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Abaddon Born(e)

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Premise: Two and a half well intentioned fools find themselves in the Worm Universe, gifted by...
Abaddon Born(e)


(Fan)Fiction Writer
May 11, 2020
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Premise: Two and a half well intentioned fools find themselves in the Worm Universe, gifted by Abaddon, the third Entity. In their attempts to save some, they may just doom all. SI based on the Worm CYOA Update Gimel.

Originally posted on Fanfiction.net, then on SB & SV, but apparently it came too close to breaking SB's rules, and thus I was infracted as if it had broken the rules, so as soon as I get to the end of the main chapters of the current arc, I'm gonna discontinue it there and post a link set of instructions on how to get to here. Also, not terribly NSFW, but just like I didn't realize SB had a NSFW section(Edit: Nevermind, It doesn't, the Mod who told me to post there was being an ass), it was a while before I realized that this site had a SFW section, so this was first posted in NSFW because that's where all the cool kids are. /s

It is the first thing I wrote, so be warned, if you're used to my other stuff, it's gonna start off a bit rough and then gradually improve in quality.

And thus:

Abaddon Born(e)

A Worm Fanfiction

By PublicLee Speaking/Leecifer and Brownie

Standard Disclaimer: This is a work of fan-fiction. I don't own Worm, Wildbow does. Also, this work is jam packed full of spoilers for Worm, so if you care about that, read Worm first.

Conception 1.1

It started, as too many things do, with screaming.

I came to with blood pounding through my veins, colors dancing in my vision and a sound both similar to, and completely unrelated with, wind whistling past my ears as the sense of falling kickstarted my heart into overdrive. The yell of terror mixed with excitement reverberating around wherever I was sounded oddly familiar. Twisting about, a sea of prismatic light surrounded me, flowing past as I descended, the strange gale pushing and twisting me around. I spotted the source of the sound that woke me, a dark form, partially obscured by the rainbow-colored clouds that we moved through, the figure leaving a comet trail of gold and purple fire behind him as he fell. The royal purple conflagration danced with flames that looked to be flickering and shimmering golden statues of fire, the two intermixing, distinct and separate but moving in tandem.

I tried to approach it, flailing my arms in a swimming motion ineffectively, doing nothing but sending me spinning at nausea inducing angles. As I passed through another cloud, I almost groaned at my stupidity. Dumbass, I'm not swimming, I'm FALLING! Spreading my limbs at an angle to divert airflow worked much better, stopping my spin and setting me slowly drifting my way closer to the person, who had stopped yelling and was now twisting back and forth, drifting with purpose, seemingly aiming for clouds to pass through.

As I drew closer the shape sharpened without intervening clouds, and I realized it was my best friend, Herb, a man who was my opposite in many ways. "Hey!" I yelled, when I was couple dozen feet away trying to be heard over the near howling not-wind. Herb, who was casually spinning, jerked and lost control, pinwheeling off to the side.

"Holy Shit!" he exclaimed, the sound reaching me as if he was right next to my ear, flailing in an attempt to stop the same unrestrained spirals I had just been in. I drifted closer and tried to grab him to help, getting kneed in the ribs before trapping his leg, letting him rebalance. Pushing off slightly, I moved us so we were roughly face to face.

"Dude, what's going on!" he yelled, causing me to wince.

"Just talk, I can hear you just fine!" I yelled back, eliciting a matching wince from him. "I have no idea, I woke up here!" I continued in a normal tone, trying to keep myself from drifting away, the winds whipping at our faces and clothing as we attempted to keep stable.

"Same here. Wait, are you on fire?" he asked looking just above me, an expression of disbelief written across his features. Turning over in the air to lay on my back, I saw that I also had a trail of flame pouring off of me as well, forming a tail of bloody red mixing with purple the same shade as my friend's stream. I wordlessly pointed above him as he turned as well, seeing the track he was leaving with a shout of "Holy shit! That's awesome!" He turned to look at me, grinning. "This is so effing awesome," he repeated, still in disbelief

"Yeah, until we hit the bottom." I responded, looking down.

"Eh," he shrugged helplessly, still smiling.

We both spun back to look down in this endless sea as we fell, for some indication of what was happening in this eternal void.

"So," I said, after what felt like minutes, trying to do something, anything that would let me focus on something other than this unceasing falling. "Know how we got here?"

He shook his head. "Not a fricken clue. Don't even know where here is. Kinda fun though, like infinite skydiving!"

"Yeah, but diving through what? Is this the Afterlife? Are we dead?"

"Well, if it is, and we're falling, that doesn't say good shit about what's gonna happen, does it?"

"Herb, you wouldn't go to hell. I sure as, well, hell shouldn't be going to hell either," I reasoned.

"Eh, you know I've got people I've got to go pick up from there."

"That's not how hell works you idiot," I chided him. "And you haven't done anything to deserve going there."

"Well, I've worked double-shifts on Sunday, don't particularly care about the dude upstairs, and have coveted the hell out of some of my neighbor's wives, never mind the two people I've killed. That's, like, four strikes right there," he argued good naturedly.

I smacked him on the shoulder, sending him drifting off before he angled himself to drift back. "Dude you didn't actually kill anyone, you work in an old folk's home. So, without that thing which wasn't your fault, if that's all it takes, then everyone's going there." And really, if that's all it took, the only people up top would be babies, idiots, and holier-than-thou jerks.

"Well we are on fire," he commented, waving at the infernos streaking behind us.

I spun around and cautiously put my hands in the flame coming off my chest, feeling nothing there. "Yeah, but it doesn't seem like hellfire. Not that I know what that actually feels like." I spun back looking at him. "Any other guesses?" He shrugged and we went back to try and see what we were falling towards.

"Hey," he commented after a few minutes. "Are we speeding up and slowing down?"

I looked around as we descended, trying to gauge our speed by the clouds we passed. "I don't think so. Maybe? It's kinda hard to tell. I think so? My eyes are starting to water." I turned my head to the side to stop them from drying out, but the feeling only got worse as I turned, even closing them not helping.

"Um, I don't think it's the wind man, your eyes are glowing!" he said, smile gone as he seemed worried, one hand half reaching out to try and help.

I choked out a cry as the pain spiked in my eyes, the prismatic clouds sharpening and defining in my sight, turning colors for which I had no name. Suddenly unable to close them as I looked around, seeing lines that wove into complex patterns around us, congregating in the clouds, all stemming from a point far below. Hearing a pained sound from Herb I looked seeing him glow as well. As I watched him he flickered in and out of existence, a second, then third copy of him being made as he disappeared and reappeared, each one reacting to the pain in a different way. Each of him grew a glowing shadow, wispy and amorphous, a hidden figure of flame not quite matching his movements.

His copies spread out, each one with a smaller trail that connected to the main flame, twisting into it until the merged into one inferno. I felt a wracking pain as I saw tendrils of my trail extend, almost squid-like, touching his and skimming parts off, merging bits of his golden flame into my red, our purples merging seamlessly.

We continued, spiraling down through that prismatic hell. As I grabbed the original him and we held on to each other as we were wracked with pain, which ratcheted up as the glow around us intensified and we caught fire. The two of us screamed in agony as flesh bubbled and melted. Both of us were obese, and now that fat liquified, skin long burned off, flowing and wrapping around our limbs in in fiery lines of suffering. The pain reached inwards, burning bones and cooking organs for an eternity until it reached our spines, incinerating everything, the only feeling that wasn't pure agony was the feelings of our hands holding each other's arms.

The pain threatened to overwhelm me, coloring every cell with suffering as I shuddered and convulsed for an interminable amount of time. I wanted to die, curl up and do whatever it took to make the pain go away. Several times the pain pushed me beyond what I thought I could bear, and then I found I could, as it went even worse, but I didn't break completely. Never sure if this time I'd finally snap and do anything to just make it go away, not that I was sure what I could do, I tried to hold on. If it didn't mean I would be leaving Herb here alone, I just might have tried something, but I didn't, though every time I went past my limit I felt like bits of me were breaking off, like a sandblaster to the soul.

Suddenly, and without warning, the pain blew away as if it were never there, leaving us gasping for a moment, blinking away tears. They ache in my eyes remained, but was nothing now that the fire had passed. Looking at my friend it took me a moment to recognize him. Where before he had a, to put it nicely, doughy physique there were instead hard muscles outlined against his sand colored skin, his shirt and pants now flapping greatly in the not-wind as the form they'd contained had shrunk and hardened. Looking at myself I saw the same thing. Where before I had a keg, I now had a washboard, my arms and legs thickened with muscle as well, seemingly rippling with strength.

"Holy Motherfucking Cocksucking Monkey Shit Fuck Suck a Motherfucker that Hurt!" he swore in a continuous stream, before looking at his new physique and uttering a small "damn."

"Heh," I choked out a laugh. "It hurt enough, but at least we'll look good if this is hell." Herb groaning as we plummeted we fell through another rainbow cloud, the vapor streaming past us. On a whim, I reached out and tried to grab a bit of the cloud stuff, hand hooking into the pattern that twisted through it, strands snapping from the pattern and reaching backwards, wrapping around me as the broken lattice flailed before weaving itself back as it was. As it wrapped around me my now loose shirt and pants tightened around, fabric shifting and shrinking to fit my new body type.

"Nope," he disagreed, eyes still clenched from the memory of the pain. "If this was hell the hurt wouldn't have stopped."

As if in agreement, once again came a spike of pain as my flesh glowed, but the pain abated quickly as the glow settled into my skin, light outlining veins as it descended into my core. Herb's light did the exact opposite, branching outward from him in thin tendrils which caught some of the trail of fire coming off of me, but instead of absorbing it, the flame was held in place as Herb's eyes flickered and he gasped, looking around, paying attention to the patterns that flowed around us as his flesh glowed for a moment.

Panting for breath we looked down, seeing the patterns below start tightening towards something at the bottom. A third voice, this one a guttural, horrible laugh came from above us. Looking up we saw a . . . something hurtling down towards us. Whatever it was its coloring was monochrome, entirely done in blacks and greys as it descended. A humanoid figure was at its front with a long tether to the main body, a mass of long questing tentacles originating from a shrouded form reaching long past the figure, it's tail long and thin as it plummeted, laughing horribly as it did so.

It's tentacles, seemingly a mile long, brushed against us, finding no purchase on me, but wrapping around Herb before shuddering and letting go as whatever, or whoever, it was streaked past us and quickly dropping out of sight, echoes of that mirthless laughter quickly fading.

We fell after it, the patterns around us tightening closer and closer until at the bottom a tiny well of light peeked out. As we descended a shape around that disk resolved into being, a long serpent, coiled in, around, and seemingly through itself, body studded with hornlike protrusions that glowed and shifted as it laid still, watching the disk.

"I think that's where we're going, and that's a whole lotta nope. Nope. Nope. Nope!" Herb pointed out helpfully, his voice sounding as weary from pain as I felt, looking at our destination with trepidation, fear, and revulsion.

"Hopefully the snake is friendly?" I tried. At his flat look, I got defensive. "What, it could be!"

He shook his head with a murmur of "Effin' white people" as we descended.

The closer we got to the disk the larger it grew, from the size of a coin, to a pool, to a lake, and ever larger, putting the creature around it into greater and greater scale. It slithered up slightly, as we approached, head rising above its coils. By the time that we came even with its head, a great thing with far too many eyes, I had a hard time conceiving of how big it was, glancing over to see Herb hiding behind me reciting a constant repeating mantra of "Please don't eat us. Please don't eat us." Looking at it, trying to describe its size, words just could not express. Whatever this thing was, it didn't come from anything close to earth.

Looking at it a name sprang, unbidden to my lips. "Abaddon," I murmured, the name echoing weirdly in the space. Herb glanced at me before looking back at it, the head tracking us as we fell, giving a sense of smug satisfaction as we passed it, settling back down as we hit the disk, shooting through a wave of light and leaving that realm of prisms and horror.

The brilliance passed and left us blinking in the darkness, dotted with light. I heard Herb gasp and turned around to look the way he was and had to gasp. Below us stretched a huge sphere, dotted with bits of white, half of it a deep blue, the other half a patchwork of greys, greens, browns & lighter blues. I sighed at the beauty of the sight my breath freeing into crystals in front of me. As I tried to breath in I got something, but not much, panic starting to set in as I realized just how high up we were. The feeling of falling, which had lessened after we passed the barrier, started to pull at us again, dragging us down. I looked at Herb, whose eyes were wide with panic, seeing him mouth "What the fuck?" the sound of his words almost completely muted in the thin atmosphere. I shrugged as I looked around, keeping a firm grip on his arm.

Honestly, if we were at a point we could see the curvature of the earth, we should be frozen, but we were fine. Not breathing was going to be an issue, but I knew I'd be able to hold my breath for a good 10 minutes, as would Herb. That certainty of that thought, that knowledge I'd never learned, spooked me a little. How did I know this? I should be freaking out. I must be in the Freaking Stratosphere! But I was fine, not even a little cold, though that same certainty told me that if I let Herb go, he'd die. With this Truth in mind I grabbed my belt, now superfluous that my new pants fit me exactly, and wound it around our arms, cinching it tight. At his look I tried to tell him "Don't let go!" I wasn't sure if he heard me, but he looked at our tied arms and nodded vigorously.

We picked up speed as we fell, the muffled sound of air whooshing past increased the farther we went, going faster and faster with no sign of stopping. As we traveled I realized that we weren't going in at a nice slow entry, whatever had dropped us off had done so geosynchronously so we were falling straight down. As this panicked thought passed through my head Herb waved his hand in my face to get my attention. Pointing at the horizon I followed his finger, not seeing anything, until my eyes burned for a second, highlighting a halo of . . . something. Staring at it, our changing position quickly altered our perspective, outlining the figure not against the white of the horizon, but the black of space.

The figure wasn't that far off, and appeared to be almost angelic. A pale woman, with long platinum hair. She appeared to be naked, but had covered herself with three long silvery-white wings that extended from back, a large number of other wings extended out from her. The wings were irregularly sized and spaced, something I'd never seen in depictions of angels. It pulled at my memory, but I couldn't remember where I'd seen something like her.

Turning back to Herb I shrugged. So we're somewhere with angels. That's cool. My friend, though, was wide eyed and shaking in fear, looking between me and her. I looked back and noticed she seemed to be staring at us. Well, not us exactly, she seemed to be staring at Herb, who seemed to be trying to hide behind me. I mouthed a "Sorry" to the angel and turned my back to her, cocking an eyebrow at my friend. Moving to his ear to be heard above the ever-increasing sound of wind I yelled "What's wrong". He looked at me as if I was crazy. He yelled something that I couldn't quite make out. "Smurfs?" I asked.

He grabbed my head and brought my ear to his mouth. "SIMURGH!" he screamed. I stopped and turned back to the being that was intently staring at Herb. Silver coloring. Check. Irregular wings. Check. Hangs out in low earth Orbit and would know where just to be to see something unexpected popping in. Double check.

If the Simurgh was here then this meant that we were in Worm, the grimdark superhero story which I skimmed and Herb hadn't finished reading yet. The story that would result in the destruction of every earth if everything didn't go exactly right, and would still result in the deaths of hundreds of millions, and the suffering of tens of BILLIONS.

Well, Fuck.
Last edited:
SB has a not-safe board?
Nice to see you here though.
Originally posted on Fanfiction.net, then on SB & SV, but apparently it came too close to breaking SB's rules, and thus I was infracted as if it had broken the rules, so as soon as I get to the end of the main chapters of the current arc, I'm gonna discontinue it there and post a link to here.
Sb doesnt allow links to any nsfw content, and qq qualifies.
You should just drop the word in your thread and move on.
Conception 1.2
Conception 1.2

Looking at the Endbringer, the psychic kaiju that was arguable the worst of the three, casually stare at us was certainly an unsettling experience. As Herb continued to hide behind me, my eyes prickled and I no longer saw just her, but a corona of Platinum and Light surrounding her, extending in crystalline patterns, thousands of threads of incandescence extended down to the world below, blanketing the planet in a thick weave. Several threads of what I realized were her powers extended towards us, not aggressively, but cautiously, questing for something. Herb's terrified whimpering hit a higher pitch as they reached us while we fell further and further away from her. I felt part of myself reaching out to meet it, trying to do, something, but I got the sense of slipperiness, of trying to grab onto something that I knew was there, but not being able to even touch.

The probes of power continued closer, passing through me as without pausing before softly wrapping around Herb, whose terrified noises had now risen to a pitch that only dogs would be able to hear. I jerked in surprise, our connected arms twisting him slightly, and the bindings on my friend broke instantly, the threads waving around, slowly gaining a hold on him until I moved him once more, which again freed him instantly. Looking back up, she was just a speck of white on the rapidly lightening skies as we were farther and farther away from her, the massive network of energy spreading from the Simurgh vanishing as I lost track of her.

"So," I yelled to be heard over the wind. "That happened. She didn't scream or show us messed up memories or anything, so we should be fine." Worm had made it clear that it took close to an hour for her to reprogram someone into a rube-goldbergian death machine, but had also made it clear she was holding back. I turned to look at him as he patted at his chest, trying to feel the threads of power that were even now probably trying to re-attach to him. "You know what this means right?"

He looked up at me, wide eyes watering from the wind. "I've been Ziz'd?"

I shook my head. "No you haven't, but that's not the point. The point is we're in Worm!"

"That's awesome!"

"No it isn't!" I insisted.

"There's all this great stuff that's going to happen!" he yelled excitedly.

All I could do was stare it him in disbelief. "Have you read the fucking book!?!"

The man shrugged, "Yeah I have. Oh, first things first," he said, holding up a finger imperiously as we plummeted.

I wondered at what exactly he was thinking. While I tended to weather chaos through planning and understanding, he tended to surf the waves of uncertainty to get where he wanted to go, many times messing up my plans in the process. Both of us however, tended to get caught up in the moment. "What?" I finally asked, as he had fallen silent.

"Ah," he responded. "Now I'm not gonna tell you 'cause you're not gonna let me do it."

We didn't have time for this. "What is it?" I asked again, trying to keep the aggravation from my tone, hoping to get this over with quickly so we could turn back to the more pressing matter of the ground far, far below us.

"No," he stubbornly insisted. "Not gonna tell you 'cause you're not gonna let me do it."

"I might if I knew what it was," I reasoned. "And either way I will probably mess up your plans with plans of my own. It happens all the time."

He laid his free hand on my shoulder & looked me in the eye. "Okay. We gotta stop Taylor's Trigger event. We gotta go to the school. We gotta save that poor girl!"

"Yes!" I responded instantly. "God yes!" Stopping that girl from experiencing the worst day in her life was something I could get behind. That's what he was worried about? I thought. Technically though, he was right, as I considered about what doing so would have meant. If it never happened, her powers would never activate because of her Trigger event, and then world was fucked. In retrospect, I would have stopped him. "But, can we wait like 30 seconds later, so she has the Trigger and then we get her out and get her help immediately so she's not in there for fucking hours? But she still gets the power which may let her, you know, save the world?" I hoped he'd see that I was right.

He sighed, looking down before turning his attention back to me as we continued to fall. "Alright. Only, only. . ." he trailed off.

I waved to the sun coming over the horizon, sending light and cloud caused streaks of shadow to play over the ground far below us. "It's like, dawn. We should have a couple of hours to get down, find the school, and get in position to pull her out after her Trigger happens. Plenty of time."

He nodded, "What I'm saying is-"

"We have time!" I insisted. The wind howled louder, but my hearing had been sharpened along with my physique, and I could still pick out his shouted words.

"What I'm sayin is," he repeated loudly. "Only if you buy breakfast."

I looked at him for a moment, the words coming up before I thought to stop them. "Damn you're cheap." Before panic kicked my brain into gear. "I mean deal, we get breakfast, that should take long enough to let us get where we need to go. Yes, no, right, we get there in time to pull this off and-" I stopped at his thoughtful gaze. "What?"

"Nevermind," he stated dismissively. "I don't want breakfast."

It wasn't like him to let go of something like that. "Whhhhyyyyyyy?" I drew out the question, full of suspicion.

He looked at me, all emotional control leaving him as he yelled, "BECAUSE WE'RE GONNA DIE!" pointing at the quickly approaching ground.

"Yeah. Right. So. That. Right. Yeah. Okay." I rallied, turning my attention to the much closer ground. "So, I'm 99% sure we have powers."

"Cool," he said in a strained voice, looking down, before shrugging and thrusting his hand out in front of him. Nothing happened. "Nope, don't have powers."

"Okay, look how buff we are, and also, we're in the middle of re-entry and not burning up. We have superpowers." We just don't know how to use them yet.

Herb looked at himself again, using his free hand to squeeze his now muscular abs, bicep, and pecs. A thoughtful look on his face he grabbed his pants, oversized as they were and flapping with the force of re-entry, and pulled them out for a second, letting them go to be once again plastered against his front by the force of the wind. "You're right. I can see it."

"T.M.I. man!" I spluttered. "Let's focus on what's important." Seeing his raised eyebrow I added. "What's important right now!"

"Just sayin'," he responded unrepentantly. "It's the first time I've seen it in a while without effort."

I love him like a brother I thought but his priorities need work. "I didn't need to know that, man. My point is, remember that Choose Your Own Adventure thing we did a few weeks ago?"


"What's the power that we both chose?" I insisted. Looking down, we were definitely going to hit somewhere north of Massachusetts. We needed to get a handle on this quickly.

"The power copying thing?" he asked.

"Yes. No. Kind of. Different." I tried to answer him as quickly as I could. "No, We both got that but in different ways. No, we both got the thing, best shape ever, the thing keeps us in ideal physical condition, hence the new bods."

"Ooooh, yeah. Okay. And?" he said, eyeing the coming ground.

"I got temperature resistance, and you copy powers if they're close, so we both got it, hence the lack of freezing in space or burning now. That means you also got the power that lets you make Stands." I explained further at his look of confusion. "That projection thing, which itself can turn into animals, like a giant fucking dinosaur bird. You make it, it changes, we fly down to safety & Bob's your uncle."

"But Bob isn't my uncle," he replied, straight-faced.

"You know what I mean, so summon the thing and keep us from hitting the ground, since neither of us have anything that's gonna let us survive this fall!" I practically screamed as individual building could now be made out. We were falling towards a port city, but I wasn't sure if we were going to hit the port, or the city. Either way, it was going to be bad.

Herb stuck his hands out, pulling along my arm as my belt still bound us together. Nothing happened. He tried the webslinging pose. Nope. He tried some wrestling looking strongman thing. Nada. Twisting his nipples. Still nothing. He smacked the inside of his elbow for a second before muttering. "No, it isn't heroin."

"Dude, maybe think about making another you. No, wait, that might do something else. Make another you that isn't you!"

He nodded and started drawing on his hand with his finger.

"What are you doing?" I cried, now making out boats in detail. It looked like we were gonna hit the bay, but at this speed it would be like hitting concrete. Dear god we're gonna die. Picking the Worst Day Ever drawback wasn't worth the points!

"I'm making a mini-me to summon, like that show with the blonde kid in orange." He explained, not stopping.

"That's the Ninja Hand-signs! Do those!" I corrected him, demonstrating, as he copied them as we drew ever closer. Still nothing. "Aren't your powers telling you how to use them?" I cried.

"You know what they are telling me?" he replied angrily.

"No?" I asked. We really didn't have time for this shit.

"THAT WE'RE GONNA FUCKING DIE!" He screamed as I grit my teeth to prepare for the impact, twisting to impact on my side like you're supposed to, and dragging him to mirror me.

A fraction for a second before we hit something flashed in front of us, something humanoid that distorted into something large, hitting the water right before us before vanishing, the impact of the water knocking the air from my lungs. After that there was a lot of tumbling and darkness as we twisted down, trying to figure out which way was up, before seeing the sunlight far above us, half swimming, half dragging Herb to the surface as he tried to do the same for me.

We burst up to the surface, gasping for air and trying to keep our heads above the waves. My entire right side throbbed from where I hit, though not as much as I would have expected, as I turned to look at Herb. "Holy shit!" I cried, in pain and relief. "We survived!"

"Yeah," he agreed wincing. "Oooowww. At least the water took care of our trail."

"Trail?" I asked as we started to make for the shore, large concrete docks being the closest thing with rusted metal latter inset into them, staining the created rock they were sunk into.

"Yeah," he said as we swam. "There might have been a little trail of pee following us down, but, like, we're in the ocean, which everything pees in, so it's okay."

I couldn't help but laugh. "That was the least of our concerns man, the least of our concerns."

He sighed as we continued, "And I wish I had another pair of underwear. Though being in the ocean after all that falling feels oddly freeing, ya know?"

Something about that statement struck me as strange, so I glanced over at him, seeing his now bare shoulders. "Um. Herb. Where's your shirt?"

He glanced down, thoughtful. "I think it got torn off when we landed."

It was hard to see in the morning light of the bay but I had to ask. "Did you keep your pants at least?"

He paused for a second, one of his hands disappearing under the water. "Oh, that explains the freedom."

No. It couldn't be. "Herb, are you naked?"

He shook his head, "Naw." Oh good. "I'm still wearing socks and shoes." Damnit.

We got a bit closer. "So, I think we're in New Hampshire, so this might be Brockton Bay."

"God Damnit, that sucks."

"Brockton Bay?" I asked.

"No, New Hampshire," he specified.

I cast a confused look his way, "What's wrong with New Hampshire?"

"Nothing, but it explains why everything goes to shit here." He commented, starting to swim towards the shore again.


"You wouldn't understand." He dismissed.

Oh, that is such a cop-out. "We'll talk about this later," I promised.


Several minutes of awkward swimming later we reached the rusted latter, which came apart in our hands, dumping us back in the water, forcing us to swim further until we found a ramp we flopped onto, laying on our backs looking straight up, taking in the fact that we were alive.

As we lay there the scent of the docks, of sea, rust, and rot washed over us, the seaside breeze varying the levels of the smells as it blew back and forth. "So," I said, deliberately not looking at my friend. "First order of things, get you some clothes."

"Why?" he asked looking over himself. "Why should I hide it?"

"I have no idea how to take that statement."

"My muscles. Why should I hide it," he clarified.

I sighed. "Herb, muscles are plural, why should I hide them is correct. I thought you were talking about something else."

"No, that too."

"Damnit Herb, I don't have time for this." I sat up, undoing the belt which held us together as we plummeted and looping it back through my strangely undamaged cargo pants. "One, naked people are generally arrested, or worse. Two, yo-"

"Can I say something?"

"Yeeeeeeesss?" I drew out, waiting for the next non-sequitur.

"We're alive, and met the fucking Simurgh, and we're alive," he smiled.

I sighed, completely understanding him. "Yeah, and if you weren't naked I'd hug you or something, so let's get some clothes."

"Yeah," he nodded in agreement. "No homo."

"Yeah, sure, let's go with that," I told him as I helped him up. Looking around I saw we made it to one of the abandoned docks, and hitting the water right between those concrete peninsulas was threading the proverbial needle considering we started from space. Looking at the rusting, exposed steel and occasional bits of glass I was happy that his shoes had survived the fall.

Walking inside an abandoned warehouse to try to find our way towards somewhere we could find him clothes, we ran into the locals. Walking halfway through the space we heard raucous voices as four people walked in what I could only describe as hobo-gangsta' chic. The colors clashed, even on each individual person. The garments were dirty, with holes and unidentifiable stains, and everything was at least one size too big, except the girl's top, which had the opposite problem. These interesting individuals stopped talking as soon as they saw us, three guys and a girl. The other three looked at the tallest guy in the group, lanky and ethnic, but not in any discernable way. Out of all them, he had the most plastic armbands, in an array of colors, like the type people used to wear for cancer awareness, and it was this detail that made the least sense to me. I knew it had to mean something, but for the life of me I couldn't remember what.

He looked at us uncertainly, before rallying as he walked closer to us, stopping nine feet away with his followers half following, half hiding behind him, fear flitting across their faces. Why would they do that? It kinda bothered me, I've never had anyone act openly scared of me before and it was an odd experience. I looked over at Herb, and his professional-wrestler level physique before it clicked. Right, we're ripped, and he's naked. No matter how you look at this, this is weird. I opened my mouth to ask them where we could get some clothes, hopefully my wallet had survived the fall, but I was interrupted before I could even start.

"How much?" the leader asked, to his followers' hesitant laughter. How much? I thought. How much for what?

Herb looked confused for a second, before he rolled his eyes, sashaying closer and saying with a pronounced lisp "Oh Baby. Oh Baby, for this?" before he dropped to a dead serious tone. "Go fuck yourselves, I'm not cheap."

"You're also not a whore, Herb." I felt compelled to remind him.

He turned his back to the spluttering thug. "I'm just saying, even if I would, not for them. They look cheap as shit."

Seeing the leader's mouth open in disbelief, and now being close enough to smell the stink of cheap weed on him, I had to add, "Okay, I understand not them, his teeth look rot to hell, and that can't be hygenic, but wait, nevermind, not the issue here man!"

The tall guy, reached inside the front of his pants and pulled out a knife. Where was he keeping that? I couldn't help but wonder. "Fuck you! Give us all your money and maybe we won't fuck you up!"

I just stared. "What money? He's naked! I know drugs rot your brain but they shouldn't make you blind." I remembered there was a druggie gang that in Brockton Bay, but I couldn't remember their name. "I mean, he might have hid it up his ass, but I don't think you'd want to search for it. Or maybe you would, I don't judge, but it's pretty unlikely."

Herb nodded. "No he's gay as fuck, he did ask for how much," he reminded me.

I nodded sagely back, "True."

The leader waved his knife between us, trying to take control of the situation. "Fuck you, getting a blowjob ain't gay, it-"

"Yes it is." I interrupted. His three followers had grabbed rusty pieces of metal from the ground, but looked hesitant about using them as their leader faltered. "If it's from a guy, it's like the definition of gay."

Herb shook his head sadly, "Oh my god dude. Me just giving you a kiss is gay. Just sayin', it's gay. You like kissing guys. It's not your fault, and it's not wrong. You like kissing guys. Admit your gay you tall ass tweak," he finished with a half shrug. "Just get some Diana Ross clothing and work that shit."

"Diana Ross?" I asked, cutting off the leader as he opened his rotting mouth.

"Yeah, Diana Ross, the big wig, the long dress, the sequins, the tall heels, the makeup, looked kinda guy-ish, gays really liked her."

"Was she trans?" I questioned.

"Nah, but she kinda looked it. You know: 'Stop! In the name of love!' Her."

I nodded. "Oh, her, yeah, I kinda see it a little."

"Oh fuck you!" the thug shouted, jumping forward to stab Herb with the knife, only to have it taken from him as his target side stepped, grabbing the guy's wrist and twisting it with a loud cracking sound, the clatter of the dropping knife happening at the same time as the thug's "oof" of breath as Herb smacked him dead in the chest before grabbing him by the face, jumping in the air and forcing the thug down with a cry of "RKO!"

I looked at him. "Is that a wrestling move?"

He gave me a chagrined smile as he stood up, the thug whimpering on the ground. "Yeah. I know kung-fu."

I turned to look at the thug's followers, frozen in fear. "I also know kung fu." I commented.

"And To Wong Foo," Herb added. "So if you want to get all dressed up and not, you know, against gays like this self-hating bitch, just sayin'. I mean, I just whooped his ass and now I don't feel threatened whatsoever."

The female of the group, a medium sized girl who was probably blond under the grime yelled "We'll fuckin' get you!" before turning on her heel and running, the other two following.

We turned to the now unconscious leader as I glanced at Herb. "Well, they won't fit great, but we found clothes. You might not want the underwear though."

We quickly claimed his possessions, his wallet, while thick, was filled mostly with ones. "Who does that?" I asked. "Does he work as a delivery driver or something."

Herb stared at me for a second before shaking his head. "It's for shitty strip clubs. It's dark and they don't see that all the bills your stuffing down her bra are ones."

"What? That's. Um. Okay? Not my realm of expertise," I conceded. The clothing didn't quite fit Herb, but the thug's propensity for oversized clothing helped even everything out in that respect. Checking the money, it looked the same as what I had in my wallet, so the cash I had on me was still good, and would be enough for food, some basic supplies, and a night or two at a hotel. Looking at my bright red t-shirt and urban camo I couldn't help commenting out loud. "Wish the others tried something, I could have worn one of their sweatshirts and blended in better."

With that my shirt rippled and shifted, extending out and up, forming into a dark red hoodie that still fit me. "Holy shit!" Herb commented. "How does that work?"

I stared at it for a second, and as I did, I felt a familiar feeling in my eyes as slowly shifting lines appeared on my clothing. Concentrating on wearing a t-shirt again, the patterns started curling inwards, the fabric shifting and pulling themselves into a purple t-shirt, another thought formed a sanguine fleur-de-lis. I shifted it into a dark blue hoodie, adding lime green polka-dots instead of the flower to match the garishness of my friend's new threads. "I grabbed one of the clouds in that. . . other place. I think it bonded with my clothing. And maybe me. No idea how it works."

"That's not fair. You got instant wardrobe, and I ended up naked."

"We can find a store to get you underwear while we walk." I reassured him, heading out the way the followers fled, but turning in the opposite direction. "So, do you remember what I was talking about the Choose Your Own Adventure thing we did. The one where you had the 'If you were dropped into this world, what powers and stuff would you want? We did one for GoT, and a mystic apartment, and the derelict space-station as well."

"Yeah dude, but that was like, a bullshit what-if thing. I didn't know this," he waved at our surroundings, "was gonna fucking happen."

"I didn't either. But it looks like we're here," I replied with a shrug. "Do you remember your powers?"

"I think so," he hazarded. "I can copy other powers, I got the thing that makes me buff, and I can make the thing that helps me. I just don't know how."

"The copy thing has a range of five meters from the source of the power, and you can also make a copy of yourself, though that one seems to be recharging or something." I told him, eyes feeling warm as I stared at the gold and purple phantom flames that licked his form when I concentrated, Seeing his powers and Knowing them, on a soul-deep level. "And you can make another person/thing that helps and has its own powers, but I can't remember what you picked other than the animal shape one. Maybe later, my head's still spinning a bit. I can't tell you for sure until I see it." Herb nodded, pushing his hand out to try to summon it as we walked to no avail. "I've got the Peak Condition power like you, Power Sight, which lets me tell you what you have, Immunity to heat and a few other things, and power copying, but the better version from yours that cost a ton more. You have powers that are near you till the person leaves. If I see a person use a power, I get a copy of it, forever. Only restriction is, the power has to have a physical effect."

"Dude, that's broken," he commented, looking at me in disbelief.

I shook my head. "With what's coming, not really. I'll need everything to take down the Golden Man. Besides, it wouldn't have stopped me breaking every bone in my body when I hit the ground."

Herb stopped, turning me to face me with a hand on his shoulder. "Wait, Scion? He's cool. He cures cancer and fights endbringers and shit. Like, he's got some beef with Eidolon, but he's good."

"Herb, how far have you actually read Worm?" I asked, trying to gauge how badly he was going to respond to what I had to tell him.

"The Undersiders kicked Dragon's multiple assess and Coil told them to lay low, which is complete bullshit. Then there was the interlude with Armsdick." Armsdick? It fits I mused.

"We don't have time for the long version, short version, Scion isn't human, talks to Jack Slash, and then decides to destroy Earth. All of them. In every reality," I revealed.

My friend stood in shock, looking at me. "Well. Shit."

I nodded, turning around and continued walking down the street towards where a corner store was opening. Waving in what I hoped was friendly manner to the guy opening the security grate. After a moment Herb walked up next to me, and I continued, "So, power copying might be needed."

I laughed. "Thing was, I wanted to make it even more broken. I'm limited to powers with observable effects. I thought I could chain it with Power Sight to get around that, as I could see the power activating, and copy it that way. It either doesn't work that way, or like your Stand power, it's taking longer because It's a Second Trigger power. And I don't even know how I know that!"

"Like Grue?" he asked, as we waited for the shop owner to finish.

"Yeah, but since we got our powers all at once, it might be more like a double Trigger like Taylor's bug control," I mused. "Thing is, that might be taking longer to kick in because of it. I've tried to copy your copy power when I saw you copy my Immunity, but got nothing from it. Sorry for that by the way. I'm pretty sure the threads from Ziz were her brainwashing, and I got nothing from that either."

"Right, that was fucking weird. Why didn't they touch you? And how could you break them?" he questioned.

"Ziz's brainwashing normally gets screwed up by other precognitives. She's blind to the present, but sees the past and future. Precog's change their actions in the present which ripple out to change the future she sees, making them disrupt her powers. Sometimes," I guessed.

"What do you mean sometimes?" he peered at me. "And you didn't say you had precog powers."

I grinned, "Nah, I got something better. I'm a Blindspot."

"What the hell's a blindspot?"

"It means I'm immune to ANY precog," I explained. "I'm right up there with Goldie and the Endbringers when it comes to that shit. That means, I do ANYTHING that affects someone's programming and I screw up Ziz's plans. She couldn't even see me right next to you."

"Holy shit!" he exclaimed. "That's awesome!"

I winced, holding up a hand and waving it back and forth. "Yes and no. It also means that if I make too many waves, all the precogs on the side of the guys trying to save the world also get all their plans wrecked. That's why I need to get stupid powerful and do this shit myself, because just by being here, I've probably already fucked up the plan to save the world."
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Curse you sb! I've been following it since it started (mostly on FF) though since I first saw it on sb...

Anyways, I'll definitely take some time to give it a re read and revisit the story from the beginning now that you're doing a full repost on QQ!

Though, I'm gonna admit that I was viscerally angry at the MC's situation in the latest chapters. (Not gonna put any details down for now since it'd all be spoilers currently)
- it makes sense, was really appropriate but I personally want to come down and drop a nuke on the fucks.
Curse you sb! I've been following it since it started (mostly on FF) though since I first saw it on sb...

Anyways, I'll definitely take some time to give it a re read and revisit the story from the beginning now that you're doing a full repost on QQ!

Though, I'm gonna admit that I was viscerally angry at the MC's situation in the latest chapters. (Not gonna put any details down for now since it'd all be spoilers currently)
- it makes sense, was really appropriate but I personally want to come down and drop a nuke on the fucks.

Give it exactly two chapters (Next one is already written, one after that is ~1/2 done at 2.3k words), and you'll get at least some satisfaction. :)
Conception 1.3
Conception 1.3

"That's some heavy shit dude," Herb uttered at my declaration.

"Yeah, if my being here fucks up their Path to Victory, I just need to make my own," I said, coming to terms with it as I did so. "Preferably one that saves way more people than the canon ending."

"How many die there?" he asked with trepidation.

"Little more than half the cast. Civilian deaths, over ten Billion." I informed him, starting to walk towards the door to the corner store.

"Wait. Wait. Hold the fuck up!" Herb said, stopping and pinning me with a disbelieving stare. "Billion. With a B? That's more then everyone on earth!"

"This earth, or our old earth, yeah. You fight a multidimensional entity, you take losses across dimensions, it adds up. Even then, world's pretty fucked up by the end. It's effectively knocked back to the Dark Ages, with capes as warlords. That's why we need to get a path to victory on our own. Step one: get you some underwear."

I started walking off again as he followed, going, "No, no no, you don't drop that on a motherfucker and then go buy fucking underwear!"

I smiled amused at being the other end of our dynamic. I could see why he did it. This was fun. "Pretty sure I am."

"You don't just say 'hey, the world's gonna end unless we save it.' and then walk away!" he ranted, dropping his voice to a whisper as we entered the store. I nodded to the tan skinned man behind the glass screen on the counter as my friend continued. "I thought this was gonna be all 'let's chill out, be supervillains, and have fun.' Not save the freaking world!"

"And fight the Endbringers," I added casually, looking for clothing. They had a small selection, shrink-wrapped packs of socks and t-shirts. Glancing at him I grabbed a pack of the 2XL shirts. He'd need them more for muscle mass then weight.

"What do you mean fight Endbringers!" he hissed. "I can't even use my powers right!"

I stopped and looked at him. "You really don't remember what you picked, do you? We're both gonna be Endbringer Targets. When Leviathan hits here in May, we gotta fight him. We don't have to win, just survive. Besides it's the S9 you really have to worry about in the beginning of June."

He grabbed my shoulders. "What. Did. You. Do?"

I chuckled. I realized how screwed we were as soon as we got here, but I think he got swept up with the re-entry thing. Understandable, but we needed to get past this quickly. Like a band-aid being ripped off, but way worse. Still the same principle I thought. "I didn't do anything. You're the one who picked the downsides. Beginning of June, the Slaughterhouse Nine will be recruiting. Two of the nominations are you and me. That's gonna be way harder since they'll be hunting us specifically. I'd take a Kaiju fight with assistance of all the major heroes over that shit. You read that part, you know what happens. The dumbass PRT didn't pull out the big guns until the city was already in the middle of a genetically engineered prion plague."

I finally found the underwear and turned to my friend. "I do have bad news though."

He looked at me in desperation. "What? What could be worse than any of that."

"They only have pink underwear," I told him, holding up the package.

He stared dumbly at the package before breaking down into laughter. "Um, are you okay man? Should I get these?"

"No, fuck that, I'll go commando." He gasped between guffaws. "It's just too much."

I felt kinda bad. Maybe this straight-faced dropping information thing needed more skill than I thought. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay. It's okay. Yeah, I did choose that, it does make things better. Winning easily is way too boring, it's the journey that matters." He took several deep breaths, centering himself. "Okay, I'm good. What else did I get?"

"We both picked up Rough Start, I got two out of a max of three, you went all for the max, so you're gonna end up in debt, homeless, and a social outcast pretty fast. I'm probably just homeless, maybe in debt somehow, which considering neither of us officially exist, is kinda automatic. We both picked up two out of three of Worst Day Ever, and all three means the world is out to get you." I counted off.

"Um, Simurgh, re-entry, jumped by Merchants?" he asked. "How is that not all three?"

Merchants! That's what they're called! "We've gotten downtime," I motioned around at the store. "and we didn't hit the ground. Still sucks, could be worse. Lastly, we'll be very minor Case 53's, though that hasn't kicked in yet. You get vampire teeth and my irises should go prismatic. Might happen when we get our Second Triggers." I walked to the counter, grabbing a pair of shades and two bottles of water. Paying for everything with my liberated one-dollar bills, I saw the owner looking wary of Herb. "Don't worry about it him," I said, slipping him a few extra bucks. "We've just had a really bad day."

We walked out with our purchases in a bag, and hadn't taken more than three steps we heard a woman yell "It's them! Those are the assholes who jumped C-dog!" looking down the street I saw the three followers of the sexually repressed thug we'd counter-mugged pointing at us to a guy Herb's size, along with several others.

Herb, hearing this, broke into giggles. "What?" I asked, seeing that the followers and new guys all had knives, the big guy wearing fancy brass knuckles.

My friend held up a hand as the group approached. "The guy we beat is called C-dog!" He burst into more laughter.

The girl who singled us out shoved her chin forward in what she probably thought was an aggressive gesture. "Yeah, what of it, dead meat!"

Herb had now progressed to full on wheezing. "The guy who wanted me to suck his dick, C-dog, is a cock hound! That's amazing!" A couple of the new guys started giggling as well. Apparently, C-dog had a rep, but no one made the connection to his name.

"Fuck you! No one jumps Merchants on their territory! You're gonna die!" she shrieked, running at Herb with her knife extended. She was so focused on her target that she never saw me grab her knife hand, striking her in the temple with my other, dropping her instantly.

I turned to the others, who weren't looking happy anymore. "I don't know what she told you but-"

"Hey, he hit T-back! Fuck him!" one of the new guys yelled, running at me with his own knife, the rest of the gang following him.

"T-back, Seriously?" I asked, dodging backwards as Herb, still smiling, swept a leg to trip the guy trying to stab me, the Merchant falling and stabbing himself in the arm as he fell.

With that the others were on us, and thankfully none of them really knew how to use their knives, but that didn't stop them from being dangerous. Herb and I fought back to back, doing well, but, when I dodged one slash, the leader chose that moment to strike, his metal clad fist swinging out. I tried to dodge that too, but took it the ribs, the impact sending me sprawling towards one the others. I twisted to avoid his knife and caught him with an outstretched arm as I fell, rolling out and up to get back on my feet, in time to see the leader swing for Herb's unprotected head as he grappled with two others, both my friend's hands busy holding off their weapons.

I got a call of "Behind you!" off before seeing a flicker of something, obscured by the leader's body. There was a sharp crack of breaking bone, but instead of my friend going down with a broken skull, it was the leader who fell, not just down but backwards a dozen feet, dropping on one of his cronies. Herb twisted one of the guys he was fighting into another's stab, then spun, kicking the stabber in the head before glancing at the downed leader. "Um, that wasn't me," he said, as if trying to avoid blame, dodging another stab, kneeing his attacker in the gut before chopping him on the back of the neck.

"If you say so," I responded, taking the knife off one of the last attackers and using the base to smack the thug in the back of the head, dropping him.

"I do!" Herb insisted, taking a step towards the last guy who took off running. My friend gave the fleeing Merchant a considering look, before shaking his head.

I walked over to the fallen leader, wondering how hard he was hit. It looked like he tried to headbutt a bull: his nose was smashed flat, he was missing teeth, though I wasn't sure if that was from the blow, and his entire face appeared to be one large bleeding bruise. Leaning down I put a finger to his neck, the heavy heartbeat telling me that he wasn't dead, just out cold. I propped him up so that he wouldn't choke on his own blood, confiscating his brass knuckles and his wallet as I did so. Standing, wiping the blood on my pants, which promptly disappeared, I turned back to Herb, who was crouching down, taking the cash from the wallets of the now unconscious Merchants. "You hit him pretty hard!" I called.

He looked up, giving the distance the man had flown back a significant glance, "I said I didn't do it."

"So something else punched him so hard he flew back several yards, knocking him out?"

"Obviously," he responded with false surety. "I don't punch that hard. Besides, he deserved it, trying to sucker punch. . . I didn't do it."

"Superpowers," was my response.

He still shook his head. "Yeah, didn't do it. You cannot prove this in a court of law."

"Whatever," I relented, helping him search their wallets and grab their crash. On the bright side, a life of organized crime seemed to mean that the people we were searching had far more cash than I would ever be comfortable carrying. Finding a gift card for a coffee shop called 'MaHotma Grindy' I called my friend, laughing as I held it up. "Should we take these too?"

He shook his head. "Nah man, that shit can be tracked. Cold hard cash only, unless you got someone that can hack that shit."

"I don't want to know how you know that," I commented, turning back to my self-appointed task.

He harrumphed. "I watch the news, it's not always experience. Racist."

I dropped the now cashless wallet on a different unconscious thug and gazed at him, deadpan. "It usually is."

He opened his mouth to rebut my point, stopping and nodding. "Usually," he agreed.

After searching the last guy, and tossing his wallet on the guy next to him, I looked up to see the shop owner staring at us. Walking towards the door he frantically reached under the counter, pulling out a pistol, not pointing it at me, just showing that he had it. I grabbed my bag of purchases from where I'd left it by the door, and gave him a friendly wave, turning around and walked away. "We should go," I told my friend, who was trying to suppress an amused grin and failing.

"Yeeeeah, we're making a great impression," he agreed, turning and walking with me. I opened the package of shirts and held onto his now slightly more blood-stained jacket as he put one on. "Oh, that feels better," he moaned. As he was putting the jacket back on, he asked. "Why were you dropping the wallets on different people?"

"Takes 'em longer to figure out, and while we might not be taking cards, they might, then blame each other, and maybe blame each other even if they didn't have any cards, who knows?" I sighed. "Those guys are assholes, if it takes an extra couple seconds to screw with 'em, why not?"

We counted our newfound wealth as we walked, easily coming in with over a thousand dollars each. "Ya know," Herb commented, "For this place, we're not doing bad."

I bobbed my head in agreement. "We've only been here half an hour and already have couple grand."

"And a few fights," he added.

I looked at him, wondering if his new muscles were going to his head. "I wouldn't count that as a positive. We have Abaddon shards, that means they aren't pushing us to seek conflict."

He shrugged. "I don't have to be pushed to have fun in a fight."

"But the risk-" I started.

"Is part of what makes it fun," he finished.

I rolled my eyes. "Regardless, we've made more than enough to find someplace to stay for the night."

"And we've put the fear of god in the local ragtag." He grinned proudly. "We're gonna make great villains!"

I stumbled, turning as we walked and crossing my arms in negation. "I, n-, no. I'm gonna be a Hero!"

He nodded. "A hero villain."

I tried to figure out what he meant with that oxymoron. "You mean like a vigilante?"

"No," he told me. Apparently, I had completely misunderstood him. "Those people are stupid."

When he didn't explain, I went ahead, correcting him, "No, I'm gonna save the world. That makes me a Hero, by definition."

"Yeah," he agreed. "We're gonna save the world, as we make money, and profit by kicking ass."

I held my palm aloft in a questioning gesture, "I don't get how that makes us Villains in the slightest."

"Yeah," he agreed again, not answering my question at all. "'cause everyone has to pay."

I nodded. "Yeah, sometimes literally. Cops and the army get paid. The Protectorate gets paid. You do a job, you get rewarded for doing so. I'm not sure why that's even a point that needs to be brought up." With that matter settled we looked around. We had been walking aimlessly, trying to find, well, anything really. I was pleasantly surprised when we came out of an alley and saw a run-down shopping center. It looked about as well kept as everything in this area, dirty with peeling paint, but people were walking around and it seemed open for business. As we got closer I saw there was a bit of a bottleneck to get it, with two guys about the same size as the Merchant leader with the brass knuckles, whose weapon was now was a comforting weight in my pocket, at the entrance, giving out yellow armbands to everyone as they walked in. The two themselves wore several armbands, some of them doubles. "Hopefully they'll have underwear in here," I commented as we moved closer, passing him one of the water bottles I'd bought, drinking from mine.

Herb nodded, looking at the armbands in thought. "Yeah, I don't mind swinging free, but it'd be nice. And maybe we could get something to eat. That greasy food place, what was it called?"

I wracked my memory to try to figure out what he meant. "Hooters?" I hazarded.

"No, the other place."


"No, the other place. Buttfuckers."

I made the connection. "You mean Fugly Bob's. No, that's at the market. It's open air, not this," I waved to what I was starting to think was actually a converted warehouse. "You're thinking of Idiocracy."

He looked around at the unwashed masses around us, the smell of blood, sweat, piss, and drugs as offensive as the fashion sense and personal hygiene on display. "Isn't it though?"

One of the people next to us looked like he was going to say something, but looked at our muscles and Herb's newly bloodstained clothing, looking away before he could meet my eyes. As we got to the door one of the doormen offered me an armband. "No thanks, I'm good," I told him as I tried to walk in the door.

He put a hand up to stop me, "Take a fucking band!" he yelled in my face. I took it, rolling my eyes, wishing his drug of choice was Listerine, not steroids, before he stepped back and tried to shove me in. I went with the push, smoothly entering to see that, yes, this place was in fact a converted warehouse, and not the small shopping area I thought. People were still selling things, though it all looked pretty shady.

I turned to Herb, who had taken an armband from the other guy, and then threw it off to the side. "I don't want a fucking armband," he told the other doorman.

The guy got in his face, yelling "Get the fuck in there, I'll deal with you later!" before trying to shove him in as well. Herb took the shove without moving, then when the guy pulled his hand back to try again he walked inside.

"It's a shopping center" I told him. "Of sorts. Let's just get some clothes and a bite to eat, don't make a deal out of the awareness bands." At that both thugs laughed, before turning their attention back to the people waiting to get inside. As we wandered I glanced at Herb. "These armbands. They're for something, but I can't remember what. I thought it was like, cancer awareness, or something but that's probably not true."

"I can't remember either," he commented as I put mine in my pocket. "That's why I'm not fucking putting one on."

I tried to think back to what I remembered from the source material. "Do you remember the section in the book where they went to that Merchant party? The one Faultline broke up? It was at the beginning of the S9 arc. They mentioned the bands, but I can't remember."

"Oooh, right," he responded, putting his hands to his head as he tried to recall. "These fucking, you know what it is?" he asked either me or himself. "What color were they?"

"In the book? Red. These are yellow." I supplied.

He put his hands down, looking at the piss yellow rubber bracelets everyone was wearing. "They're Merchant things. If it was red then someone's gonna get murdered. Yellow? I don't know."

I looked around as well, taking in how many people were wearing the Merchant badges of pride. "So we're deep in their territory. Lovely. Let's get our shit and get out."

We walked around for a few minutes, looking at the drugs, weapons, pirated movies, and a large variety of goods that were probably stolen, finding nothing so mundane as underwear. We passed one guy who was either a pimp selling whores, or selling people, I wasn't sure which was worse. I didn't know the going rate for either, and I wasn't going to ask my friend about it right that moment. After a full circuit of the place, finding nothing we wanted, and turning down a couple of offers for my brightly colored hoody, probably because it was the cleanest thing in here, I turned to my friend.

"These morons," he commented, breaking my line of thought.


"All of these people here selling shit, and no one thought to sell some fucking food. You'd make so much money," he commented sadly, chastising the gang known for their heavy drug use for their lack of foresight.

"Right," I responded. "Let's just leave."

He nodded. "You know what? I'm gonna be happy when I kill every damn one of these fuckers."

I looked at him in worry. "Some of the people here might not deserve it, or might not even want to be here." I sighed, looking at the examples of human refuse around us, making a plan of action as I did so. "So, come back here, save who we can, take down the rest. Those that chose this. . . Fuck it, I don't give a shit about them. We'll make a plan, in the meantime, we're deep in Merchant territory. Let's get the fuck out of here." I half-led, half-dragged him towards the door as he looked around, probably figuring out the details of how to do so when a shouted voice cut through the crowd.

"Those are the guys who killed Bizzy!" I, along with half the crowd, turned to see the guy who ran from us outside the quickie mart pointing straight at Herb. My friend looked around and pushed his hands out to either side dramatically. Nothing happened. He tried a different pose. Nothing happened with that either.

There was a confused silence as everyone stared at him. "What are you trying to do?" I asked.

"The thing!" he said, trying a third pose.

"I don't think it's working yet," I tried to tell him, aware of everyone's stares.

"It did before! When do I get the cool stuff?" the thirty-something year old man complained.

I whispered "Yeah, but that was just a flicker. I don't think it's ready yet." Not that it really helped in the growing silence.

"Why can't I be more like Purity?" he whined. "Just be all like, Pzzzz!" he said, making a laser sound effect.

I gave him a look. "Why can't you be like the Neo-Nazi?"

"Not like a Nazi. Why can't I just shoot beams of awesomeness all over the place?" he demanded.

"You can figure out how to shoot your stuff off later, I'll help. . . Damn that sounded gay," I amended. "You can do it later, let's leave." I started to walk away when the crowd around us closed ranks, boxing us in.

I retreated so I was back to back with my friend, ready to fight overwhelming odds when a harsh voice rang out. "What the fuck do you mean a cape's here ya cross-eyed gloryhole cocksucker?"

"Oh fuck a monkey," uttered Herb as I looked around. A black guy in a shitty costume was getting up on a platform at the back, a smaller dude talking to him and motioning in our direction. Following the speaker was a girl in a white tank top, heavily stained with either dirt or oil, wearing either short shorts or large panties, it was hard to tell. What wasn't hard to tell was that she looked like she tried to dress sexy, but overshot well into the trying too hard territory of embarrassingly indecent.

My eyes prickled as I looked at them and I Knew them. The costumed cusser had Ranged Location-Dependent Unidirectional Compounding Tactile Telekinesis Fields. The girl had Technical Knowledge of how to make anything relating to movement, Skill at using such, and Micro-Telekinesis to do both. If I had to guess, these would be Skidmark and Squealer, The leader of the Merchants and his Tinker girlfriend.

"Herb, remember how I said I think we were deep in Merchant territory." At his nod I continued, "I think that was understating it, I think we're at the heart of it."

Skidmark had gotten to the front of his 'stage' and was now looking at us, taking a wireless microphone from a flunky. "You pair of sphincter riders come into my territory, fuck up my men, and then come into my house like you own the place? Get over here!" he yelled as the crowd parted between us. With a wave of his hand the ground underneath us glowed blue as we were dragged down the illuminated line to stop a few yards in front of him. I saw my own power reach out and pull a bit of the weak blue and purple flame from the ground, pushing it into my chest and had to clench my jaw as the burning passed into me and settled at my core. I Took the power as we were dragged, not like a moving sidewalk but with distributed force across our bodies. Concentrating on my new ability, I tried to apply it to the tip of my finger, experimentally closing my hand only for that finger to be dragged away from my palm, making my hand open. The power only lasted a few seconds as I used it, sputtering into nothingness as I barely listened to what was going on around me, focusing on getting the power to work.

"Hi Skidmark," Herb waved as we got closer.

He spat in our direction, the spit getting caught at the edge of the field and was dragged, whole, to the end of the effect before it splattered on the ground. "Don't hi me you pig faced piss gargler!" Herb took a moment to breathe in, grinning widely at the foul-mouthed gang leader. "You-" Skidmark started.

"You cock-gobblin piece of shit!" Herb interrupted, voice booming and carrying through the space. "You open that dirty little cunt-dragging dumb mouth of yours one more time in my direction, I'm gonna consider it an insult 'cause it smells like the fucking whore that your mother is!"

I glanced up and the stunned look on Skidmark's face showed that he was a glass cannon when it came to profanity, dishing it out with speed, but completely unable to take it. I sighed, adding "Wow, that was such a helpful and constructive comment," before turning my attention back to my hands, trying to get my new power to work.

My friend gave a start as he looked at me, before grinning back. "I'm just trying to fit in here."

Skidmark rallied "You beat up my pushers and think that's fitting in you dick-gagger!"

Herb held up his hands "When you say 'beat up' and 'your pushers'," he responded, using air-quotes. "I don't think the first guy was a pusher unless he was the one pushing your dick into her ass, from behind." I looked at Herb in mute horror. I had no idea how this was going to go well, and if it did I was going to have to re-evaluate everything I knew about drug-dealers.

"I'm not gay you spunk bubble, you're prolly gay you fudge packer, and I'm gonna make you my bitch when I beat your ass down till your begging for your boyfriend to suck my dick 'cause you ain't getting no lube!"

Without missing a beat Herb replied with no inflection, "So you are gay."

Skidmark, now so enraged that spittle was flying between his rotting yellowed teeth yelled. "I'm not actually gonna fuck ya, ya minge blender, I'm gonna motherfuckin' kill ya!" I got the power on my hands stable enough that it started flashing a bit as I dispelled it. Figuring out how to layer it as fast as I could, I realized that my friend's verbal sparring wasn't because he had a death wish, but was doing so to buy me time to figure a way out of it. "And you ass handler!" the villain continued, turning his attention to me. "What the fuck are you doin' you pasty waffle jacker!"

"Woah," Herb said, stepping in front of me. I murmured an "almost got it" and he nodded. Focusing everything I had on figuring it out asap, I tuned him out as he continued. "You don't talk to my boy, we're not done yet. As a matter of fact you're such a piece of rotten dog shit, left on the corner, turned ripe, eaten, regurgitated, eaten again, then shit out of your own ass then eaten again before its even so bad that your rotten mouth can't take it, so you puke again because you don't understand the concept of eating something that ain't meth, just look at your backed up teeth, that, oh my god, how many more scars are you gonna put on you? When people talk about track stars, they mean running dumbass. And shooting that much? It's not a tattoo my friend, not a tattoo."

I layered the effect of my new power on a thin strip of ground behind us, nothing happening till the fifth layering, where it turned a darker blue and started running in the opposite direction. "Okay, we can leave," I told him, looking up and seeing Skidmark turning colors as he became increasingly apoplectic in rage in the sudden silence. I asked disbelievingly "What did you say?"

Herb shrugged. "I was just telling him he was making bad life choices."

I rolled my eyes. "No shit Sherlock, he's a meth head."

Skidmark bit out "What did you call me you sack shiner?"

Herb gave him a raised eyebrow. "It's an easy conclusion, he just followed the tracks in your arms."

At that Skidmark, startled fumbling with his belt, pulling out a gun. "Stop helping!" I told him, laying down a field from our location straight to the door. The first application started ruffling people's clothing, the second started gently moving them out the door, the third pushing them, the fourth dragging them. On the fifth people were being thrown out the door and the field behind us gave way, throwing us bodily out the warehouse, Skidmark having dropped his gun and looked as we rode his power out of his base. "It looks like he wants us to leave," I loudly commented as we rushed past improvised stalls.

"Yeah, good, it stinks in here!" Herb agreed loudly over the strangled "What the fucking hell?" from the villain.

My grinning agreement of, "Yes, and the drugs were of inferior quality" not quite drowning out a quieter "Why you doin' that Skidsy?" from Squealer, whose voiced matched her name.

"I'm not fu-" he caught himself. "Cause I want those crap-headed diarrhea extractors outta my fuckin' territory!" We heard as we exited the door. I rode the path, creating a new one off the side, pulling Herb so he didn't fall into the pile of people I'd pushed ahead of us on our way out. As we ran with the metaphorical wind at our backs I heard the villain shout "And I want you virgin crap shiners to chase 'em outta here. If any of you make em bleed you get two hits of whatever you shit pipes want!"

Damn, I thought. This is gonna suck.
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Fair enough. Guess your S9 was to close to the line.
Nah, it was posts from over a year ago on SB. The one where Vejovis saves Rune, and the ABB Sex Slavery Warehouse takedown, where I was careful not to describe any sex with minors, only strongly suggest it had happened and we were saving those kids.
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Nah, it was posts from over a year ago on SB. The one where Vejovis saves Rune, and the ABB Sex Slavery Warehouse takedown, where I was careful not to describe any sex with minors, only strongly suggest it had happened and we were saving those kids.

Meanwhile that fic where vista is graphically described giving a lap dance on screen didn't get hit.
Meanwhile that fic where vista is graphically described giving a lap dance on screen didn't get hit.
Really? Isn't she twelve? Ugh. Why am I not surprised. Like I said, liking QQ more and more. I get some might not like it 'cause it's a self-professed 'pit of lewdz', but it's not hypocritical about it.

Also, no link, I don't need that in my life.
Conception 1.4
Conception 1.4

I pulled Herb along as we ran, the junky hordes that made up the Merchants hot on our heels, our blood buying them their next fix. Pelting down streets, and through alleys, we had the advantage of being in Peak Condition, but they knew the territory, and as we exited an alley we had to duck under a set of swung pipes from a pair of Merchants lying in wait. Herb and I lashed out, slamming them both in the diaphragm in unison, and ran on as they fell to the ground gasping like a pair of panicked seals.

Another few turns and another ambush, this one with knives, had Herb panting as we ran, "This is bad." He looked askance at me as I stopped running to laugh.

"God, Skidmark's an idiot." I commented as I looked down the alley we had stopped in, seeing no-one.

"Why?" he asked, before shaking his head. "We gotta move."

"Because he had it the entire time and never did this." I responded, layering the effect four times, half a foot wide, in a line from chest height up the four stories to the top of the building.

"Huh? Aaah!" was my friend's response as I grabbed his hand, putting it on the strip the same time as I put my own on it, slightly higher. Without a jolt, we both rose up as if on an elevator, but with even less sensation of movement. We both crested the top of the building, propelled up into the air. Starting to fall as I layered another on field the top of the rooftop, pointing inwards. I kept hold of Herb, catching it with my foot and we were both pushed on top of the building, where I stumbled and he fell in a roll, coming up and looking around.

From our position the maze of the trainyards, the slums, and the midway were laid bare, showing the skyscrapers of Downtown to the south, the residential district to the west, and the seemingly floating futuristic structure of Protectorate Head Quarters in the middle of the bay, a barely perceptible bubble around it oversaturating the colors within and giving it an unreal appearance. "Holy shit," my friend commented, looking at the PHQ. "We're really here."

"Yeah," I responded, walking to the southern edge of the building, the gap between buildings a good ten feet. "Let's go south to get out of Merchant territory, get a bit to eat, then find Winslow High and save Taylor."

Herb walked up, looking at the gap. "We gonna have to jump that, or will poop-stain's power carry us?"

I winced. "It's my power now, so please don't call it that. And a little bit of both?" I responded, layering the power on a square foot piece of the ground, trying to aim it not perpendicular to the surface, but at an oblique angle. "I think I have to anchor it to something, so it can't just carry us." It was slippery trying to modify the angle of the push, using a sense I didn't have ten minutes ago, so I dropped the brass knuckles I still had on the surface to test it, only for them to shoot almost straight up, clattering to the ground halfway between the two buildings, eliciting a cry from below.

"Shit," Herb said looking over. "I think you got one, but they found us."

I nodded, concentrating. I dismissed the effect, layering a new one at more of an acute angle, spitting into it to judge the direction. It launched my ad-hoc projectile in the right direction, but not hard enough. I layered another, hesitating to put down another on top of that. The increase in thrust wasn't linear, but it wasn't exponential either. I couldn't remember the term for it. Quadratic? It didn't matter, I heard the excited yells from the way we came, which meant they found the lift.

"Let's go," I said, stomping on the square and launching myself across the gap, soaring for a moment before catching my foot on the far ledge and putting myself into a spin as I tumbled across the roof. A yell of "Incoming" prompted me to roll out of the way as Herb rolled past the space I was just laying. I got up, offering a hand to my friend as we ran to the next gap, layering the square an extra time and bringing the angle up slightly, not stopping as I ran into it. I was launched across the gap, hitting the ground running, the sound of my friend's steps right behind me. Three more jumps later we got to a street, easily thirty feet wide. I bumped the angle up, and layered it six deep, spitting in this one. I lost track of it halfway across, but it looked good.

I hit it, launching myself across the gap. I flew, hearing the gasps of people below me, and the yell of Herb behind me, the cursing of the Merchants farther behind. As I hit the apex of my arc, I did some quick mental math and realized I wasn't gonna make it.


I had needed a seventh layer, though that probably would have put me at least ten feet past the leading edge. Starting to fall, I guessed where'd I'd impact on the side of the building and laid another lift to the top, this one several feet wide in case I missed, layering the top bit to point inwards so it would push us over the building instead of just up. I hoped the lifting effect would negate my momentum, softening the impact, but put out my hands and feet to lessen the coming blow.

The force still almost knocked the wind out of me as I hit the brick wall at running speed, my downward force negated by the push upwards, but my horizontal force seemed untouched as I almost bounced off, though it did catch me, lifting me. The twisted bit at the top did put me over the building, but my foot caught on the top once again, faceplanting me into the gravel, rolling to the side to avoid Herb.

As we sat up, we saw the braver druggies following our path, some having reached the third rooftop. "Hey, question?" Herb asked. "Those things you lay down, how long do they last?" He motioned towards the gawking civilians below us, some getting out phones. "Because: Pedestrians?"

I blinked at him. "Um, they last forever until I disperse them. I mean, I might have a limit for how many I can lay down, but that's kinda it." I looked at the slowly approaching Merchants as Herb pointed towards our pursuers. "Oh, right, them. Close your eyes." I reached out with my stolen power and felt the fields in front of me, snapping my finger they dispersed in a series of bright flashes of light, the screams of several merchants in quick succession reaching me as they reached the end of a roof, tried to hit a field that wasn't there anymore, and couldn't slow down fast enough to stop themselves from plummeting over the edge, along with a few that might have been taking the first lift that I made.

Backing away from the edge, and visual range of our pursuers, I looked at Herb. "Let's make a few more jumps before coming down to street level. We need to cover our faces though, we're getting out of the industrial areas."

Herb nodded, "And we need to do something about your eyes."

I froze, reaching up to my eyes but not touching them. "What's wrong with my eyes?"

"Nothing," he commented. "Except for the fact that they've got every color of the rainbow. And are kinda spinning. And are glowing. But other than that, nothing at all."

I panicked for a second before my logic kicked in. "Right," I said shaking my head. "I knew that was gonna happen. We both picked up the first tier of the Case 53 drawback, so we both got minorly inhuman features. I got prismatic features and you got vamp teeth." I glanced at him. "Which you don't have yet. My working theory is that they manifest when we get our Second Trigger powers. When did they start glowing?"

"When we were talking to the druggie," he supplied.

"That describes half the people we've talked to today!" I snapped. "Sorry, not helpful. Which druggy?"

Herb waved away my apology, "It's been one of those days. It was Skidmark."

I nodded, "Yeah, I'd already grabbed his power, which was my Second Triggered ability. I planned for this," I explained, reaching into the plastic bag I'd wrapped around my wrist. "That's why I picked up Sun-. . . Goddammnit." I swore sadly as I pulled out the plastic shards, crushed from one of my impacts in our flight from the land of low long-term planning. I looked back up to my friend who winced in sympathy. "Okay, new plan, I make my hoody have a better hood, and go with that." I concentrated on my clothing, which transitioned from urban ghetto eyesore to a dark grey hoodie with a larger than normal hood, manifesting a leather jacker over it to better take the impacts in case I fell again. Turning I flipped the hood up, asking "How about now?"

Herb winced. "Ya know how I said your eyes glowed?" At my nod he continued, "Well, it's not that noticeable in the day, but with the hood, it's the first thing ya notice, even more than your edgy black leather jacket."

"It's not edgy!" I defended, "It's to protect from falls or stabs or. . . fine it's edgy," I conceded. I had the fabric of the hood grow up to cover my nose and mouth. "Does this at least hide my identity?" The cloth didn't muffle me in the slightest, that was odd.

"On top of making you look like you're trying even harder?" he asked, then nodded. "Yeah."

I rolled my eyes. "Fine, pull your shirt up over your nose while we make these jumps. We'll ditch it when we go down." I moved across the conjoined rooftops, making another field for us to jump, taking it and landing on the other side, watching as Herb followed, holding his 'hood' to his head as he did so to keep it from flying off. We jumped a few more before I made a weak lift strip, not enough to pick us up, which we used to descend into an alley. Herb dumped his jacket in a dumpster as I took off my hood and mask, switching the color scheme and putting a red lion rampant across my now white back.

"Showoff," he commented, smiling as we stepped out on to the street.


Half an hour later, and asking several times for directions, only some of them correct, we were a few minutes from stepping out onto the Boardwalk a place full of sun, safety, and overpriced everything. While it was the gangs who kept it truly safe, preserving the flow of tourism dollars, this was only accurate for the boardwalk itself. The fact that I found myself staring down the barrel of a gun two blocks away from it served as a reminder of this truth.

We had been so close to our destination that I'd stopped looking around for trouble, figuring we had long since left Merchant territory, when Herb and I turned down an alley and found ourselves looking at three more participants of the 'gangsta chic' movement, these all sporting the red and yellow ABB symbol of the 'Azn Bad Boys'. "Can we not?" I asked the universe under my breath as I turned on my heel to go the other way.

"Where do ya think you're going, white boy?" The shirtless one with the tattoos asked, because they, of course, had to be as stereotypical as possible. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, before turning back around.

"He's not white," Herb told them, "He's. . . Nordic."

"That, that counts as white," I told him before addressing the leader. "Nowhere good sir. We're just two, humble, travelers trying to find breakfast. Would you know of a good place around here?"

"Yes," my increasingly questionable best friend added. "So, for those of us who aren't from the eighteen-hundreds, speak a bit current if you don't mind."

The three of them started to approach, and I wasn't sure if they were amused or annoyed. I'd tried to be polite and may have gone a bit overboard. "So, hi." I tried again. "We're new in town and don't know where everything is," including gang territories I hoped they understood. "And we're looking for someplace to eat."

"Because bloody hell this is terrible," Herb added with one of the fakest British accents I ever heard. "Sugar, Sugar, tea and crumpets."

"Are you making fun of us?" the left thug asked.

Herb shook his head, "Oh nah, I'm making fun of him," he jerked his head towards me, "actually you know what? Yeah, sure, why not."

"Fuck you," responded the thug who didn't understand humor. "Pretending to be all English and shit. What next, gonna call us 'Orientals'. Fuck you, Oriental is a rug! I'm Asian and I'm a Bad Boy! Isn't that right Eiji?"

The leader rolled his eyes, "Sure Tetsu, let's get this over with."

Herb looked confusing, holding up a hand in a wait gesture. "You're Asian," he echoed. "And you're a bad boy?"

"It's the name of their gang," I supplied, hoping to head off whatever comment he would make that would lead to them trying to kill us.

"Bad boy," he repeated. "Soooo-"

"Please don't," I interrupted.

"Well no, I'm just trying to figure out why they ain't getting spanked by their mommies?" He finished.

The leader, who had had a look of annoyed lethargy went completely still. "What."

"I get spanked by your mama!" the third one tried to trash talk. Emphasis on the tried, only succeeding in gaining everyone's attention.

I sighed. "That's probably not what you meant. You probably meant something like 'I spank your mama every night.' Mind you I just got here so I don't know your mama, and if that were to be pointed out I'd respond with 'What's her name, I'll check when she's blowin' me'. Wait," I said as I had once again gained the full attention of all three gang-bangers. "Why did I say that?"

"And if you're spanking my momma you're into necrophilia," thoughtfully added my friend. "And that means you need help."

By this point the leader had had enough, pulled out a pistol from the back of his pants and pointed it at my head. "Fuck this shit," he commanded. "Give me your fucking wallet round-eye!"

Herb sighed as he eyed the gun. "Not this shit again. We're in so much fucking trouble." Perking up he continued, "Oh shit, this is following those lines."

"What lines?" I asked, unable to help myself. I stared down the barrel of the gun, trying to layer my, for lack of a better term, Acceleration Zones, inside the barrel of the gun, pointing inwards. "Dear penthouse, I never thought it could happen to me?" I gave a mirthless chuckle.

"Nah, not dear penthouse." He disagreed. "If it was that sort of thing I'd have Purity pinned to the bed and-"

"What is it with you and that Neo-Nazi chick?" I asked as the goon pulled thumbed the safety on his gun off. I layered another five layers on the zone inside of the barrel as we talked. Acceleration zone is mouthful, how about Speed Zone? "Actually, I think I got this," I told him as I added another speed zone to the gun.

Herb agreed. "Oh yeah, your thingie!" he agreed, causing the goons to look uncertain.

"You some kind of fucking weirdo!" the one on the left demanded, pulling out a knife.

"Me? Superpowers? No! No, no, no, no," I responded, lowering my tone each time, adding another layer with each no, the inside of his gun glowing a dark purple.

"What is with people against gays in this town?" Herb asked.

"Not gays, capes," I clarified, starting to layer another set of Speed Zones on the palm of my hand as I held it loosely by my side.

"Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to accuse you of being homophobic." Herb apologized. His confusion-fu was finally broken as the leader shook his head as he turned the gun towards Herb, a single faint deep purple spark falling out, only visible because I knew to look for it.

"Stop fucking talking and just give us your fucking money!" the gunman demand. Having five layers on my left palm, and at least ten inside the gun I felt confident.

"What are you gonna do?" I drawled. "Shoot me?"

"You did not just fuckin' say that to me!" he yelled, gun pointing at my head again.

I turned to Herb, dismissing the leader with my body language, throwing a few more Zones for good measure, stopping when I started to hear a low sucking noise, barely at the edge of my hearing. "He doesn't seem very perceptive, and imperceptive people make mistakes a lot."

Herb looked at me like I was crazy. "Yeah, but he's got a gun, he can probably shoot you. Using guns is a pretty simple process."

"Yeah," I dismissed, "But if you don't take care of them, they can backfire, and that really sucks."

Herb's eyes were glued to the barrel, catching sight of another purple spark in the barrel as he turned away from the armed thug. "On the other hand, you're right," he conceded. "He's just a boy, he probably doesn't know how to pull the trigger. He probably doesn't even know how to pull his pud."

The leader incensed at our dismissal of him as a threat, nearly screamed "Fuck you!" and pulled the trigger. The sound of the gunshot was followed almost simultaneously with the gun exploding, the bullet reversing and flying out the back of the firearm, taking a bit of the goon's shoulder out as it flew.

"Now" I yelled, leaping forward, slamming my Zoned hand into the chest of the knife thug, sending him flying into the wall as I was spun in the other direction from the recoil at far faster a speed than I was comfortable with. I panicked, throwing up my leg to try to lessen the impact against the opposite wall. Instead I spun too far, sinking an accidental kick into the third one at almost inhuman speed, feeling at least one rib snap under my shin as I arrested my momentum on his chest.

Hearing the guy behind me swearing I slammed my hand on the wall at chest height, shooting backwards and spinning to elbow him in the ribs, as he stabbed me in the chest, feeling something snap where I hit him as well. Looking down I felt pressure, but the point of the knife appeared not to have cut through the leather of my jacket. Around me I saw all three of them down, moaning, with the leader bleeding from the hand and shoulder. As I looked down the alley, I saw Herb peering back at me from the street. "What the hell man?" I asked as he walked back down, "You left me!"

"My bad," he looked chagrined. "I misunderstood. I thought 'Now' meant run, not kick the living shit out of these guys." He observed my handiwork. "Damn man, and you gave me crap for the big guy."

"Yeah," I said, dismissing the zone on my hand and what remained on the gun barrel, squatting down to pat down the gunman for his wallet. "Zone-fu is way more effective than I thought."

"Zone-fu?" Herb asked.

"Yeah, using the Speed Zones I can make to fight. How's the name?" I asked hesitantly.

He laughed. "Corny as fuck, but can't argue with results. Why did you fight them anyways? With your power we could have gotten away easily."

I looked at him, offended. "They tried to rob us, it's only right to rob them right back. It's the golden rule."

"You're a better criminal than I am," he chuckled, shaking his head.

"I'm not a criminal!" I objected.

"We're gonna be so awesome as supervillains," he continued, as if I hadn't said anything.

"You're not a supervillain if you steal from villains!"

He dragged out his answer of "Suuuure," in a completely unconvincing manner.

"You don't sound sure."

"No, I'm totally sure that you're sure," he informed me. I chose not to argue as we tossed them for their cash, I grabbed one of their phones, and we walked out, glancing at the name of the coffee shop right next to us. "What's that for?" he asked.

"I probably didn't kill anyone, but I want to make sure." I dialed 911, receiving an attentive operator as I responded in a bad Indian accent. "I am calling to tell you that I saw three very rough looking young men in the alley between Rodeo & Dupont by the MaHotma Grindy, which is quite an offensive name to my culture. They looked to be in very bad shape, moaning on the ground and whatnot. One even appeared to be bleeding if you must know. I heard a gunshot and went to help, but they seemed to be allied with that dragon fellow, and I do not want to get his attention thank you very much."

"Please stay on the line a car will be there shortly." The operator instructed.

"Sorry, I can not do that, very busy, thank you come again." And with that I hung up on her, flipped the phone over, took the case off, and took out the battery and sim chip, dumping the entire assembly in a trash can as I walked.

Herb was covering his mouth trying not to laugh. "You are so racist," he giggled.

I sighed, "Dude, we are having so much bad luck I don't want to get a murder rap. Besides, with an accent that bad it's hard to tell my actual accent, so that helps. Think of how screwed up things are today, we've gotten jumped by thugs three times in broad daylight, and it isn't even ten. Things didn't get that bad in canon until after Leviathan paid this place a visit, and even then, not really. We both took Worst Day Ever when we made our characters, and I want to mitigate as much of that as I can. Also, who the hell names their chain of coffee shops MaHotma Grindy? That's like the definition of Cultural Appropriation! Screw it, not my problem."

Finally reaching the boardwalk, we found a restaurant, though the only seating was on the boardwalk, sitting out and exposed. Herb ducked inside to use the bathroom, coming back a moment later. "Clogged," was his statement as he sat down. A few minutes later our breakfast, now closer to brunch, came, with water as they were out of coffee, cocoa, juice, tea, soda, & milk. My waffle was burnt, and his eggs were undercooked, both meals containing a not insignificant number of hairs. I got up, ready to make a complaint as Herb grabbed my hand, shaking his head before pointing at the large Russian man in the back who had been drinking the same cup of coffee as when we showed up half an hour ago. Looking at him he looked back at me, cocked an eyebrow, and shuffled the newspapers in front of him to reveal a pistol for a second before covering it again.

I sat back down. "I could take him," I told Herb, trying to eat the non-burnt portions, dry, because apparently there was no syrup in the entire restaurant.

He patted my hand comfortingly, and a little condescendingly. "I know you could honey, but you just said this day was bad enough, let's not start more shit than necessary."

I growled and ate what was salvageable. Going to pay the for the meal, the cashier told me they only took credit, but for an extra twenty they'd take cash. I stared at the smiling old lady and almost balked. In the scheme of things, it was nothing, I made a few hundred off of the ABB goons alone, but it irked me. Settling the bill, I grabbed Herb and left, muttering about racketeering.

We walked down the boardwalk for a while, looking around, trying to get a feel for the town when my eyes unfocused for a moment, showing an inferno on the boardwalk. Looking closer I saw a great Orange and Steel Grey Flame, billowing off a large Asian man walking determinedly in our direction. In the flames lurked a huge dragon, eyes full of mad rage, looking for something, anything to fight. Grabbing Herb by the arm I took a right and dragged him to the nearest shop, another freaking MaHotma Grindy coffee.

Inside, I pushed him into the line at the back, trying to look nonchalant. "Dude," he said, "If you wanted coffee so bad you should have just said so. Actually!" he perked up, cutting off what I was going to tell him. "This place probably has a bathroom, I'll be right back!"

"Wait!" I called out in panic as he disappeared, leaving me alone. Seeing the eyes of others on me I added "You didn't tell me your order!" People turned away, and then all I had to do was wait and see if what could only be Lung, leader of the ABB, showed up. Unfortunately, my Power Sight seemed to only work if I could see them in person, so if I couldn't physically see him, I couldn't see his power. A few minutes passed with nothing, and I started to relax as I kept an eye on the door when my power flared and I saw the dragon. Walking in the door, the large man had to almost duck down, looking around for someone. I turned to look away to try not to attract attention from the villain.

"You, Red Lion!" he called at me. I froze. Shit, I forgot to change my jacket I panicked as thought about it. The guys I took down must have called their boss. But why would Lung care about a trio of low level bangers?

"Yes?" I asked, staring at his chest, not sure if looking him in the eye would have been an insult or not. The bare chest that peeked out of the top of his dress shirt was dark with tattoos. Definitely Yakuza, damn. If I had any doubts as to who I was talking to, they were gone.

"You put my men in the hospital. You disrespect them, you disrespect me. That cannot be allowed," he rumbled, his deep voice reverberating around the café easily. Everyone around me quickly backed away, not wanting to get close, but wanting to see what happened, the cell-phone cameras coming out.

I flicked up my hood, physically raising the portion covering my mouth instead of willing it to do so itself. I added gloves to what I was wearing leaving only my glowing eyes visible. Highly identifiable, but better than nothing. Maybe if I could be respectful enough, I could defuse the situation. Maybe. "In my defense, they did try to rob me for no good reason, and then tried to shoot me in the head. That's not really respectful either. Your idea of honor seems a bit slanted if you're okay with that," I responded smoothly. There was a beat of stillness. Dear god why did I say that! I screamed internally.

Lung blinked, glaring at me. "You think this is funny?" he asked, stalking towards me. the air around him starting to shimmer with heat.

I took a deep breath before responding, considering my options. If he transformed, I could probably steal a copy of his power, but I could feel my own trying to do so, not able to get a handle on it. Maybe he has to transform more? Oh god, if he has to go full dragon before it'll work I'll be long dead! I suppressed the urge to glance behind me, wondering where the hell Herb was. It'd only been a couple of minutes, but I needed him out here helping, or to lead him away.

I considered using my Speed Zones to throw him to the side, and ride more of them out to run, but any large-scale use of it would automatically out me not only as a cape, but as having Skidmark's power, and every-time I read a story with power-copiers, the people with regular powers tended to hate them right off the bat. Probably a deeper psychological reason for that, but not something to worry about now as he was obviously waiting for a response.

I looked up at the slowly growing man, "Sorry sir, I meant no disrespect, when I get scared I get sarcastic. It's a bad trait. I meant to say I am new and do not yet know these territories. I respectfully asked your men if they knew where I could find breakfast and they tried to take everything I owned. I only wished to walk away, but they tried to kill me. Self-defense is the basic right of all men. Sir."

He looked me in the eyes, which were probably easily seen to be glowing under my hood, but hopefully only to him. With any luck, he'd let me go with a warning and talk to his followers not to pick fights with people who obviously had superpowers. Demanding, he pseudo-asked "You said you were new, but you knew me on sight. Explain."

This was easy. "Before I travel to a new city I look up the major players: You, Kaiser, Armsmaster, Coil. I want to know who to not offend sir."

"Coil?" was the response.

Shit I thought. He's pretending to be a minor player now. How the hell would I have heard of him? "My source said he had connections sir, that it wasn't his power or tinker tech that made him dangerous, but his connections."

He continued to stare down at me, the air around him slowly oscillating between calm and shimmering with heat, as if his power didn't know whether to activate or not. Looking closer at it, I Knew it was a Changer power at heart, not a Brute, that had adapted to his psyche to turn him into his idea of an apex predator, a dragon, but the power had self-limited to conflict, though the nature of that conflict was up to Lung. Did this count as a conflict? It normally was hard to get truly mad when someone when they were honestly being helpful, but that wasn't an ironclad protection.

"They said you had a partner. Where is he?" he ground out. Was it good or bad that he wasn't addressing any of my points?

"Um," I started, trying to figure out an answer that wouldn't get Herb ambushed with his pants down. Lung took a step forward, the air shimmering in a halo around him. I saw sweat start to bead on the skin of those hugging the walls, and on an intellectual level I felt it too, though it didn't bother me. "I was getting us both coffee, he should be here soon. He might have seen you and ran though. It would be the smart thing to do, Sir."

Lung smiled, more baring of his teeth then any friendly gesture required. "Then he should be able to call for an ambulance when he finds you, like you did for my men. You will be in worse shape." He reached out with a hand for my neck. Yeah, that's not gonna happen I thought as I jerked back, batting it away.

His eyes narrowed and he reached for me again, the nails on his hand lengthening and sharpening. What to do? I thought. I still didn't want to out myself as a cape, trying to figure out what to do that would be subtle. I ducked under the hand, jerking my head back as his other hand came up, clawed and ready to rip. Taking a step forward he came at me with a hook. Which I dodged again, grabbing his arm and twisting it into a throw, shoving him into the glass counter which shattered, the insides promptly catching fire.

He must have been hotter than I thought I mused as he picked himself up. Where the fuck are you Herb? The Baristas screamed as they fled to the back, one brave soul stopping at the doorway to continue filming me. Glancing around people had backed up towards the door, still watching. Ugh, Yuppies. Lung turned around, bit of flame starting to dance around and glared at me, bits of burning pastry stuck to his face. "For that, you die!" he declared, charging me.

I dropped a speed zone behind me as he ran towards me, arms out. A smaller one an inch wide was laid to to my side, and I stepped on it, moving faster than he expected as I dodged, grabbing his arm to mime throwing him as his foot hit my seven-layered zone, accelerating him rapidly. He was thrown into several tables ending his flight impacting the far wall, plaster cracking before it blackened as a wave of flame erupted from the downed form of Lung.

The inferno washed over his surroundings, lighting the couch, tables, and chairs ablaze as Lung got up and reared back to bathe me in flame. I jumped forward, stepping on the Zone and shot through the cleared path at speed as Lung unleashed a blaze from his increasingly distended jaws. Layering down a lift Zone right in front of the bipedal dragon I weathered the torrent, the heat doing nothing to me, stomping on it as I ducked down. Rising in time with my power shoving me up, extending my body upwards in a jumping uppercut, I caught him directly in the jaw, dismissing my power in a flash of light as I lifted him off his scaly feet, sending him backwards into the wall again. I hit the ground, holding my throbbing hand; even though the gloves that hurt!

I turned my attention back to my foe, he slumped against the wall, the fires around me dying down to mortal levels. Half the place was on fire but I didn't care, I was winning against Lung! I glanced at the entrance and the number of people had diminished, but a few were still filming. I gave them a thumbs up as something flickered in my vision and my feet were knocked out from under me by a round and hard appendage. Hitting the ground on my back, I 'oomphed' with the impact as Lung came out of the flames. He was easily twelve feet tall now, hunched down to fit in the ten-foot clearance of the café. I started to get up when a huge hand planted itself on my chest, talons pressing against the fabric but not piercing even the cloth of my hoodie.

Lung's draconic face leered out of the flames, skin replaced with steel scales and distended into a dragon's muzzle. I could see a large tail flickering out behind him, my power seizing on that, trying to grab his power, but not managing it. Oh come on! I despaired. Do I need the wings too before I can copy him? "Wha' are oo?" he demanded before shaking his head, flame flickering from around his jaws. "Don' Ca'e, Die!" he yelled, bringing his other hand up, talons ready and started to swing for my face. Fuck, I hope Herb got away okay. I thought as I struggled, trying and failing to dislodge the arm pinning me in place.

As the clawed hand descended another flashed into sight, this one reptilian as well, but a dark brown and closer to a crocodile skin then the layered scales of Lung's armor. This new hand and arm, the rest obscured by flame and smoke, followed a ballistic course before impacting the side of Lung's head at speed, the dragon looking confused for a frozen moment before he was propelled off of me and out the door, breaking the glass as he flew, the screams of the people on the boardwalk reaching my ears as I heard him impact the store across the way.

I blinked stupidly as I saw Herb run over to me, a woman's jacket wrapped around his head, leaving his eyes watering, wide, and uncovered. "What the hell man!" he yelled as he helped me up. We staggered out of the burning store, him holding me up as I limped out, getting my breath back and regaining my panicked thoughts. Across from us Lung, in almost full dragon mode, staggered out of a burning restaurant, glaring at us.

Herb froze as I started to run, stumbling as I jerked my friend off his feet. He quickly started running next to me. Glancing, "Can you summon your thing yet?" I asked as we hauled ass.

He shook his head. "No, I almost had it but I had to save your stupid ass!" he yelled, glancing back as Lung started to gain on us, leaving flaming prints and he loped on all fours.

We both dodged around a lost looking muscular teenager who had been looking at the fire. Shouldn't he be in school? I thought as I passed him, staring him in the eyes. Something about him seemed familiar, but I didn't have the time to stop and chat with strangers.

We needed to get away, but if our luck held we wouldn't be getting help from the Parahuman Response Teams. What was that phrase about cops? 'When seconds count, they're minutes away?' I could use my power, but that would only give us a little bit of a lead, and if I wasn't careful Lung would use it to catch up to us. Where could I put a zone that Lung couldn't use it. I thought as we ran for our lives. My hand? But that would be awkward to balance on. I slapped my head as I realized what I needed to do. "What?" Herb asked. "You have that 'I'm about to do something stupid' look. I know that look!"

"Jump!" I commanded.

"Wha-," he asked.

"JUST FUCKING JUMP!" I commanded, jumping myself and trying to drag him upwards as I did so. He leapt, and as we left the ground I covered the bottoms of our shoes with Zones pointing backwards. I ran into the problem of having to deal with backlash fighting the ABB as apparently whatever I applied the field to trying to move opposite the thing it was propelling. This way, we'd try to move the earth behind us, which wouldn't happen, but the backlash would move us forward instead. Hitting the ground, I was immediately jerked forward, as was Herb with an "ohshit!" right next to me.

We were moving just as fast as we had been running, Lung still gaining, so I felt with my power, feeling the four active fields without seeing them. I applied another layer to all of them, jerking us forward again as we picked up speed, then another. Herb held on to my arm for dear life, trying not to scream as we blasted past stores, leaving the angry dragon in our metaphorical dust.
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Ngl, I could never get into this fic; Herb is just by far, one of the most unlikeable characters I've seen in any piece of fiction.
Ngl, I could never get into this fic; Herb is just by far, one of the most unlikeable characters I've seen in any piece of fiction.

Eh, fair. If I was to rewrite this I'd listen to Herb a lot less about his character, as he was writing himself a lot younger, like, before we met younger, and was trying to do so instead of just being him because he thought it'd make for a better story. However, his character didn't really develop for a while, because he kept mentally referencing back to that version of him instead of making a seperate sub-identity that is the 'me that went through all the shit in this story' for the first year or two.

He also wasn't honest about what he was trying to do at the time, and we've since hashed it out, but that's the problem with serial fiction like this, you can't go back and fix big things like that. If I write another story with us, I'll have him as he is now, instead of how he apparently was back then, because god knows there's enough stuff that can go wrong without one of the 'protagonists' undercutting the other every few chapters.

Ironically, he was just as mistaken about what he was doing then, as his character is mistaken about things in this story.
Conception 1.5
Conception 1.5

We sped down the Boardwalk, skating on my power, only turning slightly to avoid people as we hit the edge of that part of the city. I dragged him into the road as we shot down the street, trying to avoid cars as we moved. Looking forward I saw we were headed for a T intersection, and I wasn't sure of our ability to turn. I tried to mentally reach out to the Speed Zones on the bottom of my feet to strip off the layers instead of dismissing entirely. I could feel the field, and the layers, but as I tried to strip a layer off my left foot there was a flash and the entire zone dissipated.

Sweating, I held on to Herb as I started to slow, but not nearly enough. I pushed him, shifting his weight onto the foot on the other side of me. He looked at me as I tried stripping off a layer from his raised foot, dispelling that Zone as well. Shit. I thought. We'd slowed to somewhere close to thirty miles per hour but that was still too damn fast. "We can't turn!" I yelled at him. "When I say jump, jump and we'll try to bleed off the speed. Keep running!" I commanded. He nodded and followed my command of "Jump!"
I dispelled the Zones on our feet and we hit the ground, running far too fast. It wasn't a good feeling, more like constantly stumbling forward in a mad attempt to keep your feet under you than some kind of superhuman experience. We hit the edge of the intersection right after we landed, doing well for a second before a truck bore down on us, horn blaring. Without thinking I swung my arm out, shoving Herb square in the chest, slowing him down. I looked back at him as he fell with a roll, stopping safely as I launched myself forward, almost clearing the truck. In a panic, I dropped a lift Zone on the front of the truck's grill, catching me and giving me momentum in the direction the truck was going right before it hit me mid-leap, lessening the speed differential.

The impact didn't come with the crunch of breaking bone like I feared, the bruising force launching me over a parked car. I impacted the sidewalk, instinctually rolling and shoving myself upwards to minimize damage, launching myself up and through a plate glass window before landing on a table, which promptly collapsed, something hot splashing across my face.

"Owwww," I groaned, well over half of my body notifying me of their collective distress with my current life choices. I dismissed the field on the truck as I lay there, rallying myself to get up.

"Are you okay?" came a concerned man's voice. Looking over I saw an Indian guy in a business suit sitting on a stool that was probably supposed to go with the table now underneath me. "Do I need to call an ambulance?"

I rolled to my feet, my side throbbing in pain from where I'd hip-checked a semi, back aching from the impact with the table. Looking at the glass I was amazed I hadn't been cut. I hurt, but it was manageable, and nothing on what I felt in that prismatic place. "I'm good," I groaned out, waving him off. "Thanks for asking." I grabbed my wallet and handed him a twenty, telling him "For your coffee," as I walked out the front door.

Limping back to the intersection, I saw Herb sitting soot stained, still wearing the canary yellow jacket wrapped around his head, staring dumbly at the truck stopped a few feet in front of him. As I got closer my stride smoothed out a bit, feeling sore instead of lame. The trucker had gotten out and was yelling at me. "Holy shit are you oka-" He cut himself as he saw my glowing eyes "Fucking capes! What the fuck do you think you were doing boy! If I wanted a hood ornament I'd buy one!" He looked between the two of us. "You can't go runnin' around like you own the place. Why the fuck did you do something stupid like that?"

"Lung." Herb said in a shocked voice, staring at the truck that almost hit him. "We were running from Lung."

The trucker peered at him, then me. "Why the fuck did you piss of that scaly bastard?"

"Good question," my friend agreed, turning to look at me accusingly. "Why did we do that?"

"His guys tried to mug us. We objected. They tried to kill us. We strongly objected. Lung tried to kill us for strongly objecting, and we very strongly objected." I explained, walking over to help Herb up, putting one of his arms over my shoulder as we staggered away. "New Trigger, haven't got the hang of it yet, sorry."

He looked at us, at his undamaged truck, and the broken window. Following his gaze, I saw it was another MaHotma Grindy. How many of those are in the city? I thought, carrying my friend towards an alley. Looking back at us the trucker winced. "Maybe you boys should go to the local PRT office," he advised, pointing to the south. "You boys need a ride? It'd be cramped but you don't look good."

Not a chance in hell. I know exactly how corrupt the Parahuman Response Teams are and I'm not going in there without an exit plan. "That might be a good idea," I nodded, setting off in that direction. "This town's more dangerous than I thought, but we need a bit of a walk to cool down. 'Walk it off' like my coach says. Thanks for the offer."

He laughed as he got back into his truck. "It ain't that bad. Take care of yourselves!"

"You too!" I called back. It is, you just can't see it I thought. This place wasn't quite a powder keg, more like a badly maintained grain silo, where if conditions were right, it would explode, every safety that should have stopped it hopelessly broken. Leviathan was definitely the spark that would mess this place up, and if I wanted to make things better, I needed time to stop and think.

"That sucked," groaned Herb as we staggered down the alley, coming around and pulling his arm back, rubbing his chest where I'd shoved him as he looked around, taking the jacket from around his head. He looked at me, shaking his head. "What the fuck were you thinking?" he asked, heat rising in his voice.

I blinked. "That as we were running we were both gonna get hit, but if I shoved you back you'd stop and I'd have enough momentum to clear the truck. It didn't quite work but-"

"Not that you fucktard! For fighting Lung! You didn't even have his power you dumbass!" He yelled, shoving me against the alley wall.

I cocked my head, more confused than anything. "You were in the bathroom, I needed to buy time for you to get out."

"And you never thought to, I don't know, knock on the bathroom door? I'd have gotten off the shitter in a hurry if you were like 'Yo, Fire breathing dragon comin' for us!' Instead I took my time until I smelled smoke, opened the door, and saw the goddamn building ON FIRE in time to see you uppercut God Damn LUNG!" he screamed, getting hysterical.

"Yeah, it was awesome." I laughed, continuing at his glare. "I shouldn't have looked away but I was doing pretty well up to that point. And hey, we got away, so it's fine." I defended. It was a bit touch and go but we got away. Lung would be on the lookout for someone with my eyes, but a pair of shades and I should be able to go under his radar. I was planning on grabbing a strength power, so the next time we clashed I could back it up, and I'd take a major step in solving the villain problem. I might even get his power, and wouldn't that be awesome?

Herb looked at me, then threw his hands up, screaming incoherently between clenched teeth. Stepping back, he took several deep breaths muttering under his breath. "Fucking dumbass, deals in fucking logic, use logic." He froze and turned back to me. "Why didn't you copy his power? If you did I wouldn't have needed to save your ass! I got a dose of it when I got close and I didn't get any of it from you."

"I would if I could, but the power wouldn't catch. I think he had to fully transform before it would take." I answered honestly. "I know we need to talk about this, but can we not do so right next to the place I got thrown through a window?"

He glared at me, looking down the way we came before nodding and following me out. We cut across another street before ducking down another alley. Down that one I shifted my jacket to a splotchy grey, the hoody a uniform grey just a bit lighter, trying to avoid anyone looking for a red lion. As I was doing this Herb spoke up again, "Please don't tell me you were fighting Lung just so you could take his power. Indoors!"

I bristled at the implications, "I told you I-"

"Were doing it to protect me, I know," he cut me off. "But there were other ways you could have fucking done it dumbass. Hell, why didn't you throw him out with your zones, hit the door 'till I got out, and we run out the back?"

"I was trying to avoid overt use of my powers, keep things low key," I told him, continuing past his strangled gasp of "Low key, you fought fucking LUNG!" to explain "I kept it small until he started fires, then pretended it was super strength, using the fire to cover the effects. Then he breathed fire, which I'm immune to, and I saw an opportunity to knock him down, and I took it, and it was awesome." I finished. "Hurt my hand, but worth it."

"And then what did you do?" he pressed.

I looked at him, not understanding. "I waited to see if he got up."

"THAT! That is why I think you were trying to fucking bait him!" My friend exclaimed. "Lung's a regenerator, you knock him down and he gets back up even badder. If you were trying to take him down you should have followed him down and fucked him up. Taylor took out his fucking EYES and you just waited like a dumbass, and when he did what Lung ALWAYS DOES, he caught you by surprise and you were half a second from getting your fucking face ripped off."

I winced, going over the events in my mind. "I wasn't doing that. Was I?" I focused on what had been going on. Sighing and putting my face in my hands, realizing my mistake, "No, I wasn't baiting him, but I was being a dumbass."

"Oh really?" he inquired. "Seems pretty fuckin' obvious to me."

"I was treating him like a human opponent. I didn't want to fight him, so I thought if I hit him hard enough he'd stay down, but he treats every confrontation like a pack alpha, constantly asserting his dominance. I'm not gonna say I didn't want his power," I added, cutting him off, "Just that that wasn't my main motivation. I treated him like a person, but he isn't really, and not just 'cause he's a cape. He turns into a dragon, or at least, what he thinks a dragon is, and that mimics the neurochemistry of his idea of dragons. They constantly fight for dominance, so he does, and the more he sinks into his power the worse it is. When he goes back to normal though that sticks around. Maybe if he didn't use his power for a bit he might even out, but he almost always is at a low level, so his anger doesn't tire him out because that part of his brain is constantly healed. God I'm such a dumbass. I should have done some obfuscation shit, ran, come back for you, and then we left, but I was winning, or at least not losing long enough I thought I had a chance with a direct confrontation. If you hadn't come in I would have died." I glanced at his mouth, as he got ready to respond, but his teeth were still normal. "Do you have a handle on your power yet?"

His expression, which was tending towards conciliatory hardened again. "No," he growled. "I thought I was getting somewhere but this overconfident dipshit needed my help so I partially had it, again, and lost hold of it." He reached his hand out to the side, making a fist as the air around him shimmered, a slight brown tint to it before it vanished into nothing. "I'm close, but I lost it when I saw what was happening." His expression softened again. "Just, just don't do anything stupid like that again." He sighed, amending, "Today. I know how you are."

I wanted to argue, but wasn't really sure how to start. I fucked up, hard. I knew Lung regenerated, but I didn't explicitly read it in his power so I'd forgotten about it. Technically he didn't heal, he just was constantly trying to turn into a dragon, one that wasn't injured. It was slower when he wasn't explicitly fighting, but he was still trying to be one at all times, just a fraction of one instead. However, I hadn't seen it in the express manifestation of his power, and forgot about anything other than what was explicitly there, looking at the surface of what he could do, not the depths that made the obvious parts work, and it'd fucked me over.

Instead I nodded, moving back towards the end of the alley, turning the corner and spotting an empty bus-stop I wandered over. "We've gotten distracted," I started, pointedly ignoring Herb's snort, "But we still have our mission. It's gotta be close to eleven, we take a bus to Winslow, pull her out, get her taken care of, and disappear until the heat dies down." I looked at the chart of colored lines. "Danny works at the docks, and it's easy for her to get there so she must be up here," I waved at the northwestern portion of the map. "That means we want bus number 8."

Herb nodded, taking a seat, letting out a deep breath, starting to attempt to manifest his power, before looking around and letting his arm drop. "So, when we did the thing online it was supposed to be fun," he started, "All jokey-jokey, 'wouldn't it be cool' shit, but now that we're here, I don't have any powers!"

"Yes, you do," I told him. "You're buff, you've got the ability to copy powers of anyone within five meters of you, and you've got the power to replicate yourself. I don't know how the last one works, and it looks like it's still recharging, but that's a thing. Also, you've got your projection power, if you can figure out how to bring that back online."

"Yep," he seemingly agreed. "I've got no powers. No, ya know what? I've apparently got the power of running my ass off and not getting super tired."

I winced, as it was because of me that he'd had to do so. "You've got practically superhuman endurance. Ladies love that shit."

"Yeah," he sighed, looking off into the distance.

Rolling my eyes, I continued. "It's probably because of the fact that it's such a powerful ability that it's taking so long to work."

He turned to me. expression questioningly accusatory. "Your power is pretty broken too."

"Not at first," I disagreed. "Given time, hell yeah, but to start with it's pretty weaksauce. You not only have your projection, Stand, summon, thing, but it has powers of its own as well, all of which are the empowered Second Trigger versions. That may be why it's taking so long."

His brow furrowed. "It does? I know that it had shapeshifting but I don't remember what else it had. I-" he cut himself off, pointing at the coming bus. We got on, paid the fee, and sat at the empty rear. "Course you'd make me sit in the back of the bus," he jibed.

"Shut up man, we need to talk about what we picked, since you don't remember." I sighed, running my hands through my hair. "I think I do, so I'll try to recap. We picked the Gestation start, obviously, so we're following canon. If I knew we were gonna be dropped in I would've gone for Golden Age instead, it would've given us more powers and dropped us off in the late eighties, but oh well. The rest," I concentrated. "We're both Abaddon shards, so we start strong and get ridiculous. I'm a Hero, because I'm saving the world, and you chose Cauldron, so you're the support from the shadows."

"Don't have that." Herb denied. "I'm pretty sure I'd notice if I did."

I waggled my hand in a so-so gesture. "I think you will get support, just not right away. It's probably all the drawbacks we took screwing with us. We both took two ranks of Worst Day Ever, the max was three ranks where the world itself is trying to kill you."

"Ya might not have noticed, but it kinda seems like it is. Lung?"

I waved around the bus, which only had a few people in it, an old woman with a small dog staring at us warily, a guy who looked three sheets to the wind, and a black girl, maybe fourteen, dressed trashily who kept sneaking glances at us. "Nothing's trying to kill us right this minute. That's what we get for two out of three. Then there's the issue of costumes."

"Yeah, what the hell. I ended up nekkid. Where's mine?" he squawked.

I sighed as all three of the other passengers looked at us. "Dude, keep it down. I think you'll get yours later. I think. . . I think I've already got mine."

He glanced at my hoodie. "Not much of one."

Rolling my eyes I explained, "Yeah, because it shifts. I picked the 'other' option like you, but you wanted a robot-suit combo, I wrote down 'dimensional cloak' because it sounded cool. I think this is what I got." I pulled the fabric of the hoody sleeve out of my jacket's sleeve, holding it taut as I pulled my arm back. "Use the knife you got from the Merchants and try to cut it." Shrugging he did so, taking out the blade to disapproving huff of the dog-lady. He tried sawing the knife on the cotton fabric, to no avail. "Now stab it." He did so, only serving to move the fabric with the force of the blow. He tried a couple more times, never piercing the fabric.

"Wicked." Called the black girl. My head snapped up to see her a few feet away, staring us. "Is that like some stab proof shit? Where can I get me some of that?" Looking closer at her I saw that she had almost aristocratic features that she would grow into, something that her horrible fashion distracted from. The juxtaposition seemed familiar, but I couldn't remember why.

"Parian." I told her, lies flowing easily as I tried to remember why she should seem familiar. "The Rogue that does clothing. Costs a bit, but damn fine work."

"That's cool as shit." She commented, looking out the window. "My stop, later losers." And with that she was out the door.

"Why does she look so fuckin' familiar," commented Herb.

"'cause I'm pretty sure that was Aisha Labron, also known as Imp when she gets powers after the Leviathan attack." I explained. "I got an option of one of six 'gifts', Perfect recall of the plot, with all the notes, seeing interludes in my dreams, a do over of power selections if I died, being dropped back home if I died, returning back home with powers if I win, or, the thing I went with, Plot Relevance. Narratively important shit's gonna happen around me all the time."

"Oh. That's. . . good?" He asked.

"It is what it is, right, so, other stuff. We both were drop-ins instead of inserts-"

"Literally!" he joked.

"Yeah, I don't think that it was supposed to be," I mused. "But the two of us have no identities here, which is gonna make things harder, unlike. . . shit."

Herb looked around, trying to find the danger. "What? Are we gonna have to fight Kaiser or something."

"No, remember when we were. . . elsewhere, and that black and white thing passed by us laughing?"

He shivered. "Yeah, that was freaky."

"That was my father."

A deadpan look was his response. "What."

"He was an insert, so he wouldn't be physically dropped in, his soul would be, or maybe his mind, either way, I'm pretty sure that was him."

He just nodded. "Okay, so your old man's in here as well. Okay. Sure. Why not?"

I sighed. "So, back to us. We both bought skills, but I can't remember which ones. You picked up martial arts, while mine are learned. We both picked up parkour, which has been useful. I think we both have stealth, but that hasn't really been helping lately. I think we've picked up others, but I can't remember which. For positives, all three of us took plot convenience, which is a damn good thing."


"Because it means that until we upset the apple cart, our existence is already figured in with all the major player's plans. Contessa, the Simurgh, and anyone else with that level of ability to see the future won't freak out until we move and start messing up everything."

He looked at me before pointing straight up. "Um, hello, we met Ziz, shouldn't the power have stopped that shit?"

Shaking my head, I continued. "It doesn't stop them from seeing us, just from going 'oh god, I never counted on them being here, where did they come from, kill it with fire' just for being here. She knew we were coming so was probably around to take a look at us. Technically you. And that's it. Hopefully. That brings me to the next point, both my dad and I are Blindspots. We can't be seen by Precogs which will mean that as soon as either of us become major players it'll unsettle precogs as they can't read us, and the only others that they can't read are Scion and the Endbringers."

"I can see how they'd freak the fuck out over that shit," he nodded.

I wracked my memory for what else I'd chosen. "If I remember right, you'll get a lair while I'm a Noctis cape, so I don't sleep, and if I do I just remember things with perfect clarity."

"That's gotta suck." he responded solemnly.

"Why? Nevermind, the only other thing is that I picked up Negentropy."

"What the hell's that?" he asked.

I took a deep breath. "Okay, so the entities like Scion, they're doing this entire process of seeding worlds with powers, harvesting them, spawning and blowing up the world because they're trying to find something that will let them negate entropy and survive even the universe's end. Natural triggers from Scion? They've got a century or two of power use before it runs out. Eden triggers from Cauldron vials? They've got a century if they're careful, less if they have regularly use them. Constant hardcore use drops that to thirty to forty years, like Eidolon. Abaddon triggers like us though, we've got several centuries of Eidolon level use, but I think long-term, and I spent the points to make my shard give a middle finger to the heat-death of the universe, so it's truly eternal!" I finished with a grin.

Herb stared at me in stunned disbelief, finally informing me "You're a dumbass."

"What?" I started. "I know I could have handled the Lung thing better but-"

"No no no no," he held a hand up. "The Lung thing was like 'whups I added too much salt to my soup' levels of dumbass compared to this fuckup of, fuck, 'did I just pop the sun' levels of dumbassery. You copy powers, right?" I nodded, not following. "Which means you're going to want to copy Scion's right?"

"Yeah, I mean I kinda have to if I'm gonna go toe to toe with him," I agreed.

"Shush. Scion can feel people's shards, right?" he questioned. "That's why he hated Eidolon."

I nodded, "Yeah, I guess."

"Then what do you think he's gonna fucking do when he sees a shard, which has the one thing his entire species has killed I don't know how many to get just hangin' around?" he demanded. "He's gonna go straight for that shit immediately!"

"Oh. Well. Shit. Damn. I. I didn't think about that." I admitted. "So no going near him until the endgame. I can manage that, sorta."

"What do you mean 'sorta'" he demanded.

"Well he stops the Leviathan fight, which both of us have to fight in. So we need to do so then GTFO as fast as possible. It adds some complexity to the problem, but I can change it."

Herb sighed. "What else did you get, anything else that's gonna get Scion, who's apparently evil, on your ass or anything like that?"

"Um, no?" I hazarded. "We both should have Cauldron vials, but you might get both of ours when you get your costume. The disadvantages we both got, um," I stalled trying to remember. "We both got Worst Day Ever, two levels, we all had Rough Start, I got two levels, you got three, so soon, probably today, you're going to end up homeless, in debt, and a social pariah."

"Well, we ain't got no papers for being here legally, so we're already homeless. If they track us down we're gonna be on the hook for that shop you burned down-"

"That was Lung," I insisted.

He waved off my objections, "Like they'll try to collect from the dragon of Kyushu. Nah, they'll try and pin it on us since we won't burn their house down for trying." He looked thoughtful. "Though that would be a good way of scaring off debt collectors."

I sighed. "Don't burn down people's homes Herb, it wouldn't work out in the long term anyways. Lung gets Bird-caged, and as good as we are, escaping from that parahuman prison is not something I want to try anytime soon."

"No promises."

I sighed. "So, dad's power is that he can't be recorded on anything, astral projection, but most importantly he picked up Destiny Weaver. It's like a more limited Path to Victory where he sees a person's possible fate in twelve hours, picks one, and then knows what to do to make that happen, so when we have time to do some research, we need to look over the capes in town to find any new ones, since he never picked out a cape name. Lastly there's your projection."

"Yeah, what I was actually asking about."

"Sorry, got sidetracked. So it can turn into any animal, short of microbes, and-"

He cut me off, "What about mythical animals, 'cause that would be awesome. Lung vs an actual dragon!"

I shrugged. "No idea, our powers get better with time, so maybe, and if not maybe later? It'll also have upper tier vampirism, so it'll heal from hurting others, but also get stronger and faster the longer it fights. Kinda like Lung, but different underlying mechanics. It can jump super high, and double jump in the air once per jump. You made it immune to poisons, acid, heat, cold, radiation, and electricity, and you also gave it the ability to fake its death."

"Holy shit, that's awesome!" he exclaimed, getting looks from the other dog lady, the drunk guy apparently having gotten off while we were talking.

"Yeah," I whispered. "That's why I think it's taking so long, you aren't activating one second tier power like me, you're activating six at once."

Herb sat back, considering that, smiling broadly. I looked around and noticed the apartment buildings we were passing, with houses in the distance. They looked nice, really nice. That bugged me, but I couldn't figure out why. I got up and walked to the front of the bus, asking the driver. "Hi, how many more stops until the high school? My friend and I are supposed to meet someone who lives near there."

The driver gave me a questioning look. "It's the next stop." He answered carefully. "You're not gonna do anything bad are ya? No fighting?"

"What? No, of course not, we're just meeting some friends." I was confused by his statement for a second before realizing he wasn't looking me in the eye, he was staring at my eyes. "Don't worry, I'm not planning on doing anything illegal. Thanks for the help." With that I walked back, motioning Herb to follow me at the next stop as we got out. Turning around after we got out, the bus left, showing us a beautiful gated campus, the words Immaculata High emblazoned over the archway.
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Holy shit yes! I've been lurking/following this since..before chap 100. Its good to have this here Lee.:D
Maybe, in time bring over the Star Wars one as well just to be safe? While Ffn is not as arbitrary as the other place over its enforcement of its rules, and it frankly rarely gives a shit about lewd stuff. Its better to be safe than sorry.

And for the record, not surprised they found something to dislike:rolleyes:

I have a question,
I've been letting chapters stockpile (sometimes, reading fast can be a curse) since the latest replicant appeared. The one who threatened to steal Kayden from Herb.
After the infiltrator and the escape from the attempted Panacea-Vejovis kidnapping.
Is it safe to read now or will i land in a cliffhanger, if not how many chapters should i wait approximately?
Holy shit yes! I've been lurking/following this since..before chap 100. Its good to have this here Lee.:D
Maybe, in time bring over the Star Wars one as well just to be safe? While Ffn is not as arbitrary as the other place over its enforcement of its rules, and it frankly rarely gives a shit about lewd stuff. Its better to be safe than sorry.

And for the record, not surprised they found something to dislike:rolleyes:

I have a question,
I've been letting chapters stockpile (sometimes, reading fast can be a curse) since the latest replicant appeared. The one who threatened to steal Kayden from Herb.
After the infiltrator and the escape from the attempted Panacea-Vejovis kidnapping.
Is it safe to read now or will i land in a cliffhanger, if not how many chapters should i wait approximately?
Wait until the 11th. Or the 18th to be really safe.
Conception 1.6
Conception 1.6

We stared at the school that was the opposite of our intended destination in everything but grade level as I softly swore to myself. Herb walked over to the map before he started laughing. "What?" I snapped, my patience having long since worn thin.

"We got on the wrong bus," he laughed.

"No, we didn't!" I insisted, "We wanted bus number 8, we took bus 8! How are we here!"

He shook his head. "I forgot you're a country bumpkin. Busses run both ways. We took the wrong one, should have gone across the street and taken that bus eight."

My face scrunched up in confusion. "But, that's silly. Why not have the bus have one number for one route and another for the opposite way. It's a digital sign, super easy to switch to avoid confusion! Goddamn it I hate cities."

He continued to laugh, "It makes sense if you pay attention, just our luck."

I groaned, burying my face in my hands. "So where are we?"

He checked the map again. "Found it. Hmm, if Winslow is up here in the northwest part of Brockton Bay, we're in the southern part, on the other side of the city."

I groaned again. "And how far is it if we just fucking walked? With our luck if we get on a bus it'll take us to Boston, and stealing a car will probably get us caught immediately."

"It's a few miles that way," he pointed, "if we walk quickly we can probably make it in an hour and change. I'd get tired out long before, but with these muscles it won't happen."

"Then let's move," I ordered, starting to walk. Herb caught up to me as we travelled, covering the distance in ground-eating strides. "Do you remember how long she was in the locker?" I asked, trying to wrestle down my roiling irritation at getting constantly blocked from trying to do the right thing. All I wanted to do was save a tortured girl from severe psychological trauma, was that too much to ask?

He shook his head, "I remember it being hours, but that can't remember how many. She might already be out man."

I concentrated as we walked, moving swiftly, Herb having to jog a bit to keep up. "I'd say it's almost noon by now, if we make a bee-line for the school we should be there by one, one thirty at the latest. From there we either get her out, or she'll be out already and we'll see the cop cars and maybe an ambulance. If she's there you get within five meters and use her bug control to clear them from the area so she can calm down, and we stop by the hospital later to do the same thing to keep her out of the psych ward. If we see Emma, Sophia, or that other one-"

"I'm gonna punch her in the face," he interjected matter-of-factly.

I paused for a second before continuing, "Yes. No. Not then. First priority is Taylor, revenge later." We'd passed out of sight of the campus and were moving quickly through an industrial area, mostly clean but with bits of dirt here and there. "Wonder where we are exactly, a lot of white people."

"It's cause it's a nicer neighborhood," Herb explained.

I glanced at him, "Isn't that racist?"

He nodded, face full of honest agreement, "Yeah."

I looked at the clean streets and well-kept buildings. "But you're kinda right. Damnnit."

We continued powering through the streets, weaving back and forth to keep as close to a straight line as possible, turning a corner on a side street and stopping. In front of us, hanging out in front of a building, were a bunch of young men, all of them white, several of them tattooed, and a couple with shaved heads. They stopped talking to each other as we turned the corner, looking towards us, several that were sitting down standing up. "Herb," I sighed, I did not have time for this. "What are the three major gangs in Brockton bay?"

Herb glanced back the way we came, a couple more tattooed individuals ambling up the sidewalk, eyeing us. "Well, you've got the ABB, who are a bunch of little boys, it's right in the name. You've got the whacked-out druggies we ran into who call themselves the 'Merchants' which doesn't make any sense whatsoever."

"They sell drugs Herb," I explained.

"Well, that's stupid."

"They were also probably high when they came up with the name."

He nodded. "That I can believe."

I waited for a moment, but he didn't continue, so I prodded, "What's the third gang Herb?"

He sighed, "Oh, that's the Empire Eighty-Eight, but. . ." he trailed off.

"The Neo Nazi White Supremacists?" I asked, looking to see about twelve in front of us, five behind us, and a few more down the street.

He nodded, turning to address the E88 thugs in front of us, "Hey guys, small thing." I sighed, not sure where this was going.

"What do ya want ya sand nigger!" one of them called back.

"What, he's not Arab, he's black you asshole!" I responded. "I know you hate minorities, but would it hurt to be able to recognize them?"

"And White," Herb interjected. "Black and white. Heil Hitler." He gave a half-assed Nazi salute. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be mocking or if he just didn't know what to do. "Suuuup? And Purity-"

"Dude, no," I tried to stop him.

"What?" he asked innocently.

"No. Whatever you're going to say, it's not going to help," I told him.

He waved his hands in negation, "No, no, what I'm saying is, dude, they all know she's hot!"

I quirked an eyebrow. How was this going to go well? "The ex-wife of Kaiser, their leader? Yes, I would assume she's hot."

"Right! So, have you seen her? 'cause, I'd like to see her, and. . ." I brought my hands to my face again, groaning into them, laughing a little at how bad this day was going and how my best friend kept. Making. Everything. Worse. "What?" he asked. "Is it wrong to want to see Purity?"

"You keep your dirty mongloid mitts off her you fucking moon cricket!" called one of the skinheads behind us. "No way we lettin' some Jackamammy son of a whore near her!"

Herb just laughed, "Yeah, I care what some morons who worship a failed artist think. Okay, I'm the weird one here."

I groaned into my hands again, louder. "Why Herb, why must you torment me so. Have I done something to offend you lately?"

"No!" he protested. "I just want to know. I need to know why they want to worship a failed artist."

I was just so sick of this day, that I answered without giving a single fuck. "Why Herb? Because they're not particularly good at anything, and don't want to put in the effort to get good at anything, so these scrubs went, 'Hey, let's try using Identity Politics to get what they want, that never turns out badly! What have we all got? Well, other than our tiny dicks, tiny minds, and lack of ability we've all got white skin! I know let's focus on that because we have the intellectual understanding of a five-month-old baby so let's group things by color instead of shape or function and hey, white is associated with purity, and so that's us!' Ignoring the fact that white people are closer to beige, the most boring of all colors, and damnnit why do I keep doing this?"

"I don't have a tiny dick!" shouted one of the thugs.

I looked at the guy, shorter than the others, with a bit more tattoos and muscles, and responded in the most condescending tone possible, "Oh, I'm sure it's totally above average." I glanced at the people around him. "Given your sample size."

Herb looked at me in awe for a second before adding. "It would explain why Purity left, 'cause none of you could satisfy her. Okay, I'm done, let's run!" he finished, taking off for the smaller group and barreling through them.

I followed him, just in time to see another group of Neo-Nazis turn the corner. Oh you have got to be shitting me I thought as we closed on them. This group closed on Herb, knocking him back with numbers alone. He'd taken down one by the time I reached him, flipping up my hood and mask, falling into the melee with abandon.

Blows were taken and delivered, most of the thugs preferring fisticuffs to weapons, but that changed once the first dozen fell. I saw a flash of silver as one of the thugs whipped out a pistol and pointed it at Herb, shouting "Gun! Duck!" as I layered the barrel with Zones. The gun exploded in the thug's hands when he fired, and I dropped the Zone in the explosion and taking the opportunity in the chaos to grab Herb and run.

We made it several more blocks, the industrial sections starting to taper off into a commercial district when another dozen skinheads jumped us, slowing us down for those behind us to catch up. As we fought I tried to move to fight those taking out knives, taking the slashes on my covered arms, little more than annoyances while my friend focused on doing damage. "Throw one to me!" he called as I disarmed a thug, more coming from who knows where. Shrugging I threw the de-knifed Nazi at him. He clotheslined him before jumping up and coming down on him yelling "Hulkster leg drop!" It looked like it didn't do that much damage to the skinhead, but more than the actual technique it was likely pulled from. Honestly, as a martial artist, I felt embarrassed I knew the difference.

"Fucking wrestling." I muttered as I charged towards him, knocking down several guys who tried to stomp him as he got up. Seeing that he'd suffered a few light slashes and was bleeding slightly, I redoubled my attempts to get the blade users to focus on me when I saw a flicker of something as another thug flew towards him, as if thrown by nothing at all. Herb jumped up, slammed into and rode the guy down yelling "RKO!" Again. "DDT!" and again, someone thrown to him by no one at all. "People's Elbow!"

More thugs were coming, and by this time someone had noticed something was amiss. "Fucking capes!" one yelled, backing off. I turned to look at him, "Really?" with Herb looking around going "What? Where?" The thug pointed behind us as we all turned with the collected skinheads as another figure faded into view.

It was a large man, eight feet tall, with skin a shade darker than Herb's, with the texture of crocodile hide. He was wearing a dark green shirt and black jeans, but his face drew the most attention. He smiled a predator's smile, his teeth all pointed, his canines oversized. His eyes were slitted, but with thin irises more akin to a lizard than a cat.

"What took you so long?" Herb asked the representation of his own will.

His projection practically rumbled as it grinned, all teeth. The Stand's lizard-like hiss deep enough that it sounded more a growl. What the hell? I thought. Is he making it talk, or is it taking cues from his subconscious or. . . doesn't matter, need to focus. The Stand casually backhanded a nearby thug, sending him into a stop-sign which bent in half. A couple more thugs pulled out pistols and aimed at us, at the Stand mostly, and fired. I'd Zone'd two of them in the time they took to draw, and they exploded. Throwing an arm over my exposed face I felt several sharp, stinging impacts as slugs hit the thick, impenetrable leather covering my arm.

Shit, that was close.

Glancing around I saw several flattened shells hit the ground in front of me. Herb's Stand had moved in front of him and the two of them charged the stunned gunmen. As they beat them bloody, I saw the Stand's wounds healing, the bullets being pushed out. As Herb fought beside him, I could also see his own cuts healing, as well as both of them slowly picking up speed. I was confused for a second, taking down another gunman near me as I looked at them, then had to blink back tears as my Sight activated and I Knew them.

Herb's Stand was almost hard to look at, it was so bright, being both of power and having powers of its own. My own power reached out for it, wanting to sample it and take it for my own, but I mentally pulled it back. Copying villains' powers just made sense, and heroes, well very few heroes around here truly deserved the title, but my best friend? No, that would be a line I wouldn't cross. His powers were his, not mine. I saw that he was copying his own Stand's power, healing as he fought and getting stronger and faster as he did so.

We started pulling back, more and more thugs were pouring in from god-knows where as we were forced southwest. Herb and his Stand were fighting side by side, both were shot, their enhanced toughness letting them only suffer moderate wounds, which healed as they soon took down their attackers.

Their speed and strength further increased as they fought and I was having a harder and harder time keeping up, finally dropping Zones on the bottom of my feet just to not fall behind, so great were my friend's joy in battle and having his power at long last. We ran and fought, and I used my new speed to clothesline my opponents, exploding guns where I could. Some idiot brought out an Uzi which I promptly Zoned, the explosion taking him out and the two thugs next to him. As we moved down street after street we were being pushed closer and closer to an impressive looking skyscraper. Turning down the road it was located on I finally recognized it, or, more specifically, could finally read the name emblazoned over the entrance.

It was the Medhall building, the unofficial headquarters of the Empire Eighty-Eight as Max Anders, the CEO, was also Kaiser, leader of the E88 in Brockton Bay. Herb and his Stand raced down the street, Herb grinning while his Stand was laughing with feral glee, both moving inhumanly fast. I dropped a Zone in front of me and landed on it sideways, the Zones on my feet being cancelled out by the stronger zone on the ground as it launched me down the street in a flash of light, dismissing it behind me. I flew in front of them, dropping the Zones on my feet as I broke my fall on a goon with a knife. "Wait!" I cried. "We need to go the other way!"

"Why?" Herb laughed, grin bloody, before glancing past me. "Oh."

I looked that way and saw the three figures striding out the front door in full costume. To the right was a man wearing only boots, loose pants, and a white tiger mask. To the left was a blonde woman in her twenties wearing a metal cage over her head, her body covered in scars. Front and center strode a man with an E88 tattooed on one arm, a wolf over a swastika on the other, a metal wolf mask covering his face. "Shit," I yelled. "It's Hickwolf, Stormtigger, and Crockett!" There was a moment of dead silence as the fighting stopped, several of the Neo-Nazis staring at me in horrified fascination. "Fuck, fuck, shit, I mean Hookwolf, Stormtiger, and. . . Cricket?" I tried to correct, but the damage had already been done.

"Wait, pause." Herb said. At this the Neo-Nazis charged us, though the three parahumans watched. The thug my friend had been fighting took a swing at him, but the Stand grabbed the offending hand and broke it before negligently tossing the thug away. "Cricket's hot," he commented, dodging a knife and punching his attacker in the ribs, the thug hitting the ground several feet away. "In her cut up awesomeness. Oh god," he shivered.

Cricket looked distinctly uncomfortable at Herb's lecherous gaze. "Don't tell me you have a thing for scars, man." I pleaded, backfiring a gun, before being shot in the back, my costume taking the blow as I turned, grabbed that gun by the base, pushed the muzzle to the thug's shoulder, and covering his hand with my own as I pulled the trigger.

Herb took two shots from a thug, one tearing his cheek open. His Stand took out his attacker as he turned and grabbed a knife wielding Neo-Nazi, quickly breaking his arms, his cheek healing as he did so. "Dude," he said, as if he hadn't just been shot. "I've got a thing for everything, and she'd probably love blood."

I grabbed the gun from the guy I'd just made shoot himself, turning and shooting another guy in the leg as he drew down on Herb. "Pan-sexual motherfucker. New rule, shouldn't have to be a rule, no dating white supremacists!"

"Oh come on," he whined. Several of the thugs now giving him and his Stand a wide berth. "You know I could break her!"

Cricket now looked furious, disgusted, and was maybe blushing a bit? It was hard to tell behind the cage. Stormtiger glared at Herb hatefully while Hookwolf looked to his right at his lieutenant questioningly. Cricket looked back at her boss, holding the bottom of one her kamas to her throat "I get the nigger," she buzzed electronically.

Herb winked at her. "Yes baby, yes you do." She howled incoherently as she charged him, his Stand meeting her halfway there. She dodged it blows, her kamas flashing out, the miniature scythes tearing at the flesh but not cutting deep enough to do serious damage even if he was human, but enough to bleed.

Stormtiger looked at me. "You shouldn't have come here nigger-lover," he growled. I Knew his power, Aerokinesis, and saw his White and Black Flames flare as he waved his hand. Pushing Herb one way as I dodged in the other, three waves of compressed, cutting air flew where we had been, gouging out the concrete as they flew into the store behind us, another MaHotma Grindy coffee shop.

What is it with those places? I thought, turning back in time to see Stormtiger flying at me, using his power to propel him into a superhuman long-jump. I Took his power for my own, wrenching a bit of his White and Black fire into me, using it to help push me down as I ducked. He stopped in mid-air, right hand coming down, extending more air-claws to rend me.

In turn I dropped a Speed Zone behind me, stepping on it and jerking backwards. The Neo-Nazi turned from me to Herb, snarling "Just like an inferior race, needing another to do you fighting for you!" as he brought his hand down, sending blades at my friend.

He dodged, barely, as I came up. "That doesn't even make sense, they're both black, and you attacked me!" I called, grabbing a dropped gun and emptying it at the Aerokinetic. The bullets didn't touch him, careening to either side as his power redirected the slugs.

"You don't get to-" he started. I saw Herb's Stand closing from behind and dismissed my Zone, the flash of light cutting him off as I blinked in time with the effect to preserve my own sight. Stormtiger took one step back and started to turn, getting an arm up to block the Stand's punch. His block might have saved his life, as I heard the snap of bone, but he was still sent flying into the coffee shop.

I blinked in shock before I heard a metallic roar and Hookwolf was on the Stand, ripping and tearing. The Lizard man met the metal monstrocity and heaved, throwing the villain after his lieutenant, then turning to me and growling in a way I took to either mean, 'Run, I've got this' or "Back off, he's mine!'

I nodded, as either worked for me, and took off, putting Zones on my feet to skate towards Herb who was 'fighting' Cricket. Neither of them were hitting the other, the only visible wounds a couple of thin lines, barely perceptible against his skin, on Herb's arms and legs. Herb looked past her at me as I rushed closer and dodged a blade, slipping to the side and spanking her ass with all his strength with one hand, the other I grabbed my outstretched arm as I passed them both. I pulled behind me as I skated, seeing her, Knowing her, and Taking the Green and White flame of her Acoustokinesis for my own. Dodging her blade as well, I smiled at her shriek of outrage as we sped out. Herb calling "That was fun, let's play again later!" as she screamed with frustrated bloodlust. He climbed up piggyback onto as I retreated at speed.

"That's a girl who needs to get laid," he informed me as we fled.
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Conception 1.7
Conception 1.7

We travelled north and east, and once we were back in downtown I slowed, jumping, dismissing my power while simultaneous layering a weaker set on my feet, using those to slow down until I could dismiss them enough to run to a stop down an alley. As much as I'd like to just skate the entire way there, I needed to duck any official attention until I could make sure Taylor was okay. I stood there for a moment, before looking over my shoulder at Herb, battered and bloody on my back. "Get. Off," I growled.

He laughed, letting go and wincing as he hit the ground. "Sorry, you're not my type," he quipped looking at himself and back at me. "Oh, that isn't fair," he complained as I took off my hood and mask. "I look like an axe murderer while you've just got a bit on your nose." I wiped my face with my spotless sleeve. "And now you don't even have that!" I looked as the blood was absorbed into my coat. It was. . . disturbing to watch. I looked up at him speculatively. "What?" he asked.

Walking towards him I explained, "This might sound gay, but I need to wipe you down." Taking his blood-stained arm, I ran my gloved hand down his arm, leaving clean skin as I did so.

He watched as I continued to do so, "Oh yeah, work it bitch!" he lisped. I stopped and glared at him before he laughed, pointing out, "Wait, if you can make it longer, could you make it a lot longer? And maybe wider?"

I did so to my sleeve, confused and trying to avoid any of the subtext of that statement, until he grabbed it and started using it as a towel to 'dry' himself off. I turned away, as while intellectually I knew he needed remove the blood all over his body, I didn't want to know he was doing so with my sleeve, even if it seemed to be self-cleaning. After a few minutes, my sleeve went slack and I mentally ordered it to retrace, turning back to Herb. His shirt was cut and shot to hell, as were his pants, but he's managed to avoid crotch wounds, and my costume had cleared the blood enough so that it just looked stained, so he was at least semi-decent.

"Okay, now that that's over," I started. Herb opened his mouth and I continued, "And we shall never speak of it again. EVER. We need to get to fucking Winslow. Fuck, if we move we should get there as school gets out. That's probably too late to pull her out, but we might still be able to help her. We could get there faster with powers, but I think if we try to move openly with them, we'll end up in a fight with all four gangs in the city today, and I really don't feel like doing that right now."

"Four?" he asked. "I thought there were three."

I gave a bitter laugh as we started walking. "Nope. Four," I said counting them off on my fingers. "Merchants. Azn Bad Boyz. Empire Eighty-Eight. Parahuman Response Teams slash The Protectorate."

He winced, "That's kinda harsh."

If I wasn't so tired and frustrated I might have agreed, but my charitable impulse had called it a day after ambush number four. "Under any other director than Piggot or Tagg, yeah, maybe, but they run their organization just like the gangs. As soon as things even start to look bad, it's all fear and intimidation. Also they're giant fucking hypocrites, claiming to be arbiters of Law and Order while breaking their own rules to cover their asses and keep their 'gang' from looking bad. Piggot violates not only the law, but the unwritten rules all the time."

"Hell," I snorted mirthlessly, "if Legend hadn't been there when Armsdick admitted to setting up villains to die during the Leviathan attack, he'd still be leading the Protectorate when the S9 showed up. Then she ordered a missile strike on the villains that she had agreed to a truce with against the S9, and it did more harm than good. Tagg, don't get me started. He takes over, I kill him, end of story. By that time I should have enough powers to do it without anyone knowing who did it. Alexandria might be a stone-cold bitch, but she doesn't deserve to die because she followed Tagg's dogmatic re-interpretation of facts without checking. Beaten into submission, sure. Given another scar her powers won't let her heal, sure. But she didn't deserve to die."

Herb had stopped. "Hold the fuck up, Alexandria dies? Who fucking kills her?"

I looked at him, "Who the fuck do you think? It's the Queen of Escalation herself! Alexandria needs to breathe, and your body is built to hack up water if you're drowning. You can't hack up bug, especially ones extruding silk. Now start moving, we need to make that girl's life not as fucked up so she can use her talents effectively without horrible mental damage."

He sped up to come even with me. "Holy fucking shit. What else happens?"

"If I'm right, you're going to meet Cauldron later to join their ranks. You don't want to know about them now, so I'll tell you later so you don't give yourself away in case Ms. Library is there. She can cold read people almost as well as Tattletale, but is only about three-fourths as effective, with enough power to compound any mistakes she makes. I probably shouldn't've even told you this much!" I snapped. I realized I was starting to lose my shit, but this day had already put itself up there on my worst days ever list.

"Dude, are you okay?" he asked.

I gave a chocked laugh, "Why yes, what would ever make you think otherwise? I've just been doing my level best to save a girl from an experience that scars her mentally and ends up putting her in a psych ward for a week. And I've been stopped at every. Single. Goddamn. Step." I growled and flung my hand at the alley wall, gouging out three deep rents in it with Stormtiger's power. "I'm going to fucking walk there and if Armsdick, or Miss 'I was just following orders' Militia, or any other Protectorate or PRT flunky try to stop me I'm going leave them a moaning pile on the floor. Today has sucked so tremendously bad that I just wish it were over, but I have a goddamn task and I'm going to goddamn do it! Okay!?!"

"Jesus! Yes! Okay! Let's go!" he exclaimed, moving ahead of me. "Here I am, going to help her!"

I cringed as I strode up next to him. "I'm sorry," I said after a few minutes of walking. "The only people who are really white hats in this entire goddamn city are most of the Wards, who are too busy following the corrupt adults. Fuck it, maybe Dauntless and Velocity were good, but they both bit it in the Leviathan attack, so who fucking knows? The Undersiders are good, if prickly, probably why they're instrumental in saving the goddamn world. Along with Taylor and Parian, they're the only capes worth giving a damn for in the city. You know me, the thing that really pisses me off is Hypocrites, and I can't stand corrupt authority figures." I realized I was winding myself up again and took a deep breath. "What the fuck happened to your Stand?"

Herb hesitated, looking like he was making sure I was done talking, venting, or whatever the fuck I was doing, before he answered. "Hookwolf killed him, but he has the ability to fake his death and make it stick, so the tin-doggy probably thinks he killed a real person." We turned into another alley, Herb checking both ways before he held his hand out, his Stand coalescing, giving me a growling grin. My friend rolled his eyes before waving his hand, causing it to disappear.

"Does he have a name?" I asked. "And are you controlling it directly, or what?"

Herb thought for a while. As long as we were moving, he could take as long as he needed. "I'll call him Enter, and my villain name will be Break. We'll be B&E."

I considered the name. "But wouldn't the eight-foot-tall lizard man be Break?"

He laughed, "You'd think so, wouldn't you?"

Rolling my eyes I asked again, "So, how intelligent is Enter?"

He pondered it as we cut across another street, downtown giving way to middle class urban structures. Not quite suburbs, but not quite the heart of the city either. "It's," he started. "It's got an animal intelligence. I can kind of feel it in the back of my head, like a dog tugging at the leash, but the leash is my mind. I can control it kinda, give it orders, pull it back, but it feels like a mean son-of-a-bitch who'd rather kill an enemy than do a soft takedown."

"Ah," I mused. "Name makes more sense. You need to break before you enter, and you need to give the order before he'll go. Also, it's on your orders that he breaks, he's just the one that enters first."

He laughed, "Yeah, something like that."


We walked quietly the rest of the way, still taking large strides with a motion more robotic then I normally would use, but I wanted to get there without attracting attention and walking quickly tended to do so, doing so gracefully even more so, and I couldn't be bothered to put in the effort to try to come up with another way.

We passed through the commercial district, on the eastern side this time, closer to ABB territory than E88. As we got closer to where Winslow should be I got increasingly more nervous. What if the cops were there and had heard of our previous fights? How could they not? We'd fought fucking LUNG on the goddamn boardwalk this morning. The Merchant thing might have been kept under wraps, but there was no fucking way our E88 brawl went unnoticed. Enter had definitely killed people, Herb might have, not having experience with super-strength, and I was pretty sure I didn't shoot anyone lethally, but a clothesline just right at the speeds I was moving could snap the spine just as effectively as a trip to the gallows.

I glanced at my outfit, the same one I wore at the E88 fight and went to change the color scheme again before shaking my head. I had clothing that could be literally anything, why did I keep with the Alex Mercer cosplay? The leather jacket protecting against knives was obviously BS as the cloth of my hoodie did the same damn thing. When we ducked down another alley I re-absorbed the jacket leaving just a hoodie. Should I go even stick with hoodies? I switched to a windbreaker with a hood, the fake vinyl looking as unassuming as the fake cotton had, giving it a geometric design like something from the 80's but with muted colors. It was odd enough it wouldn't draw attention, but once I had attention it would probably attract the eye enough that I could ask a question and leave before they noticed my eyes weren't human.

I sighed as we walked on, looking up I thought I glimpsed a flagpole that probably marked the school. I was tired with a capital FU. In the long run, the points I'd gotten for taking two dips of Worst Day Ever would help a lot, may even be the deciding factor in the world's survival, but I was paying for those fucking points. I had one task left: find Taylor and make her life a bit less of a living hell.

Saving her completely was out of the question by this point.

I stopped and asked a pedestrian for the time. He looked askance at me, my jacket really, before checking his smartphone, grasped tightly, probably so I didn't steal it so something, and told me it was three ten. I pulled a bill out of my wallet without looking at it, giving it to him and thanking him. He gasped and I saw that it was a twenty. With as much cash as I had, I didn't care.

"He's gonna remember that," Herb told me. "Even more than your shit fashion sense."

"He won't remember my eyes or your fucked-up clothing, and that's all I give a shit about. Let's see how badly we shit the bed on this." I stated in monotone, and realized I was speaking without intonation, something I only did when I was running on fumes. Fuck it, one more thing, then we rent a hotel room and crash. Shit, those required valid ID's. We'd find a motel, pay twice as much, hopefully use Taylor's power to shoo out the bugs, then crash. At least my Immunity meant I didn't have to worry about disease.

We turned the corner and saw the school, a run-down, graffiti-covered shithole. Looking around I could see a couple groups that were so stereotypically the makeup of the three 'criminal' gangs it was painful, but no cops, no ambulances, nothing. Reaching down into my eyes with my mind, I tried to replicate the prickling of my eyes that heralded the activation of my Power Sight. I got nothing for a moment before I felt a soft warmth blooming across them, the world a bit more saturated with colors, but nothing special. Panning my vision across I spotted something walking out the doors, it was a Flame done in shades of Greys they might as well be a study of black. Hmmph, I would have guessed Taylor to be mottled grey shot through with wasp yellow. Oh well.

I started to walk that way when my eyes tracked down to Taylor, only instead of seeing the tall, gawky white teen I expected I saw a muscular black teenage girl striding confidently out towards two others, a tall, decently attractive ginger girl and a short brunette who was cute, but in a way that was more little girl than actually attractive. Looking back at the black girl's power I looked harder and Knew it, Partial Dimensional Travel, locked to one that ran to a sub-dimension of the one I was standing in, one where matter was only partially real, as was radiation, gravity, and a few other things, but electricity ran true.

It was Shadow Stalker, and, in that moment, I wanted to hurt her so very badly. I looked around trying to find someone who wasn't gang related. After a moment, I saw a boy playing with his smartphone, sitting on a bench, his backpack between his legs, feet resting on one of the straps. Smart kid I thought. I walked over to him and casually asked. "Hey kid," I gave a fake belch. "This is gonna sound weird, but I kinda went on a bender and, what day is it?"

He looked nervously up at me and said "Um, it's April Eighth."

I couldn't help but give a broken sounding laugh. "That late? Fuck. Thanks kid. You're not half bad." I stumbled back to Herb, only half faking it.

I glanced up and saw Herb staring at Shadow Stalker & co., glancing over as he saw me stumble over. "Shit man, what happened to you?"

I laughed a bit more, it just hurt too damn much. All the running, all the fighting, taking so many goddamn risks, almost dying to Lung for goddamn NOTHING. "You know, what day, it is?" I asked, laughing silently so hard I was starting to cry, hanging on to him for support.

He looked paniced. "Um, I don't know, April, late March?"

I nodded, still laughing. I was feeling nauseous, but it was nothing to how I felt inside, and that statement made no sense, but all the sense in the world. "And remember what they did to Taylor, how it got so bad, how it was allowed to fester for so goddamn long without her finding out?" I whispered, barely able to breathe enough to talk.

Herb, looking panicked, tried to guide me to an empty bench but I refused to move from the spot, the goddamn spot I'd been trying to get to all damn day. He took a second. "It got that bad because they left it like that over. . ." he winced. "Over Christmas break. Shit, we're late, aren't we?"

"Only by about four months! Everything we did today? FUCKING POINTLESS!" I hissed. He got it then, but didn't look nearly as pained as I felt, and part of me wanted to hurt him to make him feel that bad.

And with that, something in me snapped. Funny thing is, my will never was like other people's or at least how other people talked about willpower working. Most people had positive will, they wanted to do a thing, they spent the effort, and did it. Simple, clean, and easy to understand, like the points I spent to make this character. With it, they could be tempted to spend it on anything if you were convincing enough, even things they swore they'd never do. My will, I don't know why, or how, but I had negative will. It's not what I would do, but what I wouldn't do that mattered. When I focused on something, I did so with laser intensity. Because what I would not do is EVERYTHING but what I was doing, more or less. It also meant that unlike other people, I had lines I Would Not Cross.

One of the inviolate rules I lived by was to never hurt a friend unless it would help them, as sometimes was the case. Surgery was just stabbing and slicing to help after all, and you could do the same thing emotionally pretty easily. This urge, to hurt Herb so that he'd understand, just because he wasn't displaying the pain I felt? That wouldn't be hurting him to help him it would be hurting to help me and I Would Not Do That.

So, once that thought hit and ran down the decision tree, triggering all of the relevant circuit breakers, my emotions cut off, I hit the ground on my knees in front of a storm drain, and very messily 'laughed' at the ground, expelling heaving multicolored yawns until I had nothing more to give, my stomach empty.

I staggered to my feet, wiped off my mouth, spit the last of the sick down the drain, and took a deep breath. I looked at my friend, concern writ large over his features and gave him as much of a smile as I could manage. "I'm good," I declared. At his disbelieving look I insisted quietly, seeing everyone around us pointed not looking at us, while staring at me, "No, really, I'm good until tonight at least. So, the story doesn't start at the Trigger, but at the beginning of Skitter's career. Duh. I was so focused I forgot. Just another part of my Worst Day Ever," I sighed. "If I hadn't already, I probably would have just Triggered. So, let's find a place to crash, because Fuck This Day. It's Friday and she doesn't poke the dragon until Sunday night, Monday morning. I only remember that 'cause she came to this shithole immediately after. Is there anything you want to do?"

Herb looked at me. "You're sure your fine?" I nodded. "Good, because I need to go do something," and with that he turned around and started walking right towards Shadow Stalker, Emma, and what's-her-face. I knew he was going to do something stupid, but to be honest, I couldn't bring myself to really care. He wouldn't kill them, and that was my limit of concern, more for him then them.

He walked over, a big fake grin on his face and they looked at his torn-up shirt and pants warily, though I was pretty sure Stalker was checking him out. He was old enough to be her father, even if he didn't look like it anymore. Ugh, no accounting for the violent psychopath's tastes. "Are you Emma Barnes, the model?" he asked, voice veritably dripping with excited interest.

The Ginger was taken back for a moment, before grinning under the 'attention' she was receiving. Blushing as she glanced down at the holes and cuts in shirt to see his hard muscles, not spotting the lines of dried blood that Sophia was staring at. Whores I thought, starting to quietly amble over, flipping my hood up, dragging up a mask to hide my face, everyone's attention on Herb. "You're a fan?" she asked. "Of course, what's your favorite piece?"

Piece? I thought. You're a fashion model, not some artist's muse. I knew Herb was going to do something stupid, embarrassing, and probably violent, but I just was all out of fucks to give. Herb put his finger to his lips, tapping it. "Honestly, I can't pick one, but I do know what you'd look good in."

She faltered for a moment, glancing at Sophia before rallying. "Oh, what is that?"

"Oh, a-" his fist flashed forward, striking her square in the face with a crunching sound, "Broken nose" he finished smugly.

Emma dropped to the ground, squealing, holding her face while the third one, Madalyn? Said "what the hell-" before a chop to the back of her neck knocked her out like a light.

Sophia's face contorted with rage, her hand going into her pocket and pulling out a knife "You're fucking dead you bastard!" she screamed, leaping for him before I caught her from behind. Holding her arms. She tried to turn the knife to stab me, the blade poking ineffectually at my windbreaker sleeve as she tried to bite my glove.

I looked down at this girl, whose very existence on the junior superhero team called the Wards, despite what she had done and was still doing, typified everything I hated about the Protectorate, and I knew exactly what to say. I leaned down, pitching my voice oddly, willing the fabric to muffle it a bit further, and whispered in her ear. "Stop squirming girl, Prey should know its place."

With that she freaked out, kicking and screaming, before finally giving in and using her power, shifting to shadow to get away. With that, I Took her power, absorbing the angry, scared Black Flame, and she was so busy stumbling away as fast as possible that she missed Herb glancing over and seeing her, backhanding her as he only turned the back of his hand shadowy to hit her cleanly, knocking her into a lamp. She hit it, still shadow, ground the current through her body, and seized up, going solid once more.

I looked at Herb, and whispered, "We're probably gonna regret this later, but I just don't care. Turn shadowy, I'll go down with you, then I'll use her power to get us the fuck out of here." I clapped a hand on his shoulder as he turned to darkness, shifting me as well as we sank into the ground. He waved to the onlooking teenagers, several probably had their cell phone cameras out, so I didn't look and show my probably starkly glowing inhuman eyes.
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Conception 1.8
Conception 1.8

Once we were out of sight, I turned on my copy of Shadow Stalker's Powers, extending them to cover him as I willed us down and through the earth, hopefully deep enough to avoid any power lines. After a few minutes, or a few dozen, it was hard to estimate time underground, I brought us up slowly, putting my hand above me as we rose. Feeling the hairs on the back of my hand rise, I lowered us, moved in a random direction horizontally and tried again and again until we finally broke the surface in someone's backyard, having avoided any buried power lines. Taking a deep breath, I looked around, taking in our surroundings.

I walked around the house out to the sidewalk, looking in the windows as I walked by it. It looked empty, but I didn't trust my luck to come out in front of the one thing I needed. I froze, what if my dismissing the idea that it could be useful was the thing that would later lead to more problems, thus making the day worse? Shaking my head I realized that thinking that my thoughts were wrong as that's the thing that was making my day the worst wanted me to think, so maybe I shouldn't trust it, unless that's what the worst day ever push wanted, I ignored that infinity hole and just decided to move on, Herb following as we walked down the street.

I changed my windbreaker into a long-sleeved t-shirt and my pants to slacks, my shoes to boots, and got rid of my gloves, looking for all intents and purposes like a normal guy walking with his. . . underdressed companion. Okay, we needed to get out of sight either before someone saw Herb or until I could get him some new clothes. Looking around at the houses I saw one that had a for sale sign with a bit of spider-web on it, but not much.

Taking it as an omen, I walked up to the door and saw the inside had some basic furniture, but it looked like it hadn't been cleaned for a bit, that combination of dirty and dusty that furniture gets even if there's no one actually living there. That said, it was kind of shit furniture, older, and with nothing valuable in sight.

A quick phase into shadow got me through the front door, and looking around I saw there was a panel for a security system, but the display was blank. Flicking a couple light switches yielded no result as well. Lastly, I turned my hand to shadow and ran it back and forth through the door and frame, and didn't even get a tingle of electricity, which was perfect. Whoever owned this house, they didn't want to even bother pay the base amount that all houses consume by sheer dint of having interior circuits for the power to run through. Flipping the deadbolt and the lock from the inside was something that wouldn't raise any alarms.

I opened the door and let him as he looked around saying, "Damn, with a power like that, you're going to be such a good supervillain it isn't even funny."

I shrugged. "It's more of an assassin power then the kind of mass control or large-scale ability a supervillain needs."

He looked at me as I closed the door. "Are you okay? Like, seriously? You should be doin' the entire 'no, I'm gonna be a hero even thought I kill people and steal things.' thing."

I rolled my eyes. "From villains, not from civilians. It's different."

He put his hand out, "You didn't say anything about heroes there."

I sighed. "When I meet one other than me, I'll start including them in my vague absolutist statements. Are you still copying my Immunity power?"

He started, closing his eyes for a second. "I think so? I've been doing it all day so it's kinda automatic."

I laughed, genuinely. "You're borrowing my stuff without asking and now we're moving into a house together. We're the gayest pair of straight guys ever." I waved him off. "Go see if there's a first aid kit or something in the bathroom, as long as you borrow my power you're immune to disease, so you should be fine but a bit of wound cream for the cuts that punching the bitch didn'g heal won't hurt." I headed upstairs, finding both the master bedroom and guest bedroom furnished with beds, pillows, the works.

I poked around, finding nothing actually valuable, the house definitely set up to show off, but the architecture, with nothing worth taking. Walking downstairs I saw my friend applying cream to the lines on his arms. "This place looks good, but I'm hungry as fuck." I informed him, as the ache in my stomach burned. "This place has no gas or electricity so I'm gonna go hit up a big box store, pick up a camping stove, a pan, and some ingredients so I can come back here and make us some food."

He stopped what he was doing and gave me a 'you're being a dumbass' look. "Or you could not. You do all that, you'll get picked up by the PRT or something."

I sighed. He was probably right. "Okay, that might be a bit much. I don't even know where to find something like that. I saw a Chinese place down the street, how about I just pick up some food from there? I'll be back in like, fifteen, twenty minutes."

He nodded, "Now that's not stupid, it would be better if you could call."

"With what phone?" I chuckled. "I was so paranoid about being tracked I ditched the only one I picked up." I subconsciously reached in my pocket as I continued. "It's not like I have my. . . actual phone." I finished as I fished out my real phone, undamaged, from my pants pocket, its weight so familiar I forgot it was there. "Holy shit." I murmured as I hit the button, the phone waking up from sleep mode with a full battery. "Fucking how?" I wondered. Even having it in sleep mode all day should have drained at least a quarter of the battery.

"The hell?" Herb asked, looking at the black rectangle in my hands. "How did that not break on. . . anything? Fucking re-entry at least?"

I shrugged. "No fuckin' clue." I opened the web-browser to find the name of the Chinese place, realizing that I didn't know my current address the same time I got the no-connection page. "Right." I laughed. "No signal, because it's meant for a different network." Rolling my eyes, I slipped it back in my pocket. "So, ignoring that weirdness, what do you want to eat?"

"Um," he said dumbly, focusing back on me. "Sushi if they've got it, if not General Tso's. Do you need money or. . ." he trailed off, laughing. "Right, we're supervillains, we're good."

"For that, you're paying," I called as I walked out the front door, turning and walking down the street. Looking around I realized that the Chinese place was the next street over, walking the long way until I found it. Taking a step in I saw they did have sushi, and the place looked authentically Asian enough that it might even be good sushi. I thought about it for a second. I was immune to disease, and so was Herb if he was less than fifteen feet away from me, so it didn't really matter. It was when I was waiting in line, looking around when a medium sized Asian man walked in, the very definition of unremarkable. That lasted until my Sight kicked in and I Knew him.

Replicator, the replacements held form while the original degraded into ash, the replacements also capable of appearing a distance away from the original, though limited to line of sight if one was to make the replacement at range. I looked at Oni Lee, Lieutenant of the Azn Bad Boys, for a second before stepping out of the way, eyes down. Seeing him tilt his head in inquiry I explained quietly. "Not sure what I want sir, please go ahead of me."

He stared at me for long enough for me to sweat, wondering if I'd done the exact wrong thing and now would have to fight Oni Lee in my Civies, though I'd be in costume in a moment. Shit, everyone saw me walk in, I'd need some way to keep them from talking. Double shit, if it came down to it, I'd need to kill everyone in here.

At least Stormtiger's power would make it easy. I really, really didn't want to do it, but if my hand was forced, I'd do what I needed to, no matter how much it sucked. As I was thinking all of this time passed. I almost jumped when Oni Lee nodded in thanks, mumbling the words robotically as he stepped in front of me and took my place in line.

I made a show of trying to decide what I wanted, letting someone else go in front of me before stepping back in line. Not relaxing until the cashier told him, "Mr. Lee, your usual," handing him a bag from the counter, not asking payment as the supervillain nodded in thanks and walked out, pausing ever so slightly as he passed me before quietly walking out the front door. Ordering sushi and General Tso's, what Herb didn't eat I would, I waited for the order, took it and walked back to the house we were squatting back.

As I walked in I called "Hey Herb, I got your Sushi, you'll never guess who I-" I stopped as I saw a closing rectangle of white light in the kitchen, Herb visible on the other side of the portal as it closed.


I paced back and forth wondering what the hell to do. That was obviously one of Doormaker's portals, so. . . Cauldron got off their collective assess to induct him into their ranks? I froze. Unless that is, something went wrong, on The Worst Day Ever. Goddamnit Herb, what if I needed to track him down and save his ass?

I'd seen the portal, but I didn't think to take the power, and I needed to see the person to Know them. Besides, the power would be massively underpowered without Clairvoyant to point the way. Ugh, I needed something to do, something to plan with. I couldn't remember all the capes Cauldron had, just the major players. If I fought one of the big three, I was eighty percent screwed. Actually, more like forty percent. Alexandria, I could copy and fight, and Legend I could tangle with and live if I survived the first shot.

Eidolon was pure bullshit space worm magic.

His power to have whatever three powers he needed would be something I could never take, as like Herb's copying powers, it had no physical effect. The powers he pulled up I might be able to copy, but just from playing around with Skidmark's, Shadow Stalker's, and Stormtiger's powers, I didn't get the instant skill with the power like he did, and I'd be in one long game of catchup. Contessa and Number Man had Thinker powers, not external effects, so I was screwed there. I could probably handle the Custodian, my Aerokinesis was suited for it, along with the ability to mimic her powers.

What the hell was I thinking? Trying to fight Cauldron? At this point? I took a deep breath and considered my options. I'd need a strong alpha strike if, and only if, they tried something. Stormtiger's claws were strong, but anything that negated powers would dispel them. I needed something that was dangerous without being dependent on a power for the dangerous bit.

I took a mental inventory.

Stormtiger's wasn't gonna help. Shadow Stalkers were useless here as well. Cricket's might let me get a quick handle on the area on the other side of the portal by feeling out the sounds, but I had no practice in using it, and didn't want to rely on it in case the portals did something to sound. I didn't see Hookwolf, Lung, or Oni Lee's powers in such a way as to copy them, and even if I did, the first two were useless in this situation, and there was NO way in hell I was ever using Oni Lee's. It was the quantum teleporter problem on steroids, as I knew the original not only ceased to exist, but literally fucking died in agony every time he used his power. That left me with Skidmark's power, my Speed Zones, and my brain kicked into high gear. I could apply the Zones to body parts, even parts that weren't exactly flat, all I had to worry about was recoil when it hit me.

I was using them to move me and repel others, but what if I used it to move something, just with myself as the platform! It would have to be something small if I wanted any speed out of it without getting knocked down, but it was an idea. I opened the Chinese food bag, taking out a pair of chopsticks, breaking them apart as I took a stance to counter a forward push. Layering three layers of speed zones along the length of my right arm, I had an azure strip running from shoulder to wrist.

I carefully moved my arm back and forth, but it didn't interfere with my movement in the slightest, only shoving me back slightly as I brushed a wall. I pushed my arm out, taking the chopstick in my left hand I held it over my bicep, keeping my hand pointed down and out of the way. I felt a light tugging at my fingertips, but nothing else. Lowering my hand slightly jerked my hand forward, the arc of my shoulder swinging it out of the zone. I moved my hand back, waiting a second before dropping the chopstick and it shot off as if thrown, clattering against the far wall, never touching my arm.

Walking over and picking it up, I layered another zone down, the blue darkening as I did so. Pointing at the far wall the chopstick flew off even faster, snapping in two on impact. Nodding, I layered another zone, then one more for the hell of it, the blues shifting into light purples. I grabbed the other chopstick and dropped it. The crack was almost instantaneous.

At first I thought it broke the sound barrier, but walking over I saw it had shattered into tiny pieces, the tip buried in the wall. I grabbed a plastic spoon and a kitchen knife from the counter, laying them next to me so I could grab them at a moment's notice. I sat there in the darkening kitchen, waiting for Herb to come back, for who knows how long, the only light in the room was the orange sunset punctuated with the glowing purple sparks from my arm, providing an almost malevolent ambiance more than actual lighting, but my enhanced eyes still saw everything fine.

Fishing out an eggroll with my left hand I munched as I waited, the only excitement from when I let my wrist turn, catching the table with the field and shoving me and my chair back several feet. Moving to my original position, I waited in the dark, watching the point the portal had opened. Finally, after who knows how long a white line shown empty space, widening into a glowing white doorway, a sterile white corridor resolving inside of it. A tall muscular figure wearing a dark suit, purple undershirt, gold tie walked towards the portal from the other side. Covering the figure's head was a shiny clear mask, the skin underneath covered in scales. He looked vaguely familiar, but the figure's face looked nothing like Herb's, its hands covered in golden metal gloves that extended into gauntlets up its sleeves. Incongruously, it appeared to be wearing royal purple Adidas.

I grabbed my projectiles, arm out, spoon ready to drop as I called, "Stop! Who the fuck are you?"

The figure jumped, before stepping through the portal saying, "Dude, it's me!" The clear mask moving unnaturally as he talked. "Look at this baller costume! And check this out! Adidas Superstars!" he held up a foot to show off his sneakers. "I've always wanted a pair!" I heard someone call from the other side of the portal and the person who could only be Herb turned around. "What?" he called. "Oh right!" and a large metal suitcase came sailing out of the portal, edges fighting through the portal exactly. Herb caught it, stumbling to the side as I saw a flash of a green cape that had to be Eidolon on the other side.

I jumped and held firm onto the spoon with my pointer finger and thumb. The knife however, slipped from my middle and ring fingers, landing on the field and shot forward in an instant. I saw the blurred knife fly past Herb's head and the green caped hero on the other side go down, the knife sticking out of his shoulder. "WHAT?" I heard a woman yell from the other side. "That wasn't supposed to happen!"

Another voice, this one weak and male answered, "There isn't anyone else in there just. . . Chinese?"

"Doormaker, close the damn door!" a harried older woman called, the portal quickly closing into nothing.

Herb stared at me, only his eyes easily visible but the mask making it hard to read his expression.

"Um. Oops?" I offered.

"Oops? You just knifed Eidolon!" He volleyed back.

"Hey!" I defended. "I came back just as they took you. I was worried they'd decided to kidnap you and were coming for me too. My finger just. . . slipped."

"How did you-" he started staring at the glowing strip running down my arm. "No," he breathed.

I grinned. "Yeah. Turns out if you layer speed zones enough times like this. Bam! Instant railgun. As long as it's not too big the recoil isn't that bad. Also, close your eyes." I waited a second before dismissing it, the flash lighting up the room. "You have to be careful not to put your arm on a table or a wall or something, but it's pretty awesome."

"You're right," he agreed, "Skidmark's a fucking dumbass." He shook his head before reaching under the chin of his and audibly popping it off. With the mask off I could see the scales and the lines in the clear material that had shaped his face into unrecognizability. "Dude, you'll never believe what happened."

I sighed "I can guess. Man, the Chinese is almost cold and I didn't meet Oni Fucking Lee just to eat cold Chinese and warm Sushi. Let's eat, then go to fucking bed. I'm dead fucking tired and just want to go to sleep and this day to end. We can talk in the morning."

He sighed, grabbing a platter of Sushi. "This is really good!" he commented after the first few bites. "Oni Lee?"

I rolled my eyes. "What part of tomorrow didn't you understand? Short version, I met him in his civies and even if I can use his power, I'm never using his power."

"Oh com' on!" he complained around a mouthful of fish. "Now I hafta know!"

"No," I told him. "Tomorrow." Taking part of the food with me I started walking away. "And for making me worry, I'm taking the Master bedroom. Try to get in and we'll see if your costume can stand up to Stormtiger's claws!"

As I went upstairs, I faintly heard "Why do I feel like I just got told to sleep on the couch?"
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Conception 1.X (Interlude: Medhu?)
Conception 1.X (Interlude: Medhu?)

Some mornings, you just wanted to roll back over in bed, knowing the day was going to be unpleasant. For Medhu Patel, this was not some vague omen, it was a certainty. Rolling out of bed, he tried not to disturb last night's entertainment. A leggy brunette named Betsy? Bianca? Bernise? He was sure the last one was a sauce. Regardless, trying not to disturb her he slipped out of bed and entered the bathroom for him morning ablutions. Being third of four children growing up in small apartment in Surat led to one getting up earlier if they wanted privacy, and getting up just before dawn was a habit Medhu found hard to break. Early to rise and so on, as the Americans said.

He loved India, and still wished to return for time to time, but it was a distant ache, easily ignored. After his brother, Dev, gained his powers when he was 16, and gained an ego to match his name, he'd wanted to leave. As a Garama, a flashy cape, "Ajey" fought foes with impressive acrobatics, always managing to be where he needed to be. Glowing a golden light, he was hard to look at directly, much like Brockton Bay's Purity in retrospect Medhu laughed to himself. But it was hard to fight what you couldn't look directly at, and he'd used it to great effect. With that, he set an impossible standard that Medhu could never hope to approach, in the shadow of his brother's glowing success.

After years in that shadow, he'd finally realized that no matter what he did, no matter what he achieved, he would, at most, come in a distant second to his older brother. His younger brother, Vadin, always would have a special place in their mother's heart, though part of him didn't realize how smothering that place had been until he'd lost it. His older sister, Hafiza, had his father's attention, which left Medhu ignored. With this despair, with this rudderless feeling of drowning in a dark ocean, left to the wayside by his family, he'd finally had gotten what he had wanted after so many years. He had Triggered, in the worst way possible.

He hadn't gotten something flashy, something he could use to overshadow even his brother, something that would let him attract attention like his brother could. Instead, he had gotten what the local government would call Thinker' and 'Stranger' powers. His brother could see the immediate future, doing just what needed to be done to win the fight he was in. Medhu could see half a day away, pick the result he wanted, and let his power carry him to that destination. Dev had enhanced physical abilities, able to push his acrobatics to ludicrous degrees. He had gotten the ability to become a spirit as he dreamed, leaving his body to see the world beyond, invisible, intangible, and invincible, though his parent's overheard conversations hurt him, even more than he thought they would. His brother was hard to grab, having a natural forcefield he used to escape harm, slick against his foes hands. He found that he had something entirely different, a power that allowed him to escape any kind of recording, a power that meant that he would never be a member of the Garama, as how could one stand for pictures, when the pictures showed nothing at all?

Medhu had considered joining the Thanda, the unofficial capes that truly ran India, the ones that no one ever spoke of, but were expected to help the greater population regardless. His parents, while he had slept, had talked about if Dev had become one of those instead. How they wouldn't have the glory, but they would be much more wealthy for having one in the family. With that Medhu had thrown away his ideas of revealing what he could do, discarding his ideas of using his powers as 'Yojana", and started to plan, for even untouchables were talked about. In this, his powers were next to useless. He could plan perfectly, but only up to twelve hours in the future.

He had used that power at first, playing the markets to make enough money to set him up for life in a single day. He'd been so happy, so amazed at how easy it had all been. The next day he'd gone to do it again, and seen, not another day of wealth and profit, but all paths but one leading to his death or imprisonment in the next twelve hours. That day had been an eye opener, a harsh course in humility, as, following that sole path of safety had led him to lose almost all the money he had gained, putting him at a point only slightly better than when he started.

With this lesson in mind, he had tried again, going for lesser victories, always seeing the overwhelming profits in his view, but realizing that they truly were overwhelming. As time passed he'd made enough, hiding it places others would not see, that by his eighteenth birthday he was ready to leave India, and his parents, for America, the land of opportunity where there was no Thanda constantly watching him. He would be leaving Dev, who had made sure to grind his superiority in Medhu's face every time they'd met, which had become mercifully rarer over the years.

He'd heard that having powers made you more antagonistic, studying them online from college courses paid for by his trading, passing his interest off as him wanting to learn more about his brother, and he could see the truth in it, as Dev, while arrogant, had never been quite so unpleasant about it before Triggering. His powers though, so much more useful than his brothers, had never pushed him to prove his brother wrong. If it came down to the brute fighting that his brother so reveled in, Medhu knew he could win.

He'd seen that Path after all.

Coming to America, he'd chosen the moderately large city of Brockton Bay, warm enough to not be too large a shock to the system, but nothing on the heat of his home. He'd looked for something unassuming, something he could use his powers to negotiate deals for, something that where long-term plans weren't nearly as important as immediate actions, and had settled on coffee shops. For the name, he'd gone with something both intrinsically Indian, but also something his parents would not want to brag too much about. He'd send enough money that they'd be obligated to talk about him, but in such a way that they wouldn't want to.

With that in mind he'd opened the 'MaHotma Grindy' coffee shop, serving a drink that was a staple of the modern world, associated with a man that had romanticized the stone age. He'd loved the irony, and so very few got the joke. He'd grown them, opening them across the city, and beyond, using promotions to grow interest and profits, always keeping one step ahead of his competition.

At roughly the same time, he'd debuted his 'Rogue' identity. Rogues were capes who used their profit for purely monetary game. It was eminently an American concept, and he loved it. He'd called himself 'The Neutral Party', choosing an English name to further distance himself from his homeland. Using his power, he could, if it were possible, see two different parties coming to an agreement everyone was happy with in a single day, and simply do what was necessary to achieve it.

Pushing the money through shell companies, he made himself an investor in his own growing coffee enterprises, along with half a dozen other startups. He was independently wealthy, had achieved a level of respect he never would have at home, and was, in many respects, happy at age twenty-six.

Preparing a small breakfast, he ate, greeting the sun as it crested the horizon, lighting up the city of Brockton Bay, the city which partially ran on his drinks. Sighing as he viewed possible futures he thought he caught a flicker of something on the horizon when he felt a force slam into his chest, burning his mind as he fell from his chair, paths slipping from his grasp as he tried to find a way out of whatever was happening.

A few minutes later he clambered to his feet, mind swimming. Head filled with memories that not his own, fifty years as a white man in a world with no superheroes. This influx of memories as Jack Rycroft, a man who lived from a world without superpowers, settled into his head, permeating and coloring everything he knew, the extra years staining him until he was more Jack than Medhu.

Groaning he got to his feet, hearing a woman's voice calling "Are you okay?" He responded without thinking with, "I'm fine Susan," the name of his wife, Jack's wife.

"Whaaat?" came the shriek in response. "My name's Bella you jerk!" before he saw the flash of brown hair and a black dressed form before the sound of the penthouse door slamming reverberated.

Medhu, Jack, whoever he was just sat there, wearing his breakfast, for a few minutes before picking himself up and cleaning himself off. Plopping down on his couch, he reflexively used his power, looking at possible futures. As he gazed at them, mental images in his mind, rich with meaning, but several of them flickered and distorted oddly. Looking through Medhu's memories Jack saw this had never happened before, and he wondered if it was Jack's own memories messing things up. The harder he tried to concentrate on those unworkable futures, the worse his burgeoning headache became.

Giving up on it, he searched through his memories and called up his assistant, cancelling his appointments for the day. His assistant sounded concerned, but he passed it off as a flu, trying to center himself.

He failed.


Several hours later, having looked online for information, he was quietly freaking out. New memories had information of Brockton Bay, not as a place, but as a fictional location in a story his son had read, and wasn't that a thought. Medhu didn't want kids, but Jack had had two, the youngest just reaching adulthood, and he was. . . okay with that. He wondered how much of him was Medhu, and how much was Jack, as he started to default to Jack in his mind, even if his body was Medhu. Considering this metaphysical tangle, he received another call.

This one was to inform him that some people had been attacked outside one of his stores. The police were investigating it as a possible hate crime, as someone with a fake Indian accent had called 911 with one of the victim's phones.

Reaching out with his powers, even more of his possible futures weren't working correctly, anything taking him to the east part of town rendered non-viable. Taking a deep breath, he submerged himself in Medhu's memories, trying to find out what the heck was going on. An hour later he received another call. This time his panicked assistant informed him that this time his boardwalk store had been the scene of a cape fight. Someone had picked a fight with Lung in his coffee shop. The ensuing cape fight, while theoretically bad for business, would reap dividends in the long run from promotions alone. Luckily, he'd invested in Cape insurance, a necessity in Brockton Bay, and that would pay for the damages on its own. Looking online, there had been a fight outside a corner store, covered by the bloggers his feed monitored, but his were the only stores that had been damaged that day.

Looking at his options, he started to stare at one option that glitched occasionally. Unable to look at it directly, it would still serve to give him insight into just what the hell was going on. Choosing that the second it firmed, before it could destabilize himself, his body went on autopilot, putting on his jacket and calling his driver, asking to be driven to his store in downtown.

Walking in, the Baristas saw and served him, settling him down. He sipped his coffee, checking his phone as he waited for whatever his power wanted him to do. Sitting there, he heard the sound of a horn blaring and looked up. A figure in greey darted into sight outside the window just as his power shorted out, causing him to jerk backward as the figured rolled forward, launching himself through the plate glass window, falling onto the table he had been sitting at, which collapsing underneath the intruder, spilling Jack's coffee on his face.

Stunned, Jack could only stare as the figure looked up, glowing, swirling, multicolored eyes meeting his own for a moment. The figure stumbled to his feet murmured an apology, and stuck a twenty in Medhu's hands as he staggered out the door. Jack tried to find a Path to do something, anything, but they all glitched into a horrible mess, except the one that had him just stay here and get another coffee.

So that's what he did.


After making an incident report to the police, filing the insurance report, and finishing his new coffee he once again searched for the path to finding what the hell was going on. Searching the web, he found no record of any hero with luminous rainbow eyes, except maybe one of the Fallen, but those Endbringer cultists had no reason to be here, and certainly wouldn't be polite.

Something about the cape's voice tugged at his memory, but he couldn't be sure how. It almost felt familiar to Jack, but that was just silly, as Jack wasn't even from this world. Following his new path, this one again taking him to find out what was going on, he had his driver take him down to the industrial district. Once again, he sat and waited.

This time though, he pulled up his power over and over again. The longer he waited, the more options glitched into unusability. Once it dropped to two: hide in the back or run, he had enough. Standing up, the only customer left in the store was himself, the contingent of professionals, all white, had left all at once after checking their devices, which was highly suspicious, and it was time to do something. Looking at the two baristas, both white, he walked over and told them, "Leave. Now."

One of them, a blonde man with noticeable tattoos, looked offended. "Who are you to tell us to-"

The other, a slim brunette, elbowed him in the ribs. "That's the owner, Eric!" she hissed before turning back to him. "Do we still get today's pay?" she asked sweetly.

As he looked at her, the run option started to glitch. "Yes. Go. NOW!" he nearly yelled. They looked at each other, bolting for the door. As soon as they opened it the sounds of screaming, gunfire, and a deep, growling laughter. They looked at him, fear on their faces. "Run or hide in the back, pick one now!" he commanded. The man took off, tearing off to the right while the girl ran back, starting to hide behind the bar where he opened the door to the storage room in the back and waved her through. She ran as he stayed in the doorway, watching as a mass of Empire Eighty-Eight thugs ran by, some in fear, some firing as they did so.

A moment later their enemy ran into view. One of the figures seemingly flying in, crushing the chest of a thug as he landed, killing him instantly. The colors were different, but the costume was the same, a grey hoodie with a red lion on its back, and the glowing rainbow eyes of the villain were instantly identifiable. Rainbow Eyes talked to two others, one an eight-foot-tall black man, the other had skin a shade lighter and was only slightly shorter than Rainbow Eyes. The shorter one looked familiar, not to Medhu, but, again, to Jack.

Words were exchanged before the fight started again, stopping after less than a minute, several more thugs dead, the two black men both having some sort of Brute and regeneration power. At that point the white supremacists seemed to back off, only for one window of the shop to explode inward, the girl behind him crying out in fear as Jack saw three parallel lines dug out of the floor. Stormtiger's ability Medhu's memories explained. This shop was in E88 territory and as long as the employees were white, there hadn't been a problem.

Through the broken window he heard words exchanged, two of the voices tugging at his memories. A shout of, "That doesn't even make sense, they're both black!" easily heard, pulled on them even harder. A moment later Stormtiger himself was sent flying through the now broken glass, rolling to a stop covered in cuts and splinters, which was as close as Medhu had ever seen to instant karma. After that though, he heard the metallic chainsaw-howl of Hookwolf, who was thrown in after Stormtiger, ripping up half his store. Looking out, a flash of greys sped past the window far too fast to be natural, grabbing the smaller black man and disappearing.

This is why I pay for parahuman insurance Medhu told himself as the metallic canine launched itself out, wet tearing and ripping sounds coming from beyond his line of sight. Staring out at his fourth disturbed shop today, the third one that would need serious repairs, the Indian started to sigh, thinking that he'd have to pay his legal team far too much money to make sure the insurance company paid out, but that was the nature of the game. As he was considering this, something finally clicked, and he finally recognized the voice of the cape that had led, indirectly or directly, to the property damage today.

That voice? It was the voice of Jack's oldest son.
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Well, well. This ol' chestnut. I remember trying to get into this back when it was at like half the size it is now... Didn't even get that far, I'm afraid. I can't exactly remember what exactly made me stop... But the size of the story now is kind of intimidating.
Also, not terribly NSFW, but just like I didn't realize SB had a NSFW section(Edit: Nevermind, It doesn't, the Mod who told me to post there was being an ass), it was a while before I realized that this site had a SFW section, so posted here in NSFW because that's where all the cool kids are. /s
Im pretty sure either SB or SV (I dont remember) actually does or did have a NSFW board, but to get access you had to write a short essay for an admin on why you should be let in. I remember trying to find it years ago only to be met with that message. As the kids say: "Kinda Sus".
Im pretty sure either SB or SV (I dont remember) actually does or did have a NSFW board, but to get access you had to write a short essay for an admin on why you should be let in. I remember trying to find it years ago only to be met with that message. As the kids say: "Kinda Sus".

Ah, just what that site needed. More gatekeeping. So. . . at that point, if you're looking for engagement (Hi!), why the hell wouldn't you just come here?

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