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One More Trigger (Worm AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Dec 21, 2014.

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  1. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Well, Piggot is kind of justified, in one way, in her concern. The Samaritans have whupped ass in fine style. Of course, they aren't intending to be a danger.

    With Amy, Lisa's just giving her permission to be herself. Which she's still learning how to be.
     
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  2. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka True Evil

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    Hmm let's see.....things are getting cleaned up so I guess it's either time for Leviathan to hit the bay or the Butcher and the Teeth are inbound....and if things are really unlucky the Fallen are coming in for bridal kidnapping.
     
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  3. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Leviathan hit BB due to the local violence level. Gang wars and all that. The Teeth came in because of unrest.

    The Fallen could be trying something like that. It will, of course, go very badly for them.
     
  4. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka True Evil

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    Ah but just think of how much unrest there's going to be with the S9 having been defeated in BB, it's the perfect time for the Butcher to go back to their original stomping grounds and hey if one of the Samaritans kills them all the better right?;) The girls have made quite the name for themselves at this point why they might even have a.....Quebecois fan coming to visit them in the hopes to get to 'know' them better :eek:
     
  5. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yeah, let's just bring all the Masters out. Yay.
     
  6. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    One would think that Heartbreaker at least would know better than to try to make waves big enough for the triumvirate to decide that his victims can be sacrificed in order to prevent him from gaining control over the team that took out most of the S9. And the Butcher might not want to risk tangling with those who took down the S9, mostly without killing them, either.
     
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  7. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka True Evil

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    It could be worse...you could bring either/both the Elite or the Adepts :p
     
  8. GladiusLucix

    GladiusLucix Versed in the lewd.

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    Accord realizes how orderly they can make things, and attempts to make peaceful contact?
     
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  9. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Yeah. But I already did basically all of that. :p
     
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  10. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    You did basically everything.

    I'll be shading some of the things you did, but not exactly. Because these are established characters, with established personalities, and although we write them differently, they will do some things the same. Taylor will escalate, Lisa will be smug.
     
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  11. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Really? Villains having some sort of common sense?
     
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  12. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Chapter has been rewritten
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
  13. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    Interesting chapter but on a personal note I absolutely, positively LOATHE when authors make organizations do things like this, incompetent or not.

    You have the bad guys, they have had their rights as human, or even sentient, beings revoked without exception. You do NOT make an overly complex execution plan. At the soonest opportunity you start shooting and stabbing until they resembles ground beef, then you figure out a way to make the room reach a few thousand degrees centigrade. Once these basic steps have been taken, go ahead and start on the overly complicated plans on how you are going to deal with the fine ash that remains.

    I do understand that it was likely arranged by Contessa on purpose since they see Siberian as a potentially useful tool in the end-game but I have seen it too often and this is my kneejerk reaction to seeing it happen here.
     
  14. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Okay, suggestions for how to have them escape without the PRT being incompetent (and they weren't, not really. They just didn't search Jack Slash down to the fingernails).

    Basically, I figured that
    a) the PRT had them in custody (and if they'd put Jack in those gloves, then they're all screwed). The precautions were almost enough.
    b) Someone goes, "Bonesaw might have booby trapped them all, so best to keep them alive until they're all executed together."
    c) Someone else goes "Why bother using six choppers? One will do."
     
  15. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    Given their reputation if I was the head of the organization that had them in custody I would have fired, possibly from a cannon into orbit, anyone that suggested anything less than having the nuke be transported on the undercarriage of the chopper with a few dozen hair-triggers on it, including and not limited to monitoring the consciousness of all the non-S9 people in the plane(if a single crew member goes unconscious or has a significant stress spike, the nuke goes off), the air quality inside the plane with the plane hermetically sealed, the state of the electronics throughout the plane(if more than a very small limit of glitches occur, the nuke goes off), and several other things that cut off any and every escape attempt anyone could possibly think of in the time they had, also linked to additional mini-nuke collars each S9 member has around the neck, each wrist, elbows, knees, ankles and their waist.

    Having a nuke, or multiples, go off in US airspace and losing the crew would be a more than acceptable price to prevent the S9 from escaping, to the point that if it was my idea and it went off only a couple minutes after takeoff, that would be my platform if I ran for president.

    In addition none of the S9 should even be awake, sedated to just barely above death and kept in a room with only the barest amount of oxygen needed to survive. Also they would be bound so securely that it's only one step short of complete sensory deprivation, if they didn't just go all the way into absolute sensory deprivation.

    I can't think of a better way of having them escape, but as I said if I had any say in the matter, them escaping would take an act of Scion to have even the remotest possibility of happening.

    The rant was mainly buildup from seeing it occur in other places just to keep the antagonist(s) viable because the author didn't want to have to introduce a new one.

    In this instance, even though it annoys me personally, I can understand it happening. Contessa really doesn't care about what the S9 do, just that the members marked as potentially useful survive.

    But given that Tinkers are a thing and the rep the S9 have, the measures I outlined would be simple enough to accomplish in a very short amount of time and would be the minimum acceptable security measures for transporting(or my preference which would be nuking them on the spot, hopefully finding a way to contain it beforehand but if not them that area is an acceptable loss no matter where it is) someone like the S9 if they didn't have a Contessa interrupt setting the security measures to simply 'Villain on-route to the Birdcage' level.

    Hell, Contessa is probably busy as all hell keeping them from dying period. Without her working behind the scenes the S9 would have most likely been nuked by an independent Tinker a long time ago and only Crawler has any hope of surviving a point blank nuke from a Tinker who decides to take them out with him. Nuclear fusion is actually really easy if you have tinkertech that can tell the laws of physics that make it difficult to fuck off.
     
  16. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Okay. Will be rewriting. Hold your horses.
     
  17. steamrick

    steamrick Matter: protons, electrons, neutrons and morons

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    I agree with doomlord, the PRT showed unusual incompetence in this one.

    Also doomlord, you left out a step: I were them I'd have completely foamed Jack and Bonesaw and just dropped them down the mineshaft foamed. Incidentally, the foam would also help filter out larger airborn pathogens (if not all chemicals since we know you can breathe through the foam) just in case Bonesaw was extra tricky.
     
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  18. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    Oh no, that step would definitely be done as well....once they got there. The precautions I outlined were simply what would be required before I would allow their transport to even start its engine.

    And it's less to do with this chapter in specific. I should have stressed it more but this comes from a long-time buildup of reading fics I enjoyed and then seeing the people do something so pant-on-head retarded that I damn near dropped the story then and there, and it takes alot to get me to that point.

    One specific example that I have seen far too often, in Naruto fics where they have the super-evil bad guy(Sasuke/Danzo/Orochimaru) dead to rights......and they arrange a public execution, announcing it a week before hand, on an open air platform in the middle of the village with the citizens attending. Every time I see that I damn near go insane with rage. They are a village of professional assassins, the captive shouldn't even survive to make it to their jail cell with a mostly passable double put in their place to be taken to the execution.

    It's not as bad here since they have literally the Plot Device helping them out, but at bare minimum without her interference they would be completely restrained, unable to talk or communicate in any conventional manner, and kept unconscious hopefully until they hit the bottom of the mine-shaft if they can manage that with the upgrades Bonesaw has given them.

    Having a Kill Order means they have absolutely no rights in any way, shape, or form. There are no cruel and inhumane methods of keeping them captive because the Kill Order completely revokes their status as a human being. There is literally nothing harmful that can be done to them that would have any legal repercussions beyond having a medal created to commemorate you doing whatever it is you did.
     
  19. Threadmarks: Part Twenty-Four: Turnabout
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    One More Trigger

    Part Twenty-Four: Turnabout


    The insect was about an inch long, sported dull-grey wing cases, and looked quite unlike any bug that Director Piggot had ever seen. It sat, apparently unfazed by her inspection, in the middle of her desk. She got the strong impression that its shimmering eyes were inspecting her just as closely.

    She eyed it suspiciously, suppressing the urge to squash it just yet. Then she eyed three of the four girls standing opposite, equally suspiciously.

    “What is it?”

    “I call it a booster bug,” Ladybug informed her. “It lets me connect with bugs that are farther away than my range would normally allow.”

    Piggot looked down at it, then back up at her. “Why are you showing it to me?”

    “Because we're on the same side,” Sparx observed. “We're allies. This is a sharing of information.”

    The Director tilted her head. “So … you can connect to bugs farther away? How much farther?”

    “With enough of them, I'll be able to network my way right across the city.”

    The simple, matter-of-fact statement shook Piggot to her heels. “And this means that … “

    “I'll be able to control all the bugs in the city at once, yes,” Ladybug stated, as if she were noting that it might rain tomorrow.

    “With enough of them,” Piggot repeated the girl's earlier words, grasping at straws. “Do you have enough of them?”

    “Not yet,” Ladybug admitted. “But I'm breeding them as fast as I can.”

    “Stop.” The order popped out before Piggot knew she was going to give it.

    “What?” Ladybug tilted her head.

    “Stop breeding them.” Piggot's voice was rough. “Immediately.”

    “Why?”

    “Because … “ Piggot felt like tearing her hair out. “Because this makes you too powerful. Can't you see that? If the average man on the street learns that one teenage girl can form all the bugs in Brockton Bay into one enormous swarm, and send them to attack any one target, there will be panic.”

    “Not if I don't do it,” Ladybug protested. “And anyway, we were doing it to locate and beat the Nine. You're welcome, by the way.”

    The Director's lips thinned. “Very well. You've done it. Good job. Now stop breeding these bugs.”

    Sparx cleared her throat. “Director, I'm afraid that you're labouring under a misapprehension. We didn't come here to ask for your permission to breed these bugs. We came here to let you know of their capabilities, so that we can work with you, against threats to Brockton Bay. We're on your side.”

    “I saw what you could do before you got these damn bugs,” snapped Piggot. “You were capable enough then. With them? You are more of a threat to the city than the Nine ever were.”

    “I think that's a little unfair,” Aerodyne cut in. “Just because we've got a really powerful setup doesn't mean that we're just itching to unleash it on innocents at the first opportunity. Vista's seen what we can do with the booster bugs, and she's got no problem with it.”

    “She's right,” Vista agreed. “They've done nothing but good with them.”

    “How about the loss of privacy?” asked Piggot. “If Ladybug can listen in via every bug in the city, it will be like she's got nearly every person under surveillance. That's illegal -”

    “Except when the government's doing it, right?” asked Ladybug. “Relax. Bugs have crap senses. Their brains are so tiny it's ludicrous. I can tell where they are, and that's about it. Everything else is either a dull roar, a high-pitched squeak, or big fuzzy shapes.”

    “Even presuming that's true,” Piggot conceded, “I'd be interested in knowing where you got the batrachotoxin that you used on them. That's a highly dangerous substance, and not legally available anywhere, except for research purposes.”

    “The bugs secreted it,” Ladybug told her. “It's a naturally occurring substance, after all.”

    The Director rubbed her temples with her fingertips. “So, Panacea made the bugs in order to secrete this substance?”

    “That's correct,” Sparx agreed. “It took the Nine down hard and fast, which was exactly what we needed.”

    “And the chances of accidental death? Poison arrow frog venom isn't exactly a forgiving substance, after all.”

    “I figured they could take their chances,” Ladybug explained. “They do have kill orders on them; if they'd died, I wouldn't have been happy, but I wouldn't have worried all that much either.”

    “It's not them I'm worried about,” Piggot snapped. “It's anyone else you inject that toxin into!” She drew a deep breath through her nostrils. “In fact, depending on how it's interpreted, you could be charged with having illegal access to a dangerous substance, with intent to distribute.”

    “Whoa, hold on,” Sparx told her. “Panacea assures us that LD-fifty for the stuff is more than one sting can deliver, even for a child. Two stings will put down an adult, with a slight chance of death. Three stings will probably kill an adult. Plus, Ladybug can choose how much venom goes in with any one sting.”

    “And I'm not going to be stinging kids with them anyway,” pointed out Ladybug. “In fact, I'm not going to be stinging anyone with them, unless they prove to be seriously problematic, to the point that I'm willing to risk killing them.”

    “And are you seriously going to try to tell Ladybug that she can't use bugs to protect people?” asked Aerodyne. “You do know that a swarm of bees can sting someone to death, right? That's unenhanced. Hell, one bee can kill, if the target's allergic.”

    “Which raises another problem,” Piggot pointed out. “If you have your bugs sting someone into submission from across town, how do you know they won't go into shock from an allergic reaction and die before someone gets to them?”

    “Panacea's got an idea for an epi-bug,” Ladybug told her. “Basically, they'll accompany any swarms, and if someone looks like going into shock, they'll sting them with epinephrine. Of course, that's another bug I'm going to have to breed and get out there.”

    “Those bugs will need to be tested in laboratory conditions before you'll be legally allowed to use them to medically assist people,” Piggot warned. “In fact, I would appreciate it if you would run all of your altered bugs past our lab people, so we know exactly what we're dealing with.”

    “Wait, wait,” Sparx protested. “Panacea made these bugs. She designed them. If there was any problems with them, she would know. She wouldn't have built problems into them.”

    “In any case,” Aerodyne noted, “we're not part of the Wards, and we're not under the orders of the PRT. So you can request all the bugs you like. If we feel like actually supplying any, that's up to Ladybug.”

    Sparx didn't turn her attention away from Piggot, but the Director noticed her making a subtle hand gesture; Aerodyne shut up, but she didn't look happy, taking half a pace away and folding her arms.

    “I can order you to not utilise any bugs that I deem too dangerous for public use,” Piggot argued. “And if any of them are found out and about, I will have to presume that you are acting in defiance of my direction. Just because you're superheroes does not give you the clearance to expose the public to deadly poisons at a whim. Even Protectorate capes have to run their equipment past a review board.”

    “That's because Protectorate capes also get paid by the PRT, and I imagine that Protectorate Tinkers get extra money so they can build stuff,” Ladybug retorted. “We're entirely self-funded, and you're coming down on us so hard because what? We're showing you up, using bugs? It feels to me like you're condemning us before we've ever done anything wrong.”

    “That's not the case at all,” Piggot responded. “I'm trying to head this situation off before it gets out of hand. Yes, you've done good work, and we're grateful to you because of it. Up until the Nine, I had no problems. But when you started ramping up to face them, you started going places that I'm not comfortable with anyone going into. A city-wide surveillance system made up of bugs? Bugs carrying a deadly poison around, where they can sting anyone? What if your control slips for a moment? A toddler gets stung, and you're liable. Worse, what if some of them venture out of your control area? They start nesting, they start breeding, and before we know it, we have killer bugs swarming across half of America.”

    Ladybug took a deep breath. “Okay, to start with. We thought of that. They have no breeding instinct, no attack instinct. All of the modified bugs, if I happen to lose track of them, will find a nesting place, and they'll feed on whatever. But they won't breed, they won't lay eggs, and they won't attack a soul – unless I specifically tell them to.”

    “So what if some Tinker comes up with a bug control box, and sends them on a rampage across Brockton Bay?” asked Piggot. “What then?”

    “They could do that with the standard bug population, for scarcely less damage,” Ladybug informed her. “Do you know how many bugs of various types there are in Brockton Bay? I promise you, the numbers would make your head spin. And you know something? The larger the proportion of the bug population that I control, the greater the chance that no-one gets stung by a wasp, a bee, a hornet. Bitten by a black widow, a fire ant, a brown recluse. No one. These are bugs with a real attack response. I can keep them in check. I am keeping them in check.”

    “More to the point,” Sparx noted, “unless your theoretical bug control box can control bugs individually and intelligently, like Ladybug can, the most that the toxin bugs would to is fly at people. As Ladybug just told you, they have no attack instinct. They would not instinctively sting anyone. As opposed to the natural bugs, which would sting the crap out of anything that they saw as an enemy.”

    Piggot took a moment to think about that. “I still think -”

    At that moment, her desk phone rang. She glanced at the number, then held up a finger and picked up the receiver. “This had better be important.”

    What she heard sent chills down her spine. “Understood.” Taking a deep breath, she continued. “One second.”

    Holding her hand over the mouthpiece, she looked at the girls. “This discussion is tabled for the moment, but it is by no means over. I have something to deal with that's taken priority. We will revisit this subject at a later date.” With her free hand, she waved at the door. “You can go now.”

    As soon as the door had closed behind them, she turned her attention to the phone once more. “Okay, brief me in.”

    <><>​

    Amy's fingertips were pressed lightly against the woman's temples; she concentrated, seeing in her mind's eye the eyeballs reforming, just as the lacerated eyelids were once more pristine, untouched. The optic nerves were undamaged, which was a blessing; that could lead to some weird vision glitches if left untreated.

    Lifting her hands away from the PRT employee's face, she stepped back. “Okay, take the bandages off.”

    Nurses stepped in; the gauze wrapping was peeled away, and the two thick cotton pads lifted off gently. The dried blood on them gave witness to the serious injury suffered by the woman; now, her eyelids were whole once more. And beneath them …

    “Ma'am,” Amy told her. “Beatrice. Try to open your eyes.”

    Beatrice's eyelids fluttered hesitantly, then slid open. She blinked a few times, as newly-made pupils accepted light for the first time, which in turn impinged on brand-new retinas. Slowly, she moved her eyes, looking around. Each action occasioned blinking, and tears flowed, smoothing the transition from dark into light.

    But eventually she focused on Amy. “I can see.” The wonder in her eyes was evident.

    “Is it blurry? Fuzzy?” Amy was pretty sure that she had formed the eyeballs correctly, but there was always a chance …

    “Oh god no,” Beatrice exclaimed. “I've needed glasses for a while, but now everything's razor sharp. Thank you so much.”

    Amy smiled. “That's okay. You might need to rest them until they get used to seeing properly; they are brand new, after all.”

    On cue, a nurse handed Beatrice a pair of sunglasses; she put them on, smiling bemusedly.

    “Uh, Panacea?”

    Amy looked around. The doctor in charge of this floor was gesturing. “Your next patient is just down -”

    “Nope.”

    Amy and the doctor both looked around, with some surprise. Lisa, who up until now had been leaning against the wall with her arms folded, watching the proceedings with some interest, had stepped forward to Amy's side.

    “What?” asked the doctor.

    “What's the matter, Athena?” asked Amy at the same time.

    “The matter is, you've done fifteen patients in a row. Time for a rest, relax, kick back. Let's go see if the cafeteria's got any more of those totally addictive pastries.”

    “Those things will make you fat,” warned Amy with a smile.

    “So I'll get you to skinny me down again,” Lisa retorted.

    “Wait, what is this?” asked the doctor. “There are more patients to be treated.”

    “And I can do more, honest I can,” Amy told Lisa. “I'm not tired at all.”

    “Until you are, and then it's too late,” Lisa pointed out. “I'm calling nope. You said you'd trust me on this, so trust me.” She turned to the doctor. “And as for you, buddy, your hospital's not paying Panacea one red cent, so you have exactly zero say over where she goes and what she does. So go empty a bedpan or something. Me and my bestie here are gonna go get snacks in the cafeteria.”

    It was true; Amy had asked Lisa for guidance, and Lisa was giving it to her. She thought she was okay, but then, she'd thought that before, even as she slid into 'not okay' territory. So … “Okay, sure. I trust your judgement. Let's go get something to eat and drink.”

    And now that she mentioned it, she was a little thirsty, a little hungry.

    Maybe Lisa wasn't so far out of line, after all.

    As if divining her line of thinking, Lisa grinned at her. “I might even go all out and have an orange juice.”

    Amy rolled her eyes. “You know the orange juice in this place was never anywhere near an orange.”

    “A girl can dream." She linked her arm through Amy's, drew her out of the ward. "Come on, my treat.”

    “You know we have an unlimited tab at the cafeteria.” Amused, Amy didn't resist.

    “And who set that up for you?”

    “You did.” Amy sighed. “You knew this would happen, didn't you?”

    “And I didn't even need to use my powers." Lisa pressed the elevator button with a flourish. "Time for munchies. The pastries await.”

    The elevator doors opened; they stepped inside.

    <><>​

    “Well, that was odd.” Sparx turned to the others, in the corridor. “I thought she was going to keep coming at us. Vista?”

    The Wards liaison shrugged. “I got nothing. Something's obviously come up, something important. Ladybug?”

    “Can we get out of here?” asked the girl in the bug-themed costume. “Don't want to talk in this building.”

    “You know something, don't you?” asked Aerodyne.

    “Let's just get out of here,” Ladybug insisted.

    Each of them gave her an odd look, but they didn't argue; they were silent all the way down in the elevator, and out through the lobby, past the brand new doors which had been installed.

    Once they were out on the footpath, Sparx turned to Ladybug. “Okay, spill. What's the big deal?”

    Ladybug looked at Aerodyne. “Privacy field?”

    “Got it.” A shell formed around them, subtly distorting the quality of the light. Each of the others knew that she was attenuating the air density in that shell to near-vacuum levels; no sound would pass inward or outward while it was up. “So what's up? What do you know?”

    “I left the bug up there,” confessed Ladybug. “It's hiding under the Director's phone. I can't listen in on what she can hear, but what she's saying is bad enough.”

    Vista raised an eyebrow. “I'm not altogether thrilled that you're listening in on the Director's phone calls, but then again, I don't really agree with her stance on your bugs either. So what's happening?”

    Ladybug took a deep breath. “I think -”

    <><>​

    “I still think you were a bit mean to that doctor,” Amy commented, licking powdered sugar off of her fingertips.

    “Eh, people like that get too much of an idea of their own importance,” Lisa responded. “They need puncturing once in a while. Lessons in humility are good for the soul.”

    “Spoken by someone who hasn't had one in a good long time,” Amy replied with a grin.

    Lisa turned guileless eyes on her. “I don't need any lessons in humility. I know I'm awesome.”

    Amy snorted. “Oh god, listen to you. You wouldn't know humility if it snuck up and bit you on the left butt cheek.”

    “I do so know humility,” Lisa protested. “Humility is what other people rightfully feel around me.” She tried to keep a straight face, but failed.

    Amy started giggling. “You are so bad.”

    “No, no, I'm good. Get it right.” Lisa smirked. “Being a hero rocks. I can tell people off and they have to take it.” She leaned back in her chair, and stretched. “It's awesome being me.”

    That just made Amy giggle all the harder. Lisa lounged in the chair, eyeing her fondly.

    She's coming out of her shell nicely. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to deal with that crush she's starting to form on me, and we're golden -

    Her phone rang; she pulled it out of her pocket. Thumbing the answer button, she held it to her ear. “Hey, Sparx. What's up?”

    What she heard made her sit up, fast. “Oh. Oh shit.”

    Amy caught the change in her body language and sobered immediately. “What? What's the matter?”

    Lisa ignored her for a moment. “You're sure? Okay, you're sure. Yeah, I'm with Amy. I'll tell her.” She ended the call and put the phone away.

    Amy met her gaze, eyes worried. “What happened? Is someone hurt?”

    “We got trouble,” Lisa told her. “They just heard that -”

    <><>​

    As the sun touched the western horizon, it splashed red-gold across the ten aircraft that were steadily heading west from Brockton Bay. Six bore the insignia of the Guild, and looked not unlike dragons in basic form; the other four were more prosaic attack helicopters. Their markings were those of the PRT. The helicopters shadowed the Dragon craft, flying just a little above them, two on one side of the formation and two on the other.

    On board the lead attack chopper, a PRT officer keyed his mic.

    “Dragon Craft One, what is your status?”

    The voice that replied was calm, professional and female. “Dragon Craft One is in the green in all regards. Monitoring data on prisoner shows zero change, repeat zero change. Life signs are steady. Integrity of containment foam is one hundred percent. Zero biological contaminants detected in transport bay.”

    “Thank you, Dragon Craft One. Shepherd One, out.”

    <><>​

    As the PRT man behind them called up Dragon Craft Two, the copilot flipped the switch that cut him out of the link. He double-checked his radio switch before speaking; he didn't want to broadcast to everyone out there.

    “Permission to ask a question, sir?” he asked the pilot, being the only other person in the link.

    Permission granted, lieutenant.”

    “So, what's the deal with this, sir? I get it that we're flying escort for Dragon craft. I get it that they've got the Slaughterhouse Nine on board. I even get it that the Dragon craft are unmanned, being remoted by Dragon, to reduce risk to human aircrew. What I don't get is why we're flying escort, instead of some capes or something.”

    This is between you and me, lieutenant, but I understand that the Director has a thing about parahumans flying escort on PRT missions. Prefers uniforms, not capes.”

    “Huh. Okay, sir, I get that. So, can I ask where we're taking them to?”

    You can. But you have to understand, lieutenant, that this goes no further. You don't talk to anyone about it.”

    “Uh, yes, sir. Definitely, sir.”

    It's simple. They've got the Slaughterhouse Nine. They have a kill order on them; that is, they're better off dead. But just popping capes on capture might make the rest of them nervous. And we can't just ask, say, Legend to zorch 'em till they're dead, because us mere mortals have got to have something to do, right, lieutenant?”

    “Uh, yes, sir.”

    Correct. So we're taking them to a national park that the PRT bought up years ago. They dropped a shaft down into a granite massif, half a mile more or less. There's a tac nuke buried in the base of it, and another one about fifty yards up. As soon as they're all at the bottom, the guys up top hit the switch and boom. All that comes out is ash.”

    “Holy crap, sir.”

    It's a bit much to take in at once, I understand.”

    “No, sir, look. We just had an encrypted message come in. I've never seen that designator before.”

    Let me see that, lieutenant.”

    The copilot obligingly tore off the strip of thermal paper and handed it across, then took hold of the controls. “I have the aircraft.”

    You have the aircraft.”

    The pilot, a captain, read through the message, then checked it a second time. “This can't be right,” he muttered.

    “Uh, what's it say, sir?”

    That we're to detach one of the Shepherd flight to escort Dragon Craft Five to another location.”

    “Does it say where to, sir?”

    No. Just that we will be sent that information once en route.” The pilot's voice was heavy with suspicion. “I have problems trusting this message.”

    “It does seem a little suspicious, sir,” agreed the copilot. “Is there any way we can authenticate?”

    <><>​

    At that moment, the PRT officer tapped the pilot on the shoulder. The pilot cut him back into the link. “What's up, sir?”

    What's up is that I've just had a message from Dragon Craft Five saying that they're ready to be escorted out of the formation, and that you should have been informed of this matter. Why aren't you arranging for an escort?”

    “We just got the notification, sir,” the pilot answered, passing back the slip. “I was just about to attempt authentication.”

    Understood. Use encrypted channel three. Challenge is Romeo Four. Response should be Kilo Seven. Do you copy?”

    “I copy,” the pilot replied. He flicked his comms to the appropriate channel. “PRT Shepherd flight here. Shepherd One Actual calling to authenticate change in orders, over.”

    'Shepherd One Actual, ready to authenticate orders.”

    “Authenticate Romeo Four. Repeat, authenticate Romeo Four. Over.”

    Romeo Four authenticates Kilo Seven. Repeat, Kilo Seven. Over.”

    “Ah, roger. Shepherd One Actual, out.”

    He turned the comms back to the regular channel. “This is Shepherd One Actual. Dragon Craft Five, I have new orders for you. When we pass Waypoint Alpha, you are to proceed on a heading of one-three-seven true. Shepherd Three, you will escort the Dragon craft. You will be contacted with further instructions, once you have left the formation. Do you copy?”

    Only a few seconds passed before Shepherd Three replied. “Shepherd One Actual, I copy, but I do not understand my orders, over.”

    “Shepherd Three, I have personally authenticated these orders. They are genuine, over.”

    ... Roger, Shepherd One Actual. One-seven-three at Waypoint Alpha.”

    “Correct, Shepherd Three. Dragon Craft Five, did you copy that?”

    Yes, Shepherd One Actual. Course one three seven from Waypoint Alpha, over.”

    “That's correct, Dragon Craft Five. Shepherd One Actual, out.”

    The pilot keyed the radio off, and addressed the PRT officer. “Okay, do you have any idea where they're going, sir? Because I don't like sending my men off into the dark.”

    No idea, Captain. I'm following orders, just like you.”

    “Hm. Just out of curiosity … which one of them is in Dragon Five?”

    That's classified, Captain. I suggest you cease worrying about matters that don't concern you, and fly this helicopter.”

    “Sir.”

    Chastened, the pilot put his hands back on the controls. “Copilot, I have the aircraft.”

    You have the aircraft, sir.”

    They flew on, into the gathering dusk.

    <><>​

    At Waypoint Alpha, a location marked not on any map, but showing up clearly on GPS, one of the Dragon craft peeled off toward the southwest, accompanied by Shepherd Three. The remaining eight aircraft turned a little north of west and continued. The pilot of Shepherd One asked no more questions – he'd learned his lesson – but he could not help thinking.

    Pretty sure Dragon Four is carrying Crawler; it's twice as big as the rest of them. Dragon One is probably Jack Slash himself. As for the others … no idea. Wonder where Dragon Five is going, and what's going to happen to whoever's in it when they get there. Damn sure Shepherd Three isn't going to see a damn thing.

    Waypoints Beta and Gamma went past without a hitch; they were just coming up on Waypoint Delta when his radio crackled to life.

    Shepherd flight, Shepherd flight. This is Dragon, reporting an in-flight emergency on all craft. Repeat, in-flight emergency.”

    “Christ!” He keyed his mic. “Inform type of emergency, over. Have your prisoners broken loose? Repeat, have your prisoners broken loose?”

    Negative. Negative. Prisoners are secure. External control is being lost. Secondary systems are being overridden. Tertiary systems are unresponsive or corrupted. Advise extreme measures, repeat extreme measures, over.”

    “Can you activate destruct, Dragon? Repeat, can you activate destruct?”

    Negative. Destruct is negative. Request immediate destruction of craft.”

    The undermount FLIR on the attack helicopter was already slaved to his helmet; he turned his head and stared at the Dragon craft; even to the naked eye, they were wavering and wandering in the sky. As he watched, two came within five yards of each other before veering off again. Something was definitely off, all right.

    “Roger, Dragon. Shepherd Flight, this is Shepherd One Actual. I am authorising extreme measures on all Dragon craft. Repeat, extreme measures are authorised. Weapons hot. I'll be taking Dragon Craft One. Shepherd Flight, respond when ready.”

    Without being told, the copilot took the chopper up and forward; the targeting pipper settled on to Dragon Craft One. Each craft had an explosive charge set up to kill the prisoner being transported; in the case of Crawler, this was probably a tactical nuke in and of itself. Good thing it didn't go off; it would have killed us all.

    Crap, we're going to have to set it off manually. It'll probably still kill us all.


    Shepherd Two. I have solutions on Dragon Craft Two and Three, over.”

    Shepherd Four. I have solutions on Dragon Craft Four and Six, over.”

    “Negative on Dragon Four, Shepherd Four. I'll take Dragon Craft One, then everyone fall back so I can take out Four. Do you copy?” Two affirmative replies came back. “Okay. On my mark. Fire when r-”

    <><>​

    He never finished the command; a brilliant green beam struck out of the night, bisecting the helicopter and killing him before he actually knew what was happening. Nor was his copilot or his passenger any luckier; the beam tore into the fuel tanks, igniting the avgas with the heat of its passage.

    Similar attacks struck the other helicopters of Shepherd Flight; only Shepherd Four, struck half a second after the others, managed to get a shot off. Three missiles, ripple-fired, launched into the Dragon craft formation; one missed Dragon One by yards, while the other two struck targets. Dragon Craft Three detonated in midair, rocking the other craft badly, while Dragon Four was hit but the destruct charge did not go off. The missile crippled it, though, and it nosed downward out of control. Moments later, it struck and disintegrated in the forest below.

    The other three Dragon craft slowly regained control and turned hard north, dropping to a fraction of their previous altitude. They raced away from the funeral pyres of their previous comrades, leaving them far behind in the dark. By the time the PRT craft summoned by Dragon came on the scene, they were long gone. Crawler had disappeared from the wreckage of the crashed craft, and only forensic investigation would ever find traces of whoever had been in the one that had exploded.

    The rest of the Slaughterhouse Nine had vanished without a trace.

    <><>​

    The Dragon craft came to rest in a clearing; their turbines winding down as smaller, power-suited figures landed among them. One strode over to the nearest craft and slapped a gauntleted hand on the hull. The navigation lights of the Dragon craft gave a soft lighting to the scene.

    A larger figure came up behind him. “You have done well, Geoff. But you pull the tail of the PRT. You must be careful with this.”

    “Eh, they'll never know it was me.” He clapped his hands twice. “Okay, let's see what we've got here.” At his unvoiced command, his suit computer accessed the internal memory of each craft. As he did so, he paled, so that his tattoo stood out more and more against his face. “Well, fuck me.”

    “What? What is it?”

    “I knew I should have attacked that encryption a bit harder. You know what they're carrying?”

    “No, comrade. What?”

    “The fucking Slaughterhouse Nine, that's what.”

    Mischa paled, and took a step back. “What do we do? Do we kill them?” He paused. “There is destruct bomb in each craft. If we set them off -”

    “No!” shouted Saint. “No fucking way! We do not come back from this mission with nothing!”

    “But they are the Nine -” began Dobrynja.

    “And we're mercenaries!” Saint retorted. “Are we being paid to take down the Nine? Fuck, no. They're not our problem.”

    Mischa tried again. “They are villains who have killed thousands. Tens of thousands, comrade. It is our duty -”

    “Our only duty is to ourselves and to negating the threat that is Dragon,” Saint snapped. “Anyway, how are you going to do it? Because you're not blowing up the Dragon craft. We just got them.”

    “There are mechanisms to eject cargo,” Dobrynja pointed out. “They are in containment. We shoot them in containment.”

    “Do you have enough shots left to make sure of them all?” Saint shook his head. “I don't. Do you want to piss off Jack Slash by trying to kill him and failing? Do you want to wake up Burnscar? She eats heat energy for breakfast. Do you want to irritate the Siberian? Because she will fucking tear out your liver and eat it. Through your armour. Fuck, even Mannequin could fuck us up so bad. And even if you do shoot Bonesaw, what if she's got some fucking horror killer plague just waiting to burst out? We're not in sealed suits here. No. We're not risking it.”

    “So what are we doing?”

    “We're ejecting them, and then we're getting the fuck out of here with the Dragon craft. As per the original fucking plan.”

    Mischa stared. “You cannot be serious.”

    “Look,” snapped Saint. “We spent way too much in the way of resources to get these craft as it is. You want to leave them? Hand them back to the PRT? To Dragon? No, fuck that. I'm keeping the craft. Once we're away, we can send in an anonymous tip. The PRT will catch up to them, and it'll be their problem, not ours.”

    “Mags will not like it.”

    “We don't tell Mags. Ever.”

    I do not think this is right thing to do.”

    “So, do you just want to walk away from the latest version of the Dragon craft, after killing half a dozen PRT guys to get to them? No, we're taking them.”

    “And just releasing the Nine?”

    “Not releasing. Leaving them for the authorities. For fuck's sake, they're still in containment foam. Where are they gonna go?”

    “I still do not like it.”

    “You don't have to like it. Just do it.”

    Ten minutes later, all three Dragon craft lifted off from the clearing, and flew northwest. They left behind three blocks of containment foam. Even as the sound of turbines died away, one block of foam was beginning to melt away from the inside.

    Bonesaw sat up and looked around.

    <><>​

    “Well, then,” Jack Slash declared. He had gotten rid of the last of the containment foam, and Mannequin had donated one of his blades to the cause. “Any idea who let us go?”

    Mannequin shook his head; at some time during the encasement in containment foam, the glue binding his component parts together had come loose.

    “Me neither,” Bonesaw declared. “Are we gonna go look for the others?”

    Jack shook his head. “We're going to send up a smoke signal instead.”

    “Smoke signal?” Bonesaw looked puzzled. “What are you going to use?”

    “Brockton Bay.” Jack's expression could charitably have been described as a smile. “We've got a score to settle.”


    End of Part Twenty-Four

    Part Twenty-Five
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2015
  20. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka True Evil

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    Goddammit Saint!:mad: :D
     
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  21. jcogginsa

    jcogginsa Versed in the lewd.

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    I find it hard to believe they wouldn't at least try to off the nine. From Range, most likely, but still
     
  22. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    That would probably involve potential damage to the Dragon craft.
    This is the guy who, in canon, shut down Dragon while she was in the middle of coordinating the response to the Slaughterhouse 9000 crisis, because she was homing in on him.

    He's THAT short sighted.
     
  23. jcogginsa

    jcogginsa Versed in the lewd.

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    That situation is not in the slightest comparable to this one
     
  24. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    No, in this one he's got the chance to grab the craft and go.
     
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  25. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Ouch. Saint's being Saint, I guess. Idiot.
     
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  26. GladiusLucix

    GladiusLucix Versed in the lewd.

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    So, Contessa grabbed Manton early; Jack, Mannequin, and Bonesaw are heading back to the Bay; Crawler's loose, and the rest are unaccounted for. And Saint basically said, "Oh, well. Not my problem."

    I believe the proper response is "Shit's fucked, yo."
     
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  27. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    Oh yeah, that quells the rage button. Still has the 'dammit Saint, why did you do that?!?' button but that one is kinda auto-pressing by this point.
     
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  28. jcogginsa

    jcogginsa Versed in the lewd.

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    Does the exact opposite for me. This incites rage where the other version did not
     
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  29. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    Oh there's still rage but it's not because of absolute incompetence in choosing how to move a group that is as close to Endbringer status as mortals can be.

    With what they had available and what they did in the first version, it was close to willingly releasing them. At least in this one Saint didn't know what they were transporting beforehand and we already know he doesn't make the best judgement calls when under pressure.
     
  30. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Conversation between Saint and Mischa updated.
     
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