1. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. For a trial period of one week, allowed avatar size has been increased to 256kb, up from 51.2kb. During this time, if the forum seems to be loading slow, drop by the topic in the Announcements & Rules sub to let me know.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. QQ will be down for upgrades starting at 2030 EDT. Please be prepared and save any work.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. A small reminder that our moderators can't change usernames. You need to directly contact an admin for that, and tehelgee is the jobless one so bug him about it.
    Dismiss Notice
  6. To the many new members following Mr Zoat to our forum, I would suggest a quick read of our Rules. Don't worry, it's not a long post. Pay special attention to Rule 8. We are deadly serious about it.
    Dismiss Notice
  7. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice

Alea Iacta Est - a Worm AU Fanfic

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

Loading...
  1. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,441
    Likes Received:
    43,028
    Correct. She moved all the water from the muscles in his hand and forearm into the rest of his body.
    Kinda, yeah.
     
    Prince Charon and Gaemnomut like this.
  2. Gaemnomut

    Gaemnomut Experienced.

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2016
    Messages:
    4,063
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    So what is her exact power? Large range, fine controle hydrokinesis? Does she even know herself?
     
    Ack likes this.
  3. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,441
    Likes Received:
    43,028
    Basically that, shading into weather control (specialising in thunderstorms).

    When she's agitated, it starts to rain. If she's not paying attention, water will actually bend toward her (the intent of this is to outfit her in hydrodynamic armour, but that would freak her the fuck out). She can also purify water (by shifting impurities out of it) and she'll never drown.

    Unfortunately, she's not at all combat-minded, and she's phobic about water.
     
  4. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2015
    Messages:
    1,702
    Likes Received:
    3,793
    I'd say Crusader following her is more likely, if anyone.
     
  5. ShadowStepper1300

    ShadowStepper1300 I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2016
    Messages:
    686
    Likes Received:
    1,825
    No, Crusader hates everyone who isn't a healthy WASP. He wouldn't join a team with a one-handed hydrophobe.
     
    Ack likes this.
  6. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,441
    Likes Received:
    43,028
    Especially one who could reach past all his ghosts and play with him like a puppet.
     
  7. Jordisk

    Jordisk Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2017
    Messages:
    101
    Likes Received:
    313
    So he probably doesn't like Regent all that much either, even beyond the whole "Rival Groups" thing.
     
    Ack and ShadowStepper1300 like this.
  8. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2015
    Messages:
    1,702
    Likes Received:
    3,793
    Erm... Isn't it canon that Crusader's in love with Purity?
     
  9. ShadowStepper1300

    ShadowStepper1300 I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2016
    Messages:
    686
    Likes Received:
    1,825
    He's not in love with her. According to his interlude, he respects her because she's advancing his racist cause on a street level, which is what he cares about.
     
    Prince Charon and Ack like this.
  10. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2016
    Messages:
    695
    Likes Received:
    3,265
    Love this story. Maybe captain neo-con isn't on this version...?
     
    Ack likes this.
  11. Zira

    Zira Getting some practice in, huh?

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2018
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    42
    Janet deeply needs therapy, but the poor woman likely never will
     
    Ack likes this.
  12. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    4,248
    Likes Received:
    11,992
    It is a pretty common fanon, though, and something Ack can use if he feels like it.
     
    Ack likes this.
  13. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,441
    Likes Received:
    43,028
    Nah, I think I'll leave Justin out of it.
     
  14. Threadmarks: Part Thirteen: Team Building Exercise
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,441
    Likes Received:
    43,028
    Alea Iacta Est
    Part Thirteen: Team Building Exercise


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


    Tuesday Morning
    February 1, 2011
    PRT ENE HQ
    Director Emily Piggot


    In Emily Piggot's expert opinion, mornings existed for the sole purpose of taking bright and hopeful souls and showering them with toxic, radioactive explosive diarrhoea. Not that she had a soul that could be called either bright or hopeful. After surviving Ellisburg and Nilbog, and ten years of subsequently overseeing the seething mass of existential self-hatred collectively known as Brockton Bay, her soul was not in great shape. In order to safely collect it when her time came, whichever higher (or lower) power had been designated for the task would need to make use of a hazmat suit and a biohazard container. But still, mornings seemed determined to shit all over her anyway.

    She took a sip of coffee, and her internal rhetoric dialled itself back down to a less scathing level. Picking up the photo before her, she eyed it unfavourably. “So Hookwolf's dead, and Stormtiger and Alabaster are in custody.” The photo portrayed none of the three except perhaps Hookwolf, represented by several pieces of metal in the medium distance, but it was nice to be able to make the observation all the same. Closer to the camera, a large section of the street had been blasted away to the depth of a yard or more. Chunks of concrete with asphalt attached, some with dirt still clinging to them, lay haphazardly all over the field of view.

    “They were on scene when we arrived,” Armsmaster confirmed. “Stormtiger has a number of broken bones and a few internal injuries. I can't see him being up and around within at least two months, maybe three. Alabaster, of course, is perfectly healthy. Hookwolf was … as far as I can tell, they've collected enough pieces to determine that it was indeed Hookwolf, and he is indeed dead.”

    Emily wondered briefly which of the forensic pathologists had landed the unfortunate job of jigsawing the extremely deceased Hookwolf back together, in an attempt to determine exactly what had disassembled him so thoroughly. Of course, she knew what it was, as did Armsmaster. Or rather, they knew in the absolute sense but not in the legal sense. Which was where the feeling of being shat on from a great height came from.

    Hookwolf's demise was something she felt capable of coming to terms with. Even if the man technically hadn't had a kill order up against his name (which made this murder), he was still a killer who had been sentenced to the Birdcage. His sentence, thanks to last night's events, had been abruptly and unexpectedly upgraded to death with no remission for good behaviour. Brockton Bay was measurably safer for his passing, especially for any ethnic minorities in Empire territory, not to mention stray dogs.

    Likewise, Emily would shed no tears for Stormtiger's broken bones. The man had inflicted far worse on far more innocent people. He would even survive and recover, in time.

    Alabaster was the one least deserving of sympathy, having come out of the experience with nothing but mussed clothing. Interestingly enough, though, he'd said exactly nothing to the PRT troopers who had carefully collected and transported him back to the headquarters. In her experience, villains who had been so thoroughly trounced (especially with a death) were the ones who sang the loudest about who had done this to them, as though outraged by the idea that they could be targeted with the same violence they were used to inflicting on others. So Alabaster's resolute silence on the matter should have been speaking volumes to her. She just had to find the decryption key.

    “Are we sure it was Purity?” She asked the question out loud for the first time. This was what burned her the most. They'd had a member of the Empire—a powerful member of the Empire—in a weakened position. Or rather, they'd had someone they very strongly suspected in that position. The right push, to get her to give herself up to them, and they could have turned her. Even if she gave up nothing on the Empire—and to be honest, with Kaiser dead, the Empire seemed to be disintegrating anyway—there was a possibility they could have rebranded her into a hero. But on their terms, not on hers. In order for the higher-ups to be comfortable with such a situation, they had to have the leverage, not her.

    “It fits her capabilities to within a few percentiles,” Armsmaster noted. “There is one worrying discrepancy, though.” One metal-clad finger pointed at the gouges in the street. “She could've ripped a hole clear down to bedrock if she'd wished. This was her using her powers with a very light hand, which should've been impossible with the drugs they were using to help manage the pain. So when she left the hospital, she was healthy enough to fly and deliberately smash Stormtiger with chunks of debris to bring him down.”

    “But Hookwolf walked right up to her, close enough that when she powered up, she blasted him across three city blocks,” Emily agreed. “He had to know she was aware that he was planning to kill her. Why did he let her get so close? Why did he even give her a chance to get a shot off, if she was on her feet?” She didn't even posit the idea that Purity had been too weak to blast deeper into the street; the devastating power of the shot that had killed Hookwolf gave the lie to that idea.

    “So who helped her, and where did she go?” Armsmaster wanted to know. “Even with those three out of the way, she still couldn't be certain that the rest of the Empire wasn't likewise gunning for her. Someone helped her out. Someone healed her. There's no word on the street about any new schisms in the Empire, so it probably wasn't Othala. So who was it, and where did they take her?”

    Emily shrugged. The list of parahumans with healing powers wasn't very long. It was only by statistical coincidence that two of them resided in Brockton Bay. On the downside, one of them was a villain. She considered this to be compelling evidence that the universe had a sick sense of humour. The next most prominent cape whose power could technically be used for healing was Bonesaw, of the Slaughterhouse Nine; Emily's opinion of this fact was obscenely unprintable.

    “I suppose we could ask Panacea if she knows anything about this?”

    “We can try.” Armsmaster's tone was doubtful. “She gets irritated when anyone asks who she's healed recently.”

    <><>​

    Andrea Campbell's Apartment
    Taylor


    “Seriously, what the hell?”

    The small apartment was somewhat crowded, made even more so by the fact that Panacea was pacing back and forth across it. Taylor and Annette sat on the sofa along with Kayden, while Danny took up the apartment's sole armchair, with Andrea lounging across his lap. Janet, wearing clothing donated by Andrea, stood just inside the kitchen nook as if unsure if she was supposed to be there.

    “I still can't believe I agreed to do it. And I just lied to the PRT and said I didn't!” Panacea paced once more across the living room. On reaching the far wall, she turned and planted her back against the firm surface. “You were supposed to leave the hospital without anyone getting hurt once you were healed. But you killed Hookwolf! Why didn't you just fly away?” Arms folded, she glared at Kayden.

    “Because he would never have stopped,” Relaxing on the sofa, Kayden seemed unfazed by Panacea's anger. “If he hadn't seen me leave, he would've decimated the people in the hospital. Even if he did, he would've tortured a few to find out where I might've gone. People like him are very final about people they consider to have betrayed them. I would've always been looking over my shoulder.”

    “But you didn't betray him,” Danny protested from where he sat. “Or even Kaiser. He came looking for a fight with you.”

    Andrea shrugged, then wriggled her shoulders under Danny's arm. “With Max, there was never much of a difference between saying no to him and betraying him.”

    Kayden shared a look of understanding with the redhead. “And Hookwolf was all about making sure nobody disrespected the Empire twice. Or even once, if he could manage it.”

    “Well, I'm glad you're alive,” Taylor said, trying to lighten the mood. She looked across at where Janet lurked half-hidden in the kitchen nook. As per usual, the careworn blonde had her left wrist pushed into her jacket pocket. Taylor wondered briefly why Janet hadn't asked Panacea to grow the hand back for her, then decided it wasn't her business. “And I'm glad you were there to help out.”

    Janet shrugged briefly. “The kid was really persuasive.” The ghost of a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “You'd almost think it was her power, or something.”

    “She is good at finding the right person for the job,” Taylor agreed with a smirk. “We wouldn't be where we are without her.” She paused, unsure of how to continue. “I don't want to push, but …”

    “After last night?” Janet grimaced. “You guys have got a lot of problems here in Brockton Bay. Confrontation's not my thing, but I don't think I could live with myself if I walked away now, then found out later you got killed because I wasn't here.”

    “That's a relief,” Kayden gave Janet a genuine smile. “Actually, there's something I was wondering. I know you don't like using your powers, but how did you stop Alabaster from shooting at me? For a second there, I thought I was going to have to smear him across the street as well.”

    Janet held up her right hand and spread the fingers. “The human body's got water everywhere. Muscles need it to work right. I migrated water from his hand and wrist into his arm until all the muscles froze up.”

    “Wow, damn.” Danny shook his head. “I'm just glad their van wouldn't start. It might've made things a lot messier.”

    This time, Janet smiled slightly. “I used to own a yacht with an auxiliary motor, and I know just about all the ways a little moisture in the wrong place can shut a diesel engine down almost instantly. Besides, it was a crappy motor. Almost didn't need my help at all.”

    “Okay, seriously? I'm even more impressed than I was before,” Annette said. “So, could you migrate water inside people anywhere you like?”

    “Technically, yes.” Janet's smile was replaced by a frown. “I'm not about to kill anyone, though.” She tucked her right hand under her left arm, possibly as a substitute for crossing her arms. “It's bad enough using my powers at all.”

    “No, no,” Annette retorted with a wide grin. “Could you make someone want to pee, real bad?” Her grin morphed into her mother's trademark smirk. “Can you imagine the look on Armsmaster's face if he's giving you a hard time and you're just increasing the pressure a little at a time until he has to go? And then he's trying to make excuses, and you're like 'actually, I do have questions', and he's trying to get away without seeming like he's trying to get away.”

    Taylor shook her head. “Only you. Only you could think of using a power like that for a prank.” It would be a mean and horrible thing to do to Armsmaster. Did it make her a bad person that she now wanted to see it happen?

    Annette nodded proudly. She and her mother spoke up at the same time. “Darn tootin'!”

    “I could probably do it,” Janet said. “But it's a bad idea. If he got the idea I was messing with him—and from what I've heard of Armsmaster, his suit's probably lined with sensors that might detect something like that—then I'd be in ten times whatever trouble I was in before.”

    “Plus, he probably uses a catheter,” Danny put in. “If I was going to be locked in a steel shell for eight to twelve hours a day, I'd certainly consider one.”

    Annette pouted. “Aw, you're no fun. I was enjoying the mental image of Armsmaster having to pour pee out of his boot.”

    “As amusing as that might be,” Danny noted, “we do have a more important matter at hand.” He nodded toward Panacea, who was still glowering at Janet, though not as intensely as before. “Miss Dallon, you've aired your complaint against Kayden. She's explained why she did what she did. Is there still an issue to address, or are you satisfied?”

    Panacea huffed but her arms relaxed a little, moving own until her left hand clasped her right wrist. “I guess she's got a point. Dad and Mom always told me to never get too close to him. I'm a noncombatant, but that wouldn't necessarily stop someone like him.”

    Taylor got up from the sofa and went over to her. “I get it that you're upset someone died. I mean, you're a healer. It's kind of what you want to prevent. But if you were interested in joining, we'd have more options to go on with.” She tilted her head. “Want me to roll the numbers for and against you joining?” Opening her hand, she showed Panacea the five ten-sided dice resting there.

    “Wait, you use actual real dice?” Panacea stared at the plastic polyhedrons. “They look really weird. How does that even work?”

    Taylor shrugged. “I ask a question about probabilities and roll the dice. They give me the percentage chance of what I'm asking about.” She decided not to bring up the alphabet dice for the moment. There was no sense in overloading Panacea with information. “Like I told you when we met, I'm a precog, but it expresses through dice rolling and stuff.” She grinned. “As a bonus, I can make dice do basically anything I want.”

    “Anything, huh?” Panacea's expression was still a little dubious, though it was thawing. “Show me.”

    “Sure.” Taylor tossed all five dice over her shoulder, in the general direction of the table. She heard them hit, and saw the look of scepticism on Panacea's face dissolve into disbelief. Still sitting on the sofa, Annette audibly snickered.

    “Oh, no fucking way.” Panacea stepped past her and stared at the perfect stack of dice on the table; five dice, one on top of the other. “You weren't even looking.”

    “It's my power.” Taylor scooped up the dice again. “Name a possible outcome of you joining.”

    Panacea frowned, but the expression was more contemplative than dubious. “Okay, what are the odds of me joining your team and not having it screw up things for New Wave?”

    Taylor nodded. “Okay, rolling.” The polyhedrons clattered on the faux-wood surface. She eyed the result. “Okay, eighty-seven point one nine four percent chance that they won't suffer from you leaving.”

    “That's what, a one in six, one in seven chance of problems? I'm not sure I like those odds.” Panacea didn't look happy at that.

    “Chance she'll be happier in the team than in New Wave,” sang out Annette from the sofa.

    Taylor picked up the dice. “I can do that. You good with that question?”

    Reluctantly, Panacea nodded. “Go ahead.”

    Again, Taylor rolled. The dice came to a stop, and Taylor nodded. “That's … huh. Seventy-nine point one three one percent chance that you'll be happier in this team.”

    “How do you even know which one is which?” asked Panacea, pointing at the dice. “I mean, that could be eleven or thirty-one, or ninety-seven.”

    Taylor shrugged. “How do you know how to heal someone? I look at the roll, and I know how the numbers go.” She picked up one of the dice and tossed it over her shoulder in the direction of where her father shared the armchair with Andrea. “Dad, think quick.”

    “Got it,” her father reported. “What do you want me to do with it?”

    “Pick a number and hold it up so Panacea can see it,” Taylor said, still not looking. “Don't tell me what it is. I will then roll that number.”

    Panacea looked past Taylor at her father. “Okay, got it.”

    “Good.” Taylor rolled the other four dice on the table. They came up showing different numbers.

    When Panacea turned to look at them, she burst out laughing. “Uh, sorry to burst your bubble, but not one of these dice is what your dad showed me. They're not even in sequence! You've got a one, two twos and a three.”

    Taylor nodded. “I know. What's on the one he showed you?” She'd never tried this particular trick before, but she thought it should work.

    “Eight,” Panacea said triumphantly.

    “Uh huh,” said Taylor, and gestured at the dice on the table. “What do those add up to?”

    Panacea looked at the dice again and her lips moved silently. Just as her expression changed, Annette burst out laughing, as did Andrea. “Fuck!” the healer spluttered, looking back at the die Danny was still holding. Taylor looked over too, to see the '8' still showing. Staring once again at the four dice, Panacea shook her head. “How the fuck?”

    “I told you. Precog and total control of thrown dice.” Taylor shrugged.

    “Okay, got it.” Panacea shook her head ruefully. “Just one more question. How do I know you aren't rigging the predictions to show what you want?”

    Taylor took a deep breath, reminding herself how it must look from the outside. “I can't. If I call the roll for a prediction, intending to lie about it, I get hand cramps.” She'd only tried it once, but if it got Panacea on board, she was willing to undergo it again. “Here.” She held out her free hand.

    Tentatively, Panacea took it. “Okay …”

    Taylor gritted her teeth in anticipation. “This roll is to determine …” She cast about for something. “Tomorrow's weather on TV. The temperature.” Two of the dice she put down, leaving two in her hand. “I intend to manipulate the roll and lie about it.” Drawing back her hand, she went to throw the dice. In her mind, she told the dice to come up '99', which was basically impossible, even in Brockton Bay, on a winter morning. But, exactly as had happened when she tested this before, a painful cramp locked on to her hand, bending the wrist over and forcing the fingers into a claw. Involuntarily, her hand closed over the dice, preventing them from accidentally falling to the table. “Fuck, aaarrrgh!” Pulling her other hand free of Panacea's, she clutched at her spasming fingers.

    “Jesus,” blurted the healer. “I felt that. That was your power?”

    “Taylor!” Danny started to his feet; Andrea twisted adroitly, managing to scoot her butt on to the chair arm instead of landing on the floor. Barely slower than him, Annette and Kayden also stood up. “Are you okay?”

    Taylor held up one finger in a 'wait' motion and silently counted to ten. By 'twenty', she felt capable of coherent speech. “Yes,” she gritted as an answer to both questions, her breath hissing between her teeth. “It really, really doesn't like me lying about the rolls I make.” Slowly, she managed to prise her fingers apart to retrieve the dice. “It's not like a normal cramp. It's already easing off. Give me five or ten minutes and I should be good again. Maybe.”

    “Can I help?” asked Panacea, her tone and expression showing concern for the first time.

    “If you can make it hurt a bit less, that'd be great,” Taylor said. She held out her hand to Panacea, hoping the healer could actually do something about it.

    Panacea put her hand on Taylor's cramped fingers and the pain eased right off. Taylor began to uncurl her hand. “Wow, that's—” The moment they lost contact with each other, the pain flared up to what it had been before Panacea tried to fix matter. Her fingers locked up again. “Ow. Ow, ow, owww.” She cradled the clawed fingers with her other hand. “That was not a great idea.”

    “What the hell?” Panacea frowned. “I turned off the cramp and scavenged away the waste products that caused it. Can I look?”

    “Uh huh.” Taylor gingerly held out her hand again. “I think it'd be best to let it sort itself out.”

    “Don't worry, just looking.” Panacea touched it once more. “Huh. Wow. It looks almost like it reversed everything I did for you.”

    “Told you.” Taylor's breath hissed between her teeth as she massaged her hand. Gradually, it began to uncramp again. “It doesn't like me lying about rolls. I've heard of Thinker headaches but for me, it's my hands.”

    “Okay, I guess you're on the level,” Panacea said slowly. “Still, I need to think about this. I don't want to rush into making a decision this far-reaching.”

    Taylor recalled the rolls which had informed her that Lisa would be required to induce Panacea into making the final decision. “That's fair,” she agreed. “The last thing I want to do is push you outside your comfort zone.”

    Panacea nodded, looking just a little relieved. “Thanks. Even if I do join you guys, I have no idea how I'm gonna break it to Carol and Mark. Or Vicky.” From the expression on her face, she wasn't anticipating that specific revelation with any particular joy.

    “That's okay. You take your time.” Moving over to put his hand on Taylor's shoulder, Danny gave Panacea a reassuring nod. “Whichever way you choose, we'll definitely owe you for healing Kayden. So don't ever feel that you're obligated to join.”

    “I appreciate that,” said Panacea. She gave Kayden one last unreadable glance, then turned back to Danny. “Would I be able to get a lift home, please? I don't want my folks worrying, and I'm pretty sure you don't want them to know about you yet.” Her lips twisted in wry amusement. “Because if you think I'm a hardass when it comes to villains, you ain't seen nothin' yet when it comes to Brandish.”

    Danny grimaced. “I haven't got my car back from the garage yet.”

    “That's okay,” Andrea told him, standing up from the chair arm. Pulling her keys from her pocket, she spun them on her finger. “I can give you a lift.” She shot Panacea a brilliant smile. “You okay with that?”

    Her smile was infectious. Panacea shrugged and gave her a half-smile back. “Uh, sure, Ms Campbell. That would be nice.”

    “Ooh, can I come too?” asked Annette eagerly. “I didn't get to talk to Panacea the last time we met.” She gave the healer a grin. “I think you're even cooler than your sister.”

    Taylor smirked inwardly at Panacea's double-blink. Annette's personality was almost as forceful as her mother's, and this was the first time the healer had been hit with the full brunt of it.

    “Yeah, that's why you were talking to her and not me, before,” Panacea retorted. “You got her to sign your butt!”

    Annette rolled her eyes. “Lower back, lower back. Anyway, that was just to keep her occupied so Taylor could lay it out for you without any interruptions.” She got up from the sofa. “Anyone can be cool with an Alexandria package and a short skirt—not the best choice for a flyer, just saying. But to have a behind-the-scenes power like yours and keep doing it, day after day, that takes serious dedication. So, can I come along? Pretty please with sugar on top?” She batted her eyelashes at Panacea in an almost cartoonish fashion.

    The healer hesitated, looking bemused. “I … guess so?” she ventured.

    “Cool, it's settled then.” Andrea tossed the keys into the air and caught them again. “Let's go, kids.” She headed for the door, with Panacea trailing behind. Andrea paused just long enough to give Taylor a wink, then followed on.

    Taylor waited until the door closed, then snorted with amusement. Janet and Kayden looked at her, their expressions curious. On the other hand, Danny didn't seem at all surprised by this turn of events.

    “Did I miss something?” asked Janet, sounding puzzled.

    “I think Annette's got a crush,” Danny explained. From the twinkle in his eye, he'd come to the same conclusion as Taylor; that there was more than a simple crush going on. Taylor wasn't sure if Annette would actually be hitting on Panacea on the car drive home or just flirting, or even if there was a difference when it came to the redhead.

    “Hm.” Janet's look of enlightenment morphed into amusement. “She's very … direct, isn't she?”

    “Wait, she's gay? Does her mother know?” Kayden sounded concerned.

    Taylor couldn't help it. She burst out laughing, half a second ahead of Danny.

    “What?” Kayden frowned. “What's so funny?”

    Shaking her head and still giggling, Taylor looked over at Kayden. “Annette's whatever she wants to be. And yeah, her mom knows.”

    “And she's okay with this?” Kayden looked at Danny. “You're okay with this?”

    Danny sobered up almost immediately. “Yeah, I'm okay with it.” He eyed Kayden sternly. “What's your problem with it?”

    Kayden blinked at the intensity in his voice. Taylor flicked a look at Janet. The blonde was watching the interaction, her expression wary.

    “Uh … it's not … usual?” ventured Kayden. Taylor got the impression that she'd been about to say something else, then changed her mind at the last moment.

    Danny shook his head. “That's Kaiser talking, right there. Being gay isn't a crime, or even a sin. It's just another way people do things. Andrea's been interested in women as long as I've known her, and Annette seems to be much the same way herself. There's nothing wrong with it. If you believe otherwise, then there's less difference between you and the rest of the Empire than you seem to think.”

    Wow. Taylor was taken aback by the harsh tone in her father's voice. She hadn't heard him take a stance like this in … forever. But if she was startled, Kayden was astonished.

    “What?” The petite brunette stared at Danny. “How can you even say that? I'm making an effort, here. That sort of thing is …” She paused. “Wait, Andrea's gay too? But … she was sitting on your lap!”

    “Oh boy, yeah, she's definitely into women,” said Janet unexpectedly. “She hit on me the other night. But once I made it clear I wasn't interested, she backed right off.”

    “But they're driving Panacea home,” Kayden looked at Danny then Janet. “There's nobody else in the car with them. What if …”

    “Do not finish that sentence,” Danny growled. “Panacea's a cape, with the ability to put people to sleep at a touch. You think anyone could lay a hand on her without her permission?”

    Kayden didn't seem convinced. “But what if …” Her voice trailed off again.

    Now Danny looked more than a little pissed. He took a step closer to Kayden. “But what if what?”

    “What if Annette makes a move and Panacea doesn't say no?” asked Kayden.

    “Well, if that happens, it's between the two of them,” Danny snapped. “None of my business, none of yours. Now, what's your problem with gays or lesbians?”

    It took Kayden a moment to answer. “Uh …” She looked from Danny to Janet and back again. “I've got no problem with them as people, but … I just don't approve of that sort of thing.”

    Danny rolled his eyes. “Well, can you keep that attitude to yourself, or is this going to be a problem?”

    “I don't know; is it?” Kayden met his gaze with a defiant stare. “We'll never be an effective team if Andrea keeps hitting on me—”

    Janet snorted with amusement. “Yeah, that's gonna happen.” When Kayden stared in her direction, she shook her head. “She's not gonna be hitting on you. You're not her type.”

    “Type?” Kayden shook her head. “That sort of person doesn't have a 'type'.”

    Danny raised a single finger, then turned and stomped to the front door. Opening it, he exited then slammed it behind him with enough force to rattle the pictures on the walls.

    “Well, congratulations,” Taylor observed dryly. “I've only ever seen him this mad once before in my life.” She didn't explain exactly when that had been.

    “What did I say?” Kayden looked puzzled.

    “Did you even hear yourself just then?” asked Janet, moving out of the kitchen nook. “Everyone has a type. That's a fact. I've only known Andrea a couple days and even I can tell that. She likes people who are tall or muscular, or both. You're neither. Trust me, you've got nothing to worry about on that front.”

    Taylor tried not to stare at the blonde. This was the most that Janet had asserted herself since Taylor had met her. Up until this point, the one-handed woman had been diffident to the point of fading into the background. Making a firm statement about Andrea's preferences was a small step, but it was definitely a new look on her.

    “What?” Kayden turned toward Janet. “How can you defend—”

    “Knock it off!” Janet interrupted her with a horizontal chop of her good hand. “I'm not 'defending' her, because she's done nothing wrong. I'm telling you how things are.”

    “But she hit on you! You said so yourself!” protested Kayden.

    “And so have hundreds of guys, and I turned them down just as flat too!” Taking a moment to calm down, Janet went on in a quieter voice. “Yeah, it threw me at the time. But once I made it clear I wasn't interested, at least she backed off. Can you say that about the men in your life? About Kaiser?”

    Kayden opened her mouth. Taylor even saw her lips begin to form the word 'yes'. But then she closed her mouth as her brain caught up with her automatic reaction. She glanced at Taylor, who raised an eyebrow. Slowly, she took a deep breath.

    “Well, no,” she admitted reluctantly, letting her breath out in a long sigh.

    In the long silence that followed, Taylor became aware that the front door had opened again. Danny was standing in the doorway silently. She wasn't sure how long he'd been watching and listening.

    “Kayden,” he said, drawing her attention. “You stood up for Annette, which we all appreciate. If Max had taken her, Andrea would've had an impossible task getting her out of his clutches. You stood in his way, and you nearly died for it. I get that you have no interest in women. Are you able to step back and allow Andrea and Annette their own preferences, or are you going to insist on trying to enforce your views on them?”

    “God damn it,” muttered Kayden. She scrubbed at her face with her hands. “It's really hard to separate what I think from what the Empire's been telling me to think for the past ten years.” Lowering her hands, she looked up at Danny and Janet. “Part of me wants to condemn them for being like that. But I can hear what you're saying, and I get it that you think I'm wrong to think that way.”

    “So what are you going to do about it?” asked Janet. “Are you just going to let a bunch of Nazis keep dictating to you?”

    Kayden's lips quirked sideways in ironic amusement. “Yeah, okay, I get it. They're Nazi assholes. Kaiser was a control freak of the highest order. I don't know if that was him being a Nazi or just him being an asshole. But I'm not going to let him keep controlling me after he's dead. So I'll do a deal with you. If I say or do something that's offensive to you, call me out on it. If I think you're justified, I'll stop doing it. Okay?”

    Danny stepped into the apartment and closed the door, then glanced at Janet. “I think it's a good deal. What do you think?”

    “What are you asking me for?” asked Janet, looking somewhat surprised. “I'm not in charge, here.”

    “You stepped up and made a few good points,” Danny reminded her. “And you're the only other adult cape on the team. Your opinion counts.”

    “I was just saying what I thought needed to be said, but okay.” Janet looked at Kayden. “I think it's a good deal. If you're willing to not let your past rule you, I'm willing to do the same with mine.”

    “Sounds like a plan.” Danny held out his hand to Kayden. “We're good?”

    “We're good,” Kayden agreed. “Thanks for giving me this chance.” She clasped Danny's hand.

    “And me, too.” Janet put her hand on top of theirs. “I've been hiding away from people for too long. I think it's time I stopped.”

    Taylor slapped her hand on top of Janet's. “Let our powers combine!” she proclaimed, raising her other hand up, fist clenched. All three adults looked at her in varying levels of surprise. “What, am I the only one who's watched Captain Planet?” she asked. “You were getting way too serious here, and I asked myself 'what would Annette do?'.”

    Her words broke the tension, and Kayden was overcome by a fit of giggles. Janet just looked bemused. Danny looked at Taylor and sighed. “Well, you certainly channelled Annette and her mom.” He shook his head as Kayden dropped into the armchair, still giggling. “At least this team isn't going to be boring.”

    <><>​

    Tuesday Afternoon
    Tattletale


    Strange things were happening in Brockton Bay. This wasn't odd in and of itself, given the city's standing population of parahumans, but in the last few days, things had gotten stranger than normal. Between being approached for recruitment by a middle-schooler, Kaiser being struck by lightning, and Hookwolf being literally blown to bits by Purity (or so Lisa's power told her), the 'weird-shit' quotient of life in Brockton Bay was way higher than normal. Worse, her power kept insisting that all three incidents were connected, but she didn't have enough data to fill in the gaps.

    She was in the process of trawling through the tinfoil-hat sections of PHO in the hope that one of the lunatics on there might let slip something that was actually true when her phone rang. She picked it up; there was no name on her caller ID.

    “Hello?” she asked cautiously, leaning back on the sofa.

    Hi. Can you speak freely?” It took her a moment to recognise the voice, then her power filled in the blanks.

    It's the kid I met in the Market.

    She's calling me about Coil.

    She thinks she has a working plan to bring Coil down.

    She's going to need me to give her information to do this.

    She's got a major heavy-hitter on her side to do it with.

    It's not just Purity.

    She glanced around, trying to appear casual. Rachel was out, Alec was playing his computer game with headphones on, and Brian was off somewhere. She was reasonably sure her phone wasn't tapped at the moment. “I can,” she replied cautiously. “How solid is your plan, and what do you need from me?”

    The kid didn't miss a beat.“Pretty solid. I just need some information. And a way of contacting the PRT so they can clean up the mess.”

    This call was becoming more and more surreal. “What information?” At that moment, her phone beeped, and she looked at it. Crap, it's Coil. “Hold on, I have another call.” Her asshole boss got all kinds of testy if she failed to answer her calls in a timely fashion.

    Don't answer it. Coil wants you to come in, which will screw the whole plan up.” The kid's voice was matter-of-fact. “Worse, you'll end up telling him about us.”

    “I wouldn't … would I?” Lisa had a hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Is this your precog in action?”

    She spent a lot of time running the numbers over the last day or so,” 'Management' confirmed. “Can you come meet us before he calls one of your teammates?”

    Lisa gritted her teeth, fully aware that this was a tipping point for her. If she left the base right now, she was committing to Management's plan. Coil would quickly learn that she'd turned against him. Every previous effort she'd made to escape his grasp had fallen through. Did she dare try yet again?

    The beeping continued.

    <><>​

    Boardwalk
    Janet


    “Coil's a precog for sure,” Taylor decided. “There's no way he would've known to call Lisa like that.” She gripped the rail and looked out to sea. “You doing okay?”

    “Surviving.” Janet concentrated on looking away from the ocean. The usual 'pull' wasn't there. It hadn't been for the last couple of days, ever since the thunderstorm and the death of Kaiser. She still didn't like being this close to a large body of water, but there was something different. Now she was aware of the actual presence of the water as it moved and surged. Even the tiny droplets in the air glittered in her mind's eye, as did the water within people. Before Kaiser, she wouldn't have been able to focus this clearly, because all of her concentration had been aimed at denying her power. Now that she'd used it in a major way, she was able to keep from using it in a major way. If she didn't know better, she would've described her power as being satisfied for the moment.

    “Excellent.” On Taylor's other side, Annette hung upside-down from the railing by her legs, supporting the rest of her weight on her hands. To Janet's relief, she was wearing cargo pants and a crop-top, both of which assisted in maintaining her modesty. “So what's Dinah's plan, again?”

    “She doesn't have one, not really.” Taylor turned around and leaned her back against the rail, rubbing it up and down, probably to scratch an itch. “She just knows that taking down Coil is going to require Janet and Kayden. Once we find out what we need to from Lisa, she can hopefully make a plan that works.”

    <><>​

    Dinah

    “You know I can hear you guys, right?” Dinah didn't look around, but she raised her voice just enough to be heard by Taylor and the other two, about twenty feet away from the bench she was sitting on. Her eyes never stopped scanning the passers-by on the Boardwalk. She was on the lookout for one particular person; with every second that passed, more and more unpleasant scenarios crowded through her mind.

    Coil brought her in and she told him everything.

    She went to Coil and told him everything.

    She's going to show up with Coil's minions and act as bait to capture us.

    She's not going to show.

    He's precogged everything and is manipulating events from behind the scenes.

    And then her eyes settled on a shock of messy blonde hair. Lisa was wearing sunglasses, but her eyes had to be darting all over the place, checking everything out. Dinah didn't blame the teenager for being cautious to the point of paranoia, especially after being forced to work for someone like Coil. She wondered what it would've been like for herself if she'd gotten a different power and ended up without the support base that Taylor and her dad offered. Probably not good.

    “Here she comes,” she warned them. “She'll probably know that you're with me, but don't do anything threatening. We want her cooperating willingly, not feeling like she has no choice.”

    “Got it,” Taylor called back. Dinah didn't turn to look at them, because her attention was fixed on Lisa. If there was any nasty surprise in the offing, Janet would have to take care of it.

    Lisa strolled up to the bench and sat down, as casually as if she'd done it every day. “I'm here.” Tension vibrated in her voice, echoed in her posture. “What do you need from me, and why couldn't we have done this over the phone?”

    “Because phones aren't secure enough for this sort of thing.” Dinah looked pointedly at Lisa. “You've got yours turned off?”

    “Pulled the card and dumped the handset in the trash, a hundred yards back,” Lisa said. She tilted her head toward Taylor and the others. “Who're they?”

    Dinah was almost certain that she hadn't made any motion that would've clued Lisa in on the others, but it apparently hadn't mattered. “Friends. Teammates. Here to keep this meeting honest.” She turned her head properly and met Lisa's eyes. “So, the first bit of information I need. Director Piggot's direct office line.”

    Lisa's eyes opened wide and she let out a startled snort that turned into a chuckle. “Whew, you really don't play around, do you? What do you need … holy shit, you're going to call the PRT in to mop up Coil's guys once you're done with him? You're that certain this is going to work?”

    Dinah let a grin expand across her face. “That depends on you, and how much you know about his base.”

    The answering grin on Lisa's face held a few more teeth. “Try me.”

    <><>​

    Not Far From Coil's Base
    Annette


    Never in her wildest dreams had Annette Campbell thought that she might one day play any sort of role with a superhero team taking down a supervillain base. Of course, she also hadn't thought that her real dad might end up being a supervillain himself. That was comic-book thinking, and this was real life.

    So yeah, her life was looking more and more like a comic book every day. Who was she to argue with that?

    “Okay.” Lisa pointed at the map that was spread over the hood of the car. Janet watched every motion of her finger carefully from one side, and Kayden from the other. “Main area of the base is right under … here. Exits are here and here, parking garage exit here, and Coil's escape tunnel is here.” She looked at Kayden. “You'll probably be able to blast down to it but not collapse it. It was built using the same engineering as an Endbringer shelter.”

    Dinah perused the map carefully as well, her lips moving silently, then she looked up at Lisa. “Is he there right now?”

    “She's right.” Danny Hebert stood on the other side of the car hood, his arm around Annette's mom's waist. “If he gets away, he can start up again, and we'll never know until he comes after us.”

    “One way to find out. Once we do, we're on a timer.” Lisa pulled a brand-new phone from her pocket. Annette had watched her put her old card in it, fascinated by how easy she made it look. “So be ready to roll.”

    Kayden nodded. Janet followed suit. Annette hefted her own phone.

    Taking a deep breath, Lisa made the call. It was answered in short order. Even from a couple of yards away, Annette could hear the raised voice of someone whom she assumed to be Coil. “Hey, it's me,” Lisa said. “I've been busy. What's up?” She paused, listening. “Right, right, right. I'll look into that straight away. Come in? Okay, gimme an hour. Okay, half an hour. Okay, see you as soon as I can.” She shut the call down. “Okay, he's there. The echo patterns in that place are unique.”

    “Good.” Dinah tapped the map. “That exit and that exit first. Then the escape tunnel. But first …” She nodded to Annette. “Make the call.”

    Annette grinned. “Oh, boy.” She pressed the speed-dial on the phone.

    It rang exactly twice, then was picked up on the other end. “Who is this?” asked a suspicious voice. “How did you get this number?”

    “Director Piggot, hi,” Annette said chattily. “I'm calling on behalf of the Girl Scouts. I'd be selling you cookies but we're all out, so I was thinking as a consolation prize we'd offer you one somewhat waterlogged supervillain. If you're interested, you can come and pick up Coil. Bring some friends, because it might get a little busy. I'll just email you the address, k-thanks-bye.”

    Hanging up the call, she switched to email and hit Send on the pre-prepared message, then looked up at the circle of faces looking at her. “What?”

    “That was not exactly what we told you to say,” Danny remarked. “In fact, that's entirely unlike what we told you to say.”

    “Bet it gets her out here even faster, though,” Andrea said with a smirk.

    “My power told me to nominate Annette for the job of notifying the Director,” Dinah reminded Danny. “She did it the way she felt like doing it. I'm not going to second-guess her.” She nodded to Kayden. “You're up.”

    The ex-Empire cape smiled grimly. “Time to cause some property damage.” A glow built up around her body and she shot into the air. Within seconds, she was out of sight over the rooftops. But not out of earshot; it didn't take long before they they heard the not-so-distant sounds of her blast tearing into concrete and earth.

    “Is it just me,” Taylor observed, “or does she really enjoy her work?”

    Andrea shook her head. “Nope. It isn't just you, hon.”

    It didn't take long for Kayden to finish her attack run. Lisa leaned into the car and turned up the radio scanner. It was no coincidence that the scanner was set to the PRT alert frequency. “The good guys are incoming,” she pointed out, over the crackle of messages coming through. “I think it's time for Stage Three.”

    “Stage Three it is,” Dinah decided. She turned to Janet. “You know where the base is?”

    Janet nodded. “I can feel the people in it.”

    “And there's water nearby?”

    “Yeah. Lots of it.”

    “You can make the water go where you want?”

    “Easily.”

    “Good.” Dinah grinned. “Go ahead. Fill her up.”

    Janet grinned back. Annette got the impression this was the first time the blonde had smiled in some time. “You got it.”



    End of Chapter Thirteen
     
  15. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2015
    Messages:
    2,336
    Likes Received:
    14,640
    Weather forecast for Coil: Rainy with a 100% chance of Sunburn.
     
  16. abyssmal_kismet

    abyssmal_kismet Experienced.

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2014
    Messages:
    3,252
    Likes Received:
    3,387
    Jesus Christ, Dinah! Gleefully advocating drowning a base full of people, if I understood the conversation correctly. What's more, the harrowing hydrokinetic hydrophobe happens to have no issues with this plan. I mean, sure, she can use it to block paths and herd people for an easily controlled battle, but "fill her up" and "underground base" is a combination that evokes rather... dark imagery.
     
  17. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2015
    Messages:
    2,336
    Likes Received:
    14,640
    Do it slow enough, and they have ample time to evacuate the base.
     
  18. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    3,938
    Likes Received:
    19,497
    If they went for a full fill, yeah that'd be bad, but Janet has a chance to expel a few more demons here by making them live her nightmares.

    Water rushing and bursting everywhere, always rising but never getting high enough to drown. Lights flickering and failing everywhere, unseen things in the water tugging and nipping at their limbs.

    She's a very specific kind of nightmare any time she wants to be and can leave her target perfectly healthy but far more phobic of water than she herself has ever been.
     
  19. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,441
    Likes Received:
    43,028
    Exactly and precisely.

    Also, you will note that they called the PRT in to surround the one entrance that wasn't collapsed by a certain high-flying Blaster.

    Basically, she's putting Coil & crew into the worst possible situation. Turning their impregnable base into a one-exit trap, one where they can't just hunker down and wait the enemy out.

    You've heard the term 'flushing them out'?

    Janet's using it literally.
     
  20. Jack of Olives

    Jack of Olives Knows just enough to be dangerous.

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2014
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    3,293
    People are going to freak when they realize that the flying Blaster 8-9 is the least scary member of the new team. :D

    Edit: Also, is it just me, or is Kayden showing a few signs that she's unknowingly in the closet?
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2018
  21. Malcanthet

    Malcanthet Shy Adorable Arachne

    Joined:
    May 12, 2017
    Messages:
    1,606
    Likes Received:
    2,497
    Oh you got that feeling too?
     
    Prince Charon, Ack and Jack of Olives like this.
  22. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,441
    Likes Received:
    43,028
    No, she's showing signs that she's been spoonfed homophobia by the Empire Eighty-Eight over the course of the last ten years or so.

    Where do you get 'in the closet' signs from?
     
  23. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2015
    Messages:
    2,336
    Likes Received:
    14,640
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2018
    Prince Charon, Jack of Olives and Ack like this.
  24. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,441
    Likes Received:
    43,028
    Prince Charon likes this.
  25. Jack of Olives

    Jack of Olives Knows just enough to be dangerous.

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2014
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    3,293
    From my understanding: if they seem incapable of letting themselves think about why they feel the way they do, it's usually either they're deep in the closet and are terrified of rejection, or something traumatic happened in their past.

    Edit: the trauma option need not have to be from being molested/raped, it could be something like parental figure having a massive fit when they were young due to someone being/acting gay.
     
  26. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    3,938
    Likes Received:
    19,497
    The phrase 'The Lady doth protest too much' sums it up decently.
     
  27. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    4,248
    Likes Received:
    11,992
    Pretty much, yeah.

    That and the eternal fanfic tendency of making characters bi or gay.
     
    Ack likes this.
  28. Jack of Olives

    Jack of Olives Knows just enough to be dangerous.

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2014
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    3,293

    And now I shall say no more on the subject in the interests of not sidetracking the thread.

    Edit: Also, Merry Christmas! :D
     
    Ack likes this.
Loading...