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I, Panacea (Worm SI Fanfic)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Jan 7, 2015.

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  1. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    The gambit worked. Check and mate, mate. That should be it for the trio, their hanger-ons, and the Winslow staff.
     
    Prince Charon and Ack like this.
  2. Asheram

    Asheram Know what you're doing yet?

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    Oh, the spiteful laugh I just had.
     
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  3. Darkarma

    Darkarma Loli Tentacle Slime

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    Its a positive cliffhanger, but still one. The Protectorate is going to seriously owe New Wave one big time.
     
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  4. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    The Three Little Bitches have fucked themselves over to an impressive degree. Well done.
     
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  5. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    No the gambit didn't work. Te gambit was working, right up until Sophia hit Panacea. Then the gambit exploded.

    It's just 'too bad' Sophia's the one at the epicenter; she's so fucked right now that I'd need to post in the NSFW section to fully get my point across.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2017
  6. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yeah, if she was any more fucked, she'd be having triplets.
     
  7. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Sophia = octomom 2.0?:eek::D
     
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  8. Muroshi9

    Muroshi9 I'm so ronery So ronery So ronery and sadly arone

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    Each one from a different dad. :eek:o_O:oops::D:p
     
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  9. MerelysSoul

    MerelysSoul Flirting with Chaos and Order

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    Can't wait for the Fallout. :D
     
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  10. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Yep... Would definitely call this a gang-rape level of fucked, so that IS a possibility.:D
     
  11. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    THERE AIN'T NO BREAKS ON THE RAPE TRAIN!

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Threadmarks: Part Twenty: Panacea at Winslow, Part the Fourth
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    I, Panacea

    Part Twenty: Panacea at Winslow, Part the Fourth



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



    Vicky's phone rang; snatching it from her belt, she answered it, being careful not to punch her finger straight through it. She'd only done that a couple of times, but it had been intensely embarrassing. “Ames?” she asked breathlessly.

    No.” Vicky recognised her mother's voice immediately. “I received a call from Arcadia a short while ago. You have not yet shown up for class. As I understand that you are no longer at Winslow, where exactly are you?”

    “Um …” Vicky looked around for inspiration. She was about a hundred feet in the air, on about her tenth lap around the Winslow campus, careful to stay outside the school boundaries, but never straying too far away from them. “I'm, uh, keeping watch.”

    Keeping watch over what?Before she could even formulate an answer, her mother spoke again. “Are you outside Winslow High School?”

    She stifled her immediate impulse to answer in the negative. “Uh, maybe?”

    Her mother sighed. “What exactly are you achieving there, Victoria? Nothing can be done until the meeting, and that isn't for another few hours.”

    Vicky set her jaw. “Mom, she's in Winslow. Three different gangs recruit from in there. If she calls for help, I'm going in, Principal Blackwell or no Principal Blackwell. Nobody messes with my sister.”

    Victoria, that's admirable, but -” Vicky frowned as she heard the ping of an incoming text.

    “Hold on, Mom.” Taking the phone from her ear, she hit the speaker button so that she could still hear her mother's voice. “Got a text.”

    Who is it from?” Carol Dallon's voice was sharp.

    “One … second.” Vicky double-tapped the notification, then entered the phone's PIN code. The text unfolded a moment later. “Shit. It's from Ames. 'T & me attacked by S Hess.'” Her eyes opened wide as she got the ramifications of that. “Shadow Stalker attacked them? I'm going in!”

    Wait -” But she didn't hear any more as she shut the call off and dialled her sister's number from memory. As she hit the last digit, she arrowed down toward the school front doors. Amy could be badly hurt. Fuck slowing down.

    The front doors of Winslow were smashed off their hinges as she burst into the school, phone at her ear. “Ames? Ames? Talk to me!”

    Amy's voice in her ear was a little nasal. “Vicky? Was that you?”

    “Yeah, it's me. Where are you? I'm coming to you.”

    Wait a minute.” Amy's voice dropped, as if she were whispering into the phone. “Taylor says follow the bugs.”

    In the heat of the moment, Vicky had forgotten that Taylor was actually Skitter, the bug controller who had knocked out Amy in the bank. Of course, since then she had learned a lot of things, some of which made her wonder about a few of her strongly-held views. She paused, looking around. “What bugs?”

    She says to look harder. They can see you, and bug senses suck.” She couldn't tell for sure, but it sounded like Amy was trying not to laugh.

    A dozen flies buzzed past her face, and she turned; finally, she saw the bugs, clustering on the ceiling, forming a pathway. “Ah. Right. Got it.” Eyes on the ceiling, she shot away down the corridor.

    It was weird, trying to navigate through a school that was one big block. Arcadia was a lot easier; so long as you knew which arm you were in, you were set. Taylor's bugs led her along corridors, up stairs and around corners until Vicky was wondering which way was north. Finally – in reality about one minute later, given that she was moving at a moderately unsafe speed for indoors – she turned a corner and saw Taylor waving her down.

    Coming in for a landing next to the brunette, she realised two things; first, Taylor was actually a couple of inches taller than her, and second, the girl had blood all over her mouth, some of which had run down her chin and soaked into her top. She was also holding herself with one arm. “Shit, are you all right?” Vicky asked. “You look like hell.”

    “Amy says the lip's nothing,” Taylor said, her voice a little mushy, probably due to her spit lips. “But I've got two fractured ribs, and she says the bruising's gonna be spectacular.”

    “What? Why hasn't she fixed you?” Vicky's eyes went wide. “Shit, is she -”

    “She's fine,” Taylor hastened to say. “But if she heals me, there goes half our evidence. With this, we can have Sophia fucking Hess arrested and charged. Ward or otherwise.” Her eyes slitted behind her glasses. “And I'm not letting this opportunity go to waste.”

    The determination in her voice actually managed to impress Vicky, and there wasn't much that impressed Glory Girl any more. Taylor had to be in a certain amount of pain, but she wasn't giving in to it.

    Vicky patted her encouragingly on the shoulder. “Right. Got it.” She paused, frowning. “Did they ever do anything like this before?”

    “Punch me in the face?” Taylor shook her head. “No. Locker, yes. Stole my stuff, yes. But this time they were going all out to make me give up and go away.” She grinned, then winced as fresh blood oozed out of the splits in her lips. “Ow. But it turns out that Sophia really doesn't like being called a loser.”

    Vicky hadn't really associated much with the vigilante-turned-Ward, but she could believe that. From all accounts, Shadow Stalker had a very forceful personality, and she took very little shit indeed. She nodded understandingly. “Uh, so where's Amy?”

    Taylor nodded toward the door of the classroom she was standing outside of. “She's making sure nobody runs off.”

    Vicky blinked. “Ames? Wow.” I really don't know her any more. Pushing the door open, she stepped inside.

    Within were a bunch of girls, Emma and Madison at the fore, with Julia hanging back a little. On the floor between them and Amy was Sophia Hess, out cold. Standing beside the doorway was Amy herself, with blood all over the lower half of her face and running into her t-shirt. She smiled at Vicky. “Hey. Took your time, Glory Girl.” Her voice was very nasal.

    Vicky didn't miss how half the girls seemed to shrink back at Amy's comment. The other half, the ones who obviously already knew her, just looked a lot unhappier. They ain't seen unhappy yet. She dropped her voice menacingly. “Who hit my sister?” Her fists clenched as she flexed her aura just a little.

    This time, there was no bullshit about 'assault with a parahuman power'. The girls all swayed back away from her, and everyone she could see pointed toward Sophia's supine form. Vicky shot an interrogatory glance toward Amy, although she knew they were telling the truth. “Is this true, Panacea?”

    “It's true, Glory Girl,” Amy replied. “These girls didn't touch me. Although I did witness them bullying Taylor. So I'll want all of them coming to the principal's office for the meeting.” For someone with a possibly broken nose, she seemed to be remarkably cheerful.

    “No, first off you'll be going to the school nurse to get checked out,” Vicky stated flatly. “Your nose busted?”

    “Think so.” Amy touched it gingerly. “Ow. Next time I heal someone from one of these, I'm gonna be a lot more sympathetic.”

    “Then don't touch it,” Vicky suggested, smug in the fact that nothing had even bruised her since she got her powers, three years previously. “Take Taylor and go let the nurse treat you. I got these pieces of shit.”

    Amy nodded. She went to the door, then stopped. “Should we call Taylor's dad and Carol in on this now?”

    Vicky grinned and hefted her phone. “You do that. I'll give Principal Blackwell the good news.”

    “Right.” Amy tilted her head slightly. “What was that crash from before?”

    “Front doors.” Vicky was already dialling. “You were in trouble. I wasn't about to let an inch of timber and a crappy lock stop me.” She nodded to the girls. “Call your parents. Pretty sure they're gonna get a phone call from Principal Blackwell about this.”

    “And don't forget, this whole thing was recorded,” Amy put in. “So before you start getting creative, we already have that.”

    “Wait, recorded?” Vicky raised her eyebrows. “How'd you pull that off?”

    Amy told her. Vicky ended up laughing so hard she misdialled Principal Blackwell's number three times.

    <><>​

    Danny Hebert got out of his car and closed the door. He looked around to see several other cars in the visitor carpark. A blonde woman whom he thought he should recognise approached him. “Hello? Are you Daniel Hebert?”

    “I … yes?” Danny looked warily at her, then the penny dropped; it was the business attire which had thrown him off. “Uh, Brandish? I mean, Carol Dallon?”

    “The same.” She smiled warmly and held out her hand.

    He shook it gingerly – after all, the woman could generate a matter-annihilating blade with that hand – still not sure what was going on. “Is this a … superhero matter?” After all, he couldn't see what difference one superhero could do with Winslow. Except maybe to reduce it to a pile of rubble. Which would probably be an improvement.

    “No. This is a lawyer matter.” She gave him a grim smile, then seemed to realise that he was still at sea. “You got a phone call from your daughter, correct?”

    “Taylor, yes.” It had been a short call, and remarkably uninformative, except for certain relevant details. “She rang me earlier to tell me about the meeting this afternoon, then just a while ago to tell me that it'd been moved up. Said she was physically attacked by one of the students who's been bullying her.”

    Carol Dallon nodded curtly. “Yes. The same student punched Panacea in the face. This, after she was notified that the meeting would take place. Minor or no, I'm going to take great pleasure in burying her.”

    Danny raised his eyebrows at her tone. “Is this because Panacea's your daughter, because she's a member of New Wave, or because she's your team healer?”

    Carol, looking somewhat startled, stared at him for a long moment. “That's … a very good question,” she admitted. “I'm going to go with 'yes'.”

    Danny nodded understandingly. “I'd go the extra mile for one of my guys, too. Shall we go in?”

    She tilted her head. “Let's do that.” As they walked toward the front of the building, she glanced at him. “How much has she told you about this meeting?”

    “Not much,” he said. “Why?”

    Her reply surprised the hell out of him. “So you don't know I'm supposed to be representing your daughter?”

    He stopped dead, right there in the parking lot. “You … what the hell? No, nobody thought to give me that little detail. How the hell did that come about? And who's picking up the tab?”

    She sighed. “My daughter is remarkably persuasive. Or maybe she just knew which buttons to press. After hearing about this Sophia Hess' actions, I … decided a little pro-bono work was in order. Also, I understand that my work colleague Alan Barnes will be weighing in on his daughter's side, so it's only fair that Taylor has competent representation as well.”

    The surprises just weren't stopping. “Wait … you work with Alan? He never told me that.”

    It was her turn to look startled. “You know him?” A moment later, her face cleared. “Oh, wait. Best friends.”

    “Well, yeah,” Danny said. “Our daughters were basically inseparable from first grade on up. We've known each other … wait, Emma's being bullied too?”

    She compressed her lips together. “It's my understanding that Alan's daughter is one of the ringleaders of the group.”

    Danny's brain refused to even try to parse that. “Errr … what?”

    “From what Victoria said, Emma Barnes used to be Taylor's best friend, but – in her words – turned around and stabbed her in the back.” Carol studied Danny's expression. “I gather that's news to you.”

    Danny felt rage building inside him. “No shit it's news to me! I've had drinks with that asshole, and he never said one word about any issues Emma had with Taylor!” The sound of a car engine, overlaid by screeching tyres, drew his attention; turning, he saw a familiar car entering the parking lot. “Excuse me a moment.” He started forward with intent.

    “Daniel! Stop!” He ignored her. “Stop, dammit!” He felt her grab his arm, even as Alan Barnes pulled into a nearby parking spot.

    “Stay out of this,” he snapped, as he pulled his arm out of her grip. “This is between me and him.”

    “No.” She took advantage of the momentary pause to step in front of him. “If you do anything rash now, Taylor will never get justice for what's been done to her.” Her words made him pause. “Before you say anything to him, stop and think. There's more at stake here than anything you've got against him. Trust me on this.”

    Carol Dallon didn't resemble Danny's memory of Anne-Rose very closely, but her words resonated with what his wife might have said, once upon a time. He stopped, clenching his fists. “I just hate it when people get away with shit like that.”

    “Yeah. Me, too.” Her look showed perfect sympathy. “Look, speak to him if you have to, but don't say or do anything stupid. If I shut you up, you stay shut up, okay?”

    “Okay.” The word came out from between gritted teeth, but Danny meant it. She's the expert. Better do what she says.

    “Danny! What the hell's going on?” It was Alan Barnes. “Carol? You're here too? What the hell? When they said you blew out of there, I thought for sure there was some superhero stuff going on.”

    Danny stalked over to him, trying not to clench his fists. “Alan. Emma called you, huh?”

    “Yeah. She said something about Taylor trying to get her in trouble. What the hell's going on? I thought they were friends. What's Taylor trying to pull?”

    The only thing that saved Danny from going back on his word was the look of honest confusion on Alan Barnes' face. “Taylor's trying to pull exactly nothing, Alan. Turns out that Emma's been the ringleader of the bullies that've been making her life hell for more than a year. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?”

    Alan stared at him, confusion and anger warring on his face. “Danny? What the hell? I thought we were friends! How can you say something like that?”

    “Because -” Danny began, before Carol nudged him. He stopped, turning to her. “What?”

    “Mr Hebert, I'm advising you to say nothing more until we're sitting down in the meeting,” Carol stated; despite his anger, Danny could not help but take note of the formal tone of her voice. “Mr Barnes, I will be representing Taylor Hebert and her father in this situation. Please address anything you have to say to me.”

    Alan stared at her. “ … Carol? What the hell?” Bafflement won out over everything else. “What are you talking about?”

    Her voice held pure satisfaction. “I'm talking about putting an end to a situation that should have been long since resolved.” Turning toward the school, she gestured to Danny. “We should be going in.”

    Danny followed; they hadn't even crossed half of the parking lot before Alan Barnes passed them, striding fast. He climbed the steps and disappeared inside. Danny turned to Carol. “Should we be keeping up?”

    She shook her head, not increasing her pace in the slightest. “No. Victoria knows her legalities. He won't catch her out in anything before we get there. And this gives us the chance to confer before the meeting. Is there anything that you do know about this?”

    He frowned, thinking about her words. “Well, now that you mention it, Taylor called me a little earlier. She wanted the number of this guy I know, who runs the local radio station.”

    She looked a little puzzled. “Radio station? How would that help?”

    Danny had been pondering that himself. “Well, if there's anything radio stations have, it would be recording gear. I'm wondering if they didn't simultaneously arrange an outside witness and a recording in a secure place.”

    Carol raised her eyebrows. “If they managed to pull that off, I would be very impressed. Any sort of corroborating evidence is extremely useful in a situation like this.” She climbed the stairs with Danny alongside her. “I presume you know the way to the principal's office?”

    “Yeah.” He tried to keep the sourness from his voice. “Though I wish I didn't.” He stopped, staring at the open doorway. “Whoa. What happened here?”

    She stepped forward, eyeing the shattered doors, lying in pieces on the floor. “I would say,” she decided in a judicious tone, “that Glory Girl came through here and didn't bother stopping to open the doors first.”

    Impressed, he blinked. “Damn. I hope she doesn't do the same at home?”

    “Thankfully, no.” She smiled faintly. “Although I will be having words with her regarding appropriate levels of collateral damage. Again.”

    “Again?” He looked at her curiously as he picked his way through the remains of the doors. “She's done this recently?”

    “Yesterday, in fact,” Carol said. “You may recall the robbery and cape fight at the Central Bank? She decided to go in through the window. And once she was inside, just for effect, she destroyed one of the desks.”

    Danny blinked again. If he recalled correctly, the Brockton Bay Central Bank had windows that didn't open, and the desks were built out of marble. “That's a really good trick.”

    “Indeed.” Her voice was dry. “Fortunately, New Wave isn't being billed for it. Unfortunately, I had to endure being spoken to by Director Piggot at length on the subject, an experience I would rather not repeat any time soon.”

    “Hmm.” He raised his eyebrows. “It rather puts other acts of teenage misjudgement into perspective, doesn't it?”

    Carol suddenly looked thoughtful. “That's an … interesting way to put it.”

    “Heh.” He gave her a half-grin. “I'm the single father of a teenage girl. 'Interesting' is not a word I'd rather have connected with her.”

    She gave him an appraising nod. “As a mother myself, I'm inclined to agree. As a superhero and the mother of same, I'm afraid that ship has long since sailed.”

    “Heh.” He tried to hold the chuckle in, but it was too late. “Well, I guess that's one thing I don't have to worry about with Taylor. Being a superhero and a celebrity, I mean.”

    She rolled her eyes. “Thank you so much for your sympathy.”

    Hiding a smile, he sketched a half-bow toward her. “You're welcome.”

    She snorted, but he thought he saw an answering smile anyway.

    <><>​

    Half an Hour Later

    Taylor squeezed her father's hand. She essayed a smile in his direction, but didn't make it too wide; her lip wasn't bleeding any more, but the nurse had told her to be careful with it until it healed. There was nothing to do for her top, and her father had come straight from work, so the huge bloodstain was still there. She had rinsed it out in the bathroom and Vicky had wrung it out so that it was nearly dry – that was an application for super-strength that she'd never thought of – so it wasn't clammy on her skin, but she was still going to throw it away as soon as she got home.

    Panacea – she still had trouble thinking of the frizzy-haired girl as Amy – was sitting to her left, with an aluminum splint on her nose. Glory Girl sat on her other side, with Carol Dallon – Brandish! - sitting to Glory Girl's right.

    Despite her powers, she was glad that she and her father had the heroes on her side. Especially Panacea, and the healer's odd passenger. Because across the table, both literally and figuratively, they had several times their number facing them. Front and centre were Emma, a groggy-looking Sophia, and Madison, flanked by their fathers. Or, in Sophia's case, a woman whom Taylor assumed was a social worker. Despite her unsteadiness, Sophia was alternating between glaring at Panacea and Taylor, while Emma looked bewildered, as if she were trying to figure out exactly where things had gone wrong. Madison just looked as though she wished everything would go away.

    Panacea tilted her head slightly. Taylor knew the signs; if she was right, the healer had just gotten a message from her 'passenger'. Panacea turned to her sister and began a whispering conversation, too low for Taylor to hear.

    “Ahem.” Principal Blackwell said the word instead of actually clearing her throat. “It seems that this is all who will be attending. Let's begin.”

    “Uh, before we do,” Glory Girl said. “I just need to have a word with Mom and Sophia's social worker in the hall. It'll only take a moment.” She flashed Blackwell a quick smile.

    The principal, on the other hand, frowned forbiddingly. “The time for a conference is past. And besides, Miss …?”

    “Bright,” the woman replied. She was blonde, with a heart-shaped face. From the attitude Sophia showed her, the girl didn't think much of her social worker. Miss Bright didn't seem to care one way or the other. “Ms Bright, actually.”

    “Bright, yes. Ms Bright is representing Sophia Hess, whom you are accusing of bullying practices. What possible use could this conference have?” If Principal Blackwell frowned any harder, Taylor thought her face just might crack.

    Brandish turned to Glory Girl. “Is it important?”

    “Yeah. Definitely. It's something that needs to be talked over in private.” She shot a glare at Sophia. “You don't want this being aired publicly.”

    A subtle change went over both Sophia and her social worker at that point, and Taylor thought she knew what it was. Sophia Hess is Shadow Stalker. She already knew that part. Whatever Glory Girl wants to talk about has to do with her cape identity. Another puzzle piece slotted into place. Panacea told her to talk about it. But Panacea hasn't spoken to anyone. She must've gotten it from Security.

    Brandish had obviously received the same subtle hint that Taylor had picked up on. “I think it might be a good idea to see what's going on here.” She rose. “Ms Bright, if you can join us outside, please? Will this take long, Victoria?”

    “What's going on here?” Alan Barnes didn't look any more thrilled than Sophia did. “If you think you can coerce or intimidate her -”

    “Oh, be quiet, Alan,” Brandish snapped. “I have no more idea of what this is about than you do. But Glory Girl thinks it's important, so we're going to do it.” She moved to the door. Glory Girl got up and followed her, with a reluctant-looking Ms Bright bringing up the rear.

    The door closed behind them, and silence descended once more on the room. Principal Blackwell began a quiet conversation with Taylor's teachers; while she was tempted to guide insects over to listen in, she still had a lot of trouble understanding human voices when heard by bug ears.

    “Taylor …” That was Alan Barnes. “I don't even know what this is about. Surely we can settle all this quietly? Whatever you think Emma's done, or she thinks you've done, an apology should deal with it, right?”

    Her father snorted. “I told you what this was about in the parking lot, Alan. Emma's been tormenting Taylor for more than a year. This is more than 'apology' territory.”

    Alan's eyes narrowed. “That's a serious allegation, Danny. I hope you've got more proof than her unsupported word.”

    Panacea cleared her throat hastily. “Mr Hebert, don't say anything until Brandish comes back.” Her voice was still a little nasal.

    Taylor squeezed his hand again. “She's right, Dad. Mrs Dallon is helping us out. Don't ignore her help.”

    Her father pressed his lips together, and nodded once. “I'm going to wait for Brandish to return before we address that,” he stated flatly.

    From outside the door came Ms Bright's raised voice. “You what?”

    All heads turned toward the door; a moment later, it opened. Glory Girl leaned in and beckoned. “Ames. Need you out here a second.”

    Panacea nodded and got up. She turned toward Taylor and her father. “Remember. Not a word.” With that warning, she headed for the door and stepped outside, closing it behind her.

    Nobody spoke after that; Taylor was pretty sure that everyone – including her – was trying hard to hear what was being said. Even with bugs on site, all she could really hear was a low mumble of voices, punctuated at one point by Ms Bright once more. “How do you know that?”

    However, following that tantalising tidbit, the door opened again and they filed back to their seats. Ms Bright was looking beaten-down, as if she had just heard bad news. Panacea and Brandish looked a little brighter than before, and Glory Girl was positively radiating smugness. Brandish leaned forward a little, and gestured toward Principal Blackwell. “We can begin now.”

    “As I was saying,” Alan Barnes interjected, before Blackwell could even speak, “Miss Hebert has accused my daughter Emma of tormenting her for more than a year. That's a serious allegation. I'd like to see some proof.” Taylor noted that he hadn't used her name. Lawyer tricks. Asshole.

    “Before we get carried away here, Alan,” Brandish stated smoothly, “this is not a courtroom. You can refer to Taylor by her given name. Also, we're not working with 'beyond reasonable doubt' here. Any evidence is serious enough to work with.” She turned to Taylor. “You do have evidence.” Her tone indicated that she strongly hoped Taylor had evidence.

    “Yeah. I got evidence.” Taylor reached into her backpack, which had resided between her knees all this time, and hauled out the stack of papers she had been painstakingly adding to since September. Lifting it into the air slightly, she let it smack down on to the table. It made a respectable thump.

    Brandish's eyebrows ratcheted upward at the thickness of the stack. “That's all … incidents?”

    “Some.” Taylor sorted through the papers and pulled some off the top. “Hate mail from my school inbox.” She flicked a glance toward the head of the table. “Principal Blackwell knows about these already.” From the look on Principal Blackwell's face, the woman wished that Taylor had forgotten to mention them. Fat chance.

    Brandish took out a pair of glasses and put them on, then took the smaller stack and riffled through it. “Die in a fire … eat glass and die horribly … I hope someone shoves a broken bottle up your – good God.” Lifting her gaze, she stared directly at Blackwell. “Ms Blackwell, this right here is evidence for an ongoing malicious campaign to drive Taylor here into depression and maybe suicide. I've seen more happen from less.”

    “Be that as it may, you can't prove that any of the girls here sent those mails,” Alan Barnes interjected. “Isn't that right, Principal Blackwell?”

    “Wait,” Taylor said. “I highlighted the ones that were sent during school hours.”

    Blackwell looked sideways at Mrs Knott. “Gladys? Your opinion?”

    Mrs Knott looked unhappy about being put on the spot. “If … if the girls left their computers logged in, someone else could have sent the messages with their usernames.”

    “They could have, yes,” murmured Brandish. “I'd be interested in seeing what a cross-reference of the exact times each one of these mails was sent with the class times of each of these girls would bring up.” She raised an eyebrow at the surprised look on Blackwell's face. “And you hadn't thought of having someone do that? For shame. That's a lawsuit right there. Total negligence and lack of care for one of your students. And let's see what we've got here. Taylor?”

    “Here.” Taylor handed over the thicker stack. “That's since last September. I only started noting it down then.”

    Brandish took the top sheet off the stack. “Let's see now. September eight. 'Six vicious emails, Sophia pushed me down stairs when I was near bottom, making me drop books, tripped and shoved me three times during gym, threw my clothes at me while I was in shower after gym, got them wet. Had to wear gym clothes for rest of morning. In bio -'” She paused. “I presume this is biology class?”

    Taylor nodded. “Sorry about the abbreviations. I wanted to save space.”

    “Understood.” She adjusted her glasses. “Hmm. 'In biology class, Madison used every excuse to use pencil sharpener or talk to teacher, each time she passed desk, she pushed everything on floor. Third time, I covered stuff, so on fourth trip, she dumped pencil shavings on my head and desk. All three cornered me after school -'” Again, she paused. “'All three' being … ?”

    “Those three.” Taylor pointed. “Emma, Sophia, Madison.”

    “Hey!” Emma looked upset. “She can't just accuse us -”

    “Yes, she actually can.” Brandish gave her a severe look. “This is what's called a reckoning, young lady. And it appears long overdue in your case.”

    “Carol, you're my colleague …” began Alan Barnes.

    “Shut up, Alan,” she interrupted. “I'm looking over evidence here. Right. 'All three' being Emma, Sophia and Madison. Let me see … 'All three cornered me after school, took backpack, threw it in garbage.'” She stared at Taylor, then at the sheet of paper. “How many of these are there?”

    Taylor took a deep breath. “About one for every day since then. That got me more hate mail too. Principal Blackwell knows how many times I've had to change my inbox.”

    “Hmm.” Brandish looked at the next entry. “September ninth -”

    “Wait, wait -” said Blackwell hastily. “Do you have to read every single one? We'll be here all night.”

    “You do realise, in a real court case, we would actually have to read every single one of these out in front of the magistrate or the jury?” Brandish asked sweetly. “How would your school look at the end of that? Let me give you a hint. Not good. However, I'm willing to accept your acknowledgement that Taylor's bullying has been overlooked to an unconscionable degree.” Her smile showed teeth. “That's code for 'get out your checkbook and brace yourselves, because this payout's going to draw blood'. Just saying.”

    Blackwell didn't look happy. She looked even less happy when Taylor's father cleared his throat. Brandish looked his way. “Yes, Mr Hebert?”

    He squared his shoulders. “There was an incident at the beginning of the year -”

    “That was settled!” snapped Blackwell. “You signed papers!”

    “I was under duress!” Taylor's father shot back. “Taylor needed urgent medical care, and your shysters were holding a lawsuit over my head for her attacking the people who let her out of the locker!”

    Brandish cleared her throat, quieting the room. “I'd like very much to see those papers, if I may. Also, a complete explanation of the incident you're referring to would be appreciated.”

    Taylor caught her eye. “I can do it in thirty seconds or less.” When Brandish nodded, she went on, ticking points off on her fingers. “Before Christmas, someone filled my locker with feminine hygiene products. Come January, I got locked in there for an hour. I spent a week in the mental ward.” She hated to even think about it, but the way Brandish was talking, she wanted to pull the whole school down around Blackwell's ears, and Taylor wasn't against the idea.

    “What the hell?” burst out Glory Girl. “I've seen those lockers. How did you even fit in one?”

    “It took a pretty hard shove,” Taylor replied, glaring at Sophia. The dark-skinned girl glowered back, but kept her mouth shut.

    “Now, now,” Blackwell said hastily. “There's no proving who put you in there, and the girls are already going to be punished for standing by and letting it happen.”

    “That's as may be,” Brandish noted, “but seriously? An hour? How the hell does that even fly? I really, really want to see those papers you coerced Mr Hebert into signing. And if I don't see them, I might just start a class action against the whole school on their behalf. Because the settlement is going to be insane.”

    Principal Blackwell was looking sicker by the moment. “I'll get them to you as soon as possible,” she mumbled.

    “Good.” Brandish turned her gaze to the girls across the table. “Now for you.”

    “Carol.” Alan Barnes leaned forward. “I've tolerated this far enough. You've got your pound of flesh. There's no actual proof that any of these girls are directly to blame for tormenting Taylor, just the written word and some pretty shaky circumstantial evidence. We can get up and walk away now.”

    Carol shook her head. “Oh, Alan. I've only just gotten started.” She looked at Panacea. “Who attacked you and Taylor?”

    “Sophia Hess.” Panacea pointed across the table. “She punched Taylor and knocked her down. When she was on top of Taylor, punching her, I tried to pull her off. She punched me then and broke my nose, so I defended myself with my powers and made her go to sleep.”

    Sophia nearly came out of her seat, but Ms Bright's hand on her shoulder stopped her.

    Brandish turned to Taylor. “Is this true?”

    Taylor nodded, touching her split lip. “Yes. She punched me and knocked me down. The nurse examined me and said I had fractured ribs. That's where Sophia landed on me with her knees.”

    Brandish looked at Principal Blackwell. “I understand you said Taylor would be safe in school. Yet despite Panacea's attendance, she was attacked and brutally beaten by one of your star athletes? How did you ever let this get so far, that the Hess girl felt confident in doing this?”

    “Oh, it wasn't just her,” Panacea said. “Every one of these girls was there. Nobody tried to stop her.”

    “I tried to stop her!” Emma burst out. Then, as if realising what she'd just said, she ducked her head. “I mean, I would have if I was there,” she added.

    “Which is it?” asked Brandish. “Were you there, or not?”

    Alan Barnes leaned in and murmured something; his voice was quiet, but Taylor was pretty sure he was advising her to say no.

    She was hardly surprised when Emma raised her chin, looked Brandish in the eye and stated firmly, “I wasn't there. Wherever 'there' was.”

    “I can prove they were there,” Panacea stated equally boldly. “Including Emma.”

    “I hope this is a proof that we can all share in,” Alan Barnes observed. “Saying 'my powers say so' isn't actually applicable in a court of law yet.”

    Panacea smiled. She pulled her phone out and selected a number. Sophia tensed, glaring at Panacea as though her gaze alone could prevent the healer from pushing that last button. With a tap of the 'speaker' icon, she placed the phone on the table in front of her.

    Hey, girlie.” The voice that came out of the speaker was the same pack-a-day rasp as Taylor recalled. “Was wonderin' when you were gonna call.”

    Alan Barnes frowned. “Who is that? I know that voice.”

    Yeah, an' I know you too, Barnes. You still cheatin' honest workin' men outta their life savings?” The voice coughed, then went on. “Hah! If I'd known it was your girl on the tape, I woulda done it for free. Well, if I wasn't doin' it for free anyway.”

    Taylor's father straightened up in his seat, and he smiled. “Joe, you old miscreant. I've been meaning to catch up. I'm guessing you did a little recording job for Taylor? Thanks for that, by the way.”

    Hah! Danny Hebert. Good to hear from you, stringbean. Got it in one. You're gonna owe me a drink over this.”

    “And that's a debt I'm willing to pay any time,” Taylor's dad agreed. “But right now, you've got us all very curious about the contents of the recording you made.”

    “Wait!” Alan Barnes held up his hand, palm out. “Recordings made without the consent of the person being recorded are inadmissible in court.”

    “And for the tenth time, Alan, this isn't a courtroom.” Carol leaned forward, her eyes glittering over the tops of her glasses. “Rules of evidence don't apply here. Sit down, shut up, and listen. Or I will by God carve your new sports car into two-foot cubes and claim it as supervillain damage.”

    Shocked, the red-headed man sat back in his chair. Carol turned back to the phone. “Sorry about that. Kindly proceed.”

    Dang, lady, you got a temper on you. I like it.” Joe paused. “Wait. Am I talking to Brandish?”

    “You are,” she confirmed. “I'm impressed. I don't think we've ever met.”

    Sure we have. You took out some radio ads back when you were just kickin' off New Wave. I never forget a voice. Or a smokin' hot blonde, but that's another thing altogether. Anyway. The recording. I cleaned it up pretty good, if I do say so myself. Figure the cops could even get voiceprints off it if they felt like it.” He cleared his throat. “Okay, here goes.”

    There were some clicks on the line. Brandish sat back, looking somewhat taken aback. Taylor thought she heard a snicker from Vicky. The noise from the phone cut dead air to her own voice. “Sophia. Why can't you leave me alone? I just want to get to class.”

    Sophia's voice cut in then, so sharp and alive that everyone in the room glanced at the dark-skinned girl. “Are you telling me what to do, cunt? Are you giving me orders?”

    As the recording rolled on, every syllable crystal-clear, everyone listened. All around the room, expressions darkened at each insult. Even the huff of breath as Sophia punched Taylor in the stomach came through clearly.

    Finally, Panacea's voice came through clearly. “So, did you get all that?”

    With a click, the recording ended, then Joe came on the line. “That what you needed?”

    “That's exactly what we needed, uh, Joe,” said Carol. “Thank you very much for your time.”

    Hey, my pleasure. Remind Danny that he owes me a beer, and if you wanna buy more airtime, feel free to drop in any time. Bye, now.” The phone went dead.

    “Well, then.” Taylor's father looked directly at Principal Blackwell. “It does seem that Taylor's being bullied by these girls, doesn't it?” The satisfaction in his voice was bone-deep. She hadn't seen him looking so grimly pleased in a very long time.

    “Wait.” Alan Barnes looked like a drowning man scrabbling for a lifeline. “That sounded like a setup. Like you walked up to them and invited them to talk to you like that. There could be a case made for entrapment.”

    Carol Dallon rolled her eyes. “Oh, for God's sake, Alan. This is not a courtroom. We all heard your daughter on that recording insulting Taylor and saying that she's outgrown her.”

    “You also recorded her and the others without their permission,” Alan said flatly. “That's something we could sue over.”

    “You could,” Carol agreed. “But your daughter, on that recording, also explicitly threatens Taylor with frivolous litigation. In fact, she references you while making that threat. All I'd have to do is play this to any judge in private, and your lawsuit would be gone, and you may very well find yourself answering to the Bar. Now, unless you want a lawsuit directed specifically at your daughter for damages, shut the hell up. The adults are talking.”

    Paler than normal, Alan Barnes sat back again. Principal Blackwell cleared her throat hesitantly. “So … I presume you have suggestions.”

    “Yes.” Panacea's voice was flat. “You start proceedings to have Taylor transferred to Arcadia.” Blackwell began to protest, but Panacea just talked over her. “I don't give a crap about red tape. Pull every string you've got and get it done. Taylor Hebert is specifically and manifestly not safe in this hellhole you laughably call an institute of higher education. This is not a request. This is not a suggestion. You will do it, or I'm pretty sure the lawsuit my mother will bring to bear will bankrupt both the school and you personally.”

    Taylor stared at Panacea, and she wasn't the only one. Glory Girl was regarding her sister with an odd expression on her face. All of a sudden, she realised what was going on. Panacea wasn't the one who was speaking.

    “ … I'll see what I can do,” Blackwell conceded. “Was there anything else?”

    “Yes.” Panacea pointed at the girls. “All of the girls except Sophia Hess will undergo in-school suspension for the rest of the school year.”

    “What?” blurted Madison. “Why doesn't she get punished?”

    “Because she's under arrest at this moment.” Carol Dallon took over, sounding very pleased. “She'll be handed over to the proper authorities and charged. Two counts of assault and battery, plus one of grievous bodily harm. We'll be looking into more charges as they come up.”

    “What?” Sophia spat the word out, then turned to her social worker. “They can't do that! Tell them!”

    Ms Bright shook her head. “It's out of my hands. You're best off submitting to arrest.”

    “Yeah,” Panacea put in. “You need to get it through your head, Sophia. We were on to you the moment you walked through the doors this morning. Everything you thought you were going to do, we knew ahead of time. Every move you made, we were two steps ahead.” She paused to let it settle in. “You lose.”

    With a scream of inarticulate rage, Sophia launched herself across the table at the teenage healer. Taylor braced herself to watch the track star being brought low again. Not very much to her surprise, before Sophia quite reached Panacea, there was a blur in the air and a loud crack. Sophia spun around and fell awkwardly off the table, landing in a pile on the floor. Teeth and speckles of blood decorated the table in front of Taylor, almost all the way up to where Blackwell sat. Taylor looked around to see Glory Girl still poised in mid-air over the table, shielding Panacea with her body, fist extended.

    “And that,” remarked Glory Girl, “is why you don't punch my sister. Bitch.”

    Panacea stood up. “Thanks, sis,” she said with a smile. “I appreciate it.”

    “Hey, what are sisters for?” replied Glory Girl with an answering grin.

    Panacea just grinned back, and strolled around to where Sophia lay on the ground. Leaning down, she touched the girl's cheek. “Nice punch,” she reported. “You broke her cheekbone and jaw, and knocked twelve teeth out. But she'll live. And eat solid food. Eventually.” Straightening up again, she stretched. “Well, I think we're about done here.”

    Alan Barnes stared at her. “Aren't you going to heal her?”

    Panacea snorted, then winced. “She busted my nose. Why should I? Let her heal the old-fashioned way.” Whistling a tune that Taylor didn't recognise, she strolled toward the door. “Coming, Taylor? I understand the Boardwalk's great, this time of day.”

    Taylor felt a huge smile spreading across her face. “Am I.” Halfway to her feet, she turned to her father. “Can I go, Dad?”

    He looked at her, then shrugged and smiled. “Why not? I think you've earned it.”

    “You're the best.” Giving him a quick hug, she headed for the door.

    “Cool,” Glory Girl said. “I'm coming too.”

    Carol shook her head. “No, you're not. You and I are going to talk about the correct way of opening doors, young lady.”

    “Wait,” said Blackwell. “What do you mean -”

    The door closed behind them. Taylor didn't care any more. There would be more problems to face, but right now she didn't have a care in the world.

    Side by side with Panacea – Amy – she headed out of Winslow. Hopefully for the last time.

    And good fucking riddance.



    End of Part Twenty

    Part Twenty-One
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
    trxs300, Norbii, Dacraun and 42 others like this.
  13. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Justice served, finally. Alan really should have considered that there's another court - the one of public opinion.
     
  14. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    Awesome PanPan is awesome.
     
    bearblue, Prince Charon and Ack like this.
  15. Zackarix

    Zackarix ...

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    Alan is really grasping at straws here. Sure, they might be able to make a case for it, but as a lawyer he should know it would never hold up in court. Entrapment is when the police corrupt you into committing a crime that you would not have committed otherwise. Being tricked into confessing your crimes doesn't even come close.

    I really love Carol here. Regardless of any family drama they might have she's still willing to help Amy when the chips are down. I hope that they're able to improve their relationship.
     
  16. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    There's also the question of how the partners at his law firm will feel about this. I tend to assume they value Carol more than Alan, even ignoring that Alan is the one who's a problem.

    To be fair, he's a divorce lawyer, on top of being a concerned father who's been utterly blindsided by just how badly his little girl and her friends fucked up.
     
  17. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost Muted

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    And how badly fucked up they are, as well.
     
  18. Threadmarks: Part Twenty-One: Just in Time
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    I, Panacea

    Part Twenty-One: Just in Time

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



    Taylor

    “Okay, so spill.”

    Amy looked around with an expression so innocent that Taylor was almost taken in. She had one hell of a poker face, but then, a superhero who didn't go masked would almost have to. “Spill what?” she asked.

    Taylor gave Amy a decidedly unimpressed look. “You know what I'm talking about. What did you say to that woman to make her throw Sophia to the wolves like that?”

    “Oh, that.” Amy stopped and hitched her butt up on to the low wall that ran down alongside the stairs. “Turns out she's Sophia's handler. And she's the one who was supposed to be keeping Sophia in check, and reporting stuff up the line if she acted out.”

    Taylor blinked as a few things became clear to her. “And she wasn't doing her job.”

    Amy snorted, then winced. “Ow. No, she wasn't. In a word, she was phoning it in. Any time Sophia pushed the boundaries, she pressured Blackwell into going easier on her, and soft-pedalled any incidents in her reports up the chain. She wanted to keep her nice cushy job, so she let Sophia pull her shit and get away with it.”

    “Okay.” Taylor sat on the wall alongside Amy. “So how did … how did he know about it? Because he told you, right?”

    “Yeah,” agreed Amy. “As for how he knew it, how does he know anything?” She shot Taylor a grin. “But it worked.”

    Taylor nodded. “And holy shit, that punch. You set her up for that deliberately, didn't you?”

    This time, the innocent expression on Amy's face needed work. “Well, someone was maybe feeding me that line. Someone who knew exactly which buttons to push and how hard.”

    For a moment Taylor wondered if she should feel sorry for Sophia; she hadn't really had a chance, with Security pulling her strings like a master puppetteer. After all, having a dozen teeth knocked out and her jaw broken like that was going to stay with the girl for months. And with Amy refusing to heal her, her face would never be quite the same again.

    Then she considered the other side of the matter; Sophia was supposed to be a superhero, but she'd tormented Taylor for months for her own gratification. Screw her, and screw her teeth. It was a win, and she'd take it. “Well, it was worth every second,” she replied with satisfaction. “Just knowing it was coming, even while Emma was talking at me and Sophia was beating on me, was worth it.” She gave Amy a sideways glance. “Does Vicky like chocolates? Or fruit baskets? I feel like I want to do something nice for her.”

    Amy laughed out loud as she slid off the wall and kept going down the steps. “Sure. I'll give you a list of her preferences. Come on, I don't want to miss the bus when it comes.”

    Obediently, Taylor followed her. It was only when they were crossing the parking lot to the bus stop that she noticed the blood staining the front of Amy's shirt, and remembered the state of her own clothing. “Wow,” she commented. “The bus driver's gonna think we're axe murderers or something. He'll probably drive right by.”

    “Nah,” Amy replied without a pause. “We're at Winslow, right? He won't even notice.”

    Which, while it held more truth than Taylor really wanted to admit, still raised a chuckle. “Be quiet, you,” she retorted, elbowing Amy playfully in the ribs. “Winslow isn't that bad.”

    “Really?” Amy was good at deadpan snarking; who knew? “How many gangs attend, again? Let's see ...” She began ostentatiously counting on her fingers. “Empire Eighty-Eight … Azn Bad Boyz … Merchants … oh, and the Undersiders.”

    “Hey, it's not like I'm recruiting!” Taylor protested, feeling that Amy was going a bit far. “Or tagging. Or picking fights with …” She trailed off, recalling the incident that had just occurred. “That doesn't count. You can't call the Wards a gang.”

    Amy made a rude noise with her lips. “If Sophia was a typical example, we totally could, and you know it.” A thoughtful look crossed her face. “Actually, you know, if we counted Sophia as the leader, and the others as her minions, we could definitely class it as a gang.”

    She had a distinct point. “So I guess that makes five cape gangs in the one school,” Taylor said with a kind of resigned amusement. “Is that some kind of record?”

    “I'd have to ask Carol, but you know? I think it might.” Amy chuckled and shook her head, then her eyes glazed over. “Wait a second, he's talking to me.”

    “Sure.” Taylor waited to see what happened next.

    Nothing did for a few seconds, then Amy acquired an irritated expression. “Okay, fine,” she muttered. “I would've gotten around to it sooner or later. I've been busy, you know.” She focused on Taylor, her voice going back to its normal tone. “He thinks he knows everything. It's very annoying.”

    “Everything, as in …?” Taylor ventured.

    “As in these bloodstains will come right out if I release the right micro-organisms into the cloth,” Amy said, licking her finger then running it over the discoloured area on her shirt. In the wake of the motion, the reddish stain faded almost to nothing. “I would've gotten around to it eventually.”

    “Oh. Right.” Taylor recalled how Amy had done much the same with juice stains on her art project, earlier. “Yeah. Wow. Your powers rock.”

    “You mispronounced 'suck' there.” Amy licked her finger again and held it out. “Want me to fix yours?”

    “Sure, go ahead.” Taylor hooked her thumbs in the collar of her shirt and held it out from her neck slightly to give Amy a steadier surface to work on. “And your powers do not suck. They're all kinds of awesome. All I do is control bugs; you make bugs that I never would've even imagined.”

    Amy chuckled darkly. “I never would've imagined most of them either, except that a certain someone suggested them to me.” She set to work erasing the bloodstain from Taylor's shirt. “Oh, he says I would've come up with them on my own, but I have my doubts. And … done.”

    Taylor let her shirt fall back into position, then peered downward in an attempt to examine the result. “Looks good. You could put any dry-cleaner out of business.”

    “Hell with that.” Amy rolled her eyes dramatically. “Do I look like I want to spend all day, every day, running my hands over other peoples' clothing? I'd like a life, thanks.” She looked up the street. “That looks like the bus now.”

    “That's the one, all right.” Straightening her hoodie, Taylor led the way to the bus stop. “Well, at least we don't look like murder victims now. Or perpetrators, for that matter.” She grinned at the expression on Amy's face, then flinched slightly as the motion pulled on her split lip. “Ow. I shouldn't do that. Well, we did kinda look like we'd been in a life and death struggle.”

    “Struggle, yes. Life and death, no.” Amy was about to say more, but then her phone rang. “Gimme a second to get this. Probably Mom telling me I should go to school. Gonna tell her you need moral support.”

    “Sure, go ahead.” Taylor leaned back against one corner of the bus stop, arms folded in front of her. Amy had dealt with the fractured ribs but left the external signs of Sophia's attack untouched. Although the injuries had been documented, she wanted to be able to prove it had happened first-hand, if necessary.

    Pulling out her phone, Amy frowned when she saw the screen, but tapped the icon to answer it anyway. “Uh, hello? Who is this?” That didn't sound like it was Carol Dallon or Glory Girl; Taylor was certain Amy would know their numbers on sight, even if she didn't have said numbers stored in her phone. Which she almost certainly did. “Oh … Lisa? Why are you calling me? How did you get this number? Right, okay, yeah.”

    Although her brain was alight with curiosity, Taylor pulled her attention from the phone call to where the bus was just now pulling up at the stop. Taking out her bus pass, she waited till the doors opened then showed it to the driver. He responded with a grunt and a jerk of his head. Looking to her side, Taylor saw that Amy already had a pass of her own out, which she showed to the driver even as she kept talking on the phone. Assured that the biokinetic wouldn't be left behind, Taylor climbed on board. Wanting to be as far away from the driver as possible so they could talk in private, she went all the way to the back.

    At this time of the day, there weren't many people on the bus; Taylor guessed that everyone who was going to school or work had already gotten there. Thus, the back row of seats was empty. Taylor colonised one end of it, and waited for the other girl to sit down.

    The bus started with a jerk just as she did, and she flopped into the seat with a slight 'oof'. “Yeah, okay,” she said into the phone. “I'll get back to you on that one.” Hanging up the call, she turned to Taylor. “Well, there's a potential problem.”

    Taylor frowned. “If Lisa thinks something's a problem, it probably is. What's the situation?” She took the time to settle bugs on each of the other people on the bus; while she didn't think they could overhear the conversation, there was no sense in taking chances.

    The grimace from Amy told her that there was definitely a problem. “Remember Bakuda, and how Alexandria was gonna take her down? Turns out that didn't go as planned. Lisa and the others heard something about Bakuda being out and about this morning, so they went after her and stopped her. She's in Protectorate hands now, undergoing interrogation. Talking about what happened to Alexandria.”

    “Oh, shit.” Taylor got what she was talking about immediately. “Bakuda killed her?” A chill ran down her spine. “This could be bad. Very bad indeed.”

    “No, she just put her away for a very long time.” Amy didn't sound any happier. “Lisa says that she's hacked the interrogation records, because apparently that's a thing with her. Bakuda told them she hit Alexandria with a bomb that locked her into a bubble of frozen time. So she's probably still alive. Technically, anyway.”

    Being trapped in a bubble of frozen time sounded pretty definite to Taylor. “Technically? How do you rescue someone from something like that, anyway?”

    Amy grinned. “Michael says there's five ways he can think of, off the top of his head. Two are implausible, but the other three have a good chance of working. So he says, anyway.” She shook her head. “And I have no idea where he gets his information from. Apart from saying he's read the cheat sheet. And that he's an extradimensional being.” She rolled her eyes. “Because that's so informative.”

    “Well, he may be an irritating extradimensional being, but he's on our side at least, so that's something,” Taylor offered. “So what are the three workable ways?” She decided not to ask about the implausible methods; if Security didn't think they'd work, then she'd take his word for it. In any case, she was only asking from curiosity; the woman called Contessa, she felt sure, was probably already using one of the ways.

    Amy laughed out loud. “He says he resembles that remark. Okay, the first way is … okay, convincing L33t to build a device to counter the field. Probably by stealing his favourite gaming handset and embedding it in the field first.” She looked extremely dubious. “That's not something I want to try.”

    “Yeah, nope.” Taylor didn't know much about L33t, except that he was a villain who did video game themed crimes with his partner Uber. Apparently, his tech had a reputation for being phenomenally unreliable. “Pass on that one. What's the second one?”

    Amy's eyebrows rose. “Going to Boston and getting into contact with Accord,” she said. “Um. Wow. Apparently he's got a minion … an Ambassador … called Citrine who can tell the field effect to … just go away?” She threw up her hands. “How did he know that? I didn't know that!”

    Taylor snickered. “I guess it's a thing? From what I've seen, he likes to pull that crap. But just between you and me, I can't see Accord going along with this, not without a lot of money up front. Unless Michael's got a way around that, too?” She eyed Amy expectantly, wondering if the mysterious 'Security' did indeed have a rabbit to pull out of that hat.

    “Not offhand,” admitted Amy. “He thinks Accord could maybe be persuaded if … oh, wow.” She blinked. “Holy crap, I didn't even think that was possible.” A shake of her head. “Holy crap, is he missing a trick.”

    “Amy? Earth Bet to Amy?” Taylor waved her hand in the general direction of Amy's eyes. “You're having half a conversation here, and I'm not the other half. Mind unpacking what you're talking about?”

    “Oh. Yeah. Sorry.” Amy grimaced. “Michael was just telling me that we could possibly persuade Accord to get Citrine to release Alexandria if we also reminded him that there's potentially a large amount of money to be had in saving all the victims of Grey Boy. Also, public goodwill. With that, he might be able to get his plan looked at seriously by the authorities.”

    Now Taylor was totally lost. “Plan? What plan?” She felt as though she'd opened a book halfway through, and was having to leaf back to find out what certain references meant. “And if it's a plan by Accord, why do we even want to support it?”

    “Because apparently it's a plan to end world hunger, the energy crisis, and half a dozen other things,” Amy said in a matter-of-fact tone. “He's been improving on it for years. In fact, it's why he became a villain in the first place, to finance it. But now nobody wants to look at it.” She shrugged. “Because like you said, it's a plan put together by a villain.”

    The irony was not lost on Taylor. “Wow. Ouch. Okay, uh, let's call that plan B for the moment. I'm not even sure I can afford a trip to Boston right now, let alone get in to see Accord.” She was not as shocked as she might've been at the news that there was an actual plan to save the world (for given definitions of 'save' and 'world') already in existence. The fact that it had been drawn up by a villain only reinforced her view that the world wasn't quite sane. “Okay, what's the third option?”

    Amy grinned. “I think you're gonna like this one.”

    <><>​

    Amy

    You want me to get into contact with who again now?” Lisa's voice wasn't quite disbelieving, but she didn't sound as though she knew where this was going.

    Amy could sympathise; ever since the bank, her life had been like that. “You heard me,” she said cheerfully. “Also, at some point, I'm gonna need you to put me through to Accord.” The silence at the other end of the phone was music to her ears. It was hugely amusing to be able to pass on the confusion to someone else, once in a while.

    You know it's irritating as fuck when you do this, right?” Lisa's tone was aggravated, but Amy was reasonably sure she'd do as she was asked anyway, if only to find out what was going on. “That guy in your head put you up to this, didn't he?”

    Amy grinned. “Pretty sure you don't want me to answer that one either. Oh, and he says you whine even more than the last version of you he met.” She had no idea what that even meant. However, yanking Lisa's chain had turned out to be quite rewarding as a form of stress release.

    Of course, the stress release only went one way. “Fuck—fuuuuuck! Okay, fine, I'll call them. Where's the bus dropping you off?” Lisa sounded as though she regretted the whole situation. Even so, Amy got the impression that she'd see it through anyway.

    She can't resist a secret. Michael's comment sounded quite amused.

    Looks like it. Amy's smirk was both internal and external.

    “We'll be getting off at the Boardwalk,” she said out loud. “Near that kiosk that sells hot fresh donuts.” It was kind of her guilty secret. She didn't indulge much, but she did enjoy them a great deal when she had them.

    Got it. We'll swing by and pick you up just as soon as I can get Brian to move his sorry ass.” In the background of the call there was a deep-voiced 'Hey!' which sounded to Amy like the aforementioned Brian.

    “Sure, see you then.” Amy ended the call and put her phone away. “That was kind of fun.” She wondered if Lisa had ever had the tables turned on her like that before encountering Amy's mysterious—and somewhat smartass—passenger. It didn't seem likely, or she'd be more used to it.

    “It sounded kind of mean,” Taylor ventured. “But she does that a lot to other people so fair's fair, I suppose.” She frowned. “What do you think he meant by the 'last version' of Lisa?”

    Amy shook her head. “I could ask, but I'm not at all certain that I'm ready for the answer.”

    You could probably handle it okay, commented Michael. But I'm not gonna tell you till you ask. Let's just say, it'd require a certain level of suspension of disbelief on your part. He seemed to be amused by his own phrasing, though Amy couldn't figure out why.

    I'll take your word for it, she told him silently. Though I'm guessing it's got something to do with the comments you dropped about 'the last time you did this'. Am I getting warm?

    Any warmer and you'd have third-degree burns, he confirmed.

    “So, did he explain what he meant?” asked Taylor, apparently misinterpreting Amy's introspective silence. “Or did he tell you to mind your own business?”

    “Neither, actually.” Amy hesitated for a moment. “There's stuff going on that's deeper than either of us knows about. But I'm going to leave it alone for the time being.”

    “Sure, okay.” Taylor shrugged and leaned back against the seat. “Think we'll have time for donuts before they pick us up?”

    Amy rolled her eyes. “Here we are, going to rescue Alexandria from an inescapable prison, and you're more interested in donuts?”

    “What?” Taylor spread her hands. “So I've got priorities. Sue me.”

    Amy could only shake her head. In the back of her mind, Michael chuckled.

    <><>​

    Boardwalk

    “Good, huh?” Taylor's voice was amused. Amy couldn't see her face, as she had her eyes closed. This was because she was inhaling a freshly-made donut, and it demanded her absolute concentration. It was as good as Amy had remembered, and she was determined to savour the experience.

    Not that Taylor had any room to criticise; as far as Amy could tell, she was enjoying her own donuts, sprinkled with sugar, almost as much. It was a pleasant day on the Boardwalk, and Amy could think of far worse things to do than sit on a bench and enjoy a treat with a friend. It was still a little odd to think of Taylor in that regard, especially given the outcome of their first meeting. However, between Michael's prompting and her first-hand experience with the girl, she had come to see the tall brunette in that light.

    “Mmm,” she replied. “This was a really good idea I had.” If she were president, she decided, freshly-made donuts would have their own national holiday.

    Your idea?” Taylor snorted. “I was the one who had to talk you into it. Something about rescuing Alexandria and priorities?” Her amused tone belied her words.

    “Oh, please,” Amy retorted, although she was fully aware that Taylor was correct. “I—”

    “They're here,” Taylor interrupted. “Just coming down Lord Street now.”

    Amy opened her eyes and sat up. “But I haven't finished my donuts,” she complained, clutching the paper bag protectively. “And I can't ride a dog and carry them at the same time.”

    “They're not on dogs,” Taylor pointed out. “They're in a car. Well, Brian and Lisa are anyway. Probably going to meet Rachel and Alec on the way. That'll be where the dogs are.” She pointed down the street, at a nondescript car that was just pulling into a parking space.

    “How did you even know—” began Amy, then cut herself off. She slapped herself lightly on the forehead with her free hand before Michael could interject. “Duh. Bugs. You are seriously overpowered with those. You do realise that, right?”

    “Hey, can I help it if bugs outnumber every other species on earth just from sheer mass?” Taylor took a bite of her donut, leaving Amy to consider her words.

    “Still think it's unfair,” Amy retorted, then went back to her own donuts. She watched the car door open; Lisa got out and waved to them. “Okay, guess it's time to go.”

    Together, they stood up and headed over to where the car was parked. As Taylor had noted, Brian was behind the wheel. Lisa, standing by the vehicle, wore her habitual vulpine grin. Brian leaned out the window as they approached, then blinked in surprise. “Shit, what happened to you two?”

    Amy glanced at Taylor, then back at Brian. “I got a broken nose, and Taylor got a split lip and fractured ribs from the same person. Shadow Stalker, in her civilian identity.”

    Brian whistled softly. “Okay, that I didn't expect. What happened then?”

    Taylor grinned, but not too widely. “Amy put her out like a light. Then later on, once she was awake again, Amy kind of goaded her into attacking her again. In front of my dad, her PRT handler, and the school principal. And … drumroll … Glory Girl.” With that revelation, she managed to sound almost as smug as Lisa.

    The look on Brian's face was classic; his jaw dropped at the same time as his eyes widened. “Fuck. Is she even still alive?”

    Amy waggled her hand from side to side. “Mostly. She's got a concussion, a busted cheekbone, a shattered jaw, and she's missing twelve teeth. Oh, and my mother was there, so she's also under arrest.”

    Brian blinked slowly. “Uh … would it be wrong to send flowers to your sister? Or maybe chocolates. Just asking.”

    Just as Amy was about to answer, Taylor burst into giggles, to the point that she had to jam her knuckles into her mouth to keep them under control. Amy shook her head, rolling her eyes. “Ignore her. She asked me exactly the same question. It seems that Shadow Stalker had enemies. Who knew?”

    The amount of smugness radiating off of Lisa would probably have jump-started a medium-sized nuclear reactor. She raised her hand and gave Amy a finger-wave. “I did.”

    And me too.

    “Yeah, but neither of you count.” Amy finished off her last donut and crumpled up the bag. “So, are we going? Just remember, we've got to stop off at my house. Michael says we need my costume for the best impact.”

    “Already factored that in.” Lisa's air of self-satisfaction intensified. “We could've broken into your house and brought it with us, but that might've made things awkward.”

    “If by that you mean I would literally bitch-slap your face on to the other side of your head, yeah, it'd definitely make things awkward. And that's if my family didn't get to you first.” Amy's tone was implacable. “Word of warning. You don't go near my family or my home. I know we're already unmasked, but that's a line you don't step over.”

    Dang. I think that's the first time I've ever heard that threat from someone who could actually pull it off. I am impressed.

    Did I come on too strong? I want her to know I'm serious.

    She got it. Trust me, she got it.

    “Already said I wasn't going to, didn't I?” Lisa shook her head. “Let's go.”

    Taylor opened the back door of the car and got in, followed by Amy.

    <><>​

    A Little Later

    Brian

    The three dogs moved down the street in a rough triangular formation, with Bitch and Tattletale on Brutus in the lead. Brian and Regent rode Judas to her left, with Panacea and Taylor riding tandem on Angelica to her right. They were on the street instead of the rooftops because Tattletale had said the last person they were meeting would be on foot. Panacea, for one, had expressed relief over this situation. Everyone was in costume; Amy had changed at her house, which gave Taylor the chance to do the same. Since she'd joined the Undersiders, she'd been leaving the costume in the loft anyway, so Brian had brought it along for her.

    He still wasn't exactly sure what was going on with Panacea. On the one hand, she still looked like the New Wave healer he'd known about for years. On the other, since the bank job she'd been … weird. Weird enough to seek them out and, just like that, set up events to remove their boss from consideration. And, oh yeah, deal with a monster that had been lurking under Brockton Bay, and talk back to Alexandria and whoever the other woman had been, enough to let them all walk free.

    The odd entity calling himself Security was behind it all, he was sure. Where he came from, Brian had no idea. At first he'd thought, like the others, that Panacea had been Mastered. But there was more to it than that. Security seemed to be riding along in Panacea's head, but giving her as much chance as possible to do things her way. It was obvious that he wanted to fix things—in his own phrase, save the world—but Brian suspected that nobody but Security knew all the details on how that was going to go. That was assuming even he knew the details.

    Of course, it didn't help that the enigmatic Security was being aided and abetted by Tattletale at her most secretive. Even though his machinations had given her more than one headache, she'd come out far ahead in the deal. Coil was dead, so the team wouldn't be getting any more work from that quarter, but she'd managed to pull enough information from the purloined hard drive that none of them would be wanting for money for a very long time.

    And now they were on the way to rescue a superhero from a villain's trap. It was a strange, strange world.

    “Okay, stop just up here,” Tattletale said, loudly enough for each of them to hear. “He'll be around here somewhere.” Bitch immediately did something with Brutus—squeezed with her knees or something, he couldn't really tell—and the monster dog slowed to a halt. A hand signal brought the others to a stop as well.

    Who?” Brian could no longer hold his impatience back. “You still haven't told us who's coming along.” He was fully aware of the concept of necessary secrecy, but in his opinion, Tattletale was enjoying her new-found independence all too much.

    “That would be me.” A familiar figure, one which hadn't been there ten seconds earlier, stepped from the mouth of an alleyway, just as Taylor turned her head that way. Clad in red and black, Trickster tipped his top hat. “We meet again, Undersiders. I presume you've found a way for me to repay the debt we owe you?”

    “Well, yes and no.” Panacea, silent up until then, spoke up. “We need your specific capability. In return, you can put not one but two powerful organisations into your debt. Which, if leveraged correctly, should pave the way for you to go home. Interested?”

    From the way Trickster's gaze snapped toward her as if drawn by a magnet, Brian decided that her seemingly-innocuous wording had gained his attention in no uncertain fashion. “If you mean home as in home, we are most assuredly interested,” he confirmed obscurely. “But I'm going to need to talk to you in private first.”

    Panacea—no, Security—seemed almost amused. “To answer the questions you want to ask, they don't know,” he/she said. “Tattletale might suspect, but she's not gonna say a word. I know what I know because that's what I'm all about. And I'd much rather Mars and Jess and Oliver get the chance to go home and be normal. Which is all I'm going to tell you. Can you live with that?”

    Trickster's chuckle sounded forced. “I can tolerate a lot of things if the end result is me going home with Noelle. And given how much you know about us, you've already got us on a leash, whether you care about that or not. So yeah. Consider it lived with.”

    “Good.” Panacea pointed at the dog Brian and Regent were riding. “Get on. We've got a little way to go yet. Then we've got a PRT cordon to get through.”

    “PRT?” Trickster's head came up. “You didn't say anything about fighting the PRT. It'd be a lot easier if—”

    “We're not going to need the rest of the Travellers because we're not going to be fighting,” Tattletale interjected. “We're just going to walk on through. Panacea was just giving you the heads-up.”

    Trickster spent a long moment looking at each of them in turn. Then he sighed and went toward Judas. “Seems I don't really have a choice in the matter.”

    The monstrous creature turned its head and growled briefly, causing him to balk. Bitch snapped a command to quiet it. “Get on,” she said curtly to Trickster. “I don't like you riding my dog, but it'll take too much time to walk there.” It had taken a little time to persuade her of this, but eventually she had accepted the need.

    “Oh, good,” Trickster observed with false cheer. “A situation that everyone's uncomfortable with. Now I feel at home.” Grabbing a bone spur and setting his foot on a ridge of muscle, he clambered on to Judas' back behind Regent. “What now?”

    “Hang on,” Brian advised him. “Tightly.”

    “To the dog,” Regent snarked. “Not to me.”

    “Oh, crap,” muttered the leader of the Travellers, but did what he was told. “So how fast do these things go, anywaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy …”

    <><>​

    Director Emily Piggot, PRT ENE

    “God damn it,” Emily muttered, glaring at the bubble of frozen time and the superhero within as if it were Alexandria's fault that it existed. “This is all I need. A superhero in a fishbowl. One of the Triumvirate, at that.” She turned to Armsmaster, who was supervising the careful removal and packing away of Bakuda's equipment. “How long is that effect likely to persist?”

    “I'd have to bring in magnifying instruments to examine the originating mechanism, which is by definition at the geometric centre of the field,” he replied, managing to avoid sounding facetious. “And even then, I may not learn anything at all; to the naked eye, it seems to be burnt out. But without such an examination, I have no idea.” He tilted his head slightly. “Ah. Heads up. Legend just got here.”

    “Wonderful,” she muttered, turning toward the entrance. Just what we need. Cape royalty, here to tell us where we're going wrong.

    Moments later, the leader of the Protectorate stepped in through the doorway, clad in his blue and white costume. “ Director Piggot. Armsmaster,” he greeted them. “I came as soon as I heard. What's the situation?” Despite the almost informal tone, Emily was fully aware that here was a man who could vaporise basically everyone in the room if he so wished. The fact that he hadn't, and was entirely unlikely to do so, didn't change anything in her eyes.

    “Armsmaster knows the details, but the short version is that she's trapped in a time bubble.” She gave him a challenging look. “I hear your lasers are very … versatile. Can they affect the way time passes?”

    “Not that I've ever discovered, no.” Legend had a reputation for being personable and approachable. She'd met him a few times before in the course of her duties, and nothing she'd seen had contradicted that. Even now, he could almost put across the air of a neighbour who'd just dropped in to borrow a cup of sugar. “But I can give it a try anyway.” He put out his hand and a glowing blue-white beam shot from it. The beam struck the field and … stopped. He ceased generating it after about thirty seconds, but the bright blue-white spot remained on the outer surface of the field.

    Looking at it from the side, Emily could see that it hadn't even begun to penetrate the interior of the field. “I hope you didn't aim it at her,” she commented. From her reading, she knew that Legend's 'lasers' actually propagated at much less than the speed of light, but still well over the speed of sound. And she could watch this one move, if only by time-lapse camera.

    “Even if it hit her, it won't harm her,” he assured her. “I've hit her with tougher shots during sparring sessions, and they didn't even bruise her.” He frowned, studying the field. “Do we have a read on what the dilation rate is?”

    “Somewhere on the close order of ten billion to one,” Armsmaster stated. “I shone a laser through a section of field precisely ten feet from side to side. It took one hundred forty-one seconds to emerge. From this, and factoring in her known flight speed, I estimate that she'll reach the outer edge in a little over four days, assuming she's flying at full speed. Of course, the next four days would almost certainly kill her, as she passes through the event horizon. Part of her body will be acting on real time, and part will be acting on slow time. Even someone as tough as Alexandria probably won't be able to withstand that. On the upside, we've got a hundred hours and change to figure out how to save her.”

    “Four days …” Piggot shook her head. Every time she thought she was used to cape madness, the world conspired to show her just how wrong she was. “Well, between this and the bombs that the Undersiders warned you of—how are you going with that, anyway?”

    “A preliminary examination of Bakuda's mask and the toe-rings seems to bear out their allegations,” he said. “There's an extremely comprehensive list of names and locations, linked to numbers, which appear to refer to bomb types. I've taken the precaution of putting them all on standby, which was thankfully an option. However, actually finding and removing the bombs is going to take quite a bit of effort.”

    “Oh, good,” she said heavily. “I'm glad to know we won't be blowing up today. As I was saying, between that and the extremely drawn-out murder attempt on Alexandria, we've got enough to have Bakuda committed to the Birdcage.” She turned to Legend. “Do you concur?” By which, of course, she meant that her recommendation to the judiciary would be to have Bakuda sentenced to the Birdcage, rather than a regular prison. Everyone, after all, deserved their day in court. Even if it was a very brief day in court.

    “Attempted murder on this scale … I definitely think she needs to go away permanently,” the leader of the Protectorate replied. “If she'd actually carried it through, it might even rate a kill order. And the successful murder of a Triumvirate member carries with it an automatic death penalty.” The one person who'd actually managed that, of course, was the Siberian, even if the Triumvirate had only technically come into being after Hero's murder. The PRT was still working on applying the death penalty in her case, but it was the thought that counted. “Do you have any way of determining her actual velocity within the field?”

    Armsmaster pointed at a device mounted on a workbench in front of Alexandria. “That laser fires a one-second pulse at her every five minutes, reflecting off her helmet. It measures the return pulse down to a millisecond, which gives us a distance count. So far, the registered motion is less than the margin of error generated by people moving around and air vibration from talking. But even if she was travelling at full speed, it wouldn't have registered yet.”

    “Hmm. Damn.” Legend cupped his right elbow on his left hand, propping his chin on his right thumb and letting his index finger lie along the line of his upper lip. “Eidolon said he'd be here in the next hour, but … I'm not even sure that even his powers will be of any help, here. He can affect time, but I'm not at all certain that he can push it to this level. He's never shown that capability before, anyway.”

    Armsmaster's head came up. “Director … the situation's just escalated. A group of villains are requesting entry to this location. Wait; not just villains. The outer perimeter guards say that Panacea's with them.”

    “Panacea? The healer?” Legend frowned. “Is she a hostage?” He lifted from the floor and drifted toward the entrance. “If they think they can—”

    “She's not a hostage.” Armsmaster's voice brought him up short. “I'm viewing live footage. She's not restrained or under guard, and nobody's threatening her. The villains accompanying her are … hm. The Undersiders, and one other. The leader of that new gang in town, the one with the top hat. Trickster.”

    “What do they want?” Emily asked the question because nobody else seemed to be about to. “Armsmaster, aren't the Undersiders the group …” She didn't need to say any more.

    “Who worked with Panacea and Glory Girl to take down Coil's organisation last night, yes.” He still sounded as though his feelings about that were mixed. As well he might; Coil had been shot to death while tied to a chair, unable to defend himself. On the other hand, the dead man in Coil's costume had been Thomas Calvert, a PRT strike team commander who could've done irreparable damage to the PRT if he'd been let continue on his way. As it was, every single action the PRT had taken involving Calvert would now have to be scrutinised under a microscope.

    Emily's views on the issue were slightly different. While she disapproved of killing a helpless prisoner, she'd known Calvert since just after Ellisburg. He had struck her as a ruthless opportunist; given powers, this was exactly how she suspected he would act. A trial would've caused more damage than it prevented, as Calvert would no doubt be able to afford a phalanx of lawyers to throw doubt on the very idea that he was a costumed villain. Alive and well, he could have dragged the PRT through the mud; dead, he was merely a series of data points in an ongoing investigation.

    “Well?” she asked. “Have they said what they want?” Their presence here, she suspected, was no coincidence. Especially after the Undersiders had personally handed Bakuda over to Armsmaster just a few hours before. I just wish I knew what they were up to.

    “Yes.” He paused, as if he didn't quite believe the words that next came out of his mouth. “They say they're here to rescue Alexandria.”

    Legend's head snapped around at that. “You can't be serious.” He gestured at the twenty-foot-wide bubble which held Alexandria prisoner. “My powers can't begin to scratch it. She's experiencing time at a rate of ten billion to one. Surely you don't have anyone in this town powerful enough to beat something the Triumvirate can't touch.” Emily had been wondering when he would show signs of being merely human; the note of wounded pride in his voice, she decided, would have to do.

    “Uh.” Armsmaster grimaced. “Tattletale just made a comment. I quote, Tell Legend that he ain't seen nothing yet. End quote.”

    Emily hid her amusement at the look of shock on Legend's face. It was a sour kind of satisfaction, but she savoured it anyway. New York had its villains, but it also had heroes in plenty. However, only in Brockton Bay was it possible to find villains such as Emily had to contend with on a daily basis. Not necessarily powerful, but they were irritating as crap.

    “Let them through on my authority,” she stated. “Escorted by one trooper per villain, armed with containment foam.” She paused, a question occurring to her. “Is that dog girl, Hellhound, with them?”

    Armsmaster's lips moved as he subvocalised the question. A moment later, he shook his head. “No, but they can see her on a nearby rooftop, with three of those monster dogs. Just watching. Regent also seems to be with her.”

    “Good.” Emily nodded. “My orders stand. They get to come in and explain what they meant, but one wrong move and they get foamed. Panacea or no Panacea.” The fact that the bad-tempered Rachel Lindt and her goddamn rhino-dog-lizard things were standing off was something for which she was profoundly grateful. Regent was less of a problem, but still someone she didn't want to be in the same room with. Legend should be able to take them all down by himself, but the Undersiders had a well-deserved reputation for being slippery, and Trickster was a virtually unknown factor as yet.

    “Understood.” Armsmaster relayed the order, then turned to Legend. “Sir, I suggest you let the Director handle this.” The subtext was not voiced, but it came across plain as day anyway: You haven't dealt with these people before. She has. Emily was torn between gratitude for his loyalty, and irritation that he was dumping this in her lap.

    Legend nodded. “I'll observe for the moment,” he agreed. “But if they try anything hostile, I will take them down.” He glanced at Emily. “Do they do this sort of thing … often?”

    “Not until very recently,” she conceded. “Oh, villains attack villains for various reasons, as you well know. Ideology, profit or turf. But up until … well, last night, we've rarely had villains taking down villains then calling in the authorities. Nor have we had heroes openly associating with villains like this. It's not a precedent that I'm totally comfortable with.” If anything, that was an understatement. In her view, heroes should act like heroes and villains like villains. It made it easier to tell them apart.

    The expression on Legend's face suggested that he agreed with her, but any comment he was about to make was forestalled when Panacea stepped in through the entrance to Bakuda's workshop. She was followed by someone whom Emily had never seen in person before. However, she was familiar with Skitter's appearance, having viewed stills from Armsmaster's helmet cam and footage from security cameras.

    Skitter was tall for a girl, taller than Emily herself. Her mask covered her face, the flat yellow lenses and bug-themed mandibles making her look creepy if not terrifying. The costume itself was coloured in grey and black, with unmistakeable armour panels added here and there. The only human touch was Skitter's hair, long and black and obviously well taken care of, spilling out the back of her otherwise full-coverage mask. No cloud of bugs accompanied her, which Emily appreciated; while she didn't think the newly-minted villain was considering treachery, when it came to capes there was no such thing as being too cautious.

    “Director Piggot,” Panacea said, drawing Emily's attention back to the healer. She had a slightly nasal tone of voice and, Emily now realised, an aluminum splint on the bridge of her nose. “Thanks for letting us come in.”

    “What happened to you?” asked Emily. New Wave was well-known for keeping their most famous member out of the firing line, for obvious reasons. “Who hit you?”

    Panacea stepped closer to Emily and lowered her voice so as not to be overheard by the techs. “Shadow Stalker, in her civilian identity.” Her tone was blunt. “After she was exposed as a bullying coward. My mother will be filing the charges. But we're not here for that.” She glanced at the other capes in the room. “Hello, Armsmaster. It's nice to meet you again, Legend.”

    “And you too, Panacea.” Legend turned to Emily. “I'm going to need to be filled in on the Shadow Stalker situation before I leave town, so I can brief the Chief Director. But, as Panacea said, we're not here for that.” He looked back at the healer. “How do you intend to rescue Alexandria, exactly?”

    Panacea might have smiled under the scarf that covered her face. “Oh, I'm not going to be rescuing her. Have you met Skitter? She's a huge fan.”

    “I have not.” Legend nodded politely to the bug-controller. “These are odd circumstances in which to meet, but aren't they all?” He frowned. “I'm guessing you're a villain, from the costume?”

    Skitter made an aggravated noise. “Armsmaster thought that too, when he met me for the first time. Just after I took down Lung with the help of the Undersiders. At the time, I was trying to be a hero.”

    “Since which time, you've assisted in robbing a bank and been complicit in the murder of an unarmed man,” Armsmaster put in harshly. “Do not presume that one good act overturns the crimes you've committed.”

    “I was—” Skitter stopped herself and shook her head, then addressed Legend once more. “Never mind. Yeah, I know my costume looks edgy. By the time I realised this, it was too late to change things. I tried to be a hero, but on the way I somehow became a villain. Anyway. I'm here because Alexandria needs saving, and I want to see this.”

    “Wait a moment,” Legend said. “You took down Lung?” He was obviously trying not to be impolite with his disbelief. “How, exactly, did you do that?”

    Skitter's mask gave no visual cues to her expression; her flat tone of voice didn't help either. “I covered him with as many venomous bugs as I could, and had them all bite him repeatedly. This weakened him enough that when the Undersiders arrived, Bitch's dogs were able to put him on the ground.”

    “That's very impressive.” Legend seemed to be sincere. “I'd be interested in hearing more about that fight. After we're done here, of course.”

    Emily frowned. She'd read Armsmaster's report on the capture of Lung, and somehow it seemed that he'd left out the assistance of Skitter and the Undersiders. While it wasn't something that needed to be aired right now, she was definitely going to raise the point with him later.

    By now, two other members of the Undersiders had entered the room, each accompanied by a trooper. While Tattletale looked positively petite next to the armoured PRT men, Grue actually seemed to be on par with them. The last villain to enter was the aforementioned Trickster, his top hat set at a jaunty angle.

    “All right then,” Emily stated. “You've said you're here to rescue Alexandria. Is that true, or are you just wasting our time?”

    “Oh, definitely rescuing,” Trickster said, strolling forward to examine the bubble. “Damn. I have never seen shit like this before. Bakuda is fucking vindictive.”

    “Don't touch the field,” Armsmaster warned, apparently reflexively. “Your body will engage with it, and you'll probably lose skin.”

    “Wasn't about to,” murmured Trickster. “Now, how much does she weigh?” He turned to Legend. “Any idea? I mean, is she really dense, or normal human weight?”

    Legend blinked, apparently taken aback by the question. “I … have no idea of the exact number, but she's in the normal range as far as I know,” he replied. “It's not something that comes up in casual conversation. Why do you need to know?”

    “Because I swap things,” Trickster said. “And they need to be of the same approximate mass and size. Though I've never tried pulling someone out of a time dilation field before, so there's that.” He stepped back and pointed at the basement wall. “How fast do you think she's flying? Because if she hits that wall with any significant speed, she might just bring this whole room down.”

    Emily glanced at Armsmaster; the armoured hero shrugged. “We don't have a long enough baseline of observations to actually know yet,” he admitted.

    “Okay, so we're back to 'winging it' territory. Good to know.” Trickster turned away from the bubble and looked around the room. “Need a counterweight. Something of the same rough size and weight of a human being. Any volunteers? Nope, didn't think so. Oh, that bar fridge. That looks good.” He headed over to the corner of the room, and took hold of the fridge that sat there. With a grunt, he tried to lift it, shifting the unit on its base slightly. “Perfect. Can I have some big strong men lift this on to the bench there?”

    “Why on to the bench?” asked Grue. He went over to the fridge, unplugged it, and picked it up. Emily noted that the young man almost certainly did weight training; he didn't even seem to be really straining under the weight of the appliance.

    “Would you rather she hit the wall high up or low down? I don't even know if she'll come out of it with the same angular momentum.” Trickster shrugged. “But I'm going to assume she is. So we do what we can.”

    “Good point.” Grue put the fridge on the bench, then put two chairs up on the bench as well, side by side. Scrambling up on to the bench himself, he hefted the fridge and placed it on the two chairs. Its perch was a little precarious, but it didn't seem likely to fall down immediately. “Will this do?”

    “Good as any. Okay, let's see.” Trickster looked around, pointing momentarily at Alexandria, then at the bar fridge, as if reminding himself of something. “Ah. No, it won't. Damn. I knew this was too easy.”

    “What's the problem?” Legend's voice was calm and controlled. “Is there anything we can do to help?”

    It was impossible to see Trickster's face behind the full-face mask he wore, but the tone of his voice suggested a grimace. “Remember when I asked how much she weighs? That matters. I need equivalent masses. Whatever else that field is doing to her, it's amplifying her effective mass. My power can grab her, but I just can't move her. I'm going to need something in the ton-weight range to pull it off.”

    “How about that?” Skitter pointed at the roughly spherical mass of crushed-together material that lay on the floor behind Alexandria's bubble. It looked for all the world like a giant had gathered up a double handful of lab benches and other equipment, and crunched it all together like the world's dirtiest snowball. Even aside from the hazard tape ringing it, everyone in the lab had avoided it on instinct.

    “Ah. Let me check.” Trickster turned to face in that direction. A moment later, he nodded. “Sure. It's right in the correct weight range. I should be able to swap them easily. But we're going to have to move it aside or when I do the swap, she's going to barrel straight into that field at full speed.”

    “I would prefer to jar it as little as possible,” Armsmaster warned. “We have no idea how much of Bakuda's tech ended up in that ball, if any of it's still viable, and what might set it off.”

    Emily wanted to grind her teeth over the colossal irony. The easiest and simplest way to move that ball would be to have Alexandria herself carry it, but in order to do that, they needed to release Alexandria from her Tinkertech prison. Fortunately, that thought led to another. Brockton Bay had its own Alexandria package, after all.

    “Panacea.” Her tone was curt. “Do you believe your sister would be able to maintain secrecy over this if you called her in?”

    The healer didn't hesitate. “Sure, if I ask her to. Want me to call her in?”

    Emily nodded. “As soon as possible, please.” As much as she disliked making it into a request, she reminded herself that Alexandria's well-being was at stake. Achieving a successful outcome was worth the hit to her pride.

    Panacea pulled out her phone and was about to dial when Armsmaster held up his hand. “Not in here. We already know that the bombs are triggered by radio signal. I don't want to take the chance that your call will accidentally trigger anything in this lab.”

    His logic was impeccable. Apparently coming to the same conclusion, Panacea nodded and headed for the door. After a moment, Trickster tilted his head in that direction as well. “Looks like we'll be waiting for a bit. Anyone mind if I smoke?” Skitter and Grue turned to look at him, and they were far from the only ones. “What? Seriously, I'm a supervillain. Smoking's probably the least hazardous thing about my life right now.”

    “Fine.” Emily bit the word off. “Go smoke. But don't do it in this room. And don't go too far.” As he made his way to the door, she turned back to Armsmaster. “How quickly can you get the hazardous tech cleared from this room?”

    <><>​

    Trickster

    Ten Minutes Later

    PRT guards had it the worst, Francis Krouse decided. Full-face helmet visors meant they couldn't even catch a crafty smoke on guard duty. On the upside, he couldn't see the undoubtedly unfriendly looks being bestowed upon him by the PRT guard on the door as well as his own foam-equipped escort.

    “So, what's it like being a stooge for the Man?” he asked the guard as he exhaled the smoke from his second cigarette. “Kicked any puppies recently?” He was pushing the envelope, he knew, but it wasn't often he got the chance to bait the PRT.

    Stony silence greeted his sally, pretty well as he'd expected. He took another puff on the cigarette, drawing the aromatic smoke deep into his lungs. The trepidation that he'd initially felt on walking into the midst of the PRT like this had begun to dissipate, and he was getting bored.

    “Those things will kill you, you know.” The voice was feminine and teenage. He turned to see that a vision of loveliness in gold and white had descended from the heavens and was eyeing him somewhat critically. “Wait a minute. I think I know you. You're Noelle's boyfriend.”

    “Yes, we met last night, but only briefly. I don't believe we introduced ourselves then.” He doffed his hat and bowed slightly from the waist, then stubbed out the cigarette on the graffiti-encrusted wall beside him. “Trickster, at your service. And you, of course, would be the incomparable Glory Girl.”

    She gave him the same sort of look that Noelle tended to favour him with when her bullshit detector went off too hard. Which, to be fair, was about once a day. “I've heard of you. You're with the Travellers, right? What are you doing here?” Her gesture took in the PRT guards, silently inquiring as to why he hadn't already been foamed and/or handcuffed.

    “As it happens, your sister apparently requested my presence, due to my very specific capabilities, so I have a pass for the moment. Which is basically why you're here as well.” He gestured toward the doorway. “Shall we?”

    “Sure thing,” she said. “You first.” He felt a surge of trepidation that ebbed just as fast. To hear about Glory Girl's aura was one thing, but to feel it first-hand was quite another.

    “As you wish,” he said, heading through the doorway and down the well-trodden steps, followed by his escort. Silently she followed the PRT trooper down; he suspected that she wasn't even setting foot on the stairs. Fliers gotta show off.

    When he got to the basement lab, he observed the significant lack of Tinkertech littering the benches. This was good, as he had no desire to experience ground zero in a chain-reaction of Tinkertech bombs. There was, of course, the compacted mass on the ground still to go. He wasn't quite sure what had done that, and he was quite sure that he never wanted it to happen to him.

    “Good, you're here.” Director Piggot, he noted, had not undergone a personality transplant in his absence. Her comment was aimed at Glory Girl, not himself, and even then wasn't particularly welcoming. “We need you to move a single piece of debris. It needs to be done quickly and smoothly, but not … what?”

    Glory Girl pointed at the bubble of frozen time containing Alexandria. “What. The. Hell?”

    The Director touched three fingers to her forehead in what was probably an abortive facepalm. “Did nobody explain what was going on before you got here?”

    “Hey, you said this was all secret,” Panacea pointed out. “So I decided to let you explain it. Should I have told her myself?”

    An expression strongly reminiscent of sucking lemons crossed Piggot's face. “... no. Glory Girl, Alexandria was caught in a trap by Bakuda. You and Trickster are here to get her out. Do you understand?”

    The teen hero nodded, her blonde curls bouncing around her tiara. “Okay, sure. You were saying something about moving debris?”

    Trickster took that as his cue, and pointed at the sintered mass of trash. “That there needs to be out from behind her. Preferably in an open area. I'm gonna be swapping it into the bubble so she can come out. Got it?”

    “Got it,” she said promptly. Heading over to the ball of compressed debris, she bent down to inspect it. “What's this made of, anyway?”

    Armsmaster stepped forward. “I'd advise you to be very careful with it. There may be Tinkertech bombs stuck in that mix, and moving it might activate them.”

    “Scratch 'may be',” Tattletale put in. “There's almost certainly something in there that might go boom.” She grimaced. “The trouble is, it's probably unstable already, so it's just as likely to go off even if we don't mess with it.”

    “Oh, joy,” muttered Grue. “Why did I come along again?” He sidled away from where Glory Girl was standing next to the compacted sphere.

    “To keep me and Skitter out of trouble.” Tattletale turned back to Glory Girl. “Do your best not to jar it. If you hear any strange noises, or feel odd sensations coming from it, put it down and back off immediately.”

    “Hey,” Glory Girl replied, with what Francis decided was false bravado. “I'm invincible. What can happen?”

    It was as if they'd rehearsed it; Panacea, Skitter, Grue and Tattletale pointed at where Alexandria was trapped like a fly in amber. “That.”

    “Or worse,” Armsmaster said bluntly. “So be careful.” He turned to the people crowding the laboratory. “Everyone out who isn't directly involved in this. Grue, Tattletale, Skitter, upstairs. Trooper, you go too. I can keep an eye on Trickster. Trickster, are you certain you can do this?”

    Francis did not like being put on the spot. “Uh, yes,” he managed. “My power says they can be swapped. It just won't be easy, is all. It might take a few seconds.”

    Armsmaster leaned in. The Tinker's visor was opaque, but Francis could feel his glower anyway. “Get. It. Right.”

    “Sure. No pressure.” Francis swallowed a lump in his throat. “I got this shit.” He turned and craned his neck so that he could see the ball of compressed material. Alexandria was in plain sight already. “Okay, when you're ready.”

    “Just gotta be careful,” murmured Glory Girl. Taking a deep breath, she crouched and wrapped her arms around the mass of compressed crap. It took a couple of seconds for her to find the right grip; as she did so, Francis started trying to establish a connection between it and Alexandria.

    It was possible to swap them, he knew; the pressure from his power told him that. Unfortunately, that time field was giving him difficulties, so he was having to do it slow and steady rather than quick and dirty. As she lifted, he pushed the connection, firming it up without going all the way to a clean swap. It was going to take a lot of effort to make this swap, but the longer he worked at it, the easier the final push was going to be. Glory Girl moved sideways, step by careful step. He wondered why she wasn't flying, then realised that the weight she was carrying was possibly more than she could fly and carry at the same time.

    “Shit.” Her voice was no more than a whisper, but to him it may have been a shout.

    “What?” He hadn't meant to make his voice so sharp, but stress never sat well with him.

    “I think it just beeped.” Despite her earlier bravado, her eyes were wide.

    “Go, go, go!” Armsmaster's bellow echoed through the room.

    No! screamed Francis silently. I can do this! He saw Glory Girl toss the thing into the air and lift off the ground, arrowing toward the stairs. Fixated on the ball of debris, he tried to force the connection, to push the swap through. I can still save the day.

    And then a massive armoured gauntlet grabbed him by the front of his costume, dragging him bodily up the stairs. He could hear Armsmaster's boots pounding on the risers, the armoured man moving faster than anyone should be able to achieve while wearing that weight of equipment. Glory Girl came into sight, catching up with almost insulting ease. She took hold of his belt with one hand and the weapon rack on Armsmaster's back with the other, and pushed. Behind her, he heard the crash as the ball of debris hit the floor … then a wave of silvery light appeared at the bottom of the steps, moving even faster than Glory Girl.

    Francis had time to think faster, oh God faster before they shot out the top of the stairwell and he sprawled on the floor. His top hat went flying, and his head smacked into the floorboards hard enough to make him see stars. He was vaguely aware of Armsmaster hitting the ground rolling, then coming to his feet in a totally bullshit manoeuvre. His vision wavered as he watched Glory Girl hover in the air before the stairwell. “Is everyone okay?” she asked.

    “Oh God, Vicky,” Panacea said, with a choke in her voice. “Your feet.” She moved forward, reaching out to her sister.

    Frowning, Glory Girl looked down. So did Francis. From the ankles down, Glory Girl's feet had turned to glass. It was the last straw; his eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out.

    <><>​

    A Few Moments Later

    “Are you okay?” Panacea bent over Francis, her expression solicitous. “Nothing broken?”

    “Nothing except a bump on the head,” he managed. “Is—is Glory Girl going to be okay?” Even going through all the body horror that he'd experienced with Noelle's ongoing mutations, seeing someone's feet just transmuted like that had blasted past all his defences.

    “Sure,” she said, glancing over to where Glory Girl was talking with Legend, Armsmaster, Skitter and Tattletale. The blonde hero seemed none the worse for her mishap, save that she looked fractionally skinnier, and was barefoot. “She was more pissed about the boots than anything else. She loved those boots.”

    Francis snorted. “Right. Um. So, about going back down there. We've still got to save Alexandria, right?”

    “That's correct,” Legend said from across the room, raising his voice to make it clear that he was addressing Francis. “Do you feel up to it, young man?”

    “Help me up, and I can get it done,” Francis declared. He braced himself and climbed to his feet. Silently, Grue handed his top hat over; Francis replaced it carefully on his head, avoiding the lump on the back of his head. He turned to Panacea. “I don't suppose you can do anything about the lump?”

    “Sure,” she said. “You've got a mild concussion too, but it's not serious. I can't do anything about that. Do you consent to me healing you?”

    “Definitely,” he said. She put her hand on the back of his head, and the pain went away, just like that. “Wow,” he muttered. “You have got to be the most popular cape ever.”

    “It gets very tiring after a while,” she returned, her voice just as quiet. “Anyway, it's your turn to go rescue a superhero.”

    “Yay me,” he replied dryly. Behind her scarf, she cracked a smile.

    <><>​

    The basement lab had undergone a startling transformation. Every wall, every bench, every piece of debris, was now made from glass. The only exceptions were Alexandria herself and the section of bench under her.

    “Uh, is it just me, or is that effect moving into the field faster than it should?” Francis pointed at the time bubble. The silvery wave that had pursued them up the stairs was sinking into the time bubble at a perceptible rate, closing in on the trapped hero from all sides.

    “Oh, shit!” Glory Girl stared at it. “The, uh, glass bomb, must've interfered with it or something. We've got less than a minute! Everyone get back!” Flying over to the mass of trash that had been the cause of the whole problem before (now transformed into glass), she hefted it into the air. “Trickster, do your thing!”

    Right. Make or break time. Francis focused on Alexandria and on the mass of glass, seeking to connect the two. It wasn't as dense as it had been before, but he had a trick to get around that; mentally grabbing the air in the lab, he added that to the sphere's effective volume. Focusing on both the ad hoc counterweight and Alexandria, he threw all his power into forcing the swap. It didn't happen in the first half-second, nor in the next.

    “Hurry!” shouted Glory Girl. “It's nearly got her!”

    He could see that for himself, but there was nothing he could do except try harder. The silvery wave crept closer and closer to the Triumvirate hero, and he gritted his teeth and pushed. For just a moment, it felt as though he were trying to lift that ton-weight over his head with his own arms.

    And then the chord in his head sounded, and the resistance was gone. A splintering crash echoed through the room as he stumbled and leaned against the wall, unable to stand upright without its support. Shards of glass ricocheted throughout the basement. Feeling as though he'd just run a marathon, he fought for breath; his heartbeat thundered in his ears.

    “Vicky? Vicky!” That was Panacea, lunging past him into the room. “Are you all right?”

    “I'm here, Ames.” Glory Girl's voice came back, even as the last pieces of glass tinkled to a stop. “That was way too fucking close.”

    Chunks of glass shifted from the far side of the room, and Francis saw a glittering figure climb out of a hole that hadn't been there a minute before. “I'm fine,” she said. He'd never met Alexandria, but even covered in powdered glass, she had a certain presence about her. “Would someone like to explain to me what just happened?”

    Legend floated forward past Francis and pointed at the time bubble. “Bakuda trapped you in there last night. Trickster swapped you out of it just now. And there was a glass bomb involved. It's a long story.”

    Alexandria looked at the bubble for the first time. “Ah, a time dilation field. It must be quite severe. I'm still seeing myself in there.” It was true; the image being conveyed from the interior of the bubble showed the iconic hero, still flying with cape outstretched behind her. As they watched, the silvery wave encroached closer and closer to her. Shit, Francis realised. It was nearer than we thought.

    “That's the light that was on the way out when he swapped you,” Armsmaster agreed. “Give it another minute or so.”

    “Well done.” Alexandria looked at Francis approvingly. “I presume Bakuda is in custody?”

    Legend nodded. “Yes,” he said. “We were debating the merits of Birdcaging her.”

    Her mouth twisted wryly. “Well, I had hopes. But after this, I'm not so sure that you're wrong.”

    Skitter pointed at the time bubble. “Look.” Francis dragged his eyes over to it, just in time to see a shadow in the shape of Alexandria fade and vanish, just before the silvery wave would've enveloped her. Then the ball of glass faded into view, first the outer edges, with more and more detail filling in all the time.

    Without warning, Alexandria was standing before him. “I understand I have you to thank for getting me out of there.” It wasn't a question.

    By now, he felt steady enough to forego the support of the wall. Stepping forward, he doffed his hat and bent forward in a deep bow. “Trickster, ma'am,” he said.

    Her eyes glinted, and her mouth pressed into a tight line. “Of the Travellers,” she said flatly.

    “Of, as you say, the Travellers,” he agreed blandly. “Now, I believe that this puts you in my debt?” He was fully aware that once more, he was pushing his luck. But sometimes there was no other way to go. Go big or go home, as the saying went. Or, in this case … go big and go home.

    “I believe it does,” she agreed. Her eyes met his, and a very slight nod communicated the fact that yes, she was in his debt but don't push it, buddy. “What did you have in mind for repayment?”

    He let himself smile behind his mask. Bingo. “I believe that Panacea had some ideas.”



    End of Part Twenty-One

    Part Twenty-Two
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
    SamueLewis, trxs300, Norbii and 47 others like this.
  19. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Right thread this time?

    OK, right thread this time.

    :p:D
     
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  20. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Nice solution there for the time bomb. And good scenes with Amy, as usual.
     
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  21. GladiusLucix

    GladiusLucix Versed in the lewd.

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    Krouse managing to NOT fuck everything up? What kind of bizarro world is this? :p
     
  22. 753398445a

    753398445a Which one am I?

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    I'm kind of wanting the Undersiders to join the wards now - after all, the PRT really wanted to prove a criminal could get redeemed, and Shadow Stalker is no longer an option.
     
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  23. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    One in which he's no longer being chessmastered into doing exactly the worst possible thing at the worst possible time by the Simurgh.
     
  24. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    "Here I come to save the day" Means that... Trickster is on his way?


    ....What?


    If you don't get the reference: click this
     
  25. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    Quite possibly the most honest thing Krouse has ever said.
     
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  26. Jorin

    Jorin Mostly A Lurker

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    Won't happen. Two of them are wanted for murder. The other has darkness powers. After what happened with Sophia no way are they gonna trust someone with those powers. And the last one is so annoying they won't want anything to do with her.
     
  27. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    If they will redeem an adult villain who specialised in springing prisoners while en route to the Birdcage, they won't be overly bothered by a couple teenagers no matter their powers or suspected crimes.
     
  28. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    And you have to admit, Madcap was both annoying and smug.

    And the Undersiders are demonstrably good at what they do.
     
  29. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    ... and fully capable of being both annoying and smug (not just Lisa, there's Alec, and depending on how things go, Aisha, as well).
     
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  30. magic9mushroom

    magic9mushroom BEST END.

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    I do have to say, people often give Tattletale a lot more credit than IMO she deserves. I mean, for all her backstory (in which she's already stealing from people when Coil abducts her), ultimately she's an unapologetic, manipulative villain who thinks it's all a big lark. Sure, she has some standards, but she's not really a very nice person and I'd kinda appreciate it if more fics remembered that.
     
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