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Abaddon Born(e)

Spoiler 5.7
Spoiler 5.7

I took a second to process Panacea's revelation. "Okay, I'm going to neither confirm nor deny that, but why do you think so?"

"Someone showed me the video, and I know how injured you were. You'd already healed some, but you had electrical burns on your legs, more one than the other, just like the video, and that's in addition to your bullet impact shaped contusions, though they were already healing, hairline fractures in your arms and legs, bruised organs, and on top of that half your ribs were broken!" she declared, working herself up, as I held her at arm's length. "Why didn't you tell me? What were you thinking getting into a fight like that!?"

I nodded. "Yeah, that'd do it." I considered the difficulties of having this conversation in a restaurant, and made a snap decision, starting to fly towards home base. "I'm making dinner."

"That's not an answer!" she contested, glaring at me.

"No," I rebuked, as I thought my meaning had been clear. "It's what I'm going to do while I give you the answer." That it let me consider my answer on the way back was also a plus.

Landing and walking into the base, mind spinning, I considered the hard sell, the entire 'I need you to join if I'm going to tell you my secrets' gambit. No, I decided, as even thinking on how I'd do so left a bad taste in my mouth. Honesty and trust it was, but first, "Burgers work?" I asked her, checking the fridge.

"Fine," she agreed, impatient.

I considered taking my time getting ready, finding her lack of patience childish, but maybe I shouldn't tease her right now. A few minutes later they were sizzling away and we both had a glass of water. I turned, leaning against the counter. "Okay, before we start, I won't lie to you, but if you tell people what I tell you, it will turn out badly."

I saw her eyes narrow, and guessed her thoughts, "Panacea, you should know by now that I wouldn't threaten you. I won't be doing anything bad, but Boardwalk had to fight his way out of the Rig after he saved the lives of Vista, Gallant, and countless cops because they were going to throw him in a holding cell, and who knows what would've happened to him after that. If they find out where he is, let alone if you effectively unmask him, I'm not sure what they'll do, but from what I've seen, it won't be good."

She struggled with herself, finally stating, "Heroes wouldn't do that Vejovis."

"So you're calling me a liar. Nice Panacea. Nice." I waved away her protest, grabbing a laptop and accessing the base's intranet, getting the cleaned-up copy of the Armsmaster confrontation Quinn had sent me. Putting it down in front of her I pressed play as I finished making dinner, refusing to answer any more questions. Plating the burgers as the video finished, I slid hers in front of her as I sat down. "So. Heroes wouldn't do that, but what makes you think the Protectorate are heroes? I sent the director of the local PRT this video, as well as the video I have of the Bay Central Bank fight, if you want to see it, and absolutely nothing has happened. Armsmaster is still officially the head of the Brockton Protectorate," and hadn't that been a shocker when I looked it up this afternoon, "and while it's stopped them from going after us, officially, over his actions, The Lady, Bug hasn't received so much as a single apology for being attacked by the then leader of the government-backed 'hero' team. You're a hero Panacea, would you really put yourself on the same level as him?"

I ate my burger, hurt and angry. I knew breaking Panacea's years of conditioning from Brandish was going to be difficult, but I seemed to have made almost no progress whatsoever. She stared at her meal, not touching it. What, I thought, my food's not good enough because I'm not a perfect hero like you think you are? The sheer pettiness of that statement broke the mental line I was on. No, that's unfair. She's being unfair too, but that's no reason to- "I'm sorry," she said quietly, interrupting my thoughts. "You've never lied. I wish you had actually, but you haven't."

I put my burger down, pleasantly surprised, but masking my thoughts. "Alright then. You have questions? I have answers, but as you said, I won't lie, even if you'd prefer me to."

"You're Boardwalk." It wasn't a question. I waited until she gave me an annoyed look, realizing it as well. "How?"

I shrugged, switching out costumes and personas. "How do ya think Panny?"

She blinked, nonplussed. "You're. . . a shapeshifter?" she guessed.

I chuckled, popping off the mask and putting it down, smirking. "Only the threads, try again."

Her brow furrowed, "Multiple personalities?"

I dropped the Persona, laughing. "Not everything is powers Panacea, it's just acting."

"But you had different powers!" she protested.

I turned my hand to Shadow, poking it insubstantially through hers. "I have quite a few powers."

She rejected my statement, declaring, "But no one has more than three!"

I turned my other hand to Light, "I do, Break does, I think there's a villain named Circus that does as well. And let's not even get started on the Triumvirate." I didn't know their exact powers, but to be that strong they had to be multi-'talented'.

"Are you a Tinker? Is your power linked to your costume? Different suits have different powers, and they are your power?" she queried, trying to find a way for me to confirm to her worldview.

I blinked. I hadn't thought of that, and it would make an excellent cover story if I needed one. Unfortunately, I'd made a commitment to stay honest, even if I was the only one that'd know I broke it. Shaking my head, I shifted my costume to my civilian garb, dismissing and summoning the Light and Shadow, before doing the same thing as Vejovis.

"Are you like Eidolon? You can only do three at once?" she tried plaintively, trying to understand what I was doing in the context of what she knew to be fact.

I winced. "Please don't compare me to that idiotic glory hound," I responded, keeping Light and Shadow going as I levitated off the ground, Glory Girl Style, while manifesting a speed zone that moved my chair back.

She looked at me, before shaking her head. "How-No, I don't want to know. So you're both. Why?"

"Deniability," I replied, motioning towards her dinner. "Eat before it gets cold." Sitting down on a layer of air I continued, smirking at her noise of frustration as I did so. "I'm a Hero, but as we've seen, those who claim the title abuse it, and there are those who would seek to stop me, either because they have evil intentions, or because they are scared of the darkness in their own hearts. They think of what they would do if given the same power and see the same intentions in all others, ignoring that by acknowledging and controlling that darkness one can overcome it, instead of running from it like a scared child. The fears manifest in different permutations, but it all stems from those two sources."

"Because of that I needed two identities," I waved, one hand in Vejovis' white cloth glove, one in Boardwalk's black studded leather. "One to be the hero who helps those in need and is allowed to do so, and one to be the hero who walks in the shadows to fight villains in ways that those with villainous tendencies have made socially unacceptable. Hookwolf, Oni Lee, and others have unequivocally killed enough civilians that, if they were tried for their crimes in our justice system, as our laws say they should be, their prison terms would be in the triple or quadruple digits. Honestly, those two should have been tried in abstentia, as much as I dislike the concept, and the only reason they wouldn't have a death sentence is that New England is extraordinarily far left on the political divide. In a fair world, they would have kill orders on them, though after last night's fight Oni Lee might, but I'm not holding my breath."

"If Vejovis went after them half as hard as they go after unpowered people, there'd be cries for his head. Of note is that villains go easier on heroes, since they know the kind of response say, killing a Ward would provoke, but if some unpowered kid pulls a knife, let alone a gun on Hookwolf, and didn't back down, he'd kill them, but the media here cares nothing for those people. Normal people fighting villains? There are quite a few in positions of power that have effectively made such a thing laughable, borderline unthinkable," I nearly spat, "and if someone in their desperation makes a final stand and dies, they're just considered stupid. If they make a stand and Trigger though, that gets attention, because now they matter, and they'd probably survive as fighting someone with unknown powers is a risky proposition, causing their would-be killers to back off until they're sure they could still defeat their victims. "

I subsumed myself in Shadow, letting the Light shine from beneath. "Boardwalk though, he'll never be accepted as a hero, and that's just as how he likes it, even though he is one. He wouldn't be a crazed vigilante, doing the 'all criminals deserve one thing, death' bullshit, but he'd be willing to match his foe's level of violence. He'd capture the Undersiders, maybe rough them up a bit, but after Skidmark tries to shoot him in the head with a pistol, Boardwalk might capture him, might permanently maim him, or might just kill him depending on the circumstances. Vejovis has no such options at present, and thus can be caught up by the 'surrender or I'll kill this hostage' scenario. Boardwalk would just kill the bastard, and try to save the innocents, but if they die, he'll disgustedly state that their deaths are on the people who killed them, not the people they were being used to leverage, and anyone who claims otherwise is a fuckin' moron."

Panacea replied after a moment of thought, "I couldn't do that."

Yet. "I'm not asking you to," I assured her instead, letting go of the power and sitting there in my Vejovis guise, sans mask, "and if I felt like I had to, and you said no, I wouldn't force you to."

She sighed. "What happened last night? I saw the video, but that was just the fight, not what led to it." I got her a coffee as I covered the lead-up, leaving out the part about recruiting Purity, knowing how much that would further derail the conversation. I finished with my escape, and sat back, waiting for her response.

"Thank you," she finally said, continuing at my confused look. "For saving Gallant and Vista. Vicky was-, I'm not sure how she'd take it if he died. You didn't have to, and with what you said about Boardwalk, you, I don't know, had to go against what he was supposed to do when you did it, but thank you for doing it anyways."

I nodded, "Dean and Missy are Heroes, and saving heroes is my mission, not that of any identity I might use to further that end. I was willing to throw away the work I'd put in building Boardwalk's identity to make that happen, and would again, if needed."

She started to smile, before a frown crossed her features. "Wait, is Vejovis another identity?"

I shifted to civies as I smiled. "In public, yes, but when we're just hanging out, I'm just me, Lee Elric, the man who will save the world, no matter what I'm wearing."

She blinked at me, not sure how to respond. "That's. . . nice?" she tried. "How? That's, the whole world? How are you going to do that yourself?"

I shook my head. "Not by myself, no. That's why I'm trying to find and help true heroes, people I can trust to have my back, people like you. It's why I'm recruiting for my team, and the only reason I haven't asked you yet is because there were things you needed to figure out before it would be even fair to ask. That being said, the offer is open once you're sure it's what you want. As for how?" I shrugged. "I'll get by, with a little help from my friends."


Dropping Panacea off back at her house, as Vejovis, we didn't talk, her sister having called her as we left the base and Panacea reassuring the other girl that she was fine, and we'd eaten dinner someplace a bit out of the way, and how did she know that she'd not just gone out like normal anyways? I was tempted to listen in, but that would've been rude, and didn't seem like something that was mission critical. Hanging up she informed me, blushing, "Apparently there's a blog about us."

I shrugged. "We're healers, and that gets attention. There's like, what, a dozen of us in the world that are as open-ended as we are? It's a rare but incredibly valuable power. Heck healing, or the appearance of, is one of the things that a lot of religions are built on."

She shook her head, turning a beet red. "No. I mean it's about us."

It took a second before I understood what she meant, and I tried not to blush in turn. "They are aware that you're a minor, and I'm obviously not, correct?" I inquired dryly.

She took a breath, matching my tone as we landed, "They don't seem to care."

I facepalmed. "Perverts, the lot of them. Wait, how does Glory Girl know about them."

"That is something that I'd like to know," the healer agreed, sighing as she looked at her house, where her sister was once again unsubtly watching us from a window. "Thank you again for being honest," she said turning to face me. "And sorry, it's, it's hard to believe the Protectorate would do that when. . ."

"The media is all about how great they are?" I asked. "Yeah propaganda is insidious like that. Don't worry, you wouldn't be the first to accuse someone of lying instead of believing a harsh truth, and I doubt you'll be the last. No hard feelings. See you tomorrow for healing?"

She nodded, smirking, "Only if you get enough rest! I'll be checking!"

I waved her off, laughing, "Fine mom, I'll get to bed at a descent hour. See you then!" Flying back with a wave towards Glory Girl, I headed to home base to try my hand at Space Warping. Considering it came with a sensory component, I knew I couldn't use it anytime soon, as Vista would be able to sense my work if she came in range. The uses for it I'd copied from seeing Vista in action last night were automatic, as was par for the course with replicating uses of a power I'd directly seen, and reshaping the twists only took a few seconds. The long tunnel formation she'd used to get us to the rig was also useful, if cumbersome, and I worked on shrinking it from a passage leading north, far out of the city, into something a bit more useful.

After only a few hours my alarm went off, and I grudgingly headed to bed for three hours of meditation. I'd figure out the specifics of it soon, and hopefully I'd only need a couple hours every week of rest if I wasn't constantly fighting, but for now better too much than too little.

This time instead of just relaxing into near-unconsciousness I focused on my power, trying to relax into it and focus around it, to catch the details hiding under the vague sense of energy. After a while I started to gain the sense of it. Fire, burning deep within, flickering against unseen wind, but before I got more than just a general impression my alarm went off, prompting me to get breakfast and head to meet up with Taylor for another morning of bomb clearance.

The officer leading the team, who introduced himself as Officer Garnett, was much more respectful, though he was confused on one point. "I was reviewing your previous day's work Vejovis, and I don't see the underlying method to your coverage."

I shrugged, "We were given no instructions other than, 'go find bombs', so I warned the people around us, then we did."

Garnett looked at me for a moment before swearing under his breath, "Fucking Galston," and looking at his phone. "We'll start by clearing the City Hall, and we'll work from there on clearing Downtown. Rivers, Beltran, I want you at the one and eleven of the perimeter of the swarm, warning people." He turned to look back at me as two of the officers jogged off. "We had complaints, now I know why. If you would?"

From there we moved on as we had before until we found the third device, this one booby trapped to go off if you opened it up, if I was understanding the mechanisms inside well enough. Pointing it out got Garnett swearing, prompting me to offer the use of our beetles. "You can do that?" he asked incredulously.

I nodded, as did Taylor. "I informed the previous fellow before we started. Grumpy chap, never got his name." Turning to my partner I motioned in front of us. "Lady Bug, you're better with detail work, do you think you could create a model of the device?"

She shrugged, "Sure." Waving a hand in front of herself insects gathered, forming the inverse of the shape that we could see, the gnats holding in place unnaturally to create the structure. I looked at it, and realized that to someone who couldn't sense insects, all it looked like was cube of bugs. Grabbing the top layer and sending them back into the greater swarm, I pointed out the pull line now suspended in the air.

Garnett hesitated before crouching down to get a better look at it, the gnats we used small enough that they were almost impossible to pick out individually from a distance, the entire thing a seemingly solid grey mass. Taking a flashlight, he shone it in and around the model, highlighting the structure. Calling for their expert on his comms, he soon had Dragon helping him, using a camera to see the structure of what we'd made. After a minute, he pointed out a strand of insects near the bottom. "This one, can you cut it?"

"The red one?" Taylor asked, "Sure." She grabbed a few cockroaches from a nearby restaurant and had them chew through it. "Want me to open it and see if it worked?"

He double checked that the rest of his team had cleared the area before nodding. "If you can." She gathered the swarm and pushed the inside open, the hinge swinging smoothly, pulling the wire in the process. Nothing happened. We waited a few minutes, and still nothing. He sent one of his troopers over, shaking his head when I asked incredulously why they didn't send a drone, responding, "I was informed that these were not technically bombs, and thus we had no need for such."

He laughed at Taylor's indignant, "That's stupid!", nodding in agreement. The squaddie he sent, a woman by the name, or codename, Peterson came back after a moment, what looked like a Tinkertech scanner in hand, reporting that it was dead.

Officer Garnett nodded, "This makes our job much easier. Thank you."

'Do you want to be helpful, or be safe?' I wrote with bugs in the vent of the building to our left.

Taylor looked at Garnett, before writing 'Helpful', adding a moment later, 'He's not a jerk'.

"If it helps, we can split up, though I insist we stay in Comm contact," I said tapping my ear while spelling 'which for us is the range of your control Lady Bug'. "Ours are short range, but we can cover more ground that way."

The commanding officer nodded, calling up the PRT for a few more helping hands, sending most of his current team with Taylor. With that we spent the next few hours clearing half of downtown in its entirety and by the time we called it quits we had over fifty devices defused, with only a handful of detonations, and no casualties. I did have to support a building that had a load bearing wall turned to gas with my strength for ten minutes until the PRT was able to get some supports to prop it up. It might've been longer, but after five minutes I claimed that I was tiring, and didn't know how much longer I could hold it, my strength 'failing' as they set up the supports, which got the lead out of the people doing so.

Dropping Taylor off, I confirmed that the Truce was meeting tomorrow at Somer's Rock, but she didn't know when other than "After 4". Making it in time to meet Panacea, I noticed that Glory Girl, looking oddly nervous, wanted to say something to me. Holding up a hand and pointing upwards, lifting high into the air, she followed suit, the two of us coming to stop several hundred feet up. I stopped the wind when she came level with me, and I wrapped us in a sound bubble. "Okay, we won't be overheard. What's up Glory Girl?"

"Amy said you could get in touch with the guy from that fight, Boardwalk?" I nodded. "Can you tell him thanks? For saving D-Gallant. After what you said that night, I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I, I don't know what I'd do if something happened to him." She held herself as if cold, eyes cast downward.

I floated towards her, putting a hand on her shoulder. Her head snapped up, looking at me, warily, but without hosility. "Glory Girl, Dean is a Hero who deserves the title. I, or those who may be under my employ, would go out of their way to save him and people like him. Even if it means I, or he," I corrected, "have to let Oni Lee get away to do so."

She just nodded, eyes bright. Letting the sound bubble slowly disperse, and releasing my hold on the wind, I nodded back before I dropped down, slowing my fall right before I hit the ground, Panacea waiting.
So I recently started reading your works, and I saw this was one of yours. Never read it but did hear about it so that is a thing. Should I be reading it here though? I see it's way under sized compared to the FF.net version. Is it a different version/rewrite or something?
So I recently started reading your works, and I saw this was one of yours. Never read it but did hear about it so that is a thing. Should I be reading it here though? I see it's way under sized compared to the FF.net version. Is it a different version/rewrite or something?
I'm cleaning it up as I post it, making sure there's no continuity errors, etc. If you want the full million+ word story all at once ff.net's the place to go, but I've learned an absolute ton about writing since I started it, so this version will be a better read.
I'm cleaning it up as I post it, making sure there's no continuity errors, etc. If you want the full million+ word story all at once ff.net's the place to go, but I've learned an absolute ton about writing since I started it, so this version will be a better read.
I figured it might be something along the lines of an edit pass. Thanks!
Spoiler 5.8
Spoiler 5.8

Panacea didn't make small talk as we healed, though when someone mentioned my mornings' activities I did get a raised eyebrow. "I got a few hours sleep. It'll be enough for now!" I defended, to the laughs of the people we were healing. Afterwards we had a quiet dinner out, during which Panacea visibly noticed, and was aggravated by, the people paying attention to us. Being under the spotlight killed her interest in conversation, and I couldn't help but ponder, did she really not notice the attention she had before?

On the way home she finally asked what her sister wanted to talk to me about. "She was under the impression I was in contact with Boardwalk and wanted to send her thanks," I explained. "I told her that, given the PRT is actively looking for him, people who may or may not be working with me would always go out of their way to save heroes like her boyfriend."

"Oh," she responded looking relieved. "Good."

I gave her a questioning look, but she didn't elaborate.

"I didn't ask before, but Vista and Gallant, you've healed them, right?" I asked. I assumed the answer was yes, but it was better to confirm than work on bad info.

She nodded. "They were in bad shape, but they're fine now. Vista had some of the tendons in her arm severed and only had operationality of half the fingers on her left hand, Gallant had localized spinal damage from the electrical blast." I felt a dropping sensation in my gut, had I paralyzed Gallant? "Thankfully the damage didn't extend upwards. Since their brains were fine, I was able to heal them completely." While relieved I subconsciously growled in anger at the situation, prompting her to ask "What?"

I hesitated for a moment, before deciding to just go ahead and say it. "If they'd trained her to use her armor, that wouldn't have happened. She was practically flailing out there. Without you she'd've been maimed for the rest of her life, because she was trying to be a hero when she should've been in middle school." I didn't bother to hide my sneer at the hypocrisy of the program meant to protect young parahumans actively putting them in danger, "It's worse than if she was independent, because then she would've known she had no real support. Sorry," I apologized automatically. "I'm not upset with you, it's just. . ." I sighed, looking for the right words.

"People who have accepted responsibility," I put forward, thinking my way through the issue as I talked, "not have it thrust on them, or taken it because they're just trying to make the best of a bad situation, but actively sought it, and are rewarded for it, but then don't even try to do what they've promised to do, been paid to do, with gold and glory, that is behavior that is lower than even most who call themselves villains."

She didn't have anything to say in response, so we finished our flight in silence. Dropping her off, I told her "I can't heal with you tomorrow, and after that I can't promise anything."

"Is it because I told Vicky tha-" she started, sounding hurt and guilty.

"No, there's a villain meeting that I'm attending." I interrupted.

She blinked. "What."

"Things've gotten bad enough that all the gangs and villain aligned groups are meetings to work together to take down the ABB. Kaiser, Faultline, The Undersiders, Coil, well probably his double but he'll be there in spirit, and some others. The PRT, whose job it is to stop this, isn't calling in the big guns, for whatever reason. Even though, as a national taxpayer funded organization that's literally their jobs. New Wave's just been keeping their heads down, right?" I checked.

"I'm healing," Amelia offered, "But, we're not sure what to do."

"Take the fight to the ABB," I offered simply, "But New Wave. . . they're not really active that much, and this will be bad. So, since there's no heroes that are willing to do what needs to be done, I'll be there as well, under the banner of truce to help them stop the killing. They'll do it to stop the Feds from taking over the entire city, I'll do it to save people, but hey, common goals, different reasons."

She bit back her first response before nodding. "I. . . Okay. Be safe, okay?"

I smiled, surprised that she'd accepted it at that, the eight probable conversational paths I'd predicted, from 'that doesn't excuse working with villains' to 'it's too dangerous', and my responses to each, fading, unused. "Don't worry, if I needed to I could take them all on and escape. I'll still be careful," I added at her glare. Taking off I called down, "I'll tell you what happens over dinner!"

Getting home, I found Herb cooking for himself, having just gotten back from another Cauldron mission. "Beatin' down some dumbass drug-dealers in a jungle somewhere. Might've been Peru," he offered by way of explanation, and I had him clear his schedule tomorrow, his eyes lighting up when he realized it was time for the meeting at Somer's Rock, one of the more useful stations of canon that we could twist to our advantage. "Fuck yeah, this is gonna be awesome!" he crowed.

I nodded, myself worried a little at how it'd go, but fairly confident, "And we're meeting up with our newest team-member tomorrow for lunch, before heading over." I'd texted Purity, and while her grammar was atrocious she'd agreed to meet up with Break and me before the meeting, a meeting she hadn't heard about this time around.

He smiled slyly, "Finally corrupted Panacea, huh?"

What? I thought, before glaring at him. "No, it's not Panacea, and what do you mean corrupted?"

"Well, she'd be out consortin' with villains an' shit, something she'd never do before." He frowned in confusion, "If it's not Panacea, then who? Her sister?"

"No," I snapped, suddenly feeling a lot less charitable. "I wouldn't bring a kid to this! If I could I'd convince Taylor to sit it out in case it gets bad. No, they're an adult, and that's all I'm going to say! You'll find out who they are when they meet us tomorrow."

I walked past him, ignoring his call of "Come on man, I didn't mean nothin' by it!"


Meditation didn't come easily, taking over an hour to even begin to center myself, trying to understand why I'd snapped at Herb. It wasn't until I'd fully calmed and tried to think of something else that I realized that it wasn't the corrupting Panacea comment as I'd originally thought, as that was him being his normal crude and incredibly inappropriate self. It was the suggestion that I'd bring her to the villain meeting.

With how badly that had the possibility of going.

It reminded me too much of the Protectorate fielding the Wards with insufficient training, unthinking of the possible dangers, and that was a parallel that offended me. If not only had Panacea joined, but had been combat trained, was comfortable with the use of violence, and was using her power to go full Guyver then hell yes I'd love to have that support, but as she was now? It would have been reckless to the point of negligence to bring her along. That wasn't even considering that Glory Girl would've invariably tried to follow and sneak in, and that would've gone as well as a fireworks exhibition in a distillery.

I'd barely dealt with that and found my center when my alarm went off, signaling the end of my three hours of meditation, which hadn't even felt like one. Stretching as I got up, I did feel rested, though had I the time I might've reset the alarm for another few hours, but I had work to do. What I wanted to do was work on my Boardwalk set, but he needed to lay low for a few weeks, and the power testing I wanted to do had the possibility of being. . . explosive. Maybe if it was day I could risk it, but at night using Purity's power would tell everyone where I was.

Reviewing the battle again, watching the footage L33t had taken, now that I wasn't on the edge of passing out from exhaustion, I still looked borderline precognitive, which would be good for the intimidation factor, but tactically I was a fucking mess. I had three powers in that persona, but for most of the fight I'd only used one. From the very first second, I'd been screwing up. Oni Lee behind me? Speed Zone his ass away. Hit the side of a building and needed an out? Drop a zone up the side and press myself into it while I flew, blasting off even faster. Purity's speed combined with the acceleration of my Speed Zones should make me crazy fast, but I hadn't thought of it. Actually, speaking of speed. . . I paused the video and headed to the workshop, building an ad hoc target as I muted the room and tried to pull the smallest blast I could. A pea size piece of light formed in the palm of my hand, shifting unstably, before shooting out in a rainbow line. Streaking across the workshop it impacted the target, blowing out a chunk of the wood.

Walking over to the target and checking the damage, if I had to guess it was like someone had hit it with a blunt pick, the force blasting across a quarter inch diameter area. Walking back and layering Speed Zones down the inside of my middle and pointer fingers, I formed another tiny ball of Light, sending it down the track I'd created, feeling the slightest of kickbacks as it accelerated. The projectile moved more than twice as fast, digging a larger hole in the target, concentrating force without increasing area. Doubling up on the zones I tried again, the kickback noticeable, the trail lacking the bright greens of the previous shot. This shot punched a gouge out of the two-by-fours I'd used to make my target, and the time from firing to hit was almost instantaneous. Doubling up again, Zones shifting from cerulean to azure, I formed another, took aim, and fired.

My hand was jerked back by the unexpected kick the at same time as the center of the target exploded, a hole punched through the two-by-four, sending shards of wood against the back wall. The trail lacked any greens whatsoever and had flown fast enough to possibly rival a pistol. I checked the clock. If I'd spent a single hour training like this beforehand, and half of that was just making the target, I would've had Oni Lee, shooting him too fast for him to realize what was happening. Mind you, I mused, pulling on Miss Militia's power and creating a copy of the pistol I had in a holster on my back, unloading it on the target, it's a moot point now.

A flicker of light caught my eye and I actually looked at the gun in my hand. The 1911 I held was a slightly glowing blood red, the image of an Entity in purple inscribed on either side of the slide. Turning it into a revolver resulted in a similar problem, only the spiked snake was now coiling down the circular barrel.


Taking out my real pistol and trying to get it to copy the hardware only resulted in getting my first result. Switching to a twenty-two, an assault rifle, a shotgun, and a sniper rifle in turn, each one had a similar coloration and design. Changing to melee weaponry, I had no better luck. Be it knife, machete, warhammer, or katana, each one had the exact same coloration and motif. Sighing, I changed back to a copy of my real pistol. As useful as it would be, this was a power that would never see the light of day.

My costume's emblazoned Entity was close enough to a Caduceus that it was overlooked, but with this it'd be a theme, and I'd start gaining more attention then I'd like. It also just looked unearthly, obviously something power-created, and I had enough powers from this city without being absolutely flagrant about it.

Shooting both, real and projected pistol, guns akimbo style, was fun even if I would've missed most of the shots if I hadn't cheated with Aerokinesis. As I was reloading my real weapon, though, I frowned.

My pistol was enhanced with a Speed Zone, but it had the same kick as the projection. Pulling my projection to hand and opening the slide, inside the barrel sat a Speed Zone, just like my real weapon, which I could dismiss and reestablish independently. Setting the mystery of if her power was creating powered weapons, or if I was somehow subconsciously using my Speed Zones aside, I dismissed the power, only to have it change into a knife at my belt. I tried again, and it wavered, shimmering like it was underwater, straight lines twisting, before turning into a swiss army knife, the crest showing an Entity.

I groaned, as just like my Arthropod Control, which I tended to leave on rather than deal with the hassle whenever I wanted to use it, Weaponry Projection didn't want to be let go. Concentrating on it and forcing it down, back to wherever my power stored its copies, the weapon vanished in a puff of red and purple smoke.

Wanting to practice, but not wanting to leave, and needing to clean up my mess, I decided to kill three birds with one superpower, taking a seat while I tried to use Aerokinesis to pick up and move the individual pieces in a pile with targeted gusts of wind, getting the gusts stronger and tighter as dawn crested the horizon.

It was. . . suboptimal to say the least. Grumbling I cleaned up most of the mess by hand, made breakfast for the base, and ignored Herb's begging for a clue about our new member. Just to get out of the house, er, base for a bit I dropped by PRT HQ, asking for officer Garnett and then working with his team to help them clear another chunk of Downtown. Overall, it just felt like killing time more than actual progress, but the people's who's lives I probably saved doing so helped stave off the encroaching feelings of wasting precious hours.


Herb and I walked into the café in downtown, one that I'd actually cleared of a device that morning, in civilian garb. Herb wore his suit, sans mask and gauntlets, which were packed in a messenger bag at his side. I was in business casual, grey pants with a dark purple shirt, which seemed to give my skin a slightly different tone than my red and white costume.

We were shown to our seat, our reservation under the name Anders, though I kept Herb from hearing that as he glanced around the place, and we ordered an appetizer and drinks while we waited. I kept an eye out, spotting the short almost mousy-looking woman as she was shown to our table, her power obvious to my Sight.

I waved, smiling behind my sunglasses, and she started to wave back, smiling, before seeing Herb sitting next to me, looking for who I was waving at. She froze, before taking a breath and coming to sit next to us, smile now forced.

"Please," I said, "before we start, figure out what you want to eat. I'll cover it as a business expense, as this is a team meeting." She glanced at Herb before picking up her menu, hiding her face behind it.

Herb looked between her and me, brow furrowing, before his eyes started to glow white for a second and he hissed, "You asshole, why didn't you tell me?" she stiffened and I saw him panic, continuing, "You never said our new teammate was beautiful!"

She further stiffened behind her menu, before relaxing slightly, putting it down. "I'm ready to order," she informed me. Waving over our waiter we gave him our order, and I took out a small jar I'd faux-Tinkerteched. Pressing a button to turn on the LEDs, I wrapped us in a sound bubble while slightly muting the outside noises for theatrical effect.

"Purity, first name Kayden, this is Break, first name Herb. Herb, Purity," I introduced, pausing so that one of them would take the initiative and get the ball rolling and I could sort out our problems now instead of having it blow up at Somer's Rock.

Purity took the bait first, pointing at Herb. "You never said he was black!" she accused, realizing herself and glancing around, but no one so much as blinked an eye at her racist statement, having never heard it.

I quirked an eyebrow, not commenting on her moment of weakness. "Should that matter? I thought you quit the E88 years ago."

Before she could respond Herb waved me off stating, "I'm, I'm, you, some white," tripping over his words.

I turned to gaze at him in disbelief, wondering if he was having a stroke, as Kayden look at him as well, more confused than offended. "Are you trying to do that crude 'would you like some black in you' line? If you are, you've got it turned around."

It took a second, but I understood, explaining, "No, he's trying to say he's half-black, half-white."

Purity, still confused, replied, "Oh, well that's. . . better?"

Herb nodded to this very racist statement. "Yeah, there's um, cream in my tea?" he smiled encouragingly.

I sighed, rubbing at my face at his pitiful display. "Coffee Herb, cream in your coffee is the phrase you're looking for."

He froze, obviously mentally berating himself, "Yeah, yes, that. Um. You are amazing, you know that, right?"

Purity just looked even more confused. "What?"

"Sorry, yeah," he winced again. "Wow, um, I lo-, no not that, yet, you're special. That's what I was looking for."

Looking to me for help, she asked helplessly, "I'm sorry, what?"

"You know, stuff. And things," he added.

I needed to stop this train-wreck, for my sanity if nothing else. "Right, so ignoring my suddenly non-erudite friend, he was the one who was telling me about how you'd quit the Empire and that we should recruit you onto our team." I said, embellishing a little to try to throw my partner a bone. "Apparently, he's more nervous about this then I'd thought he'd be, but whatever."

"When you meet the sun," Herb elucidated. "Course you're nervous, it's the bringer of life." We both turned to look at him, as he bit his lip to stop himself from saying more.

"Um," I added, "How about you just let me talk for this bit?"

"Yeah, sorry, just. . ." he trailed off, a wistful expression on his face.

"So, how are you doing?" I asked her, turning to exclude him from the conversation until he got his shit together.

Purity, obviously desperate to have some normality in this conversation quickly replied, "I'm doing fine. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?"

Our food arrived, and I toggled the 'device' until he left, going over the general plan, and expected parties, finishing with, "If things go really bad, l want the two of you to fight your way out with those that don't want to fight. As they are right now, I can hold out until you're clear, then I could escape. I'd probably get hurt, but nothing that's not fixable. You two being there would negate the threat though, as while I'd want you to get to safety, they might think you'd immediately join the fray."

Purity frowned, "No. If I'm on this team, I'll fight with you!"

I shook my head emphatically. "No. You get to safety in the air and blast our foes from afar or you don't fight at all. You've got kids to take care of Kayden. We don't."

"He's right," Herb said, looking her in the eye. "You've got people who need ya, and you need to be able to go back to them."

"Why go at all, if it's going to be so dangerous?" she asked, not addressing what we'd just said, something I was beginning to believe was an endemic trait in Brockton Bay.

"Kayden, you're a hero, but I'm also trying to redeem those branded as villains who have accepted the appellation, even though it isn't true. As far as I know Kaiser, Hookwolf, and Alabaster are irredeemable assholes, but can the same be said about everyone in the E88? Night and Fog are programmed by Gazelleshaft, or whatever they're called, and I'd help them if I could, but I don't have the resources to do so right now."

The woman was staring at me, unnerved, "How do you know that?"

Smiling slightly, I merely stated, "I have my sources," before I shook my head and continued, my speech. "Thing is, If I'm going to in the future, I'll need bargaining chips to use on the PRT to get them to both leave me alone as an independent, and to accept that the 'Villains' I'm working with are really trying to redeem themselves. Their cooperation with helping to end a city-wide threat could open the door to doing so, let alone adding legitimacy to the truce being across the standard battle lines of heroes and villains, and not just the villains being villainous jerks. The fact that I'll release a statement to the press afterwards will reaffirm that and add a sense of safety to the situation that this city desperately needs, since the government heroes haven't said a god-damned thing other than claiming 'we're working on the issue.'"

"We're doing the best with what's available to us," Herb added, finding his eloquence. "but at the same time. . . actually, no, we're just straight up doing the right thing!"

"Exactly," I agreed. "And if you can think of anyone in the E88 that might want to come to the side of the angels, or even could be convinced to turn over a new leaf, I'd be grateful. I know some of them, like Rune, weren't there when you were, but maybe you could talk to them where I couldn't." I shrugged. "I'm not demanding results, just that you try your best."

Purity looked down at her lap, nodding. "I can do that. Yes, I'm in." I saw Herb's eyes light up with excitement and quickly silenced him as he mouthed 'Group Hug!', only to realize that he'd been muted, glaring at me accusatorily, mouthing 'asshole!'
Spoiler 5.9
Spoiler 5.9

"With how tense things might get, I need you to be professional," I told my companions, now in costume as we approached Somer's Rock.

Purity frowned, offended, an expression that I could only read as my Power Sight dampened the Light from her power. "I don't know what you think I'll do, but I can be professional!"

I blinked in surprise, pointing at the other member of our party, "What? No. I was talking to him."

"I know. If you need me to be professional, I'll be professional," Herb nodded sagely. I gave him a look. "No matter how much of a fuckin' dumbass they are," he amended. "I'll try to swoon this wonderful morning sun another day."

"You do that," I responded dryly, ignoring Purity's somewhat uncomfortable "Um?" Walking in, the inside was as dingy as the outside, and I was glad my powers made me disease-proof. A large table was set in the center of the floor. Waving happily to the bartender, who scowled in return, I took a seat at one end of the table. The waitress walked over, pushing a notepad at me, on which I wrote down 'cola'.

Looking to the other members of my team Purity shook her head. "I don't want anything. Thank you."

Herb smiled at Kayden, reaching into his bag, producing a bottle. "I brought water. Fiji."

She looked at him, surprised, before nodding, taking one as she visibly realized that he too could see her, giving him a tentative smile. The waitress plopped my drink in front of me, looking at me in confusion when I handed her a twenty and held up a hand when she moved to give me change. Her expression didn't lighten, but it might've un-soured.


A little.

A minute later the Undersiders walked in as a group, Grue and Tattletale at the front, both freezing when they saw us. Grue recovered first, moving with most of his team to take seats at a side table, starting to glance at Taylor before stopping himself. Tattletale didn't move, staring at me before wincing, turning to look between Break and Purity. Kayden was keeping an eye on the teenagers while Herb tried to make small talk, both of them standing away from me, leaning against the bar. As Herb made a comment on how he wondered if Kaiser's power to create blades was a comment on how he felt like he needed to compensate for something, and Purity tried not to smile, the Thinker loudly declared: "Bullshit. No. This is just Bullshit!"

I smiled as Herb finally noticed the Undersiders, the man checking that no one else had showed up before giving them a smile and a wave. "No need to swear," I gently but firmly rebuked.

The purple-clad teen looked at me in outrage, motioning towards my teammates, "But! She's-!"

"Tattletale, she hasn't been a member of the E88 in two years, that's why she's sitting next to her teammate, who happens to be African-American." I looked at her, narrowing my eyes but unable to suppress a smirk. "Tattletale, are you a racist? Is this a tale that needs to be told? What would other people," I looked significantly at Grue, "think about how your racial bigotry might affect your teammates. Do we need to be worried about Grue, or anyone else that's covered in black? Does the red of my costume make you think I want to open a casino?"

"You need to shut up," She ground out, pointing at me, but making no move to get closer.

I put a hand to my chest, sighing in mock sadness, my words carrying the hint of a threat, "Honestly, it's you that needs to, little miss 'Psychic', or do we need to revisit what happens when you speak before you think?"

Tattletale gave an inarticulate noise of ill-repressed rage before stomping over to her teammates, while Regent chuckled. I looked at Purity and nodding my head towards Taylor, indicating her as the person on our side and someone to protect if things went bad, and got an answering nod in return.

A few minutes after that I heard the clanking of steel from outside. Sure enough, the metal man himself walked in, twin statuesque blondes on either arm, with a cool confidence which shattered as soon as he stepped through the doorway, armored in an interlocking lattice of blades, and saw who was waiting for him.

My Power Sight Saw the Iron and Steel flames of his power as Metal Creation, with the same warp and weft that my power informed me meant the ability was Safety Locked, or Manton Limited in the local parlance, just as Vista's power was. His face was mostly covered, but the parts that weren't were red with rage as he saw Purity sitting next to and conversing with Herb, likely easily reading her repressed amusement and blatant dismissal of him. As he struggled with himself the blades of his costume grew slightly, causing the twins to let go, which was all my power needed to grab a copy of his power.

The leader of the local Neo-Nazis stepped fully into the bar, turning away from my teammates, freezing once more as he saw me casually sitting, likely in the spot he had planned to take. Turning to the other end of the table he strode over in what I'm sure he thought was an imperious stride, but just looked like a metal peacock strutting to me. He sat smoothly at the foot of the table, trying to make it the new head, commenting, "I didn't expect to see any heroes here," making the word sound like a slur. The rest of the E88 contingent came in, all of them looking between Purity and Kaiser in confusion before settling in the seats behind him.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I was under the impression that this was to discuss a truce, which is why I'm present, even if the Protectorate are too stupid to send a representative themselves," I commented blandly.

Kaiser looked like he tasted something sour, but only said, "I'm glad to see you were wise enough to answer my call," causing Herb to laugh.

He didn't attempt any additional sophomoric power moves and sat there in silence, ordering a drink. Looking over the German Appreciation Club contingent, I Saw their powers. The twins in fantasy Valkyrie armor both had Personal Size Manipulation, which allowed them to grow themselves, and Projectile Size Manipulation to shrink incoming missiles, changing the strength of the affected item accordingly. An older man in a simple costume had a Friction Field paired with low level Personal Force Enhancement, the field smoothing and enhanced the motions of his allies while hindering his foes.

Hookwolf had an alternate form, the name of the power not translating smoothly into English, giving him a core he could generate metal from, which he then controlled, and could stow his body into. With this versatile power he chose to make a wolf made of hooks, and nothing else. I looked at this waste of potential and was sadly unsurprised. No wonder Stormtiger and Cricket were his followers, all three had awesome uncapped powers they did nothing with.

The last woman in their group was clad in a black cloak, hood, mask, bodysuit, and high heeled boots, leaving only her eyes exposed. Her power turned her into a #####, the word if it was a word, not registering in my mind, only getting the sense of screeching clicks and the sensation of feeling something on a sense I didn't possess. The ##### form was limited to prevent identification, forcing her into a human form if observed. Her opposite number was dressed similarly, except male, lacking the heels, and was clad in greys. His was the power of Physical Dispersal, manifesting as a particulate cloud, along with a sub ability to convert matter into more particulates to heal himself. These two, who must be Night and Fog, didn't seem to care much about what was going on.

As Kaiser and I sat, and he did his best to ignore my presence, like a small child, a man in a full-body black & white costume strolled in who had no powers whatsoever. The costume's only decoration was a white snake pattern that started around one ankle before wrapping up and around him as it seemed to coil- oh, I get it. Anyways, it coiled itself around his body, resting itself over the top of his face. I stared at the actor pretending to be Calvert, and hid a sigh of relief.

I'd known Coil was going to send a double, but I had been worried that he'd equip his stand-in with a camera and comms, allowing him his usual shenanigans, but from the skin-tightness of his costume, to the point where I could see the man's ribs, that wasn't going to be an issue. The double looked between Kaiser and I unsure, before moving to take a position in the middle, probably trying to pull off the whole 'Last Supper' thing.

Given the way the table had been set up, diagonally across the floor, it didn't work.

Not-Coil nodded to me, which I returned pleasantly, and to Kaiser, who gave the barest of nods in return, clearly annoyed that he'd been addressed second. I rolled my eyes. More positioning bullshit, I thought, though I could just barely hear Herb behind me, enhancing the sound to listen in as he quietly gave a blow-by-blow commentary to Purity on all the social dominance moves as they were made, his assessments pretty much in line with mine.

Next to enter was a woman who looked to be about my age, wearing an interesting mix of armor and cloth, a welding mask on her head, but pushed up revealing her face, with a long black ponytail trailing behind. From a combat perspective, I could see the design choices. Her armor was practical, and her gloves looked weighted, which would help enhance any hand-to-hand combat she got into. The cloth, giving the illusion of a dress, was cut in a way that wouldn't hamper movement, but possibly hide the positioning of her legs.

The design would've been indecent had she not been wearing armored pants underneath, but it gave the entire thing a feminine appearance, which I appreciated. Her Blue and Red flames of Severance blazed around her, and peering at it further my Sight informed me she was limited to non-living matter as a safety precaution, just like Missy and Kaiser. Faultline stepped in, her team behind her, and she, just like everyone else, froze when she saw me.

Actually, I realized, it wasn't me she was staring at, but Herb. She gazed at him, eyes narrowed, before turning and walking to sit to the right of Kaiser, giving a half-hearted sneer at Tattletale. The four that followed her were interesting.

First was obviously Newter, the Orange and Yellow Aura around him giving him Physical Enhancement as well as the ability to create Hallucinogenic Slime both based on the fire-bellied newt. Gregor the Snail had the Grey and Brown aura of Chemical Manipulation, limited to his own internal structure, as well as Physical Enhancement of his own, patterned off snails. I had to wonder if this was the Thinker Entity's hand at play, making her powers take after themes found in our planet's ecosystem, instead of the Warrior Entity's more basic and blunt 'Go fight stuff!' approach, or if it were just coincidence.

The other two were Scion Triggers, and following my theory weren't animal aligned at all. The first wasa woman in a red and black fire suit, wearing an odd gas mask, who had the Yellow & White flames of Pyrophoric Chemical Projection, and the smaller blonde girl in a mask holding the first woman's hand had Green and Blue flames that burned in fractal patterns that were hard to look directly at. The girl's Pocket Dimension held tight around her, constantly rewriting reality around her feet but retracting as she moved. My power wanted to grasp onto it, almost drawn to it, but I held it back.

As far as I was concerned, copying villain powers was fair game, but copying hero powers I didn't need was something I wouldn't do now that I had my identities set up. Faultline and her crew, despite their mercenary nature, where at least possibly heroes, so I'd afford them the benefit of the doubt for now. Looking at her, I noticed Labyrinth staring at me behind her mask, her secondary power of Dimensional Sensing a spotlight latching onto my costume. She started to walk towards me, but Spitfire herded her to the table Gregor & Newter had claimed, while the older woman shot me a hostile, questioning look as if I should explain myself.

Next was someone who could only be Æonic, confidently striding in as if he hadn't a care in the world. Thankfully his head wasn't a clock, but instead a full-face helmet, the front white with a clock design, hands set to midnight, two dark spots where his eyes were, the sides of the helm textured to look like oak. He sported a full Victorian suit: Black jacket and pants, with a closed silk vest patterned with pocket watches, under a clean white shirt, a white jumpsuit under it covering his neck and hands. Seeing his power made my eyes water, the strength and intensity of the flames something that I'd only seen in Herb.

The inferno his power made was Electric Blue and literally Sand, flashing into a new position every second exactly. Not only that, but he appeared to have four powers, which should've been impossible, whatever I told Panacea. He had a Temporal Bubble, which was what Boardwalk probably got caught in, Glimpse, which was detailed as combat precognition, Schrodinger, which was medium-scale quantum super-positioning, and-

What. The. Fuck. My thought process crashed to a halt as the words "Peak Condition" flashed across my mind, a power I was very familiar with as it was the same power Herb and I had! I missed whatever he said to the villains gathered, casually sitting to my left, commenting in a voice that seemed oddly familiar, "Didn't expect to see heroes here. Awesome."

"If it's a truce to stop the city from getting blown up, I'm all for working with the other side," I responded automatically, trying to process what I'd just seen. "The Protectorate would be here if they weren't complete morons." At my comment he turned to look at me sharply, before he shrugged, waving off the waitress. As he did so I shot a glance to Herb, who was also staring at him in thought, but shook his head at my look. Grue moved and sat to my right, looking between Æonic and myself. I shrugged back, not able to answer whatever his question might be.

Before he could ask regardless I heard a familiar voice calling, "Sup Bitches! The Merchants are here so we can get this party fuckin' started!" Standing in the doorway was Skidmark, and Squealer, along with what looked to be a goblin with pink skin. The Pink and Grey guttering flame of the goblin's Adaptive Armoring was barely present, his Enhanced Malleable Physiology almost nonexistent. I looked at what must be Mush, and as I peered deeper into his power, I Saw that nowhere in his power was there the form-locking component that Gregor and Newt had. As far as I could tell, staring at the components of his power, he looked like that because he expected to look like that, and his power complied, which was just depressing.

He caught me staring and shied away from my gaze, looking ashamed, and the sound of a chair hitting the ground broke my focus. The 'track'-star pointing at Grue and demanding to know why he was there.

Faultline, expression bored and neutral, though with an undercurrent of hidden attention, directed a hand towards the head of the Undersiders and responded, "His team hit the Brockton Bay Central Bank a week ago. You could just ask Vejovis. He failed to stop them." I smiled broadly and nodded, which got odd looks from several of the capes. "They've gone up against Lung several times in the past and they're still here, which is better than most. Not even counting the events of a week ago, Grue knows about the ABB and he can share that information," her eyes flicked to Herb, before she focused back on Skidmark, "with the rest of us."

"What about this shit felcher?" Skidmark asked, pointing at Æonic, who just laughed. Again, I got a sense of Deja-vu, the sound just felt off.

"I've hit ten of the angsty baby boy's strongholds this week," the boy, and it was a boy, bragged. "All you shits have done is hide in your hole and run away from your problems, but nothing new there. Bitch," he taunted, his crude language at odds with his refined costume.

"What'd you call me ya fucking knob gobbler!?" Skidmark demanded, fists going up.

Æonic laughed again, shaking his head. "If I wanted I could take you pissant junkies down in less time it takes you to blink. But we're here under truce, so I won't." With his power he could I realized, and I mentally commanded my costume to invisibly cover my exposed skin, just in case things went bad.

Skidmark, with what few braincells he had left, pointed at me instead, trying his luck a third time demanding, "What about you! I know you shouldn't be here ya scrotum-licking fudge-packing wanker!"

On one level I wanted him to keep going, as he was getting increasingly inventive, but we needed to get down to business. To defeat, the Huns! my brain completed, which wasn't exactly wrong. I smiled, making sure to show more teeth than was necessary.

"We're under truce, as Æonic said," I replied, "and if we weren't I would immediately try to take you down, as people who peddle drugs to children are just above rapists to me," I commented pleasantly. "And if, by some miracle, I wasn't able to subdue you, I'd just kill you, which is the far easier proposition. Though given that none of you have managed to pass through the revolving door that is our current legal system yet, I'd rather not."

I opened my arms, indicating those gathered. "But that's not why we're here, so take a seat like a civilized person, or slink out the door like a coward. Your choice."

As opposed to sitting next to the white supremacist, and just taking the very next seat down the table, which sat across from Coil, like I'd meant he should, Skidmark pushed over another chair, muttered about this being bullshit, and sat at a booth away from the rest of us. I rolled my eyes at the move, thinking, There was no reason for him to try kicking others out in the first place unless he wanted to start shit, or as a power move against Kaiser, which was just stupid as the man has the ego of a spoiled toddler. Now fecal-stain's whining about racists. I bet if he were a woman she'd be bitching about 'The Patriarchy'.

As the waitress put the chairs back and took everyone's orders, I sipped my watered-down soda and waited. Right as it looked like we were finally going to get started a smug voice called out "I'll be taking a seat, I think." Glancing over I saw a man in a red mask and top hat, the Eggplant Purple & Seafoam Green aura of Transposition surrounding him. As he walked in, his three companions followed him in, all clad head to toe in red and black.

First of all, there was a girl with stylized sun decals. Her main power was Stellar Creation, with a secondary of Stellar Negation, capable of normalizing heat and radiation to earth normal levels within five feet of her if she tried, the Bright Yellow & Burnt Orange of her aura dimly extending in that range around her.

The other man, whose costume was bulky and angular body armor, to the point he looked almost like an old video game character, possessed the Brown and Grey aura of Momentum Infusion, Safety Locked to inorganic matter, which I hadn't seen in a Cauldron Cape before. Behind all of them was a six-armed gorilla, who didn't appear to have any powers whatsoever.

I knew it was Genesis, but my Power Sight, for better or worse, didn't work on projections. Sadly, the fact that I couldn't follow the trail of power from a projection back to the Master who created it meant that The Siberian wouldn't be as easy to neutralize as I'd hoped. As I considered this, I didn't pay attention to the byplay Trickster had with the man pretending to be Coil. It was even odds they were already in his employ, and this was all a show to announce their presence to the city and to explain why they were working with Coil at a later date.

Not-Coil took the Gendo Ikari pose, which wasn't nearly as effective without glasses, and spoke smoothly from behind interwoven fingers as if he were an actor reciting lines, which he probably was. "That should be everyone. Seems Lung won't be coming, though I doubt any of us are surprised, given the subject of tonight's discussion."

"The ABB," Kaiser added completely unnecessarily, which, flexing my Acoustokinesis, I could hear Herb explaining to Purity that her ex-husband was doing so because: "God forbid someone else in the room talks without him getting the last word in."

"Over four hundred individuals confirmed dead, and well over a thousand hospitalized," Not-Coil paused, voice losing a bit of his smoothness as he improvised, "And the death count being as low as it currently sits, as well as the populace not understanding the impact of how bad the situation could otherwise be, is solely due to the efforts of Vejovis, as well as Panacea." I was still going to put a bullet in Coil's brain, but this actor seemed like a nice enough dude, I mused, giving him a thumbs up.

He nodded to me, continuing with his pre-prepared lines, "We have armed presences on the streets. Ongoing exchanges of gunfire between ABB members, the E88 defending themselves, and the combined forces of the police and military. They have raided our businesses and bombed places where they even think we might be operating. They have attempted to seize our territories, and there's no indication they intend to stop anytime soon."

"It is inconvenient," Kaiser added, and I could pick up a snort of laughter from Purity at Herb's "Told you."

Faultline agreed with disgust, "They're being reckless," which wasn't wrong. If they'd gone for some gains and then pulled back, they could've taken a bit more territory and waited for their next opportunity, using their explosives frugally. Instead they'd gone all or nothing, and it's what would lead to their destruction as a power in the city, just as in canon.

Not-Coil nodded to Faultline, "Which is the real concern. The ABB can't sustain this. Something will give, they will self-destruct sooner or later, and they will cease to be an issue. Had things played out differently, we could look at this as a good thing. Our problem is that the actions of the ABB are drawing attention to our fair city. All of the new Triggers are also flocking to the Protectorate instead of taking more reasonable offers. As they are mostly minorities, and given the disposition of the most visible criminal power here, this is not unexpected." Kaiser smiled unrepentantly. "All of the new Triggers, with one notable exception." He nodded to Æonic who gave a careless shrug, gaining the surprised attention of those assembled. They assumed he was just hiding until now and seized on the opportunity, I realized. Not that he went from 'I have powers' to 'I'm running a gang' in a little less than a week.

Not-Coil sighed dramatically, continuing as Kaiser tried to comment, talking over the man, a move which again caused Purity to suppress a laugh. "But it is worse than just an influx of bothersome heroes. Homeland Security and the military will soon establish a temporary presence to assist in maintaining order. Heroes will flock to the city to support the Protectorate in regaining control of matters. It will make business difficult. Then, the confrontation happened a few nights ago, which I'm sure you've all seen. The PRT are on high alert, and there are rumors that one of the Triumvirate will be coming if things don't improve soon. Not only that, but we have ten days before martial law is declared."

I blinked at the deviation from Canon. This was new. "Bakuda is at the center of this," Grue added, the two of us having discussed this, and how it would be better for everyone if they didn't know that the Penumbral Defenders and the Undersiders were responsible for her death. "Lung is the leader, but this is her doing. She 'recruited' by orchestrating raids of people's homes while they slept, subduing them, and implanting bombs in their heads. She then used those bombs to coerce her victims into kidnapping more. She had no less than three hundred in total, before something went wrong. Every single one of her soldiers knows that if they don't obey, then as soon as Bakuda solves whatever went wrong, she can detonate the bombs. Any who haven't fled are willing to put their lives on the line, because the alternatives are either certain death or watching their loved ones die for their failure. Taking her down, and whatever is controlling them, is our ultimate goal, but she claimed she's rigged her bombs to go off the second her heart stops, so it's a little more complicated than a simple assassination."

He grabbed something from his jacket, the details of what it was obscured by his darkness, and I resisted the urge to tap into his power to see it. Withdrawing a set of CD cases he continued, "She videotaped the ambush she pulled on my group a week ago and left it behind when she ran. I've made copies. Maybe you'll find it useful for getting a better understanding of her." Motioning for Taylor, she handed out a disk to everyone at the table before taking her place. Æeonic's body language showed surprised amusement, Faultline looked approving, Trickster looked bored, Not-Coil showed nothing, and Kaiser accepted it like a king receiving tribute.

"So," Not-Coil said, cracking each knuckle on his right hand individually. That seems. . . odd. I observed. Does Coil do that and the actor copied him, is the actor embellishing, or was the actor told to do that, with Coil setting that up as something that Thomas Calvert doesn't do so Coil can't be him. "We're in agreement?" the actor asked. "The ABB cannot be allowed to continue operating."

Everyone agreed in their own way. I half-considered giving an "Of course!" worthy of M. Bison, but simply nodded.

"Then I suggest we establish a truce," Not-Coil proposed. "Not just everyone here, but between ourselves and the law. I would contact authorities and let them know that, until this matter is cleared up, our groups will restrict our illegal activities to only what is absolutely essential to our businesses, and we will enforce the same for those doing business in our territories. That would let police forces and the military focus entirely on the ABB. There would be no violence, infighting between our groups, grabs for territory, thefts, or insults. We band together with those we can tolerate for guaranteed victory, and we ignore those we cannot cooperate with."

"Just saying my group won't be getting directly involved in this without a reason," Faultline spoke, ever the mercenary. If she fought me I'd try not to kill her people, but I had a feeling she was just angling to get paid. "We won't be going after the ABB unless they get in my way or someone pays my rates. It's the only workable policy when you're a cape for hire. Also, just so we're clear, if it's the ABB paying, my team's going to be on the other side of things."

"Unfortunate, but you and I can talk after this meeting is done. I'd prefer to keep matters simple," Not-Coil immediately responded, magnanimously, before anyone else could get a word in, as he'd surely been told to, "You're okay with the other terms?"

"Keeping on the down-low, not kicking up a fuss with other groups? That's status quo with my group anyways," the woman nodded.

The actor nodded. "Good. Kaiser?"

"I think that is acceptable," Kaiser agreed, head held high and not quite looking down his nose at us.

"I was talking to my group about doing something not too different from what Coil just proposed," Grue spoke, nodding a head towards me, "Yeah, we're cool with it."

"Sure," Trickster said, "not a problem. We're in."

"I can spare some time," Æonic quipped.

Those assembled looked at me expectantly, though Kaiser was trying not to be obvious about it. I smiled, this time warmly. "If those with power wish to act as heroes, I will always help them." I grabbed my business cards and tossed one to each of the leaders present, only cheating with air control a little to get them to stop in front of each person, placing a small stack in the center of the table. Kaiser didn't pick his up, but one of the Valkyries did, and, while they pretended they weren't interested, the rest disappeared up sleeves and into pockets as well.

With that done, everyone shook hands with everyone else, Kaiser making a show of not shaking my hand, the little bitch. I made a point of walking over to Skidmark and shaking his hand, to his surprise, though I was glad my glove was self-cleaning.

As we all took our seats once more, Not-Coil moved to close the meeting. "Then that's our major piece of business concluded tonight. Anything else before we go our separate ways? Offers, announcements, grievances?"

The E88's uninspired guard dog decided to bark, "I've got a complaint." Hookwolf waited until everyone's attention was on him before continuing. Drama Queen. "My complaint's with her," he announced, looking towards the Undersiders, which considering that there was only a single guy at their table, didn't help in the slightest. He probably wasn't referring to Imp, who I couldn't see drinking Alec's soda, but still, that left three other girls.

"What's the issue?" Grue asked calmly, subconsciously producing more darkness.

"The crazy one, Hellhound, she-"

"Bitch," Bitch interrupted him, establishing social dominance like a boss, "only the panty-ass heroes call me Hellhound. It's Bitch."

"Don't fucking care," Hookwolf growled, probably only subconsciously aware of what just happened. "You attacked my business. Set your fucking dog on my customers. Lucky I wasn't there, whore."

Really. Whore? That's the best you got? I wondered, then chided myself, asking for originality from Hookwolf. The guy who named himself literally the thing he was. That would be like Kaiser calling himself Steelblade, or Purity saying her name was Lightblast.

From Grue's look he had no idea what Bitch was doing, another mark against his leadership skills. While Herb went off and did stuff all the time, he wasn't my subordinate, as Grue obviously considered Bitch. "That's the kind of risk you run, doing business in Brockton Bay," Brian remarked. "Capes can and will get in your way, hero or villain."

Hookwolf glared at him. "It's a matter of respect," he said, like he would give anyone that wasn't white the very thing he was asking for. "You want to fuck with my business, and we're not at war? You let me know if you've got an issue, first. Let me decide if I want to move shop."

I cut off Bitch before she could escalate this. "Oh, does this mean you asked permission of all the other groups before you set them up in the first place? You get the respect you give Hookwolf." I informed him, ignoring his growl. Honestly, the only reason I didn't call it cute was I knew he'd lose his shit. "Besides, Snake-man just finished talking about how during the truce we'd strip down to the minimum of criminal activities. If you're asking for complete compliance and cessation of activities, does this mean that you'll stop harassing gays and minorities. Or the Merchants will stop selling drugs. The truce is on general crime. I won't go out on patrol, but if I see you trying to make some strange fruit, I'm going to beat your shit in."

I looked around the room, addressing everyone, ignoring his schoolyard "I'd like to see you try." "Individual capes are known for having some things they can't abide," I explained capturing their attention. "For me in particular, it's rape. If the Wolf and the Bitch want to duke it out on their own, fine, but with the truce we won't be bringing our teams to the fight each other, and let's not pair up people that can't work together. Now, given that we have about a week to get this done before this city is turned into even more of a war-zone than it already is, we should abide by the very terms of the agreement we just shook on. Everyone got that?"

As most of those present nodded, Kaiser, who had been getting increasingly annoyed at how Not-Coil and I seemed to be running the meeting, ground out, "You're not in charge here, hero."

I looked at him as if he were particularly thick. "Neither are you, dumbass. Hey Skidmark, you get the jist of the truce?"

"Fuck you!" he called, but his response was lacking in the victimized anger he normally mainlined.

"Not my type, but did you get it?" I volleyed back, smiling.

"Fuck yes I got it you shit-sniffing hobo-wanker!" he called, sounding surly.

I smiled wider, this was too fun. "See, even the meth-head got it. I'm sure your people will figure it out, being the superior race and all. Do we have anything else to talk about that wasn't already covered by the truce?" No one said anything. "Good! When you guys, and gals, get ready to raid something, gimme a call. If I find something, I'll try and get word to your organizations." I beamed a sunny smile at everyone, standing up, the other leaders standing with me. Kaiser, probably not wanting to follow my lead or something, remained seated.

Not-Coil walked over to Trickster, who'd joined the rest of the Travelers. For a second, I considered walking over and trying to pre-empt him, but I don't have anywhere that could hold Noelle, much less help her, so that'd be something to take care of the future. Seeing Æonic beeline for the door, I followed him, Herb and Purity falling into step behind me. I needed to find out who he was, and why he was breaking what I had assumed were rules of the world the same way we were.

"Hey, Æonic!" I called, encircling the four of us in a sound bubble, "I need to ask you something."

"Yeah, what is it?" he responded, turning around, and what was bothering me about him finally clicked.

"Charlie?" I asked, narrowing my eyes. "Charlie Rycroft?

"What the fuck!?" he sputtered as an accent I didn't realize he had been faking dropped. "How the fuck do you know my name!?" my little brother demanded.
Interlude 5.x (Chuck)
Interlude 5.x (Interlude: Chuck)

Charlie Rycroft sighed as he got up, stretching. The injuries he'd picked up during his first night in Brockton Bay still hurt, even three days later, though popping a pill helped, and he had enough for the next month, easily. He busied himself around the apartment he'd rented deep in in E88 territory as Benjamin Franklin the 8th​.

Having to shill out almost a grand to avoid a background check had been painful, but he had a lot more, though he wasn't going to be repeating the experience he'd gone through to get it if he could afford to.

He laughed to himself at the pun.

A quick shit, shower, but still no shave, dammnit, and he was ready to face the day. He was tempted to spend another day hiding out, but if he stayed inside for another hour with no one to talk to he was going to go nuts.

Well, more nuts.

He still had no idea how the hell he got here, and why the hell this world was so messed up. Sure, superpowered villains, but come on, no one thought to snipe? That was like, combat one-oh-one! Camping was the move of a total newb, but this game was rigged, so why the fuck not?

Opening the drawer he'd stuck a small armory in, covered by a few t-shirts he'd picked up, he considered taking along a weapon. Go out without a weapon, or run the risk of getting harassed by the cops. Chuck snorted, grabbing an SMG, slinging its harness to be covered by his jacket. I'm in Nazi territory, the cops aren't gonna do shit.

Half an hour later, surrounded by skinheads, he couldn't help to remark to himself, Well, I wasn't wrong. "Who the fuck do ya think you are kid, carrying a piece in our city!" the lead baldy asked, shoving Chuck back, only for another to shove him forward back into the center.

He was surprised that he wasn't as scared as he should be. A part of that was the fact that he was six-foot-five, and the thug, might be six feet, so he had to look up to threaten him, but it was more the lack of firepower.

The thugs somehow knew he was carrying, but they seemed to think it was pistol. A couple of the thugs had pistols, but other than that it was knives and sticks, making Chuck the heaviest armed person here, and ever since he'd gotten here, all the lessons on martial arts and marksmanship his brother had tried to teach him had just clicked.

Pfft, I can take 'em, some part of his mind observed, as the rest of his mind screamed ARE YOU HIGH! to that suicidally overconfident voice.

"I don't want any trouble," he said instead, raising his hands to chest level, ready to grab his gun if he needed, but he really didn't want to. This was the last safe, well, safe-ish part of the city, and he had a feeling that if he wanted answers, he had to stay here.

Gunning down a bunch of the local gangsta's would probably be the opposite of helpful.

"Then give us your piece, and your money, and we might let you go. Be glad you aren't a nigger." The thug peered at him. "You're not a Jew, are you?"

Like I'd say yes if I was! Chuck thought, mind spinning to try to find a way to de-escalate the situation. Maybe if they think I'm part of their tribe or something?

His face screwed up in disgust over what he was about to say, though he guessed he could sell it as disgust at them for what they were suggesting. "Do I look like a fuckin' kike?" He just felt dirty saying that, but if it let him walk away? Fuck it.

"Fine, give us your gun and your wallet and you can go," the leader informed him, like he was doing him a favor, as if Chuck was just going to do that.

Like I can believe that. Sure, just give up your gun and you'll be safe. That always goes well! Shit, I need to go on the offensive. "Fuck you Dumbass, I thought this was E88 territory, and you're shaking me down like I'm some fuckin Jap? That a tan, or are you just a particularly creamy ape?" he accused.

Repressing his gag at his language, Chuck glared at the leader. As the other Nazi's started looking at their leader thoughtfully, he had to congratulate himself, deciding to study that database of racial slurs was paying off, even if half of them made no sense.

Like, Darky, yeah, they had dark skin. Unoriginal as fuck, but what did you expect from racists? Their powers of observation were literally skin-deep. Coon though, that made no sense. Racoons were just as white as they were black, if not more, though they were mostly grey.

Did they think black people were really inventive, had a lot of dexterity, or maybe stole stuff from trash cans?

As the leader started to sputter incoherently, one of the other Neo-Nazis was staring at Chuck in a way that worried him. Grabbing his phone, the thug held it up, looking between it and Chuck, before his eyes went wide. "Holy shit it's him!" he yelled, showing the guys on either side of him, who looked at the phone before looking back at Chuck, happy about it.

"Fuck, it is! That's BadBoySlayer888!" one of them yelled, the phone getting passed around. Chuck repressed a wince. He did not want to get connected to that clusterfuck. The leader looked at the phone, before he looked at Chuck, impressed and a little scared.

"Fuck, I'm sorry man, I didn't know. Why didn't you say you were one of us?" the asshole actually goddamned apologized.

"I'm not!" Chuck said before he could help it. They looked confused, and some looked hurt, and what did hurt racists do? Nothing good, that's for sure. He clarified, "I haven't joined E88, but I don't need to, to kill some fuckin'," he paused, trying to think of a good one, "Ching Chong Chinks!"

As the crowd roared in approval, he had to keep himself, from just grabbing the gun and opening fire on these pieces of human filth.

What kind of person thinks what I just said is good!?

Though he had his answer, fucking Nazis, and the almost worshipful ways a couple looked at him made him want to vomit. The worst part was the fact that the adulation was still adulation, and the approval made some part of him feel good, which just made the rest of him feel worse.

"Ya mean you did that without anyone backin ya?" one of them asked, impressed. Chuck's uncaring shrug just made them like him more.

. . . Yay?


The next afternoon Chuck was back in his room, trying to lay low.

On the bright side, he now knew he was safe here. On the other side, he couldn't walk more than three blocks without some asshole happily saying hello to him, which just made him feel worse every time it happened. For the third time that hour someone knocked on his door. Somehow they'd found where he'd lived, and kept dropping by to congratulate him for killing people for what they thought was the color of their skin.

He didn't grab a shotgun, mostly because he was worried he'd shoot the Darwin Award contestant who came to express their amazement at his disgusting act of racism. He growled as he opened the door; "Wha. . ." He trailed off, staring at the three distinctive Nazis in front of him. To the left was a guy dressed in only baggy pants with vanity chains like some emo teen and a tiger mask. To the right was a really fit blonde chick covered in scars with a metal cage over her head, mostly obscuring her face. Front and center though, was a greasy looking guy, also shirtless, wearing jeans, boots, and a metal wolf mask.

From his research, especially focused now that he seemed to be skinhead catnip, Chuck recognized the E88's heavy hitters, Stormtiger, Cricket, and Hookwolf. "Hi?" he squeaked.

Hookwolf stared up at him, and Chuck realized that being taller than the crazed killer might not be a good thing. "Heard a bitch here said he was the one that made that video. You him?"

Shit Shit Shit Shit Shit. "Yes?" Chuck hazarded, voice breaking a little.

Stormtiger snorted. "Doesn't sound like it."

"You show me proof, or I show you your heart," Hookwolf informed the teen. There was a growl to his words, but almost a bored one.

"Um, sure, gimme a sec?" Chuck asked stepping back, Hookwolf following before he had a chance to close the door. Not like that would help versus someone who could turn into a wolf made of hooks! Mind you, as far as names went, it was one of the stupidest goddamn things he'd ever fucking heard. Stahlhund, Kettensage, hell Direwolf would have been better, since his form was as big as one, and if you fought him you were in dire circumstances.

He wasn't going to tell the crazed killer that to his face though, but still, where's the creativity? At least Stormtiger was a kind of tank AND he could kinda make storms. Sorta. He finished his critique as he found the blood-stained jacket and panda mask, hidden in the back of his closet. Bringing it out Hookwolf grabbed it, sniffing it before tossing it to Stormtiger, who did the same, nodding. Do they have super smelling or something?

"What's your power?" Hookwolf demanded.

Chuck froze, thinking if he should lie, but then he'd have to show off, so it wasn't worth it. He shrugged instead, trying to make his voice sound tough. "D-Don't have any." That got their attention, the two men glancing to Cricket, who nodded.

And they can tell if I'm lying? Then why the fuck did they need my jacket!?

All three looked at him, impressed. Well, probably. Their faces were covered. He hoped they were impressed. Chuck felt like he should say something. "Didn't need powers, just shot 'em and they died like," he paused, about to say dogs, but that guy called himself a wolf so that might not work, "the yellow bastards they were."

"We could use people like you for the cause. Join, and we could get you healed and killing Coolies by tonight," Hookwolf offered, a lazy interest in his voice, along with confidence that there was only one possible answer.

Because, if he wanted to live, there was.

Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, Fuck! Chuck panicked. They're dragging me into this, and this feels like an offer I can't refuse. Fuck. Think! Why did I choose a third-floor apartment? Can't jump out a window. Not that it would help, dude turns into a wolf made out of hooks!

He tried to figure out how to get out of this situation. Dudes look like they're the 'noble white warrior' types, let's go with that. Settling into that mindset, the response was obvious. "I'm honored, but I gotta ask, the healing, does it leave scars?" He knew it didn't.

The chick took out a fucking kama from her back, but instead of attacking him flipped it over, pressing the base to her throat, buzzing "No, it doesn't".

Jackpot. "Then I'll have to turn you down. I took these wounds in battle, and I want to feel them heal, and remember what I did wrong so I won't make the same mistakes next time." He doubled down, noticing the scars all three were almost proudly sporting. "And without scars, how will people know I am a warrior. I don't exactly look like it yet."

They exchanged glances, and he hoped to god he hadn't overplayed the part. "Take off your shirt." Hookwolf demanded.

Well, if they're gonna kill me, doesn't matter if I'm shirtless. He complied, Hookwolf almost negligently reaching down and ripping off the bandages as Chuck fought not to make a sound at the pain. The killer looked at his wounds before nodding.

"Not bad. You'll be fine to fight in two weeks. You'll join then," Hookwolf announced, sounding like he was smiling. With that he turned and stalked out the door, Stormtiger following him, trying to look bored just a little too hard.

Cricket lingered, giving him a once over. "You're out of shape," she buzzed, "But I'll get you fighting fit soon enough. Then we'll have fun."

She left as well, which was good as Charlie wasn't sure if he should be offended because she called him fat, or, well, that almost sounded like flirting, and he had no idea how to take that.


Chuck walked down the darkened street, frustrated, the panic that had been growing for the past few days at the back of his head making itself noted.

He'd had two weeks to get the hell out of dodge, but as soon as he'd left the next morning, he'd noticed he'd picked up a tail. They were making sure he was around to join, or they'd probably kill him. To get away he needed to Randy Newman this bitch.

Unfortunately, finding friends who weren't Neo-Nazis was proving to be fucking impossible. This night he'd managed to shake his tail, heading downtown, going to a club to try to meet someone who could help. The first red flag should've been when the bouncer had stopped him from getting in line to get in, but instead of telling him to scram like the ones before, told him instead to go right inside.

"What the hell, you're letting a fifteen-year-old into the club?" one of the women in line had complained.

Fuck you too! was his immediate response, but before he could say anything the bouncer shot back, "When you've killed half the people he has, you can bitch, bitch." Fuck, that dude's cool! Chuck thought, heading inside, not making the connection.

Turns out, he found, the club was not somewhere to make friends. Between the bad lighting, the loud music, and the drunk people, friendly conversation wasn't gonna happen. Most people wouldn't give him the time of day. Those that would. . . well, while the offer to get blown in the bathroom was tempting, and he was still seventeen, not fifteen, but she only wanted to do it because of the entire killing Asians thing.

He knew, because she nearly panted it, which killed the mood pretty fucking quickly.

After two hours, and increasingly disturbing offers, he'd left and headed back to his apartment. It was the early hours of the morning, not even twilight, and the streets were pretty empty. He started to head to the crosswalk, but he noticed the power-box on the sidewalk was blinking. It stood out to him, because he'd never seen them have any light on them whatsoever. When it started beeping he started backing up. The ground rumbled, and he thought Fuck this, turning and running. A moment later he heard a deep grinding and ran faster, the ground shaking, the stone of the sidewalk starting to come apart.

Leaping over part of the sidewalk that had split open, cracks appearing, he ran like hell as his footing started to loosen and disappear, the cars on the street sliding back the way he came, before a small thunderclap went off behind him, the force of whatever it was picking him up and tossing him down the street.

Landing and rolling, burning off momentum in that weird way his body sometimes moved in this place, he sprang to his feet and looked back. Where used to be an intersection was a deep hole, Rubble, steel, and even some cars had been tossed in every direction, destroying the buildings closest to the blast and riddling everything around the site with debris. He heard a tinny ringing, but nothing else at first, his hearing slowly coming back as he started to hear the screams of people in the buildings, and from elsewhere in the city as he heard explosions, whooshes of flame, cracking noises, and a whole lot of other things.

Deciding he wanted no part of this he took another street to go home. As he ran, he passed people coming out of their homes, looking around, and generally getting in his way. He ran out of breath after a couple blocks, stopping to pant as his chest hurt. As he bent over, he noticed a light under the parked car he was leaning against. It shown for a second, a brown light, and then started blinking.

Blinking lights are never good, was his thought as he pushed himself to run again, pushing harder as it started fucking beeping. He yelled "Run!" as he fled, his legs felt leaden, but he pressed on, pushing past confused people and cursing his hatred of PE. It was only a second or two later that the beeping stopped and there was a great squelching sound.

Turning to look as he leaned against a light post he saw the cars, walls, even the people that had stopped to stare behind him had lost all color three inches above the ground, the affected area having turned a dark brown, and looking to be made of the same material. The phenomena had spread out from the light in a hemisphere, and the asshole he'd had to push past a few feet back's legs were affected, the man's face scrunched up in confusion. The entire street seemed to freeze before it all collapsed, everything losing cohesion as the smell of mud hit his nose. The building nearest the, fuck, was that even a bomb? collapsed, stone and masonry collapsing into the street, splashing mud in every direction as the man started screaming, his bottom half liquid.

As Chuck fell backwards something bounced by him. Reaching over to see what it was, the man's screams of pain petering off to nothing, he brushed off the mud to find he was holding a woman's foot, cut cleanly above the ankle and bleeding into the mud.

Dropping it Chuck vomited, unable to handle what the fuck he was seeing. After a minute where he didn't break down, just wanting to go back home, real home, to a place where there weren't bombs that turned people to fucking wet dirt, he picked himself up, took a deep breath, and turned on his heel to go back to his fucking apartment. He spared a glance for the man, but he was dead, whether of shock or blood loss, he wasn't sure, but it didn't really matter now.

Deciding that apparently the streets were a fucking deathtrap. He started taking alleys, another building collapsing into the mud behind him.

That seemed to work, and he was two blocks away from safety when he tripped on something that he couldn't see, a beeping coming from right beside him.

"Fuck me!" Chuck swore as he bolted, pushing everything he had to get away as he heard a soft foomp and gravity turned sideways. Lunging to the side he clung onto a dumpster, he looked down at a black sphere hanging twenty feet in the air in the middle of the alley, pulling everything to it. The loose trash was drawn in, a trashcan bouncing off his head, making him see stars as he held on.

After a second, the pull increased, and the dumpster started to slide backwards, towards the fucking singularity. Climbing to its top, side, whatever, Chuck jumped to hold onto a pipe attached to the side of the building, the dumpster picking up speed before it lifted off, crushing with a horrible sound as it fit itself into the basketball sized sphere.

The metal beneath his hands started to bend, bolts popping loose as Chuck climbed to the right, up, away. Part of the pipe gave way, tearing and falling into the sphere, the mooring coming loose faster than he could climb as he heard breaking masonry and screaming. The pipe finally gave, and he flew back, flailing arms catching hard on a fire escape, which shuddered and started to groan and deform. His arms were on fire and his entire body felt heavy, his legs feeling like someone was squeezing them all over.

The fire-escape tore itself out of what was left of the wall while he tried to climb it, not even getting more than a few feet away. As he was pulling back towards the hole in space, feeling his body squeezed, knowing he was going to die, the bomb cut out, and he was sent flying, landing on the concrete alley floor, and skidding as he heard something thunk like a dropped anvil, only worse.

He laid on the ground, laughing, and crying, and just so done with this fucking place.

Shakily getting to his feet, his legs felt like they were one massive bruise, but he could still walk. Gingerly stepping towards where the sphere had been he saw a tiny circular hole in the ground, maybe the size of a golfball, the concrete around it shattered. Taking out his phone he shone a light, and it went deep, farther than his light could carry. Finally looking around he saw the walls had been ripped away, as had been everything inside that wasn't tied down. He heard sobbing, and the groans of the building on either side and decided that he didn't want to stay there any longer than was necessary.

The universe does things in threes, Chuck reassured himself. That's three. I'm safe. I just need to go back to the apartment and go to sleep.

Getting home, he pushed his way towards the front door. People were in the streets, moving everywhere. On one level that was fucking stupid, but apparently staying home could make you just as dead.

He didn't want to think of what happened to people that had been in the mud-ed buildings.

Chuck entered his apartment building, cursing the fact that it was on the third fucking floor with every step, legs throbbing in pain in time with his heartbeat, lifting his pants slightly showing his flesh already turning dark, everything bruised. Fumbling with his keys, he opened the door, wearily locking it behind him.

Stumbling in, he relaxed, glad to be home. Finally.

He sat down at his desk, turning on his laptop to find out what the fuck was happening. Taking a deep breath, he was interrupted as his phone rang. He started to check his cell, only to realize the sound was coming from his bed. He let his landline ring, they could leave a fucking message, only to freeze as he realized he didn't have one.

Turning to look, he saw a black box sitting on his bed, the source of the sound. A holographic display appeared over the box, stating:

For: BadBoySlayer888, The best of hugs!

From: Bakuda, The best part of the ABB!
Then the box started screeching. A horrible tearing, angry not-noise that dragged nails across the chalkboard of his sanity. From the box emerged. . . His brain refused to see exactly what they were, just going: It's a Tentacle. Let's call it a Tentacle, and nothing else. The Tentacles reached out from the box, grasping at everything. One raked across the wall, dark blue fungus springing up wherever it touched. Another Tentacle grasped onto his pillow, wrenching it back into the box, which wasn't a box anymore. Yes it is! his mind told him. But if obviously wasn't, it was a- It's a BOX, just like those are Tentacles. He started to get up, to run, to get out, but his bed was between him and the door, as the Tentacles reached out towards him, questing, screeching, Staring.

I should have just gotten eaten by that fucking black hole was his last thought, as certain death reached out to grasp him.


Charlie found himself floating in space, but not outer space. He hung, bodiless, in a place with no beginning or end. Prismatic clouds drifted all around, twisting, and changing, but in a kinda peaceful way. Am I dead? Did it get me? Is this, well, it isn't hell, is this Purgatory? Not having to run for his life was nice, but in an hour or two, this was going to get boring fast.

After a minute, or maybe an eon, he had no frame of reference, something in the distance moved, the clouds flying past him away from it, or he moved towards it, again, no way to tell how. Something happened, and he reached a break in the mist. It was an open column in the clouds, and he passed over a mountain range that encircled a lake, the hole in the fog extending eternally upwards over it. Either he was tiny, or the mountain range was fucking huge because it took a while. Eventually, he passed it and flew out over the lake, which was glowing, full of shifting blues and greens, with hints of reds, yellows, and every other color in it, including ones that he'd never seen before, and couldn't think of words to describe.

He flew on, formless, looking around without eyes, until he reached the center, slowing to a stop. He waited, for an immeasurable age, and felt more than saw something moving. The mountain range started to move, spinning and shifting. As the largest mountain moved, rising into the air his mind reorganized what he was seeing, and if he still had breath, it would've caught in his throat. The mountains, the coils of a spiked snake so big he couldn't understand, shifted, a head, the size of a moon, a planet, the sun, the goddamned solar system, rose to stare at him.

Jörmungandr? He thought, getting a sense of bemused negation from everywhere at once.

As it stared, something absolutely tiny detached itself from its head, so miniscule he could barely make it out. It moved towards him, slowly, with painstaking care. As it inched towards him it grew, slowly, from something the size of a speck of dust, to a blue stone he could hold in his hand, to something as big as he was. It grew, larger and larger, as it slowly moved towards him, only he realized it wasn't taking its time, it was rocketing towards him so fast it was blueshifting. As it came closer he felt the air around him shaking, his vision blotting out before the crystal big enough to kill the dinosaurs, and growing.

He wanted to scream, to run, to escape, to laugh hysterically this ridiculous amount of overkill but he couldn't move, just float in this prismatic hell as a snake the size of the universe killed him with a rock big enough to destroy the sun! Just as the crystal, shifting from blue to a prismatic riot of multicolored death, was about to impact him, the world was consumed in flames of Neon Blue and Sand, and he felt a sense of amusement, mixed with Anticipation.


The flames cleared, and he froze, a Tentacle an inch away from his face, but completely still. The screeching had stopped, and everything in the room was unmoving. Sliding away from it from where he'd fallen, he got to his feet, feeling good. Far better than he had any right to.

Glancing out the window, he saw a distant bolt of lightning reaching up from the city into the sky, but heard no sound. Walking over to his window he looked out and saw that everything, and everyone, out in the street was frozen in place.

A bit of movement caught his eyes and he saw people at the end of the street milling about fearfully as they stared at the frozen people. One guy was actively pulling at his arm, held in the air in front of him, which was completely motionless.

Holy shit. Did I stop time? Looking at the Tentacles, hanging in the air, he grabbed a wooden spoon and approached one of the limbs, poking it. Immediately the spoon started to sprout blue mushrooms. Jumping back and letting go of the utensil. It hung in the air where he dropped it, fungal growth halted.

Okay, What I'm holding still has time. Good.

He stared at the Tentacles.

. . . I'm fuckin' leaving.

He wasn't sure how long this was going to last, so, ducking around and under the things that tried to kill him, he made a circuit of the room, packing as much as he could. Between two duffle bags and a backpack, he stuffed them full of money, weapons, and the things he didn't want to leave behind like his laptop. It only took a few minutes according to his phone, which had no signal. Bags packed, he looked at the Tentacles and they Stared hatefully back. Shuddering, he unlocked the door, leaving, and locking it behind him, knowing there was no way he was getting his security deposit back.

Climbing down the stairs two at a time, he was almost at the front door when the sound came back, making him jump. The screeching was back, and if anything, it sounded angrier, if that was possible. Running out the front door he looked up, seeing long, thick Tentacles, teeth gnashing in rage as they whipped out the window of his room, growing quickly.

People outside were stumbling, looking up, standing still while screaming in fear, and generally doing everything you weren't supposed to do in the horror movie tonight had become. Chuck ran as the Tentacles flailed, gabbing a woman who shrieked out in pain so hard he thought her voice was going to snap. Another Tentacle flailed down, and he dodged it, only for a third to grab him around the arm and he knew why she was screaming, for he was as well. His nerves blazed in fire as he was dragged upwards, inwards, the Tentacle tearing and worming its way in him, devouring him as it pulled him back to his room and the BOX which opened its swirling Maw and-

He stumbled, arms flailing, as the third Tentacle missed him, grabbing an old man as he screamed with a pain Chuck knew. Blinking, heart hammering, he started to run, only for another Tentacle to wrap around his throat, devouring its way up into his brain, eating his thoughts, his mind, his soul-

Falling on his ass the Tentacle whipped by, grabbing a metal pole and ripping it from the ground, wires sparking as fungus started to sprout along the paint, but not the rusted metal. Getting up, he swayed, but started to move again, dodging one Tentacle as it whipped by. They were going after him! He dodged a second and a third, only for a fourth to spear through his chest, Devouring-

With a force of will he broke from that reality, vision, future, twisting out of the way of the spearing Tentacle. I get it! I'm leaving! Running out of range of their growing limbs, running faster than he believed was possible, passing between people and vaulting over cars, the thing's SCREECHING reached a fever pitch before cutting out, leaving only the blessed sounds of explosions, chaos, and screaming.

He needed to get somewhere safe, as he'd gotten his second wind, and then some, but didn't know how long it would last. As for safety, that hotel he'd stayed at his first night seemed to be something straight out of John Wick, and if anyplace had checked for bombs, it would be there. He jogged in that direction, breaking into a bounding run, body light as he practically loped along, heading downtown.

Downtown was, if anything, worse and in a fit of why the fuck not he turned down an alley, taking a few steps up a wall before jumping onto a fire escape, swiftly climbing to the top. Running across the rooftop he reached the edge, following his instincts and pushing off as hard as he could he took a flying leap, near effortlessly crossing the thirty feet of street, foot smoothly landing on the ledge of the building as he continued on with a laugh and a smile.

After what he'd just survived, this was nothing.


He'd checked in, though they hadn't recognized him. The fact that he was grinning like a madman probably didn't help. He couldn't help it, this was the best he'd ever felt in his life! It was no wonder people got addicted to near-death experiences if this was the payoff! Humming to himself he checked in, dropped his bags on his bed, and stretched, bouncing on the balls of his feet, bursting with energy. Taking a deep breath, he centered himself, heading into the bathroom to clean off some of the mud, concrete dust, ash, and general grime from his face.

Washing it off, the water turning brown and red as it ran off him, he finally calmed. Looking into the mirror though, his heartrate spiked. He wasn't, well, him! The face that looked back at him appeared to be chiseled from stone, jawline sharp enough to cut steel, and not an ounce of fat to be seen.

Holy shit! I'm a Chad!

Stripping his shirt, which he realized was practically painted on, having to rip it to take it off, his gut was gone, replaced with. . . is it a six pack if there's eight? No wonder he was feeling good, apparently Super Space Snake Scales were like ultra-steroids.

That or some of the drugs he'd taken had been steroids.

And had taken a week to kick in.

Without exercising.

Is it bad that Super Space Snake Scales are the more likely answer?

Shaking his head, he sat down, shirtless, at the room's desk, taking out his laptop and turning it on to try to find out what the hell was going on.

He took out his phone to try to do the same thing.

He put his face in hands, exhaling at the ridiculousness of all of this.

He checked out his muscles, because honestly, he'd never had muscles like this before.

He stretched his arms out, releasing the last of the tension.

He looked outside, seeing his reflection in the window.

All six of him.

He was sitting in his chair, but he looked like something out of the Matrix, one of him leaning forward and looking up news sites, which had no idea what was going on, doing the same on his phone to similar results, feeling his muscles which felt solid in a way that he hadn't expected, putting his head in his hands, stretching, and looking out the window, all of him merging into each other like he was noclipping. The other five of him stopped what they were doing and turned to look at his reflections, merging into a single him.

What. The. Fuck.

He heard a chiming sound, three of him looking around for it in different directions, the sound coming from nowhere and everywhere at once.

"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?" he demanded, ready for the next bomb, but nothing happened.

There was the sound of the chime again, and he heard someone female exhaling. 'Installation complete!' the voice, sounding somewhat British, informed him. 'Good evening Sir!'

"Um, who are you?" he asked the air.

'I am your A.I!' it responded cheerfully, a window opening in the air showing an attractive woman in black rimmed glasses, business attire, dark red hair contrasting with her bright green eyes and pale skin.

Turning his head moved the window, and moving his hand in front of his eyes showed it was not actually in the air, but somehow overlaid on his vision. "You're a computer program?" he asked, disbelievingly.

The woman laughed good naturedly, covering her mouth as she did. "Oh, no. I am an Abaddon Intelligence. Where are my manners? Introductions are needed. I am temporal shard, designation: Centauri, here to assist my user in the Primary's mission. In particular the destruction of Entity, designation: The Warrior!'
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Huh, what do you know. It was literally yesterday that I decided to catch up...all the way to 272, (seemed like a good spot to stop and once again wait for chapters to pile up:D)

And on the one hand, yes! Vejovis does seem to be powering up into what I thought, on the other...holy shit the dude's been through a lot...

It's good to finally know why Abaddon is a mite different to the rest of his species. He encountered a technomagic civilization, one with gods straight out of high end final fantasy, and learned humility/patience/ 'there is always a bigger fish' etc and in turn they taught him negentropy. Although from his internal thoughts the dude did seem to be a cut above the rest even before.

And hell, it explains why he made Lee into his 'baby', everyone's favorite space-whale seems to be a researcher at heart. And after learning/acquiring a bit of morals, I suspect he even stopped looking down on the poor five/four/three-dimensionaly constrained species as his lessers as much. So sure, why not 'reproduce' in an unusual manner and have his 'child' start as a mere 'host', a hybrid from a certain point of view, and see where it goes.

Although if that's indeed the case, and I'm not missing the barn entirely, then good job Lee!

For you are already showing that the utterly inhuman space whale --and in a few paragraphs at that-- is more 'human' and humble than his 'son' at this point. After all, Vejovis is unconsciously already deeming most everyone as lesser, compared to even the baby entity that he is, and those without shards...eww cardboards. Undoubtedly in time he will catch it and correct it, you/'him' seem way to introspective to miss it for long...if he gets the chance to chill, plus he has Taylor after his ass, making sure he is relatively fine and not about to fall apart again.

But the question, what with his new 'sister' and 'niece' (plus whatever other bull is on the horizon), is will he get the time to chill?:sneaky:

Oh, and good choice on music, wealth and taste indeed...
Outreach 6.1
Outreach 6.1

Looking at my brother, who was apparently Æonic, I couldn't repress my grin. "Dude, it's me! Lee!" I jerked a thumb towards Break, "And that's Herb!"

He stared at me, hard, before shaking his head. "No way, you look nothing like him. You're too swol!"

I laughed, wondering where the hell he'd come from, but happy to see him nonetheless. "One, go fuck yourself. Two, like you have room to fuckin' talk!"

"Holy shit it is you!" he said, more to himself than me.

"What's going on?" Purity asked confused, looking between us. "Do you know each other?"

"Yeah!" I responded, slinging an arm around his shoulder. "He's my little brother!"

"Who got fuckin' ripped! High five!" Herb added, holding his hand up, which Charlie stepped forward and hit after a moment's hesitation.

I looked around, noting the stares from the villains starting to leave. Dropping the bubble, I told Charlie, "This is not the optimal place to discuss things, why don't you come with us to a more secure location, Æonic?"

He hesitated, before nodding, accent back as he too saw the villains, "Of course, where should we meet?"

I held out a hand. "We'll show you, it'll be faster."

He grasped it, body going taut as I levitated us an inch off the ground. "What the fuck?" he hissed as he looked down.

"The three of us can all fly, it's easier," I commented.

Herb winked at Purity, "Shall we?

Purity nodded to him professionally, taking off, Herb giving me a thumbs up before turning into a pterodactyl, following her. I lifted my little brother, and we took off into the sky.

Landing a few minutes' walk from the base, Charlie looked at me, asking "So you're the-"

"Yeah," I cut him off. "I was training."

He nodded to himself as Purity looked around. "Where are we going?" she asked unsurely.

"Back to our humble abode, madam," Herb responded, grinning.

She looked around again, expression still skeptical, "In the railyard?"

"It does mean we can't get delivery," I responded.

"But I'm a decent cook, so that's no big!" he reassured.

I agreed, "He is, better than I am."

Charlie nodded, adding, "Same."

She quieted down, but as we approached the base, the outside a rusted wreck, she slowed again.

"Vejovis, unlock" I commanded, a light playing over my face before the door opened, revealing the homey interior. Walking inside without waiting, I headed towards the meeting room we'd never actually used before, the other three looking around as they followed.

"Just this floor?" Charlie asked, snorting at my nod. "Mine's better." Rolling my eyes, I shifted my clothing to business casual, taking the chair at the head of the table. "Okay, that's cool," Charlie admitted, taking the seat to my left, as Purity and Herb sat to my right. My little brother looked at me, before shaking his head. "Fuck, it is you," he commented, reaching behind his head, the full clock helmet opening up as he took it off.

He looked like he'd aged five years, but in a good way. All of his baby was fat gone, leaving a very different face, though the mouth, nose, and eyes were still the same if you looked for it. Sighing he ran his gloved hand through his hair, messing it up from the uniform dome it had compressed into. Herb popped his mask off, and Purity, looking to me for confirmation, dropped out of Lightform after I nodded. "Okay, I gotta ask," I inquired, "how did you get minions?"

He smirked, "Craigslist." I stared at him in disbelief. "Nah, just fuckin' with ya, I've been recruiting people I've helped. Figured if they come in liking me, they'd be more loyal."

"Wait, you got a gang?" Herb asked. "How long have you had powers?"

"A week," he shrugged, laughing at Herb's "Fuckin' white people."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Purity asked the darker-skinned man, glaring at him.

"What? No!" Herb responded, holding his hands up. "Um, what I mean is, sort of, normally, he really went fast and just got everybody around. Like seriously? A week? Seriously?"

Charlie shot me a look, and I motioned between the two mouthing 'He likes her'. My brother nodded, before stopping and frowning, mouthing 'Nazi?' I shook my head, outright telling him, "She left two years ago." He shrugged as Herb continued covering his ass. "So, you've gone villain?" I asked my brother, not censuring, just interested.

He gave me a disbelieving look. "Have you seen the cops here? They make Chicago look clean! Besides, here you can actually make a gang and nothing happens. Fuck yeah I'm doing that!"

"Have you claimed territory yet?"

"Not yet," he shook his head. "Not sure where to start. And how."

I shrugged, "I might have some ideas."

"Aren't you a Hero?"

"Okay, so, yes, but no-" I started to explain.

"Oh, thanks! Now I understand!" he snarked.

"Shut the fuck up and let me talk," I responded without heat. "Hero is a massively loaded term, especially here. Villain is almost as bad, but not quite. When someone says Hero, it could mean a lot of different things. It could mean the Superman, Batman, Dudley Do-Right super good guy who'd never do anything bad, let alone kill. The kind of moron who would capture a mass-murderer and turn him over to the cops, even if they've already escaped before, and somehow considers themselves blameless when the asshole breaks out and does it all again." While this universe didn't have a Joker, it had people who were arguably worse. They weren't going to have another Christmas, if I had my way.

"It could mean those 'go out and punch bad guys in the face' types who abuse their power and piss away their potential," I continued, waving around us. "Like most of the 'heroes' in this dimension, who-"

"Hey!" Purity objected, having finished her interrogation of Herb. "I don't waste my potential!"

I gave her a bland look. "You can fly and fire off blasts of Light. Have you done anything to try to figure out new applications after you figured out how to 'move fast and shoot stuff?' When things calm down I'm going to be working with everyone to find new ways of using their powers to increase their combat potential, and possibly find non-combat applications."

She looked confused, "Non-combat?"

Suppressing my desire to snort derisively, I reminded myself that it wasn't her fault, both her shard and this world's views having helped shape that particular blind spot. "Yeah, off the top of my head I could be the best exterminator, ever. Herb could help scientists understand how dinosaurs actually worked, let alone the uses one could find for an intelligent T-Rex. Charlie can stop time. I really shouldn't have to explain the dozens of ways that could be useful. If we can find a non-combat use for your power, even if you decide to retire from fighting, you'll be set for life."

My little brother appeared to be deep in thought. "How could his power be useful?" she asked.

"Seriously?" I asked, incredulous. "Okay. Firefighting, Bomb-Defusal, Surgery, Three-Dimensional Construction, Art, Search and Rescue, Entertainment, Prison Guard, do I really need to go on?"

"No, I understand," she replied, a little chagrined.

"Right, so, where was I?" I asked, mostly to myself. "Yeah, the meaning of the term 'Hero'. It could mean those self-sacrificing types, who take the blame for things that they didn't really do, like Hercules, Spider-Man, or Anakin Skywalker. With great power doesn't come great responsibility intrinsically, but they get god complexes. Then when shit happens that they couldn't have known about, they get some messed up martyring 'it's my fault' philosophy that destroys their lives."

"It could mean the older type of hero: someone who's human, and tries their best, though their faults constantly undercut them, like Iron Man, Sigurd, or King Arthur. Though most of their problems could be solved by open and honest communication." That could be said about most things, but so many people refused to just talk because of their own fear.

I shrugged. "For me though, and this might be hubris, but I'm the kind of Hero from the Myths of Old. The kind that has the power and the will to do what needs to be done, ultimately beholden only to myself. Musashi, Beowulf, hell, the original hero, Gilgamesh are all those, and while I'm not there yet, give me time!" I proclaimed.

Purity looked between Herb and Charlie. "Is he always like this?"

"Yes!" the chorused.

I winced. "Sorry, bad habit. I like to give out my complete thoughts so as to avoid misunderstandings."

"He preaches," Herb translated.

"No I don't!"

He nodded emphatically, "Yes, you do."

"No, I-"

"Not to interrupt your lover's spat," Charlie interrupted, smirking. "But I need to get back before someone on my crew does something stupid."

"Right," I responded, understanding. "Carl."

He was taken aback by that. "How!? Fuck it, I don't want to know." He sighed, turning to fully address me. "Before I leave, the final boss, The Warrior: It's fucking Scion, isn't it?" I nodded as he leaned back. "Fuuuuck."

"What?" Purity asked. "Final Boss?"

I considered how to put it, before shrugging and just told her straight. It'd been working out so far after all. "Eventually Scion will go crazy and try to kill everyone. Not for the next two to fifteen years, according to precogs who can see him. But yeah, take how hard it is to kill an Endbringer, and then, like, five times that bad. Maybe twenty."

Purity stared at me, going pale, "WHAT!?"

"Jesus man!" Herb rebuked.

I didn't quite get the problem. "What? By next year, tops, we'll be able to kill Behemoth."


Herb looked at me, wide eyed, hands up in a cringing position.

Charlie however nodded, smiling, "Oh, okay. Good."

She looked at us like we were both absolutely insane, turning to Herb, nearly begging, "Please tell me he's joking!"

Herb winced. "I'd like to, and I'd like to reassure you, but he's not wrong, just a little too explain-y today."

She looked at him before she took a deep breath, centering herself before looking at me. "How?"

"Well, first of all you need to understand the Endbringers themselves," I started. "They're multiversal constructs. It's why they can tell physics to go screw itself. They're actually made of crystalline layers, with every layer supposedly five percent tougher than the previous one, and at their core we're talking two hundred layers." Charlie cocked his head to the side, thinking with a frown.

"Yeah, we're talking galaxy level mass if that was true, and supposedly even the arms, which only have a three percent increase per layer, would need thirty trillion atmospheres of pressure to damage fully. That's why that intel is complete bullshit, and an excellent reason why you can't rely on Thinkers to fight things created by powers they share a source with. Those facts might be true, from a certain point of view and leaving out a lot of important details."

I shrugged. "Are they multiversal? They'd have to be, and they are crystalline so they've no real biology to take advantage of, but the same source that confirmed the first Thinker's intel that gave the hard numbers on the layers said a glassing orbital strike could take one out, so their exponentially increasing toughness couldn't be a thing. Even if it was I've got at least three ways to kill one, but we don't want to take one out 'til we're ready for the next one. So-"

"The next one!?" Purity demanded.

Herb looked at me pleading, "Please don't dump it all. Not right now."

I looked at him, considering his words. If this had been day one, or even before the bombing I would have deferred to him. Purity was his project, but after Dinah, I couldn't trust him. For all I knew he'd do something like let Jack Slash get to Theo, just because it happened in canon. He said he was going to st- my thoughts froze. He didn't actually say he was going to stop doing that. He said he had his reasons, he expressed regret, but he never said he was going to stop. Oh Fuck Him.

I repressed a sigh and growl as Purity looked between the two of us. If this was Bakuda, or someone like her I'd let him screw up with her, but Purity was a hero, a latently racist one, but at her heart she was good, and I wasn't going to let him screw her up like he had Dinah. Let him flirt? She was an adult, she could handle that on her own. If she really didn't want him to she'd tell him to stop like an adult and he would, because he was like that. When it came to important things though, I was going to do what was right, and if Herb had a good reason why, I'd listen, but I was done doing things just because he asked.

I looked at her, a sad grin tugging the corner of my mouth, and shrugged as Herb's eyes went wide. "What? Did you think there were only three?" Charlie looked like he was going to say something, but shook his head. "Yeah, there's a bunch, but we only have intel on the first six, so we need to be ready for anything by the time we start that ball rolling," I explained. "Hell, after some training, Purity, and if your powers work like I think they might, you could be able to, if not kill, then fight off Khonsu, the fourth one, on your own." I grinned, looking around at them.

"He'd definitely need some Tinkertech assistance," I jerked a thumb at my little brother, ignoring his smiling objection, "But each one of us could fight off an Endbringer solo once we're at our peak." I pointed at Herb without looking at him, "Behemoth, and maybe Leviathan," Charlie, "Tohu, the fifth, and maybe Leviathan." Purity, "Khonsu, and Bohu, the sixth, if Tohu's tied up, as they work together," and finished with a thumb to myself, "The Simurgh."

"You're crazy. You're all crazy. I've joined a team of crazy people," she commented helplessly as she sat back in her chair. "How do you know all of this?"

"That answer is long and complicated. The short version? We're time travelers from another dimension," I bullshitted, though from a certain point of view it was true. Then again, from a certain point of view Anakin Skywalker was killed by Darth Vader. "A dimension where the golden age of heroes never happened, where there are no powers, where Reagan broke the USSR with economics, it didn't fracture with infighting as its mid-level members sought to secretly use parahumans to take over their own territories. Some of the people where we live heard about what happened, will happen from your perspective, long after it was over, and are incapable of helping. Something happened, and Herb and I found ourselves here, as well as apparently my little brother and my father. We-"

"Wait, Dad's here?" Charlie asked, looking around like our father was waiting to pop out from behind a chair.

"I'm pretty sure, but he's being cagey about meeting. You know how cautious he is. Besides, he's got like no combat related powers," I responded. "It's probably making him even worse than usual. Imagine if I said I wanted to meet, but you weren't sure I was me, and you couldn't stop time."

He nodded, "Point."

"So-" I started, only to be cut off by Purity this time.

"Wait, you saw what happens? How far? Were my kids okay?" she asked, unsure and vulnerably, but hoping.

I sighed. "Okay, so, first thing. Herb and I, and Charlie now, and maybe our father, have already derailed the regular timeline, possibly irreparably, which is a good thing. The ABB isn't making nearly the same progress, Coil's assets are being undermined, and the confrontation between Boardwalk and Oni Lee never happened in the version of the future we saw. Oh, side note, Boardwalk straight up didn't exist before. He's not on the team at this time, and after what he said the Protectorate tried to pull, he's never joining them, but he'll assist us if he's free."

"I'd like to have a few words with him," she stated menacingly, sidetracked as I'd planned. "I've heard rumors that he's claiming to by my child with, Skidmark." She looked ill at the thought alone. "As if I'd ever have sex with. . ." she stopped herself, looking around. "And I'm not that old!"

"With Skidmark? I don't blame you!" Herb agreed. "That foul-mouthed junkie scum isn't fit to lick your boots!"

She nodded quickly. "Yes. Exactly. Junkie. That's what I meant."

"From what he's told me, he's been asked about that, and has denied it every time. Wherever that rumor started, it wasn't with him." Suspiciously specific denials were denials after all.

"Fine. Sure. But even if it won't happen now, what happened to Theo and my little Aster in that future?" She asked, trying to stay on topic. Herb looked pained. "That bad? Please, tell me," she pleaded.

Sighing, I did as she asked. "Okay, so in the way this originally played out Scion, um, triggered after two years, as those with the power to see the future knew that if they waited the full fifteen years, we'd lose against him. The world is currently breaking down Purity, those out there who could stop it can't or won't, and without us interfering, they don't. In fifteen years, things would've gotten so bad you would have had no chance of beating him, so they kickstarted the apocalypse."

"In the short term, after the ABB is taken down, Coil unmasks the entirety of the E88, which he's probably still going to do, so you need to move your kids right after the truce ends, if not before. They can stay here if you want, but CPS is going to do some downright illegal things otherwise, and it'd be easier to keep them out of the way then have to kill some people following bad orders to get them back." I looked to Herb, who nodded, smiling comfortingly at her.

"But things in that timeline got bad, and after Kaiser fell, the group split into The Pure, led by you, because you took his poisoned offer, and Fenrir's Chosen, led by Hookwolf. You were forced to abandon Theo, so he'll Trigger, for reasons that aren't going to happen. He does, taking the name Golem and joining the Wards. After that . . . are you sure you want to know? It's not going to happen. We won't let it."

She took a deep breath, nodding. "Yes. Even if it isn't I need to know." I looked to Herb, who was subtly shaking his head no, but this ultimately wasn't his decision.

"So, you know the Slaughterhouse Nine?" I started, her eyes went wide. "Yeah, they come here recruiting. Still will, but we're going to kill them all." I stood up, pacing, not wanting to look at her, knowing this was going to be bad. "In that timeline though, Jack Slash, Bonesaw, the Siberian, and Hookwolf, who've they've recruited, escape. They grab a Tinker and get cloning, emerging out of hiding a year and a half later as the Slaughterhouse Nine-Thousand, which is hyperbole, with just short of three hundred members. They have nine clones of every member they've ever had who's died, with the exception of Gray Boy, who they can only make one of for some reason. He traps you, Kayden, in an endless, torturous loop, with Jack Slash taking Aster to raise her and mold her into one of them, to twist her into a monster. Aster dies instantly in the attack on their cloning facilities, before they can get started on her." I looked at her, and instantly regretted it.

Kayden stared at me, face white, mouth open in horror, tears streaming down her face, emotions laid bare. Herb reached out to grab her hand, and she flinched, but didn't pull away. I stood there, looking her in the eye and promised her: "Kayden, that's not going to happen. In the original timeline humanity barely squeaked out of complete destruction, and was reduced to a borderline feudal existence. That was because almost everyone looked out for themselves first, last, and only. When Scion started his purge, only a tiny fraction grouped together to fight, the rest sure that if they were the ones who were attacked, they'd somehow do what no-one else could and win, letting that monster in golden skin destroy their competition first, so complete was their arrogance and self-delusion. The Birdcage was opened, and a lot of heroes and villains fought to try to stop him, dying in the process because no one would lead, every single one of them either trying to offload the responsibility to someone else or so concerned with their own egos they refused to work with others to save the world."

"Billions burned, Kayden, turned to dust in golden light as Earths in multiple realities were scoured. Over half of the people on Earth Bet lost their lives in the first day of his rampage. In that timeline a hero, not even yet an adult, had to sacrifice theirself, their sanity, throwing open the gates of their power and mind-controlling thousands of parahumans in an all or nothing battle as their brain eroded under the stress of their own unbound abilities, losing the ability to read, then understand speech, then faces, degrading farther and farther, losing everything that made them, them, made them human, as they struggled to hold on just long enough to kill the golden god before he killed everyone."

I grit my teeth, anger at the atrocity that was the canon ending fueling my words. "I will not let that happen! I will save this world if I have to drag it kicking and screaming to do so. I am a Hero! I have the power to save the world, and the will to do so, even if I'm damned by those I protect. That is what we're here to do. Not fight in some stupid dominance game over race, creed, or nation, not make a profit, not just save the people around us, like Aster and Theo, but making a world that all children can grow up safe in Kayden. We are here to save the world, nothing more, nothing less, and in that we don't need your help, for even if you walk out that door we'll still do our damndest to save you, but with you we could do so much more! Save so many more! That is what the Penumbral Defenders are, for even in the shadow of an impossible foe we'll stand, fight, and win, because if we don't, No One Will!"

Herb stood up and slammed his hand on the table angrily, "That's enough!"

I looked at him, not understanding what the hell he meant. He knew that's what we were going to do, or at least I thought he did. Shelving that worry, I focused back on Purity. "It has to be."
Outreach 6.2
Outreach 6.2

I left the room to recompose myself, Herb talking quietly to a shell-shocked Purity. Charlie followed me after a minute, holding his helmet loosely under his arm. "So, we're in Worm. Kinda wish I read it now."

I gave a short laugh. "Yeah, but I didn't expect this to happen when I asked you to." He nodded. Taking a deep breath, I turned to face him. "What I don't get, is why you're here, not that I'm upset by that, but it ruins my only working theory. Herb and I did a silly Choose Your Own Adventure prompt, and Dad did as well, and while it's a stupid thing, it's the only one we all had in common that no-one else did." He froze, eyes going wide. I continued on, suddenly suspicious, "Our powers are straight from that, and from what I can tell, reading between the lines, dad's powers matched what he chose, though he's lying about it to the public, pretending to be a social Thinker instead of a precog. You didn't though, so do you have any idea what happened?"

He gave a nervous laugh. "Yeah. About that."

I stared at him. "What did you do Chuckles?"

"I may have done the same thing when you and Herb went to go get dinner. Allegedly." He winced, defending himself, "You left your computer open and it looked interesting!"

I gave him an unimpressed look. "What options did you choose, I already know your powers." It was more of a demand than a question.

He scratched the back of his head. "I don't really remember?" He winced again at my glare. "Okay, um, I took some of those bad start things, and the powerless start, because it had the whole 'nothing to something' thing I like, plus it gave so many points."

I put my face in my hands, groaning, "You took the 'the world wants to kill me' option with the 'no power' option. Do we need to talk about your latent suicidal tendencies?"

"Hey!" he objected. "It turned out okay!"

"Dude! You took the 'I have no powers and I must scream' combo!" I buried my face in my hands again. "Okay, let's go down the fucking list, if I can remember them, since you don't! Do you have a nemesis? You'd have to build them."

"Nah man," he reassured. "That was way too much work."

"Thank god for your laziness then!" I growled. "Is your ass being hunted by anyone?"

"Not from the villain part, but there was the rainy slenderman and the blonde girl who was missing part of her face. They gave a lot of points, but I can stop time!" he smiled.

I looked at him. "Endbringer Target and Slaughterhouse Nine?"

"Yeah! That's it!" His face fell, "Oh, oh shit."

I sighed. "Yes, 'oh shit'. Okay, uh, what do you remember from what you've read of Worm."

He shrugged, "Just what you told me. I told you I didn't read it"

I groaned again. "I thought you meant you hadn't finished it. Okay, you said you had a base?" he nodded. "Okay, did you take the thing that made you part of the overall plan?" He shrugged. "The one with Tattletale." Another shrug. I sighed. "The blonde chick on the tightrope."

"Oh, her. That's Tattletale? Nice bod," he grinned. "Yeah, took that!"

"She's underage!" I rebuked.

"How underage?" he asked. "'cause I'm seventeen, and a villain."

"Her power makes her Sherlock Holmes on crack. More crack," I amended. "Did you get Cauldron vials?"

"Three of 'em. No idea who I'm going to give them to though. Any ideas?"

I shook my head. "Sorry, just be careful, those will be damn powerful, and only work on people who have no powers. Did you get Blindspot? The one that hides you from precogs."

He nodded, "Yeah, I read what that 'Path to Victory' thing did! I don't want any of that!"

Breathing a sigh of relief, I asked, "Did you get Negentropy? The eternal power option?"

"Fuck no, did you see how much that cost? What kind of retard would pick that one!" he responded instantly. I just looked at him. "Oh. Sorry. Really? You could've gotten an awesome power, another vial, and a follower for that many points."

"I think long term," I ground out.

He shrugged. "Can't think long term if you're dead." He flinched at my glare. "Sorry, but it's true."

I motioned for him to put his helmet on, shifting back to Vejovis guise. "Come on, I'll fly you back to your base."

He followed me out, taking my arm, the two of us lifting off into the sky. "So, don't take this the wrong way," he said once we'd risen above the city. "But I really don't want to join your team. I mean, I have my own group, and I just realized that maybe saying this when we're this high up was a bad idea."

I laughed, waving him off. "Like I'd drop you." He looked at me. "Like, for real instead of just messing with you," I clarified. "Nah, that makes sense. Probably better this way. We can work together, but the PRT wouldn't take 'heroes' claiming territory that well, even if we literally make life better for everyone in the process. Keep your crime to the Amsterdam model and I won't have a problem."

"The what?" he asked, confused.

"People want to do a lot of the things that are illegal, because the laws that are regularly broken were mostly made by authoritarian virtue signalers, just look at the 'war on drugs'. If you set up places where people do illegal things, but in non-stupid ways, there shouldn't be much of a problem. Standardize your drug trade, making sure the product is clean and uniform, and don't sell on credit while only selling to adults," I explained.

"Provide places to get high with medical staff to administer the harder drugs and make sure that everyone's safe. Similarly, don't let people gamble on credit, and don't gamble yourself, making sure your organization is neutral in the process. Prostitution? Needs to be voluntary, which should go without saying. Past that, provide them medical care, keep the girls safe, require the use of protection, and an inspection of the client to avoid disease. Also, again, no credit. Providing a safe, reliable way for people to feed their vices will cut down on regular crime and make you a lot of money."

I considered a few general rules, settling on, "No kids, no violence for anyone who isn't an actively consenting party, like a well-regulated fight club or something, and no putting people in debt cuts down on almost all the problems you could have. People will still do stupid illegal shit, but with you there, they'll be minor nuisances at best."

"The cops and the PRT are corrupt as all hell, but love themselves some status quo, so after the initial uproar things should quiet the hell down. Take some territory and lie low. Leviathan is coming here in the middle of May, not sure exactly when, and after that the city will unfortunately be wrecked enough that swooping in and claiming it'll be child's play. After we fight off the Slaughterhouse Nine in the beginning of June, it'll be a lock, and we can look into expanding both of our organizations, probably into Boston." I finished. "So where's your base?"

He pointed to a church almost at the top of Captain's hill. "You've thought about this a lot, haven't you?"

I shrugged, descending. "Not really."


Dropping him off and exchanging numbers, I found out that the church had been closed and he'd re-opened it as a Universalist place of worship, which honestly kind of fit. I was introduced to the 'priest' on duty, who I'd recognized as the leader of the raid that'd gone bad. After a somewhat awkward conversation, as the leader got his head around a Hero knowing what Æonic was doing, and being cool with it, I left, returning back to base. Herb and Kayden were gone, which left me free to relax.

I spent an hour typing up the bare-bones of a press release I wanted Quinn to put out for me, detailing the truce, why it happened, why a Hero was going along with it, and what to expect. The return e-mail exuded resigned acceptance, but promised it would be out in a few hours with some minor corrections I was fine with. After making dinner, I was surprised to find that I'd received a missive from The Neutral Party, asking to meet, with a time and place to do so the next morning.

After a couple hours of meditation, I settled in to continue reading the Base Manual, and tanking shots, my Weaponry Projection easing the slowly growing need to scrounge more ammunition for me in order to continue training my shields. None of my shields split, but not only had I found the armory, a hidden switch in the computer room needed to be pressed to open it, I'd finally found what looked to be what was supposed to be the first chapter of the base management document, over three dozen chapters in, just in time to leave for my meeting shortly after dawn.

Heading to the location, I found myself in front of a skyscraper downtown. Giving the receptionist the information I'd been given, I was shown to a meeting room on the twenty-sixth floor. Walking inside there was a man in a black suit, leather gloves, and what looked to be a motorcycle helmet sitting at the end of a conference table, flanked by a pair of very large men in suits, concealed pistols evident by the bulge in their jackets.

I Saw the Black and Silver flames of his power, similar in intensity to Herb or my little brother, confirming who he was. The Likelihood of someone else having the combination of the astral projection of Trance, the inability to be tracked of Recordless, and the advanced precognitive direction of Destiny Weaver, were so small as to be insignificant.

"Hi!" I waved, not sure how to address him. Physically he didn't have the same body type as my father, lacking the broad-shouldered build, but from the CYOA he chose to drop-in to a pre-existing person. It was honestly an odd feeling.

He flinched, before giving a deep sigh, turning to one of the men behind him. "Please guard the entrance. This discussion needs to have utmost privacy." The man nodded, he and his opposite walking past me, closing the door behind them, a green light turning on over the door a moment later. "I suppose the name 'Jack Rycroft' means something to you?" he asked, voice somehow unmuffled by his helmet.

I nodded, "He's my father." He made no motion in response, so I took a risk. "Aren't you?"

Sighing again, hanging his head, he acknowledged, "In a manner of speaking." Reaching up, seeming to fight himself, he took off his helmet, the face that stared back at me unfamiliar, but the resigned look of annoyance all Dad. Grinning back, I took off my mask with a 'ta-da' motion. He stared at me, looking me over before focusing on my face. "Your Mother was right," was his only comment. "You do look better without all the fat."

I winced, but that kind of statement was the kind of thing he did. Blunt, and meant to be a compliment, but my father only noticed subtext when he focused on something, never noticing how his own subconscious warped his phrasing to be insultingly cutting. Honestly, while I appreciated the fact that he tried not to lie, he didn't need to be such a dick about it. I dealt my own harsh truths liberally, but at least I did so on purpose. Mostly. I walked over, taking a seat next to him. "So?" I started, waving at him. "How does the whole 'Insert' thing work?"

He sighed once more, shrugging. "It's... odd. I took over someone's life. I'd almost say I killed him, but he's still here," he tapped his forehead, "Which I'm not sure how I feel about. I think if I wanted to, I could have gotten rid of him, but... no. I avoided killing anyone in the service, thank God I never had to. It makes me wonder how much of what I am now is... me." He paused, looking at me. Really looking at me. "You've already had to kill, from what I've seen. I. I'm sorry."

I matched him, shrugging and sighing, though mine was less tired resignment and more of an uncaring negation. The Rycroft sigh was a complex method of communication, almost on level with the Uchiha 'Hn'. "They were men and women who lived by preying on the weak. The Merchants sell drugs to children, the ABB have forced prostitution brothels, and the E88 are literal Nazis. They've made their choice. I have the ability to stop them," I finished, the rest of the sentence obvious.

It was his turn to wince, sighing in unfortunate agreement. "and while it isn't your responsibility, that wouldn't matter to either of us, because we're here. And you're here now to ask me to join your group?" I nodded. "I don't think that's a good idea," he told me, "I know how to run coffee shops, not capes."

I froze, the words of grateful welcome as we started to truly work together dying on my lips. "I'm sorry, what. Why?"

He looked at me, face grim. "I can do more to help by remaining The Neutral Party, and I have no way to fight. As much as I'd like to help, it's an unacceptable risk for almost no benefit." He sighed with sad humor. "And that's how I know Medhu is still in there, because he's all about risks, but he's got a point."

I didn't let my disappointment show. I'd hoped he would've joined, but my father wasn't the frontline type, or even the leadership type, though, even then, he could've helped elsewhere. But, but he was my father, and he probably understood this more than I did. It was a damn shame, because he was far better than I was at balancing logistics and strategy than I was, but only if he had time to think, and I could've used that, but, again, had to trust his judgement. The only way I could beat him in RTS games was to harry him, hitting him on multiple fronts faster than he could respond. Given enough time to plan, and if he could control the flashpoints, I lost almost every game.

Together though, we were a force. Growing up there was a game we played, Urban Assault, which had a cooperative mode that let two players control the same faction. He'd stay back, managing the larger strategy, minding the base, preparing defenses while I took control of our forces, piloting the ships directly while managing the offencive. Even on the highest difficulty, when the computer just said, 'screw it' and cheated, we still won four times out of five. I leaned forward, knowing that while he was resistant to a direct confrontation, he could be redirected as long as you didn't go against his underlying reason for choosing a position. "Okay, then use your precog to help direct us," I tried.

His flinched, "How did- Right, you're the one who helped me choose them. Sorry," he waved a hand. "There's still a lot of Medu's personality coloring, tainting, shading? The person I took over, Medhu, went through a lot to try to keep that a secret, even if he didn't think things through." A statement that was a damning indictment from my father. He frowned, nodding to himself. "That could work."

"You cou-" I started, cut off by his raised hand.

"A minute please." I waited the full minute, as he'd asked. "Yes," he finally said, looking up, a wry grin pulling up at his features oddly. "You're going to hire me, as The Neutral Party, to contact a paranoid precog for help. The Nazis think I have one on payroll already, thanks to Medhu's. . . overreaction. As such he- no, she will pass on information to you. You will, of course, negotiate an exclusive contract with her, and if the E88 had done so in the first place, instead of demanding her contact information, she would have of course have been amenable, but," he shrugged with a 'oh well' sigh, "They choose not to pursue that track at that time. Pity." His grin was all Jack, before settling into the more neutral expression he'd been reverting to.

I nodded, seeing where he was going. "And given that she is a precognitive, any attempt on your person to try to force that information she would pre-empt, or have the situation reversed in short order. That works. What's this precog's name?"

He grinned, mischief in his eyes. "Ms. Voyant."

I looked at him. "Her first name wouldn't be Claire, would it?"

"You must have a touch of the sight yourself!" he fake congratulated. I gave him a gimlet eye. "Okay, how about Ann?"

I frowned. "Ann? Is that short for something?"


I gave the sigh of the long-suffering, knowing this was a trap. "What's her last name?"

"Ticipation, of course!" he laughed.

I gave a groan, the cranky uncle of sighs. This is why we don't let him name things, I reminded myself. Might as well cut off that future a bit more. "How about Weaver. Like Fate Weaver, the name of her power, not that anyone else will get it," I proposed.

He shrugged, still laughing. "That works. You've negotiated a deal with Weaver, and thus will be the only one who has secured her services. Information which I will only share if someone asks."

"Okay, that works. Now, have you heard about the Truce?"

He nodded, "I read this evening's paper tonight after I woke up this morning. You sure you can trust them?"

Snorting, I shook my head. "Hell no, but I won't turn my back on them, and it'll help me recruit any who aren't there by choice. But because of that, we need to find the ABB Safehouses. Your precog, can you see the future where we find Bakuda's base and then direct us there?"

He shook his head in reply. "That's not how it works. I can choose options, but I see how things will turn out twelve hours later. I can't choose completed tasks that require information I don't have. But. . ." He paused as he thought, steepling his fingers, and I leaned back to give him time. "I can use the results I see to better choose paths. I could. . . No," he frowned. "I can't see you or anything you do. There's someone else I can't see either. It may be Boardwalk."

"Oh, right. I'm a Blindspot, as are you and Charlie, so tha-"

"Wait, Charlie's here?" he asked looking around. "You didn't say anything about him in your e-mail!"

I nodded. "Yeah, along with Herb, but Herb's not a Blindspot. Chuckles is Æonic, though I didn't find out until yesterday. He didn't come in the same way we did. But that's not important, right now. I, hmm. . ." I thought trying to find a way around the problem. "Right, so, possible futures. You call Herb and have him get everyone together, sans Charlie and myself, and have them go explore," I paused, pulling out my phone and pulling up a map of the city. "These blocks in destructive detail to find ABB Bases, to report back to you, without our involvement, the results, which you can see. With that information, you do the same thing with the next sector on the map."

He nodded, pulling out a pad of paper from his suit, along with a fancy-looking pen. "That could work." As he looked into the middle distance, the blacks of his pupils expanded, covering his eyes entirely, a silver star sparking to life in the center of his now dark orbs. His power expanded as well, in a wave that billowed out in every direction, passing through the walls, curling oddly around me. As I leaned back, I created a larger void in his power, which increased again when I poked the thin bubble of Black and Silver fire all around me, every space I'd occupied one his power couldn't. After few seconds it faded, and his eyes returned to normal, scribbling down something on the paper.

Leaning over to read he explained. "Here, four-fifty-six Oak. Kaiser finds a location, one of their Brothels, and Sundancer dies, whoever that is. Two of the teams find nothing, one of which is captured by the PRT. The fourth doesn't stay on track but finds an armory at thirty-seven Hale Road, and fights Lung. Purity is killed by Hookwolf, and Break and Enter kill Hookwolf, Crusader, and Lung, setting the city on fire. Less than an optimal future."

I shook my head in agreement, noting the locations. "One which won't happen. Alright, next set of blocks," I requested.

He objected. "First, some coffee, this might go on for a while."

My father ordered and we remasked, a nervous young man wearing a jacket from Mahatma Grindy entering a few minutes later with a cardboard tray of coffee and a bag of pastries.

After the repast, over which my father took pride in the quality of the coffee, as he apparently owned the company, we moved to continue the search. Finding five more locations in the next four 'dives' as my father called them, I made note of where and what they were, along with the response from the ABB. After the sixth, he emerged from his trance, teeth clenched in pain as he wrote out what he'd seen. "Are you okay?" I asked, looking at him worriedly.

"Never done more than three or four dives at once. Think I found why," he gritted out. I waited for him as he took a deep breath, shaking his head. "Hokay, ahhh, yeah." After a couple more deep breaths and he opened his eyes, his pupils large and the hint of something silver in the center despite him not using his abilities. "Do you recall how you warned me not to buy that disadvantage, the one that hurt if you pushed your power?"

"Yeah," I nodded. "That it?"

"I'm about to find out!" he informed, eyes going black once again. The fire in the center of his eyes had grown, from pinpricks of flame to circles nearly as big as his iris, each seeming to send inch long threads of flame out like tentacles that quickly were pulled taut. "Gah!" he cried, his eyes mostly returning to normal. "Mother-fracking piss bucket! That was a mistake! That's it for today, and maybe tomorrow. I need some downtime," he growled, hand snaking out, writing down three more locations, even as the other pressed hard against his eyes.

"Alright Jack," he told himself. "Stop at six, unless you want to feel like someone broke open your skull with an ice-pick through your eyes." I gave him a minute to collect himself. He motioned to the notes, eyes still covered, his free hand shaking slightly. "Have we given you enough to work with?" he questioned.

I looked at him in concern, nodding, before catching myself and telling him. "Yes! Definitely. More than enough!"

"Alright, I'm going to go home and lie down. If this passes I'll be able to help tomorrow, but not this much. I need to pace myself," he groaned, holding his eyes. "Okay?"

I hesitated, offering, "I can heal you a little, see if that helps."

He waved a hand dismissively. "Sure. Give it a shot."

Reaching out and exposing a fingertip, I touched the back of his neck. As I gave him the Get Better treatment he sighed, uncovering his eyes. His pupils had overtaken his iris, a wide silver flaming circles in the middle of the dark abysses that used to be the whites of his eyes. "Thank you. That helps. Now I just have a migraine instead feeling like I headbutt a pack of rhinoceroses. Rhinoceri? You understand what I'm saying."

He put on his helmet, wincing as he reached up and pressed a hidden switch, then sighed again in relief, "And that's better. I believe our business has concluded for today. Weaver will be in touch with you again tomorrow if she feels better. Thank you, for your business." He hesitated, "And thank you for finding a way I could help. I want to do more, but. . ."

"You have no fighting powers," I finished. "Don't worry Dad, this will be a massive help. Don't push yourself too hard tomorrow either, and definitely not past the pain point. I'm going to have enough trouble getting all the villains to work together, and these locations will be more than enough to get us started."

I started to get up to leave, but he held up a hand. He had a final question. "So, we've come here, but what about where we left? Are they missing us, or is this a situation where time runs differently? Like the Witch and the Wardrobe. Narnia. Will we live a lifetime here and go back to where we left off with our lives? I just. . . I just don't want to think of leaving Laura alone."

I shrugged. With as much as I had to do, that had been a line of thought I'd been studiously avoiding. "If there is a way, when things calm down we can look into finding Mom. There's cross-dimensional powers out there, and one might get us home. For now though, we have to worry about more immediate threats."
Outreach 6.3
Outreach 6.3

Intel in hand, I was ready to begin gathering people together to start the ball rolling on this Truce. There was only one problem: out of the six groups, only two of them had actually sent me an e-mail. Grue's e-mail message was the uninspired "This is my e-mail address," along with his e-mail address, which was the same as the address it was sent from. Trickster's, meanwhile, was "Thus I invoke myself!" whatever that meant. Unfortunately, I now needed to get word out to Coil, the Merchants, Faultline's Crew, and the E88. Of the four, I had no idea how to contact Coil, and honestly didn't want to bother. Starting with the easiest, I headed northwest towards the Midway, finding a group that would've looked homeless if it weren't for their tacky clothing.

Bums had a certain aesthetic after all, even if it was accidental.

Dropping down in front of them, they froze. "We weren't selling drugs!" one of the women squeaked. She looked anywhere between mid-twenties to mid-forties, depending on when she started using. I just floated there, not actually touching down.

"Suuure, you weren't. Have you heard about the Truce?" I asked, getting blank stares in return. Sighing I looked around, spotting a newspaper box. Those are still a thing? I thought, before shrugging. Front and center was the story "Heroes and Villains Work Together to Save Brockton Bay!" which I pointed at it.

It took them a full minute to read it.

"So, you're working with us?" an older man asked, teeth rotten, face scrunched up in confusion.

I shrugged again, "Don't sell to kids and I won't care for now. What I really want to know is where Skidmark is. I, through my sources, have found myself in possession of intel he has great need of."

I received blank stares.

"I have information he would find most useful?"

Still nothing.

I sighed, "One of my friends told me something cool, and I want to tell Skidmark."

"Why didn't you say so?" the man asked, giving me directions. "Ya wanna buy somethin'?" he asked hopefully.

I rolled my eyes. "Sorry, I don't do drugs." I did reach into a pouch and pull out my wallet, handing him a twenty. "For the help. Thank you!"

He just looked at it, surprised as I took off to follow his instructions. Finding the location took a bit, but, "The warehouse across from the broken up seven-eleven with the tag that Jimmy left on the side," was easy enough once I figured out that they were actually talking about an abandoned Shell station, and that Jimmy spelled his name with a g, two i's, and only one m.

Walking inside I felt the swish of air, barely catching a baseball bat that was headed for my skull. Looking at the person who swung with a raised eyebrow, I casually crumpled the hollow metal in my fist.

"Oh. Um. Sorry?" the girl, who must've been all of nine said, smiling at me from her position on top of a milk crate. "I heard there was a Hero, and I thought it was one of the bad ones!"

I blinked at that. "Shouldn't you be in sch- right they closed. I'm looking for Skidmark, I have information for him."

"He should be in da back with cousin Sherrel!" she chirped.

I had to ask, "Does your cousin know you're guarding the door?"

She shook her head. "I'm supposed to be helpin' her, but that's so booooring! The guy who was supposed to be here guardin' said he was going to smoke some weed. Why would someone smoke weeds?" she asked, tilting her head in confusion. I was still trying to think of a way to tell her why when she started laughing. "Oh! Your face! I know he's getting high. Still makes him a poopy guard though."

"Poopy?" I asked, words coming unbidden as my brain restarted.

"Well, I'm not supposed to say swears like Sherrel's boyfriend! That's what my mom says!" she informed me disapprovingly, as if I should be ashamed for just asking.

Sighing, I handed her the bat back, Crushing the top evenly to make it a long cudgel. "That makes perfect sense. Check who you're hitting first, just in case it's someone who won't go down, like Aegis or Armsdi- Armsmaster."

She looked at me like she knew what I almost said and was judging me, before grinning brightly, revealing that she was missing a few teeth. "Okay, Mister Vejovis!"

I patted her on the head, walking deeper into the warehouse, following the sound of power tools and swearing, both equally high pitched. As I walked closer, I found myself facing the gaudiest looking armored van I'd ever seen. The swearing was coming from below it. "Isabella Ann Bailey!" the voice commanded in tones that sounded like someone had gotten a whiff of helium. "I know you're out there! Hand me the three-fourths torque wrench!" A greasy feminine arm waved from below the front. Looking over I found what she wanted, handing it to her. "Thank you!" she replied huffily, quickly using it to do something.

I couldn't resist. "No problem, my dear," I responded calmly, maybe deepening my voice a tad for effect. "Is there anything else you desire?"

The ratcheting immediately stopped. "Isabella?" the woman who must've been Squealer asked, fear tremoring her voice.

"If you mean the young blonde girl, she's still guarding the front, the original guard left to get high. She tried to cave my head in with a baseball bat, the little scamp. She apologized, and I believe is still there, trying to protect you," I reassured the Tinker.

"Oh, okay," she replied, slowly sliding out from the car, revolver trained on me. "Isabella!" she called out, voice shrill. Shriller.

"Yeah?" came the faint reply.

"Why aren't ya here, like I told ya!" Squealer, well, squealed.

"It's borin'!"

I sighed, as the Tinker got ready to try to pierce my eardrums again.

"Little Miss, if you could come over here, you won't have to shout." I called, enhancing my voice a tad.

"Okay!" came the call, the sound of small feet running up as she turned the corner, skidding to a halt, baseball bat held behind her, but listing to the side over her shoulder.

Squealer went pale as she saw the smushed end of the bat. As she looked at me, I shrugged. "I crushed the end, it was only fair to make it a better weapon once the misunderstanding was dealt with."

The Isabella nodded as she told the Tinker, "Yeah, he was really nice! Not like your boyfriend at all! Maybe you should date him instead!"

Squealer went red, "I could neva' do that to Skidsy!" she glanced at me, and I accidentally met her eyes, which just turned her redder. Having never considered the possibility I truly looked at her. I did have a bit of a thing for Wrench Wenches, the ability to truly focus on objective tasks and the ability to prioritize projects over social niceties when the second was not needed both appealing to me, and the fact that she was… well built were both points in her favor. However, the voice, the drug addiction, the lack of forethought, or any discernable intelligence whatsoever, and the abysmal taste she had in men all made that a hell to the fuck no.

I glanced back at Isabella, who had seen me looking and smiled encouragingly, turning to a pout when I shook my head no. "I'm actually here to talk to him," I informed the Tinker, getting her attention. "I've gained information on the location of ABB strongholds we could strike. However, I haven't received an e-mail from the Merchants and thus have no means of contacting you, so I came in person. If you could please send me a message on the email on my card, I could help coordinate everyone's efforts."

I realized I'd done it again and was about to simplify when Squealer nodded. "Oh, right. Sure!" Raising my estimation of her, slightly, she flounced over to a plastic case, opening it up to reveal a laptop. Closing the diagnostic program, she reached into one of her belt pockets, pulling out one of my cards and typing up a quick e-mail.

Receiving it, I read aloud "Thanks for being nice to my cousin!" I smiled. "No problem, she's adorable. Thank you for your assistance. Once I'm in contact I'll send everyone a message on possible locations." Squealer looked red again, probably upset that I read the e-mail out loud, and I walked out, ruffling Isabella's hair as I passed her.

The little girl started to follow me when Squealer yelled, "Isabella! You stay here where I can see you!"

"But you're under that stupid car all the time!" she responded.

"It's not a stupid car, it's my baby and ya know what I mean!"

The girl asked, with a tone of fake confusion hiding mischievousness "If that's your baby, then why does Momma say that Aunt Clara's surprised you don't have one already?"



Looking online as I flew over the city, I found Faultline's Crew had an e-mail address, so I sent one off to them asking if this is the one they'd like to receive mission intel on. Waiting for a response, I stopped at a downtown restaurant to get an early lunch to kill time. The waiter asked if I was really working with Villains, so I shrugged responding "To take down a group who, by the amount of death and destruction they've cause, should all have Kill Orders? Yes. If that's what it takes to protect this city." I glanced at the other people listening in. "My people should've released a press statement. If you have further questions, please ask them."

I still hadn't received a reply, so I called Taylor after I took to the air once more. "Hey, Lady Bug," I told her as soon as she picked up. "How's things?"

"Oh, um, pretty good. . . You?" she asked, stumbling a little over the social niceties.

"Pretty good. I found some Intel on the ABB, but I'm having some difficulties in getting everyone to communicate. Can you ask Tattletale where I can find Faultline?"

"Oh, sure." She responded, the sound of her walking and asking faint. "Um, she says it's a club called Palanquin," I couldn't quite make out what Lisa was saying, but it sounded like a lot more than that.

"Anything else?"

"Um, no. Not really," she reassured, walking away from the ranting Thinker as I tried to hear what she said. Was that my name? "Do you have time to train today?"

"Probably not. We'll see about tomorrow, but we'll probably be going after the ABB then."

"Oh… okay." The obvious dejection in her voice tugged at my heartstrings, rearranging my schedule.

"I'll drop by the Undersider's hideout this evening," I corrected. "I need to drop some stuff off there anyways."

"Oh, okay!" she echoed herself, this time hopeful.

"I'll see you later, stay safe."

"I will!" she promised. I hung up and found the address, heading over to it and landing out front. The club was closed, sign dark, but after knocking on the door for a bit I heard the lock slide. An orange-skinned Case-53 opened the entrance, the Villain subtly tense. "Hey man, what's up?"

"Newter, right?" I asked, and he grinned and nodded, happy to be recognized. "My contacts have found the locations of ABB bases, but your boss never sent me a message, so I need her to, to help organize everyone. Also, if she could ask Coil to do so as well that would be great."

He blinked. "It's been, like, a day dude. How did you get those so fast?"

"Hired a precog," I shrugged.

"Aren't they like, super expensive?" he asked, scratching the back of his head. "Or, like, work for the government?"

I smiled. "I know a guy who knows a girl. I was waiting for the PRT to get their heads out of their collective asses, but they appear to be stuck, so that means I need to step forward, so I am. So, ask your boss to contact me? And Coil as well?"

He smiled. "Sure thing bro!"

I held out my hand, "Thank you."

Newter looked at my head in trepidation. "Um, my power is pretty heavy-duty drug sweat."

"And my costume isn't permeable," I told him, still holding my hand out. And I'm immune to all poisons, but let's not share that anytime soon.

"Oh!" he smiled wildly, giving my hand a firm shake. "Cool! See you around!"

"Same," I responded, taking off.


I received an e-mail from Faultline a few minutes later, along with Coil's contact information, which wasn't exactly what I wanted, but worked just as well. That left the E88. Joy. I toyed with the idea of just walking into the Medhall building and asking to speak to Max Anders, but with Purity on the team, and his narrow, narrow mind he'd assume that she told me, ignoring any evidence to the contrary.

Landing instead in front of a bunch of skinheads, who glared at me, I jovially requested, "Hello, I have information for Kaiser and he has neglected to give me a way of contacting him. Can one of you," I almost wanted to say 'fine fellows' but that was too much, even in jest, "Members of the Empire Eighty-Eight either put me in contact with him, or with someone who can?"

They spread a little around me, weapons coming out. Did they not get the memo that I was a Brute? "You can tell us, race-traitor," one of the morons told me.

I sighed. "I am currently working under Truce, so I will not strike the first blow. I will however, strike the last one you will ever have. Either tell me where to go or call someone." One of them pointed a pistol at me. I rolled my eyes, pulling my own out, layering five Speed Zones inside it. "Mine's better," I replied blandly, shooting a trashcan, which promptly jerked back, the back exploding, peppering the wall behind it with debris.

"Shit, Tinkertech," one of them swore. I looked blandly at what I assumed was their leader, given how the others looked to him, who glared, trying not to gawk at the trashcan like some of his men. "Make the call," he told someone else, who took out a phone. I stood there, waiting, until from down the street and around the corner, I could hear two men arguing. The second man's voice was dismissive, but the first was firm, ending the conversation, and displayed absolute calm. Turning the corner, I saw the calm man, by his expression, was, Kreig, the older man I'd seen at the Truce meeting. The other man, with tight Yellow and Red flames, had the power of Skill Theft, Via Eye-Contact, Physical Contact, and Observation of the Skill.

What must have been Victor, a designation which would have been merely uninspired if it wasn't also his actual name, thus pushing it into dumbass territory, was clad in black pants, black and red boots, and a black breastplate over a red shirt. He also had black fingerless gloves and a black and red mask, the eyes and top open to show off his Aryan blonde hair and blue eyes. Looking at him, he looked back, his power trying to make contact through my eyes, to steal my abilities from me, but bouncing off.

Must be the mask I thought, not really angry, just disappointed. Not even a single damn day and people are already trying to test and break the agreement. This is probably why Heroes never work with Villains en masse short of Endbringers. I gave a mental sigh, Fine. Cross him off the list of possible redemption. He thought my Hero status bound me to act with honor, but the restrictions of honor only extend to the honorable. You want to play Villain? Let's play, Outlaw.

"Try to steal my skills, Victor, and I'll kill you for breaking the Truce," I called out cordially, though I didn't smile. Kreig shot the cape an angry look, but the thief shrugged like it didn't matter.

"You started it," he called back smugly, with the tone of someone who is lying, knows they're lying, knows you know they're lying, and believes they will still get away with it, "harassing our men."

"I came to ask how to get in contact with your organization and haven't touched them. If a simple question is what you consider harassing, you must have awful luck with women," I retorted, annoyed that my own agreement to a Truce they seemed to not honor brought me here to deal with scum as equals instead of giving them what they obviously deserved. His antagonistic actions were so incredibly petty and short sighted, I honestly was hard pressed to understand why he'd do it. Then again, the same could be said of racism.

I hated using labels to explain actions, but he was a Nazi.

As his power reached out to me again, connecting this time, starting ever so slightly to leach my manual dexterity, I levelled the pistol at his head. He seemed unimpressed, though his confusion at the gang-member's scared reactions did still the miniscule drain. "If you try to steal another of my skills, I shall shoot you once. If you do so again after that I shall reclaim them both from your brain physically, and I shall be in the right, as you broke the Truce your leader agreed on."

"I don't know what you're-" Victor started to sneer, only for his partner to grab him and drag him a dozen feet away.

Kreig quietly but forcefully rebuked the younger man, though I didn't flex my power to fully listen in in case Cricket was hiding nearby, and felt my shifting of the sound, as she could probably do. After they were done, they walked back, and the older man waved for me to lower my weapon which hadn't moved past tracking the Villain, which I did.

"What do you want?" the experienced Villain, asked when he was a dozen feet away. Victor, meanwhile, smiled at me again, though he now seemed almost offended as he looked at the ground between us.

If I had to guess he was sure that he'd, I don't know, take my ability to fly, leaving me confused and defenseless while he closed the distance before I could shoot.


I stood straight and formally informed the older villain, "I have been working to help end the ABB, as per our Truce, and have leveraged some of my assets to gain intel on the location of ABB strongholds."

"Then tell us and get the hell out of here, Bug Boy," Victor sneered.

I didn't look at him. "Kreig, please tell your thin-skinned thief to mind his manners. I will not go out of my way to antagonize him bup blebly-" my tongue caught on itself as Victor's power lashed out, lessening my ability to speak.

My power flashed through my body and copied the immoral ability, the physical effects plain enough for my own power to activate. I whipped my gun upward, shooting him in the hand, blowing it off, along with part of his forearm. The flesh pasted as it was hit by the equivalent of an anti-tank weapon, most of the force continuing on to break the pavement, the stump spraying red as he fell to the ground in shock.

The thugs watched, frozen, as Kreig looked between us, unsure, but didn't attack. The older man did get ready to fight as I strode forward, towards the moron who was screaming and holding what was left of his arm while he writhed on the ground.

"Sobby, but he thtole an abilbty, and I beplied as I plomised. I'm baking sube he doethn't die." I stumbled over the words, and I was tempted to shoot him in the head. Just like Regent, he couldn't control himself, and now I had another power I would never use.

Unlike Regent I had no qualms killing this mad dog. 'Pulling' off a glove with my teeth, I touched Victor's arm, covering the bloody ragged stump of his forearm with skin, stopping the bleeding, and giving him enough Get Better to keep him of dying of shock or blood loss, though he was still moaning like a bitch.

Stowing my gun, I put the glove back on, the others watching, other E88 arriving nearby but not approaching, as I ran through exercises like 'Toy Bot" and "She Sells Sea Shells" for several minutes until my ability to speak clearly returned, having only had the slightest of drains. I looked disdainfully down at the pathetic excuse for a cape still whining at my feet.

"Oh pull yourself together you petty little thief. Your wife will heal you when you get back. And for the love of god, get thicker skin. I don't know, steal the social armor off a streetwalker or something. I couldn't even get through telling you that I wouldn't resort to violence or powers first, and would not be the one who, so upset that I lost the simplest of social battles that I would lash out like a child, when you went ahead and did so, ruining the entire point what I was trying to say! Oh, and just so you know, if you steal skills from me or any of my team again, I will kill you, Truce or no."

I looked at Kreig, who was watching me like a hawk, his power already wrapped around me, but while the air resistance was primed to kick in, it was not actually active enough for me to copy. "You, I have no problem with. You seem professional, and that I can admire. If you ever decided to change sides, you should give me a call. In the meantime, as I said, I found the location of ABB bases. If you, or someone in your organization could send me an e-mail, I could start coordinating everyone. So far, the only people I haven't heard back from are the E88, and Coil."

I reached into a pouch and he stilled completely, ready to strike, relaxing minutely when I took out another of my cards. "In case Kaiser did something silly like shred his in a fit of pique, here's another. If I have not heard back from him or his people by," I checked my phone. "Six tonight, I'll start making plans without him or your organization, which would be a shame considering the firepower they can bring to bear." I glanced down at the still moaning villain at our feet. "Not counting him."

Kreig shot me a resigned look, "You aren't going to give me the addresses, are you?"

I shook my head, smiling. "I would, but then Kaiser would rush in for glory, or to look like he's the strongest, or something silly, which would ignore the entire point of the Truce. Sorry, no, once we've determined the strike teams I'll supply the information. Not before."

He nodded. "Had to ask. Do you have any other business here?"

"No, telling you this was the only reason I visited your territory. Have a nice day." I held out my hand, and after a moment he shook it, his grip strong, but not 'I'm so macho' crushing like I'm sure Victor would have tried.

Generally happy with this interaction, I took off, flying back to base to take a shower and wash off the scent of idiocy I might've picked up when Victor bled on me.
This was such a great story, I bet the sequel will be even better. Great job man, you should be proud of what you accomplished and not feel bad at all asking for money for your writings.
Outreach 6.4
Outreach 6.4

After a thorough shower, I was surprised that it wasn't even noon. Then again, the meeting with my father had happened at seven o' clock. The man was a ludicrously early riser, and I wasn't really sure what to do. I could go heal, but I had a feeling my public statement about my working with Villains would attract unwelcome attention, or even worse, the press. I shivered theatrically as I toweled off. They would still get in the way, though that nixed that option. However. . .

"Hello Vejovis, what do you want?" my friend, the flesh-sculptor, asked intently, picking up on the first ring. She sounded a bit annoyed and I had a feeling it was my fault.

"Hi Panacea," I answered, ignoring her implication that I only called her when I needed something. She wasn't wrong, but addressing it now wouldn't help anything. "It won't be today, but I've got information on ABB bases and we'll be striking them tomorrow. If we need your help, can we come to you for healing? I can keep someone from dying, but more than that is beyond me right now." A waited a beat, but she didn't answer. "They might be Villains, but they'd be working with me to help stop the bombings."

She hmm'd. "I will, but only because they're helping. And only if you're there."

"Deal. I was going to do that anyways," I promised. "Sorry about not being there today, I-"

"It's fine," she cut me off in a way that said it wasn't. "I understand. Just. . . be careful."

I smiled, "I will be, see you tonight." Hanging up, I thought about what I could do. Looking around the base I couldn't find Herb, and I doubted I could convince Boojack to train, so that left training myself, something which I could do just as easily at night with less chance of attracting attention.

I paused in my pacing as I remembered my promise to drop by the Undersider's base, and got to work with a smirk. Five hours and a short shopping trip later I'd gathered everything I needed. The look on Tattletale's face when I answered the door to their base with a backpack and two duffle bags packed with supplies was well worth the effort.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" she demanded, obviously hating herself for having to ask.

"Merry Christmas!" I smiled.

She just blinked at me. "It's May!"

I shrugged, "Meh, close enough. I bring presents! Come on, let me in." She stepped aside, glaring at me, not saying anything. "I'm not a vampire Tattletale," I chided teasingly, stepping inside and rustling her hair, letting go of one of the duffle bags to do so. I kept it up with a Glory Girl's power, having figured out I didn't need to touch something with my hand to surround it with a Lift Field, so letting it hang, touching my leg, was enough for a moment.

Ignoring the 'floating' bag, she smacked my hand away, and huffed, "I knew that!", and pushed past me, leading me to their common room, announcing, "It's Vejovis!"

Taylor was waiting for me, relaxed and without her helmet, while Imp and Regent played an FPS. Grue stood in the entrance to the hallway that held everyone's rooms, not relaxing, and Bitch was nowhere to be seen. As Tattletale moved to stand next to Grue she turned, arms folded, and addressed me, "Well?"

"Where's Bitch?" I asked, looking around.

I got a shrug from Taylor, the others not responding, though Regent was complaining that Imp had paused their game, looking at an empty chair instead of where her power was, right next to him. "She's out," Tattletale informed me.

Nodding, I replied, "Oh, in the warehouse with her dogs. Makes sense." Ignoring Lisa's growl of annoyance, I unslung my backpack, dropping it next to the duffle bags on a table that still held the remains of take-out. "So, we're going to be hitting some of the bases I found today, tomorrow, but you guys need an upgrade. For your previous cops and robbers play-fighting you were fine, but this is going to be war, or the closest you'll hopefully see for. . . let's say a month and half."

Tattletale started to ask a question as soon as paused for breath, but I talked over her. "As such, you need to step up your game. After this is over I'll be wanting Taylor to work with Parian to get you all some proper armor, but these will have to do. They won't last more than a month, but you should all have replacements well before then."

Reaching into the bag I pulled out the copies of the Undersider's costumes I'd extruded from my own. I figured if I could make discrete parts of my own costume, it stood to reason I could make other costumes as well. It'd taken a while, and I had the nagging feeling that if something happened to one of the pieces, they all might be affected, but we were fighting gangbangers, not capes for the most part, and any weaponized exotic effects the ABB might have had died with Bakuda. Packaging the costumes in snowflake adorned wrapping paper however was just to mess with them, and I had the feeling most of them might not've had too many proper Christmases anyways.

I tossed Grue a large package, which he opened carefully. He hesitated before taking his helmet off, weighing it and the new one he pulled out of the box in either hand, the only difference was mine came with vents to channel his darkness like he'd wanted. The teen frowned. "It's too light."

"But stronger," I promised. He looked at me skeptically. Motioning for him to put it on a table, I took out my pistol and drew down on it, firing once to impact the eye covering, the theoretically weakest part. The helm went flying away to impact the far wall and deflecting off, getting enough distance from the bounce to hit another, before finally landing and rolling along the ground with a clatter.

Tattletale picked it up, turning it over to show Grue the undamaged helmet. She focused on it, brows knitting as she studied it. Seeing her power, I watched as it tried to contact the helmet, pushing straight through it as if it weren't there. Lisa made an angry sound, like an enraged chihuahua, glaring at the object as her tendrils of power retracted before they carefully wrapped themselves around the helmet, almost but not quite touching. She then looked at me, her power passing through me, before doing the same thing, but as I shifted position it lost its hold. She growled cutely, focusing on my weapon instead.

With an idea what she was doing I put it down on the table and stepped back, which got me an annoyed glare, as she realized that I knew what she was doing, and trying to help, which I'm sure she thought she didn't need. The Thinker repeated the process she had previously, some of the tendrils of power finding purchase, but most having the same luck, especially along the barrel. I looked deeply at her power, my Power Sight Seeing it in as fine detail as I could push it. She was building a model with what she knew, trying to use her power to figure out the rest, using the facts that blind spots in her power existed as information and trying to cover them with her own guesses. Clever Girl.

"If I shot that pistol," she finally asked. "What would happen?"

I couldn't repress a smile. "You'd break your wrists. Everyone in this room would, except for me."

She took a step towards it, stopping herself, gritting her teeth as she requested, "Can I see?"

Grabbing the weapon, I popped out the magazine. Clearing the chamber and catching the round, to Grue's small nod of approval, before tossing it to her. She squawked as she tried to catch the unexpected projectile with one hand, tossing up Grue's helmet to free her hands.

She fumbled the weapon, and took an extra second getting a hold of it, then, twisting around like a dancer, she barely caught the helm with her extended foot before it hit the ground, freezing in that position. Regent gave a polite golf clap while the power-blob that was Imp whistled in appreciation. Giving Regent the finger, the Thinker reached down and grabbed the helmet with her free hand, tossing it back to Grue.

Looking over the weapon, weighing it, the blonde teen hit the slide catch absently, taking it apart, muttering to herself, "Needs to be cleaned, odd wearing." Managing the pieces, she checked them individually, freezing when she looked down the barrel. "Bullshit."

"What?" Grue asked. "Is it Tinkertech?"

"People keep on using that word," I added, smiling at her. "I don't think it means what they think it means."

Absently putting the gun back together she shot me an accusing glare. "You know Boardwalk!"

I shrugged, "It could have been Skidm- who am I kidding, he doesn't have that much inventiveness. Yep! He won't join my team, but we help each other. He's gone dark since he had to break out of the Rig after the Protectorate tried to imprison him for saving Vista and Gallant."

"How does that work?" Imp asked, speaking over Regent's "Well that's rude."

I shrugged, responding to both: "He pissed someone off in power, not sure how, and they decided that was worth breaking their own rules, as well as common decency and the rites of hospitality over, so he blew open their door. Miss Militia apparently shot him in the back with an RPG, or so he says. Had a few cracked ribs that were probably from it. I wouldn't expect to see him until this all blows over, but he did me a few favors before he dropped out of sight."

She handed me back my gun, which I stowed, handing her a present. She gave me a look that read as 'really?' I grinned unrepentantly as she unwrapped it, frowning as she looked at what I'd given her. She held one piece of it, the design of her domino mask embedded in what looked like clear cloth with three holes in it, the transparent fabric only visible when it folded in on itself. She gave me an annoyed look and turned around, clearly mentally debating with herself before taking her mask off so I couldn't see her face, putting the new mask on hesitantly. Pressing the clear portions to her skin, she froze as it stuck together, quickly taking it off and then putting it on slower before fully donning it, wrapping the clear fabric around her head and neck.

Turning back around, she looked as if she were wearing her old mask. Touching what looked like bare skin she frowned. "What is this?"

"It's hard to explain, but it's cut-proof, and pierce-proof, so while a shot to the head might crack your skull and maybe give you a concussion, it won't be an instant kill anymore. Now you won't die like you would've tomorrow. You're welcome. Well, that and whatever team you're on won't be hitting that location," I added, to try to put her at ease. It didn't seem to work. "Don't worry, I wouldn't go through with a future that would end in your death unless I absolutely have to."

"This is the shit!" Imp crowed, distracting me. Glancing over I not-saw Aisha had grabbed her present, black leather armor embellished with dark red and white flame designs covering the girl who I was pretty sure had stripped in front of me while I was distracted. Hopefully she'd just forgotten I could still somewhat see her. She was holding a mask I'd patterned off those of the Vizards, red and black tribal designs over a grinning white kitsune face. Placing it over her own face, the mask formed a seal with the hood of her armor, completely protecting her. "This is like fuckin' Christmas plus my birthday with a kickass Sunday on top!" she shouted, giving me a quick hug, then ran off to Regent's room, still visible from the central room as I didn't see her stand in front of his full-length mirror, making "Hwah!" and "Kapow!" noises as she struck poses.

Rolling my eyes, I tossed Regent his costume, who, when he found it to be a one-to-one copy of his own with the same clear material to cover exposed skin, shrugged. "You have good taste at least."

Nodding over to Taylor I said, "Your costume is better than these, so I didn't get you one." That and if something goes wrong, I don't want you hit by it. The fact that giving them these also let me track the Undersiders down if need be was another plus, the ethereal threads of my costume pointing out from my chest towards them if I focused to See them.

The Arthropod Controller shrugged, unconcerned, "It's okay."

Nodding, happy that she was showing maturity, I had a thought. Checking with my Bug Sense she was dumping disappointment into her swarm, as well as a bit of what could be jealousy. Ah, oh well, she's still a teenager. I sent her feelings of comfort as I opened up my other bags, pulling out the rest of my presents.

"So, you guys know the unwritten rules, right?" I checked, and waited for the chorus of nods, manfully not jumping as Imp giving a snort from my elbow. I might be able to See past her power, but she was still damn sneaky.

As everyone looked to my right and my eyes could finally focus on her Grue's sister said, "Yeah, they're bullshit!"

I waved a hand in a maybe gesture. "Day to day, they're actually a good idea, but they're guidelines, not laws, and like the Geneva Conventions, they only work as long as everyone follows them. The way to keep people following them is to have them enforced by everyone else, especially by having everyone break them in regards to the ones who broke it originally to take them down. They're set up as a kind of a MAD scenario."

Imp looked up at me, expression hidden, "But those assholes are always pissed."

"It stands for Mutually Assured Destruction," Tattletale chimed in, obviously happy to be the one explaining something. "You don't do something that would kill someone, because you'd get killed at the same time."

The Stranger nodded, "Oh right, like Nukes. Okay."

"Anyways, as the current standard of conduct are in abeyance-" Imp elbowed my hip. "Since no one is following the rules and everyone's trying to kill everyone else, holding back is stupid. As such, it's time for an upgrade. They're gonna try to kill you, and you need to be able to, if not return the favor, then put them down harder than you usually do." I could feel Taylor's trepidation through the Swarm. "I'm not saying you have to kill people, but you'll have to injure them more than usual, since they think they'll die if they don't kill you. It's a messed-up situation, so I'm providing you the tools to make the best of it. First of all, Grue." I pushed the large box with his name towards him.

He frowned, taking off the wrapping paper and opening the box. "Grenades? No. Flashbangs? My power does the opposite of this."

"Which lets you use them effectively!" I told him. He looked confused while Taylor and Lisa both had looks of understanding. "Place your Darkness around someone, then toss one of those in and create a hollow in it right where they are. They get hit, but everyone outside is fine, then you either drop the Darkness and let the rest of the team hit your disoriented targets, or plunge their disoriented asses back into Darkness."

"Or," Taylor chimed in. "Do both." I gave her a confused look as Tattletale grinned widely. "Well, he can make people out of his power, so he has that level of control, and if he can see his opponents he can cover them with it, which blacks them out and still gives us a target to hit!"

"That's brilliant!" I responded genuinely. "Or the opposite, as the case may be." Imp hit me in the arm for my pun, grumbling about dad jokes, but it was worth it. Brian looked at the case with new eyes, considering them. "Don't waste them, but if you need more I can get them, I've got a contact." Cauldron did technically, but it was the same difference at this point.

"What about me!" Imp asked excitedly. "Do I get something else? It's cool if I don't, this costume is bitchin', but... please?"

I patted her hood. "Puppy dog eyes work better if I can see your eyes Aisha, but yeah, there's something else." Grabbing a long package, I handed it to her, smiling at her inability to repress her excitement as she practically vibrated. Wrapping paper went flying as she stopped holding back her power, making it seem to appear from thin air to my senses. "HOLY SHIT YOU GOT ME A FUCKING SWORD! YOU'RE THE FUCKING BEST AND I'LL STAB ANYONE WHO DISAGREES! I CAN DO THAT NOW 'CAUSE I'VE GOT A FUCKING SWORD!"

I maneuvered myself subconsciously to avoid the un-seeable blade as she tackled me in a hug. "Watch the edge," I warned, unable to stop from smiling. She repressed her power to show everyone her new weapon, the sight of her waving it caused everyone else to take a step back. I caught the edge, thankful that my costume was cut-proof. "Don't swing it around like that Aisha. It's not a toy, it's a weapon, and you need to treat it as such."

Looking her in the eye as I let it go, she nodded vigorously. "Why is it glowing?" Regent asked.

Imp looked down at the weapon, having not noticed the Speed Zone I'd laid on one side, running down the spine of the blade. "Did you get me a magic sword?" she whispered. "'cause if you did. Fuck. I don't know what I should do, but it won't be fuckin' enough!"

I shook my head. "No, it's a Speed Zone. From Boardwalk. Grab one of the knives."

"You got me knives too! Best. Day. Ever!" She reached into the box, taking out the scabbard I threw together and the three knives I'd formed. It'd taken a bit to create the blades correctly with Kaiser's power, but I'd been able to try some of the things I'd read about how to arrange the crystalline structure of the alloys exactly how I'd wanted and choose the exact materials.

It'd taken far too long to use in a fight, but the fact that Kaiser hadn't taught his men how to fight with European-style blades he himself created seemed like a massive missed opportunity just for the branding alone. Not that I'd mention it to him. The irony of using his power to arm a black girl was amusing though.

Returning with the sword and knives I took both from her, placing the smaller blade into the space right above the sword's guard. It slid neatly into the groove cut into the Jian, and, aiming it at the wall, I pushed it forward, hitting the Speed Zone and firing it off like an arrow, the only sound a faint scraping of steel followed by a loud thunk as it buried itself in the drywall. Aisha gave a high-pitched squeal before falling backwards, unmoving.

"Um, is she okay?" Regent asked, looking at her. "Because if she's not can I have her sword?"

"I will cut you!" Aisha called up, lifting an arm and flicking him off. "I'm just too happy to stand. MAGIC SWORD!"

"It's not-" I paused, considering it.

"Knew it!" she crowed.

Laughing, I continued, "No, it's powers. It's another Speed Zone, like my pistol. I was considering how the term magic may or may not apply to what we do. "Just be careful pressing it against something large, because it'll move the sword, and you, instead."

Aisha sat up immediately. "Gimme!" Leaning down and handing the blade to her, she immediately rolled over as she pressed it into the ground, being pulled away, skidding across the linoleum with a, "Wheee!"

Shaking my head, I took out Regent's present, walking over to him to give it since he didn't seem inclined to get up himself, lazy bastard. I had to step over Imp as she skidded back the other direction, now riding the sword, her cut proof costume allowing her to do so easily as it levitated over the ground like a deadly hoverboard. Handing him the package, he looked at it skeptically, trying to figure out what it was. He casually unwrapped it, though his motions were oddly controlled. Frowning in confusion, he looked at his gift. "You gave me books? Boring."

"Anatomy books," I clarified. "So you could find all of those little things that could do a lot of damage if they just. . . twitched the wrong way. Also, consider this. Good trigger discipline is to keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire, but most thugs don't have that. If they don't then all it takes is a single pound of pressure, a single pull of the finger to fire the gun. Combine it with an unexpected noise and a slight arm movement and as long as they don't know you're there? Suddenly the thugs are arguing because Carl shot Bobby and there's chaos in the ranks."

He nodded, smiling, "I like the way you think. You know that makes you a shit hero, right?"

I smiled back, showing my teeth. "I'm a hero because I want to be, not because I have to be."

He shrugged, opening one of his new books, "Whatever lets you sleep at night."

Rolling my eyes, I walked back, giving Tattletale her package. She opened it up, revealing a bare metal case. Looking at me she flicked it open, before gazing down at the contents and stiffening. "This is a sniper rifle. You are giving me a collapsible sniper rifle."

"Yes it is," I affirmed. "Check the barrel."

She cautiously pulled it from the foam it was seated it, looking down it, seeing the Speed Zone sitting innocuously inside. Carefully, it was replaced in the with slightly shaking fingers. "Are you insane?" she asked with forced calm.

"Coil's going to be fielding sniper teams, so any stigma will be overlooked, and with your power you'd be one of the best out there. You'd know the gun, how your target's going to move, all the conditions. It just seemed natural," I shrugged, not seeing the problem.

"This will kill people," she reiterated.

"Yes. It's a gun. That's what it does. If you want peace of mind, then don't shoot them in the chest or head and they'll probably survive. Also, just pointing it out, they're going to try to do the same thing to you, Sarah. Lung might not because he could consider you not worth it, but the rank and file, let alone Oni Lee, are going to do their level best to kill you."

"I don't..." she stopped, struggling with herself.

"If you don't want to use it against people, fine. With your power, trick shots should be easily doable. Use it to take out cars, enemy weapons, whatever you want to. I'm not telling you how to use it, just that it's yours to do with as you wish. If you sell it off to help fund one of your contingencies, that's fine too. I'm giving you the tools I think will help you survive. I'm not going to make you use them if you don't want to," I reassured her, which apparently solved her internal debate.

"Okay… Thanks." Her response was an off mix of relief and grudging respect as her attention was drawn back to the weapon. I turned to Taylor, giving my teammate her present.

Opening it, and seeing it was a long knife and pistol, Taylor looked up at me. "Same thing I told Tattletale," I confirmed. "The pistol has one level of enhancement, so it'll hit harder, but won't hurt Lung when he gets going. Remember the three levels of fights?" She nodded. "What we'll be heading into will be the third. If you're captured and not saved before the fight's over they will rape or kill you. It's a when, not an if. I'll be there as fast as I can, but depending on the situation, that might not always be fast enough. You can rely on me to come to help if I can and know you're in trouble, but all it takes is once for things to go irreparably wrong."

The seriousness of the moment was ruined as Aisha came flying by once again, going "Wahooo!"

We both watched her ride past.

"Right, so, new trick for your powers. Grab the pistol," I directed, and she did so, looking at it cautiously, almost as if it might bite her if she wasn't careful. "It's unloaded Taylor; Lisa will show you how to use it. Now, I want you to pay attention to your insects." Grabbing two tiny spiders, I dropped one on either end of the slide. "So, think of where these two are in space. Think about it making a line. Now," I reached out and gently grasped the barrel, moving the gun, aiming it at a wasp, which I'd moved to land on the far wall. "See how the spiders make a line that intersects with the wasp?" She nodded as I held the weapon steady. "Good, now I want you to look down the sights. Get all three dots to line up in a row."

She did so moving around me and shifting her head to get it just right before blinking in surprise. "It's aiming right at it. How?"

Letting go of the pistol I smiled. "You know how. Your bug sense lets you see things perfectly in three dimensions, which is far better for aiming firearms then the mark one eyeball. There's more to it, like having to worry about bullet drop and things like that, but even without any training you're a preternaturally good shot. You never really pursued it, but as long as you can tag something with an insect, you've essentially got super-accuracy with any firearm. It was probably your dislike of their innate lethality that stopped you, but in a real fight like this, any pure advantage you can get is one you need."

She sighed, nodding. "Okay. But, don't I need ammo?"

I snapped my fingers, loudly announcing, "I knew I forgot something!" Laughing at her unamused look I reached into my bag, taking out several boxes of rounds for both her weapon and Tattletale's.


Getting back to base, having left behind Rachel's presents, I checked my e-mail. Coil still hadn't sent me anything, and Kaiser, or someone working for him, sent me a textless email, the subject only reading "Vejovis". I shrugged, at least they did as I asked. Sending out a general e-mail to everyone, I laid out my information in general terms, asking for possible team configurations. A few minutes later I received reply from Kaiser to everyone demanding restitution from me for my "unprovoked attack" on his minion.

"Either you were lied to, or you are being deliberately obtuse." I typed in return, including everyone in it just as he had. "Victor attempted to steal my ability to speak. Be glad I did not kill him outright. What is it your people say? 'The Jew cries out in pain as he strikes you'? While I believe that to be untrue, the point still stands when it comes to your people."

He swiftly responded that it was the Polish who had that phrase, though he didn't call them Polish, along with the team rosters as a fait accompli. Considering he put together a team consisting solely of himself, Hookwolf, Stormtiger, Cricket, Crusader, Alabaster, Night, Fog, Purity, Gregor, and Bitch.

My response of "Ha. Ha. Ha. No." should have been obvious.

His angry response that they were non-negotiable I ignored, leaning back in my chair to try to consider good combos. Newter, Gregor, and Sundancer would all work well with Herb or I, both of us immune to heat and poison. If I could finagle it I wanted Trickster on my team so I could try to de-Ziz him, breaking whatever future the Simurgh had planned for and left hidden commands to trigger upon reaching.

I doubted it would be as easy as just talking to him once, but I had to at least try. I couldn't see if her power still affected him unless I saw her as well, and that was a. . . less than optimal option. No matter what, Taylor was going to be on my team, and Purity was going to have Herb as backup. Also, Victor wasn't going to be teamed with either of us. The kind of arrogant stupidity he'd shown meant it was a certainty that he'd pull something to try to soothe his fragile ego, and then I'd have to kill him, because I kept my word.

As I shuffled names around for the better part of an hour, Coil deigned to enter the conversation. I had to admit, he provided a much more politically balanced team spread, with at least two high ranking members each. Team one combined Kaiser and the twin Valkyries with Newter, Bitch, The Lady; Bug, Sundancer, and myself, along with a Sniper team from Coil. Team two was Herb, Purity, Crusader, Kreig, Rune, Genesis, Gregor, Mush, Coil's snipers, and Regent. Team three consisted of Æonic, Victor (who of course spelled his name with a k just to be edgy), his wife Othala, Trickster, Faultline, Spitfire, Squealer, Hookwolf, Stormtiger, Cricket, and a squad of six mercenaries from Coil. Team four was Skidmark, Grue, Tattletale, Alabaster, Night, Fog, Labyrinth, Ballistic, and another squad of mercenaries from snakey, who wasn't on any team, but provided enough firepower that no one was going to complain.

A couple of e-mails later Bitch was moved to Herb's team, as he'd be able to put up with her dominance shit better than I would; Spitfire moved to watch Labyrinth's back, though Faultline had the professionalism not to outright say so; and Squealer moved to be with Skidmark, for obvious reasons. I asked for Mush to be on my team, which provoked confusion from the others, but he was moved anyways.

Finally a message was sent to Grue alone, suggesting that the midget ninja watch Tattletale's back, which would keep both of them safe and out of trouble. Happy with the teams, I sent each group a location to hit. Remembering that Bakuda's workshop was hidden in a drug distribution center, I made sure none of us hit that any of those, as every time my father had seen a team hit one, someone died. While this would mean the bombing would continue for a few days longer, the teams needed a shakedown raid to iron out the problems in working together.

We also all needed locations that we wouldn't be able to steamroll, as that would ignore the entire point of this exercise.

I gave Herb's team the address to a warehouse casino they'd turned back into a storehouse: somewhere they couldn't just blast to bits, and tight quarters on top of that.

Charlie got a barracks which was too widely distributed for him to just freeze completely.

Grue got a brothel, which was still operating as one, which would mean civilian targets they couldn't just blow away. It would be a good test to see who on the team would flinch from killing innocents.

My team got an armory, the firefight something that'd hopefully pin down the close-ranged fighters and make them think in different directions. I'd warn Herb, but otherwise going in blind like this would help me get a better read on everyone's abilities while the people I gave a damn about would still be protected.

It'll be a trial by fire, but to reform Villains, that's what's needed.
Hey hey hey, glad to see the story updating here on QQ. Looking forward to the sequel even though I'm most likely not going to be around for it. Are there any differences between version here and on Fanfiction.net?
Outreach 6.5
Outreach 6.5

Meeting Panacea for dinner out, the only comment she made on my plans was, "So, you'll be fighting soon?"

I placed a sound bubble for my response as I mimed a silent yawn, dismissing it immediately after I spoke, "Yeah, tomorrow is the first, but we probably won't find what we're looking for on our very first mission." Which was true, at least in part because I didn't want us to find it on our first outing.

She nodded, turning the conversation back to her work healing, describing the techniques she'd had to innovate to reverse the process of pseudo-petrification one of Bakuda's bombs had inflicted, turning those affected into living statues that would die in a few weeks from starvation if Panacea hadn't brute force reversed the process, having to do it all at once or the victim would re-petrify.

That night, after a few hours of meditation and more shield practice with a projected rifle, I now had four malleable force fields in addition to the one crystallized barrier. The various Villain groups had arranged to strike our targets at ten that morning, each team meeting ten minutes prior to the start of our combined operation to try to hit them simultaneously, the diverse makeup of the teams meaning no one could try and steal a march on the others without either abandoning the other teams or going in with just a few fighters.

Before heading out, I stopped by one of my old practice sites, gathering the torn up and blasted remains of a train car into a pile, using my strength and my shields to blunt the ragged edges with my gloved hands. Trying to grab them all with my power to help me lift it didn't work, forcing me to realize that I could affect only individual pieces if they touched me, so short of just rolling in the rusted metal that wasn't going to work. Tearing the side off another abandoned car I beat and warped it into a bowl, piling the loose metal inside, glad I'd planned on arriving half an hour early so I wasn't late.

That I could lift, and did so, careful not to tip it as I flew over the city, landing in the location Kaiser had dictated: E88 territory a few blocks from our target. It was still twenty minutes before the arranged time, but two men, one carrying a long bag, both wearing military grade armor, complete with full helmets, with a patch of a white snake on a black background stood waiting. Nodding to them, as they looked at the truck-sized bowl I was carrying with wariness, I reached out with my Bug Sense, finding Taylor hiding in an alley a few blocks away. Grabbing a bit of swarm to spell 'I'm here!' she nodded, starting to walk towards me.

Turning the corner, she looked at the mass of rusted metal and stopped, looking between it and myself. 'Mush' I spelled in ants underneath an air-conditioning unit, causing her to tilt her head in thought, before nodding, walking over to stand next to me. "Vejovis," she greeted, trying to act professional.

"Lady Bug," I nodded back. A minute later a shape leaped down from a rooftop, Newter rolling as he landed. The snipers started, and I had to stop myself from flinching, but Taylor didn't seem surprised in the slightest.

"Hey guys!" he waved, walking over to a wall and leaning against it. "Wasn't sure this was the place. What's with the wreck?"

"I'll explain when we're all here," I deferred. He shrugged, pulling out his phone and playing a game while we waited. Sundancer was next, walking smoothly up to us, hesitating when Newter and I waved hello, giving us a firm nod in return, saying nothing. A few minutes before we were supposed to all be here, A kid in a hoody walked up to us, my Sight informing me that it was Mush.

"Hello!" I called friendly, causing him to jump as he pulled the hood tight. He looked up at me warily, not saying anything. "Your power, it lets you collect loose matter into armor, right?"

He shrugged glumly. "Yeah. I guess." Taylor and Sundancer, looking down at him in surprise.

Reaching up I grabbed the edge of the bowl, casually bending it down to the sound of tortured metal. "Could you use this? I blunted the edges so it wouldn't cut you."

Mush looked at me suspiciously, before looking at the pile of scrap. "Wouldn't cut me anyway," he muttered, maybe to himself, maybe to me, I wasn't sure. Edging towards the pile, he slowly reached an arm into it, the limb stretching and deforming into fleshy tentacles that attached themselves to the pieces, bringing them over to him and across his form. My own power casually reached out and copied it, just in case I needed it later. I had a feeling that if I completely repressed it I'd turn back into myself into what Mush was, but it would probably be best to nab that one Traveller's human shapeshifting power first, just in case it didn't reset me completely.

He gathered more and more into himself, quickly growing into an amorphous pile of shifting rusted metal. "Okay, can you control your shape this way, or is it just a general thing?" I asked, peering at his power and knowing the answer, but interested if he knew it.
The pile shrugged. "I can control it," he said, tone sad, his wet-sounding voice coming from the center of the mass.

I rolled my eyes behind my mask, as if he knew what his power could do, why hadn't he done so already. God save me from uninspired pessimists. "That's great!" I replied warmly, pulling out my phone, my original phone. The one that had all my D&D and Pathfinder books on it to reference, as I'd not found the equivalent here. "The armoring should make you effectively bulletproof, and if you can control the shape, we can do all sorts of interesting things, but let's start simple for this first run. Let's go humanoid, since it's the form you're used to." I pulled up an image of an Iron Golem, turning to show him. "Something like this, probably no more than eight feet tall so you won't have to hunch indoors, and enlarge the fists a bit for better striking."

He did so, slowly, moving the metal around, the plates rubbing against each other with an occasional screech that made me wince, a large mass of metal still on his back making him look hunchbacked. "Drop the extra material Mush, I eyeballed it so if you don't use it all, that's perfectly fine."

The metal behind him sloughed off, falling with a loud clatter. I flew around him in a circle, looking at the effect as he leaned away from my gaze. "Good job. Now, how fast can you move like this?"

The golem hung its head. "Not very fast."

"Lift your right arm," I commanded, and he did so slowly before letting it drop. His power was flexing, but it wasn't anywhere near its limit, though I had no idea how I knew that. "Again, faster." He did, noticeably faster. "Mush, we're going into combat, and you'll be fighting side by side with me. Move with purpose. Now again, as fast as you safely can." He lifted it, about as fast as a normal person could, which considering he was eight feet tall and made of steel, was more than enough. "Okay, good! Now-" I paused. "This is going to be loud, so you might want to cover your ears."

Newter shrugged, doing so, as did Taylor and Sundancer. Looking over at Coil's snipers one of them nodded to me, tapping the part of his helmet that covered his ears. I turned to the metal bowl, ripping off a long metal strip, three feet by eight feet, and straightened it out. Covering it with a shield I plunged it into the torn-up street at our feet, driving two feet of it underground.

Stepping back and dusting off my hands, I turned to look at Mush, ignoring Netwer's wide eyed look. "Okay, so, do you know how to box?"

Mush shook his head as his body language sagged. "No. Sorry."

"Good," I told him, causing him to look up at me in confusion, his head expressive in the way I'd been teaching Taylor how to be. "As you are now, you'll be better with a momentum-based style that doesn't work well with standard human physiology." I took a fighting stance, pulling my fist back behind me exaggeratedly. "Copy me." He did. "When you strike, do so like this," I instructed, shoving my fist forward as I twisted my hips, putting my all into the blow, almost overextending myself.

He copied my move, having to take a couple of steps forward as his trash-can sized fist almost pulled him off his feet. "Exactly!" I congratulated. "Now, do the same thing to the target. Again everyone, going to be loud."

Mush took position, copying his earlier stance, driving his fist forward into the metal with a sound like a car crash, the metal shearing from the impact and hitting a nearby wall shattering a few bricks. The Merchant looked from his fist to the wrecked metal in wonder. I walked up behind him, slapping him on the back, causing him to jump. "Good job! I knew it was right to want you on this team! One last thing."

"What?" he asked, sounding almost fearful for some reason.

"I know you're called Mush, but it just sounds, well, insulting," I commented without scorn, scratching the back of my head. "Skidmark I can kinda understand, as he lays down 'marks' that make things 'skid' across the ground, and Squealer is the squeal of tires, but is there something else I can call you? Like, Golem or something?" I asked, motioning between the image on my phone, him, and his reflection in the glass of the nearby building.

He looked at his reflection, not saying anything.

"Golem?" I asked, trying the name.

"Huh?" he said, turning back to me. "Yeah. You can. If you want."

"Golem it is then," I confirmed holding out my hand. He just looked at it dumbly, before I stepped forward, grabbing his, and giving it a shake.

Hearing something clanking down the road, I looked over to see Kaiser and the twins, Fenja and Menja, walking towards us.

"If you're done making a racket, we should get on with this," he commented, looking scornfully at Mush. "And who's this pile of rust supposed to be? The Merchant's trash-thing?"

As the man beside me slumped, shoulders forward, I smiled at the tin toddler. It didn't reach my eyes. "Ah, Kaiser, only five minutes late! This is Golem, and he'll be helping us today," I said with false cheer. Max couldn't let anyone else have a moment? Really? "Weren't your people known for their punctuality? Oh, right, my apologies, that was the Italians. Well, better late than Nazi! Sorry, Never. Well, we better get going if we want to make there in time."

He sneered at me, before turning his back, striding off towards the location, calling arrogantly, "Don't get in my way, hero."

As he strutted away imperiously I motioned to everyone to form up. Taylor trotted over, Newter and Sundancer following, the sniper pair behind them. I pulled insects in from around several blocks around us, causing most of the party to stiffen as the Swarm curled around them, not making contact. "If they want to go first and attract fire, we'll let them. From what I know all three have powers that let them deal with small arms fire. Newter, I know you're not bulletproof, so I want you to stay near Golem, and use him for cover if you need to, as he's essentially a walking tank right now. If there's an innocent, and you can get to them without getting hurt, I want you to hit them with your hallucinogens and get them to safety if you can. Lady Bug, screen yourself with Golem as well, and take the Swarm, you're on scout duty and communication." She tilted her head in confusion. "Listen with them and use bug speech to keep everyone informed."

"Bug speech? I don't speak beetle, bro," Newter commented, raising an eyebrow.

"Will do." The swarm buzzed around us, approximating English with alien overtones, and he jumped several feet in the air, looking around.

"Sundancer," I continued as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. "How comfortable are you with this level of fighting?"

I looked at her intently as we started walking far behind the Nazis, waiting for her to respond. "I'm not," she finally admitted.

"Violence at all or just killing?" I tried to clarify.

"Killing. But if I have to-," she started.

"-I'll plan so you shouldn't have to," I cut her off, her helmet turning towards me. "You create suns, right?" she nodded. "Not the best match up with Bug Controllers, but I'll see if we can find something for you to do. Stay close to Lady Bug and we'll use them as deterrents for now. After this we'll work on something else."

I turned to talk to the Snipers, and one waved me off. "You guys have a location you want me to drop you off at?" I asked anyways. The one without the rifle leaned back and whispered something to his partner, who nodded.

"Sure," the spotter said, uncaringly, "If you can." Flying over I grabbed them by their jackets, lifting them effortlessly up above the rooftops, following their directions to a building across from our target. Dropping them off I could distantly hear the heavy footsteps of Golem, and the guards outside of the Pawnshop the ABB were using as a cover for their armory were looking around, several swatting at the insects that were starting to fill the air.

I flew high, taking an overwatch position. Kaiser and the twins were thirty feet ahead of the others, striding like he didn't have a care in the world. Turning the corner onto the street, he made it a few steps before the guards spotted him and opened fire, bullets sparking off his full plate of blades, the other two seemingly unaffected. As the women in Valkyrie armor shrunk the bullets to insignificance, my own power copied theirs. The two women shared their power, so even though it took from both, I only received one version myself.


Golem turned the corner, the other three behind him to avoid the fire. Piggybacking off Taylor's power I saw inside as the ABB scrambled to get weapons, setting up a heavy machine gun inside the lobby while the three customers scurried for cover. Those further inside stopped reloading magazines and doing maintenance on weapons, picking up the functional ones and grabbing grenades.

"It's a weapons storehouse" The swarm buzzed to everyone, the Nazis pausing for a moment in surprise before continuing on, Kaiser informing Fenja and Menja to be ready. The ABB were focusing fire on Kaiser, but another group was moving to head out the back entrance, the interior wall separating the pawn shop from the apartment building behind it having had doorways cut into it.

"Taylor," I said to the insects around me, "relay my orders. Sundancer, take the alley to your left. The building on the other side of the store is a front. Drop a sun in front of the door to stop them going out that way and circling around. Newter, watch her back."

I dived down as the two of them split off from my group, putting myself between them and the enemy as the guards uselessly pouring fire at Kaiser, spotted the pair and took shots at them. Tanking a couple of bullets that drained my shields, I focused on my new power and allowed one round that would have impacted my costume to be shrunk, my wind control made sure the two behind me weren't shot in their dash for the alley.

Pulling myself back up, I resumed overwatch. As Kaiser walked in range of the machine gun it opened fire, the twins stepping forward growing slightly and taking the shots, metal clad arms raised to cover the exposed parts in their chest armor as even the reduced projectiles drew pinpricks of blood from the skin not protected.

I grabbed both Fenja's and Menja's growing power, which was different then the shrinking one, as Kaiser raised his arm, a wall of iron springing up from the sidewalk and blocking the fire. With a wave of his hand the wall sprouted spears, extending into the store, killing over a dozen people within, including the civilians that had taken cover.

As someone on the second floor opened a window, pulling the pin on a grenade to toss it down, Coil's team took the shot, killing the woman who fell backwards. Her grenade exploded and killing two more in the room, the other four at least injured.

Sundancer was almost at the end of the alley, waving Newter to back up as the ABB got ready to head out the back door. Grabbing a portion of the Swarm I shoved it inside, sending the flies into their eyes as I stung their necks with wasps, causing them to waste time as they flailed. I could feel Taylor's power make minute corrections to keep the harrying insects on target and was thankful for it, her ability to tightly control them still far outstripping mine.

Sundancer's power flared as fire blossomed in her hands, my power reaching out and capturing Stellar Creation, trying to also grasp her secondary power but sliding off, its passive nature giving me nothing to latch onto.

The baseball sized star drifted over until it was hanging over the sidewalk outside the door. Growing to beachball size, it set the trash on the street on fire, the sidewalk directly below it shimmering as the stone heated while the asphalt bubbled. Pulling the swarm off the squad and sending them upstairs to harass the people on the second floor, the first group got up, one of them reaching for the door and pulling his hand back with a cry of pain as he grasped the suddenly hot doorknob.

One of the gunmen pulled open the curtain on a window only to stumble back as light brighter than day flooded the room. Another one started shooting out the window, trying to hit whatever was out there, just wasting ammo. They all flinched as the window shattered, flooding the room with an oppressive heat, a couple of the insects on the windowsill dying near-instantly as I pulled them back.

Kaiser was inside now, summoning spears and blades to kill his opponents in the store, the twins screening him from front and back. "Relay message to all inside," I commanded. "Surrender and you will be arrested. Use lethal force and we shall respond in kind."

"Are we really going to kill them?" Taylor asked, unsure, behind Golem, who'd reached the entrance. Coil's Snipers were busy killing anyone on the upper floors they could see.

"We won't but Kaiser will unless we can get them to stop, and the only way we can is if the ABB surrender," I told her quickly. "Relay the message, now."

I'd do it myself, but I could only get a single group of insects to talk if I wanted to follow the rest of the fight, lacking the multitasking skill the 'voice from everywhere' required, and controlling sound in that many directions without it being obvious was beyond me as well.

As she did so, an ABB squad left a nearby building, moving straight for the alley Newter and Sundancer were in, guns drawn. I dropped down, pushing hard to increase my speed, yelling, "Take cover!" to my teammates as I landed on the lead element, crushing his skull with my heel as I did so. Sundancer hid behind a dumpster while Newter climbed the wall in a few seconds, escaping to the roof.

The ABB were shocked by my presence, letting me kill another two with strikes to the head that drained my shields before wrenching the weapons from the last pair. Grabbing them both by the throat I lifted up in the air, clearing the edge of the building. Holding them towards Newter, as they reached for their knives, I commanded, "Spit." He blinked before doing so, splattering both of them in the face.

As the terrified expressions on the ABB attackers slackened I dropped them on the roof, telling the orange man, "Strip of them of weapons, I'll have more."

He nodded and I dropped back down the alley, landing next to Sundancer who eeped. "Can you do two suns?" I asked.

She nodded, offering, "I normally don't, but sure."

"Put another deterrent at the other end of the alley."

"Some are surrendering on the third floor" Taylor relayed to us, Sundancer glancing my way.

"Tell them to drop their weapons," I instructed, lifting up and following her connection to find them, sunward in the building. Heading over I pulled my arms in, flying feet first into the window, those inside crying out in fear as the glass shattered. Looking around there were seven people, six women, varying ages, and a boy. "Tell Kaiser to wait on hitting the third floor," I instructed as swung out at the wall, draining a shield to blow it out, leaving a gaping hole as the people inside cowered. "Let's get you out so you live," I told them, grabbing the closest two, an old woman and the boy who clung to her.

Ducking back out over the sta,r I saw through the bugs as Kaiser glanced upwards from his position on the second floor as Taylor told him "ABB surrendering on third floor. Vejovis is pulling them out. Hold position."

Spears shot up from the floor around him and his guards on the second floor to pierce the ceiling and skewer the people on the floor above as he snarled "You don't command me, girl!" Luckily, he hit the wrong room, one the snipers had mostly cleared, only killing a woman with an assault rifle who taken cover behind a fridge and had been trying to shoot Coil's men. The Nazi gave a viscous grin as he heard the cry of pain and blood ran down the spears from the corpses he's pierced, thinking he'd killed those I'd been trying to save.

Right, the lead Nazi doesn't play well with others, I reminded myself, glad I hadn't gotten those surrendering killed, but by how he picked up the pace as he cleared the floor, I didn't have time for two more trips. Dropping the two next to Newter who looked ready to spit again I shook my head. "They surrendered, watch but don't incapacitate."

He shot me a questioning look, but I'd already taken off. Looking back towards Taylor, she'd taken cover behind a car as Golem was taking care of another squad that'd shown up, having shoulder checked the car they'd tried to ram him with, hitting them as they spilled out and raked him with fire. His blows were hard enough to either incapacitate or kill, but he wasn't going for directly lethal head blows, which was a good sign.

Flying back in the room with those surrendering, I landed, seeing Kaiser ascending the stairs with only a single wall separating us. "Everyone grab onto me!" I ordered. A couple moved towards me, the other three hesitating. The leader of the E88 heard my order, head turning to look as he waved his hand, the wall between us sprouting spears that shot towards us. Pushing my Aerokinesis I knocked them off course, thudding into the walls to our sides. Kaiser's head tilted, as if confused before moving his hand again.

More spears appeared, but by this time the last of the surrendered ABB had grabbed onto me and I flew back through the hole, weapons extending and hitting nothing but furniture. Flying to Newter I dropped them with the first two, Kaiser reaching the third floor and having Menja bust the door down, breaking the spear that had grown out of it that was holding it shut.

As he looked in the room I'd evacuated, an ugly expression stole across his face, deepening when he looked in the room he'd speared from below and seeing the bullet wounds from the snipers in the skewered ABB. "Stay here, stay quiet," I told the frightened people I'd pulled out, flying down to the front I waited as Kaiser stalked out.

"Where are the prisoners?" he demanded, twins flanking him.

I looked back at him, wearing a smile as a mask. "Secure."

"I'll be the judge of that," he sneered.

"No, you won't," I pleasantly reposted, minutely turning my head to look down an empty alley down the street.

He waved a hand and the wall of the alley rippled, blades filling it. I snapped my head back to glare at him, my stance hostile. "There, best to make a clean sweep of the filth," he told me, a vicious smile in his voice. After a moment, where he seemed to be waiting for me to do something, he snorted in disgust, "You should've known better than to go against your betters." With that he sauntered off with his minions.

Golem stood next to Taylor, the two of them watching as he turned the corner and walked off. The insect I'd tagged him with kept moving, picking up his comment of "See my dears, the poor fool was powerless to stop my might," the two of them tittering in obviously practiced unison.

Rolling my eyes I flew back to the correct alley, carrying the people I'd captured down while Taylor gave Sundancer the all clear. After my third trip the snipers waved at me, and I brought them down as well. They gave me a nod of thanks and headed off, not saying anything while they were still in my insect's range. Bringing down everyone I looked at the two incapacitated members. "Newter, how long will they stay out?"

He shrugged, "I don't know, an hour? I got 'em pretty good." The young man gave me a chagrined grin.

I waved him off, reassuring, "Don't worry about it, you did what I asked." Turning to the group I inquired, "Is there anything you could tell us, other locations, where Bakuda's lab is, Lung's next target, things like that?"

A couple of them gave up addresses, all but one of which I already had, but thanked them for anyway. Not really knowing what to do with them, I called up Tattletale. "R Pea," I told her, giving her the all clear through the cypher she'd come up with.

"How? Ugh, never mind. L Kiwano. What do you want?" was her annoyed response.

"Outside or inside?" I asked, wondering if she needed help.

"Inside. What do you want?" she growled.

"So, I've got some prisoners, and I'm not really sure what to do with them. Do I call the PRT or the cops, because I'm not the biggest fan of either in this city, and I'm not sure who's supposed to handle them."

"PRT, because of the bombs. Obviously," was her biting reply. "Is that it?"

"Pretty much," I smiled. "How did things go on your end?"

There was the sound of a rifle firing. "Still going. You?"

"Just wrapping up. I'll leave you to it," I told her, hanging up. The insects inside had found the stores of cash, along with the weapons and ammo that were still intact and were carrying them all out into a pile in front of us. The three villains watched the materials flow out, Newter grinning as the cache grew.

Turning to those that had surrendered, I grabbed a phone from one of the blissed-out gunmen. "Call the PRT, have them come get you. They'll be able to take the bombs out of you before Lung realizes you're alive and detonates them in retaliation, assuming he even has that capability." The fact that we'd had a full assault without a single one of them blowing suggested he didn't.

Once I'd gotten everything out, I had Taylor divide the cash up five ways while I motioned towards the weaponry. "Spoils of war, people. if you want anything, go for it. Just don't grab explosives if you don't know how to use them." Newter smiled, claiming a shotgun, while Sundancer took a pistol. Golem looked at the light machine gun they'd had packed away, looking to me for permission. I nodded and pressed his hand to it, fleshy tentacles reaching out and pulling it into his palm.

"No, man," I said, and he started to put it back. "Put it on the top of your forearm." He stopped extruding the gun, shifting it instead. He moved it so the top of it was sticking out, barrel pointing down his arm. "Exactly, that way the hot spent shells won't get stuck and you can still punch things!"

He nodded slowly. "Huh, never thought of that." Grabbing a box of ammo for it, he pressed it into the bottom of the arm, disappearing into the rusted steel. His metallic face frowned in concentration as thin vein-like tentacles moved over the top of the weapon, threading the belt of ammo into the feed. When I he stepped back I rolled my eyes and tossed him the other six boxes of ammo which quickly disappeared into him.

Taylor finished, grabbing a box of ammo as I directed her insects each give us a bundle of cash bound by spider silk. "And this is our bonus for a job well done and not walking away like a complete asshole. It's almost lunch, you guys want me to get us some food and talk tactics for next time? This was pretty touch and go, and I don't want things to get as risky as they did today."

"I'm not sure," Sundancer hedged.

"Do you have somewhere you need to be?" I challenged. "We're doing this again tomorrow, as we have more locations, and we need to figure out synergies. Kaiser Soze and his arm candy will do their own thing, and the Snipers are opportunists, but we could figure something out that will let us stop problems before they become problems. Besides, I'm buying."

"Well, if you're buying, I'm in!" Newter laughed, shoving his bundle of cash in his pocket along with a box of shells as he slung the shotgun across his back. Sundancer sighed, nodding as well.
Hey hey hey, glad to see the story updating here on QQ. Looking forward to the sequel even though I'm most likely not going to be around for it. Are there any differences between version here and on Fanfiction.net?

It has the extra formatting I had over on Spacebattles (and SV before they took it down for 'breaking so many rules we're not going to give you a single example but it's bad, trust us, and you should feel bad for making it!'), and then for my Patrons, and I'm doing Copy Editing (grammar and slight clarification), but nothing is substantively different, as that wouldn't be fair to all of the people that were with me for the past nearly six years, reading AB as I wrote it!
Outreach 6.6
Outreach 6.6

Having taken everyone's orders for Fugly Bob's and gathered the unclaimed loot, I took off, leaving Sundancer, Newter, Golem, and Taylor behind to make their way to the place Taylor and I had trained. Dropping the assorted weaponry off back at base, I got everyone lunch, along with a bag of supplies, and landed in the trainyard only a few minutes before everyone showed up. Putting down my Tinkertech looking jar, and flicking the switch, I dropped a sound bubble and waited. As they walked around a train car and saw me sitting there on my phone, food laid out on a table, Sundancer and Golem, formerly Mush, froze.

I looked up, having seen them through the insects, and waved. "Come on, before it gets cold."

"Um," Sundancer said, motioning to her helmet. "I can't eat without unmasking." I motioned for her to come closer, taking out one of the items I'd extruded from my costume out of the bag I'd brought. I passed it to her, a masquerade mask, black with a red sun corona all around the outside edge. I tossed Taylor one as well, this one red with black spots. "Really?" the Traveller asked. I shrugged grinning.

"Just walk out of sight and change Sundancer. You're a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, but not stupid enough to think that means something special. There, everything that would have been revealed already is. Now come on, your food's getting cold, and cold burgers are just kinda meh."

She stood stock still staring at me.

"I do research on everyone. You're not the only one far from home, but important secrets should not easily be revealed. Now go change so you can eat," I directed, her stomach growled, and she slowly walked behind a train car to change.

Watching her through the bugs, I saw her start to lift off her helmet and stopped paying close attention, happy that she wasn't just going to leave. Instead I focused on Golem, who was looking at the folding chair in trepidation. "Just drop the metal off to the side, you can pick it back up before you leave if you want to." He did so, reverting to man-goblin form, looking unhappy about it. "Question: when you're all armored up, can you still eat and everything?"

He shrugged. "Um, Maybe. I don't know. Never tried."

"Well, if you don't like how you look, grab some of the gravel and make a body you like more," I suggested.

He immediately did so, forming a body similar in size to mine, sitting down and opening the box with his name on it, looking at the burger. "You actually got me a Challenger," he observed, staring at the novelty-sized burger, stunned.

I shrugged. "You said you wanted one."

"This isn't your handwriting," Taylor observed as Golem stared at his meal. "Did you actually order for us by our cape names?"

"Yes?" I asked, not really seeing the problem.

She sighed into her hands, "What if someone did something to it because they're villains?" she asked.

"I didn't order Kaiser one. Sundancer is new here, so no worries there," I stated, nodding to the girl in question as she walked back. "People like Newter, plus I think he's immune to poisons and stuff because he's a 53. I'm a hero, you're a hero, and I ordered the last one for Golem, not Mush, and I'm pretty sure he's immune to all that stuff too. There's no problem here. Go get changed so you can join us for lunch Lady Bug." She nodded at my words, heading off to switch out her helmet for a mask.

Eating in companionable silence, it was easy to forget I was breaking bread with people that, if things went really bad, I may one day need to kill. As they were right now, they were weak enough I'd never be pressed that far, but it was a cruel irony that, to keep them alive through this, I was going to train them to make them dangerous enough that I might be forced to remove them if things got bad enough.

Finishing up, putting my leftovers off to the side because that burger was ridiculously large, I walked over to the area I'd cleared, everyone else looking at me from their seats. "So, power optimization, contingency planning, and maximum survivability in a full combat scenario. Which do you guys want me to start with?"

Newter raised his hand, "I'm for surviving!"

Getting nods from the rest, I took a teaching pose. "Okay, so, versus street level thugs you have to worry about four attack types from three different vectors. You have close quarters, where you have to worry about blunt force trauma; from fists, baseball bats, hammers, and other bludgeoning weapons. Slashing weapons, which are mostly knives, and piercing from guns."

"You're talking about this like it's a video game," Sundancer commented, frowning and crossing her arms.

"Most games need conflict and competition, and thus pull from real combat. Art imitating life doesn't make it any less true," I countered. "There's long range, which is mostly guns, from pistols to rifles with shotguns and apparently machine guns in the mix. Luckily we're not dealing with bows, so th-"

"Why is that a good thing?" Newter interrupted. "Wouldn't that make things easier?"

"Arrows are quiet flying knives. What blocks bullets might not work on arrows and vice versa. That's why it's luckily, it narrows down the things you have to worry about defending against." I paused, "Though the nickel nazi seems to be pretty free with friendly fire, but you should be able to see that coming. Either way, third vector of attack would be area of effect weapons, which seems to be limited to grenades, but we can't trust that's all we'll find. On the bright side The Lady, Bug is the best trap-spotter you could ask for. Golem," I called causing him to jump. "The only one you might need to worry about is grenades when you're armored up. You found that when you were taking on that entire squad single-handed, right?"

The Merchant looked down, nodding to himself, the barest of grins on his pebbly features. "I did, didn't I?"

I nodded, "You did. I'm not sure how the overpressure from a grenade will affect you, but if you pull the pieces tight, you should be fine. Your weakness will probably be energy dama-"

"Seriously?" Sundancer snarked. "Are you actually gonna talk about it that way?"

"Like you have room to talk Miss 'I have fire immunity'!" I shot back.

She frowned. "I don't, I just don't get burned by my own suns."

I sighed, Seeing her secondary power which did both. "Why doesn't anyone in this dimension use fucking science!" I groaned into my hands.

"What was that?" she asked angrily, while Taylor frowned and Newter laughed at the byplay. Golem was off in his own world.

"I said 'Did you ever test that'?" I 'repeated'.

Sundancer looked at me like I was stupid. "How would I test that? By getting burned? I'm not going to do that!"

I walked towards her, taking my lighter out of its pouch. "You don't have to burn yourself." I flicked it on, putting my hand high over the flame, lowering it until I got the 'this is enough to hurt, but you have powers' sensation extreme heat gave and yanked it away. "Just to the point where it starts to hurt. Also, I'm a healer. You'd be fine in a second even if you did burn yourself." Flicking it off, I tossed it to her.

She caught it, looking at it warily. "You'll heal me?" I nodded. She took off her glove, flicking the lighter on after the third try. Hesitating, she slowly put her hand two feet above the flame, lowering slowly, her look of apprehension growing as her bare palm got closer and closer to the flame. Her expression gradually shifted from wariness, to confusion, to wonder as she placed her skin directly in the fire, flames playing between her fingers, and nothing happened. As I watched her do this, playing with the fire, my own power reached out, carefully, almost tenderly, wrapping the aura of her power with my own, but as she pulled her hand away it dissipated into nothing.

She looked up at me, then blinked, as if surprised by what she was seeing, "What?"

I shook myself, wondering what the heck was happening with my own power. "So I was right," I responded smugly.

Sundancer tossed the lighter back, pouting, "No need to be an ass about it."

I caught it, smiling. "Sorry, didn't mean to come across that way." Taylor was looking between us, frowning. I had no idea why, so I got back on topic. "Right so, Golem. Golem!" He looked up at me. "Physical damage you can take pretty well, but things like heat, cold, and lightning damage might hurt you."

Sundancer just shook her head.

"It'll probably be effected by whatever your armor is made of," I continued, "For instance, if you sucker-punched Lung after he'd lit himself up while covered in steel, you'd probably have a bad time as the heat would conduct. But stone? You'd probably be okay for bit. Got that?"

He nodded, then caught himself. "Me? Fight Lung?" he questioned, unsure, but with an odd sort of hope.

"Not for any length of time," I warned. "Once he gets strong enough to break your armor or start breathing fire, you'd lose, but at the start of the fight as a one-and-run? I don't see why not," I proposed.

He was off in his own little world again, so I turned to Newter. "Are you tough versus anything? Blows, cuts, bullets?"

He shrugged, smiling at the show I was putting on, taking a sip of the soda he was holding with his tail. "A bit of all of the above, but not by a lot. Once I've dried out I'd probably burn, unlike Ms. Sunday."

"It's Sundancer," she asserted, glaring at him.

"Okay, hot stuff," he winked, smiling when she started growling at him.

I considered what I should do. Making the masks I'd started to feel like I was getting close to the limit on how many things my costume could make, but I should be good for two more full sets, maybe three, but I'd have to check a few things first. "Children, behave," I chided. "Newter, you don't wear armor because you use your own sweat as a weapon, right?"

"Yeah, I'm so awesome even my sweat is useful!" he boasted.

"More like slime," Sundancer murmured. Newter pretended not to hear her.

"Okay, Sundancer, your costume, what is it made of?" I probed.

She deflected, "That's kind of personal."

"So, leather with a thin cloth underlayer, right?" From her reaction I was spot on. "So, minor blunt, little slashing, and almost no piercing protection," I sighed. "I can go talk to some of my people to see if I can get something for both of you. It'll only last a couple weeks at max, but it's the same stuff I use. Can't be cut or pierced short of Tinker bullshit and I'll see if I can work in some bludgeoning protection. And also check if she can make something that lets your... fluids through Newter."

"I'm not gonna say no to free stuff, but why?" Newter asked. "You just met us."

"We're on the same team and you guys don't seem like Villains," I replied. As he opened his mouth I clarified, "You don't seem evil, or even generally dickish. I don't really know you, which is why the stuff I'll give you has a time limit, but yeah, I'm a Hero. I take care of my teammates, even if it's just temporary."

The orange man shrugged, "Whatever floats your boat, bro. I've made more today than I have in, like, a month."

"So, that covers survivability," I stated, starting to pace again, "moving on t-"

"What about the bug babe?" the Case-53 asked, jerking a thumb towards Taylor, who shrank under the attention.

"We've already had this discussion, since she's on my team. My real team," I amended

Sundancer looked over at her confused, "I thought you were with the Undersiders?"

"I am!" Taylor protested.

"How does that work?" Newter frowned.

"She doesn't do anything evil, and if she robs the occasional bank, allegedly, then as long as it can't be proven I don't care," I supplied.

"You sure you're a hero?" he asked incredulously. "'cause that sounds pretty not-heroic."

Rolling my eyes at the increasingly familiar question, I dragged the conversation onwards. "Yes. Next thing, power optimization. Newter, you've volunteered. You're generally tougher, climb up walls, have a tail, and hallucinogenic bodily fluids. That it?"

"Pretty much," he nodded, tapping a claw against his chin.

"How sharp are those?" I asked, pointing at said claws.

He waved, "They're good for if I don't have a fork, but that's it."

"Can you make fluids on demand?" I pressed.

"Can't everyone?"

I rolled my eyes. "You know what I mean. If you're like, 'I need to spit a lot', can you keep doing it?"

He shrugged. "Yes? I'm a Case 53 man, I don't have anything to compare to."

"Well, that's a bust," I remarked. "Costume colors? And any design requests?"

"Black and red!" he declared. "What? They're good colors!" he defended at the Traveller's accusatory glare.

"Sundancer," I called, getting her attention. "I'm assuming you want black and red as well?"

She gave him another glare before nodding, primly stating, "Yes, please."

"Will do. So, strategy. If Lung shows up, run, but cover each other. Golem, if you can hit him hard and fast, do so, but I'd rather have you safe then him punched. Newter, he burns out poisons pretty quickly, but they can be useful, just ask The Lady, Bug."

He turned to give her a considering look, "You took on tall mad and scaly?"

"Alone," I added, getting a quick glare from her, as I talked the girl up. "And she won."

"I had help!" she objected.

"By help she means one of Bitch's dogs knocked him down for twenty seconds to let him succumb to enough poisons to kill a herd of elephants, getting the dosage just right to put him down without doing so permanently," I explained to her continued annoyance. "I was all ready to step in, but I never needed to."

Now all three Villains were looking at her with respect. "And you had her scouting?" Newter asked, looking at me as if he doubted my sanity.

"When she gets going, she fights less like your normal cape, and more like a biblical plague. Kaiser wanted to take point and would've pitched a fit like a tired toddler if she upstaged him that easily," I commented calmly, which did nothing for her blush. "That being said, Golem, if Lung shows up he'll go straight for her, since she's the reason he was in PRT custody in the first place. I need you to get her to safety and protect her. She has a lot more range than he does, but doesn't have your toughness. Will you do that?"

"Are you sure I can?" the Merchant asked doubtfully.

"I wouldn't ask if I didn't think you could."

He took a breath, nodding slowly. "I'll try."

"Not good enough. You will or you won't. Pick one," I rebuked sternly.

He visible steeled himself, "I will." He looked up at me, taken aback at my smile and thumbs up.

"So, Lung shows up, Golem might punch him but will protect The Lady, Bug. Newter, if you can, slime him, if not get to safety. Kaiser will be doing his own thing, so just don't get in his way. Sundancer, you and I will take him on." She looked at me incredulously. "His heat protection ramps up as he does," I told her, remembering her hurting him with one of her suns in canon. "As such, you can lay down more heat than he can handle. I'll handle the physical side, using hit and run to keep him occupied and from charging you. We don't need to beat him, we only need to hold him long enough for our reinforcements to show up. Break might not look it, but he could take Lung, and with Purity, you, and I supporting him, even if he goes full Rage Dragon, we can still put him down."

"What about Oni Lee?" Taylor asked, looking at me in concern.

"Less straightforward, just as doable," I replied without hesitation. "In this case, Lady Bug, Golem, your roles are reversed. We'll both swarm him, and I think that as his gear travels with him, if we put ants in his pants, they'll move with him."

"So they move with him, what about it?" Sundancer asked, "They're still just bugs."

I laughed, "Spoken like someone who's never fought The Swarm, though most people can't just make the most overpowered bug-zapper in existence. The important part is that we can sense the insects around us in three dimensions. Lady Bug, if you'd take out your firearm."

She did so, holding it a little awkwardly. I grabbed my empty soda bottle, directing six insects to sit inside it in a line. Sundancer looked unimpressed by the weapon and Taylor's obvious inexperience with it. "The Lady, Bug, six rounds rapid as it drops, if you will." I spelled out 'shoot it six times after it starts to fall' with insects so she would understand.

Casually tossing it in the air, she stared at it with laser intensity, gun held loosely, pointing down at the table. As soon as it started to fall the gun snapped up and she shot it again, and again, and again, until every insect inside it was dead and the shredded remains fell to the ground.

Newter let out a low whistle, "How much did you guys practice that?"

I smirked, "We didn't." I considered telling them that this was probably the first time she'd even fired a gun, but that would've been too much for the anthropomorphic newt and the girl who casually created stars to believe.

"So, Oni Lee, as I'm sure we've all seen, goes for sudden overwhelming firepower. Golem could probably tank his knife, uzi, and frag grenade, but the fire, cold, and lightning grenades would mess him up. As such if we can tag Oni Lee, then The Lady, Bug can snipe him as soon as he gets close, and even if it's already just a clone by the time the bullet hits, he'll die before he can do anything. Newter, you have no defenses against him, so lay low or get to Lady Bug. Sundancer, make a star immediately. He has no protection against fire, and if he can't get close, he can't bomb you. Kaiser will do. . . whatever Kaiser thinks will help himself, and while he's failing completely I'll harry the ninja while we set him up to get sniped by the Lady."

I shook my head, "Fighting Oni Lee is like playing Rocket Tag: all it takes is a single good hit to win, but he can do the same thing to you. We'll fight to drive him off, but if we take him out, awesome. Priority one though will be making sure he doesn't kill us. So, sound like a plan?"

I got a round of nods, Newter mock complaining, "But in all your plans I don't get to work with the hottie!"

I sighed as Sundancer looked like she was trying to set Newter on fire with the power of her mind alone. Without her shard, to be specific, as I realized I had to be.

"So! Figuring out powers!" I announced, standing up. "Sundancer, I can probably do more with yours then I could the walking drug factory. Come over here so you don't melt the man," she hesitated. "Or so you don't melt, The Lady, Bug, who hasn't been hitting on you."

That got her walking over, Newter whining, "Come on man, don't be like that."

I shook my head. "Dude, you need to find a woman who's immune to your power, or even if you could get in her pants, you're likely to overdose the poor girl."

Both female's faces screwed up in disgust as he thought, nodding sadly. "Damn, never thought about that. That blows."

"Sorry," I shrugged, walking a good fifty away from the rest of them. I turned to face Sundancer, who had followed me, stepping back a couple dozen feet. "Go for it, nothing big, any idea we want to try we need to do so on a small scale first." After a moment's hesitation, she nodded, putting her hands together, forming a golf-ball sized star.

I could feel the temperature spike intellectually but wasn't bothered by it as my own Immunity kept me comfortable. My own power once again extended and wrapped around hers, not pulling a bit of it off like it did when I copied a power. It was almost as if it was trying to get the shape of it, similar in manner to Tattletale's when she was trying to get around my Blindspot ability.

Focusing on the task at hand I asked, "Do you have to do that to create a sun?"

"Huh?" she asked, confused. "What do you mean?

"Every time you make one you clasp your hands together. Is that something you have to do or just something you've just started doing?" I inquired.

"Um, I'm not sure," she admitted. I waved for her to try again and she started to clasp her hands again.

"No, try it one handed," I insisted. She closed her hand and when it opened she held a tiny star in her palm which she moved up to join the first. "Now with an open hand." She gave me a questioning look, before looking down at her hand. Her aura pulsed, gathering at into a single point before seeming to spark into another sun.

I walked closer without meaning to, my power having almost completely surrounded her, but I looked past that at the stars she made, trying to figure out exactly how it worked. She focused on her hand, doing it again and again, levitating the burning motes up, each new, tiny star forming on a different part of her hand to float up and away before she tried again. As she continued she formed each one faster and grew them more quickly as well from spark to a softball sized sphere. As she formed one on her pinky she looked up, startled. "What the hell!" she practically yelped.

"I know, right?" I asked, considering all of the implications of what I was seeing. In canon Sundancer creating or moving a sun always seemed slow and ponderous, but like everyone else in this stupid place it looked like she'd only used her powers when she had to and never experimented. She killed Echidna, but if I remembered the story she only could because they had it trapped. If she could learn to do so faster, the speed not being dictated by a preset within her dead shard but her own skill? This definitely had possibilities.

Possibilities on the scale of an Endbringer!

"No! How are you so close!?" she demanded.

I looked up at her, my own face only a foot away from hers, broken from my thoughts by her panicked tone. I took a half step back, apologizing, "Oh, sorry, was I in your personal space? Sorry. I get focused sometimes."

"NO!" she cried. "You..." and words failed her so just pointed at me. Well, not me, but right beside me.

Looking over I realized I was standing in her impromptu constellation of over two dozen orange sized stars, something in the back of my head informing me that I should have ashed by this point if I didn't have Immunity, now that I was paying attention. I also noted that I had been unconsciously floating over the bubbling rock below me as I 'walked'. "Oh, right. That." I went to go rub the back of my head, elbowing one of the suns accidently and finding it somewhat solid.

Screw it.

I casually leaned on a star. "You're not the only one with fire immunity. Why do you think I knew how to test for it?" I quipped.

Reaching over I pushed on one of them, moving it out of my way with a bit of effort. "So. You can make them in different places, and you were getting faster. That's interesting."

"No! you don't get to just, I don't know, push a sun like it's no big deal!" she fumed.

"It's a small sun, practically minuscule," I dismissed, trying not to smile. "Not even a stellar phenomena, more like an astral peculiarity."

"Not the point!"

Looking over at the other three, Newter was grinning as he watched this, Taylor looked interested, but not really surprised, and Golem was staring at me with wide eyes. Checking the bug sense Taylor was dumping her panic, concern, and frustration oddly enough. "There's a reason I lead my team," I replied enigmatically.

The girl in front of me lifted her hands in an aborted strangling gesture. "I am so done with today. Do you have any more revelations on the power that I've had for years?" Sundancer entreated, lifting her arms more to rest her head in her hands.

I paused in thought, "Well-"


Looking at her I gave a 'sorry' shrug. The girl let out something between a sob and a laugh, prompting, "Fine, lay it on me."

"Well," I said slowly, "why do you only make spheres?"

"Because suns are spheres?" she enunciated with severe annoyance, looking at me as if I was being stupid.


She growled, "And what?"

I shrugged, "What does that have to do with my question?"

She extended her palms upwards, fingers slightly curled in the universal sign of 'how can someone so stupid exist?' "My name is Sundancer. I make Suns."

"Says who?" The other three were looking back and forth between us like watching a tennis match.

The Cape held out one hand, created a cue ball sized star and pointed at it. "I do!"

"So you just made it up," I nodded sagely.

"ARGH! Did someone else name you Vejovis?" she demanded.

"No, but I know what my powers are, by trying to do other things and failing. You've gone full confirmation bias, thinking the first thing you did was the only thing you could. You can make stars right? Have you tried other stellar phenomena, like a black hole?"

She looked down at her palm, frowning, and her power started to flare and invert. I had a moment of complete panic as I launched myself forward, slapping her hand down and breaking her concentration. "ARE YOU HIGH!? YOU DON'T CREATE A BLACK HOLE IN YOUR HAND IF YOU WANT TO KEEP THAT HAND!"

She looked hurt, "But, you just said-"

"We are surrounded by stars. Grab one of the tiny ones, push it up as high as you can, then try to invert that!"

She froze, slowly nodding. "That's probably safer." I manfully resisted the urge to shout No Shit Sherlock! watching instead as she lifted it high above us before concentrating on it. Her power flared, inverting, but nothing happened. She shook her head, observing, "I can't, maybe if it were bigger?"

"Hell no," was my immediate command. "I don't know the exact compression rate, but if it was pinprick size you could probably control it before it got out bad. Is that the edge of your range?" she shook her head. "Keep pushing it up until you hit the edge and expand it to bowling ball sized, that should be still in the safety zone. If the black hole is too big, and you're not immune to its power, it will instantly kill you." As well as everyone in the city. She paled, staring up at the distant light.

"I think that's as far as I can get it," she announced. "I still can't reverse it."

"Okay, now shrink it down to golfball sized and see if you can make it explode."

"What!?" was the cries from both her and Taylor.

I looked between the two of them. "If she can supernova them, that's a very powerful weapon, but that's why we're doing it at minimum size and maximum range." 'And I can use aerokinesis to shield us' I spelled out for my teammate.

Marissa frowned up at it, power once again flaring. It expanded in size, before shrinking and expanding once more. "I don't think I can."

"Then just dismiss it," I suggested, the distant faint light winking out of existence. "So it's not a true star, following those rules, unable to push them into other stellar phenomena. But back to my point. You only make spheres. Why not try a rod?"

There was a beat before Newter called, "That's what she said!" adding, "Ow!" when Taylor bounced a can off his head.

She sighed, "Okay, but this is the last thing I'm going to try."

I nodded, "Sure, today."

The Traveler gave me a death glare before looking down at her hand. I wanted to suggest she didn't need to start there, but I'd given my word. Another star sparked, this one growing to an inch in diameter before it started to bulge. It was slow going, but the top expanded out farther and farther, petering out as a four-foot-long cylinder. "And now you have a sword made from the sun itself," I informed her with a Cheshire grin. She immediately grabbed it, swinging it at me and smacking me in the arm, before dropping it in shock where it floated in place.

As she looked at it, my own power finished whatever the hell it had been doing for the past half hour, and pulled back with the power of Stellar Negation in its grip. I blinked as I realized I'd just copied not only her active power, but her passive one as well.
Outreach 6.7
Outreach 6.7

I covered my shock fairly well, though I did get a spike of concern from Taylor.

I shouldn't be able to copy passive powers, they have no physical effect, I thought. Even Victor's thinker power had the physical effect of causing low-level brain damage. Could I get them if I just spent time watching them in use? If that's true then there's so much more I could do. If I watched a Tinker work, could I gain their ability? Dear god, the combos I could make. I could see Tattletale's ability trying to make sense of me, if I just watched her do her thing could I get that ability? That's practically cheating! I love it! I tended to use my Power Sight sparingly, the lightshow was generally distracting, and my shard warned me if I really needed it. Maybe I could-

"Vejovis?" Sundancer prompted, looking up at me in concern as I jumped. "You okay? You were staring at nothing for a couple minutes."

I shook myself, "Sorry, lost in thought, but I promised I wouldn't say anything else today, so I won't." Taking out my phone from a pouch in my costume, using Sundancer's passive power to keep the unshielded device from melting, I checked the time. "It's only two, but we're probably going to be doing this again tomorrow, so we should probably call it quits for today."

"The fighting or the training?" Newter called, well out of range of the field of small suns we stood in.

"Both," I replied, using my hand to move a thumb-sized celestial body aside to walk back to Taylor, Golem, and him. "Can you dismiss these?" I asked the star-creator, dropping my flight when I was over hot gravel instead of melted stone.

She did so, following me. The ground she'd been standing on was two perfect circles of gravel in a smooth puddle of melted stone, the stone cooling, darkening, and solidifying in circles right before she stepped on it. As soon as she stepped off the gravel she'd been on before it glowed before melting into lava. She must not realize she's doing it, I mused.

It was something to bring up later.

Turning to the rest of my team I continued, "Everyone should be long done by now, and I'll see what my precog can tell us about the locations we got, as well as any other she can rustle up. We should be at it tomorrow, even if the other teams are content to rest on their laurels, though that's doubtful. Villains are such prideful creatures after all," I smirked to them.

Newter looked like he was going to say something, but probably realized that doing so would just prove my point. "Will our duds be ready by then? Those things normally take a while if they're more than a mask."

"Powers defy common supposition, which might be why parahumans act like they do half the time. Actually, that's a thought. Is it the wizard paradox? Oh well, discussion for another day," I shrugged, "See you all tomorrow. I'll send you all the location, be there at ten-thirty so we can get you outfitted before we start."

They nodded to me, Taylor hesitating. 'Can I stay?' she spelled, relaxing when I nodded. She settled back into her chair, and Golem looked between me and the pile of rusted metal, his weapon poking out.

He sighed, starting to get up and walk away before I called, "Golem, aren't you taking your armor and weapon with you?" He looked surprised, before heading over, assembling himself into his iron golem shape, gun back on his arm before stomping off east towards Merchant territory.

Taylor started to say something, but I held up a hand. Newter had doubled back and was watching us. "Something you want?" I called in his general direction.

He scurried back, moving on all fours surprisingly fast, coming within spitting distance to us. Glancing over at Taylor, he stood up, looking at me, before shaking his head and smiling. "You can spot me too? Yeah, thought so. You trust her?" he asked, jerking a thumb towards my teammate.

"With my life," I responded instantly, not even needing to think about it. "Why?"

He nodded, satisfied with the answer. "You didn't hear it from me, but Coil told boss-lady he'd give us, or anyone else, a bonus if we offed you, Break, or Æonic. She didn't say no, because he seemed like he'd get all 'how dare you turn down my offer' and we aren't gonna, but I thought you should know."

Not entirely unexpected, as we're completely new and upsetting his plans, but I didn't think he'd be that aggressive about it this early. "Thank you," I told him, considering. "I appreciate it. In return, when this all calms down, ask your boss to set up a time I can come by and talk. I've been researching powers, and I have some intel she might find interesting." His eyes widened as I grabbed insects to form the Cauldron symbol in the air.

"Fuck, really?" he swore. I gave a single sharp nod and he grinned. "Glad I did this then, see ya Vejy, Bug Babe!" He scampered away quickly, making a bee-line (newt-line?) for Faultline's club.

"Do you really?" Taylor asked, interested.

I nodded. "Yeah, but because I'm a blind spot to Precognition, I can talk about it, but you couldn't without them noticing. The people that are responsible for it have an omniscient cape and a powerful precog on staff, which is how they've stayed hidden the past few decades." I stretched, getting ready to move onto my next project, looking over to ask Taylor her opinion on what to start with only to see her staring at me. "What?"

"The Illuminati is real?" she demanded, before her eyes went wide and she clapped a hand over her mouth, looking around.

"Essentially yes? Not really Illiminati. They're not that... competent? Well-staffed? Coherent? But they won't care as long as you don't mention their actual name, so let's just call them the... Cape-inati." She gave me a look of exasperation. "What?" I asked, "The stupider the name, the better in this case."

I waved a hand in negation at her worries, "Don't worry about them. Herb does some jobs for them occasionally, and they're trying to do the right thing, they've just got the combined creativity and long-term planning ability of a kumquat. We'll talk about it later, right now I want your help designing costumes for Newter and Marissa."

"Who?" she asked, still struggling with what I'd just said.

"Newter and Sundancer."

"Did you just... ugh," she groaned as she started to pull her emotions out of the swarm. Her shoulders slumped and she leaned against the table. "How can you handle this?" she inquired, sounding more tired than anything else.

I blinked. "Handle what?"

"This! Fighting! Killing people! People trying to kill you! Working with that bastard! Everything!" she cried out hands raised in frustrated anger.

I sighed, sending feelings of comfort over to her. "Fighting is something I've always been good at," I disclosed, chuckling. "For a bit I was convinced that I was evil, for that and a whole bunch of other reasons, but that's not the point. I got into so many fights in high school it wasn't even funny. Never started a single one, but you know when two kids go at it, or a group goes after someone, and everyone just stands and watches?"

She gave me an angry nod, having been the target of just that.

"I didn't," I told her. "Never did. Got into so much trouble for interfering and not letting that shit just go. For not letting the 'proper authorities' take care of it, even when they were blatantly not doing that. It got to the point that I studied a bit of law, I started pointing out legal precedents for my actions, and, like magic, the administration no longer had an interest in steamrolling me."

"One time in high school, these two girls got into it in the cafeteria before school, which is where I'd hang out. They were pretty equally matched and started fighting. As long as people are matched, I honestly don't care, as half the time fighting it out makes things better for people, especially teenage boys. This was like that, until one got the other on the ground and started slamming her head into the floor. Everyone was just watching, but I got up and pulled her off before she could get more than another couple hits in. She then tried to scratch my eyes out, but she was frenzied, and I had technique, so I had her hands secured behind her back and sent someone to get a nurse while I marched her down to the principal."

"The psychopathic bitch was screaming rape most of the way there, and if I'd not been as big as I was, or had my rep, I probably would've gotten attacked by some white knight because of it, and she would've gotten away to lay down her narrative first," I remarked. "You know how bad that can be Taylor. Also, you need to remember that no one wants to believe they're the bad guy, so the people who attacked me would've backed almost anything she'd said to justify their own violence, no matter how stupid it was." I shook my head. It'd taken me a while to understand all of that, and it wasn't a fun experience learning it all.

"We got there, and she made up this huge story about how I beat the girl she'd beaten unconscious and was dragging the bitch off after promising to rape her. Worst part is, at first, they still believed her. However, it was her word versus her victim, when she regained consciousness, myself, which only had weight because of all the times I'd stopped fights before, and a couple of other kids who stepped forward. The other thirty in that caf refused to say anything and got pissed at me when I named them as being there, dragging them into it, and only then admitted to seeing it. I'm well aware that if I hadn't established a track record of handling things aboveboard, and if the others hadn't spoken up, I would have been screwed."

I'd dodged a bullet there and it was one of the steps on the path that led me to understand just how many people refused to do their job, and how such corruption compounded. Standing up like that was risky, and I knew that every-time I did it, there was a chance it'd ruin my life because evil people needed to think of themselves as good, and would attack anything that provided evidence to the contrary.

"Day to day life stuff, I worry and second guess myself something fierce. Social shit, if I don't have a plan in place, I'm not that great at. But direct conflict? Then I stop caring about what ifs like that. I still feel fear, but it didn't stop me then, and doesn't stop me now. It's why I can't stand people that do nothing. That's why I handle things like this well. Because I have to," I sighed.

"People trying to kill me? That sucks, but I refuse to do nothing. Killing people? I'm not gunning down innocents Taylor, I'm killing people who would gun down innocents, or worse. It's only those that are conditioned to emotionally react instead of thinking that can't tell the difference between a person defending themselves from a murderer, and the murderer. Working with Kaiser? It'll let me save more people, but with the things he's done, after things calm down, and if he's still alive, I'll try to bring him to justice myself. If that's not possible, I'll kill him. I don't want to, but I will, but that's months away."

She looked at me, not exactly fearful, but full of trepidation, and I smiled to try to break the social ice that'd seemed to form between us. "In the meantime, I can do small things that completely undercut him to help negate the aggravation of working with such an unmitigated douchenozzle. Do you know Kaiser's power?"

"He makes blades," she hazarded, not seeing where I was going. I held my hand over the folding table and lifted it, one of the stylized knives I'd made for Aisha lifting up blade first from the rippling plastic surface. "No way," she breathed, smiling. "That's just, the best."

I finished pulling it up, breaking the thin wire extending from the pommel into the table as it finished, offering it to her, handle first. "She'll probably have lost one by this point," I observed. "Here's a replacement."

Leaning back, I sighed. "I don't like hurting people Taylor, and if I didn't need to fight anyone, I'd be a lot happier. So, let's work on something better instead of brooding over it. Kaiser's power isn't blade creation, it's metal creation. Golem's power lets him take material and build a body out of it, and he was doing okay with scrap, but can you imagine how effective he'd be if he had purpose-built armor?"

I extruded a small iron golem figurine out of the table, tossing it over to her, smiling. The corner of her mouth quirked as she looked down at the model, and slowly nodded.

"I've got some ideas," she admitted, a grin spreading over her features.


It took us until the sun was starting to set, but we, and by we I mostly mean Taylor, had designed new costumes for the rest of our team. She accepted my explanation of why I hadn't made her a new costume fairly easily, though she did reaffirm that I'd get her a costume from Parian. The lack of limitations on materials let her design some pretty out-there suits for the Villains as I utilized hardened air constructs as mannequins. As we finished and were putting the costumes away, she stopped, looking at me. "Did you copy their powers?"

"Whose powers?"

"Everyone's powers. Or, everyone on the team."

"Well," I coughed into my hand, pulling on the twin's powers to grow to eight feet tall. "Mostly."

She grinned for a moment before tilting her head to the side. "Not Newter's? Is it because he's a Case 53?"

"Yes, but not because of that. Faultline's crew don't seem to be actual Villains, and I try not to copy the powers from Heroes if I don't need to. Copying yours lets me support you, and while I have more power, you have far more skill." I ignored her blush as I considered, "Not sure if I'd copy Netwer's form, or just the effects on my fluids. I need a physical effect to copy powers, so I'm pretty sure I can't do Thinkers or Tinkers, but a lot of things are up in the air. Master's and Strangers are pretty hit or miss. Glory Girl's weird fear/awe aura isn't something I could grab, not that I'd want to, but when Regent tried to mess with me I picked it up for my own."

"So you could?" she gestured to herself, then lifted her arms, as if she were a puppet on strings.

"Would you like me to?" I retorted.

She immediately gave a slightly panicked "No!"

I held my hands up in a 'there you go' gesture. "Then I won't, it's not a power that I wanted, nor one that I'm going to use if I can help it."

She frowned, debating with herself. "If, if you need to, to practice, that's okay," she volunteered.

I shook my head. "No Taylor, it's a power I have, but not one I even want to consider getting used to. Powers that directly control people, either their minds or their bodies completely, it's not something that I approve of, nor is it something I want to be tempted with. Other powers however," I manifested a softball sized star in my hand, "I have no qualms with."

She looked at it, blinking. "It's... cold, and... purple?"

I smiled. "Nope, Sundancer has two powers, one to make the star, another to lessen the effects." My brain caught up to what she had said. "Wait, purple?"

Looking down at it I saw that instead of the reddish orange of the sun that I was expecting the star in my hand was indeed purple. Specifically, it had a blood red core with purple flames coming off it as it, I don't know, cooled? That wasn't how fire worked. It contrasted nicely at least. "Well... Shit."

"Is it supposed to be like that?" she asked cautiously, looking concerned.

I dismissed the oddly colored star, making another while focusing on creating Sundancer's sun, only to get another blood red and purple sun. The third through sixth attempts yielded similar results. "Not again," I moaned into my hand.

"Again?" she asked, yelping as I projected a pistol and tossed it at her. Looking between the coloring of the pistol in her hands and the sun hanging in front of me as I slumped on the table and groaned she asked. "Are those your favorite colors, and you're using those by accident?"

I shook my head. "Not really, it's the color of my power. For some reason it likes to use those when it can. For certain things I can't make it like the original, or else that would be green and black."

She looked down back at the pistol, eyes wide. "Is this Miss Militia's gun?"

I shrugged, head still buried in my hands, "My copy of it, but yeah." I shifted it to a revolver in her hands with a snap of my fingers, eliciting a sound of excitement.

Looking over at her with an eyebrow raised, she looked away. "Just never thought I'd get to touch it, even if it isn't really hers." Rolling my eyes, I tried another star with the colors reversed, which took a little effort, but was possible. It didn't seem to affect the usefulness of the ability, but felt a little odd for a reason I couldn't describe. "Wait," she called. "The color of your power? How do you know that? Can you see powers?"

Whups. "Yep, but it lets me unmask anyone in their civilian identity, so I don't exactly advertise it," I admitted.

She paused, nodding to herself, before shaking her head and asking the question I assumed was next. "What do my powers look like?"

"Grey and yellow," I replied, and she looked incredibly disappointed. "Listen, I'm not sure why certain powers have certain colors. Trickster's was eggplant purple and seafoam, what does that have to do with transpositioning? Yours is the color of chitin, along with a wasp yellow. Hints at your insect-based power with a bit of an understated danger display. It looks nice," I reassured her, not sure why I had to, trying to find something to distract her.

Powers, something about powers. "So Sundancer's second power," I started, manifesting a sun and pushing it ten feet away and growing it to beachball size. "It lets me protect things from heat and radiation, and has a range of five feet, try throwing this." I grabbed one of her scrapped designs for Golem's new armor, balling up the paper and passing it to her. She looked at it considering, before tossing it at the star. As soon as it left the range of my power a few feet away from the sun it burst into flames, the ash blowing away before it hit the ground.

"Oh," she commented, eyeing the 'safe' distance around me. "Good to know, you had ideas for it?"

I started to respond, before I checked my phone. "We can work on power testing for two hours, but after that you need to go home and I need to go have dinner with Panacea. Without me there to assist she's probably stressed by the increased workload healing people."

She shrugged, "I could come."

I raised an eyebrow. "Wouldn't your dad worry if you didn't come home until after midnight?"

"I'd say I was sleeping over at my friend's house," was her defense.

It would let me leverage her creativity for power use, I considered. And it might help her and Panacea get to know each other. Taylor really needs friends her age. Non-Villain friends, I amended. "I'll ask her," I told Taylor, to her annoyance. "I'd ask you if she wanted to be here for your training, it's only fair." Texting Panacea I quickly got a response of 'I'd rather not.' Shaking my head, I told her, "Sorry, she says no. When you're not seen as a Villain the answer will probably change, or maybe we all could do something else. So, powers."

I waved for her to get up and follow me to the flat area of glassy black rock that had formed from Sundancer's experimentation. "Less things for me to worry about protecting," I explained as I pulled upon the Traveler's power.

Creating a star on a fingertip like Marissa had was step one, and I dismissed it to leave a clean area to work on. Flipping my hand over, I concentrated, forming one on the back of my hand instead.

"Is that what you were going to ask next?" Taylor questioned from beside me, watching intently.

I nodded, trying to make another one farther away from the back of my hand. It took a bit more effort but was doable. Clearing and trying to make a third even farther took even more concentration. The fourth, a foot away, was the hardest by far, and a fifth a foot and a half had me almost sweating in concentration.

Dismissing it, I sighed, sitting on hardened air to think, and gesturing for her to do so as well. "First data point, It feels like it gets harder to create the farther away it is from me."

She nodded, "Can you only make them from your hands?" Thinking about it I stick a leg out, creating one just above my toe, and making more in a line up my leg, with four circling my knee, before going up my thigh. "Um, Lee?" she asked, breaking me out of my concentration. Looking at her she motioned below me as the rock underneath my leg started to glow from the heat.

I dismissed the suns, using Marissa's power to cool the ground, which looked like a shimmering dark hole beneath us as the obsidian melted and reformed. Concentrating on the Stellar Negation I could feel it wrap around Taylor and I, letting everything else to be affected normally. "It's starting to get dark, and this will attract a lot of attention, so I want to try one last this with this power." I stood up, wanting to step back to keep her away from danger, but with Sundancer's power being used correctly, next to me was ironically the best place to be.

Creating the long shaft of star that Sundancer had, I concentrated further, giving it detail and shaping it into a scimitar of flame. "Wow," she breathed, looking at it intently, the weapon looking to be something made of pure magic. Wanting to show off a little, I folded it backwards on my arm, creating a segmented gauntlet incasing my limb in stellar armament. I took a few practice punches with it, my star-clad arm swiftly striking the air.

I smiled as I looked down at my new weapon. This was the power that one shot Echidna. Thinking of an excuse to use when I brought it out would be difficult, as it was obviously power created, and in my colors, not Vejovis's, but with this I might be able to fight an Endbringer.
Outreach 6.x (Interlude: Purity)
Outreach 6.x (Interlude: Purity)
Trigger warning: The ex-Nazi is racist. And so are the current Nazis. Shocking, I know.

Kayden Anders, safe in the purifying light of her power, paced on the edge of a rooftop as she waited and worried. She was at the location Lee had sent her, where the rest of the group of villains would be meeting. She didn't like the image that presented, having worked so hard to try to distance herself from that life only to now be working together with them again. Even Herbert called himself one, though she couldn't find anything that he'd done worth the title. She supposed it was a sign of his black blood, that he wore that title with pride would fit in with his people's brutish nature. It was his superior white heritage that kept him from doing anything vile, obviously.

Herbert Winslow. That man is a walking contradiction, she thought, torn between frustration and interest. Yes, his non-white parentage showed in far more than the color of his skin, but at the oddest times it didn't. Take for instance his interest in her. She wanted to say it was obviously because of the… tendency for blacks to lust after white women, God knows she'd heard enough about it back when she was married, but that wasn't what Herbert was doing. While what he was doing was more pleasant to deal with than the lewd suggestions she'd been expecting, it left her unsure.

Kayden knew that she wasn't the most attractive of women, it's why she had been so taken in by Max. His piercing blue eyes, disciplined body, and just the man himself had surprised her by his interest. That someone that attractive would even give her the time of day let him blow through her emotional defenses like they weren't even there, and she hadn't even noticed. It's what had taken her almost a decade to get over, realizing that Max didn't see people, he saw tools and assets. Back then it hadn't even crossed her mind that he mainly wanted her for her powers. She'd been so foolish. Looking back on it, that knowledge of his coldness, something that was so hard for her to keep in mind when she was around him, that's how she knew his offer to let her take over the E88 after a year of returning if that's what she desired was as empty as his heart. He was arrogant, yes, but he'd have a plan if she held fast to her convictions when the time ran out.

Max always had his plans.

She knew she lived moment to moment, day to day, and she knew it wasn't good, but it was just the way she was. You couldn't fight your nature, really. It had taken her getting pregnant with her little Aster to look where she was going, and to leave the Empire, though it didn't come easily. She supposed she saw some of that present-ness in Herbert as well. Maybe that's why I get along so well with him despite his race?

She shook her head as her thoughts turned back to him. Large and muscular to Max's aristocratic strength, and she supposed he was attractive, in their way. Herbert liked her, that much was obvious, and his attempts to woo her were… refreshing. Max's compliments were beautiful fakes, like those buildings they would build for movies. You believed them, and they warmed your heart, but were completely meaningless. Herbert's... weren't. They were over the top, but she had so expected to hear the crude come-ons his people spat that the earnest, almost childlike compliments he paid her affected her just as much as Max's poetic flattery.

No, she thought. He didn't give her compliments, expecting something in return like Max did. It was almost like he was saying something that was just true. Like it would be silly to even question it, and she wasn't sure how to feel about that.

Two of the group had arrived; Regent and Hellhound, who called herself Bitch of all thing, from that children's gang, and she still was uncomfortable with idea of such a thing existing. The boy she wasn't sure about, but the girl, despite her distasteful name, was dangerous. Her dogs, transformed into large, monstrous beasts, stood around her, sniffing the air.

Kayden felt like she should go down there and talk, but she wasn't sure what to say. These were children. Teens, yes, but she had been their age when she Triggered, and it wasn't something that kids should go through without an adult to help. That's not quite true, she reminded herself. Herbert had talked about how he and Lee had taken them under their wing.

He had admitted that he had made a mistake when first introducing himself, and they looked to Lee more than him, but took responsibility for it. She sighed, as his people were supposed to be prideful brutes, not admitting the fault they rightfully deserved. Then again, as she kept having to remind herself, he was only half black, so that might have been why. She sometimes wondered if Brad had Black heritage as well, or even worse, Arab, given how he liked to use those hooks of his.

She turned as she saw something flying towards her in the distance. She hoped it was Herbert, as there were only a few minutes before they were supposed to start, and she had hoped that he wouldn't be like the rest of his people, constantly late. She was somewhat disappointed when she saw it was instead the group she used to call allies, and still hoped to call friends. James and Justin were standing on a large flat piece of concrete, between them stood the girl who went by Rune.

The young girl had joined after Kayden had left and could apparently control large objections if she put her symbol on them, which Kayden could see the strength of. A traitorous part of her wondered what it would be like to work with her, as Kayden had been the only flier the Empire had had. Eric could glide with his air control, but it wasn't really the same, no matter what he said.

Justin gave her a wave, and she responded with a professional nod, stepping off the ledge, flexing her power to slow herself before landing with almost no outward effort. Looking over she saw a pair of men standing underneath an awning, obvious Coil's. From an alley came what must be Gregor the Snail. She always felt pity for the people whose bodies had been changed by their powers, even more so for the ones who lost their memory. To not even know one's race wasn't something that she would wish on anyone, even the Asians.

Rune landed nearby, a large glowing symbol beneath her feet as the thick concrete slab settled on the asphalt. "Good to see you Purity!" Justin called, voice only slightly muffled by the knight's helmet he wore in costume. "I heard you didn't join us, but I guess I heard wrong. I'm glad you're back; it hasn't been the same without you."

She couldn't help but smile. Justin was always so nice. She hated to ruin his good mood, but better from her than from someone else. "I'm sorry Crusader, but I turned Kaiser down. I'm a hero now, and I'm only here because we have a common enemy. I joined Vejovis' team."

Crusader's tone darkened, "Oh, is that why he said you were with a nigger? I'd heard about that, but I didn't believe it. I know you and Kaiser had some disagreements, but that's no need to fuck a-"

"I'm not!" she objected, offended he would even suggest such a thing! She'd see too many girls dirty themselves just to hurt their exes and she'd sworn never to do something like that. Doing so hurt the women even more then it would hurt the man they used to be with, and worse made all those barbarians think that all white women would sleep with someone else, just to get back at the person they used to love. "How dare you think I would ever-"

"Peace," James stepped in, raising a hand to them both. "He didn't mean to suggest that, right?" he gave Justin a significant look, and the man nodded, though with his helmet on Kayden wasn't sure if he really meant it. "And you know how this looks Purity."

She sniffed, "I thought you'd know me better than that, Krieg," but she could understand what he was saying. "I'm sorry though. I joined Vejovis' team, not Break's. I didn't even know his team had a black until the morning before Somer's Rock. The fact that he was only half-black is the only reason I didn't walk out immediately." That and she'd already turned down Kaiser, but a woman without her dignity had nothing.

"And where is the porch-monkey?" Crusader asked, looking around. Purity crinkled her nose in distaste. Racial slurs like that were something that spoke of low intelligence, which is why the inferior races used them. Kaiser had understood that, but it was something that most of the Empire disagreed with her on. From a nearby alley a six-armed gorilla came out; Genesis, Herbert had called it, called her, Kayden corrected.

"I didn't mean that literally," Crusader said, with a snort.

Krieg sighed, "This is Genesis, she's from The Travelers." He checked his watch. "It looks like it's time."

Kayden could hear the smirk in his voice as Crusader announced, "Should've expected as much from a coo-"

He cut himself off as a dark shape shot down between them, yelling "Wazzup my niggahs!"

He didn't, Kayden thought as Break, fully in costume, touched down in front of them, cracking the sidewalk with the impact, and smiled broadly. How he landed that hard without even seeming to notice mystified Kayden. Even if he was a Brute he should've still had to bend his legs. He went from falling to standing without any problem. What are his powers?

"Everyone's here? Awesome! Let's get this party started!" the dark-skinned man stated, turning on his heel and striding off towards their target.


It was almost three blocks before Justin spoke up, getting sick of following Herbert, even if Rune was the one moving him. "What the fuck makes you think you can lead us?"

Herbert turned and blinked, still smiling, sure in a way that seemed similar to Kaiser but lacked the inherent pride her ex held. She'd've said that was a bad thing, as it was right to be proud of being better than your inferiors. On Herbert though, it seemed right.

"Because I am?" the half-black man asked, as if he didn't understand the question. Kayden would've been tempted to believe he was ignorant, as his kind usually were, if she hadn't spent a not quite un-enjoyable few hours with the man as he calmly pointed out the social dominance moves her ex-husband had tried to make, badly.

She was ashamed to have found them impressive, when she was younger.

No one with Herbert's ability to read people would miss what was being said to him. If it wasn't for his insistence that Lee was in charge of the Penumbral Defenders she might have worried, but some part of the man recognized his own inherent failings and let his superior take charge, and while she might have difficulty respecting him, she could respect that he knew his place.

"I meant who put you in charge, nigger?" Justin pressed. Rune looked like she was going to say something as well, but James put a hand on her shoulder, his face neutral, but it was obvious he was paying close attention to the byplay. I wonder why he did that? The others just watched.

"You did, when you followed me," was Herbert's immediate response. "And we're almost there so I guess we could talk strategy here. Good job."

Kayden could swear she could hear Justin's eye twitching, like it did whenever he got upset. "What would an ape know about strategy?" he challenged.

Herbert nodded solemnly, "You're right," he agreed. Crusader was taken aback, but just as he was about to respond Herbert turned towards Genesis. "Next time, more Butterfly."

Completely surprised by this unexpected statement, the ape-person responded with a woman's voice, but with an unidentifiable accent, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Herbert just nodded. "Sure ya don't. Next time, Butterfly," he repeated completely in control, having the air that Max always had when he showed he knew something you wanted to keep hidden. No, he was lacking the sharpness, the dangerousness that was hidden if you weren't his target, but was all too obvious if you were. Was the ape, girl, thing a shapeshifter? Kayden wondered, looking at it. Now that she stared, the creature's features weren't quite what they were back at Somer's Rock. The eyes were a bit smaller, and the fists just a bit bigger, but if she hadn't been looking for it she never would've noticed.

Did he see that, or is this something they knew from the other timeline? She thought, but as Hellhound stepped forward Kayden broke herself from her thoughts. "What makes you think you're strong enough to lead?" the teenager demanded. "Vejovis I'd follow, but not you."

Herbert smiled at her, but it was...off. Maybe it was that odd see through mask he wore but his mouth just seemed a bit too wide, and his teeth a bit too sharp, and it unsettled her. The three dogs around Hellhound growled and closed in around her. Another, deeper, almost reverberating growl came from Herbert, who hadn't seemed to move a single muscle, staring back at Hellhound. It caused the hairs on the back of her neck and the sheer animalistic malice of it caused her to take a half a step back, along with everyone else.

Hellhound looked down and away, her monsters backing off from what some part of Kayden was tempted to say was a worse monster. That, like everything else in the past few days, was such a disconnect from what she thought she knew about the man that she was just confused, and she didn't like it. How could the barely leashed predator in front of her, the kind that Brad wished he was, be the caring man who'd been there for her in the face of her future daughter's death? How could he be the man who was actually tongue tied by her beauty, and truly meant it?

She wanted to write it off as his being just insane, but she'd met insane, heck, she'd worked with insane for a few years, and she was glad Dorothy and Geoff weren't on this team. Whatever Herbert was, he wasn't insane. She could see his reasoning whenever she talked to him, or afterwards when she thought about it, but that just made it worse. As Hellhound backed off he relaxed, the growling stopped, and his grin seemed to shrink to again be happy, warm, and human.

That broke the tension, and Justin stepped forward. Kayden winced. Justin never liked looking weak, something Kaiser had taken into account, and now he was going to react badly. She wanted to do something but wasn't sure what to do. "You're nothing more than a beast," he accused.

Herbert cocked his head like a dog, confused, which didn't help the comparison. "Well, of course I'm a beast. A beast of a badass!" Crusader looked like he wasn't sure whether to yell at the man or give up and walk away, deciding dealing with this as not being worth it. The sheer childishness of Herbert's statement made it so easy to forget that, just a few seconds ago, a part of her had been frozen in fear of him. Looking around it was clear that while Justin had moved on from that moment, no one else had.

"Place we're hittin' is right around the corner," Herbert said, clasping his hands together. "Looked like a warehouse from above. We should get into teams, so who's grouping together?"

"We're good," The two men who were probably from Coil said, heading for an alley, one boosting the other up to the fire escape before kicking down the latter for the other.

"We're a team," James said, indicating the Empire. He shot her a glance, not quite looking right at her and she shook her head. He nodded subtly in reply. She always liked that about James, he was always a professional.

No one else said anything so Herbert announced. "Regent, Bitch, you two are together along with..."

"Me," Genesis said, clearly not wanting to be on the same team as Herbert. A part of Kayden couldn't blame her, as he seemed to know her secrets and was willing to share them openly. She knew what that was like from working with Max.

Gregor nodded to himself as he walked over next to Herbert and her, "Then I believe I am with you two." His voice wasn't slug-like like she expected. He almost sounded like her Nordic uncle, so he was probably originally white. She realized that with the exception of Herbert, and possibly Genesis, the entire team was white. The thought comforted her. "I can-,"

"Mix chemicals and spit 'em, I know. Just go for containment if you can. Can you do the foam the PRT uses?" Herbert interrupted the Case 53.

Gregor blinked, before nodding and responding as if nothing odd had happened. "I cannot, and without the counter-agent that would be ill advised. I can do my own version of it though."

Herbert nodded, "Then do that. Try not to get shot, but if ya do Vejovis can heal you no prob." The member of Faultline's Crew nodded to that, and the half-black man turned to address the Empire. "You three hit the far side while-"

"We're not going to the back of the bus, nigger. That's your place," Justin interrupted, tapping Rune on the shoulder and directing her up. She hesitated before she lifted their platform and flew them towards the front entrance.

"Uh, okay," Herbert told himself, turning to face the two teens and the shapeshifter, as gunfire started from their target and Purity could make out Crusader's ghostly clones falling through the bottom of the platform, ten-foot spears leading as they dropped on the Asians below. "I guess you guys go through the back and use the loading bay doors to get in, since they're not using them."

This, this was what Kayden was talking about. He wasn't crazy and wasn't being disrespectful even when others were, like the rest of his race would've been; he had a reason for saying what he did. He had seen Rune's platform and figured out a way for her to get in, but Justin didn't even bother asking like Herbert said Lee did. Hellhound nodded, understanding too, turning and jogging off, Genesis lumbering afterwards, as the boy, Regent, whined, "He didn't say we had to hurry!"

"Hurry!" Herbert called to Regent's groan of frustration. He looked to Kayden and Gregor. "Okay, we'll go high. We'll go high and go in through the skylight. So, Gregor, Enter and I'll carry you in and you stay up in the catwalks."

"Enter?" Gregor asked, only to jump backwards along with Kayden as an eight-foot-tall brute appeared behind Herbert as if he'd been standing there all along. The man, creature, thing, was terrifying. Its dark skin was actually scaled, just like the dark green alligator skin pants it wore, and the smile it gave seemed to be nothing but canines.

"Stranger?" Kayden couldn't keep herself from asking.

"And more," It growled back confidently, the sound reverberating from her skull straight down her spine. This she believed, could be the source of the growl from earlier. Or they both could, but the taller one was closer to that primal state than the merely half-black Herbert had been.

She looked between them and wondered if they were half-brothers, the taller one fully black, lacking the civilizing influence that Herbert had. Yes, that would make sense. Of course, he wouldn't have the decency to admit he was there and skulk about, though looking at the...man in question part of her wanted to say stalk instead.

Herbert glanced up at his half-brother, annoyed, and continued, "We'll be carrying you in Gregor." He moved to one side of the snail-man, Enter taking the other, the two of them easily lifting the smaller man, whose placid expression showed repressed worry.

Without saying anything they leapt as one, easily jumping the four stories to the top of the building next to them as easy as if they had just stepped onto a curb.

Kayden stood there for a moment, looking at that. Nothing that she'd heard about him, and she was realizing how little that was, told her he could do that. She shook herself, immersing herself fully in the purifying light, letting it carry her up to follow her teammate.

By the time that she'd caught up with Herbert, his half-brother, and Gregor they'd already made it to the top of the building and were looking at the dirty skylight. Rune had lowered her slab to the ground as Justin had killed the guards, something that she hated that they were forced to do, but understood.

They wouldn't stop, and wild animals needed to be taken care of.

There were sounds of gunfire from within, from the back entrance where the roar of Hellhound's beasts reverberated. Enter's form rippled as he turned around, shifting to something she vaguely recalled from one of Theo's books when he was younger. It was darker than it should've been, which seemed appropriate, as it swung its hammer-like tail down, destroying the glass and sending shards flying down. From the screams that came back up at them, he'd obviously hit something.

Herbert grabbed Gregor and jumped in, a dark shape following him in, the dinosaur gone. Flying in after them, Kayden spotted Gregor on a catwalk, taking cover as he lobbed a glob of something at a group of ABB firing towards the back. As soon as it struck it expanded into a greenish mass, covering the gunman completely.

Her attention was called off to the side as Herbert shouted, "Double People's Elbow!"

Both he and his half-brother fell faster than should be possible, landing elbow first on two different Asians who collapsed with a crack. More opened fire on them and Enter staggered as he was shot several times in the chest, Herbert staggering from shots as well, but unlike his half-brother he wore a shirt which seemed bulletproof. Both of them launched themselves forward, breaking their momentum with their biceps on the ABB's necks. When they turned around, she saw Enter's chest was once again unblemished.

A bullet whizzed by her head, reminding her that she was in a fight.

Taking off, she started to rain down blasts of pure light on the uncivilized barbarians below her.


As the battle wound down, Kayden was impressed. She'd never seen most of the people she was working with in action before, but they were worryingly effective. Justin and James had worked together like the professionals they were. Rune had torn open the front of the warehouse, allowing the snipers to work freely, though from the girls' reaction when they shot past her, that had been accidental.

The ABB had used the maze-like structure of the warehouse to their advantage to take cover, but Justin had turned that against them, his ghosts freely able to pass through them to kill those beyond. Regent had joined Gregor on the Catwalks, sweeping his arms to divert the ABB's fire into each other below himself. Hellhound and Genesis had worked together, Gregor directing them as they prowled the corridors.

Kayden worried about the shapeshifting girl, who looked heavily injured, but she was sure Lee could patch her up, so that was alright. Krieg was favoring one side as well, a hand pressed to his ribs, but Monica could heal him as soon as he made it back to Medhall. One of Hellhound's dogs was limping, but its master didn't seem concerned, and the girl was notorious for caring for her beasts more than she did people, so Kayden wasn't worried either.

Herbert though...he had worried her. He seemed to not be taking this seriously at all. He'd gotten more and more violent as the fight had progressed, getting more exuberant as he had done so. He and his brother had also shown off their ability to turn into dinosaurs with brutal results.

She still felt green remembering how he'd turned into a four legged lizard with spikes covering its back, before tucking itself in and rolling down a corridor, impaling and crushing ABB, the six corpses stuck to its back when it straightened out, falling to the ground around him as he turned back to being human.

As the dust settled, she landed on a catwalk, overlooking the battle as she let her hold on the light lessen. A part of the wall she didn't realize was a door opened up, an ABB with two smg's snarling "Die, nyeon!" drawing down on her. Time seemed to slow as Herbert shouted "No!"

He launched himself across the warehouse, but she'd seen how fast Herbert moved during the fight, and he'd never get to her in time. He could change direction mid-air, or speed up, but she'd been keeping an eye on him and he could only do it once a jump. As she blasted herself backwards and up with what little Light she had as she scrabbled for more, she hoped she could get enough distance to be missed by the spray of fire, but that was more luck than anything else.

Herbert accelerated, as she knew he would, but it still wasn't going to be enough. She was shocked when he got faster and faster, blurring from the speed until it was hard for her to follow him. He hit the gunman as he was about to fire with the sound of a meaty explosion, Herbert stopping instantly as the Asian seemed to transform into a spray of gore, the metal wall opposite Herbert being torn to shreds from its impact

Kayden continued flying backwards in shock, missing whatever Herb said to the splattered meat that was all that left of her possible murderer. He lifted his mask and spit on it, before sliding it back down and smiling, but it seemed forced.

Motioning for everyone to gather, he took a step off the catwalks, landing easily and walking towards the front. There was no sign of the snipers; Kayden assumed they left once the fighting had appeared to end. "Good job team!" Herbert announced, clapping his hands together. "Bitch, your dog's okay in there, right?"

The girl with the distasteful name nodded once. "Good," he continued. His eyes flickered over Genesis dismissively before seeing James' injury. "Krieg, you good enough to get to Othala?" he asked, concerned.

Justin, not liking how Herbert seemed to be taking the leadership role again, challenged, "This is why we don't listen to niggers. If I was running this he wouldn't've been hurt."

Herbert cocked his head in what Kayden realized was a practiced show of confusion, calling Justin's bluff, "Wait, you listened to me? I musta missed that part."

He looked angry and started to take a step forward, but James put his free hand on his shoulder, "Remember the Truce."

Justin, embarrassed at losing his composure like one of the inferior races, turned his back on Herbert and walked away. Kayden could understand his position, but he did ignore Herbert, so he couldn't exactly blame the man for James' injury. Rune, poor girl, just looked confused, following Krieg who gave Herbert a single nod and walked away as well.

Herbert turned back to the group, and Kayden realized that Enter had disappeared again. Did he leave or is he just hiding once more? She hated Stranger powers and was glad the Empire didn't use them. It made everything so much more difficult.

Herbert was giving Genesis a significant look, and she was glaring back at him. Kayden originally pegged the shapeshifter as white, but the way the girl had thrown herself into battle, that kind of temper and lack of care for oneself meant she was probably Hispanic. That wasn't too bad she supposed.

"Oh wow," Herbert commented blandly, looking at Genesis' torn up body, which was bleeding onto the concrete. "That form's all wrong now. Butterfly next time. Remember, butterfly."

She bristled at this proclamation, "How did you know I was a shapechanger?"

Herbert did that head cocking thing. "Noooo, you're not a shapeshifter." She isn't?

Genesis stilled. "Yes I am."

"No, you're in a wheelchair somewhere, this-" Genesis disappeared, as if she had never been there in the first place, no trace of her but the bloodstains left behind. What? Was she an illusion? But she couldn't be, since she left the blood behind. Kayden dimly remembered hearing about powers that could let you make things that didn't last. Did she make a puppet body? Herbert sighed, as if he expected that to happen, "Sheesh, I wish they'd just listen." He looked at the four of them that were left considering.

Regent shrugged back, "So what's next boss-man?"

"Hmmm. Hungry. Bored. We got this down." Herbert announced. "Not too many people dead. Ya'll had fun. Definitely can't wait to do this again, but we got to do it better, and the truth of the matter is, we're gonna have to make sure they listen to us. Thank you guys very much by the way."

Hellhound shrugged modestly, "You follow the leader, it's how the pack works. Empire's dumb shits."

Kayden wanted to say something. While Justin had been... assertive, he meant well, and Rune and James had done a very good job. Herbert nodded in agreement with the girl, "Pretty much. We'll make them follow next time. We'll all have to work together, 'cause we're gonna need to break them out of that before they get someone killed."

Again Kayden wanted to speak up, but she could see his point of view. It's not like he was asking them to follow Enter after all. While his white blood might be diluted, it was still there. Looking at how he'd lead the rest, it was obvious to see. The boy, Regent, gave Herbert a look while motioning to the dead and unconscious Asians around them. "Someone important." Herbert amended, though he really didn't need to. It was obvious what he meant. "The two of us will get everybody something to eat, then we chill out at Bitch's place, and help take care of her puppies."

Hellhound hesitated, before nodding and giving Herbert the address, Gregor begging off to return to his group, which was polite of him. He definitely must have been white before he changed. Once it was just her and Herb, moving over rooftops, heading to Fugly Bob's, a place which served good food once one got over the borderline obscene name, she spoke up.

"You did well," she said, starting off with a compliment. She was still surprised by the broad grin and open, honest, joy at that simple comment. Kaiser wouldn't've even said so much as a thank you, she thought, not really listening as Herbert praised her own performance. "I was a bit put off by how you didn't seem to care about any of our side's injuries though."

Herbert, jumping rooftop to rooftop, and sometimes on nothing at all, waved away the criticism. "Kreig's gonna go see Othala, Bitch's dog was fine, and that wasn't really Genesis, it was her projection. No one's dead, no one's dying. I'm fine, you're fine, the kids are fine. Next time I'll make sure no one gets hurt at all."

The looks they got ordering were odd. There were the normal hostile stares she had gotten used to from being allied with the Empire for so long, but as they waited many of those changed to confusion as she made small talk with Herbert. While she knew it wasn't something she should do, she couldn't help feeling a bit of a vindictive thrill at seeing their consternation, especially when the two of them left together.

She was surprised where they landed. An ordinary looking warehouse showed itself to be full of dogs of all sorts, but not feral as she feared. They started to swarm the pair until a quick whistle from Hellhound pulled them off. With as many animals as were living here, uncaged, she was taken aback by how clean it was. It was nothing compared to a professional facility of course, or at least what she thought one would look like, never having been in one, but with this many animals and only a single teenage girl to take care of them there wasn't the waste strewn about that she expected.

Walking over, the girl was unmasked and didn't seem to care. The boy, Regent, was as well, playing a game on his phone. He perked up, "Foods here? Nice."

Sitting down to eat, it was companionable. Herbert unmasked as well, and she lowered her light, keeping it enough to still obscure her features. No one commented on it, and she was thankful. Herbert might trust these children, but they were still children, and as such couldn't be trusted with secrets if she could avoid it. "Will Enter be joining us?" she asked. She'd noted Herbert hadn't ordered anything for his half-brother, which would be inconsiderate if he were around, but she supposed he was somewhere else.

Herbert blinked before shaking his head, confirming her suspicion. "Nah, he's got his own thing."

She frowned, "So he left without saying anything? That's rude." But not unexpected, given his heritage. If anything, it showed how much more civilized Herbert was. Herbert, obviously not wanting to speak ill of his half-brother, merely nodded.

Things continued nicely until she took one of her chicken fingers and made to offer it to one of the dogs, only for Herbert to quickly and firmly to reach over, grasping her wrist and lifting it back up to the table. He was being gentle, but firm enough that she couldn't stop him as he said, "Nonononono! Ask."

Kayden started to object but was cut off by Hellhound, who shook her head, "They don't eat people food, says the wrong thing."

She wanted to object, but she could see the girl's point. It was why most minorities couldn't understand fine dining after all. She rebuked herself from getting upset. Herbert was right, he just was more… physical than she was used to, his heritage showing once more.

She sighed to herself, as that, too, did make sense. He was Lee's lieutenant after all, and he was definitely a step up from Brad. Settling herself in to watch the byplay at the table, she was glad she'd joined the Penumbral Defenders.

They were very different from the Empire, but that was a good thing.
Outreach 6.8
Outreach 6.8

In a good mood, I dismissed the… the Star Fist, folded fire wisping to nothing around my arm. With my Negation I could wield the construct's heat precisely, so a miss wouldn't do anything, but being struck by it would be like getting punched by the sun.

"So!" I told Taylor, turning to face her. "What do you want to work on? For the next," I checked my phone, "one hundred and two minutes, I'm yours. We could focus on something you could do, or we could try to figure out one my powers, just nothing that makes light."

"How many powers do you have?" she asked incredulously, eyes widening at what she just said, "If you don't want to tell me, I understand."

Rolling my eyes, "There are a few I'm never going to use, but on the docket for things I want to get better with, or at least find uses for, right now? There's Skidmark's Speed Zones, Stormtiger's Aerokinesis, Cricket's Acoustokinesis, Shadow Stalker's Shadowform, your Arthropod Control, Glory Girl's Personal Forcefields, Grue's Shadow Propagation, Kaiser's Metal Control, Vista's Space Warping, which I needed to copy to save her-"

"That's how you got to her!" Taylor exclaimed, thumping her fist on her open palm, "When Boardwalk got to her. People just thought you got lucky!"

I nodded. "Yeah, but I have a feeling if I used it near her, when she wasn't freaking out, she'd be able to feel it like you do with your power, or something to that effect," I explained. "Lastly, I've got the Twin's Personal Size Manipulation, but I can't do too much with that without drawing attention, I-"

"Can it make you smaller?" she interrupted. I started to shake my head no, before taking out the power and giving it a shot. Nothing happened. I shook my head no to her "Oh," of disappointment. "Wait, why didn't you mention Miss Militia's weapon, what about that?"

I shrugged. "Lift it up in front of you." She complied, having held onto it since I'd given it to her, and I cycled it through a variety of weapons, all with the same color and motif. The battlehammer did maker her stumble, as I'd forgotten she didn't have my strength, but I shifted it to an escrima stick so she didn't get hurt as she righted herself. "First of all, there's not much I can do with it that isn't just research. It's really straightforward, more than almost any other power I've heard about or seen. Second, the colors are distinctive which means I can't use it in one identity if I ever want to use it in another, and if I were to use too many of the same colored powers in too many different identities, it'd lead to a common thread between identities I don't want linked. Third, see the design?"

She looked down at the shortsword in her hands, a Purple Entity etched into the design, seeming to coil around the Blood Red blade, "Yes? It's the same thing as your costume. It looks...familiar, but I'm not sure why."

I frowned in confusion, wondering why she'd say that. Trigger visions, I realized, wondering if Miss Militia would recognize it. It was something to worry about later. "There's effectively a world-wide Stranger effect by something that looks like that. If it gets broken Taylor, bad things will happen. Because of that, my version of her power isn't going to see the light of day. I can get away with the fake Caduceus, but Boardwalk has no such decoration for a reason."

She nodded to herself. "Okay, I won't ask. Um, do you have anything else my power can do?"

Looking back at her I raised an eyebrow, "Last time wasn't enough?" I cut off her stuttered apology, leaning over and messing up her hair. "I'm messin' with you Taylor. Relax. Honestly, not really. Pair spiders with things that can carry them and use their thread to tie things up, down, whatever. Also, if you cover a bug with a substance, you can use them to deliver it. You used Newter's slime to drop Lung, and later on Vaseline and Pepper spray worked pretty well, and I think there might have been a few others but I can't remember. Other than that, I've got nothing. If you want more, you'll just have to figure it out on your own, though I'll be here to bounce ideas off of if you want."

She put a palm to her forehead, "Pepper spray! Why didn't I think of that!"

"You did," I smirked, "just later."

"Shush you," she groused, but gave me a small smile. "Vejovis is your main, um, cape?" I nodded. "Then we should work with that."

I took some time to lay out what I knew about the force fields I'd taken from Panacea's step-sister. Taylor had a few ideas, such as extending a force-field onto someone, like I'd do to lift them, and then letting go of them physically while keeping that shield over them to control their flight remotely. However as soon as I broke contact with a person the field around them dropped, no matter what. We did find a few unexpected things, like how my Lift field also could block an attack while holding something up, and keep them airborne, but If used to enhance a blow physics would kick back in and it'd drop. Nothing new we tried worked, like her suggestion that if I used my 'weapon' configuration on something living, it might lock them in place, the beetle we tried it on easily still moving.

As our time started to draw to a close, Taylor was disappointed. "Nothing we did worked!" she huffed.

"Yeah, but we've learned a lot of stuff that won't!" I replied cheerfully. At her glare, which probably stemmed from her believing me to just be humoring her, I elucidated, "No, really! We've tested a lot of theories and collected a good bit of data. Imagine if I was in the middle of a fight, desperate for an advantage, and I tried to cover someone in a weapon field, hoping that it would paralyze them. Instead all it would do is give them an opening to hurt me. I wonder if it would enhance their own strikes?" I shook my head, refocusing on trying to make her feel better, "We can check that later. My point is, now I won't do that!"

She sighed as she nodded, mollified, helping me put away the table and chairs in a nearby train-car. As I flew her back to a location she could fully de-costume she asked, "When should we meet tomorrow?"

I thought about it. "I'll pick you up at ten-ten, and I'll plan for the raid to happen at eleven. That should give us enough time to swing back to our training area and collect Golem's new armor. Should we arrive together? Yes," I decided before she could answer, nodding to myself, "You're publicly on record as part of my team, and having us arrive separately won't do anything positive. Ten-ten work for you? If it's earlier I'll call you, okay?"

She shrugged, "Sure, but what if we're not going after the ABB?"

"Then we'll do group training with anyone who wants to come," I replied easily, adding to address the feeling of concern I was getting from her through our shared power, "Kaiser won't. His idea of team tactics is 'everyone support me'." We landed were she pointed, and I turned my back to her as she grabbed a hidden backpack, looking through the bugs around us. "Stop," I held up a hand until there wasn't anyone on the street that'd pass by is. "Okay, change, no one's coming," I informed her, pulling my power out of the bugs in the alley.

I waited patiently as she swapped uniform for civvies. She stopped making noise, and I waited for a couple seconds, about to ask if something was wrong when she said, "Okay, I'm done." Turning around I saw she was in baggy jeans and a sweatshirt that hid her frame. "Um, I'm a little sore from everything we did today, could you heal me up a little like you did from our spar?"

She didn't look injured, but maybe she fell awkwardly during the mission and found she was bruised when she changed? It wasn't so late that she'd get in trouble getting home, hopefully, but strange bruises would raise questions she might not have answers to.

"Sure," I answered, mentally retracting the palm of my glove and grabbing her hand. I focused on the general 'Get Better' treatment for a moment, giving her enough to have healed any bruises she might have, looking up to see her leaning forward oddly. "Um, See you tomorrow?" I asked, not sure what she was doing.

She just blushed for some reason. "Yes, uh, tomorrow, see you then."

I took off, trying to put whatever the hell that was out of my mind.


As I started to descend in front of the hospital a few minutes early, my enhanced hearing picked up someone speaking, almost as if they were behind me, saying, "Have you seen the Healer? Lung wants her." Looking around as I halted my decent. There was no one near me.

What the hell? I thought, turning. "There she is," the voice said, sounding male, with a trace of an Asian accent. Looking down I spotted four men coming from an alley down the street from an alley close to the hospital entrance. As soon as I spotted them the sound cut out, but I quickly reestablished the connection. "Grab her quick and look out for her boyfriend."

I'm not her boyfriend, she's, like, sixteen! was my first thought, quickly followed by, Oh these guys are so dead. I got ready to divebomb them like a fuckin' hawk before I paused. No, this is going to turn into a PR thing.

It had been somewhat freeing, working with the villains to take down scum hard. A certain clarity of purpose and tactics, as dead opponents couldn't shoot you in the back. However, while Taylor was uncomfortable with real violence, but acknowledging the need for it, I doubted Panacea would be so understanding. Looking at the front of the hospital I already saw a couple people with phones out. On one hand, these people need to get a life, on the other, good.

I hovered above, watching the ABB squad get close, the leader pulling out a pistol, while another pulled a rifle, the other two pulling knives. Rifle-dude started looking around, but not up for some reason. Did they forget I fly? The four of them broke into a jog towards her and I started my drop. Panacea looked up at the men, confusion on her features, taking a step back as the pistol-wielder reached for her, weapon pointed at her chest as he yelled: "You're coming with us, Gaijin!"

I landed foot first on his hand, breaking it as the pistol went off and hit the thin layer of air I'd put in front of Panacea. Seeing where it crumpled it would've missed her, but I wasn't going to take any chances with her getting hurt. The thug pitched forward as I hit the ground, the force from the blow throwing him into my flight assisted rising knee, which sent him backwards, and hopefully knocked him out.

The rifle wielder turned his AK-47 towards me, and I caught the front with my hand as it was pointed at my chest, placing a plug of air in the end of the barrel. The ABB thug, identifiable by his colors, pulled the trigger, the gun thudding as the bullets were stopped before the barrel cracked, fire escaping out of the break. Yanking the weapon from his hand I stepped forward and punched him in the gut, causing him to fold as I felt ribs crack, but not snap.

Careful Lee.

I didn't want to pull a Glory Girl here, even if they deserved it.

Turning, gun in hand, I used it to block a knife, raising an eyebrow at the thug.

"Really?" I asked, backhanding him as he went down in a heap. Looking at the last attacker, he glanced down at the four-inch blade in his hand and turned to run. I tossed the gun at his legs, tripping him as I followed, grabbing his hands, just after he hit the ground. I wasn't in a rush. Picking him back up, ignoring his useless struggling, I floated back to Panacea who was looking down at the downed men.

"Why?" she asked me in disbelief.

I assumed she meant why they attacked her, so I shook my head sadly, half speaking for her, half speaking for the cameras, "Because they were ordered to. Because today was the first day the ABB's started to lose. Because you were vulnerable. Bad people do bad things Panacea. They always have a reason, but it's rarely a good one."

As the hospital's security rushed out, far too late, I motioned for them to cuff the thug I'd captured. "Panacea, please don't heal them fully, but can you make sure nothing I did was lethal? I was in a hurry."

She nodded, moving between the four, each one passing out as she did so. "Nothing they'd die from, I put them to sleep." The Security staff cuffed them as well.

Turning to them I asked the man who looked to be in charge, "Do we need to stay here? I'd rather not have more show up when they find out the first group failed."

The older man looked around, before nodding, "That'll be fine. We'll post someone out here."

"You couldn't have known this was going to happen," I reassured, both of us knowing that was bullshit, but it played well to the crowd, and to which he gave a small, grim smile of thanks, expression turning serious as he looked at the ABB.

Turning to Panacea, she took my arm and we left. Flying higher to avoid detection, I brought her back to base.

She sat while I cooked spaghetti, seemingly in shock, and I supposed this might've been the first time a gang actually made a move on her, the backlash from the PRT and New Wave staying their hand before this point. I broke her out of it a little as I pushed a cup of tea into her hands, murmuring "Drink, Panacea, you'll feel better." She did so almost robotically, looking up at me after she finished the Chamomile.

"Why?" she started, before shaking her head as if clearing it. "No, how did you know they were going to do that? Did it happen...before?"

I picked being where things happen as my Gift, and an interdimensional space snake gave it to me? Yeah, that's not gonna help. "No, I was just at the right place at the right time. You've set up a predictable schedule, and there are those out there that would exploit it Panacea."

"Amy," she said, "Call me Amy." I shot her a questioning look. "I talked to Vicky, she told me about... after, after that... call me Amy."

I pushed her plate in front of her. "Then call me Lee, Lee Elric, but only in private please." She started to say something else, but I held up a hand. "Eat, then we'll talk."

The garlic bread was a bit crispier than I was going for, but it was a decent meal. Finishing up, I cleared the table, getting us another round of tea. Panacea accepted hers, sipping it. "I'm sorry for freezing up," she finally said. "I, I'm just not used to, to that." She shook her head angrily. "I was better at the bank, I should've done something!"

I sat down across from her, "Well, how many fights have you been in before?"

"What?" she asked, my question taking a second to process. "A few, but I was better last time!"

Quirking an eyebrow, I asked sardonically, "You mean when you knew who you were fighting, knew you had back up, and had several minutes to psych yourself up? I'd hope so." She glared back at me for that, but it was embarrassed anger. "Ambushes work because most people don't react that quickly to sudden violence ,and are caught flat-footed. Unless you've got that innate fighting instinct, which you really don't Amy, which isn't a bad thing, you need to train to get used to it."

Sighing, I leaned back and took another sip of my Earl Grey. "The training sucks, and if you want me to when things calm down I can help you with it, but it's not something to be ashamed of. The guys that tried to jump you did have a bit of that, through probably informally, and even then if I really wanted to I could've killed them all before they had a chance to hit me once. Unless you have a power set up specifically to do non-lethal take downs, it's a lot harder to do a soft take-down than a hard one."

She looked at me, brows knitting in confusion. "If your power's anything like mine, can't you put them to sleep?"

"I said I wasn't going to use my healing offensively, and I won't without a damn good reason," I reminded her, a little annoyed that she'd think I'd break my word that easily. "Besides, the time they spend healing from their injuries might help them reevaluate their life choices."

Taking another sip, I waited for her to respond, but she was lost in thought. I continued, "I think, for the duration of hostilities, it would be better if Glory Girl were to stay with you. She'll deter any more attempts and could get you to safety if Oni Lee or Puff the Angsty Dragon decides to visit personally. If they do though, call me!" I urged. "Break and I, along with anyone else we could get in a hurry, will come fight him off."

"You aren't going to tell me to stop healing? It'd be safer," she inquired, gazing at me intently, trying to read my response.

I made no effort to hide it, giving her an incredulous look, "Would you do so if I asked? No, Amy, you want to go help people, and it is a thing worth doing even now, especially now. I'll try and make sure you're not vulnerable, but I'm not going to tell you not to do something unless the negatives would outweigh the positives. You want to heal, you still like to heal, and you're doing a lot of good in doing so. If you could get the rest of New Wave to protect Good Samaritan, that would be best, and it's not like they're actually doing anything useful, but I doubt they'll go for it. Glory Girl though, I know we can depend on."

Amelia nodded, smiling a little. "Yeah, we can." She sighed, "So, today you started fighting. I healed some of the...survivors."

"Which team?" I asked. "Probably wasn't mine." She looked over at me, question clear on her features. "The people that surrendered to me were unhurt, and Kaiser did his best to kill everyone we fought, especially the people that surrendered."

She looked aghast, "What!?"

"He's actually evil Panacea." I shrugged. "Dude's a literal Nazi. He's on team one, same as me, and wants to establish dominance, so he's doing so by being as reprehensible as possible," I explained tiredly. "At least, I hope that's what he's doing. If I had to guess I'd say he's trying to show how I won't do anything, because he's 'more powerful'." A second option clicked into place as I spoke, "Or he's trying push me until I try to take him down, which is a fight he's sure he'll win."

Giving a low chuckle, I informed her, "He wouldn't."

"But why work with him in the first place?" she demanded. I just looked back at her. She sighed, "You told me, to recruit people. Is that happening at least?"

I nodded, "I believe so, though not entirely on purpose. I was just trying not to be an ass. you know Mush, from the Merchants?"

"No...oh, wait, the trash guy?" Amelia looked confused. "Why him?"

"The Adaptive Armoring guy," I corrected. "I've started calling him Golem, at first because calling him Mush just sounded insulting, but now that I'm thinking about it, it's also building an identity other than what he had with the Merchants. Skidmark probably won't take it well, which will just push him away towards someone who doesn't treat him like shit, which is me."

"As far as I can tell he's only with them because he's uninventive, and when all he was doing was grabbing whatever was closest, that was mostly trash, and that combined with his appearance lead to only the Merchants giving him the time of day. His base appearance was changed by his power, a look which is...unappealing, but druggies don't care about that sort of thing. I don't give a shit about that either, just his character, which, while depressed, doesn't seem to be actually villainous. I'm giving him another option than working with drug dealers, setting myself up as the other side of the coin."

"That's... good?" she commented, seemingly not sure what to say.

I shrugged. "Honestly, most of it was me trying not to be a dick and showing him a way to better use his power to be more useful to the team. The rest is stuff I thought of after the fact." I got a disbelieving look. "No, really. I knew he could grab things to make a body, so I grabbed a bunch of scrap metal and asked him some leading questions to test my theory. After that it was a few questions to make him into a pseudo-iron golem." I showed her the picture of him I'd taken, then of the drawing of the Iron Golem I'd used as a base.

"That, and a few pointers, and boom, Mush is a force to be reckoned with. Combine with the fact that I'm not gonna call someone I'm working with Mush, and I suggested Golem, which he agreed to, though now that I think of it he might've possibly just done that because he didn't want to disagree with me or something. Either way, I'm not calling him Mush. After that, he was effective, and received the respect his contribution was due. I'm really just guessing, but worst-case scenario, Mush turns on me, and I have to take him down. Even at his increased efficiency it'll be easy. Best case, Skidmark overreacts, and that's not a longshot, which means that Golem is pushed towards people who don't treat him like, well, garbage." I opened my hands in a 'what comes will come' gesture, trying not to smirk at my accidental pun.

"So you're recruiting a villain by accident? I really shouldn't be surprised. Who else is on your team?" She asked, shaking her head and accepting another cup of tea.

"The pewter peacock brought his twin Valkyries, Fenja and Menja, as his bodyguards. The three of them are essentially a sub-team all their own. Coil sent a sniper team, but they seem like okay people. I took command of the rest, there's Ta- Lady, Bug, of course."

Amelia shot me a questioning glance, but then did a bad job of concealing the roll of her own eyes, echoing my "Of course," for some reason.

Ignoring it, I continued, "Along with Golem and we also have Newter from Faultline's Crew and Sundancer from the Travellers, and they're both, um, okay?"

She didn't say anything, just gave me a look, obviously not believing it.

"No really," I defended. "Hell, if the PRT had gotten to Newter first he would probably be part of the Protectorate, or the Wards, not sure how old he is."

"And Sundancer?"

I winced. "Dimensionally displaced and prioritizes trying to get to her home dimension with her friends over saving people. If someone could offer her what she wants, she'd do pretty much anything. All the Travelers are like that. Coil is offering it, but he can't deliver and that's going to go badly later. She's a good person, I think, just...unattached to this dimension, like most of her group."

She folded her arms, "Oh?"

I shrugged, "Um, probably? I've only been working her for a day. She's not Kaiser, but that's not saying much. I'll probably get a better read on her later. She's probably not going to join, but hopefully I won't have to fight her." Shrugging, I disclosed, "I'd win, easily, but she isn't evil, and I'd rather not hurt her if I don't have to. Same for Newter and Golem."

Amy sighed, nodding. "Okay. Just, don't trust them. They're villains, and not like Break."

I smiled, glad that she'd gotten to the point that she was comfortable with the concept of my working with 'Villains', and the conversation turned to more mundane topics, like healing super-cancer.
.... Go on.

Edit: Actually, this is getting off topic. I still want to know, but can you do it in my Worm Fic Thread?

Moved here by request, jumping in because I got mentioned and it's a hot button for me.

So...the Milestone Connection. Oh dear lord, this shit gets annoying fast.

For one, basically the entirety of Brockton Bay is a direct copying of the main comics of the Dakotaverse and some outliers, with many core characters being nothing more than Milestone Chars with the serial numbers filed off and/or superficial changes to disguise the origins.

Biggest examples are in the form of the Blood Syndicate, Hardware and his battle against S.Y.S.T.E.M., and Dharma and the Shadow Cabinet, and later it's offshoot the Star Chamber.

So, onto the Blood Syndicate: It is a combination of the remnants of two different gangs affected by the Big Bang (the superpower-granting event of the Dakotaverse, which birthed both heroes and villains alike; Static, quite possibly the most well-known Milestone character, is a Bang Baby himself).

The gangs were the Force Syndicate and the Paris Island Bloods, not that this matters much except for background.

The main Members of the Blood Syndicate are as follows:

Tech-9, the Leader and a Military Veteran, who had a power involving firearms;
Wise Son, the second leader after Tech-9's death, who was functionally invincible and could eventually transfer it to others;
Aquamaria, who merged with the James river and is effectively a water elemental, with all that entails;
Boogieman, who could turn into a humanoid Rat;
Brickhouse, who "gained the properties and appearance of a brick wall", along with some other things;
DMZ, whom is an oddball as he was technically enhanced by an alien and is not a bang baby;
Dogg, whom is,..well, a sentient Dog;
Fade, who is semi-transparent and can phase through objects;
Flashback, Fade's sister, who can rewind time three seconds a pop by saying "flashback";
Kwai, whom is technically a littel girl being (voluntarily) posessed by an Ancient Chinese Spirit and weilding unusual powers, including prehensile hair;
Masquerade, who can manipulate his body to look like any inanimate object, animal, or human being (and as trivia, is also the first Transgender Superhero in comics);
Third Rail, who is a Korean-American man who has perfect energy transferrence, and is known for absorbing energy from the subway system to gain a huge stature as needed.
and Holocaust, who can wield and generate flames at will, and is basically invincible. (he was an original member of the Blood Syndicate, but leter went Villain after internal disagreements.)

so, just with them alone, right off the top, Miss Militia is Tech-9 with the serial numbers filed off, rule 63'd and given a race lift to hide it even more. Wise Son we have tentatively pegged to being a Flightless Alexandria, except not morally corrupt, and Boggieman was likely the inspiration for Murder Rat, which I only just noticed as I was typing this. Aquamaria is semi-unique in that her expy, and again I didn't notice this until I started typing, is Leviathan, at least powers-wise.

DMZ, Dogg, and Kwai as far as I can tell have no real analogues in Worm, but Fade is the basis for Shadow Stalker, Masquerade is almost a dead ringer for Aegis if you fudge things a bit, and Third Rail and Holocaust are amusingly like three characters somehow: Behemoth and Lung pull from both rather equally, with Assault being a more direct expy of Third Rail's powers, but with a twist.

Oh, and Holocaust is also noted to be capable of surviving at the Earth's core, so he is technically Behemoth too.

Brickhouse you cannot fucking unsee once you see it, though, as her backstory is basically The Entire Case 53 Subplot in one place, complete with being the direct lift for Weld and parts of Gavel(?).

And that was just one group. The others get worse.
First off, Shadow Cabinet is a, heh, shadowy conspiracy that runs around in the background working to save the world from an unknown threat. The members tend to shift with both time and needs, but the one constant to the organization is its leader, Dharma, who has the powers of Psychometry, which he can apply to the very air to basically see everything and plan appropriately.

Oh, he's also blind.

Dude is technically the Contessa of the setting, but withouot perfect planning and plothole prevention, and instead having to not only work for his gains but actually has a heart. Instead, his powerset is tacked onto another minor ability involving tech, and Mechanic's Telekinesis to create the Simurgh.

and yes, Dharma actually had real compassion and empathy, to the point where, after the Milestone stuff was fully absorbed into DC, he is often used as the "hey, don't do that" character to stop people from making bad decisions.

Other people generally associated with the Shadow Cabinet are, in no particular order:
Iron Butterfly, who has Ferrokinesis (and is Palestinian; this is important);
Donner. the granddaughter of a Nazi Geneticist who happens to have powers;
Blitzen, Donners (lesbian) lover and a more or less generic speedster a la Quicksilver;
Iota, who can shrink not only herself but other objects;
Sideshow, who has animal-based shapeshifting as a power;
Twilight, a literal living pocket dimension with his own physics;
Plus, who can manipulate her sister's energies to grant herself super powers; said sister is effectively comprised of pure kinetic energy (and they both are Dharma's siblings);
Starlight, who is a literal fucking Human Pulsar and can project energies related to such;
Payback, who could transform himself into a Lizard-like creature at will (also a Bang Baby)
and Mechanic, who possesses Telekinesis but is just in charge of fixing stuff, as his name implies.

The links should give you details on the important ones, but know that Iron Butterfly got yanked almost direct, had the serials filed off, and then shoved into someone else, Donner and Blitzen are kind of a thing too, but I can't pinpoint exactly where they pop up. Payback is arguably another piece of Lung, and Pulsar can be argued to have been filed into a Legend-like shape except Male.

oh, there is also the Star Chamber which came to be as a kind of "dark Shadow Cabinet" setup. Star Chamber is what even the worst fanon Cauldrons Wish they could be on the best day of their lives, and each member aside from their founder is ruthless to a fault. Considering that said founder is Dharma...

have to mention S.Y.S.T.E.M. Again, as they are dead ringerd for the Elite except for the fact that they are actually competent.

no, seriously.

one of the cell leaders for S.Y.S.T.E.M. is Hardware's boss and enemy, Edwin Alva. The other is literally called "Dr. Mom".

see the pic for yourself.

Oh, there is an organization called S.H.R.E.D. in Milestone as well. Their appearance and equipment may seem familiar to you.

Dakota City famously had a series of riots kick off in the city proper that resulted in massive casualties, including, in the cartoon at least, Static's Mother (she was an EMT). Guess what that parallels.

Okay, now on to Hardware. He's the "standard super-genius" type, but with a legitimate axe to grind against a corrupt businessman. Best guess is that this is either Armsmaster or Kid Win, and neither Myself nor Fourmyle are fully agreed on which one.

Rocket, who is Icon's sidekick (and impetus to act, in several cases)? Best case this is supposed to be Vicky, as the powers match even if the source doesn't. (her "power" is a kinetic field with various uses, granted to her by a belt she wears. It's pure tech.)

and the list goes on. Tower? My best guess is Mark Dallon, as the (early) themes match.

And we are still discovering shit as we go about discussing things. It's funky as all hell.

Anyway, this post is long enough at this point. I will b available for questions later, and will direct Fourmyle here as well so he can speak if he wishes.


EDIT: Oh dear god, I forgot to mention something, because Milestone is not the only place he ripped off. you see, Taylor, a few others, and most notably, Jack Fucking Slash are all from Black Cat instead.

I will leave you with that tidbit.
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It's worth noting that Fourmyle brought up these comparisons directly to Wildbow when Worm was still being written and he got Exceptionally Cagey and even more surly than normal, like a kid caught cheating on his homework. Denying he'd ever heard of Milestone in like, the lamest way he could.

Static Shock was on syndicated television as part of Kids WB! after DC acquired Milestone to get Static and do EA fuck-fuck things to the rest of the setting. I don't know if they had Kids WB in Canada or if Wildbow preferred Molesto The Mountie or The Starlight Tourguide or whatever the fuck his Dollar General Mark Millar ass grew up watching but like, he dodged the Milestone question like Elon Musk dodging child support.
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Moved here by request, jumping in because I got mentioned and it's a hot button for me.

Part of me wants to go 'Nah, it's just coincidence, and powers are likely to repeat themselves, given how most of them are just variations of others, but the number of 'coincidences' are insane, to the point you missed a few.

Dogg, whom is,..well, a sentient Dog;

This is Bitch, from the Undersiders, given her 'she has dog social systems overwriting her human one' problem, she just turns other dogs monstrous to fit the power curve of the other characters.

Flashback, Fade's sister, who can rewind time three seconds a pop by saying "flashback";

This is Alabaster, of the E88, only his is automatic, and only for himself, so mixed with that immortality guy.

Twilight, a literal living pocket dimension with his own physics;

So, Labyrinth, from Faultline's Crew, inverted?

Pulsar can be argued to have been filed into a Legend-like shape except Male.

Pulsar isn't Legend, or at least not just Legend, it's Purity of the E88 too.

The members tend to shift with both time and needs, but the one constant to the organization is its leader, Dharma, who has the powers of Psychometry, which he can apply to the very air to basically see everything and plan appropriately.

Sounds more like he got split up into Clairvoyant (who lets others get omniscience, but the second he stops you go 'blind' for a while) and Contessa (who got plot powers that work because, shut up it does). And then, yes, also The Simurgh too.

Plus, who can manipulate her sister's energies to grant herself super powers; said sister is effectively comprised of pure kinetic energy (and they both are Dharma's siblings);

This is Eidolon, but without needing anyone else, down to the same green and black color scheme.

This all is just... The one thing I would give WB credit for was his inventive characters and powers but... holy shit, apparently I was being too kind. Like, if they'd come from a wider set, I likely would've still given him the benefit of the doubt, because Every flying brick could be argued to be a Superman Expy, and there's only so much you can do with Speedsters, but, like, holy shit, there's so many from just this one obscure series. Like, I watched the Static Shock cartoons as a kid, but I didn't realize all of this existed, and I wouldn't be surprised if WB counted on that.

Which makes him suing someone else for 'stealing' his idea for 'Endbringers' just... the height of hypocricy, but, from what I've seen of his posts, perfectly in character.

It's worth noting that Fourmyle brought up these comparisons directly to Wildbow when Worm was still being written and he got Exceptionally Cagey and even more surly than normal, like a kid caught cheating on his homework. Denying he'd ever heard of Milestone.

Wheras if someone pointed out my superhero fic had a lot of characters in common with a somewhat obscure series (assuming I didn't rip them off), I'd be like 'Holy shit, Really?' , and probably have a laugh about it. I'd also explain the (alternate) origins for several of my characters that overlapped with that source, and how I took their core concepts, shifted them into something different, and ran with them. Inugami from my MHA story, for example, is based on the Japanese spirit of the same name (hence his intangibility), and a lot of one-off characters are me just hitting 'random' on the superpower wiki until I've got a power that seems cool, and working backwards from there to make the rest of the character.

WB claims to be interested in superheroes, to have read comics (I haven't), and has been around teens for a while (enough to write Worm due to it), but claims to have never heard of Static Shock? The greater 'Dakotaverse' I'd believe, because I hadn't, just the SS cartoon, but any of it?

Yeah, the same way that Parian had a 'Super Secret Power that No One Could Guess, But If Anyone Does I'll Tell Them (and then he got mad at people for guessing like he invited them to right about the time someone guessed correctly (Corpses. Her puppets are made out of corpses. No, they don't stink, because reasons. Yes, the operation needed to turn corpses into usable materials would've been noticeable (the tanning alone). Yes, they're huge, one large enough to get into a slugfest with Leviathan, but it's apparently made out of dead people's skin, sown together with hair and tendons, and no one notices and thinks they're stuffed animals. Yes, that is stupidly GrimDerp and if that many bodies had gone missing, or parts found with pieces surgically removed, someone would've fucking noticed (If only because people would be scared that Bonesaw was in the area). But it's Wildbow. What the fuck did you expect?), and he started refuse to tell people they were wrong, trying to push back the 'reveal' every time someone asked him to get his community to jump on the questioners for him), and how he 'Totally Had It All Planned Out, Guys' (but is now saying he's going to rewrite WORM to match WARD), I'd bet money (not a lot, but still, money), that he found an obscure, African Americana comic book series from the 90's, and ripped it off, thinking that, with it being an Africans American comic book series, no one would ever realize what he did.

And, to a certain extant, he was right, at least for long enough to build up a rabid internet fanbase that he appealed to by stroking their intellectual egos of being 'smart enough' to understand his 'complex' and 'original' story.

Yeah, I've never read his other works, but WORM, Wildbow's 'best', was such a fucking shitshow that I have zero desire to read 'Pact', 'Twig', and whatever other 4-letter pretentiously titled stories he's cobbled together while lying out his ass to everyone, and are made of smoke and mirrors that falls apart the second you start to really think about them.

And finally, my Brother in Christ, an unpowered overseer of the shadowy organization called Doctor Mother, and this one he didn't even bother to race-swap (probably patting himself on the back for 'inclusion' or some shit). Like, I could argue 'It's a parent-title bad person leader, there's only so many ways you can go', but when combined with all the others, it's just... What The Hell!?
Moved here by request, jumping in because I got mentioned and it's a hot button for me.

So...the Milestone Connection. Oh dear lord, this shit gets annoying fast.
EDIT: Oh dear god, I forgot to mention something, because Milestone is not the only place he ripped off. you see, Taylor, a few others, and most notably, Jack Fucking Slash are all from Black Cat instead.

I will leave you with that tidbit.

It's worth noting that Fourmyle brought up these comparisons directly to Wildbow when Worm was still being written and he got Exceptionally Cagey and even more surly than normal, like a kid caught cheating on his homework. Denying he'd ever heard of Milestone in like, the lamest way he could.

Static Shock was on syndicated television as part of Kids WB! after DC acquired Milestone to get Static and do EA fuck-fuck things to the rest of the setting.
As the Fourmyle in question, I may as well weigh in. I've got the complete output of Milestone around, and I'd been doing research for a Milestone fanfic. What started the thing with Aeon and I was that I was complaining how hard that Wildbow had screwed me because of the sheer depths of it. And Yeah, I brought up the Milestone Comics connection years ago, and Wildbow completely shut down. Aeon did leave out a few things. Like the Mechanic being such a cryptid that even his coworkers think he's an invisible ghost rather than a potent telekinetic. You know, like the completely insubstantial Custodian? But yeah, Dharma got split between like three characters. His plotting got put in Simurgh and Contessa, and his worldwide clairvoyance went to the Clairvoyant.

I argued that Kid Win was supposed to be Static Shock!Richie, especially after the sequel made him blonde. Gear made equipment that was technically incomplete because it was to boost the powers of the Bang Baby using it. Think the Zap Caps. He made parts for others to use. Works well into modularity, to me.

There are two Undersiders that Aeon missed. Reagent has the same powers as Top Dog. I'll note that Top Dog had an actual dog face, but Bitch wears the realistic dog mask. And Imp? Why, Doctor Nemo, the man who only exists when he wants to. Unless he concentrates, he can't be seen, heard, smelled, nothing.

Also, The Dakotaverse's Super Prison? Is Davy Jones Locker. It's a massive, power dampening underwater complex that responds to attempted prison breaks by that section just flooding and drowning whoever's inside. I'm not saying it's The Birdcage, but it's the Birdcage.

Edit: Shit, I forgot. My personal theory is that Wise Son is The Siberian. Wise Son is not only invincible, but he can grant that invincibility to other, or take away other people's durability. It weakens his own to do this, but he can and does. Which is why he's one of the few people to routinely bloody Holocaust.
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It's a good thing Worm never got any mainstream pull. Wildbow would become one of the worst, most insufferable posters to ever live, like the unholy spawn of Elizer Chudkowsky and Ana Mardoll.
It's a good thing Worm never got any mainstream pull. Wildbow would become one of the worst, most insufferable posters to ever live, like the unholy spawn of Elizer Chudkowsky and Ana Mardoll.
So, I liked Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Like, a lot, but I have literally no knowledge of how the writer acted, as I read it on FF.net. As for Mardoll, a google search just tells me 'likely insane feminist trans person'.
So, I liked Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Like, a lot, but I have literally no knowledge of how the writer acted, as I read it on FF.net. As for Mardoll, a google search just tells me 'likely insane feminist trans person'.
Mardoll is a disabled queer person who used his identity the way Ed Gein used prostitutes, and ruled over Young Adult Fiction Twitter the way Draco ruled over the Athenian legal establishment. He was finally ousted, after years of the absolute worst and most insufferable kinds of tenderqueer smol bean behavior, after being outed as a nepotism baby at his workplace.

That workplace was Lockheed Martin's drone division.
Mardoll is a disabled queer person who used his identity the way Ed Gein used prostitutes, and ruled over Young Adult Fiction Twitter the way Draco ruled over the Athenian legal establishment. He was finally ousted, after years of the absolute worst and most insufferable kinds of tenderqueer smol bean behavior, after being outed as a nepotism baby at his workplace.

That workplace was Lockheed Martin's drone division.
See, there's a reason I'm not on Twitter. Also, I only understood what half those insults meant, but I'm okay not knowing.

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