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Celestial Worm [Worm AU crossover] (COMPLETE)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Aug 17, 2018.

  1. Threadmarks: Index

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Janesha of Mystal is a celestial. Not yet a god in her own right, she has managed to irritate one, and has gone on a self-imposed journey of discovery that ends up in an unexpected side-trip ... to a place called Brockton Bay.

    A/N 1: This fic is a crossover between Worm and Celestial Wars. Celestial Wars is a new novel series by Karen Buckeridge, which I've had the privilege of helping her to develop. It explores the idea of gods as people in their own right. Each pantheon exists in its own realm, and family lines cross from realm to realm. The first two novels are Ties That Bind and The Long Way Home.

    A/N 2: Janesha is an original character for the Celestial Wars series, but other names are either canon or will actually appear in the books.

    A/N 3: This fic beta-read by the author, Karen Buckeridge.

    A/N 4: The fic is set toward the middle of the series, well after the first couple of novels, for reasons that are unimportant to the plot as a whole. Spoilers will be kept to a minimum. No prior knowledge of the series is needed to understand what's going on.

    A/N 5: for other (non-Worm) Celestial Wars sidestories, see
    here and here.


    1. This crossover will be set mainly in the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow. Thanks for letting me use both settings.
    2. I will follow canon for the Wormverse as closely as I can. Some aspects of Worm will be altered due to the interaction with Celestial Wars. 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.

    Part One: Exile (below)
    Part Two: Establishing Credentials
    Part Three: Celestial Shenanigans
    Part Four: Settling In
    Part Five: Going Native
    Part Six: Reaping the Whirlwind
    Part Seven: Official Attention
    Part Eight: Confrontation with Authority
    Part Nine: Surgical Info-Strike
    Part Ten: A Deeper Perspective
    Part Eleven: Clearing the Air
    Part Twelve: Golden Revelations
    Part Thirteen: Lucky for Some
    Part Fourteen: Eclectic Boogaloo
    Part Fifteen: Dead End
    Part Sixteen: Playing Chicken
    Part Seventeen: Hard Derail
    Part Eighteen: Cleanup
    Part Nineteen: Apocalypse Subverted
    Part Twenty: Tracking Down Problems
    Part Twenty-One: There's Always Another Mess
    Part Twenty-Two: Danger Close
    Part Twenty-Three: Janesha Transcendent
    Part Twenty-Four: The Best of Intentions
    Part Twenty-Five: Hubris
    Part Twenty-Six: Incursion
    Part Twenty-Seven: Mortal World, Celestial War
    Part Twenty-Eight: Ending Up

    Epilogue One: Taylor
    Epilogue Two: Janesha

    Non-Worm Mystal one-shot: Celestial Hamster
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2020 at 8:31 AM
  2. Threadmarks: Part One: Exile

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Celestial Worm

    Part One: Exile


    “—and so I hoisted him in the air with my one hand around his throat,” boasted Thor. “With my other, I drew my sword and held it up so he knew what was coming.” He paused to ensure that his audience—many of them youths of Asgard, but some were from other realms, coming from as far away as Yaru and Mystal—were giving his story the rapt attention that it deserved. Nearly all of them were, but one girl, a dark-skinned stripling of fifteen or sixteen in dull black, was squinting as though something about the tale gave her indigestion. He reassured himself that she was probably feeling queasy from the richness of his telling. Girls of that age probably couldn't stomach a good tale of blood and guts. Smoothing down his voluminous red beard, he continued.

    “Then, with a cry of, 'This is what happens to those who disrespect the house of Odin!', I threw him into the air as easily as you might toss a scrap of meat to a dog. Then I clove him in twain with my sword, twice over. Once from head to crotch, and once through the waist. When he struck the ground in four places, his men lost all heart and fled.”

    Amid the gasps of wonder and awe, he heard a distinct snort from the squinting girl. Now she had him fixed with the same sort of cynical eye that Sif used on him when his excuses for staying out too late began to wear thin. He was starting to feel irritated, so he stepped forward and gave her the same glare back. “What's the matter, girl?” he asked. “The tale not to your liking?”

    “The story's fine, Lord Thor,” she said casually. “The trouble is, I first heard it years ago—at my great-grandmother's knee. From the way she told it, she was the one who sliced and diced the guy, and made his men leave a trail of shit all the way back to the borders of the realm.” She nodded toward Thor. “And don't you normally prefer a hammer to a sword, anyway?”

    Thor puffed out his chest, his pride stung. “I am a warrior, girl!” he thundered. Leaning into his powerbase just a little, he caused true thunder to roll and rattle around the rafters of the longhouse. “I can use a sword if I so wish, and I have done so many times. Stand up, girl. Let me see you. Who are you, to call me a liar under my own roof?”

    Slowly, the girl stood up, revealing that she was wearing black leather from neck to toe. A cape of the same colour was fastened around her neck with a gold clasp, raising a certain memory in Thor's mind. Before this could bear fruit, the girl's peers edged away from her slightly to give her a clear space, distracting him. He imagined this was to get out of the splash range of any lightning bolts he might throw at her. Not that he would. These were guests under his roof, and he would no sooner attack them than he would renounce his own godhood.

    “I wasn't calling you a liar, Lord Thor,” she said quietly but firmly. “I was merely pointing out that I have heard that exact tale before, word for word, but with my great-grandmother holding the sword. I am Janesha of Mystal, daughter of Tawhirimatea, granddaughter of Rabbe …” She took a deep breath. “… great-granddaughter of Armina.”

    The indrawn gasps made it sound as if a gentle wind had swept across the audience. No matter where they were from, almost everyone knew the fearsome reputation of Armina, Mystal's goddess of War. Outside her home realm, she was a masterful strategist who could read a battlefield like Bragi could read a scroll. Within the borders of Mystal, she literally could not lose a battle. It was her powerbase and her thrall; challenge her to any kind of battle at all, and she instantly knew how to win it. On the downside, she could not turn away from such a challenge or throw a match, no matter what she felt about her opponent.

    And one more thing was known about her. Armina did not lie about her victories. She didn't need to. The record spoke for itself.

    Which meant that Janesha was indeed accusing Thor of being either untruthful or forgetful. It was, in fact, both. Once, in his cups, he had repeated the tale which he'd heard before, he wasn't sure where. It made for a fine alehouse story, and his drinking comrades had asked him to repeat it so many times that he'd truly begun to think it was his own deed. Of course, now he knew whose deed it was, he wouldn't be telling it any more.

    On the other hand, Armina wasn't here to take him to task, but this skinny little chit seemed to think that she was permitted to. Thor scowled heavily, and thunder boomed in the rafters once more. “Well, then, Janesha of Mystal, daughter of Tawhirimatea, granddaughter of Rabbe, great-granddaughter of Armina, what have your elders taught you about speaking out of turn?”

    There was fear in her now, he could tell. To her credit, she refused to let it show. “I was taught to always own my words and deeds,” she replied steadily. “But tell me, Lord Thor. How was I speaking out of turn, when you asked me to speak up first? Would you have preferred that I lie?”

    Yes! But Thor did not speak the word. That would be more in keeping with Loki's thoughts and deeds. In fact, he wouldn't put it past his father's blood brother to have arranged this in some subtle way. Humiliating Thor like this before such young, impressionable minds would be a great prank indeed. He looked around the longhouse until he spotted Loki sitting at a table a little way away. Smirking slightly, the god of Mischief raised his mug of mead to Thor, then took a drink.

    Unfortunately, Loki had not spoken the words or raised the topic, so Thor couldn't prove he was behind it. But he could deal with the little troublemaker before him. Removing the Mischief god's catspaw from the board would be satisfying in its own right, and would require Loki to find another little fool to corrupt to his cause.

    “Enough with your words,” he snapped. “You have disrespected me and my house. Were you a man, I would strike you down where you stand. But you are a child. Bow before me and offer your sincere apology in the name of the realm of Mystal, and I will allow your slight to pass.”

    “Yeah, as if.”

    The words barely had time to pass her lips before the gasps of those around her almost drowned out the buzz of conversation at the nearby tables. He stared at her. “What?” His exclamation came out like a crack of thunder.

    She had her hands clenched at her sides, probably to conceal their shaking. But she did not flee and she did not quail. “I didn't stutter, Lord Thor,” she said as firmly as she was able. Then, as if recalling a long-ago lesson, her spine straightened. “And I was taught to stand my ground and apologise for nothing. Do what you will. Because Mystallians don't bend and we sure as shit don't break.”

    Well, she's definitely one of Avis' insane lot, Thor mused. Mystallians were famous—or infamous—throughout the realms for their stiff-necked pride. The only time in their tumultuous history that they had ever capitulated to the will of another realm was when Avis, their co-leader and god of Life had gotten Clarise, the daughter of the ruler of Chaos, with child. From all accounts, the liaison had taken place on a diplomatic mission and had been consensual on both sides. But Belial hadn't cared. With the entire fighting force of Chaos behind him, he had advanced on Mystal with a single demand: Avis must marry Clarise.

    There was no doubt in Thor's mind that had Mystal been stronger or Chaos weaker, the answer would've been much different. However, it wasn't, and the couple were soon wed. It hadn't gone well. Less than a year later, Avis had been exiled from his own realm and gone on a three-year rampage across the Known Realms, about two steps ahead of a vengeful force of Hellion Highborn lords, apparently to do with his mistreatment of his wife. Thor didn't have all the details of how Avis had sorted that little problem out, but he'd come traipsing back through Asgard two years after that, with not only Clarise but also their two young daughters in tow. And Thor had always thought that Chance was Mystal's god of Luck, not Avis.

    By now, all the other youngsters were hissing at Janesha to shut up, to apologise, to do anything to avert the wrath of Thor. She ignored them, staring back at him. Almost daring him to do his worst. Of course, he couldn't do that. The stupid little bitch wasn't even established yet. A hit that would merely incapacitate her godly relatives until they healed would kill her stone dead, with no takebacks. And there was no way in all the realms he wanted that sort of wergild hanging over his head, or the reputation of killing a teenage girl who called him out for stealing another's glory.

    “Well, bend and break this!” he bellowed, and pointed to the doors. “You are henceforth banished from my hearth, my home and my realm! Leave now and never return, until Ragnarok itself befalls Asgard! Thor commands it!” Thunder rolled in the echo of his voice, both within and without the longhouse.

    That, and only that, caused her gaze to narrow and started the tears welling in her eyes as she stepped from between the other youngsters and started the trek toward the way out of the longhouse. Her face was set and pale, her lips pressed tightly together. It was a pity, Thor mused absently, that she hadn't thought to close her mouth like that earlier, when it counted. The tears hadn't fallen from her eyes by the time she passed him, nor did she look to the left nor to the right as she made her way toward the exit.

    To be banned forever from a realm was a harsh penalty, especially for such a youthful celestial. She would grow, and she would learn what she'd done wrong, but until he decided to rescind his word, she would never be allowed back into Asgard. Still, Thor considered his actions justified. She had to learn that there were things that youngsters just didn't do, and that included calling their elders liars. In some realms, that would have definitely gotten her killed.

    As she reached the doors, the guards standing by opened them, allowing a gust of freezing air, dancing with snowflakes, to swirl in. Stepping forth, she descended the stairs on the outside of the longhouse, vanishing from his view. A second figure darted between the doors just before the guards closed them with a hollow boom, but Thor didn't bother calling out. He knew who it was, and that it would be a waste of words.

    As the conversations slowly started up again, Thor turned to the youngsters and forced himself to smile jovially. “Well, then,” he boomed. “Who'd like to hear another story?”

    This time, he decided, he'd make sure to tell of the deeds he had performed.



    Stomping down the steps with indignation stoking her growing anger, Janesha restrained herself from bursting back into the hall and turning Thor's mind into that of a newborn, with all the attendant lack of body control. If she thought she was in trouble now, doing that would definitely get her grounded for the next eon or two. But that didn't stop it from being sorely tempting. It was best to leave now, before she acted on her impulses. She'd never liked Asgard, anyway. It was always too cold for her liking, and the gods too boastful and arrogant. Especially Thor, that overgrown fire-bearded, thunder-stealing lying sack of—!

    “For a shifter, you're not very good at controlling your expressions,” observed a calm voice from behind her. She turned fast, even though she'd recognised the voice immediately.

    “Aunt Yasadan,” she greeted the older woman. This was Thor's sister, though she was wearing the same Mystallian leathers as Janesha herself. Red-haired and muscular like her brother, though not as obviously bulky, Yasadan was married to Janesha's great-great-uncle Amaro. Amaro, Avis' dour twin brother, was Mystal's other co-ruler and its god of Death. “He's pissed, isn't he?” As the cold began to get to her, she reconfigured her leathers to be more insulating. The ruff of black fur at the collar was a nice touch, she thought.

    “I'm afraid so,” Yasadan said regretfully.

    “Good. So am I.”

    “I can tell. Though I can talk to him, if you wish …?”

    “Nope.” Janesha shook her head violently, causing her shoulder-length black hair to sway back and forth. Spilling from her eyes at last, the tears burned hot tracks down her frozen cheeks. The warmth didn't last for long, and she could actually feel the salty water freezing in its turn. With a thought, she evaporated them because she wanted to concentrate on the conversation. “He stole that story and we both know it. I meant every word I said.”

    “But he wasn't hurting anyone, and there was no need to make a fool of him in public,” Yasadan pointed out gently.

    “So you're on his side now,” Janesha snapped, her temper getting the better of her.

    Yasadan raised a warning eyebrow. “Do you honestly think your grandmother's reputation so fragile that she needs you to leap to her defense?”

    “That's not the point.” Fully aware that she'd overreacted to her aunt's words, Janesha waved her hand in a 'whatever' gesture. “Anyway, let him boot me out. I'm earning every realm-damned word of it.”

    “As is your right,” Yasadan acknowledged. “Do you want to blood-link back home to your parents, or should I link you through to Amaro?” Concealed within her seemingly innocuous inquiry was an acknowledgement that Janesha almost certainly would not want to face her parents immediately.

    Blood-links were a means for celestials related by blood to communicate and travel to one another over great distances. Having married Amaro and shared in his essence, Yasadan could blood-link with anyone of the Mystallian bloodline, just as Amaro had access to Yasadan's extended family.

    As such, Yasadan's question was a subtle suggestion that Janesha would like to spend some time with her uncle before breaking the news to her parents that she'd managed to get herself banned from a realm. Amaro, after all, resided in (and ruled from) Crohen, Mystal's Death City, which was all the way across the realm from Pandess, the city of Life (where Janesha and her family lived). If Yasadan requested it, Amaro would be likely to assent, and Janesha knew he would not judge her by her actions. Death held no favourites, after all.

    It wasn't a bad call. As Mystal's goddess of Serenity, Yasadan was good at making little suggestions like that. However, Janesha had other ideas. “Neither,” she said after a moment's thought. “I'll ride. It'll take my mind off things. Let me get my head on straight, so I'm not still all angry when I talk to them about it.”

    “That's wise,” Yasadan said with a smile. “Are you sure you want to ride all the way? It is at least a nine-month ride back to Mystal, after all.” Mystallions were fast; the only things faster were certain denizens of Chaos. But realms were huge, and even the fastest riding animals in all the realms still took time to get anywhere.

    Janesha shrugged. “Once I've calmed down, I'll just blood-link back home and be done with it.” Not that she thought she'd be doing that at all quickly. Mystallian children had a certain bloody-mindedness inculcated in them almost from birth; it was very much a 'do or die' attitude that had stood Mystal well in the past. “I'm thinking a few weeks away from liars and idiots is just what I need right now.”

    “And food? How are you going to carry a few weeks' worth?” Yasadan wasn't trying to discourage her from going, Janesha was certain. She was just asking to make sure Janesha had a plan of action.

    Glancing down at the ground, Janesha spied a rock as big as her fist. Stooping, she took it up and held it in her hand. Concentrating on it, she willed the ice-cold stone to reconfigure into her favourite fruit. Moments later, she held a bright red apple. Biting into it, she let the sweet juice run down her throat as she chewed and swallowed. “I think I've got it handled,” she observed. While the greater measure of her celestial ability ran to mind powers, she was also able to change the shape and consistency of things—including herself—to a certain degree, something she'd inherited from her father. And while she couldn't affect the weather, she'd always been able to tell what it was going to be like at any one time, so she'd know when to build a shelter and when to keep riding.

    “Very true,” agreed Yasadan. Taking her great-grandniece in her arms, the ex-Asgardian gave her a warm hug. “Take care of yourself, little one, and don't worry about Thor. I'll speak to him. By the time you're back home, I'll have all this sorted out.”

    Privately, Janesha doubted that, but she didn't voice her reservations. Thor was known to be bull-headed to a fault and he was in his home realm, which meant his thrall was in play. Yasadan, on the other hand, merely had her innate ability to calm ruffled feathers, but not her full-fledged power base to call upon. So unless Uncle Avis himself were to visit Odin (something that hadn't happened since long before she was born) and prevail upon his one-time friend to speak to Thor on Janesha's behalf, she didn't see that changing any time in the next eon or so.

    “Thanks,” she said out loud. “I appreciate it.” Giving her great-great-aunt one last smile, she headed around the longhouse to where the two mystallions were stabled in makeshift lodgings.

    Mystallions were a breed of winged horse native to Mystal. Despite the name, there were both male and female mystallions. Janesha had once spent some time trying to figure out the link between Mystallians and mystallions. Whenever a member of Mystal's nobility was nearing adulthood, a mystallion would be born, achieving riding age just when the Mystallian was ready to start learning. In addition, when a god from another realm married into the pantheon, they also found themselves with a mystallion in short order. Once bonded, rider and horse were able to pick up on each others' feelings to a certain degree, though nobody quite seemed to know how. If anyone held the key to this mystery, she'd figured, Culkin would. But when she asked Mystal's god of Knowledge about it, he'd smiled and told a story about a mortal hero who'd been granted the use of a mystallion for a short time. It was an hour later before she realised he'd given her no answer at all.

    Entering the hastily-constructed building, she had to laugh out loud. The Asgardians had built the stables as they built everything else, heavy on the stone and wood and strong enough to keep out predators or attacking armies. But the purpose of stables was to let mystallions know where they were supposed to be, rather than keep them in or even protect them.

    As with all denizens of the celestial realms, the winged horses were far stronger and more durable than their mortal counterparts, and would contemptuously kick to pieces any real attempt to pen them in with mere wood and stone. Some Asgardian or other, failing to understand this, had hung heavy wooden gates across the stall entrances. One gate had been smashed off its hinges and was now embedded in the stone wall opposite, with a single perfect hoof-print in the centre of the gate to explain how it got there. The other had apparently been torn from its mountings by something that left a bite-mark deeply impressed in the iron-hard wood, then shaken to pieces; there were bits of wood everywhere. It didn't surprise Janesha at all that the gouges in the wood matched a horse's teeth exactly.

    “Wow, we just can't leave you alone for a moment, can we?” she asked, the sight of the wrecked gates having improved her mood somewhat. Both mystallions looked innocently back at her from their stalls though her own mount, the fiery-tempered Cloudstrike, seemed to be discreetly spitting splinters on to the floor of the stable. The mare's ears pricked forward and she nickered eagerly, perhaps picking up on her rider's desire to be out of this place.

    Her good mood returning in full, Janesha took Cloudstrike's bridle from its peg and held it out invitingly. “Want to go for a ride, girl? Huh?”

    Cloudstrike definitely knew the word 'ride'. She let out a trumpeting whinny that would've still been deafening if Janesha had been outside and fifty metres upwind. As it was, Janesha had to reconfigure her ears to get over the ringing in them after the echoes died away. She put her hands over her ears and gave her mount a dirty look. Cloudstrike nickered again, looking amused, and nosed at the bridle.

    “Yeah, yeah, so funny,” Janesha muttered, and held out the apple to her equine friend. As Cloudstrike crunched on the treat, she slid the bridle on to the mystallion's head. Then she saddled up her mystallion and led her from the stables. Cloudstrike had a palomino's colouring, with wingfeathers that showed blue below and a cloudy grey above. In bright sunlight, her golden coat could be seen to positively glow.

    There was none of that here, of course. During the winter in Asgard, Sól could be scarcely roused from her bed before late morning, and some days she refused to get up at all. Even in the summer, the light she shed was at best pale and watery. And this definitely wasn't summer.

    Poising herself, Janesha vaulted lightly into the saddle, very carefully not looking over to see if her great-great-aunt was impressed. Among her Mystallian peers, it was fine to show off, but you weren't supposed to acknowledge that you were showing off. And if you happened to screw up while showing off, nobody let you forget it. This was why she'd practised the move assiduously before ever trying it in public.

    Safely in the saddle, she waved to Yasadan then looked up at the lowering sky. She'd flown at night before, but never in such chilly conditions. More snow was on the way, she judged. If she waited much longer, it would be too cold for even the hardy Cloudstrike to fly properly. But it was either that or admit defeat and blood-link back to Mystal in a single step.

    Screw that. Thor can kiss my ass. Shaking out her reins, she dug her boot-heels into Cloudstrike's ribs. “Hyah! Let's go!”

    The mystallion responded eagerly, unfurling her great wings and bringing them down in a thunderclap of wind. That one wingbeat served to launch them skyward in a flurry of snowflakes. When next Janesha looked down, Yasadan was a dwindling dot, far below. Upward they spiralled, Janesha wanting to get above the clouds. It would be colder up there, but there would be less in the way of snow to obscure their vision.

    Before they entered the cloud layer itself, Janesha formed a hood and scarf from the Mystallian leathers, bringing it close around her head with snow-goggles across her eyes. Thus attired, she had no exposed skin for when they swept into the freezing clouds. Still, the chill struck at her with a vengeance, forcing her to fortify her body against the icy cold. Beneath her, Cloudstrike's wingbeats never faltered, driving them ever upward.

    By the time they burst into the upper air, Janesha found there was a thin layer of ice crystals coating her arms and legs, with more glinting in Cloudstrike's coat. Tiny stalactites formed and then broke away from the mystallion's wingfeathers, while her mount's exhalations formed huge clouds of vapour that flowed back around them like tiny versions of the clouds below them.

    If she'd thought it was cold at ground level, that was nothing compared to the chill at this altitude. Mentally, she calculated the time it would take to fly all the way across Asgard toward Mystal, and conceded that neither she nor Cloudstrike would be able to make it in one flight. Too many more hours of this, and they would freeze to death in mid-air, or simply freeze solid altogether. Yet her pride demanded that she not let Thor win, driving her back to Mystal with her metaphorical tail between her legs.

    Of course. Why she hadn't thought of this before, she didn't know … well, yes, she did. There was another way out of the conundrum, but it involved doing something she'd never thought of doing before. Thor's longhouse was all the way across Asgard from Mystal for a good reason: monsters from the Unknown Realms invaded Asgard on a semi-regular basis, and Thor always liked a good fight. Asgard's border with the unmapped region was barely ten minutes away by air. Once across said border, they'd be out of the biting cold, and she'd be able to plot a better course then. Of course, this did mean that they'd actually have to cross the border and leave the Known Realms, at least for a little while.

    The big problem with entering the Unknown Realms was the fact that no pantheons held sway there. There was also danger to be found there, of course. For an unestablished celestial, anywhere and everywhere held the risk of injury or even death. But it was no more dangerous than many of the settled Realms, and less so than some (in some Realms, the ruling pantheon was the danger). However, if a traveller in the Unknown Realms encountered trouble, there was nobody around to help. Once a pantheon carved out a realm and established their names, they automatically became part of the Known Realms. Absent that, an unwary traveller could run into anything out there.

    Still, the slight chance of trouble was better than the very real peril of freezing to death. Gently, she tugged on one of the reins, bringing Cloudstrike around in a long, swooping turn. “Ten minutes, girl,” she said, leaning forward in the saddle. “And then we're warm again.”

    Cloudstrike's expressive snort was matched by an increase in the frequency of her wingbeats; more ice crystals exploded into their wake. The mystallion accelerated toward the promised warmth, provoking a whoop of exhilaration from her teenage rider.

    Crossing from one Realm into another was not a common experience. If celestials wanted to travel, they usually blood-linked to a relative in the realm they were bound for. It made for fast, efficient travel, without all that boring going from one place to another. For this trip, just as an example, Aunt Yasadan had blood-linked to Thor, and brought Janesha along for the trip. Their mystallions had been included in the deal, because no son or daughter of Mystal left their steeds behind if there was the slightest chance they'd need them.

    The border with the Unknown Realms, therefore, looked strange to Janesha as she and Cloudstrike approached it. Instead of the bitterly-cold night sky, it seemed to reflect sunset colours, spread across the horizon before them. Janesha hung on as the boundary leaped toward them, not knowing what sort of a jolt was in store. Would they fall from the sky, or just plain hit a wall?

    As it turned out, neither outcome was what happened. One instant they were arrowing through sub-freezing temperatures and the next they were soaring over rolling, tree-clad hills. The temperature change was almost shocking in its suddenness, and Janesha quickly found that her insulated leathers were now far too warm for the new climate. She dispelled the hood and goggles, bringing the leathers back to their normal thickness and warmth. Under her, Cloudstrike whinnied loudly in triumph as the last of the ice crystals on her wings cracked and fell away. Now she was spraying tiny droplets of water with every wing-beat, as moisture condensed on her super-cooled wingfeathers, only to be flicked off again.

    “We did it!” whooped Janesha, waving her fist in the air. As an afterthought, she turned the gesture into a middle finger directed at Asgard behind her. “And screw you too, Thor!”

    Now came the moment of truth; to turn left or right before skirting the border of Asgard on their way back to Mystal? It really didn't make a difference, she decided. Either way, she'd likely still be following the border when she finally got sick of travelling on her own and decided to blood-link straight home.

    And that was when she had the Idea. As with all capital-I Ideas, it initially seemed like a good one, only revealing a certain level of poor judgement after the fact. If she was going to be spending all this time in the Unknown Realms, she figured, why not explore a bit?

    “How about it, Cloudstrike?” she asked out loud. For the moment they were just gliding, enjoying the feeling of the warm wind across their faces, so she could speak to her mount without shouting. “Up for a little ride into uncharted territory? See what's really out there? Have an adventure or two before we go home?”

    Cloudstrike tossed her head and whinnied in agreement. It seemed she was just as interested in the idea as Janesha. Then again, it wasn't altogether surprising. Mystallions were very close in temperament to their riders, so if Janesha thought it was a good idea to venture forth into the unknown, Cloudstrike was almost guaranteed to agree.


    Three Weeks Later

    “So what do you say, Cloudstrike?” Janesha asked as she stood up from the comfortable mattress she'd created from a fallen tree. “Time to head home yet, or should we make it four weeks?” It had been an interesting and educational time for her. She'd never spent this much time alone before, and had taken the opportunity to think over the clash with Thor in some detail. With some thought on the matter, she figured she knew where she'd gone wrong, and how she should have approached the subject. Not making her derision plain would've been a good start.

    Nor had she spent all the time inside her own head. She and Cloudstrike had dropped into the mortal realm from time to time, just to see what the stars and galaxies looked like when gods weren't making reality play tricks for their own amusement. They'd cruised past magnificent ringed planets and watched gigantic stars explode in slow motion. Janesha had spent a whole hour watching a purple slug-like thing wriggle painfully out of a methane ocean.

    The sheer relentless drive of its tiny mind reminded her a little of the Mystallian way of life, and she'd taken the time to mark it (and its descendants) with the Mystallian sigil that adorned the back of her cape, a mystallion rearing with widespread wings. The fact that Mystallians would likely never visit that particular planet ever again hadn't even bothered her.

    Pausing in her methodical demolishing of a nearby bush, Cloudstrike snorted and tossed her head. It seemed to Janesha that the mystallion was a little homesick, just as she herself was, but both were also reluctant to bring the endless vacation to an end. Also, Janesha wasn't overly looking forward to the chewing out she was going to get from her father over being banned from a nominally-friendly realm.

    “So maybe another day or two then?” Janesha paused to give herself a stimulation wave; her shapeshifting went through her entire body, including her leathers, to reset everything back to scratch. Her hair went from bed-head to perfectly brushed, her eyes were clear, teeth were clean, and her leathers were smooth and polished. Shifter powers were so useful.

    As she laid her hand on Cloudstrike to give her mount the same treatment, the mystallion nickered in agreement. Janesha reformed the lead-rope and peg that had tethered Cloudstrike to the ground overnight back into the bridle. Her pillow and blankets reconfigured into Cloudstrike's saddle at a touch, and soon they were ready to travel on.

    The whole thing about the Unknown Realms was that they had no boundaries. In the mortal plane, the average realm consisted of many billions of galaxies, which mystallions could traverse in a matter of hours. Up on the celestial plane, she travelled across various types of terrain; wooded hills, swamps, mountains, deserts and so forth. These didn't matter all that much. If a celest decided to claim a section for a Realm and stayed long enough to become attuned to it, it would then begin to reshape itself to his needs and desires. So, too, would the mortal plane beneath.

    Which made what she saw several hours later all the more strange. Off in the distance, she saw a boundary. Or if not a boundary, then a terrain type she'd never seen before. Turning Cloudstrike toward the line on the horizon, she felt a frisson of excitement. Was this a newly claimed Realm, in the midst of the Unknown Realms? All the pantheons she'd ever heard about were well-established; this was definitely something new.

    New, it certainly was. Also, bizarre. As they neared the border, she slowed her pace, to give any guards the chance to challenge them, but none appeared. Even stranger than that was the terrain within the new Realm. It seemed to be angular and crystalline. In some places, it even seemed to be alive and pulsating with odd lights. Strange swirls looked deeper than they really should, indicating that it extended elsewhere in a way that would cause a normal mortal physicist to give up and get very drunk.

    Looking around with interest, Janesha guided Cloudstrike over the border into the new Realm. She didn't feel like landing on the odd terrain, and she got the impression that Cloudstrike had similar reservations. They wouldn't venture too far into it, she decided. If they met the new inhabitants, she would greet them in the name of Mystal, then politely leave without touching foot to ground.

    Still, that didn't mean some of the larger crystal formations weren't interesting. Reacting to her slightest touch, Cloudstrike banked in a graceful turn then swooped down to glide alongside one specimen that had to be forty feet tall. Deep within it, rainbow lightning arced back and forth in a fascinating pattern.

    There was another crystalline formation, almost as tall as the first, with a narrow gap in between. Janesha urged Cloudstrike onward, eager to see what this crystal would display in its depths.

    From between the two monoliths, a dark form lunged with a deep-throated roar. Cloudstrike reared, screaming in fear and pain as razor claws lashed across her flank. Caught unawares, with a stinging pain in her left leg, Janesha was thrown from the saddle, flailing in midair.

    What's that? Her mind kicked into high gear, calling on her celestial abilities. While she was internalising like this, the physical world was effectively on hold while she mustered her resources to analyse the threat. Talot. Has to be a feral one. Talot were a monstrous beast found here and there in the Realms. In Mystal, they were carefully husbanded for hunts, whereas Asgard considered them dangerous beasts that destroyed everything before them. Bilge-something or other. Doesn't matter now. Janesha hadn't known there were wild ones out there. This one must have found the new Realm and decided to take up residence there.

    She was falling. Cloudstrike, blood running down her flank from the Talot's ambush strike, was climbing for altitude. There wasn't time to mend the gashes in her leg before she hit the ground, and from the way she was falling she would hit hard. The Talot wasn't in her line of sight, which meant she couldn't lock it down before it attacked her again. And if the fall knocked her out, it could kill her at its leisure. There was only one real viable option. Cloudstrike, I hope you can find me before it does.

    She restarted time and pushed herself through into the mortal plane. This is gonna suck.


    Brockton Bay

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Danny Hebert

    With a grimace at the squeal of metal on metal—one more thing to fix with this damn car—Danny slowed the vehicle to a halt, then set the parking brake. Picking up the new digital camera from the front seat, he climbed out of the car and shut the door.

    He hated leaving Taylor alone like this, but the new proposal had a fast-approaching deadline, and she spent most of her time sleeping now anyway. His blood boiled all over again as he recalled the condition she'd been in when she came out of the locker. They'd cleaned her up in the hospital, but she still looked fragile, as if she'd break like glass at a touch. And of course he couldn't sue the damn school. They'd unbent just far enough to pay Taylor's medical bills, under the agreement that he wouldn't hold them criminally liable for what had happened to her under their care. But if he could convince the Mayor's office to release enough funds to clean up the mess that was once Lord's Port and was now the Boat Graveyard, the Dockworkers would be a going concern once more. That would give him the personal funds to sue the school into the bedrock with a civil case as opposed to criminal.

    The idea, of course, was to take photos that would convince hard-nosed bureaucrats to loosen their grip on money that they'd already decided to disburse elsewhere. Being somewhat of a hard-nosed bureaucrat himself—by occupation, not by choice—Danny figured he had maybe a thirty percent chance of making his case. But it was for Taylor, so he was determined to give it the old college try.

    Just as he raised the camera, trying to get the old rusting cranes in the shot with the nearest half-sunken ship, he became aware of a new sound. It was coming from up in the air, and he swivelled to look. His eyes widened, and he almost instinctively took a picture of the screaming form that plummeted toward the ground, surrounded by an odd glow.

    The impact knocked him off his feet; an echoing BOOOM rolled across the oil-polluted water. Slowly, he climbed to his feet, surprised to find himself still holding his camera. About fifty feet away, the cracked and dirty concrete slabs had been shattered into a crater ten feet deep. Head still ringing from the noise, he clambered up the low berm of debris that had been thrown up. Lying in the middle of the crater, wearing a black form-fitting costume and a cape of the same colour, was a teenage girl with dusky skin and shoulder-length black hair. She appeared to be unconscious, which didn't surprise him. She also seemed to be alive, which did.

    “Well, crap,” he said out loud. “What do I do now?”

    End of Part One

    Part Two
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
  3. inky

    inky Know what you're doing yet?

    May 26, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Good start. With the talk about claiming realms, I wouldn't be surprised if Janesha snatched up the Earth(s). The gods as described feel like humans writ large, with magic. Perhaps more abstract descriptions would make them feel godlier?
    WaNoMatsuri, Shadowcub and Ack like this.
  4. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    The 'humans writ large' concept is what the series is all about. Gods as people, with conflicts and family ties, rather than abstract 'a god did it'.

    As for snatching up the realm, the one big problem is that it's an already established realm, which means that someone established it ...
    Prince Charon and inky like this.
  5. Gindjurra

    Gindjurra I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Aug 21, 2016
    Likes Received:
    That's assuming that the Entities don't count as the owners already. After all, there is a realm there.
    Ack and Cailin like this.
  6. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    That is correct.
  7. Threadmarks: Part Two: Establishing Credentials

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Celestial Worm

    Part Two: Establishing Credentials

    [A/N 1: This chapter beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]


    Even from where he was, Danny could see the bleeding gashes on the girl's leg. Worse, her arm was bent in a place where arms normally don't bend, with a shard of white bone protruding through the black costume. Fortunately, he was fairly sure he could also see the rise and fall of her back under the cape that was draped untidily over her. Which meant she was alive, even after a crash-landing that left a crater in the dockside he could've parked an RV in.

    Tucking the camera away in his pocket, he skirted around the raised berm until he found a spot he could climb over. What am I even doing? he asked himself. The answer was simple; rendering aid. She didn't look any older than Taylor, and if she ever ended up as a cape and got hurt in a fight (God forbid), he hoped that some other good Samaritan would help her out.

    He was just beginning to clamber between two uptilted slabs when an odd sensation made the hair stand up on the back of his neck. There was a crackling hiss and he looked up to see a monstrous creature dragging itself through a hole in space, about twenty feet above the ground. Around the edge of the hole, pale purple lightning was arcing in all directions, dissipating into the air or grounding in the concrete below.

    “What the—” he began, but he hadn't even finished speaking before it dragged itself all the way through and dropped to the ground. Or rather, on to his car, which was directly beneath it. Any hope that it was lighter than it looked died instantly, along with the car. There was a rending crash, then the creature stalked forward. It left the car with its roof crushed in, the chassis crumpled and all four wheels either splayed outward or burst from the excess of pressure.

    The size of a rhino but with a far higher proportion of claws, teeth, horns and just plain sharp bits protruding from its sleek black scaly hide, it looked like nothing he'd ever seen before. A long whip-like tail, waving in the air, sported bony blades not far from the end. Where the hell did that thing come from? he wondered. Earth Aleph? Or is it a cape projection of some kind? Then it raised its lizardlike head and sniffed the air.

    For a horrified moment he thought it had smelled him, even as he crouched down behind a slab to escape its attention. But as it topped the rim of the crater, its glowing red eyes were fixed on the helpless girl lying in the centre of the depression. Please be a pet, please be a pet, please be a pet, he prayed.

    A grinding crunch signalled one of the slabs that had blocked his way being shoved aside almost effortlessly. The thing sidled down into the pit, almost oozing from step to step, sniffing the air and watching the girl with unblinking eyes. Danny had a bad feeling about this. Almost without his conscious volition, he reached down to the rubble-littered ground. One hand closed around a chunk of concrete, while the other found a piece of rebar.

    By the time he straightened up, the creature was poised over the girl. Slowly, its jaws opened, exposing even more teeth to the air. It pulled its head back, ready to lunge downward—

    “Hey!” Danny heard the yell, and realised it was him. His hand stung from the force of his throw. As the creature raised its head at the sound, the chunk of concrete bounced off its head right about where its ear should be.

    Almost as if it couldn't believe what had happened, the beast turned slowly and fixed its crimson gaze upon him. Warned by some obscure instinct, he ducked just before the whip-tail whistled over his head. The bone blade bit deep into the concrete slab beside him, right where his head would've been. Coming up with the rebar, he swung it two-handed, striking the tail-blades and shattering one. The creature roared in what he hoped was the sort of pain that would make it retreat.

    No such luck. The monster yanked its tail free of the concrete, leaving part of the blade behind, but that didn't hamper it at all. It started moving toward him, vicious intent showing clearly in its glowing eyes. He raised the rebar again, seeing the deep scar in the steel where the bone blade had gouged it. The bone cut the steel? What the hell?

    As it neared him, he took a careful step back, then a second one. “Back off, whatever the fuck you are,” he said, trying to sound confident. “I will beat the fuck out of you with this.” In all honesty, he was beginning to doubt his ability to do that, but he'd gotten out of more than one fight with the judicious use of bravado in the past.

    Unfortunately, either the beast didn't respond to bravado, or it could tell just how scared he was underneath it. Whichever it was, he swung the bar more by instinct than design when it lunged forward, smashing the bar against its nose. With a bone-shaking growl, it darted its head forward a second time, snapping its teeth closed on the bar. To his horror, its gleaming teeth tore through the steel with a grinding shriek, leaving him holding a foot-long stub of metal with a shiny-smooth section where it had been severed. The red eyes glowed even more brightly as it spat out the mangled metal, then moved even faster than it had before. Danny fell backward on to his ass, but it followed him anyway. Just before the fangs reached him, he clenched his eyes shut. He had just enough time for a single thought to crystallise in his mind.

    I'm sorry, Taylor.

    Hot breath washed over his face, making him gag then realise he wasn't actually dead. As he moved his head, sharp points dug into his forehead and under his jaw. Cautiously, he opened his eyes, to find himself looking directly into the gullet of the monster. Its breath came again, redolent of a gust of wind from a slaughterhouse manned by zombies. It didn't seem to be biting his head off, despite its very obvious capability to do just that, so he shuffled himself backward until he was no longer breathing its foetid exhalations.

    “Oh, you're alive,” said the girl, who was now standing alongside the creature with one hand grasping a body spike. For its part, it didn't seem to be reacting to her, to him, or to anything really. It was frozen in mid-lunge, not even moving its eyes. “I'm kind of impressed, actually. There's crap-all mortals who've come face to face with a talot, even a cub like this one, and survived to tell the tale.”

    Danny breathed deeply, trying to get his hammering heart back under control. Almost dying had that effect on him. Though there were a lot of things trying to get his attention right now. Such as how the girl, who had been unconscious and badly injured just moments ago, was up and around now. And why the creature was just … frozen there.

    “T … Talot?” he ventured. “What's a talot?” Part of his brain clicked into gear and he focused on her. Costume. Duh. “You're a cape!” he blurted. “Is that how you're doing this?”



    Janesha snapped awake to see the hindquarters of the talot and hear its frustrated growls. She didn't bother wondering what it was growling at; dealing with the current threat seemed the best idea right then. Restoring herself to full health with a stimulation wave, she sat up and latched on to its animal consciousness, then told it to freeze! As a junior member of the ruling house of Mystal, her ranged mind-bending abilities were easily sufficient to dominate a talot's brain, so it obeyed her order even though she'd checked it in mid-lunge.

    Well, that was easier than I thought it'd be, she decided as she climbed to her feet. Wonder what had it distracted. Just as she took hold of a body spike preparatory to using her shapeshifting on it, she heard a shuffling noise. A tall, thin, balding man came into sight ahead of its muzzle, wearing the shell-shocked expression that anyone would have in his position. Anyone apart from a Mystallian, she amended silently.

    She was impressed, and she told him so. Mystallians tended to hunt talot in the celestial plane. If the hunt went to the mortal plane, they confined the revelries to uninhabited planets or the space between stars. As a result, very few mortals ever laid eyes on one. Which was a good thing for mortals, because a single adult talot would slaughter a mortal city in less than an hour. Especially since they were thirty to forty times the size of this cub.

    After swapping out her ranged mind control of the talot with her touch shapeshifting, she went into the mortal's mind with the intent of wiping the knowledge of her existence from his mind. But as she casually looked over the last few minutes of his memory to find out how much he'd seen of her arrival, what she saw changed her mind. “By the Twin Notes,” she breathed. “You've either gotta be stone-cold nuts or have a brass set the size of Uncle Griffith's. Who the fuck throws a rock at a talot?” Then she got to the bit about how he'd hit it with a metal bar. She knew full-well that it could've stood still while he belaboured it with that bar, and he would only have chipped its horns a little. But that didn't change the fact that he'd actually fought it to save her life, and succeeded. He definitely had manly bits worthy of a celestial. In fact, they deserved their own event horizon.

    “Well, that changes things a bit,” she declared looking to see what his name was before she pulled out of his mind and let outside time start up again. She still had the talot under tactile control, but she knew she had to do something with it. Either kill it or let it go, and letting it go was risking that it might return. Normally, killing a talot came at the end of a hunt, but these were unusual circumstances. Making her mind up, she pushed harder with her shapeshifting. It died instantly and painlessly (she wasn't a monster, after all), slumping to the ground as rocks and dirt. The spike stayed in her hand, and she reshaped it into a tiny replica of the creature, rendered in platinum.

    This didn't help the mortal's state of mind in any way. He sat there, blinking owlishly behind his glasses, until she stepped forward and held out her hand to help him up. “So, yeah. Thanks for helping me out, Danny. That could've been nasty.”

    For saving her life, he deserved a bit more of a reward than a simple thank-you, so as she easily hoisted him to his feet—as a celest in the mortal plane, her dead-lift weight was in the tons—she exerted her shapeshifting once more. By the time she let his hand go, his skin was as durable as it was capable of being in this realm, as was the rest of his body. Which, she noted with some surprise, was far stronger than she'd expected to be able to make him. Who the fuck set up this realm, and what other weird physical laws did they put in place? She'd be able to ignore them selectively, as was her right and capability. But that didn't mean she would be ignoring the fact of their existence. And just wait till I get back to the Known Realms. The look on that glory-stealing blowhard's face when he hears that a mortal stood up to a talot where any ten of his fellow Asgardians would run screaming from them …

    “I, uh … you're welcome,” he said awkwardly. “I've got a daughter about your age, actually. I couldn't not do something, you know?” He grimaced as he looked toward his totalled car, then an entirely different grimace crossed his face as he returned his attention to the remains of the talot. “What was that thing, anyway? I think it was about half a second away from biting my face off.”

    “It's called a talot,” she said dismissively. “They're very rare.” Hopefully extinct in this realm, she amended to herself. “Here,” she said, handing the statuette to Hebert. “Souvenir.”

    Which reminded her. During her previous excursion into Danny Hebert's mind, she'd recognised that his memories of this realm bore an uncanny resemblance to a realm run by one of her cousins. Which made no sense at all. While Earlafaol was also out in the Unknown Realms, and this place looked the same, there was no realm-damned way she'd mistaken one realm for another. And yet, these weren't just accidental parallels. Something weird was going on here.

    The only way to resolve this was to go back in. Diving into his memories, she got an idea of the local planetary geography and what language he spoke, both of which fitted with Earlafaol. The nearby buildings and constructions only bore out the resemblance even more.

    However, despite the physical similarities, there was one glaringly easy way to tell that this wasn't Earlafaol. Janesha had visited her cousin a couple of times, and there were always a few members of her family in the realm somewhere. Celestials always had a distant awareness of any blood relatives within the same realm, in an 'I know you're there but not exactly where or who you are' kind of sense. The pings of familial contact just weren't here, so although this looked like her cousin's realm, it wasn't. The fact that the crystalline landscape she'd seen on the celestial plane had no resemblance to the unsettled (though normal) terrain of Earlafaol simply bore out her conclusion.

    So why does here look so much like there? She dived deeper into his mind, irritated that her laziness on the first two passes necessitated doing the same thing over again. This time, she really looked at the information she was getting.

    Planet's called Earth … Bet? Okay … that kind of fits?

    Country's called United States. That fits.

    Country to the north is Canada, to the south is Mexico. That sounds about right.

    City is called Brockton Bay. Never heard of it.

    Okay, so what's a cape and why did he call me one?

    She went in search of the answer, and when she found it, it was so ridiculous and stupid that for a moment she suspected that Uncle Avis' smartass grandsons had decided to play some sort of long con on her. It had more in common, in fact, to one of the 'comic books' she'd perused during her visits to Earlafaol. She'd spent a lot of time giggling over how idiotic the 'superheroes' looked next to actual gods, and how most of the pantheon of Asgard would probably burst a collective blood vessel if they ever saw how those same comic books portrayed them.

    The truly amusing thing was that because Earlafaol had been set up as a kind of embassy where all pantheons could establish power bases (unlike every other realm in existence, where the gods jealously hoarded their mortals against any interlopers) it was solely due to their efforts that these comic book writers even knew about them.

    But this was no longer stupid or ridiculous. She was there, inside a comic-book world, face to face with a mortal who actually lived here.

    When she emerged from his head, she immediately felt the mental pressure that indicated an incoming blood-link. Janesha's mother had been checking on her at odd intervals over the last few weeks and she'd been careful not to give her parent the excuse to delve into her mind and find out where she really was. However, Yasadan had probably told her of the self-imposed three-week time limit, and she'd reached that today.

    If she finds out where I am, she'll want to yank me home straight away. I don't want to go. I've still got to find Cloudstrike. And once she did that, there was a mystery here, and she intended to get to the bottom of it. And even after she sorted everything else out, there was still the fact that she'd just found an unattended Realm, fully stocked with semi-trained mortals and no apparent gods running things. Basically, it was the equivalent to handing a mortal teenager an unlimited charge card and letting them loose inside a multi-level shopping mall …

    Nobody's gonna blame me if I indulge in a little 'me' time, after all.

    Thinking fast, she turned so that one of the concrete slabs was behind her, then reached back and changed its consistency to granite, with a little ice sheened over it. Asgard had plenty of granite and even more ice; she knew that for a fact. As an afterthought, she changed her uniform back to the cold-weather version she'd been using each time she spoke to her mother, to foster the illusion of still being in Asgard. Good thing I'm not trying this on Aunt Clarise. She'd see through me in an instant.

    The mortal called 'Danny Hebert' went to speak, but she reached out and put a finger to his lips in a 'shush' directive. Then she accepted the blood-link. The image of her mother appeared before her. “Hi, Mom,” she said brightly. “How are things at home?”

    “Oh, we're fine,” her mother replied, a single wrinkle of concern marring her brow. “Why haven't you blood-linked home yet? It's been three weeks.”

    Janesha worked to maintain the facade of being an undecided teenager. “I dunno, Mom. It's nice out here with just me and Cloudstrike, and I guess I'm still a bit pissed off at that red-headed asshole.” Which was also true, though she was far more worried about Cloudstrike than that pretentious blowhard of a thunder god, right then.

    “You do realise that if Thor realises you're still in Asgard, he's going to make it his mission to find you, right?” Her mother's tone was concerned.

    “Don't worry, Mom.” She made her tone as light and cheerful as she could. “I've got it handled. He'll never find me, and even if he does, I'll …” … make him think he's a gerbil and escape while he's trying to figure out how to lick his own butt … “… just zip home straight away. Anyway, did Aunt Yasadan tell you what he said?”

    Her mother sighed. “Yes, as you have reminded me. Repeatedly. But what's done is done. It's not as if he issued your grandmother with a challenge …”

    Janesha snorted. “Wish he had. Then he'd find out what a real war was like. Anyway, thanks for checking in but as you can see, I'm fine. Gotta go, love you lots, bye.” Without giving her mother a chance to protest, she dropped the blood-link then reverted her winter clothing to normal and let out a small sigh of relief. Still got it.

    When she looked next at Danny Hebert, he had his arms folded and one eyebrow raised. She recognised Parent Mode straight away; even coming from a mortal, it got her attention. “So, where are you supposed to be?” he asked. “Remember, I've got a teenage daughter too, and I know a verbal two-step when I see one.”

    Busted. Only one excuse came to mind. “Uh, gotta go look for Cloudstrike.” Before he could say another word, she stepped straight into the celestial realm.



    Danny opened his mouth, then closed it again. Well, that happened. He studied the metal statuette in his hands. It snarled in horrifying likeness to the creature that had nearly killed him, right down to the needle-sharp fangs. With a shudder, he looked away from it at the slab of concrete which was now made of granite and covered with melting ice. Whoever that girl was, he decided, she was the most powerful cape he'd ever heard of, except for the Triumvirate and Scion. It was an article of faith, of course, that those four were the benchmark against whom all other capes were measured.

    Still, she wasn't much weaker than any of them. She'd survived an impact that would've pulverised a normal person, turned a monster into dirt and platinum, and changed concrete to rock and ice. And, of course, simply vanished in front of him. Teleportation or invisibility? Teleportation, he decided. Turning invisible was great for dramatic departures, or so cape soaps would have him believe, but then she would've had to sneak away down a slope consisting mainly of crushed concrete. And with everything else she could do, he was quite willing to believe that she could teleport as well. Not to mention she's got access to some kind of Tinkertech bluetooth videophone, based on that call with her mom. Or maybe her team leader. Teenagers have been known to be sarcastic from time to time, after all.

    Still holding the statuette of the … 'talot', he descended into the crater and began to climb out the other side. The thing had moved one of the slabs so he didn't have to go the long way around, but when he got to the rim, it became painfully obvious that he had no need to hurry. The car was just as much of a wreck as he'd thought when the beast first arrived. He'd be taking the bus home for sure.

    Heaving a gusty sigh, he went over to the car and crouched down to try to access the glovebox. He didn't need to open the door, as all four had sprung open with the impact, as had the hood and trunk. The interior of the vehicle now had a vertical space of about two feet, of which he could use six inches to open the glovebox. At first he thought the latch was jammed but with just a little effort, the whole thing fell off into the footwell. Huh, the damage must've been worse than I thought. All the paperwork pertaining to the car was in there, and he shoved it into the inside pocket of his jacket. Though how he was going to claim 'a monster fell on my car and destroyed it' for the insurance payout, he wasn't sure. There probably wasn't a form for that.



    Stepping in from the mortal realm, Janesha found herself in a forest of those crystals. Odd ghost-like shapes slowly moved within each one, but she was more interested in getting out into the open and finding Cloudstrike. The edges of the crystals looked sharp, and she wasn't okay with the idea of getting her blood on them. There was more to them, she was certain, than a fancy light show.

    “Cloudstrike!” she called out in the hope of getting an immediate answer. None came, which probably meant the mystallion was circling around to come in from another direction. Or that she'd given up on Janesha already, but that was exceedingly unlikely. Mystallions were intensely loyal, even in the face of death.

    Moving with a certain amount of care, she eased her way out from between the crystals. Just as she got into the clear, she heard a distant whinny. “Cloudstrike!” she called again; she would've known that sound anywhere. “Here, girl! I'm here!” Raising her fingers to her lips, she let out a piercing whistle that would hopefully guide the mystallion to her.

    In another moment, Cloudstrike appeared, gliding in from around a particularly massive crystalline monolith. The mystallion whinnied again, the note of relief plain in her voice. She came in for a fast landing, backwinging at the very last instant to drop her hooves to the ground beside Janesha. Then she was nuzzling Janesha's face, with anxious nickers, as if to be certain she was really there.

    “Yes, yes, I'm all right,” Janesha half-protested, half-laughed, running her hands over Cloudstrike's muzzle and up over her head. Ducking her shoulder in under the mystallion's chin, she put her arms around Cloudstrike's neck and held her close. “The talot's never going to hurt either one of us again. I got him good.”

    Which reminded her of Cloudstrike's injuries. Calling on her shapeshifting, she gave the mystallion the same treatment she'd given herself, healing the gashes in her flank and giving her an all-over tune-up to make her feel better. As she did this, she noticed droplets of blood that had alighted on Cloudstrike's tail and frozen in place as opposed to congealing.

    “Clever girl,” she said fondly, running her hands through the mystallion's mane. “You went looking for me on the mortal plane, didn't you?” It wasn't Cloudstrike's fault she hadn't found Janesha; planets were very small on the cosmic scale, after all. Janesha was sure that if she'd stayed in the same place much longer, the mystallion would've located her anyway. In fact, she was willing to bet that Cloudstrike had shown up in low orbit and had been circling the planet, looking for her. When Janesha had gone back to the celestial plane, Cloudstrike had followed.

    The mystallion nickered again and nudged Janesha with the side of her head. Come on, she seemed to be saying. Why aren't you in the saddle yet?

    “All right, all right,” Janesha chuckled. Taking a handful of the shining mane, she vaulted into the saddle. “You're never going to believe the mortals on this world.” With a simple nudge of her knees, Cloudstrike was airborne.

    Janesha had an odd moment of indecision when she went to return to the mortal plane. There wasn't just one such plane, she realised, but dozens of them. It seemed that whoever had set up this realm had decided he needed lots of near-identical planets in parallel realities, and the physical laws that governed the realm had rearranged themselves to allow this to happen. Why he wanted it this way, she had no idea. Maybe he's trialling different power bases? It was a stupid idea, but this whole realm was failing to make sense on a lot of levels.

    With a minor effort of will, she picked out the correct one and urged Cloudstrike forward. Between one wingbeat and the next, they were back where she'd started from. Danny Hebert now crouching next to the wreckage of his car, apparently examining the damage. I'm kind of the reason his stuff got broken, so maybe I should fix it or something.



    “I could repair that for you, if you wanted.” The voice was the girl's, and it came from behind and above him. Because of course she was back, just as he'd figured she'd decided to go somewhere else. Turning, he raised his arm to shield his face against the sudden wind that had sprung up. And then he saw that no, it wasn't a sudden wind. It was the downdraft from the wings of … a flying horse. That she was riding. Because why the hell not.

    “Uh, if you could, that would be great,” he ventured. Right then, it didn't surprise him in the slightest that she had a flying horse. It might be a … a projection, that was what they were called. Or a bioTinker construct. He figured the latter was more likely, given the existence of the talot. What got him the most, though, was how matter-of-fact she was with her powers, given how young she was. Most new teenage capes were all “woo! Look what I can do!” but this girl was … pragmatic about it. Like she'd been doing it all her life.

    “Well, you did save my life, so it's the least I can do,” she said cheerfully. The pegasus landed on the cracked concrete with four distinct thuds, so close together that Danny could barely tell them apart. It was … beautiful. No, it was magnificent. A burnished-gold coat set off huge wings that were blue underneath and a murky grey above. As the girl jumped lightly out of the saddle, the beast fixed Danny with the most intelligent gaze an animal had ever turned on him. I'm watching you, it seemed to be saying. The wings folded away alongside the flying horse's flank, more neatly than he would've imagined.

    “Nice, uh, nice pegasus,” he said, for want of a better thing to say. “What's its name?”

    Her name is Cloudstrike, and she's not a pegasus, she's a mystallion,” the girl said absently, stepping up alongside him to study the wreck. “Wow, cars and talots don't mix well, do they?” She seemed to find the observation funnier than he did.

    “No, they don't.” He stole another glance at Cloudstrike. The pegasus—no, she's a mystallionwas still eyeing him suspiciously. He thought it was a little odd to call a female pegasus a name with 'stallion' as part of it, but he wasn't about to correct a superhero on her terminology. Your flying horse, you can call her what you want. “Oh, um, sorry, but you seem to know my name and I don't know yours.”

    “That's true.” The girl turned from her inspection of the car to give him a disconcertingly mature gaze. “I'm Janesha of Mystal.” Then she reached out and put her hand on the roof of the car.

    “I'm pleased to meet yooouuuu …” His voice trailed off as his eyes widened. He'd known she was powerful, but this was ridiculous. Before his very eyes, his car was inflating back to its original shape. No, better than its original shape. Faded paint was being replaced by show-room floor quality colour, chrome gleamed once more, and even the seats were back to their pristine condition. By the time she took her hand away from the roof of the car, it quite honestly looked better than it had when he'd first bought it. "Holy crap,” he managed, for want of something better to say.

    The girl blew imaginary smoke from her fingertips. “Well, you're half right.”

    "Uh ... what?" That didn't make any sense at all. Of course, not everything she was saying or doing did make sense, even when Danny factored in cape strangeness. Take for example the talot and the mystallion. Two different creatures, one able to shear through steel with its teeth and the other an honest to goodness pegasus, complete with functional wings. He'd never heard of either one before today—well, he'd read about things like that, but strictly as mythical creatures—much less seen them.

    "Never mind." Her amusement was back in full force. “So why were you out here today? Taking pictures of old sinking ships and rusty cranes in the hope that someone would listen to you long enough to help get the port back into shape?”

    He blinked at her. “How do you know that?” he asked. His camera was safely in his pocket, and had been since her crash-landing. The only way she could've deduced that was … “Cape powers,” he said. “Did you just read my mind?” This didn't make him at all comfortable. The only reported mind-reader was the Simurgh, and nobody wanted to be compared to her. Not to mention the fact that doing so was about the most definitive invasion of privacy there was.

    “Yes,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. “I'm a mind-bender. It's what I do.”

    “Well, don't do it to me,” he said roughly. “That's way beyond acceptable.” He grimaced. “I mean, thanks for fixing my car and saving my life, but … don't do it again, okay?”



    Before Janesha answered, she went into his mind to find out why he had such a distaste for having his thoughts looked at. Most mortals basically expected celestials to be able to perform miraculous tasks like that as a matter of course. If it became a real issue, she could always smooth away the memory of his knowledge that she'd read his mind in the first place. Mind-bending was kind of cool like that.

    The first thing she came across was a reference to a celest that she knew. What in the name of the Unknown Realms is Simurgh doing here? The last she'd heard, the immense bird-like goddess was resident in her home realm of Gaokerena with no intention of going anywhere.

    Looking deeper, Janesha followed a trail of memory impressions to a TV image of the feared Simurgh. What she saw was a bizarre shape that, while Simurgh could probably assume it (like the Asgardians, she was descended from shapeshifting stock) Janesha could not imagine her ever doing so. And from the tone of his thoughts and memories, this 'Simurgh' was a mind-bender of some sort, using a psychic song to drive men mad. Simurgh had many talents, but mind-bending and needlessly hurting mortals were both beyond her. Oh, she'd be so pissed if she ever heard about this. Somehow, I don't think I'll be the one to tell her.

    Apparently in Earth Bet, to become a 'Simurgh victim' meant a life of suspicion and paranoia as everyone around you expected to erupt into violence at the worst possible moment. Mortals had been slaughtered en masse for being driven insane by her song. I'm not established yet, but even I know that's not the way to gain converts. When she was about to pull out of his mind, she caught references to two other 'Endbringers', which was also what the faux Simurgh was supposed to be. While she'd never met the real Leviathan and Behemoth, she had no doubt they'd be equally unhappy at this co-opting of their names.

    “Sorry about that,” she went on without pausing. “I'm kinda used to doing it among my folks. It's not a big thing with us.” For the moment, she decided to go along with his mistaken impression that she was part of a team of superheroes. “But I'll stay out of your head because it's so important to you.” Unless it's necessary, of course. That went without saying, but it was time to change the subject. She waved at the ships and cranes. “Do you really think you're gonna succeed with just a few photos?”



    “I don't know, but I've got to try,” Danny said. “The Dockworkers are depending on me. I've got to do something.” He hated the helpless tone in his voice, especially since his thoughts slipped back to Taylor as he said it.

    For the first time, he saw that her eyes had tiny points of light in them, far back within. He wasn't quite sure why she smiled. “Well, your troubles are over. Even heroes need help from time to time, and since you're a hero, I'm here to help. Or rather, we can help each other get what we want.”

    “Wait.” Danny's head was getting turned around. “I'm not sure what's going on here, but I've got a job to do and a child to take care of. So if you don't mind making a little sense here, I'd greatly appreciate it.” He frowned at her. “And don't think I missed that little two-step you pulled earlier, miss. On your team leader and on me.”

    She blinked. “Team leader?”

    “The one you called 'Mom',” he reminded her. “Or is she really your mother? Is 'Mystal' another family team, like New Wave?” It would explain why she was going unmasked, he supposed. Though hadn't they learned anything from what had happened with New Wave, back in the day?

    “Mystallians support each other,” she said flatly. “If we have 'team leaders', they would be Uncle Avis and Aunt Clarise, and Uncle Amaro and Aunt Yasadan.”

    Now he was totally lost. “Avis? Like the rental-car company?”

    She looked at him strangely then burst out laughing, leaving him wondering what he'd said that was so funny. “Oh, wow, you have that here too? Oh, that's amazing. He's gonna be so pissed.” She shook her head. “That whole thing was a prank because he irritated a couple of his grandsons and that pair of wiseasses took matters into their own hands.”

    Her double-talk was starting to irritate him. “Do you call yourselves 'mystallions' after your pegasus things, or did you name them after the team name?”

    Cloudstrike looked up from where she'd been cropping some of the weeds that grew through the cracks in the concrete, and stamped a hoof. Danny stared as the solid slab fractured into several parts from the impact, then resisted the impulse to step back from the glare of death directed at him by the pegasus; or rather, mystallion.

    Janesha, when she spoke, sounded just as irritated as the animal looked. “Calling Cloudstrike a 'pegasus' is like calling everyone in the world a 'Danny', and the next time you refer to her as a thing, I'll let her bite you.” As if to underline the threat, the mystallion took up a chunk of concrete that had snapped free by her hoof. With her eyes fixed on Danny's, she crushed it to powder in her teeth, then made an obvious show of spitting it to one side.

    “Uh, nice mystallion?” Danny ventured, raising both hands placatingly. He glanced over at Janesha. “Does she know what we're saying, here?”

    Janesha shrugged. “More or less. As I was saying, Pegasus was the name of a mystallion that made it into your legends, once upon a time. And we call ourselves Mystallians because we are of Mystal.”

    That didn't quite explain everything, but he decided not to ask any more of what she obviously considered to be silly questions. “Okay,” he said. “But how come I've never heard of Mystal before? If you're an established family team like New Wave, you should be all over the news. Especially with your mystallions. I know reporters who would crawl a mile over broken glass to interview you just about those.”

    “Oh, we're from a long way out of town,” she explained with an airy wave. “You wouldn't have heard of us before.”

    Which was a non-answer as far as he was concerned, but if he knew teenagers she would dodge and dissemble on that topic until the cows came home. “Okay,” he said again. “So what are you doing in Brockton Bay without adult supervision? And what was with your dramatic entrance? Was that talot chasing you? Where did it come from, anyway?”

    “It was chasing me because it was chasing me,” she said, as only a teenage girl could. “Nobody really knows where they come from, to be honest.” She dusted her hands off as if ridding herself of the topic then waved again, this time encompassing the ships and cranes with the gesture. “So, would you like me to help you fix all this?”



    That got his attention, as she'd known it would. His gaze narrowed, then he looked at the ships and cranes, then back to her. “When you say 'help me fix it', what exactly do you have in mind?” he asked cautiously. But despite his air of reserve, she knew damn well she had him hooked.

    “I mean fix it,” she said impatiently. “Refloat and repair those ships you think are worth it. Junk the rest. Clean up the port and get the machinery back into working order. Give your Dockworkers some docks to work on.” She cracked her knuckles. “I call it a day, tops.”

    His jaw dropped, just a little. “You can't be serious.” Turning his head, he stared at the rusting, rotting hulks and the dockside machinery which (if she was being honest) wasn't much better off. Then he looked back at her. “You can do all that in a day?”

    She didn't need to go into his mind to read the doubt there. It practically radiated off of him. Mildly irritated, she nodded. “Oh, ye of little faith.” She knew full-well she was borrowing the favourite saying of one of her cousins, but she didn't care.

    With firm strides, she led the way to the crater she'd dug out when she first arrived. Slabs of concrete had been smashed up and out of the way by the impact, but that was mainly due to her being a celest. The mortal plane of any realm did its best not to harm celestials in any way, but she had no doubt confused matters by being in a throwdown with the talot—which also counted as a celestial creature that just so happened to want her dead.

    Crouching down, she laid her hand flat on the closest undamaged slab to the crater. This wasn't something she did very often, but she knew how to do it. Her power radiated out from where she was touching the concrete, flattening and smoothing down the disrupted paving. The dirt shuffled itself back into the crater as if ashamed of itself, and one by one, the concrete slabs rebuilt themselves over it. She had to make the concrete a little thicker and denser to accommodate the extra mass from the talot, but that was no particular effort for her. Thirty seconds after commencement, she stood up and looked at him, one eyebrow raised slightly.

    For his part, he was staring at the pristine concrete in the same way he'd watched her rebuild his car. This time, his jaw did drop. Enjoying the moment, she strutted out on to the freshly-rebuilt slab and stamped on it; only the dullest of thuds answered her. “You were saying?” she asked with a smirk.

    He closed his mouth then opened it to speak, but at that moment, Cloudstrike tossed her head and snorted. Janesha looked at her mount, and saw that the mystallion was staring toward what was presumably the entry gate to the dockyards. She retuned her ears so that she could hear more effectively, and then she heard the rumble of some sort of engine, moving fast and coming closer. “I think we have company,” she said. “Are they likely to be heroes or villains?”

    “Around here?” Danny Hebert shrugged helplessly. “After the entry you made, it could be anyone. Cops, PRT, heroes, villains, gangers, wannabes, Rogues …”

    “Ah, right.” She nodded. That made sense. From his memories, the city wasn't quite awash with crime yet, but it only missed that description by a narrow margin. This was very much a city where the bottom line was 'grab what you can, and to Hell with anyone else'. Mystal was both like that, and totally unlike it. While any Mystallian was expected to go after whatever they wanted, deliberately trampling innocents into the dirt in the process was severely frowned upon.

    “Stay close to me,” she said, moving back toward him. If they were no more than fifteen feet apart, she could institute what she called 'emergency-god' procedures, but she didn't want to do that quite yet. Especially not with Danny Hebert. He'd been living in Brockton Bay all his life, and while he was by most standards a good man, he also had a strong dose of cynicism in his makeup. Also, she was a child in his eyes. Which meant that for a situation requiring absolute and unswerving belief in her capabilities, he wasn't the most suitable candidate.

    However, she was short on other options, so if she had to, she would.

    Pursing her lips slightly, she whistled a short note that had Cloudstrike trotting over, reins dangling. Janesha gathered them up and stood at her mystallion's head. If things went badly pear-shaped, she knew she could step back into the celestial plane and take the other two with her, but she didn't really want to have to go that far. If I thought he was full of questions before …

    She tilted her head as she realised there were two different engine noises. One of them was fairly big, if the vibrations she could feel through the ground were any indication. A moment later, Danny Hebert also seemed to figure that out as well. “Who the hell is that?” he asked out loud, apparently without meaning to.

    A moment later, he was answered by a rending crash from behind one of the storehouses. Less than a second later, another crash followed, this one sounding like sheet metal being shredded. Then the large sliding doors at the front of the storehouse exploded outward, revealing a monstrous vehicle with a bulldozer blade on the front and several weapon turrets. Its engine bellowed as the heavy treads on the oversized metal wheels bit into the concrete.

    “What … the … fuck?” Janesha blurted in astonishment. She was no expert on machinery, but that vehicle looked like it had been designed by someone who'd had either too much or too little ambrosia, and who knew less than her about how motor vehicles were supposed to go together. Yet still, somehow, it managed to drive and steer. Of course, given its unique method of entry, she was prepared to rule out the 'steer' aspect.

    “Squealer,” Danny Hebert said flatly. “The Merchants.” He took a step toward his car. “In case you were wondering, they're bad guys.”

    She had just enough time to note that he hadn't said 'the' bad guys, when another vehicle swept into sight from the direction of the gate. From the lack of a crash, she presumed that Danny had left said gate open when he came in.

    The newcomer was riding a motorcycle, but what a motorcycle. Big and bulky with a blue and silver colour scheme, it matched the armour the rider was wearing. Moving faster than the mechanical monstrosity, the cycle closed the distance to Danny's car rather quickly. Janesha tightened her grip on Cloudstrike's reins, but the rider seemed to know what he was doing. Still travelling at some speed, he leaned the motorcycle over and performed a sliding stop that ended him up within a few yards of where Danny and Janesha stood with Cloudstrike.

    The Merchant vehicle also skidded to a halt about ten yards away, the heavy metal treads ripping chunks out of the concrete. “Oh, for fuck's sake,” muttered Janesha. “I just fixed that.”

    The armoured rider climbed off of the bike. Reaching back, he detached some sort of polearm from his armour; with a smooth click-clack that would've made her great-grandmother salivate, it unfolded into some kind of high-tech halberd. “Skidmark!” he bellowed. Janesha had to admire his self-control, given that he was standing three yards from the only mystallion on the planet and he wasn't staring in disbelief. One glance was all he gave them, then he had his full attention on the armoured hulk before him. “I'll give you the count of five to leave or surrender!”

    Well, that answered a question which had been hanging at the back of her mind. Danny wasn't the only one in Brockton Bay with balls of pure neutronium. Either that, or they're all crazy here.

    A hatch on the mechanical monstrosity popped open, and a dark-skinned man wearing a blue mask stuck his head out. “Go shove your dick up your motorbike's tailpipe, Armsmaster!” he yelled back, accompanying the words with a universally rude gesture. “We saw 'em first!”

    Beside her, she saw Danny shake his head slightly. “Ah, crap,” he muttered. “Can you do something about this?”

    Janesha grinned predatorially. “Oh, yeah.”

    End of Part Two

    Part Three
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  8. WaNoMatsuri

    WaNoMatsuri Know what you're doing yet?

    May 12, 2017
    Likes Received:
    I love it. So amusing.
    Thanks for writing.
    Ack likes this.
  9. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Oct 1, 2016
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    Damn. This story is awesome. Danny is as strong/durable as Scion, and he has a Goddesses protection while about to face down the Merchants. Will Armsmaster convince her to join the Wards with Dannys help, or will Shimmering Janny join the Merchants?
    Ack likes this.
  10. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
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    We shall see what we shall see.
    Prince Charon likes this.
  11. Cailin

    Cailin Our Lady of Escalation

    May 23, 2016
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    Is Taylor going to be prominent in this story? It's an enjoyable read I don't want to get my hopes up if she isnt.
    Ack likes this.
  12. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
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    Taylor will definitely be there.

    The PoV will shift away from her from time to time, and she won't be the main hero, but she'll be there.


    You know how I said the book was coming out maybe Friday?
    I LIED.
    It's out now.
    Amazon for paperback and ebook versions.
    Amazon Australia for ebook only.
    Smashwords for ebook only.

    (this fanfic will of course continue)
  13. aabbcc

    aabbcc Experienced.

    Jan 21, 2015
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    Why would she do that? Either of those options?
    What benefit could she possibly see in joining some mortal law enforcement or criminal organization?

    She's curious about what the heck whoever set up this Realm is doing, sure, but mortals wouldn't know anything about that, and her earlier offer to Danny has more to do with gratitude and how little effort it'd take her to clean up the bay than any need for his cooperation to untangle the mystery.

    She also has no need for food, shelter, money, protection or drugs, so that's out too.
    Ack likes this.
  14. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Oct 1, 2016
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    Because in the minds and eyes of both Armsmaster and Danny, the Wards are where young Heroes go to train, it provides a base, free rest, and training alongside these mortals with the massive steel testicles.

    She knows nothing of our cynical view of it, her information will come from their words, minds, and actions. The Bad Guys came with a tank, Arsemaster comes with a Halberd to stand his ground and defeat them. That's heroism in her eyes, and she'll want to see more of it.
    Ack and Cailin like this.
  15. Cailin

    Cailin Our Lady of Escalation

    May 23, 2016
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    Nah, it won't be Janesha who would push for it. Cloudstrike has been watching too much Tangled.
    Ack and RichardWhereat like this.
  16. aabbcc

    aabbcc Experienced.

    Jan 21, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Rest or a base, she can do better by waving her hand. Mortals are about as able to provide protection against the things she would consider taking shelter from as wet tissue paper.

    Training, why would she want to train alongside those Heroes? These are, once again, mortals, whatever method of training they have, it's largely useless to her.

    Even if she wanted to do it, why would she need to join anything in order to train with them, or observe them?

    Why would she be interested in the young trainees at all? Danny or Armsmaster, I could understand some curiosity, other established heroes? Maybe, but they've done nothing to catch her interest. But why would she want to see the ones who are only starting to learn?

    It's like going to a scientific conference, seeing a bunch of interesting presentations from different people from an university, and this somehow translating into wanting to join the local kindergarden.

    Maybe if she had encountered them and seen them in action rather than Armsmaster, that'd at least justify an interest in the Wards, but once again, she has zero need for joining them in order to observe them, so even then it's iffy.

    And of course, even if she did consider joining them as the best way to observe them, one look at the restrictions and policies of the Wards will have her saying NOPE pretty fast. Letting a random group of bureaucrats who have done nothing to prove themselves to her dictate how she dresses? who she fights? when she is allowed to fight?
    Psyckosama, Bortan and Ack like this.
  17. Threadmarks: Part Three: Celestial Shenanigans

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
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    Celestial Worm

    Part Three: Celestial Shenanigans

    [A/N: This chapter beta-read by the author of Ties that Bind.]


    “Keep your head down,” murmured Janesha. “You're only mortal, after all.” Kicking off from the concrete, she took two running strides toward the tank. In the middle of the second stride, she vanished completely from his sight. Half a second later, she appeared directly in front of the overwrought contraption that Danny refused to call a 'vehicle', out of respect for all vehicles everywhere.

    Drawing back her fist, she threw a punch at the bulldozer blade on the front of the thing. He wasn't quite sure what he'd expected, but the immense CLANG that echoed back to him, and the sizeable dent that appeared in the broad slab of metal, wasn't it. Even more impressive was the way the whole tank was driven back a yard by the force of her blow.

    Sonovabitch. She's a Mover and a Brute, too? Danny stared in amazement. He'd occasionally seen capes using their powers, but rarely so blatantly and never so close.

    Armsmaster was made of sterner stuff. Abandoning his bike, he started moving toward the ongoing fight with his halberd up and ready. Danny wondered for a second if that was a smart move, then shrugged. Who was he to tell a cape how to do his job?

    The tank engine suddenly over-revved, leaving no doubt the driver stupidly thought the best way around the obstacle in front of them was to go over the top of her. Surging forward, the metal cleats on the tank's tyres bit into the already-broken concrete, crushing it to dust. Janesha responded by raising both fists up over her head. When the blade was almost on her, she slammed them downward into the top edge of the attachment, crunching it in half lengthwise and driving the nose of the tank into the ground at her feet. Before Danny's horrified gaze, the back end of the tank flipped into the air. He cringed, already envisioning the whole thing landing on top of Janesha and flattening her. Skidmark, whose head and shoulders were out of the hatch, was just as likely to be killed, but Danny didn't care about him. He cared about Janesha.

    And then she caught the tank. It was literally airborne, the back end pointing vertically into the air as it arced over to a potentially catastrophic landing, when she reached forward and seized hold of the badly bent blade. Ignoring all rules of physics as Danny knew them, the tank stopped, steady in her hands. Then it kept going, but only because Janesha wanted it to.

    Balancing the weight of a thirty-ton Tinkertech tank at an impossible angle (backward and upside down at forty-five degrees) she glanced over her shoulder at Armsmaster and called out, “Hey, you with the flashy stick. Make yourself useful. Catch!” Then she shook the tank, like Danny might shake up a can of Coke to make it spray everywhere when he popped the top.

    “Wha—hey—you motherfucking camel-fellating—whaaargh!” Skidmark didn't have time to say any more, as the shaking dislodged him from the tank. He fell more or less on top of Armsmaster; fortunately, the armoured hero got his halberd out of the way just in time to prevent a Skidmark kabob. Less fortunately, Armsmaster caught him with an armoured hand, which was probably better than falling on the bare concrete, but not by much. Not if the way he folded in half over Armsmaster’s forearm was anything to go by.

    Having removed Skidmark from the equation (and the tank), Janesha blithely reversed its movement and slammed it back on to its wheels. Just like in the cartoons, the shattering impact popped all eight wheels off of the tank and sent them careening into the distance. Likewise, the engine stalled. Whether the latter was due to the loss of the wheels or the sudden changes in attitude, Danny wasn't sure. He was hardly a mechanic.

    Jumping lightly over the now non-functional bulldozer blade, Janesha grabbed the front armour panel and tore it away from the armoured vehicle in a cacophony of popping bolts and ripping steel. She casually tossed it aside and surveyed the internal mechanisms of the monstrosity. The plate crashed loudly to the concrete behind her then rocked back and forth with a clatter, but this was quickly drowned out by more engines roaring in the distance.

    With one hand still on the tank, Janesha leaned back to look in the direction of the newcomers, just as a van followed by a 4x4 charged through the gap originally made by the tank. Standing up in the back of the 4x4, hanging on to the headframe with hands that … really weren't hands, was a pile of muck and trash in (very roughly) humanoid form. Despite the fact that the villain looked different every single time, Danny recognised Mush immediately. Crap. Janesha, I hope you know what you're doing.



    Janesha let out an aggravated breath. “Of course there’s fucking more of them…” she muttered with a cross-eyed curse, because this was getting tedious. Just on a hunch—this was a close replica of Earlafaol’s America and those shits looooved their guns—she took a moment to reinforce her body so that she was as durable as Danny. As the vehicles roared closer, she saw gun barrels come into view and knew she'd made the right decision. However, without a powerbase, or even a Realm-wide attunement, she could only deal with one mortal situation at a time and her priority was whatever idiot was driving this monstrosity. She looked over her shoulder and made eye contact with Cloudstrike, then inclined her head towards the two vehicles.

    Cloudstrike didn't need a second invitation. With a ringing whinny, she was airborne before the oncoming enemy came to a halt.

    There was a reason that mystallions were known as one of the fastest creatures in all the realms (behind the Hellion brute squad, of course. She'd heard Uncle Avis talk about how scary fast those things were, which had impressed her considerably). In the time it took for the van and the 4x4 to screech to a halt alongside each other, Cloudstrike was already there. She dipped her shoulder and rammed the right side of the van with enough force to send it airborne into the 4x4. The van bounced off the 4x4 and rolled over and over, while the pickup with the trash golem in the back careered off to the side; equally out of control.

    Sssstriiiike! Janesha chuckled, turning her attention back to the tank. Tenpin bowling was one of the many small pleasures that the Mystallians had taken back with them from their extended stay on Earlafaol. Uncle Chance was particularly fond of it, despite the narrow margin for luck, but he’d always been a goofball like that. Of all the elders, he was the one most likely to be in the middle of the pool on someone else’s shoulders, challenging any newcomers to topple what he decreed was their indomitable ‘tower’. Everyone wanted Uncle Chance on their side in a game. Who wouldn’t want Luck on their side?

    But that wasn’t helping her now. Focusing on the task at hand, she grabbed hold of something that looked important and heaved, savouring the sound of shrieking metal as it tore from the tank. Wanting a repeat of that sound, she tossed it over her shoulder and climbed into the space thus emptied out, looking for her next viable target.

    Another whinny from Cloudstrike caught her attention and she lifted her head. Not that she was concerned about her friend’s welfare but because it sounded like she was having way too much fun. That thought was confirmed as Cloudstrike delivered a powerful two-hoofed kick to the trash golem, driving it backward fifty metres into the side of a shed.

    Moving on to her next toy, the mystallion lifted into the air with a single beat of her wings and came down next to the van. She latched on to the corner of the van roof with her teeth and brought her wings down, at the same time swinging her head in a wrenching motion. Already dented and battered by its previous encounter with the angry mystallion, the van barely lifted off its wheels before the roof tore free.

    Janesha laughed openly. They screwed with us. They asked for it. And went back to burrowing her way into the tank. Grabbing two pieces of machinery at random, she pulled them away from each other with another wrenching crunch, and came face to face with a woman wearing something that Aunt Emi might decide to throw on for a casual day in. Except that nothing would be permitted to mar the Mystal's goddess of Love, Lust and Fertility’s exquisiteness. Certainly not the splotches of oil that this woman had all over her. Also, Aunt Emi had never pointed a pistol at Janesha's face. Now, that was just rude.

    “Hi,” said Janesha cheerfully, pretending to ignore the mortal weapon. “Are you going to surrender, or do I have to explain why fighting back's a bad idea?”

    “F-f-fuck you!” blurted the woman, then grabbed a lever beside her seat and yanked on it. The explosion partially deafened Janesha for a few seconds, and the cloud of smoke made her cough, but neither did her any real harm. But by the time she could see again, the woman was gone. Janesha climbed into what had been the control compartment of the tank, which no longer had a roof, and looked up. Far above, she saw the seat, suspended under a parachute that might have been stitched together from whatever the woman had at hand.

    Do you really think you can get away from me that fucking easily? I’m a Mystallian, bitch. Janesha shook her head as the multitude of ways she could bring the mortal to heel flashed across her mind. Deciding on the most hands on approach, she leapt through the hole in the roof to land on top of the tank. From the new vantage point, she saw Armsmaster subduing the men who'd been in the van and the pickup, while Cloudstrike continued to play tag with the trash golem. Well, Cloudstrike was playing. As expected, the golem wasn't. The mystallion was alternating shoulder-checks with solid kicks that sent the reeking thing bowling across the concrete for tens of metres at a time, whinnying happily with each strike. That's my girl.

    Lining herself up to intercept the woman who’d bailed from the tank, Janesha leapt upwards. At a hundred metres up and about twenty downwind, it wasn't even a difficult jump. Fortunately, the woman didn't have any way to steer away from her, and Janesha came close enough to grab hold of the ersatz ejection seat with one hand. She heard several loud bangs, but it took a second or so to realise that the woman was shooting at her—point blank.

    “Seriously?” she asked, shifting her eardrums to remove the ringing. “I just ripped the shit out of your little toy tank and you think a gun is going to affect me?”

    “Just fuck off!” shouted the woman, trying to stamp on her fingers. “I never did nothing to you! Leave me alone!”

    Janesha sighed, and with a firmer grip on the chair, she climbed to hang on to the seat alongside her quarry. “First things first,” she said, and severed the parachute cords. The last thing she needed was that stupid thing dragging along behind. The chair immediately began to plummet and the woman screamed, but by that stage Janesha had a strong grip on the chair. Making a stepping motion, she pushed them both into the celestial realm.

    The woman’s scream switched pitch to a shriek as she stared at the unnatural surroundings, both the un-Earthlike sky overhead and the crystalline landscape below. “What the fuck?” she babbled. “Where the fuck did you take me, you fucked up fucking…?”

    “Oh, shut up,” growled Janesha, and used her shifting to temporarily paralyse the woman's vocal chords. As she did so, she noticed something odd. From the woman's head, a celestial energy line stretched off into the distance. Orange-red in colour, it glowed with a steady intensity. What in the Realms is that? she wondered. It wasn't something she'd ever seen before, although this was the first time she'd ever personally pulled a mortal through into the celestial plane. No doubt, someone, somewhere, had to have done something like this before, given the uncountable number of eons since the Twin Notes had first been sung, but she'd never even heard of this particular effect.

    Definitely something to look into, she decided. But not right at that moment. Stepping back into the mortal plane, she chose to emerge right next to the tank. As the ejection seat fell the last few centimetres to the concrete, she retained her grip on it. This allowed her to use her shifting to fuse the buckles together so that the woman could not escape. Then she took hold of the woman's pistol and removed it from her grasp. “It's for your own safety,” she explained, as she crushed it into useless metal chunks. “You might hurt yourself with it.” Dropping the pistol remnants to the ground, she straightened up in preparation of dealing with whoever was left.

    Which, as it turned out, was just the trash golem. Armsmaster had wrapped up the last of the mortals from the overturned pickup, but the golem was still up and around. Much as she didn't want to ruin Cloudstrike's fun, Janesha knew she had to finish things up, so she let out a short whistle to get the mystallion's attention. When Cloudstrike glanced her way, Janesha gestured at the golem, then flicked her finger in a beckoning motion.

    She grinned broadly at her friend’s look of disbelief and almost laughed at the disappointed huff that seemed to end in a pout. Nevertheless, Cloudstrike obediently flew past the golem—the barrel roll was unnecessary but would be impressive to anyone who didn't know a mystallion's true capabilities—and slammed her rear hooves into its back. Shedding random pieces of crap, the golem was sent flying across the battlefield until it rolled to a complete halt under Janesha’s raised foot. Niiice, old friend. Janesha stepped back and resumed one of her Uncle Avis’ preferred poses when dealing with inconsequentials. Her hands were clasped in the small of her back under her cloak and her booted feet were parted as she stood at ease.

    The golem clambered to its feet and took a blind swing at her. She caught the incoming punch just as easily as she had the tank, and the moment the contact was made, she noted all the trash on the golem was acting as a singular unit. Well, well, well. Who said you needed Uncle Chance’s blessing to get lucky? Before it could learn from its mistake, she locked all of those things together into a solid mass, immovable and unbreakable.

    “That was waaay too easy,” she observed to nobody in particular as it consequently fell over. Of course, she’d have to turn in her celestial-card if she allowed a pack of mortals to defeat her inside the mortal realm. It wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun if Cloudstrike hadn’t been there, and no doubt some of the little pests would’ve gotten away.

    “I wouldn't get too cocky if I were you,” Armsmaster said as he headed in her direction. His hearing wasn't too bad for a mortal's, to have heard that. Unless his armour had sound pickups, of course. She wasn't totally conversant with the levels of mortal technology available here, but she wouldn't have been surprised. “You got lucky with the tank. Squealer's work is pretty hit and miss. What if she'd had armour you couldn't get through?”

    Janesha ran through several options in her mind. Laughing in his face probably wouldn't make the best of impressions, so she decided to humour him. For now. “That's not actually possible,” she said, and picked up the armour plate she'd torn off earlier. Cheating just a little with her shifting, she flattened it out then creased it down the middle with her thumbnail and folded it over. Then she folded it again, and a third time as well. Taking hold of the now inches-thick slab of steel, she looked Armsmaster straight in the visor and casually tore the folded armour plate in half. “Bring me a real tank, and I can shred it just as easily. This was nothing.”

    “I … see.” Armsmaster looked from her, to the trash golem, to where Cloudstrike was trotting over. He gestured at the motionless golem with his polearm. “What did you do to him?”

    “'Him'?” asked Janesha, honestly puzzled. “That thing's a 'him'?”

    “That 'thing' is Mush, of the Merchants,” Armsmaster said severely. “There's a man in there. Didn't you know that?”

    “Ah…no. Actually, I just figured it was a trash golem.” And this right here was a classic example of why celestials looked into the minds of mortals. It saved a lot of misunderstanding and backtracking if they were all on the same page from the beginning.

    The edges of the chunks of steel were still glowing red from where she'd torn them. Tossing them aside, she bent down and scooped up the trash golem, lifting it to chest height. Then she brought it down on the concrete, cracking it open like an egg. Within lay a wizened little man who could've been any age from nineteen to ninety. Weird tendrils were retracting into his body, and he drew in a long shuddering breath of air as she watched. “Okay. There you go. One de-mushed Mush.”

    “He was suffocating,” Armsmaster said accusingly. “You could've killed him.”

    Janesha gave him the same sort of flat stare she'd gotten from her great-grandmother on occasion. “He was going to hit me hard enough to flatten any m—uh, mundane,” she retorted. “And his cohorts were pouring gunfire everywhere. I was just defending myself, or isn't that allowed around here?” She shrugged carelessly. “Besides, I didn't tell him to wrap himself in garbage. He was dumb enough to do that all by himself.”

    “Superheroes don't resort to lethal force straight away,” Armsmaster insisted. “We're supposed to use restraint.”

    Cloudstrike trotted up then, and Janesha reached up to caress the mystallion's cheek and ruffle her ears. “Who said I'm a superhero? And he’s alive, isn't he? So, what’s your problem?”

    Armsmaster stood up straighter, and his halberd lifted a few inches. “Are you saying you're a villain?”

    “Oh, get a grip.” Janesha snorted and gave him an unamused look. “I don't accept labels from people who aren't qualified to give them to me.” You don't worship me, so you don't get to define me.

    Armsmaster didn't seem able to process that. He stared at her for a moment, as if trying to determine her secrets through sheer force of will. For her part, Janesha returned the scrutiny with rather more effect. Danny had given her a great deal of information about this 'Earth Bet', but she figured that Armsmaster would know more that she could find useful. So she dived into his head.

    His thought processes were smooth, efficient, almost mechanical in nature. He was a man solitary and lonely by turns, never really able to relate to others very well. There was only one real personal attachment, with another Tinker—those who built highly-advanced machines and other devices—in Canada, called Dragon. It was kind of sad that the two had never met in person.

    Interestingly enough, his helmet had just taken a picture of her and was running it through a database of images, but she knew damn well he wouldn't get anywhere with that. Deciding to allow him his fruitless quest—this time—she kept looking.

    She skimmed over what he would consider confidential information about the Protectorate, as she couldn't really be bothered with it. Armsmaster's personality was much more interesting. The man had pride (as Uncle Chance would put it) out the wazoo. He was fixated on proving that he was the best at what he did, even when he wasn't doing what he was best at.

    Which brought her to his current thoughts. He had two goals right at this moment. One was to garner as much credit as possible for the arrest of the three parahumans as he could manage. The second was to attempt to recruit her into the Wards … which, while it might be amusing for about ten minutes, she really wasn't interested in. As she followed the branching lines of his thought processes, she mentally frowned. If he couldn't recruit her, he'd claim as much of the credit as he figured he could get away with. Why, you sneaky little …

    More informed about the Protectorate, the PRT and Brockton Bay in general than she had been before (and much more informed about Armsmaster's level of ethics) Janesha pulled back out of his head. No time had passed, of course, so he was still reacting to what she'd said to him. It was plain to see, even without the benefit of the excursion into his mind, that he didn't hold any significant respect for her.

    Still, he managed to put on a reasonable simulacrum of a friendly approach. “If that's the way you want to play it. I'll put you down as a rogue. Now, let's talk about credit for this arrest.”

    “Sure,” she said promptly. “Cloudstrike and I get credit for Skidmark, Squealer and Mush. You can have the rest of those guys over there.” Casually, she indicated the minions whom Armsmaster had subdued and secured. “I mean, sure, technically you caught Skidmark, but only because I dropped him right on top of you first.”

    “Understood.” He nodded, and she knew exactly where his mind was going, even without stepping back into his head. “If I understand matters correctly, you're either new on the scene or you're from out of town, so have you considered joining the Wards? Everyone needs backup at one time or another, and we have a good team here—”

    Now he was just slathering on the bullshit. The Brockton Bay Wards team may have been world-beaters for all Armsmaster knew about it, but he barely spent any time with them. In any case, had any recruitment pitch ever opened with you'll probably have nothing in common with them, but …?

    “—and I'm sure you'll get along. New Wards get an automatic transfer to Arcadia High if you want—”

    “Pass,” she said. “I'm on holiday, not in school. And I've got all the backup I need right here, don't I, Cloudstrike?” Leaning her head over, she rubbed her cheek against the mystallion's. Right on cue, Cloudstrike snorted in agreement, then rapped her hoof against the concrete sharply.

    Armsmaster didn't seem totally pleased at her brush-off, but he nodded. “Well, then,” he said, folding the halberd and racking it on his back. “That seems to be all. One question, though.”

    She looked over at him, wondering if he was going to have an attack of conscience and ask again for credit for the arrests. “Yeah?”

    Reaching up, he touched his helmet; the metal gauntlet tinged on the side of his headpiece. “Aren't you concerned about your secret identity? Your family might be under threat if someone figures out who you are.”

    She laughed out loud at that. “Oh, if anyone even figured out how to get to my family, they'd be in so much trouble. My parents are so much more powerful than me, it's not even a contest.”

    Interestingly enough, that seemed to really get his attention. He performed a kind of double-take, his lips drawing down in a frown of disbelief.

    Okay, what's he looking at now? But rather than go back into his head, she ran back through the knowledge she'd lifted from his head. Image after image of his thought processes went past her inner vision, then she got to what he was seeing. And there it was; a green LED illuminating the word TRUTH. Beneath it was an unlit one with a red tinge, and the word LIE. Huh, so I just lit up the truth meter, and he has no idea how to handle it. Inwardly, she smirked. Chew on that, halberd-boy.

    “I … see,” he replied, while it was abundantly clear that he didn't see at all. “Well, in any case, the PRT will be arriving shortly. You don't have to wait around for them. If you want, I can give you my card, and you can go on your way. I'll deal with the statements.” His tone of voice implied boredom, but she wasn't fooled.

    “Yeah, I know exactly what you want me to do,” she said flatly. “You want me to go on my merry way so you can give your report, which will by sheer accident claim the greater part of the credit for all this, won't it?”

    It was intriguing, she decided, to watch the face of someone who had been caught out in a deception. The shock was inevitable, but then the anger came up. There's nobody so pissed as he whose hand is caught in the cookie jar.

    “What do you mean by that?” he demanded.

    Pretending not to hear him, Janesha shook her head and ran her hand over Cloudstrike’s nose, now addressing her friend more than the mortals. “Can you believe we spend three weeks riding away from one pretentious, thunder-stealing blowhard, only to run smack into another? What’re the odds, Cloudstrike?”

    Cloudstrike looked over at Armsmaster arrogantly and nickered in agreement.

    “Your allegation is ridiculous,” he snapped. “That wasn't my intention!”

    He was good; if she hadn't read that exact intent in his mind, she would've been doubting herself. But she had, so she rolled her eyes. “Bullshit. You were planning to do this if you couldn't recruit me because you want to scrounge every bit of credit for yourself, just like someone else Cloudstrike and I know. By the time you were finished with your report, I'd just be some nobody who came in at the last minute and lent a hand. Well, I didn’t let that red-headed asshat get away with it, and I’m not about to let you get away with it either. You want glory, go look somewhere else for it.”

    “That's a very dangerous allegation to present without proof, young lady.” Armsmaster's lips visibly tightened.

    Janesha was just about to say how she’d shout it from the rooftops if she felt like it, when Cloudstrike unfurled her off wing and flicked it around with pinpoint accuracy. The feathers that made up the very tip were more than a metre long, and far stronger than they looked. Cloudstrike's wingtip thwacked Armsmaster across the side of the helmet, then the wing re-furled just as fast. Caught off guard by the impact, which would've felt like an open-handed slap delivered by a strong man, Armsmaster stumbled a step and reached around to grab his polearm; a second later, it was unfolded and in his hands. Cloudstrike gazed back at him innocently, then spoiled the effect by nickering with amusement. Or maybe it was Janesha’s giggle that gave it away.

    “Young lady!” snapped Armsmaster. “As the leader of the Protectorate in Brockton Bay, I'm ordering you to stand down your projection.” He didn't threaten her with the halberd—he had to have seen what she'd done with the tank—but it was almost angled toward her.

    Okay, I guess there is one more mortal who needs to be put down here, Janesha thought as both she and Cloudstrike stiffened in response, no longer finding the situation funny. She glared at Armsmaster, her hostile gaze matched by that of Cloudstrike. “I didn't tell Cloudstrike to smack you, you arrogant prick, but if she hadn't, I would've. And you’ve got two seconds to get that thing out of my face, or I’m gonna do something with it that'll make you cry.”

    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Danny running toward them. It was sweet of him to think she needed the protection, but right now Armsmaster would need it more. To her surprise, he grabbed her by the elbow and not Armsmaster.

    “Janesha,” he said urgently. “Don't hurt him, please? Despite what you might think, he is one of the good guys.”

    Janesha twisted her lips as she bounced the pros and cons around in her head, along with the options. “Fine,” she huffed, turning back to stare straight at him. Put the halberd away. This was a celestial command from mind-bender to mortal, and he had as little chance of disobeying as water had of running uphill naturally. The halberd was folded and racked on his back within seconds.

    Then, for the second time in less than a minute, she went into Armsmaster's mind. This time, however, she wasn't there to just do some light reading. Going over the last minute of memory, she frowned inwardly. Armsmaster was a stubborn individual who could make life difficult for Danny and his family, and Danny didn't want her hurting him. Which left her a grand total of two options (because Danny would've probably objected if she turned Armsmaster into a house cat) and fleeing from a mortal wasn’t gonna happen.

    Accordingly, she began modifying his memories.

    Well, in any case, the PRT will be arriving shortly. You don't have to wait around for them. If you want, I can give you my card, and you can go on your way. I'll deal with the statements.”

    Of course,” Janesha replied sweetly. “That's Janesha, with a J. And Cloudstrike. It's spelled the way it sounds.” Cloudstrike tossed her head and whinnied, and Janesha stroked her neck.

    What is Cloudstrike?” asked Armsmaster, finally seeming to notice that the mystallion wasn't a normal horse. “Some kind of projection?”

    No, she's a mystallion,” Janesha told him. “My name's Janesha of Mystal, and you will show us the respect to which we are entitled.” She made the last part of that sentence a mental command that he would have no choice but to obey. Then, realising that her order would make the hero grovel at her feet in the presence of a deity without knowing why, she amended it to, “You will show us the respect of an equal.” There, that would ensure that he wouldn't try to steal their credit, and also make him keep a civil tongue in his head while speaking to her and Cloudstrike. This would go a long way to maintaining his unharmed state in the future. He’d still be his usual dickish self to everyone else, but not to the visiting celestials. Danny would probably have kittens if he found out she could do this, but it really was the easiest way to wrangle a feral mortal without doing anything physical to them.

    Just to ensure everything in the newly created memory flowed the way she wanted, she stepped back and replayed the interaction between them from the very beginning.

    Which was when she saw it.

    In the top right hand corner of his field of vision was a little blinking red light with 'REC' next to it.

    Oh, you sneaky little vermin.

    The mortal had recorded her. Okay, that could have been a problem if she hadn’t caught it. She could easily see him overreacting to the discrepancies between his memory and the footage in his helmet. Get ready to kiss your techie-toy goodbye, butt-baster. She waited just long enough to memorise the speed at which the REC light flashed before returning to the physical realm.

    “Very well, Janesha,” Armsmaster said. “If you're certain about wanting to take the credit?” As expected, his tone was much friendlier now.

    Janesha nodded. “I am,” she confirmed with a carefree nod of her head. “Thanks for being concerned, though I'm pretty sure we'll be fine.”

    “Understood.” He paused. “I would strongly suggest wearing a mask, to prevent any problems in the future, though. Even a domino mask. It's very dangerous to go around unmasked.”

    “I'll keep that in mind.” Janesha said the words to keep things civil, but inwardly she knew the other eight levels of Hell would freeze over before she ever hid behind a mask. She’d never live it down if anyone back home ever found out. Mystallians were proud of what they were. They drew a line, and dared anyone to cross it. Period. She forced herself to smile as she held out her hand in farewell. “It was very informative meeting you.”

    Having no clue just how informative he’d been, Armsmaster took her hand in his and shook it. “I'm glad you think so.” The moment their hands touched, she used shifting to fry that damned recording chip in its entirety, but kept the little ‘REC’ light flashing for another two minutes. Just long enough to not be blamed for when it stopped and the conceited jerk realised the whole chip had suffered a catastrophic failure. Had she been more conversant with the technology, she would've overlaid the recording with what he remembered happening, but that wasn't the case here. Armsmaster dipped his head and stepped away, breaking contact. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to see to the prisoners. I'll be certain to make sure you get all the credit for this.”

    “Thanks,” she said, barely biting back the words, ‘That’s a good boy’. She thought about mounting Cloudstrike and going airborne for a little bit of a dramatic exit, but realised if she did that, she might lose track of this Danny, and cursed herself for agreeing to stay out of his mind. He hadn’t told her anything about himself that she could use to find him later, except for the fact he worked on the docks and was invested enough to put in the hard yards. It was time she didn’t want to waste, so she took up Cloudstrike’s reins and stepped towards Danny’s car. “Come on, Cloudstrike.”

    As Cloudstrike allowed herself to be led away, Danny fell into place beside them. Janesha could almost feel the waves of parental dissatisfaction coming off her human friend and fought to keep her face unreadable. She knew Armsmaster had some kind of heightened hearing, so she didn’t open the discussion until they were on the other side of the yard with Danny’s car between them. Still, she did have the image of all teens everywhere to uphold, so she gazed at Danny guilelessly. “What?”

    “What the hell was that?” he hissed, glancing over his shoulder at Armsmaster. “What did you do to him? And how much do I get for betting that it goes hand in hand with how you somehow knew that he was going to try to steal your credit?" She suspected he knew the answer and was asking the question in the hope of getting a different one.

    Janesha followed his eyes to the hero in question, who at that moment was tapping the side of his helmet. Sucker! “He wasn't going to let it go,” she said. “And since I'm not about to let him arrest me, and you didn't want me to hurt him, you left me with only one option. I rewrote his memories and took out the part where Cloudstrike hit him.” He didn’t need to know the second part of what she’d done.



    Danny didn't know what was worse; that she'd done what he feared, or that she was so forthright about it. “Don’t turn this back on me! It’s not right!” he snapped, barely keeping his voice down. “And you read his mind before that, didn't you? I told you not to do that!”

    “You told me not to do it to you,” she corrected him. “You never said anything about other people, and besides, you heard what that idiot said. That thing I thought was a lifeless trash golem turned out to be a living, breathing mortal. Because I didn't find out who was who beforehand, he could've died. This is exactly why we do what we do. To avoid any mistakes we don't want to make."

    It wasn't the first time she'd used the term 'mortal', but he'd get to that in a minute. "You're still not supposed to do it, to anyone. That should've been understood from context."

    "Why? He was trying to get into my head first. Fair's fair." With a wry grin and a wiggle of her eyebrows, she added, "I'm just better at it."

    "Not funny. And altering memories is just not acceptable.” For a moment, he considered demanding that she change the memories back, but then recalled the point the standoff had gotten to. He was uncomfortably certain that Armsmaster would not stand a chance against Janesha. “Well, don't do it again. To anyone. I mean it.”

    She spread her hands and smiled in a show of innocence. He wasn't fooled for an instant, especially when she added, "It's not my fault that your cheap knockoff copy of Simurgh has got you all rattled when it comes to mind benders. Most of us are pretty cool."

    He glowered at her. "And if we didn't agree to that, we soon would?"

    Janesha at least had the grace to shrug. "Not that you'd notice the difference, if that's any consolation."

    Danny shook his head very firmly. "No. It isn't." He took a deep breath. “Since we’re clearing the air, why do you keep calling us 'mortals'? Is it like the way Myrddin keeps calling himself a wizard?”

    “Wait … you’ve got real magic here? Cool! Man, you have no idea how rare real magic really…” She didn't seem disbelieving so much as excited, but then she blinked and her enthusiasm waned. “Oh, I see. He's just a cape that pretends to do magic. Wow, that’s disappointing.”

    “Oh, for—!” Danny's fists clenched uselessly. It was a gesture of frustration rather than aggression, because she just kept pushing his buttons. “I just told you not to do that!” Going from ignorance to fully knowledgeable in an instant was a dead giveaway, as far as he was concerned.

    “Do what?” She blinked at him uncomprehendingly, then realised. “Oh! Oh … no … chillax, Danny. I didn't read your mind that time. I didn’t have to. Armsmaster’s already given me all the information I need about your supers.” She tapped the side of her temple. “Time runs differently in here, so from your point of view, it all looks instantaneous. For me, I was gone about an hour going through all the info until I found Myrddin.” With a frown, she added, “You have a hell of a lot of supers here, by the way, and Armsmaster hasn’t exactly met them in alphabetical order.”

    “Oh.” He let his hands unclench. “Ah. Sorry. I jumped to conclusions there.” The fact that she had lifted swathes of knowledge from Armsmaster didn't make him feel any better, though. “Still, that's a horrific invasion of privacy.”

    “I didn’t touch his private stuff,” she assured him. “That's boring and creepy, all at the same time. I just went after the relevant stuff about the Protectorate and PRT and Wards.”

    He tried not to think about how she wouldn't have known Armsmaster's private life to be boring and creepy unless she looked first. “Okay, please don't read peoples' minds, and definitely don't talk about doing it. I don't care if you think the Simurgh is a fake; around here, she's very real, and anyone reading minds or implanting memories is about one accusation away from arrest and Birdcaging. I know you're powerful, and you could probably hold your own against most capes, but if they took a step past that and declared you an S-class threat, nowhere would be safe.”

    She gave him one of those penetrating looks she was so good at. “I'll do nothing against anyone that isn't warranted, but I will stand my ground against people like that, any way I see fit. It's the way I was brought up, and that's not going to change any time soon.”

    He sighed, fully aware that her definition of 'warranted' was likely to differ from his. “Okay, fine. Just don't go overboard. No killing people unless they're trying to kill you, or me, or some other innocent bystander, and you can't stop them non-lethally.”

    “You do realise bending them into compliance is exceedingly non-lethal, right?” she asked, obviously trying hard to sound innocent.

    I walked right into that one. “We both know you've got other options,” he said firmly. “Mind control is the last resort.” And I can't believe I just said that out loud.

    She rolled her eyes, confirming that yes, she was indeed a teenager. “Anything else you want to do to limit me? Tie one hand behind my back? Make me push a rock uphill? Put a shackle on my ankle, maybe?”

    “No, no and no.” He gave her a direct look. “Just give me your word that you'll at least try other things first.”

    Fine,” she grumbled. “I'll try other things first. Happy?”

    “Yes,” he said, and opened the passenger side door. “Now get in the car. You obviously don't have any place to stay, and I'm not going to inflict you on Brockton Bay without proper warning. So you're going to come back with me until your parents come and get you, or you find a better place to stay.”

    She raised one finger. “But I can find—”

    Without controlling someone's mind in the process,” he finished.

    She gave him a dirty look. “If I bent you into ignoring my bending, you wouldn't give a damn about it,” she muttered.

    “So, why haven't you?” he asked. “It's not like I can stop you.”

    Her tone was no less sullen. “Because I was stupid enough to tell you I wouldn't.”

    And you’re a girl of your word. That’s good to know, Danny thought to himself, happy that his initial instincts about her weren’t wrong. “True,” he agreed, waving one hand at the passenger seat. “Now, get in the car.”

    She regarded both the open door and Danny with equal scepticism. “I think I’d rather stick to riding Cloudstrike. There's no room for her in there, and I can’t say what she’d do in retaliation if I rode with you and she had to run along behind like a dog or something.”

    Danny didn't like the idea of Cloudstrike retaliating in any way either. He'd seen what she did to the van and the 4x4 when she was unhappy with them, and he'd just gotten his car fixed once already. “You won't want to leave her elsewhere in the long term either,” he mused. “She's very striking. People would definitely talk about her, or even try to steal her.” This, he was fully aware, would go very badly. Cloudstrike was … impressively capable.

    “That’d be funny to watch,” Janesha laughed, shaking her head. “But all jokes aside, I don’t suppose you have a stable or something where you live?”

    “No, just a regular house,” he replied absently. “Though …” He looked over the slabs of concrete that Janesha had replaced seamlessly. “Can you do that reshaping-matter thing to anything?”

    “Pretty well, yeah,” she said. “Why?”

    He didn't want to say anything right then, but it had occurred to him that the basement had quite a bit of empty space in it; enough to accommodate a horse, even. Getting said horse in and out of the house unseen would normally have been quite a task, but Janesha and Cloudstrike had both shown an aptitude at moving from point to point without crossing the intervening distance. And of course, Janesha's ability to make matter do whatever she wanted would go a long way toward making the accommodations far more comfortable for the mystallion.

    Still, he wanted to look the basement over before making any rash promises.“I think I have an idea. I'm just going to have to see if it works. Is there someplace you can put her for half an hour or so? You know, so I can drive you to my house.”

    “Hmm.” Janesha thought about that for a moment. “I don’t know about the whole ‘putting her somewhere’ thing, but I guess I can send her over to the Scottish countryside to graze for a bit. She never turns down a feed from the Highlands.”

    Danny blinked, and breathed out heavily. Of course. Highlands grass. Because the Highlands of Scotland are just around the corner. “How far does your teleporting work?” The question fell out of his mouth before he could think better of it, and hearing her response, he really wished it hadn’t.

    “We don’t teleport. We realm-shift.”

    Realm-shift. Right. Gotcha. Why didn’t I know that? Danny sighed. “Okay. I’ll bite. How far can you realm-shift then?”

    Janesha’s shoulders rose and fell in an indifferent shrug. “It honestly depends on how many steps we take. In the case of this place, we can be anywhere in the world in two.”

    “TWO STEPS!”

    “Well, more, if we’re dragging others with us, but yeah.” Her smile brightened. “Wanna see?”

    “No!” YES!!! “Ahhh, not right now. Right now, we need to get ourselves home. Taylor’s probably going crazy, wondering what’s taking me so long.” He looked at Cloudstrike nervously. “So … how … how do you tell her …?” Without having the right words, he used his hands to convey ‘leave’.

    Janesha chuckled. “Hey, Cloudstrike. Did you know they have the Highlands here, just like on Earlafaol?”

    Immediately, Cloudstrike's head came up and her ears pricked forward. Snuffling the air eagerly, she pranced forward, her hooves tap-tapping on the concrete in a rapid rhythm. The excited nickering was almost superfluous as she looked beseechingly at Janesha.

    “Well, if she didn't before, she does now,” remarked Danny, finding the mystallion's patent eagerness somewhat appealing. He'd honestly never seen puppy-dog eyes on something so big before.

    Janesha smirked in agreement. “That’s right. So, why don’t you go and graze for a bit and I’ll call you when I need you, girl.”

    A gust of wind walloped Danny in the chest before he realised the space Cloudstrike had filled was empty. And he’d been looking straight at her. That … wasn’t teleport … “I don’t want to ask how fast Cloudstrike really is, do I?”

    “Probably not,” Janesha laughed, having far too much fun at his expense. Then she sobered. “But you did bring up an interesting point before. Technically, you don’t know me from a rock on the ground, so why are you offering to take me back to meet your daughter?”

    “Okay, first?” Danny pointed at the statuette of the talot that he still held in his hand. “You saved my life. I owe you a debt of gratitude as well. Second, it's pretty obvious that you're one of the good guys. Third, you're about Taylor's age, and I'm not going to just let you wander around without any place to stay. Fourth, like I said, I'd prefer not to inflict you on Brockton Bay without some kind of prep.” He gave her a stern glance. “Because wherever you're from, you don't have much of a grasp of how things are done around here, such as we don’t mess with people's minds.”

    “And I still say that mind-benders aren't nearly as bad as you guys seem to think,” she huffed. “It's simple. Older ones keep the younger ones in line until they're old enough to be responsible about it. Don't you have any of that here?”

    “Well, in a very general way, yeah,” he admitted. “The Wards are junior heroes who do public appearances and work alongside the Protectorate heroes until they turn eighteen and become superheroes in their own right. But we don't have enough, uh, 'mindbenders' to keep the others in check. In fact, I can't really think of any heroic mentalist capes. They're all villains … and of course, the Simurgh. Our Simurgh,” he added sternly as she opened her mouth to say something. “She's killed hundreds of thousands, millions even, and caused entire cities to be barricaded away.”

    “Well, the real Simurgh wouldn't do anything like that,” Janesha said, just as adamantly. “She's a kind and gentle person who just likes to help people. She'd be really upset if she heard that someone stole her good name and turned her into a mass-murderer.”

    Once again, Danny was struck by Janesha's odd worldview. Calling him and Armsmaster 'mortals', sounding more excited about the possibility of magic than the reality of super-powers, and claiming that there existed a 'real' Simurgh who was nothing like the one that had terrorised the world for the last nine years and change was beyond unusual. But given her very real accomplishments and capabilities, not to mention the very existence of Cloudstrike, he was disinclined to dismiss her words and attitudes as a mere delusion. Which left the conclusion that she was telling the truth … and that was a rabbit-hole he really didn't want to go down right at that moment.

    End of Part Three

    Part Four
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
    Aoinfinity, Dacraun, Scopas and 37 others like this.
  18. Gindjurra

    Gindjurra I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Aug 21, 2016
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    That particular rabbit hole is practically bottomless -- especially in a materialistic setting like Worm.
  19. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Oct 1, 2016
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    Why on earth did Armsmaster do that? He was right to offer it in canon, as Bakuda was an unknown, and Oni Lee was a murderous madman that appeared fanatically devoted to Lung, who stood a good chance at escaping, if history had told Colin anything..

    The Merchants didn't have that advantage. A cleaner route would have been praising her capture, and advising her that her actions would win her acclaim, and the premiere superhero team would love to have her in the wards.

    For all that he's fanon autistic, he is charming and professional when Taylor first meets him.
  20. aabbcc

    aabbcc Experienced.

    Jan 21, 2015
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    He is also not aware that she is brand new to BB as well as Bet, so he had no reason to believe she was unaware that after those three captures the merchants are pretty much dead as a gang.

    She roflstomped the merchants, showed she had hefty brute durability, got out of the fight unharmed, and showed no signs of being the slightest bit intimidated by the opposition. Meanwhile, the canon meeting was with a half-singed Taylor who had barely survived facing Lung.

    He may be bad at people, but he can't be that bad as to believe she'd be scared at the trivial threat of a few mooks with guns.

    He also couldn't have gotten to the position he's in for as long as he's had it if he was only capable of approaching new capes and potential recruits through intimidation. If nothing else, he must have gotten at least a seminar.
  21. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
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    When he met Taylor, he didn't know she'd only half-survived the encounter, or that she'd had help. All he knew was that Lung was down for the count and she was apparently intact. And still, his first words when he encountered her were "Are you gonna fight me?"

    The man is overconfident to the point of arrogance. He set up the Leviathan fight, condemning several villains and a couple of heroes to death so he could go hand-to-hand with a halberd and his combat prediction algorithm, just so he could keep his leadership position.

    Taking in Lung would've been a big deal. Making a clean sweep of the Merchants? An (almost) equally big deal. Note that he also lied about the extent of the ABB (they only had about 60 members).

    He's got combat prediction and a halberd that will slice through steel, so he believes he can win this fight, but he doesn't start burring up until Cloudstrike provokes him. Up until then, his thought process is that she's a newbie with a couple of flashy powers that he can con into giving up glory to the fabulous Armsmaster.

    He was actually just about to fall back to trying to get her into the Wards when Cloudstrike smacked him. Janesha didn't give him the chance to bring it up in the conversation that he remembers having, so it never happened.
  22. Gindjurra

    Gindjurra I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Aug 21, 2016
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    Stations of canon -- he did it in canon therefore to many authors he must do it in fanfic, even if it makes no sense.
  23. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Oct 1, 2016
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    "Are you gonna fight me?" makes sense for someone with a lie detector to ask. If the answer is no, he can relax, because he knows they're telling the truth. It's blunt, but a useful way to get to a position where he can just have a relaxed conversation.

    But Brocktonites would know the numbers in the Merchants. It'd be cape news. Whereas everyone knows about Oni Lee, and since he wasn't captured, it makes sense to offer that out, combined with a you can keep it if you join the Wards where we can protect you. Here, doesn't make sense beyond 'Stations of Canon.'

    Normally you don't do things that silly.
  24. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
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    Normally, you don't challenge an Endbringer to a melee weapon fight either.

    But he did that, too.

    Note that "Are you gonna fight me?" can actually provoke a fight. Just saying.

    Seriously, asking the person who just left Lung flat out on the pavement--something that nobody else has managed to do--"are you gonna fight me?" is actually a fecking idiotic thing to do.

    Conclusion: Armsmaster doesn't actually think too hard about how people are going to react to what he says or does.
  25. aabbcc

    aabbcc Experienced.

    Jan 21, 2015
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    1- The Taylor meeting: his first meeting with Taylor was with half-singed cape, who upon speaking, revealed to be exhausted and very nervous.
    After confirming she wasn't a villain, he changed tracks: he asked if she needed medical assistance, he was personable, friendly, he was warm, he joked.

    Taylor comes to the realization that she almost died right in front of him and tells him, and after that is when he mentions the wards, without pressuring. He heard her account of events, reassured her that it had been a good idea not to start a fight with the Undersiders. When talking about taking credit, he was not hostile, he was calm, understanding, and delineated the very clear dangers she would be exposing herself if she took credit.

    I am seeing nothing of that here. Where is this Armsmaster? Because all I'm seeing is Flandermaster.

    Was this also to his advantage? Yes, but you cannot deny that Bakuda and Oni Lee are scary fuckers, and that his explanation was a rational one. If she ever blabbed, he could confidently state that he had the best interests in mind in front of superiors and cameras and be believed.

    There is a significant difference with what he's facing here: a new cape, yes, but a confident one who just took out her foes without apparent effort and shows no sign of fear or hesitation, moreover, the Merchants are blatantly and explicitly not a threat to her, and she knows it.

    He cannot be oblivious to this. If he is perceptive enough to notice that the girl in a full body costume is nervous and the correct responses both to reassure her and to obtain what he wants, he cannot be oblivious that these methods are unlikely to work on the cape who isn't wearing a mask and has her full range of expressions on display, while on broad daylight, and next to a civilian witness.

    2- The overconfidence: yeah.. here's two issues. The first is that his confidence in his combat ability is completely irrelevant. It is not whether he thinks he can take her, it's whether he thinks he can make the obviously confident and bulletproof new cape afraid of some goons that just lost their parahuman support.

    The second issue is that even if it was about combating her, his overconfidence came over a whole lot of lab time preparing for that specific threat, and bringing out those specific counters. Here, he's facing two mover brutes of pretty high end just from what he observed, a particular combination that isn't present in BB villains, and wouldn't be something belonging to his regular kit. And that's what he knows, then there's what he doesn't, like what the heck she used to freeze Mush, how does it work, and what are it's limits.
    Worse yet, the prediction algorithm requires knowledge and adapting it to the enemy, and unlike the plentiful footage of Endbringers (whom are jobbing, so it is unsurprising that his preparations failed so spectacularly) or known BB threats, this is two enemies he has barely anything to work with. So he doesn't have his combat prediction, and is facing not one but two foes who have demonstrated they are faster than regular humans.

    And to cap it off, he is in front of a civilian witness. He cannot have been at his rank as long as he has and be unaware that picking up a fight with a fellow hero in front of a witness is counter-productive.

    3- "Are you going to fight me?" discussion: keep in mind he was asking this to a cape wearing villainous getup.
    Aoinfinity, Alayne, Rikallyn and 3 others like this.
  26. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
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    When Armsmaster first met Taylor, the first thing out of his mouth was "Are you gonna fight me?"

    He didn't know if she was nervous, hurt, fully healthy or about to do exactly to him what she'd just done to Lung.

    Lung, who by the way, was lying flat out on the street, obviously having had the shit pummelled out of him. And Armsmaster still came out with what could easily have come across as a challenge.

    Once Tayor is talking to him, she's deferential, hero-worshippy, and fully congnizant of the danger she'd been in.

    Janesha is not.

    She's abrupt, smartass, and doesn't take any shit. She insults him to his face, and doesn't back down an inch. Even when he points out that Mush could've died, she doesn't apologise.

    And then (to his mind) Janesha assaults him with what he considers to be a power projection.

    He's not perceptive enough to notice that Taylor was nervous before she spoke. Her voice would've given him hints, but he admits himself that he's not good with people.

    He's also enough of a glory hound to want the credit for three capes, all captured at once.

    He's not aware that she knows the Merchants are lacking in capes until she says so. And then, once that's begun, he's set on that path. Armsmaster doesn't back down, especially to a teenager.

    Janesha is wearing all black, with a black cape. Karen (the author of Ties that Bind) has stated that the Mystallians wear all black for the specific purpose of intimidation. They are seen as the third-scariest Realm in Creation, with the first being Chaos and the second being the Nexus. When a Mystallian shows up, everyone steps around them.

    Yes, she's wearing a dark costume, with the attitude that goes with it. So it wouldn't be surprising that he mistakes her for a villain ... and keeps making that mistake.

    As for his combat prediction, it works against ordinary people. The more it records people moving, the better it works. So yes, he'd have a baseline for Janesha.

    If you have a better way for Armsmaster to have acted, lay it out. Don't just say "that's wrong". give me an alternative,
    Komrade Comrade likes this.
  27. aabbcc

    aabbcc Experienced.

    Jan 21, 2015
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    Wildbow is bad describing body language, but she had a close encounter with fire, was exhausted, and did zero effort to hide it.

    Armsmaster came upon a likely visibly tired cape dressed as a villain near a collapsed Lung and plenty of collateral damage. If a fight broke out, while he didn't know how she took Lung down, he knows it wasn't immediate and left her exhausted, which increase the chances of taking her on quite a bit.

    Exactly my point.
    There is nothing that indicates she would fold and let him take the credit, and everything indicating she would do the exact opposite.

    This is compounded by the different situation, which gives him no lever he can use to provide a rational reason why it's in her best interest.

    Yes, he would very much want to take credit, but that doesn't mean he cannot recognize when he has a snowball's chance in hell of convincing someone, particularly since his argument is so weak that nobody would buy it. Just because he's greedy, arrogant, and overconfident in his ability to fight doesn't mean he's stupid.

    I have no problem with what happened after that, I have a problem with what happened before that.

    Why? Aren't the cape rosters of the big 3 gangs public knowledge? If not to the average layman, then to a new cape who obviously had some time to google around while she got her spiffy costume?

    She is also helmetless, was just there chatting with a civilian until the Merchants arrived, which means her expressions are in full display.

    She all but passed Skidmark to him, had attacked only the Merchant capes rather than him, stopped fighting once the Merchants were defeated, and barring Mush, fought nonlethally. Despite obviously being a brute.

    Explain to me what part of this could possibly make Armsmaster think villain.

    This is not "I am meeting a villainous looking cape at the site of a cape fight which I don't know why it happened, who may very well be hostile".

    He cannot take full credit of this, and definitely not in the way you had him try here. But that is not to say he can't twist things in his favor or otherwise derive some benefit from this. I'll tackle three of them here, tho two are for later, not his immediate conversation.

    Since he's talking what by all accounts is a fellow new hero who is overflowing with confidence, he can approach her like he would approach, say, glory girl, but one who he could possibly recruit.

    His initial tone up to the credit talk wasn't too bad, he could have tried not to be patronizing for the sake of nabbing a potential recruit, but nevertheless, not too bad.

    From there, rather than try to leverage the nonexistent gang retaliation to get credit, he can use the benefits of the Wards program and try to bank on his reputation and that of the Wards to get her: money, comfort, the best school, friendship with the local heroes, knowing where and when the villains are striking.

    Now, these are not likely to be of interest to Janesha, from where he could awkwardly switch tracks to trying something else, like merely coordinating with the heroes, or give up and give her his card and end the conversation, like Armsmaster did with Taylor once he had gotten what he wanted.

    While trying to convince her to let him take credit is folly, if he isn't successful in recruiting her, getting credit is not. When he delivers his report, or when this goes to the media, he can downplay her involvement and increase his.
    This is, of course, not compatible with recruiting, but he could be thinking about it while talking with Janesha. This is great, because your protagonist is a mind reader, so if you want to insert conflict in an otherwise calm if unsuccessful recruitment attempt, here is your solution.

    Taking advantage of the post-merchants chaos:
    This is the least beneficial option, tho it's compatible with the other two.
    While the merchants don't hold much that the other gangs want, they at least hold some. The other two gangs will move to get it, and inevitably come in conflict, which means there is a decent likelihood that their capes will make an appearance.

    Armsmaster would then push for approval of some of his inventions so he can deploy the countermeasures, keep them at hand anyways like he did the Lung tranquilizer in case he can use them to his advantage, work the patrol routes and deployments to increase his chances of getting to the action on time, etc.
    Basically, what he's normally doing, but with a little extra emphasis.
    Prince Charon and Cailin like this.
  28. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
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    Actually, the Merchants don't really hold any territory as such. They basically hang out in places where the 'real' gangs don't want.

    But I will consider your response and see what I can do to adjust matters.

    Note that this will be the last alteration I will be making to this chapter.
  29. aabbcc

    aabbcc Experienced.

    Jan 21, 2015
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    They hold a market of drugs tho, that's certainly something the other gangs might want to look at filling.
    Prince Charon and Ack like this.
  30. Twilight666

    Twilight666 Not too sore, are you?

    Oct 5, 2014
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    You know Ack when I was reading this,I remembered [Worm/Matrix] (Reality Intrudes) who had a similar premise (Earth Bet & Powers are fundamentally different and the MC is an OC from the cross-over that fused with Worm) .
    Since that is not on the voting order is it similar to Slippery Slope,I'm Halping, It gets Worse etc. and will get updated if you get a commision?
    Or will you update it if/when you get inspiration?
    Ack likes this.