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Spiders, Depression, and Acid Falls (Worm/Bionicle)


Wait oh fuck oh shit, taylors totaly gonna eat Scion at one point, and be like, at 500000% power!


Wait oh fuck oh shit, taylors totaly gonna eat Scion at one point, and be like, at 500000% power!

I have this image of a benevolent Toa traveling through the verse nomming cosmic horrors
Chapter 15


Home at last.

Or at least, as close to home as she could imagine, since her actual home was… no longer in existence.

A hotel room, paid for by the PRT, the most expensive, high class one in Brockton Bay.

It'd be funny to her, the fact that she'd gone from homeless to a world hero in mere hours, if it weren't so sad.

Taylor groaned as she flopped down onto the bed, not even caring that she was still filthy, not caring that she hadn't showered in what had to be weeks. She was finally back in Brockton Bay after a week long coma and another week of endless, tiring, horrible interviews.

She was so tired. So, so tired. Not physically, no. She had more energy in her body than she knew what to do with, enough power to level two continents into a flat wasteland and get a good start on a third if she damn well wanted to. But right now? All she wanted to do was sleep. To rest.

To get away from it all and just find some peace, some security. Somewhere she could just relax and not have to deal with so many hundreds of people at once, all of them vying to shake her hand, to take a picture with her, to thank her, to bow at her feet. She never wanted any of that, to have people supplicating themselves at her feet like she was some kind of goddess. Even Gorast, who'd been a dictator for well over fifty thousand years, never wanted nor experienced that kind of devotion- sure, she'd enslaved what was probably thousands of Matoran and did horrible experiments on them but that was never something that inspired endless devotion and praise, and getting both from the collective people of the world now was just bizarre.

Idly, Taylor thought that maybe she shouldn't be so lenient about Gorast's previous crimes against decency and biology, but then again Gorast was effectively dead and incapable of doing anything without Taylor's explicit trust in her, so. Kind of a moot point, in her opinion.

"Is this the part where we finally get to go to sleep again?" Gorast asked from the recesses of her mind, yawning and buzzing quietly as she metaphorically tramped around in circles and prepared for bed. Somehow, Taylor was struck with the image of Gorast wearing pajamas and holding a stuffed teddy bear- an image so ridiculous she almost started laughing, but only managed to snort some air out of her nose.

"You'd think sleeping would be the last thing on our priority list, huh?" Taylor muttered, shaking her head and burrowing into the thick, soft comforters of the king sized bed, sighing quietly as she surrounded herself in fluffy and warmth and buried herself down as deep as she could go until the only thing she could see, hear, and feel was the silk sheets wrapped around her body like a nest.

Gorast didn't answer, not that Taylor expected her to. The Makuta had, after all, been falling asleep even as Taylor burrowed into her nest and proceeded to surround herself with as many pillows and blankets as was physically possible until the bed more resembled the cocoon of some large butterfly or moth rather than what was supposed to be a king sized bed.

Taylor yawned quietly and snuggled into the pillows cushioning her body, both her heat and ice resistance abilities turned on at a low level and making sure she had a cool, soothing environment that was just warm enough that she wouldn't feel cold, and cool enough that she wouldn't overheat. Blinking slowly, she let herself drift off, bit by bit, slowly letting her mind fall into the haze of dreams as the soft warmth and cool darkness of her nest lulled her into a deep, restful sleep.


"Toa?" A quiet knock on the hotel door, barely audible to her ears with how deeply she was buried. "This is Armsmaster. Are you decent? I'm here on behalf of the Protectorate."



She stirred gently in her sleep, murmuring quietly as she struggled to remember through the fog in her mind- was there something she had to do? She hoped not.

Silently, she wiggled and made a motion at the door, groaning softly from the effort of staying awake before falling back asleep once again.

Armsmaster, meanwhile, blinked slowly as the door clicked and swung open, allowing him entry into Toa's room- he hadn't really known what he expected, but the fact that it was entirely untouched save for the massive nest of blankets and pillows heaped precariously upon the king sized mattress was… not particularly surprising per se, but he had expected perhaps a bit more mess around the room. From what he could see, Toa hadn't even touched anything other than the bed since arriving at the hotel the day prior.

Considering she showed an enormous amount of signs of both mental exhaustion and most likely suicidal depression, he wasn't… too surprised that the first thing she'd done was hole up in a nest and sleep.

He'd done much the same in his college years after all.

And so had several of his colleagues.


Armsmaster silently scheduled a quick appointment for himself with the onsite therapist before continuing into the room, the quiet whir of the servos in his armor providing a soothing bit of noise- he of course could have eliminated the sound entirely but the PR team and him both shockingly agreed that it would have been so much less impressive and/or intimidating- as he stepped up next to the bed and disengaged his armor locks, stepping free of his armor and sitting down on the conveniently placed chair.

Colin paused, then looked over at where he thought the chair had been seconds ago, only to find an empty spot next to the table. Had Toa teleported the chair over while he wasn't looking?

Most likely.

Rhetorical questions aside, Colin cleared his throat and leaned forward, pulling a sheaf of papers from the inner pocket of his suit jacket and unfolding them.

"Miss Hebert, I apologize for interrupting your rest, but I've come to represent the Protectorate, who, in conjunction with the Guild and the appropriate equivalent organizations across the entirety of the United Nations, have come to ask you a few questions regarding your actions in Canberra sixteen days ago, on February 25th, 2011, as well as a few questions regarding whether or not you would be willing to help out with subsequent S class threats in the future."

Colin blinked slowly as the sheaf of papers in his hand fluttered of their own accord, the various questions written down now answered neatly, flowing letters of emerald green… something now appearing under every question, answering all of them before writing out a small list of demands on the blank paper at the bottom of the stack.


Colin read through the questions again, noting the answers and nodding slowly with every line, his brow furrowing every now and then but otherwise remaining calm.

"Hm. Unorthodox, but thank you for your time regardless. I'll be leaving now. And… I know this may be a bit belated, but… I'm sorry for your loss. If you need any aid- anything at all, the Protectorate and the PRT are more than willing to help."

No response- not that he expected anything, but he thought he saw a slight movement in the pile of blankets right before the door closed behind him. If that was a sign that Toa was listening, then he supposed that it was a good thing.

Now… where was he going to find an appropriately sized workspace for her?
Chapter 16

1- Do you, in any way, have any ill will towards the general human populace?

No. I have some grudges against certain people, and against criminals and villains in general, but in general I think I would prefer helping rather than hurting people.

2- What exactly did you do that created the dome of shadows over Canberra as well as the smaller orb that absorbed the Simurgh's cannon beam?

I am Makuta. I command Shadows in all forms. To consume the light and draw strength from it is my nature.

3- How were you able to evade the Simurgh even when it seemed to be actively targeting you?

Unknown. Presumably, it could not see me directly. It could, however, seem to sense where I was by my effects on the world. I threw a rock and instead of attacking me, it attacked where the rock was.

4- Are you willing to submit to power testing some time in the near future?

Yes. As long as it isn't too invasive.

A sea of odd questions floated through her mind as she slept, a familiar, yet still strange, voice whispering them into her ear as she dreamed. She thought it was a male voice, her mind conjuring up images of a beard and a blue helmet, a knight-like figure upon a mighty steed of fire and steel. Handsome, vaguely so, in that sort of way that was more reminiscent of a dad than someone she'd be attracted to. Like she could have seen how he would have been attractive about twenty years ago, give or take five years, but as he was, he reminded more of…

Well, not her father.

Her father was gone.

She blinked slowly, pursing her lips as she gained a sudden clarity, the dream around her fading away into a black, empty expanse where no light existed, no physicality existed. There was nothing but her mind, and her memories.

The voice continued whispering in her mind, making her blink slowly as she waved it away, a tiny flex of her will causing… something to happen. She felt her powers activate, but it was distant and far away, as if feeling someone poke the finger of an arm that had long since fallen asleep- she could feel it, but it was…. Dim. Muted. As if she weren't quite there. Still the voice whispered to her- questions that she vaguely answered in the back of her mind, some polite words, some concerned feelings, a quiet resentment.


Ah, yes, the resentment of her being more famous than… not the voice, but whoever the voice was reading from. The person with the beard, not the voice in her ears- why did she think the voice in her mind was male? No, clearly female, high and clear, the alto voice in an angelic choir. Beautiful, silky, a bit subversive with its ever so slightly husky undertones.

Not like her voice, human and rough, scratchy with disuse and echoing with a metallic rasp that sounded of whirring joints and gnashing blades. Not like Gorast's voice, inhuman and eldritch, a mix of strange tones that became the sound of a buzzing swarm, the rush of an ancient and terrible river, the ripping of wings through wind and the rending of claws through metallic flesh.

A voice she couldn't quite place…

A voice that she knew she'd heard before.

It wasn't important though, was it?

No, not yet. Something in the back of her mind whispered to her- not the beautiful voice, but a low, sibilant thing, slithering around in the very back of her awareness. It wasn't ready yet. She wasn't ready yet. It wasn't important yet. What was important, though, was the lair.

Taylor cocked her head to the side- lair?

Ah, she remembered now. An out of the way underground space. A fortress deemed nigh impregnable. Nearly in the middle of the city, disguised as a simple transportation storage hub. A fortress with everything she'd need in the future.

More than what she had now, even. A preparation for- for…

Taylor blinked in confusion as she tried to shake herself out of the dreamy haze over her mind. Color began bleeding back into the area as she lost her cohesion, lost the clarity of her mind into the haze of dreaming sleep once again. She wasn't… wasn't quite sure what she had been thinking. Wasn't really sure why she wanted a lair- though a permanent home would be nice… someplace to stay, someplace to rest and heal, to move forward and move on.

Yes, that'd be nice… very nice indeed.

Taylor nodded to herself as she watched the black abyss in her mind fade away slowly, a silvery looking circle forming in the very center of the abyss even as color began to fog her eyes. Something was… moving in that circle- no not a circle. A pool. A silvery pool of liquid in the back of her mind, and something was splashing around in it, its form hazy and indistinct and yet… memorable somehow. Like she knew the figure- had… met whoever it was.

Pale skin…

Hm… beautiful, in its own way…

Taylor hummed softly as she drifted back to sleep, a snippet of song that she didn't remember drifting through her mind.


"I still don't like it," Director Tagg grumbled, crossing his arms and glaring directly into the camera. Director Piggot rolled her eyes and tried not to snort at the vein visibly bulging on Tagg's forehead. The former squad leader was still new to his position, and it showed. Being overly aggressive towards everyone under his command, not working well with the local Protectorate- if he weren't such an honest and straightforward person and an otherwise competent leader and director, Piggot was sure he would have been kicked out not even a week after his instatement.

Then again, the person who used to sit where Tagg sat now had been the same way, except she was now in a federal prison for embezzling funds and knowingly under-equipping her troops.

"Don't like what, James?" Piggot asked, raising her eyebrow and folding her hands in front of her.

"That we're knowingly allowing an S-class threat to just… parade around as she damn well pleases! We don't even know if she's still human! What if the Simurgh took over her brain or something, and she's just biding her time until she decides to kill us all!?" Tagg slammed his fist against the table, almost shouting as the vein on his forehead popped even larger and his face took on an impressive looking shade of red.

"Then we can only really wait until she actually tries to kill us all," Chief Director Costa Brown sighed, rubbing her forehead and pursing her lips disapprovingly. "James, I realize that you have a prejudice against capes with mental powers, but let me put it like this: Taylor Hebert, alias Toa, has singlehandedly killed a being which has evaded all parahuman attempts to destroy it for nine years straight. She has proven herself not only both incredibly powerful, but also incredibly difficult to kill, to the point that even in a week long coma neither Eidolon nor Alexandria were even able to put so much as a dent in her skin. So let me ask you again, what could we possibly do to contain her that wouldn't instantly draw her ill will in our direction?"

Tagg paled slightly at the Chief Director's words, leaning back slightly while Director Armstrong chose that moment to clear his throat and shuffle his copy of Armsmaster's report.

"Not to mention," the man spoke, his voice a bit hesitant out of what might have been fear, might have been disbelief. "She has been recorded as saying that she can read minds on a planetary scale. Even if she is exaggerating or lying, the report from Armsmaster just a day ago proves that she seems to have some form of either extra-sensory or precognitive power, given that she managed to answer every single question that he was going to ask before he could even finish his introduction. So. Just a fact to consider."


"Don't look so pale, James," Director Piggot finally huffed derisively, rolling her eyes at her fellow Director. "You're not the one who has to put up with the fact that she's currently living six blocks from my office."

"... Best of luck then, Emily." Director Tagg murmured quietly, his hands shaking vigorously as he took a sip from his coffee cup and tried not to panic at the thought of a literally indestructible, ultra powerful cape reading his mind from halfway across the country.

Director Piggot sniffed. "I'll fucking need it."
Chapter 16

No, not yet. Something in the back of her mind whispered to her- not the beautiful voice, but a low, sibilant thing, slithering around in the very back of her awareness. It wasn't ready yet. She wasn't ready yet. It wasn't important yet. What was important, though, was the lair.

Taylor cocked her head to the side- lair?

Ah, she remembered now. An out of the way underground space. A fortress deemed nigh impregnable. Nearly in the middle of the city, disguised as a simple transportation storage hub. A fortress with everything she'd need in the future.

More than what she had now, even. A preparation for- for…

Taylor blinked in confusion as she tried to shake herself out of the dreamy haze over her mind. Color began bleeding back into the area as she lost her cohesion, lost the clarity of her mind into the haze of dreaming sleep once again. She wasn't… wasn't quite sure what she had been thinking. Wasn't really sure why she wanted a lair- though a permanent home would be nice… someplace to stay, someplace to rest and heal, to move forward and move on.

Yes, that'd be nice… very nice indeed.


Welp congratulations Coil you almost(not) have my sympathies.
Chapter 17

"I can't believe you're even thinking of doing such a- a crude, disgusting act! Have you no shame!? Stop it! Stop it right this instant!" Gorast howled in the back of Taylor's mind, straining to take control of Taylor's body to stop her from- from…

"Gorast, can you not?" Taylor groaned, sighing as she flexed her arm and broke Gorast's hold over her limb with a slight bit of difficulty. "I haven't eaten in almost a month and a half. I know we don't need to, but I'm starting to forget what things taste like."

"... Taste?"

"What, do Makuta not have a sense of taste?" Taylor asked as she rooted through her pile of nonperishable food, yawning quietly as she pulled out a can of soup- apparently it was some kind of "chicken pot pie" in a can… whatever the fuck that meant. "God, that's sad."

"... What in the name of Mata Nui is taste?" Gorast muttered, her wings buzzing in Taylor's ears as she tried to remember why the word seemed so familiar, and yet so strange and alien to her metaphorical ears. While Gorast wracked her memory, Taylor simply removed the lid of the can, pulling the tab and using a flex of magnetism, heat vision, and telekinesis to re-shape it into a thin but serviceable spoon. Another flex of will and redirecting her eyes caused the can to begin steaming under her heat vision, perfectly heated without causing the thick soup to boil or explode from the can.

"Taste is uh- you did have a mouth, right? And the ability to eat?" Taylor asked, sniffing the can of soup in her hand and humming appreciatively, adding a bit of salt and pepper to give it a bit more flavor before digging in and-

"OoooOOOOOHHHHHHH! BY THE GREAT SPIRIT!" Gorast almost moaned in Taylor's ear, a sound so sudden and shocking compared to Gorast's normal grating, eldritch tone that Taylor almost spit out her soup, choking as it shot up her nose and coughing madly into a napkin before she managed to swallow it and use her telekinesis to get all the wasted droplets out of where they weren't supposed to be.

"Jesus fuck Gorast! What the hell was that!?" Taylor hacked, smacking the side of her head and forming an illusion of Gorast just to glare at something that wasn't the wall.

"I. Um. Ignore that." Gorast's illusory shuffled in place, crimson eyes looking in literally every direction but Taylor's as Gorast seemed to blush sheepishly. "I had… forgotten that… taste was a sense that I had. And-"

"Your first taste of food in a hundred thousand years was too much for you to handle. Gotcha," Taylor nodded slowly, smirking a bit at Gorast's obvious embarrassment. Without waiting for Gorast's response, she dispelled the illusion and shoveled another spoonful of soup into her mouth, chewing on the slightly mushy chicken and revelling in the act of eating something for the first time in months.

Gorast's definitely-not-moans in her ear were a bit grating, but she just shoved them into the back of her mind and continued shoveling the soup down her gullet all the same, groaning in delight as she all but dumped the entire can down her throat like a fucking animal, not even caring that her table manners were atrocious nor giving half a damn that she probably looked like some kind of horrible gremlin with her rat's nest of bedhead, her dirty, torn up hoodie and sweatpants, and her generally greasy, unwashed state.

Which, speaking of.

Taylor burped noisily once she finished the can, crushing it into a ball along with the lid-spoon she'd made and disintegrating it into free floating molecules with a touch. Hrmmm…

Idly, she licked the inside of her teeth and shuddered, all but forcing herself to stand up and not immediately gorge herself on the food she knew she had tucked away in her shadow, and instead to walk into the massive bathroom the hotel provided, shuck off her absolutely ruined clothes and disintegrate them so she wouldn't have to deal with cleaning out that much dirt, and stepped into the shower.

"Ahhhhhh…. Bliss," Taylor moaned as the hot spray hit her body, humming to herself as she used her telekinesis to grab the graciously provided shower scrub poof ball thing (Taylor didn't know what they were called but it was nice to have one again) and start vigorously scrubbing down her entire body, the sweet smell of citrus bodywash cutting through the haze of steam as she washed away the filth coating her like a shell. Even if she could have just disintegrated it all- this was important to her. To feel human again, not like the almost unfeeling partial-robot that she'd physically become.

It was wonderful. To shower again, feel the heat of the water running against her body, luxuriate in the action of the shower scrub cutting through the grime and watching the water run clear as it all vanished under a tidal wave of body wash and suds. A thick, perfume-like scent filled the shower cubicle as she continued with her cleaning, facial wash applied liberally and enough shampoo (almost half the bottle given that her hair now reached down to her knees) dumped into her hair to turn her mass of solid white curls into a puffball of thick, floral scented foam.

She washed her hair twice, running her hands, all four of them, through the tangled locks and making sure that there was no trace of dirt or grime left. She sighed happily as she cleaned out her hair, continuing to let the burning heat of the water wash over her inhumanly pale, almost silvery skin and draw out the smallest flush of red as she deactivated her heat resistance to better enjoy her shower. Conditioner came next, applied liberally until the bottle was almost half empty and every last inch of her hair was completely covered. Taylor didn't know if she actually needed it anymore, but going through the routine felt nice, natural. A little piece of herself restored from the ashes of her old life.

She continued showering for a good, long while, soaking up the hot water until it began to run cold, then finally shut the water off and stepped out of the cubicle amidst a billowing cloud of steam. Towels floated over, luxuriously soft and fluffy as they dried her body and wrapped around her hair, followed soon after by a bathrobe that settled around her shoulders and tied itself shut, wrapping Taylor in a cool, soft embrace of silk that felt absolutely heavenly.

"Wow…" she murmured, slowly padding out of the bathroom, feet clad in soft cotton slippers as she made her way across the suite and over to the window, basking in the sunlight of early March. "Y'know what, Gorast?"


She smiled, a genuine expression of happiness spreading across her face for the first time in what felt like forever. "After that shower and eating… I feel… I feel human again."
Chapter 18

Time stood still.

She stared, almost hyperventilating at the sight before her. At the person before her. The three people in front of her, who hadn't even noticed her presence. Taylor shuddered gently, clenching her fists as she cycled through a tumultuous storm of emotions all at once. Fear- The ever present sense of dread she felt at seeing the trio of faces that had so thoroughly ruined her life and actually killed her. Rage- The intense fury that demanded retribution for the wrongs that had been done to her. Panic- The lingering desire to run away, run away, run away so that they couldn't find her, catch her, tear her down and break her piece by piece until nothing remained. Vindictiveness- The sheer need to storm up to them and show them just what kind of a monster they'd brought into the world with their cruelty. Sheer murderous intent- The kind that wanted her to storm up to the three girls and crush them all like insects-

"Taylor. I know this is hypocritical coming from me, but don't do it." Gorast's voice cut through her emotions and cleared her mind in an instant, making her stumble in mid step as the sounds of the mall all came rushing back to her, firmly anchoring her in the here and now rather than what had been done to her in months long past. She breathed in and out, deeply and slowly, calming down the phantom sensation of her heart racing in her chest. She swallowed thickly and pressed a hand to her heart, trying not to lose her disguise, trying not to reveal herself, trying to keep herself together as she leaned against a support pillar and-

"Hey, are you okay?"

A voice cut through her musings again, making her blink as she realized that she'd started hyperventilating again, lost in her thoughts and almost blinded by the sheer amount of emotions and memories racing through her brain, unable to stop them.

The voice- focus on the voice. Taylor swallowed again and looked up- or rather down, since she was currently in the form of a tall-ish, mildly attractive mid-30s blonde woman, the shape compiled together just by looking out the window earlier and picking out a few traits to combine. She blinked slowly and tried to control herself, forcing her emotions down as she tried to maintain a shaky smile. Her fist clenched by her side, veins hidden by her clothes starting to pulse a deadly, murderous dark red as she looked at Madison Clements, who'd wandered away from the other two bitches that had ruined her life, and was now standing before her and looking at her with such a genuine seeming look of concern that Taylor almost thought it was real.

"I-I'm…" She took a shuddering breath and almost- almost- let loose with one of her vision powers, stopping only when Gorast directly took control of her powers and withheld them from her. She almost gasped at the feeling, the yawning, gaping chasm of where her powers used to sit driving a spike of ice into her imaginary heart and bringing her focus back to the present.

"I said don't do it! We are a hero, Taylor! It might not be in my nature, but we will follow the moral code that we agreed upon! Are you really so pathetic that you would go back on your word- our word just for petty revenge against three insects that made you stronger than anyone could ever imagine!?"

"... fine." Taylor finished, breathing out again and standing up a little straighter, still clenching her fist as the veins running over her body even when shapeshifted continued to glow a dark, bloody red, to the point that she almost thought they were shining through her clothes.

"Are you sure…? You look like you're having a panic attack… Do you need some water or something?" Madison asked, stepping forward and into Taylor's personal space- too close too close too close too close too close too close too close too close too close too close too close too close too-!

Taylor immediately lost control, pushing Madison away at the same time as Gorast finally returned her power, both girls yelping at the same time as they fell in opposite directions- Madison tumbling to the floor from the unexpected push, and Taylor falling through the support pillar, stumbling through to the other side as her disguise finally shifted away and left her standing there in her true human self, silvery pale and snow white hair, eyes of shining ruby red darting about as all sound seemed to come to a halt in an instant.

"T-Toa?" Madison whispered, clambering to her feet slowly with her eyes wide with disbelief, rubbing her collarbone and shaking with- with.

"Yo Mads, what're you doing? Weren't we gonna go?" Sophia called out, drawing Taylor's attention in a flash as the Trio finally assembled all at once. Taylor gulped, eyes darting wildly back and forth, taking in the crowd around them, all openly staring while the Trio just looked at her with wide, disbelieving eyes.

"No no no no no no no, not again, not again!" Taylor whispered madly to herself, shaking and almost on the verge of running away, stepping back slowly before Gorast's voice cut through her panic once again.

"Calm yourself, Taylor. They can't hurt you. You're stronger than them. Stronger than anything else on this pathetic ball of wet rock! You are a world renowned hero. They are nothing. Confront them with strength, not fear!"

"You're right…" Taylor whispered to herself taking a deep breath as a sense of forced calm smothered her raging emotions, Gorast's ever-present apathy and disdain for humanity blanketing her mind until she couldn't feel anything but the smooth, vicious satisfaction of what she was going to do.

A slow, evil smirk overtook her face as she gathered her wits, stepping forward slowly as she changed her shape, bones melting and arms merging together until she was human again- human as she was. The strange looks of fearful concern on the Trio's faces all at once melted away into pure, chalk white fear as her appearance changed. Long, sweeping curls of ink black hair, a pale, almost gaunt face. Glasses perched on the bridge of her nose, set slightly above a too-wide mouth with thin, pale lips. Her figure went from athletic and beautiful to skinny and almost twiglike, her hands changing from claw tipped fingers to the soft, pink nails of a human.

Her clothes stayed the same- the same old ratty, slightly worn out clothes that she'd come to replace, drab and baggy and draped over her frame like the robes of a long dead specter.

"You three…" Taylor muttered, holding the three girls' legs in place with only a small, effortless flex of telekinesis. "Have a lot of nerve…"

She growled under her breath, snorting air from her nostrils as she towered over the three, watching dispassionately as they immediately began denying what they saw, shaking their heads and begging, full of fear and panic, unable to stop themselves from gibbering- save for Sophia in the middle, who was simply frozen with shock.

"So. What we have here is an amazing role reversal, isn't it?" Taylor asked rhetorically, continuing to hold the three girls in place, listening dispassionately to Emma pleading for mercy, Madison begging for forgiveness, Sophia… continuing to stay silent, her mouth gaping open like a fish. "Here and now, I have all the power in the world and more influence in my little finger than you three have in your entire web of connections. I'll be honest: The moment I saw you three just now, I almost thought about killing you. And honestly, if it weren't for some stunningly effective self control measures put into place, you three would be very, very dead. But you're not. And you know why?"

Taylor leaned in close, just enough so that all three could hear her.

"I'm a hero. And I'm better than you. Sleep."

The three girls collapsed.
That was beautiful. That's a life-changing moment for the Trio, and Taylor as well. The emotion in those last few words gave me chills.
Chapter 19

"Why did I do that!?" Taylor all but wailed as she slammed her head against the wall of the cell that she'd teleported into and immediately locked by forcing the door shut and holding it there with magnetism, ignoring the banging on the door from a very confused PRT trooper asking her to please come out, the cell is meant for Master Strange confinement, not nervous breakdowns. "What the fuck is wrong with me!?"


Taylor stopped and blinked as she suddenly found her face not resting against, but embedded in the thick, reinforced wall of the MS Cell, the dusty taste of concrete dust and paint settling in her nose and mouth as she pulled out, making her cough and gag as she spat the dust out and wiped her face. "Whoops."

"Are you done with your tantrum yet?" Gorast deadpanned in Taylor's mind, forcing the girl over to the sink and manually growing a new pair of arms to wash Taylor's face. "You've spent the last fifteen minutes screaming and the only reason why is because you finally stood up to the worthless sacks of flesh haunting your nightmares and then put them to sleep! You didn't even maim them, despite how close you were to losing your Spirit-damned mind before I intervened! I thought you'd be jumping for joy by now, not damaging government property in the middle of an unjustified freakout!"

"Yeah and I just left them there! I probably looked like a fucking villain doing that!" Taylor screamed into the mirror, punching the wall with both of her right hands and cracking it with a shower of chips and concrete dust as the image of Gorast flashed into existence, overlaying her own face with the Makuta's.

"Then simply explain your situation, you Akilini-head! Your slow-think these days is just about as terrible-bad as when we first merged! Except somehow even more bad-worse since this is panic rather than depression!"

"Hey! I'm not an Akilini-head!" Taylor protested, then paused and blinked as Gorast seemed to reel back in shock at the fact that she'd just used Le-Matoran Chutespeak. ".... Wait. What the hell was that just now? Those weren't Makuta terms you were using…. W-were you just…?"

"I spent some four hundred years as a Le-Matoran immigrant to Metru Nui as a vacation and picked up some of the dialect. Shut up." Gorast's illusory image grumbled quietly, turning away from Taylor and crossing her arms in a huff, her entire body visibly lighting up with embarrassment- veins of pink covering her the same as the veins of blue-ish purple confusion covering Taylor's body.

"Weren't you the ruler of the Tren Krom Peninsula, though?" Taylor muttered, stepping back from the sink and catching her breath, shaking her head as she sat down on the bed and rubbed her forehead. "How did you manage to spend four hundred years on Metru Nui with nobody wondering where you went?"

"I know you're trying to distract yourself from the actual issues plaguing your mind. But very well, I shall quick-tell you about my time disguised as a Matoran. And for your information, this was right before the Great Cataclysm. There was not much in the way of things to do during that time, and I preferred the hands off method of rule."

Gorast cleared her throat with a heavy sigh, groaning at having to recount that entire section of her memories- not really happy about having to tell about how she spent a whole four hundred years disguised as a male Le-Matoran since apparently Metru Nui's only female Matoran were Ga-Matoran and she wasn't about to pretend to be a water loving weirdo when she could be at ease with Matoran who liked being in the air as much as she did.

Taylor sat down as Gorast began talking, eagerly listening and feeling her worries and panic slip away under the sound of Gorast's narration filling her mind, echoing in her ears with a sonorous buzz that kept her from thinking about anything else.


"It started about… Hm. There aren't any good translations for how time was measured in Mata Nui's body, but I suppose that's what happens when everyone is but a small part of a giant robot. But there was a time about… oh… fourteen hundred years before my death when I wasn't doing much of anything. Oh, sure, that no good, slow-think, Akilini-head, roodaka piece of kane-ra shit Teridax was still around giving orders, but he was pretending to be Turaga around that time anyway. I didn't much give a shit. Life was slow, most of the matoran on my peninsula were used to me not doing anything except occasionally murdering Toa of Iron or Magnetism, I didn't have much of anything to do and I was between assignments anyway. Ah- wait no, Teridax impersonated the Turaga near the end of that vacation. Hm, old age makes for slow-think and ever-forgotten memories, it seems… even though this happened only a millennia ago...

"Anyway. I took a vacation and posed as a Le-Matoran named Gizi, a scrap trader looking to begin a new life far away from the Northern Continent. And there, I quick-sailed from the Tren Krom Peninsula and up through the Sea Gates to Metru Nui. Ah, even for me, the queen of the Tren Krom Peninsula, the first view of Metru Nui is a grand sight… the shining towers of Le "Metru gleaming from the light of the Silver Sea, the vast web of chutes and tubes stretching across the sky- for a moment, just that brief moment… I was the Le-Matoran Gizi, coming to the city for the first time… nevermind the fact that I'd been there a few times before, but never before then was it so grand!

"You should have seen it- even the docks, where recycled scrap from the other Metrus was thrown out and taken to the other continents for reuse- it was full of buzz-flying transports and quick-talking Matoran, so much to do and see… It was different and amazing to look upon the holy isle of the Matoran without any designs or plots, to simply immerse myself in what these seemingly lesser beings had managed to create.

"It was actually quite hard to acclimate at first- the Peninsula was not as hospitable, and of course, I was the Queen of the land, not some Matoran slave, working to keep the Great Spirit content. The Le-Matoran of Le-Metru were… strange to me. Friendly, honest. Nary a scowl or a smirk in sight. There was, despite the city's vast size and its massive structures, a sense of ease and simple zest for life in those towers and walkways. I loved it there. I could forget that I was a queen of a distant land, forget that I was going to take control of this pitiful world with my brothers, forget that I had killed Matoran for getting as close to me as these ones did. Instead, I could spend my days working in the scrap yards, touring the city, and just… existing.

"A small part of me was a bit confused, since I don't think I had ever simply just… let myself be. There was some fear-dread about that. Even we Makuta were driven by duty as much as Matoran sometimes, and not having anything really to do was… odd.

"Of course, my vacation was very nearly cut short when barely after some thirty odd days, I nearly died because some akilini-head, slow-think, loud-talk moron forgot to check the go-lights and safeties on the test track and nearly smash-bashed my spirit damned body in half when he decided to swerve out of the way of a mata nui-damned phase dragon and crash-wreck a test bike directly into my perfect green ass. Fortunately, I managed to actually come up with a good enough excuse as to how I'd survived that without losing my entire damned body and only had to pretend to take a week off of work at the docks to "repair" my damaged arm and back plating. Idiot. What kind of slow-think moron tries to swerve to avoid a phase dragon!? They phase through everything! Hmph. Oh well. I was pissed off enough that I was this near-close to killing him in his sleep during that week while I was stuck in my vacation lodgings, but I suppose it was only a huge-big amount of luck and destiny itself that stopped me. If I hadn't kept myself from giving him a swift hard-fall off the tallest tower in Le-Metru, then the little bastard- what was his name, Matau? Yes, that was it. Then that little bastard Matau never would have been a Toa and Mata Nui would have had to seek-find a new Toa candidate very rapid-quick.

"But the rest of my vacation was…. Passably normal, all things considered. Very boring by most standards, but for me it was the most relaxing four centuries I'd ever had…

"And then that bastard had to cause the Great Cataclysm and I had to quiet-sneak my ass out of Le-Metru and back to my fortress before the Vahki could stuff me into one of those spirit-forsaken orbs and stasis me for the next thousand years… although all things considered, if I'd ended up living in Le-Koro and forgetting that I was ever a Makuta, maybe I wouldn't have died…"


Taylor blinked as Gorast's narration faded off into a series of quiet grumbles in the back of her mind, staring up at the ceiling and wondering when she'd decided to lay down on the bed… and when she'd relaxed her hold on the door of her cell… and how long had Armsmaster been standing next ot her anyway (And why was he only wearing his chestplate, boots, and gauntlets)?

"Miss Hebert?" Armsmaster sighed quietly under his breath as he cleared his through awkwardly. "Are you… conscious?"

"... Uh… yeah? Sorry about the cell… I uh… kinda had a panic attack and… well…" Taylor managed to hide a blush through a quick illusion over her cheeks, but didn't quite manage to hide the pink lines tracing over her body in time. "... Sorry about that."

"... I'll assume it's linked to the incident at the Brockton West Mall approximately an hour ago?" Armsmaster almost deadpanned, his mouth contorted into what was almost a mix of a wry, knowing smile and a deep, deadpan frown.

"... Yeah."

"I see. Well, the three girls you put to sleep have been taken to the PRT headquarters for safety's sake. We'll get their stories later, but for now, why don't you tell your side of the story?" Armsmaster sat down slowly, having dragged over a folding chair along his way to the cell she imagined, and leaned forward. Idly, Taylor thought that he didn't quite look complete without all his armor on.

Taylor sighed and breathed in, gathering her wits as she sat up and faced Armsmaster, finally speaking her story to someone that wasn't the voice in her head. "Well… I guess it all started about two years ago now… back around the summer of 2009…"
makes you think if the rest of the Makuta had taken a few centuries off from time to time would the whole mess have even happened I mean take up a hobby guys and gals
Chapter 20

Sophia Hess was Shadow Stalker.

The Ward.

The so called Hero.

Taylor wasn't surprised anymore- oh sure, she hadn't known exactly why the trio of bitches who'd ruined her life had managed to get away with everything more or less scot free, but the fact of the matter was there was literally no way for them to have gotten away with everything a long as they had unless there was at least some manner of willful corruption thrown into the mix.

She wasn't even mad anymore- after all, what use was getting mad? Sure, she could go on a rampage, tear through the city and let her displeasure be known, but that was against the Toa Code.

Which, to be fair, she didn't have to follow anyway since she wasn't even a real Toa nor were there other Toa to even remind her of it, but still. It was the principle of the thing. She wanted to be a hero, after all, and being a hero meant being noble and just and all those other things that Toa were supposed to be.


Taylor mulled it over quietly in her mind as she paced around in her hotel room, as she'd been doing for the last twelve or so hours. There was… There was a sense of irony to it all, she thought. That the people who tried so hard to break her down, tried so hard to ruin her life, who actually killed her… that one of them was supposedly a hero. And that, in doing so, in trying their absolute damndest to destroy her, lay her low, isolate her from all others, kill her, only made her stronger than anyone else could ever imagine, had only made her more influential than just about any other person on Earth Bet save for maybe the Triumvirate and maybe Scion.

She would have thought it funny if she hadn't just had a panic attack about it the previous day, and then spent the last twelve hours letting her thoughts whirl around in her head. As it was, she was still undecided on what she actually wanted to do with the information, seeing as the PRT was already handling everything on the legal side- juvenile detention for Madison and Emma, hefty fines on their parents, Sophia getting thrown into the parahuman equivalent of juvie, her handler getting fired and blacklisted from all administrative positions she'd ever apply for again, etc etc etc.

Oh well. At least she'd actually managed to get some clothes in the interim- delivered by the PRT after she'd mentioned what she'd been at the mall for yesterday. She was… a little embarrassed at the lengths that people were willing to go through for her, the hoops that people were jumping through, the indignities that so many people were probably putting up with just to keep her happy… but honestly? She thought it was kinda nice. After all, she'd gone from a homeless nobody to a world renowned savior in the span of about a week, and from dead broke to swimming in cash at the same time.

So what if taking a small bit of enjoyment out of being able to order people around was probably against the Toa Code? Taylor thought, maybe, she deserved it. Just a little bit. Only for the small things, like getting clothes and food and maybe a smartphone and a laptop.

You know. The essentials.

Taylor paused, then looked around at her hotel room as a thought cut through her previous train of thought and immediately derailed everything in a messy crash, metaphorical train parts careening everywhere and causing Gorast to go into a spluttering cursing fit full of chute-speak as said metaphorical derailment triggered Gorast's nightmare flashbacks of when she nearly got run over by an out of control test vehicle not once, not twice, but nearly fifty goddamn times during her time in Le-Metru.

"... Hey Gorast? Do you think I should buy a house?" Taylor asked idly, blinking slowly and taking in the sight of the various piles of new clothing scattered around the room from when she'd spent a good two or three hours trying on new outfits in the midst of her previous haze of thought and roiling emotions. "Because… I'm starting to feel kinda bad about just… living here. In a hotel room. That someone else is paying for."

"Get a lair instead. A proper one, not just a house with an oversized basement." Gorast answered, buzzing fitfully as she darted around the metaphorical space of Taylor's brain and busied herself with organizing the absolute mess that had resulted when Taylor switched tracks too quickly- or… something. Taylor wasn't sure what Gorast was doing, but she could feel her thoughts becoming slightly clearer as Gorast organized things into what she thought were shelves and/or filing cabinets. "And stop thinking so loud! Every new thought echoing through your empty head just makes more garbage junk data that I have to comb through and throw away!"

"... Junk data?"

"Yes, junk data. What, did you not realize by now that as both Makuta and false Toa your body no longer relies on an inefficient, failure prone storage system made entirely of organic neurons? Antidermis is so much more useful- after all, unless something leaks and dissipates off into nothingness we'll never lose any memories and having a mostly mechanical body structure now means I can finally take advantage of the sheer amount of storage space our body holds to actually organize things for the first time in what might be forever!"

".... I'm pretty sure I'm still flesh and blood right now, Gorast. Also, where the hell am I going to just find some kind of a lair? It's not like people just build them and put them up for sale," Taylor muttered, poking down at her arm and shrugging as she felt the skin and muscle deform under her finger. Sure, she was basically a room temperature heat sink now unless she actively decided to produce body heat, but she was… mostly organic right now, right?

"Our body is pseudo-organic muscle and synthetic flesh and the only thing still mostly organic about it is our nascent libido, which I've since turned off for the time being," Gorast deadpanned, then seemingly rolled her eyes- which was a strange feeling to Taylor since she felt more than saw and just knew Gorast was doing so even though the Makuta was literally a voice in her head- as she switched back to the previous topic. "And as for a lair… hmph. We have all the time in the world. Build one yourself for all I care."

"Okay but- Agh!" Taylor crumpled to the ground as a white hot flash of pain struck her between the eyes, blinding her as she screamed and fell to the ground and information started pouring into her brain at a rate that left her feeling like she was drowning, drowning, drowning-

Fuzzy images poured through her mind, blurry and indistinct at first but growing sharper over time. Time… time…. These were images of… of…

She saw a girl, freckled and with bottle green eyes, blonde hair and a smirk that some people would describe as vulpine but Taylor decided to describe as simply smug, though in the image her face was contorted into a mask of fear and annoyance, sheer attitude masking the terror she felt at the voice on the other side of the phone call.

She saw another girl, another blonde- shorter this time, a child suffering from migraines and nightmares, numbers spilling from her lips and intensifying the pain as she scrambled to anchor herself in the present rather than the infinite futures.

A boy, almost a man, dark skinned and muscular. He was beside himself with worry, biting his thumb and pacing back and forth as he tried to think of something- anything that would let him get out of the dangerous situation he was in and help his-

A girl, the boy's sister. Younger than Taylor, older than the smaller blonde. She dressed in loud clothes, had loud words. She wanted attention and her attitude masked the insecurities and hate clouding her home life. Taylor's heart throbbed painfully at the sight of a mother and father willfully neglecting their only children, full of sympathy and rage.

More and more images flashed through her mind- visions of important people, of random people in the street. Heroes and villains alike, all of them feeling like they had some kind of connection to each other, one that nobody was quite aware of.

But the one that stuck out to her the most, the one that felt the most urgent, the most immediate, was a man dressed in a tight, black bodysuit. He was tall, and he was thin. A snake wound around his body, printed white upon his suit of black.

Something in her mind told her that he was important. That he had what she sought- or, perhaps, that he was something that needed to be removed and what he had was simply incidental to what she desired.

She did not know his face, or his age, or his crimes, but she knew his name.


A cancer upon the city, subtle and dangerous, unseen and unfelt until it was too late. A would-be puppetmaster.

She awoke with a sense of conviction, a clarity of purpose and of mind. She stood smoothly, almost as if she weren't quite in control of her actions. Her armor formed around her- it was different now, she thought. Pale silver armor over darker black and green, six wings, almost like a butterfly. The same weapons, the same four arms, but she was sleeker now, a bit more feminine and yet with more visible muscle definition all the same. She shone in the sun, mirror bright armor gleaming as dawn broke to the east, shining over the bay. She stared off into the sunrise and prepared to leap off her balcony, a single thought present in her mind.

Coil's operation would not survive to see the sunset.
Chapter 21


Utterly, truly pathetic.

Taylor groaned as she walked through the halls of Coil's base, yawning quietly as she passed by the scores of mercenaries protecting the base- or at least, they should have been protecting the base, but the moment they all saw her, every single one of them simply put their guns down and kneeled on the ground with their hands on their heads, completely surrendering without a fight.

Sure, it was the sensible thing to do since she neither wanted to hurt them nor could actually be hurt by them, and all the mercenaries fighting her would just cause unnecessary damage to both base and human bones, but still.

She at least expected someone to put up a fight. Maybe even just one fool running up to her and punching her in the face only to find out how hard protosteel armor truly was. Something interesting, something spicy. Something that'd make a good story. But no. A complete rout was what happened instead.

Not a single round fired at her after she'd forced the door open with a combination of magnetism and telekinesis, not a single person going for the alarms- scratch that, one person just alerted the base that she was there and… to surrender arms.


Taylor sighed as she continued on through the base, pinching her brow as she went further in and further down, idly examining the construction of the hidden base and concluding to herself that, yes, this was quite a good base… but it was a tad bright. Oh sure, it was up to modern standards and everything- solid, reinforced concrete walls, all painted a stark, professional fog gray with green stripes mid-way up as an accent color and guide, but it was…


She was Makuta first and foremost and even now, in her Toa body, she still preferred something a bit darker. Maybe some muted grays, dim the lights a bit- the wall switches were already that nice energy saving type that you could slide up and down to dim or brighten the lights as necessary so she wouldn't even have to replace any light bulbs. The floors were quite clean as well- sparkling clean, almost reflective. She almost wondered at what kind of janitorial staff Coil had but a quick peek into a cleaning closet revealed a simple, low maintenance, mass produced Tinker derived Drag-vac bot, sold in department stores all over the USA and Canada for an affordable price.


With an approving nod, Taylor continued touring through the base, idly waving off the surrendering mercenaries and more or less telling them all to just get out of the base while they could. They complied all quite easily- it seemed that nobody wanted to get on the bad side of someone who could swallow entire cities with shadow and kill an Endbringer. Quite smart of them, really.

"Hmm… do you think this is our best option, Gorast?" Taylor asked idly as she ran her finger along the wall, tapping the thick stripe of jungle green paint that ran along the wall from hip height all the way to just above head height and tilting her head as she thought to herself. "I mean, it's got a bit of an infestation going on here, and there's a bit of disgusting filth that I need to get rid of, but it's clean otherwise and honestly, it's nice and spacious, it's got a great location, and the color palette is pretty alright too, though I'll need to change all this gray to a darker… uh... gray. Maybe black?"

".... You are getting far too into the house hunting analogy," Gorast deadpanned dryly from inside of Taylor's mind, taking a slight bit of control and gathering the mercenaries' weapons as they left, completely disarming both them and the vehicles in the private garage before bringing the weapons back down into the base and storing them in a nice, neat pile off in a corner where the armory was. "Can we get back to the part where we're taking down the cancerous growth on the city that is Coil now or are we going to play around a while longer?"

"I'm getting to it!" Taylor huffed and rolled her eyes, stomping her foot childishly before ducking into another room- this one a men's lavatory, which she gave a once over, shrugged, and backed out of. Nothing interesting to see. Just urinals and toilets. "Besides! You can't just get a house without first making sure it's all up to your standards!"

"True, true. Have you checked the cafeteria yet? Some of the mercenaries mentioned something called 'quiche'. Their memories made it seem delicious."

"If it weren't for the fact that my body is a hyper-efficient miracle of biomechanics and is thus incapable of gaining weight, I'd accuse you of trying to get the both of us fat," Taylor teased, chuckling quietly as she continued walking down the halls, humming a song under her breath and flexing her will a bit, cocking her head to the side and smirking a bit as all the mercenaries who'd been trying to leave found themselves locked in place, the unbreakable hold of her telekinesis settling around them tightly, but only enough to restrict movement and not enough to squeeze or pinch.

Coil's predicament, though, was much more petty, as she'd simply locked the villain in her telekinetic hold and set him spinning around slowly like a globe. Was it unnecessary and possibly a bit cruel? Yes. Was it funny? Probably not to anyone but Gorast. Did he still deserve it for generally being a piece of shit? Definitely.

"Oh good all the mercenaries are cleared out," Taylor clapped her hands together and teleported to the cafeteria, humming as she went through the now empty serving line and grabbed a heaping plate of still warm quiche, sitting down and deciding to take a break from exploring the base to instead indulge in an early lunch. Brunch. Whatever.

"This is going quite smoothly, all things considered," Gorast murmured from inside of her mind, right before she started groaning and moaning in a way that may or may not have been faked just to annoy Taylor with the sound of her voice as Taylor dug into her quiche. "Mm- oh that's good , positively singsong , even! Ooh- ah, as I was saying. The last time I tried to go somewhere uninvited without a disguise, I had to punch some slow-think Steltian after he smash-bashed me through a wall. Joke's on him, though. I tore out his eye and beat the living daylights out of him for that insult! Ha!"

"... Somehow I get the feeling that, outside of your vacation, you solved literally all your problems through grievous bodily harm and/or outright murder," Taylor deadpanned slowly, chewing on her quiche and scratching her chin before making the horrible decision to down it all in one go, stuffing the rest of it down her gullet and then making the equally terrible decision of going back to finish the rest of the quiche.

And the spinach rolls. And the chicken fried rice. And donuts. And the coffee. And the muffins. And the mashed potatoes. And the granola. And the salad. And the shitty kind of pizza that only corporations and schools ever seemed to have. And the steamed vegetables. And-

Taylor burped loudly, groaning as she slumped head first onto the table well over two hours later, having eaten literally every bit of food that the cafeteria had been serving before she came in.

" Fuck me, why did I do that?" Taylor almost sobbed, her face twisted into an expression of pure disgust at the absolute food rampage she'd gone on- the only evidence of which was the small stain of sauce on her cheek, which subsequently disappeared as she grabbed a napkin and wiped it off. "Fuuuuck… I didn't even need to do that!"

"It was there and it was all delicious. Two hours well spent in my opinion," Gorast groaned from inside of her head, patting her metaphorical belly while Taylor just poked her own still flat armored stomach and thanked her lucky stars that her body just immediately converted everything into energy without any sort of waste being produced.

"Okay, now that we've gorged ourselves on pretty much everything still edible without preparations, let's get back to what we were doing before," Taylor grumbled quietly, groaning and grunting as she clambered to her feet and strolled back out into the base, making a show of being unsteady despite the fact that she felt no more full or any different from before, with only a slight extra bit of perkiness from the extra energy she'd absorbed from the truly ridiculous amount of food she'd eaten.

With a step through the shadows, Taylor appeared in Coil's office with a vicious smile forming on her face, chuckling ominously as she slowly approached the now terrified villain. Shadows engulfed the room, wreathing her in an aura of black power as she seemed to grow and loom over Coil like an angry goddess.

"Hello Coil . You've been a very bad person. Why don't you tell me what you've done?"
Ummm, what happened to Taylor mentally? This change in behavior seems jarring.
Ummm, what happened to Taylor mentally? This change in behavior seems jarring.

Being the 700 lb gorilla in a kindergarten will change your outlook a bit. Nothing that she has seen can hurt her, and more to the point nothing and no-one wants to get in her way due to the whole "almost casually merced an Endbringer" thing.
Being the 700 lb gorilla in a kindergarten will change your outlook a bit. Nothing that she has seen can hurt her, and more to the point nothing and no-one wants to get in her way due to the whole "almost casually merced an Endbringer" thing.
I would agree, but the end of the chapter before this one feels incredibly forced.
Chapter 22

"Okay so. We now have, in addition to the some billion or so dollars gifted by the UN for killing the Simurgh, another six hundred million dollars-ish spread across five bank accounts, about fifty-ish mercenaries on hire as various staff and base defenses, some actual on hire staff, more weapons than I'd ever know what to do with in the armory, an entire fleet of various vehicles ranging from armored cars all the way to a 2005 Honda Civic, the base codes for the entire lair, a bunch of blackmail material and leverage over several politicians, lots more stuff related to running a secret supervillain conspiracy thing… And also Coil's last solitaire game. Which… um…" Taylor paused as she stared at the screen, trying to make heads or tails of the game. "How do you even play Solitaire anyway?"

"I don't fucking know. It looks boring and terrible anyway so who cares?"

"Yeah, you're probably right." Taylor slumped down into the plush leather chair that used to be Coil's, the man left a gibbering wreck on the floor with his power drained away by her shadows and hunger, while she summarily took over his holdings and all his endeavors one by one. "... We should probably call the Protectorate about this… I don't know how they'd react to me taking over a supervillain lair but putting Coil behind bars is probably something best done with actual help from the actual authorities who know the actual procedures for this kind of thing."

"Perhaps. It would be best to see justice done, instead of leaving him drooling all over the nice clean carpets."

"... We could eat him," Taylor murmured, blinking slowly as the rather obvious thought filled her mind, not even realizing what she was saying until after she'd said it. "Just swallow him up into our shadows and make him vanish."

"... That sounds like something I would have suggested when I was still alive," Gorast muttered, immediately exercising her control and bringing Coil's phone over to Taylor with a burst of telekinesis. "So by and large it's an awful idea because when I was still alive I was a horrible bitch without any morality or form of mercy. Now call the Protectorate before any more of my memories start spurring intrusive thoughts in your idiot brain."

"I'm pretty sure I only have you to blame for that," Taylor sighed quietly as she dialed Armsmaster's number, grumbling to herself as she began explaining that she'd maybe kinda sorta stormed into a notorious supervillain's base, took over said base, completely took control of said villain's entire operation and shut down everything, stole said villain's assets, reduced said villain to a gibbering, powerless wreck, and then also co-opted part of said villain's mercenary army into being an on-base rotating security staff and/or maintenance crew.





So could he pretty please prepare a cell for Coil so she could just drop him in, please and thank you?

Armsmaster sighed as Toa hung up before he could even really ask when the hell she had found Coil's base in the first place and why the hell she couldn't have notified the PRT earlier, then rubbed his forehead and winced as a random spike of pain flashed through his skull, accompanied by a street address depicting a parking garage somewhere a few miles from the PRT HQ building as well as an unlocked panel in an elevator hiding a secret button.

Armsmaster groaned quietly to himself, filling out an automatic request form and logging Holding Cell 6 as being soon to be occupied by the villain Coil, watching the cameras in said cell until said villain popped out of a shadow mere minutes later and onto the bed inside the cell with an unceremonious thump and what looked like a puddle of drool.

Okay. Good. That was one thing settled. Now…

"This is Armsmaster," he spoke calmly, pressing the button connecting his workbench intercom to Miss Militia's office two floors up and six doors down. "I'm submitting myself for Master/Stranger confinement due to abnormal psychic contact with the parahuman known as Toa. Most likely benign, but until further tests prove that true, I'll be unavailable until I'm cleared for duty. While I'm unavailable, follow up with Toa at the address I'll be sending you."

".... Copy that…?"

Miss Militia raised her eyebrow as Armsmaster cut the call seconds later, a text alert pinging on her work phone with an address that she recognized- the parking garage across the street from one of the smaller malls in the downtown area, right outside the financial section of the city. About five miles from the PRT HQ building, six miles south of City Hall. About a half hour drive from the Rig if traffic was good.

With a shrug, Miss Militia stood and headed down to the Rig's garage, pulling on her motorcycle leathers as she walked out of her office, quickly speed walking down the halls and down the elevator, grabbing a spare helmet from the locker beside the door in the garage and activating the switch to extend the hard light bridge before revving the engine of her motorcycle and roaring out across the bridge.


"Oh, Miss Militia's here!" Taylor blinked and looked up as a touch of something swept across her mind and drew her attention away from the massive pool she'd carved into one of the larger, empty storage bays- it'd once held a bunch of spare office supplies, but she'd moved those off into different parts of the base. Idly, she wondered why Coil had a single three story tall storage depot in his base instead of having more storage closets scattered around, but she figured that maybe it was for vehicle storage and then just never got finished or connected to the surface. Or… something.


Point was, she'd carved a massive, perfectly circular pool into the middle of the storage bay and dumped all the weapons she'd confiscated into it and… uh.

Taylor blinked as she stared at the shimmering, glowing liquid that filled the pool now. She wasn't really sure when she'd spaced out but she knew somehow that she'd spaced out for the better part of about twenty minutes after flooding the pool with weak, diluted acid. So…


".... You know, I'm starting to think that I should be concerned about the fact that I keep spacing out," Taylor muttered to herself, crossing her arms and sitting down at the edge of the pool, knowing full well that if she'd dipped any part of her body into it there was a larger than average chance that she would die a horrible, agonizing death even with the same stuff already filling her body. Energized Protodermis was, as Gorast's memories of the stuff revealed, quite the bitch to deal with.

Granted, she was full of the stuff now and she wasn't dead yet so…?

Taylor shrugged and huffed quietly, quickly teleporting up to what she was more or less calling the "public" entrance of her new lair, waiting patiently for the elevator to descend. Moments later, the doors slid open with a quiet ding, revealing the form of Miss Militia, who seemed both quite surprised by the fact that there actually was a secret base hidden under a parking garage and that Taylor was actually standing there.

"Welcome!" Taylor waved and put on a smile, forcing it a little bit due to the fact that she hadn't really smiled in front of another person in what seemed like ages, bouncing a bit as she tried to put on more of a personable, energetic face than she normally did. "I was kind of expecting Armsmaster but uh… Hm. Right. So um… Do you wanna go to the office? Get some coffee first? Oh, we could do this in the cafeteria if that's okay with you?"

"I think…" Miss Militia murmured as she looked around, pursing her lips slightly behind her bandana as she took in the various mercenaries scattered about the main foyer- most of them lounging around on various folding chairs or playing cards, some of them looking her way but otherwise mostly just content to stay out of the way of their new boss. "Yes, coffee would be nice. Thank you."
In find myself remember that one mook from Batman. He opened a door, saw Batman, and closed the door, pretending and claiming to have seen nothing.
Chapter 23

"... Where are the other mercenaries?" Miss Militia suddenly asked, looking away from the screen and over to where Taylor was sitting calmly in the air, waiting for Miss Militia to finish reading the reports that Coil had compiled- some hundreds of excessively complicated PDFs full of charts and graphs that she could only really understand due to having literally pulled the knowledge out of the man's head. "The employment registry says that Coil had two hundred and twelve mercenaries on payroll, all of which were supposed to be on-base due to recall and bunker-down procedures, but right now you stated that you only have fifty five, even including the on-staff medics and cooks. Forty two if we don't count non-combatants."

".... The other mercenaries….?" Taylor blinked slowly and floated over, her wings buzzing slightly but not fast enough to actually lift her into the air- she was simply floating as she pleased. She hummed as she looked over the registry, navigating through to compare and contrast which ones she'd kept and which ones seemed to have vanished.

She blinked again.

"... Every single mercenary that's unaccounted for is guilty of multiple crimes outside of, well, working for a villain. Murder, rape, larceny, robbery, pedophilia, manslaughter, embezzlement, assault and battery- oh, wow I just noticed how awful those two hero names are with each other-, child abuse, spousal abuse- the list goes on and on but those are the more common charges." Taylor spoke quietly, just loud enough for Miss Militia to hear the faintest whisper of pure, lethal disdain in Taylor's voice. A cold, dripping emotion suffusing her words with nothing short of purest intent to kill. Miss Militia shuddered a bit, swallowing thickly and thanking the fact that her bandanna covered half of her face and her leather jacket kept the cold sweat from showing.

"... I don't know where they went. But I can't find their minds anywhere on the planet," Taylor finished, sitting back and rubbing her chin, her lips pursed into an almost cute pout as her wings fluttered gently on her back- Miss Militia wasn't entirely sure, but she had a sneaking suspicion that Taylor wasn't even aware of the fact that she'd sprouted wings a few minutes ago.


".... Oh no."

"Oh no?" Miss Militia blinked, scooting her chair back and staring at Taylor, who seemed to be in the middle of having a furious debate with herself- quite literally, since she could see Taylor's lips moving even though she was completely silent, either speaking too quietly for Miss Militia to hear or deliberately silencing herself to achieve the same effect.

Either way, Taylor came out of it looking pale- her almost literally porcelain features taking on a cast that was distinctly sickly despite her currently mechanical nature, looking over at Miss Militia with a haunted gaze.

"... I think… I may have made a terrible mistake," Taylor gulped slightly, then began explaining how, while she had been traipsing through Coil's base, she'd been holding all of Coil's mercenaries inside of their vehicles or out of sight in the parking garage proper, keeping them from just leaving en masse. Almost all of them had tried to leave in their own personal vehicles, and since all of them were alone in a confined, darkened space…

"... I don't have any conscious recall of using my powers, and I would have known if they activated on instinct, but something… I think something activated my shadow powers without me realizing it. I was spaced out for a good while twice today already, so…" Taylor pursed her lips, then abruptly stood and headed for the door. "Sorry to cut this short, Miss Militia, but I really need to check on something. Could you get one of the guys to escort you out? I promise I'll explain once I figure this out but it's… not gonna be pleasant to watch."

"What? Hold on-" Miss Militia followed after Taylor, one hand held out awkwardly as she tried to catch up with the younger girl. She furrowed her brow as Taylor raced through the corridors of the base, with Miss Militia following along at a steady clip until the two of them found themselves in a large storage bay- about large enough to hold several vehicles at least, and almost three stories tall. She wondered what the purpose of such a room was when Coil had it, but apparently Taylor had turned it into a… pool… of some kind. One that glowed with an ethereal silver color and filled the air with an almost audible hum of indescribable power.

Miss Militia gulped silently, walking forward as if in a trance. She stopped at the edge of the pool and stared down into its depths, blinking slowly even as she just barely heard the sounds of Taylor's distress just barely a foot away.

It was mesmerizing.

A shining sea of infinite possibilities, of infinite power and infinite purpose, a substance that could make and unmake entire worlds. She swallowed thickly and knelt down by the pool, reaching forward slowly, slowly, fingertips just barely about to brush the surface and-


Taylor screamed as she violently shoved Miss Militia away from the pool, a burst of telekinesis lashing out and pinning the heroine to the wall for a brief moment before letting go. "Don't! Touch it!"

Miss Militia groaned and shook her head, slowly pushing herself off the ground and wincing at the bruises that were surely now forming along her back. "I… what is that stuff? I've… never seen anything quite like it…?"

"It's Energized Protodermis. I don't know what it's made of and I don't know what it wants, but what I do know is that if you're not someone that it has specifically chosen to transform, you will die horribly the moment it touches you." Taylor stood between Miss Militia and the pool, keeping her wings spread wide to block the heroine's view, just in case she had the bright idea of trying to touch a pool of eldritch liquid again.

".... Noted…" Miss Militia muttered, stepping away from the pool and focusing once again on Taylor, taking a deep breath as her weapon flickered with an air of uncertainty around her hips in response to the emotions flowing through her mind. "Ah, um… did you… find out what happened to the mercenaries?"

"... Yeah. I did." Taylor sighed, wings drooping as she trudged forward and led Miss Militia out of the room, locking the door shut behind them so no one else would fall in. "I don't know why, but for some reason, when I threw all those mercenaries into my shadow, whatever it was that activated my power chose to throw them all into the pool… to… to feed the Energized Protodermis. That must have been why I spaced out earlier…"

Miss Militia just stared blankly down at Taylor, blinking slowly as she tried to process what she'd just heard. "... Ah."

How the hell was she supposed to respond to the fact that apparently, for some godforsaken reason, the person who was potentially the single most powerful parahuman on the planet didn't actually have full control of her powers, and said powers apparently decided to murder some hundred fifty people to feed a fucking pool of what seemed to be eldritch liquid metal?

"... Feed…?" she settled on asking the simplest question, coughing awkwardly into her fist to clear her throat when her first attempt at speaking came out as a feeble almost-whimper. "What do you mean… Feed?"

".... Okay so-" Taylor chewed her lip and raised a single hand and pointed a single finger upwards, her other hand gripping her chin while she crossed her second pair of arms. "I think… I don't really have any concrete evidence of this, per se, but while I wasn't specifically conscious, my mind still saved memories of what I was doing, and um… Okay. The thought process was… I was kind of… following what I felt was right? Like… there was this really big sense of Destiny that I had to follow, one that really needed me to carve out that pool in that room specifically, and… I had to fill it with raw materials, right? I dumped in all the weapons in the base and also I think maybe a few cars, filled it with acid and… well. Metal, for mass and substance, some kind of liquid, for a base… and… organic material… for raw potential. So… so I think that, while I was taking over the base, I was… partially already fulfilling that sense of Destiny by grabbing a bunch of mercenaries. And then I carved the pool and I spaced out and… I don't really remember seeing anything, but my mind went blank and my shadows dumped out the mercenaries into the pool and when I woke up all of the stuff in the pool was Energized Protodermis."

"... Ah." Miss Militia nodded along with Taylor's explanation, pretending that she understood everything while really understanding absolutely nothing at all. Good thing she was wearing a body cam to record everything.

".... I'll… I think that's um… everything for now. Oh- actually, one more thing. Director Piggot wanted me to ask if you'll be available for power testing this Friday, Around three in the afternoon?"

"Uh… yeah. I don't think I'll be doing anything that day?"

"Great, great. I um… suppose I'll see you then."

With an awkward wave and the sinking feeling that she really ought to be more horrified about the probably painful deaths of over a hundred fifty people even if they were criminal scum, Miss Militia left the lair as fast as she physically could without drawing attention, her motorcycle roaring out into the streets mere minutes later as she made what was going to be the first of some very long phone calls.

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