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Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Axle, Oct 26, 2016.
Oh, dear lord. What have I done?
Great and terrible things?
The most obvious benefit to not needing sleep was time. A person could gain an extra third of the day with complete lack of sleep. The obvious downside to that was that you were forced to be alone with yourself. And if you couldn't tolerate being alone with yourself, more time was self-destructive rather than beneficial.
For Aryana, alone time was the natural being of things. Being with a group of people was just as distracting as being alone. So once the daytime finally came up, and she was done meditating, she got up from her bed and made her way to the kitchen, unchanged after a long night by herself.
Aryana heard Emily and Sabrina conversing at the kitchen table. They’d been talking for about an hour before she decided to leave her bedroom. “Vivan is fifteen,” Emily said. “Aryana is eighteen. Edwin is nineteen, and Robert is twenty one. I haven’t asked how they all came to Brockton Bay, but I think they’d be open to talking about it if you asked.”
Entering the kitchen, Aryana saw the two girls sitting at the dining room table. One was slightly taller than herself, with short curly brown hair and a face densely covered in freckles. The other girl was red-headed, with straightened curls, and bright blue eyes that that made her look pretty.
Aryana let out a fake yawn, “hello, my fellow humans.”
Sabrina rolled her eyes. “It’s twelve o’clock, do you always sleep this late?”
Aryana shrugged, “mondays suck.”
“I know, I’m just saying Mondays suck.”
Sabrina squinted at her, she was already detesting who she’d have to live with. Aryana rustled through the fridge to look for something to microwave, “shit, we’re out of leftovers. By any chance, can one of you two cook?” They both shook their heads, “such useless women. I should trade one of you for Vivan.”
Sabrina raised her arms up, “no way in hell am I rooming with Lee-” she quickly held her tongue, “two other boys…”
Aryana sighed, “I think I’ll start asking Vivan to make breakfasts for all of us from now on.”
Aryana pulled out a bottle of wine from the fridge and set it on the table. “Christ," Sabrina commented, "you just woke up, and you're already getting hammered?"
Aryana took took out a glass cup and poured the chocolate flavored wine in. “It’s the Lord’s day today, and the Lord’s day is wine tasting day.” Sabrina glared at her, but Aryana easily ignored her gesture.
Emily, thinking Aryana was still tired from sleeping in, spoke quietly, “Aryana, I wanted to ask, is Vivan mad at us right now? He seemed... upset when you told him he’d have to move out.”
Aryana thought back to the night before, when Vivan packed his things up to move to Robert and Edwin's apartment unit.
“Once again,” Vivan said, “a black man gets kicked out of his home by a group of white chicks.”
Sabrina yelled, “for the last frigging time, what race are you!?”
“Native American,” the two siblings said at the same time.
“Last time you said it was Indian.”
Vivan commented, “to be fair, that's pretty similar.”
Before Aryana could call him ‘racist bastard’, Sabrina pointed to her and yelled, “don’t you fucking say it!”
“Nah,” Aryana answered, “he wasn’t actually angry, he just pretends to get angry. We thought about giving you two your own flats, but we’d rather not divide ourselves too thin. It causes too much distance. Besides, I'm sure he’s better off with Robert and Edwin than staying here to clean up after my messes.”
Vivan’s new Apartment:
“For fuck’s sake man, God created hangers so that man could hang coats.” Vivan threw a fistfull of hangers in Edwin’s direction, “so hang up your goddamn shirts you sick fuck.”
“We’ve lived here for a year on our own, why the hell should we start cleaning now!?” To prove a point, Edwin grabbed all the coats in the closet, and threw them to the floors. “See this mess? It’s my mess, at least I know where my goddamn stuff is instead of where you’ve been hiding our shit.”
“You cannot organize piles of shit!” Vivan yelled, “both your dumbasses are messier than Aryana.”
“You know what,” Edwin stormed off to his room, “if you’re gonna clean up, then be a little bitch, and pick up these coats!”
Vivan yelled back, “I am not little! And check your privilege you sour cream colored bastard!”
After taking a quick shower and getting an apple flavored juice beverage, Aryana paced around the living room while her new roommates sat on the living room couch to listen to her. Emily listened attentively while Sabrina stared off to the side offering her minimal attention.
“First, a few rules,” Aryana said, “each of us have a fan-base. Edwin is always busy tinkering, so his fan base is playing video games with other gamers. Robert kind of took the easy way to do it. He uses his powers to recommend sparring techniques for people online. He’s pretty big online for it, even experts like taking his advice. Vivan runs a cook show. He puts on a mask and shows people how to make foreign dishes.”
“Question,” Sabrina said snapping her head, “are you sure he’s not gay?”
Aryana shrugged, “I’ve asked him that a few times. He says he’s straight as a cucumber, even though he’s never had a girlfriend.”
“Sounds pretty gay to me.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s not. He actually told me he started culinary arts in middle school because he wanted to take a class with a girl he liked.”
Sabrina chuckled, “of course.”
Emily asked, “so what’s your fan base?”
“I’m a webcam model.” Their eyes widened at her. “Kidding, that doesn’t pay enough anymore. I’m more of a jazzy blogger type. I make poetry and philosophy vlogs.”
Sabrina commented in a sarcastic tone, “I bet you think you’re so deep.”
Aryana bobbled her head, “indeed, as deep as a shallow puddle.” Sabrina stayed quiet, wondering if Aryana was either dense or being stupid towards her snide comment. Aryana pointed to them, “so, both of you are going to need fan bases. Humanize yourselves. Think of something you love, and vlog about it one way or another.”
Emily thought about her love for botany, and wondered how she could make videos about it. Sabrina sighed in annoyance by how useless the requirement was. Sabrina said, “there’s nothing I like, so there’s no point in me being a part of that.”
Aryana smiled, “hate to break it to you, but having a fan base is a requirement on this team. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have 50,000 followers like Robert. You can have ten followers for all I care. The point is, you need a fan base. It can be anything, it just has to be something worth following.”
Sabrina shook her head, “this is fucking stupid. Humanizing ourselves? What’s the point?”
“The point is to make ourselves something that people don’t want to kill. Our fans cheer for us, and being involved in our own communities expands that cult base. Remember, the best way to gain minions is to connect with people on a fundamental level.”
Sabrina shook her head, “christ, I don’t have anything I wanna share, alright? All I’ve ever done since juvie was roll up joints when I’ve got time.”
“Holy shit,” Aryan laughed, she jabbed a finger in her direction, “that’s it! We need a pot head in our group!”
Sabrina raised an eyebrow, “what?”
A wide grinned formed on Aryana’s face while she asked Sabrina a series of questions, “how good are you with blunts? Could you recommend stuff to eat while stoned? Could you give people advice on edibles?”
“Wait,” Sabrina asked, “you’re serious? You want me to do a blazing channel?”
Aryana ran to her bedroom and came back with a bong. “Emily,” she tossed the bong in her direction. Emily hastily fumbled her hands as she caught it. “Show me how to use this.”
“But I’ve never-”
“I know. Just show me how you think you should use it.”
Emily looked down smoking tool. It looked more liked a strangely sculpted toy from her perspective. She guessed that she had to put her mouth on the longer end of it. She did so, but also tilted the bong up like she were sipping down from a cup.
Sabrina cringed, “that’s, actually kind of sad…”
Aryana bit her lip, “yeah, I bet you like it like that you dirty little whore.”
Emily gagged, and dropped the bong to the ground. “See?” Aryana said catching the bong mid-fall, “how many more innocents need to be enlightened by the power of trees?”
Sabrina leaned back on the chair, it wasn’t like she had any other talents she could offer. She looked down at the bong and had a hard urge to relax from the predicament she’d put herself in. “Fine... But I gotta ask, do you have something I can smoke right now?”
Aryana grin grew wide enough for her teeth to show, “Sabrina, you’re gonna love what I made Edwin brew up in his lab.”
Sabrina, above all else, needed to find Leet’s lab as soon as possible. The less time she'd spend undercover, the better. The Losers had a philosophy of the exposure effect, the idea that they needed to show who there were as much as they could, both good and bad, for the sake of publicity. It only did damage to Sabrina’s image with the E88. She didn’t need more people thinking she’d left the gang.
Unbeknownst to Sabrina, as she walked through all of the apartment rooms, and checked each individual unit for any signs of Leet’s lab, hidden cameras watched her while the Loser team spied on her from the boy’s living room unit.
“Hey, Edwin,” Aryana asked, “have you used these cameras to spy on me and Emily yet?”
Emily’s face paled while Edwin’s face turned a hot red. “Hell no,” he shook his head violently. “I’m a villain, not a creep.”
Aryana smirked, “too bad, I’m an exhibitionist.” She stared at the TV screen while Sabrina scurried across the floors searching for what was obvious. “I feel kind of bad for her, she’s trying so hard to find your lab, but she’s never gonna find it.”
Vivan said, “I know right? I feel like I’m cheering for a nazi underdog.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Edwin yelled, “she’s gonna stab us in the back as soon. When are we kicking her out?”
Aryana hummed to herself, “After our… Third mission.”
Robert scoffed, “why, so she can screw us over on the first mission?”
“No,” Aryana sighed. “But maybe if she’s on our side of the field a few times, she’ll learn to like us more."
There was a long pause among all of them, no one believed that would happen. And Robert was growing exhausted at her naivety. Typically, her attitude made them more reputable online, even energized offline, but now, it was obviously putting them all in risk. “That’s not how it works, Aryana.”
“I already know that.” Aryana replied in a plain tone. “I just figured if we could convince the world that she’s more loyal to us than to Kaiser, Kaiser would have to ditch her anyway. When that happens, the E88 loses a member, it looks like their cape ditched their nazi ideology, and the biggest loser ends up being Kaiser.”
Emily finally asked, “isn’t this dangerous? I won’t be here on weekdays because of school, but you’re in real danger just by living with her.”
“That’s why drugs are always good for you,” Vivan said with a wave.
“Excuse me?” Emily asked.
Edwin flicked at his own forearm, “He means biomods. I made a vaccine that gives us special blood cells. We’re more numb to pain, heal faster, and have perfect physical strength because of it. So I guess we’re not in as much danger as most people would expect.”
“You should get the shot too,” Aryana mentioned, “and relax, it doesn’t get you high… anymore.”
“That was only a trial shot,” Edwin said meekly.
“Those poor hamsters…”
Emily asked, “you guys heal faster?”
“It’s helped us on several occasions,” Robert said. “We won’t give it to Sabrina, but trust me, you should take it. You’ll feel great afterwards.”
“And it’s not like Edwin’s limitless pill.” Vivan lowered his head, “the hangovers from that are like crack, opium, LSD, and alcohol all at the same time.”
Aryana winced at him, “stop pretending you know about stuff.”
Vivan sighed, “I hate that you make me live like a godless mormon.”
Emily wondered if it was worth having those modifications. She was skeptical of having irreversible tinkering alter her body. “But are we sure about this?” Emily asked for a final time. “Do you guys really think it’ll be a good idea for Sabrina to stay here?"
“Nope,” Aryana answered. “But it'll be fun anyway.”
Robert rubbed at his chin, “look, we wouldn’t be half the team we are without you two taking risks. So if you’ve got some sort of plan to make this work, I won’t stop you. But…” Robert paused, he wasn’t sure what words could actually make them more careful.
Emily finished the statement for him, “watch each other’s backs.”
Aryana and Vivan replied at the same time, “of course.”
An hour had passed, and there were no clues of where Leet’s lab could’ve been. She knew she couldn’t stay away from the team forever, so she headed back to her apartment take a break from searching. She’d have to think of better ways to ask about it without raising any red flags.
Sabrina reached her apartment door, and stopped at the sight of a four foot big headed robot. It looked up at Sabrina with triangular green eyes, giving a sad and disarming gaze. “Ugh,” the robot said in an exasperated tone, “another guest, I do detest guests. They don’t even let me know that they’re coming anymore…”
Sabrina stared at the robot in a blank gaze. “Are you… A security bot?”
The robot let out a long exhausted sigh. It sounded like it was already disappointed, “no,” the robot said. “Sorry to disappoint you. I always seem to disappoint the people around me...”
Sabrina stared at him for a long amount of time. He sounded ridiculously sad, like he had some sort of depression issue. Could robots even have that? “So, if you’re not security, why are you even here?”
The robot sighed aloud, longer than he ever had before. “Why am I here? Don’t even get me started.”
A female hologram appeared by his shoulder, she wore a circuit board patterned body suit, and was complete purple from hair to toe. “Don’t mind him,” the hologram said. “He has terminal depression, except its never terminal enough.”
“Why couldn’t Leet give me an off switch...”
“I”m Cortana,” the hologram said. “Marvin here is in charge of video editing. My job is to make sure he doesn’t sit around and mope all day.”
“I’m the most advanced AI on the planet, reduced to making online videos for adolescents…”
Cortana shook her head, “we tend to get a lot of free time when Leet isn’t in the lab.”
That piqued Sabrina’s interest, “by any chance, do you know where Leet’s lab is?”
Marvin answered, “yes, but if you’re looking to visit, I don’t think he likes you very much.”
Sabrina raised an eyebrow. Cortana slid her hand at him like she were slapping him across the head, “Marvin, be considerate!”
Marvin sighed again. “What I mean to say is, he’s seriously concerned that you’ll, and I quote,” Marvin slowly rose his metal fingers in the air to emphasize quotes, “‘burn it up like if Spitfire were a crazy nazi bitch.’”
Cortana began hitting Marvin in the head again, but her tiny holographic arms did no damage. “Marvin, we talked about courtesy before!”
“But Leet told me to say that…”
“Then stop listening to him!”
“But he’ll call me useless again…” Cortana gave of an exasperated sigh. She rubbed at her forehead like she had sensation within her holographic fingertips. Marvin asked, “you’re disappointed in me again, aren’t you?”
“No, Marvin, of course not.” Cortana looked up at Sabrina, “Okay, I’ll be blunt. We know you have a bad history with the E88. So it's going to take some time for the others to get used to you. Aryana loves that you’re here, Robert and Edwin… You’ll have to get on their good side before they warm up to you.”
Sabrina really didn’t care about that. She wasn’t going to stay for long. “So what? Am I banned from visiting Leet’s lab?”
Cortana didn’t want to answer that. Marvin said, “according to Leet, ‘that Hitler wannabe bitch better not-’”
Cortana cut him off, “yes, just until you can show you’re responsible enough to be trusted after a few missions. After that, I’m sure you’ll be welcomed there.”
Sabrina clenched her fists. How long would that take? She wondered how long Kaiser would be willing to wait for her. He was a patient man, but playing Loser wasn’t something anyone could tolerate forever.
Tomorrow, she'd have pick the next mission. Sabrina laid back on her bed. She had her headphones on while she listened to ‘sparklehorse’ by herself. She was glad Emily had suggested the band to her. In terms of interests, the Losers were more relatable than anyone in the E88 were.
Age may have played a factor into that. The Losers reminded her of what she used to be like, reckless and never giving a damn. The closest thing she had to a crew of friends was before she’d gone to juvie. And those friends had backstabbed her. This time, however, instead of waiting to be ditched aside when she needed help the most, she’d be the one doing the backstabbing. It felt nice switching rolls.
But she still had to figure out from what angle she could live with them. Vivan and Aryana were kind to her, which was ironic considering that they weren’t white. Vivan seemed dense to her, but she desperately wanted to find out what could get Aryana pissed.
In contrast, Robert and Edwin watched at her like she were a monster. Speaking carefully around her like she was always ready to stab them in the back. It was definitely justified, but it still hurt. Emily seemed scared to speak to her, but Sabrina figured that was more due to shyness than paranoia.
Compared to the E88, the team seemed more dynamic than what she was used to. In the E88, respect was more valuable than anything. It was like a military order, you were only accepted if you obeyed like a mindless soldier. It was an ironic position Sabrina put herself in, considering she hated authority.
Then again, as she sat alone and thought more about herself, she didn’t choose to join the E88. Her uncle had just offered it to her, and her parents had pushed through with it before Sabrina had even made the decision. She would’ve joined anyway, sure, but she still hated when people thought they could make decisions for her.
Which was partially why she liked living with her uncle. He was the only adult in her life that treated her like an equal. He never discouraged her from doing what she wanted, never tried controlling all the little aspects of her life. He only asked that she do well with the E88. If anything, she was loyal to him more than anyone else.
There was a knock at the apartment door. Sabrina stood up and left her bedroom to open it. By the time she’d reached the living room, Vivan had already let himself in.
Vivan looked up while pulling out a container from his handbag. “Oh, hey Sabrina. I thought you were at the mall with Emily and Aryana.”
Sabrina shook her head. “I didn’t feel like going.” She looked down at Vivan’s arms, the containers had warm foods fogged from heat inside. “I’m guessing your cooked that?”
“Yup, these guys would be fat asses if I didn’t cook meals for them.”
Sabrina stared at him for another moment. “Are you sure you’re not gay?”
“I am ninety five percent certain I’m straight.” Sabrina raised an eyebrow. Vivan asked, “can you help me out with these? I’m not sure how you guys wanna organize them.”
Sabrina sighed, and entered the kitchen to help Vivan. As she smelled through the Tupperware, she had hoped to gain a hint of what Vivan's ethnicity was. But it became plainly obvious that Vivan's race wouldn't be revealed through his cooking.
Tomato lasagna, bean burritos, seasoned fried rice, his cooking reeked of skill, not of any particular culture. It was odd, really, both Aryana and Vivan directly contradicted any stereotypes Sabrina was expected to believe.
“So I asked Edwin why he didn't join the E88,” Vivan said.
Sabrina raised an eyebrow, “Really? What did he say?”
“Get this, apparently he's Spanish. I didn’t know that until he mentioned it.”
“Really?” Sabrina cocked her head back, “he doesn’t look spanish.”
“I know right, apparently they come in more than one color.” Vivan thought back to when he asked the question.
“Holy shit Edwin, you’re Spanish? Teach me how to say ‘fuck you’ in Spanish.”
“Fuck you Vivan.”
“That sounds pretty American. I’m disappointed in you.”
Edwin groaned loudly to himself. Vivan asked, “bro, do you even soccer?”
Edwin tossed the playstation remote in his direction.
“Well,” Sabrina said to Vivan, placing a basket of fruit at the center of the dining room, “that explains why he hates me.”
Vivan clicked his tongue, not wanting to bring up her sneaking around from earlier. “Maybe, but don’t take it personally. I’m sure once he knows you better, things’ll become easier with him. I think he’s still getting used to Emily.”
Sabrina sighed, she didn’t want to wait to gain anyone’s approval. The only thing she needed was to get the information for the E88. Compelled to ask, and convinced that Vivan was dense enough to give an honest answer, she asked, “So… I’m guessing he won’t show me his lab?”
Vivan clicked his tongue again, “yeah, don’t worry about Leet’s lab. He works better alone, and me and Robert just stay away from his lab anyway. He gets kind of high when he’s in tinker mood.”
“Like staring at a bag of cheetos, and figuring out why there’s a cheetah on the bag.”
Sabrina laughed, remembering a time when she didn’t know how to handle a high, “Wow, you just explained tinkers better than anyone at the E88 ever has.” Vivan smiled, glad to finally make Sabrina smile.
Sabrina asked, “so no one else goes in there? That sounds creepy.”
“Aryana goes in and out sometimes, but that’s about it.”
She squinted at him, “Are… they both fucking in there?”
“What?” The question caught him off guard. “Of course not.”
“You know,” she speculated a theory, “maybe they are, but you just ignore it because you don’t wanna think about Edwin fucking your sister.”
Vivan stared at her like a deer caught in headlights. He never even thought of the idea of Edwin and Aryana being together. His mind began making connections that weren’t really there.
“Holy shit,” Sabrina bursted out laughing, “you look like you just got mind fucked.”
Vivan shook the thought out of his head, ”stop that. You’re driving this team apart.”
“All part of my master nazi plan,” Sabrina commented.
“Already planning a final solution, I see.”
“Jew know it better than anyone.” Sabrina gasped, “fuck, you just made me do it.”
“One of us.”
“Go to hell.”
After they finished putting the tupperware away, Vivan mentioned that he made ‘special’ courses for the weekends. Before leaving, he looked over at the living room and said, “I can’t believe it. I’m gone for a day, and Aryana is already tossing her shit all over the floor.”
Sabrina looked over to the living room, he was referring to the coat and hat left on the sofa arm rest. “That’s my shit,” Sabrina said.
“Oh…” He turned at her and yelled, “Clean up your goddamn shit, Sabrina.”
Sabrina crossed her arms, and wondered if Vivan was as casual to racist remarks as he often showed on camera. “I’m white, you do it.”
Vivan bursted out laughing, “yeah, but you're also ginger, so you don't really count as a person.”
"You bastard," she laughed, forgetting that she was supposed to hate him. "As a feminist, clean up my shit."
"As a feminist, clean up your own shit," they laughed for another minute. Forgetting that she was going to backstab him, he said, "Sabrina, you’re gonna fit in just fine here.”
The dart board had the swastikas removed from it. No one needed to ask why. They were replaced with two pictures of a glory hole, one picture of hot chocolate, and two pictures of Bob Marley. Sabrina tossed the dart where it landed it right on a picture of a glory hole. “New Wave it is,” Aryana said. “It’s about time we settle the score with them.”
Vivan asked, “does this mean I get my rematch with Glory Girl?”
“Dude,” Edwin said, “you got your ass kicked by her last time.”
“Which is why I’m entitled to a rematch.”
Aryana quickly presented her idea with to the team. “Alright, I say we hit them with glitter. Glitter the shit out of them. Glitter bomb their homes, their wives, their children. Because that shit sticks on forever.”
“Glitter?” Sabrina said in toneless voice. “Not impressive, especially compared to what you guys did with the E88.”
Aryana shrugged, “ you got any better ideas?”
“How do you guys feel about hostages?”
They all shook her heads, Aryana said, “we’re kinda iffy about that. Hostages get people put in the middle of danger, what’s worse is that there could be a long term psychological toll involved, especially if kids get caught in the mix.”
Sabrina was disappointed by how spineless they all were. “If you guys are afraid of getting your hands dirty, why are you all even villains?”
Robert answered for her, “most of us have a reason to not like the Protectorate. The shortest answer is there’s no profit to being a rogue hero. Since we gotta live to eat, we’re only allowed to rob villains as villains.”
“In my case,” Edwin said, “to get supplies for tinkering, I need to steal a mountain ton of money to supply myself. Sponsors would limit my tinkering to profitable purposes. There’s no fun in that. What’s worse is my specialty can never be profitable. My choice is to either tinker for myself or don’t tinker at all, and I can’t do the latter.”
Sabrina asked. “Then why even bother attacking New Wave and the Protectorate?”
Aryana answered, “because I hate the Protectorate.”
Vivan answered, “for the rep. As long as we don’t go pure evil mode, fighting them is alright. It also helps that we sometimes let them win to boost their own PR. On the long list of bad guys they want to stop, we’re on the bottom.”
Sabrina looked over to the dartboard, “mind if I pick something else? There’s a place I wanted to hit that’s been on my mind on for a while.” The others exchanged glances with each other. “This’ll be my first mission with you guys, right? Can I pick without the throw?”
After an exchanging of nods and shrugs, the team agreed. Sabrina walked up to the dart board and re-positioned the dart onto the chocolate mug picture.
Aryana mentioned, “you do know that means we just go out for hot chocolate together, right?”
Sabrina nodded. Robert chuckled, “well, that was unexpected.”
Sabrina wore a black jacket with dark leather jean. Compared to Emily and Aryana’s colorful attires, she looked more ‘punk’ than the rest of them. Vivan had on a gray colored hoodie he’d occasionally use with his costume/mask. The color scheme seemed casual for the nice temperate spring day. Edwin had a black, superman logo t-shirt, and Robert picked out a plaque button shirt that he’d often wear for non-villainous walks.
“Okay,” Robert said walking on the sidewalk with the rest of his team. “I’ve got one. An atheist, a jew, and a Christian step into a bar.”
Emily asked, “when you say Jew… Do you mean ethnically jew, or religiously jew?”
“Also,” Vivan asked, “what kind of Christian? Because some Christians don’t drink.”
“The ones that do, I guess.”
“Be more specific, man. Because why the hell would a mormon step into a bar?”
Mildly annoyed, Robert answered, “Protestant.”
“What kind of Protestant?” Sabrina asked, solely for the sake of annoying him, “a lot of Protestants don’t-”
“Fuck it, catholic then, can I get to the joke now?”
Sabrina shrugged, slightly satisfied she’d irritated him. She walked forward leading the group to the coffee shop she had in mind. She hoped her dubious plan would work the way she wanted to.
Edwin asked. “When you say atheist, do you mean atheist atheist, agnostic atheist, or atheist Satanist?”
Vivan chuckled, “Satanist atheist? You serious?”
Edwin shrugged, “to be fair, I was raised to believe Satanists and Atheists are the same thing.”
“Well,” Vivan said in a proud tone, “I guess I’m satanist.”
“Me too,” Edwin said with a quick laugh.
Sabrina threw a peace sign back at them. “hail Satan.”
Groaning, Robert said, “it's just a regular atheist. Now, can I get to the joke?”
The self proclaimed Satanists paused for a moment, and then gave a small nod in approval.
Sighing, Robert said, “an atheist, a jew, and a christian step into a bar… And they all have a great time because none of them are assholes.”
“Well,” Aryana commented, “that was underwhelming.”
Robert added, “And they all agreed to never to invite the Muslim guy.”
“Oiy,” Vivan yelled, “that’s fucked up.”
“Because Muslims can’t drink, and they knew to respect his lifestyle.”
Vivan blinked. Aryana laughed aloud, “nice save.”
Slowing down, Sabrina pointed forward, “we’re here.”
Looking up, the team stared at the old, outdated, building at the edge of clearly marked E88 territory. It had gang graffiti to the side, with peeling paint falling due to years of faulty maintenance. “Here?” Robert asked. “Are you serious?”
“Yup,” Sabrina said with her hands in her pocket, “hurry up, I’m starving.”
Following behind her, the inside of the building was almost empty. The confederate flag didn’t bother anyone, but the shaved man with swastika tattoos seemed furious to see them. He was the only one at the diner and the Losers recognized his familiar glare from all the E88 bars they’d broken into.
Sabrina stepped up to the counter. She spoke a few words to the couple behind the register. The couple was fairly middle aged. The husband was wide and robust, while his wife seemed slim with red hair that could’ve made her pass off as Sabrina’s older sister.
They both had non-E88 tattoos on their necks. They scowled at Vivan when Sabrina mentioned his name. When she pointed back at the group, the man and women clenched their fists like they were ready to attack.
Robert reached for his prototype tool in his pocket. Edwin tapped at his backpack, almost ready to turn it into a weapon.
Walking back across the diner and to the group, Sabrina placed an arm over Vivan’s shoulder and kissed him on the lips. She turned back to the couple and said, “mom, dad, this is my boyfriend.”
The team froze in place. Aryana glared at Sabrina before her parents began firing insults at them. They called Sabrina a whore and shouted derogatory words at Vivan before Sabrina took him by the arm and lead the team out of the building.
“Sabrina,” Aryana yelled turning the street corner, “what the fucking hell?”
She shrugged, “what? I’m allowed to piss people off too.”
“You bitch, Vivan isn’t some fucking tool.”
“Vivan,” Sabrina asked in a casual stride, “are you pissed at me?”
Vivan was partially in a dazed, realizing he’d never been kissed before. “Nah,” he tried playing cool, “I’m alright with this.”
Aryana gritted her teeth. She yelled at him, “you frigging idiot, stop being a tool!”
Vivan covered his lip, recollecting the tender feeling there. He shook his head,“no, really, I’m okay with this.”
Sabrina grinned, proud to find a way to piss off Aryana. “It's not really a big deal,” she said, rubbing salt on the wound. “If we’re pissing off racists anyway, isn’t it better they think I’m fucking Vivan too?”
Aryana’s jaw dropped. She turned to her other teammates, Robert and Edwin had shit eating grins on their faces, with wide enough smiles to relay the message ‘I told you we shouldn’t have recruited her.’ Emily looked to the side to avoid eye contact, she would never admit it aloud, but she wanted less to do with Sabrina too.
Aryana turned back to Sabrina, she put on forced smile. “Fine,” Aryana said with a scowled tone, “if you wanna fuck with people, that’s fine by me.”
Sabrina elbowed at Vivan, she teased, “fucking? What was that? You’re alright with it?”
Aryana croaked, and nearly force pushed Sabrina into an alleyway. But instead, she gritted her teeth and said “what I mean is, since you’re done fucking around. We’re gonna do a real mission with New Wave. And since you like tools so much, how about you be the bait this time?”
Sabrina raised an eyebrow, “what?”
“I said,” Aryana smiled at the thought, “you need to be bait. So unless you wanna go crawling back to the E88, I’m gonna need you to play bait for what I have in mind.”
Sabrina glared at her, well aware of the underhanded threat to the statement. “Fine, you need bait, then I’m your girl.”
On one hand, Sabrina was glad she found out what made Aryana tick. With her constant optimism and aloofness, it was a breathe of fresh air from what she’d been living with. On the other hand, no one had ever seen her so pissed before.
“You sure this is full proof?” Sabrina asked, speaking into her ear piece.
“Of course not,” Aryana responded in a plain voice, “that’s why you’re doing it.”
Sabrina could almost hear Aryana’s smirk from the other line. She had on no mask, and no costume. A big risk in the cape community. She followed the target on the city broad walk in bright daylight for anyone to see. The city crowds were stretched and noisy enough to hide any suspicions towards her.
She heard the two people conversing in front of her. With a sigh, Sabrina responded, “The target is within reach... Why couldn’t I get a real gun?”
Aryana chuckled, “it’s called bait for a reason, Nazi-girl.” Sabrina clenched her fists. Aryana added, “alright, positions are all covered. Light, your turn.”
Sabrina looked up, above the city streets, Light shifted into his energy form and flowed across the air like a slow-motion ghost. He crossed the air in a zig zag technique, leaving a light stream in his wake. He gained quick attention from the people beneath him, particularly from Sabrina’s targets.
Sabrina’s main target nodded to the girl next to her. Victoria flew up into the air, and chased after Light. An energy shot was fired back at her, and they then disappeared in the distance as Light shifted away from her reach. “The target is alone,” Sabrina said to the earpiece.
“She’s all yours,” Aryana replied. "Fair warning, don't let her touch you, or else she might... Never mind."
It was a backhanded statement, which Sabrina was forced to ignore. She walked closer to Amy Dallon and pressed a chocolate bar to her back. “Five minutes.” Sabrina whispered in a hushed tone. “Five minutes to get you where I need you. Or three hostages die at the other side of town.”
Sabrina wasn’t ordered make up a hostage situation, but she liked raising the stakes. Amy answered, “you really think you could get away with this? You have any idea who you’re fucking with?”
“I know exactly who I’m fucking with,” Sabrina pressed the bar harder, “and unless you do what I say, people are gonna die because of you.”
Amy clenched her fists. Sabrina put the candy away. It was far too crowded to hold a candy to her back and lead her far away to where they wanted. Sabrina walked in front of Amy to meet each other face to face. “Pretend we’ve known each other for years, and follow me.”
A few miles away from them, Uber and Leet barricaded themselves in a nearby thrift store. Shielder and Laserdream floated above the building, raining down a steady storm of lasers and shields in their direction.
Uber yelled through a megaphone in their direction. “Listen to your mother, and surrender to the badass villains!” He wore a skimpier version of Lady Photon’s costume.
Leet spoke down to his backpack wearing Manpower’s costume. “You know Uber, it’ll be really awkward if Lady Photon shows up, and you’re both wearing the same thing.”
“It’s every mother’s nightmare.”
Laserdream fired a laser through the window, narrowly missing Uber’s head. Laserdream yelled, “stop screwing with mom’s costume!”
Uber yelled back, “it looks better on me!” Another, heavier laser, was narrowly dodged by him.
Shielder floated closer to his sister, “hey, I think we can sneak in through the back.”
Laserdream raised an eyebrow, “but they have hostages.”
“No, here’s the thing,” Shielder explained, “I watched some of their videos. They used holograms in their last fight, I think they’re just bluffing again. How else could they get this many hostages when the store’s closed?”
Laserdream squinted at them, “you watched their videos?”
“I swear it was for research,” Shielder answered meekly. They nodded to each other, and Shielder flew away, to reach the back of the building.
“Shielder’s gone,” Uber announced to his teammate.
Inside the store, Leet’s backpack transformed into a miniature robot with big green eyes. It’s nimble limbs and body made it an exact resemblance of the robot ‘Clank’ from the playstation game.
“Alright Clank,” Leet asked, “how long before PRT communications are back up.”
“Twenty nine minutes,” Clank explained. “Or nineteen minutes if Marvin’s chronic depression returns, and he stops jamming their signal.”
“Goddamnit,” Leet muttered. Leet looked around to the holographic hostages he had set up around the building. For the sake of comedic relief, they had health bars over their heads. “Clank, can you get operation Golden in place, for if we need a quick evac?”
Light, proudly wearing his knock off Legend costume, leaped over from rooftop to rooftop. He carried a supposed bag labelled ‘stolen goods’ at hand, while flicking off Glory Girl from behind.
Glory Girl didn’t show any signs of mercy. She rushed him at top speed, but every time she almost reached for him, he transformed his body into a neon-light substance, and shifted away to lose her grasps. “What’s wrong hero hipster?” Light yelled, “I thought you were as good as Alexandria.”
She tried smashing at him again. This time she hit into the building rooftop, destroying some of the cement where Light had stood. She yelled, “just hold still, dammit!”
Light shot a laser at her, not enough to cause real damage, but only enough to moderately annoy her. “You know, I’m technically as good as Legend. Does this mean Legend is better than Alex-”
Glory Girl leaped at him, and nearly grabbed him before he grasped his bag to get away from Glory Girl’s grip. Glory Girl looked down at the fallen contents, “what the hell?” It wasn’t a bag full of jewelry, it was bag full of erotic magazines from the nearby convenience store.
“To be fair,” Light pointed to the receipt, “Leet bought those fair and square.”
“You’re just fucking with me.”
Light shrugged, “well, I couldn’t get a rematch if I asked.”
She pounced at him again, to which he shrieked before shifting into the nearby alleyway.
Amy walked to the alleyway as Sabrina walked backwards in front of her. Sabrina kept a close eye on her to make sure she didn’t leave her sight. Amy said, “if anyone gets hurt, I will fuck with you in more ways than you can imagine.”
“Oh no,” Sabrina said in a sarcastic tone, “the wannabe hero is threatening me. Look at me, being terrified.”
Amy clenched her fists, hoping she’ll get the chance to wipe the smug grin off her face. Sabrina then pointed up. Looking up, Amy saw Rush floating in the air in a laid back position with her arms crossed, with Spitfire standing on the fire escape next to her. Both girls were wearing casual outfits, it was plainly obvious they were out for a stroll, and decided to spot on their masks and kidnap Amy on a whim.
“Hello, my wonderful corruptible tool,” Rush spoke down to her.
Amy placed a palm on her face, “fuck, these guys? Are you fucking serious?” She turned to Sabrina, “you’re Rune, that nazi girl.”
Sabrina rolled her eyes and put a mask on her face. It covered the top half of her face like Rush’s did, and had an emerald green color with celtic symbols running across it. “I’m not a nazi anymore,” she answered plainly.
“As far as we know,” Rush teased to her.
Rune glared at her. Amy shook her head, wondering if she could take advantage of their tension, “you know what I’ve heard? People are betting how long it’ll take before Rune stabs you all in the back.”
Rush waved her hand off, “dude, I’m the one holding the betting pot online for that. And I’m already betting she will.”
Rune cocked her head back, “wait, are you fucking serious?”
Rush nodded, “that way if you betray us, I’ll at least be able to make some money out of it.”
Spitfire sighed, “to be fair Rune, I betted you wouldn’t.”
Rune growled, “am on this team just to get fucked with?”
‘Yes,’ Rush answered, as soon as Spitfire answered ‘no.’
Amy bursted out laughing, “wow, the fucking child prodigy of the E88, made into a joke by a bunch of fucking losers.”
Rune clenched her fists, realizing playing this fake role was no longer worth it. Before Rune could respond, Rush said, “don’t laugh too hard, Panacea. Because the next Loser here is about to be you.”
Amy raised an eyebrow, “what the hell are you talking about?”
“Why did you think we brought you here?” Rush made a heart shaped gesture with her hands, “this is an initiation test.”
So, are the Losers the less evil version of the S9 when it comes to recruiting?
“Nope,” Amy said turning around. She made a sprint for alleyway exit. Rush lazily gravitated the nearby dumpster to block her exit.
“C’mon Panacea,” Rush waved at her, “our last two videos were a hit, now it’s your turn.” Amy began climbing over the trash bin, to which Rush slightly tilted forward to knock her off her balance.
Rune picked up a metal trash bin top, and levitated herself like she were riding a hoverboard. She floated several stories up until she reached next to Rush and Spitfire. Rune asked, “you made me show her my face to her, just so you could pull off this skit?”
Rush answered, “hey Rune, remember that time my team graffitied E88 territory pink, in honor of breast cancer awareness day?”
“Fuck all of you,” Amy yelled, “no way in hell am I going along with this.” She took out her cell phone, but Rush quickly lifted it out of her hands.
“Dude,” Rush said plainly, “you seriously have to chill, it’s not like you’re actually gonna become a villain.”
Amy thought about more ways to escape. The other two alleys were fenced in, and with three capes each capable of hitting her from a long distance, she didn’t see much way to escape. “That’s why you picked me,” Amy said in a calmer tone, “I’m the only one in New Wave that couldn’t run from you guys.”
“No,” Rush said in an offended tone, “we did it because you are clearly the most corruptible of the bunch.”
Spitfire sighed, “no Panacea, you’re exactly right.”
Amy sighed in relief. Rush yelled, “stop telling secrets to our enemies!”
Spitfire replied, "I just really don't want her to hate us..."
Rune mentioned, "Spitfire, you're the least scary villain I've ever met."
“I’m not joining your goddamn team,” Amy yelled.
“Anger,” Rush replied, “so sexy, it’s lovely for the camera.”
Amy clenched her fists. “I don’t have time for this." In her mind, if she went through with this, even as a joke, the world would think she were too busy playing games instead of healing people.
Rush rolled her eyes, “relax kiddo, it’ll only take fifteen minutes. Then you can go back to saving the world, and we can go back to gaming and cheetos."
Amy squinted at her, "you guys are a joke, no way in hell am I pretending to be villain for a frigging podcast."
"Panacea," Spitfire said, too sympathetic to keep her in the dark, "we don't actually expect you to play along. We're doing this for publicity. Once this is over, we'll gain more followers online, and New Wave will hopefully gain better PR for standing up against us."
Amy raised an eyebrow, "hopefully?"
Rush sighed, finally willing to break character, "we won't upload it if both our teams don't come out looking the way we want them to."
Amy thought about that for a moment. On one hand, she didn't want to play the game, but it's not like she truly had a choice. If anything, she could stall time until more heroes showed up, she was certain they'd be on their way. "Fine, just hurry up with your questions," Amy would never admit it aloud, but she did enjoy their last recruitment video.
“Let’s get this show on the road," Rush pulled out a blank flashcard, "Question one… Can you turn me into a furry?”
Rune face palmed, contemplating what she was doing with her life.
Amy stared at her blankly. She extended her hand out for her to reach, “come here, and find out.”
Rush’s eyes widened, and she slowly floated closer to Panacea. “Rush,” Spitfire yelled, “don’t do it, it’s a trap!”
“But… Cat ears.”
“Don’t trust her people,” Spitfire said, tugging back at Rush’s shirt.
Rush responded, “Stop generalizing, that’s Rune’s job.”
“Fuck you,” Rune said, “go shake her hand.”
“Cat…. Ears…” Rush said again in a hypnotic-like trance.
Amy added, “and I'll make the tail fully functional.”
"Guys,” Rush said, “I think it’s worth the risk.”
Light shifted across the city streets, he narrowly dodged oncoming traffic as Glory Girl flew in his direction. A car finally hit him, coming to an abrupt stop as Light fell back to the concrete pavement. He groaned as he got up, and hit his fist at the hood of the car. “Jesus christ,” Light yelled pointing at the stop sign. “The light was on red! You were supposed to stop anyway!”
Light flicked his middle fingers at the car, and turned his middle fingers into a neon-colored red. Looking into the window, he noticed it was a couple driving with three small children sitting in the back seat, all staring up at him in astonishment. “Er, sorry you saw that kids… And stay in school.”
Glory Girl slammed her body into his, and finally pinned him to the ground. Light rubbed against the pavement, and Glory girl pressed him down in a chokehold. He stared up at her with his back against the pavement. “Oww,” Light said. “You really gotta control your strength. I’d be dead if I weren’t immortal.”
“You’re dead now,” Glory Girl shouted, “I’ll bury you, you hear me? I have connections, I can make sure you never see the light of day again.”
He chuckled to himself, “hehe, ‘light’ of day. I gotta use that line.” Light knew he couldn’t transform into his neon form through people, so Glory Girl’s grasp was as tight as it needed to be. Instead of fighting, his mind wandered, “by any chance... are the Wards recruiting?”
Glory Girl lifted an eyebrow, “are you fucking serious?”
“Yup, I’ll totally sell out my teammates. Just… Uh… You know…” Light pointed at her hands for her to let go, “you just gotta trust me..”
“Fuck no,” she lifted him up two feet in the air. He hated being short. She said, “do you have any idea how much damage your videos have done? People think being a villain is a fucking cake walk because of you. They’re becoming villains for the shits and giggles. Villains are posting torture videos because you guys. And it’s not just capes, normal people too. Do you have any idea how many racists in other cities have made hate crime videos because of you?”
Light fired a heavy laser in her face. She flung back from him and hit a nearby road sign before falling down. Light quickly shifted closer to her and stared down to her. “Fuck you, those people would’ve done those crimes with or without our videos. It don’t make a damn difference whether they do it off or on camera.”
He took a step back from her, “and maybe if you heroes stopped acting like a bunch of self entitled pricks, people like me would’ve ended up a hero instead of a goddamn villain.”
Not caring about Light’s rant, Glory Girl stepped back up, and returned to her chase. Light sighed as he transformed away from her again. He spoke into his earpiece between transformation shifts, “hey guys, Glory Girl hates me. Can I have backup?”
Spitfire asked, “can you use your powers on cats?"
"I'm not going to start healing pets," Amy groaned.
"I was hoping you could turn my cat into a kitten again..." Spitfire lowered her head in disappointment.
"Since I hate pets," Rune asked in a casual tone, "can you turn cats and dogs into exploding zombies like in left 4 dead?"
Spitfire gasped. Amy squinted at her, "you've got a lot of problems, you know that?"
"If I gave you a horse," Rush asked Amy, "could you turn it into a black unicorn that shits out rainbow colored butterflies?"
Amy rubbed at her eyebrows. On one hand, she was glad no one would take this initiation seriously, on the other hand, it was still a complete waste of time. She really was on her way to the hospital before she was cornered by these losers. “I can't alter animals," Amy lied.
Rush said, "then that brings me to Light's question.... How willing are you to turn E88 members black?"
"I'm not using my powers for your messed up jokes," Amy answered honestly.
"Thank God," Rune blurted out.
The three other girls stared at her, Rune looked away. Before Rush could comment, their radios received a message. “Glory Girl hates me. Can I get backup?”
“I'm on it,” Rune quickly announced.
Rush sighed, "fine, got any more questions before you go?"
Rush looked down to Amy. She smirked and said, “hey Panacea, what would you really do if you got your hands on Rush?”
Amy chuckled, “I’d ruin her body so much, that she'd be too disgustingly fat to even levitate anymore.”
Rush squinted at Amy, and stayed quiet as Rune flew away from the scene. Spitfire coughed, and tried lighting up the mood, “so basically… like Amy’s mom?”
“Fuck,” Leet yelled, “they’re in the building, hit the alarm!”
Clank ordered the hologram hostages to disappear. He began playing the song ‘thrift shop’ through his loudspeakers as the three of them scattered across the store. They hid across various cloth racks to evade from the barrage of lasers from Shielder and Laserdream. Running across the aisles, they tossed clothes in their directions to block their lines of sight.
“We need backup,” Uber ordered through his earpiece..
“I’m on my way,” Light answered through the line.
“Light?” Uber asked, “weren’t you still fighting Glory Girl?”
“Yeah, she’s on her way too.”
“Fuck,” Uber yelled, “Light, turn away. Do not come for backup!”
Leet groaned to himself, “this is just like the fucking video games. Just when we’re cornered and need help, he leads a goddamn army to fuck us over some more.”
A coat hit at Laserdream’s face, frustrated, she yelled, “Shielder, can you please kill that damn robot?”
Clank yelled, in an almost scared reaction, “I would strongly advise against that request!”
Shielder chuckled, remembering a time he replayed the song ‘thrift shop’ for three days, solely to annoy his sister. “Sure, right after the song is done.”
Leet ordered, “Clank, put the song on repeat!”
Rune flew across the sky as she headed to Light’s direction. Her wristwatch had a simple radar that gave her a map of where her teammates were within the city. She noticed Light’s dot heading towards Uber and Leet’s location. Once she got close enough to see him, she noticed Glory Girl chasing him towards the thrift shop.
“That fucking idiot,” she said to herself. Rune looked to the ground and thought about things she could attune. Her first instinct was to pick up cars and heavy objects to hurdle into New Wave, but then she thought about something slightly less destructive, but all the more humiliating.
Rune hovered across the nearby restaurant buildings to collect a dozen piles of trash bags. She hovered them in a circular motion on her way to Light.
Clank played pre-recorded banter of Uber and Leet through the intercom. The real Uber and Leet escaped to the rooftop as Clank made holographic copies of them to distract Laserdream and Shielder. When Shielder noticed Laserdream directly hitting one of the holograms, Shielder ran up to Clank, and formed a dome shield around him. Clank almost fired his arm blaster at Shielder, but the dome quickly deflected the weaker energy weapon.
“Where’d they go?” Shielder demanded.
“Er, I plead the fifth.”
“Robots don’t have rights,” Laserdream said, flying to her brother’s side.
“I was constructed in America, therefore, I believe I am entitled American rights and citizenship.”
Laserdream shook her head, “put down the shield, let’s just kill this thing.”
Clank croaked, “they escaped through the rooftop, and are heading south.”
Shielder tilted his head. “You’re not as loyal as you are in the game...”
Laserdream said, “he’s just a shitty robot. Let’s shoot him anyway.”
Shielder blinked at Laserdream, “but… He’s still Clank…” Not only had Shielder grown up playing Ratchet and Clank, but he also enjoyed the banter Clank made on the Loser’s website.
It was actually a common assumption that Clank was an AI like Marvin, in reality, he was a split personality connected to Leet's mind through a neural implant. Designed to entertain the masses, Clank said, “Shielder, I’d like to humbly request a farewell song.” Clank replayed the song ‘thrift shop’ over the store intercoms. This time it played faster and in chipmunk version.
Laserdream yelled, “you bastard."
Rune followed them from the distance. Glory Girl would have noticed her if she weren’t so focused in chasing down Light. The upgrades on Rune’s mask were quite impressive. She could zoom in from the distance, and watch as Light led Glory Girl across the rooftops, right to where Uber and Leet were running towards.
“Show time,” she said to herself. She spoke into the radio piece, “Light, Uber and Leet are running your way. Laserdream and Shielder are chasing behind them. Get ready to surprise them when you both meet up.”
Right on queue, Light shifted into his neon form to leap over Leet and Uber. He jumped in front of Shielder and Laserdream to flash a bright light in their eyes, and halt them with a massive shield. “Thanks Rune, that’s gonna look so cool on camera.”
“You are such a lose-...” Rune paused, “dork.”
Uber and Leet watched as Glory Girl flew in from where Light had come from. “Rune,” Uber asked, “are you on your way? Light has a long losing streak with these guys.”
“I’m about to change that!” Light said gleefully.
Rune rolled her eyes, “I’m on my way.”
A part of her wanted to leave the team surrounded by New Wave, but she knew better than to expect that they didn’t have an escape plan. Flying closer, she could hear the banter between Shielder and Light.
Shielder formed another force field to match Light’s. “Hey,” Shielder said, “you stole my power.”
Their shields pushed and smashed like rugby players trying to pass a line. Light replied, “it’s not my fault I use it better.” To prove a point, Light shifted backwards, and returned to hit Shielder’s force field with a conjured, laser-like sword.
Rune could already guess where this was going. The banter between Shielder and Light online often sounded like a sibling rivalry. A common rumor on the internet was that Shielder and Light were secretly best friends in real life.
“Okay,” Shielder said, “I gotta admit that’s pretty cool.’
“I know right? I’m like a real life jedi.”
Laserdream yelled at her brother, “stop being friends with him.” Laserdream hovered over the both of them, and fired a laser at Light. He fell back for a moment, but quickly got back up.
'Christ,' Rune thought to herself flying closer to them, 'those guys need to get laid.' She launched a trash lid at Laserdream’s stomach and knocked her back a few feet. Smiling, Rune rose her arm up and the trash lid returned to it as a shield.
Glory Girl looked over to Rune. She chuckled, “oh look, it’s the token nazi girl.”
Uber commented, “that sounds about right.”
Rune tossed a spaghetti filled trash bag in Glory Girl’s direction, some of which scattered over Uber as well. Rune grinned, “better a nazi than an Alexandria barbie doll.”
Glory Girl flew towards her. Rune instinctively flew back with her trash lid like it were a hover board. She was impressed by her own ingenuity, she’d picked up two more lids on her way there to use as arm shields. Glory Girl crashed through four more trash bags to fly closer to Rune. She smiled at the sight of Glory Girl getting covered in rancid food smells.
Then a fear entered Rune, she quickly realized she was about to come face to face with Glory Girl. Light had said the feeling of getting close to her would’ve been exciting, but clearly, Light was as insane as Rush. Rune dropped to the floor, and began maneuvering between roof skiing, running, and levitating to avoid Glory Girl’s hits.
Glory Girl punched at her but Rune was lucky to parry some of her attacks. The lids she used as shields also served as weapons, she’d smacked Glory Girl a few times, but her invulnerability was too much. At one point, her trash lids dented upon hitting her. Rune skied closer to the trio. “I could use some backup,” she said in a meek voice.
Uber stepped forward and wrapped his body around in his biosuit. Rune had asked Light what the prototype suit did. He explained that the prototype suit was more like a brute suit. It existed to give Uber enhanced strength and durability without cutting back any of his own athleticism. He could also draw out weapons from the tar-like substance, and use his power to perfect the skill needed to wield those weapons.
Uber’s arm shield were more durable than Rune’s garbage lids. He swung them into Glory Girl’s body. Her being flew several feet, like she'd been hit by a canon ball. Glory Girl paused mid-flight to plan out her next move.
Glory Girl was strong, but Uber had the skill to back up his strength. She cracked her knuckles, and looked over to Laserdream. With a silent nod, Laserdream flew above Shielder and began unleashing her lasers at Uber alone. Glory Girl flew to Light’s direction to try and get a chokehold on him.
It was a simple, but effective plan. Uber didn’t have distance on his side, and Glory Girl had more experience winning against Light.
Glory Girl grabbed at Light and picked him up by the collar again. In a calm voice Light said, “so about my Ward application..."
"You and your friends are dead," Glory Girl said.
Rune threw another trash bag at Glory Girl, it covered the both of them in various spaghetti sauces. “Haha,” Light said, “you look like shit.”
Glory Girl threw Light down the building gap, knowing he’d be able to neon-shift his way out from the fall. She turned to Rune, “you know, I’m getting really sick of you and your fucking games.”
Rune gulped. Glory Girl rushed to Rune and punched her hard enough to hear her ribs crack.
“Okay, let’s review,” Rush took out a notebook and pen, “so you’re not willing to heal us. You’re not willing to be our groupie, fan-girl, or double agent… Or thumb up our videos online... C’mon Amy, you gotta offer us something.”
“I’ll offer you handshakes,” Amy answered in a morbid tone.
“It’s not much…" Rush scrached at her cheek, "But I guess it’s something. You just better make sure they’re some damn good handshakes.”
“Always,” Amy said rolling her eyes.
Spitfire shook her head, “Rush, can we turn off the cameras? Our time is almost up, and we still need to give her her gift.”
“Gift?” Amy raised an eyebrow.
Spitfire climbed down the fire escape and walked over to Amy. “They’re glasses. They have thermal optics to tell who’s dying within a five mile radius. It ranks the condition based on who needs immediate care first, verses who need moderate care or can heal with time. Since you go to the hospital often, we thought it could help you speed up your healing trips.”
Amy’s eyes widened, “that… Could actually help out a lot…"
“We didn’t mean to waste your time, Amy,” Spitfire almost seemed apologetic. “It’s just… The world needs a break from the regular cape game sometimes, and we try to provide that.”
Amy took Spitfire’s gift, “so that’s it? I can leave now.”
Rush sighed, she lifted the dumpster from behind Amy and pushed it to the side. “I guess so, but man, we’re gonna need to edit the video a lot to make you seem less like a stingy brat.”
Amy sighed in relief, better to look like a brat than a villain.
Rush floated closer to Amy, not within reaching distance, but close enough to see the dark circles slowly forming underneath her eyelids. “You know, part of the reason I hate the Protectorate is because they treat kids like slave workers. Do yourself a favor; sleep more. You’re too young to end up like a zombie.”
Static entered Rush’s radio, “Uh… S-sis,” Light’s voice sounded shaky, like he couldn’t form the words, “Glory Girl... just killed Sabrina.”
Clank’s animatronic limbs rolled back to the center of his body. His head flopped over fallen clothes as it returned to the torso of the body. Laserdream had assumed when his eyes shut off and his body blew up into pieces, the robot was destroyed. In reality, Clank’s ‘self-destruct’ display was only for show, meant to spread him apart so that he could re-attach himself when the coast was clear.
When his limbs magnetized back to their spots, and his head twisted back onto his body, Clank’s glowing green eyes lit back up, and he headed his way out of the thrift store. His arms and legs levitated. The original design was meant to exhaust engines firing from his hands and feet, but that cost too much fuel to be efficient. Simple anti-gravity pacts were easier.
It was still warm outside. The typical chill for spring passed by while the cloudless sky lit down the sun’s rays from the center of the sky. Most people enjoyed this kind of weather. It was too bad Clank didn't have a true personality to enjoy it.
Levitating over the rooftops, and tracking down Leet’s location, he followed his radar to where his creator was. Arriving, Clank noticed Leet and Uber sitting on the ledge of the building, talking amongst each other like the battle had passed.
“Is it weird that I don’t give a shit if she dies?” Leet asked to Uber.
“It’s understandable,” Uber answered looking down over the ledge, “but we’re still bad people for not caring.”
Clank flew over to Leet, hovering over the building gaps to see him face to face. “Did something occur in my absence?” Clank asked in a respectful tone. “I assumed New Wave was still our adversaries.”
“Glory Girl death punched Rune,” Leet answered. He pointed over to the capes at the center of the building. Light and Rune were huddled to the ground, with Light coupling Rune’s head as he tried comforting her between her coughing fits.
Laserdream, Shielder, and Glory Girl were circled around them, unsure what more they could do. “Light is over there is holding her while she’s dying, me and Uber are waiting for Rush to show up. Panacea might be able to heal her. Might not though, I doubt she can bring the dead back to life.”
“I see,” Clank said. Without saying anything more. Clank stepped onto the rooftop, and walked over to Light and the rest of New Wave.
“Amy is on her way,” Shielder reminded them, “this’ll all be fixed soon.”
“Still,” Laserdream said, “she should’ve known not to go full strength.”
“It was a fucking accident,” Glory Girl muttered, not wanting to let guilt sink in.
“Salutations,” Clank said coming in from behind.
“Fuck,” Laserdream said, “I thought I killed you.”
In a simple tone, Clank said. “You will find that I am much more durable than standard humans, such as Rune.”
Shielder shook his head, “just shut up. Now’s not the time….”
Light whispered to Rune. Glory Girl, Laserdream, and Shielder were all close enough to hear him. “You’re gonna be fine, Sabrina,” it was plainly obvious Light stopped caring about cape etiquettes. He had lowered his mask around his neck, letting her see his calm facial expressions. “I know it hurts right now, but things’ll get better soon.”
Clank scanned Sabrina, revealing that her bones were shattered and poked into her vital internal organs. They were causing her lungs to drown in the bleeding. He looked over to Glory Girl, “I believe this is considered involuntary manslaughter, Victoria.”
“Shut the hell up,” Glory Girl said.
“Or perhaps it was intentional. Afterall, she is a villain and you are a hero. It would be typical to treat her as something less than human. A generalization, maybe, but perhaps it is also accurate?”
Laserdream looked down at him, “it was an accident. She’d never kill on purpose.”
“I am inclined to disagree.” Clank tapped into the video feed from the Loser’s masks. His eyes formed a projection at the nearby building wall like he were a movie projector. It showed Glory Girl holding up Light in her arms, and her words, ‘you and your friends are dead,’ repeated three times, before it switched to Uber’s vantage point, showing Glory Girl making her rib cracking punch at Rune.
“From my, objective perspective,” Clank said, “that did not seem like an accident. Brashfulness, recklessness, carelessness. Many things, but not an accident.”
The realization dawned onto all the New Wave members. The Losers recorded everything. They had a perfect visual of what Glory Girl had done, and had the power to ruin her reputation, and New Wave’s.
“Fuck you,” Glory Girl yelled, not knowing how to handle the panic. “We can crush all of you to a pulp if we wanted to, you’re just a bunch of fucking villains.”
“I’m still recording.” Clank said calmly, letting Glory Girl sink in on the words she just said. Clank pointed to Light, reminding them of the more morbid situation.
“Sabrina,” Light said quietly, “I wanted to tell you I think you’re really cool. Your rocker look? Badass. I liked that about you. I’m glad you were a part of our team.”
Glory Girl wondered if there was something between Rune and Light, the same way there was something between herself and Gallant. “Amy will fix this,” she said quietly, more for her own assurance than for others.
Clank replied, “I don’t doubt that. But there may come a day where miracles won’t save you. When that day comes, my hope is that you will not be forced to say; ‘I could have avoided this.’”
Leet looked over to Clank, surprised by what he was doing.
When the team had first formed, Edwin had confided in Aryana that he often felt doubtful before he tinkered, and brash after his inventions were complete. She suggested making a robot that could exist as his inner voice. One with a second personality from him, designed to bring him up when he was down, and cut him down a peg when he was high.
Leet was surprised to see Clank doing to Glory Girl what he typically did to him.
Sabrina choked some more, no longer able to breathe. She stared up at Light while lowly humming. He said to her, “hey, Sabrina, you’re gonna go to sleep for a little while. Because I know you’re really tired. Right now, what you’re seeing here, it’s just a dream, see? So I need you to close your eyes, so that you can wake up a little later.”
With that, Sabrina finished choking, and Light stayed still as he looked down to her in silence. He didn’t move as she stopped moving. It wasn’t like the movies, there were no last words from her and he didn’t feel anything as her hands became calm. They just held still, like nothing had changed from a few seconds ago.
Rush flew in from the distance. Spitfire and Amy Dallon were behind her, gravitated with Rush’s power. Rush put her hands in her pocket as they all touched the ground. She firstly walked over to Glory Girl and said, “you’re a shitty hero.”
“Oh fuck you,” Glory Girl yelled, “you don’t get the right to tell me what makes a hero!”
“All the more ironic that I have to.”
“You can’t-” Rush placed a finger on Glory Girl’s lip, and then another finger on her own to signal for silence. She pointed a thumb to Light, and walked over to him.
Rush placed a hand on Light’s shoulder, “C’mon, let Amy do her thing.”
Light was quiet. He mechanically moved away but his stare still held onto Sabrina.
Amy placed a hand in Sabrina’s hand.She guessed what Light’s concern about death was, and answered, “you know how the heartbeat can stop, but can be brought back after twenty minutes of cpr? This is the same. I can jumpstart her heart, I’ll just need to fix what’s broken first.”
To Amy’s relief, she wasn’t gone for long enough to cause brain damage. The first thing she did was pump oxygen into her head to prevent permanent damage, and then begin the removal of obstructions to stop the bleeding. Amy thought to herself, she’s gonna cough a lot of blood. She’d even be woozy for a few days, but she’d survive.
Spitfire walked over to Leet and Uber at the ledge of the building. They didn’t bother watching Amy heal Rune. “You guy’s pushed her too hard?” Spitfire asked.
“Fuck no,” Uber said in a huff. “We never told Glory Girl we could survive her punches, for an Alexandria package, she sure is stupid.”
Spitfire rubbed at her forehead, causing a slight squeak as she touched at her mask. That easily could’ve been me, she thought to herself.
Rush turned to see Glory Girl again, “so, since this footage has been relaying back to base, would you say you’d still look like a hero after we upload this online?”
“Don’t even think about it,” Glory Girl pressed her finger at Rush’s chest, even demonstrating her strength as she did. “Because at the end of the day, you’re just a villain. If you do anything to hurt my family’s reputation, I will personally make sure you get locked away in the birdcage. I’ll make sure you never see the light of day again.”
“Hehe,” Rush pointed to her brother, “‘light’ of day.” Her brother was still quiet, but she thought it was funny.
Typically, Glory Girl gave off an aura of fear and strength when people were around her. Rush had felt it when she initially met her, but rather than react to it, she was intoxicated by it. Like a drug she enjoyed tasting it whenever she was near. But her raised heartbeat and goosebumps across her skin never changed how she responded to Glory Girl, Rush was far passed being afraid of people in costumes.
“Victoria,” Amy said, not stopping the healing process. “It’s okay, she won’t share the footage with anyone.” Amy thought about her flight there, and the deal she’d stricken with Rush.
“We’ll bury you,” Rush said in a calm voice. Amy and Spitfire floated to her side as they flew over to their teammates. “Our masks record everything. If you can't help Rune, New Wave will get buried by the footage. And Glory Girl will go to prison in her honor.”
Amy gulped, hoping Rune wouldn't have brain damage when she arrived.
Amy breathed heavy as she finished Rune’s healing. Just as she predicted, Rune fell into a coughing fit when she gasped up for breathe. Balls of blood spat out as she sat up to lean down to breathe. Amy still held her hand tightly, making sure to complete the process.
“Ugh,” Rune said between heavy breaths. “That.. Hurt…”
Spitfire placed a hand on her shoulder, and Amy finally let go, not really relieved by what she did. Rune wobbled as Spitfire tried carrying her up. “You’ll still need to rest for a few days,” Amy explained. “I couldn’t give you a blood transfusion, so you’ll feel light headed for awhile.”
Amy nodded to Rush, signalling for her completion. Satisfied, Rush said, “Leet, Spitfire, Light, and Rune, rewspawn to base.”
The four of them disappeared from sight. Uber and Rush behind stayed to face with New Wave. “Okay,” Rush said clasping her hands. “Here’s the dilemma. We had intended to upload the footage today to give people our weekly update, but boy, did Glory Girl fuck that up.”
Glory Girl clenched her fists, but was still careful not to do anything that would look bad on camera. Rush continued, “so, we’re gonna need some compensation for the waste of time.”
“Waste of time?” Amy yelled, “you guys fucking started this! Did you really think you could go around playing games and never get hurt? Are you that fucking stupid?”
“So,” Rush said ignoring Amy. “For compensation, I want you.” Rush pointed at Amy, to which she cocked her head back.
Rush took a walkie talkie from her belt buckle, and tossed it to Amy for her to catch. She typically used it as a prop, but it still functioned as a regular communicator. “From now on, you’re an honorary Loser. In your case, you’ll be on call for when one of us need healing. And if you don’t,” Rush pointed to Glory Girl, “poster girl goes to jail.”
“You can’t fucking do that!” Glory Girl sprinted to her and squeezed Rush by the shirt. “This isn’t a fucking game, I’m not letting you blackmail my family!”
“Rune is my family,” Rush said calmly, “I’m entitled to protect my family, as you are to yours. Therefore, Amy will be on call when we need healing. She’ll give it to us, or else your Alexandria ass will go to jail.”
“Do you know what I could do to you right now!?” Glory Girl raised a fist in the air.
Rush wrapped her hand around Glory Girl’s grip, pulling it closer to herself. “Bash my head, break my bones, murder me to a pulp. All very unheroic things. Either way, I’m numb to that. But feel free to try though, the footage I’m recording right now is delightfully eye opening. And it’ll do wonders once I’m dead.”
“We’d make sure to upload it,” Uber said, adding himself to the conversation. He was good at staying calm, hiding the real concern he had for Rush’s safety. “If you go down that route, it won’t stop the footage.”
Rush faced toward Amy, “so what’ll it be?”
Laserdream groaned as she shook her head, “Victoria, for once in your fucking life. Calm down, and let go of her.”
Glory Girl swallowed, and released her, feeling defeated for the first time in her life. Amy said, “I’ll do it. But if you ever try to hurt us, come after us again, or hurt our reputation even a little, it ends.”
Rush nodded, and extended her hand out for Amy to shake. Amy stared down at her hand, and squeezed it tightly when she held it. Tingling sensations ran across Rush’s skin as Amy touched through Rush’s fingerless gloves. “And if you ever break that promise, I’ll rip your body in ways you couldn’t even imagine.”
“Hmmmm….” Rush said with a smile. “That is one great handshake. And I’ll take your word for that. I’ll watch out for my family, and you’ll watch out for yours.”
They let go, and Rush nodded to Uber. Uber said, “Rush and Uber respawn to base.” And with that, their masks teleported them away.
Amy looked down at her hand in shame. She wasn’t sure how real the threat was, but it still made her feel like a monster. Dormant guilts were now blossoming. Shaking Rush’s hand felt like she’d just sealed the deal to her path of villainy.
Glory Girl rubbed her hands together, “Amy,” she said softly, “I’m so sorry.”
Amy shook her head, “it’s okay, let’s go home.”
Sabrina put on her black leather hoodie and headed out the apartment doors. Some chains around her belt buckle jingled as the door closed behind her. She strapped on her backpack. Inside, her green robe and nordic mask were stashed away, along with a few hundred dollars she always carried around with her.
Outside, the moon shape was hidden behind a cloud covered sky. Sabrina had forgotten how much light the moon normally emitted at night. Since their apartment was in the outskirts of town, it was the first time she ever noticed the difference between a cloudy night and a cloudless night.
“Going out for a walk?”
Sabrina turned around, Aryana was leaning against the wall next to the entrance. The blunt in her fingertips had just been lit, and based on her sweatpants and pajama t-shirt, Sabrina could see that she was outside for the sake of relaxing.
“Sure,” Sabrina said. “You guys go on walks too, so why shouldn’t I?” She said it like she needed to justify it.
“Can I come with? I was gonna go in a few minutes anyway.” Aryana offered Sabrina her second cigar, almost like it were a bribe.
They walked for a few minutes in silence. The near death experience was still fresh in both their minds. Sabrina had watched the footage a dozen times, from different angles and viewpoints, easily memorizing the faces and words expressed towards her. It was surreal, because she was certain she was truly dead for at least a few minutes.
Aryana wanted to ask if she was feeling alright, but she knew she would’ve gotten a hostile response. Emily had been prying at Sabrina with questions all day long. It was purely out of compassion, but it had reached the point where Sabrina was plainly upset by the barrage of questions.
“Tomorrow we’re watching a movie,” Aryana said. “We’ll be livestreaming our reactions. There’ll be food, we’ll be in masks, and I was hoping you’d come and watch it with us.”
“What movie are you watching?”
“The Last Airbender. We’ll be taking shots whenever the pronounce the names wrong.”
Sabrina chuckled, not really knowing how much alcohol that would involve. Sabrina answered, “I don’t think so. I don’t really trust myself with livestreaming yet.”
Aryana nodded, not willing to question the reason why. “Hey Sabrina, you asked earlier if we let you join us as a joke. The real answer is yes and no. Our team itself is a joke, but we’re not trying to prove anything or piss anyone off by having you join. We just like adding new things to the mix.”
“I almost died today,” Sabrina said, finally spelling out reality. “It doesn’t seem like a joke to me.”
Aryana nodded, not feeling the urge to argue. Sabrina was inclined to disagree with Aryana’s outlook, and she wasn’t going to begin harassing her into her own mindset. “It’s ironic really,” Aryana said, “It doesn’t matter if you have a master tinker on your side, the protectorate backing you up, or the best hate group in town with you. We’re all like ticking time bombs, waiting for an end, never knowing when it’ll happen.”
Sabrina swallowed. She remembered the excuse she gave for joining the Losers, ‘I’m doing it for the rep,’ and they accepted it. But that wasn’t far from the truth as to why she stayed with the E88. For the longest time, she’d been fed to believe that she was a sort of prodigy child. Like she’d become something big if she just gave it more time.
The Losers was meant to be an outlet to that path. A stepping stone to becoming something more within the E88. But as she re-watched the video of herself dying, It became plainly obvious that she might not ever reach adulthood. Either with the E88, or without them.
Sabrina said, “you know, my uncle explained something to me once. He said there’s an unwritten rule about capes, that they can never have good endings. And that that’s why he wanted me to be strong, so that I could at least go out as something big enough to be remembered.”
“Yeah,” Aryana said, “but can you live with yourself if you never reach that point?”
“No,” Sabrina said coldly. It was also why she got angry when she saw the video footage of herself dying. She wanted to be something, more than anything. Yet she’d almost died with the title Loser in front of her. “I’m not going out as a....”
Aryana opened her mouth, then closed it. Sabrina didn’t finish her sentence. Once they’d walked a few blocks forward in silence, Aryana said, “I’m heading back now, I didn’t wanna stay out for more than an hour.”
Sabrina nodded her head, “I’m gonna keep walking for awhile.”
“Kay, we’ll be at the apartment when you get back.” Aryana turned around in a casual stride. Sabrina continued forward deciding not to return.
It was ironic that Aryana had called her family in the video. She’d stood up to Glory Girl in her namesake, and treated her as more than just a teammate when they were alone. Sabrina hated to admit it, but she no longer had a future with the E88 after meeting her.
She walked forward, determined to push out future expectations.
Edwin sat on the sofa with his sweatpants and white t-shirt. He felt very comfortable. He hadn’t had a late night game marathon in a long time. Tinkering in the lab was often distracting. Now, sitting on the living room sofa, with a playstation remote in his hand and a soda by his side, he finally got the chance to relax for the first time in days.
“Hey Edwin,” Robert said washing the dishes from the kitchen.They hadn't talked to each other for almost half the night. It had literally reached the point where Edwin was giving him the silent treatment. “You need to man the fuck up.”
That was the last straw. Edwin paused the game and hissed to Robert, “you fucking talk to him, I’m in the frigging middle of something.”
“No you’re not,” Robert said, “you’re sitting on your ass like a kid, too scared to talk to another kid.”
Edwin brushed his dark wavy hair from his forehead, to rub at the circles around his eyes to relax his muscles. “Look,” Edwin explained, “you’re better at talking to people than me. I’m an asshole, and everyone knows it. So when it comes to talking, that’s your job, because I don’t have time for that shit.”
It was true, when Aryana and Vivan had first joined the team, it was Edwin who was ridiculously awkward. Robert could speak with them casually, like he had known them for years. But Edwin was self conscious. Aryana was too cute for him to form complete sentences around, he often stuttered and second guessed his words when he was around her. The only person he could respond well with was Vivan, but that was because he treated Vivan like an annoying brat. He’d insult him and tease him, and Vivan, luckily, responded to insults positively.
“Vivan isn’t as close to me as he is with you,” Robert explained. “He sees me like an adult. I talk to him, sure, but now it’s just gotten to the point where it’s like I’m lecturing him whenever we talk. He doesn't need that right now. He needs to talk to someone he thinks of like an equal.”
“I’m four years older than him,” Edwin reminded him, “and he sees me like an equal? That’s fucking great.”
Robert shook his head, “Edwin, we know Vivan. Aryana either doesn’t know he’s acting weird, or doesn’t wanna deal with it. He won’t like me talking down to him, so he needs you more than anyone.”
But Edwin didn't like being sentimental. He thought it was bullshit because he didn't feel like talking to Vivan just for the sake of comforting him. It seemed weird.
Robert added, “you are his best friend.”
Edwin threw the controller to the ground, “alright, fine!” He stepped out the apartment door and muttered loud enough for Robert to hear, “fucking ruining my gaming night….”
Edwin stepped up the stairways and to the rooftop. Opening the door, it was daybreak. The light was already hitting the sky to make it a purplish blue, and light was finally shining on the rooftop to reveal what Vivan had done.
“Holy fuck,” Edwin said. There wasn't a gimme of dust on the rooftop, it was completely spotless from natural filth. Vivan had waken up in the middle of the night and began brooming the roof with no explanation. When Marvin had mentioned it earlier, Robert began pestering Edwin to ask about the strange behavior.
Vivan was quiet. He was half asleep, and surprisingly glad he couldn't take the limitless pill. When he'd first taken the pill, he seriously thought he'd become a God. But after they realized he couldn't recharge his powers without sleep, he had to suffer through the terrible withdrawal symptoms just to get back on his sleeping schedule.
Thinking back, Vivan was glad he couldn’t have the pill. Because with the pill, he couldn't sleep and had the chance to remember everything. The problem with that, was that he could remember all his memories vividly, and staying awake to think about that was something he wanted to avoid.
“Uh… Vivan…” Edwin squandered, “what the hell are you doing?”
Vivan wasn't sure how to answer. He kept brooming, wondering if ignoring him would make him go away.
“Vivan,” Edwin yelled, “I said, what the hell are you doing?”
Vivan shook his head, remembering this wasn't his original home. “Oh, hey Edwin. I'm just… cleaning up the roof.” He grinned, knowing how stupid he sounded.
Edwin looked around some more, “uh… I think you already finished.”
Vivan looked around, not really caring about the spectacle he’d made. “Yeah, I guess you're right.” Vivan put his broom to the side, and took a seat at the wall next to the door. “Everything’s clean now,” he twirled his finger, like he’d just accomplished a small victory.
Edwin took a seat next to him. He was a head taller than Vivan, but he was also certain Vivan was still growing. Edwin wasn't sure how the fuck you’re supposed to comfort someone, so he simply stayed as blunt as he usually was with Vivan. “Uh… why'd you clean the roof? I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to clean outside.”
Vivan looked down for a minute, and nodded in agreement. “My mom used to make my sister broom the sidewalk as a kid. She'd say, ‘if you’re gonna act like a brat, clean up like a brat,’ and she'd make her start brooming the sidewalk. I always got jealous, because I never did anything worth getting in trouble for. So instead, whenever she was in trouble, I'd broom for her instead. My sister would be happy, my mom would get pissed, and I’d be happy that I could help out in something. So now, whenever I'm feeling like a little brat… I broom.”
Edwin stayed quiet, he said the only thing that came to mind, “your family is fucking weird.”
Vivan laughed aloud, “fuck yeah we are, and I love it for that.”
Edwin guessed at why he was acting strange. “Hey Vivan… Do you, have a thing for Sabrina?”
“What?” Vivan looked to him in surprise. “Uh, of course not. I mean, yeah, she’s pretty, but I’d never stick it in crazy.”
Edwin bursted out laughing, “thank God.”
Vivan smiled, glad he could still make his friend laugh. But as he thought more about Sabrina, a remorse fell over him. “I am so fucking selfish,” he blurted out. He thought back to the images of Sabrina dying, and tried to put into words what he really felt. “When she was dying in front of me… I didn’t give a shit about her dying… I gave a shit about the fact that I was on the same side as her. And that that could’ve easily been me… I don’t wanna go out like that… I don’t wanna go out, like a useless villain.”
Edwin wasn’t at all offended, he knew what Vivan meant. Edwin had long come to terms with his own villainy. “How do you wanna go out?” Edwin asked.
Vivan paused, and stared forward, “in a glorious fire… Like a hero.”
“Then what the hell are you doing with a bunch of losers?”
Vivan thought long and hard about the question. To him, he valued everything except himself, which was exactly why he stayed with them. He rubbed at his finger cut glove, covering the swan styled tattoo that perfectly matched his sister’s. “Just trying to have fun, before we can’t have days like this anymore.”
Emily put on a yellow hazardous suit and chemical gas mask. The smell of fresh plastic filled her nose. The blue gloves and yellow plastic hoodie reminded her of a tv show that involved narcotics and a high school drug dealer.
“Alright Clank,” Edwin said in his own hazardous materials gear, “time for your portal gun.” He unzipped his backpack. Clank hopped out onto the ground. “Set the dilation to normal. We don’t wanna get distracted in there.”
“Affirmative.” Clank unlocked his chest to reveal a glowing power source inside. The blue energy glowed at the wall in front of him, and lit into a laser at the wall’s surface. The laser quickly grew into a blue outline of a portal, looking like a mirror from their point of view.
Emily’s eyes widened. This was why Sabrina could never find his lab. Edwin simply carried the gatekey wherever he went. Clank hid in the school backpack he always carried casually, all he had to do was ask Clank to open the portal in whatever surface was nearby.
“Alright Emily,” Edwin put on his gas mask. “Normally I set it so that a few days in there, equals a few hours out here. But since I we’re only doing one thing, I’d rather not risk spending too much time in there.”
“Risks?” Emily asked in a hesitant voice. “Is it dangerous if we stay there for too long?”
Edwin lifted a hand up in defense, “er, not really dangerous. Just… bad...”
Emily stayed quiet, wondering what sort of risks could lie for her on the other side.
Edwin shook his head, “what I mean is, tinkering takes a lot of time. Our inventions might look impressive, but it actually takes a lot of work and supplies to get projects into gear. So Vivan suggested I make a pocket dimension, one where one year in there could equate to one day out here. That way, projects that would normally take months to make can take hours in real time. The only problem is, Tinkers tend to lose track of time when they're obsessing over tinkering. Sort of like...” Edwin wanted to give a relatable example, but he wasn’t sure if Emily would get it.
Emily snapped her fingers, “like playing video games all night, and forgetting what the time is.”
Edwin snapped back at her, “bingo. We lose track of time easily, could you imagine if I went in there and came out looking like I’m forty?”
“So you set the clock on normal, so that someone can get you if you stay for too long?”
Edwin nodded, “Clank normally chooses the best time dilation for me, depending on the project. I’ve also got several alarms in there as a precaution. I never bring food or sleeping gear to avoid staying longer than a day. But the best reminder for me is to put the time dilation to normal, so that I don’t think I’ve got all the time in the world.”
Emily looked over to the portal. She stepped closer, and tapped at its surface. The mirror wobbled upon touch, making it look and feel like she was tapping on floating water. “Incredible.”
Edwin grinned, glad to have another person to be impressed by his inventions, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
They walked into the portal. When Clank stepped through, the portal closed behind them, cutting off the only entry point.
Inside, the tunnel was thin. About three meters tall and three meters wide. The surrounding edges were an alternating pinkish purple color, shifting warm colors as they crossed an interdimensional bridge to the lab. The temperature was fresh, like wildlife of a rainforest made the air delicious to breathe. Emily was awestruck by what was around her. Edwin mentioned, “this tunnel determines the time speed for the pocket dimension. The colors were Aryana’s idea…It’s more for fun than for anything else.”
They walked another ten minutes before reaching the other side of the tunnel. Another portal was already established there. It was orange instead of blue. “Are there chemicals inside that I can’t breathe?” Emily asked, with some last minute anxieties. “Is it dangerous if I take off this mask?”
“Er, no, I just felt like cosplaying like Breaking Bad.”
Stepping through, Emily was awestruck by the sight of another earth. It was hill over a meadow that stretched on for miles. There were no buildings or people, just pure, safe, nature. Edwin had an entire planet to himself. The flowers were completely untouched, mountains overlooked from the distance. A spring chill blew at the meadow grass. The sky was so earthly, Emily thought the pollution free air was an improvement from where she’d just been.
“It’s beautiful here.” Emily looked within the grass. She noticed the miniature, human like creatures with plants on their heads frolicking across the grass. Her eyes widened, “are those… Pikmin!?”
She gleed in excitement. She loved the game growing up, but she never expected to see living, colorful creatures running around in front of her.
“Life-tinkering is my gold,” Edwin explained. “Or anything that can grow itself. I’ve even got a few farm animals that produce flesh for biology tinkering. The pikmin here are plant tinkering. They grow and pollinate like real plants. Except they aren’t really intelligent like animals, they just mimic consciousness like they did in the game. You can gesture for them to follow you, except they can’t attack anything.”
Edwin gestured for Emily to walk forward a little. Emily was still grinning at the sight of the adorable creatures. Up ahead, there was a metal shed at the top of the hill. “That’s my lab,” he explained. “I make everything in there. The pikmin was Vivan's idea, we’re gonna have to catch some for what Robert needs.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice, bro,” Emily happily began picking up a dozen yellow colored pikmin she passed by.
Edwin shook his head. “You… Probably shouldn’t get too attached.”
“We’re going to put them in a blender.”
Emily wanted to cry. She could hardly watch as Edwin smashed them with blunt objects to crush them into powder. “For the last time,” Edwin explained, “they’re plants, not animals! They’ve got as much feeling as sunflowers!”
The lab was as mixture of high tech circuitry, and regular tools that could be found in a tool shed. The large lab was divided into subsections, each for Leet’s specific types of tinkering. There was a long steel work bench for blunt mechanical creations. A fish aquarium labelled ‘babel fish’ hung from the ceiling. A large ‘darkspore’ cloning machine took up space in the corner of the room, with a computer to design monsters for Leet to experiment on. A microscope desk for molecular tinkering, plants and mice for life tinkering.
At the moment, Edwin was working in front of the chemical tinkering lab, watching a recording as he smashed the Pikimin into dust. “I like sunflowers,” Emily said quietly, hearing another pikmin die. “I even like Dandelions, even though they’re weeds…. I hate picking flowers, because it’s still the same as killing them.”
“Look Emily,” Edwin said, not taking his eyes off the monitor screen in front of him. “This is a two person job. I brought you here because each of us needs to know how to use my tinker inventions. We make a lot of money through these ingredients, so you’ve gotta learn to do this so that you can use my lab if I die, or something.”
Emily looked over at the screen, “you need to use the instruction videos to make this stuff? I thought since you're a tinker you wouldn’t need the help.”
“I can’t tinker the same thing twice,” he said. “Or I kind of can, but it’s always harder to make the same thing a second time. It’s like my mind forgets. When Aryana and Vivan first joined us, the first thing they made me do was make a bionic eye for myself. Now I can record everything I tinker. In the case of chemical mixing, I can create thousands of different tinker formulas through these Pikmin, but I'll forget them once I do it once. So I record the ingredients, and Marvin designs these videos so that anyone can follow the instructions… And that includes for myself, later.”
Edwin smashed another pikmin, to which Emily winced. “So… That’s how you replicate your tinkering? Through your videos?”
“Not quite,” Edwin admitted. “I also sell these videos to Toy Box for them to recreate. They get schematics for my inventions and can sell them to whoever they want. In exchange they let me buy back my inventions for a discounted price. It's a pretty good deal since I get to use my inventions again. Pikmin formulas like these are easy, but I need Toy Box for bigger projects. Like robots, nanobots, or teleporters. Youtube videos aren’t enough for anyone to make those on their own.”
Edwin crushed the head of another pikmin, and Emily couldn’t help but imagine it screaming. She turned around in her chair to stop watching. “This is so cruel…”
“Emily,” Edwin groaned, “you have to learn how to do this. They’re just flowers, they’re not animals, or-”
“Edwin,” Emily glared at the wall, “I liked that game. It's the reason I got into botany in the first place. On days I’d get sad, I sit down and talk to my flowers. I still take care of flowers I’ve had for years. So don’t tell me they’re flowers like they mean nothing.”
Edwin’s mouth shrunk, he didn’t know he was being inconsiderate. Trying to better relate to her, he pointed to a pikmin in the corner of the room, “see that purple one?”
Emily looked over, it was the biggest pikmin in the room. It stayed there quietly watching Edwin as he worked. “That’s the first pikmin I ever made. I keep it because it's special. So I guess I can get where you're coming from, but try not to think of them as sentient beings. Think of them like... medical ingredients. Some flowers are used for personal reasons, others are used for medicine.”
Emily slouched, she looked over to him and said, “Edwin. We’re making drugs, not medicine.”
Edwin sighed, “help me out here Emily, I don’t want you to be upset over this.”
She hated that he was right. The plant medicine analogy had already won her over. She swallowed her pride, and began smashing the friendly looking creatures into highly potent narcotics.
Emily and Edwin walked back through to tunnel home. She was less amazed than she was before she entered. Whereas before she was excited, this time she was upset at herself for crushing such life like creatures. She was fully aware that her emotions were irrational, but the awareness did nothing to quell them.
“Uh, Emily.” She turned to him, and saw him handing a young, albino colored pikmin with red eyes and red wings. “This for you.”
Emily tilted her head, the little pikmin flew onto her shoulder like it knew her. He said, “I figured since I have one I always keep, you should have one too. This one won’t pollinate, so don’t worry about it reproducing on earth. I added wings so that it can stay safe. Just… Make sure you don’t squish it… Or something.”
Emily smiled in excitement, she held the tiny creature in the palm of her hands. “Thank you, Edwin.”
The three of them wore ghostbusters uniforms as they headed to the abandoned warehouse in the forgotten part of town. They all wore gas masks like Spitfire to conceal their faces. Rush was making some surprisingly sexist comments as they walked ahead, “I’m just saying,” she went on, “I don’t see how a girl can do a man’s job.”
“Goddamnit,” Light yelled, “ghostbusters does not discriminate. Any women could be a ghostbuster if you just give’em a proton pack.”
“I call bullshit,” Rush said, “ghostbusters was made for men and by men, therefore, we should not change what isn’t broken.”
“You know what else they said wasn’t broken? Slavery. You wanna bring back slavery?”
“Depends how you define that. Hey Uber,” Rush spoke to him as he walked in front of them, “you’d totally be my slave, right? No whips or chains. I’d just be on top to claim my territory.”
Uber’s ghostbuster costume was actually customized to a skirt. It unbuttoned down to his chest to give a more scandalous portrayal. He spoke casually as he walked. “I don’t know, that sounds kind of degrading.”
“You know what else is degrading?” Light yelled, “objectifying another man’s body, I’m offended on his behalf.”
“I’m simply admiring it,” Rush said, “there needs to be a rule against men being feminists.”
Reaching the warehouse, they were greeted by two armed guards. They were hoodlums, probably just out of high school. It was plainly obvious by their clothes and slouched body language, that they were inexperienced and as addicted to drugs as the clients were.
The three Losers stepped in. Inside, all five merchant capes were sitting on beanie chairs. They passed a hookah as they waited for their business partners to arrive. The Losers were glad to have their gas masks on, the place reeked of low quality cigars and tobacco, and other rancid smells that came with never cleaning.
“I want to clean the shit out of this place,” Light muttered quietly to his teammates.
Uber reassured him, “maybe you’ll get the chance to, once we’re done with these guys.”
Skidmark stretched arms wide as the three cosplaying capes approached, “hello my loves.”
Skidmark had admitted it a few times, he was actually growing fond of the Losers. The Losers didn’t cause his gang trouble like they did to the other gangs. Hell, the Losers even kept the E88 off his back. Since they’d stricken the business deal a few months prior, both teams were overall neutral.
“Where’d the nazi bitch go?” Skidmark said, picking at his teeth.
Light answered, “Rune wasn’t willing to say nazi puns. That’s a dealbreaker for us.”
Skidmark chuckled, “hope that cunt ass bitch gets fucked over, it’s what’em whores deserve.”
“Speaking of whores,” Rush turned to Squealer. “Why the heck haven’t you been taking Leet’s calls?”
Squealer, dressed up in cargo pants and a tang top t-shirt, groaned obnoxiously at them in her high-pitched voice. “I was fucking busy,” she said, too high to care. “I’ll get Leet’s project done when I get to it.”
Rush pulled out a bag of pills from her pocket, to which all of the Merchant members perked up in attention. “For missing our calls, I’m giving you half.” She threw half the pills to the ground, and smashed them beneath her feet.
“Fuck,” Skidmark yelled. He hit Squealer over the head, “next time do your fucking job.”
“Alright, alright,” she hissed. “I didn’t think they’d cut us back.”
Rush smiled, remembering when she explained the deal to Emily.
“You guys keep them addicted, just so that they’ll work for you?”
Rush nodded, “we told them these pills make them smarter, like the limitless pill. It actually speeds their perception of time, but doesn’t have any enhancements. It’s highly addictive, more addictive than all of the hard drugs combined. Thing is though, it’s also designed to hide awareness of the addiction. They don’t know they’re wrapped under our thumb, they just think they really like the tinker pills we made.”
“That’s…” Emily’s tone was quiet, “really bad.”
“I know, we don’t pretend to be good guys.”
“Let’s get the deal on the road.” Uber walked forward, he brought out the suitcase full of the pounds of blue meth Emily and Edwin had created together. “First,” Rush said, “money please.”
They threw the suitcase at Vivan, which was heavy for him to catch. “Yup,” he said, “just as heavy as last time.”
Uber placed the suitcase at the center of the table. Skidmark stretched his long hands out to pull it in. “Finally,” Skidmark said rubbing the briefcase, “that tinker made shit is gold.”
“Quite the Rush,” Rush said. She tossed the ‘limit pills’ for Trainwreck to catch. The limit pills were technically free, just a small gift of courtesy for the real business they’d been doing together.
Skidmark opened the box, “what the fuck?”
Noxious fumes escaped from the box. The blue meth was still there, but a purple gas escaped the briefcase the second he opened it. “You remember our deal, right?” Rush spoke in an echoed voice beneath her mask. “We had a deal. We sell you our tinker meth for a bargain, and you get to sell our tinker meth on the one condition that you not sell to, or recruit high schoolers anymore.”
Skidmark and his gang coughed out as the Losers stayed still in their ghostbusters gear. They were perfectly immune from the gases thanks to their gas masks. Skidmark choked up, “that was the deal, we haven't gone back on it.”
Rush yelled, “then why the fuck did a fifteen year old overdose on our product last week? You think we made our meth blue just for the shits and giggles? It's so we can keep track of where it ends up.”
Skidmark yelled, “people overdose, people give drugs to kids, it just fucking happens!” The warehouse was now filled with purple smog. The Merchants were feeling more and more light headed.
Rush replied, “except our meth was designed to be impossible to overdose. Fuck, it hardly even has any of the side effect you see in hard drugs. So how the hell did a teenager overdose on our product?” She hissed at the word ‘our’, like she was offended by the idea that her product could even cause a danger to anyone.
“I don't fucking know,” Skidmark whimpered. “Shit… Happens…”
“Turns out,” Rush explained, “one of your dealers put anthrax in our product. Anthrax. For fuck’s sake, I've seen this marketing technique before. Dealers like to overdose a guy to make a product seem potent. They'll put anthrax in some samples to OD a guy, to let other meth heads think their product is great. Except our product doesn't need that kind of shitty advertisement. Our product is perfect, and one of your guys hurt the blue meth’s rep by making a kid OD on it.”
“I've got a lot of dealers,” Skidmark was now distant, looming up and smiling. “I've tripled in size… doubled in profits thanks to you lot… I can't keep track of everyone.”
“Find out who did it,” Rush yelled, “kick him out. Slit his throat. I don't fucking care. No high schoolers, no overdoses. Or else we start selling this shit on our own, and you can go back to being the real losers of Brockton Bay.”
“Alright…” Skidmark said slurring his words, “lassies… just… I'll fix that… what is this good shit?”
Rush smiled, “we call it happy days.” She removed her mask, “prepare, for happy fun times.”
Sabrina sat at a cafe as she watched the live stream unfold.
“She… wasn't supposed to take off the mask,” Uber said. He radioed Leet into the livestream. “Leet, are you sure this stuff is safe?”
Leet groaned on the other side of the mic. “It's safe… she's just going to be very confused for the next three days.”
“Oh my God,” Rush said laughing, “Light, your wrists are so thin!”
Light pulled his hands inward with shame, he yelled, “that's exactly what I'm insecure about!”
Sabrina couldn't help but laugh. At the same time, she was envious, and thought to herself, ‘wish I was there to try some of that shit.’
Theo watched the livestream from the safety of his bedroom. The room was dimly lit as he sat on his bed comfortably to watch the show in secret. He had to hold his breathe to control the laughter.
“Light,” Uber yelled, “why the hell can't you control your sister!?”
Light yelled, “I'm not Christian, I can't tell her how to live her life!”
The camera feed showed Rush dancing with Squaler, Rush yelled, “Squeal like a dolphin to show that you love him!”
Squealer proceeded to do so.
Kayden opened the door to Theo's bedroom. Theo immediately fumbled to close his laptop screen, and hide it beneath his bedsheets. “Oh,” she said wide eyed in surprise.
He yelled at her, “do you mind!?”
She quickly closed the door. She muttered, "sorry, I didn't know..."
Theo yelled out, “and next time knock!”
She said back to him, “I'll forget I saw anything!”
Theo sighed, he hated to admit it, but whatever she suspected was better than her knowing that he liked the team she deeply desipised.
“Hey Light,” Uber said, “hold my mask.”
“You son of a bitch,” Light yelled, “I'm too young to be the responsible adult!”
Uber pulled off his gas mask and tossed it to Light. He then began using his powers to eloquently dance with Skidmark.
“Hahahah!” Aisha laughed aloud, “these guys are a fucking riot.”
“Don’t curse,” Brian said to her hopelessly.
“Damn, being a villain has never looked so sexy.”
Brian raised an eyebrow. Aisha rolled her eyes, “sexy means cool. Everyone in school says it, Rush started it.”
Brian shook his head, they’d truly made villainy into something glamorized. Aisha often joked about how she’d be a villain if she triggered, which made him wanting to share the truth about himself to her all the more difficult.
“Aisha, I think-”
“Hold on,” Aisha said. “I’m gonna emoji a swastika on the live chat, just to be ironic.”
“Christ,” Brian shook his head, “you can’t just-”
“Will you relax,” Aisha said plainly, “it’s just a joke. We all like that sense of humor anyway.”
“Who’s we?” Brian asked.
“Me and my friends at school. We met through their website, you’d be surprised how many people watch the show.”
Brian shook his head, he still wasn't sure what to think of them. He still remembered when they were just no-name villains at the jewelry store. "I can't believe how popular they've gotten.”
Taylor quietly watched the livestream unfold from the library computer. That same afternoon, she noticed other people laughing as they watched with their groups of friends. Taylor was perhaps the only person watching the Losers for research purposes instead of entertainment reasons.
The footage they provided was a goldmine. They gave a first person view of what the cape world was like. Watching them provided a vivid imagery of cape combat, escape techniques, and fighting tactics. She made sure to take several notes in her journal from all of the combat related videos they’d recorded.
In her eyes, they were pranksters. People more interested in wrecking ironic havoc instead of actually affecting the city around them. But she also noticed that the Losers were largely holding back, most likely to give an absurd image of incompetence.
“Okay,” Light said staring at the camera drone in a daze. “I think we’ve lost track of why we were here.”
“Trainwreck,” Rush yelled in the background, “commence the strip show!”
Uber proceeded to throw wads of cash in Trainwreck’s direction.
Light still stared at the camera with a morbid gaze, “guys… I’m just a teenager. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
Light looked at the drone’s holographic text, “According to the live chat, yuz are sayin I should start stripping with her… Yuz are nasty motherfucking pedophiles….”
Taylor sighed, there wasn’t anything she could gain from the livestream since it was obvious there wouldn’t be combat this time. She turned off the livestream window, and made a mental note to add them into her enemy list for when she was ready to become a hero.
This was supposed to be one interlude chapter, but it was kind of long, so I split it into two. I'm still deciding what I should title them.
She's being pretty embarrassing. Why would she want them as her enemy with all the other gangs hanging around?
I figure since Taylor was quick to assume the Undersiders were bad guys that needed to go to jail, she'd feel the same way about the Losers too. To be fair, there are other bad guys on her enemy list that take up the top spots anyway (like the E88 and ABB)
She is quick to judge. This is true.
“Today, on the Loser channel.” Rush floated several stories in the air smiling at the the camera in a Santa Claus suit and hat. The outfit was hardly even a costume, if anything, it looked more like red pajamas with fluffy white endings. It was the Santa Clause bag that was most absurd, in which she’d pull out various kinks to throw at her enemies.
“First,” she said in a serious tone, ignoring the sounds of combat below her. “I’d like to apologize to all the racists who have left our website since the E88 ambush. We had no idea that dressing up as nazis would offend you, and we promise never to do that again.” She crossed her fingers at the camera. “So in the name of Scion, we promise to be more sensitive to people’s feelings from now on. Especially for the nazis, who's feelings are much more sensitive than most..." Rush laughed maniacally at her own sarcasm.
"And now, my bitches and bastards, onto the Loser channel!” Rush pointed her middle fingers to the rooftops. The night lights of the city lit up the building rooftops as Light and Shadow Stalker skittered across them. They breathed heavily as they ran. Both were refusing to concede to each other’s speed.
They fired their projectiles at each other, attempting to hit each other whenever not in their breaker states. Light’s lasers lit up the roof tops as he shot, and Shadow Stalkers bow’s were completely visible in the night. Glowing building boards and side lights gave an ideal visual for them, and Leet’s drone camera gave a high definition image of their chase; crystal clear even at midnight.
“Shadow Stalker,” Light extended an arm, “roses are red, violets are blue, you are the light to my shadow, for I have fallen for you!”
Light lit up his powers into a pink heart in the sky. It gleamed so bright the building illuminated even more.
“Shut the hell up you fucking bastard!” Shadow Stalker shot an arrow at the heart, causing it to firework into more miniature hearts.
“You have struck my heart with such love, you majestic dark angel from heaven!”
“Shut your damn mouth!” Shadow Stalker screamed.
This was an ongoing joke within their fan community. Shadow Stalker had once insulted Light heavily during one of their heists, and Light retorted back with compliments which only pissed her off even more. Ever since then, people began shipping Light and Shadow Stalker as a light/dark love/hate relationship, and the team finally decided to make a gimmick out of it.
Light wore a pink hoodie sweater with pink butterfly wings behind his back. He had initially faced with Shadow Stalker and yelled, “Shadow Stalker, my Luv, you have robbed me of my cupid arrows, just as you have robbed me of my heart!”
Rush narrated their chase as Shadow Stalker attacked Light with pure rage. “Oh how scandalous!” Rush said to the drone camera, “The Stalker of the Night has begun stalking the bringer of Light! Oh what length’s love hath truly takes us!”
“Shadow Stalker,” Light shaped his hands to a heart, and made it glow with pink energy,“you have lighted your way to my soul, my beautiful night angel.”
“Arggghh!” She charged at him, this time to use her crossbow as a blunt object to clobber him. “I’ll kill you!”
Light shifted away to safety, “a lover’s murder, the truest crime of passion.”
Further away from them, Triumph and Dauntless fought off against Uber, Leet, and Spitfire. The trio blocked off the Protectorate from the Ward they were mentoring. Leet wore a Jack Skeleton costume, which worked surprisingly well for him with his already thin frame. Spitfire had bunny ears on, her mask and torn hazardous costume gave her the impression of being a radioactive bunny. Uber was a skimpy leprechaun. His broad body made his muscles ridiculously extrude, even underneath the green bra and kilt.
“Our first night mentoring her,” Triumph groaned while facing them, “and these guys are trying to make fools out of us.”
Uber’s biosuit formed large heavy gloves around his arms. “Spitfire. Wall.”
Spitfire launched a wall of fire between them and the heroes, making sure to block the line of sight both sides. Uber sprinted through the wall of fire while quickly wrapping himself around his armor. He charged out to Dauntless. The hero blocked the assault with his energy enhanced shield, but was still pushed back by Uber’s force. He’d have fallen off the ledge of the building if his boots didn’t allow him to fly.
“Make sure you make Dauntless look good.” Rush said to Uber. “The guy is freakishly camera shy, he needs a rep boost. Let him kick you around a bit, lose to him good. If we’re lucky, he’ll look good enough to manage his own team, and the PRT will finally get that poster boy they’ve been trying to make out of him.”
Uber chuckled to himself, remembering what Rush had asked from him earlier. It was easy enough for him, considering his power. He could either become a combat master or a drunken master. Letting the PRT win some battles had so many benefits. At the moment, it felt nice being the joke villain again, this time intentionally instead of unintentionally.
Dauntless swung his spear into Uber. Uber smiled, it wasn’t a great swing, it was one he could’ve easily dodged and parried, but he chose not to. The hit knocked Uber several feet away, making it look like he’d tossed and turned in a comedic manner. His armor cushioned the impact. Uber stood right back up and looked over to Leet.
"You good bro?" Leet asked.
"Bro," Uber feigned dizziness, "I could use some backup, bro."
Leet faced his ionizer ray at Triumph. "You got it, bro."
Leet launched a radiant laser at Triumph. Dauntless launched himself in front of him, using his shield to block the blast. His actions were predictable, Uber began feeling like he was movie director.
Triumph fired his seismic screech at Spitfire’s direction. It snuffed out the remaining flames and Spitfire flew back in pain. There was a ringing in her ears, “owww,” she groaned in pain. Over the intercom Spitfire said, “Rush, I could use some help here please.”
Rush looked over at her fallen teammate, “just yell jailbait. They’ll never touch you.”
“Come on bro!” Spitfire yelled.
“Fine,” Rush opened up her Santa Claus bag. A ridiculously long bazuka stretched out from it.
“What the hell,” Triumph said looking up.
“Don’t worry,” Dauntless said. “I’ve seen some of their videos, it’s never as bad as they make it out to be.”
Triumph asked, “you watched their videos too?”
“I’m dead serious Triumph, I watched it for studying reasons.”
Rush pointed the bazuka from the sky. “Merry Christmas motherfucker.”
She launched the cannon at them. It hit Dauntless’s shield, but exploded like a pound of dust. The smog rose around them, making their sight difficult to see. Triumph sniffed, “is that… Cinnamon?”
The brown dust floated around them with the smell of christmas. Rush yelled down at them, “and don’t make me take out the dildo cannon for the naughty kids!”
“The things you guys tinker is ridiculous,” Dauntless said, preparing to charge at Uber again.
Things had become complicated for Dauntless. He couldn’t be everywhere at once. Shadow Stalker and Light ran away from him when he approached. And Rush made it her mission to make sure they stayed on their one on one match, she even kept out of combat for the sake of narrating the show. So the only option he had was to distract three of the members to buy time for the rest of the Protectorate to arrive.
Shadow Stalker launched a lethal arrow at Light. It was one she kept hidden from her mentors, stored for the sake of feeling powerful. Light dodged it as he did with the other arrows, but paled when he saw it stick in the wall next to his head. "I know love hurts, but shooting people isn’t the answer.”
“Will you shut the hell up about the bullshit!” Shadow Stalker yelled, “do you have any idea how many people have fucked with me because of your damn show?”
“To be fair, I think I could do better too.”
Shadow Stalker screamed, she ran towards him solely to try and strangle him. Light flashed a light into her eyes, and shifted away while she was temporarily blinded. “Sister,” Light called out, “she just broke my heart, can we go home now?”
Rush looked over from a distance. She noticed PRT vehicles closing in on the streets below them. Battery, Assault, Armsmaster, and Miss Militia were arriving closer to them. “Yeah,” Rush said, “Operation Seduce Shadow Stalker was a failure.”
“Losers,” Uber yelled, “retreat!” Leet threw a flash bang at Dauntless and Triumph. Spitfire launched heavy amounts of ice at the ground to ensure their escape.
“Light,” Light said, “respawn to base.”
“Rush,” Rush said, “respawn to base.”
They waited to teleport home. Instead, they were left standing still in momentary silence. Leet tapped at his backpack, “Clank, what the hell?” His robot didn’t respond.
Uber looked over to his friend, “did... something just happen?”
Spitfire, Uber and Leet returned to Rush’s building, just as Light joined them. “Dude,” Light said to Leet, “why didn’t we respawn?”
Leet put down his backpack. He began picking at the buttons and openings of his user-friendly backpack. “I don’t…” Dauntless and Triumph caught up to them. Shadow Stalker shifted to their sides while Leet hastily tried figuring out what had gone wrong.
Armsmaster and his team reached the other rooftop. While Dauntless, Triumph, and Shadow Stalker blocked their left side, the rest of the protectorate blocked their other side. Leet looked up at Armsmaster. “Oh. Fuck. No.”
Armsmaster had a miniature green glowing light extruding from his Halberd. Leet recognized it. It was the same type of light his teleporters showed from the inside of their masks. It was the same kind of light used in the schematics he’d sold to Toy Box. It was the same kind of light that could be used to jam the frequencies of another teleporter, if there were a tinker willing to do so.
Leet glared at Armsmaster, “fucking tinkers…”
“You’re surrounded,” Armsmaster announced. “We know all of your tactics, and all possible methods you could use to escape. We've studied your combat footage and prepared for every scenario. Things will only be worse for you unless you surrender right now.”
Light replied, “aha, so you watched our show too.”
In a confident tone, Armsmaster replied, “I did, and I didn’t find anything you’ve all done as funny.” The Losers cringed back together, like that was the most insulful thing they'd ever heard in their cape careers. “Turn yourselves in,” he ordered from them.
Rush yelled at him, “over my dead body you illuminati scum!” She took the camera drone and lifted it over my head. “This camera drone happens to have a kiloton neutron bomb inside, so unless you want this west side of this city to blow up, I suggest you all back the hell off.”
Dauntless and his patrol partners took a step back. Miss Militia looked over to Armsmaster. “You're lying,” Armsmaster said firmly. “Not only is killing against your principle, but I short circuited all of Leet’s inventions. What you're holding there is as dangerous as a toaster.”
Leet yelled, “Fuck you you cheating tinker. You’re a cheap ToyBox stealing motherfucking-” Spitfire walked over to Leet and pushed a button on the edge of his Jack skeleton mask. The mask proceeded to censor Leet’s profanity. “-****** ******* wannabe **** slinging fake tinker!”
Unfazed by Leet's profanity, Armsmaster added, “my helmet also tells me when you're lying. There is no bomb in that drone.”
“Wow,” Light said, “Tinkers are bullshit.”
Leet snickered, “I know, right?”
“You have two options,” Armsmaster said, raising his Halberd, “either surrender, and make things easier on yourselves. Or not surrender, and risk getting seriously injured, while also risking any chance of an acquittal for your cases.”
Uber looked over at his team. Armsmaster was right. Rush couldn't fly them out, especially if she carried the combined weight five people. Leet’s wildcards were turned useless. Light was all talk, and Spitfire would never do anything to cause real collateral damage. When it came down to them versus the Protectorate, their only chance was to run, and that wasn't an option anymore.
Uber raised his arms in surrender. “Uber,” Rush yelled, “traitor!”
“C’mon Rush, you really think things’ll go better if we fought?”
The team fell silent for a moment. They really were out of options. Spitfire raised her arms up in surrender. Leet copied her. Light put his hands in his pockets.
Rush saw a chance to take her brother and just run, but she was also certain she couldn't fly the both of them away from Dauntless. ‘Maybe he could escape. I could fly him far away enough, and then I could distract Dauntless while Vivan ran away.’
But that wasn't an option for Vivan either. He wouldn't know what to do if he were alone. He could return to base and ask help from Marvin to break the team out, but that was still a long shot.
No, the best chance she had of outrunning Dauntless and saving her brother, was for her to escape to the base alone. “Okay,” Rush said, “I've got an idea. Just make a distraction for me.”
“You tried ditching us,” Uber said in a plain tone while walking.
“C’mon bro, I was gonna come back for you guys,” Rush smiled as she walked to the PRT van in handcuffs. The team followed suit behind her, defeated, handcuffed, yet surprisingly casual about their arrests.
Uber said, “You yelled, ‘every man for themselves,’ and flew off while calling us stupid bitches.”
“It was just to throw them off,” Rush argued, “I didn't want them to think I was gonna save you guys later.”
“It was still a pretty bad plan,” Light said, not really upset. “I thought you knew Dauntless could outrun you.”
Rush shrugged, “l was hoping me yelling jailbait would throw him off.”
Uber asked, “are you aware that you're not actually jailbait?”
“Sure, but they don't need to know that.”
Leet grumbled as he walked behind everyone in handcuffs. The Protectorate members eyed them as he walked. Leet couldn't stop brooding. His mask still censored him as he glared at Armsmaster. “You ******* fake ****ing tinker taking my ******* designs like a ****ing wannabe little *****. Those were my schematics! My ****ing *****! You stole them like a ****ing ***** ****. **** ***** ****** ***** ***** *****. Mother of a ****** **** ****** **** ******. **** you! **** this earth, ****the protectorate, and **** bull**** cheating tinkers!”
Armsmaster shook his head, “next time, don’t sell your inventions to Toy Box for anyone to buy and reverse engineer.”
“You’re enjoying this you cheating horse pile of smoldering ****! Those were my designs, my hard work! You’re a cheap piece of **** you ****ing fake tinker!”
Shadow Stalker puffed her chest as Light was the last person to enter the van. “Got any more funny things to say, retarded villain?” Without saying a word, Light blew a kiss in Shadow Stalker’s direction. The van door closed behind him as he whispered 'wait for me'. She yelled at him, “I hope you get fucked in prison.”
Cementing themselves to their seats, they all let out a loud sigh in defeat. The vehicle gradually moved to the place to carry out their arrests. “Well,” Rush said in a slight daze. “I did not wake up this morning expecting to get arrested.”
Uber said, “I don’t think any of us did.”
“Coolio,” Light said spinning things into a positive light. “I’m gonna get so much street cred when I break out.”
“Alright,” Rush said taking charge. “I think we’ll need a plan for how we’ll operate in the birdcage. Me and Emily will prostitute ourselves for favors. Robert can do that too since he’s sexy. Edwin will be Robert’s bottom bitch so he can stay safe. Bromance to the max.”
“You know,” Uber said in a normal voice, “are you sure people won’t think I’m the bottom bitch since I might go to prison in a sexy leprechaun suit?”
Rush nodded, “if that happens, I personally apologize for whatever you go through next.”
“Well that's reassuring.”
“And Light,” Rush said, “never do that heart thing you did for Shadow Stalker when we reach the Birdcage. It’ll give people the wrong impressions.”
“Remember guys,” Light said, “never take free gifts from strangers. Things are never free in prison.”
“That’s right,” Rush nodded approvingly. “As long as we all pull our ass-sets together, and whore ourselves in an organized fashion, I’m sure living in the birdcage will turn out to be…. Emily, are you crying?”
They heard sniffling beneath her mask. “No…” Spitfire whimpered in a pathetic tone. “I just… really don’t wanna go to the birdcage.”
An immense guilt flew over all of her teammates. “Wait, Emily,” Rush shook her head, “I swear I was just kidding. Don’t worry, I won’t pimp you out when we reach there!”
It didn’t make her feel better. Leet swallowed, “listen Emily…” He wanted to comfort her, but didn't know what to say. “****, I can’t think of a bright side.”
“We can get prison tattoos!” Light said optimistically.
Now Spitfire was tearing up, they could hear her choking underneath her mask. “But I don’t want tattoos….”
“Crap,” Uber said, realizing how dense his team was. “Alright, listen Emily. I know how this is gonna work, I’ve been down this road before. You’re not actually going to the birdcage. They’re gonna offer you a deal. Ask for a lawyer first, because they’re always better at negotiating deals than you. Don’t agree to anything until you've got a lawyer giving you all the options you have in front of you.”
“Okay,” Spitfire said in a weak voice, “But my parents will kill me when they find out…”
“They won’t find out,” Uber said. “In fact, your civilian identity is probably the safest thing you have right now. Even if you’re a minor, unmasking you takes away any chance they have of working with you. They’re not gonna take away that leverage, and they’re not gonna tell your family and force you to become a full-time villain.”
Spitfire swallowed, “Robert, how are you sure about that?”
Uber muttered quietly to himself.
“Wait,” Rush said, “what did you just say?”
“I used to be a Ward,” he repeated crystal clear.
Light cocked his head back, “you were a ward?”
Uber nodded, “kind of forced into it. Something I found out while there was that they’ll recruit almost anyone, as long as they’re willing. Of course, you can get better deals with them if you lawyer up, because there are more options and deals that most of us don’t even know about.”
“But you were a Ward?” Light shook his head, “I think I just lost some respect for you.”
Uber sighed, “which is exactly why I didn’t want to tell you guys. I hated the rules and pressure, I left the minute I had the chance”
Spitfire asked in a now stale voice, “what… kind of deals could they offer me?”
“You’re about to graduate,” Uber said, “you’re more likely to go straight to probationary Protectorate member. More likely in another city since you have a reputation here. And yes, you can keep your trigger event a secret.”
Rush said, “hey Vivan, do me a favor and-”
The van tipped over to the side. The sound of crashing followed as they tumbled around inside the back of the van. They rolled and turned, flipped onto one another before the van finally came to a thrashing halt.
The back door of the van opened. “Come on,” Faultline said. “We’re getting you out of here.”
Hmm...so, is Faultline a fan of the show...or did Clank and Marvin hire a rescue team?
Seems more like a contingency the Losers would have set up with Faultline. Pay the Crew to watch the livestream of the Losers events, and if they get captured the Crew has a retainer fee to rescue them.
Aryana moon walked into the living room wearing a formal suit. She wasn’t exactly moon walking, she was floating just high enough to give the illusion that she was sliding her feet. She hummed as she entered the living room. “Pimp cane bitches!” Aryana rose up a cane with a disco ball at the end, and pointed at Emily. She tipped her fedora in her direction.
Emily was finishing her homework at the dining room table. Vivan was sitting across from her to help her study, which mostly involved him reading questions to her for her exam next week.
Robert stepped into the living room wearing his own black suit with cufflinks and tie. Instead of a hat, he combed back his blonde hair to give it a slight shine against the light. “Christ, it’s been ages since I’ve worn a suit.”
Aryana squinted at him, “where’s that dress I picked out for you?”
“We’re going to a nightclub. I don’t wear dresses outside of costume.”
“Quite being gay. The pink looked fine on you.”
Robert wasn’t going to budge this time. “You wear it.”
Aryana gasped, “eww, dresses are gay.”
“Do you ever listen to the things you say?”
“I tend to faze in and out while I’m talking”
Vivan took a sip of his herbal tea. He stuck his tongue out in disgust, “Emily, you said tea would taste good. It tastes like leafy water.”
Emily replied, “that’s how it’s supposed to taste…”
Vivan took another sip. “Gross.” He took another sip, “gross.” And another sip, “gross.”
“You don’t have to drink it,” Emily suggested.
“No, it’s fine.” He took another sip. “Gross.”
Aryana took a step to Robert’s side and they hooked arms with each other. Aryana asked, “wait, which one of us is the escort this time?”
“I am,” Robert said kindly, “and no, you don’t have to pay me at the end of the night.”
“Oh my, such a gentleman.” Aryana motioned to Emily, “look Emily, I am swooning. Look at me swoon!”
Emily tilted her head, “I guess so.”
“And, we’re off!” Aryana and Robert stepped out of the door together looking like a strange couple. “Wish us luck on our perilous mission!”
“Good luck,” Vivan and Emily said casually.
When the door closed behind them. After staring out for a few seconds, Emily looked over to Vivan and asked, “Vivan, are Aryana and Robert… Close?”
“Sure they are, the whole team kind of is.”
“I mean… Are they closer than friends?”
Vivan looked over to the door, “nah, of course not.”
Emily raised an eyebrow, convinced that Vivan was missing some obvious signals.
Aryana and Robert walked together on the boardwalk to the nightclub. They could’ve taken a bus and arrived there within thirty minutes, but taking a walk at night together had become somewhat of a routine for them. Without the need to sleep, they enjoyed going outside in the dim streetlights whenever they could. They took the long route to the club, strictly for the sake of having more time to talk in the chill night atmosphere.
“I hate shoes.” Aryana said, “have I ever told you that I hate shoes?”
“Only every time you wear shoes,” Robert replied. As if to contradict herself, Aryana proceeded to tapdance on the sidewalk in rhythmic fashion. It obviously required some skill to perform. Regardless of her hate for shoes, Aryana had taught herself to tap dance for the sake of irony. “Your random talents are impeccable,” Robert said.
“I still wish I had my crocs. Crocs are like clouds on my feet.”
“No shoes no entry,” Robert said. “Remember the last time you tried going to a club without shoes?”
“You should’ve beaten up that bouncer, win my heart. Get laid.”
“You always want us to abuse our powers too much.”
“Hell yeah, yet another perk to being a villain,” Aryana smiled. “Don’t tell New Wave this, but the whole concept of not having identities is cool to me. It means you get to use your powers without people freaking out. I hate how people will freak out if I fly. Even if it’s for a minute.”
Robert sighed, “I respect the concept of New Wave. But it sort of feels like… They're phonies.”
“Like they’re only doing it for publicity. Going unmasked so that they can reap the social benefits of being superpowered. Like icons who are icons out of pure luck and clever marketing tricks. Glory Girl, Panacea, Laserdream, and Shielder, all strike me as those celebrity kids who grew up with everything, and won’t have to work for anything in their lives because their parents are famous.”
“Meh,” Aryana took off her dress shoes. “Even though they’re celebrities, I think even celebrities have issues they keep away from camera. I’m a narcissist, I love the fame. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some days one of those guys wished they could hide in a dark corner to be left alone.”
“A dark corner? For some reason, I really doubt that. Whatever personal issues that come with fame, I'm sure the riches outweigh it. Besides, none of them give off that vibe.”
Aryana tiptoed forward barefoot, “vibes are hard to read, I’ve found it's better to either not expect anything or to keep expectations low. Think of it like rotten onions. We only ever see the nice outer layers, but everyone has that nasty part on the inside that no one ever sees.”
“You’re a very cynical person.”
“I am indeed. Carry me.”
“I hate shoes. Now I’m stepping on rocks. People will freak out if I fly. So carry me, because you're the one who didn’t let me bring my fluffy crocs.”
Robert scrunched his mouth, but didn’t complain when she jumped on his back. “Mwahahaha,” Aryana pointed her cane forward, “slavery has finally reversed.”
“Goddamnit, do you ever give it a rest?”
“Vivan thinks its funny.”
“Vivan is a kid, act your age.”
Aryana frowned, and fell quiet. They walked a few more blocks with her on his back in silence. It was late, and it was reaching the point where people were now leaving the nightclubs instead of visiting them. The lights kept things calm, and the streets were becoming clearer by the hour. Silence in the city was as low as it could be. “So…” Aryana’s said in a plain tone, “You were a Ward?”
Robert sighed, “yeah. It’s like I said before, I was kind of forced into it.”
“Forced into it? How? Like a probationary member?”
“No, no…. My ‘parents’ forced me into it.” He stretched the word ‘parents’, like it was only a technical term.
“Parents? Do you mean your biological parents, or foster parents?”
“Foster parents. Remember how I said I triggered in a car crash with my parents?... I lied.”
“Shit,” Aryana turned her head to the side. She wasn’t angry that he’d lied, she was just disappointed in herself for not realizing it sooner. Robert had realized a long time ago that Aryana didn’t get mad at people, she only got mad at situations she was caught into. “Are me and Vivan the only ones who told the truth in our origin videos?”
“I guess so,” Robert said. “Edwin’s trigger was kind of tame, so he tried overplaying it to seem more tragic. It's kind of the same with me. I thought no one could relate to my real trigger event, so I just used my parent’s car crash for the origin video.”
Robert’s voice was somewhat casual. Aryana and the whole team knew that he’d lost his parents in a road accident. It should’ve been something difficult to talk about, but Robert had grown far past feeling uncomfortable talking about it.
“But this Ward thing,” Aryana repeated, “how long were you in it for?”
“Woah,” Aryana whistled, “did you go to any Endbringer attacks?”
“A few. I went to as many attacks they wanted me to, minus the Simurgh attacks. I couldn’t do much beyond medical work. What they really needed me for was to help train Wards and Protectorate members to improve their sparring techniques.”
“Why’d you leave? I thought the Protectorate looked out for their members.”
“They do. But it’s like I said before, I was forced into it.”
Aryana scrunched her lip, “you keep saying that like someone held a gun to your head and made you do it.”
Robert swallowed, and forced a smile. The body language was obvious. Aryana had always been good at cold reading, and Leet’s limitless pills had refined that skill into perfection. If anything, she was a level 1 thinker that could interpret body language perfectly. She asked, “was… There some truth to that joke?”
Before he could answer, the sound of gunshots were heard from the distance. Aryana jumped of Robert’s back. She flew for a mere five seconds to put her shoes back on, and sprinted to the direction of the sound. Robert paced after her.
They came to an alleyway and found a young women, blonde and slightly older than Robert, pointing a gun at a man in a skii mask. The man was bleeding out from his chest, and he had a knife in his hand from what was obviously an attempted mugging.
Aryana looked over at the women, she was trembling. The gun was still freshly shot but she looked down at the man wide eyed in fear. “Robert,” Aryana said, “help him.”
Robert walked over to the mugger. He laid back choking. Robert knew he was supposed to stop the bleeding, but it was plainly obvious he was shot into a vital organ. There was nothing he could do to save him.
Aryana placed a hand on the women’s gun barrel. She had the gun tightly gripped before Aryana began speaking. “You’re safe now,” she said calmly. The women’s hands were shaking. She was mortified. It was plainly obvious she had never expected to truly use that gun.
“He… Had a knife… I thought…” She swallowed.
“It’s over now. He won’t hurt you, you were only trying to stay safe.” Aryana noticed the E88 tattoo at the side of her neck with an X crossed over it. The women looked at Aryana in confusion but Aryana didn’t change her attitude in any way. “We’ll call the paramedics. We can walk you home when they get here.”
Gallent and Glory Girl came flying in. They came in from the sky flying calmly to the situation at hand. Looking across the four people, Gallent asked, “what happened?”
“I think,” Aryana explained, “she was attacked, and she defended herself. Is that right ma’am?”
The woman swallowed, and nodded her head slowly.
Robert checked the pulse of the mugger long after his breathing stopped. He noticed the tattoos running across the mugger’s arm. Looking back at the woman’s ‘x’ marked tattoo, Robert could better understand the confrontation. The ‘X’ symbolized betrayal or treason against the E88. Supposedly, the only way to officially leave the E88 was to brand yourself as a traitor. These marked people were often victims of E88 harassment just as minorities were.
It was obvious to Robert that the mugger had some sort of personal vendetta against the woman.
Glory Girl put a hand on the woman’s shoulder. In an instance, the fear she had was melted away by Glory Girl’s presence. It was calming, hopeful. The trembling stopped in an instance and she felt pang of peace on her shoulder.
Aryana noticed it too. She could almost smell it. She never felt Glory Girl’s power on the positive side before. It was delightfully intoxicating. It added a sense of hope, relaxation, and confidence. Aryana couldn’t help but want more, but she reminded herself to act natural.
Glory Girl said, “you're safe now, ma’am. The police will be here soon, when they come-” She stopped mid sentence. The neck tattoo finally passed by her eyes. “Hold on, you're an E88 member.”
No she’s not, Aryana wanted to say. But an explanation wouldn’t have mattered, because the moment Glory Girl said it, terror went across the woman’s body.
The complete shift from safety to horror came in an instance. Whether it was conscious or subconscious, Glory Girl’s aura registered her as a threat. And her power made her from being something admired, into something to be fearful of.
The woman muttered, “I-I-I-I swear I left.” She was backing away from Glory Girl now, holding the gun more tightly out of pure panic. “I regret everything, but they wouldn't let m-m-me leave.”
She was now ready to point the gun to Glory Girl. Not out of fear, but out of irrational panic. Aryana thought of a quick solution. She rolled a block of wood beneath her feet as she stepped back. Slightly, in an undetectable fashion, she yanked the wood to cause the woman to fall back on a trash bin. The gun was then yanked out by Aryana’s power, causing the woman’s movements to seem more clumsy than threatening. Better she look like a fool, than to attack someone out of a foolish panic.
“I never wanted to join,” the woman yelled crying. “My boyfriend made me do it! I didn’t think he’d try to...” She looked over at the mugger, shameful for what she’d done.
“Your boyfriend made you do it,” Glory Girl scoffed, “like that should fucking matter.”
It wasn’t a threat. Victoria wasn’t going to take her in jail for what was clearly self defense, but she did feel the need to be angry at someone. After what the Loser’s had done to her and Amy, Victoria’s temperament had become like boiling water. She avoided being angry at herself, so she found solace in venting out at criminals instead.
Aryana’s mouth twitched. The idea of kicking someone while they’re down, for something they clearly regretted, didn’t run well for her. “You know Glory Girl,” Aryana took a deep breathe, “you’re a shitty hero.”
Glory Girl’s eyes widened, “Rush?” She took a step back. Glory Girl’s aura immediately turned hostile. The feeling of hope and sanctity were replaced with insecurity and self-doubt. Aryana loved the shift. That immediate peak and fall within her body made her feel a high within her mind.
Aryana smiled. She took off her fedora and covered the top half of her face the same way her mask would do. She gave an iconic grin. “Oh, because I’m tan skinned, I have to be associated with the sexiest tan skinned villain in town? So racist, my lovely Poster Girl.”
“You bitch,” Glory Girl yelled, “it is you! I ought to-”
“Ought to what? Arrest me for being brown? I’m terribly offended, I ought to go to the press for such bigotry.” Glory Girl stepped back, remembering the footage of they still had. Aryana walked backwards. “C’mon Robert, I’d rather not associate myself with these Protectorate scum.”
“Fuck the Protectorate,” Robert stood up and put his hands into his pockets, Gallant realized it was Uber.
“Stop,” Gallant ordered. “We know who you are, you’re under-”
“Stop, Gallant,” Glory Girl swallowed. “Please, just ignore them this one time.”
Gallent went silent. Aryana and Robert hooked hands again and marched out of the alleyway in a comedic fashion. Looking over at them, Gallent noticed the vibrant colors encompassing Uber. It was a mixture of passion and happiness towards his friend, like a blind love that only long-time lovers could have.
His partner was contrasted. Within her, he saw nothing. The emotions she emitted were fake. There was neither happiness nor ego in what she had just gotten away with. Something rare for people with such exaggerated displays of emotions. She was a psychopath.
When they walked off, the blonde victim stared off at the two Losers leaving, wide eyed in surprise. Without saying another word, she backed away trying to forget the spectacle she’d just gone through.
Gallent and Glory Girl didn’t bother stopping her leave, she wouldn't have been cooperative with the police, and they couldn't arrest her for having a tattoo. The emotions Gallant saw in the blonde woman was remorse, coupled with a small sense in pride that she was willing to defend herself. And, with a passing smile, admiration for someone she'd just met.
Gallent turned to his girlfriend, “Victoria… What’s going on?”
Glory Girl swallowed, “There’s…. something I need to tell you.”
Faultline’s nightclub was packed, even though it was a weekday night. The bouncer let them in the moment they let him know their names.
“Rush,” the bouncer nodded with a smile.
She smiled back to him, “Aye, hombre essay, broly.”
The bouncer chuckled, and spoke Spanish to her. “Keep giving those gringo bastards what they deserve.”
Aryana replied in Spanish, “Of course. Does that include my gringo bitch I brought with me?”
Robert included himself to the conversation, “bitches like her always give guys like me what they deserve.”
“Hey,” the bouncer said in crystal clear English. “Don't call her a puta.”
Robert cocked his head back. Aryana yelled at Robert, “yeah, I'm a lady, how dare you call me a bitch, you filthy fuck.”
Robert muttered quietly to himself, ‘why do people always take her side?’
They entered the nightclub and made their way to the stairway. The top floor was where Faultline’s crew stayed. Passing by the balcony, Aryana noticed Labyrinth and Newter sitting next to Gregor the Snail on a nearby sofa. She walked over to them for a greeting, “hello strangers.”
“Hello… Rush…” Labyrinth said softly.
“Did the medication help?” Aryana asked. She was referring to some tinker made medicine she'd offered for Labyrinth’s mental disorder. Faultline gave approval for her to try it, and Aryana said they'd sell more to them if the first sample went well.
Labyrinth shook her head furiously, Gregor answered. “Under normal circumstances, it did help things become more vivid for her. But it also halted the intricacies of her powers. She couldn't create exactly what she wanted while on the medication. She stopped taking them after a day.”
“Sorry it couldn't help,” Aryana’s voice sounded sympathetic.
“It's… okay,” Labyrinth spoke softly. It made the headaches go away. But it stopped me from helping my friends. “You tried.”
Aryana passed a glance over to Newter. With a grin, she lifted her chin up and said, “sup Newter. High five.”
Newter smiled back at her, “I charge forty dollars a hit.”
“Robert, lend me eighty.”
Robert replied, “After the meeting.”
“Yes,” Gregor mentioned. “I believe Faultline is waiting for you in her office upstairs.”
Robert and Aryana left to the office. Before leaving, Aryana pointed a finger at Newter and gestured a finger telephone over her left ear. She mouthed the words ‘call me’ to him before heading upstairs. Newter pointed back at her with a grin, implying he’d take her up on the offer.
“Are you acquainted with her?” Gregor asked him with genuine curiosity.
“Nah,” Newter answered, “but I know the type. If she's anything like she is in the show, she just pretends she's already on everyone’s good side.”
“She's… good.” Labyrinth said, trying to imply something else.
“Funny you say that,” Newter remembered some banter from one of their earlier episodes. “She'd get really offended if you ever called her that.”
Faultline’s office was clean. As expected for the curator of a nightclub. Robert and Aryana took the two seats that in front of her. Faultline sat behind her desk in her riot-gear like armor.
“You could’ve brought your masks,” she said in the form of a question.
Aryana shrugged. Robert replied, “it’s a gesture of good faith. None of us have family in Brockton Bay. Speaking face to face offers more genuinity when speaking.”
Faultine nodded, she disagreed, but she wasn’t going to start an argument. “I was hired to give you a note, and a present, at a safe place and at a specific time. When we found out you getting arrested by the Protectorate yesterday, we called our client, and he was willing to pay extra for us to free your team.”
“Sounds like a good deal,” Robert said.
“And ominous,” Rush commented in an eager tone. “I wonder if it's like s secret illuminati message. Maybe I’m a sleeper agent, and the note will trigger me!”
Faultline smirked. She felt the need to ask. “This illuminati you always talk about… Is there any truth to it?”
Aryana snorted, “I dunno, maybe the letter will reveal the answers.”
“But…” Faultline leaned closer, and in a whispered tone she asked, “these Illuminati conspiracies you talk about… is there a hidden message there?”
Aryana tilted her head, she thought to herself, ‘wait, is Faultline crazy?’ Robert coughed and answered, “it's more of a thought experiment. We like making people ask questions, so we came up with a fake conspiracy idea to keep people guessing about things they wouldn't normally think deeply about.”
“I see,” Faultline said. She decided to drop the subject. “Keep asking questions then.”
Faultline gave the note to Robert. She handed the small present to Aryana. Aryana recognized the box instantly and didn't even bother opening it. Instead, she stroked the bright ribbon that was finely tied to the side, letting her eyes half wander as she became mesmerized by its perfectly symmetrical wrappings.
Robert read the note aloud; “there’s a porcelain doll inside.’” Robert checked the other side of the note, “that’s all it says.”
Aryana’s gaze fell lower. She looked disappointed.
Robert noticed her change in attitude. “Do…. You know where this came from?”
She shook her head, “nope, but whoever gave me this has a terrible taste in gifts.”
That night, Aryana stepped into Vivan’s bedroom. “Yo,” she said, poking him awake. “Get up kid.”
“What? It’s three AM.” He let out a yawn. He shook his head to try and get a better sight of his sister in the dark. “Why’d you wake me?”
“We gotta go."
“Accord found us.”
Accord looking in your direction is not something anyone wants.
That was unexpected. In retrospect, going full chaos as a rebellion against Accord's insane standards makes a kind of sense.
They're ... not his kids, are they?
Robert didn't say anything when Aryana and Vivan left his apartment unit with their backpacks at hand. They said they were going to rob a jewelry store, but he guessed that they weren't coming back. Somewhere along the line Robert stopped trying to figure out the reasoning of them both. Vivan went out of his way to enjoy himself, and Aryana did the same in a seemingly identical manner. The why's had became irrelevant over time. And although they both always changed their stories as to how and why they came to Brockton Bay, Robert guessed there was more baggage there that they were trying to make light of.
Vivan, in particular, reminded him of himself back when he was in the Wards. Like he was stuck but didn't want anyone to know. Constantly wanting to leave, yet hiding that fact through absurd happiness to pretend everything was alright.
Aryana was the complete opposite of that spectrum.To most, she seemed stupid. To Robert, he noticed the constant shifts in moods and personality in her, reminiscent of himself when he was trying to understand himself a few years earlier.
Leaving the Wards was like leaving a prison, there was a steep need to learn how to cope with freedom and happiness. Aryana was like that, trying to compensate for a loss of childhood through exaggerated immaturity.
A long time ago Robert promised not to obligate people into situations they didn't want. Although he would miss them, he wasn't going to force them into staying.
“That’s bad for you,” Vivan said. “You’re gonna get fat.”
Aryana mowed down at her third cheeseburger at mcdonalds. “It’s my god-given right to be fat. I’m not letting you stop me.”
Vivan had ordered the chicken nuggets. He hated fast food. “Fatty, mc fatty, fatty fat, fatso, fat, fat… Want a milkshake with that fatso?”
“Yes!” Aryana took Vivan’s milkshake, and drank half of it.
“Oiy, that was mine! It’s like the only good thing they have on the menu.”
“You can’t control me, you lil biiitch!”
“Every time you call me little bitch, I get more offended you’re calling me little…”
“Your insecurities are wonderful to pick at.”
The mcdonald’s they sat in was about to close. They decided to get something cheap to eat before taking the long trip out of town. Aryana had once explained that getting a hit from Accord was like getting a kill order. The best way to survive, was to cut all ties from people around you. Vivan asked, “so you think Leet and Uber will be okay?”
Aryana nodded, “ Yeah, they’ll be fine. More likely than anything, Accord might freeze their assets for a day, and then bribe them to tell him where we are. Since they won’t know where we are, Accord will give up that up and then compensate them for whatever problems he gives them.”
“Sure is good of him. It must be nice throwing money at problems until they go away.” Vivan smiled. This was the advantage they had over Accord. He didn't leave a path of destruction in his wake, he liked keeping things as orderly and procedurally as possible. It made him incredibly predictable.
“Indeed,” Aryana chuckled, “we should have done that with Leet. Make him build a money canon to shoot at our enemies.”
“I'd have used that to shoot poor people.”
“Shooting poor people, every rich man’s dream.” Aryana finished the rest of his smoothie. “You could have stayed if you wanted to, I know you liked it here.”
“It wouldn’t have been fun without you.” He didn't' want to admit it, but he was going to miss Brockton Bay.
“You could join the Wards you know, Accord doesn't touch Protectorate members.”
“You always push that Wards thing on me, but I haven’t wanted to join them since I was twelve.” He stopped wanting to be a hero when he found out Aryana was a villain.
“Still,” Aryana repeated a phrase he was getting used to, “I still wish you didn’t follow me around.”
One Day before her Eighteenth Birthday
Aryana’s eyes fell low. Dormant emotions she'd suppressed for years was finally swelling up. Her eyes passed Vivan in a morbid gaze at the sight of his demonstration. The scarecrow Vivan had set up was set aflame. He had skipped school and invited Aryana to visit just so he could show her his new display of power. “See?” Vivan said breathing heavily. “I have powers too. I get… Tired when I use too much energy, but at least I can blow up stuff.”
Vivan was happy. This was what he wanted. Power to be something more, power to be closer to the person he cared about. He asked, “can you get me an interview with Accord? It would be awesome if we could work together.”
Aryana shook her head slowly, “no.” Her voice was a stale. The shaking of her head looked like trembling. “Never. I’m not letting you end up like me.
Her Eighteenth Birthday
She sat across the dining table from Accord. It was a special occasion. Not only were they celebrating her eighteenth birthday, but they were also celebrating her fourth year of service to him. For Accord, he saw it as a celebration to her loyalty, to Aryana, it was a celebration to her liberation. In a way, he'd given her freedom from the destiny she didn't choose.
Aryana’s dress was a delicate white. It was mirror-like in design, with flower patterns running across the bottom half of the dress. Her mask was hex polygon textured over the top half of her face, with origami styled bunny ears extruding from the top half of her head. Accord had designed it. He made it to be perfect, just as he envisioned her.
Accord, much shorter than Aryana wearing his cashmere lint-free suit, raised a wine glass into the air. “A toast,” he said serenely, “to your eighteenth birthday.”
Aryana mirrored his movements in a delicate like manner. She knew exactly how to move. Eloquently, like a perfect woman that could flatter any guest. They knew each other perfectly now. And although he’d never said it aloud, he could have considered Aryana as something liken to a daughter. She was his favorite.
To him, she was testament. Proof that he could beat even the unbeatable endbringer. He turned the teenage girl from someone who was lost and destined for terrorism, into a pure machine, living only to serve for his organized syndicate.
It was success to him. Aryana would never become something she shouldn’t. Aryana took a moderate sip from her flask, to which Accord smiled. “If you’ll excuse me.” Aryana nodded in a sentimental courtesy, knowing that manners were everything to him. Accord stepped up from the long table and headed to his bedroom upstairs. He picked up Aryana’s gift.
It was a small box. Gift wrapped by his own two hands. Inside there was something special, something he was glad to give to Aryana. Like a father, giving his daughter a rite of passage.
Before returning to the dining room table, he stepped into the restroom to wash up before presenting the gift. He twitched at the sight of it, and returned to Aryana. He walked over to her and leaned in close to her side. He asked her in a low tone, “Aryana… Why was the toilet seat up?”
Aryana rotated her head slowly towards him. She grinned. An assured death sentence, which was something she secretly yearned for. In an identical low tone Aryana answered, “how else am I supposed to mark my territory?”
Accord grabbed his and smashed it across her head. She immediately fell back across the floor. A piece of her mask was cracked away, making it look like a cracked egg. All she could do was shield her face as Accord began hitting her repeatedly in erratic motions. As he bashed his cane continuously, he noticed an unusual moaning sound coming from her…
“Oh yes,” Aryana yelled smiling, “it hurts so good! Hit me harder!”
Accord paled. The sexual implication was obvious. She was glad he hated it. “Aryana,” Accord took a step back, “what…Happened?”
Aryana stood up, she tilted her head with a crooked smile to laugh. “It’s my birthday you five foot white collared bitch. I do what I fucking want!” She cracked off the bunny ear from her mask, turning it into something unsymmetrical. A large part of her wanted to kill him, but how could anyone bring them self to kill a person that could potentially end world hunger?
That's what the Simurgh would have wanted, and she was done doing what others wanted.
“You cretin,” Accord screamed. He clicked a button on his cane revealing a dagger at its edge. Before he could swing it to pierce into her skin… She threw a pocket full of glitter in his face.
Accord froze in place. His hyper aware senses caused the glitter to mortifying him. “Glitter.. Never… Comes off...” Some of it fell in my mouth.
Aryana floated away from Accord. The high ceilings of his building were meant to be aesthetic. Currently, it provided Aryana enough room to fly around in a comedic fashion. “God made glitter for love,” she lifted her dress up, revealing trousers with pockets underneath. “So allow me to show you my love liquids.... Glad I’m not jailbait anymore.” She stuck her tongue out at his direction, and floated upside down onto the ceiling.
She proceeded to take exaggerated steps across his home, pulling out pockets full of glitter as she tossed it across his home’s floors. Accord’s oversensitive keenness caused him to tremble at the sight of the scattering crafts. OCD horror filled him as his face grew red with anger.
He was going to kill her. He lost all attachment for her in an instance. He’d underestimated the Simurgh, there was no fix for it. He’d contact the Yangban to kill Cody, make it his personal mission to kill Simurgh tainted to make up for this mistake. But with Aryana, he’d torture her. Simurgh tainted or not, she had no right to humiliate him the way she was doing.
Aryana floated upside down and pretended to walk on the ceiling. “Oh my, what does this button do?” She knew every contraption in Accord’s house. She’d visited him so many times, and had been trusted to know everything. The intricacies of Accord’s mind was second nature to her, and she was abusing that knowledge maliciously.
She pulled secret levers, trap doors, rotating cavaliers and all sorts of trap doors he’d designs for his enemies, unleashed for the sake angering Accord. She dismantled a few, and tossed glitter in others.
Accord could already envision the perfect torture machine for her.
Aryana levitated a jar of mustard from the kitchen. She mixed it with ketchup. “Aye, matsa watsa salami?” She said, stereotyping an italian movie. “And thanks for the dress Accord, how long did it take you to make? I’m guessing several hours since your hands are so small.”
Still standing on the ceiling, she poured the mixed ketchup atop of her head. She used her powers to let it drop upwards, and spread it across the ceiling around her feet. “Now, you won’t be able to tell when I’m bleeding, hewhewhewhew.”
The laugh was obnoxious. It was so fake he wanted to strangle her for it. Then she said, “I bet you wish you had your brown pants…”
Accord screamed at the top of his lungs, he went to the nearest doorway opening and picked up shotguns he always had ready. When he pointed it at her, she wagged her fingers in a way that matched her wagging hips. “Nookie dookie,” the gun was quickly flown out of his hands, “you really shouldn’t have taught me how to use my powers so good.”
“That is grammatically incorrect!” Accord screamed. “Aryana, why are you doing this? What went wrong with you?”
Aryana floated closer to match him at an eye level. Aryana’s mouth was flat. She was absolved of the emotion she had a few seconds ago, and spoke in a methodical voice. “You lied to me.”
Instead of answering, she spun around to turn his back at him. The spin caused the dress’s ketchup to splatter all over Accord’s face. She fled off at high speeds.
One hour before her last dinner with Accord
Aryana stared at the mirror for a long time. Her hair was tied back. It braided around her head in the form of a crown. Not a strand of raven colored hair was out of place, she’d long learned how to make it as orderly as possible. All in accordance to what was defined as perfection.
She spun around to gain a visual of the uniquely designed dress. The mask was something she used to like. It made her look innocent. Four years ago it had fitted her perfectly, now it was more of an oxymoron from what she turned into. Four years ago, she didn't know what she'd gotten herself into.
“Aryana,” Accord told her. “There is a necessity for order in this world. When chaos breeds, order exists to quench that chaos. It’s how the world survives, strives, and succeeds. The Simurgh, by its very nature, exists to inflict chaos unto humanity.
You are destined to do terrible things. Your decisions will be like tiny explosions, unraveling this world into ways it shouldn't be. Every choice you make will have overreaching consequences that will damage everyone. All because of the circumstances that were outside of your control.
But there is a way to avoid the Simurgh’s power. You have to stop making your own decisions. Forfeit your individuality and exist for anything other than yourself. In that way, the Simurgh no longer has control over you. Let your decisions fall onto someone else, someone who exists for order and peace, so that your freedom may never hurt anyone. We can give you liberation from the destiny you didn’t want, as long as you're willing to choose to give up all your decision making to me.”
He’d given her an ironic hope. She knew what the loyalty entailed, and she sold herself to escape what she didn't choose.
There was one thing she didn’t expect; the apathy. Accord’s obsession for control forced her to become indifferent to the crimes she’d committed. She committed the most cruel murders for the most mundane offenses. Her mind, like a defense mechanism, learned to stop sympathizing for the people around her.
Was that a good thing? Wasn’t it a necessity to grow colder, in order to avoid soul crushing remorse on a day-to-day basis? What was that numb insanity called? Was it worse than the kind of insanity that involved loathing oneself into the brink of suicide? Emptiness verses pain. Lack of feeling verses feeling too much.
But she wished she could feel again. She wanted to pretend she still had the colorful emotions from when she was a kid. Accord made her forget what that was like, but she was now desperate to try and play the intrigued character of a curious child again.
She looked into her bedroom mirror again. It was a small apartment flat. There were no decorations because she wasn’t creative enough to add anything worthwhile. The minimalistic setting, she realized, was Accord’s belief, not hers. She couldn’t remember what she used to love. She couldn’t even remember what she loved about herself.
"Eighteen came too soon."
Water marks formed at the edges of her eyes. It wasn't because she was sad, it was because she was hollow. The awareness of it was finally settling. She'd detached herself from so much, but she didn't want to become as cold as Accord. She'd made a decision, she was going to anchor herself onto someone else. Wiping away the tears with a heavy swallow, she said to the mirror, "Accord... Which one of us is the crazy one?"
Re-edited 3.2. Took out Uber's trigger reveal because it didn't feel good on page, and I added a scene with Glory Girl instead.
Edwin looked across the computer screen at all of the tinkerings he’d done over the last few months. His files were well categorized. The main trick was remembering the kinds of sciences used for each individual invention
Organizing was easy, recalling the kinds of sciences his old inventions was the hard part. Energy cells, for instance, could be used for the same purpose but with different sources of energy. He’d once made a tiny nuclear reactor in his home, and it was only a miracle that the reactor didn’t kill him when it finally exploded. Except it wasn’t run on nuclear energy, it was run on a different kind of energy he couldn’t quite remember. It was unique, more natural. He needed to remember it so that he could remember not to create it again.
Combat tinkerings were easier to remember. He’d burned through most of his mechanical tinkering copying robots from video games, so most of that tech tree was out of reach for him. Thank God Toy Box could take care of that. They’re the reason he could get Clank back, as well as various other copycats of things he’d previously invented.
Some days Edwin worried he’d have nothing left to tinker. That his usefulness would finally go away. But at the same time, he was glad. He felt like he was finally reaching the true potential he’d always had inside of him. ‘Like a candle light, finally burning away the way it was meant to.’
That was something Aryana had told him. That he needed to take greater risks, that it was worse never seeing the prime of his power than clinging onto his weakness forever afraid to lose it. She’d pulled him out of his comfort zone, and he loved her for that.
A part of him thought it was wrong to go through such great lengths over the infatuation of a cute girl. But what harm was there in him becoming a better person for the sake of someone else? At least something was gained. He was pathetic before she’d come into his life, and his desperation to impress her was what strived him to go further than he was used to.
A notification came up at the side of the monitor. Dodge. He opened a window on his screen for video chat. “What’s up Dodge. I’m kind of cataloguing right now, so I can’t game, if that’s what you're calling for.”
Dodge twiddled his thumbs. He didn’t have a mask because he never entered combat. Toy Box was his outlet for tinkering. Without a threat from danger at home, the twelve year old often called himself a ‘self proclaimed internet lurker.’
Dodge was a slightly obese child from rural Texas. He had natural tan skin from his Native American heritage. His dark wavy hair was kept kept low, similar to how Vivan kept his hair low enough to cover his forehead.
“Leet,” Dodge said nervously, “something really really really bad happened…”
Dodge’s age was sometimes obvious, he often blew things out of proportion more than they needed to be. “What’s the problem?” Leet asked.
“I went to get some money for some hot dogs, because I was gonna have my aunt and uncle come over and play video games with me. But when I went to the ATM to get my money, my card didn’t work…”
Leet raised an eyebrow. “Wait, you mean our Toy Box cards? It didn’t go through?”
“First off,” Leet opened up the a screen window for his bank account. “Those cards are for supplies, delivered via portal transport. Just because they can’t get tracked, you shouldn’t use them for small things like hot dogs.”
“We were hungry. I wanted to be nice to them…”
“Second of all… Hold on a second, let me check this.”
ACCOUNT BALANCE: 0000
“Wait… What the fuck…”
“Please don’t curse,” Dodge asked politely.
Leet raised his finger at the touch screen. He opened up the Toy Box contacts to call Cranial. Just as he was about to call, Cranial called him instead. His finger slipped onto the ‘answer’ button by mistake.
“Cranial, I was just about to call you. Did you cut us off?”
Cranial’s costume was of a ‘megamind’ styled costume. She had a bald cap with the drawing of a brain on it. Her steampunk goggles were shaped as a visor that ran across her head. Even though she was from Florida, her pale skin complexion was still a result from her never leaving outside. But she did make sure to exercise regularly, giving her a more muscular build that made her go against the typical tinker stereotype.
“Leet,” Cranial said rubbing at her eyebrows. Her voice came out like a snake's hiss, “what the hell did you do?”
“Me?” Leet scowled, “the fuck are you talking about.”
“Please don't curse,” Dodge pleaded. “I wanted to tell you before Cranial called…”
“Tell me what?”
Cranial gritted her teeth. Although there were no ‘leaders’ in Toy Box, there were coordinators. The responsibility of regulating and arranging meetings always befell on one. When a coordinator tinker would leave, that responsibility fell onto someone else. Cranial was the coordinator since Leet had first triggered.
A year ago, Leet was considered a failure in every way. Cranial worked actively to outcast him because she thought Leet’s tinkering was broken. Leet remembered their worst conversation.
“You don’t have a specialty.” Cranial said over the monitor. Cranial’s video footage was faceless, with only an oblique outline of her shadow.
“I have a lot of specialties.” Leet said nervously, “I just have... limitations to them.”
“They break if you make it twice.”
“I asked you to recreate something. You failed at that. Are you seriously telling me you’ll fail every time you have to recreate something for a customer?”
Leet didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to answer yes.
Cranial continued. “The invention you made blew up in the client's face. We’re luck they’re alive. You damaged Toy Box’s reputation. Are you honestly telling me you can’t make a single order twice? How the hell do you expect to do business?”
Leet didn’t say anything, he didn’t have an answer for that either.
Cranial made a decision. “You’re brain dead Leet. You're better off not having powers. Hang up your things. We’re cutting off your funding, you can’t work for us anymore. And my personal advice, stop tinkering altogether. You’re a fuck up, and you're better off being normal.”
Aryana was relentless. She insisted he prove his worth. She pretended to be a client to get in contact with Dodge. His naivety allowed them both to work together separately from Toy Box. They developed a more accessible network of pocket dimensions, and Leet’s expansive specialties allowed him to create biospheres for the dimension’s environments. Biospheres which some tinkers found crucial in their research.
Toy Box owed them both big time. And although Cranial was bitter about it, she couldn’t ignore Leet’s skills anymore.
“It’s not just you Leet. Everyone in Toy Box had their assets frozen, all because your teammate pissed off the wrong person.”
Leet cocked his head back, “what the fuck are you talking about?”
Across Leet’s monitors, more video windows popped up on their own. Various members from Toy Box glared down at Leet standing still in his laboratory.
They all yelled at him.
“What the fuck did you do?”
“You screwed us over!”
“I went broke in a day!”
“I have clients that are dead without me!”
“I’m dead if I can’t get my supplies tonight!”
The other tinkers, some with blank screens or in masks, lashed out at Leet as though it would save them from their situations. Cranial muted their audio so everyone could hear her. “I got a phone call from Accord today. He said he wouldn’t mind if you were dead too.”
Leet swallowed, “Accord? That psycho thinker from Boston? Aren't you on good terms with him?"
Cranial continued, “that girl, Rush, he wants her dead. Typically he wouldn’t give a damn about your stupid videos, but if anyone get in his way, the assassins wouldn't hesitate to kill you all either.”
“Ary…. Rush has a hit from Accord?”
“Figures she didn’t tell you,” Cranial scoffed, “try vetting your members better next time, and try keeping the standard higher than nazi.”
Leet growled, “fuck you. Toy Box owes me big time, I’m not selling her out because a psycho prick has a stick up his ass!”
“You don't have to,” Cranial leaned back on her computer chair. “The deal was, we give Accord the coordinates to your dimension, and his assassins would take care of the rest. That's all he needs to give back our assets. As long as you stay out of the way, he gave his word he’d leave you and your team alone.”
“Fuck you,” Leet gave her the finger, “no way in hell are you getting my numbers from me.”
Dimension coordinates were kept secret from each other. Every member of Toy Box had their own pocket dimension, and even the coordinator didn’t have access them.
“Dodge gave us your coordinates.”
Leet glared at the boy. Dodge winced in shame, “I’m sorry Leet. Toy Box helped me make my first portal, they even helped me get away from home. I have to help, and they promised not to hurt you or your friends....”
"Leet," Cranial spoke to him again in a hushed-like tone. "Some of us have clientele that are dead without us. Some of us can go to prison if we don't provide tinker tools regularly. Some of us have long term projects that require supply drops daily to be on life support. Do you understand the predicament I'm in?"
“I’m not walking out on her!” Leet yelled, “I don’t give a shit if I get killed. If Accord hurts her, or anyone on my team, I’ll make it my mission to fuck him over until there’s nothing left in me!”
The other members, still muted over the monitors, exchanged glances between Cranial and Leet. Respect was something they had for Cranial. For Leet, there was camaraderie. Cranial earned admiration and loyalty through her recruitment and clientele networking, something that was the lifeblood of Toy Box. Leet earned companionship through his group experiments. His vast tinker specialties made him work with all the Toy Box members at least once, and his brutally honest attitude always made for an entertaining experience.
Cranial took a deep breathe. “Bring Uber on the line.”
They were walking out of the city, taking an obscure road away from the main highway. Morning was entering. The rain drizzling caused steam to rise up from the roads behind them. A light mist obscured the city as they walked forward on the edge of the street.
“You’re gonna get sick,” Vivan said walking behind her with an umbrella.
Aryana had a red leather jacket that was sleeveless. She extended her arms outwards to make sure they remained wet. “Worth it,” she caught rain water with her hair as she walked forward.
A portal opened behind them. “Well shit,” Vivan said. He lit his arms up, but stopped when he saw Edwin and Robert stepping out from the portal.
“For guys running from Accord,” Robert said, “you’re both pretty bad at hiding.”
“How'd you find us?” Aryana asked.
Edwin pointed to Vivan, “next time you're trying to run away from a Tinker, don't steal their tinker inventions.”
Vivan looked down at his gloves, “shit, I thought these were gifts.”
“Gifts are for teammates,” Edwin corrected.
“Give him the gloves, Vivan,” Aryana ordered.
Vivan pulled off the gloves and tossed them to Edwin. The Simurgh tattoo was now visible, but as far as Robert and Edwin knew, both their tattoos were from tattoo parlors.
Edwin tossed the gloves back to Vivan, “you’re not leaving.”
“Is this a kidnapping, or eloping?” Aryana asked casually.
“Yes.” Vivan answered, not knowing what eloping meant.
“Both of you knock it off.” Edwin growled. “Accord. Are you serious? What the hell did you guys do to piss him off?”
Aryana chuckled, “use your imagination.”
Edwin squinted at her. “He froze Toy Box’s assets. Every tinker there is on my ass because of you two.”
“Figures,” Aryana said, “if I were you two, I’d tell Accord where we are. Then you can get your money back, and he’d forgive you for being teammates with us.”
“We’re not selling you out,” Robert said firmly. “What the hell Ary? I thought by now you could trust us. We shared our trigger events, that’s supposed to mean something. We’re not selling you out because some psycho wants you dead.”
“I’d sell you both out.” Her voice came out as a clear statement. “In a heartbeat. You both should do the same. I never cared about you two.”
Robert scoffed, unfazed by her words, “hate to break it to you, but we could care less about what you’d do if the roles were switched. Right now, you need help, and we’re not letting you leave that easy.”
“This wasn’t supposed to last forever,” Vivan looked towards the misty city behind them. “At the end of each day, we were always ready to leave.”
“You both can leave anytime,” Robert said. “It just shouldn’t be because a psycho thinker wants you dead.”
The rain lightened to sprinkling water. Aryana couldn’t help but feel wrong, in a little way. Robert and Edwin had grown attached to them, but she didn’t feel any closeness to either of them. It wasn’t fair. “I only liked you because of your tinkering,” Aryana said to Edwin in a plain voice. “To be honest, I never even liked you as a person. Between everyone here, you’re probably the most pathetic. I only pretended to be nice so you wouldn’t be such a fuck up. Hanging out with you has been a waste of time.”
Edwin swallowed. He really didn’t want the statement to be true. Before Robert could defend him, a resolution boiled inside him. “You know what?” Edwin said clenching his fist, “I don’t fucking care what you think! I’m done giving a shit what people want from me, and I don’t give a damn whether you like me or not. Because you’re the reason I became a great tinker, and I’m not letting you leave because a five foot psycho prick wants you dead.”
Aryana sighed, disappointed she couldn’t make him hate her. “Both of you need to give up. Relationships never last forever, which is why I only stick with family. You both were just tools to us, so don’t make things personal.”
“Is this is why you joined us?” Robert asked over the sound of dwindling rain. “To have us as shields against Accord? What kind of plan was that? We were nobodies before you came along.”
Aryana nodded, “that was exactly the point. You guys were no-name villains so we thought we could stay low profile with you two. We figured if we stayed as joke-villains, we’d be a blip beneath Accord’s radar. I knew we’d have been found eventually, I just didn’t think it would be because we became popular enough to be noticed.”
Robert shook his head, “I know how Accord works, running won’t last forever.”
“I know he’ll get me eventually,” she eyed at her own tattoo. “I don't mind that. It happens to everyone eventually. The longer you stick with us, the more likely Accord will want you dead too. We’re not worth having around.”
“You know,” Edwin smiled, “I wish you told us that a few hours ago. Because from this point on, we’re all on the same sinking ship.”
Aryana raised an eyebrow, “what’s that supposed to mean?”
Accord stared down at his computer screen. His hands were trembling at the sight of the words in front of him.
EnLArG3 UR PIn3s
10000 Horny Moms in YOUR AREA!
Cum to Cheating House Wives looking for desperate men
Desperate? Try viagra!
Dear sir: The prince of Nigeria humbly requests for your help.
Accord called down to the office, “have there been any technical difficulties with your computers?”
“Yes sir. A spam related virus has frozen most of our hardware. I’ve called the rest of staff, they’re reporting the same issue all over the building.”
Accord looked down at his computer. This was his personal computer, not even connected to the internet.
Another message came up:
Welcome. To the Tinker Toy Box Cardboard chewing Flame Boards.
Sponsored by: Accord
In another universe, Toy Box tinkers typed away at their terminals. Connected through video footage as they spammed Accord.
“This is fun,” Dodge said. “I might start doing this in my spare time.”
“Damnit,” Toy Soldier said, “I think we’ve just turned Dodge to a troll.”
Big Rig laughed, “so it’s true, trolling is a virus. I never thought I’d use my powers for spamming.”
Glace tapped at her microphone, “oh my, Accord, it appears you’ve just gained a massive shipment of viagra. Tis a shame it won’t help cure you of your tiny hands.”
Big Rig raised an eyebrow, “Glace, why is all your spam viagra focused?’
“Because that limp dick mother fucker took my cash.” Glace typed personal hate mail to him as she disrupted the communications within Accord’s building.
Pyrotechnical said, “whoever photoshopped Accord’s face in that porno, screenshot his reaction. I wanna send it to him later.”
Cranial shook her head and took a deep breathe, “I can’t believe we’ve all stooped to Leet’s level.”
At his office, Accord watched in fury as the spam became more and more grotesque. He tried turning off the screen, it didn’t turn off. He unplugged it, it didn’t turn off. He finally smashed the monitor with his bare hands.
An Ambassador entered his office with a written note. She gave a courteous nod, and handed him the piece of paper. It was an ultimatum: Unfreeze our ass-sets. Or this will never stop.
“Toy Box international?” Aryana asked.
"It was all Robert's idea," Edwin said. "The idea was to start an overseas account and begin recruiting tinkers from all over the world. India, Africa, South America, you name it. The internet can go a long way to connecting tinkers who have been isolated for a long time."
"Accord made us fast track that," Robert explained. "We figure since he froze our assets in North America, starting an overseas account would be out of his reach. We got a jump start loan from a group in India, so Accord has no leverage on us anymore."
Robert’s phone began vibrating. He looked over to Aryana and said, “it’s Accord.”
She took a step back, it was the first time Robert had even seen her worried. “Answer it,” she said.
Robert answered, “sup Accord.”
Accord’s voice was calm, “Toy Box’s assets have been returned. I hope this will put an end to their charade.”
“Too bad that won’t stop the shipment of viagra,” Robert chuckled.
“Uber. When will my communications return?”
“As soon as you call off the hit on Rush.”
There was a pause on the telephone. “She’s Simurgh tainted.”
Robert looked over to Aryana. He checked over at her hand, “she says she’s Simurgh tainted on our videos all the time. Really, is that supposed to surprise me?”
“She’s a ticking time bomb. She’ll break everything she touches. You’ll be left with ashes. That’s not a warning, nor a threat, it’s a premonition. She’s better gone now before that happens.”
“Funny, that’s exactly how she described you, my OCD friend.”
Accord’s eye twitched. But he stayed calm solely to avoid feeding Uber’s ego.
“Again,” Robert insisted, “we’re agents of chaos. So that actually works really well with us. So for your own sake, maybe you should just give up trying to kill the Simrugh chosen girl, and forget she was ever a part of your life.”
Accord fell quiet. Nothing he could say would convince him. “I’d like to speak with her.”
Robert looked over to Aryana. He mouthed that Accord wanted to talk with her. Aryana gave him a wide eyed stare, one riddled with fear and hollowness. It had been months since she'd spoken to him, she took the phone from Robert.
“I’m glad we could speak again,” Accord said in a plain voice.
Unsure what to say, Aryana replied, “okay.”
“What did you mean when you said, ‘I lied to you?’”
Aryana swallowed, “I don't remember.” She did remember, but she didn't want to tell him. Accord had a knack for kicking down ideologies that could prop up against his own. She didn't want him to know the truth about what she felt.
“I see,” Accord said unsatisfied. “I watched your videos.”
She knew he hated them. Half the reason she adopted that absurd personality was to make him angry. She still felt the need to ask, “do you like them?”
“I did.” He lied. “You should keep making them.”
Aryana’s mouth twitched. In a single sentence he let her know that she had no control over him. All she wanted to do was exert a level of control over his emotions. It was just a game to them. They were tugging at each other’s hate for the sake of earning each other's anger.
She asked, “Are you going to kill me?”
“No.” He said calmly, “you're a walking time bomb. I'll wait for the world to collapse on you.”
They both knew it was true. She wished she could say something smart or witty to piss him off, but Accord only invoked silence into her. She mustered a single word, "okay."
“Pass me to Uber,” Accord said.
She handed the phone to Robert, to which he noticed her hands shaking. “Yo,” Robert said.
“I’ll call off the assassination. But it’s only fair I warn you, anomalies of chaos don’t necessarily work well together. There will come a day where she’ll fail you, and you may regret defending her today.”
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
“Will falters, Uber.”
“Still worth it. Her kind of crazy is better than your kind of crazy.”
Accord hung up. Robert looked up at Aryana, “so… Still planning on leaving?’
Aryana shook her head, “I don’t know. I’ve only been making up plans since I left Boston.” She looked over to Vivan, “Vivan, you decide.”
Vivan blinked, and fell back on a phrase he often repeated, “I just go where you tell me.”
Aryana bit her lip, “Vivan, you're the only reason I left Accord in the first place. Quite being a tool and just pick for me.”
Vivan smiled, “Brockton Bay needs a better class of villains. Not the villains they deserve, or even the ones they want, but the Losers are definitely the kind of villains they need.”
Hmmm... I'm debating whether the next chapter should involve Spitfire singing kpop karaoke in a school girl uniform while holding a Korean restaurant hostage, or whether I should skip 3.5 and have a Mouse Protector saga.
Mouse Protector fighting Spitfire while holding a girl hostage. When in doubt combine.
Making more tinkers in one place is good for business and you go more independent. And if you destroy everyone, best to do it with people you love.
I'm kind of hoping that Rush and Vivan made enough ripples to save Mouse Protector from the Slaughterhouse 9.
“I like it. You should keep making them.”
Why did those words hit her hardest? She'd adopted a persona that was supposed to contradict him. To earn his hate, for the sake of owning some control over him. Instead, if anything, he still controlled her, because she still revolved her character around him. It was like the last few months had been a complete waste of time.
Robert stepped onto the apartment balcony. “Yo,” he said. She was the only one in her unit that night, Emily didn’t stay on weekdays. The morning mist was still across the city, from the floor they were on, they stared just above the mist to see the high rises of the city with the warm steam obscuring the streets.
“Hi,” she said in a quiet tone. She was running her fingers against the gift wrapped present Accord had given her. She refused to open it.
“What's wrong?” He asked. She’d gone quiet since she and Vivan returned home. She acted happy around Vivan, but whenever he caught her alone, it was like she needed time to think about something.
“You still don't have to stay here,” Robert said. “You don't owe us anything.”
He’d taken away her death wish. She couldn’t hate him for it, but he took away something she’d been asking for for a long time. Being close to danger was a thrill to her. Narrowly escaping death gave her the sense of control over her own life, or the sense of non-control by believing that the Simurgh was somehow keeping her alive. Either way, she liked the cloud over her head. It made her feel safe, powerful, and now it was gone.
“You said you joined the Wards because someone put a gun on your head, what did you mean by that?”
Robert snickered, “it's not a big deal. My foster parents caused me to trigger because they kept pressuring me to win sports competitions. After I triggered, they forced me to join the Wards the same way they forced me to do everything else. So I never enjoyed my time there. I guess I became a villain solely to piss them off.”
“How’s that working for you?”
“Working great if you ask me. To be honest though, I’m not a villain to piss anyone off anymore. That doesn’t last forever. I like being strange. Being a hero is too idealistic, being a pure villain is boring. I just want to have fun while I have these powers.”
“Making up for lost time?” Aryana asked.
“Something like that. I like to think of the world like Mass Effect. It's not about the endgame, it's about all the roadmaps you take throughout the game. You can still have fun playing, even if the ending sucks, or the endings are the same.”
“Renegade for life then?” Aryan jabbed a punch at Robert’s shoulder.
“Paragade for life,” He bumped her back. She rubbed at her shoulder with a smile. Robert looked down at her exposed hand and tapped a finger on her tattoo. “Accord told me that’s real.”
Aryana looked down at her hand, “you know, I vaporized earth in that game. You still think endings don’t matter?”
“Honestly, yes. This doesn’t change anything.”
Aryana smiled, “when I saw the Simurgh for the first time, I honestly thought it was an angel… What a load of shit.” Aryana tapped at the balcony rail, “are you going to tell Edwin?”
None of them were sure how Edwin would react. Sure, he had an immense loyalty to his team, but before Aryana came along, he was incredibly cautious with his powers. There was a very real possibility he’d stop tinkering all together if he found out he was heavily influenced by someone Simurgh tainted. “Of course not,” Robert answered. “I just… Can’t see you becoming a bad person.”
“You don’t really know me,” she said with a sigh. She rested Accord’s gift on the side of the balcony. “Robert, I’m not sure if this is because of Accord, the Simurgh, or because of how I triggered. Either way, I don’t feel attachment the same way other people do. I can get close to people when I’m in the moment, but I don’t feel attachment forever like other people do. I’ll love the person in front of me, but the moment they go away, I’ll move on like they were never a part of my life. I don’t miss things, I can’t get attached to anything. And I know it’s because there’s something wrong with me…”
“Living in the moment?” Robert said, “that’s not so bad. Ever feel the urge to murder people like in Red Dead Redemption?”
“No,” Aryana said, “but I’ve never felt regret murdering someone either.”
Robert’s eyes widened. “Oh…”
“Nothing feels real sometimes…. Like I’ve gone through so many highs and lows, that none of it effects me anymore.”
Robert thought about Endbringer events, how a lot of recruits would fight optimistically, and come out changed and numb to loss. “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” he said plainly. “When people are forced to go through horrible things, they cope. Adapt so that they can still function with some level of normalcy. I don’t think that makes you crazy or bad, just…”
“Different?” She asked.
“Not different, just changed. Everyone is different, you’re not so different from the rest of us.”
Aryana smiled, “so basically… I’m a Loser like everyone else.”
“Bingo. I still can’t believe how proud you are to call yourself that.”
“Thank Tattletale,” Aryana and Robert fist bumped, “it’s the little things that piss people off.”
Aryana wasn’t sure what she wanted anymore. A death wish didn’t go according to plan, and living on the fuel of earning someone’s hate was self-destructive. She kept thinking of Robert’s analogy, what character do I want to play in this game? She wasn’t sure. But she did make a promise to herself, she wasn’t going to revolve herself around external forces that were outside of her control.
She leaned over to Robert and kissed the side of his cheek. Then she stroked a finger against his golden hair and kissed him on the lips.
After five seconds, Robert backed away. “Nope.”
“Oh come on, I’ve got this pent of energy I’ve gotta burn off somehow.” She leaned closer to him again, to which he pushed her away.
“Girl, I will throw you off this balcony.” He wasn’t kidding, either.
“Come on,” she pulled off her jacket, “you can’t seriously tell me you’d reject a hormonal fertile girl who’s literally throwing herself onto you.”
Robert walked into the apartment living room. She floated towards him. He said, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have flirted with Edwin for three months just to make him a better tinker.”
Aryana’s mouth shrunk. He was right, she couldn't argue that what she'd done wasn't wrong, even if they both felt the methods justified the results. “Relax, I’m gonna hook him up with Emily.”
“Nope,” Robert said heading out the door. “Bro-code. He likes you, I’m not touching you.”
“Touch me goddamnit!”
He closed the door behind him, leaving her in her apartment alone. “Goddamnit,” she took out her cell phone and called Emily.
“Aryana?” Emily answered whispering, “class just started, did something happen?”
“Emily, I need a big favor from you. I’m also willing to pay you for it.”
“Are you trying to prostitute me again?”
She hung up. “Okay...” Aryana said to herself, “I really need to learn to be more subtle.”
Inside the Korean restaurant, the Losers took the liberty to buy all the customers free drinks until the PRT arrived. The customers were hardy, and surprisingly open to being held ‘hostage’ while the PRT slowly surrounded the restaurant. Spitfire sang Korean pop music through the karaoke machine while the rest of the ‘hostages’ cheered her on.
“She’s surprisingly good,” Leet said sitting at the bar stool.
Light looked at the laptop on one of the dining tables. “The fans still want to know when you’re gonna ask her out.”
Rush tapped at her phone as she reposted shipping comments that involved Leet and Spitfire.
Leet’s face turned red underneath his domino mask. “Can you just tell them I’m gay? To save me from future awkwardness.”
“Will do buddy,” Light typed into the livestream chat, quenching some of the rumors.
Rush glared at them. ‘Goddamnit Leet, you need to man the fuck up…’
Their camera drone was hovering around the room, emitting warm lights to brighten the mood. The livestream this time was more reliant on their mask feed while Marvin edited the feed from their base. Uber looked at the two restaurant owners that were tied up behind the counter. “Are you guys comfortable?” Uber asked in Korean.
The Korean man, slightly over the age of forty, looked mildly annoyed, “you guys better pay for those drinks when you guys are done.”
His wife smiled next to him. She nodded, “as long as you all can keep the ABB out of our business, these handcuffs aren’t so bad.” She didn’t understand why the handcuffs were pink and furry, but no one had the heart to explain where Rush had gotten them from.
The Loser’s ‘uniforms’ were actually diverse clothes meant to mimic something from k-pop bands. Leet wore a glittering suit while Light opted for a ‘rock band’ get up that matched Leet through dark color schemes. Rush wore formal black jeans with a tucked in dress shirt, and Uber had on a pink skirt with a tight t-shirt. The whole team agreed to make Spitfire wear the school girl uniform.
Spitfire just finished singing through the song ‘roly-poly’, before the sounds of sirens closed in from the distance. “Damnit,” one of the customers said in Korean, “someone shut those guys up, the lights hurt my goddamn eyes.”
His Caucasian-American friend sat next to him. In perfect Korean he replied, “try squinting your eyes, that helps me all the time.”
Everyone, both the Losers, Customers, and the hostages, yelled Korean at the same time, “racist bastard!”
The Wards and Protectorate arrived at nearly the same time. The PRT had already barricaded up most of the streets and lowered their sirens. The restaurant sat at the edge of Koreatown, just narrowly outside of ABB territory. It was one of the more expensive restaurants. The exterior of the building wasn’t distinctly Korean, the owner’s design for the restaurant was meant to appeal to an American-Korean cultural mix.
Battery and Assault left the PRT vans with Armsmaster leading them. It had reached the point where they agreed not to bring full firepower against the Losers. Since they rarely posed an actual threat, escalating conflict was discouraged, and instead, they did their best to make their battles a learning opportunity for the Wards.
All the Wards were there, including Shadow Stalker, whom hated Light more than anything. Battery said to the Wards, “we’re not planning extended combat this time. With hostages inside, we won’t let them get into danger in anyway.”
Clockblocker looked at his phone. “Clockblocker,” Aegis said, “now’s not the time.”
“Hold on…” He pulled up the Loser’s webpage. “I knew it. They’re livestreaming right now. Check out the hostages.”
He faced the phone screen to the Wards. Leet was beginning his Korean karaoke performance while Rush and Uber were taking shots with the customers. Light spoke to a young girl there that was the restaurant owners’ daughter. Even though she was handcuffed to the bar counter, she was surprisingly pleasant to Light, even speaking to him in a flirtatious manner.
“This doesn’t feel like a hostage situation...” Kid Win commented.
“I’d like to make a suggestion,” Aegis said. “The Losers are better known as entertainers than threats to civilian lives. If one of us could go inside and negotiate terms, maybe this ‘hostage’ situation can end without a confrontation.”
The plan made sense, considering the Loser’s tactics. But Armsmaster didn’t like entertaining the games that they often played. In fact, Armsmaster often felt he was the only one serious about arresting them. While most considered the Loser’s as the mascot villains of Brockton Bay, Armsmaster believed they undermined the gravity of crime.
“I volunteer Clockblocker as tribute,” Vista suggested.
“No way,” Kid Win said, “do you have any idea how many jailbait jokes that would lead to?”
“Well it can’t be me,” Vista argued, “Rush never stops hugging me whenever we’re close.”
Clockblocker looked over to Shadow Stalker, “hey Shadow Stalker, could you seduce Light and trick them to-”
“Fuck you,” she said before he could finish the statement.
Taylor walked to the street corner three blocks from the library. When she visited to the library to search for more parahuman information, she was surprised to see that the Losers were livestreaming close from where she was. Unwilling to miss the opportunity, she walked out and reached the restaurant where the hostage situation was.
The barricades were up with police lights flashing and low sirens all around. She saw the heroes for the first time up close. There were a few pedestrians around the PRT barriers to try and film the conflict with their cell phones. Taylor walked as close as she could get to near the heroes.
She couldn’t hear them from outside the crossing line, but as she drew her bugs into the building, she realized she didn’t need to. Her bugs could hear the music inside. It was difficult since the restaurant was mostly bug free, but as she converged more bugs to their location, she could hear the voices inside.
“Leet,” Rush said, “got the bomb ready?”
“You know it.”
Shit, Taylor thought, they’re going to far this time.
“Hello, my lovely heroes of the overworld,” Rush’s distinct tone echoed across the streets. The Protectorate looked forward to see mechanical helicopter-like drone flying closer to them. There was a screen at it’s front to show Rush’s face speaking directly at them.
“Today,” she said with a smile through the drone, “on the Loser-”
“Armsmaster!” Leet pushed Rush aside. He stole the mic and yelled, “you’re a bull**** fake ****** tinker, you know that!?”
Armsmaster with a cold face replied, “says the kid who buys robots from Toy Box because he can't outgrow video games."
“You son of a-”
“Stop getting in your own way!” Rush pushed him away and took the mic back from Leet. Annoyed, she looked back to the screen. “As I was saying… Today, on the Loser channel. We have taken the liberty to claim this wonderful restaurant as our territory.”
An advertisement banner shamelessly formed at the bottom of the screen. Prices of the store’s menu popped up, with words -Great Meals For Great Deals! - passing by. She continued to speak as the ad cycled through the menu.
“And in order to protect our wonderful new entrepreneurship, not only have we taken the owners hostage, but we’ve also taken the liberty to guard it with the greatest weapon ever made!”
The drone’s display turned to Spitfire. She held up the drone that Armsmaster had deactivated a few days ago. “This,” Rush said, “is a kiloton neutron bomb. And unless you want the west side of this city to blow up… I suggest you do exactly what we say.”
“She’s lying,” Shadow Stalker said, “we’ve seen this trick before. Leet’s just bluffing because he’s a shitty tinker.”
Leet twitched at the sound of that. In silent anger, he grabbed the bomb and opened the restaurant front doors. The PRT officers and capes watched as Leet lifted the drone over his head and pointed at Shadow Stalker. “Say that again mother******! I’m not bluffing this time!”
“I said,” Shadow Stalker continued, “you’re full of-”
“Shadow Stalker enough!” Armsmaster yelled. “Do not provoke him! My helmet is detecting immense radiation from that device, do not risk provoking him!”
The wards took a step back. Gallent asked, “wait, they actually did it? They built a tiny nuke just for the joke of it?”
Leet snickered, “that’s right, fear me biiiitch.” He returned inside and slammed the doors behind him, right after flicking them all off.
“I told you we’re bad guys!” Rush said over the intercoms and drone. “Like, do we have to spell it out for you? If I threw you a dollar for every fuck we gave, you’d have zero dollars.”
Light tossed a wad of bills out the window.
“Light,” Rush yelled, “stop giving them our fucks!”
“I don’t want my fucks,” Light retorted, “fuck my fucks, I don’t give a fuck about fucks.”
The wad of bill rolled over the Assault’s feet. He picked up the money and was genuinely surprised, “one thousand dollars… Wow, they really don’t give a fuck.”
Battery glared at her husband, “don’t you dare take that money. They probably stole it.”
Assault passed it for Clockblocker, both of them pretended it was collected for evidence.
“What are your demands,” Armsmaster said .
Rush grinned, “we’ve taken the liberty to take requests from our fans. And according to our livestream chat... We demand that Shadow Stalker and Light get a room.”
“God no,” Light said over the intercom. “How dare they objectify us like play things. I’m offended on both our behalfs.”
Shadow Stalker clenched her fist, don’t fucking say anything. They’re just trying to piss you off….
“Besides, I can do much better than Shadow Stalker.”
Shadow Stalker yelled, “says the five foot little bastard that dresses like a mascot!”
“Don’t call me little!” Light yelled through to front of the drone camera, “I am five two and still growing! Get it right!”
“Little!” Shadow Stalker yelled, “little little little little!”
Light yelled, “shut up you wannabe hero! You don’t even dress like a good guy!”
“Little little little!”
“Your arrows are fake!”
“Argghh,” Light busted open the entrance doors. He almost charged over at the hero team before Uber and Spitfire grabbed him by the arms and dragged him back inside. They hastily closed the doors before he could start a one sided fight.
No one could see Shadow Stalker smiling beneath her mask. Clockblocker commented, “Shadow Stalker, I think you just found his weakness.”
“Okay… That was weird…” Rush returned to reading the livestream chat. “Let’s avoid murder and forget that one. Demand number two, Kid Win becomes a man and sells his virginity to the highest bidder.”
Kid Win lifted a finger up, but Gallant quickly stopped him from talking. “Don’t make it worse, I guarantee they’ll run out of things to say.”
“Demand number three,” Rush read, “Clockblocker freezes a…. Oh my God, my fans are disgusting.”
“You reap what you sow,” Spitfire commented.
“Lets cut to the chase,” Uber said, borrowing the mic from Rush. “Leet’s bomb will blow up half the city unless Armsmaster follows a few simple orders. Orders which involve him stepping calmly into the building, unarmed and by himself.”
Armsmaster looked over at the Protectorate members, “I’m willing negotiate for the hostages. Just promise no one will get hurt if I step inside.”
“Mwahaha,” Leet laughed from the background.
Rush answered, “we promise the hostages won’t get hurt, nothing more…”
Uber looked towards Leet, “Leet, put your gun away.”
Light laughed, “haha, innuendo. You guys can’t see this, but Leet just put his dick away.”
Rush yelled, “God Light, get your mind out of the gutter.”
Spitfire commented, “you know, I used to be pretty normal before I met you guys…”
Taylor hid her bugs on some of the joints of the Wards, Protectorate members, and Losers. She could get a thin outline of their bodies by visualizing them based on where her bugs were located. Like a skeletal computer model of their bodies.
Armsmaster stepped inside with no Halberd at hand. He looked around at the ‘hostages.’ The sound of foreign hip hop music filled his ears. “Oopa!” All the customers took another shot glass the moment Armsmaster stepped inside. Even the kitchen was still cooking fresh meat for everyone to smell. Each of them were enjoying themselves, having free drinks while willing to be a part of the plan the Losers had for them.
“This won’t last forever,” Armsmaster said to the Losers in a stoic tone. “This game you’re all playing, it’ll never last. Some people might entertain the games you all play, but not me. When the opportunity comes up, I will put an end to your charades.”
“Oh my,” Rush said waving him off with her Simurgh hand, “what epic foreshadowing.”
Light said, “I bet a thousand fucks Armsmaster will someday get his ass kicked ironically by a tinker.”
“You’re on,” Uber said. Uber and Light threw a wad of cash in front of Armsmaster's feet.
Leet stepped forward to Armsmaster. He looked up at him from his shorter height. “I have one demand.” Leet crossed his arms with a grin across his face, “say I’m the better tinker, or else I blow up this city.”
Armsmaster’s helmet said Leet was telling the truth. But he wondered if Leet had some sort of tool that threw off his lie detector. “No.” Armsmaster answered, refusing to give up his pride so easily.
Leet’s eyes widened. “Um… Dude, we’ll blow up a city if you don’t say it.”
“I think you're bluffing,” Armsmaster glared closer to Leet, giving him an intimidating gaze. “I think you’re still a joke tinker, and this whole conversation is just a ruse.”
Shit, Leet thought to himself myself, he knows I’m screwing with his helmet. “You’re seriously gonna risk that? Me blowing up this city, just because you don’t want to say one sentence.”
Armsmaster said, “I’m pretty sure I can trust my gut more than you can trust yours.”
Rush commented, "is anyone else turned on by this?"
Leet swallowed, goddamnit, this fucker’s got me right where he wants me...
Spitfire said, “he’ll do it. He was laughing all day while he made that bomb. He’s been wanting to use it all day."
“Yeah,” Light added, “are you really gonna risk the city for a single sentence? I probably would, but I'm irresponsible."
“We’ve also been drinking all day,” Uber mentioned, “Don’t ask us to make rational decisions.”
“Ditto,” Rush commented. “Half of us are also high as fuck, how else do you think we can screw around like this?”
Leet looked over to Spitfire. She had the fake bomb in her hands while nervously eyeing at them. There was no way out of this, all he could do was give the signal to activate the bomb and then retreat.
Before he could give the signal, the sound of crawling grew around them. Cockroaches converged hastily as they amassed from the cracks in the ground. The bugs climbed on top of each other, forming a giant bulge of a person next to Armsmaster.
Customers threw their drinks to the ground as bugs passed by the dining tables. As the glass shattered they ran out in screaming panic towards every window and open exit they could find. The bug-constructed creature formed a humanoid arm and hissed out, “staaaahp.”
The music stopped. The Losers watched with their mouths gaped open in shock as the creature spoke. “Leet,” Uber said, “please tell me you made a new minion.”
Leet shook his head slowly. Taylor got the idea of using a doppelganger from watching the Losers use their holograms for deceit and manipulation. A few of the major things she learned from their videos; take control of the situation, choose your own battles, never let all your tricks be known immediately, and always use psychological warfare against your enemies.
And instead of mockery, Taylor decided to use fear.
“Oh my God,” Rush yelled, “Armsmaster just summoned Satan!”
Armsmaster looked at the insectoid creature with pure intrigue. Loud hostile buzzing filled the air over the Loser's heads.
“Run!” Light said, “just run, fuck it, spawnchild is gonna kill us!”
“It's a trick guys,” Spitfire said while insects hissed at their ears, “those bugs aren't even biting us.”
A cockroach crawled across Uber’s hand, “nope, this is getting too gross and weird. Respawn to base!”
Uber disappeared. A horde of flies flew in Leet’s direction, “no no no, respawn to base!”
Leet disappeared. Rush almost stayed behind, but then beetles crawled inside her shoes. “Abort mission! Respawn to base!”
“Oh God,” Light swapped at moths flying around his head, “the touching! They're touching me!”
“Light,” Spitfire said as ants crawled up her legs. A small swarm of bumble bees hissed around her mask as she spoke, “they’re not even biting, it’s ok-”
“Nope,” Light yelled, “nope nope nope nope nope. Fuck it, respawn to fucking base!”
Spitfire covered her face in shame, “am I the only one here who isn't afraid of bugs? Spitfire respawn to base.”
“Oh God, they're still crawling in my boots!” Aryana pulled off her boots and threw them out the window. She grabbed a sweater to start swatting insects off the apartment floors.
“Cockroaches in my pants, I'm taking them off.” Robert pulled off his leggings. Aryana wanted to watch him strip, but the freed bugs instantly made her lose interest.
“The moths…” Light shivered as he walked forward while hugging himself, “so… freakishly… furry.”
Spitfire looked down at the beetles that were caught on her costume. She poked a few that fell off her feet. “Guys, they're not intelligent anymore. There's nothing to be freaked out about anymore.”
“Ugh,” the sink filled with the smell of Edwin's puke. A fly twitched in his vomit. “I swallowed a damn horsefly, that's not natural.”
Vivan scrubbbed at his arms, “I don't believe in god, but what the unholy fuck was that hellfire demon spawn creature from Satan?”
“Maybe it was a Tinker invention?” Emily said, trying to stay calm for everyone else’s sake.
“I'll call Toy Box and see if they know anything,” Robert suggested.
Aryana looked at all the bugs that were scurrying around the apartment, seemingly normal compared to where they just came from. She said, “can we all agree to just run like hell if bugs show up again?”
“Agreed,” the rest of them said together.
Changed Cranial from male to female, turns out she was female in canon. I'm gonna write a Mouse Protector Saga next, with chapters shorter than what I normally write. Hopefully I'll be able to complete these chapters much faster.
A Mouse Protector saga sounds fun. Were they scared of Taylor because of the bugs or because of comedic timing?
Those people will be together forever. Even after the team breakup.