1. Due to issues with external spam filters, QQ is currently unable to send any mail to Microsoft E-mail addresses. This includes any account at live.com, hotmail.com or msn.com. Signing up to the forum with one of these addresses will result in your verification E-mail never arriving. For best results, please use a different E-mail provider for your QQ address.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you wish to change your username, please ask via conversation to tehelgee instead of asking via my profile. I'd like to not clutter it up with such requests.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice
  6. We have added another rule, please check the Rules post for more information.
    Dismiss Notice
  7. Due to some issues with Freenode, the QQ IRC Channel is moving. See here for more information.
    Dismiss Notice

I, Panacea (Worm SI Fanfic)

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

  1. Doccer

    Doccer Not too sore, are you?

    Jul 21, 2019
    Likes Received:
    Got a typo there.
    Couldn't have happened to a more deserving bitch
    ShadesTheMan, Ajlove and Ack like this.
  2. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Brian was being nice.
    Prince Charon and Doccer like this.
  3. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Jack stayed on top of a bunch of superpowered sociopaths for over twenty years, starting at age 12.

    Yes, he's bullshit. He's always been bullshit.
  4. Acererak

    Acererak You say madness, I say fun loving sociopath.

    Dec 2, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Ah, always good to see the Nine get curbstomped as they deserve. Even more awesome to see it done different ways from you Ack... good show. I think that's 5 ways now I believe? Though the "I'm Halping" one is my favorite so far.
  5. Diraniola

    Diraniola I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Dec 2, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Nothing quite like an Endbringer deciding you have to die to cut through power bs.
    Vanrus, Acererak and Ack like this.
  6. SlickRCBD

    SlickRCBD Know what you're doing yet?

    Nov 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    For somebody with so much experience, this is twice that Rebecca has gotten a wake-up call in less than a week.
    First Bakuda and now the Slaughterhouse Nine.

    At this point I wonder if she will think that Security is trying to set her up.
    ARandomGuy, Ack and Doccer like this.
  7. Death by Chains

    Death by Chains За родину и свободу!

    Feb 17, 2015
    Likes Received:
    She’s gotten too used to just brute-forcing her way through fights, like a guy playing DOOM with IDDQD and IDKFA codes on; nigh-invulnerability as a defence, and too much raw strength for offensive-power, permit (and to a certain extent encourage) a certain... mental laziness when it comes to planning an engagement, and that’s exactly the kind of sloppiness that can get you killed. Hopefully, the two lessons so close together will shake her out of the casual attitude.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2020
    ARandomGuy, Ack, Zackarix and 4 others like this.
  8. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Basically, this.

    After all, he never told her to go into either engagement alone.
    ARandomGuy, Ayashi, Ajlove and 2 others like this.
  9. CrunchySharpie

    CrunchySharpie A wild Bowsette appeared!

    Jun 25, 2016
    Likes Received:
    He means that shes being very accommodating of her failures. Much like many of the other character throughout the story going "Okay you have a point." I just binged the story again and it's one of those little things that you only really notice gets used a lot as scene decoration when you binge something. It's that deferential mentality of, "Oh he did leave out key information that almost got me or innocent people killed, but I cant be too mad at him." So it comes off as the protagonist is never wrong, or he can get away with it because it's actually my fault, Mary sueness.

    It's not 'really' that kind of Mary Sue-y, but the MC not sharing critical information can be seen as just as much of a screw up as Alexandria not asking him about it herself. Only Alexandria wouldn't likely take her share of the blame. Thus this Alexandria doing so comes off as a tiny bit unrealistic when we consider her personality.

    It's only really noticeable if your looking for things to complain about however, otherwise the chapter is, as always, quality work on your part.
    Ack and Ajlove like this.
  10. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    It is basically that Alexandria never actually hangs around to get more information. She never says, "Is there anything more you can tell me about what I need to do?" She assumes she knows what she needs to know, and just leaves. So when she gets caught short, she more or less goes, "Well, I didn't ask, did I?"
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2021
  11. Vladicus

    Vladicus Sage of reason and incomplete information

    Oct 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    I had to deal it with it once or twice. It's basically part of the story that writes itself and you only realize the genius or stupidity of it after you read it several times or someone else does it for you. I call it semi-conscious inspiration and I'm sure others have their own name for it.

    Sometimes they're great for writing, sometimes they have nothing to do with what you wrote so far and either lead to unexpected plot twists(even for you) or to you needing to delete the entire chapter or turn it into a new story. I've had 2 in my story on royal road and Spacebattles 'Thirst of the Green'. One 'semi conscious inspiration' lead to the entire story being written from an unpublished story which I've put waay down on the list and the other lead to the last 2 chapters I've wrote on it.
  12. CrunchySharpie

    CrunchySharpie A wild Bowsette appeared!

    Jun 25, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Basically the moment you realize your headcanon makes way too much sense in setting. The fridge logic that makes what you wrote post-publishing-ly brilliant. That moment when you go "Oh... uhhh... yeah, I totally meant to do that." Everyones had at least one of those moments if they write even a little bit of fanfiction. Also if you get into the flow of your specialty. Like mine? Slap stick comedy. Give me two characters and if one of them is even remotely a jokester the scene, jokes and innuendo will write itself. Sometimes it might be a fight scene you excel at, sometimes its political intrigue that's in your wheelhouse. Whatever it is, you find that it just comes naturally to the point where you don't have any difficulty writing it whatsoever.

    I personally call it Daydream Writing, where information just seems to flow without conscious input, you find your zen, get into the flow and just hammer out a couple thousand words without realizing where time went.
  13. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Ahh right. Yeah, I've had that happen.

    More than once.

    I call it 'getting in the zone'.

    The worst bit is trying to edit it later without losing the whole flavour.
  14. Threadmarks: Part Twenty-Six: One Thing After Another

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    I, Panacea

    Part Twenty-Six: One Thing After Another

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

    Glory Girl

    Amy flopped back onto the sofa and growled softly under her breath. She grabbed up the remote and jabbed the power button with her thumb as though she had a personal grudge against it. Even when the show she’d selected came on, she glowered at the screen, her lips moving silently.

    “Wow, holy shit, Ames.” Vicky sat up in her armchair from where she’d been idly texting Dean. “I can’t even remember the last time I saw you this utterly and totally pissed. Who shat in your cornflakes? Was it Mike? Did he do or say something?”

    “It wasn’t Mike,” Amy huffed. “Or at least, not exactly. It was Alexandria’s idea, not his. He only did what she asked, after I agreed to it. Under protest, just saying.”

    “Well, that clears everything up.” Vicky put her phone down. Dean could wait. Whatever this was, it was much juicier than some mild flirting by text. “I am absolutely all ears. What did Alexandria ask you and Mike to do?”

    Amy took a deep, aggrieved breath. “I turned off a person’s brain. But I needed Mike to be puppeting my body when I did it.” She turned her attention to watching the cooking show she’d turned the TV over to. Vicky knew for a fact that she had slightly less interest in cooking shows than she did in ancient Babylonian funeral practices.

    “Nice story,” Vicky said, applauding with the tips of her fingers for effect. “Except, you know, you’ve left out about ninety-nine point nine percent of the details.”

    “Did I?” Amy got up from the sofa and stomped into the kitchen. She came back out just moments later, armed with a spoon and a large tub of ice cream. Once more, she plonked herself down on the sofa. The lid came off the ice cream with a certain suggestion of finality, and she dug the spoon in.

    “Yeah, you totally did. Wait one.” Vicky lofted out of the chair and headed into the kitchen to get a spoon of her own. When she returned, she lowered herself onto the sofa beside Amy. “Don’t go hogging it all. And I wanna hear this one. Who did you turn off, and why?”

    “Jack Slash.” Amy dug out a scoop of ice-cream and shoved it in her mouth, apparently ignoring the way Vicky was staring at her.

    “Wait just one Brockton Bay second,” Vicky protested, once her brain kicked into gear again. “I could’ve sworn I just heard you say you took down Jack Slash. The Jack Slash.”

    “’s what I said.” Amy took another spoonful of ice cream. Suddenly aware that she was falling behind in the frozen-treats stakes, Vicky took a spoonful for herself.

    “You can’t just leave me hanging like that,” she chided her sister as soon as her mouth was clear again. “Give with the juicy, juicy deets. Where was the rest of the Nine? What did Mike have to do with it? Why did Alexandria even need you to do the deed? I mean, shit. I woulda happily broken every bone in his body from the toes on upward, and I wouldn’t have needed Alexandria to ask me to do it either.”

    Amy dug out another huge scoop of ice-cream, then sighed and paused. “Okay, fine. I’ll tell you. But then will you shut the fuck up about it? And no telling anyone. Not Crystal, not Dean, not anyone.”

    “Mom or Dad?” hazarded Vicky, then paused. “Yeah, no, not Mom. If she heard you went toe to toe with Jack Slash, she’d freak hard.

    “Nobody.” Amy took a bite of ice-cream off the spoon. “Promise me.”

    “Okay, fine.” Vicky rolled her eyes. “I promise.”

    “Okay, good.” Amy absently took another bite of ice-cream, then waved the spoon for emphasis. “So, Alexandria’s taken down the Nine, using that information Mike gave us about them, right? She’s got Burnscar and Bonesaw in custody, chucked Crawler into the sun, and she’s just going after Jack Slash. But he’s ten times as tricky as the rest of them.”

    Vicky blinked. “She actually did what he said, and threw Crawler into the sun?”

    “Well, that’s what she said she did.” Amy shrugged. “Sounds about right to me.”

    That wasn’t something Vicky felt like arguing over. Besides, Amy had a point. Crawler was stupidly durable, so much so that nothing anyone ever did to him would kill him for good. Throwing him into the sun was very much a situation of testing that aspect to destruction.

    “Okay, granted. But Jack Slash is … well, just a guy with a knife trick, yeah?” To be honest, Vicky wasn’t totally sure how the guy had kept control of the Nine all those years. Maybe he was a really, really good talker?

    “Nope.” Amy dug into the ice-cream again. “Mike says he was plugged into the things that give capes powers. Mike calls them ‘shards’. Jack Slash could basically figure out what a cape was thinking or any power-related secrets they had, and even influence them through that connection. That ‘doorway’ thing Alexandria has for getting around? He managed to scam his way into that network and she couldn’t get close to him.”

    “Oh. Oh, wow.” Vicky took an extra-large scoop for herself. That was heavy shit Ames was talking. A serial killer with the power of instant worldwide teleportation? Nobody would be safe. “So where do you come into this?”

    Amy glowered at the screen. “Well, he was doing it just by thinking the commands, so I had to shut down all mental activity so he couldn’t think his way out of there. That was bad enough. But I also had to get close enough to touch him, and normally his power would never let that happen.”

    “So how … oh.” Vicky stared at Amy. “When Mike is piloting your body, nobody can get a read on you with powers. Is that how you did it? I bet that’s how you did it.”

    “Yup.” Amy sighed and sat back, leaving her spoon stuck in the ice cream like a miniature flagpole. “We got doorway privileges ourselves out of it, so that’s a thing. But while Alexandria was coming at Jack Slash from one side, we doorwayed in behind him and Mike walked me up behind him. Mike put my hand on his neck, and I triggered my power. Turned off every last vestige of conscious or unconscious thought in his brain.” She turned to look at her sister. “Vicky, I turned him into a vegetable.”

    “On the other hand,” Vicky said brightly, “this was Jack Slash. If there was a vote for everyone ever who deserved to be changed into a drooling idiot before Alexandria ended him—she did end him, right?”

    Amy nodded gloomily and flicked the standing spoon handle with her finger. It vibrated dully. “Yeah, she snapped his neck is Mike’s guess. He’s dead.”

    “Right, right. So yeah, if there was a vote for everyone who deserved to go out that way, I’m pretty sure Jack Slash would make it with a landslide.” Vicky took another spoonful triumphantly. “Justice is served, Ames. And you helped make it happen.”

    This didn’t seem to make her sister any happier. Amy hunched down in the chair and grabbed her own spoon again. “Yeah, but my entire contribution was, ‘okay, you can use my body like a puppet’. Have you ever had that happen to you?”

    “You know I haven’t,” Vicky said, doing her best to conceal the bone-deep shudder she felt at the idea. Mental control, despite being one of the most common versions of Mastery in popular fiction, was rare on the ground in reality. It was also the type that terrified her the most, if she were being honest with herself. Losing all bodily autonomy to the whim of another, with no way to refuse … she couldn’t think of a worse fate. Even though this ‘Mike’ character seemed to be on the up and up, she still didn’t know how Amy was handling the fact that he could take over at any time.

    “Yeah, well, the suckiest part was that it had to be done; I knew it had to be done. And Alexandria was just looking at me, judging me for every second I took making the decision. I mean, Mike totally understood and held off until I said yes, but I could just tell that she wanted to shake me and tell me not to be such a fucking wimp. Or, you know, order Mike just to take over and be done with it.”

    “Would he have done it if she’d told him to?” Vicky wasn’t sure she really wanted to know, but morbid curiosity was definitely a thing.

    “Nope, and it wouldn’t have worked if he had.” More ice-cream went the way of the rest. “Mike can’t activate my power, and he knows it. Only I can do that. He didn’t even pressure me the way she was. I mean, I knew he was on board from the beginning, but he just let me work my own way through it. What sort of a stupid world is it when the guy who can take over your body at a moment’s notice is more considerate of your feelings than a hero like Alexandria?”

    Vicky had no answer to that, so she changed the subject slightly. “So what’s the next step on this grand plan?”

    “Something that’s really going to suck,” Amy said morosely. “Something that Mike’s being very careful to not pressure me about, which just shows how important it is. But I don’t want to do it.

    Vicky thought back over the events of the last few days. Very little of what they’d done could be considered ‘normal’, and Amy’s nose was still tender from where Shadow Stalker had broken it. “So what do they have planned for you now?”

    Amy dug out more ice-cream. “Mike says we need to get Bonesaw to play nice. Our best bet for that, according to him, is if I personally talk to her. Apparently she’s fixated on me as a potential ‘big sister’ because we’re both good at messing with living things. He’s warned me that she might not be easy to deal with, which is why he’s giving me my space right now.”

    “Wait just a fucking moment. Hold the goddamn phone.” Vicky sat up straight on the sofa, staring at Amy. “He wants you to talk to Bonesaw? Why isn’t she fucking dead?”

    “Because Alexandria listened to him when he said we want that murderous little shithead alive.” Amy closed her eyes and thumped her head against the sofa back. “And until I do talk to her, we can’t actually move forward. The only good news is, it probably isn’t important for me to do it right this second.”

    “Unless she escapes,” Vicky said, because sometimes the band-aid needed to be ripped off, no matter how much it hurt.

    “Unless she escapes,” Amy agreed. “Anyway, there’s nothing really urgent for me to do after that. The ABB is out of the way, the Empire is being defanged, the Nine’s been removed, the Travelers have gone back to Earth Aleph, Eidolon’s in therapy … Mike says he’ll be keeping an eye on current events so he can figure out what bear to poke next. His words, not mine.”

    “Just gonna say, that phrasing doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, when it comes to him.” Vicky paused and stared. “Wait, Earth Aleph?”

    “That’s what Mike said.” Amy shrugged. “I’m not about to try to tell him it’s impossible.”

    “No,” mused Vicky thoughtfully. “Me neither.” Trying to change the subject away from Bonesaw, she playfully ruffled her sister’s hair. “So, you still pissed at Alexandria?”

    “Little bit.” Amy dug into the ice-cream again. “Look, I get the whole ‘greater good’ thing, but when it’s me putting my personal agency on the line for the greater good, it’s different.”

    “But you still did it.” Vicky gave her a quick side-hug, trying to cheer her up. “My sister, the hero.”

    “Don’t feel very heroic.”

    Well, that didn’t work. Vicky smirked, knowing something that would definitely lift her sister out of the funk she’d fallen into. It would get her into so much trouble, but it was probably worth it. Taking a spoonful of ice-cream, she paused for a second then deliberately smooshed it over Amy’s face.

    Wide-eyed with outrage, Amy stared at her. “What the fuck was that for?”

    “You’re no fun when you’re all mopey.” Vicky levitated off the sofa and gave Amy a challenging grin. “What are you gonna do about it?”

    Thirty seconds later, Carol Dallon emerged from her office to find out what the running and shouting was all about. As she watched, an ice-cream-bedaubed Amy chased a hysterically cackling Vicky through the living room, carrying a tub of ice-cream and waving a spoon threateningly. Slowly, she facepalmed.

    I wonder if other cape parents have days like this …


    PRT Rec Room

    PRT ENE Building

    Brockton Bay

    PRT Trooper Engels leaned back in his chair and sighed. “I gotta say, you guys really do things differently in Brockton Bay.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean, Engels?” Sergeant Patricia ‘Sally’ LaSalle asked, raising her eyebrows slightly. Engels had transferred in not long before. He was a good troop, but he was still finding his feet among the crew. It didn’t help that he had his own opinions about the methods they ‘should’ be using, as opposed to the ones that actually worked. Instead of taking the time to watch and learn, he tended to question first and think later.

    “Nothing, really,” he said hastily. “I’m just trying to figure out which side of the fence you guys are on. When I first got here, it was like the gangs were a protected species. Nobody made any big moves against the ABB or the Empire Eighty-Eight, in case you upset the precious balance of power. And that’s even when you had Wards duking it out with villain capes. I mean, holy shit. If Director Franklin had so much as considered approving our Wards for going up against the Fallen …” He made a throat-cutting gesture, accompanied by a suitable sound effect.

    “That’s not in any way the same thing,” Pat LaSalle said. “The Fallen have been known to kidnap capes, including Wards, for that insane breeding program of theirs. Keeping Wards well away from them is only common sense. Here … well, we’ve got so many capes out there that if they run into one on a patrol, it’s not a huge surprise. Besides, the kids all wear armoured costumes as a matter of course. And the local capes pretty well know that if they want to start going for kill-shots on them, Miss Militia can and will snipe them from half a mile away if she really has to.”

    “Wait, what?” Engels sat up again, frowning. “That’s not right. That’s a Kill Order matter, and those things take time.”

    “Not if a Ward gets ganked.” Patricia spoke with authority. “Piggot might be a hardass, but she knows what it’s like at the sharp end. That shit starts going down, she’ll sign off on it in a heartbeat.”

    “You’re nuts. You’re all certifiably nuts.” Engels shook his head. “And I’m pretty sure it’s contagious. I mean, Alexandria comes to town and the next thing we hear, she’s gone after the Nine like they owed her money. Just like she went after the bomb cape, Bakuda. I mean, one day you’ve got more gang capes in town than hero capes and the next you’ve got damn-all. Is it something in the water here? Because that’s one hell of a switch in attitude, just saying.”

    “Way I heard it, it was Panacea.” That was Trooper Dunne; a ten-year veteran of PRT ENE, he’d seen and heard it all. He also liked to spook the new recruits with horror stories of the bad old days.

    “Panacea?” Engels frowned. “The healer? She looks like she’s frightened of her own shadow.”

    Dunne chuckled. “Not in the last few days. Girl’s been stepping up. And things been happening.”

    Patricia stared at him. She knew Dunne had serious contacts all over the Bay, but this was next level. “Trooper, what haven’t you been telling me?”

    “Hey, sarge, it’s a thing.” Dunne shrugged. “I like to keep my ear to the ground. A little something-something from time to time, and they pass on things they hear to me. Gotta keep ahead of the game, y’know?”

    “There’s keeping ahead of the game, and then there’s being downright spooky, Dunne.” Patricia folded her arms. “What’ve you been hearing about that girl?”

    “Wellll …” Dunne grinned. He had her hooked, and they both knew it. “That bank robbery with the Undersiders? She goes toe to toe with that bug controller, clocks her with a fire extinguisher, then gets put down with a baton? That’s not Panacea’s game. She’s normally background support only.”

    “So she got pissed off, bit off more than she could chew.” Engels gestured dismissively. “Shit happens.”

    “Not like that,” Dunne said positively. “Not with Panacea. She doesn’t get mixed up in things, and she doesn’t get pissed off. If she did, there’d be a lot of gang members with their faces on backward or worse. This shit is new.”

    “Could be an anomaly,” Patricia suggested. “Even mousy teenage girls get pissed off from time to time.”

    “Sure, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” Dunne ticked points off on his fingers. “See, the Undersiders did the bank thing, but I’ve always thought they had a powerful backer. So Dinah Alcott gets kidnapped at the same time. Timing’s suspicious, yeah? Then that same night, the Alcott girl’s back with her parents. They say the Undersiders returned her … and Panacea was with them. And the rumour that she was there when Coil got popped in his own base seems on the level, too.”

    Patricia blinked. “You’re saying Panacea turned the Undersiders against their boss?”

    “It’s one interpretation.” Dunne raised his eyebrows. “Ever wonder why Alexandria suddenly showed up in town, and ended up in Bakuda’s trap?”

    Engels shrugged. “I dunno. Alexandria does what Alexandria does?”

    “Yeah, but what if she came to town because of Panacea?” suggested Dunne. “Anyways, think about this. She gets stuck in that time bubble of Bakuda’s, then the very next day, Bakuda gets taken down by the Undersiders—who Panacea’s been associating with—and left for Armsmaster. And nobody’s seen hide nor hair of Oni Lee since then. With those two and Lung off the street, the ABB’s got zero cape presence. And then there’s that thing where Panacea went to Winslow and uncovered that shit Shadow Stalker’s been into.”

    “It’s thin,” Patricia said, shaking her head. “Real thin. If that was a witness statement, I couldn’t get an indictment out of it.”

    “Ah, but the best is yet to come.” Dunne grinned. “After none other than Glory Girl—you know, Panacea’s sister?—saves Alexandria, with the help of some other capes that I’m pretty sure are villains, Alexandria has a heart to heart with Panacea and the bug cape on the rooftop.”

    “Yeah, so?” Engels spread his hands. “Maybe she had a boo-boo from the time bubble, and she needed Panacea to look at it.”

    “So, this.” Dunne looked at each of them, his grin widening. “I like to keep my eyes and ears open, and I take notice of weird shit happening. Such as the Canary trial falling through within forty-eight hours of Teacher biting the big one in the Birdcage. And now Alexandria takes down the Nine? I ain’t no Einstein, and this whole thing could just be one helluva coincidence from beginning to end, but if any one person’s got the throw weight to pull all that shit off, it would be Alexandria. Ya feel me?”

    Patricia rubbed her lips with her knuckles, considering his words. “Even if all this bunch of conjecture was true, is it any of it even actionable? Or do we just stash it in the ‘way over my pay grade’ column and pretend we never heard about it?”

    Engels rubbed his ear absently. “Panacea’s calling Alexandria’s shots? If that’s true, then you guys do things even more differently than I thought.”

    “Conjecture, and not something we’ve remotely got jurisdiction over,” Patricia reminded him. “Dunne, you tell a good story, but until we get anything that resembles corroboration, that’s all it is. A bunch of unconnected stories. And anyway, it’s not like we can do a damn thing about it.”

    Dunne chuckled and got up from his chair. “I know, I know. But it sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?” He gestured toward the coffee machine. “I’m getting a cup. Want one?”

    Patricia nodded. “Yeah, that’s something I can definitely get behind.”

    The conversation moved on to other topics, and nobody mentioned Panacea or Alexandria again. But the damage had been done.



    Contessa leaned back in her office chair and let her mind wander.

    It was official. The Slaughterhouse Nine was over. As a team, they had been systematically demolished, leaving not even one member to try to re-establish the name. Not that anyone really wanted to; during their tenure, the Nine had established very thoroughly that they didn’t play nice with anyone, even those who were willing to cooperate with them or even pay for their services. Anyone else trying to put forth a new Slaughterhouse Nine, especially in the absence of Jack Slash, would face quite a bit of animosity.

    But this was leading to another situation; one that wasn’t serious in the beginning but could easily get that way. As a landmass will spring back upward when an ice age ends and the glaciers retreat, so too were the villains (who had previously sung low when the Nine were extant) starting to lift their heads and look around. Nobody was quite yet ready to officially strive for the crown of ‘most feared’ among the supervillain set—Jack Slash had left some extremely large shoes to fill—but the subtle jockeying for position was already beginning to happen.

    On the other hand, while nobody was actually asking the obvious question—what happens to those gangs who’ve been deemed ‘not as bad as the Nine’ when the Nine are no longer a factor?—there were certainly people thinking hard about it, on both sides of the law.

    But the bigger question that people weren’t even wondering about was, what would happen to these would-be Big Names on the scene if they happened to clash with Panacea and the enigmatic Security in their reach for the top spot?

    In all honesty, Contessa wasn’t sure, but she was absolutely certain it would not be pretty. She made a mental note to acquire popcorn.



    “Elijah, dear, get your things. We’re going on a road trip.”

    “Yes, Mama.”


    One Week Later


    Amy leaned back in her bus seat, eyes closed. It was a long ride from her house to the northern ferry terminal, and the roads weren’t the best. And she still had a walk in front of her to get to the Undersiders’ hideout.

    Okay, I’m pleased that you’re reaching out to the Undersiders again, but I’m not a hundred percent on exactly why. And why now? It’s not like anything dramatic’s happened over the last few days.

    Internally, Amy sighed. It’s the Bonesaw thing. You know I don’t want to do it. And I know I need to.

    With you so far, yeah. A mental image popped up of a well-furnished study, with a heavyset bearded man relaxing in a comfortable-looking armchair, a glass of some cold beverage in his hand.

    Huh, you’re getting better at that.

    Yeah, well, once I figured out how to lock myself out of what you were seeing and hearing, it was a lot easier. So what about the Undersiders and Bonesaw? You know if she ever actually met them, she’d be more interested in turning them into mockeries of themselves or dissecting them than actually working with them, right?

    Oh, I’m fully aware. But I was hoping you and Tattletale could compare notes. You tell her everything you know about Bonesaw, then she does her thing and gives me some guidelines on how to actually bring her to the light side.

    He tilted his head and nodded thoughtfully. Y’know, that could actually work. And there’s a hidden benefit there.

    Hidden benefit? Amy couldn’t see it, apart from the obvious.

    He shrugged and grinned. It’s funny as hell trolling her. Every time we switch out control, she twitches hard. I mean, I’ve got nothing specific against her, apart from the fact that she loves rubbing how smart she is in other people’s faces. You’ve been on the other side of it. You know how it goes.

    Yeah. I know how it goes. Amy could still recall the smug expression on Tattletale’s face in the bank when she was pulling facts out of thin air, facts the blonde should not have been able to know. As much as she wanted to own the moral high ground, there was a certain amount of satisfaction in getting payback for the anguish she’d felt at the time. More to the point, it was liberating to be given carte blanche by Mike to actually take a little payback every now and again as opposed to bottling up her anger and resentment until it boiled over.

    Yup. So anyway, have you put any thought into how else you wanted to stretch out your powers, keep them happy so they don’t jump out and bite some poor bastard on the bum?

    What? Amy wanted to giggle. She’d never heard an adult use that particular turn of phrase before, and it struck her as inordinately funny.

    Something interesting to do with your powers, Mike said patiently. Have you thought of anything?

    I’ve got some ideas, she admitted. But I’m not taking over the world’s plant life. Just saying. I’ve managed to get this far without a kill order, and I’d like to keep it that way.

    Sounds legit—whoa, what’s going on?

    Amy had registered the commotion too, just as he spoke up. She opened her eyes just in time to see a slender figure make their way up to the front of the bus. The long blonde hair reminded her of Vicky for a moment but the way the girl moved was subtly different, possibly because her sister never had to worry about losing her balance.

    I don’t know. Is she getting off the bus?

    And then the person got to the front of the bus and turned to lean in toward the barrier surrounding the driver. She raised her sunglasses—or maybe he raised his sunglasses; the half-turn had revealed that the androgynous blonde had absolutely nothing going on chest-wise, less even than Taylor—and clearly said something to the driver. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a request to stop the bus, because the vehicle accelerated slightly.

    Right past the next stop; Amy saw prospective passengers waving their arms angrily as they were left behind.

    Okay, that’s weird. What did she say? Wait, is that a girl or a guy?

    Your guess is as good as mine, on all counts. Amy frowned. Then the realisation flared through her, far too late. Wait, shit, I think that’s—

    Information on the Fallen was scarce, but she’d heard of them and read what descriptions there were available. Eligos was an aerokinetic who liked to pattern his costume after Behemoth, while Valefor was a Master who could give irresistible commands to anyone he—or maybe she—could see.

    Valefor was also slender and blond. And they’d just taken off their sunglasses—

    Her thoughts dissolved into warm mush. Words echoed through her head for a moment, and she could think nothing but obedience. And then she opened her eyes without any memory of having closed them.

    What she saw around herself made no sense at all. She was half-sitting, half-lying on a comfortable sofa in a warm, wood-panelled room. A large bookshelf to one side held dozens or hundreds of volumes, while a chessboard table had a half-finished game on it.

    She’d never been in this room before in her life. There had been no sense of time-lapse nor of movement, and she was pretty sure she hadn’t been unconscious. That had a totally different feel to it. Also, there was a long low-pitched booming noise in the background, but it didn’t seem relevant so she ignored it for the moment.

    “Hey, you okay?” A heavy-set man with thinning hair and a grey beard leaned forward from the armchair he was sitting in, and offered her a glass of water. “Here, get this into you.”

    The voice wasn’t the first clue, but it was the one that clicked. She’d been listening to it every day, ever since she’d been hit on the head at the bank heist. Only, this time she was hearing the voice rather than experiencing it from within. “Mike?” she asked hesitantly, accepting the glass. “Wait, am I inside my own head?”

    “Got it in one,” he said with a grin. “But I gotta say, I’m blanking on who you think that is out there.”

    She took a sip from the glass. The water was cool and refreshing, with a touch of lemon juice for tartness. “Valefor. He’s a member of the Fallen.”

    “Oh, for fuck’s sake.” He actually facepalmed. “I should’ve recognised him. I just didn’t expect him to show up this early in the piece.”

    “This early?” She shook her head and waved away the words. “Tell me later. Right now, we’re in a shitload of trouble. He’s got me under control. The PRT doesn’t think he uses his power to kill people—”

    “He absolutely does,” Mike interrupted grimly. “The trouble is, he can order people to forget that he’s ever given them orders. Including orders to commit suicide or murder according to a prearranged signal sent to them well after the order was given.”

    Amy didn’t even consider doubting his word; he’d been right about far too much before now. “Well, that’s a cheerful thought.” She didn’t want to think about being given secret orders that she had no way of resisting. Valefor could do that, then order someone to call her with a coded message and start her on a murder-fest once he was well away from the city; the tabloids would have an absolute field day, but they’d be the only happy ones.

    He stood up and stretched. “It is all of that. The next thing we have to determine is if he’s after you or if he’s got some other agenda. And then we figure out how to stop him.”

    “Stop him?” she demanded. “Stop him? I saw his eyes! He’s got me! I didn’t even have the chance to fight him!” The memory of that helpless feeling struck at her again. “As soon as we go out there, I’m a hand puppet again! Only this time, he’s in charge!”

    “That’s if it’s you going out there.” He grinned. “Remember when Regent tried to pull his body-control bullshit on us? The look on his face when we no-sold it was amazing.”

    “What, you can beat Valefor’s power?” Amy was startled. Mike had pulled some serious bullshit before, but this was a whole next level.

    “Hey, when you went down, I pulled you in here, didn’t I? I’m the pinch-hitter, your secret weapon. You’re the public face. I’m just the wizard behind the curtain.” He tilted his head as though listening. “Okay, that answers that. He’s told everyone to sit still, but he’s talking to you directly.”

    She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Of course he is. Because why the fuck wouldn’t the Fallen be targeting me, on top of everything else?”

    There was a doubtful expression on his face. “I can’t help thinking that I’m kind of responsible for this. Because if I wasn’t doing stuff and changing matters, I know for an absolute fact that they wouldn’t have come to Brockton Bay until after Leviathan paid the town a visit.”

    Opening her eyes, she finished off the glass and put it on a side table. “Well, if your precautions work out, he’ll never show up, right? So that’s just one of many good things that came out of you ending up in my head.”

    He snorted softly but nodded to concede the validity of her point. “Okay, granted. So, quick question. What would he mean by telling you to do what Mama tells you? Who’s Mama?”

    Amy blinked. “No idea. I know some of the Fallen, but details are sketchy at best.”

    “Just like the Fallen themselves,” he said with a smirk, but it faded fast. “Okay, time to do something. He’s telling us that if we don’t do what he says, he’s going to order everyone in the bus to kill each other and themselves. Okay, brace yourself.”

    “Wait, he does that?” Horrified and startled, Amy stared at him, then the world shifted again.

    The comfortable room morphed and fell away, and she was back in the bus. However, this time around it felt weird. Instead of being either shoved into the back seat or being fully in control, it felt as though she were … side by side? with Mike. Sharing the driver’s seat (as it were) for the first time.

    The slender blond was standing in the aisle a few seats in front of Amy, looking intently at her. This close, she could see the makeup on his face, with faint tattoo lines around his mouth, though she couldn’t quite figure out what they were supposed to be. “ … and do what she tells you,” he said. His tone was impatient, as though he were unused to repeating himself.

    Amy felt her head beginning to turn, though this too felt different. Instead of being able to do nothing to prevent it, she got the impression that if she wanted to, she could stop it. This time, she chose not to.

    Seated beside her, where before there had been a middle-aged housewife type, was a slender woman with long wispy pale-blonde hair. Amy saw the family resemblance almost immediately, but that part wasn’t important. The significant aspect was that the woman was looking at her expectantly.

    “Hello, Panacea,” said the woman. “My name’s Christine, but you can call me Mama. You won’t ever use your powers on me without my permission. Do you understand?”

    Amy felt the urge for her mouth to open and reply in the affirmative. Is that you? she asked Mike, in the internal voice she’d gotten accustomed to using.

    Nope. Pretty sure that’s Valefor. Let it happen?

    Sure. But instead of simply allowing the command to play out with a simple ‘yes’, Amy pushed for control. “Yes, Mama. I understand.”

    The woman smiled in a way Amy found supremely creepy. “Good.” She put her hand on Amy’s arm. Again, as Amy went to read her bio-data, she found resistance. And then Mike did something and the resistance was gone; the woman named Christine was an open book to her.

    Christine looked into Amy’s eyes. “You’re a strange one,” she purred. “I think you’ll make a fine bride for my Elijah. Let’s just see what’s going on in that pretty little head of yours.”

    Ew ew ew, did she just say what I thought she said?

    Mike’s inner voice was equally repulsed. Nope. Just NOPE.

    The outside world went away again. Amy found herself standing next to Mike in his inner room; a second later, there was a fuzz of static then the woman herself appeared before them. She blinked and looked around.

    “Well, this is definitely different,” she said, apparently dismissing Amy altogether, and stepping forward to peer up at Mike. “Is this some kind of invented father figure? And this elaborate setup … why? Where are your senses? I’m going to need access to—”

    Mike punched her, hard. She didn’t even seem to realize it was coming until his fist sank deep into her solar plexus. She doubled over, wheezing, then fell to her knees. A new expression crossed her face as she looked up at them.


    “What … who … how …” she wheezed. Her image flickered, then firmed again.

    “She’s trying to get away,” Mike said crisply. “I’ll keep her here. You deal with that shit upstairs. Go!”

    “Going.” Amy concentrated, and a door that she hadn’t noticed in the corner of the room opened for her. She stepped through …

    … and was in control once more. Vaguely, she was aware of Mike kicking Christine’s mental avatar in the face, but she was concentrating on what was around her in the real world. All the passengers were sitting quietly, facing forward. The bus driver was still driving, ignoring what was happening behind him.

    Beside her, Christine (there was no way in hell she was going to refer to that woman as ‘Mama’ again, even in her own head) had slumped down, drooling slightly, her eyes unfocused. Valefor was staring at the both of them with suspicion, his mouth starting to open again.

    There was no way she would be able to get out of her seat, slide past Christine into the aisle and reach Valefor before he spoke whatever words he had in mind. But there was another way; a way she would never have even considered before she’d met Mike. Normally, she would’ve stopped and asked him for his input before doing something this drastic, but right now there was no time.

    Clamping her hand down on Christine’s left arm, she took total control of the woman’s body. Christine’s right arm morphed into a tentacle, explosive-growth cells lifting and rocketing the ever-stretching appendage upward and forward.

    It was crude and biologically wasteful—Christine would suffer from a significant loss of mass in her right arm after this—but Amy could control the tentacle via direct alterations to its physiology rather than subtle nerve impulses. She had no idea how to make a tentacle work normally, anyway. So she did the best she could.

    Valefor’s eyes widened and he lurched backward, but the last foot of the tentacle whipped around his neck. She sealed it to itself, then set about bulking it out before he could pull free. He scrabbled at it; she turned off the nerve endings before his gouging nails could cause a flinch reaction. Who even grew their nails that long, anyway?

    “Everyone,” he choked out past the constriction around his throat. “Kill—”

    Amy contracted the tentacle as hard and fast as she could, pulling him forward to where she was.

    He resisted, forcing out another syllable. “—yo—”

    Desperately, Amy lunged from her seat, grabbing the tentacle and yanking on it. Her free hand reached forward and slapped across Valefor’s mouth, muffling his voice before he could complete the word. Without the slightest hesitation, she shut down his system, dropping him unconscious to the floor of the bus.

    Panting, she stared down at him before looking at the people around her. Nobody even turned their heads. It was like nothing had happened. Valefor’s orders, whatever they were, held strong.

    “Okay,” she said, turning back to the apparently comatose woman in the seat beside hers. “Let’s see if we can’t get some answers.”


    Half an Hour Later

    The PRT officer, a Captain Schwartz, watched as the two parahumans—Christine Mathers’ arm now returned to normal—were loaded onto the PRT van. Both were locked down with Brute restraints (which, just incidentally, covered both hands in their entirety) as well as full head coverings, restricting their sight, hearing and speech to effectively nil. Behind the half-visor of his helmet, he didn’t look happy in the slightest.

    “I’ve heard about this Valefor character, but what about this other one?” He looked down at the electronic pad in his hand. “Christine Mathers? She’s something to do with the Mathers part of the Fallen?”

    “She’s the Mathers part of the Fallen,” Amy said. “The head of it, anyway. Everyone else in it answers to her.”

    He shook his head. “I find that hard to believe. I’ve never even heard of her.”

    “Not surprising.” Amy lifted her chin and clasped her hands behind her back. “She’s a memetic hazard, and her son’s a powerful Master. He can literally tell you to forget that he told you to forget something. As for Mathers herself, if you see or hear her, or experience her via any other sense, she can access that sense, and experience it through you. She can also control your access to that sense. Anyone who finds out about her, she can either co-opt or murder with ridiculous ease.”

    “And she came after you.” He turned toward her. “How do you know you aren’t compromised, right now?”

    Because Mike. But she couldn’t say that out loud. “I had time to work with them. I managed to make him order her to release all influence she had over everyone she had ever encountered, including me. He also gave her a few other commands, so she couldn’t start screwing over your guys as soon as she gets a chance.”

    “And him? What about all the hidden commands he might have left around the place? Simurgh-style time bombs, just waiting for something to happen, or not happen?” The tone of his voice indicated a certain amount of worry.

    Amy grinned. “You forget, my power makes me into a perfect lie detector. I ordered him to drop all those commands, then I might’ve twisted his arm a few times until he was telling the truth when he said he’d done it.”

    “Ah.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll, uh, forget I heard that bit. Mistreating prisoners is kind of illegal.”

    “It was a hostage situation,” she countered. “There were innocents in danger.” Left unsaid was the implication that she’d been perfectly willing to hurt Valefor as hard as she needed to, in order to gain his cooperation.

    The details, of course, were a little different to what she’d explained in her verbal statement to the PRT. She hadn’t bothered applying physical pain. The Fallen being who and what they were, she suspected such forms of coercion were borderline useless. With Mike’s full assent (and a few suggestions), she’d gone a different route.

    Elijah Mathers, aka Valefor, would never again be able to use his power to give a command to anyone who wasn’t already a loyal member of the Fallen. Christine Mathers, aka ‘Mama’, would never again be able to use her power to influence or affect anyone outside that circle. Both would be literally incapable of giving orders that affected anyone not devoted to the Fallen.

    Not that the PRT was aware of this. The pair would be separately imprisoned in high-security holding and serve their sentences for all the horrific crimes they’d freely confessed to her (for a given definition of ‘freely’). But if they ever did escape, or were released for some reason, they’d be useless to the Fallen.

    She’d made absolutely certain of it.

    He nodded. “You have a valid point.” He pointed, superfluously, as a gold and white figure descended from the heavens. “Looks like your sister’s here. Did you have anything else to add to your statement?”

    “Nope, that’s about it. Thanks for your help.” Amy headed over to where Vicky had just landed. “Hey, good to see you.”

    “You too.” Vicky hugged her. “I hear you got to be the hero today.”

    “Yeah, I did.” Amy smiled. It felt good.

    End of Part Twenty-Six
  15. meloa789

    meloa789 I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Feb 13, 2021
    Likes Received:
    I am glad that this is back.
    Akuma-Heika and Ack like this.
  16. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    It never went away. There was just a lull between posts (caused by other chapters of other stories).
    macdjord and meloa789 like this.
  17. Darkarma

    Darkarma Loli Inkling

    Jul 17, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Mama Tentacle Mathers... there's something I never thought I'd read and its horrific

    Great job.
    ARandomGuy, Crimson Reiter and Ack like this.
  18. Anti-No

    Anti-No Versed in the lewd.

    Mar 22, 2016
    Likes Received:
    I'm sure there will be no more rumours in the PRT about Panacea after this. Nope.
  19. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    None whatsoever. No, sir.
  20. SlickRCBD

    SlickRCBD Know what you're doing yet?

    Nov 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    How long before Director Piggot starts having Nilbog flashbacks once she realizes what Panacea can really do?
    Or Nilbog paranoia?
    Ajlove, Doccer and Ack like this.
  21. nick012000

    nick012000 Experienced.

    Feb 26, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Did she just torture Valefor into looking into a mirror and ordering himself not to use his powers on anyone but the Fallen?

    Well, at least her shard's gonna be happy with her for actually using her power in a fight.
    Ocean Sailor, Ack and Doccer like this.
  22. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:

    She adjusted his brain so he literally could not keep the idea in his head long enough to do it even if someone spoon-fed him the words.

    But yeah, Shaper's happy.
  23. nick012000

    nick012000 Experienced.

    Feb 26, 2013
    Likes Received:
    So, she basically lobotomized him and made him unable to functionally use his power at all as a result? Pretty sure his shard's not gonna like that, and it's going to figure out a way to let him use his power anyway, possibly by restoring some degree of his brain function by using his previous brain states as backups. It's the sort of thing that'd cause a Second Trigger.

    I'm pretty sure that she doesn't have the sort of fine-grained mind control that you're implying she does, because otherwise things would have worked out differently with Victoria and Hunter in canon. At most, she's capable of altering mental tendencies (e.g. adjusting their tendency towards risk-taking or enhancing existing emotional ties) and gross mental functions (by e.g. deleting parts of the brain).
    ARandomGuy, Ajlove and macdjord like this.
  24. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:

    Valefor and Mama are perfectly able to use their powers ... but only on people they know for a fact are devout members of the Fallen. On those people, they can use their powers all day long.

    They're not being prevented from using their powers, or even forced to not use them by loss of sensory capability. It's just that the pool of potential victims has been ... reduced.

    I have no idea what she did to Hunter (and it has no bearing on this fic because Ward is in part a retcon of Worm, and this is a Worm fanfic) but she turned Victoria into an Amy-centric lesbian in less than a second, without meaning to. If she'd been meaning to, she could've made it so Vicky saw nothing wrong with it.

    Accidental brain damage can have some really bizarre and counter-intuitive effects. Deliberate brain damage, literally rewiring the brain so that certain modes of thought are impossible, is something that Amy can pull off anytime.

    So no, Valefor and Mama Mathers have been rendered inert as far as this story is concerned.

    (Also, the PRT is going to keep them incommunicado for the foreseeable future).
  25. Jorin

    Jorin Mostly A Lurker

    Feb 22, 2017
    Likes Received:
    *Sees last name* Hmmm... Any relation to a certain New Orleans NCIS agent?:)
    Ack and Ajlove like this.
  26. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    None whatsoever.

    It's actually just re-using a side character in Security!, who took Canary under her wing (so to speak).
    Ajlove likes this.
  27. Jorin

    Jorin Mostly A Lurker

    Feb 22, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Ah. I see. And here I was hoping this would crossover with NCIS: New Orleans.

    Ah well.

    It would have been interesting seeing the NCIS Nola crew interacting with the natives of Brockton Bay.
  28. Threadmarks: Part Twenty-Seven: Do What You Gotta Do

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Feb 12, 2014
    Likes Received:
    I, Panacea

    Part Twenty-Seven: Do What Ya Gotta Do

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


    The sun was definitely starting to dip in the direction of Captain's Hill when Amy got off the bus at the northern ferry terminal.

    You know, Michael commented off-handedly, we could've done this another day. You've had it pretty hectic already.

    I know, she sighed. But if I use that as an excuse to put it off today, it'll be easier to do it again for another reason tomorrow. Better to get it over with and see what advice she's got for me.

    She could sense his agreement. Been there, done that. Too lazy to get the T-shirt.

    There was nobody waiting at the stop, so the bus driver closed the door and pulled away again. Amy took a deep breath and started walking in the direction of the Undersiders' base. Got any advice for me? For dealing with them, I mean?

    You've been there every time I've spoken with them. His voice was gently chiding. I might know more about them, but you're a lot more likely to understand them by now.

    No, I mean yes, that's true. But how do you not want to smack Lisa every time she does that little 'I know more than you do' smirk?

    She felt him sigh. You're assuming I don't. But no, that's a legitimate question. I just remind myself that she's a Thinker. All powers are aimed at causing conflict, so you remember how I told you about shards? Yeah, well, her shard is literally pushing her to blurt out stuff that pisses people off, either via the content or via the attitude, just like what I told you how your powers would activate on their own if you didn't use them for more than healing.

    You're shitting me. She paused, recalling the fact that Michael had never lied to her or misled her in any significant manner. So all that bitchiness, that's her shard pushing her to be that way?

    He transmitted a mental image of a grin. Well, maybe a little bit of it's really her. It's gotta have something to work with, after all. But let's go with ten percent original issue, ninety percent shard-generated. It's kind of sad, really.

    What is? She got the impression he wasn't talking about Tattletale anymore.

    Capes in general, and Thinkers in particular. Everyone's a puppet to their shards to one degree or another, except the ones that got it out of a vial. And sometimes even them. But Thinkers … they end up leaning so hard on their powers, they never see when they're being led down the wrong path. All in the name of conflict.

    Amy had long since decided to drop her grudge against Lisa, but this new information was beginning to paint that entire incident in a different light. Wait, so … if we'd all been totally rational and free of shard influence, that stuff in the bank wouldn't have happened?

    He snorted. Robbing a bank isn't exactly a rational move. It's about the least efficient way to make money when it comes to profit versus risk, but it's big and flashy and that was what Coil wanted. But yeah, once you had the hostages out of the way, why didn't you go upstairs with them?

    I … what? Mentally, Amy backpedalled. I thought this was about Tattletale making bad choices because of her power.

    Tattletale wasn't the only cape in the room, he reminded her cheerfully. You weren't front line. You knew Vicky was going to be busting down the door at any second, and there'd be a fight. The smart idea would've been to hide upstairs as well, but you didn't do that. So, do you want to know what I think happened?

    Amy did not, but neither did she want to be left in the dark. I'm listening.

    Vicky was incoming, and her shard said to Taylor's and Lisa's: woo hoo, let's have a fight! Lots of conflict and learning new stuff about ourselves. You would've snuck upstairs, but Lisa's shard offered conflict to yours and Vicky's both, and Taylor's hadn't really been let out for a spin before so it was all in as well. So your shard made up your mind for you, and you stayed downstairs.

    What? Seriously, what the fuck? This conversation was definitely going places Amy had never been before. Are you saying my shard Mastered me?

    He didn't step back from the idea. Sounds about right. I mean, look at it. You could've just walked up to Taylor and dropped her with your powers, and she wouldn't have known you were there until it was all over. But instead you chose to hit her with a fire extinguisher, and conflict started happening all over the place.

    Amy didn't want it to be true, but the logic was incontrovertible. Taking the bug cape out of action would've certainly been the smartest move, right after going upstairs with the erstwhile hostages and barricading themselves into an office or something to wait for the heroes. That would've given Vicky a clear run to smack the villains around without her as a hostage to queer the deal.

    Oh, hey. Something I just thought of. You and Vicky were there because she'd arranged a double date with some guy, right? You wanted to withdraw money. So, whose idea was it to go to that bank? Why didn't you just go to an ATM? What if you and Vicky even being there was a shard decision? It sure as hell added a lot of conflict to the mix.

    What the fuck? So all that shit went down because our shards decided to have a play date with the Undersiders? It was horrifying on a particularly visceral level. Nobody liked the idea of being Mastered; anyone who could actually coerce a person into doing things against their will tended to end up badly. So, wait. Everyone with powers is being influenced by them into totally unnecessary confrontations? Even capes like Jack Slash?

    He chuckled wryly. Well, not everyone. Some people are just plain arseholes to begin with. Jack's shard never had to push him into conflict. He loved it from the word go. It was his bread and butter. Chances are, even without it, he would've ended up as a serial killer anyway.

    Oh. She began to feel a little better about his demise, and her part in it. But the others? You can't say they're all like that.

    Yeah, no, true. But let's look at Taylor. When she got her powers, she wanted to be a hero like Alexandria. But when she made her costume, it came out dark and villain-like. Even Armsmaster said as much when they first met. Her shard pushed her for the clash with Lung, then more clashing with Armsmaster, so when the Undersiders made their overture, she accepted. Pretty big switch for someone who wanted to go the hero route, wouldn't you say?

    He was right. It was. All this time, she hadn't even thought it through, but there it was. And let me guess. She gets more conflict this way than if she'd joined the Wards.

    Well, apart from the clash that would've happened sooner or later with Shadow Stalker, yeah. That would've been a one and done, as opposed to the ongoing conflict that's been Taylor's life since she joined the Undersiders.

    Her mind veered away from Taylor. What about Coil? Was he a bad person, or did his shard make him that way?

    Let's put it this way. He was originally booted from the PRT because he shot a superior officer in the back, and climbed over his corpse to get into the chopper. Fortunately for him, the specific circumstances didn't warrant more stringent punishment. And then he went and bought powers with the express intent of becoming a supervillain. The man was a snake long before he put on that costume.

    Oh. While that didn't necessarily make her feel better about Coil's death, it gave her a certain amount of perspective in the matter. Jesus Christ, I'll be second-guessing every decision I'll be making from here on in.

    Which isn't a bad habit to have, if you're smart about it. You're probably aware of this, but only about five to ten percent of our day-to-day decisions actually involve a conscious thought process. Most of what we do is dealt with on instinct, and we just backfill the justifications after the fact. Sometimes it's a good idea to question those justifications before we jump right in.

    She paused. I was not, in fact, aware of that. Or is this the leadup to some convoluted joke?

    Hah, nope. Wish it was. Some go higher than that and some lower, but it's depressing how many decisions we make on the basis of what we'll get out of it—be it food, sex or money—all the while telling ourselves smugly that we're carefully reviewing all the facts and coming to a reasoned decision. Or maybe because we don't like something or someone, and don't even realise it.

    I have trouble believing that. People are smarter than what you're saying. At least, she realised as she 'said' it, that was what she wanted to think. Vicky was smart enough to take college courses, and she still pulled some majorly dumbass stunts from time to time.

    To quote what might still be one of the best movies of all time: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky animals and you know it. Do you remember the last time you had to make a decision and it was actually difficult to decide what to do?

    She frowned. That was a little while ago, but sure. Why?

    That was the last time you actively engaged your brain to deal with a problem rather than letting your prejudices and instincts make the choice for you. People don't like to think too hard. It's strenuous and they aren't used to it. We aren't used to it. This is why every one of us builds up a toolkit of autonomous responses to use in everyday social situations. We're lazy.

    Ooh, ouch. Amy's mind veered away to something Michael had said earlier. And let me guess. Thinkers learn to let their shards handle the instinctive stuff, so it's not even their lizard brain or whatever making the decision. It's some weird alien supercomputer in another dimension. Mentally, she shook her head. No fucking wonder they do stupid things occasionally.

    And the lady with the frizzy hair wins first prize. Michael sounded honestly proud. I was hoping you'd connect the dots on that one.

    It's not that I couldn't, Amy said honestly. It's that I didn't want to. I've grew up thinking getting powers was the coolest thing that could happen to you. Even when I got mine and found out they weren't so great, it was easy to decide I just wasn't using them right, or I got a bad batch, not that all powers everywhere suck giant elephant testicles. So, now I'm finding out that everyone with powers basically has a game controller plugged into their heads. Worse, every time those giant alien supercomputers get bored, they pick up the controller and bash us against each other like kids playing fight games on their consoles. You'll excuse me if I'm not thrilled with the idea.

    I'd be pissed off too, Michael assured her. But you know what the worst bit is?

    Oh, for fuck's sake. There's more? Michael made no comment. Of course there's fucking more. Hit me.

    Do you know how many people on Earth Bet are consciously aware of what I've just told you and you've figured out?

    Amy wanted to say hundreds, or even or thousands. She didn't think of herself as stupid, but she knew she wasn't exactly an outlier in the intelligence stakes. But then she caught herself. The tone of the question made her rethink her assumptions. It's a low number, isn't it? I'm thinking … everyone who's involved in that bunch Contessa's with, Cauldron, right?

    Nope. Number's lower than that. Two, to be precise. You and me.

    That didn't sound right to Amy at all. Only two? That's impossible. It's not exactly rocket science. All you've really got to do is ask yourself what the worst possible interpretation of having powers would be.

    Well, true. Anyone could figure it out given the right data points … but no cape can. Only normals. And only one normal was smart enough to do it. A guy called Doctor William Manton. There's a lot about his work he never shared with anyone, but it's easy to see that he knew more about capes than basically anyone.

    It took Amy a moment to figure out what he meant. You're saying our shards stop us from realising what's going on. It was an unpleasant epiphany, but a necessary one. That would be fucking typical. It was one more thing to add to the growing list of grievances she had against her power shard. Who's this Manton guy? Where have I heard that name before?

    Michael's voice became professorial. In her mind's eye, she saw him standing before an old-fashioned blackboard. William Manton codified the Manton Effect, then went nuts after he gave his daughter a bad vial of powers, defected from Cauldron with another vial, and ended up as the Master in control of the Siberian projection. Alexandria killed him just the other day.

    Oh, yeah, I remember you telling her about that. And about his pedo-van. Do I want to know what one of those is?

    No. No, you do not. He paused, apparently thinking something through. Actually, talking about being Mastered, are you aware that you can now share the driver's seat with me, where you couldn't before?

    Yeah, well, that was a little bit of a surprise, Amy agreed with a grin. That's some trick you pulled out of your sleeve for the occasion, is it? Can you do it again?

    Actually, it wasn't me. As far as I can tell, that happened when Mama Mathers jumped into your head. You learned how to do that all by yourself. Coming up.

    In the next moment, her awareness of him emerged into the same 'side by side' arrangement they'd gotten into during the fight with the Fallen capes. She tensed, expecting to be pushed down again, but nothing of the sort happened.

    Okay, so this is a thing now. Does it change anything else? I mean, you're still in charge anytime you want to be, right?

    I honestly don't know. His voice was thoughtful. When I first showed up, you weren't able to take over at all, even when I stepped out of the way. What if this is just another stage? Try to push me down, back to where I was.

    What? To say she was startled would be an understatement. I can't. You've just brushed me aside every time.

    Are you being brushed aside right now? Go on, give it a go.

    She did her best to eye him suspiciously. Is this you setting up to take a dive to give me extra confidence?

    If it was, you'd never know. But it's not. I'm serious, here. This is your body, and you need to have the say over who's in the driver's seat. I'm just along for the ride.

    The serious tone of his voice convinced her. Okay, then.

    Gathering all her will, she did her best to force his presence into the back of her mind. He seemed to give way at first, then he grunted silently and pushed back. She shoved harder, forcing him down again. The resistance was palpable, and gradually he once more muscled his way into the tandem driver's seat. Mentally exhausted, she gave up the effort, glaring at his avatar.

    See? I can't beat you. This was stupid.

    He seemed illogically upbeat. No, that was amazing. You nearly pushed me down on your first try. I had to fight like hell to stay up here.

    But I couldn't keep you down. She couldn't see why he was so happy, unless he got his jollies by making her try and fail.

    No, think about it. When I first got here, you couldn't have pushed me down with anything. I could've ignored you all day long. Now, you know you can push me down, and you nearly did it first time. Have you ever seen The Matrix?

    The name was vaguely familiar, but not one she knew specifically. Is that an Aleph movie?

    Probably. He shrugged mentally. Might have to see if we can get a copy. The point is, the main character ends up in a space much like you are, where mental fortitude and determination are far more important than physical skills. One part of his training is to make an impossible leap across a street between two skyscrapers. The line that gets used in the movie is, Nobody makes their first leap. And he doesn't. But he makes the second leap.

    She thought she could see what he was getting at. So … the point is to keep trying until I'm strong enough to succeed?

    Bingo. Wanna try again, or leave it until later?

    Yeah, no, not now. I'm not in the right headspace for it at the moment. But you're saying I did actually push you down? You weren't just letting me win for a little bit?

    You one hundred per cent pushed me down. I wasn't resisting with my full strength, but that was because I didn't really expect you to go so hard on your first try. I was basically going to ramp up with you. See above about being lazy. And when you did ramp up, you did it faster than I did. If I hadn't been paying attention, you could've definitely shoved me down.

    She felt obscurely pleased at that. Going from feeling helpless to prevent him from taking over her body at will to having at least a chance to regain control was amazing. It also helped that he was encouraging her every step of the way, while not babying her or handing her unearned victories.

    Awesome. So, don't take this the wrong way, but I can't wait until I can kick you out of my head.

    He let out a silent chuckle. You can take this any way you like, but I can't wait to vacate the premises altogether. Now, if you don't mind, I have a project I'd like to get back to. His presence faded toward the back of her mind.

    Project? What project?

    Oh, just something I'm working on. Plan Z, you might say. The sound of imaginary hammers and saws drifted to her mental ears.

    Amy shook her head and kept walking. Michael might be a pleasant enough occupant of her head, but sometimes he could definitely be weird, if not downright obscure.



    Undersiders Base

    Angelica lifted her head and gave a single 'woof' before dropping it to her paws once more. Lisa and Taylor looked around from where they were having a quiet discussion.

    "Amy's outside," Lisa said, beating Taylor by a split second.

    "And she's alone," Taylor added. "Nobody's following her. In fact, there's no-one nearby at all. And my bugs can't see anyone flying."

    "Which means that unless Glory Girl's been taking classes in subtlety, she didn't come along." Lisa looked happier at having come to that conclusion. Brian recalled how she'd had her shoulder dislocated by the teen hero in the bank; they'd interacted civilly enough since then, but Lisa always relaxed just a little more when Glory Girl wasn't around.

    "Aww, did the mean ol' superhero hurt Tattle's fee-fees?" jibed Alec, glancing up from his game.

    "Regent-underscore-one-five-underscore-king, first and last letters uppercase," Lisa stated flatly. "One more word and I delete all your high scores."

    With a sigh, Brian got up from the sofa at the same time as Taylor rose from her chair. "Someone's gotta let her in," he said.

    "What I was thinking." She headed for the door. "I can do it."

    He shrugged, looking at where Lisa was giving Alec the finger. "I'm already up. We can both handle it. And maybe these two will grow some maturity while we're downstairs."

    Taylor's sceptical eyebrow-raise was getting along pretty well, he saw. "Maybe if we left town for six months?"

    His chuckle followed them out, and they headed down the stairs. He let her go first, because he didn't feel like having bugs down the back of his neck for the next week. While he didn't think she was that vindictive, there wasn't much sense in taking chances.

    Once they reached the bottom, Taylor unlocked the door. Amy stood there, leaning theatrically against the doorframe. "Took your time," she observed with a tinge of snark. "Did Taylor have to help you with your makeup or something?"

    Ignoring Taylor's sudden snort of laughter, Brian rolled his eyes. "Blame Lisa and Alec. What's up?"

    "I need to ask Lisa for some advice." Amy didn't sound thrilled, and Brian couldn't blame her. While the two teens got along most of the time, there was a fundamental disconnect between their personalities. It didn't help that the mysterious Michael was apparently able to see through ninety percent of Lisa's bullshit. Fortunately, he also seemed to be invested in keeping the peace between them, and knew how to wrangle Amy's moods.

    "Come on in," Taylor said. "I can tell it must be serious."

    "Well, yes, it is." Amy gave her a puzzled look. "But how did you know?"

    Taylor smirked. "Because you're voluntarily asking Lisa for advice." She waited until Amy was inside, then closed the door again.

    "She's got a point," Brian said, turning toward the spiral staircase. "Ever since Coil, we've been more or less at a loose end, and Lisa and Alec have been competing for the passive-aggressive stakes."

    Taylor nodded. "With any luck, they won't have killed each other by the time we get back up there."

    "With any luck, they will have. Or Rachel's bumped their heads together a few times," grumbled Brian, heading up the steps.

    There was no shouting or other sounds of mayhem by the time they reached the top. Rachel was still in her room, while Alec had gone back to playing his game while very studiously ignoring Lisa. The blonde popped her head out of the kitchen, apparently ignoring Alec just as carefully, and grinned at Amy. "Oh, hey," she said. "Did you finally find a problem the all-knowing oracle in your head can't fix?"

    Amy gave her a steady look. "He's got a space inside my head that he uses as an office. It's got a blackboard, and he's keeping score. He's also chuckling. Just so you know."

    That made Lisa pause for a few seconds, before she recovered. "Okay, fine, truce. You've come to ask me about something. How can I help you?"

    "Oh, we can help each other." Amy tilted her head toward the two armchairs. "We need to talk."

    "Is this going to be something I'll regret hearing?" asked Brian. "Because those four words are never ominous."

    Amy seemed to think about that. "Probably," she admitted. "But it won't be you that gets in trouble."

    From the faint expression of worry on Lisa's face, she was also having second thoughts. "Shit, it's that bad?"

    "Well, yes and no." Amy lowered herself into one of the armchairs. "So, did you hear about how we took down the Nine?"

    Brian had not heard about this at all. "When did this happen? And why didn't anyone tell me?"

    "Because it was only a rumour on PHO," Lisa said.

    Everyone looked at Alec, who hadn't said anything. He glanced up from the game for a second. "Hey, I don't give a shit either way. It's not like they're ever likely to come after me."

    Amy cleared her throat. "Actually," she said. "Michael says that if he hadn't interfered with the situation, your sister Cherie would've joined sooner rather than later. And when they came to Brockton Bay, she would've nominated you as a member. Not in any hopes you'd win, of course. More to mess with you."

    Alec stared at her for so long his on-screen character died in a blaze of electronic noises. "Fuck!" he muttered. "Fucking Cherie. She'd totally do that, too."

    Amy shrugged. "Well, it's not like she's going to do that now. Though don't surprised if she chooses some other ill-advised means of protecting herself from your father."

    "So this actually happened?" Lisa pressed. "Was it the whole Triumvirate? That's what I heard."

    "Just Alexandria," Amy said. "But that's not what I want to ask you about."

    Lisa's eyes clicked into focus. "No, it's not. One of them's alive. Bonesaw. Michael wanted her alive. And now you want to ask me how to talk to her. How to get her on your side."

    "Bonesaw?" The name had definitely gotten Alec's attention. "You're shitting me, right? That little maniac's here in Brockton Bay? Why aren't we evacuating the whole city?"

    "I don't know where they're keeping her," Amy admitted. "But Michael says she's an important part of his plans, so I need to know how to talk her around. According to him, she sees me as a big sister or something stupid like that."

    "So just tell her you're happy to be her big sister," Alec offered sarcastically. "Just, you know, hold off on the murder and stuff. At least until there's no witnesses around."

    Amy smiled sweetly at him. "If we start with you and you're the only one around, there will be no witnesses."

    "How come she can sound creepier than an actual villain when she says that?" complained Alec.

    "Because if I ever became a villain," Amy told him, "I'd be scarier than all the rest put together. Because I'd only ever do it for what I saw as a good reason. And if you're absolutely convinced your cause is pure and just, there's no atrocity you won't stoop to." She let her words hang in the silence for a few seconds, then chuckled lightly. "Just kidding. Except for the part about atrocities. History's full of monsters who thought they were the good guy, and if people would just do what they were told, everything would be okay."

    "So, what's the difference?" asked Taylor. "Being a dedicated villain and knowing it, and thinking you're still a hero? Why's the second one scarier?"

    Amy's grin slowly widened. "Because they try harder."

    Yeah, decided Brian. Definitely creepier.



    An Hour Later

    "I still don't see why you felt it necessary to give me a lift," Amy said. "I could've walked back to the bus stop just fine."

    "The buses don't always run to that stop after dark," Brian said as he steered the car around the corner onto the main road. "And both Lisa and Taylor would skin me alive if I let you go out alone and you got hurt."

    He's right, you know. Michael's voice was matter of fact. Not every member of the criminal element knows your face, or even respects what you do. We're good, but someone coming at us with a weapon could hurt you badly before you dropped him.

    I thought you were supposed to be supporting my independence as a person, she snarked back. You're not my dad.

    No, I'm not. But if I were, I'd be telling you the exact same thing. His tone had gone from matter of fact to patient. Independence is a good thing. But, and this is important, so is being realistic. Today's world is a dangerous place, even for adults. It's a sad and sorry indictment on society that a woman or teenage girl walking alone is often seen as a potential target for assault or worse, but that's the way it is. I wouldn't want you getting hurt even if I wasn't riding around in your head.

    I should've called Vicky for a lift.

    Yes, you could have. How long would the interrogation have gone on about exactly why you were out this way, again?

    I'd tell her to drop it, and she would. But Amy knew this was weak, to say the least.

    So did Michael, by his reply. Really? Vicky? Drop any subject she wasn't ready to drop? You have met her, right?

    Fine, you win. She didn't have to like it, though.

    "Everything okay?" That was Brian, in the driver's seat. He had most of his attention on the road, but he was glancing her way occasionally. "You're being very quiet over there."

    "I'm fine." She bit the word off. "This doofus in my head thinks he knows better than me about being safe."

    "Didn't you say he was like forty or fifty, and a security guard or something?" Brian frowned. "Seems to me, someone like that might actually know something about staying safe. It being his job and all."

    You can just shut up right now.

    Didn't say a word.

    I can hear your grin from here.

    She gave Brian a moderate glare. "That's right. Take his side."

    He rolled his eyes. "His side? Girl, that was my side before I ever heard his part in it. So don't try to tell me I'm taking someone else's side."

    "Fine. Gang up on me with someone you've never actually met." But she was starting to see the mildly amusing side of it.

    Which was when the red and blue flashing lights cut in through the back window. She saw Brian's eyes flick up to the mirror, then his lips tightened. "Sonovabitch," he muttered.

    "That can't be for you," she protested. "You weren't speeding or doing anything dangerous."

    As if the occupants of the police car had heard her, there was a brief blast from a siren, directly behind them. It seemed somebody didn't share her opinion of Brian's driving competence.

    "Don't have to be." Brian scanned the street ahead. "Shit." He hit the indicator and started to pull over. "Put your hands on the dash, keep quiet and it should be okay."

    What should be okay? What's going on here?

    Shit. Michael popped up into her space. Okay, quick question. Do you happen to know if any cops in town are Empire supporters?

    Empire Eighty-Eight? Police officers supporting them? The idea was ludicrous. What do you mean? They're a criminal gang.

    So are the Ku Klux Klan, kiddo. Back in the day, more than a few of them wore badges. Now, this could be nothing or it could be something. We're gonna have to play it by ear.

    I have no idea what you're talking about. Play what by ear?

    He sighed. If I'm wrong and the car's got a defect, then that's one thing. But if I'm right, we're about to get a first-hand demonstration of the term 'driving while black'.

    By now, the car was at a stop on the side of the road. Brian had the heels of his hands on the wheel in the ten-and-two position, and his documentation between the fingers of his left hand. The window was already down, because he liked to drive that way.

    Keeping her voice low, she murmured, "Uh, those are real, right?"

    Brian didn't turn his head away from the window, and his lips barely moved as he replied. "Real enough. Hands on the dash."

    A shadow moved against the street-lights just as she put her hands on the dashboard. It resolved itself into a police officer, leaning down to shine a flashlight in through the open window. The light hit her full in the face, blinding her.

    "Hey, stop that!" she protested, bringing up her hand to shield her face.

    In the next moment, a large hand took hold of her wrist and dragged it down again. "You got something to hide, kid? Identification, now."

    On the far side of the car, she was vaguely aware of a light also being shone in Brian's face, and his documentation being taken and examined. But the rough treatment irritated her, overriding her cautious nature. With the skin-to-skin contact, she could read his entire body, and affect whatever she wanted. A twitch in a muscle at the right place and he dropped the flashlight, removing the glare from her face again. "This is assault," she declared. "Why do you need my ID?"

    "Failure to identity yourself to a police officer is an offense under the law," grunted the cop. "Out of the car, girl."

    "Only if you've got reasonable suspicion—ow! Hey!" Amy was only halfway through her response—long association with Carol had taught her some aspects of the law, at least—when the cop yanked the door open and started dragging her out. Or tried to; her seatbelt was still fastened.

    "Leave her alone!" shouted Brian from the far side of the car. "She's—shit, no, don't!"

    The shot echoed through the car, hammering on her eardrums. Her head jerked around, just in time to see Brian start to fall, his body outlined by the muzzle-flash.

    She reached into the nervous system of the police officer who still had ahold of her, and switched off all motor control. He dropped like a puppet with its strings cut. Then she unclipped her seat and slid out of the car.

    As she stood, she saw the cop swing the pistol toward her across the top of the car. "Rhodes!" he yelled. "Rhodes, sound off, man! What did you do to him? Hands! Show me your hands!"

    What's a good way to tell a cop that he's making a mistake?

    Even the normally unflappable Michael seemed a bit flustered. Uh, something like 'stand down'?

    Okay, then. "Stand down!" she shouted, trying to match his volume. Before she could say any more, the pistol twitched, and she ducked on instinct; a moment later, it went off, so close she swore she felt the bullet pass by overhead.

    "Carl! Talk to me, man! What did you do to him, you little bitch?"

    Amy's ears were ringing so badly she could barely hear him. She doubted he would be able to hear her at all, even if she tried to talk him down. Which left Plan B. Take them both out, then save Brian.

    Dropping flat, she wriggled under the car. There were mechanical bits on the underside, some of which were hot and other bits that tried to snag her hoodie and hair. If that wasn't bad enough, the road surface itself was filthy, with more than a little oil. Gritting her teeth, she pushed on.

    She was most of the way across to the other side when the cop got restless. "Where the hell is she?" At least, that was what she thought she heard. She saw his booted feet move off to the side, around the end of the car. Oh, for fuck's sake.

    Plan C. Save Brian now.

    Good plan. She kept squirming, until she could reach out from under the vehicle and touch Brian where he lay with one foot still in the car. His body systems flared to life in her mind's eye, and she saw the wound; a through-and-through in the lower chest region. The bullet had gone through Brian's left lung and nicked his spine. He was semi-conscious, but the rate of blood loss would've killed him in fifteen or twenty minutes.

    "Rhodes!" The officer was calling out from the far side of the car. By the sound of it, he was shaking his partner heavily, to no avail.

    Well, duh. He gets up when I say he gets up, and not one second before.

    Amy applied her power to Brian, healing the wound channel and scavenging the blood that had collected in his lung for use back in his body. His damaged spine was repaired, better than ever, and she took care of a host of microfractures he'd suffered at one time or another through his life.

    Okay, what do we do now?

    Call backup, and see if we can't get that idiot cop's attention again. Maybe this time lead with 'Panacea' or 'New Wave' or 'superhero on site'? Just suggesting.

    Brian came to, drawing in a long shuddering breath and sitting up. Amy took the time to wriggle out from under the car, keeping an ear out for the trigger-happy police officer. This time when she stopped moving, she could hear him speaking urgently on his radio. She'd learned a little about this sort of thing while growing up with New Wave, but right now her heart was beating too fast for her to focus on his exact words. Also, she didn't want to stick her head up in case he shot at her again.

    And then a bug hummed past her ear. She almost didn't pay attention to it, but then three more came past and orbited her head in perfect formation.

    Wait a minute. Is it just me, or …

    A wild surmise growing in Amy's mind, she looked up at the street lighting. More and more bugs were coming into view, but they weren't circling the lights. Instead, they were zooming through, as though on a mission.

    It definitely looks like it. Not the cavalry I would've expected, but I'll totally take it.

    The original three bugs landed on the side of the car next to her, aligned perfectly horizontally. They were fireflies, she noticed. Because of course they are. They all blinked at once, then the one on the far left blinked three times in succession. A second later, the one in the middle blinked twice. She was already looking at the one on the right-hand end when it blinked once.

    One second later, a monstrous rhino-dog thing barrelled down off a nearby building and hit the cop car amidships, smashing it into the air and onto its roof. The cop let out a yelp of pure terror, exacerbated when a second monster landed beside him and flicked him away from Brian's car with its prehensile tail.

    Somehow he kept hold of his pistol, but Regent, riding the third dog, waved his hand negligently and he dropped it before he could point it at anyone.

    Lisa, riding the second dog, gave Amy and Brian an extravagant salute. "Good evening, citizens!" she said with a broad grin. "We have no quarrel with you, so you may be on your way."

    Amy rolled her eyes at the theatrical bullshit, but she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Scrambling around to the passenger side of the car, she paused to revive the cop she'd disabled, then jumped in and fastened her seatbelt. Brian already had the car running and in gear by this point.

    As they headed off down the street, Amy heard the complicated sounds of a cop car being steadily demolished. "Well, that worked," she said, then looked down at herself. "I think I need a shower."

    "Could've been a lot worse," Brian agreed, touching the still-tacky bloodstain on his shirt. "Thanks for saving my ass, by the way. And I'm going to have to talk to Lisa about her dialogue. That frankly sucked."

    "Suit yourself," Amy said. "Next time I see her, I'm gonna give her a big hug."

    Brian sighed. "You do you. And by the way, next time I say hands on the dash, keep them on the dash. Okay?"

    Amy nodded, aware she'd screwed up. "Yeah, got it. Sorry. I'm not used to this sort of thing."

    Brian's voice was more resigned than angry. "Yeah, I wish I could say I was surprised."

    Silence fell in the car then, each busy with their own thoughts as they rolled through the mean streets of Brockton Bay.

    End of Part Twenty-Seven
    JohnSmithMIB, inq101, cosoco and 51 others like this.
  29. theaceoffire

    theaceoffire I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Aug 12, 2017
    Likes Received:
    The city has fucking Nazis, if the cops weren't crooked they'd probably already be killed by quote unquote mysterious circumstances.

    I mean I don't like to think about it but it does seem blatantly obvious that it'd be a real problem here. Didn't have the other corrupt cops who are actually super anti-white in response to the Nazi cops, several cops that are anti everyone because of the other two groups, and so on and so forth.
  30. Death by Chains

    Death by Chains За родину и свободу!

    Feb 17, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Two white cops end up shooting a black teenager, simply because he... started to get out of his car? In response to his passenger being needlessly manhandled by one of the cops? And I’ll bet anything you like that absent the arrival of the other Undersiders, the police-report on Brian’s death would’ve said something like “Officers-on-scene were in immediate fear for their safety and applied reasonable force to neutralise the imminent threat(s).”

    Such are the ‘training’ standards and cultural conditionings of the typical American police department?

    The average American grunt on the streets of Baghdad or Fallujah had to obey more stringent use-of-force protocols and stricter rules-of-engagement, and for the most part did, in an active war-zone. They would, can, have, and do often puke their guts out at seeing police forces in their own country perpetrating this sort of trigger-happy bullshit on a regular basis.

    This shit might be ‘routine’ on US streets. That does not make it right. American law-enforcement training-standards and culture need to be grossly overhauled, ASAP, and in a way that sticks.

    It’s shit like this that makes me thank a God I’m not sure I believe in for the fact that I live in New Zealand, where police are prohibited by law from carrying firearms unless they are specifically responding to a confirmed ‘armed offender’ call.