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Alea Iacta Est - a Worm AU Fanfic

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Jul 11, 2015.

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  1. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Good catch.
     
  2. SwiftRosenthal

    SwiftRosenthal Well worn.

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    Who gave Riley a time machine?
     
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  3. Malcanthet

    Malcanthet Shy Adorable Arachne

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    ... Oops? Sorry thought that was a prop TARDIS
     
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  4. Threadmarks: Part Eleven: Critical Flail
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Alea Iacta Est

    Part Eleven: Critical Flail



    [A/N: This chapter beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]

    [A/N 2: Queries were raised over how the Empire would react. This is in answer to that.]



    “So Kaiser's dead.” The words hung in the air as Krieg leaned back in his chair, looking at each of the attending members of the Empire Eighty-Eight in turn. “What's our next move?”

    They weren't in their usual meeting room; that room was within the Medhall building, which had been locked down by the PRT in the early hours of the morning. Fortunately, this move had been signalled by one of the contacts the Empire still maintained within various law-enforcement agencies, which had given them sufficient time to prepare. In the main, said preparation had involved evacuating essential personnel – those left behind were going to be rather surprised to find out who they'd been working for all these years – and relocating computer servers. Those would have been problematical, had the PRT gotten their hands on them. He had no doubt that the combination of Armsmaster and Dragon would have cracked even the strongest encryption like a walnut under a sledgehammer.

    “What's our next move?” Hookwolf, his metal mask on the table before him, repeated the question mockingly. “Well, we can bleat to the world that it's not fair, or we can get back up and show 'em that we're not to be fucked with. And I'm all out of bleats.”

    Victor, a little way down the table, tilted his head slightly. “So what do you have in mind? Storm the PRT building and proclaim ownership of Brockton Bay?” His tone was just short of derisive and if Krieg was any judge, the skill-thief was doing it on purpose. Othala put her hand on her husband's arm and murmured something, causing him to subside. “Right now, a grand gesture could go very wrong indeed.” He tapped the side of his head, as if anyone needed reminding that he was more politically astute than ninety percent of the people at the table.

    Not that everyone was there. Menja and Fenja were both absent, as were Cricket and Rune. He could imagine the twins being guilt-stricken over Kaiser's death; even if Kaiser had ordered them to stay away while he confronted Purity, they would still feel responsible for not being there. Rune had had to go to school to keep up appearances, but he wasn't sure why Cricket chose not to attend. Perhaps she was assuaging her grief by beating up members of some convenient ethnic minority. Of course, she and Kaiser had never been close … nor, for that matter, did she ever require an excuse to do anything like that.

    Hookwolf rolled his eyes. “Fuck grand gestures. We take care of the bitch who betrayed Kaiser! We send a message that nobody does that shit and lives!” His fist, thankfully not clad in metal at the time, crashed on to the table.

    “Take care of …” Krieg narrowed his eyes. “What are you talking about? Are you saying we should murder Purity? One of our own?” He had never believed that Purity had really split with the Empire. In fact, he was certain that in time, she would've seen the error of her ways and returned to the fold. Kaiser had always maintained this, and Krieg tended to trust his judgement. Well, had trusted his judgement.

    “One of our own, like fuck.” Meadows was distinctly uncouth, to say the least, but he could definitely put his point across. “She abandoned us. That was bad enough. But she kills Kaiser and you're saying we do nothing?”

    “Wait.” Alabaster didn't speak much, so that when he did, people looked around. “The report said he was struck by lightning. Was it wrong?”

    “It wasn't wrong.” Krieg made his voice firm. “Kellerman even confirmed that there had been a lightning strike.”

    “Well, obviously she didn't strike him with fuckin' lightning.” Brad's tone was dismissive. “But it was raining hard as shit, and she got him up there. Deliberate, if you ask me. Bitch set him up.”

    “Hold on a minute.” Victor was leaning back in his chair, elaborately casual. “You're saying that Purity deliberately set up Kaiser to be struck by lightning?” His entire attitude radiated disbelief. “Do you think she forced him to hold up a metal spike, too?”

    The murmur that went around the table was not missed on Hookwolf, who shot Victor an ugly look. “It's fuckin' obvious what happened. She got him up there, and lit up, gettin' ready to zorch him. But she either choked, or he just beat her to the draw. One metal spike later, and he punched her ticket.”

    “And then he got struck by lightning,” Victor reminded them all. “I mean, that's grade-school stuff. You don't stand around on buildings in a thunderstorm holding a metal spike over your head. I know that. You know that. Kaiser knew that. Except that, you know, he did it anyway.”

    “Which brings up another problem,” Krieg added. “It's already hit the street. People already know that Kaiser got himself electrocuted by holding up a metal spike in a thunderstorm. It's not doing our credibility any good.” Such an ignoble end, he knew, would haunt Kaiser's memory forever.

    “So we get it back.” Hookwolf hit the table again, and his mask juddered against the wood. “Purity was the reason Kaiser was on that roof. If we put her in the ground, it'll show our strength. Nobody'll want to fuck with us.”

    “Well, actually, no,” Victor said. “When she was upright and healthy, Purity was a good target. Right now, she's in a goddamn hospital bed with a stab wound. If we take her out, we look like petty assholes. She's got a kid, for Chrissakes. Kaiser's kid. Two of 'em, if you count Theo.”

    “There's a third, actually,” Krieg pointed out. “I've been over the police reports.” There were exclamations of surprise around the table, but he didn't think it was over the fact that he had access to police reports. “And I've been looking at the paperwork Kaiser had with him when he died. He's got an heir who's neither Theo nor Aster. A girl, a few months older than Theo. She's actually why he was there in the first place.”

    “The fuck?” demanded Hookwolf. “When the fuck did this happen?” Metal shards slid out of his skin then retracted again.

    “About seventeen years ago, while he was still in college, apparently,” Krieg said. “The narrative, as far as I can determine, goes like this. Kaiser was seeing the girl's mother back then, and she fell pregnant to him. He also fell for her, hard. But Allfather disagreed, so he sent the woman away. Kaiser recently located her, and discovered she had a daughter. She works for Medhall, so he had her transferred back, along with her daughter. By some odd coincidence, the girl was at Purity's apartment with a group of friends when Kaiser showed up, seeking to take her away. The girl was unwilling, and hit him in the face with a plate of pasta before making a run for it.”

    He paused as chuckles made a round of the table. The mental image of the ever-immaculate Kaiser with pasta on his face was somewhat amusing.

    “So she got up on to the roof,” Victor said thoughtfully.

    “Correct,” Krieg agreed. “He followed. Purity had arrived home sometime around then – the details are sketchy on that point – and she confronted him. So he stabbed her. According to the witness statements, she didn't light up at all. Just stood there, between him and the girl. She went down and he was about to decapitate her when lightning struck the blade.” He paused. “Oh, and there's also a police report about Kaiser showing up to the mother's apartment and assaulting the man she was with. Beating him quite badly, in fact.”

    Silence fell around the table, as each of the capes digested this. “Well, shit,” Crusader remarked. “That kind of puts a different spin on things, doesn't it?”

    “It does indeed,” Krieg said. “It appears that Kaiser's judgement regarding this woman and her daughter was … flawed. In fact, I'm wondering if we shouldn't step back from this whole episode and distance ourselves from it.”

    “What?” Hookwolf stared from face to face around the table. “You're shitting me! This isn't how the Empire does business! We get fucked over, we go after whoever did the fucking, and we make a fucking example. We make sure nobody ever thinks to try that shit again!”

    “There comes a point in business, as in everything else, when you have to step back and cut your losses,” Krieg said, trying not to lose his patience with the shirtless man. “If we 'avenge' Kaiser, we then have to accept the rest of the narrative. The girl he was killed over has been named as his heir, his successor. Are you willing to have a sixteen year old girl as your boss? Because that's what the paperwork says.”

    Victor rubbed his chin. “What's the other option? We just … disavow Kaiser? Write him off?”

    “It would've been far harder while he was alive,” Krieg admitted. “And in fact, I wouldn't even be considering this course of action if he was. But look at the facts. He screwed up massively in more ways than one. He died because he forgot an elementary rule of safety. I have no doubt that the jokes are already circulating on the Internet.”

    “So what do we do?” Crusader asked the question for them all.

    “We close ranks. Move on. Spread the word that Kaiser had become dangerously erratic, and paid the ultimate price for it. We might even spread the rumour that we dealt with him ourselves, so as to contain the damage for the good of the Empire. It's not even too far from how I suspect he took over from Allfather, back in the day.” Krieg straightened his cuffs. “If we distance ourselves from him fast enough, all this stops being an Empire thing and starts being a Kaiser thing. Yes, we take a hit, but not as big as if we publicly accept Kaiser's stupidity as our own. We present strong leadership and we move on. We did it when Allfather died, and we can do it now.”

    “And the heir?” Victor asked the question, his eyes intent.

    Krieg smiled coldly. “If we disavow him, we disavow her. It's doubtful that she'll try anything publicly. If she does try anything, we can ignore her or disappear her, whichever is more convenient. I'm certainly not going to be handing over the reins of this organisation to some teenager who hasn't the first idea of what the Empire is all about.”

    “And what about fuckin' Purity?” demanded Hookwolf. “She killed Kaiser!”

    “Well, actually, she didn't,” Victor pointed out. “He waved his blade around in a thunderstorm. After he chased a teenage girl on to the roof.”

    “She was there!” raged Hookwolf. “She was standing against him when he died! If she'd just stepped aside, he'd still be alive!”

    Krieg frowned. “I find your logic tenuous at best. If she'd been actively opposing him, she could have blasted him into his component atoms before he ever laid a blade on her. She obviously didn't. And in fact, she didn't even light up.”

    “Bitch was married to him.” Hookwolf's tone was as surly as his expression. “She knew not to fuck with him.”

    “That doesn't make his actions look any better.” Victor shook his head. “In fact, it looks like him turning on her, rather than the other way around. Stabbing the mother of his child. That's not the image we want to embrace.”

    “Well, you can 'embrace' all the 'image' you want, but I still say she needs to die,” Hookwolf stated stubbornly. “And since I figured you weren't gonna do shit, I already took care of it myself.”

    Krieg half-stood, foreboding spreading through his mind at the cage-fighter's triumphant expression. “What have you done?” He glanced around the table again. “Where's Cricket?”

    Hookwolf leaned back in his chair and showed his teeth in a lazy grin. “Doing what you shoulda already done. Takin' care of business.”

    <><>​

    At the Same Time

    Cricket eased her way over the ceiling tiles, careful not to rest too much of her weight in any one area. Dust drifted down around her, but she refused to let herself sneeze. It hadn't been the easiest thing in the world to infiltrate the hospital, but she had managed it. She'd even pulled it off without killing more than one or two people, too. Not because she was concerned about killing people, but because dead bodies lying around could raise the alarm just as readily as live ones could.

    She was fully aware of Hookwolf's ideas about the 'warrior code' and all that shit; she just didn't think that way herself. There was no guilt in her mind over the fat security guard who'd nearly gotten his hand on his radio before she silenced him, and if the nurse she'd choked out failed to recover, that wasn't her problem either. They were standing between her and a certain bitch who needed to die, so they suffered the consequences.

    Carefully, she hooked the tip of her kama under the edge of one panel and levered it upward. Once she could get a grip with her fingertips, she lifted it farther and peered through the gap thus opened. The information she'd wrung out of the nurse was correct; if that wasn't Purity in the bed down below, she'd eat both her sickles without salt. Tucking the sickle away in her belt, she soundlessly lifted the panel out of its seating and slid it aside. She wouldn't be coming back this way, but there was no sense in alerting the target before time.

    Purity was still lying in bed, eyes closed, by the time Cricket was ready to make her move. Some might consider that killing an injured enemy was somehow wrong. Hookwolf would've come in loud, depending on his durability to survive long enough to land a hit. Cricket didn't share his 'warrior culture' ideas, either. Her view was that the best time to kill someone was when they didn't expect it, especially if that someone was able to blast you into a fine mist. Pulling herself forward, she let her upper body fall forward through the gap, catching the edge of the hole at the last moment to bring her legs around. An instant later, she released her grip on the ceiling frame and dropped lightly on to her feet, five feet from the bed. The moment her feet hit the floor, she drew the right-hand sickle.

    Purity was just starting to blink her way awake when Cricket lunged forward, kama raised. The weapon slashed down with all the force in her arm, razor-edged blade on target toward Purity's heart. Purity being awake was an extremely dangerous proposition for her. While the ex-Empire cape's blinding glow wouldn't work against Cricket's sonar, one blast would quite literally take her apart at the seams.

    At what had to be the last possible instant, Purity rolled away from the strike. Already fully committed, Cricket felt the blade bury itself in the mattress. Before she could pull it out, Purity rolled back into place with a pepper-spray canister in her hand, her back pinning the kama into the mattress. Despite the unexpected development, Cricket reacted fast; even as the canister hissed and dispensed its load, she let go the kama and dropped to the floor, rolling under the bed.

    Cricket didn't waste time castigating herself. Purity was awake and aware of the danger, which made the situation one of extreme peril. She wasn't sure exactly how badly the stab-wound inflicted by Kaiser was affecting Purity, but she knew just how powerful the petite woman's blasts could be. Basically, she had two options; kill Purity fast, or get the hell out. While 'get the hell out' was actually her preferred choice right at that second, she didn't rate her chances as being very high, so 'kill Purity fast' was going to have to be it.

    With that in mind, she kept rolling, heading for the other side of the bed. Hiding wasn't going to cut it. When it came to Purity's blasts, buildings only counted as visual cover. So she had to get within arms' reach, preferably without a mattress between them. Fleetingly, she considered kicking the bed over, but she didn't quite think she could pull it off fast enough to disable Purity. Her second kama was already in her hand as she came up on the other side. Strike first, strike fast, keep hitting her till you know she's dead.

    With that thought in mind, she came up on to her knees – right into a cloud of that damn spray. It felt like her eyeballs had caught fire; just in time, she remembered to let go her kama before clawing at her eyes through the metal cage. The hasty roll had depleted her air and she involuntarily sucked in a breath, searing her nasal passages and lungs with yet more of that shit. Some part of her demanded that she retrieve her weapons and finish the mission, but she didn't have the eyesight or the breath to do so.

    Vaguely, she felt her wrists being cuffed behind her. She tried to fight, but the agony permeating every square inch of her mucous membranes was too great. As she was half-carried, half-dragged away, she was aware of two things. One, everything from the neck up was in flaming agony. Two, she had failed.

    She wasn't sure which hurt more.

    <><>​

    Kayden

    As the PRT goons finished bagging Cricket's weapons – the villain herself had already been dragged out – Kayden looked up at Miss Militia. “Yes?”

    The hero sighed. “Now will you take the threat seriously? Cricket could've easily killed you if you weren't paying attention at the right time. The PRT can protect you.” Either she was a good actor, or she actually cared about Kayden's well-being.

    However, Kayden still wasn't buying it. “You did a great job this time. Oh, wait. You didn't. A supervillain waltzed straight past you and made a serious attempt on my life. I had to stop her with consumer-grade pepper spray.” Which was the story she'd be telling everyone. After all, the only people who needed to know the truth were the ones who already knew it.

    “The next time, you might not be so lucky.” Miss Militia took a deep breath. “Please, accept PRT protection so that we can take you someplace more secure.”

    “I'm going nowhere with you,” Kayden stated flatly. “Not while you're still accusing me of being a supervillain myself. Who knows, someone might get the idea to lock me up on suspicion. And if I can't get access to a lawyer, I can't prove my innocence.” It's probably what I'd do, in her place.

    From the way the hero's mouth twisted under the scarf, the implication had not gone unnoticed. “My other reason for wanting to move you is that Cricket killed a man getting in here, and hurt a nurse while questioning her about your whereabouts. While I can't force you to come with us, I'm reasonably certain the hospital administration will be along very shortly to ask you to vacate the premises, for the good of all. Where else will you go?”

    Kayden shrugged; not an easy trick while lying down, but an effective one. “Anywhere but to the PRT.”

    “Fine. Just be aware, the PRT can't maintain a guard on the hospital for too long, and we can't maintain a guard on you anywhere else at all. We have other duties.”

    Kayden waved in the general direction of the door. “Take them away, already. I'll be fine.” She held up the expended pepper-spray capsule. “You've got a prisoner. Go talk to her.”

    Miss Militia turned on her heel and stalked to the door. On the point of opening it, she turned back toward Kayden for a moment. “One more thing. Where did you get the pepper spray from?”

    That was actually a very good question, but Kayden had no intention of answering it. “Oh, somewhere around about. A woman has to be aware of her own safety, you know.”

    “I see.” Miss Militia's tone was sour. She stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her.

    A long moment passed, then the door to the tiny bathroom opened. Janet emerged and crossed the room to Kayden's bed, walking quietly. She sat down in the chair that Miss Militia had vacated. “You all right?” she asked.

    “No new stab wounds,” Kayden assured her, trying to make a joke of it. “That's a very impressive power you have. How did you make the pepper spray move around like that?” It had been downright uncanny; moments from dispersing, the cloud of pepper spray had condensed back together and streamed back over Kayden without quite touching her, just in time to take Cricket in the face.

    “It's carried in a mist of water droplets,” Janet said tonelessly. “And that's my power, right there.” She took a deep breath. “I could've locked her limbs and clonked her over the head with something, or even frozen her diaphragm and made her suffocate. But Taylor warned me that being too cute with my powers could lead to me being revealed too soon.” Her right hand rubbed over the stump of her left wrist, a habit Kayden had noticed earlier. “So I decided to do it this way.”

    Kayden frowned. “Locked her limbs? The same way you moved me?” She paused. “Thanks for that, by the way. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to move fast enough.”

    “Got it in one,” Janet agreed, acknowledging the thanks with a wan smile. “My range for that level of control isn't great, but you were both inside it. The human body's about sixty percent water, which gives me plenty of leverage.” The way her expression changed, however, told another story.

    “You didn't want to,” Kayden guessed. “Is there a reason why? Did something bad happen when you got your powers?” This was more than a cliché; if the news was to be believed, it happened more often than not.

    Janet shook her head. “I got my powers when something bad happened, not the other way around. But … I don't like using them. I never will enjoy it. And using it on someone's body … ugh.” She shuddered feelingly. “Pass.”

    “But you did it with me … wait.” Kayden frowned. “Sixty percent? Really? I thought it was more like seventy-five or eighty or something.”

    “That was to save your life. Anything short of that, not if I can help it.” Janet shook her head. “And nope, it's only sixty. Blame the same people who keep spreading the ten-percent myth about the human brain.”

    “Right. Well, thank you for saving my life. Again.” Kayden gave Janet a smile. “And I'm sorry you had to use your power if you dislike it so much, but on the other hand I'm grateful that you saved me with it.”

    Janet's return smile was tentative. “Well, if I'm going to be joining the team, I might as well make myself useful, right?” It was almost a joke.

    Kayden decided to take her words at face value. “Well, that makes sense. And it's somewhat of a relief.”

    “A relief?” Janet tilted her head questioningly. “How so?”

    Kayden rolled her eyes. “I was dreading being the only responsible adult in a team composed of teenagers. Wouldn't you be?”

    “Oh.” For a moment, Janet looked startled. “I hadn't thought of that.” From the look on her face, she was now imagining it. She didn't seem to be enjoying the prospect. “Do me a favour? Get well soon?”

    Kayden chuckled, then regretted it as a spasm of pain reminded her of the injury. “I'll do my best.”

    <><>​

    Krieg

    “You had no right!” bellowed Krieg, his face red with anger. He stood at his place, his chair forgotten behind him. Alongside him stood Victor and Othala. “That kind of unilateral action was rash and unnecessary!”

    “I had every fuckin' right!” Hookwolf retorted, also on his feet. Steel plated most of his torso, and sharp points decorated the rest. Metal claws were already defacing the varnished wood before him. “Kaiser's death was her fault! She had to pay!”

    “Oh, come on,” Victor snapped. “Kaiser stabbed her, then waved his sword around in a thunderstorm! You can't honestly say she planned that through!”

    “She confronted him on that roof,” Stormtiger said, adding his voice to Hookwolf's. “The guilt is at least partly hers.” He jerked his chin up. “And in any case, if you were really serious about saving her life, you would've already called the PRT.”

    “The cost would be too great.” Krieg felt no shame in admitting this. “If it got out that the Empire had knowingly colluded with the enemy, our name would be reviled throughout Brockton Bay and beyond. The Empire would lose far too much face. Better we wait to see how it goes down, then act accordingly.”

    “Which might just involve a news story about Cricket being blasted through a skyscraper.” Crusader's voice was thoughtful. “Are we ready for something like that?”

    Krieg made his mind up. “If Cricket is captured or killed in an attempt to assassinate Purity, we will disavow her. Purity walked away from us once already; on balance, I suspect that she'll be willing to leave us alone if we do the same.”

    “The fuck?” Hookwolf gouged fresh holes in the table. “We're not gonna just drop Cricket like a hot potato! If she goes down, we go after whoever did it! If she gets captured, we break her out!”

    “Well, let's hope it doesn't …” Krieg paused as his phone rang. With some small relief he pulled it out. This argument had been circling around the same points for the last ten minutes, and he despaired of ever convincing Hookwolf. “Hello?”

    Sir, this is Brooks on Intake. I just got word that they're bringing in Cricket.”

    He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. “Please say that again.”

    They're bringing Cricket in. She tried to kill someone at the Brockton Bay General Hospital, and got taken down hard.”

    So he hadn't misheard. “Thank you. Keep me posted.”

    Yes, sir. Uh, gotta go.”

    Krieg ended the call and placed the phone on the table. “Well, the time for what-ifs is over. It's time for the hard decisions.”

    “The fuck's that supposed to mean?” Hookwolf glared at him suspiciously. More metal slid out and covered his upper shoulders.

    “Cricket just tried to kill Purity.” Krieg took another deep breath. “She's now in PRT custody.” Hookwolf began to speak, but Krieg raised his voice to speak over him. “I don't know if she succeeded, but I don't think so. Our big question here is this: do we own this, or do we step back and leave her to the consequences of her actions?” He already knew which way he was going.

    “The fuck?” Hookwolf was already leaning forward over the table. “You're even asking that? We get her out! She's Empire!”

    “But if we break her loose, we tell everyone we're okay with her trying to murder Purity,” Victor pointed out. “Do we want that?”

    Hookwolf stared at him, as if he were unable to understand what the skill-thief was saying. “I told her to fuckin' do it! Of course I'm okay with that!”

    Krieg loosed a pulse of kinetic energy that jolted the room and made everyone turn toward him. “The last thing we need right now is divisiveness in the ranks. The Empire has to show a unified face to Brockton Bay. I will permit no more unilateral action until we've worked out where we're going with this. Is that clear?”

    “No, it isn't fuckin' clear.” Hookwolf jabbed his thumb at his chest. “I was Kaiser's second in command, just like you. You don't 'permit' shit around me.” Turning away from the table, he knocked his chair over on his way to the door.

    “Where are you going?” Krieg's voice cracked across the room like a whip.

    “To do what needs to be done.” Hookwolf didn't look around. “Bust Cricket out and fix up your fuckin' mess.”

    “If you walk out that door, don't bother coming back.” Krieg knew the threat wasn't likely to work, but he had to try.

    This time, Hookwolf did turn around. “Fuck you.” He surveyed the rest of the Empire, still at the table. “Who's with me?”

    Stormtiger reacted immediately, followed by Alabaster. Krieg had expected the first, but not the second. As they moved to join Hookwolf, he tried one more time. “Walk out that door and you're out of the Empire. This isn't something you can come back from.”

    Hookwolf was already out the door. As Stormtiger exited, Alabaster turned to look back at Krieg. “What the hell. It sounds like fun.” Then he was gone, too.

    There was a long moment of silence as their footsteps died away, then Crusader spoke. “Well, shit. That happened.”

    Looking at the remnants of the Empire Eighty-Eight, Krieg could only wonder what was going to happen next. Whatever it was, he wasn't looking forward to it.



    End of Part Eleven

    Part Twelve
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
    SamPardi, otakumick, Alayne and 28 others like this.
  5. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Ah... that's some sneaky Janet there. And a nice and plausible way to split up the nazis. Krieg should be grateful he lost his loose cannons.
     
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  6. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Wait... Janet isn't manton limited? I wonder if she double-Triggered, like Taylor did.

    If she still has the possibility of a second Trigger, and she's already not manton limited...
     
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  7. Xilph

    Xilph Well worn.

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    Her power is being totally not Leviathan, perfectly possible she's just that powerful.

    Also, given her trigger event and her power it's going to be really damn hard to induce a second trigger without doing something like surgically grafting hatchetface onto her. Second triggers working best if relevant to the original trigger was a thing right? And water control kind of stops pretty much every aspect of her trigger event from being a threat, and also stops pretty much everyone else from being a threat.
     
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  8. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yes, Janet can affect the interior of a person's body. But she doesn't like doing it, at all. In fact, she dislikes using her powers, full stop.
     
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  9. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    Arn't powers rigged to make the users want to use them?
     
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  10. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Second Triggers can happen a few ways:
    A) A Trigger is Traumatic enough.
    B) A Trigger leaves the user unable to use the shard properly. (I think only living Zion shards can do this, since it's basically the Shard pinging other nearby Shards saying "Help! I'm about to kill my Host! How do I fix this?!")
    C) An event happens that mirrors the Trigger in some way.

    Taylor was a bit of A and a bit of B.
    Brian was C.

    Of note is that the second Trigger event for group C has to induce emotions similar to, or stronger than, the original Trigger, not necessarily mirror the event itself.
    Not entirely, powers are rigged to make their hosts more prone to conflict. The powers just make themselves the best avenue for that.

    Pretty sure the need to use powers is mostly fanon (or at least is a lot weaker than in fanon).
     
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  11. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Scapegoat canonically hated his powers.

    Note that sometimes Janet's powers will manifest without her wanting them to. Bingo, conflict.
     
  12. MrHam31

    MrHam31 Getting sticky.

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    How it must burn Miss Militia to have Purity right where she wants her and she can't arrest her.

    Actually, Ack, what are Purity's crimes? As a Blaster destruction of property, assault with a parahuman power? Has she killed anyone? And can they prove it?
     
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  13. Malcanthet

    Malcanthet Shy Adorable Arachne

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    IIRC Purity has a double-digit body count in Canon. Most of that was listed as indirect killings. That said her power is known for extensive collateral damage.
     
  14. alethiophile

    alethiophile Shadowed Philosopher Administrator

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    In the general case, her crime is "gang enforcer". Specific actions she's taken as a gang enforcer take second place to the fact that she's actively aligned herself against the legitimate government.

    (Of course, such notions become fuzzy in Worm with the unwritten rules and such.)
     
  15. SwiftRosenthal

    SwiftRosenthal Well worn.

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    Lisa never claimed that the unspoken rules applied to terrorists or major gangs, just D-listers like U&L and the start-of-canon Undersiders.

    Furthermore, if those rules had any legal weight, they would actually be written.
     
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  16. alethiophile

    alethiophile Shadowed Philosopher Administrator

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    Of course they don't have legal weight. That's (one reason) why the status quo is so fragile.

    They do, however, mean that Miss Militia is not taking nearly as vigorous an action as conventional theories of political authority would justify against one of the major powers in an active criminal gang and/or rebellious army. Which is what provides the tension in the first place.
     
  17. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    You need to remember that said political authority has long since been made into what is effectively a Contessa puppet. Added on is the fact that Miss Militia is a Good Soldier, in that she will follow her orders to the hilt, regardless of how she feels about them.

    Re-read her Interlude. I did that to clear up my headcanon of her and my opinion of her dropped about a dozen notches. When she went with the American to prevent herself from becoming an Enforcer for whatever gang got their hands on her, she failed miserably. She was instead well trained to not think and to follow the orders of her superiors, said superiors in actuality being a massively illegal organization usurping the legitimate government of...well, everywhere they can manage. MM is nothing but a well trained Enforcer who follows the orders she is given, often without a second thought about if they're right or not, just like a Good Soldier.

    To clarify before I trigger people, I'm using the term Good Soldier derogatorily to describe the soldiers who use "I was under orders" to justify whatever atrocity they committed, when in reality a decent soldier is supposed to deny unethical orders and possibly report the one who gave said orders. At least to my understanding anyway, I'm in no way an expert.
     
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  18. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    No, a soldier is expected to refuse illegal orders. That's a very big difference.
     
  19. alethiophile

    alethiophile Shadowed Philosopher Administrator

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    Honestly, the definition of "war crimes" depends on who wins the war, and so there is not, and cannot be, any actually coherent standard about what soldiers are expected to do about orders which are borderline.

    However, despite her styling, Miss Militia is not a soldier, she's a cape. Which have completely different social contexts involved, even for those under government authority. And in this case, being a cape definitely means that you follow the unwritten rules, regardless of whether the written laws involved would justify more overt action against Kayden.
     
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  20. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Game, set, match.
    [​IMG]
    :D:p
     
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  21. Threadmarks: Part Twelve: Cashing in a Diplomacy Check
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Alea Iacta Est

    Part Twelve: Cashing in a Diplomacy Check

    [A/N: This chapter beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]



    Weymouth Mall Food Court
    Sunday, January 30, 2011
    Amy Dallon


    The churro was still warm from the oven, but they'd over-sugared it slightly. Amy wiped some of the sweet powder from the corner of her mouth, then spotted something that turned down her enjoyment of the day a little. “Don't look now, Vicky, but I think you've got fans incoming.” Specifically, zeroing in on the Dallon sisters were two girls; one was almost certainly still in middle school, while the other was a couple of years older.

    “Hey, can I help it if I'm a celebrity?” Vicky turned toward the two girls, displaying her most brilliant smile and quite literally turning on the charm. Amy felt the aura as it pushed out; not at full strength, thankfully. She didn't feel like having to bring around someone who'd fainted from sheer excitement at meeting their idol … again. Idol. Yeah, as if. She knew she could shock anyone who held Vicky on a pedestal with the news that Glory Girl was nowhere near perfect. But with all that, Amy still loved her helplessly. Shows what an idiot I am.

    “Hi!” It was the redhead, taller than her friend, with brilliant green eyes and a personality almost as forceful as Vicky's own. “I'm new in town, and when Dinah here told me that the actual real Glory Girl was here, I just had to meet you. Seriously, I've got all your action figures and your pyjama line and every t-shirt they ever made. Oh my god, you're even prettier in person!”

    Amy couldn't be certain, but she was pretty sure the girl had said all that without stopping for breath even once. Vicky was drinking up the adulation as always; while the younger girl wasn't quite as vocal—not to mention, she didn't really have the option of getting a word in edgewise—she was still quite attentive, holding out a notepad and pen. Autograph time again.

    Vicky would be at this for quite a while. As her sister laughingly replied to the redhead with a question about where she was from, Amy wandered over to find someplace to sit and finish her churro. So much for a quiet day out with my sister. She would've thought that the Weymouth Mall—quiet if not totally deserted on a Sunday—was perfect for such an outing. This was apparently not the case. Not for the first time, she envied other capes their secret identities. Though, to be honest, she wasn't sure exactly how long Vicky would be able to maintain something like that. She loved the attention too much.

    “Hi. Can we talk?” The question caught Amy by surprise, and she looked around to see that a girl of around her own age had sat down on the same bench, leaving a discreet spacing between them. Skinnier than most, she had long black curly hair and round-lensed glasses, which only intensified her serious expression. Her gaze was steady and unwavering, making Amy wonder briefly if there was something caught between her teeth. There was also something vaguely familiar about her, but Amy couldn't quite tell what.

    “Uh, who are you?” Amy stared at the newcomer, then over at the other two, who were talking with Vicky; or rather, the redhead was chatting nineteen to the dozen, while the younger brunette was interjecting the occasional word here and there. By accident or design, they'd moved in such a way that Vicky was facing away from her, so she couldn't even get her sister's attention by waving. “What do you want?” Carefully, she reminded herself that if this girl was a creepy stalker fan, it would only take one touch to disable her.

    “Relax.” One corner of the slender girl's mouth crept upward in a brief half-smile. “This is nothing bad. I just want to talk to you about superhero matters, actually.” She turned to face Amy, bringing one knee up on to the bench seat and resting her arm on the back of the seat. Amy, noting that this would make it harder for them to get closer, let a little of the tension out of her body.

    “So talk to Vicky.” She didn't try very hard to keep the bitterness out of her voice. “She's the Alexandria package.” Everyone else in New Wave had a bright, flashy costume and powers to match. Panacea, on the other hand … could heal people. Well, she could do a lot more than that, but it was all about public perception. And while she did get a certain amount of recognition, it was all about being able to heal people. She couldn't, or rather didn't, do anything to people who weren't already injured or unwell. Vicky, on the other hand, could bench-press an SUV for an admiring crowd, and had done so on more than one occasion.

    “Actually, we've already got a heavy hitter.” To Amy's ear, the girl's voice held a certain amount of amusement. “We're interested in recruiting you, not Glory Girl. That's if you're interested, of course.” She leaned back a little, as if to watch the effect her words had on Amy. Behind her glasses, her eyes hadn't lost any of their intense nature.

    Amy blinked, then shook her head. “Wait, what again now?” She stared at the teenager in front of her. “You can't be seriously saying what I think you're saying. You want to poach me from New Wave?” A small part of her mind tried to figure out when she'd last been made an offer like that, and fell short. It had been a long time; maybe years? Certainly nothing recently, and definitely not by any of the Brockton Bay capes.

    The closest that she could recall of anyone suggesting that she leave New Wave would've been the time Youth Guard had checked out the team. She'd been briefed, along with Vicky and Crystal and Eric, by Carol and Aunt Sarah; to say and do nothing that might give the activist group the slightest excuse to come down on them. Thereafter, she'd spoken to an oddly intense woman who (in Amy's opinion) talked down to her like a child. This hadn't endeared the interviewer to her, and her replies had been brief and very much to the point, despite attempts to draw her out. Much later, she'd realised that much of the questioning had been aimed at coaxing her into an admission that New Wave wasn't supplying her needs as a person. While Amy hadn't been entirely honest with the woman, she justified it by noting that she already lied to Vicky, the public and herself; what was one more? And if anyone was going to cut her ties with New Wave, it was going to be her, not some overly-officious busybody.

    “I … guess so?” the girl replied, after apparently giving the matter a little thought. “Though 'poaching' sounds weird. I'm just asking if you'd like to be a part of our team at some point.” Her tone was matter-of-fact, as if she were offering to share a sandwich with Amy. Want some of my lunch? Want to be a part of our team?

    Amy glanced around, but there was nobody within listening distance. “Okay, so you're a cape,” she said quietly. “And you're forming a team, and you want me on it.” She glanced toward Vicky, then did a double-take. She had no idea where Vicky had gotten the marker pen from, but the red-headed girl had pulled up the back of her t-shirt, and Vicky was carefully autographing the girl's lower back. Shaking her head slightly, she turned back toward the brunette. “Are your friends capes too, or are they just the designated distraction? Is this whole thing just an excuse to get bragging rights for having me as a bestie? Because I don't do besties.”

    “One of them is, yes,” the girl confirmed at once. “But this is a legitimate team we're forming. We don't have a name or even costumes yet, but one of us is a Thinker who specialises in … well, management. She's got a power that lets her pick out the very best people for a specific job, and advise them on how to do it most efficiently. And apparently 'being part of our team' is a job she can zero in on.” She smiled and spread her hands. “Also, I'm a precog. My power gave us a better than fifty percent chance of recruiting you, but with a strong chance you won't say yes immediately, so this is more of a heads-up than a full recruitment pitch.” She held out her hand. “And I just realised that I never introduced myself. I'm Taylor. It's nice to meet you.”

    Automatically, Amy shook the proffered hand, wondering if she should get up and go over to Vicky, or let Taylor keep talking. Glancing in that direction, she could tell that the redhead, her shirt back in place, was telling some sort of dirty joke. The younger girl—Dinah, if she recalled correctly—was blushing to the roots of her hair, and Vicky was of course laughing her head off. When she looked back at Taylor, the respite had allowed her to collect her thoughts; some less than pleasant notions were suggesting themselves to her. Her voice was a little more curt as she replied. “Yeah, hi. I'm guessing you already know who I am. One more question; did you pick my name out of a hat, or were you simply interested in getting a team healer for free? Because I don't do personal requests, and I don't join other teams out of the blue just because someone asks.”

    “Actually, neither.” Taylor leaned forward, her expression earnest. “I wouldn't even be here if my power hadn't given the result that it did. We just got the impression that you'd do a good job with us, and you'd be happier and better off as a result. We've been letting our powers guide us to our potential recruits and as a result, we've got two definites and a maybe.” The corner of her mouth quirked upward again. “I think you'll be kinda surprised when you learn who else is going to be on the team.”

    Amy began to wonder exactly who she might be referring to; there weren't all that many independent capes in Brockton Bay, after all. More to the point, who would the heavy hitter be? Even if they could convince someone from the Protectorate or Wards to join their group (yeah, as if), the honest truth was that nobody on either team was really in Vicky's league as far as being a 'heavy hitter' went. She rejected out of hand the notion that they might have recruited Lung or someone from the Empire (because hahahahanope), which left the pickings rather bare. This train of thought ended up in a logical conundrum; if Taylor was telling the truth, her team had managed to recruit a heavy hitter Amy had never heard of. But everyone had heard of the heavy hitters out there. It was kind of a factor in being a heavy hitter.

    The trouble was, her handshake with Taylor had given Amy an insight into the shape of Taylor's thoughts, as well as other aspects. While she shied away from actually affecting peoples' brains, she had no problem looking at them and interpreting what was going on in there. As such, it was easy for her to determine that yes, Taylor had an active gemma. However, she was also exhibiting all the telltales of cautious honesty; while she wasn't lying, or even being directly deceptive, there were things she wasn't telling Amy yet. Which made Amy kind of curious; although she knew she should get up and walk away—the very idea of trying to recruit her was ridiculous—she didn't feel like it, quite yet. I'll listen to her spiel, then shoot her down before we go. Besides, Vicky seemed to be in the middle of telling one of her favourite cape stories, the one about Mouse Protector and the jello monster. It would be mean to make her go before she got to the punchline.

    “Well, if you're gonna keep me in the dark, I'm never gonna know, am I?” Amy let some of her inner snark out with that line. She usually kept it leashed up, only to be inflicted on suitable targets, but none of the New Wave adults were around and Taylor had kind of asked for it. “And anyway, just a heads-up? Probably not the best idea to tell me your secret identity after revealing you're a cape.” Taylor didn't have to know Amy could tell she was one just from touch, after all. “You're kind of new at this, aren't you?”

    “Oh, you knew I was a cape as soon as you touched me,” Taylor replied breezily. Ignoring the look of shock on Amy's face—the fuck? How did she know?she went on as if discussing nothing more important than the weather. “And we go to the same school, so I doubt very much that a mask would help for very long. So I decided to come clean straight up. Anyway, I ran the numbers, and you've got a very low percentage chance of deciding to out me.”

    Amy stared at Taylor as a memory finally clicked into place. “That's where I've seen you before. You do go to Arcadia. I've seen you in the halls a few times. You transferred in just after the beginning of the semester, right? Someone said something about coming in from Winslow?” There'd been more than that; Amy had heard rumours about bullying and a locker, but she didn't know how much was true and she wasn't sure she wanted to pry.

    “Something like that, yeah.” Taylor cleared her throat then grimaced, looking more than a little uncomfortable. “Um, I know you just said you don't do private requests and I understand if you're not interested in joining us right now, but what's your view on healing people injured by parahumans, especially if by doing so you'd almost definitely save their life?” By the time she finished saying this, she was back to her intent look; this was obviously something that was important to her.

    Wait, what now? “Uh, you know you could've led with that.” Amy felt more than a little off balance. “This person is dying of their injuries, and you're wasting your time talking to me in a mall?” This didn't make sense; Taylor was altogether too calm for someone whose friend was in such a precarious state. When they'd made physical contact, she'd detected no real urgency in the skinny teen's mind.

    “It's a little more complicated than that.” The uncomfortable look came back, but only for a moment before switching out for a more measured expression, as if Taylor had changed her mind about what she was going to say at the last moment. “You know Kaiser's dead, right?”

    “Well, yeah.” If anyone in Brockton Bay hadn't heard, it was because they were living under a rock. An actual, literal rock. The PHO boards were full of reactions to the event, mainly hilarious; there was a whole thread dedicated to memes based around the fact that he'd apparently been struck by lightning in the middle of a thunderstorm while using his metal manipulation powers on a rooftop. Amy herself was curious about how he'd been killed; according to her high school physics textbook, the metal armour he habitually encased himself in should've conducted the electricity around him, especially if it was wet. Even if it cooked him a little, he should've survived the experience. But, for whatever reason, he obviously hadn't. Now the Empire Eighty-Eight was reportedly undergoing a certain level of chaos. “How is this connected to your friend?”

    “She was on the rooftop, too. About ten seconds before he was struck by lightning, he stabbed her in the stomach,” Taylor said in a totally matter-of-fact tone. “She's in good condition at the moment but there's already been one attempt on her life, and my power tells me Hookwolf and a couple of others are likely to try again. Meanwhile, she's flat on her back in a hospital bed, and there's only so much we can do to protect her.”

    This was too much. “Whoa, time out,” protested Amy, even going so far as to form the 'T' with her hands. “Details. I need details. What was your friend doing on that rooftop? What was Kaiser doing there? Why did he stab her? Why is the Empire trying to kill her if she had nothing to do with how he died? What aren't you telling me?”

    Taylor took a deep breath. “Yeah,” she said unhappily. “This is the bit you aren't going to like. But I want you to do me the favour of hearing me out before you make a judgement, okay?” Her eyes probed Amy's carefully. “It's really important. Please?”

    Amy bit her lip. She hated being blackmailed emotionally; Taylor wasn't Vicky, but she was still managing to pull it off somehow. “Okay, fine,” she said grudgingly. “I'm listening.” After all, what was the harm in finding out what Taylor wanted to tell her? If she didn't like it, all she had to do was say no. And from what Taylor had said, she wasn't going to like it. Still, she'd said she'd listen, so she was going to listen.

    “Okay.” Taylor paused for a moment. “I was going to open with how Kaiser was trying to kidnap a teenage girl, and the woman he stabbed was trying to stop him, but that's leaving out some very important details, and I don't want to make it look like I'm manipulating the narrative here, so this is the straight story.” Ignoring Amy's double-blink at the phrase 'manipulating the narrative', she went on. “Our heavy hitter is Purity. She's Kaiser's ex-wife and the mother of one of his three children. She left the Empire when she divorced him, and she been trying to become recognised as a hero ever since. We recruited her earlier this month, and it all happened at her apartment building. The girl Kaiser was trying to kidnap is his teenage daughter by a woman he knew years ago, who didn't want to go with him. He wanted to have her in his power to force her mother to come back to him. But she—”

    “Whoa!” Amy made the time-out gesture again. “Run that past me again, slowly. Purity is your heavy hitter? Empire Purity? And she's trying to go straight? How am I even supposed to believe that?” She stared at Taylor suspiciously. Was this some sort of con job to try to bring her into a villain team? Had Taylor even specified that she and her friends were heroes?

    Taylor shrugged. “I believe her. She got right into his face to prevent him from kidnapping his other daughter, and he nearly killed her for it. In fact, he was just about to finish the job when he was struck by lightning.” Which sounded frankly incredible, but something about the tale rang true. “Unfortunately, although my powers assured me the Empire wasn't going to cause trouble with Purity over this matter, it seems Hookwolf and a couple of his more violent friends have broken away from the organisation to take matters into their own hands. By killing Purity for 'betraying' Kaiser, as it happens. Cricket's already tried, and been brought into custody, but that was only the start. And in a hospital bed, Purity's kind of vulnerable.”

    Even though Amy had never encountered a precog with the level of precision Taylor seemed to be displaying before, it wasn't the first time she'd heard of Thinker powers being problematic with overly-specific answers. Asking the right questions, it seemed, was key to getting the right answers. Of course, knowing exactly what to ask was also very useful. In the meantime, this caused a useful query to occur to her. “So how come you haven't called in the PRT and Protectorate? If Purity honestly wants to go straight and needs protection at the same time, they should jump at this.” She didn't know that she would—Carol's views on villainous capes were hard to scrub out of her brain—but it was obvious that they needed all the heroic capes they could muster.

    “You'd think, but no.” Taylor crossed her arms, looking irritated. “She's been telling them for a while that she wants to go straight, but they're refusing to let her just step over the fence. They want her to turn herself in and face trial for her crimes first. Meanwhile, she's got a little baby girl who'd go to Kaiser, or would have anyway. And of course, after she got out, she'd never get her baby back. Kaiser was an asshole like that. And even though she never unmasked to the PRT, they've figured out who she is in her secret identity, but they just can't prove it. So they're pressuring her while she's flat on her back, trying to get her to out herself. And once again, if she gave herself up, she'd lose her kid to Child Services.” Taylor leaned closer and lowered her voice a little. “Just between you and me? If her baby ever got taken away, I think Purity would level a lot of Brockton Bay trying to get her back.”

    “Holy shit.” Amy shook her head slowly, her head spinning from the rapid-fire revelations. It seemed that Taylor's up-and-coming team had indeed recruited a member of the Empire—or at least an ex-member, which was still kind of ballsy—who the PRT could've had on their side, if they'd just pulled their heads out of their asses. She'd seen this sort of thing happen before; it seemed to be a failing of the bureaucratic mind, or something like that. But back to the matter at hand. “So … Hookwolf wants to kill Purity for defying Kaiser and getting him killed? And you just want me to … what? Heal her so she can be on her feet and able to defend herself when he comes for her next?”

    “It would be nice,” Taylor allowed. “Especially given that she's our only combat cape at the moment. There's one other, but that one's …” She paused, obviously trying to think of a word. “ … reluctant to fight,” she finished at last. “It's a special situation.” Her posture was more tense now that the elephant in the room had finally revealed itself. “Will you help? Please?”

    Amy rubbed her chin. “So, let me get this straight. You want to recruit me, because your precognition apparently said I might be interested in joining your team at some point. But more importantly, you want me to heal your one combat-capable member—who happens to be an ex-supervillain wanted for serious crimes in the service of the Empire—so that when Hookwolf tries to execute her, she's not a sitting target. Is that about it?” It was, she had to admit, a fairly unique situation; definitely not one she'd ever encountered before. And to be honest, the idea of quitting New Wave held an unexpected appeal. The only thing holding her in the team at the moment was Vicky, and even that was based around her pseudo-incestuous attraction to her sister, which she was going to admit to nobody.

    But if she moved teams, she'd no longer be near Vicky, and maybe she'd be able to attain some distance from that problem as well. She might even be able to move forward on her own. And given that at least two of the other members of the team were around her own age, she could have friends with whom she wasn't hopelessly in love. The idea of being on the same team as Purity was something she'd have to come to terms with, but if the woman wanted to be a hero, that was a good thing. Maybe she can give me tips on not giving in to bad impulses.

    Taylor nodded seriously. “That's about the long and the short of it,” she agreed. “I can take you to meet her and talk to her first, if you want. And, you know, meet the rest of us. Get to know us before you decide.” It wasn't obvious whether she meant the decision to heal Purity or to join the team, or perhaps both. “It's just that Hookwolf isn't gonna wait forever.”

    “Yeah, I got that.” “Amy rubbed her thumb over her lips, collecting the last of the sugar from the long-finished churro. She licked her thumb absently as she considered Taylor's words. “Give me your phone number,” she said at last. “I'll think about it and call you back.”

    Wordlessly, Taylor handed her a card with a cell-phone number on it. The speed with which she produced it was almost suspicious. Like she knew what I was going to say before I said it. Frickin' precogs. Amy took it and tucked it away. “Nice talk,” she said, and stood up.

    “Thanks for listening,” Taylor replied. Amy could see her wanting to reiterate her request, but she apparently had more self-control than that. “See you later?” Or maybe not.

    Amy already knew what her decision was going to be. “I said I'd think about it.” Raising her voice, she called out to Vicky. “Hey, if you're quite finished making out with your fans, Mom's expecting us home.”

    “Ames, geez, wow. Snarky much?” Vicky broke away from the other two, a broad grin on her face. “I'll call you guys, okay? We'll get together sometime.”

    As they walked from the mall, Amy could almost feel Taylor's gaze on the back of her neck as a palpable thing. She didn't turn around to confirm it, instead addressing her sister. “You were having a lot of fun there. Autographing another girl's butt? Is there something you need to tell me about?”

    “It wasn't her butt,” Vicky protested. “It was her back. And it was her idea, anyway. She said she was gonna get a photo taken, and get it tattooed on later. She was an absolute hoot. Dunno why you didn't come on over. I think you'd have liked her.” She chuckled reminiscently. “And wow, she tells rougher jokes than Uncle Neil does when he's had a few. I thought Dinah's eyebrows were gonna catch on fire, she was blushing so hard.”

    Amy didn't reply. At first she'd thought the redhead's attention to Vicky was merely a ruse to get her attention, but thinking back … asking someone to autograph her butt, or near enough, was more a groupie thing than a fan thing. Of course, Vicky didn't see it at all. She'd thought they were just chatting and having fun.

    Do I really want to get involved with these people, if that girl's got a thing for Vicky? What if Vicky decides she likes her back? She'd already told Taylor she'd think about it; of course, at that time her mind had been made up. But now, a tendril of jealousy was starting to worm its way into her certainty.

    I really am going to have to think about this.

    <><>​

    Monday Night (2330 Hours), 31 January 2011
    Outside Brockton Bay General Hospital
    Alabaster


    “Are you sure about this?” If it wasn't the fourth or fifth time Stormtiger had asked the question, it was probably the tenth or eleventh; Alabaster had lost count half an hour ago. He didn't have quite the same problems that the burly chain-wielding cage fighter did with waiting; for instance, he never suffered from cramps or loss of circulation. The boredom, on the other hand, was doing his head in. It only helped a little that he'd taken care to call shotgun in the van they'd 'liberated' for this job, given that the front seats were always more comfortable than the back. And of course, he could wind down the window for ventilation. That was really important, right now.

    “Certain.” Hookwolf didn't even seem to notice Stormtiger's irritation. Lounging in the driver's seat, he kept his eyes on the little-used side entrance to the hospital. “The receptionist I bribed told me for sure they were gonna be booting her before midnight. Cricket might not've gotten her, but she flushed the bitch out for us, all right. And once we take care of Purity, we see about busting Cricket out.” He leaned to one side, and Alabaster winced as a sound not unlike ripping canvas echoed through the van.

    The parking lot across the road from the hospital was deserted at this time of night, save for the van. Alabaster knew Hookwolf had picked the vehicle with that in mind; as a very common type of commercial vehicle, it would almost certainly go unnoticed parked overnight in a lot behind a series of shops. The location itself also offered an unparalleled view of the side entrance, which was the one good thing about it.

    There were two serious problems with being on stakeout like this. The first, of course, was the boredom. Alabaster liked to be active, a trait he was sure he shared with the two men in the vehicle with him. They couldn't have the internal lights on to read or play cards, because it would make the vehicle stand out in the parking lot like a beacon. A few beers might've helped, but Hookwolf had vetoed that idea; of the three of them, only Alabaster could guarantee to be able to hold his booze. In addition to not wanting any of them to be affected by alcohol at the wrong time, Hookwolf had said he didn't want people having to climb out for a piss every ten minutes. Which was bullshit in Alabaster's mind; if Stormtiger and Hookwolf wanted to be pussies, that was up to them, but he wouldn't have minded a cold one about then.

    They had brought along sandwiches and water, which was where the second problem had arisen. These was supposed to last them until the action started, but not being entirely on board with the idea of self-control—they were villains, after all—they'd eaten the lot in ten minutes. And he wasn't sure what Hookwolf had put in his, but the man had been farting on and off ever since. The hassle with having a body that renewed itself every four and a bit seconds was that Alabaster's sense of smell couldn't get desensitised to it. But as bad as he had it, Stormtiger had it worse; in the back, he was trapped with anything that wafted back there. No wonder he was bitching so much.

    “Fuck it,” Stormtiger said abruptly. “I'm getting out. I can't take—”

    “Shit! There she is!” Hookwolf pointed out of his window. Boredom forgotten—though he was never spending more than ten minutes in a car with Hookwolf ever again—Alabaster leaned over and peered across the road. Sure enough, visible through the glass sliding doors was a petite figure slumped over in a wheelchair, being pushed by a nurse. In the street outside, a sedan was just pulling to a halt. Alabaster had no idea where she'd gotten a ride from, given that Night and Fog were still out of town, but he didn't care all that much. Purity was in no shape to fight, and Hookwolf wasn't going to give her the chance to get away.

    Hookwolf turned the ignition key, but the engine refused to start. From the sound of it, the engine was turning over strongly, but none of the cylinders were firing. “Let it off and try it again,” Alabaster advised; he wasn't a mechanic, but he'd picked a few things up here and there. Sometimes, all that was needed was to give the engine a chance to start fresh, or at least that was the way he thought of it.

    It didn't work. The rhehr-rhehr-rhehr-rhehr of the van's engine fruitlessly turning over echoed from the rear of the shops, and Hookwolf cursed luridly. Alabaster saw his leg working and figured he was pumping the accelerator. Which sometimes worked, but sometimes made the problem worse.

    “You've fuckin' flooded it,” Stormtiger snapped from where he was sitting. “Ease off, you'll warn her.” Standing up from his seat, he slid open the side door with a bang. “You'll never get this piece of shit running in time. Let's just go get her.” Which was good advice, Alabaster decided, though he wondered how much of it was common sense thinking and how much was Stormtiger not wanting to share the back of the van with Hookwolf's flatulence any more.

    Opening his own door, Alabaster got out and headed around the nose of the van to join Hookwolf, while Stormtiger caught up with them a moment later. Across the road, the fall of the ground outside the side door necessitated steps for ambulant pedestrians, which meant a wheelchair ramp consisting of four switchbacks. Purity, still being wheeled by the nurse, was about halfway down to the second switchback. Alabaster checked that his pistol was still in its shoulder holster and quickened his pace; while he had no intention to rob Hookwolf of his prey, nor did he intend for her to get away for want of trying.

    They crossed the road at a brisk walk, with Hookwolf in the lead, Alabaster flanking him to the left and Stormtiger to the right. Stormtiger seemed to be breathing deeply of the night air, his chains clinking softly as he strode along. For his part, Alabaster wasn't sure about the sedan which was apparently there to pick up Purity. “What do we do about that?” he asked, indicating the car with a jerk of his head.

    “Tell 'em to fuck off,” Hookwolf said curtly. He didn't even look over at the car as he spoke, his attention fixed firmly on the figure slumped in the wheelchair. For a moment, Alabaster wondered if they were the victims of some hoax, until the light fell on her face and he recognised Kayden's features. She looked to be horrifically pale, worse than could be attributed to the harsh yellow glare of the street-lights, and her head lolled from side to side as the nurse rolled her along.

    Obediently, Alabaster peeled off toward the sedan, which was still waiting with its lights on and engine running. As he came up, the driver's side door opened and a skinny balding guy started to get out. Alabaster pulled his pistol and showed it to the guy. “Fuck off and you get to live,” he said bluntly. “Call the cops and you're a dead man.” Not that he could carry the latter threat through any time soon, but it was occasionally useful.

    The man scrambled back into the car and threw it into drive. Revving the engine, he powered it away from the curb, heading down the street. Alabaster watched it go, then looked back at Purity. The nurse pushing her had stopped on the last switchback and was watching them with a terrified expression on her face. She looked really young to be a nurse, and he wondered briefly if she was pre-med.

    Alabaster joined Stormtiger as the latter waited at the side of the road. Alone, Hookwolf approached Purity's wheelchair. He said something to the nurse, and she let go of the handles and backed off. The chair rolled forward a little, until Hookwolf stopped it with his foot. “Purity!” Alabaster heard him say. “You killed Kaiser. This is why you're gonna die.” There was no response from the woman in the chair. He shook the chair with his foot. “Purity!”

    “Why doesn't he just kill her?” Alabaster asked in an undertone. He hadn't killed all that many people, but to him it didn't matter whether they were awake, asleep or drugged out of their brains.

    “It's a thing with him,” Stormtiger said, equally quietly. “He likes them to see it coming.”

    “Purity!” Hookwolf's voice was louder. “You're going to die now!” He shook the chair again, blades sliding from his hands until they were masses of metallic talons. More metal covered his body, building him up until he was a hulking monstrosity. “Can you hear me?”

    And then Purity sat up in the chair. “I can hear you,” she said clearly. In that instant, she lit up to flashbulb levels of brightness … and Hookwolf exploded. Or rather, Alabaster realised as he picked himself up from the ground and pulled a length of metal from his abdomen, he'd been made to explode. As the ringing died away from his ears and his vision cleared, he saw that the chair was empty, but the brilliant light circling overhead made it all too clear where Purity had gotten to. Also, that Hookwolf's assessment of her not being in any shape to fight was fatally out of date. Still, she wasn't bulletproof, and he was holding a pistol. Raising the weapon, he shaded his eyes and aimed the gun at the brightest point in the sky. A moment later, just as he was about to squeeze the trigger, his hand cramped up and twisted in on itself. Unable to maintain his grip on the pistol, he let it clatter to the ground. What the fuck is going on here?

    Up above, Purity curved around and swooped in for an attack run. Alabaster was reasonably sure he'd survive anything but a direct hit. The trouble was, Purity's power wasn't exactly pinpoint, and he couldn't guarantee that she wouldn't get a direct hit on him, even if she was aiming at Stormtiger. That was why he turned and ran away from the tiger-masked man; without his pistol, he was of no use to anyone when it came to fighting the flying Blaster. It was not for nothing that she'd been the Empire's go-to big hitter for ten years.

    He was looking over his shoulder at her when she cut loose at Stormtiger. For an instant, he thought she'd missed altogether, as the spiralling blast of energy smashed into the street at Stormtiger's feet. But then, he realised her strategy; chunks of asphalt and concrete, blasted free by her energy beam, were raining in at Stormtiger like particularly lethal hail. Stormtiger was able to deflect small projectiles such as the bits of Hookwolf with his aerokinesis, but this was too much for his power to deal with. As Purity flashed by overhead, Alabaster saw that Stormtiger was out cold in the street, partially buried by the woman's ad-hoc missile barrage.

    This was getting weirder by the second. First, his hand just hadn't worked right when he tried to shoot at her—although it felt fine now—and then Purity showed more mercy than he'd known her to do before. What she'd done to Hookwolf was far more in line with the Purity he knew and feared.

    He kept running. By now he was certain that he wanted no part of this; any thoughts of revenge were tempered with the rock-solid certainty that pulling this sort of crap would cause his power-instigated invulnerability to be given a severe workout. After all, he had no guarantees that whatever caused her to show mercy to Stormtiger also applied to him.

    Actinic light blazed overhead, and then he was looking up into it. As Purity came down in front of him, he slowed and stopped. Shading his eyes, he stared at her, or tried to. “What the fuck do you want?” he demanded; if she was going to kill him, just as well make it quick. And if not, he might actually get answers.

    “To be a hero.” It wasn't the answer he expected. It was common knowledge among his fellow Empire capes that she'd left Max, but he basically figured she was still out and about, fighting the good fight on her own terms. He didn't much care if she went after the ABB under the Empire flag or not, so long as it got done. Of course, the situation following Kaiser's death had changed the game board somewhat. Belatedly, he realised she was talking again. “What do you want?”

    “Not to die right now.” It wasn't something he'd ever expected to need to say in all seriousness. Against almost anyone else, he had a good chance of resetting from whatever wounds they caused him. He wasn't so sure about surviving an attack from someone who could literally vaporise his body from the waist up and down. “I guess I surrender?”

    “Yes. You do.” There was a vague shifting in the intolerable brightness, and he guessed she was pointing back toward the hospital. “Get back there now, so you can wait for the authorities. Or I will hunt you down, and I will make you regret it, very briefly.”

    After what had transpired with Hookwolf, he had very little doubt that she'd do exactly what she threatened. It occurred to him that the threats weren't very much in line with her stated aim of becoming a hero, but he didn't really feel like pointing this out to her, in case it made her change her mind about letting him live. So he turned around and began trudging back toward the imposing building.

    As they got closer, Alabaster saw a woman on the scene who hadn't been there before; wearing a baseball cap pulled low over her eyes and a simple bandanna to mask her lower face, she was kneeling beside Stormtiger. As Purity approached with her captive, the woman stood up. Her posture was a little awkward, as she kept one hand in her jacket pocket; Alabaster assumed as a matter of course that she had a weapon of some sort in there. “He'll live,” she told Purity. “Probably has a severe concussion, and almost certainly several broken bones, but his vitals are strong. I figure he'll make a complete recovery, given adequate medical attention.”

    “Good,” said Purity. “Got a zip-tie I can use?” She strolled over to the other woman, who reached into her jeans pocket and pulled some out, all without removing her other hand from her jacket. “Thanks.” Taking the ties, Purity went back to Alabaster. “Now, I'm going to zip-tie you to this rail. You can cooperate, or I can blast you unconscious and do it anyway.” By which she meant, Alabaster figured, blowing off enough body parts that he passed out.

    “I'll cooperate,” he said hastily, sticking his hand through the rail and putting his wrists together. After all, jailbreaks were a thing. And ironically enough, he'd probably be safer in jail than on the outside.

    “Good,” she replied curtly. A moment later, the zip-tie went over his wrists, then she pulled hard to tighten it. He winced as the plastic bit into his skin; she wasn't messing around. Then she put a second one on, and third.

    “Hey, a bit tight, aren't they?” he complained, then swallowed as her head turned toward him. “Uh, never mind. I'm sure it'll be all right.”

    “Good.” Purity addressed the masked woman. “You've called the PRT?”

    “Just now. The first capes will be along at any moment.” The woman tilted her head. “You coming?”

    “In a moment.” Purity's light died away and she leaned close to Alabaster. “Now, I'm sure they're going to ask all sorts of awkward questions about peoples' identities. What are you going to tell them?”

    He looked into the soft brown eyes of the petite woman before him, and saw death looking back at him. “Nothing, nothing at all.”

    Good boy.” With a razor-edged smile, she patted him on the cheek, then turned and walked away. Together, she and the other woman strolled out of sight.

    As the first sirens became audible in the distance, Alabaster was left alone to wonder exactly what the fuck had just happened.



    End of Part Twelve

    Part Thirteen
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2018
  22. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Poor Amy - hard to deal with one, much less two thinkers. And once Lisa's around...
     
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  23. Gaemnomut

    Gaemnomut Experienced.

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    Cool, things are coming together nicely. The convo between Taylor and Amy was the highlight for me, really entertaining to read.
     
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  24. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    On the bright side, this Lisa probably won't have reason to unleash the Full Tattletale on her, and if she does, not in the way that she did in canon.
     
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  25. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yeah, nope. In fact, she'll be motivated to be nice to Amy.
     
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  26. Gaemnomut

    Gaemnomut Experienced.

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    So right now it looks like they'll have Dinah, Taylor, Purity, Janet, Lisa, and maybe Amy in their team. That's quite a good start.
    Night and Fog might follow Purity and join up, although I doubt it, and if they get to her soon enough Bakuda might also be convinced.

    Also, did Regent help Purity out? That muscle spasm that Alabaster had as he tried to shoot her seemed like it came from him.
     
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  27. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    I'm not sure if they'd be even accepted. Purity was sincerely, personally trying to turn over a new leaf. Night and Fog have never shown any sign of being remorseful about the whole nazi thing, and being willing to work as Heroes because Purity says to is not the same thing. Plus, taking in one reformed Villain is going to be hard enough on their PR; taking in three - all previously from the same gang - would be a much harder sell.

    WoG from the SB thread is it was Janet using hydrokinesis on the water in his hand.
     
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  28. Gaemnomut

    Gaemnomut Experienced.

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    Holy shit, I keep forgetting how OP she is.
     
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  29. RoninSword

    RoninSword Sky God

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    To be fair, Night and Fog are horribly mentally broken.
     
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  30. Gaemnomut

    Gaemnomut Experienced.

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    Right, weren't they products of Gesellschaft's patented cape production line or something?
    Of all the horrors the wormverse has to offer Gesellschaft is among those that creep me out the worst. Although that might be because of some of the fanon I read. Some fics really manage to bring out the creeping evil in them.
     
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