compromised with the suit.

On the way there, and weaving the obscuring illusions, Vorpal says "So, are you with any of the groups out there, El? Are you from the tri-city area originally?"

"Oh, well, I live in Brooklyn but I just kind of get around… I'm sort of in the process of joining the Justice League," Emily says to Keith, very quietly, as if to avoid SPREADING SECRETS. "And do they have dippin' dots over there? Those are amazing. Even if I wonder when it's going to get to be the future…"

"It's dips," Gar confirms, managing not to fail into a Roger Rabbit/Jessica Rabbit impersonation. Nobody nowadays knows what that means, although maybe the kids whose grandparents show them DVDs might. Still. A suitably covert change into a green guy who looks ordinary enough otherwise. Why he's wearing a purple-flower Hawaiian shirt though, not entirely clear. It's a warm day but not that warm.

"Brooklyn can be nice sometimes," Gar volunteers as they head towards the tiny ultra-frozen nodules-in-a-tub. "And I think dipping dots are the future."

"I grew up in the Bronx," Keith comments. And as Gar makes his transformation, Keith dismisses his illusion- the redheaded human is no longer there, but the cheshire cat in the black bodysuit.

"Are they the future? D'no. I'll ask Booster next time I see him- although he'll probably tell me he can't tell me because it would cause a paradox that will suck all the ice cream away and it'll all be my fault, since I'm already apparently violating spacetime by existing."

He smirks at Element, "Every time I talk to him, I gain a new anxiety syndrome."

"Oh my god you know Booster Gold? Like personally? I love his show," Emily says (even if he's not actually the star). Momentarily agog, she doesn't form a cogent response until the dots are neared.

"Huh? How are you doing that?" she asks afterwards. She glances at Gar as if to see if he knows how his fiance is distorting REALITY ITSELF

Gar smirks a bit. Let Vorpal bask in the shared spotlight of Gold. He's pretending to be entirely focused on chocolate beads of icecreamy goodness frozen to liquid nitrogen temperatures. And he looks up to see the expression of puzzlement.

"Keith's magic. Saved from death by magical being. Booster doesn't recognize magic as being just as much part of the natural flow of things as anything else, so he thinks it's wrong. Then again for him, time isn't a straight line from higher energy to lower energy. It's soupy and he says it boils over sometimes."

The cat chuckles. "Think of it as the recent Windows 10 launch. I was originally meant to have died, but I didn't. In a way, the Cait Sidhe who merged with my soul sort of released a patch on reality… but every now and again Reality 10 decides that the other patch is the most current version, and you have a version conflict." He grins, "See? It's easy. C'mon, let's get some Dippies…"

"And yeah, we know Booster. He's one of the people to whom I owe my life to. I haven't seen him lately but that's probably because he's probably traveling through time to make sure Jane Austen doesn't end up writing Sense and Sensibility and Slash Fiction or something like that." He grins.

"Ohh-h," Element Woman says.

Then, thoughtfully, "I have no idea what that means! But it does SOUND complex. Time, I mean." Then she giggles, obscurely — probably over the slash fiction.

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