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Prodigal Daughter [Worm Alt-Taylor AU]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Dec 25, 2018.

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  1. Gindjurra

    Gindjurra Not too sore, are you?

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    *wide eyed innocent look* “This is Brockton Bay, sir. A girl needs a little something for protection...”

    The Bay being what it is, I find it hilarious that that would have a better than even chance of working. :p

    Skiddy, Skiddy, Skiddy. You done GOOFED.
     
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  2. Threadmarks: Part Eleven: Closing In
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Prodigal Daughter

    Part Eleven: Closing In


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


    “Skidmark, huh?” Frankie shook his head. “Always thought he was a braindead sonovabitch. So how’d he do it?”

    I looked across at him. “She was driving, and didn’t know there’d been a cape battle between the Merchants and the ABB. The cops think Skidmark laid down some of his skid-fields over the road. The fight moved on, but the skid-fields hadn’t dissipated by the time she drove around the corner. Her car basically got thrown at a lamp-post. The cops never told Dad it was Skidmark because they didn’t want him going after the asshole and getting killed.”

    Mom had been one of the few people I’d had any sort of emotional connection with. Skidmark had taken that away from me. I didn’t like people taking things away from me. But in a way, I was happy.

    I’d finally found my meaningful kill.

    <><>​

    This wasn’t to say I was going to go all murder-happy on his junkie ass. Once I had the information I needed, I was going to do this subtly. To help me do this, I had an extremely reliable minion in possession of an unreasonable amount of firepower and the wherewithal to pummel the average drug dealer into unconsciousness. Finally, I had the means to engineer Skidmark’s final exit in such a way that I wouldn’t have to sully my hands or clothes with his blood (there would be ample time for that sort of thing later) yet would leave absolutely no doubt as to who was behind his abrupt demise.

    The next bit of information I needed, of course, was where to find him. How was I going to find him, you ask? I’m glad you asked. Pulling off that little trick would be simplicity itself. You may note that I mentioned earlier that Frankie (aka Minion Number One) was capable of pummelling the average drug dealer into unconsciousness? Let’s just say, that particular word choice was not entirely accidental.

    We went and found a drug dealer.

    As Frankie explained it, there were several inherent problems with running a gang that centred around dealing drugs, rather than anything more creative. One: a drug dealer who samples his own product is a moron. Two: the Merchants all sampled their own product. Three: if you want to sell drugs, your dealers have to make themselves visible for the buyers to find.

    Of course, they don’t simply sit around hoping that people such as yours truly aren’t about to come at them out of the darkness. Dealers go armed as a matter of principle. The principle here being “don’t steal my stuff, asshole”. And that’s where we come to four: in order to actually sell the shit they peddle, they have to come within arm’s reach.

    Which was right where I wanted them. Or rather, him. ‘Him’ being the dealer Frankie spotted lurking near the mouth of a dark alley as we cruised slowly down a crap-littered street. I would’ve just taken him for your average run-of-the-mill night-time would-be mugger, but Frankie knew better. This was fortunate; if I’d been on foot looking for a drug dealer, I probably would’ve beat the shit out of him and moved on without a backward glance.

    Frankie had removed his clown nose and I’d pulled my hat down over my eyes. This served to make me look older, and made sure the dealer didn’t see the more striking aspects of my appearance before it was too late. We didn’t do anything about Frankie’s whiteface makeup because inside a darkened car at night, there wasn’t a lot to see.

    So, acting like a hesitant customer, we cruised slowly past on the first round. Frankie eyed the surrounding area, looking for any sign that this asshole might have backup. From under the brim of the hat, I scoped out the interior of the alleyway, my enhanced vision picking out some very interesting details that would have otherwise been hidden by the darkness.

    “Didn’t see anything off,” said Frankie once we were past. “But if he’s got product on him, it must be inside his jacket, because I didn’t see it anywhere else.”

    “It’s in the alleyway, inside a cooler,” I said. “Right beside a guy sitting in a camp chair with a pump-action shotgun resting across his lap. Probably where they stash the money from each sale, too.”

    “Probably,” he agreed with a nod. “So how are we gonna do this?”

    “We don’t need the bodyguard,” I decided. “Just the dealer. Was it just me, or did his hand not move far from his right jacket pocket when we drove past?”

    “It wasn’t just you.” Frankie nodded. “So, probably a pistol in the jacket pocket. He’s most likely got a knife on him somewhere as well.”

    “That really, really won’t be a problem,” I assured him. “Let’s go around the block. This time, pull in so he thinks we want to make a buy.” I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a wad of cash, which I happened to know was composed of tens. Half of it I peeled off and handed over to Frankie. “Forgot to give you this earlier. For the holster.”

    “Awesome,” he said happily, tucking the money away. “We gonna rob these guys too?”

    I tilted my head, considering the idea. “ … nah. You can have whatever he’s got on him, though.”

    “Works for me.” He grinned widely in the darkness. “Gotta say, working for you is never boring.”

    I grinned back, somewhat more widely. With, it has to be said, glowing teeth and lips. “I aim to please.”

    He shuddered and turned his attention back to the road. “That’s still creepy as fuck.”

    I giggled, making it high-pitched. He shuddered again.

    <><>​

    On the second pass, Frankie slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. I still had my hat pulled down over my face, but the cash in my hand showed through the window so the dealer could see we were interested. I raised the brim just far enough to see that the bodyguard was still sitting in his chair. Then I focused on the dealer’s feet, getting closer. The right hand stayed close to the pocket of his hoodie, which hung down as if there was something heavy in there.

    I pushed out my blue field as far as I could. The longer they both stayed happy and unawares, the better for us.

    “Evening.” His voice was rough, and I was pretty sure the gust of breath held smoke that wasn’t from tobacco. “What’ll it be?”

    Frankie had briefed me on this. “Got weed?”

    “Fuck that noise,” he said dismissively. “Go see th’ fuckin’ Empire. We only sell th’ good stuff.”

    “Fine,” I said. “Eight-ball. How much?”

    Now we talkin’,” he said, much more enthusiastically. “Hunnert dollars. You got?”

    In reply, I held up the wad and waved it enticingly. “I got.” Spreading the notes, I counted off ten, giving him a good solid look at the money. What was left over, I put aside. “How about my eight-ball?”

    “Money first.” He came closer, reaching out with his left hand.

    I held the cash out, then just as his fingertips came into contact with it, dropped the money and grabbed his wrist. With strength that he would never have been able to match on his best day, I heaved hard, pulling him in and smacking him face-first into the window frame. He groaned and slumped, and in the background I saw the bodyguard start to get up. “Go, go, go!” I ordered Frankie.

    “You got him?” asked my loyal minion, even as the car peeled out of there. Behind us, I heard a distant “Hey!”

    “I got him,” I said, and it was true. I had a good grip on his left arm. The rest of him, however, was still hanging outside the car, being dragged along like a rag doll. I hauled on the front of his hoodie to pull him in through the window, then had to make a frantic grab as he started to slide out of the garment. As I leaned halfway out the window, I managed to snag his belt with my right hand, dragging his back around to the car. Then I renewed my grip on his arm, this time taking hold of his upper arm.

    He began to wake up, clawing at my arm, but I ignored the distraction. What was his right arm doing? I couldn’t get that gun out of my mind, and I was still uneasily certain that I wasn’t as bulletproof as Hatchet Face.

    “Need a hand?” yelled Frankie. He must’ve been looking my way, because we swerved perilously close to a parked car. Junkie McDrugface nearly lost a leg when he flailed the wrong way; I heard a crack and a muffled scream.

    “Shit! Watch the road!” I shouted back. “I got this!” I wedged my way back into the car, then started hauling our involuntary passenger in through the window as well. This didn’t go too well, even though I’m the opposite of bulky and Junkie McD was pretty scrawny too. The big problem was that he kept on struggling, especially considering I couldn’t risk loosening my grip on his left arm.

    At this moment, his right hand came into view with a pistol in it. This was, as 1984 would’ve put it, ‘double-plus ungood’. While his intent was to point it at me and fire repeatedly, in reality he was waving it around frantically, with the same grasp of precise aiming that Skidmark reportedly had of basic hygiene. As far as I could see, his chances of shooting one of us were about equal to those of accidentally getting himself. And I’d gone to too much trouble to let him off the hook that easily. I could see the yellow threat beam pointing out from the barrel of the thing, sweeping across the scenery like Glory Girl following a laser pointer.

    (I don’t know that Glory Girl would fly after laser pointers like that. But it’s kind of funny to think about. Or it would be, if I found things like that funny.)

    The last thing I wanted to do was haul Junkie McD into the car while he was holding a loaded pistol. I’d probably (maybe) be okay if I got shot, but Frankie was the coolest minion ever, and I was not okay with him being hurt or killed by accident. Bracing myself with my knees, I let the idiot drug dealer slide out the window again, then stuck my own head and shoulders out into the slipstream after him. I must’ve done it at the wrong angle this time, because my hat whipped off an instant later, followed by my wig, then a string of curses. Foul-mouthed? Me? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Letting go his left arm so that I was only holding him by his belt, I lunged for his right arm. He saw this and flailed it out of reach, pulling me off-balance. A grip on the back of my coat steadied me, and I decided Frankie deserved another raise. Who’s a good minion? You are. You’re a good minion. Yes, you are.

    “Closer to the cars!” I yelled.

    I had no idea what was going through Frankie’s mind right then, but he did exactly what I told him. The car swerved toward the closest parked car, and I reached for Junkie McD’s right hand once more. Predictably, he swung it away, to prevent me from grabbing it. Right into the rear window of the parked car as we roared past it. There was a crash of shattering glass, the crack of bone breaking, and a high-pitched shriek from J McD. When I looked next, he didn’t have a gun any more. Mission accomplished. “Okay, stop!”

    Frankie brought the car to a halt. I dropped Junkie McDrugface on the asphalt, where he lay in a groaning heap. Then I climbed out of the car, breathing hard. “That was far harder than it should’ve been,” I said. With a certain amount of self-restraint, I decided not to kick him. For one thing, because he had at least two broken bones, and he wasn’t the most robust of physical specimens. I didn’t want to kill him by accident. Well, not before I got the information I needed, anyway.

    “At least we got him, boss,” Frankie pointed out loyally. “You want to ask him the questions, or you want me to do it?” Somewhere along the way, he’d put his clown nose back on. His look was pensive as he peered down at our involuntary passenger, like he was deciding exactly which bones to break first.

    I considered his question, then made my decision. “I’ll go first, then if I can’t get answers I’ll turn him over to you.” Pushing out my blue field, I leaned over Junkie McDrugface and hoisted him up by the front of his shirt. “Hey, you. Got a question for you. Answer it and we’ll go away.”

    It took a few seconds for him to focus on me, then he belched. I pushed him away just in time before he puked all over himself. Whatever it was he’d eaten, I had serious doubts about its shelf life. It reeked. His shirt was going to need serious washing. Or maybe just some lighter fluid and a match.

    I frowned in mild frustration. We really needed a cosy little HQ to be doing this sort of interrogation in. Someplace we could take our time and get it right. I shook him by the shoulders; his head lolled back and his eyes wandered all over the place. “Hey, you,” I said more firmly. “I want answers. You understand?”

    His eyes, when they focused on me, held a spark of intelligence once more. He wasn’t as hostile as he could’ve been—my blue field was doing that much. But he didn’t seem eager to talk. In fact, he seemed downright unhappy. This may have been due to the fact that he had a broken wrist and probably a broken leg.

    Always keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times, kids.

    “I need a hospital,” he moaned.

    I leaned close and gave him a nice wide smile. “Well, if you’re a good boy and answer my questions, I might be able to help you out there,” I said soothingly.

    He recoiled slightly. “F-fuck,” he groaned. “Who the fuck are you?”

    I rolled my eyes in a show of impatience. “No,” I said slowly. “How this works is I ask the questions and you answer them. Now, where can I find Skidmark?”

    “I, uh, um …” He raised his eyes to mine. “Promise you won’t kill me?”

    Just for shits and giggles, I treated him to another smile. “I won’t touch a hair on your head,” I said. “Just give me what I want.”

    “Okay.” He grimaced. “Skidmark usually hangs out in the back of a bar on—fuck!”

    Either the Brockton Bay city planners had gotten really creative with their street names, or he was reacting to the back window of our car shattering. I was going to go with the latter, especially as it had been really loud, combined with the sound of a shotgun going off and a motorbike revving its engine.

    The shotgun was in the hand of the bodyguard we’d left behind. He was astride the motorcycle I’d heard and riding at us, hell-bent on rescuing his comrade (or possibly just fucking us up for interfering with his gang). As I watched with a certain amount of admiration, he used the handlebars of the bike to work the slide on the shotgun—I had to learn how to do that—and fired again. He wasn’t particularly accurate, given that he was riding a motorbike one-handed, but he didn’t have to be. Shotguns were cool like that.

    “Get down!” yelled Frankie, as pellets smacked into the back of the car parked on the side of the road. A stray one stung my shin, but I didn’t care. As he dived behind the car and unslung the assault rifle, I hauled out my own personal artillery cannon. Holding the Anaconda two-handed, I thumbed back the hammer and pointed it right at the bodyguard on the bike. He racked the slide on the shotgun and pointed it directly at me. Our eyes locked. Harmonica music played. A tumbleweed rolled across the street between us.

    The Youtube videos I’d watched had explained that the Weaver stance was the most reliable way to get your shots on target. Two-handed, legs braced, pistol at eye level. Not held sideways, no matter how cool it looked. Front sight lined up with rear sight (helped by the fact that I could see exactly where the shot was gonna go), and squeeze the trigger.

    That damn bodyguard was getting awful close, and his aim-line was square on my breastbone. Just as it turned red, signifying incipient danger, I squeezed the trigger.

    The Anaconda went off with its characteristic boom, jerking up a little despite my strength. But the bodyguard didn’t fly backward off the bike at all. This was because just before I pulled the trigger, I’d braced early for the kick, and the aiming line of my revolver had dipped slightly. As the front wheel of the motorbike dug in and the entire bike performed a forward flip, I realised that the heavy .44 calibre bullet had gone straight through the front wheel hub, which then seized up altogether.

    I watched with mute admiration as the bike took to the air, dumping the rider as it went. Stepping to one side, I grabbed hold of the window frame of the car and held out my other arm in a classic clothesline pose. As the motorbike soared overhead, the bodyguard hit my arm and folded around it, the shotgun clattering from his grasp and skittering across the asphalt. My shoes skidded a foot back then stopped as my butt hit the side of the car. I let the bodyguard fall on the street beside Junkie McDrugface, as Frankie popped his head out from behind the car to take in what had happened.

    The motorbike hit the asphalt a good thirty feet away and tumbled over and over. I looked down at the bodyguard, then at the dealer he should’ve been guarding.

    “Okay, Frankie,” I decided. “Your turn.”

    <><>​

    The back of the car hadn’t suffered too much from the first shotgun blast. There were a few pockmarks, but the taillights hadn’t been damaged, and the plastic bag Frankie had tied around the license plate was still in place. I straightened up from my inspection as Frankie came up to me. His methods had been brutally efficient and I’d learned a lot from watching him.

    It turned out that druggies were smarter than we’d thought. Each of them had a phone on him with the ability to locate the other guy’s phone. The bodyguard had been following us from the moment we’d gone out of sight. It was just lucky he’d decided to come at us single-handed rather than call in the troops. Score one for drug-fucked judgement.

    “Well, we got our location,” I said brightly. “What did they have on them?”

    He grinned and held up a thick wad of cash. “Fourteen hundred in the cooler.” It had been secured to the bike with tie-down straps. “Plus a couple of knives and the shotgun.” The phones we’d crushed underfoot, and we hadn’t bothered going back to collect the pistol. We’d look for the hat and wig on the way back. Not that it would matter to Skidmark one way or the other, but if I couldn’t find them I’d be that little bit more irritated when I got to his hideout.

    “Nice,” I said, and strolled back with him to where the two druggies—unconscious or dead, I wasn’t worried either way—lay on the asphalt. The cooler sat open beside them; Frankie handed me a road flare. I pulled the tab and tossed it into the cooler. As the smoke started to rise, Frankie and I got back in the car.

    “So how are we gonna take out Skidmark?” he asked as we drove away.

    I held up a single eight-ball of white powder I’d taken from the cooler. “With style.”


    End of Part Eleven
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2019
  3. Wolfman217

    Wolfman217 Hail Hermione!

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    Hello. My name is Taylor Hebert. You killed my mother. Prepare to die.


    Hush little skiddy, don't say word,
    mummy's goin rip you a new breathing hole

    and if that breathing hole don't work
    mummy's gonna sharpen her good dirk

    and if that dirk doesn't make you stay awhile
    mummy's gonna give you a nice big smile

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Okay, wow? That's not something I want to see first thing after getting up.

    Minus the stubble, it's perfect :p :eek:
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Part Twelve: Overdose
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Prodigal Daughter

    Part Twelve: Overdose

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

    The aforementioned “bar on—fuck!” turned out to be a much more prosaic bar on Seventh, near the corner with Main. I was obscurely disappointed; part of me had been busy laying imaginary bets that the street actually sounded something like ‘fuck’. Fucqua, or Fuchsia, or maybe even Phuket. But it was plain, boring old Seventh. Not that I would’ve laughed if it had turned out that way, but my faith in the absurdity of the world took a distinct hit.

    Frankie stopped the car down the block a ways, and we got out to survey the target. I had my trusty Anaconda in its cross-body holster, while Frankie had his shotgun slung over his shoulder, under his coat. I’d found the wig hanging jauntily on a radio antenna, but no matter how much I looked for the hat, it had apparently soared off to wherever it was that odd socks and New Years’ resolutions went to. It didn’t matter; I’d get another hat.

    The city, on the other hand, was going to shortly find itself bereft of any Skidmarks. Not that I thought anyone would complain. Some police precincts may even celebrate. Discreetly, of course. It wouldn’t do to be caught being happy that one psychotic lunatic had disposed of another. The differences between myself and Skidmark, of course, were numerous. Hygiene, lack of a drug habit, teeth that weren’t green, more than three working brain cells, a sense of villainous style, my choice in companions, and of course the fact that I hadn’t used my powers to accidentally murder someone’s mother.

    If I’d had to use my powers to deliberately murder someone’s mother, then sure. I’d put my hand right up for that. But as it happened, I hadn’t. In fact, I hadn’t murdered anyone (as yet) which meant I was far in advance of Skidmark as far as morality went. An unbiased observer might decide that the very act of planning his murder might cause a slump in my theoretical morality rating, but I honestly couldn’t give a diseased sewer rat’s left testicle about whether or not my actions were moral. I’d already been through the whole ‘morality is a zero sum game’ thing in my head, and decided I wanted nothing to do with it.

    If someone fucks with me or mine, I kill them. That’s the beginning and end of my morality.

    <><>​

    Frankie and I skulked up the street, keeping to the shadows. Halfway there, I decided ‘fuck it’ and strode up the pavement like I owned it. My brief stint being hunted by the Nine notwithstanding, I had no special skills at being stealthy, and with Frankie at my side, trying to sneak actually drew more attention than just walking normally.

    Besides, this was Merchants territory. If some drug-fucked loser looked out the window and saw a white-skinned green-haired girl and a big bald guy with a clown nose, there was a strong chance that he’d give his drug of choice an extremely dubious look instead of hauling out his phone and dropping a dime on us to Skidmark.

    With that in mind, I marched along the sidewalk to get to the front of the bar, then cupped my hands around my eyes to peer in through the glass of the window. This was where the powder Riley Grace gave me came in handy. With my eyes treated by it, I could see the room in far more detail than if I’d been straining to make details out of the darkness at any other time.

    “Looks shut,” I said in a conversational tone to Frankie. Interesting trivia: whispering actually carries farther at night than ordinary voices, and is more noticeable. It’s the hissing aspect. “Which puts him in the back or upstairs.”

    Frankie was a stolid, steady guy who probably hadn’t even thought about leaving the Empire until I showed up, but he was taking to being my Number One Minion like a large, ugly well-armed duck to water. I wasn’t quite sure if it was my habit of throwing money at him, the fact that I didn’t fuck around, or his exalted placement in my two-person organisation. Whichever it was, he seemed positively eager to maintain our situation. “Upstairs, I’d say,” he rumbled. “There’d be an office at the back, but no place to shoot up or sleep in any comfort.”

    Which was yet another point in favour of keeping Frankie on. That was something I wouldn’t have known. “Okay, fine.” I threw in a little giggle, just to ensure he hadn’t forgotten he was working for me. “How’d you know that, anyway?”

    With my enhanced vision, his shudder was easy to see, but his voice was steady when he replied. “Robbed the place once, back in the day. Might be a guard out the back, but Skidmark and his people will be upstairs.” He paused thoughtfully. “We burning the drugs here, too?”

    “Nope. We want people to be absolutely sure it’s him.” I waited until he turned his head questioningly toward me. “I’m gonna be in and out, five minutes. Then we go.”

    His brow wrinkled slightly, but he didn’t question my statement. “Need a hand with the guard?”

    “No, I—actually, yeah, why not?” While I could no doubt deal with anyone left on guard duty, it occurred to me that Frankie’s talent for applied violence could be put to use making sure that nobody was going to raise the alarm if they had two guards. I’d still kill Skidmark either way, but the way I wanted to do it was ten times as creepy and horrifying—and thus that much more appealing to me—than just murdering him face to face.

    We eased down the alley to the back of the bar. I took point, because I could see in the dark far better than Frankie could. I had my trusty iron bar out, instead of the knife. Bruises and broken bones were easier to survive than accidentally slashed arteries, after all.

    (Yeah … ‘accidentally’. We’ll go with that.)

    When I stuck my head around the corner, it turned out my caution had been warranted. Two Merchant goons (well, I might have been doing them a disservice by making a broad assumption that two guys wearing raggy clothing, smoking weed and drinking from a cheap bottle of booze were Merchants. But I don’t think so) were slumped on the back steps of the bar.

    Taking a deep breath, I pushed out the blue bubble as far as it would go. In this case, it covered them both nicely. Then I stepped around the corner of the bar. “Oh, hey, guys,” I said with a cutesy little finger-wave that I’d copied off Emma. “Nice night, isn’t it?”

    They stared at me blearily, probably more affected by the booze and the weed than by my attitude-altering bubble. I just strolled right past the first one and approached the second one before they began to react.

    My green hair and white skin weren’t totally unusual; these were the Merchants, after all. Some of them had tattoos and piercings that I wouldn’t have inflicted on my worst enemy. But the sight of my eyes, all the wrong colour and glowing to boot, must have finally tipped them off that something was seriously wrong on Planet Wasted.

    “Hey,” slurred the first one, starting up off his seat on the steps. He began to raise his arm to point at me. “You aren’t—”

    He didn’t get any farther, because he was looking at me, which meant he wasn’t looking at Frankie. Or rather, he wasn’t looking in the right direction when Frankie came around the corner and picked him up, then pile-drove him into the ground. There was a distinct crack, and his neck took on a bend which made sure it didn’t matter which way he was looking.

    While the other guard was still goggling at me and Frankie, I swung the iron bar in a short arc which terminated on the side of his jaw. This time, the crack was from the guy’s jawbone ceasing to be a single contiguous item; he flopped onto his side and took no further interest in the proceedings.

    I paused, waiting to see if the scuffle had aroused any attention from upstairs. Nothing of any note happened; not even a neighbour yelling out to keep the noise down. Gotta love Brockton Bay. Nobody hears nothin’.

    “Okay,” I said quietly. “Wait here. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

    “Want me to come up?” he asked, purely as a matter of form. He didn’t sound overly worried for my well-being. If I had to guess, he was more interested in seeing exactly what I had intended for Skidmark.

    “Nope, stay here.” Once I gave the order, I knew he’d comply. He was dependable like that. It might’ve helped that he was the single most well-paid minion in Brockton Bay.

    “Sure thing.” He moved into the shadows and settled down to wait, shotgun in his capable hands. I knew full-well that he was going to guard those steps far better than the Merchants ever had.

    The door was locked, but a quick check through pockets got me a key. I slid it into the lock, and it turned; albeit reluctantly. Rolling my eyes, I tut-tutted in mild exasperation. Would it kill them to oil this thing occasionally?

    Once I had the door unlocked, I carefully opened it, then prowled inside, iron bar at the ready. It didn’t take long to locate the stairs and I went up them, pausing at each creak to listen for movement above.

    No such movement happened. Halfway up the stairs, I glanced around, then retrieved two items from my pockets and tipped a little of the contents of one into the other. Then I put the first item back in my pocket and shook the second one up so that it was well and truly mixed together.

    Once I was ready in that regard, I went the rest of the way up the stairs and started looking for Skidmark. This was harder than it would originally have seemed, even with my enhanced night vision, because I was constantly distracted by the smell. It seemed to consist partly of the rank odour of a place that was never cleaned, overlaid by the stench of unwashed humanity, with an extra added edge of drugs exuding from their pores.

    By the time I found the person I figured was Skidmark—big black guy lying tangled on the only mattress in the place with a white girl—I was about ready to kill him just for making me endure the smell for so long. But I didn’t beat him to death and I didn’t shove every drug in the room down his throat, much as he richly deserved either fate. No, I had something more fitting in mind for him.

    Using a random plastic bag I found on the floor, I went around methodically picking up everything on the small table beside the mattress, except for the grimy mirror. It, and the razor blade lying next to it, I left exactly where they were. Beside it, I put down the eight-ball I’d gotten from the Merchant dealer, complete with the little tiny extra I’d added to it. The bag full of drugs, I stashed behind a busted chair so he wouldn’t see it immediately. The eight-ounce baggie, on the other hand, would be immediately visible when he woke up.

    With that out of the way, I prowled around, looking for any money they had on hand. Frankie had definitely earned himself a bonus tonight, and I didn’t want him thinking I was a stingy boss. There were a couple of rolls of cash in Skidmark’s discarded clothing, so I took those. Each of them was easily worth a few hundred, maybe a thousand. If Frankie had any sense, he’d disinfect the money before using it; I had no doubt the ambient aroma had impressed itself on the cash. As it was, I was going to have to thoroughly launder the coat and the wig before I used them again.

    Slipping downstairs again, I let myself out the back door, then relocked it. Frankie emerged from the shadows, shotgun ready in his hands but pointed at the ground. “Everything go okay?” he asked. “I didn’t hear anything.”

    “Everything went fine,” I said. “Here. Bonus.” I tossed him the rolls of cash, and he caught them out of the air. “Let’s go.”

    We started back down the alley alongside the bar. “So, you offed that druggie asshole?” asked Frankie quietly.

    “Nope. Never laid a hand on him.” Without turning my head, I kept talking. “He’s alive right now, but he’ll be dead in eight hours or less. By tomorrow night, everyone will know it was me.”

    “Damn, that’s hardcore.” His voice held deep respect. “How you gonna do that, boss?”

    I giggled, just for fun. “Now, now. Girl’s gotta keep some secrets.” Lifting my arm, I sniffed myself. “Fun’s over for tonight, though. I desperately need a shower.”

    “You got it, boss.”

    <><>​

    Late the Next Morning

    Adam Mustain woke up with a typical post-binge migraine. Pushing Sherrel aside, he got to his feet and stumbled off to the bathroom where he pulled down his Y-fronts and let go in a noisy splash. The toilet refused to flush when he’d finished, but that didn’t surprise him. It hadn’t worked since Squealer had partially disassembled it to get parts for her latest … whatever the fuck it was.

    When he left the bathroom, Sherrel was stirring. Looking around with her usual bleary-eyed lack of comprehension, she sat up when she saw the one baggie left on the drug table. Where the rest of the shit had gone, Adam had no idea. They’d gotten so fuckin’ wasted last night, he wouldn’t have been surprised if someone had shoved it up their ass.

    That wasn’t to say he was gonna give her dibs on the blow. He was the leader of the Merchants, which meant he had first claim on any nose candy by default. Flicking out a skid-field, he whipped the baggie off the table, just before she got her meat-hooks on it.

    “Hey!” she yelled, looking upset and reaching for it again. “That was mine!”

    “Suck my dick.” He put out two fields next; one moved her back, and the other pulled the baggie toward him. With it came a crusty sock, two Fugly Bob’s bags, a beer can and half a dozen rat turds. Brushing the rest of the shit aside, he plucked the eight-ball off the floor. “Mine now.”

    Heading over to the table, he squatted down and tipped the white powder out on to the mirror. Squinting, he wondered why it looked a little bit purple, then shrugged. Between the shit in his eyes and the crappy light in the room, it could’ve been green with red polka dots and he still wouldn’t care.

    With moves that had been perfected by years of practice, he used the razor to shape the powder into several lines. Throwing out a skid-field, he pulled his clothing to him and went through the pockets for his cash. Nothing turned up, which made him frown. “Okay, which knob-gobbler lifted my stash?”

    “I didn’t do it,” Squealer whined, sniffling and wiping her nose with the back of her hand. “Come on, can I have some?”

    “Need a straw,” he said. “Where’s my cash? Need something to roll up, here.”

    “I dunno.” Sherrel dug into her bra and located a grimy, crumpled five. “Will this do?”

    “Gimme that.” Adam snatched it out of her hand and made a tube out of it. Fitting the makeshift straw into his right nostril, he blocked his left nostril and hoovered up the first line. The tingle as it hit the back of his nose made him roll his eyes up in sheer pleasure. “Fuck, this is amazing shit. Who’d we get this from?”

    As he sat down, fireworks still going off in his brain, he felt Sherrel taking the five from him and kneeling beside the table. “Whoa, fuck, man,” he burbled, a broad grin stretching his lips. “I have got to get more of this shit. It’s a total headspin.”

    “Fuck, shit, yeah,” Sherrel giggled. Adam was vaguely aware that she’d flopped over on to her back. “This is the best yet. We need to double the price on this shit. They’ll be climbing over their grandmas to buy it.”

    The tingling continued, getting more and more intense. Adam couldn’t stop smiling. He giggled a little. “Double? We’ll fuckin’ triple it. Quad … quad … fuckin’ four times. Five times.”

    Sherrel started giggling too, sounding hysterical. Mush was chuckling wetly in the background. Adam found the high was so hard that he couldn’t really see anymore. There was a coppery taste in the back of his throat. Something wet and warm was rolling down his face. The tingling was making his head pound. His smile was so wide it was starting to make his face hurt.

    The first seizure caught him by surprise. He jolted, his muscles screaming and locked, but all he was able to do was gurgle through the blood in his throat, his cheeks aching from the unchanging smile.

    His fingers clawed, he scrabbled at the filthy floorboards, gouging up splinters. Muscles tensed, his heels drummed against the floor.

    He couldn’t breathe. An incipient giggle couldn’t get out of his throat.

    As the consciousness faded from his brain, he still couldn’t figure out what was happening.

    Why the fuck am I smiling? It’s not that fuckin’ funny.

    And then there was nothing.



    End of Part Twelve
     
  6. Crazael

    Crazael Could be wittier.

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    Well, looks like our favorite little sociopath got her hands on some Joker toxin.
     
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  7. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    It's the powder Bonesaw gave her to give the glowing lips and eyes. I already noted that it's horrifically deadly to anyone but her. She mixed a little in with some cocaine, and voila!
     
  8. Crazael

    Crazael Could be wittier.

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    And good times were had all around.

    Well, mostly... alright, just for Taylor and her very well payed minion.
     
  9. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    He's gone from "Meh, I guess this job is okay," (Empire) to "I LOVE this job!" (Jester!Taylor)
     
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  10. wigg55

    wigg55 Know what you're doing yet?

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    it pays to pay your minions. *sage nod*
     
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  11. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    See, Taylor knows what it's like to be unliked and unappreciated.

    The best way she knows to show Frankie how appreciated he is, is to give him frequent financial bonuses.

    Also, to be first into dangerous situations.

    He's totally on board with this.
     
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  12. Rhyne

    Rhyne Getting out there.

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    Where did QA come from to be pinged off of? I get the Broadcast bud and the PS! ping (although, wait a sec. iirc, pings are caused when an ACTIVE power is directly involved in the trigger, or during cluster triggers. I don't believe Hatchet Face's power null can have an effect on normies enough to be considered for a ping. You could make a decent case about a ping during a second or third trigger, but not a first), but QA? None of the current S9 have QA, as all of these S9 are around (in one form or another) for the post-Leviathon BB visit (HF being one of Bonesaw's abominations). So there are a few possibilities here: 1) I am greatly misunderstanding how pings and triggers work, 2) you made a mistake, 3) there is a 9th (now tenth) parahuman on the camp grounds and directly influencing Taylor right at the end, 4) part of this AU is changing some of the more esoteric shard mechanics, 5) Bonesaw already has some of her cape-fusions (like Murder Rat and/or Hack Job [Hatchet Face X Oni Lee]) and one of them is not only immune to HF's power nullification but also has a link to QA's host and that one in particular Bonesaw used to ensure that Taylor got to the pole
    A theory for why no one blacked out when Taylor triggered is a combination of it being a second trigger, the closest shard being a power null, one of the new triggers abilities being power null that defaults around the brain, the new powers being based on a Broadcast bud, Bonesaw mods, pinging off Queen Administrator that has experience with the host species. Basically, Broadcast specializing in communication between shards, combined with two layers of power nullification is what kept HF from being knocked out; while the second gen trigger's reduced intensity, brain-default-location power null, budding from broadcast, and pinging off QA either made Taylor's trigger vision near instantaneous or nonexistent
    I noticed that the PS! based powers are purely from PS!, and that there is just as many Bc powers as QA
     
  13. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    She had QA from Danny. It was there all the time.

    As the author of this fic, I can exert executive privilege and say, "This is how the trigger event went".

    So that was how it went.

    (Basically, all this stuff about pings and how they work in excruciating detail is all literally WB retconning from after he finished Worm. I can include all the nitty-gritty details if I feel like it. I don't.)
     
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  14. Threadmarks: Part Thirteen: Lucky For Some
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Prodigal Daughter

    Part Thirteen: Lucky for Some

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



    Miss Militia

    “Did you hear? Skidmark’s dead.”

    Hannah looked over at Armsmaster’s pronouncement. They were both on treadmills in the capes-only exercise room in the Protectorate HQ base. He showed no particular emotion at the revelation, but then, he’d never been overly demonstrative at the best of times.

    “Well, that’s a shocker,” she said dryly. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that he OD’d on something. Meth? From his looks, I always figured that was his go-to.” She wouldn’t be treating the death of a human being in such a cavalier fashion in public—PR mandated that heroes be seen to be kind, caring and above all empathetic—but as far as she was concerned, there was nothing there to be empathetic for. At best, the man had been a drug-fucked cape who occasionally used his powers in vaguely unethical ways. At worst, he’d been a wannabe gang lord who sold hard drugs to schoolkids. There was a word for someone like that: scumbag.

    “I’m not a hundred percent sure,” he admitted.

    Surprised, she let the treadmill slow as she looked over at him. “Excuse me? Are you going to explain that statement, or do I have to call Mike-Sierra on you?”

    He snorted at the half-joking reference to Master-Stranger protocols. “The signs point to murder. Him and Squealer and Mush. The cops got an anonymous tip-off that led them to his latest crash-pad. One dead guard outside, one with a serious concussion and a broken jaw. Inside, they found all three capes, dead, as well as two of his followers. They’d had seizures and haemorrhaged from their eyes, ears and noses. The pain must have been intense, because they all clawed at the floorboards so hard they tore the nails clear off their fingers. Oh, and all of them had arched backs and a fixed grin on their faces.” His voice was meditative as he continued. “I’d never really understood the word ‘rictus’ before today. Now I do.”

    “So, blood work?” she prompted him after a few seconds. “Tainted drugs? Some sort of targeted neurotoxin? Were they forced to take the drugs?”

    “That’s what all the evidence says so far,” he confirmed. “Not the forcible ingestion, though. No sign of restraint or bruising consistent with that. Besides, time of death is some hours after the door guard. The investigation officers found a bunch of drugs, all untainted, in a bag behind a chair. At a rough guess, everyone else bolted after they realised their boss was dead.” He shook his head. “It looks like someone took out the door guard, walked in, moved the drugs, and left a bag of contaminated cocaine. That’s the most prominent drug in their systems. We tested what little cocaine residue was left, and found traces of a foreign substance. The chemistry is extremely complex, to the point that it’s almost biological in nature. Chances are, it’s what killed Skidmark, so we’re treating it with the utmost caution.”

    “Wait, they left poisoned drugs so Skidmark would kill himself?” Hannah shuddered. “That’s … cold. That’s also someone leaving a very definite message.”

    “Yes, but what’s the message?” Armsmaster asked. “I can kill any cape I want?

    “No.” Hannah was recalling a report she’d filed not so long ago, under the codename ‘Jester’. “Remember how Shadow Stalker got stabbed by someone who’d been fighting ABB? She and the girl with her said the attacker had a really creepy grin and was giggling and laughing all the time. I’m thinking this might be her, making her mark.”

    “Maybe. I’ve got another suspect in mind. If it turns out they’re all the same person, it’ll simplify things a lot.” Armsmaster nodded to himself. “Earlier last night, a couple of people wearing clown makeup invaded one of the smaller station houses and worked over the officers there pretty good. They all survived, and they described the one in charge as being a petite woman with glowing eyes, and a grin that was way too wide. And she giggled and laughed a lot.” He paused before dropping the final bombshell. “And she didn’t take a thing. All she did was get on the computer system and look up old cases.”

    “Skidmark.” It wasn’t exactly a huge leap of logic.

    “My thoughts exactly. The trouble was, we don’t know which case she was looking for. The last one she looked at had nothing to do with him. But the ones that do … well, there’s a lot of them. He has to have upset half of Brockton Bay at one point or another.”

    “Unless she was just trawling the files to see who she wanted to kill next, and he caught her eye.” Hannah didn’t really like that as a concept, because it didn’t give them a pattern to go on with. Random villains were the worst. “What are the Director’s thoughts on this?”

    He snorted again. “Unofficially, she’s shedding no tears about the fact that Skidmark and his fellow capes are deceased. I believe the actual quote is ‘and not before time’. But officially, we need to track down whoever did it and arrest them as soon as possible, before the other gangs start getting nervous that someone might be gunning for them next.”

    “I can actually see her point there,” Hannah noted. “This sounds like it was very smoothly done. No matter which way you slice it, there’s a cape out there who’s proven that they will remove someone like Skidmark from the scene, just because they can.” She looked Armsmaster in the eye. “Do you honestly think that they’ll stop now without targeting someone else, villain or hero?”

    “If it is indeed the girl in the alley, she’s already shown she’s willing to stab a hero and just walk away.” Armsmaster pursed his lips. “No, you’re right. Even if she thought she had a good reason, people like that are adept at thinking up more good reasons to keep stabbing people. Or poisoning them, for that matter.”

    “Well, it’s not like many other capes have a drug habit,” Hannah offered. “Have you figured out if it needs to be inhaled, or can it be ingested or injected as well?”

    “I’m not at all sure if it needs drugs at all,” Armsmaster said. “We’d need to test it on something living to be sure, but it seems to have gone straight in through the sinuses. Didn’t even need to reach the lungs. For all we know, it just needs to be sprinkled on steak or something similar.”

    “And then you die in agony, with a horrible grin on your face.” Hannah shuddered. “Yeah, we need to locate this girl soonest. If only to find out her plans.”

    She didn’t say what had to be on both their minds. If this mystery cape was going to make a practise of murdering capes (even villains) in their private lives, then every cape in Brockton Bay (especially villains), would soon be after her. And that didn’t even bring the Birdcage into it, as such activities almost certainly would.

    “I’ll get the Jester file to you, so we can correlate data. What name were you giving your suspect?”

    “I was going with Rictus, actually.”

    “Villain-sounding name.”

    “That’s what five counts of murder one gets you.”

    “True.”

    The rest of the exercise period went by in silence.

    <><>​

    Lung

    Leaning back in his most comfortable chair, Kenta switched channels in an effort to find something a little less vacuous than the normal pre-digested American TV pap. A news channel caught his eye and he stopped clicking, just in time to catch the image of Skidmark’s face, the discoloured teeth on full display in a grin that seemed more than half grimace.

    He listened to the commentary with half an ear, most of his attention aimed at the image on the screen. Skidmark had bled from the eyes, he could see, as well as the nostrils and possibly the ears. He’d seen all of this before, just not usually in the same person at the same time. The grin was also more than a little off-putting; for a man who had made it his practise to be the most terrifying cape in the city, that was saying something.

    The PRT spokesman came on screen and spoke for several minutes, managing to say nothing at all in that time. No leads at this time, appeal to the public for information, blah blah blah. When the news switched to another item (a feelgood shot showing Glory Girl getting a kitten down from a tree without actually breaking the tree) he muted the sound then sat back, thinking.

    Skidmark had been, in anyone’s parlance, a waste of space and oxygen. If he’d ever seriously faced Kenta, he would’ve died in that moment. But he hadn’t. The man, though clearly stupefied by far too many hard drugs (Kenta could vaguely sympathise with that) had yet possessed the common sense of a brain-damaged lemming, given that he’d never tried to take on the ABB.

    Still, someone had killed him. Murdered his entire crew. The news didn’t go so far as to state it out loud, but the implication was right there. Someone had tampered with the Merchant leader’s drug stash, and Skidmark and his people had died as a result.

    Kenta couldn’t actually see himself benefiting as a result. The Merchants had never posed a threat to the ABB, or held territory that the ABB couldn’t take from them by the simple expedient of walking onto the turf and staying there. They’d never really been a serious gang, so much as a bunch of overdoses waiting to happen. And by existing, they’d provided every other gang in the city with a veneer of reverse gentility. “At least they’re not as bad as the Merchants.” They’d been an example of what the cape gangs in Brockton Bay could really be like.

    Now, the contest had suddenly devolved to be between the ABB and the Empire Eighty-Eight. Coil’s gang barely even made the radar most days, and jokes like Uber and Leet weren’t worth mentioning. And of course, there was someone out there who thought it was a good idea to kill capes in their own safe spaces.

    The conclusion was obvious. For several very good reasons, the interloper had to die. He didn’t yet know who they were, but that was only a detail. His people would ask questions until they found someone who knew the answers.

    And then whoever this … this ‘Smiler’ was, would die.

    He, Lung, had spoken.

    <><>​

    I sat on the sofa and watched the news on TV. Normally I ignored it, as I ignored everything that didn’t personally concern me, but I wanted to see what they made of my handiwork. Nothing had come of the stash house where I’d recruited Frankie, but this was the first time I’d gone out to make a splash. I’d finally gotten to murder someone, and it was a righteous kill. Skidmark had taken my mom away, so I took him away.

    When they showed the pictures of Skidmark, after the mandatory warning of sensitive images (which almost certainly were calculated to make more people tune in, rather than fewer) it was everything I’d hoped for. He’d died in agony and confusion, wondering why his body was betraying him like this. The only thing better would be if I’d been able to crouch beside him and whisper in his ear, “This is me. I’m doing this for my mom.” But I could deal. I’d even got Squealer and Mush at the same time, so bonus points right there. Go me.

    A smile almost crossed my face as I leaned back against the sofa, ignoring the shot of Glory Girl getting the kitten out of the tree. I’d done it. Skidmark was dead. I’d avenged the death of my mom, only a couple of years late. The only way more fitting would’ve been if I’d run him down in a car then backed up over him a few times, but then again, I’d used the tools at hand and put my calling card out there at the same time. Everyone would see that grin in their nightmares and wonder, “What did Skidmark do to deserve that?”

    Uncertainty was an amazing weapon.

    <><>​

    Panacea

    “You alright there, Ames?”

    Amy turned at the question, interrupted in her quest for finding a snack in the fridge. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”

    “Eh, I dunno.” Vicky dismissed the question with a flick of her hand. “You’ve just been a bit off since you got home. Like something’s bothering you. One too many hangnails to fix at the hospital?”

    “No, actually.” Amy returned her attention to the fridge and spoke over her shoulder. “The PRT asked me to come in and evaluate what happened to Skidmark.” She shuddered. “Scary shit.”

    “Wait,” objected Vicky. “Skidmark’s dead. You can’t fix dead people.”

    “That’s true.” Amy selected a banana and closed the fridge door, then looked seriously at her sister. “Don’t spread it around, but we’ve discovered that if they put electrical impulses through a fresh cadaver, I can read the body. I can’t fix it—there’s nothing for my power to grab onto—but I can definitely determine the cause of death.”

    “Man, that’s creepy Frankenstein stuff right there.” Vicky floated up alongside Amy as they headed for the lounge. “So what killed him?”

    Amy shook her head. “Some kind of weird pseudo-biological stuff. Definitely engineered. Dissolve it in water and it’ll pass straight through cell membranes and go looking for your central nervous system. Triggered the equivalent of a grand mal seizure in Skidmark, only it kept going until he died, with a targeted effect that left him grinning like a loon.” She shuddered. “As far as I can tell, the effect will be one hundred percent fatal in humans, even in tiny doses. The immune system doesn’t even recognise it as a threat.”

    “That still sounds all kinds of creepy,” Vicky agreed. “Can you make people immune to it?”

    “I honestly have no idea,” admitted Amy. “I’d have to see it at work on a living subject first. But it’s … well, you know how viruses aren’t really alive?” She sat down on the sofa and picked up the remote.

    “Yeah, you might’ve mentioned it a time or two,” Vicky said, floating down to sit beside her. “Is this thing like a virus, then?”

    Amy shook her head. “Yes and no. It’s less alive but more malignant. Like the difference between a tiger and a Tiger tank. I have trouble reading its structure in a dead body. And to be honest, I don’t know if the victim being alive would help all that much.”

    “So how long does it take to kill someone?” Vicky just had to be morbid.

    “You don’t want to know.” Amy closed her eyes and put down the remote. Slowly, she started peeling the banana by feel.

    “Yeah, I do. An hour? Less?”

    Amy took a deep breath then let it out again. “About one minute, is my best guess. Of which thirty seconds is utter, horrific agony. Your heart rate goes through the roof, your blood pressure spikes and you haemorrhage out of your everywhere. And you end up grinning so hard you tear muscles in your cheeks.”

    Vicky was silent for about a minute. Amy finished peeling the banana and took a bite. “Well, fuck,” Vicky said quietly.

    “You asked.” Amy raised her eyebrows.

    That got her a dirty look, but then Vicky nodded. “Yeah, I did. Next time I ask a stupid question like that, remind me of this one, okay?”

    Amy snorted. “You’ll still want to know.”

    “No, I won’t.” Vicky turned on the TV.

    “Yes, you will.”

    “No, I won’t.”

    “Will.”

    “Won’t.”

    “Will, and change the channel. This show’s shit.”

    “Won’t, and no it’s not. Your taste is shit.”

    “Yeah, it is. Change it or else.”

    “Or else what? You gonna make me?”

    “If I have to.”

    “Hey, no using your power to make me extra ticklish!”

    “No flying in the house!”

    “You started it!”

    In the ensuing argument, the issue of Skidmark’s untimely demise was entirely forgotten.

    <><>​

    Kaiser

    “Did you hear Skidmark was dead?”

    Max looked over at where Krieg was sitting. “Yes, I heard. Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

    “So, what were we going to do about it?” The question was blunt, almost challenging.

    “Nothing.” Max sat back in his seat. “He’s dead, we’re not, everyone can move along in the knowledge that Brockton Bay is just that little bit less of a shithole than it was this time yesterday.”

    Krieg wasn’t letting this go. “Max, he was executed. By a cape. That’s right against your Unwritten Rules. It could be one of our capes next. We can’t risk that.”

    Max rolled his eyes. “No, it won’t. And do you know why it won’t? Because Skidmark wasn’t an actual gang leader. He was a junkie with powers. He didn’t have a base, and he didn’t have an organisation, not like we do. He was one bad trip away from walking up to Lung and punching him in the mouth. He was low-hanging fruit, James. We are not. We are organised, we have safeguards against people finding where we sleep, and most importantly? None of us are moronic enough to be such habitual drug users that we’ll grab the first baggie of cocaine that we see and snort it. In short, he died of stupidity.”

    “Yes, those are all good points,” Krieg acknowledged.

    “And yet, I hear a ‘but’ on the way.” Max raised an eyebrow. He’d practised in the mirror.

    Krieg sighed. “Yes. ‘But …’ we don’t know that this cape will only use a poison that mixes with illicit drugs. They might have one they can use to dope beer with. Or walk up and stab someone with a syringe … yes, alright, that one is a little hard to pull off and survive,” he conceded, holding his hands up. “But food can be tampered with. Alcohol. All we really know right now is that there’s a cape who successfully assassinated three capes with a substance that left them with nightmare-inducing grins on their faces, and we don’t know who they are, what their intentions are, or who they intend to kill next.”

    “True.” Max couldn’t argue with any of those points, no matter how much he might have wanted to. “Though in the Empire, we’ve all got reasonably secure secret identities, and I can’t see someone dosing Hookwolf’s beer and getting away with it.” He smirked. “Lung, on the other hand, has far fewer people than us, and nowhere near the organisation we do. If you were a new cape, ambitious, who’d just taken out the crappiest gang on the block, would you immediately move onto the biggest and most dangerous, or go after the other stragglers first?”

    “So what you’re saying is we should wait and see if they go after the ABB or Uber and Leet first?” Krieg’s tone was thoughtful. “That sounds like the kind of thing that could backfire on us if we’re not careful.”

    “So we’ll take precautions,” Max agreed. “But at the same time, we won’t panic altogether. Hell, depending on who it is and why they’re doing this, we might even see about folding them into the Empire. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

    “Hmm.” From the sound of it, Krieg still had his doubts. But he didn’t voice them, so it didn’t matter.

    “Excellent.” Max dusted his hands off. “Next order of business?”

    <><>​

    Later That Night

    The car pulled up at the right spot, and I climbed in. Frankie pulled out onto the road as soon as I was settled; he had his greasepaint on, but the nose was sitting in the centre console.

    “Evening, boss,” he said cheerfully. “So who are we going to fuck up tonight?”

    I giggled. “You know me so well, Frankie. But to be honest, I’m going to need your input. Skidmark was more personal than business, but now we need to start hurting the other gangs. Do you have any problem with hitting the Empire?” I figured he hadn’t, given the enthusiastic way he’d gone along with my attack on the stash house, but people have been known to get cold feet.

    “Fuck, no,” he said. “I was just a warm body to those assholes. You been nothing but good to me. You wanna hit the Empire where it hurts, I’d say the dog fights. Shitloads of money come in, all the time. Downside, you’re gonna be up against Hookwolf at the very least. Maybe Cricket, too.”

    I smiled, allowing the expression to cross my face until I was grinning wider than a human should be able to, showing glowing teeth inside glowing lips. “How about you let me worry about the capes.”

    He shuddered, and most of it wasn’t even feigned. “Sure thing, boss. The other big thing we could do is hit the ABB. They got this illegal casino that the city doesn’t really wanna risk raiding in case Lung takes offense. Ruby Dreams, or some shit like that. Upside, fucktons of money all in a small area, and no Hookwolf. Downside, Lung or Oni Lee might show up.” He shrugged. “Just saying.”

    “If I could make the ABB capes not a problem, you think the two of us could take the casino?” Here was where I was relying on my faithful minion’s understanding of how these things worked.

    Slowly, thoughtfully, Frankie nodded his head. “You know, boss, I think we could just about pull it off. Is that what we’re gonna do?”

    “That’s the next question I had for you.” I looked at him seriously. “If you were Kaiser or Lung, and you heard about me killing Skidmark, what do you think I’d do next?”

    “Um … shit.” Frankie rubbed his forehead. “Lung’s likely to want to come after you. He’s an asshole like that. Kaiser thinks he’s chill, but he’s just an asshole too. He’d probably hold back to let you take out some of his rivals. They’d both expect you to go after Lung. Maybe not the Ruby Dreams, but the ABB in general. I mean, it makes sense. Lung might be scary powerful, but the ABB’s got just him and Oni Lee. Knock them out, that’s another gang off the streets.”

    “Yeah, I can see that.” I rubbed my chin and grinned. “So, when and where is the next dog fight?”



    End of Part Thirteen
     
  15. Muroshi9

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

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    Ah yes. Classic Joker never do what they expect.
     
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  16. Crazael

    Crazael Could be wittier.

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    As soon as i saw Kaiser dismiss the likelihood of her attacking them next, i knew thats what wluld happen.
     
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  17. Gindjurra

    Gindjurra Not too sore, are you?

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    Ah, Smilex. Such a versatile little chemical.
     
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  18. Wolfman217

    Wolfman217 Hail Hermione!

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    YAY. Love it when this updates. Sort of Joker Taylor is so awesome.

    Really excited for whenever everyone finds out who her dad, 'little sister', and 'auntie' is.

    'Don't piss me off, I might just have to add dear old dad to visit along with little Riley and auntie Sib'
    'Who?'
    'Oh you know them by Jack Slash, Bonesaw, and The Siberian'
     
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