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Another Way (Worm AU fanfic)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Aug 31, 2015.

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    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Ten years previously, the Brockton Bay Brigade attacked Marquis in his home and defeated him; in time, he was sent to the Birdcage.
    What would happen if things went ... another way?

    1) This story is set in the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow. Thanks for letting me use it.
    2) I will follow canon as closely as I can. If I find something that canon does not cover, I will make stuff up. If canon then refutes me, I will revise. Do not bother me with fanon; corrections require citations.
    3) I welcome criticism of my works, but if you tell me that something is wrong, I also expect an explanation of what is wrong, and a suggestion of how to fix it. Note that I do not promise to follow any given suggestion.


    Index
    Prologue (below)
    Prologue Part Two
    Prologue Part Three
    Prologue Part Four
    Part One: Progress Reports
    Part Two: Heir Apparent
    Part Three: The Making of Marchioness
    Part Four: Staking a Claim
    Part Five: For Every Action ...
    Part Six: Coming to Terms
    Part Seven: The Shape of Things to Come
    Part Eight: Many Happy Returns
    Part Nine: Close Encounters of the Interesting Kind
    Part Ten: Escalation
    Part Eleven: Retribution
    Part Twelve: Home to Roost
    Part Thirteen: Relative Innocence
    Part Fourteen: Clash of Titans
    Part Fifteen: Closing In
    Part Sixteen: Following Up
    Part Seventeen: Dealing with Blasto
    Part Eighteen: Friends and Family
    Part Nineteen: Taking Care of Business
    Part Twenty: Socialising and Scouting

    Omake: Marchioness in Brockton Bay [ edale ]
    Omake: A Match Made In Brockton Bay
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2020
  2. Threadmarks: Prologue
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Another Way
    Prologue

    A/N: Much of the text and dialogue in this prologue is taken from Worm: Interlude 15. It is intended to explore the ramifications of what might had happened if things had gone another way.
    A/N 2: This chapter has been revised from the original posting.



    “Stand down,” Brandish ordered.

    “Now why would I want to do that?” Marquis asked. “I’ve won every time your team has challenged me; this situation isn’t so different.”

    “You have nowhere to run. We’ve got you where you live,” Manpower spoke.

    “I have plenty of places to run,” Marquis replied, shrugging. “It’s just a house, I won’t lose any sleep over leaving it behind. It’s an expensive house, I’ll admit, but that little detail loses much of its meaning when you’re as ridiculously wealthy as I am.”

    The Brockton Bay Brigade closed in on the man who stood by his leather armchair, wearing a black silk bathrobe. He held his ground.

    “If you’ll allow me to finish my wine -” he started, bending down to reach for the wine glass that sat beside the armchair.

    Manpower and Brandish charged. They didn’t get two steps before Marquis turned himself into a sea urchin, bone spears no thicker than a needle extending out of every pore, some extending twelve or fifteen feet.

    Brandish planted her heel on the ground to arrest her forward movement and activated her power. In an instant, her body was condensed into a point, surrounded by a layered, spherical force field. It meant she didn’t fall on her rear end, and she could pick a more appropriate posture as she snapped back into her human shape.

    Manpower wasn’t so adroit. He managed to stop himself, slamming one foot through the mahogany floor to give himself something to brace against, but it was too late to keep him from running into the spears of bone. Shards snapped against his skin and went flying.

    Lady Photon opened her mouth to shout a warning, but it was too late. Flashbang fell to one knee as a shard bounced off the ground near him, reshaping into a form that could slash across the top of his foot. Brandish caught only a glimpse of the wound, primarily blood. She didn’t see anything resembling bone, but Marquis apparently did.

    There was a sound like firecrackers going off, and Flashbang screamed.

    The needles retracted. Marquis rolled his shoulders, as if loosening his muscles. “Broke your foot? How clumsy.”

    Lightstar was the next to go down, as one splinter that had embedded in a bookshelf branched out to pierce his shoulder. Fleur caught him before he could land on top of more of the bone needles.

    Brandish shifted her footing, and the slivers of bone that scattered the ground around her shifted, some reshaping into starbursts of ultrafine needle points, waiting for her to step on them. She knew from experience that they would penetrate the soles of her boots.

    Lady Photon fired a spray of laser blasts in Marquis’ general direction, tearing into bookshelves, antique furniture and the rack of wine bottles. Marquis created a shield of bone to protect himself, expanding its dimensions until it was taller and wider than he was.

    He’s going to burrow, Brandish thought. He’d done it often enough in the past, disappearing underground the second he’d dropped out of sight, then attacking through the ground, floor or rooftop.

    “Careful!” she shouted.

    Lady Photon spent the rest of the energy she’d gathered in her hands, spraying another spray of lasers at Marquis’ shield. Then, as they’d practiced, she prepared to use her forcefield to shield Flashbang, Fleur and Lightstar. Brandish and Manpower could defend themselves.

    A barrier of bone plates erupted around one corner of the room, rising just in time to keep some of Lady Photon’s salvo from striking a closet door. Marquis emerged from the floor a short distance away, driving a spike of bone up through the ground and then deconstructing it to reveal himself.

    “What are you protecting?” Lady Photon asked.

    “I’d tell you, but you wouldn’t believe me.” He glanced around, “I don’t suppose we could change venues? I’ll be good if you are.”

    “Seems like we should take every advantage we can,” Manpower said.

    “If you’re talking purely about increasing your odds of victory, yes. But should you? No, you really shouldn’t.”

    “If you say we shouldn't, then that sounds like a good plan to me,” Brandish stated boldly.

    Marquis sighed, and held up a hand. “Truce, for just a moment?” As he spoke, the spikes and spines of bone throughout the room retracted, ceasing to menace the heroes. “I'll not attack if you don't.”

    “What's your play?” asked Lady Photon suspiciously.

    “Dear lady,” Marquis stated carefully, “I mean it. Truce. There is something that needs to be explained. And it's better shown than told.”

    “No tricks,” Brandish snapped.

    “No tricks. My word upon it.”

    They relaxed slightly; whatever else he was, Marquis was a man of his word.

    “So what do you want to show us?” Manpower asked bluntly.

    “This.” Marquis stepped back to the closet door, the one that he had been protecting. Never quite taking his eyes from the heroes, he reached back and opened it. “Amelia, dear, come out and meet our visitors.”

    A girl. A toddler, not much younger than Vicky. The girl was brown haired, freckle-faced, and clutched a silk pillow to her chest. She wore a silk nightgown with lace at the collar and sleeves. It looked expensive for something a child would wear.

    “Daddy,” the girl’s eyes were wide with alarm. She clutched the pillow tighter.

    “Brigade, meet Amelia. Amelia, these delightful people are the Brockton Bay Brigade. They're superheroes. Like on TV.” He offered his hand to the little girl, deliberately leaving himself open to attack. Nobody moved.

    Trustingly, she stepped from the closet; he scooped her into his arms, pillow and all.

    “Real superheroes, Daddy?” she asked, eyes wide, the fright slowly leaving them.

    “Real superheroes,” he agreed. “Really and truly.”

    “The motherfucker has a kid?” Lightstar muttered the question, as if to himself. “And she’s, what, five?”

    “Six,” Marquis answered. “And I'll thank you to moderate your language around my daughter.”

    Six. Vicky’s age, then. She looks younger.

    “Sorry,” muttered Lightstar, despite himself.

    “Better.” Marquis raised an eyebrow. “Now, dear Brandish, if you'd like to tell young Amelia here what you're doing in my home?”

    Brandish glared at him. He was putting her on the spot, in no uncertain terms. “Amelia,” she began. “Your daddy is a bad man, and we have to take him away.”

    “You can’t take him away,” the girl told them.

    “He’s a criminal,” Brandish responded. “He’s done bad things, he needs to go to jail.”

    “No. He’s just my daddy. Reads me bedtime stories, makes me dinner, and tells me jokes. I love him more than anything else in the world. You can’t take him away from me. You can’t!”

    “We have to,” Brandish told the girl. “It’s the law.”

    “No!” the girl shouted. “You can't take him! You can't!” She buried her face in her father's shoulder and started to cry.

    “Well then,” Marquis observed. “It appears that the jury has spoken. Amelia here knows me better than anyone else in my life. Her mother’s gone, I’m afraid. The big C. Amelia and I were introduced shortly after that. About a year ago, now that I think on it. I must admit, I’ve enjoyed our time together more than I’ve enjoyed all my crimes combined. Quite surprising.”

    Gently, he patted his daughter on the back. “Now, now, little one. Don't cry. I'll read you your favourite bedtime story later. All right?”

    Slowly, the crying devolved into sniffles, but the girl kept her face close to her father's shoulder.

    “Now, we can keep this going,” he observed. “I can send Amelia upstairs, and we can retire to a less dangerous venue. But I'm wondering which of you will be chosen to explain to my little girl why it is that you're arresting me. Why you chose to burst into my house and start a fight while she was here.”

    “We didn't know - “ began Manpower.

    “Manpower… do try to keep up. The dumb brute stereotype persists only because people like you insist on keeping it alive. You should have found out. After all, you found out my real identity, my real address. But you didn't keep looking, did you? You just decided to pounce.”

    “Perhaps we should just go -” began Lady Photon.

    “No!” Brandish's voice was loud; Amelia jerked in Marquis' arms; he shot her a reproachful look. She moderated her tone. “No. Can't you see? He's playing us. Hiding behind his child.”

    “Playing you, most definitely, dear Brandish,” he admitted. “And a most entertaining game it is. But hiding behind my little girl? Not at all.” Taking a few steps toward the doorway, he lowered Amelia to the floor.

    She clung to him. “No, Daddy. I don't want to leave you.”

    “And you won't, sweetness. Run along upstairs. Clean your teeth and get ready for bed. I'll be along to read you that bedtime story.”

    “You'll be in handcuffs,” muttered Brandish.

    “That may well be,” he replied cheerfully. “But we shall see. Go along now, darling.”

    Obediently, she trotted out the door. Then she stopped, turned, and pointed at the heroes. “Don't you dare hurt my Daddy,” she told them sternly. “You leave him alone!”

    Marquis smiled. “I'll be fine, Amelia. Go on.”

    As her footsteps could be heard pattering up the stairs, he turned to them. “Shall we retire to a less hazardous venue, now that you have seen what I am protecting?” he asked. “Outside seems about right. Less chance of a stray shot punching through the ceiling. I shall withhold hostilities until we are safely away.”

    Lady Photon nodded. “I agree.” Brandish went to open her mouth, but Lady Photon shook her head. “It's the best thing. We do not want to hurt the child. She, at least, is innocent.”

    “She's being harmed just by being here,” Brandish muttered, but she went along at Lady Photon's gesture. Marquis stood aside as they filed from the room, Manpower supporting Flashbang, and Fleur fussing over Lightstar. They stepped down from the rear portico, out on to the vast lawn.

    “One more question I want to ask before we begin,” he stated, walking in a careful half-circle around the heroes; they turned to face him so that their backs were to the house. “If, by some chance, you defeat me, who takes Amelia in?”

    “The foster system -” began Manpower.

    Marquis, shaking his head, cut him off. “Do not be denser than you have to be. I have enemies. Would you like to see her fall into their hands? It wouldn’t be pretty.”

    “They don’t have to know,” Manpower spoke.

    “They’ll always know, they’ll always find out. You put that girl in foster care and interested parties are going to find out.”

    Lady Photon bit her lip. Brandish shook her head. “This is not our problem.”

    “No, he's right,” Lady Photon admitted. “Even ignoring his enemies, once people found out she was Marquis’ child, they’d start fighting over who could get their hands on her.”

    Marquis inclined his head. “Thank you, dear lady.”

    “Lady Photon -” Brandish started.

    “Then they’ll kidnap her. They’ll do it to exploit her powers, and she’s bound to be pretty powerful if she inherits anything like her father’s abilities.”

    “It's not our problem,” reiterated Brandish, a little desperately.

    “It really is,” he pressed. “Actions have consequences, you know. Mine certainly do; you are here to attempt to visit them upon me. And, should you defeat me, that will also hold consequences. Are you ready to face up to them?”

    Brandish felt herself, just for a moment, wavering. Drawing a deep breath, she steeled herself. “We'll deal with that when we come to it.”

    “As you wish.” He rolled his shoulders, looking past them at the house. “Shall we?”

    <><>​

    Amelia knelt up on her bed and pressed her nose against the window. I know Daddy told me to brush my teeth and stuff, but I need to see that he's okay.

    Outside, Daddy was facing the people he had called superheroes. She didn't like them, because they wanted to take him away from her. She glanced into the corner of her room, where the princess costume he'd had made for her held pride of place. He's my Daddy. I don't want him to go anywhere.

    Glancing back, she nearly missed the first pass. Light flared and explosions threw dirt into the air, but her Daddy was always on the move, never where they expected him to be. The scary lady who had shouted was swinging a blade made of light, but Daddy moved in a funny way and it hit the really big tall man instead. Amy winced and looked away for a moment, but then she peeked out from between her fingers.

    Daddy was smooth and graceful, like when he was teaching her how to do that really fancy writing, or how to dance, and it looked like he was dancing with them now. But each time they tried to hit him, they missed, and each time he tapped them, they tripped and fell. When he swung a big blade of bone at the big tall man, the scary lady jumped in front of it, and Amy caught her breath, but Daddy made sure it wouldn't hurt her.

    <><>​

    One moment, Brandish was attempting to carve a bone manacle off of her ankle – there were shards of bone all over the lawn now – and then Lady Photon cried out and froze. Brandish looked around to see Manpower on his knees, bone covering his nose and mouth, his eyes frantic behind his mask. He was trying to break the bone gag away from his face, but his wounded arm was hampering him.

    "It's in his lungs," Marquis declared, emerging from one of three bone spires that had erupted from the lawn. "Every cubic inch, all the way down to the alveoli. Yield, or he dies."

    "I'll kill you first!" shouted Brandish, slashing the last of the bone away from her foot. She lunged at Marquis, but he stepped back out of the way. A bone shield sprang up, deflecting her blow.

    "Even if you managed it, Brandish dear, you would never remove the bone from his lungs in time. To remove it, you'd have to remove his lungs altogether. Which would more or less defeat the purpose, yes?"

    Manpower scrabbled at the bone; for every chunk he broke off, more grew in its place. His face was turning from red to purple; his eyes were bulging as he fought to inhale air that would never come.

    "You're killing him!" screamed Lady Photon. "Let him go!" She tore at the bone that was suffocating her husband; in an instant, it had extended to encompass her hands and wrists.

    "Not until you yield," Marquis replied implacably. "He only has a minute or two before he dies. Your move, ladies."

    Lady Photon wrenched uselessly at her calcitic bonds, then stared into Manpower's eyes. They were starting to roll back into his head. Hopelessly, she lowered her head. "I yield."

    "What?" shouted Brandish. "No! We can't lose to him! Not again! We were so close!"

    "Brandish, my dear, you lost the fight the moment you invaded my home," Marquis stated from almost directly behind her. "He hasn't much time. Yield."

    She dropped into her invulnerable ball-shape, then reformed facing the other way, the lightblade stabbing out. At the last moment, she dissolved the weapon, fractions of an inch away from Flashbang's frightened face. Her husband was bound with bone, his mouth gagged with the same material.

    "Killing me kills Manpower," Marquis told her from behind Flashbang, as casually as if he were inviting her for coffee. "Yield, and you all walk away today. He hasn't much time. Will you truly let your hatred of me kill him?" Behind him, Fleur circled around, trying to get a clear shot; absently, he raised a bone barrier in her direction.

    "Brandish, for god's sake!" screamed Lady Photon.

    Brandish stared at her, then at Manpower, then at Marquis. Her hands curled into fists, almost hard enough to gouge her nails into her palms. She gritted her teeth, forcing the words out. "I yield."

    "And I accept." Marquis gestured negligently, and the bone retracted away from Manpower's face, releasing Lady Photon's hands. The big man inhaled a huge, shuddering breath, falling to prop himself on one arm. His other was still useless from the slash that Marquis had decoyed Brandish into inflicting on him. "He breathes; he lives. My side of the bargain has been fulfilled. Go, now."

    For a moment, Brandish considered attacking him anyway. He divined her expression, and shook his finger at her. "Ah, ah, ah, Brandish dear. Let's not go there."

    "Let's just leave," Lady Photon told her, supporting a still-gasping Manpower in her arms. "We've lost here. Please."

    <><>​

    Out on the front portico, he watched as they climbed into their car. Brandish was the last to get in.

    “This isn't over, Marquis,” she told him. “Not by a long shot.”

    “No, dear lady,” he replied. “It most certainly is not.”

    She got into the car, and the door closed behind her. The engine started, and the vehicle moved out of sight.

    Turning, Marquis entered the house once more. He tut-tutted over the damage done to his study. Never mind; we'll be leaving soon, anyway.

    <><>​

    Amelia finished carefully brushing her teeth. When she entered her bedroom, Daddy was sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for her. "Little Amelia." He smiled and held out his arms.

    "Daddy!" She ran to him. He hugged her, picked her up, put her on the bed. "I was worried about you."

    "But not too worried, I hope." He smiled indulgently. Picking up a brush, he began to work it through her hair.

    "I knew you'd win, Daddy, but that lady scared me. The shouty one."

    "She wants to be a hero, but she has issues." He shrugged, continuing to brush at her hair. "But she's gone away now, and she's not going to bother us any more."

    "But what if she comes back?" She lifted her eyes to his, the worry showing.

    "We won't be here," he assured her. "Tell me, do you remember when we visited Boston?"

    "Yes, Daddy," she replied. "Are we going to move there?" A moment of distress crossed her face. "I like it here."

    "It holds many fine attractions," Daddy assured her. "One of which is a distinct lack of the Brockton Bay Brigade." He smiled down at her. “You were very brave, little Amelia,” he told her solemnly.

    “I didn't feel very brave, Daddy,” she replied honestly. “They were really scary.”

    "Well, you helped a lot. You helped plant the seeds of doubt. And an enemy that doubts himself is a battle half won." Finished with her hair, he put the brush down.

    "Huh?"

    “We defeated them with the one weapon that superheroes can't ignore,” he intoned.

    “And what's that, Daddy?” she asked.

    “The power of love, Amelia. The power of love.”

    Reaching up, she hugged him. “I love you, Daddy.”

    “I love you too, Amelia.” His strong arms held her to him for a long moment. “Now, did you want a bedtime story?”

    She looked expectantly at him. “You said you'd read my favourite.”

    “I did, didn't I.” Without even looking, he reached out and pulled a well-thumbed volume from the shelf beside her bed. As he turned it over, it fell open. “Well, will you look at that. The right page, even.”

    She giggled and snuggled down into bed as her Daddy began to read. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess … “

    Closing her eyes, she held her daddy's hand as she began to drift off to sleep.

    I love my Daddy.


    End of Prologue

    Prologue Part Two
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2015
  3. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Oh... that's some idea. Great line, about the power of love. I am eagerly looking forward to finding where this will go.
     
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  4. CptTagon

    CptTagon Connoisseur.

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    I was expecting a set-up like in, I believe it's Beaconhill's short story collection, where Amy gets maimed by Brandish during the fight. Very interested in seeing what happens.
     
  5. pepperjack

    pepperjack A Variety of Cheese

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    Shouldn'ta brought the menfolk. :p

    Quite promising.
     
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  6. Sydonai

    Sydonai Versed in the lewd.

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    Nice, but that wouldn't have happened.
    Brandish would have attacked anyway, she is kinda not entirely sane about Marquis because he reminds her way too much of the ass that kidnapped her.
     
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  7. DeAnno

    DeAnno Power over Versatility

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    Yeah, Carol be crazy.
     
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  8. Zege

    Zege It's Magic, I ain't gotta explain shit.

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    Another Ack fic? Watched.
     
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  9. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Revising snip now.
     
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  10. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Revised and updated.
     
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  11. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Nice Revision. Puts Brandish even more on the spot - almost sacrificing her brother in law to defeat her enemy isn't a nice thing.
     
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  12. Sinner_sb

    Sinner_sb Versed in the lewd.

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    I am enjoying this one and want to see the long term 'consequences' of this. While many paths can be taken, two stand out for me the most.

    First, Marquis continues as he is, trying to keep Amy out of his business as a criminal, and she might try to join in the family business.

    Second, Marquis slowly changes from crime lord to gray hero, Amy acting as a reminder of humanity and how life could be better, and being as a conscience, knowing or not, making him question his methods more and before, making small changes on his business through the years, until like in this Batman and Superman generations miniseries, his crime syndicate change into a completely legal organization and likely doing some charity on the side, and some of the 'stupider' or stubborn heroes doesn't see or believe in his change. And again Amy tries to join the family business.

    With some romantic comedy on the side of both as Marquis start to feel the lack of a steady partner, especially when Amy begins to enter the much dreaded puberty needs to learn all those secrets unknown to us men and males. Though I have to admit that I like throwing the curve ball of a girl's first period on the single father when I can, often having said father knowing about it through studying to better care for his daughter.

    A little Omake here.

    Midnight on Marquis house
    Amy: Daddy!

    Marquis clad in bone armor rushes in defense of his daughter, if was a cape or a boy whoever it is will be minced meat.

    Marquis: Amelia are you okay?

    He finds his little girl clad in her pajamas, a big bloodstain on its crotch.

    Amy: Daddy I am dying! I am bleeding!

    Marquis: Oh...how I dreaded this day...*Armor and sword crumble into bone dust* I knew that I should have gotten a wife...

    Amy: Daddy! Don't plan your life without me! *bawls*

    Marquis: You aren't dying sweetie, you will wish you did though if you are one of the ladies with bad periods *mutter*, I knew that I should have bought some pads or something, *to Amy* come, I can sacrifice some towels, Amelia, it is time for you to know more about life, changes, your body and what it all affects you. *mutters* Maybe I should demand the wife of one of my men to come and explain it to her so I won't need to do it myself...
     
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  13. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    And then Amy triggers with the power to control all blood?
     
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  14. Sinner_sb

    Sinner_sb Versed in the lewd.

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    Or just triggers her canon powers, biology control, this time also affecting herself given how 'scary' periods are since they scare her daddy.
     
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  15. Firedon

    Firedon Lazy Sleepy Cat

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    Yeah, the rewrite flows a lot better. Overall, this was pretty enjoyable.
     
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  16. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Well, except for the Brigade. :p
     
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  17. Disminded

    Disminded Versed in the lewd.

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    Goddamn. Marquis is an utter badass.

    Excellent.
     
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  18. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yes, yes he is.
     
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  19. Drask

    Drask Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Especially given his actual power is a bit lacklustre, yet he managed to do effectively Lung did - build a powerful gang based entirely around himself.
     
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  20. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    What, like bug control?
     
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  21. SwiftRosenthal

    SwiftRosenthal Connoisseur.

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    Exactly. What kind of weaksauce power is that, anyway?
     
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  22. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Meh, I can take her.
     
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  23. Drask

    Drask Getting some practice in, huh?

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    I get your point, but bugs are at least fractionally more common than exposed fragments of bone, and the bugs control didn't cause pain to the user which marquis' power did IIRC.
     
  24. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    True.

    But bone control allowed for tricks that Taylor can't duplicate, like lifting him above the situation, burrowing, or restraining someone in an instant. Also, armour. (Yes, I know, spider silk allows for the last two, but they take time).

    And the fact remains that Taylor would have been hard put to take down the Brigade as hard and fast as Marquis did.

    Also, if all bugs in the area are dead, they're dead. Marquis can always produce more bone from inside his body.
     
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  25. Drask

    Drask Getting some practice in, huh?

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    True enough. I really just meant that he's no Lung, but that he did what Lung did - create a gang based entirely around himself.
     
  26. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    He's still very, very good at what he does.

    Also, he could screw up a bunch of people from a standing start a lot faster than Lung ever could.
     
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  27. Datcord

    Datcord Giggling menace

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    He's also, from what I've seen, very, very charismatic. Polite, intelligent, persuasive, apparently not hard on the eyes.... Marquis had it going on.

    Lung ruled mostly from fear. Marquis used fear as one of the tools in his vast toolbox of fun.
     
  28. Threadmarks: Prologue, Part Two
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Another Way

    Prologue, Part Two



    Carol Dallon leaned against the kitchen bench, her arms folded tightly around herself. Her eyes were on the window showing darkness outside, but she didn't register it. All she could see was the mocking expression on Marquis' face, the one that told her that she had lost, he had won, yet again ...

    "What the hell were you thinking?"

    The abrupt question jolted Carol out of her reverie. Startled, she looked around, into her sister's blazing eyes. "What?"

    "I said, what the hell were you thinking?" Sarah had moderated her tone, but her voice was still a harsh whisper as she gestured toward the living room. "You nearly got Neil killed! What is it with you and Marquis?"

    Carol closed her eyes for a moment. Thank goodness Vicky isn't here to see this. Her daughter was having a sleepover with the Pelhams' kids; she was older than Eric and younger than Crystal, but they got along pretty well. Neither family had a lot of money at the moment – she was still a ways away from sitting for her bar exam – but they'd pooled their resources to afford a sitter for the night, at the Pelham household. Which meant that they'd had to come back to her house – hers and Mark's – to properly deal with the wounded men.

    "Well, I'm waiting."

    Carol opened her eyes. Sarah was still standing there, hands on hips. "What do you want me to say? He's a monster. You know it, and I know it. Tonight was our best chance to take him down, but we can still come back from this -"

    "I'm not talking about that, and you know it!"

    I really don't want to face this right now. "Can we talk about this later?" Much later. Never, for preference.

    "No." The word came out flat and hard. Inwardly, Carol flinched. She's never been this pissed at me before. "We will talk about this. Here. Now."

    "I'm really kind of tired -"

    "You nearly got Neil killed!"

    "I didn't – I was aiming at Marquis and -"

    "Not that!" Sarah was in her face by now. "When you kept trying to kill Marquis when Neil was choking to death!"

    "I - I thought that if -"

    "No!" Sarah's voice was raised again. "You didn't think! You weren't thinking! You were just attacking! While Neil was suffocating!"

    "I – if I'd knocked him out or killed him -"

    "Then Neil would have died!" screamed Sarah. "Didn't you hear him? The bone was in Neil's lungs!"

    "I – thought maybe he was bluffing?" ventured Carol. "If he died, maybe it would crumble away -"

    "Leaving him with a lungful of bone dust! Do you even hear yourself, Carol? Marquis had us beaten, and you wouldn't give up, and you nearly got Neil killed because of it!"

    "No, I wouldn't give up!" Carol shouted back, stung. "Because with Marquis, you don't give up! He's a murderer! Tonight, he nearly murdered your husband, and you're blaming it on me!"

    The sound of someone tentatively clearing their throat made both of them turn their heads. Fleur was leaning in through the door from the living room.

    "What?" asked Sarah, visibly getting hold of her temper.

    "Uh, if there's nothing else, I was going to get Donny home," Fleur told them. "He needs his rest, and I've got an early start."

    Curtly, Sarah nodded. "Okay, go ahead," she agreed. "And tell Donny that I said you both did good tonight." Carol caught the unspoken message loud and clear; at least you didn't nearly get my husband killed.

    Wisely, Fleur took the statement at face value. "Thanks. I'll tell him." She disappeared back into the living room; Carol heard the murmured voices as she assisted Donny out to her car. The distant engine started up and moved off.

    Sarah turned back to Carol. "I'll tell you what I think happened tonight." Her voice was low and controlled once more. "You can tell me how close to the mark you think I am."

    " ... okay." Carol's tone reflected her wariness, but there wasn't much she could do about it. At least she's not screaming any more.

    "I think you're far too invested in capturing Marquis. Stopping him, any way possible. If necessary, killing him. Am I right?"

    Her sister's tone was almost reasonable; Carol tried to match it.

    "We're all invested in stopping Marquis, Sarah. How many times have we faced him? How many times has he beaten us? How many people has he killed because we've failed to stop him? He's a murderer. A monster. He needs to be stopped. Tonight was our best chance. We had a battle plan, a strategy -"

    "One that you came up with, Carol."

    "It was a weakness to be exploited, and it could have worked."

    "The man doesn't hurt women or kids, Carol! That's not a weakness! That's something that makes him less of a monster!"

    "It doesn't make him less of a murderer, less of a criminal, though," Carol retorted stubbornly.

    "No, you're right, it doesn't." Sarah sighed. "Mind you, it's not like we've got any shortage of murderers, monsters and criminals in Brockton Bay, these days. Allfather makes Marquis look like a saint by comparison, and Galvanate isn't far behind. And Butcher was even worse, before the Teeth left Brockton Bay."

    "Only by comparison," argued Carol. "He's still a crime lord, and he's still a murderer. No judge in the world would be swayed by a plea of 'the other criminals out there are a lot worse than him, Your Honour'."

    “Which still raises the question,” Sarah mused. “Why is it that we find ourselves going after Marquis all the time anyway? I mean, we had more of an advantage in that last fight than we've ever had before – and I'm still dubious about the wisdom of using that 'weakness' against him, just by the way – and he still cleaned our clocks without breaking a sweat.”

    “I think we had a chance,” Carol insisted. “If we'd tightened things up a bit -”

    Sarah shook her head. “No. The man knows his powers. He's fought people worse than us, and come out on top. He was going easy on us. No injuries to the men that would cripple or disfigure them, nothing worse than bruises to us.”

    “We need one good victory before we unveil the New Wave project. Marquis is prominent. And if we manage to take him down, we won't have to worry about revenge strikes. Because he doesn't work with other capes.”

    “I think there's something more,” Sarah told her. “Something you're not saying. A reason why you're so set on taking down Marquis.”

    “You're just imagining it,” Carol replied. “He's the best available target, is all.” But she couldn't stop her eyes from shifting away.

    “I'm not imagining it,” Sarah responded. “There's something about him. Christ, I'm team leader, and you still take lead when we fight Marquis. Like it's personal or something.”

    "You don't know what you're talking about," insisted Carol. "He's a villain, we're heroes. It's as simple as that. The Teeth are gone, and if we can bring Marquis down, that's halved the number of supervillain-led gangs in the city."

    "So why don't we go after Galvanate? His men do more damage than Marquis, and he doesn't care nearly as much about collateral damage."

    "Because we don't know where he lives," pointed out Carol. "Taking on his men is problematic; they're just about impossible to hurt, and they've got those damned electrical powers. You and Donny are our only fliers, and your powers don't do more than tickle them."

    "Plus, they don't hold back when fighting women."

    Carol dropped her eyes.

    "I'm right, aren't I?"

    "I'm not a damn coward, Sarah!"

    "Oh, for fuck's sake," sighed her sister. "I never said you were. But there's this thing you have against Marquis – whatever the fuck that's about – and there's the fact that no matter how many times we go after him, he's not going to do more than embarrass us and inflict disabling injuries on the guys. Which makes him your ideal target. Am I right?"

    "You make it sound like I want to keep fighting him. Like I'm happy that he's there to fight."

    "Well, do you? Are you?"

    "No!" Carol rounded on her sister. "Like I said, he's a criminal. A murderer. A monster. He needs to go down hard. And that's all there is to it."

    “That doesn't change the fact that we nearly screwed up really badly, tonight.” Sarah was looking out the window, or rather, at the window. Carol could see her sister watching her reflection.

    “What do you mean, nearly?” Carol's voice was bitter. “We did screw up. We nearly had him, and he still took us down.”

    “That closet.” Sarah's voice was quiet; she put her hand on Carol's shoulder. “If he hadn't shown us who was in there, would you have tried to distract him with it?”

    Carol twisted away from her. “That's not the point!”

    “We're heroes,” Sarah insisted. “Or at least, I'm trying to be one. And you should be too. To give Vicky a good role model when she gets powers too.”

    “You don't know that she will.” But Carol's voice lacked conviction. Too many children of known capes had gotten powers of their own.

    “Let's assume she does,” Sarah told her steadily. “Do you want her role model to be her mom the hero, or her mom who lashes out and gets people killed? Because that's what I was talking about. We went in with way too little information. We didn't know about that little girl. You would have gone for that closet, distracted him. What if he failed to stop you?”

    “We didn't know,” protested Carol. “I'd never attack a little girl on purpose.”

    I attacked her, because I didn't know,” Sarah pointed out. “It wouldn't make me any less guilty, if my shots had gotten through. She'd still be dead.”

    “So we're supposed to just ignore him, now that he's got a kid? This is supposed to absolve all of his crimes, all the people he's killed, all the things he's stolen?”

    “No,” Sarah replied patiently. “But it does change matters, considerably. We can't attack him at home. Rather, we never should have. Too much chance of something exactly like that happening. We acted on the information we were given, and didn't ask if there was anything more.”

    “Wait, so you think that little shit set us up?” asked Carol, frowning. “He wanted us to attack Marquis at home, maybe hurt the girl? Because that's really screwed up.”

    “I don't think it's that either,” Sarah mused. “But it's a lesson; just because we've got some information, we should never assume that we've got all the important information.”

    “So what are we going to do about Marquis?” asked Carol practically. “Now he knows that we know who he is. And that we know he's got a kid.” She shook her head. “What's wrong is that he's even got a daughter. He's a murderer. A monster. A man like that shouldn't even be allowed near children.”

    “Didn't you see the look in her eye, hear what she was saying?” Sarah frowned. “She loves him, that's beyond a doubt. He hasn't taught her any of his vicious ways. In fact, she's probably unaware that he's even a villain.” She paused. “Well, until tonight, anyway. In any case; he doesn't hurt kids. He doesn't even deal drugs, and that's a baseline crime for nearly every syndicate out there. He truly loves his daughter, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was actually a pretty good father. She looked well cared for.”

    “He's a criminal.” Carol couldn't understand why Sarah didn't seem to be getting it. “If it's not us bursting into his house, it might be the Teeth next week, or the Empire Eighty-Eight the week after. And they won't stop attacking just because there's a little girl in the way. She's in danger. We have to save her from him.”

    “She was more in danger from us than from him, tonight,” Sarah pointed out. “And I would venture to guess that he's also figured it out that people know. Anyone bursting into his house from now on is likely to get a very unpleasant welcome.”

    “So what do we do?” Carol looked at her helplessly. “He still needs to be arrested. Just having a child, even one who loves him, is not grounds for extenuating circumstances.”

    “You're not going to let this go, are you?”

    “No. I'm not.”

    Sarah rubbed her chin. “Well, Neil's going to be sidelined until that cut on his shoulder heals, and Mark and Donny are also going to be out of action for a while. Which means that he probably won't see us as a threat, with half the team down. So we capitalise on that.”

    “We hit him again?” Carol's voice showed the eagerness she felt. “Tonight?”

    “No. Not tonight. Not tomorrow night. He'll be on guard for that. The night after, however, we can do this. But we don't make it a frontal assault. He's too good for that. I'll go in through the upstairs window … “

    <><>​

    Midnight. Time to move.

    Lady Photon drifted in from above, as gently as a falling leaf. She'd flown as high as she dared, as high as she could and still identify the house from above. Instead of her regular costume, she wore all black, with a scarf covering her lower face, the better to be not seen in the night sky. If anyone had seen her, she'd spotted no reaction. Brandish and Fleur were creeping up on the house at ground level; one for the front door, one for the back door. They would stay silent as long as possible, the less warning Marquis had, the better.

    She knew that Amelia's bedroom was on the upper floor, but she didn't know which one. She was also not sold on the idea of abducting a supervillain's daughter, but she was worried that if she did nothing, then Carol might just come in on her own.

    Pausing next to each window in turn, she pressed her face to the glass, and let the slightest illumination shine into the room within. It shouldn't wake anyone; her eyes, adjusted to the dark, needed less light than normal.

    Downstairs, she knew that Carol would be at the front doors, while Fleur was at the back. Each of them had powers capable of gaining them entry, hopefully with a minimum of noise. The first window was a bust; it seemed to be a spare room, or maybe a storeroom.

    Second window, the same. Third window, a bed. But nobody in it. Fourth window, a larger bed. Also unoccupied.

    Wait a moment.

    Carefully, she increased the intensity of the light; it gradually illuminated the room. Revealing a chest of drawers, all pulled out. Pale squares where paintings had rested on the walls.

    With a surmise growing in her mind, she darted back to the previous window. This bed was a child's one. Mattress bare, stripped of sheets and covers. A few toys, abandoned, scattered on the floor. Brightly coloured wallpaper. This was her room. They've gone.

    Downstairs, a sound of breakage, smashing.

    Maybe not?

    She tried to open the window, but some sort of child-lock defeated her. Backing up, she unleashed a burst of laser bolts at it; it shattered inward, tinkling to the floor of the child's room. Entering without landing, she pulled the door open and flew down the corridor.

    When she got to the top of the stairs, the sound of breaking things got louder; over the top of that, she could hear swearing. Carol's voice.

    Not combat, then?

    Forgoing the stairs, she crossed over the bannister and dropped to the floor below, coming to a halt a foot above the floor. Brandish, similarly dressed in dark clothing, was in the process of using her light-blade to demolish a stately dining-room table. Several of the chairs lay nearby, smashed. Fleur stood nearby, apparently not interested in participating in the orgy of destruction.

    “Brandish!” snapped Sarah. “What the hell's wrong with you?”

    Carol stopped, and took a deep breath. “Ask Fleur,” she growled. But she stopped attacking the table, and merely stood with clenched fists.

    Sarah turned to Fleur. “Well?”

    “We found this on the dining-room table.” Fleur handed a folded sheet of paper to Sarah. On it, in flawless copperplate calligraphy, was inscribed the name Brandish.

    She unfolded it; it was a letter, penned in the same beautiful handwriting.


    “Hmm,” mused Sarah as she re-folded the letter. “I see why you're not happy.”

    “That's the least of what I'm feeling,” Carol retorted. “He left that letter for me to find. He knew I'd come back. And he taunts me in it. Even tells me that I shouldn't be here. That 'unpleasant experience' thing, that's a threat if I ever heard one.”

    “Yeah, I don't like that one,” Fleur agreed. “What if the place is rigged to blow?”

    Sarah shook her head. “No, I doubt it. He wrote the letter to Brandish. He doesn't hurt women. Whatever the 'unpleasant experience' is, it won't be fatal, or even overly harmful. And it's probably aimed at all of us.”

    “How do you mean?” demanded Brandish.

    “I mean that whatever he does, he can't do more than set it up and make it happen, wherever he is now,” Sarah told her. “So if he's telling you that you are due an unpleasant experience, it very likely means that we all are.”

    “But if we leave right away,” argued her sister, “we can't search the place and maybe find a clue as to where he went.”

    “I'm actually liking the idea of leaving right now,” Fleur decided. “That letter gives me the creeps.”

    “I agree,” Sarah decided. “Marquis does not make idle threats.”

    “But what if he's hiding in the wine cellar right now, bags packed?” Carol pointed out. “Ready for the capturing. Come on, just a quick search of the house and we're gone.”

    “You do realise that he would probably anticipate you saying that exact thing,” Sarah told her.

    “If we keep second-guessing each other, we'll never get anywhere,” Carol replied. “It'll only take a few minutes.”

    Sarah sighed in aggravation. “Will it shut you up? And stop you from destroying furniture?”

    “Yeah, okay.”

    “Good. Then let's get this over with.”

    <><>​

    “What's that, Daddy?”

    Marquis looked up from the bank of TV screens that cast a pallid glow across his face. Amelia stood in the doorway, her favourite pillow clutched to her chest.

    “You should be in bed, little angel,” he chided her gently, but with no heat to his voice.

    “I couldn't sleep, Daddy,” she told him. “Nothing's the same. Nothing's in the right place.”

    “You'll get used to it, Amelia,” he assured her. “In the meantime, want to come and see what Daddy's watching?”

    She came on over, and he lifted her on to his lap. “This doesn't look like normal TV,” she pointed out, looking at the screens, each of which showed a static view of a room.

    “It isn't,” he replied. “It's called closed-circuit television. I had these cameras put up in our home before we left.”

    “Why, Daddy?” she asked, then pointed. “Oh! There's some people, Daddy!”

    “Why, yes there are. And that's why I had this done. So I could see if people came in to the place. And they have.”

    “What are they doing, Daddy?”

    “They're searching the house, little one.”

    “What are they looking for?”

    He smiled and ruffled her hair. “You and me, Amelia.”

    She giggled. “But we're not there, Daddy.”

    His chuckle answered her. “I know that, and you know that, and they probably know that, but they've still got to look.”

    “That sounds silly, Daddy.”

    “As you grow up, dearest Amelia, you will discover that people can be very silly indeed for what seem to be the best of reasons.” He gestured at the screens. “Case in point. I told them in my letter to Brandish that they should leave immediately, and so she took it as a challenge, and decided to stay and search the entire house from top to bottom. After, of course,” a pained look crossed his face, “demolishing my dining-room table.”

    “But why should they go, Daddy?”

    “You'll see in just a moment, little one.”

    <><>​

    “Well, they weren't in the attic.”

    Fleur brushed at the smudges of dust on her clothing as she spoke. There hadn't been any people in the attic, but there had been much dust, quite a few spider-webs, and many places for someone to hide. And Brandish had refused to leave before every nook and cranny had been investigated.

    “Look,” Sarah told her sister as they descended the stairs once more. “This is getting ridiculous. We've checked everywhere from the wine cellar on up. They're not here.”

    “I know they're not here,” Carol replied adamantly. “But there's got to be some clue, somewhere, as to where they've gone. And we'll find it.”

    “And what then?” asked Sarah. “Chase off after them? Hound them from city to city?”

    For a moment, she thought Carol was going to answer in the affirmative. But then her sister shook her head reluctantly. “No. But we can inform the authorities about where they've gone to.”

    “I don't know,” Sarah replied. “Outing supervillain identities. It sets a bad precedent. They could do the same to heroes, you realise.”

    “Which is what the New Wave initiative will nip in the bud,” Carol argued. “They can't out us if we're already public.”

    “And the other part?” pointed out Fleur. “Attacking them in their homes? What if -”

    She never completed the sentence; the front doors burst open and armed men poured in, shining bright lights and pointing guns.

    “Police!”

    “Hands on your heads!”

    “Show us your hands!”

    “This is the police!”

    “Down on the floor!”

    “You're under arrest!”

    “Get down on the floor! Now now now!”

    They were taken utterly by surprise; Fleur, in the lead, was grabbed and wrestled to the ground before anyone could react. Carol was grabbed, but went to her invulnerable form, and Sarah threw up her force field. Immediately, pistols were being pointed in her direction.

    “Drop the force field! Immediately!”

    “There's no need for this, officers,” Sarah told them clearly. “We're members of the Brockton Bay Brigade. I'm Lady Photon, that's Brandish, and you've got Fleur on the ground there.”

    “Really?” growled a grizzled sergeant. “So where's the rest of your team, and why are you breaking and entering someone else's home in the middle of the night? And where's your costumes?”

    Sarah sighed. He called the police on us.

    This was going to be a very embarrassing night indeed.

    Well, I can't say we weren't warned.

    <><>​

    Marquis, immaculately clad, with his hair neatly tied back out of the way, stood before Accord's desk. He knew that the diminutive man before him had only very recently established his hold on Boston's underworld, but that he was a rising power. Also that he had stringent requirements for anyone with whom he associated.

    Accord studied him in return. “Marquis.” His voice was dry, to match the metal mask which mirrored his every facial movement. “You had a thriving criminal enterprise in Brockton Bay. Why have you abandoned it all to come to Boston?”

    “I have no intent of ousting you, if that was what you were worried about,” Marquis replied evenly. “My identity was discovered, there, and superheroes invaded my home. I chose to come here rather than fight that battle to its logical conclusion.”

    “If someone threatened me like that, I would have them killed.” Accord's voice was matter-of-fact.

    “I do not harm women or children. You know that.” Marquis' was flat.

    “This is true. Some would see this as a weakness.”

    “Some would be mistaken. You believe in discipline, in regularity in all things. This is part of my discipline. We all have those things which we will not abide, do we not?”

    Slowly, Accord nodded his head. “Your point is well-made. There is territory to the eastern part of the city which I have not yet claimed. I will not contest you for it. Keep your men from my territory, and we will not clash.”

    “You do not ask for tribute?”

    A faint smile. “In the beginning, you will not have sufficient resources to pay me any sort of meaningful tribute. Once you are strong enough to pay such a tribute, you may question the need to pay me anything. You were strong in Brockton Bay; you will be strong here. I understand that you defied Jack Slash, held territory against the Teeth, against the Empire Eighty-Eight, against Galvanate.”

    “All of that is true, yes,” admitted Marquis.

    “So, in return for freely granting you access to your territory, I ask for just one thing.”

    “And what is that?”

    “The reason why you run from superheroes when you do not run from villains.”

    Marquis hesitated for a long moment. “I need your word that you will not use this information against me.”

    “I will give no such assurance until I have heard it.”

    “I would truly rather not say.”

    “Then I would be forced to retract my offer.”

    “You will not act upon this information?”

    Accord lifted his chin slightly. “If I choose to act upon it, I will give you fair warning first.”

    “That's fair, I suppose.” Marquis took a deep breath. “I have a daughter. She is quite young. The superheroes endangered her when they invaded my home. I did not want villains coming after her, to get leverage on me.”

    “Or to kill her just to spite you,” filled in Accord. He nodded. “Very well; this information makes sense, and is not actionable. The territory is yours to be had.”

    Marquis bowed slightly from the waist. “Thank you.”

    “Do not give me cause to regret this.” Accord gestured in dismissal.

    Turning on his heel, Marquis left the office.

    Well, he knows about Amelia, but he doesn't seem to care. I can work with him; he's a cold little bastard, but he keeps his word.

    Walking briskly, he left Accord's base of operations. He had work to do.

    <><>​

    Accord mulled over Marquis' situation. He was powerful in Brockton Bay. Charismatic and dangerous; a potent combination. But he has a weakness; his child.

    A man with a child will take less risks, unless the child is in danger. Allow the child to be kept safe, and he will be predictable, will not threaten me.

    I can work with this.



    End of Prologue, Part Two

    Prologue, Part Three
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
  29. Sinner_sb

    Sinner_sb Versed in the lewd.

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    Great chapter, I loved how the BBB got screwed over by Marquis, not often we see the police being used against heroes like that.

    Oddly enough I think that Marquis and Accord will work well together as allies, even is somewhat distant.
     
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  30. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka True Evil

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    Hmm you know what? I could see Marquis coming back to Brockton Bay later on, years down the road under a new identity, maybe having his men coming to the rescue of a blonde runaway being hassled by some thugs in a alley?
     
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