"Safeguards" was first published in Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol.1 No.4.
Marta, a resident of Shadow Hill, goes about her morning rituals--a series of supernaturally oriented tasks, like putting wolfsbane in her window catches, making sure she's wearing her crucifix, and reciting a particular phrase before opening her door--before heading to work.
Along the way, she passes by the Hanged Man, offering him the same nod she does each day (with no response), gets her breakfast from Groza's, and boards the bus to the city center. Marta reflects on the differences between the old ways followed by the Hill's residents and the future-looking philosophy of those living in the city.
As the bus travels downtown, Winged Victory is spotted hauling a trio of criminals through the air, and the sight of the hero gives Marta hope that she could do anything. Other passengers on the bus gripe about Winged Victory, and Marta chastizes them for their lack of gratitude regarding Winged Victory's efforts to keep them safe.
Arriving at work--the law offices of Grant, Miller, Conroy, McConnell and Ingersoll--Marta passes by her boss, Darcy Conroy, who's in the middle of an interview about her relationship with Nick Furst of the First Family. Darcy shows off her brooch/signal alarm that she can use to call for help when needed.
Marta spends the morning getting her work done, spending a few minutes talking to her coworker Shellie about how Shadow Hill isn't really as bad as some think, once one gets used to it. A colleague named Jennie asks Marta about potentially becoming a roommate to fill a spot vacated by someone who recently moved.
That evening, Marta mentions the prospect to her parents, and her mother in particular steadfastly refuses to consider it. As a counter-proposal, her parents suggest Marta get a job with the butcher Gheorghi Vasiliu, who is not only looking for an employee but also single and "not bad-looking," according to Marta's mother.
Later, Marta muses on the similarities between Shadow Hill and downtown Astro City, figuring that the Hill's talismans are not fundamentally different to those of the city center (e.g., Darcy's brooch or the AstroBank Tower's emergency beacon).
She dreams of the lessons her grandmother taught her about how to keep herself safe, but this peaceful dream turns into a nightmare as Marta finds herself fleeing from shadows and unsure of which way to turn for help, including a vision of Darcy as Winged Victory.
The next morning, as Marta performs her daily rituals, she nods at the Hanged Man--and he turns his head to look at her. She is unnerved and interprets the look as a warning, but is unsure of the specific details thereof.
Marta visits Jenny at work to discuss the apartment proposal, but their conversation is interrupted by Demolitia and several other members of the Unholy Alliance: Flamethrower, Glowworm, Slamburger, and Spice.
The law firm employees begin to evacuate, and Darcy activates her brooch's signal to call for aid from the First Family. They quickly arrive and help--although not before Marta is pinned by a wall demolished by Slamburger. He leers at her and attempts to assault her, but Marta finds her talismans do not help her here and now.
Luckily, Nick Furst appears and blasts Slamburger into submission before ferrying Marta to safety. She sees that the First Family has taken care of everything, but she also recognizes that Nick Furst is a real person, with crow's feet and a scar, rather than some untouchable, immortal protector.
Marta finds her opinion of Astro City proper changed somewhat, and she decides that she wants to be where _her_ talismans--not those of Darcy Conroy--can work for her, where she knows, understands, and accepts the rules of the place.
The next day, Marta performs her rituals, nods to the Hanged Man as she passes, and accepts employment at Vasiliu's butcher shop. She eats her breakfast and considers looking for an apartment in the area she could move into.
- This issue won the 1996 Eisner Award for Best Single Issue.