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One Bad Day (Worm AU fic)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Jun 4, 2016.

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    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
    - Joker, The Killing Joke [written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Brian Bolland]

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

    Author's Note: This is an AU; as such, the character Hardcase has the powers of Browbeat.


    Part One: Precursors (below)
    Part Two: One Bad Day
    Part Three: Opposite and Unequal Reaction
    Part Four: Escalating Matters
    Part Five: Tripling Down
    Part Six: Preconceptions, Deceptions and Preparations
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  2. Threadmarks: Part One: Precursors
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    One Bad Day

    Part One: Precursors


    PRT HQ, Washington DC
    Thursday, December 2, 2010


    Chief Director Rebecca Costa-Brown put the phone on speaker and leaned back. “What is it?”

    Ma'am, we have reports that the Simurgh is on the move.”

    She sat up so abruptly that, if not for her ability to fly, she would have sent the chair over. “Is it an attack?”

    Uncertain as yet, ma'am. She seems to be holding a steady altitude. But she's moving to a different location.”

    “Where is that location?”

    It seems to be somewhere over northern New England. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Maybe even Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island or New York.”

    “That's a lot of area. With a lot of big cities.”

    Yes, ma'am. We're working to get more details.”

    “Let me know the moment you've got something.”

    Yes, ma'am.”

    <><>​

    High above Brockton Bay, the Simurgh let a smile play over her lips. She could not see the present; only the future or the past was clear to her. But to a being with her capabilities, the future was endlessly malleable. Not that what she was about to do was any great challenge to her. The merest of nudges would sent events tumbling like dominoes in the direction that she desired.

    She exerted her power; far below, subtle divergences were set in motion.

    <><>​

    Brockton Bay
    Friday Night, December 3, 2010


    Lisa looked up at the roof edge. “I think we lost her.”

    Grue coughed. “Good. How bad is it?”

    “Let me get you into the light so I can have a look.” With her assistance, he complied. Carefully, she unzipped his jacket and peeled his shirt away from the wounds; one in front, one in back. Under the yellow glare, his skin had the appearance of anthracite, and the blood looked purplish. But even in the poor light, she didn't like how much he was bleeding.

    “It's not great,” she muttered. “But if we keep pressure on it and get you to an emergency room -”

    “No.” He grunted with the pain. “Get me home, stitch me up. Emergency rooms have to call the cops for wounds like this, and I'll be helpless.”

    She tried again. “The boss. He's got to have doctors for this sort of thing. I'll call him.”

    “Yeah, good idea.” She didn't like how faint his voice was getting. “Do it.”

    Making sure that he had his hands pressed firmly on the pad of cloth over each wound, she wiped the blood from her hands and pulled out her phone. There was no signal; she glanced at Grue, who gave her a nod, so she moved off down the alleyway. Finally, at the exit on to the street, she got some bars.

    Hello?”

    “It's me. Shadow Stalker ambushed us. Grue's hurt. We need medical attention.”

    Where?”

    She gave him the address. “But tell them to hurry. I don't like the way he's bleeding.”

    I'll do my best.”

    Ending the call, she hurried back toward where she'd left Grue. He's going to be okay. He's going to be okay.

    He was still there, slumped up against the dumpster where she'd left him. But there was someone in the alley with him now; a cloaked figure that Lisa knew all too well. As Lisa watched, the figure extended an arm toward Grue.

    “No!” Lisa scrabbled for her pistol, but the blood crusting on her fingers made her a second too slow. There was the sound of an impact; Brian jerked as the arrow struck him in the middle of the chest. Shadow Stalker turned, just as Lisa brought up the pistol. Lisa fired four shots, as fast as she could. She thought she may have scored with one of them, but Shadow Stalker simply went to her immaterial form, laughter trailing away as she did so.

    The vigilante turned Ward leaped upward, almost flying as she jumped from side to side of the alley in her shadow form. She paused at the top, and Lisa saw her go solid once more. Two words drifted back down to her. “You're next.” Another mocking laugh, and Shadow Stalker was gone.

    Lisa ran to Grue's side. More blood was welling around the arrow in his chest. Kneeling beside him, she unfastened his helmet strap and lifted it off. His eyes were dimming, but he focused on her.

    “Lisa …” he whispered.

    There were tears in her eyes. She'd never been all that close to Brian, but he had been her team leader, and he'd never been an asshole to her. “Brian. I'm sorry. Shouldn't have left you.”

    “Not … your fault. Need you … do something … for me.”

    She gritted her teeth. “I'll take her down, once and for all. She won't get away with this.”

    His breathing was obviously painful, and he was fading fast. “Not … her. Sister. Aisha.” He began to say something else, but got as far as “T-” before he lost the impetus. The breath stopped rasping in his throat.

    Uselessly, Lisa checked for a pulse in his throat. There was none. Her power filled in what he had been about to say. Take care of her.

    “I'll do that,” she promised him. “I'll do that for you.” Carefully, she closed his eyes, then kissed him gently on the forehead. Then she set about working the arrow from his chest. She knew that she was making it harder to prove that Shadow Stalker had murdered him, but she wasn't interested in police procedure and trials. I'll find her and shove this into her guts myself.

    Getting up, she stumbled from the alleyway.

    <><>​

    Three blocks away, Sophia Hess muttered curses as she tightened the bandage on to the wound. The bitch had gotten her in the right shoulder. While the bullet had missed bone, it had punched a hole through the deltoid, making it almost impossible to use the arm for anything. Such as shooting a certain smartass bitch right between the eyes.

    “You'll get yours,” she muttered. But I won't be able to go out on patrol until this heals. Maybe I'll kick Hebert around a little more at school to make up for it. Under her mask, a cruel smile spread across her face. “Yeah, that sounds like fun.”

    But first, I have to make sure nobody pins this on me.

    <><>​

    Fifteen minutes later, she was back at the scene. Tattletale was nowhere around, which disappointed Sophia just a little. I'd like to pay her back for this hole in my shoulder.

    But there were more important things to take care of. Such as the body with the arrow-holes in it. Cops see this, they'll know who did it. I can't go to juvey.

    Rummaging one-handed through the dumpster, she came up with the perfect tool; a length of broomstick, broken off with a jagged point. Poising herself over the body, she slammed the pointed end down into the wound, driving it deep, twisting the wood so as to obliterate all traces of the previous arrow wound. Pulling it out, she repeated with the other one. Then she jammed it back into the first hole, leaving it standing like an obscene flagpole.

    Okay, that's the evidence taken care of. Now to pin it on someone else.

    It was a little awkward to tear open his shirt one-handed – left-handed at that – but she managed it. He had a magnificent set of abs, she noted. Pity he had to die. Taking another arrow, she dragged it across his flesh, moving outward from where the broomstick jutted upward from the wound that had killed him. The sharp metal parted his skin cleanly, leaving a straight line.

    After this, nobody will believe they didn't do it.

    <><>​

    It was a little before midnight when Vicky spotted the dark-cloaked form leaning over the body. Swiftly, she dropped down into the alleyway. “Hey, what do you think you're doing?”

    The cape turned, a little awkwardly. She – it was a teenage girl, maybe Vicky's age – had a bandage on her right shoulder, stained with blood. “Hey, hey, easy. I'm on your side. Shadow Stalker, of the Wards.”

    Vicky landed lightly on the garbage-strewn ground. “Sorry, didn't recognise you for a moment. What happened here?”

    Shadow Stalker nodded to the body. “Saw a bunch of Empire guys attacking this one. I jumped in to help, but one of them shot me.” Her left hand, the fingers of the glove blood-stained, reached up to touch her right shoulder. “By the time I got my head together, they'd done this to him and bolted. I was gonna call it in, just as soon as I finished bandaging myself.”

    “Shit.” Vicky shook her head. “That's gotta suck. Is he -”

    “No, that's what I was just checking.” Shadow Stalker sounded upset; Vicky didn't blame her.

    She grimaced as she looked down at him. He lay there next to a dumpster, arms splayed out, eyes closed. Save for the broomstick protruding upward from his chest, he could have been asleep.

    Murder always affected her a little bit; someone who had been living, probably a good person, with friends and family. Ended. Finished. He looked like he had been a nice guy. Handsome, certainly.

    Even without Shadow Stalker's testimony, it wouldn't have been hard to determine who had done the deed. They had as much as signed their work. Looking down at the swastika that had been carved across the young man's chest, Vicky made a private vow.

    I'll find out which one of them did this to you, and make them pay.

    <><>​

    The Dallon Household
    Saturday, December 4, 2010


    I turn forty in a few days.

    Mark Dallon sat on the sofa, oblivious to Vicky's chatter as she worked out a homework problem with Amy. The TV, unnoticed, played out its artificial dramas in front of him.

    What have I really done with my life?

    He looked around the living room, but he didn't see it as a record of his accomplishments. Instead, it appeared to him as a litany of failures. Fleur died because I didn't think far enough ahead about the possible dangers of unmasking. The New Wave movement failed because of that.

    It should have been a great and glorious legacy. Capes unmasking across the nation, proving that they were human, that they were ready to take on the responsibility of their actions. Instead, because of his short-sightedness, Fleur was dead and Lightstar had quit.

    Because of his failures.

    And I'll be forty in a few days, and I'll have accomplished what?

    The dark thoughts continued to circulate in his head, but he showed no outward sign of them.

    Some days, it's barely worth the effort to get out of bed.

    <><>​

    The Undersiders' Base
    Sunday, December 5, 2010


    When Lisa saw the caller ID on her phone, she didn't want to answer it. But she saw no way out of it. “Hello?”

    Hello, Tattletale.” It was, of course, Coil.

    “What's going on?”

    I received your report that Shadow Stalker killed Grue. You have my condolences.”

    “Yeah, uh, thanks. I'll pass that on to the others.”

    You are aware that she successfully disguised the killing as an Empire Eighty-Eight murder, yes?”

    “What? No. No, that's not right. She should go down for this.”

    Tattletale.”

    “What?” But she knew already.

    You will not target Shadow Stalker. You will not find out her secret identity. You will have nothing to do with her. Am I clear?”

    She found herself getting angry. “But she murdered Grue!”

    And he could have died at the hands of Kaiser or Lung, had the circumstances been different. If you find out who she is, the chances are that you will take rash action that will probably endanger the smooth running of the Undersiders. Killing a Ward would bring all the forces of the Protectorate and PRT down on your heads. Publicly outing her would be almost as bad.”

    “But I -”

    Will do nothing. That's an order.”

    There was no arguing with him, she realised.

    “ … yes, sir.”

    <><>​

    Winslow High
    Monday, December 6, 2010


    “Watch it, Hebert!”

    Taylor didn't have a chance to get out of the way; she was slammed into the locker as Sophia body-checked her, hard. A padlock gouged into her hip painfully, then she turned with her back to the metal, bringing her hands up defensively.

    Sophia sneered. “What are you gonna do, Hebert? Fight me? You?” She stood there, flanked by Emma and Madison, supremely confident. The only jarring note was the fact that her right arm was in a sling.

    The words came out of Taylor's mouth before she could stop them. “I don't want to fight.”

    “Wimps never do.” Sophia stepped up to her; before Taylor could react, Sophia rammed the heel of her left hand against the taller girl's breastbone, driving her back against the locker again. “And before you get any ideas, Hebert, I can beat your ass just as easily with one arm as with two.” Her expression made it clear that she was looking forward to it.

    Panicking, Taylor kicked out at Sophia; the black girl easily evaded the attack, then drove her own knee up into Taylor's stomach. Her world going red around the edges, Taylor doubled over, coughing and retching.

    <><>​

    Emma watched as Sophia grabbed Taylor by the hair. Sophia was just preparing to drive her knee up into Taylor's face when Emma put a hand on her arm. “Maybe you better not.”

    Sophia turned to look at her. “What? You getting to be a weak sister again, like the wimp here?”

    “No.” Emma shook her head. “But if you do that, she'll have actual real injuries she can show Blackwell.”

    Sophia curled her lip. “Clumsy bitch tripped and fell down the stairs.”

    Emma shook her head. “Dad says visible injuries are bad. They make it a lot harder to disprove a claim.”

    With a grimace, Sophia let Taylor go; the skinny girl sank to her knees, still unable to breathe properly. “It's your lucky day, bitch. See you in PE class.”

    As they moved away, Madison piped up. “So Sophia, what happened to your arm anyway?”

    Sophia turned to glare at her. “Strained my shoulder. Got a problem with that?”

    “No, no problem.”

    Wow, thought Emma. Sophia's being even more of a hardass than normal.

    But so long as it wasn't aimed at her, she didn't have an issue with it.

    <><>​

    The Dallon Household
    Wednesday, December 8, 2010


    “Where's your father gotten to?”

    Amy looked up from the magazine she was reading. “I'm sorry?”

    Carol Dallon's lips tightened slightly. “I said, do you know where your father's gotten to? It's time for him to open his presents, and he's wandered off somewhere. Not to mention Victoria.”

    “I think she said something to Dean about showing him something in her room,” Amy ventured. “But I'm not sure where Dad is. I can go find him if you want.”

    “Please do,” Carol snapped; her tone made it clear that the 'please' was just a courtesy. “And tell Vicky and Dean to get down here as well. These presents aren't going to open themselves, you know.”

    “Okay.” Amy got up, dropping the magazine on the chair. She wandered out of the living room and into the kitchen. Mark Dallon wasn't there. Carol's office was toward the back of the house, but the door was closed; she couldn't think of a reason that he'd be in there, so she turned her sights upward.

    Climbing the stairs, she checked the bathroom door; it was open, and nobody was in there. Her parents' bedroom door was closed; she knocked gently, then opened it a crack. He wasn't in there, either. Where is he? She frowned. He wouldn't have gone out on patrol on his own. Oh well, I'll check downstairs again. But while I'm up here …

    Distracted by the thought of where Mark might be, she didn't bother knocking on Vicky's bedroom door before she opened it. “Vicky, Dean, Mom says -”

    That was as far as she got.

    Vicky and Dean were entwined on the bed. Their eyes were closed; the looks on their faces showed what may have been agony, but she was fairly sure it was the opposite. Amy, like any curious teenager, had looked at porn more than once, but even if she hadn't, she would have recognised a sex act when she saw one. Right now, she was seeing more of Vicky than she had in quite some time, and far more of Dean than she ever wanted to see. Her eyes opened wide, burning the image into her brain forever more.

    Both Vicky and Dean turned to look at her, their faces identical masks of horror.

    Pulling the door closed with a bang, she fled down the corridor. Her face flamed red as she tried to expunge what she'd seen from her brain. Dean and Vicky. Oh, god. I can't handle this right now. Her illicit attraction toward Vicky had been bad enough when she'd thought that Vicky and Dean were just at the hand-holding stage. But now their relationship was obviously much more than that. The knowledge tore her heart in two. Vicky, Vicky, I love you more than he ever could. Can't you see that?

    Downstairs she stumbled, past the kitchen, into the back of the house. Carol might have said something as she passed by, but Amy had neither the will nor the wit to answer her right now. I can't think. I need to be alone.

    Pushing open the door to Carol's study, she lurched inside. It was cool and dark in here. That was good. She could gather herself, pretend to be a good daughter even while she was dying inside.

    The creak alerted her; she finally looked up. In the dimness, she could see the dangling form.

    She knew what it was, even as her hand went to the light switch. Frantically, she tried to stop her fingers from flipping the tiny plastic nub, but over it went. Light flared dramatically around Mark Dallon's head and shoulders.

    He had used a belt. Tied it to the sturdy light fitting, then just … stepped off the desk.

    All of that went through her mind in one searing moment. Looking up at him, silhouetted against the light, she could still see his suffused face, the protruding tongue. She didn't want to, but she reached out. One of his carpet slippers had fallen off. Her hand touched his bare foot.

    He was still alive.

    Not aware, not conscious. There was barely any brain activity at all. But there was life. He could live, but as a vegetable.

    What sort of a life would that be?

    I should save him, keep him alive.

    Would he thank me for that?

    Then the decision was taken from her hands as the last fleeting echo of life fled forever, leaving her with her hand on a corpse. With a thump, she backed up against the door, her shoulders hard against the wood. Then she began to scream.

    <><>​

    Brockton Bay
    Thursday, December 9, 2010


    Lisa eyed the teenage girl strutting down the street. Lime-green tights, near-microscopic top and shorts, a purple streak through her hair. That's Aisha, all right. She didn't need her power to figure out that the girl considered herself one tough cookie. This is not gonna be a fun conversation.

    Crossing the street ahead of Aisha, she slowed her pace until the younger girl was almost alongside her. Aisha glanced at her once as she passed, then again as Lisa increased speed to stay level with her.

    I'll have to get her attention fast, or she'll brush me off. “Aisha? I've got news about your brother.”

    That certainly got the girl's attention. “What? Who the fuck are you?”

    Lisa took a deep breath. “My name's Lisa. I'm a friend of his.”

    “Well, you can go and tell him to get fucked. He was gonna take me to the Boardwalk on the weekend and he never showed.” Aisha looked her up and down. “You his latest? He send you to grovel for him?”

    “No, I'm not his girlfriend. I … I was his teammate.”

    Aisha tilted her head. “Teammate? What, in that martial arts thing he does?”

    This is harder than I expected it to be. “Aisha, I've got some bad news for you. About Brian. Why he couldn't make it.”

    The younger girl stopped, putting her hands on her hips. “Can't wait to hear this one. He better be fuckin' dead, or next time I see him, I'm gonna kick his ass so fuckin' hard …”

    Lisa grimaced. The pain and loss were still raw. “Aisha, he is dead. He was murdered on Friday night. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry.”

    Abruptly, she found herself sitting on the pavement, half-leaning against a shop-front. What the fuck just happened?

    Aisha was just getting up as Lisa began to get her bearings back. The younger girl offered a hand; still a little dazed, Lisa accepted it. Aisha grunted, but managed to heave Lisa to her feet. “Okay then.”

    “Okay what?” Lisa was still having trouble tracking.

    “Okay, now you're gonna tell me who, what, where and how. Brian mighta been an irritating douche, but he was my big brother, and nobody kills my big brother and gets away with it.”

    Lisa shook her head. “That's not a good idea.”

    She found herself slammed against the shop-front, with Aisha's fists tangled in the front of her top. Aisha's face, with tears trickling unheeded down her cheeks, was mere inches from hers. “Fuckin' tell me.”

    “All right. Let's go get something to eat, and I'll tell you.”

    <><>​

    The outdoor cafe was a little upscale from what Aisha was used to eating at, but Lisa was buying so she didn't give a shit. She found a table that was far enough away that nobody else would be able to hear what they were saying, and plunked herself down while Lisa did the ordering.

    She didn't think she'd want anything to eat, but the sugar-powdered doughnuts smelled so good that she took a bite from one; before she knew it, she'd polished off two and was reaching for a third. With an effort of will, she pushed it away and turned to Lisa. “Okay. Give. Spill. I wanna know everything. What he was doing, who killed him. Why he was killed.”

    “Even knowing about what happened is dangerous -” Lisa began.

    Aisha wasn't having any of it. “Fuck that. Brian was my brother. You owe me this.”

    She had to give the blonde some credit for persistence. “The last thing he said to me was to take care of you. If I told you who did it, you'd go after them. And that's likely to get you killed.”

    “I said fuck that!” Aisha hit the table with her fist. Lisa barely managed to capture her teacup before it would have tipped. “I want fucking details.”

    Lisa took a deep breath. “Okay. To start with, did you know Brian had powers?”

    Aisha blinked. “Fuck. No. He was holding out on me. What sort of powers?”

    “Darkness generation. He could generate it, like a cloud. He could see through it, but nobody else could. He was working as a supervillain. Grue, of the Undersiders. Making money to keep you out of your mother's hands.” Lisa eyed her. “You never guessed?”

    “Fuck. This is all news to me.” Aisha shook her head. “I just thought he was good at finding part-time work.”

    Lisa shrugged slightly. “Depends on what you'd call 'part-time work'.”

    “Yeah, point. So, how'd he die?”

    “You sure you want to know?” Lisa's expression was concerned.

    Aisha didn't bother answering; the look she sent across the table was good enough.

    Lisa sighed. “Okay, fine. It was Shadow Stalker.”

    “What, the vigilante?”

    “Yeah. Well, no, she's a Ward now.” Lisa wouldn't look her in the eye. “She had it in for Brian. She's supposed to be using non-lethal arrows, but she shot him with a real one. It was just a wound, but a bad one. When I was calling for help, she circled back around and murdered him.”

    <><>​

    Fuck.” Aisha smacked the table again; the cutlery rattled. “You know who she really is? Where she lives?”

    Lisa shook her head. “No. And I've been told not to find out. My boss doesn't want us getting into a pissing match with the Protectorate.”

    “No, no, no, fuck that.” Aisha was looking more pissed by the second. “We don't just let this fucking bitch murder my brother and walk away.”

    Lisa began to get worried. Aisha's not about to let this go. If she starts running around shooting her mouth off, she could get me in serious trouble. Worse, Shadow Stalker could find out and decide to target her. “Aisha, I -”

    She blinked. What was I saying? She'd been in a fugue, thinking about Brian's death. Talking to myself. It's the first sign of madness.

    Plucking a sugar-sprinkled doughnut off the plate, she took a bite, then washed it down with a sip of tea. What was I doing again? But try as she might, she couldn't remember. Oh well, it'll come to me.

    Unnoticed, one of the remaining doughnuts disappeared.

    <><>​

    Brockton Bay Cemetery
    Sunday, December 12, 2010


    “ … a faithful husband and a loving father, who was taken from his family all too soon …”

    The priest droned on, but Amy tuned him out. She stood, dressed in black, alongside Vicky and Carol, in her own personal pool of misery and guilt. Carol's air of disapproval was stronger than normal, while Vicky was having trouble keeping her aura in check. Flashes of fear, almost subliminal, came and went, but Amy ignored those. She knew what Vicky was really thinking; it was plain in her eyes.

    She thinks I could have saved him.

    I really should have. He was the only member of this family who didn't have something I desperately wanted but could not have, or who wasn't making impossible demands of me.

    Part of her tried to use logic to overcome her guilt. It was a losing battle. Even if I had saved him, brain death was setting in. He'd never have been more than a drooling hulk.

    Unless I fixed his brain.

    Brutal honesty cut in then. Could I have? I've never fixed a brain before. I don't know if I could bring someone back from that close to death, make their brain all better.

    But I didn't even try. Closing her eyes, she let the hot, stinging tears slip from between the lids. I let him die while I agonised over the choice. Some superhero I am. Some daughter I am.

    The guilt was almost more than she could bear.

    <><>​

    “Ames, I gotta talk to you.”

    Amy looked around; the small crowd was dispersing to their cars. Some of the capes were walking to the edge of the cemetery then flying off. Carol was being consoled by Lady Photon and Manpower, a little way away. Vicky was the only one near to her; even Dean, in costume as Gallant, was standing off to give them privacy.

    I want to talk to you too. I want to tell you how much I love you. But she wouldn't. She couldn't. She knew that. Coward.

    “Uh, what about?” she asked dully, but she knew already. Here it comes.

    “Was Dad still alive when you found him?”

    Oh, shit. It's worse than I thought. For a long, fatal moment, she hesitated.

    “He was, wasn't he?” Vicky's voice was full of suspicion. “Did you let him die?”

    Amy took a deep breath. “He was almost dead. He slipped away just as I touched him. But -”

    “But you could've saved him.” Vicky stared at her. “Why didn't you? Didn't you love him?”

    Guilt, fed by Vicky's words, wracked her very soul. “I did. I did love him. But if he'd lived – if I'd even managed to save him – he would've been a drooling imbecile. His brain had been starved of oxygen for too long, and -”

    “But you could've fixed that, too.” There was certainty in her sister's tone.

    “I don't know!” Amy hissed the last word. “I've never done that before! I might've failed! He might've come back wrong! There's so many things that can go really badly wrong when you're dealing with the brain!” Her voice didn't get any louder, but it was much more intense; out of the corner of her eye, she saw Dean's head come up. He can feel my emotions. He could probably feel them if he was in Boston.

    “But you still could've tried.” Vicky was implacable.

    Amy wanted to scream, to pull her hair out. Vicky just didn't understand. “I don't do brains for a reason.” Gritting her teeth, she told her first lie. “I – I don't really think I could have saved him. He was too far gone.”

    Vicky stared at her. “Then why didn't you do it earlier?”

    Oh, god. Here it comes. But she had to play dumb, not give any indication how often her own mind had been over this territory. “Earlier?”

    “You knew he had chronic depression. You could've fixed that, yeah?”

    A matter of brain chemistry. Easily. “Vicky, I don't do brains for a reason. I've never done that sort of thing before. And I wasn't going to experiment on my Dad.”

    Vicky's voice was bitter. “So because of your precious principles, Dad's dead. Gone. Because you don't work with brains.” She made it sound so petty.

    Please don't go there. But Vicky already had. Amy took a deep breath. I don't want to say this, but you're hurting me too much. “You could have stopped it, too.”

    Jolted, Vicky stared at her. “What? What do you mean?”

    Amy forced herself to meet her sister's eyes. “He listened to you. You could've made him take his meds. And when it happened … Dean was over. Why didn't he pick up on what Dad was about to do, through his emotions?” She knew the answer. They both did. Because you were distracting him with your body.

    It wasn't often that she saw Vicky on the back foot. “I -” Involuntarily, her sister glanced around at Carol. “You haven't told Mom, have you?”

    “No, I haven't. But I don't know that I shouldn't.” She might ban you from seeing Dean. The thought gave her a guilty thrill.

    Vicky's eyes widened. “No. Don't. Please don't. I'll do your homework for a month.”

    One kiss. That's all I ask. Just one kiss. But Amy knew that, given that opening, her demands would never cease. I want you so badly that I don't dare open that can of worms. “Save it. Just don't bug me any more, okay?”

    Vicky's look of relief was almost comical. “Sure thing. Subject dropped, over and out. We good?”

    Amy managed a wan smile and hugged Vicky. She felt her sister's arms going around her. The contact felt good; too good. Vicky must be letting her aura slip again. The urge to just reach up and kiss her sister was almost overpowering, but she repressed it. It would ruin everything.

    “Yeah,” she murmured. “We're good.”

    Liar.

    <><>​

    Brockton Bay
    Monday, December 13, 2010


    Taylor swung down off the bus and started on the two-block walk to her house. Oh god, I am so glad that it's only one week till Christmas vacation. She limped a little as she walked, courtesy of bruises acquired from impacts with a wide variety of things; lockers, walls, a door, the floor, desks and so forth. Sophia had been getting particularly vicious of late; however, getting anything done about it was proving to be nigh-impossible.

    I just have to tough it out till Christmas. Then I can relax, if only for a few days. And maybe afterward Sophia will find someone else to torment. Deep down, she knew that this was merely wishful thinking, but she refused to let that thought surface. Instead, another one bobbed up.

    Maybe I should tell Dad.

    She wasn't quite sure what he could do for her. Emma was certain to lie to cover for Sophia and herself, and Mr Barnes had been Dad's friend for years and years. He might even believe Emma over me. This was one of the reasons she had been reluctant to tell him what was going on to this point. Another was the deep-down knowledge that when things got really bad after Mom had died, he had … folded. Given up. Failed her.

    But this time might be different. This time, he might actually be able to stand up and help me.

    She clung to that thought all the way home. Maybe he can help.

    <><>​

    Danny moved the papers around on the kitchen table, then wrote a figure in the corner of one. It was a depressingly small figure. Compressing his lips, he wrote down more figures, drew a line under them, and added them up. It was still a depressingly small figure, but a little less grim than before.

    The front door clicked open, and Taylor entered. “Hi, Dad,” she greeted him.

    “Hi, Taylor.” He didn't look up.

    “Dad, I -” She paused. “What's the matter?”

    He pushed his glasses back up his nose to their proper place, then looked at her. She looked serious, as always. “Taylor, come sit down for a moment.”

    Obediently, she came and pulled out a chair. “Dad, what's up? You're scaring me.”

    He took a deep breath. “Taylor, you need to know that the Dockworkers are going through some hard times.”

    Behind her glasses, her eyes widened. “Dad – have you been fired?”

    Hastily, he shook his head. “No, thank God. They're always going to need a head of hiring. Even if there's nobody to hire. But there's less money coming in, so we've all had to accept pay cuts. So we're going to have to tighten our belts a little.”

    “Uh … what does that mean?”

    He grimaced. “It means that we can't really afford to do anything special over Christmas, kiddo. And I might have to sell the car. I'm sorry. But with the price of gasoline being what it is …”

    But she was already nodding. “Right, right, I got it. Bus only.”

    “Yeah.” He smiled wearily. “Bus only.” He paused. “Did you want something?”

    “No, it's fine, Dad. Nothing, really.”

    Standing up, she turned and went out into the entrance hall; a moment later, he heard her climbing the stairs. He shifted his attention back to the papers, trying to squeeze more dollars out of the numbers there.

    It was, he suspected, a futile exercise.

    <><>​

    The Undersiders' Base
    Tuesday, December 14, 2010


    Just like the last time, when Lisa saw the caller ID on her phone, she didn't want to answer it. He's assigning the team a new leader. But she saw no way out of it. “Hello?”

    Hello, Tattletale.”

    “It's a bad idea.”

    He showed no sign of surprise that she had divined the reason that he had called. “Explain.”

    “It's either too soon or too late. If you'd sent a new leader in immediately after Grue died, he could have helped us through the grieving process. Learned about how we work as a team. Or you could have waited a few more weeks, until we had gotten over the shock.”

    The only person who's going through a grieving process is you. Regent and Bitch don't really care. They just need someone to tell them what to do.”

    “And why can't I be that person? They do what I tell them.”

    That's the bad idea that you were referring to earlier. I know how ambitious you are. I simply can't trust you to be in charge of the Undersiders and not turn them to work against me.”

    “Boss -”

    My mind is made up. Your new leader will be arriving within the week.”

    “Can you give me anything to go on, so I can let the others know?”

    Just this. Consider his orders to be my orders. If I know you, you've gotten a taste for independence. But if I find that you've been insubordinate to him, I will be displeased. If anything untoward happens to him and I find that you're at fault … expect me to be very displeased.”

    Lisa swallowed. She wasn't quite sure what Coil being very displeased would result in, and she didn't want to find out the hard way. “Okay. Um. Sure. Can I at least get a name?”

    He goes by the name Hardcase. Don't bother looking on the PHO boards for a file; he doesn't have one yet.”

    He did know her all too well. “Uh, right. Hardcase.”

    Just remember, his orders are my orders. And if anything happens to him …” He didn't need to finish the sentence.

    “I'll keep that in mind.”

    See that you do.”

    <><>​

    Brockton Bay
    Wednesday Night, December 15, 2010


    Sophia flexed her shoulder experimentally. It was still a little sore, but it seemed to have healed all right. Nearly two weeks out of commission. Seriously, why couldn't Piggy have talked to Panacea or someone? I could've been out there kicking ass long ago.

    Taking a running leap, she turned to shadow and let herself glide to the next building. Returning to solid form, she stuck the landing and ran across the rooftop to the other side. Another leap, another long glide. Oh, yeah. I still got it.

    Her Wards phone rang. She ignored it. That'll be Kid Loser calling to bitch about how I ditched him to patrol solo. He can suck it.

    Another sound caught her attention; this time it was a burglar alarm. A break-in? Just what I need for a nice warm-up.

    <><>​

    Aisha glanced back over her shoulder, then quickened her pace slightly. Behind her, the three Empire Eighty-Eight skinheads kept up, even closing the gap slightly. She did her best to make her movements appear panicky. Come on, take the bait …

    And then, up ahead, three more turned the corner. She pretended not to see them, hurrying forward. The ones behind kept coming. This is gonna be close.

    There. The liquor store shop-front she was looking for. It even had an alcove. She ducked in there, picking up the pry-bar she had left there several hours before.

    “You really didn't think you could hide in here, did you?” The guy who seemed to be in charge of the skinheads had a couple of swastika tattoos and several missing teeth.

    The original plan had been to act meek and scared, but Aisha had found that she just couldn't do that. So she went with being herself. “Fuck you, asshole,” she spat, brandishing the pry-bar. “You can bite me.”

    “I'll do more than bite you, you little black whore,” he grunted, moving forward. “You're gonna fuckin' pay toll. And then you're gonna pay for that little comment.”

    “You fuckin' wish.” She relaxed her control over her power then. It never got old, the way they blinked and looked around, wondering what they were doing. As far as they were concerned, she didn't exist.

    Turning, she used the pry-bar to smash the glass of the shopfront door. An alarm went off, the clangour loud in her ears. They were just beginning to react when she placed the bar in the leader's hand, folding his fingers around it. He looked down at the pry-bar, then at the smashed glass.

    Sometimes they'd jump one way, sometimes they'd jump another. But these were criminals, used to breaking things and taking things. Certain actions were conditioned reflexes.

    Not that Aisha was thinking quite that deeply. She just stepped out of the way and let him make his own mind up. He didn't take long.

    “Come on,” he shouted over the alarm. “We haven't got long!” Stepping forward, he wedged the pry-bar into the door-jamb and heaved. Metal shrieked and wood splintered; the door came open reluctantly.

    Aisha strolled across to the other side of the street. Reaching into her jacket, she pulled out a water-bottle and took a drink. She'd been pulling variations on this stunt over the last five nights since she had stolen the motorcycle; lure thugs to a place where there was an alarm. Set off alarm. Wait.

    She had done this over and over again, more times than she wanted to count, and all she got was confused goons, the occasional cop, and Armsmaster once. This was, according to everything she had heard, the area that Shadow Stalker usually worked. Why isn't she here?

    With a sigh, she tucked the water-bottle back into her jacket pocket. The Empire assholes were starting to emerge from the store, laden with their ill-gotten gains. Looks like a bust.

    Just as she was turning away, she heard the shout of alarm.

    Shadow Stalker arrived like an avenging angel. She hit first one goon, then another, never stopping long enough to get hit back. Cans rolled across the pavement, while bottles shattered as they were dropped. The sharp odour of spilled liquor came to Aisha's nose. Shadow Stalker's crossbows were in hand; she shot one goon after another, dropping them to the ground.

    Yes! Yes! Fucking yes! Aisha hurried across the street, then paused as she saw one of the thugs producing a pistol. Whoa, fuck. This forget-me crap, or whatever it was, worked like a charm on people, but bullets would still go straight through her, and not in a good way.

    She dived for cover behind a telephone pole as several shots rang out. None of them came near her, for which she was profoundly grateful. However, the fighting was still going on, so Shadow Stalker hadn't been hit either, which was kind of sucky.

    The vigilante kicked one man, then punched another in the throat. She used the second one for cover and nailed the gunman with another arrow; the skinhead folded like a cheap suit. Seeing her chance, Aisha climbed to her feet and scuttled over to the nearest prone thug. Come on, you've gotta have gun or a knife or something.

    With a grunt, she rolled him over, and there it was. Clipped on to his belt, in a scuffed leather sheath, he had a knife with a swastika at the top of the handle. Aisha didn't care; she pulled it free, then headed for the fight.

    There were only two skinheads left on their feet, and they were hampered by the fact that Shadow Stalker never stayed solid for more than a second at a time. She was only a teenage girl, Aisha could see that, so she couldn't put them down with a single hit. But she could hit and then evade, something that she was obviously very practised at doing. See if you can dodge someone you can't see coming, bitch.

    Unfortunately, Aisha quickly found that interfering in a fight between two grown men and a cape who could go insubstantial was still very hazardous. Nobody knew she was there, but that didn't make it any easier for her. They weren't standing still to trade blows; they were moving, turning, throwing punches and kicks. Shadow Stalker's blows hit, while theirs didn't, but it didn't make Aisha's job any easier. Come on, you chickenshits. At least hold her in one place for two seconds.

    But it was not to be. Shadow Stalker kicked one in the groin, then went insubstantial, rolled through her opponent as he folded, then came up with a crossbow aimed at the other. A sharp twang and he went down.

    Okay, fine. I'll do it myself. Aisha stepped up to Shadow Stalker, who was walking around, peering at her opponents. One groaned and began to get up; the vigilante kicked him viciously in the face. Aisha couldn't fault her actions; the Empire Eighty-Eight was about on the bottom rung as far as she was concerned, too.

    But the bitch had killed Brian, so she had to go down. Closing the distance, Aisha stabbed Shadow Stalker in the back. Or at least, she tried to; the knife hit the back of the vigilante's cloak, then stopped dead. As Shadow Stalker looked around curiously, Aisha swore out loud. The bitch was wearing body armour.

    Okay, let's try this again. Shadow Stalker still had no idea that she was being attacked; Aisha swung the knife at her throat. However, just as she did so, Shadow Stalker turned away; the blade slashed across her upper arm instead. Cloth parted and blood flowed.

    “The fuck?” Shadow Stalker looked down at the wound; the backswing glanced off the hard material of her mask. “When did any of those fuckers tag me?”

    Gathering herself, Aisha lunged forward, the point of her knife aiming at Shadow Stalker's throat. But just as she did so, the vigilante went insubstantial and leaped upward, scaling the side of the building far faster than Aisha could have climbed it.

    Oh, for fuck's sake. Aisha darted back to the guy she'd stolen the knife off. Wrenching the sheath from his belt, she shoved the blade into it, then clipped it on to her belt. Looking up, she could still see Shadow Stalker on the edge of the rooftop. She seemed to be bandaging the wound.

    I can't lose her this time. Ducking back into the alley, Aisha wheeled out the motorcycle she had stolen earlier in the week. Kicking it over, she kept her eyes focused on the edge of the roof, waiting to see what Shadow Stalker did next.

    <><>​

    Sophia finished bandaging the slash on her upper arm. Can't believe one of those assholes managed to cut me, without me even noticing. Fuck, this was not a good start to my night. Triumph's gonna be all over my ass for ditching Kid Loser and then getting hurt.

    Carefully, she worked the arm back and forth. The bleeding had stopped, but it hurt like a cast-iron bitch, and she was pretty sure that it would slow her down if she got into another fight. With an aggravated sigh, she turned to shadow and leaped from the rooftop. Time to go home and do some stitching. If I'm careful, nobody will notice I've been injured, and I don't have to go off duty again.

    <><>​

    The only reason that Aisha managed to keep up with her as long as she did was the lack of traffic. There were so few other cars out there that she could ride on the wrong side of the road and run red lights with little in the way of danger. However, doing that and keeping track of Shadow Stalker was not the easiest thing in the world. She hung on to the vigilante's trail for three blocks, then lost her.

    Fuck.”

    Pulling over to the side of the road, she dug a much-folded map of the city from a saddlebag. Opening it over the fuel tank, she drew two crosses with a stub of pencil; one was the location of the liquor store, and the other was the last point where she had seen Shadow Stalker.

    Draw a line through this, and I've got a direction. It's not a location, but it's a start.


    End of Part One
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
  3. Biigoh

    Biigoh Nothing but Innocent Fluff Moderator

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    Well... I am surprised that you didn't just go with it being an AU where Coil got ahold of Browbeat and he just named himself that as oppposed to Hardcase? ^_^;
     
    blind-conductor and Ack like this.
  4. Feiron

    Feiron Warm and fuzzy

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    Well you just saved the multiverse in Security!, time to have a relaxing time writing something new and... Oh god... Oh god...

    More.

    The best chocolate is always dark :D
     
  5. Threadmarks: Part Two: One Bad Day
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    One Bad Day


    Part Two: One Bad Day


    Winslow High School
    December 22, 2010


    “Okay, this is the last day of school,” Emma reminded the other two. “If you've got any ideas for how to make Hebert cry, today's the day.”

    “Still think we should've gone with the locker thing,” Madison said. “It woulda been fuckin' awesome.”

    “We can still do it,” Sophia pointed out. “Sneak back into school after it's closed and do what we want. Right now? We make sure that she remembers today.”

    “Okay, you know how she always disappears around lunchtime?” Madison grinned. “Found out where she goes.”

    Emma raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

    “Third floor bathrooms,” Madison revealed. “Watched her go in there yesterday with her lunch.”

    Sophia's smile was vicious. “Fuckin' yes.”

    The trio quickened their pace along the corridor.

    <><>​

    Oh, for fuck's sake.

    Aisha had tried to keep up with the three girls both normally and using her powers. But while the crowd parted for those three, it didn't for her, whether people knew she was there or not.

    It had taken until last night to get another line on Shadow Stalker's home location. Aisha had drawn the second line on the map, then gone and looked over the area where they intersected. There had been no way she could search all the houses, but then she'd had a flash of brilliance.

    Only one bus line ran through the area, taking kids to school. Shadow Stalker was a teenager; she had to go to school. She would be taking the bus in the morning.

    Aisha had gotten on the bus and ridden it through that area. At stop after stop, she had scrutinised the people getting on. Most were the wrong skin colour or had the wrong hair colour, or something else that didn't fit. But by the time the bus left the area, she had it nailed down to three suspects. She watched those three, seeing how they acted around others. One stood out from the others.

    When that girl got off the bus, so did she. At Winslow High School. Now all I have to do is make sure it's really Shadow Stalker. She didn't want to kill the wrong one, after all. If it's not her, I'll go back and try again.

    <><>​

    The Undersiders' Base

    “Hey, Lisa. Hold up.”

    Lisa turned at the doorway and looked back. Hardcase was sprawled on the couch, jacket open. At the moment, he was six feet tall and sported an impressive set of abs. But he could alter his height as easily as he could change his weight or his facial features. He was also, Lisa was certain, a borderline psychopath.

    “What is it? I'm just going out.” Regent had already gone out somewhere, and Bitch was walking her dogs. Lisa didn't want to spend another moment with Hardcase's eyes boring into her, undressing her in his mind.

    “No. Stay. I want to talk to you.”

    “Can it wait?”

    “No. It can't.” He gestured. “Get back here. That's an order.”

    Which Coil told me I had to follow. Reluctantly, Lisa turned and walked back into the living area. “Okay, so what's up?”

    “Siddown.” Hardcase patted the sofa beside him. Even more reluctantly, Lisa sat. “Now, when I was hired for this job, the boss warned me that you might be a little bit of a handful. Your power's useful as fuck, but it doesn't help when you're second-guessing me all the time.”

    You want us to kill people. The Undersiders don't work that way. But she didn't say anything.

    “So let's get one thing straight. When we're on a job, you do things my way, every time. You don't second-guess me, and when one of the others looks at you instead of me, you fuckin' tell them to look at me. You got it?”

    Slowly, she nodded. “I got it.”

    “But the trouble is,” he went on as if she hadn't spoken, “I don't think you really got it. I don't think you really understand who's in fuckin' charge here. I want to be sure that you're gonna follow every order I give you, any time, any place.”

    Terror flashed through her as her power filled in what he wasn't saying. Oh, shit. Oh, no. No. Not that. She started to jump up, but he was too fast. His meaty hand wrapped around her forearm. “No -”

    “I'm sorry, what the fuck was that?” He pulled her to him. With his free hand, he pulled down his zipper. “Now, I'm gonna let you guess at my first order.”

    <><>​

    Empire Eighty-Eight Territory

    “Okay, I'm gonna ask you one more time,” Vicky snarled. She was hovering five feet above the pavement, holding the Empire skinhead another two feet in the air by the front of his shirt. “Who killed Brian Laborn?”

    “And I'm tellin' you, I don't know no fuckin' Brian Laborn,” blustered the thug.

    “The guy who got killed three weeks ago, in the alleyway off of Findlater,” Vicky shook him, as if to jog his memory. “He had a broomstick shoved through his chest, and a swastika carved around it. Come on, that's a bit obvious even for you guys. What was it? Some kind of initiation? All I need's a name, and you can go back to being gutter scum.”

    “And for the last fuckin' time, you stupid fuckin' bitch, I got no idea what you're fuckin' talking about.” Abruptly, the Empire thug raised his arms, slipping out of the loose jacket. He hit the ground and rolled, then got up and bolted.

    Vicky's anger boiled over. Call me a stupid fucking bitch, will you? A dumpster sat nearby; she swooped in and kicked it. The metal dented deeply as it was launched in a ballistic arc toward the guy. It'll just clip him and -

    But then, as her eyes widened, the lid came open; even as the corner of the dumpster caught him across the back, the edge of the lid smashed across the back of his skull. He went down, sprawled like a rag doll, as the dumpster flew on, crashing on to its side and skidding several yards.

    “Oh god, oh god, oh god.” She landed beside him, reaching down to feel for a pulse. There was one, but it was very weak and thready. The back of his skull looked … misshapen. “Oh, shit. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.”

    Yanking her phone out, she pressed numbers hastily.

    Vicky? What's up?”

    “Ames, I need your help.”

    There was a long hesitation. “Where are you?”

    “I'm at the corner of China and Weston. Come quick. Don't tell anyone where you're going.”

    What? What are you doing out of school?”

    “I'm investigating that murder. But I need your help.”

    Why? What's happened? Are you hurt?”

    She could hear the desperation in her own voice. “Just get here fast. Please.”

    Another long hesitation. “Okay. But this better be good.”

    “I will so owe you.”

    I know.”

    <><>​

    Winslow High School

    Taylor sighed as she climbed the stairs to the third floor girls' bathrooms. It was lunchtime, which meant that the day was half over. But already, it had proven to be a very stressful day. Madison and Julia had proven to be both innovative and relentless in World Affairs, with each one ready to draw Mr Gladly's attention if he seemed about to notice what the other was pulling on Taylor.

    Prior to that, Physical Education had been a trial, with Sophia taking every opportunity to bump, elbow-jab or trip her. Worse, other boys and girls had gotten into the act every time Mr Johannsen turned his back. It wasn't as if they even knew her, but Sophia was moderately popular and Taylor was not. She felt she had bruises over every inch of her body that was covered by her clothing. Gym clothes at that; Sophia had revived an old favourite and tossed her regular clothes into the shower after PE, soaking them so that she had to wear her sweaty gym clothes to class. When she walked into World Affairs, at least half the class had turned toward her and held their noses.

    That hadn't even been the start of it. None of her bullies were in Computers, but they didn't need to be. Her email inbox had been jammed full yet again; insults bordering from the subtle to the blatant ruled the day. As fast as she deleted them, they came in once more, making it impossible for her to use the account for anything. So she had opened yet another one; before the class was half over, three more taunting emails had ended up in it.

    I've had enough. Seriously. All I want is for the day to end. To go home and cry. To be caught crying in school would be social suicide, even worse than snitching. It would give the bullies even more ammunition than Emma already had on her.

    Pushing open the bathroom door, she avoided three girls as they left, anxiously scanning the crowd already there for familiar faces. There were none that she knew, but then, not knowing them merely meant that they'd have more of a chance to pull a prank before she realised what was going on. Moving to an empty corner, she held her backpack tightly to herself while she waited for a stall to become vacant.

    One did, so she ducked in as the other girl exited. Locking the door, she sighed in not-quite-relief as she sat down on the toilet lid. It was going to keep happening after lunch, she knew. This was just a respite. But it was all she had.

    Opening the backpack, she took out her bag lunch and a book she'd been meaning to read. Losing herself in the pages of a novel was about the most she could do to escape the constant harassment at school, these days. Taking the pita wrap from the brown paper bag, she began to nibble on it as she opened the book.

    Too late, she registered that the noise level outside the stall had dropped dramatically. In fact, the only voices out there were whispers. She blinked. Oh, shit. That's not good.

    A moment later, she was proven right by a clunking noise from above her. Looking up, she saw the rectangular end of some kind of plastic bin resting on the top of the partition. Dropping everything, she leaped to her feet and tried to push the door open. It held firm. Someone's holding it shut.

    The deluge that descended on her at that moment smelled worse than anything she had ever experienced before. As she gasped and sputtered and tried to wipe it out of her eyes, a second torrent of evil-smelling material washed over her, leaving small objects lodged in her hair and on her glasses. Then darkness descended as something fell over her head, sliding down over her shoulders, pinning her arms to her sides.

    She couldn't breathe, couldn't struggle. When she tried to inhale, the noxious smell, along with some of the fluid, went into her mouth and up her nose, and she vomited convulsively, all over herself and the inside of whatever was imprisoning her arms.

    Falling to the floor, she jerked and screamed and struggled, trying to free herself. I can't breathe. I can't get free. I'll die in here. She vomited again and again, bringing up everything she had eaten over the last day. Her glasses had fallen off; the stuff was getting in her eyes, stinging them.

    There was no way out.

    <><>​

    Aisha had lost the three girls in the crowd, but she had remembered what the petite one had said. Third floor bathrooms, at lunch time.

    So, at lunch time, she had been up on the third floor, in the girls' bathrooms. She hadn't paid much attention when the skinny girl came in, but she was intrigued when Shadow Stalker and the other girls had come in and started clearing the bathroom. While the redhead leaned against the stall door, Shadow Stalker and the petite one each took the top off of a feminine-hygiene bin. Aisha blinked; she thought she knew what was going to happen, but she couldn't believe it.

    As the screams and choking sounds arose from the stall a moment later, she believed it all right. The three bullies leaned against the wall, convulsing in laughter. While they were thus occupied, Aisha stepped up to the stall and pulled it open. She was just kneeling down to pull the container off the girl's head – she was so skinny that it had been jammed all the way down to her elbows – something happened. One moment, Aisha was crouching in the mess that included horribly stinking used feminine items, and the next she was sitting in them.

    What the fuck was that?

    Outside the stall, she could hear concerned voices, asking 'Sophia' if she was all right. Sophia snapped back angrily; from the other sounds, she was also climbing to her feet. Whatever it was, it got her too.

    Ignoring the muck now soaking into her tights, Aisha took a good grip on the disposal bin and pulled it free of the skinny girl's head and shoulders. A pair of glasses clattered to the tiles; she picked them up, wiped them as best she could, and put them back on the feebly moving girl's face.

    “Okay,” she murmured. “I'll just leave you here and -” She was going to finish with 'go get help', but then the girl moved again. Aisha scrambled out of the way as she actually got up.

    Fuck, she's tougher than I'll ever be.

    <><>​

    Taylor wasn't quite sure what was going on, but the bin was off of her head and she had her glasses back on. Her eyes were still stinging, but at least she could see. There was a weird buzzing in the back of her mind, and flashes of light going off at random behind her eyes. She was also pissed as hell.

    Clambering to her feet, Taylor pushed open the stall door with one hand. The three bitches were right there; they began to turn toward her, just as she used her other hand to heave the bin at them. It arced through the air, on a direct collision course with Sophia's head. The dark-skinned girl saw it coming, almost too late. And then, as Taylor watched disbelievingly, her form blurred; the bin flew through her, bouncing off of the bench behind, then clattering harmlessly to the floor.

    The anger within her grew as she connected the dots. “You're a cape!” she blurted. “You're – you're Shadow Stalker!”

    It was all so clear to her now. The school let Sophia get away with everything because she was a cape. Sophia could get into her locker because of her powers. But now the secret was out.

    “You're Shadow Stalker,” she repeated, anger and glee combining in her voice. “I saw it. I've got you now, you fucking bitch. I've got you. You're fucking going down.”

    <><>​

    The Undersiders' Base

    “No!” Tattletale indeed knew exactly what he wanted from her. And it would not stop with what he wanted her to do first. He intended to dominate her as crudely and as totally as men have been dominating women since the dawn of time. His intent was to take her, to use her, to own her.

    “Fuckin' yes.” His hand was on the back of her neck now, holding her in an inescapable grip. His power was twofold; he could grow or shrink any part of his body, within certain limits, and he could apply a surface-level force field that increased his strength. “Time I'm finished with you, you'll be begging for more.”

    Her hands scrabbled for anything she could use to escape this fate; half-hidden beneath a pizza box lid, she grasped the arrow she had pulled from Brian's chest. Without even stopping to think about the consequences of her actions, she stabbed it upward between his legs.

    He screamed and let her go, grabbing for the injured location. Wrenching the arrow free, she stabbed him again, first in the left arm and then, as he bent over, in the eye. One of his arms caught her, sending her sprawling across the floor, head spinning. Regaining her wits, she pulled herself to her feet, to find him lurching toward her.

    “You bitch!” he bellowed. “I'll kill you for that!”

    Just as he reached up toward his face, she lunged forward; the heel of her hand slammed against the nock of the arrow, driving it all the way into his brain. He grabbed at her with his left hand and missed, blood spurting from between the fingers of his right hand as he tried to pull the arrow out.

    And then, like a tree falling, he crashed to the floor. Blood ran from under his face to pool on the rug.

    Pressed back against the wall, she panted, watching as his twitching slowly subsided. With her hand to her mouth, she bit on her knuckle, trying to stop herself from shaking. She wanted to cry; she wanted to throw up. Neither thing happened, but only due to the most stringent effort of will that she had ever enforced upon herself.

    In the silence, a phone began to ring.

    <><>​

    Empire Eighty-Eight Territory

    The taxi let Amy out at the correct address. She grabbed the change and jumped out of the vehicle, looking around for Vicky. A moment later, she spotted the familiar blonde hair of her sister, leaning out of an alley, just up the block. Amy hurried in that direction.

    “Okay, what's the big rush?” she asked as she reached Vicky.

    “There's a guy hurt,” Vicky explained in a rush; Amy yelped involuntarily yelped as her sister scooped her up in her arms. “Come on, I think he's dying.”

    The sides of the alley flashed by, then Vicky was letting her down by the side of a man dressed in the typical garb of an Empire Eighty-Eight goon. He was certainly in a bad way; Amy could tell that without even touching him. She laid a hand on his bare arm, and shuddered.

    “Spinal fractures, broken ribs, a badly fractured skull, severe brain damage … I'm not even sure how he's still alive,” she reported. “What happened here?”

    Vicky's eyes shifted sideways. “I was questioning him …” she began, then trailed off.

    Amy could fill in the rest, especially given that there was a dumpster with a large dent in the side, lying upturned further down the alley. “For Christ's sake, Vicky,” she chided her sister. “This is getting worse all the time. Ever since Dad died …”

    “Yeah, yeah, okay, got it,” Vicky interrupted. “But he'll be all right, yeah?”

    Amy grimaced. “I dunno. The broken bones are easy. So's the skull fracture. But the brain damage – his brain was deformed by the impact. Even if he survives, much less with his intellect intact, which would hugely surprise me, he'll never walk, talk or see ever again.”

    Vicky shook her head. “No. No no no. You've gotta fix him. You've gotta fix this.”

    “No, I don't.” Amy stood up from the skinhead's side. “Vicky. This is vastly different from fixing a broken arm or even a ruptured spleen. Both of which you've caused before, because you're not being careful enough. This is the brain. I don't do brains.”

    “But you can,” argued Vicky. “Just this once, Ames. Come on. For me. You said you'd help.”

    Amy took a deep breath. “You never said that you'd caused massive brain trauma to some skinhead. You know I don't do brains.”

    “Amy, if this guy dies, or ends up as a vegetable, do you have any idea how much trouble I'll be in?” pleaded Vicky. “Do you really want to do that to me? To Mom? To the team? I'll be tried for negligence, or even manslaughter. And if they heard about the other times, it'd be even worse.”

    “Vicky.” Amy shook her head. “I'm sorry. I can't keep doing this. You need to learn self-control. Every time I bail you out like this, you don't learn anything.”

    It wasn't that she didn't want to help Vicky. She knew full well that if she did this, she would get a flashing smile and a 'thank you!' then Vicky would go on her merry way. To do this all over again. To earn that smile and the gratitude that came with it was something that she liked. But she was beginning to learn that no matter how much she put herself forward, no matter how many times she saved Vicky from the consequences of her own actions, she wasn't actually going to get what she truly wanted from her sister. I love her, but she just keeps using me.

    “Amy, please.” Vicky stepped forward and embraced Amy, holding her close. Her aura flared, bombarding Amy's mind with impulses of warm feelings toward Vicky. It wasn't that she needed them; she already had all the warm feelings that she would ever get in that regard. However, in combination with the close proximity, Vicky's body pressing on hers in all the right places, and even her scent, it all combined to form a single intoxicating wave of sensation. In addition, the embrace brought back involuntary memories of catching Vicky in flagrante delicto with Dean, and how seeing the two of them had made her feel at the time.

    All of the pain, the hurt, the loss and the anguish came together at once. Amy was adrift; nothing made sense. Her sister, the guiding light of her life, was begging her – begging her – to break one of her most fundamental rules, and she was seriously beginning to consider doing just that.

    “Anything you want me to do, just ask. I'll do it for you,” Vicky pleaded urgently. “Any favour, any time. It's yours.”

    Amy couldn't hold out any longer. “Okay, I'll do it,” she agreed. Dropping to one knee, she laid her hands on the Empire thug's head. He still lived, but was fading fast. She exerted her power; the man's skull reshaped, and the brain with it. Connections were re-established as she fixed the trauma, bringing his brain back to full functionality. From beginning to end, it took barely ten seconds. It was easy.

    Standing up once more, she faced her sister. “Done.”

    “What, really?”

    As if in answer, the man groaned and stirred.

    Vicky's eyes widened. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Again, she grabbed Amy in a ferocious hug. Again, her aura flared, even more strongly. And this time, the temptation was far too strong to resist. She said she would do anything I wanted. I want … this.

    And Amy kissed her.

    <><>​

    Winslow High School

    “Yeah, right,” scoffed Sophia. “That's gonna fly. Not.”

    Taylor felt the power of the situation she was in. She could also feel a power of a different sort building in the back of her head, feeding on her anger, growing ever stronger. “So you're not gonna object if I march on down to Blackwell's office, tell her you did this, and make her ring the PRT to tell them what you've been doing?”

    “Like they'll listen to you,” Emma stated flatly. “All we gotta do is tell them it's all bullshit.”

    Almost, Taylor believed her. Almost. But there was the faintest edge of doubt in Emma's voice. Firmly, she reminded herself that she knew this, that there was no way Sophia could make the PRT shut up about this. “Let's go find out then,” she declared. “It's not like I've got anything to lose.”

    She started for the door, but only made it three steps before Sophia tackled her from behind. They both slammed into the door; Sophia got the better of it, as she went to vapour just before impact. Taylor's glasses were jolted off again, skidding sideways into one of the stalls.

    Dazed, Taylor tried to get up, but Sophia knocked her down again with one accurate punch to the face. The roaring in the back of her head was thunderous now; just as Sophia landed on her with both knees, she released it to do its worst.

    Bugs poured into the bathrooms from every nook and cranny, every crevice. More flooded in through the open window. They swarmed around Emma and Madison, and attacked Sophia in force. Emma yanked the door open and fled; Madison tried to follow, but at that moment, Sophia slammed Taylor up against the door, blocking egress.

    Sophia flickered to fog, then back to solid form, landing a punch that winded Taylor. Another flickering change, another blow. Taylor felt the world wavering around her.

    Fuck. She's gonna kill me, and with these bugs, she's gonna call it self defence.

    Another solid blow, one that rattled her teeth. The world went out of focus.

    <><>​

    The Undersiders' Base

    Lisa realised that she was sitting on the floor, hugging her knees, as the phone rang on. It wasn't her phone; that had a different ringtone. It must be Hardcase's phone.

    Slowly, she pulled herself to her feet. Maybe I can explain what happened -

    Her own phone began to ring. She pulled it out and checked caller ID, although she knew who it was going to be. Coil.

    There was no way to explain this, she realised, that Coil would accept.

    The phone rang on. As it did so, she headed into her room. I have to go, she told herself. I have to run. Get out of here.

    Leaving the phone to ring – it would only serve to aid Coil in tracing her – she stuffed a backpack with her most essential items, and dashed out the door. Down the spiral staircase, moving as fast as she could. Just as she got to the entry door itself, she paused. Outside, she had just heard the sound of vehicular brakes, squeaking to a halt.

    Fuck. He's here.

    There was a back door, she knew. She'd spent some time oiling the hinges and making sure the lock would open. She also had the only key to it. And she had never told anyone about this bolt-hole.

    As footsteps approached the main entry door, she dashed through the dimness, dodging around the derelict machinery. There was a creak as the door opened, light splashing through the interior of the building. But she was already behind cover.

    The tall skinny silhouette who entered could only have been Coil. Had she her pistol, she may have chanced picking him off. Or perhaps not; the man had a talent for turning bad situations to his advantage.

    As he mounted the staircase, she took the chance to sidle the rest of the way, to the carefully-maintained rear exit. He reached the top. She slid the key into the lock. Carefully, slowly, she turned it; the click was muted. There were just seconds left before he discovered the body; opening the door, she slipped out.

    The back alley was deserted; she set off at a steady trot, her pack bouncing on her back. Ahead of her stretched an uncertain future. Her only chance of survival involved getting as far away from Coil as possible, and staying there.

    <><>​

    Empire Eighty-Eight Territory

    Vicky's eyes opened wide as Amy's lips melded with hers, but it was far too late. Too late for both Amy and Vicky. Amy had lived with her frustrated desires for far too long; the recent emotional upheavals had only served to sharpen her wants and needs. So even if she had been inclined to moderate her approach at the beginning, her own hormone-driven urges would not have allowed her to do so.

    Too late also for Vicky; when she realised what Amy was doing, she tried to protest, to pull away. But Amy, although unable to physically enforce her will on Vicky in this matter, still had resources to draw on. It was ironic that Vicky had just persuaded Amy to use her power on someone's brain for the very first time just moments before; had she not done so, what happened next may have been avoided.

    Amy felt the stirrings of denial in Vicky's brain long before, neurologically speaking, her sister began to try to push her away. But her frustrated desires would not accept 'no' for an answer; all she knew was that she wanted what she wanted, and she wanted it now. So when Vicky tried to push her away, Amy's power excised that part of Vicky's mind that had originated the order.

    It must be noted that Amy knew nothing of this. All she knew was that Vicky's initial resistance quickly faded, replaced by compliance. She kissed Vicky, and was kissed in return.

    It was only when Amy reluctantly separated from Vicky, her mind clearing, that she realised what she had done. Albeit unwittingly, she had rewritten Vicky's brain, removing those parts of her personality which had objected to the forced kiss. All that was left was a shell of a human being, one whose entire being revolved around pleasing Amy. Nothing else remained.

    “Oh, god,” she whimpered. “Oh, god. Vicky. Please. No.”

    “What's the matter, Amy?” Vicky's voice was simpler, childlike. “Are you all right?”

    “Vicky.” Tears flooded Amy's eyes. “I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please, let me make it right.”

    “Of course you can make it right, Amy.” Vicky smiled at her, a bright and happy smile. “You can do anything.”

    Neither of them took notice of the Empire skinhead stumbling to his feet and fleeing. He wasn't important any more.

    Amy put her hands to Vicky's head and concentrated. In every other case of brain damage and amnesia she had ever encountered, the lost information had been somewhere. Even if she didn't deal with brains, she could still see how to fix them.

    But in this case, the information truly was gone. Much of Vicky's personality had been erased, as if it had never been. She was, in many ways, a tabula rasa.

    Amy had done this. She had done this because she had desired Vicky. Most of all, she had done this because she had broken her cardinal rule. I don't touch brains. Looking at the wreckage of her sister, at the bright and empty smile, she felt her world crumbling around her. Her gorge rose. I did this. Me.

    Right at that moment, had a blade been handy, she would have slit her own wrists with a smile.

    She shook her head. No. I can't think that way. Vicky needs me. There was vanishingly little self-motivation within that which had been Vicky. If Amy died – or if I give myself up to be Birdcaged – there was every chance that Vicky would sit and stare at the wall until she died of thirst or hunger.

    There's only one thing I can do.

    “Vicky,” she stated firmly. “We're leaving.”

    “Are we going home?”

    “No. We're not going home. We're just going … away for a while. On a holiday.”

    “I like holidays.”

    “I know.” She would never be able to go home, to face Carol, ever again. Not until she had figured out how to rebuild Vicky's personality from the wreckage into which she had rendered it. However long it took. However stringent the cost was on herself.

    I swear to you, Vicky, I will do this. No matter what it takes. You will be yourself again. Even if you hate me for the rest of your life for what I have done to you.

    She reached for Vicky's hand. “Come on, let's go.”

    Trustingly, Vicky allowed her to take it. “Okay.”

    Together, they walked off down the alleyway.

    <><>​

    Winslow High School

    Sophia was choking her. Taylor was on her knees, fighting to drag the stronger girl's hands from her throat, but to no avail. She only had the vaguest of control over the bugs she had apparently summoned, and not enough were attacking Sophia in ways that would make her let Taylor go.

    And then something was pushed into her right hand. Taylor's fading eyesight could not make it out, but the bugs that landed on it gave her the shape. A blade. A knife.

    Where it had come from, she didn't know. But right then, she didn't care. Convulsively, she brought the knife up between them, sinking the razor-sharp blade up and under Sophia's ribcage. Sophia's eyes opened wide before she puffed into shadow form, reforming a couple of yards away. A bloodstain appeared across the front of Sophia's top, spreading as if by magic. She pressed her hand to it, then went from her feet to her knees. Bending forward, she coughed; blood sprayed from her lips. She went to shadow form once more, vanishing through the door.

    Taylor looked at the knife in her hand. It had a swastika emblazoned on the top of the handle. Convulsively, she let it fall; it clattered to the tiles of the bathroom. Painfully, she climbed to her feet. As she approached Madison, the bugs covering the petite girl swarmed aside. More climbed from her open mouth. Her open eyes had been partially eaten away.

    Abruptly, Taylor turned aside and vomited into one of the sinks. She washed her mouth out, washed the clinging muck from her face. With both hands on the sink, she stared into her reflection. Her eyes were bloodshot, her face bruised. But she had more life in her eyes than she'd had over the last six months.

    “Well, fuck,” she muttered. “I need to get out of here. But where are my glasses?”

    With a start, she realised that she was holding them in her right hand. Carefully, she put them on; the world came back into focus. Pulling the bathroom door open, she peered outside. Sophia was lying at the top of the steps, face down.

    Okay, she told herself. Okay. Okay. Okay. I've just stabbed a Ward to death. Killed a civilian with bug powers which I didn't know I had. They Birdcage people for less.

    “Fuck.” Her voice was raspy. “I have to get out of here. I have to get away.”

    As quickly and quietly as she knew how, she descended the stairs and headed for the nearest fire door. Pushing it open, she stepped into the midday sun.

    She didn't know where she was going, or what she was going to do when she got there.

    All she knew was that there was no going back.

    <><>​

    An Abandoned Building in the Docks

    Lisa finally managed to work the board away from where it had been nailed over the empty window frame, and climbed through. She pulled it back into place just far enough that it would look undisturbed. Coil will have frozen my accounts. I'm gonna have to start hustling for more cash tomorrow. In the meantime, I've got cans and bottled water. She'd settled for less, in the past.

    A small spirit stove provided both light and heat; she tipped the contents of a can into a small bowl and began to heat it.

    A noise outside made her look around; silently, she turned the stove down and put a cover on the bowl. Fully aware that the cooking smell would have permeated outside, she silently got to her feet and prowled over to the side of the window. In her hand was a short piece of rebar; anyone coming after her was going to get a nasty surprise.

    To her own surprise, the fingers that hooked under the loose board were those of what she judged to be a teenage girl. A few bugs buzzed around her, landing on her upraised arms. The hands stopped pulling on the board.

    “May – may I come in, please?” The voice was female, about Lisa's own age. “I won't hurt you. I promise. I just need somewhere to sleep.”

    Sincerity rang in every syllable. More, there was deep hurt there. Whoever this girl was, she had been carrying pain for a very long time.

    Lisa sighed. “Come on in.” She helped the girl pull away the board, then gave her a hand to climb in. While taller than Lisa, the newcomer was very skinny. Her clothing and hair were also caked with something horrid. “I'm Lisa. You?”

    “Taylor.” She seemed to be about to say something more, but then her head came up. “Someone's out there.”

    Lisa looked around, just as the door, which had been nailed into the doorframe, came loose with a piercing shriek. “Shit. Get ready to run.”

    A frizzy-haired girl stumbled into the room. “I smell food. Is that food? Oh, god. I am so hungry.” Following her was a tall blonde teenager, wearing a very readily identifiable costume.

    Lisa stared, her eyes going wide. “Holy shit. Panacea and Glory Girl.”

    Taylor's reaction was terror; she jerked as if to flee, then slumped. Slowly, she raised her hands. “I can't run any more. I give up.”

    “No, wait.” Lisa put her hand on Taylor's shoulder. “They're not here to arrest you.”

    “We're not here to arrest anyone.” Panacea's face had lines in it that no teenager should. “We just want shelter for the night. And a little of that food, if you can spare it.” She turned to the blonde. “Are you hungry, Vicky?”

    Glory Girl nodded. “I am hungry, Amy.”

    Lisa blinked rapidly as her power connected the dots. “Well, holy shit.”

    Taylor was slower on the uptake. This was not surprising; nearly everyone was slower on the uptake than Lisa. “What?”

    Lisa nodded to the other two girls. “They're on the run, too. For something that Amy did to Glory Girl.”

    “I'm going to fix it.” Amy's voice was strained almost to the breaking point. “I have to.”

    “I can never fix what I did.” Taylor's voice was dull.

    “Depends.” Lisa eyed her shrewdly. “What did you do that was so bad?”

    Taylor's eyes dropped to the floor. “I killed Shadow Stalker.”

    “You did what.” Lisa spoke at the same time as Panacea, although her tone was somewhat different.

    “She was choking me to death, and I had a knife. So I stabbed her.” Taylor's voice was almost inaudible at the end.

    “That's self-defence.” Amy's voice was firm. “You could have turned yourself in. Gotten a fair hearing.”

    Taylor shook her head. “No. I couldn't.”

    “And anyway, it couldn't have happened to a nicer bitch.” Lisa smiled at Taylor. “Thanks. You just saved me the trouble of tracking her down and killing her myself.”

    Taylor looked confused. “What? Why?”

    “Because she murdered Grue, right in front of my eyes.”

    Panacea frowned. “She murdered someone?”

    “Sure as hell,” Lisa confirmed. “Shot a crossbow arrow right into the middle of his chest. Then she made it look like an Empire Eighty-Eight kill. He was black, you see.”

    It was Panacea's turn for her eyes to open wide. “Vicky.”

    “Yes, Amy?”

    “Which murder were you investigating?”

    “Brian Laborn,” Vicky replied at once. “Murdered by the Empire Eighty-Eight. Sharpened broomstick rammed into his chest.” She went back to staring at the wall.

    Lisa nodded. “That was his name. Brian.”

    Amy ran her hand over her forehead. “Vicky told me that she ran into Shadow Stalker, who told her that the Empire was responsible.”

    Lisa snorted. “Like hell. She was just covering up her crime.”

    Taylor's head came up. “So … she was a murderer?”

    “Several times over, if I had to guess,” Lisa agreed. “But we'll never be able to prove it.”

    “Oh.” Taylor slumped again.

    “But that's okay.” Lisa shrugged. “You can hang with me for a while, if you want. Until you figure out what you want to do.”

    Taylor nodded. “Thanks.”

    “Uh …” That was Panacea.

    Lisa looked that way. “Yeah?”

    “Can we … can we hang with you a while, too?”

    It had been a while since Lisa had been able to smile, but now she did. “Sure. The more the merrier.”


    End of Part Two

    Part Three
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
    Blastzeg, sainen, Simonbob and 105 others like this.
  6. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Possibly what happened. I'm leaving it up to reader discretion.
     
  7. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    Well, I don't feel bad about Hardcase or Sophia dying, and the neo-nazi has a high probability of deserving it, but poor Brian and Mark.

    If Coil doesn't bother to clean the scene, I suspect that Regent could figure out what happened, if he cares enough to try.
     
  8. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Ding-dong, the witch is dead. Very nicely done - a fitting end for the psycho. Too bad about Glory Girl, but Amy can now work on her, probably. Coil will probably rue the day he didn't instruct Hardcase not to push Lisa.
    A merry band of misfits, and a new hope.
     
  9. SamueLewis

    SamueLewis Not too sore, are you?

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    I think that this "swastika emblazoned knife" will paint Taylor as an e88 recruit or something.
    Also, presence of the Joker's quote is making me fear for the already dubious sanity of those girls...
     
  10. Firedon

    Firedon Lazy Sleepy Cat

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    Well, I think it feels likely that Aisha'll join 'em soon. That'll be an interesting conversation.
     
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  11. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Mwahaha.

    In any case, do you really think Aisha would have left the knife behind? :p
     
  12. Xilph

    Xilph Well worn.

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    Following Taylor or looking for Lisa do you think? Personally I'd be more inclined to lean towards the former rather than the latter.
     
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  13. Firedon

    Firedon Lazy Sleepy Cat

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    I'd say the former as well.
     
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  14. Xilph

    Xilph Well worn.

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    It could always be smelling the food like the others, although as is both Amy and Taylor randomly stumbling upon Lisa is already starting to suggest her ability to cook is way better than previously suspected.
     
  15. godzillahomer

    godzillahomer Know what you're doing yet?

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    Very nice, watching

    She's not a psycho; She knows right and wrong, which makes her a sociopath
     
  16. Visual Pun

    Visual Pun Know what you're doing yet?

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    Or Aisha could make a quick trip to the Janitor's closet, break off a handle and return to turn Sophia into the 'second victim' of the Nazi Broomstick Murderer.

    Maybe light Madison's corpse on fire to disguise the insect bites and write the words 'race traitor' in blood on the tiles while she's at it.

    It would work, except Emma ran off.

    If only there were an invisible assailant to take a red-headed bitchy-bitch to stabitty-stab town.

    Wow. I use hyphenated words WAY too much.
     
  17. slicedtoad

    slicedtoad -

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    Well, that was a fun read. Can I ask what the tone of this story is going to be? Like, did Ziz just fuck with this particular day to make some interesting shit happen, or are we getting a string of tragedy caused by some butterflies?

    Ehh, psychopath and sociopath are synonymous in modern day psychology I believe. Though I believe psycho usually implies a degree of sadism that isn't necessary for sociopaths. Both are the general categorization for people with antisocial personality disorder that results in reduced empathy and remorse.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy
     
  18. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Sophia will ...
    1) not lose. Ever. Even if she has to redefine winning and losing.
    2) sit there and watch as you're assaulted to see if you'll fight back before assisting
    3) allow a mugging victim to beat the snot out of the perp, after said perp has been subdued.
    4) go out of her way to make sure someone she sees as 'weak' does not get ideas above her station
    5) throw a massive tantrum when the person she sees as 'weak' turns out to be the same person who beat her
    6) happily send a bunch of boys to run down a single girl and duct tape her to a telephone pole (or do whatever else they want to her)
    7) repeatedly go after a single villain whose powers no-sell her powers, with the intent to kill (see 'not lose', above)
    8) attempt to murder a villain instead of bringing her in, because that villain knows her secret identity

    And she won't lose sleep over any of this.
     
  19. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    The girls have had their One Bad Day.

    Now it's the turn of anyone who gets in their way. :p
     
  20. Xilph

    Xilph Well worn.

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    Hmm, a thought but Alec could actually support Lisa somewhat if he finds out what happened. Someone abusing his power to rape someone? Not exactly going to have the best associations given his experiences even given his emotional crippling, might go the other way too but just thought those might matter somewhat to how that situation resolves.
     
  21. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Oh well... if this isn't one massive trainwreck coming...
     
  22. alethiophile

    alethiophile Shadowed Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, this is interesting.

    If it was a single butterfly, it was a hell of a one.
     
  23. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    All this talk about when Aisha will join them... Don't you people realize she's been there ever since Taylor showed up? :D

    But you bet she'll join up after hearing every one of them was involved in trying to avenge her brother.

    And dear god. Taylor, Lisa, and Amy (Vicky counts as part of Amy now), teaming up.... I'd say Coil was fucked, but I'm gonna take that a step further:

    The Endbringers are fucked.

    Yes, I said it.

    Butterflies are Ziz's bitch.
     
  24. Firedon

    Firedon Lazy Sleepy Cat

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    I don't know... While Aisha was clearly prepared to kill Sophia as her brother's murderer, or assist Taylor in doing that, mutilating corpses and hunting down Emma is going a bit far, I think.
     
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  25. FreshwaterPlimpie

    FreshwaterPlimpie Know what you're doing yet?

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    Oh, wow! Before the end of this chapter, the story could be summed up as "And then it got worse." (even more that canon!).

    But now! This chapter heralds awesome things! Yay! Honestly, given how much life has shat on those girls, I wouldn't begrudge them anything. As far as I'm concerned they can do anything or kill anyone they want and it's gonna be awright!
    Go team No-more-fucks-to-give!
     
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  26. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Regent tends to be passive-aggressive and uncaring. If he'd been there, he might have done something, but as it all happened while he was out, he'd be "Oh well, what's on TV?"
    That's the idea :p
    Just a few little nudges, here and there. The biggest alteration, of course, was the introduction of Hardcase.
    Mwahaha.
    See above :p
    Yes, you did.
    Yes, they are.
    It is. She finds enough satisfaction that 1) Sophia was killed by someone she was trying to kill, and 2) the knife that did it had a swastika on it. (Because she framed the Empire for Brian's murder ...)
    It wasn't easy, without delving into OOC grimdark territory, but I think I managed it. Also, assembling that timeline was a bitch.
    That ... is the general idea, yes.
     
  27. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    Wow, I'm actually left feeling sorry for Glory-Hole. Congratulations, you've done the impossible.
     
  28. Xilph

    Xilph Well worn.

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    Ok so something I forgot about but thinking on it could be interesting.

    How would BB and the various groups within it have reacted to Flashbang committing suicide? Since that seems like it would've got some mention or attention somewhere but it was nearly glossed over here as just another thing wearing away Amy's self control.
     
  29. rooster

    rooster I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Don't you just love it when Worm a grimdark setting that makes many people quit halfway when reading it gets even darker? In a real tangible and emotive way? Yeah...

    My gut was churning all the way when reading this and my eyes flew over the sentences to intake as little of it as possible while still knowing what was going on. If the end of the chapter didn't end on a high note of them coming together like this I would be in a very dark place and just wouldn't come back, but it did so I'm hooked.

    It's actually a running theme I've noticed in Ack's fics. Every single one of them starts of well written and well worth watching, with an interesting idea and premise. Too bad that few of them actually get anywhere (and it's a fair criticism. There are a lot of good fics with only a chapter or two).
     
  30. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Really? I found that his stories do move along very nicely, and those who end do so in a satisfying manner. Security, Shadow Stalker - Advent of a Hero, to name a few. I honestly doubt anyone could claim Security didn't "get anywhere", and his unfinished stories, particularly "Recoil" adbace their plots quite nicely as well.
     
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